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HARVARD 

-THE FIVE-FOOT 
SHELFOFBCOKS 



PRO ME SSI 
SPOSI 



MANZONI 




COLLI' 




suss 



Biiai 









Gim 



01110 









THE HARVARD CLASSICS 



The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 



I 




i 




THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 



I Promessi Sposi 

(the betrothed) 

By Alessandro Manzoni 

Vfith Introduction and Notes 
\olume 21 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 

NEW YORK 



Copyright. 1909 
By p. F. CoLLiBg & SoH 

MANUTACTURKO IN U. S. A. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



Chapter I 7 

Chapter II 25 

Chapter III 38 

Chapter IV 53 

Chapter V 68 

Chapter VI 83 

Chapter VII 97 

Chapter VIII 115 

Chapter IX 136 

Chapter X 156 

Chapter XI 178 

Chapter XII 196 

Chapter XIII 210 

Chapter XIV 225 

Chapter XV 241 

Chapter XVI 257 

Chapter XVII 273 

Chapter XVIII 289 

Chapter XIX 304 

Chapter XX 3'8 

Chapter XXI 333 

Chapter XXII 348 

Chapter XXIII 361 

Chapter XXIV 380 

Chapter XXV 405 

Chapter XXVI 419 

Chapter XXVII 434 

Chapter XXVIII 450 

Chapter XXIX 47^ 

I 



2 CONTENTS 

Chapter XXX A^ 

Chapter XXXI -oo 

Chapter XXXII -,8 

Chapter XXXIII 536 

Chapter XXXIV 55^ 

Chapter XXXV 578 

Chapter XXXVI 5^,2 

Chapter XXXVII 6,2 

Chapter XXXVIII 626 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Count Alessandro Manzoni was born at Milan, Italy, March 7, 1785. 
He was educated at Lugano, Milan, and Pavia, and after taking his 
degree he joined his mother in Paris, where he found her in the circle 
of Mme. Condorcct and the surviving rationalists of the eighteenth 
century. These associations led him for a time into scepticism, but he 
was later converted to Catholicism, and remained a steadfast adherent 
of that faith till his death, defending it in his writings against the 
Protestant historian Sismondi. Manzoni was a warm sympathizer with 
the aspirations of his country toward political independence, but he took 
no very active part in public agitation. When Italy was at last free, he 
was made a Senator and awarded a pension. He died at Milan, May 22, 

1873- 

Manzoni's most important literary productions are in poetry, drama, 
and the novel. In the first group he wrote some hymns, notable for the 
warmth of their religious sentiment, and two odes, "II cinque maggio" 
and "Marzo 1821." The former of these, on the death of Napoleon, first 
brought him fame. His dramatic compositions, "II Conte di Carmag- 
nola" and "Adelchi," represent an attempt to free Italian drama from 
the restraints of the classical conventions, but neither met with general 
approval in Italy. Goethe, however, reviewed the earlier in the most 
favorable terms. In a prefatory essay Manzoni made an important con- 
tribution to the romantic protest against the restrictions of the dramatic 
"unities" of the classical drama. But the Italians were not yet prepared 
to accept truth in the treatment of human nature in place of stylistic 
polish and conventional form. 

The reception given to Manzoni's masterpiece, "I Promessi Sposi" 
(1825-26) was very different. In form a historical novel, written at a 
time when the vogue of the Waverley Novels had stimulated the pro- 
duction of this form of fiction throughout Europe, the interest of "The 
Betrothed," as it is usually called in England, is rather psychological and 
sentimental than external. The scene is laid in Lombardy between 1628 
and 1631, and the plot deals with the thwarting of the love of two 
peasants by a local tyrant. The manners of the time are presented with 
great vividness and picturesqueness; one of the most notable elements 
being the elaborate description of the plague which devastated Milan in 
1630 (see Chaps, xxxi-xxxvii). The novel has taken a place as the most 

3 



4 INTRODUCTION 

distinguished novel of modern Italy, and has been translated into nearly 
all the literary languages. 

The age-long dispute as to which dialect should be used as the standard 
language of Italian prose engaged the interest of Manzoni in his later 
years; and, becoming convinced of the claims of Tuscan, he rewrote the 
entire novel in order to remove all traces of non-Tuscan idiom, and 
published it in 1840. This proceeding had the e.lect of rekindling the 
discussion on the question of a national Italian literary language — a dis- 
cussion which still goes on. Along with the revised edition of "I Promessi 
Sposi," he published a kind of sequel, "La Storia della Colonna infame," 
written more than ten years before; but this work, overloaded with 
didacticism, is universally regarded as inferior. Both at home and abroad, 
Manzoni's fame rests mainly on the novel here printed, a work which 
has taken its place among the great novels of the world, not merely for 
its admirable descriptions of Italian life in the seventeenth century, but 
still more for its faithful and moving presentation of human experience 
and emotion. 

Mention has been made above of a so-called sequel to "I Promessi 
Sposi"; and since this publication is less easily accessible than Manzoni's 
more famous works, being properly regarded as unworthy of a place 
beside his great novel, it may interest the reader to have some account 
of its contents. 

At the end of Chapter xxxii of "I Promessi Sposi," Manzoni refers to 
the affair of the anointers of Milan, men who were suspected of smearing 
the walls of the houses with poison intended to spread the pestilence; 
but he relegates to another place a full account of the incident. It is this 
matter which he takes up in "La Storia della Colonna infame." 

One morning in June, 1630, a woman standing at a window in Milan 
saw a man enter the street della Vetra de Cittadini. He carried a paper 
on which he appeared to be writing, and from time to time he drew his 
hands along the walls. It occurred to her that he was perhaps an 
"anointer," and she proceeded to spread her suspicion, with the result 
that the man was arrested. He was found to be one Piazza, a Commis- 
sioner of the Tribunal of Health, who was able to give such an account 
of himself as, in ordinary times, would have led to his immediate ac- 
quittal. Both the populace and the judges, however, were panic-stricken, 
and eager to vent on any victim the fear and anguish into which the 
ravages of the plague had plunged them. Piazza was accordingly tor- 
tured, and after repeated and horrible sufferings was induced to make 



INTRODUCTION 5 

a false confession and to implicate an innocent barber, who, he said, had 
given him the ointment and promised him money if he spread it on the 
houses. Mora, the barber, was next arrested and submitted to a similar 
illegal and infamous process, until he also confessed, throwing the burden 
of blame in turn upon Piazza. Under false promises of immunity and 
suggestions of what was wanted from them, they alleged that several 
other persons were their accomplices or principals, and these also were 
thrown into jail. The evidence of Mora and Piazza was mutually con- 
tradictory on many points and was several times retracted, but the judges 
ignored these matters, broke their promise of immunity, and condemned 
both to death. They were placed on a car to Ix; carried to the place of 
execution; as they proceeded, their bodies were gashed with a hot iron; 
their right hands were struck off as they passed Mora's shop; their bones 
were broken on the wheel; they were bound alive to the wheel and raised 
from the ground, and after six hours were put to death. This they bore 
with fortitude, having previously declared their innocence, retracted their 
confessions, and absolved their alleged accomplices. Mora's house was 
demolished, and a pillar, called the Column of Infamy, was erected on the 
spot, where it stood till 1778. 

After the murder of these two miserable men, the judges proceeded to 
press the cases against the others whose names had been dragged into 
the matter, one of whom was an officer called Padilla, son of the Com- 
mandant of the Castle of Milan. Several of these suffered the same 
tortures and death as Mora and Piazza; but Padilla's case dragged on 
for two years, at the end of which he was acquitted. 

The story of this terrible example of judicial cruelty had been to some 
extent cleared up by Verri in his book on Torture, but Manzoni was 
anxious to show that, evil as were the laws which permitted the use of 
the rack, it was not they but the judges who were responsible. For even 
the laws of torture prohibited the methods by which these men were 
made to inculpate themselves, and the illegality and monstrosity of the 
whole proceeding were attributable to a court eager for a conviction at all 
costs to gratify the thirst for blood of a maddened and ignorant populace. 

The incident is related by Manzoni with considerable diffuscness and 
much technical argument; but the frightful nature of the events and the 
exhibition of the psychology of a panic-stricken mob give the production 
a gruesome interest. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 



CHAPTER I 

THAT branch of the lake of Como, which extends towards 
the south, is enclosed by two unbroken chains of mountains, 
which, as they advance and recede, diversify its shores with 
numerous bays and inlets. Suddenly the lake contracts itself, and 
takes the course and form of a river, between a promontory on the 
right, and a wide open shore on the opposite side. The bridge which 
there joins the two banks seems to render this transformation more 
sensible to the eye, and marks the point where the lake ends, and the 
Adda again begins — soon to resume the name of the lake, where the 
banks receding afresh, allow the water to extend and spread itself 
in new gulfs and bays. 

The open country, bordering the lake, formed of the alluvial 
deposits of three great torrents, reclines upon the roots of two con- 
tiguous mountains, one named San Martino, the other, in the Lom- 
bard dialect, // Resegone, because of its many f)eaks seen in profile, 
which in truth resemble the teeth of a saw so much so, that no one 
at first sight, viewing it in front (as, for example, from the northern 
bastions of Milan), could fail to distinguish it by this simple de- 
scription, from the other mountains of more obscure name and 
ordinary form in that long and vast chain. For a considerable 
distance the country rises with a gentle and continuous ascent; after- 
wards it is broken into hill and dale, terraces and elevated plains, 
formed by the intertwining of the roots of the two mountains, and 
the action of the waters. The shore itself, intersected by the torrents, 
consists for the most part of gravel and large flints; the rest of the 
plain, of fields and vineyards, interspersed with towns, villages, and 
hamlets: other parts are clothed with woods, extending far up the 
mountain. 

7 



8 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Lecco, the principal of these towns, giving its name to the terri- 
tory, is at a short distance from the bridge, and so close upon the 
shore, that, when the waters are high, it seems to stand in the lake 
itself. A large town even now, it promises soon to become a city. 
At the time the events happened which we undertake to recount, 
this town, already of considerable importance, was also a place of 
defence, and for that reason had the honour of lodging a com- 
mander, and the advantage of possessing a fixed garrison of Spanish 
soldiers, who taught modesty to the damsels and matrons of the 
country; bestowed from time to time marks of their favour on the 
shoulder of a husband or a father; and never failed, in autumn, to 
disperse themselves in the vineyards, to thin the grapes, and lighten 
for the peasant the labours of the vintage. 

From one to the other of these towns, from the heights to the 
lake, from one height to another, down through the little valleys 
which lay between, there ran many narrow lanes or mule-paths, 
(and they still exist,) one while abrupt and steep, another level, 
another pleasantly sloping, in most places enclosed by walls built 
of large flints, and clothed here and there with ancient ivy, which, 
eating with its roots into the cement, usurps its place, and binds 
together the wall it renders verdant. For some distance these lanes 
are hidden, and as it were buried between the walls, so that the 
passenger, looking upwards, can see nothing but the sky and the 
peaks of some neighbouring mountain: in other places they are 
terraced: sometimes they skirt the edge of a plain, or project from 
the face of a declivity, like a long staircase, upheld by walls which 
flank the hillsides like bastions, but in the pathway rise only the 
height of a parapet — and here the eye of the traveller can range over 
varied and most beautiful prospects. On one side he commands the 
azure surface of the lake, and the inverted image of the rural banks 
reflected in the placid wave; on the other, the Adda, scarcely escaped 
from the arches of the bridge, expands itself anew into a little lake, 
then is again contracted, and prolongs to the horizon its bright wind- 
ings; upward, — the massive piles of the mountains, overhanging 
the head of the gazer; below, — the cultivated terrace, the champaign, 
the bridge; opposite, — ^the further bank of the lake, and, rising from 
it, the mountain boundary. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 9 

Along one of these narrow lanes, in the evening of the 7th of 
November, in the year 1628, Don Abbondio . . . , curate of one of 
the towns alluded to above, was leisurely returning home from a 
walk, (our author does not mention the name of the town — two 
blanks already!) He was quietly repeating his office, and now and 
then, between one psalm and another, he would shut the breviary 
upon the fore-finger of his right hand, keeping it there for a mark; 
then, putting both his hands behind his back, the right (with the 
closed book) in the palm of the left, he pursued his way with down- 
cast eyes, kicking, from time to time, towards the wall the flints 
which lay as stumbling-blocks in the path. Thus he gave more un- 
disturbed audience to the idle thoughts which had come to tempt 
his spirit, while his lips repeated, of their own accord, his evening 
prayers. Escaping from these thoughts, he raised his eyes to the 
mountain which rose opposite; and mechanically gazed on the 
gleaming of the scarcely set sun, which, making its way through 
the clefts of the opposite mountain, was thrown upon the projecting 
peaks in large unequal masses of rose-coloured light. The breviary 
open again, and another portion recited, he reached a turn, where 
he always used to raise his eyes and look forward; and so he did 
to-day. After the turn, the road ran straight forward about sixty 
yards, and then divided into two lanes, Y fashion — the right hand 
path ascended towards the mountain, and led to the parsonage: the 
left branch descended through the valley to a torrent: and on this 
side the walls were not higher than about two feet. The inner walls 
of the two ways, instead of meeting so as to form an angle, ended 
in a little chapel, on which were depicted certain figures, long, 
waving, and terminating in a point. These, in the intention of the 
artist, and to the eyes of the neighbouring inhabitants, represented 
flames. Alternately with the flames were other figures — .ndescribable, 
meant for souls in purgatory, souls and flames of brick<olour on a 
grey ground enlivened with patches of the natural wall, where the 
plaster was gone. The curate, having turned the corner, and looked 
forward, as was his custom, towards the chapel, beheld an unexpected 
sight, and one he would not willingly have seen. Two men, one 
opposite the other, were stationed at the confluence, so to say, of the 
two ways: one of them was sitting across the low wall, with one 



10 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

leg dangling on the outer side, and the other supporting him in the 
path: his companion was standing up, leaning against the wall, 
with his arms crossed on his breast. Their dress, their carriage, and 
so much of their expression as could be distinguished at the distance 
at which the curate stood, left no doubt about their condition. Each 
had a green net on his head, which fell upon the left shoulder, and 
ended in a large tassel. Their long hair, appearing in one large lock 
upon the forehead: on the upper lip two long mustachios, curled 
at the end: their doublets, confined by bright leathern girdles, from 
which hung a brace of pistols: a little horn of powder, dangling 
round their necks, and falling on their breasts like a necklace: on 
the right side of their large and loose pantaloons, a pocket, and 
from the pocket the handle of a dagger: a sword hanging on the 
left, with a large basket-hilt of brass, carved in cipher, polished and 
gleaming: — all, at a glance, discovered them to be individuals of 
the species bravo. 

This order, now quite extinct, was then most flourishing in Lom- 
bardy, and already of considerable antiquity. Has any one no clear 
idea of it? Here are some authentic sketches, which may give him 
a distinct notion of its principal characteristics, of the means put 
in force to destroy it, and of its obstinate vitality. 

On the 8th of April, 1583, the most Illustrious and Excellent Signor 
Don Carlo d'Aragon, Prince of Castelvetrano, Duke of Terranuova, 
Marquis of Avola, Count of Burgeto, grand Admiral, and grand 
Constable of Sicily, Governor of Milan, and Captain-General of His 
Catholic Majesty in Italy, being fully informed of the intolerable 
misery in tvhich this city of Milan has lain, and does lie, by reason 
of bravoes and vagabonds, publishes a ban against them, declares 
and defines all those to be included in this ban, and to be held 
bravoes and vagabonds who, whether foreigners or natives, have 
no occupation, or having it do not employ themselves in it . . . but 
without salary, or with, engage themselves, to any cavalier or 
gentleman, officer or merchant . . . to render them aid and service, 
or rather, as may be presumed, to lay wait against others ... all 
these he commands, that, within the term of six days, they should 
evacuate the country, threatens the galleys to the refractory, and 
grants to all officials the most strangely ample and indefinite power 



I PROMESSI SPOSI II 

of executing the order. But the following year, on the 12th of April, 
this same Signer, perceiving that this city is completely full of the 
said bravoes . . , returned to live as they had lived before, their 
customs tvholly unchanged, and their numbers undiminished, issues 
another hue and cry, more vigorous and marked, in which, among 
other ordinances, he prescribes — That tvhatsoever person, as tvell 
as inhabitant of this city as a foreigner, who by the testimony of 
two witnesses, should appear to he held and commonly reputed a 
bravo, and to have that name, although he cannot be convicted of 
having committed any crime . . . for this reputation of being a 
bravo alone, without any other proof, may, by the said judges, and 
by every individual of them, be put to the rac\ and torture, for 
process of information . . . and although he confess no crime what- 
ever, notwithstanding, he shall be sent to the galleys for the said 
three years, for the sole reputation and name of bravo, as aforesaid. 
All this and more which is omitted, because His Excellency is re- 
solved to be obeyed by every one. 

At hearing such brave and confident words of so great a Signer, 
accompanied too with many penalties, one feels much inclined to 
suppose that, at the echo of their rumblings, all the bravoes had 
disappeared for ever. But the testimony of a Signor not less author- 
itative, nor less endowed with names, obliges us to believe quite the 
contrary. The most Illustrious and most Excellent Signor Juan Fer- 
nandez de Velasco, Constable of Castile, Grand Chamberlain of his 
Majesty, Duke of the city of Frias, Count of Haro and Castelnovo, 
Lord of the House of Velasco, and that of the Seven Infantas of 
Lara, Governor of the State of Milan, &c., on the 5th of June, 1593, 
he also, fully informed of how much loss and destruction . . . 
bravoes and vagabonds are the cause, and of the mischief such sort 
of people effects against the public weal, in despite of justice, warns 
them anew, that within the term of six days, they are to evacuate 
the country, repeating almost word for word, the threats and penal- 
ties of his predecessor. On the 23rd of May, in a subsequent year, 
1598, being informed, with no little displeasure of mind, that . . . 
every day, in this city and state, the number of these people (bravoes 
and vagabonds) is on the increase, and day and night nothing is 
heard of them but murder, homicide, robbery, and crimes of every 



12 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

l{ind, for which there is greater facility, because these bravoes are 
confident of being supported by their great employers ... he pre- 
scribes anew the same remedies, increasing the dose, as men do in 
obstinate maladies. Let every one, then, he concludes, be wholly on 
his guard against contravening in the least the present proclamation; 
for, instead of experiencing the clemency of His Excellency, he will 
experience the rigour of his anger . . . he being resolved and de- 
termined that this shall be the last and peremptory admonition. 

Not, however, of this opinion was the most Illustrious and most 
Excellent Signor, II Signer Don Pietro Enriquez de Acevedo, Cbunt 
of Fuentes, Captain and Governor of the State of Milan; not of 
this opinion was he, and for good reasons. Being fully informed of 
the misery in which this city and state lies by reason of the great 
number of bravoes which abound in it . . . and being resolved 
wholly to extirpate a plant so pernicious, he issues, on the 5th of 
December, 1600, a new admonition, full of severe penalties, with a 
firm purpose, that, with all rigour, and without any hope of re- 
mission, they shall be fully carried out. 

We must believe, however, that he did not apply himself to this 
matter with that hearty good will which he knew how to employ 
in contriving cabals and exciting enemies against his great enemy, 
Henry IV. History informs us that he succeeded in arming against 
that king the Duke of Savoy, and caused him to lose a city. He 
succeeded also in engaging the Duke of Biron on his behalf, and 
caused him to lose his head; but as to this pernicious plant of bravoes, 
certain it is that it continued to blossom till the 22nd of September, 
1612. On that day the most Illustrious Signor Don Giovanni de 
Mendosa, Marquis of Hynojosa, Gentleman, &c.. Governor, &c., 
had serious thoughts of extirpating it. To this end he sent the usual 
proclamation, corrected and enlarged, to Pandolfo and Marco TuUio 
Molatesti, associated printers to His Majesty, with orders to print 
it to the destruction of the bravoes. Yet they lived to receive on the 
24th of December, 1618, similar and more vigorous blows from the 
most Illustrious and most Excellent Signor, the Signor Don Gomez 
Suarez di Figueroa, Duke of Feria, &c.. Governor, &c. Moreover, 
they not being hereby done to death, the most Illustrious and most 
Excellent Signor, the Signor Gonzala Fernandez di Cordova, (under 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 13 

whose government these events happened to Don Abbondio,) had 
found himself obHged to recorrect and republish the usual proclama- 
tion against the bravoes, on the 5th day of October, 1627; /'. e. one 
year one month and two days before this memorable event. 

Nor was this the last publication. We do not feel bound, how- 
ever, to make mention of those which ensued, as they are beyond the 
period of our story. We will notice only one of the 13th of February, 
1632, in which the most Illustrious and most Excellent Signor the 
Duk^e of Feria, a second time governor, signifies to us that the 
greatest outrages are caused by those denominated bravoes. 

This suffices to make it pretty certain, that at the time of which 
we treat, there was as yet no lack of bravoes. 

That the two described above were on the lookout for some one, 
was but too evident; but what more alarmed Don Abbondio was, 
that he was assured by certain signs that he was the person expected; 
for, the moment he appeared, they exchanged glances, raising their 
heads with a movement which plainly expressed that both at once 
had exclaimed, 'Here's our man!' He who bestrode the wall got up, 
and brought his other leg into the path: his companion left leaning 
on the wall, and both began to walk towards him. Don Abbondio, 
keeping the breviary open before him, as if reading, directed his 
glance forward to watch their movements. He saw them advancing 
straight towards him: multitudes of thoughts, all at once, crowded 
upon him; with quick anxiety he asked himself, whether any path- 
way to the right or left lay between him and the bravoes; and 
quickly came the answer, — no. He made a hasty examination, to 
discover whether he had offended some great man, some vindictive 
neighbour; but even in this moment of alarm, the consoling testi- 
mony of conscience somewhat reassured him. Meanwhile the bravoes 
drew near, eyeing him fixedly. He put the fore finger and middle 
finger of his left hand up to his collar, as if to settle it, and running 
the two fingers round his neck he turned his head backwards at the 
same time, twisting his mouth in the same direction, and looked 
out of the corner of his eyes as far as he could, to see whether any 
one was coming; but he saw no one. He cast a glance over the low 
wall into the fields — no one; another, more subdued, along the path 
forward — no one but the bravoes. What is to be done.' turn back.'' 



14 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

It is too late. Run ? It was the same as to say, follow me, or worse. 
Since he could not escape the danger, he went to meet it. These 
moments of uncertainty were already so painful, he desired only to 
shorten them. He quickened his pace, recited a verse in a louder 
tone, composed his face to a tranquil and careless expression, as 
well as he could, used every effort to have a smile ready; and when 
he found himself in the presence of the two good men, exclaiming 
mentally, 'here we are!' he stood still. 'Signor Curato!' said one, 
staring in his face. 

'Who commands me?' quickly answered Don Abbondio, raising 
his eyes from the book, and holding it open in both hands. 

'You intend,' continued the other, with the threatening angry 
brow of one who has caught an inferior committing some grievous 
fault, 'you intend, to-morrow, to marry Renzo Tramaglino and 
Lucia Mondella!' 

'That is . . ,' replied Don Abbondio, with a quivering voice, — 
'That is . . . You, gentlemen, are men of the world, and know well 
how these things go. A poor curate has nothing to do with them. 
They patch up their little treaties between themselves, and then . . . 
then, they come to us, as one goes to the bank to make a demand; 
and we ... we are servants of the community.' 

'Mark well,' said the bravo, in a lower voice but with a solemn 
tone of command, 'this marriage is not to be performed, not 
to-morrow, nor ever.' 

'But, gentlemen,' replied Don Abbondio, with the soothing, mild 
tone of one who would persuade an impatient man, 'be so kind as 
put yourselves in my place. If the thing depended on me . . . you 
see plainly that it is no advantage to me . . .' 

'Come, come,' interrupted the bravo; 'if the thing were to be 
decided by prating, you might soon put our heads in a poke. We 
know nothing about it, and we don't want to know more. A warned 
man . . . you understand.' 

'But gentlemen like you are too just, too reasonable . . .' 

'But,' (this time the other companion broke in, who had not 
hitherto spoken) — 'but the marriage is not to be performed, or , . .' 
here a great oath — 'or he who performs it will never repent, because 
he shall have no time for it . • .' another oath. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 15 

'Silence, silence,' replied the first orator : 'the Signer Curate knows 
the way of the world, and we are good sort of men, who don't wish 
to do him any harm, if he will act like a wise man. Signor Curato, 
the Illustrious Signor Don Rodrigo, our master, sends his kind 
respects.' 

To the mind of Don Abbondio this name was like the lightning 
flash in a storm at night, which, illuminating for a moment and 
confusing all objects, increases the terror. As by instinct he made 
a low bow, and said, 'If you could suggest . . .' 

'Oh! suggest is for you who know Latin,' again interrupted the 
bravo, with a smile between awkwardness and ferocity; 'it is all 
very well for you. But, above all, let not a word be whispered about 
this notice that we have given you for your good, or . . . Ehem! 
... it will be the same as marrying them. — Well, what will your 
Reverence that we say for you to the Illustrious Signor Don 
Rodrigo?' 

'My respects.' 

'Be clear, Signor Curate.' 

*. . . Disposed . . . always disposed to obedience.' And having 
said these words, he did not himself well know whether he had 
given a promise, or whether he had only sent an ordinary compli- 
ment. The bravoes took it, and showed that they took it, in the more 
serious meaning. 

'Very well — good evening, Signor Curate,' said one of them, 
leading his companion away. 

Don Abbondio, who a few moments before would have given 
one of his eyes to have got rid of them, now wished to prolong the 
conversation and modify the treaty; — ^in vain they would not listen, 
but took the path along which he had come, and were soon out of 
sight, singing a ballad, which I do not choose to transcribe. Poor 
Don Abbondio stood for a moment with his mouth open, as if 
enchanted: and then he too departed, taking that path which led to 
his house, and hardly dragging one leg after the other, with a sensa- 
tion of walking on crab-claws, and in a frame of mind which the 
reader will better understand, after having learnt somewhat more 
of the character of this personage, and of the sort of times in which 
his lot was cast. 



1 6 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Abbondio — the reader may have discovered it already — was 
not born with the heart of a lion. Besides this, from his earliest 
years, he had had occasion to learn, that the most embarrassing of 
all conditions in those times, was that of an animal, without claws, 
and without teeth, which yet, nevertheless, had no inclination to 
be devoured. 

The arm of the law by no means protected the quiet inoffensive 
man, who had no other means of inspiring fear. Not, indeed, that 
there was any want of laws and penalties against private violence. 
Laws came down like hail; crimes were recounted and particularized 
with minute prolixity; penalties were absurdly exorbitant; and if 
that were not enough, capable of augmentation in almost every 
case, at the will of the legislator himself and of a hundred executives; 
the forms of procedure studied only how to liberate the judge from 
every impediment in the way of passing a sentence of condemna- 
tion; the sketches we have given of the proclamations against the 
bravoes are a feeble but true index of this. Notwithstanding, or 
rather in great measure for this reason, these proclamations, repub- 
lished and reenforced by one government after another, served only 
to attest most magniloquently the impotence of their authors; or if 
they produced any immediate effect, it was for the most part to 
add new vexations to those already suffered by the peaceable and 
helpless at the hands of the turbulent, and to increase the violence 
and cunning of the latter. Impunity was organized and implanted 
so deeply that its roots were untouched, or at least unmoved, by 
these proclamations. Such were the asylums, such were the privileges 
of certain classes, privileges partly recognized by law, partly borne 
with envious silence, or decried with vain protests, but kept up in 
fact, and guarded by these classes, and by almost every individual 
in them, with interested activity and punctilious jealousy. Now, 
impunity of this kind, threatened and insulted, but not destroyed by 
the proclamations, was naturally obliged, on every new threat and 
insult, to put in force new powers and new schemes to preserve its 
own existence. So it fell out in fact; and on the appearance of a 
proclamation for the restraint of the violent, these sought in their 
power new means more apt in effecting that which the proclamations 
forbade. The proclamations, indeed, could accomplish at every step 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 17 

the molestation of a good sort of men, who had neither power them- 
selves nor protection from others; because, in order to have every 
person under their hands, to prevent or punish every crime, they 
subjected every movement of private life to the arbitrary will of a 
thousand magistrates and executives. But whoever, before commit- 
ting a crime, had taken measures to secure his escape in time to a 
convent or a palace, where the birri^ had never dared to enter; 
whoever (without any other measures) bore a livery which called 
to his defence the vanity and interest of a powerful family or order, 
such an one was free to do as he pleased, and could set at nought 
the clamour of the proclamations. Of those very persons to whom 
the enforcing of them was committed, some belonged by birth to the 
privileged class, some were dejiendent on it, as clients; both one and 
the other by education, interest, habit, and imitation, had embraced 
its maxims, and would have taken good care not to offend it for the 
sake of a piece of paper pasted on the corners of the streets. The men 
entrusted with the immediate execution of the decrees, had they 
been enterprising as heroes, obedient as monks, and devoted as 
martyrs, could not have had the upper hand, inferior as they were in 
number to those with whom they would have been engaged in 
battle, with the probabiUty of being frequently abandoned, or even 
sacrificed, by those who abstractedly, or (so to say) in theory, set 
them to work. But besides this, these men were, generally, chosen 
from the lowest and most rascally classes of those times: their office 
was held base even by those who stood most in fear of it, and their 
title a reproach. It was therefore but natural that they, instead of 
risking, or rather throwing away, their lives in an impracticable 
undertaking, should take pay for inaction, or even connivance at 
the powerful, and reserve the exercise of their execrated authority 
and diminished power for those occasions, where they could oppress, 
without danger, /. e. by annoying pacific and defenceless persons. 
The man who is ready to give and expecting to receive offence 
every moment, naturally seeks allies and companions. Hence the 
tendency of individuals to unite into classes was in these times 
carried to the greatest excess; new societies were formed, and each 
man strove to increase the power of his own party to the greatest 
' i. e., the armed police. 



1 8 ALESSANDRO MANZONl 

degree. The clergy were on the watch to defend and extend their 
immunities; the nobility their privileges, the military their exemp- 
tions. Tradespeople and artisans were enrolled in subordinate con- 
fraternities, lawyers constituted a league, and even doctors a cor- 
poration. Each of these little oligarchies had its own peculiar power; 
in each the individual found it an advantage to avail himself, in 
proportion to their authority and vigour, of the united force of the 
many. Honest men availed themselves of this advantage for defence; 
the evil-disposed and sharp-witted made use of it to accomplish deeds 
of violence, for which their personal means were insufficient, and to 
ensure themselves impunity. The power, however, of these various 
combinations was very unequal; and especially in the country, a rich 
and violent nobility, having a band. of bravoes, and surrounded by a 
peasantry accustomed by immemorial tradition, and compelled by 
interest or force, to look upon themselves as soldiers of their lords, 
exercised a power against which no other league could have main- 
tained effectual resistance. 

Our Abbondio, not noble, not rich, not courageous, was therefore 
accustomed from his very infancy to look upon himself as a vessel 
of fragile earthenware, obliged to journey in company with many 
vessels of iron. Hence he had very easily acquiesced in his parents* 
wish to make him a priest. To say the truth, he had not reflected 
much on the obligations and noble ends of the ministry to which 
he was dedicating himself: to ensure something to live upon with 
comfort, and to place himself in a class revered and powerful, 
seemed to him two sufficient reasons for his choice. But no class 
whatever provides for an individual, or secures him, beyond a cer- 
tain point: and none dispenses him from forming his own par- 
ticular system. 

Don Abbondio, continually absorbed in thoughts about his own 
security, cared not at all for those advantages which risked a little 
to secure a great deal. His system was to escape all opposition, and 
to yield where he could not escape. In all the frequent contests 
carried on around him between the clergy and laity, in the per- 
petual collision between officials and the nobility, between the 
nobility and magistrates, between bravoes and soldiers, down to the 
pitched battle between two rustics, arising from a word, and decided 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 19 

with fists or poniards, an unarmed neutrality was his chosen position. 
I£ he were absolutely obliged to take a part, he favoured the stronger, 
always, however, with a reserve, and an endeavour to show the 
other that he was not willingly his enemy. It seemed as if he would 
say, 'Why did you not manage to be stronger ? I would have taken 
your side then.' Keeping a respectful distance from the powerful; 
silently bearing their scorn, when capriciously shown in passing 
instances; answering with submission when it assumed a more 
serious and decided form; obliging, by his profound bows and 
respectful salutations, the most surly and haughty to return him a 
smile, when he met them by the way; the poor man had performed 
the voyage of sixty years without experiencing any very violent 
tempests. 

It was not that he had not too his own little portion of gall in 
his disposition: and this continual exercise of endurance, this cease- 
less giving reasons to others, these many bitter mouthfuls gulped 
down in silence, had so far exasperated it, that had he not an oppor- 
timity sometimes of giving it a little of its own way, his health 
would certainly have suffered. But since there were in the world, 
close around him, some few persons whom he knew well to be 
incapable of hurting, upon them he was able now and then to let 
out the bad humour so long pent up, and take upon himself (even 
he) the right to be a little fantastic, and to scold unreasonably. Be- 
sides, he was a rigid censor of those who did not guide themselves 
by his rules; that is, when the censure could be passed without any, 
the most distant, danger. Was any one beaten? he was at least 
imprudent; — any one murdered? he had always been a turbulent 
meddler. If any one, having tried to maintain his right against 
some powerful noble, came off with a broken head, Don Abbondio 
always knew how to discover some fault; a thing not difficult, since 
right and wrong are never divided with so clean a cut, that one 
party has the whole of either. Above all, he declaimed against any 
of his brethren, who, at their own risk, took the part of the weak 
and oppressed against the powerful oppressor. This he called paying 
for quarrels, and giving one's legs to the dogs : he even pronounced 
with severity upon it, as a mixing in profane things, to the loss of 
dignity to the sacred ministry. Against such men he discoiursed 



20 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

(always, however, with his eyes about him, or in a retired corner) 
with greater vehemence in proportion as he knew them to be 
strangers to anxiety about their personal safety. He had, finally, a 
favourite sentence, with which he always wound up discourses on 
these matters, that a respectable man who looked to himself, and 
minded his own business, could always keep clear of mischievous 
quarrels. 

My five-and-twenty readers may imagine what impression such 
an encounter as has been related above would make on the mind 
of this pitiable being. The fearful aspect of those faces; the great 
words; the threats of a Signor known for never threatening in 
vain; a system of living in quiet, the patient study of so many 
years, upset in a moment; and, in prospect, a path narrow and 
rugged, from which no exit could be seen, — all these thoughts 
buzzed about tumultuously in the downcast head of Don Abbondio. 
'If Renzo could be dismissed in peace with a mere no, it is all plain; 
but he would want reasons; and what am I to say to him? and 
— and — and he is a lamb, quiet as a lamb if no one touches him, 
but if he were contradicted . . . whew! and then — out of his senses 
about this Lucia, in love over head and . . . These young men, 
who fall in love for want of something to do, will be married, and 
think nothing about other people, they do not care anything for the 
trouble they bring upon a poor curate. Unfortunate me! What 
possible business had these two frightful figures to put themselves 
in my path, and interfere with me? Is it I who want to be married? 
Why did they not rather go and talk with . . . Let me see: what a 
great misfortune it is that the right plan never comes into my head 
till it is too late! If I had but thought of suggesting to them to carry 
their message to . . .' But at this point it occurred to him that to 
repent of not having been aider and abettor in iniquity, was itself 
iniquitous; and he turned his angry thoughts upon the man who 
had come, in this manner, to rob him of his peace. He knew Don 
Rodrigo only by sight and by report; nor had he had to do with 
him further than to make a lowly reverence when he had chanced 
to meet him. It had fallen to him several times to defend this 
Signor against those who, with subdued voice and looks of fear, 
wished ill to some of his enterprises. He had said a hundred times 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 21 

that he was a respectable cavalier; but at this moment he bestowed 
upon him all those epithets which he had never heard applied by 
others without an exclamation of disapprobation. Amid the tumult 
of these thoughts he reached his own door — hastily applied the key 
which he held in his hand, opened, entered, carefully closed it be- 
hind him, and anxious to find himself in trust-worthy company, 
called quickly, 'Perpetua, Perpetual' as he went towards the dining- 
room, where he was sure to find Perpetua laying the cloth for 
supper. 

Perpetua, as every one already knows, was Don Abbondio's 
servant, a servant affectionate and faithful, who knew how to obey 
and command in turn as occasion required — to bear, in season, the 
grumblings and fancies of her master, and to make him bear the 
Uke when her turn came; which day by day recurred more fre- 
quently, since she had passed the sinodal age of forty, remaining 
single, because, as she said herself, she had refused all offers, or 
because she had never found any one goose enough to have her, 
as her friends said. 

'I am coming,' replied Perpetua, putting down in its usual place 
a litde flask of Don Abbondio's favourite wine, and moving leisurely. 
But before she reached the door of the dining-room, he entered, 
with a step so unsteady, with an expression so overcast, with features 
so disturbed, that there had been no need of Perpetua's experienced 
eye to discover at a glance that something very extraordinary had 
happened. 

'Mercy! what has happened to you, master?* 

'Nothing, nothing,' replied Don Abbondio, sinking down breath- 
less on his arm-chair. 

'How nothing! Would you make me beUeve this, so disordered 
as you are? Some great misfortune has happened.' 

'Oh, for Heaven's sake! When 1 say nothing, either it is nothing, 
or it is something I cannot tell.' 

'Not tell, even to me? Who will take care of your safety, sir? 
who will advise you?' 

'Oh, dear! hold your tongue, and say no more; give me a glass 
of my wine.' 

'And you will persist, sir, that it is nothing!' said Perpetua, filling 



22 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the glass; and then holding it in her hand, as if she would give it 
in payment for the confidence he kept her waiting for so long. 

'Give it here, give it here,' said Don Abbondio, taking the glass 
from her with no very steady hand, and emptying it hastily, as if it 
were a draught of medicine. 

'Do you wish me, then, sir, to be obliged to ask here and there, 
what has happened to my master?' said Perpetua, right opposite 
him, with her arms akimbo, looking steadily at him, as if she would 
gather the truth from his eyes. 

'For Heaven's sake! let us have no brawUng — let us have no 
noise: it is ... it is my life!' 

'Your life!' 

'My hfe.' 

'You know, sir, that whenever you have told me any thing sin- 
cerely in confidence, I have never . . .' 

'Well done! for instance, when . . .' 

Perpetua saw she had touched a wrong chord; wherefore, suddenly 
changing her tone, 'Signor, master,' she said, with a softened and 
affecting voice, 'I have always been an affectionate servant to you, 
sir; and if I wish to know this, it is because of my care for you, 
because I wish to be able to help you, to give you good advice, and 
to comfort you.' 

The fact was, Don Abbondio was, p)erhaps, just as anxious to get 
rid of his burdensome secret, as Perpetua was to know it. In con- 
sequence, after having rebutted, always more feebly, her reiterated 
and more vigorous assaults, after having made her vow more than 
once not to breathe the subject, with many sighs and many doleful 
exclamations, he related at last the miserable event. When he came 
to the terrible name, it was necessary for Perpetua to make new 
and more solemn vows of silence; and Don Abbondio, having pro- 
nounced this name, sank back on the chair, hfting up his hands in 
act at once of command and entreaty — exclaiming, 'For heaven's 
sake!' 

'Mercy!' exclaimed Perpetua, 'Oh, what a wretch! Oh, what a 
tyrant! Oh, what a godless man!' 

'Will you hold your tongue? or do you wish to ruin me alto- 
gether?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 23 

'Why, we're all alone: no one can hear us. But what will you do, 
sir? Oh, my poor master!' 

'You see now, you see,' said Don Abbondio, in an angry tone, 
'what good advice this woman can give me! She comes and asks 
me what shall I do, what shall I do, as if she were in a quandary, 
and it were my place to help her out.' 

'But I could even give my poor opinion; but then . . .' 

'But then, let us hear.' 

'My advice would be, since, as everybody says, our Archbishop is 
a saint, a bold-hearted man, and one who is not afraid of an ugly 
face, and one who glories in upholding a poor curate against these 
tyrants, when he has an opportunity, — I should say, and I do say, that 
you should write a nice letter to inform him how that . . .' 

'Will you hold your tongue? will you be silent? Is this fit advice 
to give a poor man ? When a bullet was lodged in my back, (Heaven 
defend me!) would the Archbishop dislodge it?' 

'Why! bullets don't fly in showers like comfits.' Woe to us if 
these dogs could bite whenever they bark. And I have always taken 
notice that whoever knows how to show his teeth, and makes use 
of them, is treated with respect; and just because master will never 
give his reasons, we are come to that pass, that every one comes to 
us, if I may say it to . . .' 

'Will you hold your tongue?' 

'I will directly; but it is, however, certain, that when all the world 
sees a man always, in every encounter, ready to yield the . . .' 

'Will you hold your tongue? Is this a time for such nonsensical 
words?' 

'Very well: you can think about it to-night; but now, don't be 
doing any mischief to yourself; don't be making yourself ill — take 
a mouthful to eat.' 

'Think about it, shall I?' grumbled Don Abbondio, 'to be sure 
I shall think about it. I've got it to think about;' and he got up, 
going on; 'I will take nothing, nothing: I have something else to 
do. I know, too, what I ought to think about it. But, that this 
should have come on my head!' 

'It is a custom in Italy, during the carnival, for friends to salute each other with 
showers of comfits, as they pas* in the streets. 



24 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Swallow at least this other little drop,' said Perpetua, pouring it 
out; 'you know, sir, this always strengthens your stomach.' 
'Ah, we want another strengthener — another — another — ' 
So saying, he took the candle, and constantly grumbling, 'A nice 
little business to a man like me! and to-morrow, what is to be done?' 
with other like lamentations, went to his chamber, to lie down. 
When he had reached the door, he paused a moment, turned round 
and laid his finger on his lips, pronouncing slowly and solemnly, 
'For Heaven's sake!' and disappeared. 



CHAPTER II 

IT is related that the Prince Conde slept soundly the night 
before the battle of Rocroi. But, in the first place, he was very 
tired, and, secondly, he had given all needful previous orders, 
and arranged what was to be done on the morrow. Don Abbondio, 
on the other hand, as yet knew nothing, except that the morrow 
would be a day of battle: hence great part of the night was spent 
by him in anxious and harassing deliberations. To take no notice 
of the lawless intimation, and proceed with the marriage, was a 
plan on which he would not even expend a thought. To confide 
the occurrence to Renzo, and seek with him some means ... he 
dreaded the thought! 'he must not let a word escape . . . otherwise 
. . . ehm!': thus one of the bravoes had spoken, and at the re- 
echoing of this ehm! Don Abbondio, far from thinking of trans- 
gressing such a law, began to repent of having revealed it to Per- 
petua. Must he fly! Whither? And then, how many annoyances, 
how many reasons to give! As he rejected plan after plan, the un- 
fortunate man tossed from side to side in bed. The course which 
seemed best to him was to gain time, by imposing on Renzo. He 
opportunely remembered that it wanted only a few days of the 
time when weddings were prohibited.' — 'And if I can only put 
him off for these few days, I have then two months before me, and 
in two months great things may be done.' — He ruminated over 
various pretexts to bring into play: and though they appeared to him 
rather slight, yet he reassured himself with the thought that his 
authority added to them would make them appear of sufficient 
weight, and then his practised experience would give him great 
advantage over an ignorant youth. 'Let us see,' he said to himself, 
'he thinks of his love, but I of my life; I am more interested than 
he: beside that I am cleverer. My dear child, if you feel your back 
smarting, I know not what to say; but I will not put my foot in it.' 
— His mind being thus a little settled to deliberation, he was able 

' I. e. Lent 



26 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

at last to close his eyes; but what sleep! What dreams! Bravoes, 
Don Rodrigo, Renzo, pathways, rocks, flight, chase, cries, muskets! 

The moment of first awaking after a misfortune, while still in 
perplexity, is a bitter one. The mind scarcely restored to conscious- 
ness, returns to the habitual idea of former tranquillity: but the 
thought of the new state of things soon presents itself with rude 
abruptness; and our misfortune is most trying in this moment of 
contrast. Dolefully Don Abbondio tasted the bitterness of this 
moment, and then began hastily to recapitulate the designs of the 
night, confirmed himself in them, arranged them anew, arose, and 
waited for Renzo at once with fear and impatience. 

Lorenzo, or, as every one called him, Renzo, did not keep him 
long waiting. Scarcely had the hour arrived at which he thought he 
could with propriety present himself to the Curate, when he set 
off with the light step of a man of twenty, who was on that day to 
espouse her whom he loved. He had in early youth been deprived 
of his parents, and carried on the trade of silk-weaver, hereditary, 
so to say, in his family; a trade lucrative enough in former years, 
but even then beginning to decline, yet not to such a degree, that a 
clever workman was not able to make an honest livelihood by it. 
Work became more scarce from day to day, but the continual 
emigration of the workmen, attracted to the neighbouring states 
by promises, privileges, and large wages, left sufficient occupation 
for those who remained in the country. Renzo possessed, besides, 
a plot of land, which he cultivated, working in it himself when he 
was disengaged from his silk-weaving, so that in his station he 
might be called a rich man. Although this year was one of greater 
scarcity than those which had preceded it, and real want began 
to be felt already, yet he, having become a saver of money ever 
since he had cast his eyes upon Lucia, found himself sufficiently 
furnished with provisions, and had no need to beg his bread. He 
appeared before Don Abbondio in gay bridal costume, with feathers 
of various colours in his cap, with an ornamental-hilted dagger in 
his pocket; and with an air of festivity, and at the same time of de- 
fiance, common at that time even to men the most quiet. The 
hesitating and mysterious reception of Don Abbondio formed a 
strange contrast with the joyous and resolute bearing of the young 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 27 

He must have got some notion in his head, thought Renzo to 
himself, and then said: 'I have come. Signer Curate, to know at 
what hour it will suit you for us to be at church.' 

'What day are you speaking of?' 

'How! of what day? Don't you remember, sir, that this is the 
day fixed upon?' 

'To-day?' replied Don Abbondio, as if he now heard it spxaken 
of for the first time. 'To-day, to-day . . . don't be impatient, but 
to-day I cannot.' 

'To-day you cannot! What has happened, sir?' 

'First of all, I do not feel well, you see.' 

'I am very sorry, but what you have to do, sir, is so soon done, 
and so little fatiguing . . .' 

'And then, and then, and then . . .' 

'And then what, Signor Curate?' 

'And then, there are difficulties.' 

'Difficulties! What difficulties can there be?' 

'You need to stand in our shoes, to understand what perplexities 
we have in these matters, what reasons to give. I am too soft-hearted, 
I think of nothing but how to remove obstacles, and make all easy, 
and arrange things to please others; I neglect my duty, and then I 
am subject to reproofs, and worse.' 

'But in Heaven's name, don't keep me so on the stretch — tell me 
at once what is the matter?' 

'Do you know how many, many formalities are necessary to per- 
form a marriage regularly?' 

'I ought to know a little about it,' said Renzo, beginning to be 
warm, 'for you, sir, have puzzled my head enough about it, the 
last few days back. But now is not everything made clear? Is not 
everything done that had to be done?' 

'All, all, on your part: therefore, have patience; an ass I am to 
neglect my duty that I may not give pain to people. We poor 
curates are between the anvil and the hammer; you are impatient; 
I am sorry for you, poor young man; and the great people . . . 
enough, one must not say everything. And we have to go be- 
tween.' 

'But explain to me at once, sir, what this new formaHty is, which 
has to be gone through, as you say; and it shall be done soon.' 



28 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Do you know what the number of absolute impediments is?' 
'What would you have me know about impediments, sir?' 
'Error, conditio, votum, cognatio, crimen, cultus disparitas, vis, 

ordo . . . Si sit affinis . . ' 
'Are you making game of me, sir? What do you expect me to 

know about your latinorum?' 
'Then, if you don't understand things, have patience, and leave 

them to those who do.' 

'Or sit! . . : 

'Quiet, my dear Renzo, don't get in a passion, for I am ready to 
do . . . all that depends on me. I, I wish to see you satisfied; I wish 
you well. Alas! . . . when I think how well off you were; what 
were you wanting? The whim of getting married came upon 
you . . .' 

'What talk is this, Signor mio,' interrupted Renzo, with a voice 
between astonishment and anger. 

'Have patience, I tell you. 1 wish to see you satisfied.' 

'In short . . .' 

'In short, my son, it is no fault of mine. I did not make the law; 
and before concluding a marriage, it is our special duty to certify 
ourselves that there is no imj^ediment.' 

'But come, tell me once for all what impediment has come in 
the way?' 

'Have patience, they are not things to be deciphered thus at a 
standing. It will be nothing to us, I hope; but, be the consequence 
great or little, we must make these researches. The text is clear 
and evident; anteqttam matrimonium denunciet . . .' 

'I have told you, sir, I will have no Latin.' 

'But it is necessary that I should explain to you . . .' 

'But have you not made all these researches?' 

'I tell you, I have not made them all, as I must.' 

'Why did you not do it in time, sir? Why did you tell me that 
all was finished? Why wait . . .' 

'Look now! you are finding fault with my over-kindness. I have 
facilitated everything to serve you without loss of time: but . . . 
but now I have received . . . enough, I know.' 

'And what do you wish me to do, sir?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 29 

'To have patience for a few days. My dear son, a few days are not 
eternity: have patience.' 

'For how long?' 

— We are in good train now, thought Don Abbondio to himself: 
and added with a more polite manner than ever: 'Come now, in 
fifteen days I will endeavour to do . . .' 

'Fifteen days! This indeed is something new! You have had 
everything your own way, sir; you fixed the day; the day arrives; 
and now you go tell me I must wait fifteen days. Fifteen . . .' he 
began again, with a louder and more angry voice, extending his arm 
and striking the air with his fist; and nobody knows what shocking 
words he would have added to this number fifteen, if Don Abbondio 
had not interrupted him, taking his other hand with a timid and 
anxious friendliness: 'Come, come, don't be angry, for Heaven's 
sake. I will see, I will try whether in one week . . •' 

'And Lucia, what must I say to her?' 

'That it has been an oversight of mine.' 

'And what will the world say?' 

'Tell them too, that I have made a blunder through overhaste, 
through too much good nature: lay all the fault on me. Can I say 
more? Come now, for one week.' 

'And then will there be no more impediments?' 

'When I tell you . . .' 

'Very well: I will be quiet for a week; but I know well enough 
that when it is passed, I shall get nothing but talk. But before 
that I shall see you again.' Having so said he retired, making a 
bow much less lowly than usual, to Don Abbondio, and bestowing 
on him a glance more expressive than reverent. 

Having reached the road, and walking with a heavy heart towards 
the home of his betrothed, in the midst of his wrath, he turned his 
thoughts on the late conversation, and more and more strange it 
seemed to him. The cold and constrained greeting of Don Abbondio; 
his guarded and yet impatient words, his grey eyes, which, as he 
spoke, glanced inquisitively here and there, as if afraid of coming 
in contact with the words which issued from his mouth, the making 
a new thing, as it were, of the nuptials so expressly determined, 
and above all, the constant hinting at some great occurrence, without 



30 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ever saying anything decided, — all these things put together made 
Renzo think that there was some overhanging mystery, different 
from that which Don Abbondio would have had him suppose. The 
youth was just on the point of turning back, to obHge him to speak 
more plainly; but raising his eyes, he saw Perpetua a little way before 
him, entering a garden^ a few paces distant from the house. He 
gave her a call to open the garden door for him, quickened his pace, 
came up with her, detained her in the door-way, and stood still to 
have a conversation with her, intending to discover something more 
positive. 

'Good morning, Perpetua: I hoped we should have been merry 
to-day altogether.' 
'But! as Heaven wills, my poor Renzo . . .' 
'I want you to do me a kindness. The Signor Curate has been 
making a long story of certain reasons, which I cannot understand; 
will you explain to me better why he cannot or will not marry us 
to-day?' 
'Oh! is it likely I know my master's secrets?' 
— I said there was some hidden mystery, thought Renzo; and to 
draw it forth to the light, he continued: 'Come, Perpetua, we are 
friends; tell me what you know, help an unfortunate youth.' 
'It is a bad thing to be born poor, my dear Renzo.' 
'That is true,' replied he, still confirming himself in his suspicions, 
and seeking to come nearer the question, 'that is true; but is it for 
a priest to deal hardly with the poor?' 

'Listen, Renzo, I can tell you nothing; because ... I know noth- 
ing; but what you may assure yourself of, is, that my master does not 
wish to ill-treat you, or anybody; and it is not his fault.' 

'Whose fault is it then?' demanded Renzo, with an air of in- 
difference, but with an anxious heart, and ears on the alert. 

'When I tell you I know nothing ... In defence of my master 
I can speak; because I can't bear to hear that he is ready to do ill 
to any one. Poor man! if he does wrong, it is from too good 
nature. There certainly are some wretches in the world, overbearing 
tyrants, men without the fear of God . . .' 

' To understand this scene fully, the reader must bear in mind that the Italian 
gardens are, almost invariably, surrounded by a wall seven or eight feet high. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 31 

— Tyrants! wretches! thought Renzo: are not these the great 
men ? 'Come,' said he, with difficulty hiding his increasing agitation, 
'come, tell me who it is.' 

'Oh, oh! you want to mak6 me speak; and I cannot speak, be- 
cause ... I know nothing: when I know nothing, it is the same 
as if I had taken an oath not to tell. You might put me to the 
rack, and you would get nothing from my mouth. Good-bye; it is 
lost time for you and me both.' 

So saying, she quickly entered the garden, and shut the door. 
Renzo, having returned her farewell, turned back, with a quiet step, 
that she might not hear which way he took; but when he got be- 
yond reach of the good woman's ears, he quickened his pace; in a 
moment he was at Don Abbondio's door, entered, went straight to 
the room in which he had left him, found him there, and went 
towards him with a reckless bearing, and eyes glancing anger. 

'Eh! eh! what new thing is this?' said Don Abbondio. 

'Who is that tyrant,' said Renzo, with the voice of a man who is 
determined to obtain a precise reply, 'who is the tyrant who is un- 
willing that I should marry Lucia?' 

'What? what? what?' stammered the astonished poor man, his 
face in a moment becoming pale, and colourless as a rag just emerged 
from the washing-tub: then, still stammering, he made a start from 
his arm<hair, to dart towards the door. But Renzo, who might 
have expected this movement, was on the alert, sprang there before 
him, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. 

'Ah! ah! Will you speak now, Signor Curato? Everybody knows 
my affairs, except myself. But, by Bacchus, I too will know. What 
is his name?' 

'Renzo! Renzo! for charity, take care what you are about; think 
of your soul.' 

'I am thinking that I will know it quickly, in a moment.' And as 
he spoke, perhaps without being aware of it, he laid his hand on 
the hilt of the dagger which projected from his pxxrket. 

'Misericordial' exclaimed Don Abbondio, in a feeble voice. 

'I will know it.' 

'Who has told you? . . .* 

'No, no; no more trickery. Speak positively and quickly.' 



32 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Do you wish me to be killed?' 

'I wish to know what I have a right to know.' 

'But if I speak, I'm a dead man! Surely I'm not to trample on 
my own life?* 

'Then speak.' 

This then was pronounced with such energy, and Renzo's face 
became so threatening, that Don Abbondio could no longer enter- 
tain a hope of the possibiUty of disobedience. 

'Promise me — swear to me,' said he, 'not to speak of it to any 
one, never to tell . . .* 

'I promise you, sir, that I will do an ill deed, if you don't tell 
me quick — quick, his name!' 

At this new adjuration, Don Abbondio, with the face and look of 
a man who has the pincers of the dentist in his mouth, articulated, 
'Don . . .' 

'Don?' repeated Renzo, as if to help the patient to utter the rest; 
while he stood bending forward, his ear turned towards the open 
mouth of Don Abbondio, his arms stretched out, and his clinched 
fists behind him. 

'Don Rodrigol' hastily uttered the compelled curate, making a 
rush at these few syllables, and gliding over the consonants, partly 
through excitement, partly because exercising the little judgment 
that was left him, to steer his way betwixt the two fears, it appeared 
that he wished to withdraw the word and make it invisible at the 
very moment he was constrained to give utterance to it. 

'Ah, dog!' shouted Renzo; 'and how has he done it? And what 
has he said to . . .?' 

'How, eh? how?* replied Don Abbondio, in an indignant voice, 
as it were; feeling after so great a sacrifice, that he had, in a manner, 
become a creditor, 'How, eh? I wish it had happened to you, as it 
has to me, who have not put my foot in it for nothing; for then, 
certainly, you would not have so many crotchets in your head.' And 
here he began to depict in dreadful colours the terrible encounter. 
As he proceeded in the description, he began to realize the wrath 
which hitherto had been concealed, or changed into fear; and per- 
ceiving at the same time that Renzo, between anger and confusion, 
stood motionless, with his head downwards, he continued trium- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 33 

phantly: 'You have done a pretty deed! Nice treatment you have 
given me! To serve such a trick to an honest man, to your curate 
— in his own house — in a sacred place! You have done a fine action, 
to force from my lips my own ruin and yours, that which I concealed 
from you in prudence for your own good! And now, when you 
do know it, how much wiser are you? I should like to know what 
you would have done to me! No joking here, no question of right 
and wrong, but mere force. And this morning, when I gave you 
good advice ... eh! in a rage directly. I had judgment enough for 
myself, and you too; but how does it go now? Of)en the door, 
however; give me my key.' 

'I may have been wrong,' replied Renzo, with a voice softened 
towards Don Abbondio, but in which suppressed rage against 
his newly discovered enemy might be perceived; 'I may have been 
wrong; but put your hand to your heart, and think whether in my 
case . . .' 

So saying, he took the key from his pocket, and went to open 
the door. Don Abbondio stood behind; and while Renzo turned 
the key in the lock, he came beside him, and with a serious and 
anxious face, holding up three fingers of his right hand, as if to 
help him in his turn, 'Swear at least . . .' said he. 

'I may have been wrong, and I beg your pardon, sir,' answered 
Renzo, opening the door, and preparing to go out. 

'Swear . . .' replied Don Abbondio, seizing him by the arm with 
a trembling hand. 

'I may have been wrong,' repeated Renzo, as he extricated himself 
from him, and departed with vehement haste, thus cutting short 
a discussion which, like many a question of philosophy, or literature, 
or something else, might have been prolonged six centuries, since 
each party did nothing but repeat his own arguments. 

'Perpetual — Perpetual' cried Don Abbondio, after having in vain 
called back the fugitive. Perpetua answered not: Don Abbondio 
then lost all consciousness of where he was. 

It has happened more than once to personages of much greater 
importance than Don Abbondio, to find themselves in extremities 
so trying to the flesh, in such perplexity of plans, that it has appeared 
to them their best resource to go to bed with a fever. This resource 



34 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Abbondio had not to seek for, because it offered itself to him 
of its own accord. The fright of the day before, the harassing sleep- 
lessness of the night, the additional fright in the morning, anxiety 
about the future, had produced this effect. Perplexed and be- 
wildered, he rested himself on his arm<hair: he began to feel a cer- 
tain quaking of the bones; he looked at his nails and sighed, and 
called from time to time, with a tremulous and anxious voice — 
'Perpetual' Perpetua arrived at length, with a great cabbage under 
her arm, and a business-like face, as if nothing had been the matter. 
I spare the reader the lamentations, condolences, accusations, de- 
fences, the — 'You only can have spoken,' and the — 'I have not spoken' 
— all the recriminations, in short, of this colloquy. Let it suffice to 
say, that Don Abbondio ordered Perpetua to fasten the doors well: 
not to put foot outside; and if any one knocked, to answer from the 
window, that the curate was confined to his bed with a fever. He 
then slowly ascended the stairs, repeating at every third step, 'I 
have caught it!' and really went to bed, where we will leave 
him. 

Renzo, meanwhile, walked with an excited step towards home, 
without having determined what he ought to do, but with a mad 
longing to do something strange and terrible. The unjust and op- 
pressive, ail those, in fact, who wrong others, are guilty, not only 
of the evil they do, but also of the perversion of mind they cause in 
those whom they offend. Renzo was a young man of peaceful dis- 
position, and averse to violence; sincere, and one who abhorred 
deceit; but at this moment, his heart panted for murder: his mind 
was occupied only in devising a plot. He would have wished to 
hasten to Don Rodrigo's house, to seize him by the throat, and . . . 
but he remembered that his house was like a fortress, garrisoned 
with bravoes within, and guarded without; that only friends and 
servants, well known, could enter freely, without being searched 
from head to foot; that an artisan, if unknown, could not put foot 
within it without an examination; and that he, above all . . . he 
probably would be too well known. He then fancied himself taking 
his fowHng-piece, planting himself behind a hedge, looking out 
whether his enemy would ever, ever pass by, unaccompanied; and 
dwelling with ferocious complacency on this thought, he imagined 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 35 

the sound of a step; at this sound he raises his head without noise; 
recognizes the wretch, raises the fowling-piece, takes aim — fires; 
sees him fall and struggle, bestows a malediction on him, and escapes 
in safety beyond the borders. — And Lucia ? — Scarcely had this word 
come across these dreadful phantasies, when the better thoughts, 
with which Renzo was familiarized, crowded into his mind. He 
recalled the dying charge of his parents. The thought of God, of the 
Blessed Virgin, and of the saints, returned upon him; he remem- 
bered the consolation he had so often experienced from the recollec- 
tion that he was free from crimes; he remembered the horror with 
which he had so often received the news of a murder; and he awoke 
from this dream of blood with fear, with remorse, and yet with a 
sort of joy that he had but imagined it. But the thought of Lucia 
— how many thoughts it brought along with it! So many hopes, so 
many promises, a future so bright, so secure, and this day so longed 
for! And how, with what words announce to her such news? And 
afterwards, what was to be done.' How were their plans to be 
accomplished, in spite of this powerful and wicked enemy.' Along 
with all this, not a defined suspicion, but a tormenting shadow flitted 
every moment through his mind. This overbearing act of Don 
Rodrigo could have no motive but a lawless passion for Lucia. And 
Lucia! could she have given him the smallest encouragement, the 
most distant hope? It was a thought which could not dwell for an 
instant in his mind. But was she aware of it? Could he have con- 
ceived this infamous passion without her perceiving it? Could he 
have carried matters so far, without having made an attempt in 
some other manner? And Lucia had never mentioned a word of it 
to him, her betrothed! 

Overcome by these thoughts, he passed by his own house, which 
was situated in the middle of the village, and proceeding through 
it, came to that of Lucia, which stood at the opposite end. This 
cottage had a little garden in front, which separated it from the 
road; and the garden was surrounded by a low wall. As Renzo 
entered the garden, he heard a confused and continual murmur of 
voices from an upper room. He supposed it was friends and com- 
panions come to greet Lucia; and he did not wish to show himself 
to this company with the sad news he had to communicate visible 



36 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in his face. A little girl, who happened to be in the garden, ran to 
meet him, crying, 'The bridegroom! the bridegroom!' 

'Gently, Bettina, gently!' said Renzo. 'Come here; go up to 
Lucia, take her on one side and whisper in her ear . . . but mind 
no one hears, or suspects . . . tell her I want to speak to her, and 
that I'm waiting in the down-stairs room, and that she must come 
immediately.' The child ran quickly up-stairs, delighted and proud 
to be entrusted with a secret. 

Lucia had just come forth adorned from head to foot by the hands 
of her mother. Her friends were stealing glances at the bride, and 
forcing her to show herself; while she, with the somewhat warlike 
modesty of a rustic, was endeavouring to escape, using her arms as 
a shield for her face, and holding her head downwards, her black 
pencilled eyebrows seeming to frown, while her lips were smiling. 
Her dark and luxuriant hair, divided on her forehead with a white 
and narrow parting, was united behind in many-circled plaitings, 
pierced with long silver pins, disposed around, so as to look like 
an aureola, or saintly glory, a fashion still in use among the Milanese 
peasant-girls. Round her neck she had a necklace of garnets, alter- 
nated with beads of filigree gold. She wore a pretty bodice of flow- 
ered brocade, laced with coloured ribbons, a short gown of embroi- 
dered silk, plaited in close and minute folds, scarlet stockings, and 
a pair of shoes also of embroidered silk. Besides these, which were 
the special ornaments of her wedding-day, Lucia had the every-day 
ornament of a modest beauty, displayed at this time, and increased 
by the varied feelings which were depicted in her face: joy tempered 
by a slight confusion, that placid sadness which occasionally shows 
itself on the face of a bride, and without injuring her beauty, gives 
it an air peculiar to itself. The little Bettina made her way among 
the talkers, came close up to Lucia, cleverly made her understand 
that she had something to communicate, and whispered her little 
message in her ear. 'I am going for a moment, and will be back 
directly,' said Lucia to her friends, and hastily descended the stairs. 

On seeing the changed look and the unquiet manner of Renzo, 
'What is the matter."" she exclaimed, not without a presentiment 
of terror. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 37 

'Lucia!' replied Renzo, 'it is all up for to-day; and God knows 
when we can be man and wife.' 

'What?' said Lucia, altogether amazed. Renzo briefly related to 
her the events of the morning; she listened in great distress; and 
when she heard the name of Don Rodrigo, 'Ah!' she exclaimed, 
blushing and trembling, 'has it come to this f)oint!' 

'Then you knew it ? . . .' said Renzo. 

'Indeed too well,' answered Lucia, 'but to this point!' 

'What did you know about it?' 

'Don't make me speak now, don't make me cry. I will run and 
call my mother, and send away the girls. We must be alone.' 

While she was going, Renzo murmured, 'You never told me any- 
thing about it.' 

'Ah, Renzo!' replied Lucia, turning round for a moment without 
stopping. Renzo understood very well that his name so pronounced 
by Lucia, at that moment, in such a tone, meant to say. Can you 
doubt that I could be silent, except on just and pure motives? 

By this time the good Agnese — (so Lucia's mother was named), 
incited to suspicion and curiosity by the whisper in her ear, — had 
come down to see what was the matter. Her daughter, leaving 
her with Renzo, returned to the assembled maidens, and, comp)osing 
her voice and manner as well as she could, said, 'The Signer Curate 
is ill, and nothing will be done to-day.' This said, she hastily bid 
them good-bye, and went down again. The company departed, and 
disp>ersed themselves through the village, to recount what had hap- 
pened, and to discover whether Don Abbondio was really ill. The 
truth of the fact cut short all the conjectures which had already begun 
to work in their minds, and to be discovered undefined and myste- 
riously in their words. 



CHAPTER III 

WHILE Renzo was relating with pain what Agnese with 
pain listened to, Lucia entered the room. They both turned 
towards her: she indeed knew more about it than they, and 
of her they awaited in explanation which could not but be distressing. 
In the midst of their sorrow they both, according to the different na- 
ture of the love they bore Lucia, discovered in their own manner a 
degree of anger that she had concealed anything from them, especially 
of such a nature. Agnese, although anxious to hear her daughter 
speak, could not refrain from a slight reproof, 'To say nothing to 
your mother in such a case!' 

'Now I will tell you all,' answered Lucia, as she dried her eyes 
with her apron. 

'Speak, speak! — Speak, speak!' at once cried both mother and 
lover. 

'Most Holy Virgin!' exclaimed Lucia, 'who could have believed 
it would have come to this!' Then with a voice tremulous with 
weeping, she related how, as she was returning from her spinning, 
and had loitered behind her companions, Don Rodrigo, in com- 
pany with another gentleman, had passed by her; that he had tried 
to engage her in foolish talk, as she called it; but she, without giving 
him an answer, had quickened her pace, and joined her companions; 
then she had heard the other gentleman laugh loudly, and Don 
Rodrigo say, 'I'll lay you a wager.' The next day they were again 
on the road, but Lucia was in the midst of her companions with 
her eyes on the ground; when the other gentleman laughed, and 
Don Rodrigo said, 'We shall see, we shall see.' 'This day,' continued 
Lucia, 'thank God, was the last of the spinning. I related imme- 
diately . . .' 

'Who was it you told it to?' demanded Agnese, waiting, not 
without a little displeasure, for the name of the confidante who had 
been preferred. 

'To father Cristoforo, in confession, mamma,* replied Lucia, with 

38 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 39 

a sweet tone of apology. 'I related the whole to him, the last time 
we went to church together, at the convent: and if you noticed, that 
morning I kept putting my hand to one thing and another, to pass 
the time till other people were on the road, that we might go in 
company with them; because, after that meeting, the roads make 
me so frightened.' 

At the reverend name of father Cristoforo, the wrath of Agnese 
subsided. 'You did well,' said she; 'but why not tell all to your 
mother also?' 

Lucia had had two good reasons: one not to distress and frighten 
the good woman, about an event against which she could have 
found no remedy; the other not to run the risk of a story travelling 
from mouth to mouth, which she wished to be kept with jealous 
silence; the more so because Lucia hoped that her marriage would 
have cut short at the beginning this abominated persecution. Of 
these two reasons she alleged only the first. 'And to you,' said she, 
turning to Renzo, with that tone which reminds a friend that he is 
unreasonable: 'And to you could I speak about this? Surely you 
know too much of it now!' 

'And what did the father say to you?' asked Agnese. 

'He told me that I must try to hasten the wedding as much as I 
could, and in the mean time to keep myself within-doors; that I 
should pray to the Lord; and he hoped that this man, if he did not 
see me, would not care any more about me. And it was then that 
I forced myself,' continued she, turning again towards Renzo, with- 
out however raising her eyes, and blushing to the temples, 'it was 
then that I put on a too-bold face, and begged you to get it done 
soon, and have it concluded before the fixed time. Who knows what 
you must have thought of me! But I did it for good, and it was 
advised me, and I thought for cenain . . . and this morning I was 
so far from thinking . . .' 

Here Lucia's words were cut short by a violent burst of tears. 

'Ah, rascal! wretch! murderer!' exclaimed Renzo, striding back- 
wards and forwards across the room, and grasping from time to time 
the hilt of his dagger. 

'Oh, heavens, what a fury!' exclaimed Agnese. The young man 
suddenly drew himself up before Lucia, who was weeping, looked 



40 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

at her with an anxious and embittered tenderness, and said, 'This is 
the last deed this assassin shall do.' 

'Ah, no, Renzo, for Heaven's sake!' cried Lucia; 'no, no, for 
Heaven's sake! God is on the side of the poor, and how can we 
expect him to help us if we do wrong?' 

'No, no, for Heaven's sake!' echoed Agnese. 

'Renzo,' said Lucia, with an air of hope and more tranquil reso- 
lution, 'you have a trade, and I know how to work; let us go so 
far off that this man will hear no more about us.' 

'Ah, Lucia! and what then? We are not yet man and wife! Will 
the curate give us a certificate of no impediment, such a man as he 
is? If we were married, oh then! . . .' 

Lucia began to weep again, and all three remained silent, giving 
signs of depression which contrasted strangely with the festive gaiety 
of their dress. 

'Listen, my children; attend to me,' said Agnese, after some mo- 
ments; 'I came into the world long before you; and I know some- 
thing about the world. You need not frighten yourselves too much : 
things are not so bad as people make out. To us poor people the 
skein seems more entangled because we cannot get hold of the right 
end; but sometimes a piece of good advice, a little talk with a man 
who has got learning ... I know well enough what I would say. 
Do as I tell you, Renzo; go to Lecco, seek for Dr Azzecca-Garbugli,' 
tell him all about it, — but mind you don't call him so, for Heaven's 
sake: it's a nick-name. You must tell the Signor Doctor — What in 
the world do they call him? Oh dear! I don't know his right name: 
everybody calls him so. Never mind, seek for this doctor; he is 
tall, thin, bald, with a red nose and a raspberry<oloured mole on his 
cheek.' 

'I know him by sight,' said Renzo. 

'Well,' continued Agnese, 'he is a man! I have seen more than 
one fjerson, bothered like a chicken in a bundle of hemp, and who 
did not know where to put his head, and after being an hour nose to 
nose with the Dr Azzecca-Garbugli, (take good care you don't call 
him so) — I have seen him, I say, make a joke of it. Take these four 
capons, poor creatures! whose necks I ought to have wrung for to- 

' ;'. e., a picker of quarrels. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 41 

night's supper, and carry them to him; because we must never go 
empty-handed to these gentlemen. Relate to him all that has hap- 
pened, and you'll see he will tell you, in a twinkling, things which 
would not come into our heads if we were to think about them for a 
year.' 

Renzo willingly embraced this counsel; Lucia approved it; and 
Agnese, proud of having given it, took the poor creatures one by 
one from the hen-coop, united their eight legs, as one makes up a 
bunch of flowers, tied them up with a piece of string, and consigned 
them to the hands of Renzo, who, after giving and receiving words 
of encouragement and hope, went out by a little gate from the gar- 
den, that he might escafje the observation of the boys, who would 
have run after him, crying, 'The bridegroom! the bridegroom!' 
Thus, having crossed the fields, or, as they call them there, the places, 
he continued his route along narrow lanes, giving utterance to his 
bitter thoughts, as he reflected on his misfortune, and considering 
what he must say to the Dr Azzecca-Garbugli. I leave it to the 
reader to think how the journey was enjoyed by those poor creatures, 
so bound together, and held by the feet with their heads downwards, 
in the hand of a man who, agitated by so many passions, accom- 
panied with appropriate gestures the thoughts which rushed tumul- 
tuously through his mind; and in moments of anger or determina- 
tion, suddenly extending his arm, inflicted terrible shocks upon them, 
and caused those four pendent heads to bob violently, if we may 
be allowed the expression; they, meanwhile, vigorously applying 
themselves to peck each other, as too often happens among friends 
in adversity. 

Arriving at the village, he inquired for the Doctor's house, and 
when it was pointed out to him, quickly made his way thither. On 
approaching it, however, he began to feel that bashfulness so usual 
with the poor and ignorant in the presence of a gentleman or man 
of learning, and forgot all the fine speeches he had prepared; but 
a glance at the chickens he carried in his hand restored his courage. 
He went into the kitchen, and asked the maid-servant if he could 
see the Signor Doctor. The woman looked at the birds, and, as if 
accustomed to such presents, was about to take them in her hand, 
but Renzo held them back, because he wanted the Doctor to see he 



42 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

had brought something with him. Just at this moment, the wished- 
for personage made his appearance, as the servant was saying, 'Give 
them here, and go forward to the study.' Renzo made a low bow 
to the Doctor, who graciously bid him 'Come in, my son,' and took 
him into his study. It was a large room, decorated on three sides 
with portraits of the twelve Caesars; the remaining wall was hidden 
by a large bookcase, filled with old and dusty books: in the middle 
of the room stood a table covered with extracts, {petitions, libels, and 
proclamations: three or four chairs were scattered around, and on 
one side was a large arm-chair, with a high square back, terminating 
at the corners in two horn-shaped ornaments of wood, and covered 
with leather, fastened down with large nails. Some of these had 
fallen out, so that the leather curled up here and there at pleasure, 
leaving the corners unencumbered. The Doctor was in his dressing- 
gown; that is to say, he had on a faded robe, which had served him 
for many years to harangue in on days of state, when he went to 
Milan on any important cause. Having shut the door, he re-animated 
the young man's confidence with these words: 'Tell me your case, 
my son.' 

'I wish to speak a word to you in confidence.' 

'I'm ready — speak,' replied the Doctor, seating himself on his arm- 
chair. 

Renzo stood before the table, and twirling his hat with his right 
hand round the other, continued: 'I want to know from you, who 
have studied . . .' 

'Tell the case as it is,' interrupted the Doctor. 

'Excuse me, Signor Doctor: we poor people don't know how to 
speak properly. I want, then, to know . . .' 

'Blessed set you are! You are all alike. Instead of relating your 
case, you ask questions, because you've already made up your minds.' 

'I beg your pardon, Signor Doctor. I want to know if there's any 
punishment for threatening a curate, and forbidding him to celebrate 
a marriage?' 

'I understand,' muttered the doctor, who in truth had not under- 
stood; 'I understand.' He then put on a serious face; but it was a 
seriousness mingled with an air of compassion and importance; and, 
pressing his lips, he uttered an inarticulate sound, betokening a sen- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 43 

timent, afterwards more clearly expressed in his first words. 'A 
serious case, my son. There are laws to the point. You have done 
well to come to me. It is a clear case, recognized in a hundred proc- 
lamations, and . . . stay! in an edict of the last year, by the present 
Signor Governor. I'll let you see it and handle it directly.' 

So saying, he rose from his seat, and hunted through the chaos of 
papers, shovelling the lower ones uppermost with his hands, as if he 
were throwing corn into a measure. 

'Where can it be? Come nearer, come nearer. One is obliged to 
have so many things in hand I But it must surely be here, for it is a 
proclamation of importance. Ah! here it is, here it is!' He took it, 
unfolded it, looked at the date, and with a still more serious face, 
continued, 'The fifteenth of October, 1627. Certainly; it is last year's; 
a fresh proclamation; it is these that cause such fear. Can you read, 
my son?' 

'A little, Signor Doctor.' 

'Very well, follow me with your eye, and you shall see.' And 
holding the edict displayed in the air, he began to read, rapidly 
muttering some passages, and pausing distinctly, with marked em- 
phasis, upon others, as the case required. 

'Although in the proclamation published by order of the Signor 
Dul{e of Feria, the 14/A December, 1620, and confirmed by the Most 
Illustrious and Most Excellent Signor, the Signor Gonzalo Fernan- 
dez de Cordova, (S^c, there was provision made, by extraordinary 
and rigorous measures, against oppressions, commotions, and ty- 
rannical acts that some persons dare to commit against the devoted 
subjects of his Majesty; nevertheless, the frequency of crimes and 
violences, O"*^-. has increased to such a degree, that his Excellency 
is under the necessity, iyc. Wherefore, with the concurrence of the 
Senate and a Council, tyc, he has resolved to publish the present 
edict. 

'And, to begin with tyrannical acts, experience showing, that many, 
as well in cities, as in the country. Do you hear? excite commo- 
tions in this state by violence, and oppress the wea\ in various ways, 
as, for example, by compelling them to mal^e hard bargains in pur- 
chases, rents, (yc. where am I? ah! here! look — to perform or not 
to perform marriages; eh!' 



44 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'That is my case,' said Renzo. 

'Listen, listen; there is plenty more; and then we shall see the 
penalty. To give evidence, or not to give evidence; compelling one 
to leave his home, t^c, another to pay a debt: all this has nothing 
to do with us. Ah! we have it here; this priest not to perform that 
to which he is obliged by his office, or to do things which do not 
belong to him. Eh!' 

'It seems as if they had made the edict exactly for me.' 

'Eh! is it not so? listen, listen: and similar oppressions, whether 
perpetrated by feudatories, the nobility, middle ranl{s, lower orders, 
or plebeians. No one escapes: they are all here: it is like the valley 
of Jehoshaphat. Listen now to the penalty. All these, and other such 
lil(e criminal acts, although they are prohibited, nevertheless, it being 
necessary to use greater rigour, his Excellency, not relenting in this 
proclamation, ^c, enjoins and commands that against all offenders 
under any of the above-mentioned heads, or the lif^e, all the ordi- 
nary magistrates of the state shall proceed by pecuniary and corporal 
punishment, by banishment or the galleys, and even by death . . . 
a mere bagatelle! at the will of his Excellency or of the Senate, ac- 
cording to the character of the cases, persons and circumstances. 
And this ir-re-mis-si-bly, and with all rigour, &c. There's plenty of 
it here, eh.? And see, here's the signature: Gonzalo Fernandez de 
Cordova: and lower down; Platonus; and here again: Vidit Ferrer: 
there's nothing wanting.' 

While the Doctor was reading, Renzo slowly followed him with 
his eye, trying to draw out the simple meaning, and to behold for 
himself those blessed words, which he believed were to render him 
assistance. The Doctor, seeing his client more attentive than alarmed, 
was greatly surprised. He must be matriculated, said he to himself — 
'Ah! ah!' added he aloud; 'you have been obliged to shave off the 
lock. You have been prudent; however you need not have done so, 
when putting yourself under my hands. The case is serious; but you 
don't know what I have courage to do in a time of need.' 

To understand this mistake of the Doctor's, it must be known, 
that at that time, bravoes by profession, and villains of every kind, 
used to wear a long lock of hair, which they drew over the face like 
a visor on meeting any one, when the occasion was one which ren- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 45 

dered disguise necessary, and the undertaking such as required both 
force and circumspection. 

The proclamation had not been silent with regard to this matter. 
'His Excellency (the Marquis of La Hynojosa) commands that who- 
soever shall wear his hair of such a length as to cover his forehead 
as far as the eyebrows only, or shall wear tresses either before or 
behind the ears, shall incur the penalty of three hundred crowns; or 
in case of inability, three years in the galleys for the first offence, and 
for the second, besides the above, a severer penalty still, at the will 
of his Excellency. 

'However, in case of baldness or other reasonable cause, as a marf(^ 
or wound, he gives permission to such, for their greater decorum or 
health, to wear their hair so long as may be necessary to cover such 
failings, and no more; warning them well to beware of exceeding the 
limits of duty and pure necessity, that they may not incur th< penalty 
imposed upon other dissemblers. 

'And he also commands all barbers, under penalty of a hundred 
crowns, or three stripes, to be given them in public, and even greater 
corporal punishment, at the will of his Excellency, as above, that 
they leave not on those whom they shave, any l^ind of the said 
tresses, locl(s, curls, or hair, longer than usual, either on the forehead, 
temples, or behind the ears; but that they shall be all of equal length, 
as above, except in case of baldness, or other defects, as already de- 
scribed.' The lock, then, might almost be considered a part of the 
armour, and a distinctive mark of bravoes and vagabonds; so that 
these characters very commonly bore the name of Ciuffi? This term 
is still used, with a mitigated signification, in the dialect of the 
country; and, perhaps, there is not one of our Milanese readers who 
does not remember hearing it said of him, in his childhood, either by 
his relatives, his tutor, or some family friend, 'He is a Ciuffo; he is 
a Ciuffetto.' 

'On the word of a poor youth,' replied Renzo, 'I never wore a lock 
in my life.' 

'I can do nothing,' replied the Doctor, shaking his head, with a 
smile between malice and impatience. 'If you don't trust me, I can 
do nothing. He who tells lies to the lawyer, do you see, my son, is 

' i. e.. Locks. 



46 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

a fool who will tell the truth to the judge. People must relate matters 
clearly to the advocate: it is our business to make them intricate. 
If you wish me to help you, you must tell me all from a to z, with 
your heart in your hand, as if to your confessor. You must name the 
person who has employed you. He will most likely be a person of 
consequence; and, in that case, I will go to him to perform an act 
of duty. I shan't, however, tell him, do you see, that you told me he 
had sent you, trust me. I will tell him I come to implore his pro- 
tection for a poor slandered youth, and will take all necessary meas- 
ures with him to finish the affair commendably. You understand, 
that, in securing himself, he will also secure you. Even if the scrape 
be all your own, I won't go back; I have extricated others from 
worse predicaments. And if you have not offended a person of 
quality, you understand, I will engage to get you out of the difficulty 
— with a little expense, you understand. You must tell me who is 
the offended party, as they say; and according to the condition, 
rank, and temper of the person, we shall see whether it will be 
better to bring him to reason by offers of protection, or, in some 
way, to criminate him, and put a flea in his ear; because, you see, 
I know very well how to manage these edicts; no one must be 
guilty, and no one must be innocent. As to the curate, if he has 
any discretion, he will keep in the back-ground; if he is a simpleton, 
we will dispose of him too. One can escape from any intrigue; but 
it requires one to act like a man; and your case is serious — serious, 
I say, serious; the edict speaks clearly; and if the matter were to be 
decided between justice and you, to say the truth, it would go hard 
with you. I speak to you as a friend. One must pay for pranks; if 
you wish to get off clear, money and frankness — trust yourself to 
one who wishes you well; obey, and do all that is suggested to you.' 
While the Doctor poured forth this rhapsody, Renzo stood looking 
at him, with the spell-bound attention of a labouring man watching 
a juggler in the street, who, after thrusting into his mouth handful 
after handful of tow, draws forth thence ribbon — ribbon — ribbon — 
seemingly without end. When, at last, he understood what the Doc- 
tor was saying, and the strange mistake he had made, he cut short 
the ribbon in his mouth with these words: 'Oh, Signor Doctor, 
how have you understood me ? The case is exactly the other way. I 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 47 

have threatened no one; I never do such things, not I; ask all my 
neighbours, and you will hear I have never had anything to do with 
the law. The trick has been played upon me; and I came to ask you 
what I must do to get justice, and I am very glad that I have seen 
this edict.' 

'Hang him!' exclaimed the Doctor, opening his eyes. 'What a 
medley you have made! So it is: you are all aUke; is it possible you 
don't know how to tell things plainly?' 

'I beg your pardon, Signor Doctor, you didn't give me time; now 
I will relate the case as it is. You must know, then, that I was to 
have married to-day,' and here Renzo's voice became tremulous — 'I 
was to have married to-day a young woman to whom I have paid 
my addresses since the beginning of summer; and this was the day, 
as I said, that was fixed with the Signor Curate, and everything was 
ready. Well, this morning, the Signor Curate began to throw out 
some excuses . . . however, not to tire you, I will only say, I made 
him speak, as was but just; and he confessed that he had been for- 
bidden under pain of death, to celebrate this marriage. This tyrant 
of a Don Rodrigo . . .' 

'Get you gone!' quickly interrupted the Doctor, raising his eye- 
brows, wrinkling his red nose, and distorting his mouth; 'get you 
gone! Why do you come here to rack my brain with these lies? 
Talk in this way to your companions, who don't know the mean- 
ing of words, and don't come and utter them to a gentleman who 
knows well what they are worth. Go away, go away; you don't 
know what you are talking about; I don't meddle with boys; I don't 
want to hear talk of this sort: talk in the air.' 

'I will take an oath . . .' 

'Get you gone, I tell you; what do I care for your oaths! I won't 
enter into the business; I wash my hands of it.' And he began rub- 
bing and twirling them one over the other, as if he were really 
washing them. 'Learn how to speak; and don't come and take a 
gentleman thus by surprise.' 

'But listen — but listen,' vainly repeated Renzo. The Doctor, fum- 
ing all the time, pushed him towards the door, and, on reaching it, 
set it wide open, called the servant, and said, 'Be quick and give this 
man what he brought. I want nothing, I want nothing.' The woman 



48 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

had never before executed a similar order all the time she had been 
in the Doctor's service; but it was pronounced in so resolute a man- 
ner, that she did not hesitate to obey. So, taking the four poor birds, 
she gave them to Renzo, with a look of contemptuous compassion, 
which seemed to say, 'you must indeed have made a grand blunder.' 
Renzo tried to be ceremonious, but the Doctor was inexorable; and 
the unhappy wight, astonished and bewildered, and more wrathful 
than ever, was compelled to take back the restored victims, and 
return to the country to relate the pleasing result of his expedition 
to Agnese and Lucia. 

During his absence, after sorrowfully changing their nuptial robes 
for the humble daily dress, they had set themselves to consult anew, 
Lucia sobbing, Agnese sighing mournfully, from time to time. 
When Agnese had sufficiently enlarged upon the great effects they 
might hope for from the Doctor's advice, Lucia remarked, that they 
ought to try every method likely to assist them; that Father Cris- 
toforo was a man not only to advise, but also to render more effectual 
assistance, where it concerned the poor and unfortunate; and that 
it would be a good thing if they could let him know what had 
hapfjened. 

'It would, indeed,' replied Agnese; and they began immediately 
to contrive together some plan to accomplish it; since, to go them- 
selves to the convent, distant, perhaps, two miles, was an under- 
taking they would rather not risk that day; and, certainly, no one 
with any judgment would have advised them to do so. While, how- 
ever, they were thus engaged in weighing the different sides of the 
question, they heard a knock at the door; and at the same moment, 
a low but distinct Deo Gratias. Lucia, wondering who it could be, 
ran to open it, and immediately, making a low bow, there entered 
a lay Capuchin collector, his bag hanging over his left shoulder, and 
the mouth of it twisted and held tight in his two hands, over his 
breast. 'Oh, brother Galdino!' exclaimed the two women. 'The 
Lord be with you,' said the friar; 'I have come to beg for the 
nuts.' 

'Go and fetch the nuts for the Fathers,' said Agnese. Lucia arose, 
and moved towards the other room; but, before entering it, she 
paused behind the friar's back, who remained standing in exactly 
the same position; and putting her fore-finger on her lips, gave her 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 49 

mother a look demanding secrecy, in which were mingled tender- 
ness, supplication, and even a certain air of authority. 

The collector, inquisitively eying Agnese at a distance, said, 'And 
this wedding? I thought it was to have been to-day; but I noticed 
a stir in the neighbourhood, as if indicating something new. What 
has happened?' 

'The Signor Curate is ill, and we are obliged to postpone it,' 
hastily replied Agnese. Probably the answer might have been very 
different, if Lucia had not given her the hint. 'And how does the 
collection go on?' added she, wishing to change the conversation. 

'Badly, good woman, badly. They are all here.' And so saying, he 
took the wallet off his shoulders and tossed it up between his hands 
into the air. 'They are all here; and to collect this mighty abundance, 
I have had to knock at ten doors.' 

'But the year is scarce, brother Galdino; and when one has to 
struggle for bread, one measures everything according to the scar- 
city.' 

'And what must we do, good woman, to make better times return? 
Give alms. Don't you know the miracle of the nuts that happened 
many years ago in our Convent of Romagna?' 

'No, indeed I tell me.' 

'Well, you must know, then, that in our convent, there was a. holy 
Father, whose name was Father Macario. One day, in winter, walk- 
ing along a narrow path, in a field belonging to one of our bene- 
factors — a good man also — Father Macario saw him standing near a 
large walnut-tree, and four peasants, with axes upraised, about to 
fell it, having laid bare its roots to the sun. "What are you doing 
to this poor tree?" asked Father Macario. "Why, Father, it has 
borne no fruit for many years, so now I will make firing of it." 
"Leave it, leave it," said the Father; "be assured this year it will 
produce more fruit than leaves." The benefactor, knowing who it 
was that had uttered these words, immediately ordered the work- 
men to throw the soil upon the roots again; and calling to the 
Father, who continued his walk, said, "Father Macario, half of the 
crop shall be for the convent." The report of the prophecy spread, 
and every one flocked to see the tree. Spring, in very truth, brought 
blossoms without number, and then followed nuts — nuts without 
number. The good benefactor had not the happiness of gathering 



5© ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

them, for he went before the harvest to receive the reward of his 
charity. But the miracle was, in consequence, so much the greater, 
as you will hear. This worthy man left behind him a son of very 
different character. Well, then, at the time of gathering, the col- 
lector went to receive the moiety belonging to the convent; but the 
son pretended perfect ignorance of the matter, and had the temerity 
to reply, that he had never heard that Capuchins knew how to 
gather nuts. What do you think happened then ? One day, (listen 
to this,) the knave was entertaining a party of his friends, of the 
same genus as himself, and while making merry, he related the story 
of the walnuts, and ridiculed the friars. His jovial friends wished 
to go see this wonderful heap of nuts, and he conducted them to 
the store house. But listen now; he opened the door, went towards 
the corner where the great heap had been laid, and while saying, 
"Look," he looked himself, and saw — what do you think? — a mag- 
nificent heap of withered walnut-leaves! This was a lesson for him! 
and the convent, instead of being a loser by the denied alms, 
gained thereby; for, after so great a miracle, the contribution of 
nuts increased to such a degree, that a benefactor, moved with 
pity for the poor collector, made a present to the convent of an 
ass, to assist in carrying the nuts home. And so much oil was made, 
that all the poor in the neighbourhood came and had as much as 
they required; for we are like the sea, which receives water from 
all quarters, and returns it to be again distributed through the 
rivers,' 

At this moment Lucia returned, her apron so laden with nuts, that 
it was with difficulty she could manage it, holding the two corners 
stretched out at arm's length, while the friar Galdino lifted the sack 
off his shoulders, and putting it on the ground, opened the mouth 
for the reception of the abundant gift. Agnese glanced towards Lucia 
a surprised and reproachful look for her prodigality; but Lucia re- 
turned a glance which seemed to say, 'I will justify myself.' The 
friar broke forth into praises, prognostications, promises, and expres- 
sions of gratitude, and replacing his bag, was about to depart. But 
Lucia, recalling him, said, 'I want you to do me a kindness; I want 
you to tell Father Cristoforo that we earnestly wish to speak to him, 
and ask him to be so good as to come to us poor people quickly — 
directly; for I cannot go to the church.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 51 

'Is this all ? It shall not be an hour before Father Cristoforo knows 
your wish.' 

'I believe you.' 

'You need not fear.' And so saying, he departed, rather more 
burdened and a litde better satisfied than when he entered the 
house. 

Let no one think, on hearing that a poor girl sent to ask with 
such confidence for Father Cristoforo, and that the collector ac- 
cepted the commission without wonder and without difficulty — let 
no one, I say, suppose that this Cristoforo was a mean friar — a person 
of no importance. He was, on the contrary, a man who had great 
authority among his friends, and in the country around; but, such 
was the condition of the Capuchins, that nothing appeared to them 
either too high or too low. To minister to the basest, and to be min- 
istered to by the most powerful; to enter palaces or hovels with the 
same deportment of humility and security; to be sometimes in the 
same house the object of ridicule and a person without whom noth- 
ing could be decided; to solicit alms everywhere, and distribute them 
to all those who begged at the convent: — a Capuchin was accus- 
tomed to all these. Traversing the road, he was equally liable to 
meet a noble who would reverently kiss the end of the rope round 
his waist, or a crowd of wicked boys, who, pretending to be quarrel- 
ling among themselves, would fling at his beard dirt and mire. 
The word frate was pronounced in those days with the greatest 
respect, and again with the bitterest contempt; and the Capuchins, 
perhaps, more than any other order, were the objects of two directly 
opposite sentiments, and shared two directly opposite kinds of treat- 
ment; because, possessing no property, wearing a more than ordi- 
narily distinctive habit, and making more open professions of humili- 
ation, they exposed themselves more directly to the veneration, or 
the contumely, which these circumstances would excite, according 
to the different tempers and different opinions of men. 

As soon as the friar had left, — 'AH those nuts!' exclaimed Agnese: 
'and in such a year too!' 

'I beg pardon, mother,' replied Lucia: 'but if we had only given 
like others, brother Galdino would have had to go about no one 
knows how long, before his wallet would have been filled; and we 
cannot tell when he would have returned to the convent; besides, 



52 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

what with chatting here and there, he would very Hkely have for- 
gotten . . .' 

'Ah! you thought wisely; and, after all, charity always brings a 
good reward,' said Agnese, who, spite of her little defects, was a good 
woman; and would have given everything she owned for this only 
daughter, whom she loved with the tenderest affection. 

At this moment Renzo arrived, and, entering with an irritated 
and mortified countenance, threw the chickens on the table; and 
this was the last sad vicissitude the poor creatures underwent that 
day. 

'Fine advice you gave me!' said he to Agnese. 'You sent me to a 
nice gentleman, to one who really helps the unfortunate!' And he 
began immediately to relate his reception at the Doctor's. Poor 
Agnese, astonished at his ill success, endeavoured to prove that her 
advice had been good, and that Renzo had not gone about the busi- 
ness cleverly; but Lucia interrupted the question, by announcing 
that she hoped they had found a better helper. Renzo welcomed the 
hope as most f)eople do who are in misfortune and perplexity. 'But if 
the Father,' said he, 'does not find us a remedy, I will find one some- 
how or other.' The women recommended peace, patience, and pru- 
dence. 'To-morrow,' said Lucia, 'Father Cristoforo will certainly 
come, and you'll see he will find some help that we poor people 
can't even imagine.' 

'I hope so,' said Renzo; 'but in any case I will get redress, or find 
some one to get it for me. There must be justice in the end, even 
in this world!' 

In such melancholy discourse, and in such occurrences as have been 
described, the day wore away, and began to decline. 

'Good night,' said Lucia, sorrowfully, to Renzo, who could not 
make up his mind to leave her. 'Good night,' replied he, still more 
mournfully. 

'Some saint will help us,' added she. 'Be prudent, and try to be 
resigned.' Agnese added other advice of the same kind, and the 
bridegroom went away with fury in his heart, repeating all the while 
those strange words, 'There must be justice at last, even in this 
world!' So true is it that a man overwhelmed with great sorrows 
knows not what he is saying. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE sun had scarcely risen above the horizon, when Father 
Cristoforo left the convent of Pescarenico, and proceeded 
towards the cottage where he was expjected. Pescarenico is 
a little town on the left bank of the Adda, or rather, we should say, 
of the lake, a few paces below the bridge; a group of houses, in- 
habited for the most part by fishermen, and adorned here and there 
with nets hung out to dry. The convent was situated (and the build- 
ing still remains) outside the town, facing the entrance, on the road 
that leads from Lecco to Bergamo. The sky was serene, and as the 
sun gradually emerged from behind the mountain, the light de- 
scended from the summit of the opposite range, spreading itself 
rapidly over the steeps and through the valleys; while a soft autum- 
nal breeze, shaking from the boughs the withered leaves of the mul- 
berry, carried them away to fall at some distance from the tree. In 
the vineyards on either hand, the red leaves of various shades glit- 
tered on the still festooned branches; and the newly made nets ap- 
p)eared dark and distinct among the fields of white stubble sparkling 
in the dew. The scene was bright; but the occasional sight of a 
human figure moving therein dispelled the cheerful thoughts which 
the scene was calculated to inspire. At every step one met with 
pale and emaciated beggars, either grown old in the business, or 
reduced by the necessity of the times to ask alms. They looked pite- 
ously at Father Cristoforo as they silently passed him; and although, 
as a Capuchin never had any money, they had nothing to hope 
from him, yet they gave him a bow of gratitude for the alms which 
they had received, or were going to solicit, at the convent. The 
sight of the labourers scattered over the fields had in it something 
still more mournful. Some were sowing seed, but niggardly and 
unwillingly, like a man who risks something he highly prizes: 
others could with difficulty use the spade, and wearily overturned 
the sods. The half-starved child, holding by a cord the thin meagre 
cow, and looking narrowly around, hastily stooped to steal from it 

53 



54 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

some herb as food for the family, which hunger had taught them 
could be used to sustain life. Such sights as these at every step 
increased the sadness of the friar, who even now had a presentiment 
in his heart that he was going to hear of some misfortune. 

But why did he take so much thought for Lucia? And why, at 
the first intimation of her wish, did he attend to it so diligently, 
as if it were a call from the Father Provincial.' And who was this 
Father Cristoforo? — It will be necessary to answer all these inquiries. 

Father Cristoforo of • * • was a man nearer sixty than fifty years 
of age. His shaven head, circled with a narrow line of hair, Uke a 
crown, according to the fashion of the Capuchin tonsure, was raised 
from time to time with a movement that betrayed somewhat of 
disdain and disquietude, and then quickly sank again in thoughts 
of lowliness and humility. His long, gray beard, covering his cheeks 
and chin, contrasted markedly with the prominent features of the 
upper part of his face, to which a long and habitual abstinence had 
rather given an air of gravity, than effaced the natural expression. 
His sunken eyes, usually bent on the ground, sometimes brightened 
up with a momentary fire, like two spirited horses, under the hand 
of a driver whom they know by experience they cannot overcome; 
yet occasionally they indulge in a few gambols and prancings, for 
which they are quickly repaid by a smart jerk of the bit. 

Father Cristoforo had not always been thus: nor had he always 
been Cristoforo: his baptismal name was Ludovico. He was the 
son of a merchant of * * *, (these asterisks are all inserted by the 
circumspection of our anonymous author,) who, in his latter years, 
being considerably wealthy, and having only one son, had given up 
trade, and retired as an independent gentleman. 

In his new state of idleness he began to entertain a great contempt 
for the time he had spent in making money, and being useful in 
the world. Full of this fancy, he used every endeavour to make 
others forget that he had been a merchant; in fact, he wished to 
forget it himself. But the warehouse, the bales, the journal, the 
measure, were for ever intruding upon his mind, like the shade of 
Banquo to Macbeth, even amidst the honours of the table and the 
smiles of flatterers. It is impossible to describe the care of these 
poor mortals to avoid every word that might appear like an allusion 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 55 

to the former condition of their patron. One day, to mention a 
single instance, towards the end of dinner, in the moment of liveliest 
and most unrestrained festivity, when it would be difficult to say 
which was the merriest, the company who emptied the table, or 
the host who filled it, he was rallying with friendly superiority one 
of his guests, the most prodigious eater in the world. He, meaning 
to return the joke, with the frankness of a child, and without the 
least shade of malice, replied, 'Ah, I'm listening like a merchant.' ' 
The poor offender was at once conscious of the unfortunate word 
that had escaped his lips; he cast a diffident glance towards his 
patron's clouded face, and each would gladly have resumed his 
former expression; but it was impxjssible. The other guests occupied 
themselves, each in his own mind, in devising some plan of rem- 
edying the mistake, and making a diversion; but the silence thus 
occasioned only made the error more apparent. Each individual en- 
deavoured to avoid meeting his companion's eye; each felt that all 
were occupied in the thought they wished to conceal. Cheerfulness 
and sociability had fled for that day, and the poor man, not so much 
imprudent as unfortunate, never again received an invitation. In 
this manner, Ludovico's father passed his latter years, continually 
subject to annoyances, and perpetually in dread of being despised; 
never reflecting that it was no more contemptuous to sell than to 
buy, and that the business of which he was now so much ashamed, 
had been carried on for many years before the public without regret. 
He gave his son an expensive education, according to the judgment 
of the times, and as far as he was permitted by the laws and cus- 
toms of the country; he procured him masters in the different 
branches of literature and in exercises of horsemanship, and at last 
died, leaving the youth heir to a large fortune. Ludovico had ac- 
quired gentlemanly habits and feelings, and the flatterers by whom 
he had been surrounded had accustomed him to be treated with the 
greatest respect. But when he endeavoured to mix with the first 
men of the city, he met with very different treatment to what he 
had been accustomed to, and he began to perceive that, if he would 
be admitted into their society, as he desired, he must learn, in a new 

' 'lo facdo orecchie da mercantc' A proverbial expression, meaning, 'I pay no 
attention to you,' which quite loses its point when translated into English. 



56 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

school, to be patient and submissive, and every moment to be looked 
down upon and despised. 

Such a mode of Ufe accorded neither with the education of Ludo- 
vico, nor with his disposition, and he withdrew from it, highly 
piqued. Still he absented himself unwillingly; it appeared to him 
that these ought really to have been his companions, only he wanted 
them to be a little more tractable. With this mixture of dislike and 
inclination, not being able to make them his familiar associates, yet 
wishing in some way to be connected with them, he endeavoured to 
rival them in show and magnificence, thus purchasing for himself 
enmity, jealousy, and ridicule. His disposition, open and at the same 
time violent, had occasionally engaged him in more serious con- 
tentions. He had a natural and sincere horror of fraud and oppres- 
sion — a horror rendered still more vivid by the rank of those whom 
he saw daily committing them — exactly the persons he hated. To 
appease or to excite all these passions at once, he readily took the 
part of the weak and oppressed, assumed the office of arbitrator, 
and intermeddling in one dispute, drew himself into others; so that 
by degrees he established his character as a protector of the op- 
pressed, and a vindicator of injuries. The employment, however, 
was troublesome; and it need not be asked whether poor Ludovico 
met with enemies, untoward accidents, and vexations of spirit. 
Besides the external war he had to maintain, he was continually 
harassed by internal strifes; for, in order to carry out his under- 
takings, (not to speak of such as never were carried out,) he was 
often obliged to make use of subterfuges, and have recourse to vio- 
lence which his conscience could not approve. He was compelled 
to keep around him a great number of bravoes; and, as much for his 
own security as to ensure vigorous assistance, he had to choose the 
most daring, or, in other words, the most unprincipled, and thus to 
live with villains for the sake of justice. Yet on more than one 
occasion, either discouraged by ill success, or disquieted by immi- 
nent danger, wearied by a state of constant defence, disgusted with 
his companions, and in apprehension of dissipating his property, 
which was daily drawn up)on largely, either in a good cause or in 
support of his bold enterprises, — more than once he had taken a 
fancy to turn friar; for in these times, this was the commonest way 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 57 

of escaping difficulties. This idea would probably have been only a 
fancy all his life, had it not been changed to a resolution by a more 
serious and terrible accident than he had yet met with. 

He was walking one day along the streets, in company with a 
former shopkeeper, whom his father had raised to the office of 
steward, and was followed by two bravoes. The steward, whose 
name was Cristoforo, was about fifty years old, devoted from child- 
hood to his master, whom he had known from his birth, and by 
whose wages and liberality he was himself supported, with his wife 
and eight children. Ludovico perceived a gentleman at a distance, 
an arrogant and overbearing man, whom he had never spoken to 
in his life, but his cordial enemy, to whom Ludovico heartily re- 
turned the hatred; for it is a singular advantage of this world, that 
men may hate and be hated without knowing each other. The 
Signor, followed by four bravoes, advanced haughtily with a proud 
step, his head raised, and his mouth expressive of insolence and 
contempt. They both walked next to the wall, which (be it ob- 
served) was on Ludovico's right hand; and this, according to cus- 
tom, gave him the right (how far people will go to pursue the right 
of a case!) of not moving from the said wall to give place to any 
one, to which custom at that time, great importance was attached. 
The Signor, on the contrary, in virtue of another custom, held that 
this right ought to be conceded to him in consideration of his rank, 
and that it was Ludovico's part to give way. So that in this, as it 
happens in many other cases, two opposing customs clashed, the 
question of which was to have the preference remaining undecided, 
thus giving occasions of dispute, whenever one hard head chanced 
to come in contact with another of the same nature. The foes ap- 
proached each other, both close to the wall, like two walking figures 
in bas-relief, and on finding themselves face to face, the Signor, eye- 
ing Ludovico with a haughty air and imperious frown, said, in a 
corresponding tone of voice, 'Go to the outside.' 
'You go yourself,' replied Ludovico; 'the path is mine.* 
'With men of your rank the path is always mine.' 
'Yes, if the arrogance of men of your rank were a law for men of 
mine.' 
The two trains of attendants stood still, each behind its leader. 



58 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

fiercely regarding each other with their hands on their daggers pre- 
pared for battle, while the passers-by stopped on their way and with- 
drew into the road, placing themselves at a distance to observe the 
issue; the presence of these spectators continually animating the 
punctilio of the disputants. 

'To the outside, vile mechanic! or I'll quickly teach you the civiUty 
you owe a gentleman.' 

'You lie: I am not vile.' 

'You lie, if you say I lie.' This reply was pragmatical. 'And if 
you were a gentleman, as I am,' added the Signer, 'I would prove 
with the sword that you are the liar.' 

'That is a capital pretext for dispensing with the trouble of main- 
taining the insolence of your words by your deeds.' 

'Throw this rascal in the mud,' said the Signer, turning to his 
followers. 

'We shall see,' said Ludovico, immediately retiring a step, and 
laying his hand on his sword. 

'Rash man!' cried the other, drawing his own, 'I will break this 
when it is stained with your vile blood.' 

At these words they flew upon one another, the attendants of the 
two parties fighting in defence of their masters. The combat was 
unequal, both in number, and because Ludovico aimed rather at 
parrying the blows of, and disarming his enemy than killing him, 
while the Signer was resolved upon his foe's death at any cost. 
Ludovico had already received a blow from the dagger of one of 
the bravoes in his left arm, and a slight wound on his cheek, and 
his principal enemy was pressing on to make an end of him, when 
Cristoforo, seeing his master in extreme fjeril, went behind the Sig- 
ner with his dagger, who, turning all his fury upon his new enemy, 
ran him through with his sword. At this sight Ludovico, as if 
beside himself, buried his own in the body of his provoker, and 
laid him at his feet, almost at the same moment as the unfortunate 
Cristoforo. The followers of the Signer, seeing him en the ground, 
immediately betook themselves to flight : these of Ludovico, wounded 
and beaten, having no longer any one to fight with, and not wishing 
to be mingled in the rapidly increasing multitude, fled the ether way. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 59 

and Ludovico was left alone in the midst of the crowd, with these 
two ill-fated companions lying at his feet. 

'What's the matter? — There's one, — There are two. — They have 
pierced his body. — Who has been murdered.'' — That tyrant. — Oh, 
Holy Mary, what a confusion! — Seek, and you shall find. — One 
moment pays all. — So he is gone! — What a blow! — It must be a 
serious affair. — And this other p)oor fellow! — Mercy! what a sight! 
— Save him, save him! — It will go hard with him too. — See how 
he is mangled! he is covered with blood. — Escape, poor fellow, 
escape! — Take care you are not caught.' 

These words predominating over the confused tumult of the 
crowd, expressed their prevailing opinion, while assistance accom- 
panied the advice. The scene had taken place near a Capuchin 
convent, an asylum in those days, as every one knows, impenetrable 
to bailiffs and all that complication of persons and things which 
went by the name of justice. The wounded and almost senseless 
murderer was conducted, or rather carried by the crowd, and deliv- 
ered to the monks with the recommendation, 'He is a worthy man 
who has made a proud tyrant cold; he was provoked to it, and did 
it in his own defence.' 

Ludovico had never before shed blood, and although homicide 
was in those times so common that every one was accustomed to 
hear of and witness it, yet the impression made on his mind by the 
sight of one man murdered for him, and another by him, was new 
and indescribable; — a disclosure of sentiments before unknown. The 
fall of his enemy, the sudden alteration of the features, passing in a 
moment from a threatening and furious expression to the calm and 
solemn stillness of death, was a sight that instantly changed the 
feelings of the murderer. He was dragged to the convent almost 
without knowing where he was, or what they were doing to him; 
and when his memory returned, he found himself on a bed in the 
infirmary, attended by a surgeon-friar, (for the Capuchins generally 
had one in each convent,) who was applying lint and bandages to 
the two wounds he had received in the contest. A father, whose 
sp)ecial office it was to attend upon the dying, and who had fre- 
quently been called upon to exercise his duties in the street, was 



6o ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

quickly summoned to the place of combat. He returned a few min- 
utes afterwards, and entering the infirmary, approached the bed 
where Ludovico lay. 'Comfort yourself,' said he, 'he has at least 
died calmly, and has charged me to ask your pardon, and to convey 
his to you.' These words aroused poor Ludovico, and awakened 
more vividly and distinctly the feelings which confusedly crowded 
upon his mind; sorrow for his friend, consternation and remorse for 
the blow that had escaped his hand, and at the same time a bitterly 
painful compassion for the man he had slain. 'And the other?' 
anxiously demanded he of the friar. 

'The other had expired when I arrived.' 

In the mean while, the gates and precincts of the convent swarmed 
with idle and inquisitive people; but on the arrival of a body of 
constables, they dispersed the crowd, and placed themselves in am- 
bush at a short distance from the doors, so that none might go out 
unobserved. A brother of the deceased, however, accompanied by 
two of his cousins and an aged uncle, came, armed cap-^-pie, with 
a powerful retinue of bravoes, and began to make the circuit of the 
convent, watching with looks and gestures of threatening contempt 
the idle by-standers, who did not dare say, He is out of your reach, 
though they had it written on their faces. 

As soon as Ludovico could collect his scattered thoughts, he asked 
for a Father Confessor, and begged that he would seek the widow 
of Cristoforo, ask forgiveness in his name for his having been the in- 
voluntary cause of her desolation, and at the same time assure her 
that he would undertake to provide for her destitute family. In 
reflecting on his own condition, the wish to become a friar, which 
he had often before revolved in his mind, revived with double force 
and earnestness; it seemed as if God himself, by bringing him to 
a convent just at this juncture, had put it in his way, and given 
him a sign of His will, and his resolution was taken. He therefore 
called the guardian, and told him of his intention. The superior 
replied, that he must beware of forming precipitate resolutions, but 
that if, on consideration, he persisted in his desire he would not be 
refused. He then sent for a notary, and made an assignment of the 
whole of his property (which was no insignificant amount) to the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 6 1 

family of Cristoforo, a certain sum to the widow, as if it were an 
entailed dowry, and the remainder to the children. 

The resolution of Ludovico came very apropos for his hosts, who 
were in a sad dilemma on his account. To send him away from the 
convent, and thus expose him to justice, that is to say, to the venge- 
ance of his enemies, was a course on which they would not for a 
moment bestow a thought. It would have been to give up their 
prof)er privileges, disgrace the convent in the eyes of the people, 
draw upon themselves the animadversion of all the Capuchins in 
the universe for suffering their common rights to be infringed upon, 
and arouse all the ecclesiastical authorities, who at that time con- 
sidered themselves the lawful guardians of these rights. On the other 
hand, the kindred of the slain, powerful themselves, and strong 
in adherents, were prepared to take vengeance, and denounced as 
their enemy any one who should put an obstacle in their way. The 
history does not tell us that much grief was felt for the loss of the 
deceased, nor even that a single tear was shed over him by any of his 
relations: it merely says that they were all on fire to have the mur- 
derer, dead or living, in their power. But Ludovico's assuming the 
habit of a Capuchin settled all these difficulties; he made atonement 
in a manner, im|X)sed a penance on himself, tacitly confessed himself 
in fault, and withdrew from the contest; he was, in fact, an enemy 
laying down his arms. The relatives of the dead could also, if they 
pleased, believe and make it their boast that he had turned friar in 
despair, and through dread of their vengeance. But in any case, 
to oblige a man to relinquish his property, shave his head, and walk 
barefoot, to sleep on straw, and to live upon alms, was surely a 
punishment fully equivalent to the most heinous offence. 

The Superior presented himself with an easy humility to the 
brother of the deceased, and after a thousand protestations of respect 
for his most illustrious house, and of desire to comply with his wishes 
as far as was possible, he spoke of Ludovico's penitence, and the de- 
termination he had made, politely making it appear that his family 
ought to be therewith satisfied, and insinuating, yet more courte- 
ously, and with still greater dexterity, that whether he were pleased 
or not, so it would be. The brother fell into a rage, which the 



62 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Capuchin patiently allowed to evaporate, occasionally remarking that 
he had too just cause of sorrow. The Signor also gave him to under- 
stand, that in any case his family had it in their power to enforce 
satisfaction, to which the Capuchin, whatever he might think, did 
not say no; and finally he asked, or rather required as a condition, 
that the murderer of his brother should immediately quit the city. 
The Capuchin, who had already determined upon such a course, 
replied that it should be as he wished, leaving the nobleman to be- 
lieve, if he chose, that his compliance was an act of obedience: and 
thus the matter concluded to the satisfaction of all parties. The 
family were released from their obligation; the friars had rescued 
a fellow-creature, and secured their own privileges, without making 
themselves enemies; the dilettanti in chivalry gladly saw the affair 
terminated in so laudable a manner; the populace rejoiced at a 
worthy man's escaping from danger, and at the same time marvelled 
at his conversion; finally, and above all, in the midst of his sorrow, 
it was a consolation to poor Ludovico himself, to enter upon a life 
of expiation, ajid devote himself to services, which, though they 
could not remedy, might at least make some atonement, for his 
unhappy deed, and alleviate the intolerable pangs of remorse. The 
idea that his resolution might be attributed to fear pained him for 
a moment, but he quickly consoled himself by the remembrance 
that even this unjust imputation would be a punishment for him, 
and a means of expiation. Thus, at the age of thirty, Ludovico 
took the monastic habit, and being required, according to custom, 
to change his name, he chose one that would continually remind 
him of the fault he had to atone for — the name of friar Cristoforo. 

Scarcely was the ceremony of taking the religious habit completed, 
when the guardian told him that he must keep his novitiate at * * *, 
sixty miles distant, and that he must leave the next day. The novice 
bowed respectfully, and requested a favour of him. 'Allow me, 
Father,' said he, 'before I quit the city where I have shed the blood 
of a fellow-creature, and leave a family justly offended with me, 
to make what satisfaction I can by at least confessing my sorrow, 
begging forgiveness of the brother of the deceased, and so removing, 
please God, the enmity he feels towards me.' The guardian, thinking 
that such an act, besides being good in itself, would also serve still 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 63 

more to reconcile the family to the convent, instantly repaired to the 
offended Signer's house, and communicated to him Friar Cris- 
toforo's request. The Signor, greatly surprised at so unexpected a 
proposal, felt a rising of anger, mingled perhaps with complacency, 
and after thinking a moment, 'Let him come to-morrow,' said he, 
mentioning the hour, and the Superior returned to the monastery to 
acquaint the novice with the desired permission. 

The gentleman soon remembered that the more solemn and no- 
torious the submission was, the more his influence and importance 
would be increased among his friends and the public; and it would 
also, (to use a fashionable modern expression,) make a fine page 
in the history of the family. He therefore hastily sent to inform 
all his relatives, that the next day at noon they must hold themselves 
engaged to come to him, for the purpose of receiving a common sat- 
isfaction. At midday the palace swarmed with the nobility of both 
sexes and of every age; occasioning a confused intermingling of 
large cloaks, lofty plumes, and p)endent jewels; a vibrating move- 
ment of stiffened and curled ribbons, an impeded trailing of em- 
broidered trains. The ante-rooms, court-yards, and the roads over- 
flowed with servants, pages, bravoes, and inquisitive gazers. On 
seeing all this preparation. Friar Cristoforo guessed the motive, and 
felt a momentary perturbation; but he soon recovered himself, and 
said: — 'Be it so; I committed the murder publicly, in the presence of 
many of his enemies; that was an injury; this is reparation.' — So, 
with the Father, his companion, at his side, and his eyes bent on 
the ground, he passed the threshold, traversed the court-yard among 
a crowd who eyed him with very unceremonious curiosity, ascended 
the stairs, and in the midst of another crowd of nobles, who gave 
way at his approach, was ushered, with a thousand eyes upon him, 
into the presence of the master of the mansion, who, surrounded by 
his nearest relatives, stood in the centre of the room with a downcast 
look, grasping in his left hand the hilt of his sword, while with the 
right he folded the collar of his cloak over his breast. 

There is sometimes in the face and behaviour of a person so direct 
an expression, such an effusion, so to speak, of the internal soul, that 
in a crowd of spectators there will be but one judgment and opinion 
of him. So was it with Friar Cristoforo; his face and behaviour 



64 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

plainly expressed to the by-standers that he had not become a friar, 
nor submitted to that humiliation, from the fear of man; and the 
discovery immediately conciliated all hearts. On perceiving the 
offended Signor, he quickened his steps, fell on his knees at his feet, 
crossed his hands on his breast, and bending his shaved head, said, 
'I am the murderer of your brother. God knows how gladly I would 
restore him to you at the price of my own blood, but it cannot be: 
I can only make inefficacious and tardy excuses, and implore you to 
accept them for God's sake.' All eyes were immovably fixed upon 
the novice and the illustrious personage he was addressing; all ears 
were attentively listening; and when Friar Cristoforo ceased, there 
was a murmur of compassion and respect throughout the room. 
The gentleman, who stood in an attitude of forced condescension 
and restrained anger, was much moved at these words, and bending 
towards the supplicant, 'Rise,' said he, in an altered tone. 'The 
offence — the act certainly — but the habit you bear — not only so, but 
also yourself — Rise, Father — My brother — I cannot deny it — was a 
cavalier — was rather a — precipitate man — rather hasty. But all hap- 
pens by God's appointment. Speak of it no more . . . But, Father, 
you must not remain in this posture.' And taking him by the arm, 
he compelled him to rise. The friar, standing with his head bowed, 
and his eyes fixed on the ground, rcpJied, '/ may hope then that I 
have your forgiveness? And if I obtain it from you, from whom may 
I not hope it? Oh! if I might hear from your lips that one word — 
pardon!' 

'Pardon!' said the gentleman. 'You no longer need it. But since 
you desire it, certainly . . , certainly, I pardon you with my whole 
heart, and all . . .' 

'All! all!' exclaimed the by-standers, with one voice. The counte- 
nance of the friar expanded with grateful joy, under which, however, 
might be traced an humble and deep compunction for the evil which 
the forgiveness of men could not repair. The gentleman, overcome 
by this deportment, and urged forward by the general feeling, threw 
his arms round Cristoforo's neck, and gave and received the kiss of 
peace. 

'Bravo! well done!' burst forth from all parts of the room: there 
was a general movement, and all gathered round the friar. Servants 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 65 

immediately entered, bringing abundance of refreshment. The Sig- 
ner, again addressing Cristoforo, who was preparing to retire, said, 
'Father, let me give you some of these trifles; aflord me this proof 
of your friendship;' and was on the point of helping him before any 
of the others; but he, drawing back with a kind of friendly resist- 
ance, 'These things,' said he, 'are no longer for me; but God forbid 
that I should refuse your gifts. I am about to start on my journey! 
allow me to take a loaf of bread, that I may be able to say I have 
shared your charity, eaten of your bread, and received a token of 
your forgiveness.' The nobleman, much affected, ordered it to be 
brought, and shortly a waiter entered in full dress, bearing the loaf 
on a silver dish, and presented it to the Father, who took it with 
many thanks, and put it in his basket. Then, obtaining permission 
to depart, he bade farewell to the master of the house and those who 
stood nearest to him, and with difficulty made his escape as they 
endeavoured for a moment to impede his progress; while, in the 
ante-rooms, he had to struggle to free himself from the servants, and 
even from the bravoes, who kissed the hem of his garment, his rope, 
and his hood. At last he reached the street, borne along as in tri- 
umph, and accompanied by a crowd of people as far as the gate of 
the city, from whence he commenced his pedestrian journey towards 
the place of his novitiate. 

The brother and other relatives of the deceased, who had been 
prepared in the morning to enjoy the sad triumph of pride, were left 
instead full of the serene joy of a forgiving and benevolent disposi- 
tion. The company entertained themselves some time longer, with 
feelings of unusual kindness and cordiality, in discussions of a very 
different character to what they had anticipated on assembling. In- 
stead of satisfaction enforced, insults avenged, and obligations dis- 
charged, praises of the novice, reconciliation, and meekness, were the 
topics of conversation. And he who, for the fiftieth time, would have 
recounted how Count Muzio, his father, had served the Marquis 
Stanislao, (a violent, boastful man, as every one is aware,) in a well- 
known encounter of the same kind, related, instead, the penitence 
and wonderful patience of one Friar Simone, who had died many 
years before. When the party had dispersed, the Signor, still con- 
siderably agitated, reconsidered with surprise what he had heard 



66 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and had himself expressed, and muttered between his teeth, 'The 
devil of a friar!' (we must record his exact words) 'The devil of a 
friar! — if he had knelt there a few moments longer, I should almost 
have begged his pardon for his having murdered my brother.' — Our 
story expressly notes that from that day forward he became a little 
less impetuous, and rather more tractable. 

Father Cristoforo pursued his way with a peace of mind such as 
he had never experienced since that terrible event, to make atone- 
ment for which his whole life was henceforth to be consecrated. He 
maintained the silence usually imposed up{)n novices without diffi- 
culty, being entirely absorbed in the thought of the labours, priva- 
tions, and humiliations he would have to undergo for the expiation 
of his fault. At the usual hour of refreshment, he stopped at the 
house of a patron, and partook almost voraciously of the bread of 
forgiveness, reserving, however, a small piece, which he kept in his 
basket as a p>erpetual remembrancer. 

It is not our intention to write the history of his cloistral life: it 
will suffice to say, that while he willingly and carefully fulfilled the 
duties customarily assigned to him, to preach and to attend upon 
the dying, he never suffered an opportunity to pass of executing 
two other offices which he had imposed upon himself — the com- 
posing of differences, and the protection of the oppressed. Without 
being aware of it, he entered up)on these undertakings with some 
portion of his former zeal, and a slight remnant of that courageous 
spirit which humiliation and mortifications had not been able entirely 
to subdue. His manner of speaking was habitually meek and hum- 
ble; but when truth and justice were at stake, he was immediately 
animated with his former warmth, which, mingled with and modi- 
fied by a solemn emphasis acquired in preaching, imparted to his 
language a very marked character. His whole countenance and de- 
portment indicated a long-continued struggle between a naturally 
hasty, passionate temper, and an opposing and habitually victorious 
will, ever on the watch, and directed by the highest principles and 
motives. One of the brotherhood, his friend, who knew him well, 
likened him, on one occasion, to those too-expressive words — too 
expressive, that is, in their natural state, which some persons, well- 
behaved enough on ordinary occasions, pronounce, when overcome 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 67 

by anger, in a half-and-half sort of way, with a slight change of let- 
ters — words which even thus transformed bear about them much of 
their primitive energy. 

If one unknown to him, in Lucia's sad condition, had implored 
the aid of Father Cristoforo, he would immediately have attended 
to the request; when it concerned Lucia, however, he hastened to 
her with double solicitude, since he knew and admired her inno- 
cence. He had already trembled for her danger, and felt a lively 
indignation at the base persecution of which she was the object. 
Besides this, he feared that by advising her to say nothing about it, 
and keep quiet, he might have been the cause of some sad conse- 
quences; so that in this case there was added to the kind solicitude, 
which was, as it were, natural to him, that scrupulous perplexity 
which often torments the innocent. 

But while we have been relating the early history of Father Cris- 
toforo, he has arrived at the village, and reached the door; and the 
women, leaving the harsh-toned spinning-wheel at which they were 
engaged, have risen and exclaimed with one voice, 'Oh, Father 
Cristoforo! God reward you!' 



CHAPTER V 

FATHER CRISTOFORO stopped on the threshold, and 
quickly perceived, by a glance at the women, that his pre- 
sentiments had not been unfounded. While raising his beard, 
by a slight movement of the head backwards, he said, in that inter- 
rogative tone which anticipates a mournful reply, 'Well?' Lucia 
answered by a flood of tears. Her mother began to apologize for 
having dared . . . but he advanced and seated himself on a three- 
legged stool, and cut short all her excuses, by saying to Lucia, 'Calm 
yourself, my poor daughter. And you,' continued he, turning to 
Agnese, 'tell me what has happened.' The good woman related 
the melancholy story as well as she could, while the friar changed 
colour a thousand times, at one moment raising his eyes to heaven, 
the next, kicking his heels on the ground. At the conclusion of the 
recital, he covered his face with his hands, and exclaimed, 'Oh, 
blessed Lord! how long! . . .' But, without finishing the sentence, 
he turned again to the women. 'Poor things!' said he, 'God has 
indeed visited you. Poor Lucia!' 

'You will not forsake us. Father?' sobbed Lucia. 

'Forsake you!' replied he. 'Great God! with what face could I 
again make request to Him, if I should forsake you? You in this 
state! You whom He confides to me! Don't despair: He will help 
you. He sees all: He can make use even of such an unworthy instru- 
ment as I am to confound a . . . Let us see: let me think what I 
can do for you.' 

So saying, he leaned his left elbow on his knee, laid his forehead 
on his hand, and with the right grasped his beard and chin, as if 
to concentrate and hold fast all the powers of his mind. 

But the most attentive consideration only served to show more 
distinctly the urgency and intricacy of the case, and how few, how 
uncertain, and how dangerous were the ways of meeting it. 'Instil 
shame into Don Abbondio, and make him sensible of how much 
he is failing in his duty ? Shame and duty are nothing to him, when 

68 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 69 

overwhelmed with fear. Inspire him with fears? How can I sug- 
gest one that would overbalance the dread he already has of a mus- 
ket? Inform the Cardinal-Archbishop of all, and invoke his au- 
thority? This requires time, and in the mean while what might 
not happen? And afterwards, supposing even this unhappy innocent 
were married, would that be a curb to such a man? . . . Who knows 
to what length he might proceed? And resist him? How? Ah! if 
I could,' thought the poor friar: 'if I could but engage in this cause 
my brethren here and at Milan! But it is not a common affair, and 
I should be abandoned. Don Rodrigo pretends to be a friend to 
the convent, and professes himself a favourer of the Capuchins; and 
his followers have more than once taken refuge with us. I should 
find myself alone in the undertaking; I should be opposed by med- 
dling, quarrelsome persons; and, what is worse, I should, perhaps, 
by an ill-timed endeavour, only render the condition of this poor 
girl more hopeless.' Having considered every view of the question, 
the best course seemed to be to confront Don Rodrigo himself, and 
try, by entreaties, the terrors of the life to come, and even of this 
world, if that were [xjssible, to dissuade him from his infamous 
purpose. At least, he could by this means ascertain whether he con- 
tinued obstinately bent on his wicked design, discover something 
more of his intentions, and act accordingly. While the friar was 
thus engaged, Renzo, who for reasons that every one can divine, 
could not long absent himself, made his appearance at the door; 
but seeing the Father absorbed in thought, and the women beckon- 
ing to him not to interrupt him, he stood silent on the threshold. 
Raising his head to communicate his design to the women, the friar 
perceived Renzo, and saluted him with his usual affection, increased 
and rendered more intense by compassion. 

'Have they told you . . . Father?' asked Renzo, in an agitated 
tone. 

'Only too much: and for that reason I am here.' 

'What do you say to the rascal?' 

'What do you wish me to say of him? He is far away, and my 
words would be of no use. But I say to you, my Renzo, trust in 
God, and He will not forsake you.' 

'What blessed words!' exclaimed the youth. 'You are not one of 



70 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

those who always wrong the poor. But the Signor Curate, and that 
Signor Doctor . . .' 

'Don't recall those scenes, Renzo, which only serve to irritate you 
uselessly. I am a poor friar; but I repeat what I have said to these 
poor women: poor as I am, I will not forsake you.' 

'Ah! you are not like the world's friends! Good-for-nothing 
creatures that they are! You would not believe the protestations they 
made me in prosperity. Ha! ha! They were ready to give their lives 
for me; they would have defended me against the devil. If I had 
had an enemy ... I had only to let them know it, and I should 
have been quickly rid of him! And now, if you were to see how 
they draw back . . .' At this moment Renzo perceived, on raising 
his eyes to those of his auditor, that the good friar's face was clouded, 
and he felt that he had uttered something wrong. He only added 
to his perplexities, however, and made matters worse, by trying to 
remedy them: 'I meant to say ... I don't at all mean . . . that is, 
I meant to say . . .' 

'What did you mean to say? Have you, then, begun to spoil my 
work before I have undertaken it ? It is well for you that you have 
been undeceived in time. What! you went in search of friends . . . 
and such friends! . . . who could not have helf)ed you, had they 
been willing; and you forgot to seek the only One who can and will 
assist you! Do you not know that God is the friend of the afflicted 
who put their trust in Him? Do you not know that threatening and 
contention gain nothing for the weak? And even if . . .' Here he 
forcibly grasped Renzo's arm: his countenance, without losing any 
of its authority, expressed a solemn contrition; he cast his eyes on 
the ground, and his voice became slow and almost sepulchral: 
'Even if they did, it is a terrible gain! Renzo! will you trust to me? 
To me, did I say — a feeble mortal, a poor friar? No; but will you 
trust in God?' 

'Oh yes!' replied Renzo; 'He is in truth the Lord.' 

'Very well; promise me that you will not attack — that you will 
not provoke — any one; that you will be guided by me.' 

'I promise you.' 

Lucia drew a long breath, as if she were relieved from a great 
weight; and Agnese exclaimed, 'Bravo, my son!' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 71 

'Listen, my children,' continued Friar Cristoforo; 'I will go to-day 
and speak to this man. If it please God to touch his heart, and 
give force to my words, well; but, if not. He will show us some 
other remedy. You, in the mean while, be quiet and retired; avoid 
gossip, and don't show yourselves. To-night, or to-morrow morning, 
at the latest, you shall see me again.' So saying, he cut short all their 
thanks and benedictions, and departed. He returned first to the 
convent, where he arrived in time to join the chorus in chanting, 
dined, and then set off on his way towards the den of the wild 
beast he had undertaken to tame. 

The small but elegant palace of Don Rodrigo stood by itself, 
rising like a castle from the summit of one of the abrupt cliffs by 
which the shore of the lake was broken and diversified. Our 
anonymous author only adds to this indication, that the site (it 
would have been better to have given the name in full) was rather 
on the side adjoining the country of the Betrothed, alx)ut three 
miles distant from them, and four from the convent. At the base 
of the cliff, on the side looking towards the lake, lay a group of 
cottages, inhabited by the peasantry in the service of Don Rodrigo, 
the diminutive capital of his little kingdom. It was quite sufficient 
to pass through it to be assured of the character and customs of the 
country. Casting a glance into the lower rooms, should a door 
happen to be open, one saw hanging on the wall, fowling-pieces, 
spades, rakes, straw hats, nets, and powder-flasks, in admired con- 
fusion. Everywhere might be seen powerful, fierce-looking men, 
wearing a large lock, turned back upxjn their head, and enclosed in 
a net; old men, who, having lost their teeth, appeared ready, at the 
slightest provocation, to show their gums; women, of mascuHne 
appearance, with strong, sinewy arms, prepared to come in to the 
aid of their tongues on every occasion. Even the very children, 
playing in the road, displayed in their countenances and behaviour 
a certain air of provocation and defiance. 

Father Cristoforo passed through this hamlet, and ascended a 
winding foot-path to a small level plot of ground, in front of the 
palace. The door was shut — a sign that the master of the mansion 
was dining, and would not be disturbed. The few small windows 
that looked into the road, the frameworks of which were dis- 



72 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

jointed, and decayed with age, were defended by large iron bars; 
and those of the ground-floor were so high, that a man could 
scarcely reach them by standing on the shoulders of another. Perfect 
silence reigned around; and a passer-by might have deemed it a 
deserted mansion, had not four creatures, two animate, and two 
inanimate, disposed opposite each other, outside, given some indica- 
tion of inhabitants. Two great vultures, with extended wings and 
pendent heads — one stripped of its feathers, and half consumed by 
time; the other still feathered, and in a state of preservation, were 
nailed, one on each post of the massive door-way; and two bravoes, 
stretched at full length on the benches to the right and left, were 
on guard, and expecting their call to partake of the remains of the 
Signor's table. The Father stood still, in the attitude of one who 
was prepared to wait; but one of the bravoes rose, and called to 
him: 'Father, Father, come forward, we don't make Capuchins 
wait here; we are friends of the convent; and I have sometimes 
been within it when the air outside was not very good for me, and 
when, if the door had been closed upon me, I should have fared 
badly.' So saying, he gave two strokes of the knocker, which were 
answered immediately from within, by the howling and yelling of 
mastiffs, and curs, and in a few moments by an old grumbling 
servant; but seeing the Father, he made him a low bow, quieted 
the animals with hand and voice, introduced the visitor into a 
narrow passage, and closed the door again. He then conducted 
him into a small apartment, and, regarding him with a surprised 
and respectful look, said, 'Are you not . . . Father Cristoforo of 
Pescarenico ?' 

'I am.' 

'You here?' 

'As you see, my good man.* 

'It must be to do good, then. Good,' continued he, muttering 
between his teeth, as he still led the way; 'good may be done 
anywhere.' 

Having passed through two or three dark apartments, they at 
last reached the door of the dining-room, where they were greeted 
with a loud and confused noise of knives, forks, glasses, pewter 
dishes, and, above all, of discordant voices alternately endeavouring 
to take the lead in conversation. The friar wished to withdraw, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 73 

and was debating at the door with the servant, and begging per- 
mission to wait in some corner o£ the house till dinner was over, 
when the door opened. A certain Count Attilio, who was sitting 
opposite, (he was a cousin of Don Rodrigo, and we have already 
mentioned him without giving his name,) seeing a shaved head 
and monk's habit, and perceiving the modest intentions of the 
good friar, exclaimed, 'Aha! aha! You sha'n't make your escape, 
reverend Father; forward, forward!' Don Rodrigo, without pre- 
cisely divining the object of this visit, had a sort of presentiment 
of what awaited him, and would have been glad to avoid it; but 
since Attilio had thoughtlessly given this blunt invitation, he was 
obliged to second it, and said, 'Come in. Father, come in.' The 
friar advanced, making a low bow to the host, and respectfully 
responded to the salutations of the guests. 

It is usual (I do not say invariable) to represent the innocent in 
the presence of the wicked with an open countenance, an air of 
security, an undaunted heart, and a ready facility of expression. In 
reahty, however, many circumstances are required to produce this 
behaviour, which are rarely met with in combination. It will not, 
therefore, be wondered at, that Friar Cristoforo, with the testimony 
of a good conscience, and a firm persuasion of the justice of the 
cause he had come to advocate, together with a mingled feeling of 
horror and compassion for Don Rodrigo, stood, nevertheless, with 
a certain air of timidity and submissiveness, in the presence of this 
same Don Rodrigo, who was seated before him in an arm-chair, 
in his own house, on his own estate, surrounded by his friends, 
and many indications of his power, with every homage paid to him, 
and with an expression of countenance that would at once prohibit 
the making of a request, much more the giving advice, correction, 
or reproof. On his right, sat Count Attilio, his cousin, and, it is 
needless to say, his companion in libertinism and oppression, who 
had come from Milan to spend a few days with him. To his left, 
and on the other side of the table, was seated, with a profound 
respect, tempered, however, with a certain air of security, and 
even arrogance, the Signor Podesta;' the person whose business it 
was, professedly, to administer justice to Renzo Tramaglino, and 

' The governor, or maf{>^<raic of the place — a dignitary corresponding to the mayor 
of an English town; but less dignified in this instance, because exercising power in a 
unaller territory. 



74 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

inflict upon Don Rodrigo one of the appointed penalties. Opposite 
the Podesta, in an attitude of the purest, most unbounded servility, 
sat our Doctor, Azzecca-Garbugli, with his black cap, and more 
than usually red nose; and facing the cousins were two obscure 
guests, of whom our story merely records that they did nothing 
but eat, bow their heads, and smile approval at everything uttered 
by a fellow-guest, provided another did not contradict it. 

'Give the Father a seat,' said Don Rodrigo. A servant presented 
a chair, and Father Cristoforo sat down, making some excuse to 
the Signor for coming at so inopportune an hour. 

'I wish to speak with you alone, on a matter of importance,' 
added the friar, in a lower voice, in Don Rodrigo's ear. 

'Very well, I will attend you,' replied he; 'but in the mean while, 
bring the Father something to drink.' 

The Father tried to excuse himself; but Don Rodrigo, raising his 
voice above the re-commencing tumult, cried, 'No, no, you shall 
not do me this wrong; it shall never be said that a Capuchin left 
this house without tasting my wine, nor an insolent creditor the 
wood of my forests.' These words were followed by a general 
laugh, and, for a moment, interrupted the question that was being 
warmly agitated among the guests. A servant then brought in a 
bottle of wine, on a tray, and a tall glass, in the shape of a chalice, 
and presented them to the Father, who, unwilling to refuse the 
pressing invitation of one he so much wished to propitiate, did not 
hesitate to pour some out, and began slowly to sip the wine. 

'The authority of Tasso will not serve your purpose, resp)ected 
Signor Podesta; it even militates against you,' resumed Count 
Attilio, in a thundering voice; 'for that learned, that great man, 
who perfectly understood all the rules of chivalry, has made the 
messenger of Argante ask leave of the pious Buglione, before de- 
livering the challenge to the Christian knights . . .' 

'But this,' replied the Podesta, vociferating no less vehemently, 
'this is a liberty, a mere hberty, a poetical ornament; since an am- 
bassador is, in his nature, inviolable by the law of nations, jure 
gentium. But, without seeking so far, the proverb says, Ambasciator 
non porta pena; and proverbs, you know, contain the wisdom of the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 75 

human race. Besides, the messenger having uttered nothing in his 
own name, but only presented the challenge in writing . . .' 

'But when will you understand that this messenger was an incon- 
siderate ass, who didn't know the first? . . .' 

'With your leave, gentlemen,' interrupted Don Rodrigo, who was 
afraid of the question being carried too far, 'we will refer it to 
Father Cristoforo, and abide by his sentence.' 

'Well — very well,' said Count Attiiio, highly pleased at the idea 
of referring a question of chivalry to a Capuchin: while the more 
eager Podesta with difficulty restrained his excited feelings, and a 
shrug of contempt, which seemed to say — Absurdity! 

'But, from what I have heard,' said the Father, 'these are matters 
I know nothing of.' 

'As usual, the modest excuses of the Fathers,' said Don Rodrigo; 
'but you shall not get off so easily. Come, now, we know well 
enough you did not come into the world with a cowl on your head, 
and that you are no stranger to its ways. See here; this is the 
question . . .' 

'The case is this,' began Count Attiiio. 

'Let me tell it, who am neutral, cousin,' replied Don Rodrigo. 
'This is the story. A Spanish cavalier sent a challenge to a Milanese 
cavaher; the bearer, not finding him at home, delivered the sum- 
mons to his brother, who, after reading it, gave the bearer in reply 
a good thrashing. The dispute is . . .' 

'One good turn deserves another,' cried Count Attiiio. 'It was 
really inspiration . . .' 

'Of the devil,' added the Podesta. 'To beat an ambassador! — a 
man whose person is sacred! Even you, Father, will say whether 
this was a knightly deed.' 

'Yes, Signer, knightly,' cried the Count, 'and you will allow me 
to say so, who ought to understand what relates to a cavaUer. Oh, 
if they had been blows, it would be another matter; but a cudgel 
defiles nobody's hands. What puzzles me is, why you think so 
much of the shoulders of a mean scoundrel.' 

'Who said anything about his shoulders, Signor Count.? You 
would make out I had talked nonsense such as never entered my 



yS ALESSANDRO MAN20NI 

time he has only endeavoured the escape by a jest from the difficulty 
of giving sentence.' 

What can one reply to reasonings deduced from a wisdom so 
ancient, yet so new? Nothing; and so thought our friar. 

But Don Rodrigo, wishing to cut short this dispute, proceeded to 
suggest another. 'Apropos,' said he; 'I hear there are rumours of an 
accommodation at Milan.' 

The reader must know that, at this time, there was a contest for 
the succession to the Duchy of Mantua, which, on the death of 
Vincenzo Gonzaga, who left no male issue, had fallen into the 
possession of the Duke of Nevers, Gonzaga's nearest relation. 
Lx)uis XIII., or rather Cardinal Richelieu, wished to support him 
on account of his being well-disposed toward the French. Philip IV., 
or rather the Count D'Olivares, commonly called the Count Duke, 
opposed him for the same reason, and had declared war against him. 
As the Duchy was a fief of the empire, the two parties made interest, 
by intrigue, threats, and solicitations, at the court of the Emperor 
Ferdinand II.; the former urging him to grant the investiture to 
the new Duke, the latter to refuse it, and even assist in banishing 
him from the State. 

'I am inclined to think,' said Count Attilio, 'that matters may be 
adjusted. I have certain reasons . . .' 

'Don't believe it, Signor Count, don't believe it,' interrupted the 
Podesta; 'even in this corner of the world I have means of ascertain- 
ing the state of things; for the Spanish governor of the castle, who 
condescends to make me his friend, and who being the son of one 
of the Count Duke's dependents, is informed of everything. . . .' 

'I tell you, I have opportunity every day at Milan of talking with 
great men; and I know, on good authority, that the Pope is highly 
interested in the restoration of peace, and has made propositions . . .' 

'So it ought to be, the thing is according to rule, and his Holiness 
does his duty; a Pope ought always to mediate between Christian 
Princes; but the Count Duke has his own policy, and . . .' 

'And, and, and — do you know, my good Signor, what the Emperor 
thinks of it at this moment ? Do you think there is no other place 
in the world besides Mantua? There are many things to be looked 
after, my good Signor. Do you know, for example, how far the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 79 

Emperor can, at this moment, confide in that Prince Valdistano, 
or Vallestai, or whatever they call him; and whether . . .' 

'His right name in German,' again interrupted the Podesta, 'is 
Vagliensteino, as I have often heard it pronounced by our Spanish 
Signer, the governor of the castle. But be of good courage, for . . .' 

'Will you teach me?' exclaimed the Count, angrily; but Don 
Rodrigo motioned to him with his knee, for his sake, to cease 
contradiction. He therefore remained silent; and the Podesta, like 
a vessel disengaged from a sand-bank, continued, with wide-spread 
sails, the course of his eloquence. 'Vagliensteino gives me little 
concern, because the Count Duke has his eyes on everything, and 
in every place; and if Vagliensteino chooses to play any tricks, he 
will set him right with fair words or foul. He has his eye every- 
where, I say, and long arms; and if he has resolved, as he justly has, 
like a good politician, that the Signer Duke of Nevers shall not 
take root in Mantua, the Signor Duke of Nevers will not take root 
there, and the Cardinal Richelieu will sink in the water. It makes 
me smile to see this worthy Signor Cardinal contending with a 
Count Duke — with an Olivares, I should like to rise again, after 
a lapse of two hundred years, to hear what posterity will say of 
these fine pretensions. It requires something more than envy: there 
must be a head; and of heads like that of a Count Duke there is 
but one in the world. The Count Duke, my good Signors,' continued 
the Podesta, sailing before the wind, and a little surprised at not 
encountering one shoal, 'the Count Duke is an aged fox, (speaking 
with all respect,) who can make anybody lose his track; when he 
aims at the right, we may be sure he will take the left; so that no 
one can boast of knowing his intentions; and even they who execute 
them, and they who write his despatches, understand nothing of 
them. I can speak with some knowledge of the circumstances; for 
that worthy man, the Governor of the Casde, deigns to place some 
confidence in me. The Count Duke, on the other hand, knows 
exactly what is going forward in all the other Courts, and their 
great politicians — many of whom, it cannot be denied, are very 
upright men — have scarcely imagined a design before the Count 
Duke has discovered it, with that clever head of his, his underhand 
ways, and his nets everywhere spread. That poor man, the Cardinal 



8o ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Richelieu, makes an attempt here, busies himself there; he toils, he 
strives; and what for? When he has succeeded in digging a mine, 
he finds a countermine already completed by the Count Duke . . .' 

No one knows when the Podesta would have come ashore, had 
not Don Rodrigo, urged by the suggestions of his cousin, ordered a 
servant to bring him a certain bottle of wine. 

'Signor Podesta,' said he, 'and gentlemen; a toast to the Count 
Duke; and you will then tell me whether the wine is worthy of 
the person.' The Podesta replied by a bow, in which might be dis- 
cerned an expression of particular acknowledgment; for all that 
was said or done in honour of the Duke, he received, in part, as 
done to himself. 

'Long live Don Gasparo Guzman, Count of Olivares, Duke of 
San Lucar, grand Private of the King, Don Philip the Great, our 
Sovereign!' exclaimed Don Rodrigo, raising his glass. 

Private (for the information of those who know it not) was the 
title used in those days to signify the favourite of a prince. 

'Long live the Count!' repUed all. 

'Help the Father,' said Don Rodrigo. 

'Excuse me,' replied the Father; 'but I have already been guilty 
of a breach of discipline, and I cannot . . .' 

'What!' said Don Rodrigo; 'it is a toast to the Count Duke. 
Will you make us believe that you hold with the Navarrines?' 

Thus they contemptuously styled the French Princes of Navarre, 
who had begun to reign over them in the time of Henry IV. 

On such an adjuration, he was obliged to taste the wine. All the 
guests broke out in exclamations and encomiums upon it, except the 
Doctor, who, by the gesture of his head, the glance of his eyes, and 
the compression of his lips, expressed much more than he could 
have done by words. 

'What do you say of it, eh. Doctor?' asked Don Rodrigo. 

Withdrawing from the wine-glass a nose more ruddy and bright 
than itself, the Doctor replied, with marked emphasis upon every 
syllable: 'I say, pronounce, and affirm that this is the Olivares of 
wines; censui, et in earn ivi sententiam, that its equal cannot be 
found in the twenty-two kingdoms of the King, our Sovereign, 
whom God defend! I declare and determine that the dinners of the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 8 1 

most noble Signor Don Rodrigo excel the suppers of Heliogabalus, 
and that famine is perpetually banished and excluded from this place, 
where splendour reigns and has its abode.' 

'Well said! well definedl* cried the guests, with one voice; but 
the word famine, which he had uttered by chance, at once directed 
the minds of all to this mournful subject, and every one spoke of 
the famine. In this matter they were all agreed, at least on the 
main point; but the uproar was greater, perhaps, than if there 
had been a diversity of opinion. All spoke at once. 'There is no 
famine,' said one; 'it is the monopolists . . .' 

'And the bakers,' said another, 'who hide the grain. Hang them, 
say I.' 

'Yes, yes, hang them without mercy.' 

'Upon fair trial,' cried the Podest^. 

'Trial?' cried Count Attilio, more loudly. 'Summary justice, I 
say. Take three or four, or five or six, of those who are acknowledged 
by the common voice to be the richest and most avaricious, and 
hang them.' 

'Examples! examples! — without examples, nothing can be done.' 

'Hang them! hang them! and grain will flow out in abundance.' 

Whoever, in passing through a fair, has had the pleasure of hear- 
ing the harmony produced by a party of fiddlers, when, between 
one air and another, each one tunes his instrument, making it 
sound as loud as possible, that he may the more distinctly hear it 
in the midst of, and above, the surrounding uproar, may imagine 
what would be the harmony of these (if one may so say) discourses. 
The party continued pouring out and drinking the wine, while the 
praises of it were mingled, as was but just, with sentences of eco- 
nomical jurisprudence; so that the loudest, and most frequently 
heard, words were — nectar, and hang them. 

Don Rodrigo, in the mean while, glanced from time to time 
towards the friar, and always saw him in the same station, giving 
no signs of impatience or hurry, without a movement tending to 
remind him that he was waiting his leisure, but with the air of 
one who was determined not to depart till he had had a hearing. 
He would gladly have sent him away, and escaped the interview; 
but to dismiss a Capuchin without having given him audience, was 



82 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

not according to the rules of his poHcy. However, since the annoy- 
ing duty could not be avoided, he resolved to discharge it at once, 
and free himself from the obligation. He therefore rose from the 
table, and with him all the excited party, writhout ceasing their 
clamour. Having asked leave of his guests, he advanced in a haughty 
manner towards the friar, who had immediately risen with the 
rest; and saying to him, 'At your command. Father,' conducted him 
into another apartment. 



CHAPTER VI 

HOW can I obey you?' said Don Rodrigo, standing in the 
middle of the room. His words were these; but the tone 
in which they were pronounced, clearly meant to say, 
remember before whom you are standing, take heed to your words, 
and be expeditious. 

There was no surer or quicker way of inspiring Friar Cristoforo 
with courage, than to address him with haughtiness. He had stood 
waveringly, and at a loss for words, passing through his fingers the 
beads of the rosary that hung at his girdle, as if he hoped to find in 
some of them an introduction to his speech; but at this behaviour of 
Don Rodrigo's, there instantly rose to his mind more to say than he 
had want of. Immediately, however, recollecting how important 
it was not to spoil his work, or, what was far worse, the work he 
had undertaken for others, he corrected and tempered the language 
that had presented itself to his mind, and said, with cautious 
humility; 'I come to propose to you an act of justice, to supplicate 
a deed of mercy. Some men of bad character have made use of 
the name of your illustrious lordship, to alarm a poor curate, and 
dissuade him from performing his duty, and to oppress two innocent 
persons. You can confound them by a word, restore all to order, 
and relieve those who are so shamefully wronged. You are able 
to do it; and being able . . . conscience, honour . . .' 

'You will be good enough to talk of my conscience when I ask 
your advice about it. As to my honour, I beg to inform you, I am 
the guardian of it, and I only; and that whoever dares intrude 
himself to share the guardianship with me, 1 regard as a rash man, 
who offends against it.' 

Friar Cristoforo, perceiving from these words that the Signor 
sought to put a wrong construction on all he said, and to turn the 
discourse into a dispute, so as to prevent his coming to the main 
point, bound himself still more rigidly to be patient, and to swallow 

83 



82 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

not according to the rules of his policy. However, since the annoy- 
ing duty could not be avoided, he resolved to discharge it at once, 
and free himself from the obligation. He therefore rose from the 
table, and with him all the excited party, without ceasing their 
clamour. Having asked leave of his guests, he advanced in a haughty 
manner towards the friar, who had immediately risen with the 
rest; and saying to him, 'At your command, Father,' conducted him 
into another apartment. 



CHAPTER VI 

HOW can I obey you?' said Don Rodrigo, standing in the 
middle of the room. His words were these; but the tone 
in which they were pronounced, clearly meant to say, 
remember before whom you are standing, take heed to your words, 
and be expeditious. 

There was no surer or quicker way of inspiring Friar Cristoforo 
with courage, than to address him with haughtiness. He had stood 
waveringly, and at a loss for words, passing through his fingers the 
beads of the rosary that hung at his girdle, as if he hoped to find in 
some of them an introduction to his speech; but at this behaviour of 
Don Rodrigo's, there instantly rose to his mind more to say than he 
had want of. Immediately, however, recollecting how important 
it was not to spoil his work, or, what was far worse, the work he 
had undertaken for others, he corrected and tempered the language 
that had presented itself to his mind, and said, with cautious 
humility; 'I come to propose to you an act of justice, to supplicate 
a deed of mercy. Some men of bad character have made use of 
the name of your illustrious lordship, to alarm a poor curate, and 
dissuade him from performing his duty, and to oppress two innocent 
persons. You can confound them by a word, restore all to order, 
and relieve those who are so shamefully wronged. You are able 
to do it; and being able . . . conscience, honour . . .* 

'You will be good enough to talk of my conscience when I ask 
your advice about it. As to my honour, I beg to inform you, I am 
the guardian of it, and I only; and that whoever dares intrude 
himself to share the guardianship with me, I regard as a rash man, 
who offends against it.' 

Friar Cristoforo, perceiving from these words that the Signor 
sought to put a wrong construction on all he said, and to turn the 
discourse into a dispute, so as to prevent his coming to the main 
point, bound himself still more rigidly to be patient, and to swallow 

83 



84 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

every insult he might please to offer. He therefore replied, in a sub- 
dued tone, 'If I have said anything to offend you, I certainly did not 
intend it. Correct me, reprove me, if I do not speak becomingly, 
but deign to listen to me. For Heaven's sake — for the sake of that 
God in whose presence we must all appear . . .' and in saying this, 
he took between his hands the little cross of wood appended to his 
rosary, and held it up before the eyes of his frowning auditor; 'be 
not obstinately resolved to refuse an act of justice so easy and so 
due to the poor. Remember that God's eye is ever over them, and 
that their imprecations are heard above. Innocence is powerful in 
his . . .' 

'Aha! father!' sharply interrupted Don Rodrigo: 'the respect I 
bear to your habit is great; but if anything could make me forget it, 
it would be to see it on one who dares to come as a spy into my 
house.' 

These words brought a crimson glow upon the cheeks of the 
friar; but with the countenance of one who swallows a very bitter 
medicine, he replied, 'You do not think I deserve such a title. You 
feel in your heart that the act I am now performing is neither 
wicked nor contemptible. Listen to me, Signor EXjn Rodrigo; and 
Heaven grant a day may not come in which you will have to repent 
of not having listened to me! I will not lessen your honour. — What 
honour, Signor Don Rodrigo! what honour in the sight of men! 
what honour in the sight of God! You have much in your power, 
but . . .' 

'Don't you know,' said Don Rodrigo, interrupting him in an 
agitated tone, the mingled effect of anger and remorse, 'don't you 
know that when the fancy takes me to hear a sermon, I can go to 
church like other people? But in my own house! Ohi' continued 
he, with a forced smile of mockery : 'You treat me as though I were 
of higher rank than I am. It is only princes who have a preacher 
in their own houses.' 

'And that God who requires princes to render an account of the 
word preached to them in their palaces, that God who now bestows 
upon you a token of His mercy, by sending His minister, though 
indeed a poor and unworthy one, to intercede for an innocent . . .' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 85 

'In short, father,' said Don Rodrigo, preparing to go, 'I don't 
know what you mean: I can only suppose there must be some 
young girl you are concerned about. Make confidants of whom 
you please, but don't have the assurance to annoy a gendeman 
any longer.' 

On the movement of Don Rodrigo, the friar also advanced, 
reverently placed himself in his way, raised his hands, both in an 
attitude of supplication, and also to detain him, and again replied, 
'I am concerned for her, it is true, but not more than for yourself: 
there are two persons who concern me more than my own life. 
Don Rodrigo! I can only pray for you; but this I will do with my 
whole heart. Do not say "no" to me; do not keep a poor innocent 
in anguish and terror. One word from you will do all.' 

'Well,' said Don Rodrigo, 'since you seem to think I can do so 
much for this person; since you are so much interested for her , . .' 

'Well?' said Father Cristoforo, anxiously, while the behaviour 
and countenance of Don Rodrigo forbade his indulging in the 
hope which the words appeared to warrant. 

'Well; advise her to come and put herself under my protection. 
She shall want for nothing, and no one shall dare molest her, as 
I am a gentleman.' 

At such a proposal, the indignation of the friar, hitherto with 
difficulty confined within bounds, burst forth without restraint. 
All his good resolutions of prudence and patience forsook him, the 
old nature usurped the place of the new; and in these cases Father 
Cristoforo was indeed like two different men. 

'Your protection!' exclaimed he, retiring a step or two, and fiercely 
resting on his right foot, his right hand placed on his hip, his left 
held up, pointing with his fore-finger towards Don Rodrigo, and 
two fiery-glancing eyes piercingly fixed upon him: 'your protection! 
Woe be to you that have thus spoken, that you have made me such 
a proposal. You have filled up the measure of your iniquity, and I 
no longer fear you.' 

'How are you speaking to me, friar?' 

'I speak as to one who is forsaken by God, and who can no 
longer excite fear, I knew that this innocent was under God's 



86 



ALESSANDRO MANZONI 



protection; but you, you have now made me feel it with so much 
certainty, that I have no longer need to ask protection of you. Lucia, 
I say — see how I pronounce this name with a bold face and unmoved 
expression.' 

'What! in this house!' 

'I pity this house; a curse is suspended over it. You will see 
whether the justice of God can be resisted by four walls, and four 
bravoes at your gates. Thought you that God had made a creature 
in his image, to give you the delight of tormenting her? Thought 
you that He would not defend her? You have despised His counsel, 
and you will be judged for it! The heart of Pharaoh was hardened, 
like yours, but God knew how to break it. Lucia is safe from you; 
I do not hesitate to say so, though a poor friar: and as to you, listen 
what I predict to you. A day will come . . .' 

Don Rodrigo had stood till now with a mingled feeling of rage 
and mute astonishment; but on hearing the beginning of this pre- 
diction, an undefined and mysterious fear was added to his anger. 
Hastily seizing the Father's outstretched arm, and raising his voice 
to drown that of the inauspicious prophet, he exclaimed, 'Get out of 
my sight, rash villain — cowled rascal!' 

These definite appellations calmed Father Cristoforo in a moment. 
The idea of submission and silence had been so long associated in 
his mind with that of contempt and injury, that at this compliment 
every feeling of warmth and enthusiasm instantly subsided, and he 
only resolved to listen patiently to whatever Don Rodrigo might be 
pleased to subjoin. 

Quietly, then, withdrawing his hand from the Signor's grasp, he 
stood motionless, with his head bent downwards, as an aged tree, 
in the sudden lulling of an overbearing storm, resumes its natural 
position, and receives on its drooping branches the hail as Heaven 
sends it. 

'Vile upstart!' continued Don Rodrigo; 'you treat me like an 
equal: but thank the cassock that covers your cowardly shoulders 
for saving you from the caresses that such scoundrels as you should 
receive, to teach them how to talk to a gentleman. Depart with 
sound limbs for this once, or we shall see.' 

So saying, he pointed with imperious scorn to a door opposite the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 87 

one they had entered; and Father Cristoforo bowed his head and 
departed, leaving Don Rodrigo to measure, with excited steps, the 
field of battle. 

When the friar had closed the door behind him, he perceived 
some one in the apartment he had entered, stealing softly along 
the wall, that he might not be seen from the room of conference; 
and he instantly recognized the aged servant who had received 
him at the door on his arrival. This man had lived in the family 
for forty years, that is, since before Don Rodrigo's birth, having 
been in the service of his father, who was a very different kind of 
man. On his death, the new master dismissed all the household, 
and hired a fresh set of attendants, retaining, however, this one 
servant, both because he was old, and because, although of a temper 
and habits widely different from his own, he made amends for this 
defect by two qualifications — a lofty idea of the dignity of the 
house, and long experience in its ceremonials; with the most ancient 
traditions and minute particulars of which he was better acquainted 
than any one else. In the presence of his master, the poor old man 
never ventured a sign, still less an expression, of his disapprobation 
of what he saw around him every day; but at times he could 
scarcely refrain from some exclamation — some reproof murmured 
between his lips to his fellow-servants. They, highly diverted at his 
remarks, would sometimes urge him to conversation, provoking 
him to find fault with the present state of things, and to sound the 
praises of the ancient way of living in the family. His censures only 
came to his master's ears accompanied by a relation of the ridicule 
bestowed upon them, so that they merely succeeded in making him 
an object of contempt without resentment. On days of ceremony 
and entertainment, however, the old man became a person of serious 
imf)ortance. 

Father Cristoforo looked at him as he passed, saluted him, and 
was about to go forward; but the old man approached with a mys- 
terious air, put his fore-finger on his lips, and then beckoned to him, 
with the said fore-finger, to accompany him into a dark passage, 
where in an under tone, he said, 'Father, I have heard all and I 
want to speak to you.' 

'Speak up then, at once, my good man.' 



88 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Not here! woe to us if the master saw us! But I can learn much, 
and will try to come to-morrow to the convent.' 

'Is there some project?' 

'Something's in the wind, that's certain: I had already suspected 
it; but now I will be on the watch, and will find out all. Leave it 
to me. I happen to see and hear things . . . strange things! I am 
in a house! . . . But I wish to save my soul.' 

'God bless you!' said the friar, softly pronouncing the benediction, 
as he laid his hand on the servant's head, who, though much older 
than himself, bent before him with the respect of a son. 'God will 
reward you,' continued the friar: 'don't fail to come to me to- 
morrow.' 

'I will be sure to come,' replied the servant; 'but do you go 
quickly, and . . . for Heaven's sake . . . don't betray me.' So say- 
ing, and looking cautiously around, he went out, at the other end of 
the passage, into a hall that led to the court-yard; and seeing the 
coast clear, beckoned to the good friar, whose face responded to the 
last injunction more plainly than any protestations could have done. 
The old man pointed to the door, and the friar departed without 
further delay. 

This servant had been listening at his master's door. Had he done 
right? And was Father Cristoforo right in praising him for it? 
According to the commonest and most generally received rules, it 
was a very dishonest act; but might not this case be regarded as an 
exception? And are there not exceptions to the most-generally- 
received rules? 

These are questions which we leave the reader to resolve at his 
pleasure. We do not pretend to give judgment: it is enough that we 
relate facts. 

Having reached the road, and turned his back upon this wild 
beast's den. Father Cristoforo breathed more freely, as he hastened 
down the descent, his face flushed, and his mind, as every one may 
imagine, agitated and confused by what he had recently heard and 
said. But the unexpected proffer of the old man had been a great 
relief to him; it seemed as if Heaven had given him a visible token 
of its protection. Here is a clue, thought he, that Providence has 
put into my hands. In this very house, too! and without my even 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 89 

dreaming of looking for one! Engaged in such thoughts, he raised 
his eyes towards the west, and seeing the setting sun already touch- 
ing the summit of the mountain, was reminded that the day was 
fast drawing to a close. He therefore quickened his steps, though 
weary and weak, after the many annoyances of the day, that he 
might have time to carry back his intelligence, such as it was, to his 
proteges and arrive at the convent before night; for this was one 
of the most absolute and strictly-enforced rules of the Capuchin dis- 
cipline. 

In the mean time, there had been plans proposed and debated in 
Lucia's cottage, with which it is necessary to acquaint the reader. 
After the departure of the friar, the three friends remained some 
time silent; Lucia, with a sorrowful heart, preparing the dinner; 
Renzo, irresolute, and changing his position every moment, to avoid 
the sight of her mournful face, yet without heart to leave her; 
Agnese, apparently intent ufx>n the reel she was winding, 
though, in fact, she was deliberating upon a plan; and when she 
thought it sufficiently matured, she broke the silence with these 
words: — 

'Listen, my children. If you have as much courage and dexterity 
as is required; if you will trust your mother, (this your mother, 
addressed to both, made Lucia's heart bound within her,) I will 
undertake to get you out of this difficulty, better, perhaps, and more 
quickly than Father Cristoforo, though he is a man.' Lucia stopped 
and looked at her mother with a face more expressive of wonder 
than of confidence in so magnificent a promise; and Renzo hastily 
exclaimed, 'Courage? dexterity? — tell me, tell me, what can we do?' 

'If you were married,' continued Agnese, 'it would be the great 
difficulty out of the way — wouldn't it? and couldn't we easily find 
a remedy for all the rest?' 

'Is there any doubt?' said Renzo: 'if we were married . . . One 
may live anywhere; and, at Bergamo, not far from here, a silk- 
weaver would be received with open arms. You know how often 
my cousin Bortolo has wanted me to go and live with him, that I 
might make a fortune as he has done; and if I have never listened 
to him, it is . . . you know, because my heart was here. Once 
married, we would all go thither together, and live in blessed peace. 



90 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

out of this villain's reach, and far from temptation to do a rash deed. 
Isn't it true, Lucia?' 

'Yes,' said Lucia; 'but how? . . .' 

'As I have told you,' replied Agnese. 'Be bold and expert, and the 
thing is easy.' 

'Easy!' at the same moment exclaimed the two lovers, to whom it 
had become so strangely and sadly difficult. 

'Easy, if you know how to go about it,' replied Agnese. 'Listen 
attentively to me, and I will try and make you understand it. I 
have heard say, by people who ought to know, and I have seen it 
myself in one case, that to solemnize a marriage, a curate, of course, 
is necessary, but not his good-will or consent; it is enough if he is 
present.* 

'How can this be?' asked Renzo. 

'Listen, and you shall hear. There must be two witnesses, nimble 
and well agreed. They must go to the priest; the point is to take 
him by surprise, that he mayn't have time to escape. The man says, 
"Signor Curate, this is my wife;" the woman says, "Signor Curate, 
this is my husband." It is necessary that the curate and the witnesses 
hear it, and then the marriage is just as valid and sacred as if the 
Pope had blessed it. When once the words are spoken, the curate 
may fret, and fume, and storm, but it will do no good; you are 
man and wife.' 

'Is it possible?' exclaimed Lucia. 

'What!' said Agnese, 'do you think I have learnt nothing in the 
thirty years I was in the world before you? The thing is just as I 
told you; and a friend of mine is a proof of it, who, wishing to be 
married against the will of her parents, did as I was saying, and 
gained her end. The curate suspected it, and was on the watch; but 
they knew so well how to go about it, that they arrived just at the 
right moment, said the words, and became man and wife; though 
she, poor thing! repented of it before three days were over.' 

It was, in fact, as Agnese had represented it; marriages contracted 
in this manner were then, and are even to this day, acknowledged 
valid. As, however, this expedient was never resorted to but by 
those who had met with some obstacle or refusal in the ordinary 
method, the priest took great care to avoid such forced co-operation; 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 91 

and if one of them happened to be surprised by a couple, accom- 
panied with witnesses, he tried every means of escape, hke Proteus 
in the hands of those who would have made him prophesy by force. 

'If it were true, Lucia!' said Renzo, fixing his eyes upon her with 
a look of imploring expectation. 

'What! if it were true?' replied Agnese. 'You think, then, I tell 
lies. I do my best for you, and am not believed: very well; get out 
of the difficulty as you can: I wash my hands of it.' 

'Ah, no! don't forsake us,' cried Renzo. 'I said so because it 
appeared too good a thing. I place myself in your hands, and will 
consider you as if you were really my mother.' 

These words instantly dispelled the momentary indignation of 
Agnese, and made her forget a resolution which, in reality, had 
only been in word. 

'But why, then, mother,' said Lucia, in her usual gentle manner, 
'why didn't this plan come into Father Cristoforo's mind.?' 

'Into his mind?' replied Agnese; 'do you think it didn't come into 
his mind? But he wouldn't speak of it.' 

'Why?' demanded they both at once. 

'Because . . . because, if you must know it, the friars think that 
it is not exactly a proper thing.' 

'How can it help standing firm, and being well done, when it is 
done!' said Renzo. 

'How can I tell you?' replied Agnese. 'Other people have made 
the law as they pleased, and we poor people can't understand ail. 
And then, how many things . , . See; it is like giving a Christian 
a blow. It isn't right, but when it is once given, not even the Pope 
can recall it.' 

'If it isn't right,' said Lucia, 'we ought not to do it.' 

'What!' said Agnese, 'would I give you advice contrary to the 
fear of God? If it were against the will of your parents, and to 
marry a rogue . . . but when I am satisfied, and it is to wed this 
youth, and he who makes ail this disturbance is a villain, and the 
Signor Curate . . .' 

'It is as clear as the sun,' said Renzo. 

'One need not speak to Father Cristoforo, before doing it,' con- 
tinued Agnese; 'but when it is once done, and has well succeeded, 



92 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

what do you think the Father will say to you? — Ah, daughter! it 
was a sad error, but it is done. The friars, you know, must talk so. 
But trust me, in his heart he will be very well satisfied.' 

Without being able to answer such reasoning, Lucia did not think 
it appeared very convincing; but Renzo, quite encouraged, said, 
'Since it is thus, the thing is done.' 

'Gently,' said Agnese. 'The witnesses, where are they to be 
found.'' Then, how will you manage to get at the Signor Curate, 
who has been shut up in his house two days.-" And how make him 
stand when you do get at him.'' for though he is weighty enough 
naturally, I dare venture to say, when he sees you make your ap- 
pearance in such a guise, he will become as nimble as a cat, and 
flee like the devil from holy water.' 

'I have found a way — I've found one,' cried Renzo, striking the 
table with his clenched hand, till he made the dinner-things quiver 
and rattle with the blow; and he proceeded to relate his design, 
which Agnese entirely approved. 

'It is all confusion,' said Lucia; 'it is not perfectly honest. Till 
now we have always acted sincerely; let us go on in faith, and God 
will help us; Father Cristoforo said so. Do listen to his advice.' 

'Be guided by those who know better than you,' said Agnese, 
gravely. 'What need is there to ask advice? God bids us help our- 
selves, and then He will help us. We will tell the Father all about 
it when it is over.' 

'Lucia,' said Renzo, 'will you fail me now ? Have we not done all 
like good Christians? Ought we not now to have been man and 
wife? Didn't the Curate himself fix the day and hour? And whose 
fault is it, if we are now obliged to use a Uttle cunning? No, no; 
you won't fail me. I am going, and will come back with an answer.' 
So saying, he gave Lucia an imploring look, and Agnese a very 
knowing glance, and hastily took his departure. 

It is said that trouble sharpens the wit; and Renzo, who, in the 
upright and straightforward path he had hitherto followed, had 
never had occasion to sharpen his in any great degree, had, in this 
instance, planned a design that would have done honour to a lawyer. 
He went directly, as he had purposed, to a cottage near at hand. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 93 

belonging to a certain Tonio, whom he found busy in the kitchen, 
with one knee resting on the stand of a chafing-dish, holding in his 
right hand the handle of a saucepan, that stood on the burning 
embers, and stirring with a broken rolling-pin, a little grey polenta,^ 
of Turkey flour. The mother, brother, and wife of Tonio, were 
seated at the table; and three or four little children stood around, 
waiting, with eyes eagerly fixed on the saucepan, till the gruel should 
be ready to pour out. But the pleasure was wanting which the sight 
of dinner usually gives to those who have earned it by hard labour. 
The quantity of the polenta was rather in proportion to the times 
than to the number and inclinations of the household; and each 
one eyeing the common food with envious looks of strong desire, 
seemed to be measuring the extent of appetite likely to survive it. 
While Renzo was exchanging salutations with the family, Tonio 
poured out the polenta into the wooden trencher that stood ready 
to receive it, and it looked like a little moon in a large circle of 
vapour. Nevertheless, the women courteously said to Renzo, 'Will 
you take some with us?' — a compliment that the Lombard peasant 
never fails to pay to any one who finds him at a meal, even though 
the visitor were a rich glutton just risen from table, and he were 
at the last mouthful. 

'Thank you,' replied Renzo; 'I only came to say a word or two to 
Tonio; and if you like, Tonio, not to disturb your family, we can 
go dine at the inn, and talk there.' This proposal was as acceptable 
to Tonio as it was unexpected; and the women, not unwilling, saw 
one competitor for the polenta removed, and that the most for- 
midable. Tonio did not require a second asking, and they set ofl 
together. 

Arrived at the village inn, they sat down at their ease, perfectly 
alone, since the prevailing poverty had banished all the usual 
frequenters of this scene of mirth and joviality. They called for the 
little that was to be had, and having emptied a glass of wine, Renzo 
addressed Tonio with an air of mystery; 'If you will do me a small 
favour, I will do you a great one.' 

'What is it? — tell me! I'm at your service,' replied Tonio, pour- 
' A thick gruel, made of flnur and water, boiled together. 



94 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ing out another glass; Tm ready to go into the fire for you 
to-day.' 

'You are in debt twenty-five livres to the Signor Curate for the 
rent of his field that you worked last year.' 

'Ah, Renzo, Renzo! you've spoiled your kindness. Why did you 
remind me of it now.? You've put to flight all my good will 
towards you.' 

'If I reminded you of your debt,* said Renzo, 'it is because I 
intend, if you hke, to give you the means of paying it.* 

'Do you really mean so?' 

'I do really. Well, are you content?' 

'Content? I should think so, indeed! if it were for no other 
reason than to get rid of those tormenting looks and shakes of the 
head the Signor Curate gives me every time I meet him. And then 
it is always — "Tonio, remember: Tonio, when shall I see you to 
settle this business?" He goes so far, that, when he fixes his eyes 
upon me in preaching, I'm half afraid he will say publicly: Those 
twenty-five livres! I wish the twenty-five livres were far away! 
And then he will have to give me back my wife's gold necklace, 
and I could change it into so much polenta. But . . ,' 

'But, if you'll do me a little service, the twenty-five livres are 
ready.' 

'With all my heart; go on.' 

'But! . . .' said Renzo, laying his finger across his lips. 

'Need you tell me that? You know me.' 

'The Signor Curate has been starting some absurd objections, to 
delay my marriage. They tell me for certain, that if we go before 
him with two witnesses, and I say. This is my wife; and Lucia, 
This is my husband; the marriage is valid. Do you understand 
me?' 

'You want me to go as a witness?' 

'Yes.' 

'And you will pay the twenty-five livres for me?* 

'That is what I mean.' 

'He's a goose that would fail.' 

'But we must find another witness.' 

'I have him! That young clownish brother of mine, Gervase, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 95 

will do anything I bid him. You'll pay him with something to 
drink?" 

'And to eat, too,' replied Renzo. 'We'll bring him here to make 
merry with us. But will he know what to do?' 

'I'll teach him. You know I have got his share of brains.' 

'To-morrow . . .' 

'Well.' 

'Towards evening . . .' 

'Very well.' 

'ButI . . .' said Renzo, again putting his finger on his lips. 

'Poh!' replied Tonio, bending his head on his right shoulder, 
and raising his left hand, with a look that seemed to say, Do you 
doubt me? 

'But if your wife questions you, as without doubt she will . . .' 

'I owe my wife some lies, and so many, that I don't know if I 
shall ever manage to balance the account. I'll find some idle story 
to put her heart at rest, I warrant you.' 

'To-morrow,' said Renzo, 'we will make arrangements, that 
everything may go on smoothly.' 

So saying, they left the inn, Tonio bending his steps homewards, 
and contriving some tale to relate to the women, and Renzo to 
give an account of the concerted arrangements. 

In the mean while, Agnese had been vainly endeavouring to con- 
vince her daughter. To every argument, Lucia opposed one side 
or other of her dilemma; either the thing is wrong, and we ought 
not to do it, or it is not wrong, and why not tell it to Father 
Cristoforo? 

Renzo arrived quite triumphant, and rejwrted his success, finish- 
ing with a ahn? — a Milanese interjection which signifies — Am I a 
man or not? can you find a better plan? would it ever have entered 
your head? and a hundred other such things. 

Lucia shook her head doubtfully; but the other two enthusiasts 
paid little attention to it, as one does to a child when one despairs 
of making it understand all the reasons of a thing, and determines 
to induce it by entreaties or authority to do as it is required. 

'It goes on well,' said Agnese, 'very well; but . . . you haven't 
thought of everything.' 



96 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'What is wanting?' replied Renzo. 

'Perpetual — you haven't thought of Perpetual She will admit 
Tonio and his brother well enough, but you — you two — just think! 
You will have to keep her at a distance, as one keeps a boy from a 
pear-tree full of ripe fruit.' 

'How shall we manage?' said Renzo, beginning to think. 

'See, now! / have thought of that, too; I will go with you; and I 
have a secret that will draw her away, and engage her, so that she 
sha'n't see you, and you can go in. I'll call her out, and will touch a 
chord . . . You shall see.' 

'Bless you!' exclaimed Renzo; 'I always said you are our help 
in everything.' 

'But all this is of no use,' said Agnese, 'unless we can persuade 
Lucia, who persists in saying it is a sin.* 

Renzo brought in all his eloquence to his aid, but Lucia con- 
tinued immovable. 

'I cannot answer all your arguments,' said she; 'but I see that, 
to do what you want, we shall be obliged to use a great deal of 
disguise, falsehood, and deceit. Ah, Renzo! we didn't begin so. I 
wish to be your wife' — and she could never pronounce this word, 
or give expression to this desire, without a deep flush overspreading 
her cheek — 'I wish to be your wife, but in the right way — in the 
fear of God, at the altar. Let us leave all to Him who is above. Do 
you think He cannot find means to help us better than we, with 
all these deceitful ways? And why make a mystery of it to Father 
Cristoforo?' 

The dispute was still prolonged, and seemed not likely to come 
to a sf)eedy conclusion, when the hasty tread of sandals, and the 
sound of a rustling cassock, resembling the noise produced by 
repeated gusts of wind in a slackened sail, announced the approach 
of Father Cristoforo. There was instant silence, and Agnese had 
scarcely time to whisper in Lucia's ear, 'Be sure you say nothing 
about it.' 



CHAPTER VII 

FATHER CRISTOFORO arrived with the air of a good 
general, who having lost an important battle, without any 
fault on his part, — distressed, but not discouraged; thoughtful, 
but not confounded; retreating, but not put to flight; turns his steps 
where necessity calls for his presence, fortifying threatened quarters, 
regulating his troops, and giving new orders. 

'Peace be with you!' said he, as he entered. 'There is nothing to 
hope from man; you have therefore more need to trust in God, 
and I have already had a pledge of His protection.' 

Although none of the party had anticipated much from Father 
Cristoforo's attempt, (since, to see a powerful nobleman desist from 
an act of oppression, unless he were overcome by a superior power, 
from regard to the entreaties of a disarmed suppliant, was rather 
an unheard-of, than a rare, occurrence,) yet the melancholy certainty 
came as a blow upon them all. Their heads involuntarily drooped, 
but anger quickly prevailed over depression in Renzo's mind. The 
announcement found him already wounded and irritated by a suc- 
cession of painful surprises, fallacious attempts, and disappointed 
hopes, and, above all, exasperated at this moment by the repulses 
of Lucia. 

'I should like to know,' said he, gnashing his teeth and raising 
his voice as he had never before done in the presence of Father 
Cristoforo; 'I should like to know what reasons this dog gives for 
asserting ... for asserting that my bride should not be my bride?' 

'Poor Renzo!' replied the friar, with a look and accent of pity 
that kindly recommended peaceableness; 'if the powerful who do 
such deeds of injustice, were always obliged to give their reasons, 
things would not be as they are.' 

'Did the dog then say that he would not, because he would not?' 

'He didn't even say that, my poor fellow! It would be something, 
if so commit iniquity, they were obliged openly to confess it.' 

'But he must have told you something; what did this infernal 
firebrand say?' 

07 



98 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'I heard his words, but I cannot repeat them to you. The words 
of a powerful wicked man are violent, but contradictory. He can 
be angry that you are suspicious of him, and at the same time make 
you feel that your suspicions are well-founded; he can insult you, 
and call himself offended; ridicule you, and ask your opinion; 
threaten, and complain; be insolent, and irreprehensible. Ask no 
more. He neither mentioned the name of this innocent, nor your 
own; he did not even appear to know you, nor did he say he 
designed anything; but . . . but I understood too well that he is 
immovable. However, confidence in God, you poor creatures!' turn- 
ing to Agnese and Lucia, 'don't give up in despair! And you, 
Renzo . . .oh! believe me, I can put myself in your place; I can 
feel what passes in your heart. But, patience; it is a poor word, a 
bitter one to those who have no faith; but you — will you not allow 
God one day, two days, or whatever time He may please to take to 
clear you and give you justice? The time is His; and He has 
promised us much. Leave Him to work, Renzo; and . . . believe 
me, I already have a clue that may lead to something for your help. 
I cannot tell you more at present. To-morrow I shall not come here; 
I must be at the convent all day, for you. You, Renzo, try to come 
to me; or if, by any unforeseen accident, you cannot, send a trust- 
worthy man, or a lad of discretion, by whom I may let you know 
what may happen. It grows dark; I shall have to make haste to 
reach the convent. Faith, courage, and good night.' 

Having said this, he hastily left them, and made his way rapidly 
along a crooked, stony by-path, that he might not be late at the 
convent, and run the risk of a severe reprimand, or, what would 
have grieved him more, the infliction of a penance, which might 
have disabled him on the morrow from any undertaking which the 
service of his proteges might require. 

'Did you hear what he said about ... I don't know what . . . 
about a clue that he held in hand to help us?' said Lucia. 'It is 
best to trust in him; he is a man who, if he promises ten . . .' 

'I know there is not his like,' interrupted Agnese; 'but he ought 
to have spoken more clearly, or, at least, taken me aside and told 
me what it was.' 

'Idle prating! I'll put an end to it, that I will!' interrupted Renzo, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 99 

in his turn, as he paced furiously up and down the room, with a 
look and tone that left no doubt as to the meaning of his words. 

'Oh, Renzo!' exclaimed Lucia. 

'What do you mean?' cried Agnese. 

'Why need I tell you? I'll put an end to it! Though he has a 
hundred, a thousand devils in his soul, he's flesh and blood, after 
aU.' 

"No, no! for Heaven's sake! . . .' began Lucia, but tears choked 
her utterance. 

'This is not proper language, even in jest,' replied Agnese. 

'In jest!' cried Renzo, planting himself directly before Agnese, 
as she sat, and fixing on her two fearful-looking eyes. 'In jest! 
you shall see whether I am in jest or not.' 

'Ah, Renzo!' said Lucia, scarcely able to articulate for sobs, 'I 
never saw you so before.' 

'Don't talk so, for Heaven's sake!' replied Agnese, hastily, lower- 
ing her voice. 'Don't you remember how many arms he has at his 
bidding? And then, there is always justice to be had against the 
poor . . , God defend them!' 

'I will get justice for myself, I will. It is time now. The thing 
isn't easy, I know. The ruffian is well defended, dog that he is! 
I know how it is: but never mind. Patience and resolution . . . 
and the time will soon arrive. Yes, I will get justice. I'll free the 
country, and people will bless me! And then in four bounds . . .' 

The horror of Lucia at these explicit declarations repressed her 
sobs, and inspired her with courage to speak. Raising from her 
hands her face bathed in tears, she addressed Renzo in a mournful, 
but resolute tone: 'You no longer care, then, about having me 
for your wife? I promised myself to a youth who had the fear of 
God: but a man who has . . . were he safe from all justice and 
vengeance, were he the son of a king . . .' 

'Very well!' cried Renzo, his face more than ever convulsed with 
fury; 'I won't have you, then; but he sha'n't either. I will be here 
without you, and he in the abode of . . .' 

'Ah, no, for pity's sake, don't say so; don't look so furious! No, 
no, I cannot bear to see you thus,' exclaimed Lucia, weeping, and 
joining her hands in an attitude of earnest supplication; while 



100 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Agnese repeatedly called him by name, and seized hold of his 
shoulders, his arms, and his hands, to pacify him. He stood im- 
movable, thoughtful, almost overcome at the sight of Lucia's implor- 
ing countenance; then, suddenly gazed at her sternly, drew back, 
stretched out his arm, and pointing with his finger towards her, 
burst forth: 'Her! yes, he wants fieri He must die!' 

'And /, what harm have I done you, that you should kill me?' 
said Lucia, throwing herself on her knees. 

'You!' said he, with a voice expressive of anger, though of a far 
different nature; 'you! what good do you wish me? What proof 
have you given me? Haven't I begged, and begged, and begged? 
. . . Have I been able to obtain . . .' 

'Yes, yes,' replied she, precipitately; 'I will go to the Curate's 
to-morrow; I will go now, if you like. Only be yourself again, I 
will go.' 

'You promise me?' said Renzo, his voice and expression rendered 
in an instant more human. 

'I promise you.' 

'You have promised me?' 

'Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!' exclaimed Agnese, doubly satisfied. 

Did Renzo, in the midst of his anger, discern the advantage 
that might be taken of Lucia's terror? And did he not practise 
a httle artifice to increase it, that he might use this advantage? Our 
author protests he knows nothing about the matter; nor, I think, 
did even Renzo himself know very well. At any rate, he was un- 
doubtedly enraged beyond measure with Don Rodrigo, and ardently 
desired Lucia's consent; and when two powerful passions struggle 
together in a man's mind, no one, not even the most patient, can 
always clearly discern one voice from the other, or say, with cer- 
tainty, which of them predominates. 

'I have promised you,' replied Lucia, with an accent of timid 
and affectionate reproof; 'but you have also promised not to make 
any disturbance — to submit yourself to Father . . .' 

'Come, now, for whose sake did I get into a passion? Do you 
want to draw back ? And will you oblige me to do a rash thing?' 

'No, no,' said Lucia, ready to relapse into her former fears. 'I 
have promised, and I will not draw back. But see how you have 
made me promise; God forbid that . . .' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI lOI 

'Why will you prophesy evil, Lucia? God knows we do no 
wrong to anybody.' 

'Promise me, at least, this shall be the last time.' 

'I promise you, upon my word.' 

'But this once you will stand by him,' said Agnese. 

Here the author confesses his ignorance of another matter, and 
that is, whether Lucia was absolutely, and on every account, dis- 
satisfied at being obliged to give her consent. We follow his example, 
and leave the point undecided. 

Renzo would willingly have prolonged the conversation, and 
allotted their several parts in the proceedings of the morrow; but 
it was already dark, and the women wished him good night, as they 
thought it scarcely decorous that he should remain any longer with 
them at so late an hour. 

The night was passed by all three as well as could be expected, 
considering that it followed a day of such excitement and mis- 
fortune, and preceded one fixed upon for an important undertaking 
of doubtful issue. Renzo made his appearance early next morning, 
and concerted with the women, or rather with Agnese, the grand 
operations of the evening, alternately suggesting and removing 
difficulties, foreseeing obstacles, and both beginning, by turns, to 
describe the scene as if they were relating a past event. Lucia 
listened; and, without approving in words what she could not agree 
to in her heart, promised to do as well as she was able. 

'Are you going down to the convent to see Father Cristoforo, as 
he bid you, last night?' said Agnese to Renzo. 

'Not I,' replied he; 'you know what discerning eyes the Father 
has; he will read in my looks, as if it were written in a book, that 
there's something in the wind; and if he begins to question me, I 
can't get off it easily. And, besides, I must stay here to arrange 
matters. It will be better for you to send somebody.' 

'I will send Menico.' 

'Very well,' replied Renzo; and he set off to arrange matters, 
as he had said. 

Agnese went to a neighbouring cottage to ask for Menico, a 
sprightly and very sensible lad for his age, who, through the medium 
of cousins and sisters-in-law, came to be a sort of nephew to the 
dame. She asked his parents for him, as for a loan, and begged she 



102 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

might keep him the whole day, 'for a particular service,' said she. 
Having obtained permission, she led him to her kitchen, gave him 
his breakfast, and bid him go to Pescarenico, and present himself 
to Father Cristoforo, who would send him back with a message 
at the right time. 'Father Cristoforo, that fine old man, you know, 
with a white beard, who is called the Saint . . .' 

'I understand,' said Menico; 'he who speaks so kindly to the 
children, and sometimes gives them pictures.' 

'Just so, Menico. And if he bids you wait some time at the con- 
vent, don't wander away; and be sure you don't go with other boys 
to the lake to throw stones into the water, nor to watch them fish, 
nor to play with the nets hung up to dry, nor . . .' 

'Poh, aunt; I am no longer a child.' 

'Well, be prudent; and when you come back with the answer 
. . . look; these two fine new parpagliole are for you.' 

'Give me them now, that . . .' 

'No, no, you will play with them. Go, and behave well, that you 
may have some more.' 

In the course of this long morning many strange things happened 
which roused not a little suspicion in the already-disturbed minds 
of Agnese and Lucia. A beggar, neither thin nor ragged, as they 
generally were, and of somewhat dark and sinister aspect, came and 
asked alms, in God's name, at the same time looking narrowly 
around. A piece of bread was given him, which he received, and 
placed in his basket, with ill-dissembled indifference. He then 
loitered, and made many inquiries, with a mixed air of impudence 
and hesitation, to which Agnese endeavoured to make replies exactly 
contrary to the truth. When about to depart, he pretended to mis- 
take the door, and went to that at the foot of the stairs, glancing 
hastily upwards, as well as he could. On their calling him back — 
'Hey! hey! where are you going, my good man? — this way!' he 
turned and went out by the door that was pointed out to him, excus- 
ing himself with a submission, and an affected humility, that ill 
accorded with the fierce and hard features of his face. After his de- 
parture, they continued to mark, from time to time, other suspicious 
and strange figures. It was not easy to discern what kind of men 
they were; yet still they could not believe them to be the unpretend- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 103 

ing passers-by they wished to appear. One would enter under pre- 
tence of asking the way; others, arriving at the door, slackened their 
pace, and peeped through the little yard into the room, as if wishing 
to see without exciting suspicion. At last, towards noon, these 
annoying and alarming appearances ceased. Agnese got up oc- 
casionally, and crossed the little yard to the street-door, to recon- 
noitre; and after looking anxiously around on either side, returned 
with the intelligence, 'There's nobody;' words which she uttered 
with pleasure, and Lucia heard with satisfaction, neither one nor 
the other knowing exactly the reason why. But an undefined dis- 
quietude haunted their steps, and, with Lucia especially, in some 
degree cooled the courage they had summoned up for the proceed- 
ings of the evening. 

The reader, however, must be told something more definite about 
these mysterious wanderers; and to relate it in order, we must turn 
back a step or two, and find Don Rodrigo, whom we left yesterday 
after dinner by himself, in one of the rooms of his palace, after the 
departure of Father Cristoforo. 

Don Rodrigo, as we have said, paced backwards and forwards 
with long strides in this spacious apartment, surrounded on all 
sides by the family portraits of many generations. When he reached 
the wall and turned round, his eye rested upon the figure of one 
of his warlike ancestors, the terror of his enemies, and of his own 
soldiers; who, with a stern grim countenance, his short hair stand- 
ing erect from his forehead, his large sharp whiskers covering his 
cheeks, and his hooked chin, stood like a warrior, clothed in a com- 
plete suit of steel armour, with his right hand pressing his side, and 
the left grasping the hilt of his sword. Don Rodrigo gazed upon it, 
and when he arrived beneath it, and turned back, beheld before him 
another of his forefathers, a magistrate, and the terror of litigants, 
seated in a high chair, covered with crimson velvet, enveloped in an 
ample black robe, so that he was entirely black, excepting for a white 
collar, with two large bands, and a lining of sable, turned wrong 
side outwards, (this was the distinctive mark of senators, but only 
worn in winter; for which reason the picture of a senator in summer- 
clothing is never met with,) squalid, and frowning; he held in his 
hand a memorial, and seemed to be saying, 'We shall see.' On the 



104 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

one hand was a matron, the terror of her maids; on the other, an 
abbot, the terror of his monks; in short, they were all persons who 
had been objects of terror while alive, and who now inspired dread 
by their Ukenesses. In the presence of such remembrancers, Don 
Rodrigo became enraged and ashamed, as he reflected that a friar 
had dared to come to him with the parable of Nathan; and his 
mind could find no peace. He would form a plan of revenge, and 
then abandon it; seek how, at the same time, to satisfy his passion, 
and what he called his honour; and sometimes, hearing the begin- 
ning of the prophecy resounding in his ears, he would involuntarily 
shudder, and be almost inclined to give up the idea of the two satis- 
factions. At last, for the sake of doing something, he called a servant, 
and desired him to make an apology for him to the company, and to 
say that he was detained by urgent business. The servant returned 
with the intelligence that the gentlemen, having left their compli- 
ments, had taken their leave. 

'And Count Attilio?' asked Don Rodrigo, still pacing the room. 

'He left with the gentlemen, illustrious Signor.' 

'Very well; six followers to accompany me — quickly! my sword, 
cloak and hat, immediately!' 

The servant replied by a bow and withdrew, returning shortly 
with a rich sword, which his master buckled on, a cloak which he 
threw over his shoulders, and a hat, ornamented with lofty plumes, 
which he placed on his head, and fastened with a haughty air. He 
then moved forward, and found the six bravoes at the door, com- 
pletely armed, who, making way for him, with a low bow, followed 
as his train. More surly, more haughty, and more supercilious than 
usual, he left his palace, and took the way towards Lecco, amidst 
the salutations and profound bows of the peasants he happened to 
meet; and the ill-mannered wight who would have ventured to 
pass without taking off his hat, might consider he had purchased 
the exemption at a cheap rate, had the bravoes in the train been 
contented merely to enforce respect by a blow on the head. To these 
salutations Don Rodrigo made no acknowledgment; but to men 
of higher rank, though still indisputably inferior to his own, he 
replied with constrained courtesy. He did not chance this time, 
but when he did happen to meet with the Spanish Signor, the Gov- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 105 

ernor of the Castle, the salutations were equally profound on both 
sides; it was like the meeting of two potentates, who have nothing to 
share between them, yet, for convenience sake, pay respect to each 
other's rank. To pass away the time, and, by the sight of far different 
faces and behaviour, to banish the image of the friar, which con- 
tinually haunted his mind, Don Rodrigo entered a house where a 
large party was assembled, and where he was received with that 
officious and respectful cordiality reserved for those who are greatly 
courted, and greatly feared. Late at night he returned to his own 
palace, and found that Count Attilio had just arrived; and they sat 
down to supper together, Don Rodrigo buried in thought, and 
very silent. 

'Cousin, when will you pay your wager?' asked Count Attilio, 
in a malicious, and at the same time rallying, tone, as soon as the 
table was cleared, and the servants had departed. 
'St. Martin has not yet passed.' 

'Well, remember you will have to pay it soon; for all the saints 
in the calendar will pass before . . .' 
'This has to be seen yet.' 

'Cousin, you want to play the politician; but I understand all; and 
I am so certain of having won my wager, that I am ready to lay 
another.' 
'What?' 

'That the Father . . . the Father ... I mean, in short, that this 
friar has converted you.' 
'It is a mere fancy of your own.' 

'Converted, cousin; converted, I say. I, for my part, am delighted 
at it. What a fine sight it will be to see you quite penitent, with 
downcast eyes! And what triumph for this Father! How proudly 
he must have returned to the convent! You are not such fish as 
they catch every day, nor in every net. You may be sure they will 
bring you forward as an example; and when they go on a mission 
to some little distance, they will talk of your acts. I can fancy I 
hear them.' And, speaking through his nose, accompanying the 
words with caricatured gestures, he continued, in a sermon-like tone, 
"In a certain part of the world, which from motives of high respect 
we forbear to name, there lived, my dear hearers, and there still 



I06 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

lives, a dissolute gentleman, the friend of women rather than of 
good men, who, accustomed to make no distinctions, had set his 
eyes upon . . ." 

'That will do . . , enough,' interrupted Don Rodrigo, half amused 
and half annoyed: 'If you wish to repeat the wager, I am ready, too.' 

'Indeed! perhaps, then, you have converted the Father?' 

'Don't talk to me about him: and as to the bet. Saint Martin 
will decide.' The curiosity of the Count was aroused; he put num- 
berless questions, but Don Rodrigo contrived to evade them all, 
referring everything to the day of decision, and unwilling to com- 
municate designs which were neither begun nor absolutely de- 
termined upon. 

Next morning, Don Rodrigo was himself again. The slight com- 
punction that 'a day will come' had awakened in his mind, had 
vanished with the dreams of the night; and nothing remained but 
a feeling of deep indignation, rendered more vivid by remorse 
for his passing weakness. The remembrance of his late almost- 
triimiphant walk, of the profound salutations, and the receptions he 
had met with, together with the rallying of his cousin, had con- 
tributed not a litde to renew his former spirit. Hardly risen, he 
sent iar Griso. — Something important, — thought the servant to 
whom the order was given ; for the man who bore this assumed name 
was no less a personage than the head of the bravoes, to whom the 
boldest and most dangerous enterprises were confided, who was the 
most trusted by his master, and was devoted to him, at all risks, 
by gratitude and interest. Guilty of murder, he had sought the pro- 
tection of Don Rodrigo, to escape the pursuit of justice; and he, by 
taking him into his service, had sheltered him from the reach of 
persecution. Here, by engaging in every crime that was required of 
him, he was secured from the punishment of the first fault. To Don 
Rodrigo the acquisition had been of no small importance; for this 
Griso, besides being undoubtedly the most courageous of the house- 
hold, was also a specimen of what his master had been able to 
attempt with impunity against the laws; so that Don Rodrigo's 
power was aggrandized both in reality and in common opinion. 

'Griso!' said Don Rodrigo, 'in this emergency it will be seen what 
you are worth. Before to-morrow, Lucia must be in this palace.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 107 

'It shall never be said that Griso shrank from the command of 
his noble protector.' 

'Take as many men as you want, dispose and order them as you 
think best, only let the thing succeed well. But, above all, be sure 
you do her no harm.' 

'Signor, a little fright, that she may not make too much noise . . . 
one cannot do less.' 

'Fear ... I see ... is inevitable. But don't you touch a hair of 
her head; and, above all, treat her with the greatest respect. Do you 
understand?' 

'Signor, I could not pluck a flower from its stalk, and bring it 
to your lordship, without touching it a little. But I will do no more 
than is necessary.' 

'Beware you do not. And . . . how will you manage?' 

'I was thinking, Signor. It is fortunate that the house is at the 
end of the village. We shall want a place to conceal ourselves in; 
and at a little distance there's that uninhabited building in the 
middle of the fields, that house . . . but your lordship knows noth- 
ing of these things ... a house that was burnt down a few days 
ago; and there have been no funds to rebuild it, so it is forsaken, 
and is haunted by witches; but it is not Saturday, and I don't care 
for them. The villagers are so superstitious, they wouldn't enter it 
any night of the week for a treasure, so we may safely dispose our- 
selves there, without any fear of being disturbed in our plans.' 

'Very good: and what then?' 

Here Griso went on to propose, and Don Rodrigo to discuss, till 
they had, together, concerted a way to bring the enterprise to an 
end without a trace of its authors remaining. They even contrived 
means to turn all the suspicions, by making false indications, upon 
another quarter; to impose silence upon poor Agnese; to inspire 
Renzo with such fear as would overbalance his grief, efface the 
thought of having recourse to the law, and even the wish to com- 
plain; and arranged all the other minor villainies necessary to the 
success of this principal one. We will omit the account of these 
consultations, however, because, as the reader will perceive, they are 
not necessary to the comprehension of the story, and it will only 
be tedious, both to him and us, to entertain ourselves for any length 



I08 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

of time with the discussions of these two detestable villains. It will 
suffice to say that, as Griso was on the point of leaving the room, 
to go about the execution of his undertaking at once, Don Rodrigo 
called him back, and said, 'Listen : if by any chance this rash clown 
should molest you to-night, it would not be amiss if you were to 
give him something to remember, on his shoulders, by way of 
anticipation. By this means, the command to keep quiet, which 
shall be intimated to him to-morrow, will more surely take effect. 
But don't go to look for him, lest you should spoil what is of more 
importance. Do you understand me?' 

'Leave it to me,' replied Griso, bowing with an obsequious and 
ostentatious air, as he departed. 

The morning was spent in reconnoitring the neighbourhood. 
The feigned beggar who had intruded himself so pertinaciously into 
Agnese's humble cottage, was no other than Griso, who had come 
to get an idea of the plan of the house by sight; the pretended pas- 
sengers were his vile followers, who, operating under his orders, 
required a less minute acquaintance with the place. Their observa- 
tions being made, they withdrew from notice, lest they should excite 
too much suspicion. 

When they returned to the palace, Griso made his report, arranged 
definitely the plan of the enterprise, assigned to each his different 
part, and gave his instructions. All this could not be transacted 
without the old servant's observation, who, with his eyes and ears 
constantly on the alert, discovered that they were plotting some 
great undertaking. By dint of watching and questioning, getting 
half a hint here, and another half there, commenting in his own 
mind on ambiguous inferences, and interpreting mysterious de- 
partures, he at length came to a pretty clear knowledge of all the 
designs of the evening. But when he was assured of them, it was 
very near the time, and already a small detachment of bravoes had 
left the palace, and set off to conceal themselves in the ruined 
building. The poor old man, although he well knew what a danger- 
ous game he was playing, and feared, besides, that he was doing no 
efficient service, yet failed not to fulfil his engagement. He went out, 
under pretence of taking the air, and proceeded in great haste to 
the convent, to give Father Cristoforo the promised information. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 109 

Shortly afterwards, a second party of bravoes were sent out, one or 
two at a time, that they might not appear to be one company. Griso 
made up the rear, and then nothing remained behind but a Utter, 
which was to be brought to the place of rendezvous after dark. When 
they were all assembled there, Griso despatched three of them to 
the inn in the village; one was to place himself at the door, to 
watch the movements in the street, and to^ive notice when all the 
inhabitants had retired to rest; the other two were to remain inside, 
gaming and drinking, as if enjoying themselves, but were also to 
be on the lookout, if anything was to be seen. Griso, with the body 
of the troop, waited in ambuscade till the time of action should 
arrive. 

The poor old man was still on his way, the three scouts had 
arrived at their fX)st, and the sun was setting, when Renzo entered 
the cottage, and said to the women, 'Tonio and Gervase are here 
outside: I am going with them to sup at the inn; and at the sound of 
the Ave-Maria, we will come to fetch you. Come, Lucia, courage; 
all depends upon a moment.' Lucia sighed, and replied, 'Oh yes, 
courage!' with a tone that belied her words. 

When Renzo and his two companions reached the inn, they found 
the bravo already there on the watch, leaning with his back against 
one of the jambs of the doorway, so as to occupy half its width, his 
arms folded across his breast, and glancing with a prying look to the 
right and left, showing alternately the blacks and whites of two 
griffin-like eyes. A flat cap of crimson velvet, put on sideways, 
covered half the lock of hair which, parted on a dark forehead, 
terminated in tresses confined by a comb at the back of the head. He 
held in one hand a short cudgel; his weapons, properly speaking, 
were not visible, but one had only to look at his face, and even a 
child would have guessed that he had as many under his clothes as 
he could carry. When Renzo, the foremost of the three, approached 
him and seemed prepared to enter, the bravo fixed his eyes upon 
him, without attempting to make way; but the youth, intent on 
avoiding any questions or disputes, as people generally are who have 
an intricate undertaking in hand, did not even stop to say 'make 
room;' but grazing the other door-post, pushed, side-foremost, 
through the opening left by this Caryatides. His companions were 



no ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

obliged to practise the same manoeuvre, if they wished to enter. 
When they got in, they saw the others whose voices they had heard 
outside, sitting at a table, playing at Mora,' both exclaiming at 
once, and alternately pouring out something to drink from a large 
flask placed between them. They fixed their eyes steadily on the 
new comers; and one of them, esf)ecially, holding his right hand 
extended in the air, with three enormous fingers just shot forth, and 
his mouth formed to utter the word 'six,' which burst forth at the 
moment, eyed Renzo from head to foot, and glanced first at his 
companion, and then at the one at the door, who replied with a nod 
of his head. Renzo, suspicious and doubtful, looked at his friends, 
as if seeking in their countenances an interpretation of all these 
gestures; but their countenances indicated nothing beyond a good 
appetite. The landlord approached to receive his orders, and Renzo 
made him accompany him into an adjoining room, and ordered 
some supper. 

'Who are those strangers?' asked he, in a low voice, when his 
host returned with a coarse table-cloth under his arm, and a bottle 
in his hand. 

'I don't know them,' replied the host, spreading the table<loth. 

'What! none of them?' 

'You know,' replied he, again smoothing the cloth on the table 
with both his hands, 'that the first rule of our business is not to pry 
into other people's affairs; so that even our women are not in- 
quisitive. It would be hard work, with the multitude of folk that 
come and go; always like a harbour — when the times are good, I 
mean; but let us cheer up now, for there may come better days. 
All we care for is whether our customers are honest fellows; who 
they are or are not, beyond that, is nothing to us. But, come! I will 
bring you a dish of hash, the like of which you've never tasted.' 

'How do you know . . .?' Renzo was beginning; but the land- 
lord, already on his way to the kitchen, paid no attention to his 

' This is a game between two, played by one of them suddenly extending any num- 
ber of fingers he may choose, and caUing at the same moment for some number under 
eleven, which the opponent must make up at once, by producing such a number of 
fingers, that the number called for may be summed up exactly on the extended fingers 
of the four hands. If he succeed in making up the right number, he wins; if otherwise, 
the speaker. The bystanders keep count. This is a very exciting, lively game, and a 
great favourite among the Roman peasantrj'. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI III 

inquiry. Here, while he was taking up the stewing-pan in which 
was the above-mentioned hash, the bravo who had eyed our youth 
so closely accosted the host, and said, in an under-tone, 'Who are 
those good men?' 

'Worthy people of the village,' replied he, pouring the hash into 
the dish. 

'Very well; but what are they called? Who are they?' insisted 
he, in a sharp tone. 

'One is called Renzo,' repUed the host, speaking in a low voice; 
'a worthy youth reckoned — a silk weaver, who understands his 
business well. The other is a f)easant of the name of Tonio, a good 
jovial comrade; pity he has so little; he'd spend it all here. The 
third is a simpleton, who eats willingly whatever is set before him. 
By your leave.' 

With these words and a sUght bow, he passed between the stove 
and the interrogator, and carried the dish into the next room. 'How 
do you know,' resumed Renzo, when he saw him reappear, 'that 
they are honest men, if you don't know them?' 

'By their actions, my good fellow — men are known by their 
actions. Those who drink wine without criticizing it; who show 
the face of the King upon the counter without prating; who don't 
quarrel with other customers; and if they owe a blow to any one, 
go outside and away from the inn to give it, so that the poor land- 
lord isn't brought into the scrape: — these are honest men. How- 
ever, if one could know everybody to be honest, as we four know 
one another, it would be better. But why are you so inquisitive on 
these matters, when you are a bridegroom, and ought to have other 
things in your head ? and with this hash before you, enough to make 
the dead rise again?' So saying, he returned to the kitchen. 

Our author, remarking upon the different manner in which the 
landlord satisfied these various inquiries, says he was one who in 
words made great professions of friendship for honest men in 
general, but who in practice paid much more attention to those 
who had the character and appearance of knaves. He was, as every 
one must perceive, a man of singular character. 

The supper was not very blithesome. The two invited guests 
would have deliberately enjoyed the unusual gratification, but the 



112 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

inviter, pre-occupied by — the reader knows what — anxious and un- 
easy at the strange behaviour of these incognitos, was impatient for 
the time of departure. He spolce in an undertone, out of respect to 
the strangers, and in broken and hurried words. 

'What a fine thing,' suddenly exclaimed Gervase, 'that Renzo 
wants to marry, and is obliged . . .1' Renzo gave him a savage look, 
and Tonio exclaimed, 'Hold your tongue, simpleton!' accompanying 
the epithet with a knock of his elbow. The conversation flagged till 
the end of the meal. Renzo, observing the strictest sobriety, managed 
to help his guests with so much discretion as to inspire them with 
sufficient boldness, without making them giddy and bewildered. 
Supper being over, and the bill having been paid by the one who 
had done the least execution, they had again to pass under the 
scrutinizing eyes of the three bravoes, who gazed earnestly at Renzo, 
as they had done on his entrance. When he had proceeded a few 
paces from the inn, he looked round, and saw that he was followed 
by the two bravoes whom he had left sitting in the kitchen; so he 
stood still with his companions, as much as to say, 'Let us see what 
these fellows want with me.' On perceiving, however, that they were 
observed, they also stopped short, and speaking to each other in a 
suppressed voice, turned back again. Had Renzo been near enough 
to have heard their words, the following would have struck him as 
very strange: 'It will be a fine thing, however, without counting the 
drinking-money,' said one of the villains, 'if we can relate, on our 
return to the palace, that we made them lay down their arms in a 
hurry; — by ourselves, too, without Signor Griso here to give orders!' 

'And spoil the principal business!' replied the other. 'See, they've 
discovered something; they are stopping to look at us. Oh, I wish 
it was later! Let us turn back, or they'll surely suspect us! Don't 
you see {leople are coming in every direction.' Let us wait till 
they've all gone to bed.' 

There was, in fact, that stirring — that confused buzz — which is 
usually heard in a village on the approach of evening, and which 
shortly afterwards gives place to the solemn stillness of night. 
Women arrived from the fields, carrying their infants on their backs, 
and holding by the hand the elder children, whom they were hear- 
ing repeat their evening prayers; while the men bore on their 
shoulders their spades, and different implements of husbandry. On 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 113 

the opening o£ the cottage doors, a bright gleam of light sparkled 
from the fires, that were kindled to prepare their humble evening 
meal. In the street might be heard salutations exchanged, together 
with brief and sad remarks on the scarcity of the harvest, and the 
poverty of the times; while, above all, resounded the measured and 
sonorous tolls of the bell, which announced the close of day. When 
Renzo saw that his two indiscreet followers had retired, he con- 
tinued his way amid the increasing darkness, occasionally, in a 
low tone, refreshing the memories of one or other of the brothers 
on some point of their duties they might be likely to forget. When 
he arrived at Lucia's cottage, the night had quite closed in. 

'Between the acting of a dreadful thing,' 
says a foreign writer, who was not wanting in discernment, 
'And the first motion, all the interim is 
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream.' 

Lucia had suffered for several hours the horrors of such a dream; 
and Agnese — Agnese herself, the author of the design, was buried 
in thought, and could scarcely find words to encourage her daughter. 
But at the moment of awaking, at the moment when one is called 
upon to begin the dreaded undertaking, the mind is instantly trans- 
formed. A new terror and a new courage succeed those which before 
struggled within; the enterprise presents itself to the mind like 
a fresh apparition; that which at first sight, was most dreaded, seems 
sometimes rendered easy in a moment; and, on the other hand, an 
obstacle which, at first, was scarcely noticed, becomes formidable; 
the imagination shrinks back alarmed, the limbs refuse to fulfil their 
office, and the heart revokes the promises that were made with the 
greatest confidence. At Renzo 's smothered knock, Lucia was seized 
with such terror, that, at the moment, she resolved to suffer anything, 
to be separated from him for ever rather than execute the resolutions 
she had made; but when he had stood before her, and had said, 
'Here I am, let us go' — when all were ready to accompany him 
without hesitation, as a fixed and irrevocable thing, Lucia had neither 
time nor heart to interpose difficulties; and, almost dragged along, 
she tremblingly took one arm of her mother, and one of her be- 
trothed, and set off with the venturesome party. 
Very sofdy, in the dark, and with slow steps, they passed the 



114 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

threshold, and took the road that led out of the village. The shortest 
way would have been to have gone through it, to reach Don 
Abbondio's house, at the other end; but they chose the longer 
course, as being the most retired. After passing along Uttle narrow 
roads that ran between gardens and fields, they arrived near the 
house, and here they divided. The two lovers remained hidden be- 
hind a corner of the building; Agnese was with them, but stood a 
Uttle forwarder, that she might be able to run in time to meet 
Perpetua, and take possession of her. Tonio, with his blockhead 
of a brother, Gervase, who knew how to do nothing by himself, 
and without whom nothing could be done, hastened boldly forward, 
and knocked at the door. 

'Who's there, at such an hour?' cried a voice from a window, 
that was thrown open at the moment: it was the voice of Perpetua. 
'There's nobody ill, that I know of. But, perhaps, some accident 
has happened?' 

'It is I,' replied Tonio, 'with my brother; we want to speak to the 
Signer Curate.' 

'Is this an hour for Christians?' replied Perpetua, sharply. 'You've 
no consideration. Come again to-morrow.' 

'Listen; I'll come again, or not, just as you like; I've scraped 
together nobody knows how much money, and came to settle that 
little debt you know of. Here, I had five-and-twenty fine new 
berlinghe; but if one cannot pay, never mind; I know well enough 
how to spend these, and I'll come again, when I've got together 
some more.' 

'Wait, wait! I'll go, and be back in a moment. But why come 
at such an hour?' 

'If you can change the hour, I've no objection; as for me, here I 
am; and if you don't want me, I'll go.' 

'No, no; wait a moment; I'll be back with the answer directly.' 

So saying, she shut the window again. At this instant, Agnese 
left the lovers, and saying, in a low voice to Lucia, 'Courage! it is 
but a moment; it's only like drawing a tooth,' joined the two 
brothers at the door, and began gossiping with Tonio, so that, when 
Perpetua should return and see her, she might think she was just 
passing by, and that Tonio had detained her for a moment. 



CHAPTER VIII 

CARNEADES! who was he? — thought Don Abbondio to 
himself, as he sat in his arm-chair, in a room upstairs, with 
a small volume lying open before him, just as Perpetua 
entered to bring him the message. — CarneadesI I seem to have 
heard or read this name; it must be some man of learning — some 
great scholar of antiquity; it is just like one of their names; but 
whoever was he? — So far was the poor man from foreseeing the 
storm that was gathering over his head. 

The reader must know that Don Abbondio was very fond of 
reading a little every day; and a neighbouring Curate, who pos- 
sessed something of a Hbrary, lent him one book after another, 
always taking the first that came to hand. The work with which 
Don Abbondio was now engaged (being already convalescent, after 
his fever and fears, and even more advanced in his recovery from the 
fever than he wished should be believed) was a panegyric in honour 
of San Carlo, which had been delivered with much earnestness, and 
hstened to with great admiration, in the Cathedral of Milan, two 
years before. The saint had been compared, on account of his love 
of study, to Archimedes; and so far Don Abbondio had met with no 
stumbling-block; because Archimedes has executed such great works, 
and has rendered his name so famous, that it required no very vast 
fund of erudition to know something about him. But after Archi- 
medes, the orator also compares his saint to Carneades, and here the 
reader met with a check. At this point, Perpetua announced the 
visit of Tonio. 

'At this hour!' exclaimed Don Abbondio, also, naturally enough. 

'What would you have, sir? They have no consideration, indeed; 
but if you don't take him when you can get him . . .' 

'If I don't take him now, who knows when I can? Let him come 
in . . . Hey! hey! — Perpetua, are you quite sure it is Tonio?' 

'Diavoloi' replied Perpetua; and going down-stairs, she opened 
the door, and said, 'Where are you?' Tonio advanced, and, at the 

"5 



no ALESSANDRO MANZONl 

same moment, Agnese showed herself, and saluted Perpetua by 
name. 

'Good evening, Agnese,' said Perpetua; 'where are you coming 
from at this hour?' 

'I am coming from * • • mentioning a neighbouring village. 
'And if you knew . . .' continued she; 'I've been kept late just 
for your sake.' 

'What for?' asked Perpetua; and turning to the two brothers, 'Go 
in,' said she, 'and I'll follow.' 

'Because,' replied Agnese, 'a gossiping woman, who knows noth- 
ing about the matter . . . would you believe it? persists in saying 
that you were not married to Beppo Suolavecchia, nor to Anselmo 
Lunghigna, because they wouldn't have you! I maintained that you 
had refused both one and the other . . .' 

'To be sure. Oh, what a false-tongued woman! Who is she?' 

'Don't ask me; I don't want to make mischief.' 

'You shall tell me; you must tell me. I say she's a false body.' 

'Well, well . . . but you cannot think how vexed I was that I 
didn't know the whole history, that I might have put her down.' 

'It is an abominable falsehood,' said Perpetua — 'a most infamous 
falsehood! As to Beppo, everybody knows, and might have seen . . . 
Hey! Tonio; just close the door, and go up-stairs till I come.' 

Tonio assented from within, and Perpetua continued her eager 
relation. In front of Don Abbondio's door, a narrow street ran 
between two cottages, but only continued straight the length of 
the buildings, and then turned into the fields. Agnese went forward 
along this street, as if she would go a little aside to speak more 
freely, and Perpetua followed. When they had turned the corner, 
and reached a spot whence they could no longer see what happened 
before Don Abbondio's house, Agnese coughed loudly. This was 
the signal; Renzo heard it, and re-animating Lucia by pressing her 
arm, they turned the corner together on tiptoe, crept very softly 
close along the wall, reached the door, and gently pushed it open; 
quiet, and stooping low, they were quickly in the passage; and here 
the two brothers were waiting for them. Renzo very gently let down 
the latch of the door, and they all four ascended the stairs, making 
scarcely noise enough for two. On reaching the landing, the two 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 117 

brothers advanced towards the door of the room at the side of the 
staircase, and the lovers stood close against the wall. 
'Deo gratias,' said Tonio, in an explanatory tone. 
'Eh, Tonio! is it you? Come in!' replied the voice within. 
Tonio opened the door, scarcely wide enough to admit himself 
and his brother one at a time. The ray of light that suddenly shone 
through the opening, and crossed the dark floor of the landing, 
made Lucia tremble, as if she were discovered. When the brothers 
had entered, Tonio closed the door inside; the lovers stood motion- 
less in the dark, their ears intently on the alert, and holding their 
breath; the loudest noise was the beating of poor Lucia's heart. 

Don Abbondio was seated, as we have said, in an old arm- 
chair, enveloped in an antiquated dressing-gown, and his head 
buried in a shabby cap, the shape of a tiara, which, by the faint light 
of a small lamp, formed a sort of cornice all round his face. Two 
thick locks, which escaped from beneath his head-dress, two thick 
eye-brows, two thick mustachios, and a thick tuft on the chin, all 
of them grey, and scattered over his dark and wrinkled visage, might 
be compared to bushes covered with snow, projecting from the face 
of a cliff, as seen by moonlight. 

'Aha!' was his salutation, as he took off his spectacles, and laid 
them on his book. 

'The Signor Curate will say I am come very late,' said Tonio, 
with a low bow, which Gervase awkwardly imitated. 

'Certainly, it is late — late every way. Don't you know I am ill?' 

'I'm very sorry for it.' 

'You must have heard I was ill, and didn't know when I should 
be able to see anybody , . . But why have you brought this — this 
boy with you?' 

'For company, Signor Curate.' 

'Very well; let us see.' 

'Here are twenty-five new berlinghe, with the figure of Saint Am- 
brose on horseback,' said Tonio, drawing a little parcel out of his 
pocket. 

'Let us see,' said Don Abbondio; and he took the parcel, put on 
his spectacles again, opened it, took out the berlinghe, turned them 
over and over, counted them, and found them irreprehensible. 



Il8 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Now, Signer Curate, you will give me Tecla's necklace.' 
'You are right,' replied Don Abbondio; and going to a cup- 
board, he took out a key, looking round as if to see that all prying 
spectators were at a proper distance, opened one of the doors, and 
filling up the aperture with his person, introduced his head to see, 
and his arm to reach, the pledge; then drawing it out, he shut the 
cupboard, unwrapped the paper, and saying, 'Is that right?' folded 
it up again, and handed it to Tonio. 
'Now,' said Tonio, 'will you please to put it in black and white?" 
'Not satisfied yet!' said Don Abbondio. 'I declare they know 
everything. Eh! how suspicious the world has become! Don't you 
trust me?' 

'What! Signer Curate! Don't I trust you? You do me wrong. 
But as my name is in your black books, on the debtor's side . . . 
then, since you have had the trouble of writing once, so . . . from 
life to death . . .* 

'Well, well,' interrupted Don Abbondio; and muttering between 
his teeth, he drew out one of the table-drawers, took thence f)en, 
ink, and paper, and began to write, repeating the words aloud, as 
they proceeded from his pen. In the mean time, Tonio, and at 
his side, Gervase, placed themselves standing before the table in 
such a manner as to conceal the door from the view of the writer, 
and began to shuffle their feet about on the floor, as if in mere 
idleness, but, in reality, as a signal to those without to enter, and, 
at the same time, to drown the noise of their footsteps. Don Abbon- 
dio, intent upon his writing, noticed nothing else. At the noise of 
their feet, Renzo took Lucia's arm, pressing it in an encouraging 
manner, and went forward, almost dragging her along; for she 
trembled to such a degree, that, without his help, she must have 
sunk to the ground. Entering very sofdy, on tiptoe, and holding 
their breath, they placed themselves behind the two brothers. In 
the mean time, Don Abbondio, having finished writing, read over 
the paper attentively, without raising his eyes; he then folded it up, 
saying, 'Are you content now?' and taking off his spectacles with 
one hand, handed the paper to Tonio with the other, and looked up. 
Tonio, extending his right hand to receive it, retired on one side, 
and Gervase, at a sign from him, on the other; and behold! as at 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 119 

the shifting of a scene, Renzo and Lucia stood between them. Don 
Abbondio saw indistinctly — saw clearly — was terrified, astonished, 
enraged, buried in thought, came to a resolution; and all this, while 
Renzo uttered the words, 'Signor Curate, in the presence of these 
witnesses, this is my wife.' Before, however, Lucia's Ups could form 
the reply, Don Abbondio dropped the receipt, seized the lamp with 
his left hand, and raised it in the air, caught hold of the cloth with 
his right, and dragged it furiously off the table, bringing to the 
ground in its fall, book, paper, inkstand, and sandbox; and, spring- 
ing between the chair and the table, advanced towards Lucia. The 
poor girl, with her sweet gentle voice, trembling violently, had 
scarcely uttered the words, 'And this . . .' when Don Abbondio 
threw the cloth rudely over her head and face, to prevent her pro- 
nouncing the entire formula. Then, letting the light fall from his 
other hand, he employed both to wrap the cloth round her face, 
till she was well nigh smothered, shouting in the mean while, at 
thestretchof his voice, Hke a wounded bull: 'Perpetual Perpetual — 
treachery — help I' The light, just glimmering on the ground, threw 
a dim and flickering ray upon Lucia, who, in utter consternation, 
made no attempt to disengage herself, and might be compared to 
a statue sculptured in chalk, over which the artificer had thrown a 
wet cloth. When the hght died away, Don Abbondio quitted the 
poor girl, and went groping about to find the door that opened into 
an inner room; and having reached it, he entered and shut himself 
in, unceasingly exclaiming, 'Perpetual treachery, help! Out of the 
house! out of the house!* 

In the other room all was confusion: Renzo, seeking to lay hold of 
the Curate, and feeling with his hands, as if playing at bUnd-man's 
buff, had reached the door, and kicking against it, was crying, 'Open, 
open; don't make such a noisel' Lucia, calling to Renzo, in a feeble 
voice, said, beseechingly, 'Let us go, let us go, for God's sake.' Tonio 
was crawling on his knees, and feeUng with his hands on the ground 
to recover his lost receipt. The terrified Gervase was crying and 
jumping about, and seeking for the door of the stairs, so as to make 
his escape in safety. 

In the midst of this uproar, we cannot but stop a moment to make 
a reflection. Renzo, who was causing disturbance at night in another 



120 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

person's house, who had effected an entrance by stealth, and who 
had blockaded the master himself in one of his own rooms, has 
all the appearance of an oppressor; while in fact he was the op- 
pressed. Don Abbondio, taken by surprise, terrified and put to 
flight, while peaceably engaged in his own affairs, appears the victim; 
when in reality it was he who did the wrong. Thus frequently goes 
the world ... or rather, we should say, thus it went in the sev- 
enteenth century. 

The besieged, finding that the enemy gave no signs of abandoning 
the enterprise, opened a window that looked into the churchyard, 
and shouted out: 'Help! help!' There was a most lovely moon; the 
shadow of the church, and, a little beyond, the long, sharp shadow 
of the bell-tower, lay dark, still, and well-defined, on the bright 
grassy level of the sacred enclosure: all objects were visible, almost 
as by day. But look which way you would, there appeared no sign 
of hving person. Adjoining the lateral wall of the church, on the 
side next the Parsonage, was a small dwelling where the sexton 
slept. Aroused by this unusual cry, he sprang up in his bed, jumped 
out in great haste, threw open the sash of his little window, put his 
head out with his eyelids glued together all the while, and cried out: 
'What's the matter?' 

'Run, Ambrogio! help! people in the house!' answered Don Ab- 
bondio. 'Coming directly,' replied he, as he drew in his head and 
shut the window; and although half asleep and more than half ter- 
rified, an expedient quickly occurred to him that would bring more 
aid than had been asked, without dragging him into the affray, 
whatever it might be. Seizing his breeches that lay upon the bed, 
he tucked them under his arm like a gala hat, and bounding down- 
stairs by a little wooden ladder, ran to the belfry, caught hold of the 
rope that was attached to the larger of the two bells, and pulled 
vigorously. 

Ton, ton, ton, ton; the peasant sprang up in his bed; the boy 
stretched in the hay-loft listened eagerly, and leapt upon his feet. 
'What's the matter? what's the matter? The bell's ringing! Fire? 
Thieves? Banditti?' Many of the women advised — begged their 
husbands not to stir — to let others run; some got up and went to 
the window; chose who were cowards, as if yielding to entreaty. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 121 

quietly slipped under the bed-clothes again; while the more inquisi- 
tive and courageous sprang up and armed themselves with pitch- 
forks and pistols, to run to the uproar; others waited to see the end. 

But before these were all ready, and even before they were well 
awake, the noise had reached the ears, and arrested the attention, of 
some others not very far distant, who were both dressed and on their 
feet; the bravoes in one place; Agnese and Perpetua in another. 
We will first briefly relate the movements of the bravoes since we 
left them; — some in the old building, and some at the inn. 

The three at the inn, as soon as they saw all the doors shut and 
the street deserted, went out, pretending to be going some distance; 
but they only quietly took a short turn in the village to be assured 
that all had retired to rest; and in fact, they met not one living 
creature, nor heard the least noise. They also passed, still more 
softly, before Lucia's little cottage, which was the quietest of all, 
since there was no one within. They then went direct to the old 
house, and reported their observations to Signor Griso. Hastily put- 
ting on a slouched hat, with a pilgrim's dress of sackcloth, scattered 
over with cockle-shells, and taking in his hand a pilgrim's staff, he 
said: 'Now let us act like good bravoes; quiet, and attentive to orders.' 
So saying, he moved forward, followed by the rest, and in a few 
moments reached the cottage by the opposite way to the one our 
httle party had taken when setting out on their expedition. Griso 
ordered his followers to remain a few paces behind, while he went 
forward alone to explore; and finding all outside deserted and still, 
he beckoned to two of them to advance, ordered them quietly to scale 
the wall that surrounded the court-yard, and when they had de- 
scended, to conceal themselves in a corner behind a thick fig-tree 
that he had noticed in the morning. This done, he knocked gently 
at the door, with the intention of saying that he was a pilgrim who 
had lost his way, and begged a lodging for the night. No one re- 
plied; he knocked a little more loudly; not a whisper. He therefore 
called a third bravo, and made him descend into the yard as the 
other two had done, with orders to unfasten the bolt inside very 
carefully, so that he might have free ingress and egress. All was 
executed with the greatest caution and the most prosperous success. 
He then went to call the rest, and bidding them enter with him, 



122 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

sent them to hide in the corner with the others, closed the door again 
very softly, placed two sentinels inside, and went up to the door of 
the house. Here also he knocked — waited; and long enough he 
might wait. He then as gently as possible opened this door; nobody 
within said, Who's there; no one was to be heard. Nothing could 
be better. Forward then; 'Come on,' cried he to those behind the 
fig-tree, and he entered with them into that very room where in the 
morning he had so basely obtained the piece of bread. Drawing 
from his pocket a piece of steel, a flint, some tinder and a few 
matches, he lit a small lantern he had provided, and stepped into the 
next room to assure himself that all was quiet: no one was there. 
He returned, went to the foot of the stairs, looked up, listened; all 
was sohtude and silence. Leaving two more sentinels in the lower 
room, he bid Grignapoco follow him, a bravo from the district of 
Bergamo, whose office it was to threaten, appease, and command; 
to be, in short, the spokesman, so that his dialect might give Agnese 
the idea that the expedition came from his neighbourhood. With 
this companion at his side, and the rest behind him, Griso very 
slowly ascended the stairs, cursing in his heart every step that un- 
luckily creaked, every tread of these villains that made the least 
noise. At last he reaches the top. Here is the danger. He gently 
pushes the door that leads into the first room; it yields to his touch; 
he opens it a little and looks in; all is dark; he hstens attentively, 
perchance he may hear a snoring, a breath, a stirring within; nothing. 
Forward then; he puts the lantern before his face, so as to see with- 
out being seen, he opens the door wide; perceives a bed; looks upon 
it; the bed is made and smooth, with the clothes turned down and 
arranged upon the pillow. He shrugs his shoulders, turns to his 
companions, beckons to them that he is going to look in the other 
room, and that they must keep quiet where they were; he goes 
forward, uses the same precautions, meets with the same success. 
'Whatever can this mean?' exclaimed he boldly: 'some traitorous dog 
must have been acting as spy.' They then began to look about them 
with less caution, and to pry into every corner, turning the house 
upside down. 

While the party up-stairs were thus engaged, the two who were 
on guard at the street-door heard hasty and repeated footsteps ap- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 123 

preaching along the road that led into the village, and imagining 
that whoever it was, he would pass by, they kept quiet, their ears, 
however, attentively on the watch. But behold! the footsteps stopped 
exactly at the door. It was Menico arriving in great haste, sent by 
Father Cristoforo to bid the two women, for Heaven's sake, to 
make their escape as quickly as possible from their cottage, and 
take refuge in the convent, because . . . the 'because' the reader 
knows. He took hold of the handle of the latch, and felt it shake 
in his hand, unfastened and broken open. What is this? thought 
he, as he pushed open the door in some alarm; and putting one 
foot inside with considerable suspicion, he felt himself seized in a 
moment by both arms, and heard two smothered voices, on his 
right and left, saying to him, in a threatening tone: 'Hush! hold 
your tongue, or you die.' On the contrary, however, he uttered a 
shrill cry, upon which one of them struck him a great blow on the 
mouth, and the other took hold of a large knife to terrify him. The 
poor child trembled like a leaf, and did not attempt a second cry; 
but all at once, in his stead, and with a far different tone, burst 
forth the first sound of the bell before described, and immediately 
after many thundering peals in quick succession. 'If the cap fits, 
put it on,' says a Milanese proverb; each of the villains seemed to 
hear in these peals his name, surname, and nick-name; they let go 
of Menico's arms, hastily dropped their own, gazed at each other's 
faces in mute astonishment, and then ran into the house where was 
the bulk of their companions. Menico took to his legs, and fled, 
by way of the fields, towards the belfry, where he felt sure there 
would be some people assembled. On the other ruffians, who were 
rummaging the house from top to bottom, the terrible bell made 
the same impression; confused and alarmed, they ran against one 
another, in attempting, each one for himself, to find the shortest 
way of reaching the street-door. Though men of approved courage, 
and accustomed never to turn their backs on known peril, they 
could not stand against an indefinite danger, which had not been 
viewed at a little distance before coming upon them. It required 
all the authority of Griso to keep them together, so that it might be 
a retreat and not a flight. Just as a dog urging a drove of pigs, 
runs here and there after those that break the ranks, seizes one by 



124 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the ears, and drags him into the herd, propels another with his nose, 
barks at a third that leaves the line at the same moment, so the 
pilgrim laid hold of one of his troop just passing the threshold, and 
drew back, detained with his staff some who were flying they knew 
not whither, and finally succeeded in assembling them all in the 
middle of the court-yard. 'Halt! halt! pistols in hand, daggers in 
readiness, all together, and then we'll begone. We must march in 
order. What care we for the bells ringing, if we are all together, 
you cowards? But if we let them catch us one by one, even the 
villagers will give us it. For shame! Fall behind, and keep to- 
gether.' After this brief harangue, he placed himself in the front, 
and led the way out. The cottage, as we have said, was at the 
extremity of the village: Griso took the road that led out of it, and 
the rest followed him in good order. 

We will let them go, and return a step or two to find Agnese 
and Perpetua, whom we had just conducted round the corner of a 
certain road. Agnese had endeavoured to allure her companion as 
far away from Don Abbondio's house as possible, and up to a cer- 
tain point had succeeded very well. But all on a sudden the servant 
remembered that she had left the door open, and she wanted to 
go back. There was nothing to be said: Agnese, to avoid exciting 
any suspicion in her mind, was obliged to turn and walk with her, 
trying however to detain her whenever she saw her very eager in 
relating the issue of such and such courtships. She pretended to 
be paying very great attention, and every now and then, by way 
of showing that she was listening, or to animate the flagging con- 
versation, would say: 'Certainly: now I understand: that was capi- 
tal: that is plain: and then? and he? and you?' while all the time 
she was keeping up a very different discourse in her own mind. — 
'I wonder if they are out by this time? or will they be still in the 
house? What geese we all were not to arrange any signal to let me 
know when it was over! It was really very stupid! But it can't 
be helped: and the best thing I can do now is to keep her loitering 
here as long as I can: let the worst come to the worst, it will only 
be a little time lost.' — Thus, with sundry pauses and various devia- 
tions from the straight path, they were brought back again to within 
a very short distance from Don Abbondio's house, which, how- 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 125 

ever, could not be seen on account of the corner intercepting the 
view, and Perpetua finding herself at an important part of her nar- 
ration, had suffered herself to be detained without resistance, and 
even without being aware of it, when they suddenly heard, echoing 
through the vacant extent of the atmosphere, and the dead silence 
of night, the loud and disordered cry of Abbondio: 'Help! help!' 

'Mercy! what has happened?' cried Perpetua, beginning to run. 

'What is it? what is it?' said Agnese, holding her back by the 
gown. 

'Mercy! didn't you hear?' replied she, struggling. 

'What is it? what is it?' repeated Agnese, seizing her by the arm. 

'Wretch of a woman!' exclaimed Perpetua, pushing her away to 
free herself and to run. At this moment, more distant, more shrill, 
more instantaneous, was heard the scream of Menico. 

'Mercy!' cried Agnese also; and they ran off together. They had 
scarcely, however, gone a step, when the bell sounded one stroke, 
then two, three and a succession of peals, such as would have stim- 
ulated them to run had there been no other inducement. Perpetua 
arrived first by two steps; while she raised her hand to the door to 
open it, behold! it was opened from within, and on the threshold 
stood, Tonio, Gervase, Renzo, and Lucia, who having found the 
stairs had come down more rapidly than they went up; and at the 
sound of that terrible bell, were making their escape in haste to 
reach a place of safety. 

'What's the matter? what's the matter?' demanded the panting 
Perpetua of the brothers; but they only replied with a violent push, 
and passed on. 'And you! How! what are you doing here?' said 
she to the other couple on recognizing them. But they too made 
their escape without answering her. Without, therefore, asking any 
more questions, and directing her steps where she was most wanted, 
she rushed impetuously into the passage, and went groping about as 
quickly as she could to find the stairs. 

The betrothed, still only betrothed, now fell in with Agnese, who 
arrived weary and out of breath. 'Ah! here you are!' said she, scarcely 
able to speak. 'How has it gone? What is the bell ringing for? I 
thought I heard . . .' 

'Home! home!' cried Renzo, 'before anybody comes.' And they 



126 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

moved forward; but at this moment Menico arrived, running as 
fast as his legs could carry him; and recognizing them, he threw 
himself in their way, and still all in a tremble and scarcely able to 
draw his breath, exclaimed: 'Where are you going? back, back! 
This way, to the convent.' 

'Are you? . . .' began Agnese. 

'What is it?' asked Renzo. Lucia stood by, trembling and silent, 
in utter dismay. 

'There are devils in your house,' replied Menico, panting. 'I saw 
them myself: they wanted to murder me: Father Cristoforo said so; 
and even you, Renzo, he said, were to come quickly: — and besides, I 
saw them myself: — it's providential you are all here: — I will tell you 
the rest when we get out of the village.' 

Renzo, who had more of his senses about him than the rest, re- 
membered that they had better make their escape one way or another 
before the crowds assembled; and that the best plan would be to do 
as Menico advised, nay, commanded with the authority of one in 
terror. When once on their way, and out of the tumult and danger, 
he could ask a clearer explanation from the boy. 'Lead the way,' 
said he to Menico; and addressing the women, said, 'Let us go with 
him.' They therefore quickly turned their steps towards the church, 
crossed the churchyard, where, by the favour of Heaven, there was 
not yet a living creature, entered a little street that ran between the 
church and Don Abbondio's house, turned into the first alley they 
came to and then took the way of the fields. 

They had not perhaps gone fifty yards, when the crowd began to 
collect in the church-yard, and rapidly increased every moment. 
They looked inquiringly in each other's faces; every one had a 
question to ask, but no one could return an answer. Those who 
arrived first, ran to the church-door; it was locked. They then ran 
to the belfry outside; and one of them, putting his mouth to a very 
small window, a sort of loop-hole, cried, 'What ever is the matter?' 
As soon as Ambrogio recognized a known voice, he let go of the 
bell-rope, and being assured by the buzz that many people had 
assembled, replied: 'I'll open the door.' Hastily slipping on the 
apparel he had carried under his arm, he went inside the church, 
and opened the door. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 127 

'What is all this hubbub?— What is it?— Where is it?— Who 
is it?' 

'Why, who is it?' said Ambrogio, laying one hand on the door- 
post, and with the other holding up the habiliment he had put on 
in such haste: 'What! don't you know? People in the Signor 
Curate's house. Up, boys: help!' Hearing this, they all turned to the 
house, looked up, approached it in a body, looked up again, listened: 
all was quiet. Some ran to the street-door; it was shut and bolted; 
they glanced upwards: not a window was open; not a whisper was 
to be heard. 

'Who is within? — Ho! Hey! — Signor Curate! — Signor Curate!' 

Don Abbondio who, scarcely aware of the flight of the invaders, 
had retired from the window, and closed it, and who at this moment 
was reproaching Perf)etua in a low voice for having left him alone 
in this confusion, was obliged, when he heard himself called upon 
by the voice of the assembled people, to show himself again at the 
window; and when he saw the crowds that had come to his aid, he 
sorely repented having called them, 

'What has happened? — What have they done to you? — ^Who are 
they? — Where are they?' burst forth from fifty voices at once. 

'There's nobody here now; thank you: go home again.' 

'But who has been here? — Where are they gone? — what has hap- 
pened?' 

'Bad people, people who go about by night; but they're gone: go 
home again: there is no longer anything: another time, my children: 
I thank you for your kindness to me.' So saying, he drew back, and 
shut the window. Some of the crowd began to grumble, some to 
joke, others to curse; some shrugged their shoulders and took their 
departure: when one arrived, endeavouring but scarcely able to 
speak from want of breath. It was the person who lived in the house 
opposite Agnese's cottage, who having gone to the window at the 
noise, had seen in the court-yard the assembly of bravoes, when 
Griso was striving to re-unite his scattered troops. On recovering 
his breath, he cried: 'What are you doing here, my good fellows? 
the devil isn't here; he's down at the end of the village, at Agnese 
Mondella's house; armed men are within, who seem to be murdering 
a pilgrim; who knows what the devil is doing!' 



128 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'What? — what? — what?' and a tumultuous consultation began. 
'We must go. — We must see. — How many are there? — How many 
are we? — Who are we? — The constable! the constable!' 

'I'm here,' replied the constable from the middle of the crowd: 
'I'm here; but you must help me, you must obey. Quick: where is 
the sexton? To the bell, to the bell. Quick! Somebody to run to 
Lecco for help: all of you come here . . .' 

Some ran, some slipped between their fellows and made their 
escape; and the tumult was at its greatest height, when another 
runner arrived who had seen Griso and his party going off in such 
haste, and cried in turn: 'Run, my good fellows: thieves or banditti, 
who are carrying off a pilgrim: they are already out of the village. 
On! after them!' At this information, they moved off in a body in 
great confusion towards the fields, without waiting their general's 
orders, and as the crowd proceeded, many of the vanguard slack- 
ened their pace, to let the others advance, and retired into the body 
of the battalion, those in the rear pushing eagerly forward, until at 
last the disorderly multitude reached their place of destination. 
Traces of the recent invasion were manifest: the door opened, the 
locks torn off; but the invaders had disappeared. The crowd entered 
the courtyard, and went to the room door; this, too, was burst open: 
they called: 'Agnese! Lucia! the Pilgrim! Where is the pilgrim? 
Stefano must have been dreaming about the pilgrim. — No, no: 
Carlandrea saw him also. Ho! hey! pilgrim! — Agnese! Lucia!' No 
one replied. 'They've run away with them! They've run away 
with them!' There were then some who raised their voices and pro- 
posed to follow the robbers; said it was a heinous crime, and that it 
would be a disgrace to the village, if every villain could come and 
carry ofT women with impunity, as a kite carries off chickens from 
a deserted barn-floor. Then rose a fresh and more tumultuous con- 
sultation; but somebody, (and it was never certainly known who,) 
called out in the crowd that Agnese and Lucia were in safety in a 
house. The rumour spread rapidly; it gained belief, and no one 
spoke again of giving chase to the fugitives; the multitude dispersed, 
and every one went to his own house. There was a general whis- 
pering, a noise, all over the village, a knocking and opening of 
doors, and appearing and disappearing of lights, a questioning of 
women from the windows, an answering from the streets. When 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 129 

all outside was deserted and quiet, the conversation continued in the 
houses, and ended at last in slumber, only to be renewed on the 
morrow. However, no other events took place, excepting that on 
the morning of that morrow, the constable was standing in his field, 
with his chin resting on his hands, his hands on the handle of the 
spade, which was half stuck into the ground, and one foot on the 
iron rest affixed to the handle; speculating in his mind, as he thus 
stood, on the mysteries of the past night, on what would reasonably 
be expected of him, and on what course it would be best for him 
to pursue, he saw two men approaching him with very fierce 
looks, wearing long hair, like the first race of French kings, 
and otherwise bearing a strong resemblance to the two who, fiye 
days before, had confronted Don Abbondio, if, indeed they were not 
the same men. These with still less ceremony than had been used 
towards the Curate, intimated to the constable that he must take 
right good care not to make a deposition to the Podesti of what had 
happened, not to tell the truth in case he was questioned, not to 
gossip, and not to encourage gossiping among the villagers, as he 
valued his life. 

Our fugitives walked a little way at a quick pace in silence, one 
or other occasionally looking back to see if they were followed, all 
of them wearied by the fatigue of the flight, by the anxiety and 
suspense they had endured, by grief at their ill-success, and by con- 
fused apprehensions of new and unknown danger. Their terror, 
too, was increased by the sound of the bell which still continued 
to follow them, and seemed to become heavier and more hoarse 
the further they left it behind them, acquiring every moment some- 
thing more mournful and ominous in its tone. At last the ringing 
ceased. Reaching then a deserted field, and not hearing a whisper 
around, they slackened their pace, and Agnese, taking breath, was 
the first to break the silence, by asking Renzo how matters had gone, 
and Menico, what was the demon in their house. Renzo briefly 
related his melancholy story; and then, all of them turning to the 
child, he informed them more expressly of the Father's advice, and 
narrated what he had himself witnessed and the hazards he had 
run, which too surely confirmed the advice. His auditors, however, 
understood more of this than did the speaker; they were seized 
with new horror at the discovery, and for a moment paused in their 



130 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

walk, exchanging mutual looks of fear; then with an unanimous 
movement they laid their hands, some on the head, others on the 
shoulders of the boy, as if to caress him, and tacitly to thank him 
for having been to them a guardian angel; at the same time sig- 
nifying the compassion they felt for him, and almost apologizing 
for the terror he had endured and the danger he had undergone on 
their account. 'Now go home, that your family may not be anxious 
about you any longer,' said Agnese; and remembering the two 
promised parpagliole, she took out four, and gave them to him, 
adding: 'That will do; pray the Lord that we may meet again soon; 
and then . . .' Renzo gave him a new berlinga, and begged him to 
say nothing of the message he had brought from the Father: Lucia 
again caressed him, bade him farewell with a sorrowful voice, and 
the boy, almost overcome, wished them good-bye, and turned back. 
The melancholy trio continued their walk, the women taking the 
lead, and Renzo behind to act as guard. Lucia clung closely to her 
mother's arm, kindly and dexterously avoiding the proffered assist- 
ance of the youth at the difficult passes of this unfrequented path; 
feeling ashamed of herself, even in such troubles, for having already 
been so long and so famiUarly alone with him, while expecting in a 
few moments to be his wife. Now that this vision had been so 
sorrowfully dispelled, she repented having proceeded thus far; 
and, amidst so many causes of fear, she feared even for her modesty, 
— not such modesty as arises from the sad knowledge of evil, but for 
that which is ignorant of its own existence; — like the dread of a child 
who trembles in the dark, he knows not why. 

'And the house?' suddenly exclaimed Agnese. But however im- 
portant the object might be which extorted this exclamation, no one 
replied, because no one could do so satisfactorily. They therefore 
continued their walk in silence, and, in a little while, reached the 
square before the church of the convent. 

Renzo advanced to the door of the church, and gendy pushed it 
open. The moon that entered through the aperture, fell ufx)n the 
pale face and silvery beard of Father Cristoforo, who was standing 
here expecting them; and having seen that no one was missing, 
'God be praised!' said he, beckoning to them to enter. By his side 
stood another Capuchin, the lay sexton, whom he had persuaded, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 131 

by prayers and arguments, to keep vigil with him, to leave the door 
ajar, and to remain there on guard to receive these poor threatened 
creatures; and it required nothing short of the authority of the 
Father, and of his fame as a saint, to persuade the layman to so 
inconvenient, perilous, and irregular a condescension. When they 
were inside. Father Cristoforo very softly shut the door. Then the 
sexton could no longer contain himself, and taking the Father aside, 
whispered in his ear; 'But Father, Father! at night ... in church 
. . . with women . . . shut . . . the rule . . . but Father!' And he 
shook his head, while thus hesitatingly pronouncing these words. 
Just see! thought Father Cristoforo; if it were a pursued robber. 
Friar Fazio would make no difficulty in the world; and a poor inno- 
cent escaping from the jaws of a wolf . . . 'Omnia munda mundis' 
added he, turning suddenly to Friar Fazio, and forgetting that he did 
not understand Latin. But this forgetfulness was exactly what 
produced the right effect. If the Father had begun to dispute and 
reason. Friar Fazio would not have failed to urge opposing argu- 
ments; and no one knows how and when the discussion would have 
come to an end; but at the sound of these weighty words of a mys- 
terious signification, and so resolutely uttered, it seemed to him 
that in them must be contained the solution of all his doubts. He 
acquiesced, saying, 'Very well; you know more about it than I do.* 

'Trust me, then,' replied Father Cristoforo; and by the dim 
light of the lamp burning before the altar, he approached the refu- 
gees, who stood waiting in suspense, and said to them, 'My children, 
thank God, who has delivered you from so great a danger! Perhaps 
at this moment . . .' and here he began to explain more fully what 
he had hinted by the little messenger, little suspecting that they 
knew more than he, and supposing that Menico had found them 
quiet in their own house, before the arrival of the ruffians. Nobody 
undeceived him, not even Lucia, whose conscience, however, was 
all the while secretly reproaching her for practising such dissimula- 
tion with so good a man; but it was a night of embarrassment and 
dissimulation. 

'After this,' continued he, 'you must feel, my children, that the 
village is no longer safe for you. It is yours, you were born there, 
and you have done no wrong to any one; but God wills it so. It is 



132 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

a trial, my children; bear it with patience and faith, without in- 
dulging in rancour, and rest assured there will come a day when 
you will think yourselves happy that this has occurred. I have 
thought of a refuge for you, for the present. Soon, I hope, you may 
be able to return in safety to your own house; at any rate, God will 
provide what is best for you; and I assure you, I will be careful not 
to prove unworthy of the favour He has bestowed upon me, in choos- 
ing me as His minister, in the service of you. His poor, yet loved 
afflicted ones. You,' continued he, turning to the two women, 'can 
stay at • * *. Here you will be far enough from every danger, and 
at the same time not far from your own home. There seek out our 
convent, ask for the guardian, and give him this letter; he will be 
to you another Father Cristoforo. And you, my Renzo, must put 
yourself in safety from the anger of others, and your own. Carry 
this letter to Father Bonaventura da Lodi, in our convent of the 
Porta Orientale, at Milan. He will be a father to you, will give you 
directions, and find you work, till you can return and live more 
peaceably. Go to the shore of the lake, near the mouth of the Bione, 
a river not far from this monastery. Here you will see a boat wait- 
ing; say "Boat!" it will be asked you "For whom?" And you must 
reply, "San Francesco." The boat will receive you, and carry you 
to the other side, where you will find a cart, that will take you 
straight to • • *.* 

If any one asks how Father Cristoforo had so quickly at his dis- 
posal these means of transport by land and water, it will show that 
he does not know the influence and power of a Capuchin held in 
reputation as a saint. 

It still remained to decide about the care of the houses. The 
Father received the keys, pledging himself to deliver them to whom- 
soever Renzo and Agnese should name. The latter, in delivering up 
hers, heaved a deep sigh, remembering that, at that moment, the 
house was open, that the devil had been there, and who knew 
what remained to be taken care of! 

'Before you go,' said the Father, 'let us pray all together that the 
Lord may be with you in this your journey, and for ever; and, 
above all, that He may give you strength, and a spirit of love, to 
enable you to desire whatever He has willed.' So saying, he knelt 



I PROMESSI SPOSl 133 

down in the middle of the church, and they all followed his example. 
After praying a few moments in silence, with low but distinct voice 
he pronounced these words: 'We beseech Thee, also, for the unhappy 
person who has brought us to this state. We should be unworthy 
of Thy mercy, if we did not, from our hearts, implore it for him; 
he needs it, O Lord! We, in our sorrow, have this consolation, that 
we are in the path where Thou hast placed us; we can offer Thee 
our griefs, and they may become our gain. But he is Thine enemy! 
Alas, wretched man! he is striving with Thee! Have mercy on him, 
O Lord; touch his heart; reconcile him to Thyself, and give him all 
those good things we could desire for ourselves.' 

Rising then in haste, he said, 'Come, my children, you have no 
time to lose; God defend you; His angel go with you; — farewell!' 
And while they set off with that emotion which cannot find words, 
and manifests itself without them, the Father added, in an agitated 
tone, 'My heart tells me we shall meet again soon.' 

Certainly, the heart, to those who listen to it, has always some- 
thing to say on what will happen; but what did his heart know? 
Very little, truly, of what had already happened. 

Without waiting a reply, Father Cristoforo retired with hasty 
steps; the travellers took their departure; and Father Fazio shut the 
door after them, bidding them farewell with even his voice a little 
faltering. 

The trio slowly made their way to the shore they had been di- 
rected to; where they espied the boat, and exchanging the pass- 
word, stepped in. The waterman, planting one oar on the land, 
pushed off; then took up the other oar, and rowing with both hands, 
pulled out and made towards the opposite beach. Not a breath of 
wind was stirring; the lake lay bright and smooth, and would have 
appeared motionless but for the tremulous and gentle undulation 
of the moonbeams, which gleamed upon it from the zenith. No 
sounds were heard but the muffled and slowly measured breaking 
of the surge upon the pebbly shore, the more distant gurgling of 
the troubled waters dashing among the piles of the bridge, and the 
even plash of the light sculls, as, rising with a sharp sound of the 
dripping blade, and quickly plunged again beneath, they cut the 
azure surface of the lake. The waves, divided by the prow, and 



134 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

reuniting behind the little bark, tracked out a curling line, which 
extended itself to the shore. The silent travellers, with their faces 
turned backwards, gazed upon the mountains and the country, 
illumined by the pale light of the moon, and diversified here and 
there with vast shadows. They could distinguish the villages, the 
houses, and the little cabins: the palace of Don Rodrigo, with its 
square tower, rising above the group of huts at the base of the 
promontory, looked like a savage standing in the dark, and medi- 
tating some evil deed, while keeping guard over a company of 
rechning sleepers. Lucia saw it and shuddered; then drawing her 
eye along the declivity till she reached her native village, she fixed 
her gaze on its extremity, sought for her own cottage, traced out the 
thick head of the fig-tree which towered above the wall of the court- 
yard, discovered the window of her own room; and, being seated 
in the bottom of the boat, she leaned her elbow on the edge, laid 
her forehead on her arm, as if she were sleeping, and wept in 
secret. 

Farewell, ye mountains, rising from the waters, and pointing to 
the heavens! ye varied summits, familiar to him who has been 
brought up among you, and impressed upon his mind as clearly as 
the countenance of his dearest friends! ye torrents, whose murmur 
he recognizes like the sound of the voices of home! ye villages, scat- 
tered and glistening on the declivity, like flocks of grazing sheep! 
farewell! How mournful is the step of him who, brought up amidst 
your scenes, is compelled to leave you! Even in the imagination of 
one who willingly departs, attracted by the hope of making a for- 
tune elsewhere, the dreams of wealth at this moment lose their 
charms; he wonders he could form such a resolution, and could 
even now turn back, but for the hope of one day returning with a 
rich abundance. As he advances into the plain, his eye becomes 
wearied with its uniform extent; the atmosphere feels heavy and 
lifeless; he sadly and listlessly enters the busy cities, where houses 
crowded upon houses, and streets intersecting streets, seem to take 
away his breath; and, before edifices admired by the stranger, he 
recalls with restless longing the fields of his own country, and the 
cottage he had long ago set his heart upon, and which he resolves 
to purchase when he returns enriched to his own mountains. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 135 

But what must he feel who has never sent a passing wish beyond 
these mountains, who has arranged among them all his designs for 
the future, and is driven far away by an adverse power! who, sud- 
denly snatched away from his dearest habits, and thwarted in his 
dearest hopes, leaves these mountains to go in search of strangers 
whom he never desired to know, and is unable to look forward to a 
fixed time of return! 

Farewell! native cottage, where, indulging in unconscious thought, 
one learnt to distinguish from the noise of common footsteps, the 
approach of a tread expected with mysterious timidity! Farewell! 
thou cottage, still a stranger, but so often hastily glanced at, not with- 
out a blush, in passing, in which the mind took delight to figure to 
itself the tranquil and lasting home of a wife! Farewell! my church, 
where the heart was so often soothed while chanting the praises 
of the Lord; where the preparatory rite of betrothal was performed; 
where the secret sighing of the heart was solemnly blessed and love 
was inspired, and one felt a hallowing influence around, farewell! 
He who imparted to you such gladness is everywhere; and He never 
disturbs the joy of his children, but to prepare them for one more 
certain and durable. 

Of such a nature, if not exactly these, were the reflections of Lucia; 
and not very dissimilar were those of the two other wanderers, while 
the little bark rapidly approached the right bank of the Adda. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE striking of the boat against the shore aroused Lucia, 
who, after secretly drying her tears, raised her head as if 
she were just awaking. Renzo jumped out first, and gave 
his hand successively to Agnese and Lucia; and then they all turned, 
and sorrowfully thanked the boatman. 'Nothing, nothing; we are 
placed here to help one another,' answered he; and he withdrew 
his hand, almost with a movement of horror, as if it had been pro- 
posed to him to rob, when Renzo tried to slip in one or two of the 
coins he had about him, and which he had brought in his pocket 
with the intention of generously requiting Don Abbondio, when 
he should, though against his will, have rendered the desired 
assistance. The cart stood waiting for them; the driver saluted 
the three expected travellers, and bid them get in; and then, with 
his voice and a stroke of the whip, he started the animal and set 
forward. 

Our author does not describe this nocturnal journey, and is silent 
as to the name of the town to which the little company were direct- 
ing their steps; or rather, he expressly says, he will not give the name. 
In the course of the story, the reason of all this mystery appears. 
The adventures of Lucia in this abode involve a dark intrigue of a 
person belonging to a family still powerful, as it appears, at the time 
our author wrote. To account for the strange conduct of this person 
in the particular instance he relates, he has been obliged chiefly to 
recount her early life; and there the family makes the figure which 
our readers will see. Hence the poor man's great circumspection. 
And yet (how people sometimes forget themselves!) he himself, 
without being aware of it, has opened a way of discovering, with cer- 
tainty, what he had taken such great pains to keep concealed. In 
one part of the account, which we will omit as not being necessary 
to the integrity of the story, he happens to say that this place was 
an ancient and noble borough, which wanted nothing but the name 

136 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 137 

to be a city; he then inadvertently mentions that the river Lambro 
runs through it: and, again, that it was the seat of an arch-presbyter. 
With these indications, there is not in all Europe a moderately- 
learned man, who will not instantly exclaim, 'Monzal' We could 
also propose some very well-founded conjectures in the name of 
the family; but, although the object of our conjectures has been 
some time extinct, we consider it better to be silent on this head, 
not to run the risk of wronging even the dead, and to leave some 
subject of research for the learned. 

Our travellers reached Monza shortly after sun-rise; the driver 
turned into an inn, and, as if at home in the place and well ac- 
quainted with the landlord, ordered a room for the newly-arrived 
guests, and accompanied them thither. After many acknowledg- 
ments, Renzo tried to induce him to receive some reward; but he, 
like the boatman, had in view another, more distant, but more 
abundant recompense: he put his hands behind him, and making 
his escape went to look after his horse. 

After such a night as we have described, and as every one may 
imagine, the greatest part spent in mournful thoughts, with the 
constant dread of some unforeseen misfortune, in the melancholy 
silence of night, in the sharpness of a more than autumnal air, and 
amid the frequent jolts of the incommodious vehicle, which rudely 
shook the weary frames of our travellers, they soon felt themselves 
overpowered with sleep, and availed themselves of a sofa that stood 
in an adjoining room to take a little repose. They then partook 
together of a frugal meal, such as the poverty of the times would 
allow, and scanty in proportion to the contingent wants of an un- 
certain future, and their own slender appetite. One after another 
they remembered the banquet which, two days before, they had 
hoped to enjoy; and each in turn heaved a deep sigh. Renzo would 
gladly have stayed there, at least for that day, to have seen the two 
women provided for, and to have given them his services, but the 
Father had recommended them to send him on his way as quickly 
as possible. They alleged, therefore, these orders, and a hundred 
other reasons; — people would gossip — the longer the separation was 
delayed, the more painful it would be — he could come again soon, 
to give and learn news; — so that, at last, the youth determined 



138 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to go. Their plans were then more definitely arranged; Lucia did 
not attempt to hide her tears; Renzo could scarcely restrain his; and, 
warmly pressing Agnese's hand, he said, in an almost choked voice, 
'Farewell, till we meet again!' and set off. 

The women would have found themselves much at a loss, had it 
not been for the good driver, who had orders to guide them to the 
convent, and to give them any direction and assistance they might 
stand in need of. With this escort, then, they took their way to the 
convent, which, as every one knows, was a short distance outside 
the town of Monza. Arrived at the door, their conductor rang the 
bell, and asked for the guardian, who quickly made his appearance, 
and received the letter. 

'Oh brother Cristoforo!' said he, recognizing the handwriting, the 
tone of his voice and the expression of his face evidently indicating 
that he uttered the name of an intimate friend. It might easily be 
seen, too, that our good friar had in this letter warmly recommended 
the women, and related their case with much feeling, for the 
guardian kept making gestures of surprise and indignation, and 
raising his eyes from the paper, he would fix them upon the women 
with a certain expression of pity and interest. When he had finished 
reading it, he stood for a little while thoughtful, and then said to 
himself, 'There is no one but the Signora — if the Signora would 
take upon herself this charge.' He then drew Agnese a few steps 
aside in the little square before the convent; asked her a few ques- 
tions, which she answered satisfactorily, and then, turning towards 
Lucia, addressed them both: 'My good women, I will try; and I 
hope I shall be able to find you a retreat more than secure, more 
than honourable, until it shall please God to provide for you in some 
better way. Will you come with me?' 

The women reverently bowed assent, and the friar continued: 
'Come with me to the convent of the Signora. Keep, however, a 
few steps behind me, because people delight to speak evil, and no 
one knows what fine stories they would make out, if they were 
to see the Father-guardian walking with a beautiful young girl . . . 
with women, I mean to say.' 

So saying, he moved forward. Lucia blushed, their guide smiled, 
and glanced at Agnese, who betrayed, also, a momentary smile, and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 139 

when the friar had gone a few steps, they followed him at about ten 
yards distance. The women then asked their guide what they did 
not dare say to the Father-guardian, who was the Signora. 

'The Signora,' replied he, 'is a nun; but she is not like the other 
nuns. Not that she is either the Abbess, or the Prioress; for, from 
what they say, she is one of the youngest there: but she is from 
Adam's rib, and she is of an ancient and high family in Spain, where 
some of them now are princes; and therefore they call her the 
Signora, to show that she is a great lady: and all the country call 
her by this name, for they say there never was her equal in this 
monastery before; and even now, down at Milan, her family ranks 
very high, and is held in great esteem; and in Monza still more so, 
because her father, though he does not live here, is the first man 
in the country; so that she can do what she pleases in the convent; 
and all the country-people bear her a great respect; and if she under- 
takes a business she is sure to succeed in it; so that if this good monk 
before us is fortunate enough to get you into her hands, and she 
takes you under her protection, I dare venture to say you will be as 
safe as at the altar.' 

On reaching the gate of the town, flanked at that time by an 
ancient ruined tower, and a fragment of a demolished castle, which, 
perhaps, some few of my readers may still remember to have seen 
standing, the guardian stopped, and looked behind to see if they 
were following; he then passed through, and went on to the convent, 
and when he reached it, stopped again at the doorway, and waited 
for the little party. He then begged the guide to come again to the 
convent, to take back a reply; he promised to do so, and took his 
leave of the women, who loaded him with thanks and messages to 
Father Cristoforo. The guardian, bidding them go into the first 
court of the monastery, ushered them into the apartments of the 
portress, to whom he recommended them, and went forward alone 
to make his request. After a few moments, he returned, and, with 
a joyful manner, told them to come with him; and his reappearance 
was just d-propos, for they were beginning to find it difficult to ward 
of? the pressing interrogations of the portress. While traversing the 
inner court, the Father instructed the women how they must behave 
to the Signora. 'She is well-disposed towards you,' said he, 'and 



140 ALESSANDRO MANZONl 

may be of much service to you. Be humble and respectful, reply 
with frankness to the questions she may please to put; and when 
you are not questioned, leave it to me.' They then passed through 
a lower room to the parlour of the convent; and before entering, 
the guardian, pwinting to the door, said to the women in an under- 
tone, 'She is there;' as if to remind them of the lessons he had been 
giving. Lucia, who had never before seen a irionastery, looked 
round the room, on entering, for the Signora to whom she was 
to make obeisance, and perceiving no one, she stood {perplexed; but 
seeing the Father advance, and Agnese following, she looked in that 
direction, and observed an almost square aperture, like a half-win- 
dow, grated with two large thick iron bars, distant from each other 
about a span, and behind this a nun was standing. Her counte- 
nance, which showed her to be about twenty-five years old, gave 
the impression, at a first glance, of beauty, but of beauty worn, faded, 
and, one might almost say, spoiled. A black veil, stiffened and 
stretched quite flat upon her head, fell on each side and stood out a 
little way from her face; under the veil, a very white linen band half 
covered a forehead of different but not inferior whiteness; a second 
band, in folds, down each side of the face, crossed under the chin, en- 
circled the neck, and was spread a little over the breast to conceal the 
opening of a black dress. But this forehead was wrinkled every now 
and then, as if by some painful emotion, accompanied by the rapid 
movement of two jet-black eyebrows. Sometimes she would fix two 
very dark eyes on another's face with a piercing look of haughty in- 
vestigation, and then again would hastily lower them, as if seeking a 
hiding-place. One moment, an attentive observer would imagine 
they were soliciting affection, intercourse, pity; at another, he would 
gather thence a momentary revelation of ancijnt and smothered 
hatred — of some indescribable, fierce disposition; and when they 
remained immovably fixed without attention, some might have 
imagined a proud indifference, while others would have suspected 
the labouring of some secret thought, the overpowering dominion 
of an idea familiar to her mind, and more engrossing than 
surrounding objects. Her pale cheeks were delicately formed, but 
much altered and shrunk by a gradual extenuation. Her lips, though 
scarcely suffused with a faint tinge of the rose, stood out in con- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 141 

trast with this paleness, and, like her eyes, their movements were 
sudden, quick, and full of expression and mystery. The well-formed 
tallness of her figure disappeared in the habitual stoop of her car- 
riage, or was disfigured by certain quick and irregular starts, which 
betrayed too resolute an air for a woman, still more for a nun. In 
her very dress, there was a display of either particularity or negli- 
gence, which betokened a nun of singular character; her head-dress 
was arranged with a kind of worldly carefulness, and from under 
the band around her head the end of a curl of glossy black hair 
appeared upon her temple, betraying either forgetfulness, or con- 
tempt of the rule which required them always to keep the hair 
closely shaven. It was cut off first at the solemn ceremony of their 
admission. 

These things made no impression on the minds of the two women; 
inexperienced in distinguishing nun from nun; and the Father- 
guardian had so frequently seen the Signora before, that he was 
already accustomed, like many others, to the singularities in manner 
and dress which she displayed. 

She was standing, as we have said, near the grated window, lan- 
guidly leaning on it with one hand, twining her delicately-white 
fingers in the interstices, and with her head slightly bent down- 
wards, surveying the advancing party. 'Reverend mother and most 
illustrious Signora,' said the guardian, bowing his head, and laying 
his right hand upon his breast, 'this is the poor young girl to whom 
you have encouraged me to hope you will extend your valuable pro- 
tection; and this is her mother.' 

Agnese and Lucia reverently curtseyed: the Signora beckoning 
to them with her hand that she was satisfied, said, turning to the 
Father, 'It is fortunate for me that I have it in my pxswer to serve 
our good friends the Capuchin Fathers in any matter. But,' con- 
tinued she, 'will you tell me a little more particularly the case of 
this young girl, so that I may know better what I ought to do for 
her.?' 

Lucia blushed, and held down her head. 

'You must know, reverend mother . . .' began Agnese; but the 
guardian silenced her with a glance, and replied, 'This young girl, 
most illustrious lady, has been recommended to me, as 1 told you, 



142 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

by a brother friar. She has been compelled secretly to leave her 
country to avoid great dangers, and wants an asylum for some time 
where she may live retired, and where no one will dare molest her, 
even when . . .' 

'What dangers?' interrupted the Signora. 'Be good enough. 
Father, not to tell me the case so enigmatically. You know that we 
nuns like to hear stories minutely.' 

'They are dangers,' rephed the guardian, 'which scarcely ought to 
be mentioned ever so delicately in the pure ears of the reverend 
mother . . .' 

'Oh, certainly!' replied the Signora, hastily, and slightly colouring. 
Was it modesty? One who would have observed the momentary 
expression of vexation which accompanied this blush might have 
entertained some doubt of it, especially if he had compared it with 
that which diffused itself from time to time on the cheeks of Lucia. 

'It is enough,' resumed the guardian, 'that a powerful noble- 
man . . . not all of the great people of the world use the gifts of 
God to his glory and for the good of their neighbours, as your illus- 
trious ladyship has done ... a powerful cavalier, after having for 
some time persecuted this poor girl with base flatteries, seeing that 
they were useless, had the heart openly to persecute her by force, 
so that the poor thing has been obliged to fly from her home.' 

'Come near, young girl,' said the Signora to Lucia, beckoning to 
her with her hand. 'I know that the Father-guardian is truth 
itself; but no one can be better informed in this business than your- 
self. It rests with you to say whether this cavalier was an odious 
persecutor.' 

As to approaching, Lucia instantly obeyed, but to answer, was 
another matter. An inquiry on this subject even when proposed by 
an equal, would have put her into confusion; but made by the 
Signora, and with a certain air of maUcious doubt, it deprived her 
of courage to reply. 'Signora . . . mother . . . reverend . . .' stam- 
mered she, but she seemed to have nothing more to say. Agnese, 
therefore, as being certainly the best informed after her, here thought 
herself authorized to come to her succour. 'Most illustrious Signora,' 
said she, 'I can bear full testimony that my daughter hated this 
cavaUer, as the devil hates holy water. I should say, he is the devil 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 143 

himself; but you will excuse me if I speak improperly, for we are 
poor folk, as God made us. The case is this: that my poor girl was 
betrothed to a youth in her own station, a steady man, and one 
who fears God; and if the Signor-Curato had been what he ought 
to be ... I know I am speaking of a religious man, but Father 
Cristoforo, a friend here of the Father-guardian, is a religious man as 
well as he; and that's the man that's full of kindness; and if he were 
here he could attest . . .' 

'You are very ready to speak without being spoken to,' interrupted 
the Signora, with a haughty and angry look, which made her seem 
almost hideous. 'Hold your tongue! I know well enough that 
parents are always ready with an answer in the name of their 
children!' 

Agnese drew back, mortified, giving Lucia a look which meant 
to say, See what I get by your not knowing how to speak. The 
guardian then signified to her, with a glance and a movement of 
his head, that now was the moment to arouse her courage, and not 
to leave her poor mother in such a plight. 

'Reverend lady,' said Lucia, 'what my mother has told you is 
exactly the truth. The youth who paid his addresses to me' (and 
here she coloured crimson) 'I chose with my own good will. For- 
give me, if I speak too boldly, but it is that you may not think ill 
of my mother. And as to this Signer, (God forgive him!) I would 
rather die than fall into his hands. And if you do us the kindness 
to put us in safety, since we are reduced to the necessity of asking 
a place of refuge, and of inconveniencing worthy people, (but God's 
will be done!) be assured, lady, that no one will pray for you more 
earnestly and heartily than we poor women.' 

'I believe you,' said the Signora, in a softened tone. 'But I should 
like to talk to you alone. Not that I require further information, 
nor any other motives to attend to the wishes of the Father-guardian,' 
added she, hastily, and turning towards him with studied politeness. 
'Indeed,' continued she, '1 have already thought about it; and this 
is the best plan 1 can think of for the present. The portress of the 
convent has, a few days ago, settled her last daughter in the world. 
These women can occupy the room she has left at liberty, and supply 
her place in the trifling services she performed in the monastery. 



144 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

In truth . . .' and here she beckoned to the guardian to approach 
the grated window, and continued, in an under-voice: 'In truth, on 
account of the scarcity of the times, it was not intended to substi- 
tute any one in the place of that young woman; but I will speak 
to the Lady Abbess; and at a word from me ... at the request 
of the Father-guardian ... in short, I give the place as a settled 
thing.' 

The guardian began to return thanks, but the Signora interrupted 
him : 'There is no need of ceremony : in a case of necessity I should 
not hesitate to apply for the assistance of the Capuchin Fathers. In 
fact,' continued she, with a smile, in which appeared an inde- 
scribable air of mockery and bitterness; 'in fact, are we not brothers 
and sisters?' 

So saying, she called a lay-sister, (two of whom were, by a singu- 
lar distinction, assigned to her private service,) and desired her to 
inform the Abbess of the circumstance; then sending for the portress 
to the door of the cloister, she concerted with her and Agnese the 
necessary arrangements. Dismissing her, she bade farewell to the 
guardian, and detained Lucia. The guardian accompanied Agnese 
to the door, giving her new instructions by the way, and went to 
write his letter of report to his friend Cristoforo. 'An extraordinary 
character, that Signora!' thought he, as he walked home: 'Very 
curious! But one who knows the right way to go to work, can 
make her do whatever he pleases. My good friend Cristoforo cer- 
tainly does not expect that I can serve him so quickly and so well. 
That noble fellow! There is no help for it: he must always have 
something in hand. But he is doing good. It is well for him this 
time, that he has found a friend who has brought the affair to a good 
conclusion in a twinkling, without so much noise, so much prepara- 
tion, so much ado. This good Cristoforo will surely be satisfied, and 
see that even we here are good for something.' 

The Signora, who, in the presence of a Capuchin of advanced age, 
had studied her actions and words, now, when left tete-h-tete with 
an inexperienced country girl, no longer attempted to restrain her- 
self; and her conversation became by degrees so strange, that, instead 
of relating it, we think it better briefly to narrate the previous history 
of this unhappy person: so much, that is, as will sufHce to account 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 145 

for the unusual and mysterious conduct we have witnessed in her, 
and to explain the motives of her behaviour in the facts which we 
shall be obliged to relate. 

She was the youngest daughter of the Prince • * *, a Milanese 
nobleman, who was esteemed one of the richest men of the city. 
But the unbounded idea he entertained of his title made his prop- 
erty appear scarcely sufficient, nay, even too limited to maintain a 
proper appearance; and all his attention was turned towards keeping 
it, at least, such as it was, in one line, so far as it depended upon 
himself. How many children he had does not apjjear from history: 
it merely records that he had designed all the younger branches of 
both sexes for the cloister that he might leave his prop)erty entire to 
the eldest son, destined to perpetuate the family: that is, bring up 
children that he might torment himself in tormenting them after 
his father's example. Our unhappy Signora was yet unborn when 
her condition was irrevocably determined upon. It only remained 
to decide whether she should be a monk or a nun, a decision, for 
which, not her assent, but her presence, was required. When she 
was born, the Prince, her father, wishing to give her a name that 
would always immediately suggest the idea of a cloister and which 
had been borne by a saint of high family, called her Gertrude. Dolls 
dressed like nuns were the first playthings put into her hands; then 
images in nuns' habits, accompanying the gift with admonitions to 
prize them highly, as very precious things, and with that affirmative 
interrogation, 'Beautiful, eh?' When the Prince, or the Princess, 
or the young prince, the only one of the sons brought up at home, 
would represent the happy prosf)ects of the child, it seemed as if 
they could find no other way of expressing their ideas than by the 
words, 'What a lady-abbess!' No one, however, directly said to her, 
'You must become a nun.' It was an intention understood and 
touched upon incidentally in every conversation relating to her 
future destiny. If at any time the Uttle Gertrude indulged in rebel- 
lious or imperious behaviour, to which her natural disposition easily 
inclined her, 'You are a naughty little girl,' they would say to her: 
'this behaviour is very unbecoming. When you are a lady-abbess, 
you shall then command with the rod: you can then do as you 
please.' On another occasion, the Prince reproving her for her too 



146 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

free and familiar manners, into which she easily fell: 'Hey! hey!' 
he cried; 'they are not becoming to one of your rank. If you wish 
some day to engage the respect that is due to you, learn from hence- 
forth to be more reserved : remember you ought to be in everything 
the first in the monastery, because you carry your rank wherever 
you go.' 

Such language imbued the mind of the little girl with the implicit 
idea that she was to be a nun; but her father's words had more effect 
upon her than all the others put together. The manners of the 
Prince were habitually those of an austere master, but when treating 
of the future prospects of his children, there shone forth in every 
word and tone an immovability of resolution which inspired the idea 
of a fatal necessity. 

At six years of age, Gertrude was placed for education, and still 
more as a preparatory step towards the vocation imposed upon her, 
in the monastery where we have seen her; and the selection of the 
place was not without design. The worthy guide of the two women 
has said that the father of the Signora was the first man in Monza; 
and, comparing this testimony, whatever it may be worth, with 
some other indications which our anonymous author unintentionally 
suffers to escape here and there, we may very easily assert that he 
was the feudal head of that country. However it may be, he enjoyed 
here very great authority, and thought that here, better than else- 
where, his daughter would be treated with that distinction and def- 
erence which might induce her to choose this monastery as her per- 
petual abode. Nor was he deceived: the then abbess and several 
intriguing nuns, who had the management of affairs, finding them- 
selves entangled in some disputes with another monastery, and 
with a noble family of the country, were very glad of the acquisition 
of such a support, received with much gratitude the honour bestowed 
upon them, and fully entered into the intentions of the Prince con- 
cerning the f>ermanent settlement of his daughter; intentions on 
every account entirely consonant with their interests. Immediately on 
Gertrude's entering the monastery, she was called by Antonomasia, 
the Signorina.' A separate place was assigned her at table, and a 
private sleeping apartment; her conduct was proposed as an example 

' The young lady. 



I PROMESSl SPOSI 147 

to others; indulgences and caresses were bestowed upon her without 
end, accompanied with that respectful familiarity so attractive to 
children when observed in those whom they see treating other chil- 
dren with an habitual air of superiority. Not that all the nuns had 
conspired to draw the poor child into the snare; many there were 
of simple and undesigning minds, who would have shrunk with 
horror from the thought of sacrificing a child to interested views; 
but all of them being intent on their several individual occupations, 
some did not notice all these manceuvres, others did not discern how 
dishonest they were; some abstained from looking into the matter, 
and others were silent rather than give useless offence. There was 
one, too, who, remembering how she had been induced by similar 
arts to do what she afterwards repented of, felt a deep compassion for 
the poor little innocent, and showed that compassion by bestowing on 
her tender and melancholy caresses, which she was far from sus- 
pecting were tending towards the same result; and thus the affair 
proceeded. Perhaps it might have gone on thus to the end, if Ger- 
trude had been the only little girl in the monastery; but among her 
school-fellows, there were some who knew they were designed for 
marriage. The litde Gertrude, brought up with high ideas of her 
suf)eriority, talked very magnificently of her future destiny as abbess 
and principal of the monastery; she wished to be an object of envy 
to the others on every account, and saw with astonishment and 
vexation that some of them paid no attention to all her boasting. 
To the majestic, but circumscribed and cold, images the headship of 
a monastery could furnish, they opposed the varied and bright pic- 
tures of a husband, guests, routs, towns, tournaments, retinues, dress, 
and equipages. Such glittering visions roused in Gertrude's mind 
that excitement and ardour which a large basket-full of freshly 
gathered flowers would produce if placed before a bee-hive. Her 
parents and teachers had cultivated and increased her natural vanity, 
to reconcile her to the cloisters; but when this passion was excited 
by ideas so much calculated to stimulate it, she quickly entered into 
them with a more lively and spontaneous ardour. That she might 
not be below her companions, and influenced at the same time by 
her new turn of mind, she replied that, at the time of the decision, 
no one could compel her to take the veil without her consent; that 



148 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

she too, could marry, live in a palace, enjoy the world, and that 
better than any of them; that she could if she wished it, that she 
would if she wished it; and that, in fact, she did wish it. The idea 
of the necessity of her consent, which hitherto had been, as it were, 
unnoticed, and hidden in a corner of her mind, now unfolded and 
displayed itself in all its importance. On every occasion she called 
it to her aid, that she might enjoy in tranquillity the images of a 
self-chosen future. Together with this idea, however, there invari- 
ably appeared another; that the refusal of this consent involved 
rebellion against her father, who already believed it, or pretended 
to believe it, a decided thing; and at this remembrance, the child's 
mind was very far from feeling the confidence which her words 
proclaimed. She would then compare herself with her companions, 
whose confidence was of a far different kind, and experienced 
lamentably that envy of their condition which, at first, she endeav- 
oured to awaken in them. From envy she changed to hatred; which 
she displayed in contempt, rudeness, and sarcastic speeches; while, 
sometimes, the conformity of her inclinations and hopes with theirs, 
suppressed her spite, and created in her an apparent and transient 
friendship. At times, longing to enjoy something real and present, 
she would feel a complacency in the distinctions accorded to her, 
and make others sensible of this superiority; and then, again, unable 
to tolerate the solitude of her fears and desires, she would go in 
search of her companions, her haughtiness appeased, almost, indeed, 
imploring of them kindness, counsel, and encouragement. In the 
midst of such pitiable warfare with herself and others, she passed 
her childhood, and entered upon that critical age at which an almost 
mysterious power seems to take possession of the soul, arousing, re- 
freshing, invigorating all the inclinations and ideas, and sometimes 
transforming them, or turning them into some unlooked-for channel. 
That which, until now, Gertrude had most distinctly figured in 
these dreams of the future, was external splendour and pomp; a 
something soothing and kindly, which, from the first, was lightly, 
and, as it were, mistily, diffused over her mind, now began to spread 
itself and predominate in her imagination. It took possession of the 
most secret recesses of her heart, as of a gorgeous retreat; hither she 
retired from present objects; here she entertained various personages 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 149 

Strangely compounded of the confused remembrances of childhood, 
the little she had seen of the external world, and what she had 
gathered in conversations with her companions; she entertained 
herself with them, talked to them, and replied in their name; here 
she gave commands, and here she received homage of every kind. 
At times, the thoughts of religion would come to disturb these bril- 
liant and toilsome revels. But religion, such as it had been taught 
to this poor girl, and such as she had received it, did not prohibit 
pride, but rather sanctified it, and proposed it as a means of obtain- 
ing earthly felicity. Robbed thus of its essence, it was no longer re- 
ligion, but a phantom like the rest. In the intervals in which this 
phantom occupied the first place, and ruled in Gertrude's fancy, 
the unhappy girl, oppressed by confused terrors, and urged by an 
indefinite idea of duty imagined that her repugnance to the cloister, 
and her resistance to the wishes of her suf)eriors in the choice of her 
state of life, was a fault; and she resolved in her heart to expiate it, 
by voluntarily taking the veil. 

It was a rule, that, before a young person could be received as a 
nun, she should be examined by an ecclesiastic, called the vicar of 
the nuns, or by some one deputed by him; that it might be seen 
whether the lot were her deliberate choice or not; and this examina- 
tion could not take place for a year after she had, by a written re- 
quest, signified her desire to the vicar. Those nuns who had taken 
upon themselves the sad office of inducing Gertrude to bind herself 
for ever with the least jx)ssible consciousness of what she was doing, 
seized one of the moments we have described to persuade her to 
write and sign such a memorial. And, in order the more easily to 
persuade her to such a course, they failed not to affirm and impress 
upon her, what, indeed, was quite true, that, after all, it was a mere 
formality, which could have no effect, without other and posterior 
steps, depending entirely upon her own will. Nevertheless the me- 
morial had scarcely reached its destination, before Gertrude re- 
pented having written it. Then she repented of these repentances; 
and thus days and months were spent in an incessant alternation 
of wishes and regrets. For a long while she concealed this act from 
her companions; sometimes from fear of exposing her good reso- 
lution to opposition and contradiction, at others from shame at 



150 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

revealing her error; but, at last, the desire of unburdening her mind, 
and of seeking advice and encouragement, conquered. 

Another rule was this: that a young girl was not to be admitted 
to this examination upon the course of life she had chosen, until she 
had resided for at least a month out of the convent where she had 
been educated. A year had almost passed since the presentation of 
this memorial; and it had been signified to Gertrude that she would 
shordy be taken from the monastery, and sent to her father's house, 
for this one month, there to take all the necessary steps towards 
the completion of the work she had really begun. The Prince, and 
the rest of the family, considered it an assured thing, as if it had 
already taken place. Not so, however, his daughter; instead of taking 
fresh steps, she was engaged in considering how she could withdraw 
the first. In her {perplexity, she resolved to opjen her mind to one 
of her companions, the most sincere and always the readiest to give 
spirited advice. She advised Gertrude to inform her father, by letter, 
.that she had changed her mind, since she had not the courage to 
pronounce to his face, at the proper time, a bold / will not. And as 
gratuitous advice in this world is very rare, the counsellor made 
Gertrude pay for this by abundance of raillery upon her want of 
spirit. The letter was agreed upon with three or four confidantes, 
written in private, and despatched by means of many deeply-studied 
artifices. Gertrude waited with great anxiety for a reply; but none 
came; excepting that, a few days afterwards, the Abbess, taking her 
aside, with an air of mystery, displeasure, and compassion, let fall 
some obscure hints about the great anger of her father, and a 
wrong step she must have been taking; leaving her to understand, 
however, that if she behaved well, she might still hope that all would 
be forgotten. The fx»r yoimg girl understood it, and dared not ven- 
ture to ask any further explanation. 

At last, the day so much dreaded, and so ardently wished for, 
arrived. Although Gertrude knew well enough that she was going 
to a great struggle, yet to leave the monastery, to pass the bounds 
of those walls in which she had been for eight years immured, to 
traverse the open country in a carriage, to see once more the city and 
her home, filled her with sensations of tumultuous joy. As to the 
struggle with the direction of her confidantes, she had already taken 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 151 

her measures, and concerted her plans. Either they will force me, 
thought she, and then I will be immovable — I will be humble and 
respectful, but will refuse; the chief point is not to pronounce another 
'Y«,' and I will not pronounce it. Or they will catch me with good 
words; and I will be better than they; I will weep, I will implore, 
I will move them to pity; at last, will only entreat that I may not 
be sacrificed. But, as it often happens in similar cases of foresight, 
neither one nor the other supposition was realized. Days passed, 
and neither her father, nor any one else, spoke to her about the peti- 
tion, or the recantation; and no proposal was made to her, with either 
coaxing or threatening. Her parents were serious, sad, and morose, 
towards her, without ever giving a reason for such behaviour. It was 
only to be understood that they regarded her as faulty and unworthy; 
a mysterious anathema seemed to hang over her, and divide her 
from the rest of her family, merely suffering so much intercourse 
as was necessary to make her feel her subjection. Seldom, and only 
at certain fixed hours, was she admitted to the company of her 
parents and elder brother. In the conversations of these three there 
appeared to reign a great confidence, which rendered the exclusion 
of Gertrude doubly sensible and painful. No one addressed her; and 
if she ventured timidly to make a remark, unless very evidently 
called for, her words were either unnoticed, or were responded to by 
a careless, contemptuous, or severe look. If unable any longer to 
endure so bitter and humiliating a distinction, she sought and 
endeavoured to mingle with the family, and implored a little affec- 
tion; she soon heard some indirect but clear hint thrown out about 
her choice of a monastic life, and was given to understand that 
there was one way of regaining the affection of the family; and 
since she would not accept of it on these conditions, she was obliged 
to draw back, to refuse the first advances towards the kindness 
she so much desired, and to continue in her state of excommuni- 
cation; continue in it, too, wdth a certain appearance of being to 
bbme. 

Such impressions from surrounding objects painfully contradicted 
the bright visions with which Gertrude had been so much occupied, 
and which she still secredy indulged in her heart. She had hoped 
that, in her splendid and much-frequented home, she should have 



152 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

enjoyed at least some real taste of the pleasures she had so long 
imagined; but she found herself woefully deceived. The confine- 
ment was as strict and close at home as in the convent; to walk out 
for recreation was never even spoken of; and a gallery that led from 
the house to an adjoining church, obviated the sole necessity there 
might have been to go into the street. The company was more un- 
interesting, more scarce, and less varied than in the monastery. At 
every announcement of a visitor, Gertrude was obliged to go uf)- 
stairs, and remain with some old woman in the service of the family; 
and here she dined whenever there was company. The domestic 
servants concurred in behaviour and language with the example and 
intentions of their master; and Gertrude, who by incUnation would 
have treated them with lady-Uke unaffected familiarity; and who, in 
the rank in which she was placed, would have esteemed it a favour if 
they had shown her any little mark of kindness as an equal, and even 
have stooped to ask it, was now humbled and annoyed at being 
treated with a manifest indifference, although accompanied by a 
slight obsequiousness of formality. She could not, however, but 
observe, that one of these servants, a page, appeared to bear her a 
respect very different to the others, and to feel a peculiar kind of com- 
passion for her. The behaviour of this youth approached more nearly 
than anything she had yet seen to the state of things that Gertrude 
had pictured to her imagination, and more resembled the doings of 
her ideal characters. By degrees, a strange transformation was dis- 
cernible in the manners of the young girl; there appeared a new 
tranquillity, and at the same time a restlessness, differing from her 
usual disquietude; her conduct was that of one who had found a 
treasure which oppresses him, which he incessantly watches, and 
hides from the view of others. Gertrude kept her eyes on this page 
more closely than ever; and, however it came to pass, she was sur- 
prised one unlucky morning by a chamber-maid, while secretly fold- 
ing up a letter, in which it would have been better had she written 
nothing. After a brief altercation, the maid got possession of the 
letter, and carried it to her master. The terror of Gertrude at the 
sound of his footsteps, may be more easily imagined than described. 
It was her father; he was irritated, and she felt herself guilty. But 
when he stood before her with that frowning brow, and the ill-fated 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 153 

letter in his hand, she would gladly have been a hundred feet under 
ground, not to say in a cloister. His words were few, but terrible; 
the punishment named at the time was only to be confined in her 
own room under the charge of the maid who had made the dis- 
covery; but this was merely a foretaste, a temporary provision; he 
threatened, and left a vague promise of some other obscure, unde- 
fined, and therefore more dreadful punishment. 

The page was, of course, immediately dismissed, and was menaced 
with something terrible, if ever he should breathe a syllable about 
the past. In giving him this intimation, the Prince seconded it with 
two solemn blows, to associate in his mind with this adventure a 
remembrance that would effectually remove every temptation to 
make a boast of it. Some kind of pretext to account for the dismissal 
of a page was not difiScult to find; as to the young lady, it was re- 
ported that she was ill. 

She was now left to her fears, her shame, her remorse, and her 
dread of the future; with the sole company of this woman, whom 
she hated as the witness of her guilt, and the cause of her disgrace. 
She, in her turn, hated Gertrude, by whom she was reduced, she 
knew not for how long, to the wearisome life of a jailer, and had 
become for ever the guardian of a dangerous secret. 

The first confused tumult of these feeUngs subsided by degrees; 
but each remembrance recurring by turns to her mind, was nourished 
there, and remained to torment her more distinctly, and at leisure. 
Whatever could the punishment be, so mysteriously threatened? 
Many, various, and strange, were the ideas that suggested themselves 
to the ardent and inexperienced imagination of Gertrude. The 
prospect that appeared most probable was, that she would be taken 
back to the monastery at Monza, no longer to appear as the Signo- 
rina, but as a guilty person, to be shut up there — who knew how 
long! who knew with what kind of treatment! Among the many an- 
noyances of such a course, perhaps the most annoying was the dread 
of the shame she should feel. The expressions, the words, the very 
commas of the unfortunate letter, were turned over and over in 
her memory: she fancied them noticed and weighed by a reader 
so unexpected, so different from the one to whom they were 
destined in reply; she imagined that they might have come under 



154 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the view of her mother, her brother, or indeed any one else; and 
by comparison, all the rest seemed to her a mere nothing. The 
image of him who had been the primary cause of all this offence 
failed not also frequently to beset the poor recluse; and it is im- 
possible to describe the strange contrast this phantasm presented 
to those around her; so dissimilar, so serious, reserved, and threaten- 
ing. But, since she could not separate his image from theirs, nor 
turn for a moment to those transient gratifications, without her 
present sorrows, as the consetjuence of them, suggesting them- 
selves to her mind, she began, by degrees, to recall them less 
frequendy, to repel the remembrance of them, and wean herself 
from such thoughts. She no longer willingly indulged in the bright 
and splendid fancies of her earlier days; they were too much opposed 
to her real circumstances, and to every probability for the future. 
The only castle in which Gertrude could conceive a tranquil and 
honourable retreat, which was not in the air, was the monastery, 
if she could make up her mind to enter it for ever. Such a resolu- 
tion, she could not doubt, would have repaired everything, atoned 
for every fault, and changed her condition in a moment. Opposed 
to this proposal, it is true, rose up the plans and hopes of her whole 
childhood; but times were changed; and in the depths to which 
Gertrude had fallen, and in comparison of what, at times, she so 
much dreaded, the condition of a nun, respected, revered, and 
obeyed, appeared to her a bright prospect. Two sentiments of 
very different character, indeed, contributed at intervals, to over- 
come her former aversion: sometimes remorse for a fault, and a 
capricious sensibility of devotion; and at other times, her pride 
embittered and irritated by the manners of her jailer, who (often, it 
must be confessed, provoked to it) revenged herself now by terrify- 
ing her with the prospect of the threatened punishment, or taunting 
her with the disgrace of her fault. When, however, she chose to be 
benign, she would assume a tone of protection, still more odious 
than insult. On these different occasions, the wish that Gertrude 
felt to escape from her clutches, and to raise herself to a condition 
above either her anger or pity, became so vivid and urgent, that it 
made everything which could lead to such an end appear pleasant 
and agreeable. 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 155 

At the end of four or five long days of confinement, Gertrude, 
disgusted and exasperated beyond measure by one of these sallies 
of her guardian, went and sat down in a corner of the room, and 
covering her face with her hands, remained for some time secretly 
indulging her rage. She then felt an overbearing longing to see 
some other faces, to hear some other words, to be treated differently. 
She thought of her father, of her family; and the idea made her 
shrink back in horror. But she remembered that it ordy depended 
upon her to make them her friends; and this remembrance awakened 
a momentary joy. Then there followed a confused and unusual 
sorrow for her fault, and an equal desire to expiate it. Not that 
her will was already determined upon such a resolution, but she 
had never before approached it so near. She rose from her seat, 
went to the table, took up the fatal pen, and wrote a letter to her 
father, full of enthusiasm and humiliation, of affliction and hope, 
imploring his pardon, and showing herself indefinitely ready to 
do anything that would please him who alone could grant it. 



CHAPTER X 

THERE are times when the mind, of the young especially, 
is so disposed, that any external influence, however slight, 
suffices to call forth whatever has the appearance of virtuous 
self-sacrifice; as a scarcely expanded flower abandons itself negli- 
gently to its fragile stem, ready to yield its fragrance to the first 
breath of the zephyrs that float around. These moments, which 
others should regard with reverential awe, are exactly those which 
the wily and interested eagerly watch for, and seize with avidity, to 
fetter an unguarded will. 

On the perusal of this letter the Prince • * • instantly saw a door 
opened to the fulfilment of his early and still cherished views. He 
therefore sent to Gertrude to come to him, and prepared to strike 
the iron while it was hot. Gertrude had no sooner made her appear- 
ance, than, without raising her eyes towards her father, she threw 
herself upon her knees, scarcely able to articulate the word 'Pardon.' 
The Prince beckoned to her to rise, and then, in a voice little calcu- 
lated to reassure her, replied, that it was not sufficient to desire and 
solicit forgiveness, for that was easy and natural enoug'h to one who 
had been convicted of a fault, and dreaded its punishment; that, in 
short, it was necessary she should deserve it. Gertrude, in a sub- 
dued and trembling voice, asked what she must do. To this question 
the Prince (for we cannot find in our heart at this moment to give 
him the title of father) made no direct reply, but proceeded to 
speak at some length on Gertrude's fault, in words which grated 
on the feelings of the poor girl like the drawing of a rough hand 
over a wound. He then went on to say, that even if . . . supposing 
he ever . . . had had at the first any intention of settling her in 
the world, she herself had now opposed an insuperable obstacle 
to such a plan; since a man of honour, as he was, could never 
bring himself to give to any gentleman a daughter who had shown 
such a specimen of her character. His wretched auditor was com- 
pletely overwhelmed; and then the Prince, gradually softening his 
voice and language, proceeded to say, that for every fault there was 

156 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 157 

a remedy and a hope of mercy; that hers was one the remedy for 
which was very distinctly indicated; that she ought to see in this 
sad event a warning, as it were, that a worldly Ufe was too full of 
danger for her . . . 

'Ah, yes!' exclaimed Gertrude, excited by fear, subdued by a 
sense of shame, and overcome at the instant by a momentary tender- 
ness of spirit. 

'Ah; you see it too,' replied the Prince, instantly taking up her 
words. 'Well, let us say no more of what is past: all is cancelled. 
You have taken the only honourable and suitable course that 
remained for you; but, since you have chosen it willingly and 
cheerfully, it rests with me to make it pleasant to you in every 
possible way. I have the power of turning it to your advantage, 
and giving all the merit of the action to yourself, and I'll engage 
to do it for you.' So saying, he rang a little bell that stood on the 
table, and said to the servant who answered it, — 'The Princess and 
the young Prince immediately.' Then turning to Gertrude, he 
continued: 'I wish them to share in my satisfaction at once; and I 
wish you immediately to be treated by all as is fit and proper. You 
have experienced a little of the severe parent, but from henceforth 
you shall find me an affectionate father.' 

Gertrude stood thunderstruck at these words. One moment she 
wondered how that 'yes,' which had escaped her lips, could be 
made to mean so much: then she thought, was there no way of 
retracting — of restricting the sense; but the Prince's conviction 
seemed so unshaken, his joy so sensitively jealous, and his benignity 
so conditional, that Gertrude dared not utter a word to disturb them 
in the slightest degree. 

The parties summoned quickly made their appearance, and, on 
seeing Gertrude, regarded her with an expression of surprise and 
uncertainty. But the Prince, with a cheerful and loving countenance, 
which immediately met with an answering look from them, said, 
— 'Behold the wandering sheep: and I intend this to be the last 
word that shall awaken sad remembrances. Behold the consolation 
of the family! Gertrude no longer needs advisers, for she has 
voluntarily chosen what we desired for her good. She has deter- 
mined — she has given me to understand that she has determined 



158 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

. . .' Here Gertrude raised towards her father a look between terror 
and supplication, as if imploring him to pause, but he continued 
boldly: 'that she has determined to take the veil.' 

'Bravo! well done!' exclaimed the mother and son, turning at the 
same time to embrace Gertrude, who received these congratulations 
with tears, which were interpreted as tears of satisfaction. The Prince 
then expatiated upon what he would do to render the situation of his 
daughter pleasant, and even splendid. He s|X)ke of the distinction 
with which she would be regarded in the monastery and the sur- 
rounding country: that she would be like a princess, the represent- 
ative of the family; that, as soon as ever her age would allow of it, 
she would be raised to the first dignity, and in the mean while would 
be under subjection only in name. The Princess and the young 
Prince renewed their congratulations and applauses, while poor 
Gertrude stood as if possessed by a dream. 

'We had better fix the day for going to Monza to make our 
request of the Abbess,' said the Prince. 'How pleased she will be! I 
venture to say that all the monastery will know how to estimate 
the honour which Gertrude does them. Likewise . . . but why not 
go this very day? Gertrude will be glad to take an airing.' 

'Let us go, then,' said the Princess. 

'I will go and give orders,' said the young Prince. 

'But . . .' suggested Gertrude, submissively. 

'Softly, softly,' replied the Prince, 'let her decide: perhaps she 
does not feel inclined to-day, and would rather delay till to-morrow. 
Tell me, would you prefer to-day or to-morrow?" 

'To-morrow,' answered Gertrude, in a faint voice, thinking it 
something that she could get a little longer respite. 

To-morrow,' pronounced the Prince, solemnly; 'she has decided 
that we go to-morrow. In the mean while I will go and ask the 
vicar of the nuns to name a day for the examination.' 

No sooner said than done; the Prince took his departure, and 
absolutely went himself (no little act of condescension) to the 
vicar, and obtained a promise that he would attend her the day 
after to-morrow. 

During the remainder of this day Gertrude had not two moments 
of quiet. She wished to have calmed her mind after so many scenes 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 159 

of excitement, to clear and arrange her thoughts, to render an account 
to herself of what she had done, and of what she was about to do, 
determine what she wished, and, for a moment at least, retard that 
machine, which, once started, was proceeding so precipitously; but 
there was no opening. Occupations succeeded one another without 
interruption — one treading, as it were, ufxjn the heels of another. 
Immediately after this solemn interview, she was conducted to her 
mother's dressing-room, there, under her superintendence, to be 
dressed and adorned by her own waiting-maid. Scarcely was this 
business completed when dinner was announced. Gertrude was 
greeted on her way by the bows of the servants, who expressed their 
congratulations for her recovery; and, on reaching the dining-room, 
she found a few of their nearest friends, who had been hastily 
invited to do her honour, and to share in the general joy for the 
two happy events, — her restored health, and her choice of a voca- 
tion. 

The young bride — (as the novices were usually distinguished, 
and Gertrude was saluted on all sides by this tide on her first 
appearance) — the young bride had enough to do to reply to all the 
compliments that were addressed to her. She was fully sensible 
that every one of these answers was, as it were, an assent and con- 
firmation; yet how could she reply otherwise? Shortly after dinner 
came the driving hour, and Gertrude accompanied her mother in 
a carriage, with two uncles who had been among the guests. After 
the usual tour, they entered the Strada Marina, which crossed the 
space now occupied by the public gardens, and was the rendezvous 
of the gentry who drove out for recreation after the labours of the 
day. The uncles addressed much of their conversation to Gertrude, 
as was to be expected on such a day; and one of them, who seemed 
to be acquainted with everybody, every carriage, every livery, and 
had every moment something to say about Signor this and Lady 
that, suddenly checked himself, and turning to his niece — 'Ah, you 
young rogue!' exclaimed he; 'you are turning your back on all these 
follies, — you are one of the saints; we poor worldly fellows are caught 
in the snare, but you are going to lead a religious Ufe, and go to 
heaven in your carriage.' 

As evening approached they returned home, and the servants, 



l60 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

hastily descending to meet them with lights, announced several 
visitors who were awaiting their return. The rumour had spread, 
and friends and relations crowded to pay their respects. On entering 
the drawing-room the young bride became the idol — the sole object 
of attention — the victim. Every one wished to have her to himself; 
one promised her pleasures, — another visits; one spoke of Madre 
this, her relation, — another of Madre that, an acquaintance; one 
extolled the climate of Monza, — another enlarged with great elo- 
quence upon the distinctions she would there enjoy. Others, who 
had not yet succeeded in approaching Gertrude while thus besieged, 
stood watching their opportunity to address her, and felt a kind of 
regret until they had discharged their duty in this matter. By 
degrees the party dispersed, and Gertrude remained alone with the 
family. 

'At last,' said the Prince, 'I have had the pleasure of seeing my 
daughter treated as becomes her rank. I must confess that she has 
conducted herself very well, and has shown that she will not be 
prevented making the first figure, and maintaining the dignity of 
the family.' They then went to supper, so as to retire early, that 
they might be ready in good time in the morning. 

Gertrude, annoyed, piqued, and at the same time a little puffed 
up by the compliments and ceremonies of the day, at this moment 
remembered all she had suffered from her jailer; and, seeing her 
father so ready to gratify her in everything but one, she resolved 
to make use of this disposition for the indulgence of at least one of 
the passions which tormented her. She displayed a great unwilling- 
ness again to be left alone with her maid, and complained bitterly 
of her treatment. 

'What!' said the Prince; 'did she not treat you with respect? To- 
morrow I will reward her as she deserves. Leave it to me, and I 
will get you entire satisfaction. In the mean while, a child with 
whom I am so well pleased must not be attended by a person she 
dislikes.' So saying, he called another servant, and gave her orders 
to wait upon Gertrude, who, though certainly enjoying the satis- 
faction she received, was astonished at finding it so trifling, in 
comparison with the earnest wishes she had felt beforehand. The 
thought that, in spite of her unwillingness, predominated in her 



I PROMESST SPOSI l6l 

imagination, was the remembrance of the fearful progress she had 
this day made towards her cloistral life, and the consciousness that 
to draw back now would require a far, far greater degree of courage 
and resolution than would have sufficed a few days before, and 
which, even then, she felt she did not possess. 

The woman appointed to attend her was an old servant of the 
family, who had formerly been the young Prince's governess, having 
received him from the arms of his nurse, and brought him up 
until he was almost a young man. In him she had centred all her 
pleasures, all her hopes, all her pride. She was delighted at this 
day's decision, as if it had been her own good fortune; and Gertrude, 
at the close of the day, was obliged to listen to the congratulations, 
praises, and advice of this old woman. She told her of some of her 
aunts and near relations who had been very happy as nuns, because, 
being of so high a family, they had always enjoyed the first honours, 
and had been able to have a good deal of influence beyond the walls 
of the convent; so that, from their parlour, they had come off vic- 
torious in undertakings in which the first ladies of the land had 
been quite foiled. She talked to her about the visits she would 
receive; she would some day be seeing the Signor Prince with his 
bride, who must certainly be some noble lady; and then not only 
the monastery, but the whole country would be in excitement. The 
old woman talked while undressing Gertrude; she talked after she 
had lain down, and even continued talking after Gertrude was 
asleep. Youth and fatigue had been more powerful than cares. Her 
sleep was troubled, disturbed, and full of tormenting dreams, but 
was unbroken, until the shrill voice of the old woman aroused her 
to prepare for her journey to Monza. 

'Up, up, Signora bride; it is broad day-light, and you will want 
at least an hour to dress and arrange yourself. The Signora Princess 
is getting up; they awoke her four hours earlier than usual. The 
young Prince has already been down to the stables and come back, 
and is ready to start whenever you are. The creature is as brisk as 
a hare! but he was always so from a child: I have a right to say so 
who have nursed him in my arms. But when he's once set a-going, 
it won't do to oppose him; for, though he is the best-tempered 
creature in the world, he sometimes gets impatient and storms. Poor 



1 62 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

fellow! one must pity him; it is all the effea of his temperament; 
and besides, this time there is some reason in it, because he is going 
to all this trouble for you. People must take care how they touch 
him at such times! he minds no one except the Signor Prince. But 
some day he will be the Prince himself; may it be as long as pos- 
sible first, however. Quick, quick, Signorina, why do you look at 
me as if you were bewitched? You ought to be out of your nest at 
this hour.' 

At the idea of the impatient Prince, all the other thoughts which 
had crowded into Gertrude's mind on awaking, vanished before 
it, like a flock of sparrows on the sudden appearance of a scarecrow. 
She instandy obeyed, dressed herself in haste, and, after submitting 
to the decoration of her hair and person, went down to the saloon, 
where her parents and brother were assembled. She was then led 
to an arm-chair, and a cup of chocolate was brought to her, which 
in those days was a ceremony similar to that formerly in use among 
the Romans, of presenting the toga inrilis. 

When the carriage was at the door, the Prince drew his daughter 
aside, and said : 'Come, Gertrude, yesterday you had every attention 
paid you; to-day you must overcome yourself. The point is now to 
make a proper appearance in the monastery and the surrounding 
country, where you are destined to take the first place. They are 
expecting you.' (It is unnecessary to say that the Prince had des- 
patched a message the preceding day to the Lady Abbess.) They 
are expecting you, and all eyes will be upon you. You must maintain 
dignity and an easy manner. The Abbess will ask you what you 
wish, according to the usual form. You must reply that you request 
to be allowed to take the veil in the monastery where you have been 
so lovingly educated, and have received so many kindnesses, which 
is the simple truth. You will pronounce these words with an un- 
embarrassed air; for I would not have it said that you have been 
drawn in, and that you don't know how to answer for yourself. 
These good mothers know nothing of the past: it is a secret which 
must remain for ever buried in the family. Take care you don't 
put on a sorrowful or dubious countenance, which might excite any 
suspicion. Show of what blood you are: be courteous and modest; 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 163 

but remember that there, away from the family, there will be nobody 
above you.' 

Without waiting for a reply, the Prince led the way, Gertrude, 
the Princess, and the young Prince, following; and, going down- 
stairs, they seated themselves in the carriage. The snares and vexa- 
tions of the world, and the happy, blessed life of the cloister, more 
especially for young people of noble birth, were the subjects of con- 
versation during the drive. On approaching their destination the 
Prince renewed his instructions to his daughter, and repeated over 
to her several times the prescribed form of reply. On entering this 
neighbourhood, Gertrude felt her heart beat violently; but her atten- 
tion was suddenly arrested by several gentlemen, who stopped the 
carriage and addressed numberless compliments to her. Then con- 
tinuing their way, they drove slowly up to the monastery, amongst 
the inquisitive gazes of the crowds who had collected upon the 
road. When the carriage stopped before these well-known walls, 
and that dreaded door, Gertrude's heart beat still more violently. 
They alighted between two wings of bystanders, whom the servants 
were endeavouring to keep back, and the consciousness that the 
eyes of all were upon her, compelled the unfortunate girl closely 
to study her behaviour; but, above all, those of her father kept her 
in awe; for, spite of the dread she had of them, she could not help 
every moment raising her eyes to his, and, like invisible reins, they 
regulated every movement and expression of her countenance. After 
traversing the first court, they entered the second, where the door 
of the interior cloister was held open, and completely blockaded by 
nuns. In the first row stood the Abbess, surrounded by the eldest 
of the sisterhood; behind them the younger nuns promiscuously 
arranged, and some on tip-toe; and, last of all, the lay-sisters mounted 
on stools. Here and there among them were seen the glancing of 
certain bright eyes and some little faces peeping out from between 
the cowls: they were the most active and daring of the pupils, who, 
creeping in and pushing their way between nun and nun, had suc- 
ceeded in making an opening where they might also see something. 
Many were the acclamations of this crowd, and many the hands held 
up in token of welcome and exultation. They reached the door, 



164 ALESSANDRO MANZONI ' 

and Gertrude found herself standing before the Lady Abbess. After 
the first compliments, the superior, with an air between cheerfulness 
and solemnity, asked her what she wanted in that place, where 
there was no one who would deny her anything. 

'I am here . . .' began Gertrude; but, on the point of pronouncing 
the words which would almost irrevocably decide her fate, she 
hesitated a moment, and remained with her eyes fixed on the crowd 
before her. At this moment she caught the eye of one of her old 
companions, who looked at her with a mixed air of compassion and 
malice which seemed to say: ah! the boaster is caught. This sight, 
awakening more vividly in her mind her old feelings, restored to 
her also a little of her former courage; and she was on the pwint of 
framing a reply far different to the one which had been dictated to 
her, when, raising her eyes to her father's face, almost, as it were 
to try her strength, she encountered there such a deep disquietude, 
such a threatening impatience, that, urged by fear, she continued 
with great precipitation, as if flying from some terrible object: 'I 
am here to request permission to take the religious habit in this 
monastery, where I have been so lovingly educated.' The Abbess 
quickly answered, that she was very sorry in this instance that the 
regulations forbade her giving an immediate reply, which must 
come from the general votes of the sisters, and for which she must 
obtain permission from her superiors; that, nevertheless, Gertrude 
knew well enough the feelings entertained towards her in that 
place, to foresee what the answer would be; and that, in the mean 
while, no regulation prevented the Abbess and the sisterhood from 
manifesting the great satisfaction they felt in hearing her make such 
a request. There then burst forth a confused murmur of congratula- 
tions and acclamations. Presently, large dishes were brought filled 
with sweetmeats, and were offered first to the bride, and afterwards 
to her parents. While some of the nuns approached to greet Ger- 
trude, others complimenting her mother, and others the young 
Prince, the Abbess requested the Prince to repair to the grate of 
the parlour of conference, where she would wait upon him. She was 
accompanied by two elders, and on his appearing, 'Signor Prince,' 
said she; 'to obey the regulations ... to perform an indispensable 
formality, though in this case . . . nevertheless I must tell you . . . 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 165 

that whenever a young person asks to be admitted to take the veil, 
• . . the superior, which I am unworthily ... is obliged to warn 
the parents . . . that if by any chance . . . they should have con- 
strained the will of their daughter, they are liable to excommunica- 
tion. You will excuse me . . .' 

'Oh! certainly, certainly, reverend mother. I admire your exact- 
ness; it is only right . . . But you need not doubt . . .' 

'Oh! think, Signor Prince ... I only spoke from absolute duty 
... for the rest . . .' 

'Certainly, certainly. Lady Abbess.' 

Having exchanged these few words, the two interlocutors recipro- 
cally bowed and departed, as if neither of them felt willing to pro- 
long the interview, each retiring to his own party, the one outside, 
the other within the threshold of the cloister. 'Now then let us go,' 
said the Prince: 'Gertrude will soon have plenty of opportunity of 
enjoying as much as she pleases the society of these good mothers. 
For the present, we have put them to enough inconvenience.' And, 
making a low bow, he signified his wish to return: the party broke 
up, exchanged salutations, and departed. 

During the drive home Gertrude felt little inclination to speak. 
Alarmed at the step she had taken, ashamed at her want of spirit, 
and vexed with others as well as herself, she tried to enumerate 
the opportunities which still remained of saying no, and languidly 
and confusedly resolved in her own mind that in this, or that, or 
the other instance she would be more open and courageous. Yet, 
in the midst of these thoughts, her dread of her father's frown still 
held its full sway; so that once, when, by a stealthy glance at his 
face, she was fully assured that not a vestige of anger remained, 
when she even saw that he was perfectly satisfied with her, she felt 
quite cheered, and experienced a real but transient joy. 

On their arrival, a long toilette, dinner, visits, walks, a conver- 
sazione and supper, followed each other in rapid succession. After 
supper the Prince introduced another subject — the choice of a god- 
mother. This was the title of the person who, being solicited by 
the parents, became the guardian and escort of the young novice, 
in the interval between the request and the admission; an interval 
frequently spent in visiting churches, public palaces, conversazioni. 



1 66 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

villas, and temples; in short, everything of note in the city and its 
environs; so that the young people, before pronouncing the irre- 
vocable vow, might be fully aware of what they were giving up. 

'We must think of a godmother,' said the Prince; 'for to-morrow 
the vicar of the nuns will be here for the usual formality of an 
examination, and shortly afterwards Gertrude will be proposed in 
council for the acceptance of the nuns.' 

In saying this he turned towards the Princess, and she, thinking 
he intended it as an invitation to her to make some proposal, was 
beginning: "There should be . . ,' But the Prince interrupted her. 

'No, no, Signora Princess; the godmother should be acceptable 
above all to the bride; and though universal custom gives the selec- 
tion to the parents, yet Gertrude has so much judgment, and such 
excellent discernment, that she richly deserves to be made an excep- 
tion.' And here, turning to Gertrude, with the air of one who was 
bestowing a singular favour, he continued: 'Any one of the ladies 
who were at the conversazione this evening possesses all the neces- 
sary qualifications for the office of godmother to a person of your 
family; and any one of them, I am willing to believe, will think it 
an honour to be made choice of. Do you choose for yourself.' 

Gertrude was fully sensible that to make a choice was but to 
renew her consent; yet the propiosition was made with so much 
dignity, that a refusal would have borne the appearance of contempt, 
and an excuse, of ignorance or fastidiousness. She therefore took 
this step also, and named a lady who had chiefly taken her fancy 
that evening; that is to say, one who had paid her the most attention, 
who had most applauded her, and who had treated her with those 
familiar, affectionate, and engaging manners, which, on the first 
acquaintanceship, counterfeit a friendship of long standing. 'An 
excellent choice,' exclaimed the Prince, who had exactly wished and 
expected it. Whether by art or chance, it happened just as when a 
card-player, holding up to view a pack of cards, bids the spectator 
think of one, and then will tell him which it is, having previously 
disposed them in such a way that but one of them can be seen. 
This lady had been so much with Gertrude all the evening, and had 
so entirely engaged her attention, that it would have required an 
effort of imagination to think of another. These attentions, how- 



I PROMESSI SPOSl 167 

ever, had not been paid without a motive; the lady had for some 
time fixed her eyes upon the young Prince as a desirable son-in-law; 
hence she regarded everything belonging to the family as her own; 
and therefore it was natural enough that she should interest herself 
for her dear Gertrude, no less than for her nearest relatives. 

On the morrow, Gertrude awoke with the image of the approach- 
ing examination before her eyes; and, while she was considering if 
and bow she could seize this most decisive opportunity to draw 
back, she was summoned by the Prince. 'Courage, my child,' said 
he: 'until now you have behaved admirably, and it only remains 
to-day to crown the work. All that has been done hitherto has been 
done with your consent. If, in this interval, any doubts had arisen 
in your mind, any misgivings, or youthful regrets, you ought to 
have expressed them; but at the point at which we have now arrived, 
it is no longer the time to play the child. The worthy man who is 
cotning to you this morning, will ask you a hundred questions about 
your election, and whether you go of your own good will, and 
why, and how, and what not besides. If you tantalize him in your 
replies, he will keep you under examination I don't know how 
long. It would be an annoyance and a weariness to you; and it 
might produce a still more serious effort. After all the pubUc 
demonstrations that have been made, every little hesitation you 
may display will risk my honour, and may make people think 
that I have taken a momentary fancy of yours for a settled resolution 
— that I have rushed headlong into the business — that I have . . . 
what not ? In this case, I shall be reduced to the necessity of choosing 
between two painful alternatives; either to let the world form a 
derogatory judgment of my conduct — a course which I absolutely 
cannot take in justice to myself — or to reveal the true motive of 
your resolution, and . . .' But here, observing that Gertrude coloured 
crimson, that her eyes became inflamed, and her face contracted like 
the petals of a flower in the sultry heat that precedes a storm, he 
broke off this strain, and continued with a serene face: 'Come, 
come, all depends upon yourself — upon your judgment. I know 
that you are not deficient in it, and that you are not a child, to go 
spoil a good undertaking just at the conclusion; but I must foresee 
and provide for all contingencies. Let us say no more about it; 



1 68 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

only let me feel assured that you will reply with frankness so as 
not to excite suspicion in the mind of this worthy man. Thus you, 
also, will be set at liberty the sooner.' Then, after suggesting a few 
answers to the probable interrogations that would be put, he entered 
upon the usual topic of the pleasures and enjoyments prepared for 
Gertrude at the monastery, and contrived to detain her on this 
subject till a servant announced the arrival of the examiner. After 
a hasty repetition of the most important hints, he left his daughter 
alone with him, according to the usual custom. 

The good man came with a slight pre-conceived opinion that 
Gertrude had a strong desire for a cloistral life, because the Prince 
had told him so, when he went to request his attendance. It is true 
that the good priest, who knew well enough that mistrust was one 
of the most necessary virtues of his office, held as a maxim that he 
should be very slow in believing such protestations, and should be 
on his guard against pre-conceptions; but it seldom happens that the 
positive affirmations of a (jerson of such authority, in whatever 
matter, do not give a bias to the mind of those who hear them. After 
the usual salutations: 'Signorina,' said he, 'I am coming to act the 
part of the tempter; I have come to excite doubts where your request 
expresses certainty, to place difficulties before your eyes, and to 
assure myself whether you have well considered them. Will you 
allow me to ask you some questions.'' 

'Proceed,' replied Gertrude. 

The worthy priest then began to question her in the usual pre- 
scribed forms. 'Do you feel in your heart a free, voluntary resolution 
to become a nun ? Have no threatenings, no flatteries been resorted 
to.? Has no authority been made use of to persuade you to this 
step.? Speak without reserve and with perfect sincerity to a man 
whose duty it is to ascertain your unbiased will, that he may prevent 
your being compelled by any exercise of force to take such a course.' 

The true answer to such a demand rose up before Gertrude's 
mind with fearful distinctness. But to make that reply, she must 
come to an explanation; she must disclose what she had been 
threatened with, and relate a story . . . The unhappy girl shrank 
back in horror from such an idea, and tried to find some other reply, 
which would more speedily release her from this unpleasant inter- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 169 

view. 'I wish to take the veil,' said she, concealing her agitation — 
'I wish to take the veil at my own desire, voluntarily.* 

'How long have you had this desire?' again demanded the good 
priest. 

'I have always felt it,' replied Gertrude, rendered after this first 
step more unscrupulous about speaking the truth. 

'But what is the principal motive that induces you to become a 
nun?' 

The good priest little knew what a terrible chord he was touching; 
and Gertrude had to make a great effort not to betray in her coun- 
tenance the effect which these words produced on her mind, as she 
replied : 'My motive is to serve God, and to fly the perils of the world.' 

'May there not have been some disgust? Some . . . excuse me . . . 
some caprice? There are times when a passing cause may make an 
impression that seems at the moment sure to be lasting; but after- 
wards, when the cause is removed, and the mind calmed, then . . .' 

'No, no,' replied Gertrude, precipitately, 'the reason is exactly 
what I have told you.' 

The vicar, rather to discharge his duty faithfully than because he 
thought it necessary, persisted in his inquiries; but Gertrude was 
resolved to deceive him. Besides the horror she felt at the thought 
of making him acquainted with her weakness, when he seemed 
so far from suspecting her of anything of the kind, the poor girl 
thought that though he could certainly easily prevent her taking 
the veil, yet that there was the end of his authority over her, or his 
power of protection. When once he had gone, she would be left 
alone with the Prince, and of what she would then have to endure 
in that house, the worthy priest could know nothing; or, even if he 
did, he could only pity her. The examiner was tired of questioning, 
before the unfortunate girl of deceiving him; and, finding her 
replies invariably consistent, and having no reason to doubt their 
sincerity, he at last changed his tone, and said aH he could to 
confirm her in her good resolution; and, after congratulating her, 
he took his leave. Passing through one of the apartments, he met 
with the Prince, who appeared to fall in with him accidently, and 
congratulated him on the good dispositions his daughter had dis- 
played. The Prince had been waiting in a very wearisome state of 



170 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

suspense, but, on receiving this account, he breathed more freely, and, 
forgetting his usual gravity, he almost ran to Gertrude, and loaded 
her with commendations, caresses, and promises, with cordial satis- 
faction, and a tenderness of manner to a great degree sincere. Such 
a strange medley is the human heart! 

We will not follow Gertrude in her continual round of sights 
and amusements, nor will we describe, either generally or par- 
ticularly, the feelings of her mind during this period; it would be 
a history of sorrows and fluctuations too monotonous, and too much 
resembhng what we have already related. The beauty of the sur- 
rounding seats, the continual variety of objects, and the pleasant 
excursions in the open air, rendered the idea of the place where she 
must shordy alight for the last time, more odious to her than ever. 
Still more painful were the impressions made upon her by the 
assembUes and amusements of the city. The sight of a bride, in 
the more obvious and common sense of the word, aroused in her 
envy and anguish, to a degree almost intolerable; and sometimes 
the sight of some other individual made her feel as if to hear that 
tide given to herself would be the height of felicity. There were 
even dmes when the pomp of palaces, the splendour of ornaments, 
and the excitement and clamorous fesdvity of the conversazione, so 
infatuated her, and aroused in her such an ardent desire to lead a gay 
life, that she resolved to recant, and to suffer anything rather than 
turn to the cold and death-like shade of the cloister. But all these 
resoludons vanished into air, on the calmer consideration of the diffi- 
culties of such a course, or on merely raising her eyes to the Prince's 
face. Sometimes, too, the thought that she must for ever abandon 
these enjoyments, made even this little taste of them bitter and weari- 
some to her; as the patient, suffering with thirst, eyes with vexation, 
and almost refuses with contempt, the spoonful of water the physician 
unwillingly allows him. In the meanwhile, the vicar of the nuns 
had despatches the necessary attestation, and permission arrived, to 
hold the conference for the election of Gertrude. The meeung was 
called; two-thirds of the secret votes, which were required by the 
regulations, were given, as was to be expected, and Gertrude was 
accepted. She herself, wearied with this long struggle, begged for 
immediate admission into the monastery, and no one came forward 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 171 

to oppose such a request. She was therefore gratified in her wish; 
and, after being pompously conducted to the monastery, she assumed 
the habit. After twelve months of novitiate, full of alternate regret 
and repentings, the time of public confession arrived; that is to 
say, the time when she must either utter a 'no,' more strange, more 
unexpected, and more disgraceful than ever; or pronounce a 'yes,' 
already so often repeated: she pronounced it, and became a nun 
for ever. 

It is one of the peculiar and incommunicable properties of the 
Christian religion, that she can afford guidance and repose to all 
who, under whatever circumstances, or in whatever exigence, have 
recourse to her. If there is a remedy for the past, she prescribes it, 
administers it, and lends light and energy to put it in force, at what- 
ever cost; if there is none, she teaches how to do that effectually 
and in reality, which the world prescribes proverbially, — make a 
virtue of necessity. She teaches how to continue with discretion 
what is thoughtlessly undertaken; she inclines the mind to cleave 
steadfastly to what was imposed upon it by authority; and imparts 
to a choice which, though rash at the time, is now irrevocable, all 
the sanctity, all the advisedness, and, let us say it boldly, all the 
cheerfulness of a lawful caihng. Here is a path so constructed that, 
let a man approach it by what labyrinth or precipice he may, he 
sets himself, from that moment, to walk in it with seciu'ity and 
readiness, and at once begins to draw towards a joyful end. By 
this means, Gertrude might have proved a holy and contented nun, 
however she had become one. But, instead of this, the unhappy girl 
struggled under the yoke, and thus felt it heavier and more galling. 
An incessant recurrence to her lost liberty, abhorrence of her present 
condition, and a wearisome clinging to desires which could never 
be satisfied: these were the principal occupations of her mind. She 
recalled, over and over again, the bitterness of the past, rearranged 
in her mind all the circumstances by which she had reached her 
present situation, and undid in thought a thousand times what she 
had done in act. She accused herself of want of spirit, and others of 
tyranny and perfidy, and pined in secret: she idoHzed and, at the 
same time, bewailed her beauty; deplored a youth destined to 
struggle in a prolonged martyrdom; and envied, at times, any 



172 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

woman, in whatever rank, with whatever acquirements, who could 
freely enjoy these gifts in the world. 

The sight of those nuns who had co-operated in bringing her 
hither was hateful to her : she remembered the arts and contrivances 
they had made use of, and repaid them with incivilities, caprices, 
and even with open reproaches. These they were obliged to bear in 
silence; for though the Prince was willing enough to tyrannize over 
his daughter when he found it necessary to force her into the 
cloister, yet having once obtained his purpose, he would not so 
willingly allow others to assume authority over one of his family; 
and any little rumour that might have reached his ears would have 
been an occasion of their losing his protection, or perhaps, unfor- 
tunately, of changing a protector into an enemy. It would seem 
that she might have felt some kind of leaning towards those other 
sisters who had not lent a hand in this foul system of intrigue, and 
who, without having desired her for a companion, loved her as 
such; and, always good, busy, and cheerful, showed her, by their 
example, that here too, it was possible not only to live, but to be 
happy: but these, also, were hateful to her, for another reason: 
their consistent piety and contentment seemed to cast a reproof 
upon her disquietude and waywardness; so that she never suffered 
an opportunity to escape of deriding them behind their backs as 
bigots, or reviling them as hyjxjcrites. Perhaps she would have 
been less averse to them, had she known, or guessed, that the few 
black balls found in the urn which decided her acceptance, had been 
put there by these very sisters. 

She sometimes felt a little satisfaction in commanding, in being 
courted by those within the monastery and visited most flatteringly 
by those without, in accomplishing some undertaking, in extending 
her protection, in hearing herself styled the Signora; but what con- 
solations were these? The mind which feels their insufficiency 
would gladly, at times, add to them, and enjoy with them, the con- 
solations of religion: yet the one cannot be obtained by renouncing 
the other; as a shipwrecked sailor, who would cling to the plank 
which is to bring him safely to shore, must relinquish his hold 
on the unsubstantial sea-weed which natural instinct had taught 
him to grasp. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 173 

Shortly after finally taking the veil, Gertrude had been appointed 
teacher of the young people who attended the convent for education, 
and it may easily be imagined what would be their situation under 
such discipline. Her early companions had all left, but the passions 
called into exercise by them still remained; and, in one way or the 
other, the pupils were compelled to feel their full weight. When she 
remembered that many of them were destined to that course of life 
of which she had lost every hope, she indulged against the poor 
children a feeling of rancour, which almost amounted to a desire 
of vengeance. This feeling she manifested by keeping them under, 
irritating them, and depreciating in anticipation the pleasures which 
they one day hoped to enjoy. Any one who had heard with what 
arrogant displeasure she rebuked them at such times for any little 
fault, would have imagined her a woman of undisciplined and in- 
judicious temper. On other occasions, the same hatred for the rules 
and discipline of the cloister was displayed in fits of temper entirely 
different: then, she not only supported the noisy diversions of her 
pupils, but excited them; she would mingle in their games, and 
make them more disorderly; and, joining in their conversations, 
would imperceptibly lead them far beyond their intended Umits. 
If one of them happened to allude to the Lady Abbess's love of gos- 
siping, their teacher would imitate it at length, and act it like a 
scene in a comedy; would mimic the expression of one nun and the 
manners of another; and on these occasions would laugh immoder- 
ately; but her laughter came not from her heart. Thus she passed 
several years of her life, with neither leisure nor opportunity to 
make any change, until, to her misfortune, an occasion unhappily 
presented itself. 

Among other privileges and distinctions accorded to her as a 
compensation for her not being abbess, was the sjjecial grant of a 
bed-chamber in a separate part of the monastery. This side of the 
building adjoined a house inhabited by a young man of professedly 
abandoned character; one of the many who, in those days, by the 
help of their retinues of bravoes, and by combinations with other 
villains, were enabled, up to a certain point, to set at defiance public 
force, and the authority of the laws. Our manuscript merely gives 
him the name of Egidio. This man, having, from a little window 



174 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

which overlooked the court-yard, seen Gertrude occasionally pass- 
ing, or idly loitering there, and allured, rather than intimidated, by 
the dangers and impiety of the act, ventured one day to address 
her. The miserable girl replied. At first she experienced a lively, 
but not unmixed satisfaction. Into the painful void of her soul was 
infused a powerful and continual stimulus; a fresh principle, as it 
were, of vitality; but this enjoyment was like the restorative draught 
which the ingenious cruelty of the ancients presented to a con- 
demned criminal, to strengthen him to bear the agonies of martyr- 
dom. A great change, at the same time, was observable in her 
whole deportment; she became all at once more regular and tranquil, 
less bitter and sarcastic, and even showed herself friendly and 
affable; so that the sisters congratulated each other on the happy 
change; so far were they from imagining the real cause, and from 
understanding that this new virtue was nothing else than hypocrisy 
added to her former failings. This improvement, however, this 
external cleansing, so to speak, lasted but a short time, at least with 
any steadiness or consistency. She soon returned to her accustomed 
scorn and caprice, and renewed her imprecations and raillery against 
her cloistral prison, expressed sometimes in language hitherto un- 
heard in that place, and from those lips. Nevertheless, a season of 
repentance succeeded each outbreak, and an endeavour to atone for 
it and wipe out its remembrance by additional courtesies and kind- 
ness. The sisters were obliged to bear all these vicissitudes as they 
best could, and attributed them to the wayward and fickle disposition 
of the Signora. 

For some time no one seemed to think any longer about these 
matters; but one day the Signora, having had a dispute with a lay- 
sister for some trifling irregularity, continued to insult her so long 
beyond her usual bounds, that the sister, after having for some time 
gnawed the bit in silence, could no longer keep her patience, and 
threw out a hint that she knew something, and would reveal it 
when an opportunity occurred. From that moment the Signora 
had no peace. It was not long after that, one morning, the sister was 
in vain expected at her usual employment; she was sought in her 
cell, but fruitlessly; she was called loudly by many voices, but there 
was no reply; she was hunted and sought for diligently, here and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 175 

there, above, below, from the cellar to the roof; but she was nowhere 
to be found. And who knows what conjectures might have been 
made, if, in searching for her, it had not happened that a large 
hole was discovered in the garden wall, which induced every one 
to think that she had made her escape thence. Messengers were 
immediately despatched in various directions to overtake her and 
bring her back; every inquiry was made in the surrounding country; 
but there was never the slightest information about her. Perhaps 
they might have known more of her fate, had they, instead of 
seeking at a distance, dug up the ground near at hand. After many 
expressions of surprise, because they never thought her a likely 
woman for such a deed; after many arguments, they concluded 
that she must have fled to some very great distance; and because 
a sister happened once to say, 'She must certainly have taken refuge 
in Holland,' it was ever after said and maintained in the monastery 
that she had fled to Holland. The Signora, however, did not seem 
to be of this opinion. Not that she manifested any disbelief, or 
opposed the prevailing idea with her particular reasons; if she had 
any, certainly never were reasons better concealed; nor was there 
anything from which she more willingly abstained, than from 
alluding to this event, nor any matter in which she was less desirous 
to come to the bottom of the mystery. But the less she spoke of it, 
the more did it occupy her thoughts. How often during the day 
did the image of the ill-fated nun rush unbidden into her mind, 
and fix itself there, not easily to be removed! How often did she 
long to see the real and living being before her, rather than have her 
always in her thoughts, rather than be day and night in the com- 
pany of that empty, terrible, impassible form! How often would 
she gladly have listened to her real voice, and borne her rebukes, 
whatever they might threaten, rather than be for ever haunted in 
the depths of her mental ear by the imaginary whisperings of that 
same voice, and hear words to which it was useless to reply, repeated 
with a pertinacity and an indefatigable perseverance of which no 
living being was ever capable! 

It was about a year after this event, that Lucia was presented to 
the Signora, and had the interview with her which we have de- 
scribed. The Signora multiplied her inquiries about Don Rodrigo's 



176 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

persecution, and entered into particulars with a boldness which 
must have appeared worse than novel to Lucia, who had never 
imagined that the curiosity of nuns could be exercised on such sub- 
jects. The opinions also which were mingled with these inquiries, 
or which she allowed to appear, were not less strange. She seemed 
almost to ridicule Lucia's great horror for the nobleman, and asked 
whether he were deformed, that he excited so much fear; and 
would have esteemed her retiring disposition almost irrational and 
absurd, if she had not beforehand given the preference to Renzo. 
And on this choice, too, she multiplied questions which astonished 
the poor girl, and put her to the blush. Perceiving, however, after- 
wards, that she had given too free expression to her imagination, she 
tried to correct and interpret her language differently; but she could 
not divest Lucia's mind of a disagreeable wonder, and confused 
dread. No sooner did the poor girl find herself alone with her 
mother, than she opened her whole mind to her; but Agnese, being 
more experienced, in a very few words quieted her doubts, and 
solved the mystery. 'Don't be surprised,' said she; 'when you know 
the world as well as I, you'll not think it anything very wonderful. 
Great people — some more, some less, some one way, and some 
another, — have all a little oddity. We must let them talk, par- 
ticularly when we have need of them; we must pretend to be 
listening to them seriously, as if they were saying very bright things. 
Didn't you hear how she silenced me, almost as if I had uttered 
some great nonsense? I was not a bit surprised at it. They are 
all so. However, Heaven be praised, that she seems to have taken 
such a fancy to you, and will really protect us. As to the rest, if 
you live, my child, and it falls to your lot to have anything more 
to do with gentlemen, you'll understand it, you'll understand it.' 
A desire to oblige the Father-guardian; the pleasure of extending 
protection; the thought of the good opinions that would result 
from so charitable an exercise of that protection; a certain inclina- 
tion for Lucia, added to a kind of relief she would feel in doing a 
kindness to an innocent creature, and in assisting and comforting 
the oppressed, were the inducements which had really inclined the 
Signora to take an interest in the fate of these two poor fugitives. 
In obedience to the orders she gave, and from regard to the anxiety 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 177 

she displayed, they were lodged in the apartments of the portress, 
adjoining the cloister, and treated as if they were admitted into the 
service of the monastery. Both mother and daughter congratulated 
themselves on having so soon found a secure and honourable asylum, 
and would gladly have remained unknown by every one; but this 
was not easy in a monastery, more especially when there was a 
man determined to get information about one of them; in whose 
mind vexation at having been foiled and deceived was added to 
his former passions and desires. Leaving the two women, then, in 
their retreat, we will return to this wretch's palace, while he was 
waiting the result of his iniquitous undertaking. 



CHAPTER XI 

AS a pack of hounds, after in vain tracking a hare, return 
/ \ desponding to their master, with heads hung down, and 
JL .^ drooping tails, so, on this disastrous night, did the bravoes 
return to the palace of Don Rodrigo. He was listlessly pacing to and 
fro, in an unoccupied room up-stairs that overlooked the terrace. 
Now and then he would stop to listen, or to peep through the 
chinks in the decayed window-frames, full of impatience, and not 
entirely free from disquietude — not only for the doubtfulness of 
success, but also for the possible consequences of the enterprise: 
this being the boldest and most hazardous in which our valiant 
cavalier had ever engaged. He endeavoured, however, to reassure 
himself with the thought of the precautions he had taken that not 
a trace of the perpetrator should be left. 'As to suspicions, I care 
nothing for them. I should like to know who would be inclined 
to come hither, to ascertain if there be a young girl here or not. 
Let him dare to come — the rash fool — and he shall be well received! 
Let the friar come, if he pleases. The old woman? She shall be 
off to Bergamo. Justice? Poh! Justice! The Podesti is neither 
a child nor a fool. And at Milan? Who will care for these people 
at Milan? Who will Usten to them? Who knows even what they 
are? They are like lost people in the world, — they haven't even a 
master: they belong to no one. Cortie, come, never fear. How 
Attilio will be silenced to-morrow! He shall see whether I am a 
man to talk and boast. And then ... If any difficulty should 
ensue . . . What do I know? Any enemy who would seize this 
occasion . • . Attilio will be able to advise me; he is pledged to it 
for the honour of the whole family.' But the idea on which he 
dwelt most, because he found it both a soother of his doubts and 
a nourisher of his predominating passion, was the thought of the 
flatteries and promises he would employ to gain over Lucia. 'She 
will be so terrified at finding herself here alone, in the midst of 

178 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 179 

these faces, that ... in troth, mine is the most human among 
them . . . that she will look to me, will throw herself upon her 
knees to pray; and if she prays . . .' 

While indulging in these fine anticipations, he hears a footstep, 
goes to the window, opens it a little, and peeps through: 'It is they. 
And the litter! — Where is the litter? Three, five, eight; they are all 
there; there's Griso too; the litter's not there: — Griso shall give 
me an account of this.' 

When they reached the house, Griso deposited his staff, cap, 
and pilgrim's habit, in a corner of the ground-floor apartment, 
and, as if carrying a burden which no one at the moment envied 
him, ascended to render his account to Don Rodrigo. He was 
waiting for him at the head of the stairs; and on his approaching 
with the foolish and awkward air of a deluded villain, 'Well,' said, 
or rather vociferated, he, 'Signer Boaster, Signor Captain, Signer 
Leave-it-to-me?' 

'It is hard,' replied Griso, resting one foot on the top step, 'it is 
hard to be greeted with reproaches after having laboured faithfully, 
and endeavoured to do one's duty, at the risk of one's life.' 

'How has it gone? Let us hear, let us hear,' said Don Rodrigo; 
and, turning towards his room, Griso followed him, and briefly 
related how he had arranged, what he had done, seen and not seen, 
heard, feared, and retrieved; relating it with that order and that 
confusion, that dubiousness and that astonishment, which must 
necessarily have together taken p)ossession of his ideas. 

'You are not to blame, and have done your best,' said Don 
Rodrigo. 'You have done what you could; but . . . but, if under 
this roof there be a spy! If there be, if I succeed in discovering him 
(and you may rest assured I'll discover him if he's here), I'll settle 
matters with him; I promise you, Griso, I'll pay him as he deserves.' 

'The same suspicion, Signor,' replied he, 'has crossed my mind; 
and if it be true, and we discover a villain of this sort, my master 
should put it into my hands. One who has diverted himself by 
making me pass such a night as this; it is my business to pay him 
for it. However, all things considered, it seems likely there may 
have been some other cross purposes, which now we cannot fathom. 
To-morrow, Signor, to-morrow we shall be in clear water.' 



l8o ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Do you think you have been recognized?' 

Griso replied that he hoped not; and the conclusion of the inter- 
view was, that Don Rodrigo ordered him to do three things next 
day, which he would have thought of well enough by himself. 
One was, to despatch two men, in good time in the morning, to 
the constable, with the intimation which we have already noticed; 
two others to the old house, to ramble about, and keep at a proper 
distance any loiterer who might happen to come there, and to 
conceal the litter from every eye till nightfall, when they would 
send to fetch it, since it would not do to excite suspicion by any 
further measures at present; and lastly, to go himself on a tour of 
discovery, and despatch several others, of the most dexterity and 
good sense, on the same errand, that he might learn something of 
the causes and issue of the confusion of the night. Having given 
these orders, Don Rodrigo retired to bed, leaving Griso to follow 
his example, bidding him good night, and loading him with 
praises, through which appeared an evident desire to make some 
atonement, and in a manner to apologize for the precipitate haste 
with which he had reproached him on his arrival. 

Go, take some rest, poor Griso, for thou must surely need it. 
Poor Griso! Labouring hard all day, labouring hard half the night, 
without counting the danger of falling into the hands of villains, 
or of having a price set upon thy head 'for the seizure of an honest 
woman,' in addition to those already laid upon thee, and then to 
be received in this manner! but thus men often reward their fellows. 
Thou mightest, nevertheless, see in this instance, that sometimes 
people judge according to merit, and that matters are adjusted even 
in this world. Go, rest awhile; for some day thou mayest be called 
upon to give another and more considerable proof of thy faithfulness. 

Next morning, Griso was again surrounded with business on all 
hands, when Don Rodrigo rose. This nobleman quickly sought 
Count Attiiio, who, the moment he saw him approach, called out 
to him, with a look and gesture of raillery, 'Saint Martini' 

'I have nothing to say,' replied Don Rodrigo, as he drew near: 
'I will pay the wager; but it is not this that vexes me most. I told 
you nothing about it, because, I confess, I thought to surprise you 
this morning. But . . . stay, I will tell you all.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI l8l 

'That friar has a hand in this business,' said his cousin, after 
having listened to the account with suspense and wonderment, and 
with more seriousness than could have been expected from a man 
of his temf)erament. 'I always thought that friar, with his dis- 
sembling and out-of-the-way answers, was a knave and a hypocrite. 
And you never opened yourself to me, — you never told me plainly 
what happened to entertain you the other day.' Don Rodrigo related 
the conversation. 'And did you submit to that?' exclaimed Count 
Attilio. 'Did you let him go away as he came?' 

'Would you have me draw upon myself all the Capuchins of 
Italy?' 

'I don't know,' said Attilio, 'whether I should have remembered, 
at that moment, that there was another Capuchin in the world 
except this daring knave; but surely, even under the rules of 
prudence, there must be some way of getting satisfaction even on 
a Capuchin! We must manage to redouble civilities cleverly to 
the whole body, and then we can give a blow to one member with 
impunity. However, the fellow has escaped the punishment he 
best deserved; but I'll take him under my protection, and have the 
gratification of teaching him how to talk to gentlemen such as 
we are.' 

'Don't make matters worse for me.' 

'Trust me for once, and I'll serve you like a relation and a friend.' 

'What do you intend to do?' 

'I don't know yet; but rest assured I'll pay off the friar. I'll think 
about it, and ... my uncle, the Signor Count of the Privy Council, 
will be the man to help me. Dear uncle Count! How fine it is, 
when I can make a politician of his stamp do all my work for me! 
The day after to-morrow I shall be at Milan, and, in one way or 
other, the friar shall be rewarded.' 

In the mean while breakfast was announced, which, however, 
made no interruption in the discussion of an affair of so much 
importance. Count Attilio talked about it freely; and though he 
took that side which his friendship to his cousin and the honour 
of his name required, according to his ideas of friendship and 
honour, yet he could not help occasionally finding something to 
laugh at in the ill-success of his relative and friend. But Don 



1 82 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Rodrigo, who felt it was his own cause, and who had so signally 
failed when hoping quietly to strike a great blow, was agitated by 
stronger passions, and distracted by more vexatious thoughts. 'Fine 
talk,' said he, 'these rascals will make in the neighbourhood. But 
what do I care.'' As to justice, I laugh at it: there is no proof against 
me, and even if there were, I should care for it just as Uttle: the 
constable was warned this morning to take good heed, at the risk 
of his life, that he makes no deposition of what has happened. 
Nothing will follow from it; but gossiping, when carried to any 
length, is very annoying to me. It's quite enough that I have been 
bullied so unmercifully.' 

"You did quite rightly,' replied Count Attilio. 'Your Podesta 
... an obstinate, empty-pated, prosing fellow, that Podesta ... is 
nevertheless a gentleman, a man who knows his duty; and it is 
just when we have to do with such people, that we must take care 
not to bring them into difficulties. If that rascal of a constable should 
make a deposition, the Podest^, however well-intentioned, would 
be obliged . . .' 

'But you,' interrupted Don Rodrigo, with some warmth, 'you 
spoil all my affairs by contradicting him in everything, by silencing 
him, and laughing at him on every occasion. Why cannot a Podesta 
be an obstinate fool, when at the same time he is a gentleman?' 

'Do you know, cousin,' said Count Attilio, glancing towards 
him a look of raillery and surprise; 'do you know that I begin to 
think you are half afraid? In earnest, you may rest assured that 
the Podesta . . .' 

'Well, well, didn't you yourself say that we must be careful . . .?' 

'I did: and when it is a serious matter, I'll let you see that I'm 
not a child. Do you know all that I have courage to do for you? 
I am ready to go in person to this Signor Podesta. Aha! how proud 
he will be of the honour! And I am ready, moreover, to let him 
talk for half an hour about the Count Duke, and the Spanish Signor, 
the governor of the castle, and to give an ear to everything, even 
when he talks so mightily about these people. Then I will throw 
in a few words about my uncle, the Signor Count of the Privy 
Council, and you will see what effect these words in the ear of the 
Signor Podesti will produce. After all, he has more need of our pro- 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 183 

tection than you of his condescension. 1 will do my best, and will 
go to him, and leave him better disposed towards you than ever.' 

After these, and a few similar words, Count Attilio set off on his 
expedition, and Don Rodrigo remained awaiting with anxiety Griso's 
return. Towards dinner-time he made his appearance, and reported 
the success of his reconnoitering tour. 

The tumult of the preceding night had been so clamorous, the 
disappearance of three persons from a village was so strange an 
occurrence, that the inquiries, both from interest and curiosity, 
would naturally be many, eager, and persevering; and, on the other 
hand, those who knew something were too numerous to agree in 
maintaining silence on the matter. Perpetua could not set foot out 
of doors without being assailed by one or another to know what it 
was that had so alarmed her master, and she herself, reviewing and 
comparing all the circumstances of the case, and perceiving how she 
had been imposed upon by Agnese, fek so much indignation at the 
act of perfidy, that she was ever ready to give vent to her feelings. 
Not that she complained to this or that person of the manner in 
which she was imposed upon: on this subject she did not breathe a 
syllable; but the trick played upon her poor master she could not 
altogether pass over in silence; especially as such a trick had been 
concerted and attempted by that gentle creature, that good youth, 
and that worthy widow. Don Abbondio, indeed, might positively 
forbid her, and earnestly entreat her to be silent; and she could 
easily enough reply that there was no need to urge upon her what 
was so clear and evident; but certain it is that such a secret in the 
poor woman's breast was like very new wine in an old and badly 
hooped cask, which ferments, and bubbles, and boils, and if it does 
not send the bung into the air, works itself about till it issues in 
froth, and penetrates between the staves, and oozes out in drops 
here and there, so that one can taste it, and almost decide what kind 
of wine it is. Gervase, who could scarcely believe that for once he 
was better informed than his neighbours, who thought it no little 
glory to have been a sharer in such a scene of terror, and who fancied 
himself a man like the others, from having lent a hand in an enter- 
prise that bore the appearance of criminality, was dying to make a 
boast of it. And though Tonio, who thought with some dread of 



184 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the inquiries, the possible processes, and the account that would 
have to be rendered, gave him many injunctions with his finger 
upon his lips, yet it was not possible to silence every word. Even 
Tonio himself, after having been absent from home that night at 
an unusual hour, and returning with an unusual step and air, and 
an excitement of mind that disposed him to candour, — even he could 
not dissimulate the matter with his wife; and she was not dumb. 
The person who talked least was Menico; for no sooner had he 
related to his parents the history and the object of his expedition, 
than it appeared to them so terrible a thing that their son had been 
employed in frustrating an undertaking of Don Rodrigo's, that they 
scarcely suffered the boy to finish his narration. They then gave him 
most strenuous and threatening orders to take good heed that he did 
not give the least hint of anything; and the next morning, not yet 
feeling sufficiently confident in him, they resolved to keep him shut 
up in the house for at least that day, and perhaps even longer. But 
what then? They themselves afterwards, in chatting with their 
neighbours, without wishing to show that they knew more than 
others, yet when they came to that mysterious point in the flight of 
the three fugitives, and the how, and the why, and the where, added, 
almost as a well-known thing, that they had fled to Pescarenico. 
Thus this circumstance also was generally noised abroad. 

With all these scraps of information, put together and compared 
as usual, and with the embellishments naturally attached to such 
relations, there were grounds for a story of more certainty and clear- 
ness than common, and such as might have contented the most crit- 
icizing mind. But the invasion of the bravoes — an event too serious 
and notorious to be left out, and one on which nobody had any 
positive information — was what rendered the story dark and per- 
plexing. The name of Don Rodrigo was whispered about; and so 
far all were agreed; but beyond, everything was obscurity and dis- 
sension. Much was said about the two bravoes who had been seen 
in the street towards evening, and of the other who had stood at 
the inn door; but what light could be drawn from this naked fact.^ 
They inquired of the landlord, 'Who had been there the night 
before?' but the landlord could not even remember that he had seen 
anybody that evening; and concluded his answer, as usual, with the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 185 

remark that his inn was like a sea-port. Above all, the pilgrim seen 
by Stefano and Carlandrea puzzled their heads and disarranged 
their conjectures — that pilgrim whom the robbers were murdering, 
and who had gone away with them, or whom they had carried off — 
what could he be doing? He was a good spirit come to the aid of 
the women; he was the wicked spirit of a roguish pilgrim-impostor, 
who always came by night to join such companions, and perform 
such deeds, as he had been accustomed to when alive; he was a 
living and true pilgrim, whom they attempted to murder, because 
he was preparing to arouse the village; he was (just see what they 
went so far as to conjecture!) one of these very villains, disguised as 
a pilgrim; he was this, he was that; he was so many things, that all 
the sagacity and experience of Griso would not have sufficed to dis- 
cover who he was, if he had been obliged to glean this part of the 
story from others. But, as the reader knows, that which rendered 
it so perplexing to others, was exactly the clearest point to him; 
and serving as a key to interpret the other notices, either gathered 
immediately by himself, or through the medium of his subordinate 
spies, it enabled him to lay before Don Rodrigo a report sufficiently 
clear and connected. Closeted with him, he told him of the blow 
attempted by the poor lovers, which naturally accounted for his 
finding the house empty, and the ringing of the bell, without which 
they would have been obliged to suspect traitors (as these two worthy 
men expressed it) in the house. He told him of the flight; and for 
this, too, it was easy to find more than one reason — the fear of the 
lovers on being taken in a fault, or some rumour of their invasion, 
when it was discovered, and the village roused. Lastly, he told 
him that they had gone to Pescarenico, but further than this 
his knowledge did not extend. Don Rodrigo was pleased to be 
assured that no one had betrayed him, and to find that no traces 
remained of his enterprise; but it was a light and passing pleasure. 
'Fled together!' cried he: 'together! And that rascally friar! — that 
friar!' The word burst forth hoarsely from his throat, and half- 
smothered between his teeth, as he bit his nails with vexation: his 
countenance was as brutal as his passion. 'That friar shall answer 
for it. Griso, I am not myself ... I must know, I must find out 
. . . this night I must know where they are. I have no peace. To 



1 86 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Pescarenico directly, to know, to see, to find . , . Four crowns on 
the spot, and my protection for ever. This night I must know. And 
that villain! . . . that friar . . .' 

Once more Griso was in the field; and in the evening of that same 
day he could impart to his worthy patron the desired information, 
and by this means. 

One of the greatest consolations of this world is friendship, and 
one of the pleasures of friendship is to have some one to whom we 
may entrust a secret. Now, friends are not divided into pairs, as 
husband and wife: everybody, generally speaking, has more than 
one; and this forms a chain of which no one can find the first link. 
When, then, a friend meets with an opportunity of depositing a 
secret in the breast of another, he, in his turn, seeks to share in the 
same pleasure. He is entreated, to be sure, to say nothing to any- 
body; and such a condition, if taken in the strict sense of the 
words, would immediately cut short the chain of these gratifications: 
but general practice has determined that it only forbids the entrust- 
ing of a secret to everybody but one equally confidential friend, 
imposing upon him, of course, the same conditions. Thus, from 
confidential friend to confidential friend, the secret threads its way 
along this immense chain, until, at last, it reaches the ear of him 
or them whom the first speaker exactly intended it should never 
reach. However, it would, generally, have to be a long time on the 
way, if everybody had but two friends, the one who tells him, and 
the one to whom he repeats it with the injunction of silence. But 
some highly favoured men there are who reckon these blessings by 
the hundred, and when the secret comes into the hands of one of 
these, the circles multiply so rapidly that it is no longer possible to 
pursue them. 

Our author has been imable to certify through how many mouths 
the secret had passed which Griso was ordered to discover, but cer- 
tain it is that the good man who had escorted the women to Monza, 
returning in his cart to Pescarenico, towards evening, happened, 
before reaching home, to light upon one of these trustworthy friends, 
to whom he related, in confidence, the good work he had just 
completed, and its sequel; and it is equally certain that, two hours 
afterwards, Griso was able to return to the palace, and inform Don 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 187 

Rodrigo that Lucia and her mother had found refuge in a convent 
at Monza, and that Renzo had pursued his way to Milan. 

Don Rodrigo felt a malicious satisfaction on hearing of this 
separation, and a revival of hope that he might at length accomplish 
his wicked designs. He spent great part of the night in meditating 
on his plans, and arose early in the morning with two projects in 
his mind, the one determined upon, the other only roughly sketched 
out. The first was immediately to despatch Griso to Monza, to learn 
more particular tidings of Lucia, and to know what (if anything) 
he might attempt. He therefore instantly summoned this faithful 
servant, placed in his hand four crowns, again commended him 
for the ability by which he had earned them, and gave him the 
order he had been premeditating. 

'Signor . . .' said Griso, feeling his way. 

'What? haven't I spoken clearly?' 

'If you would send somebody . . .' 

'How?' 

'Most illustrious Signor, I am ready to give my life for my master: 
it is my duty; but I know also you would not be willing unneces- 
sarily to risk that of your dependents.' 

'Well?' 

'Your illustrious lordship knows very well how many prices are 
already set upon my head; and . . . here I am under the protection 
of your lordship; we are a party; the Signor Podesta is a friend of 
the family; the bailiffs bear me some respect; and I, too ... it is 
a thing that does me little honour — but to live quietly ... I treat 
them as friends. In Milan, your lordship's livery is known; but in 
Monza / am known there instead. And is your lordship aware 
that — I don't say it to make a boast of myself — that any one who 
could hand me over to justice, or deliver in my head, would strike 
a great blow. A hundred crowns at once, and the privilege of liberat- 
ing two banditti.' 

'What!' exclaimed Don Rodrigo, with an oath: 'you showing 
yourself a vile cur that has scarcely courage to fly at the legs of a 
passer-by, looking behind him for fear they should shut the door 
upon him, and not daring to leave it four yards!' 

'I think, Signor patron, that I have given proof . . .' 



l88 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Then!' 

'Then,' frankly replied Griso, when thus brought to the point, 
'then your lordship will be good enough to reckon as if 1 had never 
spoken: heart of a lion, legs of a hare, and I am ready to set off.' 

'And I didn't say you should go alone. Take with you two of 
the bravest . . . lo Sfregiato,' and il Tiradritto:^ go with a good 
heart, and be our own Griso. What! three faces like yours, quietly 
passing by, who do you think wouldn't be glad to let them pass? 
The bailiffs at Monza must needs be weary of life to stake against 
it a hundred crowns in so hazardous a game. And, besides, don't 
you think I am so utterly unknown there, that a servant of mine 
would be counted as nobody.' 

After thus shaming Griso a little, he proceeded to give him more 
ample and particular instructions. Griso took his two companions, 
and set off with a cheerful and hardy look, but cursing, in the bottom 
of his heart, Monza, and interdicts, and women, and the fancies of 
patrons; he walked on like a wolf which, urged by hunger, his body 
emaciated, and the furrows of his ribs impressed upon his grey hide, 
descends from the mountains, where everything is covered with 
snow, proceeds suspiciously along the plain, stops, from time to time, 
with uplifted foot, and waves his hairless tail; 

'Raises his nose, and snuffs the faithless wind.' 

if perchance it may bring him the scent of man or beast; erects his 
sharp ears, and rolls around two sanguinary eyes, from which shine 
forth both eagerness for the prey and terror of pursuit. If the reader 
wishes to know whence I have got this fine line, it is taken from a 
small unpublished work on Crusaders and Lombards, which will 
shortly be published, and make a great stir; and I have borrowed it 
because it suited my purpose, and told where I got it, that I might 
not take credit due to others: so let no one think it a plan of mine 
to proclaim that the author of this little book and I are like brothers, 
and that I rummage at will among his manuscripts. 

The other project of Don Rodrigo'si was the devising of some 

plan to prevent Renzo's again rejoining Lucia, or setting foot in 

that part of the country. He therefore resolved to spread abroad 

rumours of threats and snares, which, coming to his hearing through 

' Cut-face. ' Aim-well. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 189 

some friend, might deprive him of any wish to return to that neigh- 
bourhood. He thought, however, that the surest way of doing this 
would be to procure his banishment by the state; and to succeed in 
his project, he felt that law would be more likely to answer his pur- 
pose than force. He could, for example, give a little colouring to the 
attempt made at the parsonage, paint it as an aggressive and seditious 
act, and, by means of the doctor, signify to the Podesta that this 
was an opportunity of issuing an apprehension against Renzo. But 
our deliberator quickly perceived that it would not do for him to 
meddle in this infamous negotiation; and, without pondering over it 
any longer, he resolved to open his mind to Doctor Azzecca- 
Garbugli; so far, that is, as was necessary to make him acquainted 
with his desire. — There are so many edicts! thought Don Rodrigo: 
and the Doctor's not a goose: he will be sure to find something to 
suit my purpose — some quarrel to pick with this rascally fellow of 
a weaver: otherwise he must give up his name. — But (how strangely 
matters are brought about in this world!) while Don Rodrigo was 
thus fixing upon the doctor, as the man most able to serve him, 
another person, one that nobody would imagine, even Renzo himself, 
was labouring, so to say, with all his heart, to serve him, in a far 
more certain and expeditious way than any the doctor could pxjssibly 
have devised. 

I have often seen a child, more active, certainly, than needs be, 
but at every movement giving earnest of becoming, some day, a 
brave man: I have often, I say, seen such a one busied, towards 
evening, in driving to cover a drove of little Indian pigs, which 
had been allowed all day to ramble about in a field or orchard. 
He would try to make them all enter the fold in a drove; but it 
was labour in vain: one would strike off to the right, and while the 
little drover was running to bring him back into the herd, another, 
or two, or three, would start off to the left, in every direction. So 
that, after getting out of all patience, he at last adapted himself to 
their ways, first driving in those which were nearest to the entrance, 
and then going to fetch the others, one or two at a time, as they hap- 
pened to have strayed away. A similar game we are obliged to play 
with our characters; — having sheltered Lucia, we ran to Don 
Rodrigo, and now we must leave him to receive Renzo, who meets 
us in our way. 



1 90 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

After the mournful separation we have related, he proceeded from 
Monza towards Milan, in a state of mind our readers can easily 
imagine. To leave his own dwelling; and, what was worse, his 
native village; and, what was worse still, Lucia; to find himself on 
the high road, without knowing where he was about to lay his head, 
and all on account of that villain! When this image presented itself 
to Renzo's mind, he would be quite swallowed up with rage and 
the desire of vengeance; but then he would recollect the prayer 
which he had joined in offering up with the good friar in the 
church at Pescarenico, and repent of his anger; then he would again 
be roused to indignation; but seeing an image in the wall, he would 
take off his hat, and stop a moment to repeat a prayer; so that during 
this journey he had killed Don Rodrigo, and raised him to life 
again, at least twenty times. The road here was completely buried 
between two high banks, muddy, stony, furrowed with deep cart- 
ruts, which, after a shower, became perfect streams; and where these 
did not form a sufficient bed for the water, the whole road was 
inundated and reduced to a pool, so as to be almost impassable. At 
such places, a steep foot-path, in the form of steps, up the bank, 
indicated that other passengers had made a track in the fields. Renzo 
mounted by one of these passes to the more elevated ground, and, 
looking around him, beheld the noble pile of the cathedral towering 
alone above the plain, not as if standing in the midst of a city, but 
rather as though it rose from a desert. He paused, forgetful of all 
his sorrows, and contemplated thus at a distance that eighth wonder 
of the world, of which he had heard so much from his infancy. But 
turning round, after a moment or two, he beheld along the horizon 
that rugged ridge of mountains: he beheld, distinct and elevated 
among these, his own Resegone, and felt his blood curdle within 
him; then indulging for a few minutes in a mournful look in that 
direction, he slowly and sadly turned round, and continued his way. 
By degrees, he began to discern belfries and towers, cupolas and 
roofs; then descending into the road, he walked forward for a long 
time; and, when he found that he was near the city, accosted a 
passenger, and making a low bow, with the best p>oliteness he was 
master of, said to him, 'Will you be kind enough, Signor . . .?' 

'What do you want, my brave youth.'' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 191 

'Can you direct me the shortest way to the Capuchin Convent 
where Father Bonaventura hves?' 

The person to whom Renzo addressed himself was a wealthy 
resident in the neighbourhood, who having been that morning to 
Milan on business, was returning without having done anything, 
in great haste to reach his home before dark, and therefore quite 
wiUing to escape this detention. Nevertheless, without betraying 
any impatience, he courteously rephed: 'My good friend, there are 
many more convents than one; you must tell me more clearly which 
one you are seeking.' Renzo then drew from his bosom Father 
Cristoforo's letter, and showed it to the gentleman, who having 
read the address; 'Porta Orientale,' said he, returning it to him; 
'you are fortunate, young man; the convent you want is not far 
hence. Take this narrow street to the left; it is a by-way; not far 
off you will come to the corner of a long and low building: this is 
the Lazaretto; follow the moat that surrounds it, and you will come 
out at the Porta Orientale. Enter the gate, and three or four hundred 
yards further, you will see a little square surrounded by elms; there 
is the convent, and you cannot mistake it. God be with you, my 
brave youth.' And, accompanying the last words with a courteous 
wave of the hand, he continued his way. Renzo stood surprised 
and edified at the affable manners of the citizens towards strangers, 
and knew not that it was an unusual day — a day in which the 
Spanish cloak had to stoop before the doublet. He followed the path 
that had been pointed out, and arrived at the Porta Orientale. The 
reader, however, must not allow the scene now associated with this 
name to present itself to his mind: the wide and straight street 
flanked with jwplars, outside; the spacious opening between two 
piles of building, begun, at least, with some pretensions; on first 
entering these two lateral mounds at the base of the bastions, 
regularly slojied, levelled at the top, and edged with trees; that 
garden on one side, and further on, those palaces on the right and 
left of the principal street of the suburb. When Renzo entered by 
that gate, the street outside ran straight along the whole length of 
the Lazaretto, it being impossible for it, for that distance, to do other- 
wise; then it continued crooked and narrow between the two hedges. 
The gate consisted of two pillars with a roofing above to protect the 



192 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

door-posts, and on one side a small cottage for the custom-house 
ofiScers. The bases of the bastions were of irregular steepness, and 
the pavement was a rough and unequal surface of rubbish and 
fragments of broken vessels thrown there by chance. The street 
of the suburb which opened to the view of a person entering the 
Porta Orientale, bore no bad resemblance to that now facing the 
entrance of the Porta Tosa. A small ditch ran along the middle, 
till within a few yards of the gate, and thus divided it into two 
winding narrow streets, covered with dust or mud, according to 
the season. At the spot where was, and now is, the little street called 
the Borghetto, this ditch emptied itself into a sewer, and thence 
into the other ditch that washes the walls. Here stood a column 
surmounted by a cross, called the Column of San Dionigi: on the 
right and left were gardens enclosed by hedges, and at intervals 
a few small cottages, inhabited chiefly by washerwomen. Renzo 
entered the gate, and pursued his way; none of the custom-house 
officers spoke to him, which appeared to him the more wonderful, 
since the few in this country who could boast of having been at 
Milan, had related marvellous stories of the examinations and inter- 
rogations to which all those who entered were subjected. The street 
was deserted; so much so, that had he not heard a distant buzz 
indicating some great movement, he would have fancied he was 
entering a forsaken town. Advancing forward, without knowing 
what to make of this, he saw on the pavement certain white streaks, 
as white as snow; but snow it could not be, since it does not fall in 
streaks, nor usually at this season. He advanced to one of these, 
looked at it, touched it, and felt assured that it was flour. — A great 
abundance, thought he, there must be in Milan, if they scatter in 
this manner the gifts of God. They gave us to understand that there 
was a great famine everywhere. See how they go about to make us 
poor people quiet. — Going a few steps further, and coming up to the 
column, he saw at its foot a still stranger sight; scattered about on 
the steps of the pedestal were things which certainly were not stones, 
and, had they been on a baker's counter, he would not have hesitated 
a moment to call them loaves. But Renzo would not so readily 
trust his eyes; because, forsooth! this was not a likely place for bread. 
— ^Let us see what these things can be, — said he again to himself; 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 193 

and, going to the column, he stooped down, and took one in his 
hand: it was really a round, very white loaf, and such as Renzo was 
unaccustomed to eat, except on holy days. — It is really bread! said 
he aloud, so great was his astonishment: — is this the way they 
scatter it in this country? in such a year too? and don't they even 
give themselves the trouble to pick up what falls? this must be the 
land of the Cuccagna!' After ten miles' walk in the fresh morning 
air, this bread, when he had recovered his self-possession, aroused 
his appetite. — Shall I take it? deliberated he: poh! they have left 
it here to the discretion of dogs, and surely a Christian may taste it. 
And, after all, if the owner comes forward, I will pay him. — Thus 
reasoning, he put the loaf he held in his hand into one pocket, took 
up a second and put it into the other, and a third, which he began 
to eat, and then proceeded on his way, more uncertain than ever, 
and longing to have this strange mystery cleared up. Scarcely had 
he started, when he saw people issuing from the interior of the 
city, and he stood still to watch those who first appeared. They were 
a man, a woman, and, a little way behind, a boy; all three carrying 
a load on their backs which seemed beyond their strength, and all 
three in a most extraordinary condition. Their dress, or rather their 
rags, covered with flour, their faces floured, and, at the same time, 
distorted and much heated; they walked not only as if wearied by 
their load, but trembling as if their limbs had been beaten and 
bruised. The man staggered under the weight of a large sack of 
flour, which, here and there in holes, scattered a shower around at 
every stumble, at every disturbance of his equilibrium. But the 
figure of the woman was still more awkward: an unwieldy bulk, 
two extended arms which seemed to bear it up with difficulty, and 
looked Uke two carved handles from the neck to the widest part 
of a large kilderkin, and beneath this enormous body, two legs, 
naked up to the knees, which could scarcely totter along. Renzo 
gazed steadily at this great bulk, and discovered that it was the 
woman's gown turned up around her, with as much flour in it as 
it could hold, and rather more, so that from time to time it was 
scattered in handfuls over the ground. The boy held with both 
hands a basket full of bread upon his head; but, from having shorter 
' The name of an ideal country, affording all sorts of pleasure. 



194 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

legs than his parents, he kept falling behind by degrees, and in 
running forward to overtake them, the basket lost its balance, and 
a few loaves fell. 

'If you let another fall, you vile, helpless . . .* said the mother, 
gnashing her teeth at the child. 

'I don't let them fall; they fall themselves. How can I help it?* 
replied he. 

'Eh! it's well for you that I have my hands engaged,' rejoined the 
woman, shaking her fist, as if she would have given the poor child 
a blow; and with this movement she sent forth a fresh cloud of 
flour, enough to have made more than the two loaves the boy had 
let fall. 

'Come, come,' said the man, 'we will go back presently to pick 
them up, or somebody will do it for us: we have been a long while 
in want: now that we have got a little abundance, let us enjoy it in 
blessed peace.' 

In the mean time people arrived from without; and one of them, 
accosting the woman, 'Where must we go to get bread?' asked he. 
'Forward, forward,' was her reply; and when they were a few yards 
past, she added, muttering, 'These blackguard peasants will come 
and sweep all the bake-houses and magazines, and there will be 
nothing left for us.' 

'There's a little for everybody, magpie,' said the husband; 'plenty, 
plenty.' 

From this and similar scenes which Renzo heard and witnessed, 
he began to gather that he had come to a city in a state of insurrec- 
tion, and that this was a day of victory; that is to say, when every 
one helped himself in proportion to his inclination and power, giving 
blows in payment. However we may desire to make our poor 
mountaineer appear to the best advantage, yet historical accuracy 
obliges us to say, that his first feeling was that of satisfaction. He 
had so little to rejoice at in the ordinary course of things, that he 
was inclined to approve of anything that might make a change, 
whatever it might be. And besides, not being a man superior to 
his age, he entertained the common opinion, or prejudice, that the 
scarcity of bread was produced by monopolists and bakers; and 
readily did he esteem every method justifiable of rescuing from 
their grasp the food, which they, according to this opinion, so 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 195 

cruelly denied to the hunger of a whole people. He resolved, how- 
ever, to get out of the tumult, and rejoiced at being directed to a 
Capuchin, who would give him shelter and good advice. Engaged 
in such thoughts, and looking about him at the fresh victors who 
appeared, laden with spoil, he took the short road that still remained 
to reach the convent. 

On the present site of a noble palace, with its beautiful portico, 
there was formerly, and till within a very few years, a small square, 
and at the furthest side of this, the church and convent of the 
Capuchins, with four large elms standing before them. We con- 
gratulate, not without envy, those of our readers who have not seen 
Milan as thus described: that is, because they must be very young, 
and have not had much time to commit many follies. Renzo went 
straight to the door, put into his bosom the remaining half loaf, 
took out his letter and held it ready in his hand, and rang the bell. 
A small wicket was opened at the summons, and the face of the 
porter appeared at the grate to ask who was there. 

'One from the country, bringing an important letter to Father 
Bonaventura from Father Cristoforo.' 

'Give it me,' said the porter, putting his hand through the grate. 

'No, no,' said Renzo, 'I must give it into his own hands.' 

'He is not in the Convent.' 

'Let me come in, then, and I will vrait for him,* replied Renzo. 

'Follow my advice,' rejoined the friar: 'go and wait in the church, 
where you may be employing yourself profitably. You cannot be 
admitted into the convent at present.' So saying, he closed the 
wicket. 

Renzo stood irresolute, with the letter in his hand. He then took 
a few steps towards the door of the church, to follow the advice of 
the porter, but thought he would first just give another glance at 
the stir outside. He crossed the square, reached the side of the 
road, and stood with his arms crossed on his breast to watch the 
thickest and most noisy part of the crowd that was issuing from the 
interior of the city. The vortex attracted our spectator. — Let us go 
and see thought he; and again taking out the piece of bread, he 
began to eat, and advanced towards the crowd. While he was 
walking thither, we will relate, as briefly as possible, the causes 
and beginnings of this uproar. 



CHAPTER XII 

THIS was the second year of the scarcity. In the preceding 
year, the surplus remaining from former seasons had more 
or less supplied the deficiency; and the people, neither 
satiated nor famished, but certainly sufficiently unprovided for, had 
reached the harvest of 1628, in which our story finds us. Now, this 
harvest, so long and eagerly looked forward to, proved still less 
productive than the former, partly on account of the adverse char- 
acter of the season (and that not only at Milan, but, in great measure, 
in the surrounding country), and partly by the agency of man. Such 
were the ravages and havoc of the war — that amiable war to which 
we have already alluded — that in the parts of the country bordering 
on its scene, much more land than usual remained uncultivated 
and deserted by the peasants, who instead of working to provide 
food for themselves and others, were obliged to wander about 
as beggars. I have said, more than usual, because the insup- 
portable taxes, levied with unequalled cupidity and folly — the 
habitual conduct, even in perfect peace, of the stationary troops, — 
conduct which the mournful documents of the age compare to that 
of an invading enemy — and other reasons, which this is not the 
place to enumerate, had for some time been producing this sad 
effect throughout the whole of the Milanese: the particular circum- 
stances, of which we are now speaking, being but the sudden ex- 
acerbation of a chronic disease. No sooner had this deficient harvest 
been gathered in, than the provisions for the army, and the waste 
which always accompanies them, made such a fearful void in it, 
that scarcity quickly made itself felt, and with scarcity its melancholy, 
but profitable, as well as inevitable, effect, a rise of prices. 

But when the price of food reaches a certain point, there always 
arises (at least, hitherto it has always arisen; and if it is so still, 
after all that has been written by so many learned men, what must 
it have been in those days!) — there always arises an opinion among 

196 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 197 

the many that it is not the effect of scarcity. They forget that they 
had foreseen and predicted such an issue; they suddenly fancy that 
there is plenty of corn, and that the evil proceeds from there not 
being as much distributed as is required for consumption; proposi- 
tions sufficiently preposterous, but which flatter both their anger and 
their hopes. Corn monopolists, either real or imaginary, large land- 
holders, the bakers who purchased corn, all, in short, who had 
either little or much, or were thought to have any, were charged 
with being the causes of the scarcity and dearness of provisions; 
they were the objects of universal complaint, and of the hatred of 
the multitude of every rank. The populace could tell with certainty 
where there were magazines and granaries full and overflowing 
with corn, and even requiring to be propped up; they indicated 
most extravagant numbers of sacks; they talked with certainty of 
the immense quantities of grain secretly despatched to other places, 
where, probably, it was asserted with equal assurance and equal 
excitement, that the corn grown there was transfwrted to Milan. 
They implored from the magistrates those precautions which always 
app)ear, or at least, have always hitherto appeared, so equitable, so 
simple, so capable of drawing forth the corn which they affirm to be 
secreted, walled up, or buried, and of restoring to them abundance. 
The magistrates, therefore, busied themselves in fixing the highest 
price that was to be charged upon every commodity; in threatening 
punishment to any one who should refuse to sell; and making other 
regulations of a similar nature. As, however, all human precautions, 
how vigorous soever, can neither diminish the necessity of food, nor 
produce crops out of season: and as these individual precautions 
offered no very inviting terms to other countries where there might 
be a superabundance, the evil continued and increased. The multi- 
tude attributed such an effect to the scarcity and feebleness of the 
remedies, and loudly solicited some more spirited and decisive 
measures. Unfortunately, they found a man after their own heart. 
In the absence of the governor, Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cor- 
dova, who was encamped over Casale del Monferrato, the High 
Chancellor Antonio Ferrer, also a Spaniard, supplied his place at 
Milan. This man saw (and who could help seeing it?) that a 
moderate price on bread is in itself a most desirable thing; and he 



198 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

thought (here was his mistake) that an order from him would 
suffice to produce it. He fixed the Hmit (la meta, by which name 
the tariff was distinguished in articles of food,) at the price that 
bread would have had, if the corn had been generally sold at thirty- 
three livres the bushel, and they sold it as high as eighty. He acted 
like the old woman who thought to make herself young again by 
changing her baptismal faith. 

Regulations less irrational and less unjust had, on more than one 
occasion, by the resistance of actual circumstances, remained un- 
executed; but that this should be carried into effect was undertaken 
by the multitude, who, seeing their demands at last converted into 
a law, would not suffer it to be a mere form. They immediately ran 
to the bake-houses, to demand bread at the fixed price; and they 
required it with that air of threatening resolution which passion, 
force, and law united could impart. It need not be asked if the 
bakers resisted. With sleeves turned up, they were busied in carry- 
ing, putting into the oven, and taking out thence, without inter- 
mission; for the people, having a confused idea that it was too 
violent an attempt to last long, besieged the bake-houses incessantly, 
to enjoy their temporary good fortune; and every reader can imagine 
what a pleasure it must have been to drudge like a slave, and expose 
one's self more than usually to an attack of pleurisy, to be, after all, 
a loser in consequence. But with magistrates on one side threaten- 
ing punishments, and the people on the other importunate, murmur- 
ing at every delay that was interposed in serving them, and in- 
definitely menacing some one or other of their chastisements, which 
are always the worst that are inflicted in this world — ^there was no 
help for it; drudge they must; they were forced to empty and 
replenish their ovens, and sell. However, to keep them up to such 
employment, it was of little avail to impose strict orders, and keep 
them in constant fear: it was a question of absolute practicabiUty; 
and had the thing lasted a little longer, they could have done no 
more. They remonstrated incessantly against the iniquitous and 
insupportable weight of the burden laid upon them, and protested 
they would willingly throw the shovel into the oven, and take their 
departure; and yet they continued to persevere as they could, long- 
ing, hoping, that some day or other, the High Chancellor would 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 199 

come to his senses. But Antonio Ferrer, who was what would 
now be called a man of character, replied that the bakers had made 
enormous profits in past times; that they would equally make great 
gains in better times to come, that, therefore, it was both reason- 
able and necessary they should make some compensation to the 
public, and that, in the mean while, they must get on as they could. 
Whether he were really convinced of the truth of those reasons he 
alleged to others, or whether, perceiving, from its effects, the im- 
possibility of maintaining this regulation, he was willing to leave 
to others the odium of revoking it; for who can now look into An- 
tonio Ferrer's mind ? yet certain it is he did not relax one iota of what 
he had established. At length, the decurioni (a municipal magis- 
tracy composed of nobles, which lasted till the ninety-sixth year of 
the last century) informed the Governor, by letter, of the state in 
which matters stood, hoping he might be able to suggest some 
remedy. 

Don Gonzalo, buried over head in the affairs of war, did what 
the reader will certainly imagine: he nominated a Council, which 
he endowed with full authority to fix such a price upon bread as 
could become current, thus doing justice to both parties. The 
deputies assembled, or it was expressed, after the Spanish fashion, 
in the jargon of those days, the junta met; and, after a hundred 
bowings, compliments, preambles, sighs, whisperings, airy proposi- 
dons, and subterfuges, urged, by a necessity which all felt, to come 
to some determination, conscious that they were casting an important 
die, but aware that there was no other course to be taken, they at 
length agreed to augment the price of bread. The bakers once more 
breathed, but the f)eople raved. 

The evening preceding the day in which Renzo arrived at Milan, 
the streets and squares swarmed with men, who, transported with 
indignation, and swayed by a prevailing opinion, assembled — 
whether acquaintances or strangers — in knots and parties without 
any previous concert, and almost without being aware of it, like 
rain-drops on a hillside. Every conversation increased the general 
belief, and roused the passions of both hearer and speaker. Amongst 
the many excited ones, there were some few of cooler temf)erament, 
who stood quiedy watching with great satisfacdon the troubhng of 



200 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the water, who busied themselves in troubling it more and more, 
with such reasonings and stories as rogues know how to invent, 
and agitated minds are so ready to believe, and who determined 
not to let it calm down without first catching a little fish. Thousands 
went to rest that night with an indeterminate feeling that something 
must and would be done. Crowds assembled before day-break: 
children, women, men, old people, workmen, beggars, all grouped 
together at random; here was a confused whispering of many 
voices; there, one declaimed to a crowd of applauding bystanders; 
this one asked his nearest fellow the same question that had just 
been put to himself; that other repeated the exclamation that he 
heard resounding in his ears; everywhere were disputes, threats, 
wonderings; and very few words made up the materials of so many 
conversations. 

There only wanted something to lay hold of: some beginning, 
some kind of impetus to reduce words to deeds, and this was not 
long wanting. Towards daybreak, little boys issued from the bakers' 
shops, carrying baskets of bread to the houses of their usual cus- 
tomers. The first appearance of one of these unlucky boys in a 
crowd of people, was like the fall of a lighted squib in a gunpowder 
magazine. 'Let us see if there's bread here!' exclaimed a hundred 
voices, in an instant. 'Ay, for the tyrants who roll in abundance, 
and would let us die of hunger,' said one, approaching the boy; 
and, raising his hand to the edge of the basket, he snatched at it, 
and exclaimed, 'Let me see!' The boy coloured, turned pale, 
trembled, and tried to say, 'Let me go on;' but the words died be- 
tween his lips, and slackening his arms, he endeavoured to disengage 
them hastily from the straps. 

'Down with the basket!' was the instantaneous cry. Many hands 
seized it, and brought it to the ground; they then threw the cloth 
that covered it into the air. A tepid fragrance was diffused around. 
'We, too, are Christians; we must have bread to eat,' said the first. 
He took out a loaf, and, raising it in the view of the crowd, began 
to eat: in an instant all hands were in the basket, and in less time 
than one can relate it, all had disappeared. Those who had got none 
of the spoil, irritated at the sight of what the others had gained, 
and animated by the facility of the enterprise, moved off by parties 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 201 

in quest of other straying baskets, which were no sooner met with 
than they were pillaged immediately. Nor was it necessary to attack 
the bearers: those who unfortunately were on their way, as soon 
as they saw which way the wind blew, voluntarily laid down their 
burdens, and took to their heels. Nevertheless, those who remained 
without a supply were, beyond comparison, the greater part; nor 
were the victors half satisfied with such insignificant spoil; and some 
there were mingled in the crowds who had resolved upon a much 
better regulated attack. 'To the bake-house, to the bake-house 1' was 
the cry. 

In the street called La Corsia de Servi was a bake-house, which 
is still there, bearing the same name, — a name that, in Tuscan, 
means 'The Bakery of the Crutches,' and, in Milanese, is composed 
of words so extravagant, so whimsical, so out-of-the-way, that the 
alphabet of the Italian language does not afford letters to express 
its sound.' In this direction the crowd advanced. The people of the 
shop were busy questioning the poor boy who had returned unladen, 
and he, pale with terror, and greatly discomposed, was unintelligibly 
relating his unfortunate adventure, when, suddenly, they heard a 
noise as of a crowd in motion; it increases and approaches; the fore- 
runners of the crowd are in sight. 

'Shut, lock up; quick, quick:' one runs to beg assistance from the 
sheriff; the others hastily shut up the shop, and bolt and bar the 
doors inside. The multitudes begin to increase without, and the 
cries redouble of — 'Bread! bread! Open! open!' 

At this juncture the sheriff arrived, in the midst of a troop of 
halberdiers. 'Make room, make room, my boys; go home, go home: 
make room for the sheriff!' cried he. The throng, not too much 
crowded, gave way a little, so that the halberdiers could advance 
and get close to the door of the shop, though not in a very orderly 
manner. 'But, my friends,' said the sheriff, addressing the people 
from thence, 'what are you doing here? Go home, go home. Where 
is your fear of God? What will our master the King say? We 
don't wish to do you any harm, but go home, like good fellows. 
What in the world can you do here, in such a crush? There is 
nothing good to be got here, either for the soul or body. Go home, 
' £1 prcstin di scanse. 



202 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

go home!' But how were those next the speaker, who saw his face 
and could hear his words, even had they been willing to obey — 
how were they to accomplish it, urged forward as they were, and 
almost trampled upon by those behind; who, in their turn, were 
trodden upon by others, like wave upon wave, and step upon step, 
to the very edge of the rapidly increasing throng? The sheriff began 
to feel a little alarmed. 'Make them give way, that 1 may get a little 
breath,' said he to his halberdiers; 'but don't hurt anybody. Let us 
try to get into the shop. Knock; make them give way!' 

'Back! back!' cried the halberdiers, throwing themselves in a body 
upon their nearest neighbours, and pushing them back with the 
point of their weapons. The people replied with a grumbling shout, 
and retreated as they could, dispersing blows on the breast and 
stomach in profusion, and treading upon the toes of those behind; 
while such was the general rush, the squeezing and trampling, that 
those who were in the middle of the throng would have given any- 
thing to have been elsewhere. In the mean while, a small space was 
cleared before the house; the sheriff knocked and kicked against 
the door, calling to those within to open it: these, seeing from the 
window how things stood, ran down in haste and admitted the 
sheriff, followed by the halberdiers, who crept in one after another, 
the last repulsing the crowd with their weapons. When all were 
secured, they re-bolted the door, and, running up-stairs, the sheriff 
displayed himself at the window. We leave the reader to imagine 
the outcry! 

'My friends!' cried he: many looked up. 'My friends! go home. 
A general pardon to all who go home at once!' 

'Bread! bread! Open! open!' were the most conspicuous words 
in the savage vociferations the crowd sent forth in reply. 

'Justice, my friends! take care; you have yet time given you. Come, 
get away; return to your houses. You shall have bread; but this 
is not the way to get it. Eh! ... eh! what are you doing down 
there? Eh! at this door? Fie, fie upon you! I see, I see: justice! 
take care! It is a great crime. I'm coming to you. Eh! eh! away 
with those irons; down with those hands! Fie! you Milanese, who 
are talked of all over the world for peaceableness! Listen! listen! 
you have always been good sub . . . Ah, you rascals!' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 203 

This rapid transition of style was caused by a stone, which, com- 
ing from the hands of one of these good subjects, struck the fore- 
head of the sheriff, on the left protuberance of his metaphysical 
profundities. 'Rascals! rascals!' continued he, shutting the window 
in a rage, and retiring from view. But though he had shouted to 
the extent of the powers of his throat, his words, both good and 
bad, had vanished and consumed in thin air, repulsed by the cries 
which came from below. The objects that now, as he afterwards 
described, presented themselves to his view, were stones and iron 
bars, (the first they could lay hold of by the way,) with which they 
tried to force open the doors and windows; and they already had 
made considerable progress in their work. 

In the mean time, the masters and shop-boys appeared at the 
upp)er windows, armed with stones, (they had probably unpaved 
the yard,) and crying out to those below, with horrible looks and 
gestures, to let them alone, they showed their weapons, and 
threatened to let fly among them. Seeing that nothing else would 
avail, they began to throw at them in reality. Not one fell in vain, 
since the press was such that even a grain of corn, as the saying 
was, could not have reached the ground. 

'Ah! you great vagabonds! you great villains! Is this the bread 
you give to poor people? Ah! alas! oh! Now, now, at us?' was 
raised from below. More than one was injured, and two boys were 
killed. Fury increased the strength of the people; the doors and 
bars gave way; and the crowd poured into the passages in torrents. 
Those within, perceiving their danger, took refuge in the garrets: 
the sheriff, the halberdiers, and a few of the household gathered 
together here in a corner, under the slates; and others, escaping by 
the sky-lights, wandered about on the roof like cats. 

The sight of the spoil made the victors forget their designs of 
sanguinary vengeance. They flew upon the large chests, and in- 
stantly pillaged them. Others, instead, hastened to tear open the 
counter, seized the tills, took out by handfuls, pocketed and set off 
with, the money, to return for bread afterwards, if there remained 
any. The crowd dispersed themselves through the interior maga- 
zines. Some laid hold of the sacks and drew them out; others 
turned them wrong side upwards, and untying the mouth, to reduce 



204 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

them to a weight which they could manage to carry, shook out some 
of the flour; others crying out, 'Stay, stay!' came underneath to 
prevent this waste, by catching it in their clothes and aprons; others, 
again, fell upon a kneading-trough, and seized the dough, which 
ran over their hands and escaped their grasp on every side: here, 
one who had snatched up a meal-sieve, came brandishing it in the 
air. Some come, some go, some handle: men, women, children, 
swarm around; pushes, blows, and cries are bandied about; and a 
white powder that rises in clouds and deposits itself in every direc- 
tion, involves the whole proceeding in a thick mist. Outside, is a 
crowd composed of two reverse processions, which alternately separ- 
ate and intermingle, some going out with their prey, others entering 
to share the spoil. 

While this bake-house was being thus plundered, none of the 
others were quiet and free from danger; but at none had the people 
assembled in such numbers as to be very daring. In some, the 
masters had collected a few auxiliaries, and stood upon their 
defence: others, less strong in numbers, or more terrified, came to 
some kind of agreement; they distributed bread to those who had 
begun to crowd around their shops, if they would be content with 
this and go away. Those who did withdraw, did so not so much 
because they were contented with their acquisitions, as because 
the halberdiers and police, keeping at a distance from the tremen- 
dous scene at the Bake-house of the Crutches, appeared, nevertheless, 
elsewhere in sufficient force to keep in awe these smaller parties of 
mutineers. By this means, the confusion and concourse continued 
to augment at this first unfortunate bake-house; for all those whose 
fingers itched to be at work, and whose hearts were set upon doing 
some great deed, repaired thither, where their friends were in 
greatest numbers, and impunity was secure. 

Such was the state of things, when Renzo, finishing, as we have 
related, his piece of bread, came to the suburb of the Porta Orientale, 
and set off, without being aware of it, exactly to the central scene of 
the tumult. He continued his way, now urged forward, now 
hindered, by the crowd; and as he walked, he watched and listened, 
to gather from the confused murmurs of voices some more positive 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 205 

information of the state of things. The following are nearly the 
words he caught on his way. 

'Now,' said one, 'the infamous imposture of these villains is dis- 
covered, who said there was no more bread, nor flour, nor corn. 
Now we see things clearly and distinctly, and they can no longer 
deceive us as they have done. Hurrah for plenty!' 

'I tell you all this just goes for nothing,' said another; 'it is only 
like making a hole in water; so that it will be the worse for us, if 
we don't get full justice done us. Bread will be sold at a low price: 
but they will put poison in it to kill us poor people like flies. They've 
said already that we are too many: they said so in the council; and I 
know it for certain, because I heard it with these ears from an 
acquaintance of mine, who is the friend of a relation of a scullion of 
one of these lords.' 

'They are not things to be laughed at,' said another poor wretch, 
who was foaming at the mouth, and holding up to his bleeding 
head a ragged {X)cket-handkerchief; some neighbour, by way of 
consolation, echoing his remark. 

'Make way, gentlemen: pray be good enough to make way for a 
poor father of a family, who is carrying something to eat to five 
famished children.' These were the words of one who came stagger- 
ing under the weight of a large sack of flour; and everybody in- 
stantly drew back to attend to his request.' 

'I,' said another, almost in an under-tone, to his companion, 'I 
shall take my departure. I am a man of the world, and I know how 
these things go. These clowns who now make so much noise, to- 
morrow or next day will be shut up in their houses, cowering with 
fear. I have already noticed some faces, some worthy fellows, who 
are going about as spies, and taking note of those who are here and 
not here; and when all is over they will render in an account, and 
bring punishment on those who deserve it.' 

'He who protects the bakers,' cried a sonorous voice, which 
attracted Renzo's attention, 'is the superintendent of provisions.' 

'They are all rascals,' said a by-stander. 

'Yes; but he is at the head of them,' replied the first. 

The superintendent of provisions, elected every year by the gov- 



206 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ernor, from a list of six nobles, formed by the council of decu- 
riotti, was the president of this council, as well as of the court of 
provisions, which, composed of twelve noblemen, had, together 
with other duties, that of overlooking the distribution of corn in 
the city. 

The person who occupied this post must, necessarily, in times of 
scarcity and ignorance, have been regarded as the author of the 
evil, unless he had acted like Ferrer — a course which was not in his 
power, even had the idea entered his mind. 

'Rascals!' exclaimed another: 'could they do worse? They have 
actually dared to say that the high chancellor is an old fool, to rob 
him of his credit, and get the government into their own hands. 
We ought to make a large hen<oop, and put them in, to live upon 
vetches and cockle-weed, as they would treat us.' 

'Bread, eh!' said one who was making as great haste as he could. 
'Bread? Blows with stones of a pound weight — stones falling 
plump, that came down like hail. And such breaking of ribs! I 
long to be at my own house.' 

Among such sentences as these, by which it is difficult to say 
whether he were more informed or perplexed, and among number- 
less knocks and pushes, Renzo at last arrived opposite the bake- 
house. The crowds here had considerably dispersed, so that he 
could contemplate the dismal scene of recent confusion — the walls 
unplastered and defaced with stones and bricks, the windows broken, 
and the door destroyed. 

'These are no very fine doings,' thought Renzo to himself: 'if 
they treat all the bake-houses in this way, where will they make 
bread? In the ditches?' 

From time to time somebody would issue from the house, carry- 
ing part of a bin, of a tub, or of a bolting hutch, the pole of a 
kneading instrument, a bench, a basket, a journal, a waste-book, 
or something belonging to this unfortunate bake-house; and shout- 
ing 'Make room, make room,' would pass on through the crowd. 
All these, he observed, went in the same direction, and to some 
fixed place. Renzo, determined to find out the meaning of this 
procedure, followed behind a man who, having tied together a 
bundle of broken planks and chips, carried it off on his back, and, 
like the others, took the road that runs along the northern side of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 207 

the cathedral, and receives its name from the flight of steps which 
was then in existence, and has only lately been removed. The 
wish of observing what happened, did not prevent our mountaineer, 
on arriving in sight of this noble pile, from stopping to gaze up- 
wards, with open mouth. He then quickened his pace to overtake 
his self -chosen guide; and, on turning the corner, gave another 
glance at the front of the building, at that time in a rude and far- 
from-finished state, keeping all the while close behind his leader, 
who advanced towards the middle of the square. The crowds be- 
came more dense as he went forward, but they made way for the 
carrier; and while he cleft the waves of people, Renzo, following 
in his wake, arrived with him in the very centre of the throng. 
Here was a space, and in the midst a bonfire, a heap of embers, the 
relics of the implements before mentioned. Around, the people 
were dancing and clapping their hands, mingling in the uproar a 
thousand shouts of triumph and imprecation. 

The man with the bundle upset it into the embers; others, with a 
long half-burnt pole, gathered them up and raked them together 
from the sides and underneath : the smoke increased and thickened, 
the flame again burst forth, and with it, the redoubled cries of the 
by-standers: 'Hurrah for plenty! Death to those who would starve 
us! Away with the famine! Perish the Court of Provision! Perish 
the junta! Hurrah for plenty! Hurrah for bread!' 

To say the truth, the destruction of sieves and kneading-troughs, 
the pillaging of bake-houses, and the routing of bakers, are not 
the most expeditious means of providing a supply of bread; but 
this is one of those metaphysical subtleties which never enter the 
mind of the multitude. Renzo, without being of too metaphysical 
a turn, yet not being in such a state of excitement as the others, 
could not avoid making this reflection in his mind; he kept it, 
however, to himself, for this, among other reasons: because, out of 
so many faces, there was not one that seemed to say, 'My friend, if 
I am wrong, correct me, and I shall be indebted to you.' 

The flame had again sunk; no one was seen approaching with 
fresh combustibles, and the crowd was beginning to feel impatient, 
when a rumour was spread that at the Cordusio (a small square or 
cross-way not far distant) they had laid siege to a bake-house. In 
similar circumstances, the announcement of an event very often 



208 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

produces it. Together with this rumour, a general wish to repair 
thither gained ground among the multitude: 'I am going; are you 
going? Let us go, let us go!' were heard in every direction; the 
crowd broke up, were set in motion, and moved on. Renzo re- 
mained behind, almost stationary, except when dragged forward by 
the torrent; and in the mean while held counsel with himself, 
whether he should make his escape from the stir, and return to the 
convent in search of Father Bonaventura, or go and see this affray 
too. Curiosity prevailed. He resolved, however, not to mingle in 
the thickest of the crowd, at the risk of broken bones, or something 
worse; but to keep at a distance and watch. Having determined on 
his plans, and finding himself tolerably unobserved, he took out the 
second roll, and, biting off a mouthful, moved forward in the rear 
of the tumultuous body. 

By the oudet at one corner of the square, the multitude had 
already entered the short and narrow street Pescheria vecchia^ and 
thence, through the crooked archway, into the Piazza de Mercanti.' 
Very few were there who, in passing the niche which divides, about 
the centre, the terrace of the edifice then called the College of Doc- 
tors, did not cast a slight glance upwards at the great statue that 
adorns it — at that serious, surly, frowning, morose countenance of 
Don Filippo II., which, even in marble, enforces a feeling of respect, 
and seems ready to say, 'I am here, you rabble!' 

This niche is now empty, by a singular accident. About a hundred 
and seventy years after the events we are now relating, one morning, 
the head of the statue that stood there was exchanged, the sceptre 
was taken out of his hand, and a dagger placed there instead, and 
on his statue was inscribed the name of Marcus Brutus. Thus 
adorned, it remained, perhaps, a couple of years; but, one morning, 
some jjersons who had no sympathies with Marcus Brutus, and who 
must even have borne him a secret grudge, threw a rope around the 
statue, tore it down, and bestowed upon it a hundred injuries; thus 
mangled, and reduced to a shapeless trunk, they dragged it along, 
with a profuse accompaniment of epithets, through the streets, and 
when they were well tired, threw it — no one knows where. Who 
would have foretold this to Andrea Biffi, when he sculptured it.'' 
« The Old Fish Market. » The Square of the Merchants. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 209 

From the square of the Mercanti the clamorous multitude turned 
into the by-street de' Fustagnai, whence they pwured into the Cor- 
dusio. Every one, immediately on entering the square, turned their 
eyes towards the bake-house that had been indicated to them. But, 
instead of the crowd of friends whom they expected to find already 
at work, they saw only a few, irresolutely hovering about at some 
distance from the shop, which was fastened up, and protected by 
armed men at the windows, who gave tokens of a determination to 
defend themselves in case of need. They, therefore, turned back and 
paused, to inform those who were coming up, and see what course 
the others would wish to take; some returned, or remained behind. 
There was a general retreat and detention, asking and answering 
of questions, a kind of stagnation, sighs of irresolution, then a 
general murmur of consultation. At this moment an ill-omened 
voice was heard in the midst of the crowd: 'The house of the 
sufjerintendent of provisions is close by; let us go and get justice, 
and lay siege to it.' It seemed rather the common recollection of an 
agreement already concluded, than the acceptance of a proposal. 
'To the superintendent's! to the superintendent's!' was the only cry 
that could be heard. The crowd moved forward with unanimous 
fury towards the street where the house, named at such an ill-fated 
moment, was situated. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE unfortunate superintendent was at this moment digest- 
ing a poor and scanty dinner, unwillingly eaten with a 
little stale bread, and awaiting, with much suspense, the 
termination of this storm, far from suspecting that it was about to 
fall with such violence upon his own head. Some benevolent jjerson 
preceded the crowd in urging haste, and entered the house to warn 
him of his pressing danger. The servants, already attracted to the 
door by the noise, were looking with much alarm up the street, in 
the direction of the approaching tumult. While listening to the 
warning, the vanguard came in sight; they ran in haste and terror 
to inform their master, and while he was deliberating whether he 
should Hy, and how he should accomplish it, some one else arrived 
to tell him there was no longer time for flight. Scarcely was there 
time for the servants to secure the door. They, however, barred 
and locked it, and then ran to fasten the windows, as when a violent 
storm is threatening, and the hail is expected to come down every 
moment. The increasing howls of the people, falling like a thunder- 
clap, resounded through the empty yard; every corner of the house 
re-echoed it: and in the midst of the tremendous and mingled 
uproar, were heard, loudly and repeatedly, the blows of stones upon 
the door. 

'The superintendent! The tyrant! The fellow who would starve 
us! We'll have him, dead or alive!' 

The poor man wandered from room to room, pale and almost 
breathless with terror, striking his hands together, commending 
himself to God, and imploring his servants to stand firm, and find 
him some way of making his escape. But how, and where? He 
ascended to the garret, and there, through an aperture between the 
ceiling and the tiles, looked anxiously into the street, and saw it 
swarming with the enraged populace; more terrified than ever, he 
then withdrew to seek the most secure and secret hiding-place he 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 211 

could find. Here he crouched down and listened whether the awful 
burst of fury would ever subside, and the tumult ever abate; but 
hearing that the uproar rather became more savage and outrageous, 
and the blows against the door more rapidly repeated, his heart sank 
within him, and he hastily stopped his ears. Then, as if beside 
himself, gnashing his teeth and distorting his countenance, he im- 
petuously extended his arms, and shook his fists, as if he would 
keep the door secure in spite of all the pushes and blows. At last, 
in absolute despair, he sank down upon the floor, and remained 
terrified and almost insensible, expecting his death. 

Renzo found himself this time in the thickest of the confusion, 
not now carried there by the throng, but by his own deliberate will. 
At the first proposal of blood-shedding, he felt his own curdle within 
him; as to the plundering, he had not exactly determined whether, 
in this Instance, it were right or wrong; but the idea of murder 
aroused in him immediate and unfeigned horror. And although, 
by that fatal submission of excited minds to the excited affirmations 
of the many, he felt as fully persuaded that the superintendent was 
an oppressive villain, as if he had known, with certainty and minute- 
ness, all that the unhappy man had done, omitted, and thought; yet 
he had advanced among the foremost, with a determined intention 
of doing his best to save him. With this resolution, he had arrived 
close to the door which was assailed in a hundred ways. Some, with 
flints, were hammering at the nails of the lock to break it open; 
others, with stakes, chisels, and hammers, set to work with more 
method and regularity. Others, again, with sharp stones, blunted 
knives, broken pieces of iron, nails, and even their finger-nails, if 
they had nothing else, pulled down the plaster and defaced the 
walls, and laboured hard to loosen the bricks by degrees, so as to 
make a breach. Those who could not lend a hand, encouraged the 
others by their cries; but, at the same time, by the pressure of their 
persons they contributed to impede the work already considerably 
obstructed by the disorderly contentions of the workers: for, by the 
favour of Heaven, it sometimes happens in evil undertakings, as too 
often in good, that the most ardent abettors of a work become its 
greatest impediments. 



212 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

The first magistrates who had notice of the insurrection im- 
mediately sent off to the commander of the castle, which then bore 
the name of Porta Giovia, for the assistance of some troops; and he 
quickly despatched a band of men. But what with the information, 
and the orders, and the assembling, and getting on their way, and 
their march, the troops did not arrive till the house was completely 
surrounded by an immense army of besiegers and they, therefore, 
halted at a sufficient distance from it, at the extremity of the crowd. 
The officer who commanded them knew not what course to pursue. 
Here was nothing but an assembly of idle and unarmed people, of 
every age and both sexes. On orders being given to disperse and 
make way, they replied by a deep and prolonged murmur; but no 
one moved. To fire down upon the crowd seemed to the officer 
not only a cruel, but a dangerous, course, which, while it offended the 
less formidable, would irritate the more violent: besides, he had 
received no such instructions. To push through this first assembly, 
overthrow them right and left, and go forward to carry war where 
it was given, would have been the best; but how to succeed was the 
point. Who knew whether the soldiers would be able to proceed, 
united and in order? For if, instead of breaking through the crowd, 
they should be routed on entering, they would be left to the mercy 
of the people, after having exasperated them. The irresolution of 
the commander, and the inactivity of the soldiers, appeared, whether 
justly or not, to proceed from fear. Those who stood next to them 
contented themselves with looking them in the face with an air, 
as the Milanese say, of I-don't<are-for-you; those who stood a little 
farther off, could not refrain from provoking them, by making 
faces at them, and by cries of mockery; farther on, few knew or cared 
who was there; the spoilers continued to batter the wall, without 
any other thought than of succeeding quickly in their undertaking; 
the spectators ceased not to animate them with shouts. 

Amongst these appeared one, who was himself a spectacle, an 
old and half-starved man, who, rolling about two sunken and fiery 
eyes, composing his wrinkled face to a smile of diabolical com- 
placency, and with his hands raised above his infamous, hoary head, 
was brandishing in the air a hammer, a rop)e, and four large nails, 
with which he said he meant to nail the vicar to the posts of his 
own door, alive as he was. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 213 

'Fie upon you! for shame!' burst forth from Renzo, horrified at 
such words, and at the sight of so many faces betokening approbation 
of them; at the same time encouraged by seeing others, who, 
ahhough silent, betrayed in their countenances the same horror 
that he felt. 'For shame! Would you take the executioner's business 
out of his hand? Murder a Christian! How can you expect that 
God will give us food, if we do such wicked things? He will send 
us thunder-bolts instead of bread!' 

'Ah, dog! traitor to his country!' cried one of those who could 
hear, in the uproar, these sacred words, turning to Renzo, with a 
diabolical countenance. 'Wait, wait! He is a servant of the super- 
intendent's, dressed like a peasant; he is a spy; give it him! give it 
him!' A hundred voices echoed the cry. 'What is it? where is he? 
who is he? — A servant of the superintendent! — A spy! — The super- 
intendent disguised as a peasant, and making his escape! — Where 
is he? where is he? give it him! give it him!' 

Renzo became dumb, shrank into a mere nothing, and 
endeavoured to make his escape; some of his neighbours helped him 
to conceal himself, and, by louder and different cries, attempted to 
drown these adverse and homicidal shouts. But what was of more 
use to him than anything else, was a cry of 'Make way, make way!' 
which was heard close at hand: 'Make way! here is help: make 
way; ho, hey!' 

What was it? It was a long ladder, that some persons were 
bringing to rear against the house, so as to gain an entrance through 
one of the windows. But by great good fortune this means, which 
would have rendered the thing easy, was not, in itself, so easy of 
execution. The bearers, who at each end, and here and there at 
intervals, supported it, pushed it about and impeded by the crowd, 
reeled to and fro like waves; one, with his head between two steps 
and the sides resting on his shoulders, groaned beneath the weight, 
as under a galling yoke; another was separated from his burden by 
a violent push; the abandoned machine bruised heads, shoulders, 
and arms: and the reader must imagine the complaints and murmurs 
of those who thus suffered. Others, raising the dead weight wnth 
their hands, crept underneath it, and carried it on their backs, cry- 
ing, 'It is our turn; let us go!' The fatal machine advanced by 
bounds and exchanges — now straightforward, now obliquely. It 



214 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

came, however, in time to distract and divert the attention of 
Renzo's persecutors, and he profited by this confusion within con- 
fusion; creeping quietly along at first, and then elbowing his way 
as well as he could, he withdrew from the post where he found 
himself in such a perilous situation, with the intention of making 
the best of his escape from the tumult, and of going, in real earnest, 
to find or to wait for Father Bonaventura. 

All on a sudden, a movement, begun at one extremity, extended 
itself through the crowd, and a cry was echoed from mouth to 
mouth, in chorus: 'Ferrer! Ferrer!' Surprise, expressions of favour 
or contempt, joy and anger, burst forth wherever the name was 
heard: some echoed it, some tried to drown it; some affirmed, some 
denied, some blessed, some cursed. 

'Is Ferrer here? — It isn't true, it isn't true! — Yes, yes! long live 
Ferrer; he who gives bread at a low price! — No, no! — He's here, 
he's here, in his carriage. — What is this fellow going to do? Why 
does he meddle in it? We don't want anybody! — Ferrer! long live 
Ferrer! the friend of poor people! he's come to take the super- 
intendent to prison. — No, no: we will get justice ourselves: back, 
back! — Yes, yes! Ferrer! let Ferrer come! off with the superintendent 
to prison!' 

And everybody, standing on tiptoe, turned towards the part where 
the unexpected new arrival was announced. But everybody rising, 
they saw neither more nor less than if they had all remained standing 
as they were; yet so it was: all arose. 

In fact, at the extremity of the crowd, on the opposite side to 
where the soldiers were stationed, Antonio Ferrer, the high chan- 
cellor, was approaching in his carriage; feeling conscious, probably, 
that by his mistakes and obstinacy, he was the cause, or, at any rate, 
the occasion,of this outbreak, he now came to try and allay it, and 
to avert, at least, the most terrible and irreparable effects: he came, 
in short, to employ worthily a popularity unworthily acquired. 

In popular tumults there is always a certain number of men, who, 
either from overheated passions, or from fanatical persuasion, or 
from wicked designs, or from an execrable love of destruction, do all 
they can to push matters to the worst; they propose or second the 
most inhuman advice, and fan the flame whenever it seems to be 



I PROMESSI S1>OSI 215 

sinking: nothing is ever too much for them, and they wish for 
nothing so much as that the tumult should have neither Umits nor 
end. But, by way of counterpoise, there is always a certain number 
of very different men, who, perhaps, with equal ardour and equal 
perseverance, are aiming at a contrary effect: some influenced by 
friendship or partiality for the threatened objects; others, without 
further impulse than that of a pious and spontaneous horror of 
bloodshed and atrocious deeds. Heaven blesses such. In each of 
these two opposite parties, even without antecedent concert, con- 
formity of inclination creates an instantaneous agreement in opera- 
tion. Those who make up the mass, and almost the materials of 
the tumult besides, are a mixed body of men, who, more or less, by 
infinite gradations, hold to one or the other extreme: partly incensed, 
partly knavish, a little inclined to a sort of justice, according to 
their idea of the word, a little desirous of witnessing some grand act 
of villainy; prone to ferocity or compassion, to adoration or execra- 
tion, according as opportunities present themselves of indulging to 
the full one or other of these sentiments; craving every moment to 
know, to believe, some gross absurdity or improbability, and longing 
to shout, applaud, or revile in somebody's train. 'Long live,' and 
'Down with,' are the words most readily uttered; and he who has 
succeeded in persuading them that such an one does not deserve to 
be quartered, has need of very few words to convince them that he 
deserves to be carried in triumph: actors, spectators, instruments, 
obstacles, whichever way the wind blows; ready even to be silent, 
when there is no longer any one to give them the word; to desist, 
when instigators fail; to disp)erse, when many concordant and un- 
contradicted voices have pronounced, 'Let us go;' and to return to 
their own homes, demanding of each other — What has happ)ened? 
Since, however, this body has, hence, the greatest power, nay, is, in 
fact, the power itself; so, each of the two active parties uses every 
endeavour to bring it to its own side, to engross its services: they are, 
as it were, two adverse spirits, struggling which shall get possession 
of, and animate, this huge body. It depends upon which side can 
diffuse a cry the most apt to excite the passions, and direct their 
motions in favour of its own schemes; can most seasonably find 
information which will arouse or allay their indignation, and excite 



2l6 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

either their terror or their hopes; and can give the word, which, 
repeated more and more vehemently, will at once express, attest, 
and create the vote of the majority in favour of one or the other 
party. 

All these remarks are intended as an introduction to the informa- 
tion that, in the struggle of the two parties who were contending 
for the suffrages of the populace crowded around the house of the 
superintendent, the appearance of Antonio Ferrer instantly gave 
a great advantage to the more moderate side, which had evidently 
been kept in awe, and, had the succour been a little longer delayed, 
would have had neither power nor scope for combat. This person 
was acceptable to the multitude on account of the tariff of his own 
appointment, which had been so favourable to purchasers, and 
also for his heroic resistance to every argument on the contrary side. 
Minds already thus biased were now more than ever captivated by 
the bold confidence of the old man, who, without guards or retinue, 
ventured thus to seek and confront an angry and ungoverned multi- 
tude. The announcement also that he came to take the superin- 
tendent prisoner produced a wonderful effect : so that the fury enter- 
tained towards the unfortunate man, which would have been ren- 
dered more violent, whoever had come to oppose it without making 
any concessions, was now, with this promise of satisfaction, and, to 
use a Milanese expression, with this bone in their mouth, a little 
allayed, and made way for other and far different sentiments which 
pervaded the minds of the greater part of the crowd. 

The favourers of peace, having recovered their breath, seconded 
Ferrer in a hundred ways: those who were next to him, by exciting 
and re-exciting the cries of general applause by their own, and 
endeavouring at the same time to repulse the people so as to make 
a clear passage for the carriage; the others, by applauding, repeating, 
and spreading his words, or what appeared to them the best he could 
utter by silencing the furious and obstinate, and turning against 
them the new passions of the fickle assembly. 'Who is there that 
won't say, "Long live Ferrer?" Don't you wish bread to be sold 
cheap, eh? They are all rascals who don't wish for justice like 
Christians: they want to make as much noise as they can, to let the 
vicar escape. To prison with the vicar! Long live Ferrer! Make 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 217 

room for Ferrer!' As those who talked in this strain continued to 
increase, the courage of the opposite party rapidly cooled; so that 
the former proceeded from reprimands so far as to lay hands upon 
the demolishers, to repulse them, and even to snatch the weap)ons 
from their grasp. These grumbled, threatened, and endeavoured to 
regain their implements; but the cause of blood had given way, and 
the predominating cries were — 'Prison! Justice! Ferrer!' After a 
litde struggle, they were driven back: the others possessed them- 
selves of the door, both to defend it from further assaults, and to 
secure access for Ferrer; and some of them, calling to those 
within (apertures for such a purpose were not wanting) informed 
them of the assistance that had arrived, and bid them get the 
superintendent ready, 'to go directly ... to prison, ehem, do you 
hear!' 

'Is this the Ferrer who helps to make out proclamations?' de- 
manded our friend, Renzo, of a new neighbour, remembering the 
Vidit Ferrer that the doctor had pointed out to him at the bottom 
of one of these edicts, and which he had resounded so perseveringly 
in his ears. 

'Yes; the high chancellor,' was the reply. 

'He is a worthy man, isn't he?' 

'More than that! it is he who fixed bread at a low price; and they 
wouldn't have it so; and now he is come to take the superintendent 
prisoner, who has not dealt justice to us.' 

It is unnecessary to say that Renzo was instantly for Ferrer. He 
wished to get a sight of him directly, but this was no easy matter; 
yet, with the help of sundry breastings and elbowings, like a true 
Alpine, he succeeded in forcing a passage and reaching the foremost 
ranks next to the side of the carriage. 

The vehicle had proceeded a little way into the crowd, and was 
at this moment at a stand-still, by one of those inevitable impedi- 
ments so frequent in a journey of this sort. The aged Ferrer pre- 
sented himself now at one window of the carriage, now at another 
with a countenance full of humility, affability, and benevolence — a 
countenance which he had always reserved, perchance he should ever 
have an interview with Don FiUppo IV.; but he was compelled to 
display it also on this occasion. He talked too; but the noise and 



2l8 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

murmur of so many voices, and the Long lives which were addressed 
to him, allowed only few of his words to be heard. He therefore 
had recourse to gestures, now laying his fingers on his lips to receive 
a kiss, which his hands, on quickly extending them, distributed 
right and left, as an acknowledgment of thanks for these public 
demonstrations of kindness; now spreading them and waving them 
slowly outside the windows to beg a little room; now politely 
lowering them to request a moment's silence. When he had partly 
succeeded in obtaining it, the nearest to the carriage heard and 
repeated his words: 'Bread, abundance: I come to give you justice: 
a litde room, if you please.' Then overcome, and, as it were, 
smothered with the buzzing of so many voices, the sight of so 
many crowded faces, and the consciousness of so many eyes fixed 
upon him, he drew back for a moment, puffed out his cheeks, sent 
forth a long-drawn breath, and said to himself. For mi vida, que de 
gente!^ 

'Long live Ferrer! Don't be afraid. You are a worthy man. 
Bread, bread!' 

'Yes: bread, bread,' replied Ferrer; 'abundance; I promise you,' 
and he laid his hand on his heart. 'A little room,' added he, in his 
loudest voice: 'I am coming to take him to prison, and give him 
just punishment:' continuing, in an under-tone, 'si esti culpable!^ 
Then bending forward towards the coachman, he said, hastily, 
' Adelante, Pedro, si puedes.' ' 

The driver himself also smiled with gracious condescension on 
the multitudes, as if he were some great personage; and, with 
ineffable politeness, waved his whip slowly to the right and left, to 
beg his incommodious neighbours to restrain themselves, and retire 
a little on either side. 'Be good enough, gentlemen,' said he, at last, 
'to make a little room, a very little; just enough to let us pass.' 

The most active and benevolent now exerted themselves to make 
the passage so courteously requested; some before the horses made 
the people retire by civil words, by putting their hands on their 
breasts, and by sundry gentle pushes: 'There, there, a Utde room, 
gentlemen.' Others pursued the same plan at the sides of the 
carriage, so that it might proceed without crushing toes, or infring- 

' Upon my life, what a crowdl 'If he be guilty. 'Go on, Peter, if you can. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 219 

ing upon mustachios; for, besides injury to others, these accidents 
would expose the reputation of Antonio Ferrer to great risk. 

After having stood a few moments admiring the behaviour of 
the old man, who, though agitated by perplexity and overcome with 
fatigue, was yet animated with solicitude, and adorned, so to say, 
with the hope of rescuing a fellow-creature from mortal anguish, 
Renzo put aside every thought of going away, and resolved to lend 
a hand to Ferrer, and not to leave him until he had obtained his 
purpose. No sooner said than done; he joined with the rest in 
endeavouring to dear a passage, and certainly was not among the 
least efficient. A space was cleared: 'Now come forward,' said more 
than one to the coachman, retiring or going before to make room 
further on. 'Adelante, presto, con jiiicio,' * said his master, and the 
carriage moved on. Ferrer, in the midst of salutations which he 
lavished at random on the multitude, returned many particular 
acknowledgments with a smile of marked notice, to those who he 
saw interesting themselves for him; and of these smiles more than 
one fell to Rcnzo's share, who indeed merited them, and rendered 
more assistance to the high chancellor that day than the bravest of his 
secretaries could have done. The young mountaineer, delighted with 
these marks of distinction, almost fancied he had made acquaintance 
with Antonio Ferrer. 

The carriage, once more on its way, continued to advance, more 
or less slowly, and not without some further trifling delays. The 
distance to be traversed was not perhaps above a stone's throw; but 
with respect to the time it occupied, it might have appeared a little 
journey even to one who was not in such urgent haste as Ferrer. 
The crowds moved onward, before, behind, and on each side of 
the carriage, like the mighty billows around a vessel advancing 
through the midst of a storm. The noise was more shrill, more dis- 
cordant, more stunning, even than the whisding and howling of a 
storm itself. Ferrer, looking out first at one side and then at the 
other, beckoning and making all sorts of gestures to the people, 
endeavoured to catch something to which he might accommodate 
his replies; he tried as well as he could to hold a little dialogue 
with this crowd of friends; but it was a difficult task, the most 
* Forward, quickly, but carefully. 



220 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

difficult, perhaps, that he had yet met with during so many years 
of his high chancellorship. From time to time, however, a single 
word, or occasionally some broken sentence, repeated by a group 
in his passage, made itself heard, as the report of a large squib is 
heard above the continued crackling and whizzing of a display of 
fireworks. Now endeavouring to give a satisfactory answer to 
these cries, now loudly ejaculating the words that he knew would 
be most acceptable, or that some instant necessity seemed to require, 
he, too, continued to talk the whole way. 'Yes, gentlemen; bread, 
abundance — I will conduct him to prison: he shall be punished — 
si esti culpable. Yes, yes: I will command: bread at a low price. A 
si es. . . . So it is, I mean to say: the King our master would not 
wish such faithful subjects to suffer from hunger. Oxl ox! guardaos: 
take care we do not hurt you, gentlemen. Pedro, adelante, con jtiicio. 
Plenty, plenty! A little room, for pity's sake. Bread, bread. To 
prison, to prison. What?' then demanded he of one who had 
thrust half his body through the window to shout in his ear some 
advice or petition or applause, or whatever it might be. But he, 
without having time to hear the 'what ?' was forcibly pulled back by 
one who saw him on the point of being run over by the wheels. 
With such speeches and replies, amongst incessant acclamations, 
and some few grumbles of opposition, which were distinguishable 
here and there, but were quickly silenced, Ferrer at last reached 
the house, principally by the aid of these good auxiliaries. 

The rest, who, as we have before related, were already here with 
the same good intentions, had in the mean while laboured to make 
and maintain a clear space. They begged, exhorted, threatened; and 
stamping, trampling, and pacing up and down, with that increased 
ardour and renewed strength which the near approach of a desired 
result usually excites, had succeeded in dividing the crowd into 
two, and then in repressing the two parties, so that when the carriage 
stopped before the door, there was left between it and the house a 
small empty space. Renzo, who, by acting a little both as a scout and 
guide, had arrived with the carriage, managed to place himself in one 
of the two frontiers of worthy people, who served at once both as 
wings to the carriage, and as a rampart to the too eager crowd of 
gazing by-standers. And helping to restrain one of these with 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 221 

his own powerful shoulders, he was also conveniently placed for 
seeing. 

Ferrer drew a long deep breath on perceiving this small open 
space, and the door still shut. 'Shut,' here means not open; for, as 
to the rest, the hinges were almost wrenched out of the pillars; 
the door-posts shivered to pieces, crushed, forced, and dissevered; 
and through a large hole in the door might be seen a piece of a chain, 
twisted, bent, and almost broken in two, which, if we may say so, 
still held them together. Some kind-hearted person had placed him- 
self at this opening to call to those within; another ran to let down 
the steps of the carriage: the old man rose, put out his head, and 
laying his right hand on the arm of this worthy assistant, came out 
and stood on the top step. 

The crowd on each side stretched themselves up to see him: a 
thousand faces, a thousand beards pressed forward; and the general 
curiosity and attention produced a moment of general silence. 
Ferrer, standing for that moment on the step, cast a glance around, 
saluted the people with a bow, as if from a rostrum, and laying his 
left hand on his heart, cried: 'Bread and justice;' then bold, upright, 
and in his robes, he descended amidst acclamations which rent 
the skies. 

Those within had, in the mean while, opened the door, or, to 
speak more correctly, had finished the work of wresting out the 
chain, together with the already more than half-loosened staples. 
They made an opening, to admit so ardently-desired a guest, taking, 
however, great care to limit the aperture to a space that his person 
would occupy. 'Quick, quick,' said he: 'open it wide, and let me in: 
and you, like brave fellows, keep back the people; don't let them 
follow me, for Heaven's sake! Make ready a passage, for by and 
by ... Eh! eh! gentlemen, one moment,' said he to those within: 
'softly with this door, let me pass: oh! my ribs: take care of my ribs. 
Shut it now: no, eh! eh! my gown, my gown!' It would have 
remained caught in the door, if Ferrer had not dexterously with- 
drawn the train, which disappeared from the outside like the tail 
of a snake that slips into a hiding-place when pursued. 

The door pushed to, and closed as it best could be, was then 
propped up with bars within. Outside, those who constituted them- 



222 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

selves Ferrer's body-guard laboured with shoulders, arms, and cries, 
to keep the space clear, praying from the bottom of their hearts that 
he would be expeditious. 

'Be quick, be quick,' said he, also, as he stood within the portico, 
to the servants who had gathered round him, and who, almost out 
of breath, were exclaiming: 'Blessings on you! ah, your Excellency! 
oh, your Excellency! uh, your Excellency!' 

'Quick, quick,' repeated Ferrer; 'where is this poor man?' 

The superintendent came down-stairs, half dragged along, and 
half carried by his servants, as white as a sheet. When he saw his 
kind helper, he once more breathed freely; his pulse again beat, a 
little life returned into his limbs, and a little colour into his cheeks: 
he hastened towards Ferrer, saying, 'I am in the hands of God and 
your Excellency. But how shall we get out of this house.'' It is 
surrounded by the mob, who desire my death.' 

'Venga con mi go ustedj" and be of good courage: my carriage is 
outside; quick, quick!' And taking his hand, he led him towards 
the door, doing his best to encourage him: but in his heart thinking, 
Aqui estH el btisillis! Dios nos valgal* 

The door opened; Ferrer led the way, followed by his companion, 
who, creeping along, clung to the toga of his deliverer, Uke a little 
child to its mother's gown. Those who had kept the space clear, now 
raised their hands and hats so as to form a kind of net or cloud to 
screen the superintendent from the perilous gaze of the populace, and 
allow him to enter the carriage, where he concealed himself, by 
crouching in a corner. Ferrer then got in, and the door was shut. 
The people knew or guessed what had happened, and sent forth a 
confused shout of applauses and imprecations. 

It may seem that the most difficult and hazardous part of the 
journey still remained to be performed; but the public desire of 
letting the superintendent be carried to prison, was sufficiently 
evident; and during the stay of the chancellor in the house, many 
of those who had facilitated his arrival had so busied themselves in 
preparing and maintaining a passage through the midst of the crowd, 
that on its return the carriage could proceed at a quicker pace, and 
without further delays. As fast as it advanced, the two crowds, 
repelled on both sides, fell back and mingled again behind it. 
' Come with me, sir. • Here is the difficult point God help us! 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 223 

As soon as Ferrer had seated himself, he bent down, and advised 
the vicar to keep himself well concealed in the corner, and not show 
himself for Heaven's sake; but there was no necessity for this warn- 
ing. He, on the contrary, was obliged to display himself at the 
window, to attract and engage the attention of the multitude: and 
through the whole course of this drive he was occupied, as before, in 
making, to his changeable audience, the most lengthened and most 
unconnected harangue that ever was uttered; only interrupting it 
occasionally with some Spanish word or two, which he turned to 
whisper hastily in the ear of his squatting companion. 'Yes, gentle- 
men, bread and justice. To the castle, to prison, under my guard. 
Thank you, thank you; a thousand thanks. No, no; he shall not 
escape! Por ablandarlosJ It is too just; we will examine, we will 
see. I also wish you well, gentlemen. A severe punishment. Esto 
lo digo por su bien? A just tariff, a fair Umit, and punishment to 
those who would starve you. Stand aside, I beg of you. — ^Yes, yes, 
I am an honest man, a friend of the people. He shall be punished. 
It is true, he is a rogue, a rascal. Perdone usted!' It will go ill with 
him, it will go ill with him , , , Si esti culpable^" Yes, yes; we will 
make the bakers plough straightforward. Long live the king, and 
the good Milanese, his most faithful subjects! It is bad, very bad. 
Animo; estamos ya quasi afuera.' " 

They had, in fact, traversed the thickest part of the crowd, and 
were now just on the point of issuing into the open street. Here 
Ferrer, as he began to give his lungs a little rest, met his tardy 
allies, those Spanish soldiers, who, towards the end, had not been 
quite useless, since, supported and directed by some citizen, they 
had assisted to disperse a few of the mob in quiet, and to keep open 
a passage for the final exit. On the arrival of the carriage, they made 
way and presented arms to the high chancellor, who returned the 
acknowledgment by a bow to the right and left; and to the officer 
who approached nearer to salute him, he said, accompanying the 
words with a wave of his right hand 'Beso d usted las manos;' " 
which the officer took for what it really meant — You have given 
me fine assistance! In reply, he made another low t>ow, and shrugged 
his shoulders. It would have been appropriate enough to add, Cedant 

'It is to coax them. *I jay this for your good. 'Excuse me, sir. 

'"If he be guilty. " Courage! wc are almost out of danger. 

" Your servant, sir: literally, "I kiss your hand.' 



224 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

arma togce, but Ferrer was not at that moment in a humour for quo- 
tations; and had he been, his words would have been wasted on the 
winds, for the officer did not understand Latin. 

Pedro regained his ancient spirit in passing between these two files 
of puppets and these muskets so respectfully elevated. Having re- 
covered from his consternation, he remembered who he was, and 
whom he was driving; and shouting 'Obey! obey!' without the 
addition of other complimentary speeches to the mob, now suffi- 
ciently reduced in number to allow of his venturing on such treat- 
ment, he whipped on his horses, and took the road towards the 
castle. 

'Levantese, levantese; estamos afuera,' " said Ferrer to the superin- 
lendent, who, reassured by the cessation of the cries, by the rapid 
motion of the carriage, and by these words, uncovered and stretched 
himself, rose, and recovering himself a little, began to overwhelm 
liis liberator with thanks. Ferrer, after having condoled with him 
on his perilous situation, and congratulated him on his safety, ex- 
claimed, running the palm of his hand over his bald pate, 'Ah, que 
dird de esto su Excelencia,^* who is already beside himself, for this 
cursed Casale,that won't surrender ? Que dir^ el Conde Duque,^^ who 
starts with fear if a leaf makes more noise than usual? Que dird 
el Rey nuestro sehor)^ who will be sure to hear something of a great 
tumult? And when will it be over? Dios lo sabe." 

'Ah! as to myself, I will meddle no more in the business,' said the 
superintendent: 'I wash my hands of it; I resign my office into your 
Excellency's hands, and will go and live in a cave, or on a mountain, 
like a hermit, far, far away from this inhuman rabble.' 

'Usted will do what is best por el servicio de su Magestad^* 
gravely replied the chancellor. 

'His Majesty does not desire my death,' answered the superintend- 
ent. 'In a cave, in a cave, far from these people.' What followed 
afterwards upon this proposal is not recorded by our author, who, 
after accompanying the poor man to the castle, makes no further 
mention of his proceedings. 

" Get up, get up; we are out of danger. 

" What will his Excellency say of this' •' What will the Count Duke tay? 

" what will the King our master say r " God knows. 

" You will do, sir, what it bat for the service of his Majesty. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE crowd that was left behind began to disperse, and to 
branch ofl to the right and left along the different streets. 
One went home to attend to his business; another departed 
that he might breathe the fresh air in a little liberty, after so many 
hours of crowded confinement; while a third set off in search of 
acquaintances, with whom he might have a little chat about the 
doings of the day. The same dispersion was going on at the other 
end of the street, where the crowd was sufficiently thinned to allow 
the troop of Spaniards to advance, and approach the superintendent's 
house, without having to fight their way. Around this, the dregs, 
so to say, of the insurgents were still congregated — a handful of 
rascals who, discontented with so quiet and imperfect a termination 
to such great preparations, grumbled, cursed, and consulted, to en- 
courage themselves in seeking if something further might not be 
undertaken; and, by way of experiment, began beating and pound- 
ing at the unfortunate door, which had been again barred and 
propped up within. On the arrival of the troop, these, without pre- 
vious consultation, but with a unanimous resolution, moved off, 
and departed by the opposite side, leaving the post free to the soldiers, 
who took possession of it, and encamped as a guard to the house 
and street. But the neighbouring streets and squares were still full 
of scattered groups: where two or three were standing, three, four, 
twenty others would stop; some would depart, others arrive: it was 
like those little straggling clouds that sometimes remain scattered 
and shifting over the azure sky after a storm, and make one say, on 
looking upwards. The weather is not settled yet. There was heard 
a confused and varying sound of voices: one was relating with much 
energy the particular incidents he had witnessed; another recounted 
what he himself had done; another congratulated his neighbours on 
this peaceable termination, applauded Ferrer, and prognosticated 
dire evils about to fall on the superintendent; others laughed at the 



226 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

idea, and asserted that no harm would be done him, because a wolf 
does not prey upon a wolf; while others more angrily murmured 
because things had not been managed properly — said that it was all 
a hoax, and that they were fools to have made such a hubbub, only 
to allow themselves, after all, to be cozened in this manner. 

Meanwhile, the sun had set, and twilight spread its uniform 
sombreness over all objects. Many, wearied with the exertions of 
the day, and tired of gossiping in the dark, returned to their re^)ec- 
tive homes. Our youth, after having assisted the progress of the car- 
riage so long as there was need of assistance, and having followed 
it even between the two files of soldiers, as in triumph, was satisfied 
when he saw it rolling along, uninterruptedly, out of danger; and 
accompanying the crowd a little way, he soon deserted it by the first 
outlet, that he might breathe a little fresh air in quiet. After taking 
a few steps at large, in the midst of much agitation from so many 
new scenes, so many passions, and so many recent and confused 
remembrances, he began to feel his need both of food and rest; and 
kept looking up from side to side, in hopes of seeing a sign of some 
inn, since it was too late to go to the convent. As he thus proceeded, 
gazing upwards, he suddenly lit upon a group of gossips; and stop- 
ping to listen, he heard them, as they talked, making conjectures, 
proposals, and designs for the morrow. After listening a moment 
or two, he could not resist putting in his word, thinking that he who 
had done so much might, without presumption, join a little in the 
conversation. Persuaded, from what he had seen during the day, that 
to accomplish anything, it was only necessary to suggest it to the pop- 
ulace, 'My good sirs,' cried he, by way of exordium: 'may I, too, give 
my poor opinion? My poor opinion is this: that there are other in- 
iquities besides this of bread. Now we've seen plain enough to-day 
that we can get justice by making ourselves felt. Then let us proceed 
until all these grievances are cured, that the world may move for- 
ward in a little more Christian fashion. Isn't it true, gentlemen, that 
there's a set of tyrants who set at nought the Ten Commandments, 
and search out poor people, (who don't trouble their heads about 
them), just to do them every mischief they can; and yet they're always 
in the right ? Nay, when they've been acting the rascal more than 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 227 

usual, then hold their heads higher than at other times? Yes, and 
even Milan has its share of them.' 

'Too many,' said a voice. 

'So I say,* rejoined Renzo: 'the accounts of them have already 
reached our ears. And, besides, the thing speaks for itself. Let us 
suppose, for instance, that one of those I am talking about should 
have one foot outside and one in Milan : if he's a devil there, he \von't 
be an angel here, I fancy. Yet just tell me, sirs, whether you've ever 
seen one of these men behind the grating! And the worst of it is 
(and this I can affirm with certainty), there are proclamations in 
plenty published, to punish them; and those not proclamations with- 
out meaning, but well drawn out; you can't find anything better 
done: there are all sorts of villanies clearly mentioned, exactly as 
they happen, and to each one its proper punishment. It says: "Who- 
ever it may be, ignoble or plebeians," and what not besides. Now, 
just go and ask doctors, scribes, and pharisees, to see justice done 
to you, as the proclamation warrants, and they will give you as much 
ear as the Pope does to vagabonds: it's enough to make any honest 
fellow turn desperate. It is plain enough, then, that the king, and 
those who command under him, are desirous that knaves should 
be duly punished; but nothing is done because there is some league 
between them. We, therefore, ought to break it; we should go 
to-morrow morning to Ferrer, who is a worthy man, and a tractable 
signor; we saw to-day how glad he was to be amongst the poor 
people, and how he tried to hear what was said to him, and answered 
with such condescension. We should go to Ferrer, and tell him how 
things stand; and I, for my part, can tell him some fine doings; 
for I saw with my own eyes a proclamation with ever so many arms 
at the top, which had been made by three of the rulers, for there 
was the name of each of them printed plain below, and one of these 
names was Ferrer, seen by me with my own eyes: now, this edict 
exactly suited my case; and a doctor, to whom I applied for justice, 
according to the intention of these three gentlemen, among whom 
was Ferrer himself, this signor doctor, who had himself shown me the 
proclamation, and a fine one it is, aha! thought that I was talking 
to him like a madman! I'm sure that when this worthy old fellow 



228 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

hears some of these fine doings, for he cannot know all, particularly 
those in the country, he won't be willing to let the world go on this 
way, but will find some remedy for it. And besides, they who make 
the proclamations ought to wish that they should be obeyed; for it 
is an insult to count as nothing an edict with their name fixed to it. 
And if the powerful ones won't lower their heads, and will still 
play the fool, we are ready to make them, as we've done to-day. I 
don't say that he should go about in his carriage, to carry off every 
powerful and overbearing rascal: eh, eh! it would require Noah's ark 
for that. But he ought to command all those whose business it is, 
not only in Milan, but everywhere, to do things as the proclamations 
require; and draw up an indictment against all those who have 
committed these iniquities; and where it says, prison, — to prison; 
where it says, galleys, — to the galleys; and bid the podesti do his 
duty; if he won't, send him about his business, and put a better man 
in his place; and then besides, as 1 said, we should be ready to lend 
a hand. And he ought to order the lawyers to listen to the poor, and 
to talk reasonably. Don't I say right, my good sirs?' 

Renzo had talked so earnestly, that from the beginning a great 
part of the assemblage had stopped all other conversation, and had 
turned to listen to him; and, up to a certain point, all had continued 
his auditors. A confused clamour of applause, of 'Bravo; certainly, 
he is right; it is too true!' followed his harangue. Critics, however, 
were not wanting. 'Oh, yes,' said one, 'listen to a mountaineer; they 
are all advocates;' and he went away. 'Now,' muttered anothc, 
'every ragamuffin must put in his word; and what with having too 
many irons in the fire, we sha'n't have bread sold cheap, which is 
what we've made this stir for.' Renzo, however, heard nothing but 
compliments, one taking him by this hand, another by that. 'I will 
see you to-morrow. — Where? — At the square of the Cathedral. — 
Very well. — Very well. — And something will be done. — And some- 
thing will be done.' 

'Which of these good gentlemen will direct me to an inn, where 
I can get something to eat, and a lodging for the night, that will 
suit a p)Oor youth's p)ocket?' said Renzo. 

'I am at your service, my brave fellow,' said one who had listened 
attentively to his harangue, and had not yet said a word. 'I know an 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 229 

inn that will just suit you; and I will introduce you to the landlord, 
who is my friend, and a very worthy man.' 

'Near at hand?' asked Renzo. 

'Only a little way off,' replied he. 

The assembly dispersed; and Renzo, after several warm shakes of 
the hand from strangers, went off with his new acquaintance, thank- 
ing him heartily for his kindness. 

'Not a word, not a word,' said he: one hand washes the other, and 
both the face. Is it not one's duty to serve one's neighbour?' And 
as h" walked, he kept making of Renzo, in the course of conversation, 
first one and then another inquiry. 'Not out of curiosity about your 
doings; but you seem tired: where do you come from?' 

'I come,' replied Renzo, 'as far as from Lecco.' 

'From Lecco! Are you a native of Lecco?' 

'Of Lecco . . . that is, of the territory.' 

'Poor fellow! from what I have gathered in your conversation, you 
seem to have been badly treated.' 

'Eh! my dear fellow, I was obliged to speak rather carefully, that 
I might not publish my affairs to the world; but . . . it's enough; 
some day it will be known, and then . . . But I see a sign of an 
inn here; and, to ray the truth, I am not inclined to go any further.' 

'No, no; come where I told you: it's a very little way further,' 
said the guide: 'here you won't be comfortable.' 

'Very well,' replied the youth: 'I'm not a gentleman, accustomed 
to down, though: something good to supply the garrison, and a 
straw mattress, are enough for me: and what I most want is to find 
both directly. Here we are, fortunately.' And he entered a shabby- 
looking doorway, over which hung the sign of The Full Moon. 

'Well; I will lead you here, since you wish it,' said the incognito; 
and he followed him in. 

'Don't trouble yourself any further,' replied Renzo. 'However,' 
added he, 'you will do me the favour of taking a glass with me.' 

'I accept your kind offer,' replied he: and he advanced, as being 
better acquainted with the place, before Renzo, through a little court, 
approached a glass door, lifted up the latch, and, opening it, entered 
with his companion into the kitchen. 

Two lights illuminated the apartment, suspended from two hooks 



230 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

fixed in the beam of the ceiling. Many persons, all of whom were 
engaged, were lounging on benches which stretched along both 
sides of a narrow, dirty table, occupying almost the whole of one side 
of the room : here and there a cloth was spread, and a few dishes set 
out; at intervals, cards were played, and dice cast, and gathered up; 
and everywhere were bottles and glasses. On the wet table were 
to be seen berlinghe, reali, and parpagliole} which, oould they have 
spoken, would probably have said: This morning we were in a 
baker's till, or in the pockets of some of the spectators of the tumult; 
for every one, intent on watching how public matters went, forgot 
to look after their own private interests. The clamour was great. 
A boy was going backwards and forwards in haste and bustle, 
waiting upon this table and simdry chess-boards: the host was sitting 
upon a small bench under the chimney-piece, occupied, apparently, 
in making and un-making certain figures in the ashes with the 
tongs; but, in reality, intent on all that was going on around him. 
He rose at the sound of the latch, and advanced towards the new 
comers. When he saw the guide. — Cursed fellow! thought he: — you 
are always coming to plague me, when I least want you! — Then, 
hastily glancing at Renzo, he again said to himself: — I don't know 
you; but, coming with such a hunter, you must be either a dog or 
a hare; when you have said two words, I shall know which. — How- 
ever, nothing of this mute soliloquy appeared in the landlord's 
countenance, which was as immovable as a picture: a round and 
shining face, with a thick reddish beard, and two bright and staring 
eyes. 

'What are your commands, gentlemen?' said he. 

'First of all, a good flask of wine,' said Renzo, 'and then something 
to eat.' So saying, he sat down on a bench towards the end of the 
table, and uttered a sonorous 'Ah!' which seemed to say: it does one 
good to sit down after having been so long standing and working so 
hard. But immediately the recollection of the bench and the table 
at which he had last sat with Lucia and Agnese, rushed to his mind, 
and forced from him a sigh. He shook his head to drive away the 
thought, and then saw the host coming with the wine. His compan- 
ion had sat down opposite to Renzo, who poured him out a glass, and 
' Different kindi of Spanish and Milanese coint. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 231 

pushed it towards him, saying: 'To moisten your lips.' And filling 
the other glass, he emptied it at one draught. 

'What can you give me to eat?' then demanded he of the landlord. 

*A good bit of stewed meat?' asked he. 

"Yes, sir; a bit of stewed meat.' 

'You shall be served direcdy,' said the host to Renzo; and turning 
to the boy : 'Attend to this stranger.' 

And he retreated to the fire-place. 'But . . •' resumed he, turning 
again towards Renzo: 'we have no bread to-day.' 

'As to bread,' said Renzo, in a loud voice and laughing, 'Provi- 
dence has provided that.' And drawing from his pocket the third 
and last loaf which he had picked up under the Cross of San Dionigi, 
he raised it in the air, exclaiming: 'Behold the bread of Providence!' 
Many turned on hearing this exclamation; and, seeing such a trophy 
in the air, somebody called out: 'Hurrah for bread at a low price!' 

'At a low price?' said Renzo: 'Gratis et amore.' 

'Better still, better still.' 

'But,' added he, immediately, 'I should not like these gentlemen to 
think ill of me. I have not, as they say, stolen it: I found it on the 
ground; and if I could find its owner, 1 am ready to pay him for it.' 

'Bravo! bravo!' cried his companions, laughing more loudly, with- 
out its entering into one of their minds that these words seriously 
expressed a real fact and intention. 

'They think I'm joking; but i 's just so,' said Renzo, to his guide; 
and, turning the loaf over in his hand, he added: 'See how they've 
crushed it; it looks hke a cake: but there were plenty close by it! 
if any of them had had very tender bones they'd have come badly 
off.' Then, biting off and devouring three or four mouthfuls, he 
swallowed another glass of wine, and added, 'This bread won't go 
down alone. I never had so dry a throat. A great shouting there 
was!' 

'Prepare a good bed for this honest fellow,' said the guide; 'for he 
intends to sleep here.' 

'Do you wish a bed?' asked the landlord of Renzo, advancing 
towards the table. 

'Certainly,' replied he: 'a bed, to be sure; only let the sheets be 
dean; for, though I'm but a poor lad, I'm accustomed to cleanliness.* 



232 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Oh! as to that,' said the host: and going to a counter that stood 
in a corner of the kitchen, he returned with an inkstand and a Htde 
bit of writing-paper in one hand, and a pen in the other. 

'What does this mean?' exclaimed Renzo, gulping down a mouth- 
ful of the stew that the boy had set before him, and then smiling 
in astonishment: 'Is this the white sheet, eh?' 

Without making any reply, the landlord laid the paper on the 
table, and put the inkstand by the paper: then stooping forward, 
he rested his left arm on the table and his right elbow, and holding 
the pen in the air, with his face raised towards Renzo, said to him : 
'Will you be good enough to tell me your name, surname, and 
country?' 

'What?' said Renzo: 'What has all this to do with my bed?' 

'I do my duty,' said the host, looking towards the guide; 'we are 
obliged to give an account and relation of every one that comes to 
sleep in our house: name and surname, and of what nation he is, 
on what business he comes, if he has any arms with him , . . how 
long he intends to stay in this city . . . They are the very words 
of the proclamation.' 

Before replying, Renzo swallowed another glass; it was the third, 
and from this time forward, I fear we shall not be able to count 
them. He then said, 'Ahl ah! you have the proclamation! And I 
pride myself upon being a doctor of law; so I know well enough 
what importance is attached to edicts.' 

'I speak in earnest,' said the landlord, keeping his eye on Renzo's 
mute companion; and going again to the counter, he drew out a 
large sheet, an exact copy of the proclamation, and came to display 
it before Renzo's eyes. 

'Ah! see!' exclaimed the youth, raising the re-filled glass in one 
hand, and quickly emptying it, while he stretched out the other, 
and pointed with his finger towards the unfolded proclamation; 
'Look at that fine sheet, like a missal. I'm delighted to see it. I 
know those arms; and I know what that heretical face means, with 
the noose round its neck.' (At the head of the edicts the arms of 
the governor were usually placed; and in those of Don Gonzalo 
Fernandez de Cordova appeared a Moorish king, chained by the 
throat.) 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 233 

'That face means : Command who can, and obey who will. When 

that face shall have sent to the galleys Signor don never mind, 

1 know who; as another parchment says, like this; when it has 
provided that an honest youth may marry an honest girl who is 
willing to be married to him, then I will tell my name to this face, 
and will give it a kiss into the bargain. I may have very good reasons 
for not telling my name. Oh, truly! And if a rascal, who had under 

his command a handful more of rascals; for if he were alone ' 

Here he finished his sentence with a gesture: 'If a rascal wanted to 
know where I am, to do me an ill turn, I ask if that face would 
move itself to help me. I'm to tell my business! This is some- 
thing new. Supposing I had come to Milan to confess, I should 
wish to confess to a Capuchin Father, I beg to say, and not to a 
landlord.' 

The host was silent, and looked towards the guide, who gave no 
token of noticing what passed. Renzo, we grieve to say, swallowed 
another glass, and continued: 'I will give you a reason, my dear 
landlord, which will satisfy you. If those proclamations which speak 
in favour of good Christians are worth nothing, those which speak 
against them are worth still less. So carry away all these bothering 
things, and bring us instead another flask; for this is broken.' So 
saying, he tapped it lightly with his knuckles, and added: 'Listen, 
how it sounds like a cracked bottle.' 

Renzo's language had again attracted the attention of the party; 
and when he ceased, there arose a general murmur of approbation. 

'What must I do?' said the host, looking at the incognito, who was, 
however, no stranger to him. 

'Away, away with them,' cried many of the guests; 'this country- 
man has some sense; they are grievances, tricks, impositions; new 
laws to-day, new laws!' 

In the midst of these cries, the incognito, glancing towards the 
landlord a look of reproof for this too public magisterial summons, 
said, 'Let him have his own way a little; don't give any offence.' 

'I have done my duty,' said the host, in a loud voice; and added, 
to himself: — Now I have my shoulders against the wall. — He then 
removed the pen, ink, and paper, and took the empty flagon to give 
it to the boy. 



234 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Bring the same sort of wine,' said Renzo; 'for I find it a worthy 
fellow, and will send it to sleep with the other, without asking its 
name or surname, and what is its business, and if it intends to stay 
any time in the city.' 

'Some more of the same sort,' said the landlord, to the boy, giving 
him the flask; and he returned to his seat under the chimney-piece. 
— More simple than a hare! — thought he, figuring away in the cin- 
ders: — and into what hands hast thou fallen! Thou great ass! If thou 
wilt drown, drown; but the landlord of the Full Moon isn't obliged 
to go shares in thy folly! — 

Renzo returned thanks to his guide, and to all the rest who had 
taken his part. 'Brave friends,' said he, 'now I see clearly that honest 
fellows give each other a hand, and support each other.' Then 
waving his hand in the air, over the table, and again assuming the 
air of a speaker, 'Isn't it an admirable thing,' exclaimed he, 'that all 
our rulers will have pen, ink, and paper, intruding everywhere.' 
Always a pen in the hand! They must have a mighty passion for 
wielding the pen!' 

'Eh! you worthy countryman! would you like to know the reason.'' 
said a winner in one of the games, laughing. 

'Let us hear,' replied Renzo. 

'The reason is,' said he, 'that as these Signori eat geese, they find 
they have got so many quills that they are obliged to make some- 
thing of them.' 

All began to laugh, excepting the poor man who had just been 
a loser. 

'Oh,' said Renzo, 'this man is a poet. You have some poets here, 
then: they are springing up everywhere. I have a little turn that 
way myself; and sometimes I make some fine verses . . . but that's 
when things go smoothly.' 

To understand this nonsense of poor Renzo's, the reader must 
know that, amongst the lower orders in Milan, and still more in 
the country, the term poet did not signify, as among all educated 
people, a sacred genius, an inhabitant of Pindus, a votary of the 
Muses; it rather meant a humorous and even giddy-headed person, 
who in conversation and behaviour had more repartee and novelty 
than sense. So daring are these mischief-makers among the vulgar, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 235 

in destroying the meaning of words, and making them express 
things the most foreign and contrary to their legitimate significa- 
tion! For what, I should like to know, has a poet to do with a giddy 
brain? 

'But I'll tell you the true reason,' added Renzo; 'It is because they 
hold the pen in their own hand: and so the words that they utter 
fly away and disappear; the words that a poor lad speaks, are care- 
fully noted, and very soon they fly through the air with his pen, and 
are down upon paper to be made use of at a proper time and place. 
They've also another trick, that when they would bother a poor 
fellow who doesn't know letters, but who has a little ... I know 
what . . .' and to illustrate his meaning he began tapping, and almost 
battering his forehead with his forefinger, 'no sooner do they per- 
ceive that he begins to understand the puzzle, than, forsooth, they 
must throw in a little Latin, to make him lose the thread, to prevent 
his defending himself, and to perplex his brain. Well, well! it is 
our business to do away with these practices! To-day everything 
has been done reasonably, in our own tongue, and without pen, ink 
and paper: and to-morrow, if people will but govern themselves, 
we will do still better; without touching a hair of their heads, 
though; everything must be done in a fair way.' 

In the mean time some of the company had returned to their gam- 
ing, others to eating, and many to shouting; some went away, 
and others arrived in their place; the landlord busied himself in 
attending upon all; but these things have nothing to do with our 
story. 

The unknown guide was impatient to take his departure; yet, 
though he had not, to all appearance, any business at the house, he 
would not go away till he had chatted a little with Renzo, individu- 
ally. He, therefore, turned to him, and renewed the conversation 
about bread; and after a few of those expressions which had been, 
for some time, in everybody's mouth, he began to give his own 
opinion. 'Eh! if I were ruling,' said he, 'I would find a way of mak- 
ing things right.' 

'How would you do?' asked Renzo, fixing on him two eyes more 
sparkling than usual, and twisting his mouth away, as it were to 
be more attentive. 



236 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'How would I do?' said he; 'I would have bread for all: for poor 
as well as rich.' 

'Ah! so far well,' said Renzo. 

'See how I would do. First, I would fix a moderate price, that 
everybody could reach. Then I would distribute bread according to 
the number of mouths: for there are some inconsiderate gluttons who 
would have all to themselves, and strive who can get the most, buy- 
ing at a high price, and thus there isn't bread enough for the poor 
people. Therefore, distribute bread. And how should that be done ? 
See: give a note to every family, in proportion to the number of 
mouths, to go and get bread at the bakehouses. To me, for example, 
they should give a note of this kind: — Ambrogio Fusella, by trade a 
sword<utler, with a wife and four children, all of an age to eat bread 
(note that well): let them have so much bread; and pay so many 
pence. But to do things justly it must always be in proportion to the 
number of mouths. You, we will suppose, ought to have a note for 
. . . your name?' 

'Lorenzo Tramaglino,' said the youth; who, delighted with the 
plan, never recollected that it was entirely founded on paper, pen 
and ink, and that to put it in execution the first thing must be to 
get everybody's name. 

'Very well,' said the stranger; 'but have you a wife and children?' 

'I ought, indeed . . . children, no . . . too soon . . . but a wife 
... if the world went as it ought ... * 

'Ah! you are single! Well, have patience; but a smaller portion 

» 

'You are right; but if soon, as I hope . . . and by the help of 
God . . . Enough; and when I've a wife too?' 

'Then change the note, and increase the quantity. As I said; 
always in proportion to the number of mouths,' said the unknown, 
rising from his seat. 

'That is all very good,' cried Renzo; and he continued vociferously, 
as he struck his hand upon the table: 'And why don't they make a 
law of this kind?' 

'How can I tell? But I must bid you good night, and be off; for 
I fancy my wife and children have been looking out for me this good 
while.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 237 

'Just another little drop — another little drop,' cried Renzo, hastily 
filling his glass; and, rising quickly, he seized the skirt of his doublet, 
and tried to force him to sit down again. 'Another little drop; don't 
do me this insult.' 

But his friend disengaged himself with a sudden jerk, and leaving 
Renzo to indulge in importunity and reproaches as he pleased, 
again said: 'Good night,' and went away. Renzo shouted after him 
when he had even reached the street, and then sank back upon his 
seat. He eyed the glass that he had just filled; and seeing the boy 
passing the table, he detained him with a beckon of his hand, as if 
he had some business to communicate to him; he then pointed to 
the glass, and, with a slow and grave enunciation, and pronouncing 
the words in a peculiar manner, said: 'See, I had prepared it for that 
worthy gentleman: do you see? full to the brim, fit for a friend; but 
he wouldn't have it; people have very odd ideas, sometimes. I 
couldn't do otherwise; I let him see my kind intentions. Now, then, 
since the thing is done, 1 mus'n't let it go to waste.' So saying, he 
took it, and emptied it at a draught. 

'I understand,' said the boy, going away. 

'Ah! you understand, do you?' replied Renzo; 'then it is true. 
When reasons are sensible! . . .' 

Nothing less than our love of truthfulness would induce us to 
prosecute a faithful account which does so little credit to so impor- 
tant a person, we may almost say, to the principal hero, of our story. 
From this same motive of impartiality, however, we must also state, 
that this was the first time that such a thing happened to Renzo; 
and it is just because he was not accustomed to such excesses that his 
first attempt succeeded so fatally. The few glasses that he had swal- 
lowed one after another, at first, contrary to his usual habits, partly 
to cool his parched throat, partly from a sort of excitement of mind 
which gave him no liberty to do anything in moderation, quickly 
went to his head; a more practised drinker would probably never 
have felt them. Our anonymous author here makes an observation 
which we repeat for the benefit of those of our readers who know 
how to value it. Temperate and honest habits, says he, bring with 
them this advantage; that the more they are stablished and rooted 
in a man, so much the more easily, when he acts contrary to them, 



238 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

does he immediately feel the injury or inconvenience, or, to say the 
least, the disagreeability of such an action : so that he has something 
to remember for a time; and thus even a sUght fault serves him fo! 
a lesson. 

However this may be, certain it is that when these first fumes had 
mounted to Renzo's brain, wine and words continued to flow, one 
down, the other up, without measure or reason: and at the point 
where we have left him, he had got quite beyond his powers of 
self-goveriunent. He felt a great desire to talk: auditors, or at least 
men present whom he could imagine such, were not wanting; and 
for some time also words had readily occurred to him, and he had 
been able to arrange them in some sort of order. But by degrees his 
power of connecting sentences began woefully to fail. The thought 
that had presented itself vividly and definitively to his mind, sud- 
denly clouded over and vanished; while the word he wanted and 
waited for, was, when it occurred to him, inapplicable and unseason- 
able. In this perplexity, by one of those false instincts that so often 
ruin men, he would again have recourse to the flagon; but any one 
with a grain of sense will be able to imagine of what use the flagon 
was to him then. 

We will only relate some of the many words he uttered in this 
disastrous evening; the others which we omit would be too unsuit- 
able; for they not only had no meaning, but made no show of hav- 
ing any — a necessary requisite in a printed book. 

'Ah, host, host,' resumed he, following him with his eye round the 
table, or under the chimney-piece; sometimes gazing at him where 
he was not, and talking all the time in the midst of the uproar of 
the party: 'What a landlord you are! I cannot swallow this . . . this 
trick about the name, surname, and business. To a youth like me! 
. . . You have not behaved well. What satisfaction now, what ad- 
vantage, what pleasure ... to put upon paper a poor youth? Don't 
I speak sense, gentlemen ? Landlords ought to stand by good youths 
. . . Listen, listen, landlord; I will compare you . . . because . . . 
Do you laugh, eh! I am a little too far gone, I know . . . but the 
reasons I would give are right enough. Just tell me, now, who is it 
that keeps up your trade? Poor fellows, isn't it? See if any of these 
gentlemen of the proclamations ever come here to wet their lips.' 



I PROMESSl SPOSI 239 

'They are all people that drink water,' said one of Renzo's neigh- 
bours. 

'They want to have their heads clear,' added another, 'to be able 
to tell lies cleverly.' 

'Ah!' cried Renzo. 'That was the poet who spoke then. Then 
you also understand my reason. Answer me, then, landlord; and 
Ferrer, who is the best of all, has he ever come here to drink a toast, 
or to spend a quarter of a farthing? And that dog of a villain, Don 
. . . I'll hold my tongue, because I'm a careful fellow. Ferrer and 
Father Cr-r-r ... I know, they are two worthy men; but there are 
so few worthy men in the world. The old are worse than the young; 
and the young . . . worse again than the old. However, I am glad 
there has been no murdering; fye; cruelties that should be left for 
the hangman's hands. Bread; oh yes! I got some great pushes, but 
... I gave some away too. Room! plenty! long live! , . . However, 
even Ferrer . . . some few words in Latin . . . sies baraos trapo- 
lorutn , . . Cursed trick! Long Uve! . . . justice! bread! Ah, these 
are fair words! . . . There we wanted these comrades . . . when 
that cursed ton, ton, ton, broke forth, and then again ton, ton, ton. 
We did not flee then, do you see, to keep that signor curate there 
... I know what I'm thinking about!' 

At these words he bent down his head, and remained some time 
as if absorbed in some idea; he then heaved a deep sigh, and raised 
a face with two piteous-looking eyes, and such an expression of disa- 
greeable and stupid grief, that woe to him if the object of it could 
have seen him at that moment. But the wicked men around him, 
who had already begun to divert themselves with the impassioned 
and confused eloquence of Renzo, now hastened to ridicule his 
countenance tinctured with remorse; the nearest to him said to the 
others: 'Look at him;' and all turned towards the poor fellow, so 
that he became the laughing-stock of the unruly company. Not that 
all of them were in their perfect senses, or in their ordinary senses, 
whatever they might be; but, to say the truth, none of them had 
gone so far as poor Renzo: and still more, he was a countryman. 
They began, first one and then another, to provoke him with foolish 
and unmannerly questions, and jesting ceremonies. One moment 
he would seem to be offended, the next, would take the treatment 



240 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in joke; now, without taking notice of all these voices, he would talk 
of something quite different, now replying, now interrogating, but 
always by starts and blunders. Fortunately, in all this extravagance, 
he had preserved a kind of instinctive carefulness not to mention the 
names of persons, so that even that which was most likely to be firmly 
fixed in his memory was not once uttered; for deeply it would have 
grieved us if that name for which even we entertain a degree of 
respect and affection, had been bandied about, and become the sport 
of these abandoned wretches. 



CHAPTER XV 

THE landlord, seeing the game was lasting too long, and 
being carried too far, had approached Renzo, and, with the 
greatest politeness, requesting the others to leave him alone, 
began shaking him by the arm, and tried to make him understand, 
and persuade him that he had better go to bed. But Renzo could 
not forget the old subject of the name, and surname, the proclama- 
tions, and worthy youths. However, the words 'bed' and 'sleep,' re- 
peated in his ear, wrought some kind of impression on his mind; 
they made him feel a little more distinctly his need of what they 
signified, and produced a momentary lucid interval. The little sense 
that returned to his mind, made him, in some degree, sensible that 
most of his companions had gone: as the last glimmering torch 
in an illumination shows all the others extinguished. He made a 
resolution; placed his op)en hands upon the table; tried once or twice 
to raise himself; sighed, staggered, and at a third attempt, supported 
by his host, he stood upon his feet. The landlord, steadying him as 
he walked along, guided him from between the bench and the table, 
and taking a lamp in one hand, partly conducted, and partly dragged 
him with the other, towards the door of the stairs. Here, Renzo, on 
hearing the noise of the salutations which were shouted after him 
by the company, hastily turned round, and if his supporter had not 
been very alert, and held him by the arm, the evolution would have 
ended in a heavy fall: however, he managed to turn back, and, with 
his unconfined arm, began figuring and describing in the air sundry 
salutes like a running knot. 

'Let us go to bed; to bed,' said the landlord, pushing him forward 
through the door; and with still more difficulty drawing him to the 
top of the narrow wooden staircase, and then into the room he had 
prepared for him. Renzo rejoiced on seeing his bed ready; he looked 
graciously upon his host, with eyes which one moment glistened 
more than ever, and the next faded away, like two fire-flies: he en- 

a4« 



242 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

deavoured to steady himself on his legs, and stretched out his hand 
toward his host's cheek to take it between his first and middle fingers, 
in token of friendship and gratitude, but he could not succeed. 
'Brave landlord,' he at last managed to stammer out: 'now I see 
that you are a worthy fellow: this is a kind deed, to give a poor 
youth a bed; but that trick about the name and surname, that 
wasn't like a gentleman. By good luck, I saw through it . . .' 

The landlord, who Uttle thought he could have uttered anything 
so connected, and who knew, by long experience, how men in such 
a condition may be induced more easily than usual, suddenly to 
change their minds, was determined to take advantage of this lucid 
interval, to make another attempt. 

'My dear fellow,' said he, with a most coaxing tone and look, 'I 
didn't do it to vex you, nor to pry into your affairs. What would you 
have? There are the laws, and we must obey them; otherwise we 
are the first to suffer the punishment. It is better to satisfy them, 
and . . . After all, what is it all about? A great thing, certainly, 
to say two words! Not, however, for them, but to do me a favour. 
Here, between ourselves, face to face, let us do our business: tell me 
your name . . . and then go to bed with a quiet mind.' 

'Ah rascal!' exclaimed Renzo: 'Cheat! you are again returning to 
the charge, with that infamous name, surname, and business!' 

'Hold your tongue, simpleton, and go to bed,' said the landlord. 

But Renzo pursued more vehemently: 'I understand: you are one 
of the league. Wait, wait, and I'll settle it.' And directing his voice 
towards the head of the stairs, he began to shout more vociferously 
than ever, 'Friends! the landlord is of the . . .' 

'I only said it in a joke,' cried he, in Renzo's face, repulsing him, 
and pushing him towards the bed — ^'In joke: didn't you understand 
that I only said it in joke?' 

'Ah! in joke: now you speak sensibly. When you say in joke . . , 
They are just the things to make a joke of.' And he sank upon the 
bed. 

'Here; undress yourself, and be quick,' said the host, adding assist- 
ance to his advice; and there was need of it. When Renzo had 
succeeded in getting off his waistcoat, the landlord took it, and put 
his hands in the pockets to see if there were any money in them. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 243 

His search was successful; and thinking that his guest would have 
something else to do than to pay him on the morrow, and that this 
money would probably fall into hands whence a landlord would not 
easily be able to recover any share, he resolved to risk another 
attempt. 

'You are a good youth, and an honest man, aren't you?' said he. 

'Good youth, and honest man,' replied Renzo, vainly endeavour- 
ing to undo the buttons of the clothes which he had not yet been able 
to take off. 

'Very well,' rejoined the host: 'just settle, then, this little account; 
for to-morrow I must go out on some business . . .' 

'That's only fair,' said Renzo: 'I'm a fool, but I'm honest . . . 
But the money? Am I to go look for money now! . . .' 

'It's here,' said the innkeeper; and calling up all his practice, 
patience, and skill, he succeeded in settling the account, and securing 
the reckoning. 

'Lend me a hand to finish undressing, landlord,' said Renzo; 'I'm 
beginning to feel very sleepy.' 

The landlord performed the required office: he then spread the 
quilt over him, and, almost before he had time to say, disdainfully, 
'Good night!" Renzo was snoring fast asleep. Yet, with that sort of 
attraction which sometimes induces us to contemplate an object of 
dislike as well as of affection, and which, perhaps, is nothing else 
than a desire of knowing what operates so forcibly on our mind, he 
paused, for a moment, to contemplate so annoying a guest, holding 
the lamp towards his face, and throwing the light upon it with a 
strong reflection, by screening it with his hand, almost in the atti- 
tude in which Psyche is depicted, when stealthily regarding the 
features of her unknown consort. — Mad blockhead! — said he, in his 
mind, to the poor sleeper, — you've certainly taken the way to look for 
it. To-morrow you'll be able to tell me how you've liked it. Clowns, 
who will stroll over the world, without knowing whereabouts the sun 
rises, just to bring themselves and their neighbours into trouble! — 

So saying, or rather thinking, he withdrew the light, and left the 
room, locking the door behind him. On the landing-place at the top 
of the stairs, he called the landlady, and bade her leave the children 
under the care of a young servant girl, and go down into the kitchen. 



244 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to preside and keep guard in his stead. 'I must go out, thanks to a 
stranger who has arrived here, to my misfortune,' said he; and he 
briefly related the annoying circumstance. He then added: 'Have 
your eyes everywhere; and, above all, be prudent this unfortunate 
day. There's a group of licentious fellows down below, who, be- 
tween drink and their own inclination, are ready enough to talk, 
and will say anything. It will be enough, if a rash . . .' 

'Oh, I'm not a child; and I know well enough what's to be done. 
I think you can't say that, up to this time . . .' 

'Well, well; and be sure they pay; and pretend not to hear any- 
thing they say about the superintendent of provisions, and the gover- 
nor, and Ferrer, and the decurioni, and the cavaliers, and Spain, and 
France, and such fooleries; for if you contradict them, you'll come 
off badly directly; and if you agree with them, you may fare badly 
afterwards: and you know well enough, that sometimes those who 
say the worst things . . . But enough; when you hear certain say- 
ings, turn away your head, and cry, "I'm coming," as if somebody 
was calling you from the other side; I'll come back as quick as 
I can.' 

So saying, he went down with her into the kitchen, and gave a 
glance round, to see if there was anything new of consequence; 
took down his hat and cloak from a peg, reached a short, thick stick 
out of the corner, summed up, in one glance at his wife, the instruc- 
tions he had given her, and went out. But during these preparations, 
he had again resumed the thread of the apostrophe begun at Renzo's 
bedside; and continued it, even while proceeding on his walk. 

— Obstinate fellow of a mountaineer! — For, however Renzo was 
determined to conceal his condition, this qualification had betrayed 
itself in his words, pronunciation, appearance, and actions. — Such 
a day as this, by good policy and judgment, I thought to have come 
off clear; and you must just come in at the end of it, to spoil the egg 
in the hatching. Were there no other inns in Milan, that you must 
just light upon mine? Would that you had even lit upon it alone! 
I would then have shut my eyes to it to-night, and to-morrow morn- 
ing would have given you a hint. But, my good sir, no; you must 
come in company; and, to do better still, in company with a sheriff. — 

At every step the innkeeper met either with solitary passengers, 
or persons in groups of three or four, whispering together. At this 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 245 

Stage of his mute soliloquy, he saw a patrol of soldiers approaching, 
and, going a little aside, peeped at them from under the corner of 
his eye as they passed, and continued to himself: — There go the fool- 
chastisers. And you, great ass, because you saw a few pyeople ram- 
bling about and making a noise, it must even come into your brain 
that the world is turning upside down. And on this fine foundation 
you have ruined yourself, and are trying to ruin me too; this isn't 
fair. I did my best to save you; and you, you fool, in return, have very 
nearly made a disturbance in my inn. Now you must get yourself 
out of the scrape, and I will look to my own business. As if I wanted 
to know your name out of curiosity! What does it matter to me, 
whether it be Thaddeus or Bartholomew? A mighty desire I have 
to take the pen in hand; but you are not the only people who would 
have things all their own way. I know, as well as you, that there 
are proclamations which go for nothing: a fine novelty, that a moun- 
taineer should come to tell me that! But you don't know that procla- 
mations against landlords are good for something. And you pretend 
to travel over the land, and speak; and don't know that, if one would 
have one's own way, and carry the proclamations in one's pocket, the 
first thing requisite is not to speak against them in public. And for a 
poor innkeeper who was of your opinion, and didn't ask the name 
of any one who happens to favour him with his company, do you 
know, you fool, what good things are in store for him ? Under pain 
of three hundred crowns to any one of the aforesaid landlords, tav- 
ern-keepers, and others, as above; there are three hundred crowns 
hatched; and now to spend them well; to be applied, two-thirds to 
the royal chamber, and the other third to the accuser or informer: 
what a fine bait! And in case of inability, five years in the galleys, 
and greater punishment, pecuniary or corporal, at the will of his 
Excellency. Much obliged for all his favours. — 

At these words the landlord reached the door of the court of the 
high-sheriff. 

Here, as at all the other secretaries' offices, much business was 
going forward. Everywhere they were engaged in giving such orders 
as seemed most likely to pre-occupy the following day, to take away 
every pretext for discontent, to overcome the boldness of those who 
were anxious for fresh tumults, and to confirm power in the hands 
of those accustomed to exercise it. The soldiery round the house of 



246 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the superintendent were increased, and the ends of the street were 
blockaded with timber, and barricaded with carts. They commanded 
all the bakers to make bread without intermission, and despatched 
couriers to the surrounding country, with orders to send corn into 
the city; while noblemen were stationed at every bakehouse, who 
repaired thither early in the morning to superintend the distribution, 
and to restrain the factious, by fair words, and the authority of their 
presence. But to give, as the saying is, one blow to the hoop and 
another to the cask, and to render their cajolings more efficient by 
a little awe, they thought also of taking measures to seize some one 
of the seditious: and this was principally the business of the high- 
sherifT, whose temper towards the insurrection and the insurgents 
the reader may imagine, when he is informed of the vegetable 
fomentation which it was found necessary to apply to one of the 
organs of his metaphysical profundity. His blood-hounds had been 
in the field from the beginning of the riot: and this self-styled 
Ambrogio Fusella was, as the landlord said, a disguised under- 
sheriff, sent about for the express purpose of catching in the act 
some one whom he could again recognize, whose motions he could 
watch, and whom he could keep in mind, so as to seize, either in the 
quiet of the evening or next morning. He had not heard four words 
of Renzo's harangue, before he had fixed upon him as a capital object 
— exactly his man. Finding, afterwards, that he was just fresh from 
the country, he had attempted the master-stroke of conducting him at 
once to the prison, as the safest inn in the city; but here he failed, as 
we have related. He could, however, bring back certain information 
of his name, surname, and country; besides a hundred other fine 
conjectural pieces of information; so that when the innkeeper arrived 
here to tell what he knew of Renzo, they were already better ac- 
quainted with him than he. He entered the usual apartment, and 
deposed that a stranger had arrived at his house to lodge, who could 
not be persuaded to declare his name. 

'You've done your duty in giving us this information,' said a 
criminal notary, laying down his pen: 'But we know it already.' 

— ^A strange mystery I — thought the host: — they must be wonder- 
fully clever! — 

'And we know, too,' continued the notary, 'this revered name!' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 247 

— The name, too! how have they managed it? — thought the 
landlord again. 

'But you,' resumed the other, with a serious face, 'you don't tell 
all, candidly.' 

'What more have I to say?' 

'Ha! ha! we know very well that this fellow brought to your inn 
a quantity of stolen bread — plundered, acquired by robbery and 
sedition.' 

'A man comes, with one loaf in his pocket; do you think I know 
where he went to get it? for, to speak as on my death-bed, I can 
positively affirm that I saw but one loaf.' 

'There! always excusing and defending yourself: one would 
think, to hear you, everybody was honest. How can you prove that 
his bread was fairly obtained?' 

'Why am I to prove it? I don't meddle with it; I am an innkeeper.' 

'You cannot, however, deny that this customer of yours had the 
temerity to utter injurious words against the proclamations, and to 
make improper and shameful jokes on the arms of his Excellency.' 

'Pardon me, sir: how can he be called my customer, when this is 
the first time I've ever seen him? It was the devil (under your 
favour) that sent him to my house: and if I had known him, you, 
sir, know well enough I shoidd have had no occasion to ask his 
name.' 

'Well: in your inn, in your presence, inflammatory speeches have 
been uttered, unadvised words, seditious propositions; murmurs, 
grumbles, outcries.' 

'How can you expect, my good sir, that I should attend to the 
extravagances which so many noisy fellows, talking all at the same 
time, may chance to utter? I must attend to my interest, for I'm 
only badly off. And besides, your worship knows well enough that 
those who are lavish of their tongues are generally ready with their 
fists too, particularly when there are so many together, and . . .' 

'Ay, ay; leave them alone to talk and fight: to-morrow you'll see 
if their tricks have gone out of their heads. What do you think?' 

'I think nothing about it.' 

'That the mob will have got the upper hand in Milan?' 

'Oh, just so.' 



248 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'We shall see, we shall see.' 

'I understand very well: the king will be always king; and he 
that is fined will be fined: but the poor father of a family naturally 
wishes to escape. Your honours have the power, and it belongs 
to you.' 

'Have you many people still in your house?' 

'A world of them.' 

'And this customer of yours, what is he doing? Does he still 
continue to be clamorous, to excite the people, and arouse sedition?' 

'That stranger, your worship means: he's gone to bed.' 

'Then, you've many people . . . Well, take care not to let them 
go away.' 

— Am I to be a constable ? — thought the landlord, without replying 
either negatively or affirmatively. 

'Go home again, and be careful,' resumed the notary. 

'I've always been careful. Your honour can say whether I have 
ever made any opposition to justice.' 

'Well, well; and don't think that justice has lost its power.' 

'II For Heaven's sake; I think nothing: I only attend to my 
business.' 

'The old song: you've never anything else to say.' 

'What else would your worship have me say? truth is but one.' 

'Well, we will remember what you have deposed; if the case 
comes on, you will have to give more particular information to 
justice about whatever they may choose to ask you.' 

'What can I depose further? I know nothing. I have scarcely 
head enough to attend to my own business.' 

'Take care you don't let him go.' 

'I hope that his worship the high-sheriff will be informed that I 
came immediately to discharge my duty. Your honour's humble 
servant.' 

By break of day, Renzo had been snoring for about seven hours, 
and was still, poor fellow, fast asleep, when two rough shakes at 
either arm, and a voice at the foot of the bed, calling, 'Lorenzo 
Tramaglino!' recalled him to his senses. He shook himself, stretched 
his arms, and with difficulty opening his eyes, saw a man standing 
before him at the foot of the bed, dressed in black, and two others 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 249 

armed, one on the right and the other on the left of his pillow. 
Between surprise, not being fully awake, and the stupidity occasioned 
by the wine of the night before, he lay, for a moment, as if be- 
wildered; and then, thinking he was dreaming, and not being very 
well pleased with his dream, he shook himself so as to awake 
thoroughly. 

'Ah! have you heard, for once, Lorenzo Tramaglino?' said the 
man with the black cloak, the very notary of the night before. 
'Up; up, then; get up, and come with us.' 

'Lorenzo Tramaglino!' said Renzo: 'What does this mean? What 
do you want with me? Who's told you my name?' 

'Less talk, and up with you directly,' said one of the bailiffs who 
stood at his side, taking him again by the arm. 

'Ah, eh! what oppression is this?' cried Renzo, withdrawing his 
arm. 'Landlord! ho, landlord!' 

'Shall we carry him off in his shirt?' said the bailiff again, looking 
towards the notary. 

'Did you hear that?' said he to Renzo: 'they'll do so, if you don't 
get up as quick as thought, and come with us.' 

'And what for?' asked Renzo. 

'The what for you will hear from the high-sheriff.' 

'L'' I'm an honest man; I've done nothing; and I'm aston- 
ished . . .' 

'So much the better for you — so much the better for you; for then 
you may be discharged with two words, and may go about your 
own business.' 

'Let me go now,' said Renzo: 'I've nothing to do with justice.' 

'Come, let us finish the business,' said one of the bailiffs. 

'Shall we carry him off?' said the other. 

'Lorenzo TramagUno!' said the notary. 

'How do you know my name, sir?' 

'Do your duty,' said the notary to the bailiffs, who immediately 
laid hands on Renzo to pull him out of bed. 

'Hey! don't you touch a hair of an honest fellow, or! ... I know 
how to dress myself.' 

'Then dress yourself, and get up directly,' said the notary. 

'I'm getting up,' replied Renzo; and he began, in fact, to gather 



250 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

up his clothes, which were scattered here and there on the bed, like 
the relics of a shipwreck on the shore. And beginning to dress him- 
self, he continued: 'But I'm not inclined to go to the high-sheriff, 
not I. I've nothing to do with him. Since you unjustly put this 
affront upon me, I should like to be conducted to Ferrer. I know 
him; I know that he's a gentleman, and he's under some obligation 
to me.' 

'Yes, yes, my good fellow, you shall be conducted to Ferrer,' 
replied the notary. In other circumstances he would have laughed 
heartily at such a proposal; but this was not a time for merriment. 
In coming hither, he had noticed in the streets a movement which 
could not easily be defined, as the remainder of the old insurrection 
not entirely suppressed, or the beginning of a new one: the streets 
were full of people, some walking in parties, some standing in 
groups. And now, without seeming to do so, or at least trying not 
to show it, he was anxiously listening, and fancied that the murmur 
continued to increase. This made him desirous to get off; but he 
also wished to take Renzo away willingly and quietly; since, if he 
had declared war against him, he could not have been sure, on 
reaching the street, of not finding three to one against him. He, 
therefore, winked at the bailiffs to have patience, and not to irritate 
the youth, while he also endeavoured to soothe him with fair words. 
Renzo busied himself, while dressing as quickly as possible, in 
recalling the confused remembrances of the day before, and at last 
conjectured, with tolerable certainty, that the proclamation, and the 
name and surname, must be the cause of this disagreeable occurrence; 
but how ever did this fellow know his name.'' And what on earth 
could have happened that night, for justice to have gained such 
confidence as to come and lay hands on one of those honest youths 
who, only the day before, had such a voice in the assembly, and who 
could not all be asleep now? for he also observed the increasing 
bustle in the street. He looked at the countenance of the notary, 
and there perceived the irresolution which he vainly endeavoured to 
conceal. At last, as well to satisfy his conjectures, and sound the 
officers, as to gain time, and even attempt a blow, he said, 'I under- 
stand well enough the origin of all this; it is all from love of the 
name and surname. Last night I certainly was a little muddled: 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 251 

these landlords have sometimes very treacherous wines; and some- 
times, as I say, you know, when wine passes through the medium 
of words, it will have its say too. But if this is all, I am now ready 
to give you every satisfaction; and, besides, you know my name 
already. Who on earth told you it?' 

'Bravo, my boy, bravo!' replied the notary, coaxingly; 'I see you've 
some sense; and believe me, who am in the business, that you're 
wiser than most. It is the best way of getting out of the difficulty 
quickly and easily; and with such good dispositions, in two words 
you will be dismissed and set at liberty. But I, do you see, my good 
fellow, have my hands tied; I cannot release you, as I should like 
to do. Come, be quick and come along with a good heart; for when 
they see who you are . . . and then 1 will tell . . . Leave it to me 
. . . Enough; be quick, my good fellow.' 

'Ah! you cannot! I understand,' said Renzo; and he continued to 
dress himself, repulsing, by signs, the intimations of the bailiffs, that 
they would carry him off if he were not very expeditious. 

'Shall we pass by the square of the cathedral?' asked he. 

'Wherever you like; the shortest way, to set you the sooner at 
liberty,' said the notary, vexed in his heart, that he must let this 
mysterious inquiry of Renzo's pass, which might have served as the 
subject for a hundred interrogatives. — When one is born to be 
unfortunate! — thought he. — Just see; a fellow falls into my hands, 
who, plainly enough, likes nothing better than to talk; and if he 
could have a little time, he would confess all one wants, without 
the aid of a rope — extra formam, to speak academically, in the way 
of friendly chit-chat; the very man to take to prison ready examined, 
without his being at all aware of it; and he must just fall into my 
hands at this unfortunate moment. Well! there's no help for it, — 
he continued, listening attentively, and tossing his head backwards 
— there's no remedy; it's likely to be a worse day than yesterday. — 
What gave rise to this thought, was an extraordinary noise he heard 
in the street, and he could not resist opening the window to take a 
peep at it. He saw that it was a group of citizens, who, on being 
required by a patrol of soldiers to disperse, had at first given angry 
words in reply, and had finally separated in murmuring dissatisfac- 
tion; and, what appeared to the notary a fatal sign, the soldiers 



252 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

behaved to them with much civility. Having closed the window, he 
stood for a moment in perplexity, whether he should finish his under- 
taking, or leave Renzo in the care of the two bailiffs, while he ran 
to the high-sheriff to give him an account of his difficulty. — But, — 
thought he, directly, — they'll set me down for a coward, a base 
rascal, who ought to execute orders. We are in the ball-room, and 
we must dance. Curse the throng! What a miserable business! — 

Renzo now stood between the two satellites, having one on each 
side; the notary beckoned to them not to use too much force, and 
said to him, 'Courage, like a good fellow; let us be off, and make 
haste.' 

Renzo, however, was feeling, looking, thinking. He was now 
entirely dressed, excepting his jacket, which he held in one hand, 
and feeling with the other in his pnxkets; 'Ohoi' said he, looking 
at the notary with a very significant expression; 'here there were 
some f)ence, and a letter, my good sir!' 

'Everything shall be punctually restored to you,' said the notary, 
'when these few formalities are properly executed. Let us go, let 
us go.' 

'No, no, no,' said Renzo, shaking his head; 'that won't do; I want 
my money, my good sir. I will give an account of my doings; but I 
want my money.' 

'I'll show you that I trust you; here, and be quick,' said the notary, 
drawing out of his bosom the sequestered articles, and handing them 
to Renzo with a sigh. Renzo received them, and put them into his 
pocket, muttering between his teeth: 'Stand off! you've associated 
so much with thieves, that you've learnt a little of their business.' 
The bailiffs could no longer restrain their impatience, but the notary 
curbed them with a glance, saying to himself, — If thou succeedest 
in setting foot within that threshold, thou shalt pay for this with 
interest, that thou shalt. — 

While Renzo was putting on his jacket, and taking up his hat, 
the notary beckoned to one of the bailiffs to lead the way down- 
stairs; the prisoner came next behind him, then the other kind 
friend, and he himself brought up the rear. On reaching the kitchen, 
and while Renzo was saying; 'And this blessed landlord, where is 
he fled to?' the notary made a sign to the two police officers, who, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 253 

seizing each a hand, proceeded hastily to secure his wrists with cer- 
tain instruments, called, in the hypocritical figures of euphemism, 
ruffles — in plain language, handcuffs. These consisted — we are sorry 
that we are obliged to descend to particulars unworthy of historical 
gravity, but perspicuity requires it — they consisted of a small cord, 
a little longer than the usual size of a wrist, having at the ends two 
little bits of wood — two tallies, so to say — two small straight pegs. 
The cord encircled the wrist of the patient; the pieces of wood, 
passed through the middle and third fingers, were shut up in the 
hand of the captor, so that by twisting them, he could tighten the 
bandage at pleasure; and thus he possessed means, not only of secur- 
ing his prisoner, but also of torturing the refractory; to do which 
more effectually, the cord was full of knots. 

Renzo struggled, and cried, 'What treachery is this.? To an honest 
man! . . .' 

But the notary, who had fair words at hand on every disagreeable 
occasion, replied, 'Have patience, they only do their duty. What 
would you have? They are only formalities; and we can't always 
treat people as we would wish. If we don't do as we're bid, it will 
fare badly with us, and worse with you. Have patience!' 

While he was speaking, the two bailiffs gave a sudden twitch at 
the handcuffs. Renzo bore it as a restive horse bears the jerk of a 
severe bit, and exclaimed, 'Patience!' 

'Brave youth!' said the notary; 'this is the best way of getting off 
well. What would you have? It is an annoyance, I know; but if you 
behave well, you'll very soon be rid of it. And, since I see that you're 
well-disposed, and I feel inclined to help you, I'll give you another 
little piece of advice for your good. You may beheve me, for I'm 
practised in these matters; — go straightforward, without looking 
about, or attracting observation; so no one will notice you, no one 
will observe what you are, and you will preserve your honour. An 
hour hence you will be set at liberty. There is so much to be done, 
that they, too, will be in a hurry to have done with you; and, besides, 
I will speak . . . You shall go about your own business, and nobody 
will know that you've been in the hands of justice. And you,' con- 
tinued he, turning to the two bailiffs with a severe countenance, 
'take care you don't do him any harm; for I will protect him. You 



254 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

are obliged to do your duty; but remember that this is an honest 
man, a civil youth, who will shortly be at liberty, and who has some 
regard for his honour. Let nothing appear but that you are three 
honest men walking together.' And, in an imperative tone, and 
with a threatening look, he concluded: 'You understand me?' He 
then turned to Renzo, his brow smoothed, and his face rendered, 
in an instant, more cheerful and pleasant, which seemed to say, 
'What capital friends we are!' and whispered to him again, 'Be 
careful; do as I tell you; don't look about you; trust one who wishes 
you well; and now let us go.' And the convoy moved off. 

Renzo, however, believed none of these fine words; nor that the 
notary wished him well more than the bailiffs, nor that he was so 
mighty anxious about his reputation, nor that he had any intention 
of helping him; not a word of all this did he believe: he understood 
well enough that the good man, fearing some favourable oppor- 
tunity for making his escape might present itself in the way, laid 
before him all these flattering inducements, to divert him from 
watching for and profiting by it. So that all these exhortations 
served no other purpose than to determine Renzo more decidedly on 
a course which he had indistinctly meditated, viz. to act exactly 
contrary to them. 

Let no one hereby conclude that the notary was an inexperienced 
novice in his trade, for he will be much deceived. Our historian, 
who seems to have been among his friends, says that he was a 
matriculated knave; but at this moment his mind was greatly 
agitated. With a calm mind, I venture to say, he would have laughed 
at any one who, to induce others to do something which he himself 
mistrusted, would have gone about to suggest and inculcate it so 
eagerly, under the miserable pretence of giving him the disinterested 
advice of a friend. But it is a general tendency of mankind, when 
they are agitated and (jerplexed, and discern what another can do 
to relieve them from their perplexities, to implore it of him eagerly 
and perse veringly, and under all kinds of pretexts; and when villains 
are agitated and perplexed, they also fall under this common rule. 
Hence it is that, in similar circumstances, they generally make so 
poor a figure. Those masterly inventions, those cunning subtleties, 
by which they are accustomed to conquer, which have become to 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 255 

them almost a second nature, and which, put in operation at the 
proper time, and conducted with the necessary tranquiUity and 
serenity of mind, strike a blow so surely and secretly, and, discovered 
even after the success, receive such universal applause; these, when 
their unlucky employers are in trouble, are hastily and tumultuously 
made use of, without either judgment or dexterity; so that a third 
party, who observes them labouring and busying themselves in this 
manner, is moved to compassion or provoked to laughter; and 
those whom they attempt to impose upon, though less crafty than 
themselves, easily perceive the game they are playing, and gain 
light from their artifices, which may be turned against them. It 
can never, therefore, be sufficiently inculcated ujxjn knaves by pro- 
fession, always to maintain their sang froid, or, what is better still, 
never to get themselves into perplexing circumstances. 

No sooner, therefore, were they in the street, than Renzo began to 
look eagerly in every direction, throwing himself about, bending 
his head forward, and hstening attentively. There was, however, 
no extraordinary concourse; and though a certain air of sedition 
might easily be discerned on the face of more than one passer-by, 
yet every one went straight on his way; and of sedition, properly 
speaking, there was none. 

'Prudence! prudence!' murmured the notary, behind his back: 
'Your honour, your reputation, my good fellow!' But when Renzo, 
listening to three men who were approaching with excited looks, 
heard them speaking of a bake-house, concealed flour, and justice, 
he began to make signs at them by his looks, and to cough in such 
a way as indicated anything but a cold. These looked more 
attentively at the convoy, and then stopped; others who came up, 
stopped also; others who had passed by, turned round on hearing 
the noise, and retracing their steps, joined the party. 

'Take care of yourself; prudence, my lad; it is worse for you, 
you see; don't spoil all: honour, reputation,' whispered the notary. 
Renzo was still more intractable. The bailiffs, after consulting with 
each other by a look, and thinking they were doing quite right, 
(everybody is liable to err), again twisted the manacles. 

'Ah! ah! ah!' cried the tortured victim: the by-standers gathered 
close round at the cry; others arrived from every part of the street, 



256 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and the convoy came to a stand. He is a dissolute fellow,' whispered 
the notary to those who had gathered around: 'A thief taken in the 
act! Draw back and make way for justice!' But Renzo, seeing this 
was the moment — seeing the bailiffs turn white, or at least pale, — 
If I don't help myself now, — thought he, — it's my own fault. — And 
he immediately called out, 'My friends! they are carrying me off, 
because yesterday I shouted "Bread and justice!" I've done nothing; 
I am an honest man! help me; don't abandon me, my friends!' 

A murmur of approbation, followed by more explicit cries in his 
favour, arose in reply; the bailiffs first commanded, then asked, then 
begged the nearest to make way and let them pass; but the crowd 
only continued still more to trample and push forward. The bailiffs, 
seeing their danger, let go of the manacles, and only endeavoured 
to lose themselves in the throng, so as to escape without observation. 
The notary earnestly longed to do the same; but this was more 
difficult on account of his black cloak. The poor man, pale in face 
and dismayed in heart, tried to make himself as diminutive as 
possible, and writhed his body about so as to slip away through the 
crowd; but he could not raise his eyes, without seeing a storm 
gathering against him. He tried every method of appearing a 
stranger who, passing there by chance, had found himself entangled 
in the crowd, Uke a bit of straw in the ice; and encountering a man 
face to face, who looked at him fixedly with a more terrible coun- 
tenance than the others, he, composing his face to a smile, with a 
look of great simplicity, demanded, 'What is all this stir?' 

'Uh! you ugly raven!' replied the man. 'A raven! a raven!' 
resounded around. Pushes were added to cries, so that, in short, 
partly with his own legs, partly by the elbows of others, he obtained 
what lay nearest to his heart at that moment, a safe exit from the 
pressing multitude. 



CHAPTER XVI 

'1 ^CAPE, escape, my good fellow! here is a convent; there 
1^ is a church; this way, that way,' was heard by Renzo on 
^ -^ every side. As to escaping, the reader may judge whether 
he would have need of advice on this head. From the first moment 
that the hope of extricating himself from the talons of the poHce 
had crossed his mind, he had begun to form his plans, and resolved, 
if he succeeded in this one, to flee without delay, not only out of the 
city, but also out of the duchy of Milan. — For, — thought he, — they 
have my name on their black books, however on earth they've got 
it; and with my name and surname, they can seize me whenever 
they like. — As to an asylum, he would not willingly have recourse 
to one, unless, indeed, he were reduced to extremity; — For, if I can 
be a bird of the woods, — thought he again, — I won't be a bird of 
the cage. — He had therefore designed as his limit and place of refuge, 
a village in the territory of Bergamo, where his cousin Bortolo 
resided, who, the reader may remember, had frequently solicited 
Renzo to remove thither. But now the point was how to find 
his way there. Left in an unknown part of a city almost equally 
unknown, Renzo could not even tell by which gate he should 
pass to go to Bergamo; and when he had learnt this, he still did 
not know the way to the gate. He stood for a moment in doubt 
whether to ask direction of his liberators; but as, in the short time 
he had had for reflection on his circumstances, many strong sus- 
picions had crossed his mind of that obliging sword<utler, the father 
of four children, he was not much inclined to reveal his intentions 
to a large crowd, where there might be others of the same stamp; 
he quickly decided, therefore, to get away from that neighbourhood 
as fast as he could; and he might afterwards ask his way in a part 
where nobody would know who he was, or why he asked it. Merely 
saying, then, to his deliverers, 'Thank you, thank you, my friends: 

157 



258 ALF.SSANDRO MANZONI 

blessings on you!' and escaping through the space that was imme- 
diately cleared for him, he took to his heels, and of? he went, up 
one little street, and down another, running for some time without 
knowing whither. When he thought he was far enough off, he 
slackened his pace, not to excite suspicion, and began looking around 
to choose some person of whom he could make inquiries — some face 
that would inspire confidence. But here, also, there was need of 
caution. The inquiry in itself was suspicious; time pressed; the 
bailiffs, immediately on making their escape from this rencontre, 
would, undoubtedly, renew their search of the fugitive; the rumour 
of his flight might even have reached hither: and in such a concourse, 
Renzo might carefully scrutinize a dozen physiognomies, before he 
could meet with a countenance that seemed likely to suit his pur- 
pose. That fat fellow, standing at the door of his shop, with legs 
extended, and his hands behind his back, the prominent corpulency 
of this person projecting beyond the doorway, and supporting his 
great double chin; who, from mere idleness, was employing himself 
in alternately raising his tremendous bulk upon his toes, and letting 
it sink again upon his heels — he looked too much like an inquisitive 
gossip, who would have returned interrogatories instead of replies. 
That other, advancing with fixed eyes and a drooping lip, instead of 
being able expeditiously and satisfactorily to direct another in his 
way, scarcely seemed to know his own. That tall, stout boy, who, 
to say the truth, certainly looked intelligent enough, appeared also 
rather maliciously inclined, and probably would have taken a mis- 
chievous delight in sending a poor stranger exactly the opposite way 
to the one he was inquiring after. So true is it that, to a man in 
perplexity, almost everything seems to be a new perplexity! At 
last, fixing his eyes on one who was approaching in evident haste, 
he thought that he, having probably some pressing business in hand, 
would give an immediate and direct answer, to get rid of him; and 
hearing him talking to himself, he deemed that he must be an 
undesigning person. He, therefore, accosted him with the question, 
'Will you be good enough to tell me, sir, which direction I should 
take to go to Bergamo?' 

'To go to Bergamo? The Porta Orientale.' 

'Thank you, sir: and to the Porta Orientale?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 259 

'Take this street to the left; you will come out into the square of 
the cathedral; then . . .' 

'That will do, sir; I know the rest. Heaven reward you.' And 
on he went by the way that had been pointed out to him. His 
director looked after him for a moment, and comparing in his mind 
his way of walking, with the inquiry, thought within himself, — 
Ejther he is after somebody, or somebody is after him. — 

Renzo reached the square of the cathedral, crossed it, passed by 
a heap of cinders and extinguished combustibles, and recognized the 
relics of the bonfire at which he had assisted the day before; he then 
passed along the flight of steps leading up to the cathedral, and saw 
again the bakehouse of the Crutches half demolished, and guarded 
by soldiers; still he proceeded onward, and, by the street which 
he had already traversed with the crowd, arrived in front of the 
convent of the Capuchins, where, glancing at the square and the 
church-door, he said to himself with a deep sigh: — That friar yes- 
terday gave me good advice, when he bid me go wait in the church, 
and employ myself profitably there. — 

Here he stopped a moment to reconnoitre the gate through which 
he had to pass; and seeing, even at that distance, many soldiers on 
guard, his imagination also being rather overstrained, (one must 
pity him; for he had had enough to unsettle it), he felt a kind of 
repugnance at encountering the passage. Here he was, with a place 
of refuge close at hand, where, with the letter of recommendation, 
he would have been well received; and he felt strongly tempted to 
enter it. But he quickly summoned up his courage, and thought: — 
A bird of the woods, as long as I can. Who knows me? Certainly 
the bailiffs cannot have divided themselves into enough pieces to 
come and watch for me at every gate. — He looked behind him to 
see if they were coming in that direction, and saw neither them, 
nor any one who seemed to be taking notice of him. He, therefore, 
set off again, slackened the pace of those unfortunate legs which, 
with their own good will, would have kept constantly on the run, 
when it was much better only to walk; and, proceeding leisurely 
along, whistling in an under-tone, he arrived at the gate. Just at the 
entrance there was a party of police-officers, together with a rein- 
forcement of Spanish soldiers; but these all had their attention di- 



l6o ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

rected to the outside, to forbid entrance to such as, hearing the news 
of an insurrection, would flock thither Hke vultures to a deserted 
field of battle; so that Renzo, quietly walking on, with his eyes bent 
to the ground, and with a gait between that of a traveller and a 
common passenger, passed the threshold without any one speaking 
a word to him: but his heart beat violently. Seeing a little street 
to the right, he took that way to avoid the high road, and continued 
his course for some time before he ventured to look round. 

On he went; he came to cottages and villages, which he passed 
without asking their names: he felt certain of getting away from 
Milan, and hoped he was going towards Bergamo, and this was 
enough for him at present. From time to time he kept glancing 
behind him, while walking onwards, occasionally loooking at and 
rubbing one or other of his wrists, which were still a little benumbed, 
and marked with a red line from the pressure of the manacles. 
His thoughts were, as every one may imagine, a confused medley of 
repentance, disputes, disquietude, revenge, and other more tender 
feeHngs; it was a wearying endeavour to recall what he had said 
and done the night before, to unravel the mysterious part of his 
mournful adventures, and, above all, how they had managed to 
discover his name. His suspicions naturally fell on the sword-cuder, 
to whom he remembered having spoken very frankly. And retracing 
the way in which he had drawn him into conversation, together 
with his whole behaviour, and those proffers which always ended 
in wishing to know something about him, his suspicions were 
changed almost to certainty. He had, besides, some faint recollec- 
tion of continuing to chatter after the departure of the cutler; but 
with whom.? guess it, ye crickets; of what? his memory, spite of 
his efforts, could not tell him this: it could only remind him that he 
had not been at all himself that evening. The poor fellow was lost 
in these speculations: he was like a man who has affixed his signa- 
ture to a number of blank formulae, and committed them to the 
care of one he esteemed honest and honourable, and having dis- 
covered him to be a shuffling meddler, wishes to ascertain the state 
of his affairs. What can he discover ? It is a chaos. Another painful 
speculation was how to form some design for the future that would 
not be a merely aerial project, or at least a melancholy one. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 261 

By and by, however, he became still more anxious about finding 
his way; and after walking for some distance at a venture, he saw 
the necessity of making some inquiries. Yet he felt particularly 
reluctant to utter the word 'Bergamo,' as if there were something 
suspicious or dangerous in the name, and could not bring himself to 
pronounce it. He resolved, however, to ask direction, as he had 
before done at Milan, of the first passenger whose countenance 
suited his fancy, and he shortly met with one. 

'You are out of the road,' replied his guide; and having thought 
a moment, he pointed out to him, partly by words and partly by 
gestures, the way he should take to regain the high road. Renzo 
thanked him for his directions, and pretended to follow them, by 
actually taking the way he had indicated, with the intention of 
almost reaching the pubUc road, and then, without losing sight of 
it, to keep parallel with its course as far as possible, but not to set foot 
within it. The design was easier to conceive than to effect, and the 
result was, that, by going thus from right to left in a zigzag course, 
partly following the directions he obtained by the way, partly cor- 
recting them by his own judgment, and adapting them to his inten- 
tions, and partly allowing himself to be guided by the lanes he tra- 
versed, our fugitive had walked perhaps twelve miles, when he was 
not more than six distant from Milan; and as to Bergamo, it was a 
great chance if he were not going away from it. He began at last to 
perceive that by this method he would never come to an end, and 
determined to find out some remedy. The plan that occurred to 
his mind was to get the name of some village bordering on the 
confines, which he could reach by the neighbouring roads: and by 
asking his way thither, he could collect information, without leav- 
ing behind him the name of Bergamo, which seemed to him to 
savour so strongly of flight, escape, and crime. 

While ruminating on the best way of obtaining these instructions 
without exciting suspicion, he saw a bush hanging over the door of 
a solitary cottage just outside a little village. He had for some time 
felt the need of recruiting his strength, and thinking that this would 
be the place to serve two purposes at once, he entered. There was 
no one within but an old woman, with her distafT at her side, and 
the spindle in her hand. He asked for something to eat, and was 



262 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

offered a little stracchino^ and some good wine; he gladly accepted 
the food, but excused himself from taking any wine, feeling quite 
an abhorrence of it, after the errors it had made him guilty of the 
night before; and then sat down, begging the old woman to make 
haste. She served up his meal in a moment, and then began to tease 
her customer with inquiries, both about himself, and the grand 
doings at Milan, the report of which had already reached here. 
Renzo not only contrived to parry and elude her inquiries with 
much dexterity, but even profited by the difficulty, and made the 
curiosity of the old woman subservient to his intentions, when she 
asked him where he was going to. 

'I have to go to many places,' replied he: 'and if I can find a mo- 
ment of time, I want to pass a litde while at that village, rather a 
large one, on the road to Bergamo, near the border, but in the terri- 
tory of Milan . . . What do they call it?' — There must be one there, 
surely, — thought he, in the mean while. 

'Gorgonzola you mean,' replied the old woman. 

'Gorgonzola!' repeated Renzo, as if to imprint the word better on 
his memory. 'Is it very far from here?' resumed he. 

'I don't know exactly; it may be ten or twelve miles. If one of 
my sons were here, he could tell you.' 

'And do you think I can go by these pleasant lanes without taking 
the high road? There is such a dust there! such a shocking dust I 
It's so long since it rained!' 

'I fancy you can : you can ask at the first village you come to, 
after turning to the right.' And she named it. 

'That's well,' said Renzo; and rising, he took in his hand a piece of 
bread remaining from his scanty meal, of a very different quality 
to that which he had found the day before at the foot of the cross 
of San Dionigi; and paying the reckoning, he set off again, following 
the road to the right hand. By taking care not to wander from it 
more than was needful, and with the name of Gorgonzola in his 
mouth, he proceeded from village to village, until, about an hour 
before sunset, he arrived there. 

During his walk, he had resolved to make another stop here, and 
' A kind of soft cheese. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 263 

to take some rather more substantial refreshment. His body also 
craved a little rest; but rather than gratify this desire, Renzo would 
have sunk in a swoon u|X)n the ground. He proposed gaining some 
information at the inn about the distance of the Adda, to ascertain 
dexterously if there was any cross-road that led to it, and to set off 
again, even at this hour, immediately after his repast. Born and 
brought up at the second source, so to say, of this river, he had 
often heard it said, that at a certain point, and for some considerable 
distance, it served as a boundary between the Milanese and Venetian 
states; he had no very distinct idea of where this boundary com- 
menced, or how far it extended; but, for the present, his principal 
object was to get beyond it. If he did not succeed in reaching it that 
evening, he resolved to walk as long as the night and his strength 
would allow him, and afterwards to wait the approaching day in a 
field, or a wilderness, or wherever God pleased, provided it were 
not an inn. 

After walking a few paces along the street at Gorgonzola, he 
noticed a sign, entered the inn, and on the landlord's advancing to 
meet him, ordered something to eat, and a small measure of wine; 
the additional miles he had passed, and the time of day, having 
overcome his extreme and fanatical hatred of this beverage. 'I must 
beg you to be quick,' added he; 'for I'm obhged to go on my way 
again very soon.' This he said not only because it was the truth, 
but also for fear the host, imagining that he was going to pass the 
night there, should come and ask him his name and surname, and 
where he came from, and on what business . . . But enough! 

The landlord replied that he should be waited upon immediately; 
and Renzo sat down at the end of the table, near the door, the usual 
place of the bashful. 

Some loungers of the village had assembled in this room, who, 
after having argued over, and discussed, and commented upon, the 
grand news from Milan of the preceding day, were now longing to 
know a little how matters were going on; the more so, as their first 
information was rather fitted to irritate their curiosity than to satisfy 
it; a sedition, neither subdued nor triumphant; suspended, rather 
than terminated, by the approach of night; a defective thing; the con- 



264 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

elusion of an act, rather than of a drama. One of these detached 
himself from the party, and seating himself by the new comer, asked 
him if he came from Milan. 

'I.'' said Renzo, in a tone of surprise, to gain time for a reply. 

'You, if the question is allowable.' 

Renzo, shaking his head, compressing his lips, and uttering an 
inarticulate sound, replied; 'Milan, from what I hear . . . from what 
they say around ... is not exactly a place to go at present, unless 
in case of great necessity.' 

'Does the uproar continue, then, to-day?' demanded his inquisitive 
companion more eagerly. 

'I must have been there to know that,' said Renzo. 

'But you — don't you come from Milan?' 

'I come from Liscate,' replied the youth, promptly, who, in the 
mean while, had decided upon his reply. Strictly speaking, he had 
come from there, because he had passed it; and he had learnt the 
name from a traveller on the road, who had mentioned that village 
as the first he must pass on his way to Gorgonzola. 

'Ohl' said his friend, in that tone which seems to say: You'd have 
done better if you had come from Milan; but patience. 'And at Lis- 
cate,' added he, 'did you hear nothing about Milan?' 

'There may very likely have been somebody who knew something 
about it,' replied the mountaineer, 'but I heard nothing.' And this 
was proffered in that particular manner which seems to mean: I've 
finished. The querist returned to his party, and a moment after- 
wards, the landlord came to set out his meal. 

'How far is it from here to the Adda?' asked Renzo, in an under- 
tone, with the air of one who is half asleep, and an indifferent 
manner, such as we have already seen him assume on some other 
occasions. 

'To the Adda — to cross it?' said the host. 

'That is ... yes ... to the Adda.' 

'Do you want to cross by the bridge of Cassano, or the Ferry of 
Canonica?' 

'Oh, I don't mind where ... I only ask from curiosity.' 

'Well, I mention these, because they are the places gentlemen 
generally choose, and people who can give an account of themselves.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 265 

'Very well; and how far is it?' 

'You may reckon that to either one or the other, it is somewhere 
about six miles, more or less.' 

'Six miles! I didn't know that,' said Renzo. 'Well,' resumed he, 
with a still greater air of indifference, almost amounting to affecta- 
tion, 'well, I suppose there are other places for crossing, if anybody 
is inclined to take a short cut?' 

'There arc, certainly,' replied the landlord, fixing his eyes upon 
him with a look full of maHcious curiosity. This was enough to 
silence all the other inquiries which our youth had ready on his lips. 
He drew his plate before him, and, looking at the small measure 
of wine which the landlord had set down on the table, said, 'Is the 
wine pure?' 

'As gold,' said the host; 'ask all the people of the village and 
neighbourhood, for they know it; and, besides, you can taste your- 
self.' So saying, he turned towards his other customers. 

'Plague on these landlords!' exclaimed Renzo in his heart; 'the 
more I know of them, the worse I find them.' However, he began 
to eat very heartily, listening at the same time, without appearing 
to pay any attention, to see what he could learn, to discover what 
was the general impression here about the great event in which he 
had had no little share; and, above all, to ascertain if, amongst these 
talkers, there was one honest man, of whom a poor fellow might 
venture to make inquiries, without fear of getting into a scrape, 
and being forced to talk about his own doings. 

'But,' said one, 'this time, it seems clear the Milanese wanted to 
bring about a very good thing. Well; to-morrow, at latest, we shall 
know something.' 

'I'm sorry I didn't go to Milan this morning,' said another. 

'If you go to-morrow, I'll go with you,' said a third; 'so will I,' 
said another; 'and I,' said another. 

'What I want to know,' resumed the first, 'is, whether these Milan- 
ese gentlemen will think of us poor people out of the city; or if 
they'll only get good laws made for themselves. Do you know how 
they do, eh? They are all proud citizens, every one for himself; 
and we strangers mightn't be Christians.' 

'We've mouths, too, either to eat, or to give our own opinions,' 



266 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

said another, with a voice as modest as the proposition was daring; 
'and when things have gone a little further ..." But he did not 
think fit to finish the sentence. 

'There's corn hidden, not only at Milan,' another was beginning, 
with a dark and designing countenance, when they heard the 
trampling of a horse approaching; they ran to the door, and having 
discovered who it was, they all went out to meet him. It was a 
Milanese merchant who generally passed the night at this inn, in 
journeying two or three times a year to Bergamo on business; and 
as he almost always found the same company there, they were all his 
acquaintances. They now crowded around him; one took his bridle, 
another his stirrup, and saluted him with, 'Welcome.' 

'I'm glad to see you.' 

'Have you had a good journey?' 

'Very good; and how are you all?' 

'Pretty well, pretty well. What news from Milan?' 

'Ah! you are always for news,' said the merchant, dismounting, 
and leaving his horse in the care of a boy. 'And, besides,' continued 
he, entering the door with the rest of the party, 'by this time you 
know it, perhaps, better than I do.' 

'I assure you we know nothing,' said more than one, laying his 
hand on his heart. 

'Is it possible?' said the merchant. 'Then you shall hear some 
fine ... or rather, some bad news. Hey, landlord, is my usual bed 
at liberty? Very well; a glass of wine, and my usual meal; be quick, 
for I must go to bed early, and set off to-morrow morning very early, 
so as to get to Bergamo by dinner-time. And you,' continued he, 
sitting down at the opposite end of the table to where Renzo was 
seated, silently but attentively listening, 'you don't know about all 
the diabolical doings of yesterday?' 

'Yes, we heard something about yesterday.' 

'You see now!' rejoined the merchant; 'you know the news. I 
thought, when you are stationed here all day, to watch and sound 
everybody that comes by . . .' 

'But to-day: how have matters gone to-day?' 

'Ah, to-day. Do you know nothing about to-day?' 

'Nothing whatever; nobody has come by.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 267 

'Then let me wet my lips; and afterwards I'll tell you about 
everything. You shall hear.' Having filled his glass, he took it in 
his right hand, and, lifting up his mustachios with the first two 
fingers of his left, and then settling his beard with the palm, he 
drank it off, and continued: — 'There was htde wanting, my worthy 
friends, to make to-day as rough a day as yesterday, or worse. I can 
scarcely believe it true that I am here to tell you about it; for I had 
once put aside every thought of my journey, to stay and take care 
of my unfortunate shop.' 

'What was the matter, then?' said one of his auditors. 

'What was the matter? you shall hear.' And, carving the meat 
that was set before him, he began to eat, at the same time continuing 
his narration. The crowd, standing at both sides of the table, listened 
to him with open mouths; and Renzo, apparently giving no heed to 
what he said, listened, perhaps, more eagerly than any of the others, 
as he slowly finished the last few mouthfuls. 

'This morning, then, those rascals who made such a horrible up- 
roar yesterday, repaired to the appointed places of meeting (there 
was already an understanding between them, and everything was 
arranged); they united together, and began again the old story 
of going from street to street, shouting to collect a crowd. You know 
it is like when one sweeps a house — with respect be it spoken — the 
heap of dust increases as one goes along. When they thought they 
had assembled enough people, they set off towards the house of the 
superintendent of provisions; as if the treatment they gave him 
yesterday was not enough, to a gentleman of his character — the vil- 
lains! And the lies they told about him! All inventions: he is a 
worthy, exact gentleman; and I may say so, for I am very intimate 
with him, and serve him with cloth for his servants' Uvery. They 
proceeded then towards this house; you ought to see what a rabble, 
and what faces: just fancy their having passed my shop, with faces 
that . . . the Jews of the Via Cruets are nothing to them. And such 
things as they uttered! enough to make one stop one's ears, if it 
had not been that it might have turned to account in discovering 
one. They went forward then with the kind intention of plundering 
the house, but . . .' Here he raised his left hand and extended it in 
the air, placing the end of his thumb on the point of his nose. 



268 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'But?' said almost all his auditors. 

'But,' continued the merchant, 'they found the street blockaded 
with planks and carts, and behind this barricado, a good Ble of 
soldiers, with their guns levelled, and the butt-ends resting on their 
shoulders. When they saw this preparation . . . What would you 
have done?' 

'Turned back.' 

'To be sure; and so did they. But just listen if it wasn't the devil 
that inspired them. They reached the Cordusio, and there saw the 
bake-house which they wanted to plunder the day before: here they 
were busy in distributing bread to their customers; there were noble- 
men there, ay, the very flower of the nobility, to watch that everything 
went on in good order; but the mob (they had the devil within 
them, I tell you, and besides, there were some whispering in their 
ears, and urging them on), the mob rushed in furiously; "seize 
away, and I will seize too:" in the twinkling of an eye, noblemen, 
bakers, customers, loaves, benches, counters, troughs, chests, bags, 
sieves, bran, flour, dough, all were turned upside down.' 

'And the soldiers?' 

'The soldiers had the vicar's house to defend; one cannot sing and 
carry the cross at the same time. It was all done in the twinkling 
of an eye, I tell you: of? and away; everything that could be put 
to any use was carried off. And then they proposed again the beau- 
tiful scene of yesterday — dragging the rest to the square, and making 
a bonfire. They had already begun — the villains! — to carry some 
things out of the house, when one greater villain than the rest — 
what do you think was the proposal he made?' 

'What?' 

'What! to make a pile of everything in the shop, and to set fire 
to the heap and the house together. No sooner said than done . . .' 

'Did they set fire to it?' 

'Wait. A worthy man of the neighbourhood had an inspiration 
from Heaven. He ran up-stairs, sought for a crucifix, found one, and 
hung it in front of one of the windows; then he took two candles 
which had been blessed, lit them, and set them outside, on the win- 
dow-sill, one on each side of the crucifix. The mob looked up. It 
must be owned, there is still some fear of God in Milan; everybody 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 269 

came to their senses. At least, I mean most of them; there were 
some, certainly, devils enough to have set fire to Paradise, for the 
sake of plunder; but, finding that the crowd was not of their opinion, 
they were obliged to abandon their design, and keep quiet. Just 
fancy now who arrived — all their Graces of the Cathedral, in pro- 
cession, with the cross elevated, and in their canonical robes; and 
my lord the Arch-presbyter began preaching on one side, and my 
lord the Penitentiary on the other, and others again, scattered here 
and there: "But, good people; what would you do? is this the ex- 
ample you set your children? go home, go home; you shall have 
bread at a low price; if you'll only look you'll see that the rate is 
pasted up at every corner." ' 

'Was it so?" 

'What? was it so? Do you think that their Graces of the Cathe- 
dral would come, in their magnificent robes, to tell them false- 
hoods?' 

'And what did the people do?' 

'They dispersed by degrees; some ran to the corners of the streets, 
and for those who could read, there was the fixed rate, sure enough. 
What do you think of it? eight ounces of bread for a penny.' 

'What good luck!' 

'The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How much flour do 
you think they have wasted yesterday and this morning? Enough 
to support the Duchy for two months.' 

'Then they've made no good laws for us in the country?' 

'What has been done at Milan is entirely at the expense of the city. 
I don't know what to say to you: it must be as God wills. Fortu- 
nately, the sedition is finished, for I haven't told you all yet; here 
comes the best part.' 

'What is there besides?' 

'Only, that, last evening, or this morning, I'm not sure which, 
many of the leaders have been seized, and four of them, it is known, 
are to be hung directly. No sooner did this get abroad, than every- 
body went home the shortest way, not to run the risk of becoming 
number five. When 1 left Milan, it looked like a convent of friars.' 

'But will they really hang them?' 

'Undoubtedly, and quickly, too,' replied the merchant. 



270 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'And what will the people do?' asked the same interrogator as 
had put the other question. 

'The people will go to see them,' said the merchant. 'They had 
such a desire to see a Christian hanging in the open air, that they 
wanted — the vagabonds! — to despatch the superintendent of pro- 
visions in that way. By this exchange they will have four wretches, 
attended with every formality, accompanied by Capuchins, and by 
friars of the buona morte:^ but they deserve it. It is an interference 
of Providence, you see; and it's a necessary thing. They were already 
beginning to divert themselves by entering the shops, and helping 
themselves without paying; if they'd let them go on so, after bread, 
wine would have had its turn, and so on from thing to thing. . . . 
You may imagine whether they would abandon so convenient a 
practice, of their own free will. And I can tell you, that was no very 
pleasant thought for an honest man keeping a shop.' 

'Certainly not,' said one of his hearers. 'Certainly not,' replied 
the rest, in chorus. 

'And,' continued the merchant, wiping his beard with the table- 
cloth, 'it had all been projected for some time: there was a league, 
you know.' 

'A league, was there?' 

'Yes, there was a league. All cabals formed by the Navarrines, by 
that French cardinal there, you know, with a half-Turkish name, 
who every day contrives something fresh to annoy the court of 
Spain. But, above all, he aims at playing some trick in Milan; for he 
knows well enough — the knave — that the strength of the king lies 
there.' 

'Ay; 

'Shall I give you a proof of it? Those who've made the greatest 
noise were strangers; there were faces going about which had never 
before been seen in Milan. By the by, I forgot to tell you one thing 

•'A denomination usually given to the monks of the order of St. Paul, the first 
bermic. They are called Brothers of death, Fratres it morte, on account of a figure of 
a Death's head which they were always to have with them, to remind them continually 
of their last end. This tmler, by its constitutions, made in 1620, does not seem to have 
been established long before Pope Paul V. Louis XIII., in 1631, permitted them to 
settle in France. The order was, probably, suppressed by Pope Urban VIII. The fra- 
ternity of death buries such dead as arc abandoned by their relations, and caUKS 
masses to be celebrated for them.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 271 

which was told me for certain. The police had caught one of these 
fellows in an inn . . . ' Renzo, who had not lost a single syllable of 
this conversation, was taken with a cold shudder on hearing this 
chord touched, and almost slipped under the table before he thought 
of trying to contain himself. No one, however, perceived it; and 
the speaker, without interrupting his relation for a moment, had 
continued: 'They don't exactly know where he came from, who sent 
him, nor what kind of man he was, but he was certainly one of the 
leaders. Yesterday, in the midst of the uproar, he played the very 
devil; and then, not content with that, he must begin to harangue 
the people, and propose — a mere trifle! — ^to murder all the nobility! 
The great rascal! Who would support the poor if all the nobles were 
killed? The police, who had been watching him, laid hands upon 
him ; they found on his person a great bundle of letters, and were 
leading him away to prison, but his companions, who were keeping 
guard round the inn, came in great numbers, and delivered him — 
the villain!' 

'And what became of him?' 

'It isn't known; he may be fled, or he may be concealed in Milan: 
they are people who have neither house nor home, and yet find 
lodging and a place of refuge everywhere; however, though the devil 
can and will help them, yet they may fall into the hands of justice 
when they least expect it; for when the pear is ripe it must fall. 
For the present, it is well known that the letters are in possession 
of government, and that the whole conspiracy is therein described; 
and they say that many people are implicated in it. This much is 
certain, that they have turned Milan upside down, and would have 
done much worse. It is said that the bakers are rogues: I know they 
are; but they ought to be hung in the course of justice. They say 
there is corn hidden; who doesn't know that? But it is the business 
of the government to keep a good look-out to bring it to light, and 
to hang the monopolists in company with the bakers. And if govern- 
ment does nothing, the city ought to remonstrate; and if they don't 
listen the first time, remonstrate again; for by dint of appeals they 
will get what they want; but not adopt the villainous practice of 
furiously entering shops and warehouses to get booty.' 

Renzo's small meal had turned into poison. It seemed like an age 



272 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

before he could get out of, and away from, the inn and the village; 
and a dozen times, at least, he had said to himself: 'Now I may 
surely go.' But the fear of exciting suspicion, now increased beyond 
measure, and prevailing over every other thought, had kept him 
still nailed to his seat. In this perplexity, he thought the chatterer 
must at last stop talking about him, and determined in his own mind 
to make his escape as soon as another subject was started. 

'For this reason,' said one of the party, 'knowing how these 
things go, and that honest men fare but badly in such disturbances, 
I wouldn't let my curiosity conquer, and have, therefore, remained 
quietly at home.' 

'Neither would I move, for the same reason,' said another. 

'I,' added a third, 'if I had happened by chance to be at Milan, I 
would have left any business whatever unfinished, and have returned 
home as quickly as possible. I have a wife and children; and, besides, 
to tell the truth, I don't like such stirs.' 

At this moment the landlord, who had been eagerly listening with 
the rest, advanced towards the other end of the table to see what the 
stranger was doing. Renzo seized the opportunity, and beckoning to 
the host, asked for his account, settled it without dispute, though 
his purse was by this time very low; and without further delay, went 
directly to the door, passed the threshold, and taking care not to turn 
along the same road as that by which he had arrived, set off in the 
opposite direction, trusting to the guidance of Providence, 



CHAPTER XVII 

ONE wish is often enough to allow a man no peace; what, 
then, must two have been — one at war with the other? 
Our f)oor Renzo, as the reader knows, had had two such 
conflicting desires in his mind for several hours; the wish to make 
his escape, with the wish to remain undiscovered; and the unfortu- 
nate words of the merchant had increased both one and the other 
to an extravagant degree. His adventure, then, had got abroad! 
There were means, then, employed, to seize him! Who knew how 
many bailifis were in the field to give him chase! or what orders 
had been forwarded to keep a watch in the villages, at the inn, on 
the roads! He reflected, however, that, after all, there were but 
two bailifis who knew him, and that his name was not written upon 
his forehead; but then, again, a hundred stories he had heard rushed 
into his mind, of fugitives caught and discovered in many strange 
ways, recognized by their walk, by their suspicious air, and other 
unthought of tokens: everything excited his alarm. Although, as 
he left Gorgonzola, the tolling of the Avemaria sounded in his ears, 
and the increasing darkness every moment diminished his danger, 
yet it was very unwillingly that he took the high road, proposing to 
follow the first by-lane which seemed likely to bring him to the 
point he was so anxious to reach. At first, he occasionally met a 
traveller; but so full was his imagination of direful apprehensions, 
that he had not courage to detain any one to inquire his way. — 
That innkeeper said six miles, — thought he. — If, by taking these 
foot-paths and by-lanes, I make them eight, or even ten, my legs, 
which have lasted me so far, will manage these too. I'm certainly 
not going towards Milan, so I must be going towards the Adda. 
Walk away, then; sooner or later, I shall get there. The Adda has 
a good voice; and when once I'm near it, I shan't want anybody to 
point it out to me. If any boat is there, I'll cross directly; if not, I'll 
wait till morning, in a field, or on a tree, like the sparrows: better 
on a tree than in prison. — 

273 



274 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Very soon, he saw a lane turning down to the left, and he pur- 
sued it. 

At this hour, if he had met with any one, he would no longer have 
hesitated to address him; but he heard not a footstep of living crea- 
ture. He followed, therefore, the windings of the lane, indulging, 
the mean while, in such reflections as these: 

— I play the devil! I murder all the nobility! A packet of letters — 
I! My companions keeping guard around me! I'd give something 
to meet with that merchant face to face, on the other side of the 
Adda, (ah, when shall I get across that blessed Adda?) I'd make 
him stand, and ask him, at my convenience, where he had picked 
up all this fine information. Just please to be informed, my dear 
sir, that the thing went so and so; and that all the mischief I played 
was helping Ferrer, as if he had been my brother: know, moreover, 
that those rascals who to hear you talk, one would think were my 
friends, because once I said a word or two, like a good Christian, 
wanted to play me a very rough trick; know, too, that while you 
were taking care of your own shop, I was endangering my ribs to 
save your signor, the superintendent of provisions — a man I never 
either knew or saw in my life. Wait and see if I ever stir again to 
help gentlemen ... It is true we ought to do it for our soul's good : 
they are our neighbours, too. And that great bundle of letters, where 
all the conspiracy was revealed, and which you know for certain is 
in the hands of government; sure enough, I couldn't show it you here 
without the help of the devil. Would you have any curiosity to see 
this mighty packet? Look here ... A single letter! . . . Yes, my 
good sir, one letter only; and this letter, if you'd like to know, was 
written by a monk capable of instructing you in any point of doc- 
trine you wish, — a monk, without doing you injustice, a single hair 
of whose beard is worth all yours put together; and this letter, I 
should like to tell you, is written, you see, to another monk, also a 
man . . . Just see, now, who my rascally friends are. Learn, if you 
please, how to talk another time, particularly when you are talking 
about a fellow-creature. — 

After a litde time, however, these and similar reflections gave way 
to others; his present circumstances occupying the whole attention 
of our poor traveller. The dread of being pursued and discovered, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 275 

which had so incessantly embittered his day's journey, now no longer 
gave him any uneasiness; but how many things made his nighdy 
wanderings sufficiently uncomfortable! — darkness; solitude; increas- 
ing, and now painful, fatigue; a gende, but steady and piercing 
breeze, which would be far from agreeable to a man still dressed 
in the same clothes which he had put on to go a short distance to a 
wedding, and quickly to return in triumph to his home, only a few 
steps off; and, what rendered everything doubly irksome, walking 
at a venture, in search of a place of rest and security. 

If he happened to pass through a village, he would walk as quiedy 
and warily as (wssible, lest any of the doors should be sull open; 
but he saw no further signs of remaining wakefulness among the 
inhabitants than occasionally a glancing light in one of the windows. 
When on the road, away from every abode, he would pause, every 
now and then, and listen eagerly for the beloved murmur of the 
Adda; but in vain. He heard no sounds but the distant howling of 
dogs at some solitary dwelling, which floated through the air, at 
once mournful and threatening. On approaching any of these 
abodes, the howling was changed into an irritated, angry bark; and 
in passing before the door, he heard, and almost fancied he saw, the 
fierce creatures, with their heads at the crack of the door, reiterating 
their howls. This quickly removed all temptation to knock and 
ask shelter, and probably his courage would have failed had there 
been no such obstacles in his way. — Who's there? — thought he: — 
what do you want at this hour? How did you come here? Tell who 
you are. Isn't there an inn where you can get a bed ? This, at best, 
is what they will say to me, if I knock; even if it shouldn't be a 
cowardly sleeper, who woiJd begin to shout out lustily, 'HelpI 
Thieves!' I must have something ready for an answer; and what 
could I say? If anybody hears a noise in the night, nothing enters 
their heads but rolibers, villains, and rogues: they never think that 
an honest man may be benighted, not to say a gendeman in his car- 
riage. — He determined, therefore, to reserve this plan as a last re- 
source in case of necessity, and continued his way, still with the 
hope of at least discovering the Adda, if not of crossing it, that 
night, and not being obliged again to go in search of it in broad 
daylight. 



276 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

On, therefore, he went, till he reached a part where the country 
changed from cultivated fields into a heath of ferns and broom. 
This seemed, if not a sure indication, at least, a kind of argument that 
there was a river in the neighbourhood; and he advanced across the 
common, pursuing the path which traversed it. After walking a 
few paces, he stopped to listen; but in vain. The tediousness of the 
journey seemed to be increased by the wildness of the place; not a 
mulberry nor a vine was to be seen, nor any other signs of human 
culture, which, in the early part of his progress, seemed almost like 
half-companions to him. However, he still went forward, beguiling 
the time, and endeavouring to drive away the images and apparitions 
which haunted his mind — the relics of a hundred wonderful stories 
he had heard — by repeating, as he went along, some of the prayers 
for the dead. 

By degrees, he entered among larger patches of brushwood, wild 
plum-trees, dwarf oaks, and brambles. Continuing his way, with 
more impatience than alacrity, he saw scattered occasionally through- 
out these patches, a solitary tree; and, still following the guidance 
of the footpath, perceived that he was entering a wood. He felt a 
kind of reluctance to proceed; but he conquered it, and unwillingly 
went forward. The further he went, the more this unwillingness 
increased, and the more did everything he saw vex and harass his 
imagination. The bushes he discerned before him assumed strange, 
marvellous, and uncouth forms; the shadows of the tops of the trees 
alarmed him, as, slightly agitated by the breeze, they quivered on his 
path, illuminated by the pale light of the moon; the very rustling 
of the withered leaves, as he trampled them under foot, had in it 
something hateful to his ear. His limbs felt a strange impulse to run, 
and, at the same time, seemed scarcely able to support him. The 
cold night-breeze blew more chilly and sharply against his forehead 
and throat; he felt it piercing through his thin clothes to his skin, 
which shivered in the blast, and, penetrating more subtilely to his 
very bones, extinguishing the last remains of vigour. At one time, 
the weariness and undefined horror with which he had so long been 
struggling, had suddenly almost overwhelmed him. He nearly lost 
his self-government; but terrified above all things at his own terror, 
he summoned up his former spirits, and by a great effort, forced them 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 277 

to assume their usual sway. Thus fortified for a moment, he stood 
still to deliberate, and resolved to leave the wood by the same path 
as he had traversed, to go straight to the last village he had passed, 
to return once more among mankind, and there to seek shelter, 
even at the mn. While he thus stood, the rustling of his feet 
among the leaves hushed, and, perfectly silent around him, a noise 
reached his ear, a murmur — a murmur of running water. He listens; 
assures himself; and exclaims, 'It's the Adda!' It was like the resto- 
ration of a friend, of a brother, of a deliverer. His weariness almost 
disappeared, his pulse again beat; he felt his blood circulate freely 
and warmly through all his veins; his confidence increased, the 
gloominess and oppression of his mind, in great part, vanished 
away; and he no longer hesitated to penetrate farther into the wood, 
towards the friendly murmur. 

At last he reached the extremity of the flat, at the edge of a steep 
declivity; and, peeping through the bushes that everywhere covered 
its surface, he discerned, at the bottom, the glittering of the running 
water. Then, raising his eyes, he surveyed the extensive plain on the 
opposite side, scattered with villages; beyond this the hills, and on 
one of these a large, whitish tract, in which he fancied he could 
distinguish a city — Bergamo, undoubtedly. He descended the steep 
a little way, separating and pushing aside the brushwood with his 
hands and arms, and looked down, to see if there were any boat 
moving on the water, or to listen if he could hear the splashing of 
oars; but he saw and heard nothing. Had it been any thing less 
than the Adda, Renzo would have descended at once and attempted 
to ford it; but this, he well knew, in such a river, was not a matter 
of very great facility. 

He therefore stood to consult with himself what were best to be 
done. To clamber up into a tree, and there await the dawn of morn- 
ing, in the chill night-breeze, in a frosty air, and in his present 
dress, was more than enough to benumb him; to pace up and down, 
for constant exercise, all that time, besides that it would have been 
a very inefficacious defence against the severity of the temperature, 
was also asking too much of those unfortunate limbs which had 
already done much more than their duty. Suddenly he remembered 
having seen a cascinotto in one of the fields adjoining the unculti- 



278 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

vated down. Thus the {feasants of the Milanese plain designate 
certain little cottages, thatched with straw, constructed of the trunks 
and branches of trees, fastened together and filled up with mud, 
where they are in the habit of depositing their harvest during the 
summer season, repairing thither at night to protect it: during the 
rest of the year they are usually unoccupied. He quickly fixed upon 
this as his resting-place for the night; and again setting ofT on his 
way, re-passed the wood, the tract of bushes, and the heath; and 
entering upon the cultivated land, he quickly espied the cascinotto, 
and went towards it. A worm-eaten and tumble-down door, without 
lock or chain, blocked up the entrance; Renzo drew it towards him, 
and on entering, saw a hurdle, intended to serve the purpose of a 
hammock, suspended in the air, and supported by bands formed of 
little twigs; he did not, however, make use of it; but seeing a little 
straw lying on the ground, thought that, even there, sleep would be 
very welcome. 

Before stretching his weary frame on the bed Providence had pre- 
pared for him, he knelt down to offer up his thanks for this blessing, 
and for all the assistance he had received that terrible day. He then 
repeated his usual prayers; and, having finished them, begged pardon 
of God for having omitted them the evening before, and gone to 
rest, as he said, like a dog, or even worse. — And for this reason, — 
added he to himself, resting his hands upon the straw, and, from 
kneeling, changing his posture to that of lying, — for this reason 1 
was awaked by such agreeable visitors in the morning. — He then 
gathered up all the straw that was scattered aroiuid, and spread 
it over him, so as to make the best covering he could to secure him- 
self from the cold, which, even there, under shelter, made itself 
sufficiently felt; and crouching beneath it, he tried to get a Uttle 
sleep, thinking that he had purchased it, that day, more dearly 
than usual. 

Scarcely, however, had he closed his eyes, before visions began 
to throng his memory, or his fancy (I cannot undertake to indicate 
the exact spot) — visions so crowded, so incessant, that they quickly 
banished every idea of sleep. The merchant, the notary, the bailiffs, 
the sword-cutler, the landlord, Ferrer, the superintendent, the party 
at the inn, the crowds in the streets; then Don Abbondio, then 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 279 

Don Rodrigo: and, among so many, there were none that did not 
bring some sad remembrances of misfortune or aversion. 

There were but three images that presented themselves to his 
mind, divested of every bitter recollection, clear of every suspicion, 
pleasing in every aspect; and two, principally — certainly very dissim- 
ilar, but closely connected in the heart of the youth, — the black- 
locked Lucia, and the white-bearded Father Cristoforo. Yet the con- 
solation he felt in contemplating even these objects, was anything 
but unmixed and tranquil. In picturing to himself the good friar, 
he felt more keenly than ever the disgrace of his faults, his shameful 
intemperance, and his neglect of the kind Father's paternal advice; 
and in contemplating the image of Lucia! we will not attempt to 
describe what he felt; the reader knows the circumstances, and must 
imagine it himself. Neither did he forget the poor Agnese; Agnese, 
who had chosen him for her son-in-law, who had considered him 
almost as one with her only daughter, and before receiving from 
him the title of mother, had assumed the language and affection of 
one, and demonstrated parental solicitude for him by her actions. 
But it was an additional grief to him, and not the least bitter one, 
that exacdy on account of these affectionate and benevolent inten- 
tions, the poor woman was now homeless, and almost houseless, 
uncertain of the future, and reaping sorrows and troubles from 
those very circumstances, which he had hoped would be the joy and 
comfort of her declining years. What a night, poor Renzo! which 
was to have been the fifth of his nuptials! What a room! What a 
matrimonial couch! And after such a day! And to precede such 
a morrow, such a succession of days! — What God wills — replied he, 
to the thoughts which most tormented him; — What God wills. 
He knows what He does! it is for our good too. Let it be as a 
penance for my sins. Lucia is so good! God, surely, will not let 
her suffer for long — for very long! — 

Harassed by such thoughts as these, despairing of obtaining any 
sleep, and the piercing cold becoming more and more insufferable, 
so that from time to time his whole frame shook, and his teeth 
chattered in spite of himself, Renzo longed for the approach of day, 
and impatiently measured the slow progress of the hours. I say, 
measured, because every half-hour he heard resounding through 



28o ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the deep silence, the strokes of a large clock, probably that of Trezzo, 
The first time, the sound reached his ear so unexpectedly, without 
his having the least idea whence it came, it brought with it some- 
thing solemn and mysterious to his mind; the feeling of a warning 
uttered in an unknown voice, by some invisible person. 

When, at last, the clock had tolled eleven,' — the hour Renzo had 
determined to get up, — he rose, half benumbed with the cold, and 
falling uf>on his knees, repeated his matin prayers with more than 
ordinary devotion; then, standing up, he stretched his limbs, and 
shook his body, as if to settle and unite his members, which seemed 
almost dissevered from each other, breathed upon his hands and 
rubbed them together, and then opened the door of the cascinotto, 
first taking the precaution to look warily about him, perchance any 
one might be there. No one being visible, he cast his eye round to 
discover the path he had followed the preceding evening, and quickly 
recognizing it, much clearer and more distinct than his memory 
pictured it, he set ofT in that direction. 

The sky announced a beautiful day: the pale and rayless moon 
was yet visible near the horizon, in the spacious field of azure, still 
softened by a tinge of morning grey, which shaded gradually towards 
the east, into a rosy and primrose hue. Still nearer the horizon, a few 
irregular clouds stretched out, in lengthened waves, rather azure than 
grey, their lower sides edged with almost a streak of flame, be- 
coming every moment more vivid and sharply defined; while, higher 
up, light and fleecy clouds, mingling with each other, and of a 
thousand nameless hues, floated on the surface of the placid heavens; 
a true Lombard sky, so beautiful when it is beautiful — so brilliant, 
so calm. Had Renzo been here to enjoy himself, he would certainly 
have looked upwards, and admired a dawn so different to what he 
had been accustomed to see among his native mountains; but his 
eyes were bent to the ground, and he walked on rapidly, both to 
regain a little warmth, and to reach the river as quickly as he could. 
He retraced the fields, the grove, the bushes; traversed the wood, 

' It must be borne in mind by the reader, that, according tu Italian computation of 
time, the first hour of the day is seven o'clock in the morning — two o'cUxrk answerable 
to eight with us, and so on, till seven o'clock in the evening becomes one again. This 
arrangement would make eleven o'clock, in the text, the same as five o'clock in the 
morning in England. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 281 

with a kind of compassion, as he looked around and remembered 
the horror he had felt there a few hours before; reached the edge 
of the precipitous bank, and looking down through the crags and 
bushes, discovered a fisherman's bark slowly making its way against 
the stream, close by the shore. He hastily descended the shortest way 
through the bushes, stood upon the bank, and gently called to the 
fisherman; and with the intention of appearing to ask a favour of 
little importance, but, without being aware of it, in a half-suppli- 
catory manner, beckoned to him to approach. The fisherman cast 
a glance along the shore, looked carefully both up and down the 
river, and then turning the prow towards Renzo, approached the 
side. Renzo, who stood at the very edge of the stream, almost with 
one foot in the water, seized the prow as it drew near, and jumped 
into the boat. 

'Be good enough to take me across to the other side, and I'll pay 
you for it,' said he. The fisherman had already guessed his object, 
and had turned the prow to the opposite bank. Renzo, seeing 
another oar at the bottom of the boat, stoojied down and took it up. 

'Softly, softly,' said the owner; but on seeing how dexterously 
the youth laid hold of the implement, and prepared to handle it, 
'Aha!' added he, 'you know your business.' 

'A little,' replied Renzo; and he began to row with a vigour and 
skill beyond those of an amateur. While thus exerting himself, he 
cast an occasional dark glance at the shore he had just left, and 
then a look of anxiety to the one they were approaching. He was 
annoyed at having to go at all down the stream; but the current 
here was too rapid to cut directly across it; so that the bark, partly 
cleaving and partly following the course of the water, was obliged 
to take a diagonal direction. As it happens in all dark and intricate 
undertakings, that difficulties present themselves to the mind at 
first only in general, but in the execution of the enterprise are more 
minutely observable; so, now that the Adda was forded, so to say, 
Renzo felt a good deal of disquietude at not knowing for certain 
whether here it was the boundary of the two states, or whether, 
when this obstacle was overcome, there might not be others still to 
surmount. Addressing the fisherman, therefore, and nodding with 
his head towards the whitish spot which he had noticed the night 



282 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

before, and which now appeared much more distinct, 'Is that 
Bergamo?' said he — 'that town?' 

'The city of Bergamo,' replied the fisherman. 

'And that shore, there, does it belong to Bergamo?' 

'The territory of St. Mark.' 

'Long live St. Mark!' exclaimed Renzo. 

The fisherman made no reply. 

They reached, at length, the opposite shore; Renzo jumped out 
upon it, and, thanking God in his heart, expressed his gratitude in 
words to the boatman; then putting his hand in his pocket, he drew 
out thence a berlinga — which, considering his circumstances, was 
no little loss to him — and handed it to the worthy man, who, giving 
another glance at the Milanese shore, and along the river in either 
direction, stretched out his hand, and received the gift. He put it 
into his pocket, and after compressing his lips, at the same time 
laying his forefinger across them, with a significant expression of 
countenance, said, 'A good journey to you!' and turned back. 

That the reader may not be surprised at the prompt, yet cautious, 
civility of this man towards a perfect stranger, it will be necessary 
to inform him that, frequently requested to perform a similar service 
to smugglers and banditti, he was accustomed to do so, not so much 
for the sake of the trifling and uncertain gains which he might 
thereby obtain, as to avoid making himself enemies among these 
classes. He afforded this assistance whenever he could assure himself 
of not being discovered by the custom-house officers, bailiffs, or spies. 
Thus, without particularly favouring one party more than another, 
he endeavoured to satisfy all, with that impartiality usually exercised 
by those who are compelled to deal with a certain set of people, 
while liable to give account to another. 

Renzo paused a moment on the bank, to contemplate the opposite 
shore — that ground which just before had almost burnt beneath 
his feet. — Ah! I am really out of it! — was his first thought. — Hateful 
country that you are! — was his second, bidding it farewell. But 
the third recurred to those whom he had left there. Then he crossed 
his arms on his breast, heaved a sigh, bent his eyes on the water 
which flowed at his feet, and thought, — It has passed under the 
bridge! — Thus that at Lecco was generally called among his fellow- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 283 

countrymen, by way of eminence. — Ah! hateful world! Enough: 
whatever God wills. — 

He turned his back upon these mournful objects, and went for- 
ward, taking, for a mark, the white tract on the side of the hill, 
until he met with some one to give him more particular directions 
in his way. It was amusing to see with what carelessness and dis- 
embarrassment he now accosted travellers, and how boldly he pro- 
nounced tiie name of the village where his cousin resided, without 
hesitation or disguise. From the first person who directed him, he 
learnt that he had yet nine miles to travel. 

His journey was not very blithesome. Independent of his own 
troubles, his eyes rested every moment on pitiable objects, which told 
him that he would find in the country he was entering the poverty 
he had left in his own. All along the way, but more particularly in 
the villages and large towns, he saw beggars hastening along, mendi- 
cants rather from circumstances than profession, who revealed their 
misery more in their countenances than their clothing: peasants, 
mountaineers, artisans, entire famihes, and a mingled murmur of 
entreaties, disputes, and infants' cries. Besides the mournful pity 
that it awoke in Renzo's mind, this sight also aroused him to the 
remembrance of his own circumstances. 

— Who knows, — thought he, as he went along, — if I shall find 
anything to do? if there is any work now to be got, as there used 
to be? Well; Bortolo is kindly inchned to me; he is a good fellow; 
he has made some money, and has invited me very often; he, surely, 
won't forsake me. Besides, Providence has helped me hitherto, and 
will help me, I hope, for the future. — 

In the mean while, his appetite, already considerably sharpened, 
became, as he went on his way, more and more craving; and though 
he felt that he could manage very well to the end of his journey, 
which was now only about two miles, without great inconvenience, 
yet he reflected that it would not be exactly the thing to make his 
appearance before his cousin like a beggar, and address him with 
the salutation, 'Give me something to eat;' so drawing all his riches 
from his pocket, he counted them over on the palm of his hand, to 
ascertain the amount. It was an amount that required little calcula- 
tion, yet still there was more than enough to make a small meal; he, 



284 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

therefore, entered an inn to get a little refreshment; and, on paying 
the account, found that he had still a few pence remaining. 

Just outside, lying in the street, and so close to the door that he 
would have fallen over them had he not been looking about him, 
Renzo saw two women, one rather elderly, and the other a younger 
person, with an infant at her breast, which, after vainly endeavouring 
to satisfy its hunger, was crying bitterly; they were all three as pale 
as death; and standing by them was a man, in whose face and limbs 
there might still be discerned tokens of former robustness, though 
now broken and almost destroyed by long poverty. The three 
beggars stretched out their hands to Renzo, as he left the inn with 
a free step and reinvigorated air, but none of them spoke; what 
more could language have expressed ? 

'There's a God-send for you!' said Renzo, as he hastily thrust his 
hand into his pocket, and, taking out his last pence, put them into 
the hand that was nearest to him, and went on his way. 

The refreshment, and this good work together (since we are 
made of both soul and body), had gladdened and cheered all his 
thoughts. Certain it is that he felt more confidence for the future 
from having thus deprived himself of his last penny, than if he had 
found ten such. For if Providence had kept in reserve, for the sup- 
port of three wretched beggars, almost fainting on the road, the last 
farthing of a stranger, himself a fugitive, far from his own home, 
and uncertain how to get a living, could he think that that Provi- 
dence would leave in destitution him whom He had made use 
of for this purpose, and to whom He had given so vivid, so effective, 
so self-abandoning an inclination? Such was, in general, the feehng 
of the youth, though, probably, not so clearly defined as that which 
we have expressed in words. During the remainder of his walk, as 
his mind recurred to the different circumstances and contingencies 
which had hitherto appeared the most dark and perplexing, all 
seemed to brighten. The famine and poverty must come to an end, 
for there was a harvest every year: in the mean time, he had his 
cousin Bortolo, and his own abilities; and, as a help towards his 
support, a little store of money at home, which he could easily send 
for. With this assistance, at the worst, he could live from day to 
day as economically as possible, till better times. — Then, when good 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 285 

times have come at last, — continued Renzo, in his fanciful dreams, — 
the demand for work will be renewed; masters will strive who shall 
get Milanese weavers, because they know their trade best; the 
Milanese weavers will hold their heads high; they who want clever 
workmen must pay for them; we shall make something to live upon 
and still have some to spare; we can then furnish a cottage, and 
write to the women to come. And besides, why wait so long? 
Shouldn't we have lived upon my little store at home, all this 
winter ? So we can live here. There are curates everywhere. Those 
two dear women might come now, and we could keep house to- 
gether. Oh, what a pleasure, to go walking all together on this very 
road! to go as far as the Adda, in a cart, and have a picnic on the 
shore; yes, just on the shore! and I'd show them the place where I 
embarked, the thorny path I came down, and the spot where I 
stood to look if there was a boat! — 

At length he reached his cousin's village; and, just at the entrance, 
even before he set foot in it, distinguished a house considerably 
higher than the rest, with several rows of long windows, one above 
another, and separated by a much smaller space than the divisions 
between the different stories required: he at once recognized a silk- 
mill; and going in, asked in a loud voice, so as to be heard amidst 
the noise of the running water and the machinery, if Bortolo 
Castagneri lived there. 

'The Signor Bortolo! He's there.' 

— The Signor! that's a good sign, — thought Renzo; and, seeing 
his cousin, he ran towards him. Bortolo turned round, recognized 
his relation, as he exclaimed, 'Here I am, myself,' and received 
him with an 'Oh!' of surprise, as they mutually threw their arms 
round each other's neck. After the first welcome, Bortolo took his 
cousin into another room, apart from the noise of the machinery 
and the eyes of the curious, and greeted him with, 'I'm very glad 
to see you; but you're a pretty fellow. I've invited you so often, 
and you never would come; and now you arrive in rather a troubled 
time.* 

'Since you will have me tell you, I've not come with my own good 
will,' said Renzo; and then, as briefly as possible, and not without 
some emotion, he related his mournful story. 



286 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'That's quite another thing,' said Bortolo. 'Oh, poor Renzo! But 
you've depended upon me; and I'll not forsake you. Certainly, there's 
no great demand for workmen just now; indeed, it's all we can do 
not to turn of? those we have, and give up the business; but my 
master likes me, and he has got some money. And, to tell you the 
truth, without boasting, he mostly owes it to me; he has the capital, 
and I give my abilities, such as they are. I'm the head workman, you 
know; and, besides, between you and me, I'm quite his factotum. 
Poor Lucia Mondella! I remember her as it were but yesterday: a 
good girl she was! always the best-behaved in church; and whenever 
one passed her cottage ... 1 see that cottage in my mind's eye, 
outside the village, with a fine fig-tree peeping over the wall . . .' 

'No, no; don't let us talk about it.' 

*I was only going to say, that whenever one passed that cottage, 
there was the reel always going, going, going. And that Don 
Rodrigo! even in my time he was inclined that way, but now he's 
playing the devil outright, from what I hear, so long as God leaves 
him to take his own course. Well, as I was saying, here, too, we are 
suffering a little from the famine . . . Apropos, how are you for 
appetite?' 

'I got something to eat, a little while ago, on the road.' 

'And how are you for money.'' 

Renzo held out one of his hands, and putting it to his mouth, 
gently puffed upon it. 

'Never mind,' said Bortolo: 'I've plenty; pluck up heart, for I 
hope things will soon change, please God; and then you can repay 
me, and lay up also a little for yourself.' 

'I've a trifling sum at home, and will send for it.' 

"Very well; and, in the mean time, you may depend upwn me. 
God has given me wealth, that I might give to others; and whom 
should I serve so soon as my own relations and friends?' 

'I said I should be provided for!' exclaimed Renzo, affectionately 
pressing his good cousin's hand. 

'Then,' rejoined his companion, 'they've had a regular uproar at 
Milan! I think they're all a little mad. The rumour had already 
reached here; but I want you to tell me things a little more par- 
ticularly. Ah! we've plenty to talk about. Here, however, you see, 



I PROMESSI SPOSl 287 

we go about it more quietly, and do things with rather more 
prudence. The city purchased two thousand loads of corn, from a 
merchant who lives at Venice: the corn came from Turkey; but 
when life depends upon it, such things are not looked into very 
narrowly. See now what this occasioned: the governors of Verona 
and Brescia stopped up the passes, and said, 'No corn shall pass 
this way.' What did the liergamascans do, think you? They 
despatched a man to Venice, who knew how to talk. The messenger 
went off in haste, presented himself to the Doge, and asked him 
what was the meaning of such a trick. And such a speech he made! 
they say, fit to be printed. What a thing it is to have a man who 
knows what to say! An order was immediately issued for the free 
transit of corn, requiring the governors not only to let it pass, but 
to assist in forwarding it; and now it is on its way. There is 
provision also for the surrounding country. Another worthy man 
gave the senate to understand that the people in the country were 
starving; and they have ordered them four thousand bushels of 
millet. This helps, you know, to make bread. And then I needn't 
say, that if there isn't bread for us, we will eat meat. God has given 
me wealth, as I told you. Now, then, I'll take you to my master: 
I've often mentioned you to him, and I know he'll welcome you. 
He's a Bergamascan of the old sort, and a kind-hearted man. Cer- 
tainly, he doesn't expect you just now; but when he hears your 
history . . . And besides, he knows how to value good workmen; 
for the famine must come to an end, and business will go on. But, 
first of all, I must warn you of one thing. Do you know what they 
call us Milanese, in this country?' 

'No; what is it?' 

'They call us blockheads.' 

'That's not a very nice name.' 

'So it is: whoever is born in the territory of Milan, and would 
make a living in that of Bergamo, must be content to bear it 
patiently. It is as common, among these people, to give the name 
of "blockhead" to a Milanese, as "your illustrious lordship" to a 
cavalier.' 

'They only say so, I fancy, to those who will put up with it.' 

'My dear fellow, if you are not disposed continually to brook the 



288 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

title, don't reckon that you can live here. You would be obliged 
always to have a knife in your hand; and when you have killed, 
we will suppose, two, three, or four, of your neighbours, you'd meet 
with somebody who would kill you; and what a nice prospect, to 
have to appear before God's tribunal with three or four murders 
on your head!' 

'And a Milanese who has a little . . .' here he tapped his fore- 
head with his forefinger, as he had before done at the sign of the 
Full Moon. 'I mean, one who understands his business?' 

'It's all the same; he, too, would be a blockhead. Do you know 
what my master says when he's talking of me to his friends? 
"Heaven has sent me this blockhead, to conduct my business; if it 
were not for this blockhead, I should do very badly." It's the custom 
to say so.' 

'It's a very foolish custom, especially considering what we do; for 
who was it, in fact, that brought the art here, and now carries it on, 
but us? Is it possible there's no help for it?' 

'Not hitherto; there may be, in the course of time, among the 
young people who are growing up; but in this generation there is 
no remedy; they've acquired the habit, and won't leave it off. After 
all, what is it? It's nothing to the tricks they've played upon you, 
and that most of our precious feIlow<ountrymen would still play 
upon you.' 

'Well, that's true: if there's no other evil . . .' 

'Now that you are persuaded of this, all will go well. Come, let 
us go to my master, and be of good heart.' 

Everything, in fact, did go well, and so exactly in accordance with 
Bortolo's promises, that it is needless to give any particular descrip- 
tion. And it was truly an ordering of Providence; for we shall 
soon see how little dependence was to be placed upon the small 
savings Renzo had left at home. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THAT same day, the 13th of November, an express arrived 
to the Signer Podesti of Lecco, and presented him with a 
despatch from the Signor the high sheriff, containing an 
order to make every possible strict investigation, to ascertain whether 
a certain young man, bearing the name of Lorenzo TramagUno, 
silk-weaver, who had escaped from the hands prcedicti egregii 
domini capitanei, had returned, palam vel clam, to his own country, 
ignotum the exact village, verum in territorio Leuci: quod si com- 
pertum fuerit sic esse, the Signor Podestd must endeavour, quanta 
maxima diligentia fieri poterit, to get him into his hands; and having 
sufficiently secured him, videlicet, with strong handcuffs, (seeing 
that the insufficiency of smaller manacles for the afore-mentioned 
person has been proved), must cause him to be conducted to prison, 
and there detained under strong custody, until he be consigned to 
the officer, who shall be sent to take him: and in case either of 
success, or non-success, accedatis ad domum prcedicti Laurentii 
Tramalini; et facta debita diligentia, quid quid ad rem repertum 
fuerit auferatis; et informationes de illius prava qualitate, vita, et 
complicibus, sumatis; and of all his sayings and doings, what is 
found and not found, what is taken and not taken, diligenter 
referatis. After humanely assuring himself that the object of inquiry 
had not returned home, the Signor Podest^ summoned the village 
constable, and under his direction, proceeded, with a large retinue 
of notaries and bailiffs, to the above-mentioned house. The door 
was locked, and either no one had the key, or he was not to be 
found. They, therefore, forced the locks with all due and praise- 
worthy zeal, which is equivalent to saying that they proceeded as if 
taking a city by assault. The report of this expedition immediately 
spread in the neighbourhood, and reached the ears of Father Cristo- 
foro, who, no less astonished than grieved, sought for some informa- 

289 



290 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

tion as to the cause of so unexpected an event from everybody he 
met with; he could only, however, gather airy conjectures, and 
contradictory reports: and, at last, therefore, wrote to Father Bona- 
ventura, from whom he imagined he should be able to acquire some 
more precise information. In the mean while, Renzo's relations and 
friends were summoned to depose all that they knew about his 
depraved habits: to bear the name of Tramaglino became a mis- 
fortune, a disgrace, a crime; and the village was quite in a com- 
motion. By degrees, it became known that Renzo had escaped from 
the hands of justice during the disturbance at Milan, and had not 
since been seen. It was whis[wred about that he had been guilty of 
some high crime and misdemeanour, but what it was no one could 
tell, or they told it in a hundred different ways. The more heinous 
the offence with which he was charged, the less was it believed in 
the village, where Renzo was universally known as an honest, 
respectable youth; and many conjectured and spread the report, 
that it was merely a machination set on foot by the powerful Don 
Rodrigo, to bring about the ruin of his unfortunate rival. So true 
is it that, judging only by induction, and without the necessary 
knowledge of facts, even the greatest villains are sometimes wrong- 
fully accused. 

But we, who have the facts in our possession, as the saying is, 
can affirm that, if Don Rodrigo had had no share in Renzo's mis- 
fortunes, yet that he rejoiced in them as if they had been his own 
work, and triumphed over them among his confidants, especially 
with Count Attilio. This friend, according to his first intention, 
should have been, by this time, at Milan; but, on the first announce- 
ment of the disturbances that had arisen there, and of the rabble 
whom he might encounter in a far different mood than tamely to 
submit to a beating, he thought it expedient to postpone his journey 
until he received better accounts; and the more so, because having 
offended many, he had good reason to fear that some who had 
remained passive only from impotency, might now be encouraged by 
circumstances, and judge it a favourable opjxjrtunity for taking their 
revenge. The journey, however, was not long delayed; the order 
despatched from Milan for the execution against Renzo, had already 
given some indication that things had returned to their ordinary 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 291 

course, and the positive notices which followed quick upon it, con- 
firmed the truth of these appearances. Count Attilio set off im- 
mediately, enjoining his cousin to persist in his undertaking, and 
bring it to an issue, and promising, on his part, that he would use 
every means to rid him of the friar, to whom the fortunate accident 
of his cousin's beggarly rival would be a wonderful blow. Scarcely 
had Attilio gone, when Griso arrived safe and soimd from Monza, 
and related to his master what he had beeti able to gather: — that 
Lucia had found refuge in such a monastery, under the protection 
of the Signora So-and-so; that she was concealed there as if she 
were a nun herself, never setting foot outside the threshold, and 
assisting at the services of the church behind a little grated window: 
an arrangement which was unsatisfactory to many who, having 
heard some mention of her adventures, and great reports of her 
beauty, were anxious, for once, to see what she was like. 

This account inspired Don Rodrigo with every evil passion, or, 
to speak more truly, rendered still more ungovernable those with 
which he was already possessed. So many circumstances favourable 
to his design, had only further inflamed that mixture of punctilio, 
rage, and infamous desire of which his passion was composed. 
Renzo absent, banished, outlawed — so that any proceedings against 
him became lawful; and even that his betrothed bride might be con- 
sidered, in a measure, as the propjerty of a rebel: the only man in 
the world who would and could interest himself for her, and make 
a stir that would be noticed in head-quarters, and at a distance — 
the enraged friar — would himself, probably, be soon incapable of 
acting for her. Yet here was a new impediment, which not only 
outweighed all these advantages, but rendered them, it might be 
said, unavailing. A monastery at Monza, even had there not been 
a princess in the way, was a bone too hard even for the teeth of a 
Rodrigo; and wander in his fancy round this retreat as he would, 
he could devise no way or means of assaulting it, either by 
force or fraud. He was almost resolved to give up the enterprise, 
to go to Milan by a circuitous route, so as to avoid passing through 
Monza, and there to plunge himself into the society of his friends, 
and their recreations, so as to drown, in thoughts of gaiety, the one 
idea which had now become so tormenting. But, but, but, bis 



292 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

friends! — softly a little with these friends. Instead of diverting his 
mind, he might reasonably expect to find in their company an in- 
cessant renewal and memento of his vexation: for Attilio would 
certainly have published the affair, and put them all in expectation. 
Everybody would make inquiries about the mountain girl, and he 
must give some answer. He had wished, he had tried; and how 
had he succeeded? He had engaged in an undertaking — rather an 
unworthy one, certainly; but what of that? One cannot always 
regulate one's caprices; the point is to satisfy them; and how had he 
come off in the enterprise? How? Put down by a peasant, and a 
friar! Uh! and when an unexpected turn of good fortune had rid 
him of one, and a skilful friend of the other, without any trouble 
on the part of the principal person concerned, he, like a fool, knew 
not how to profit by the juncture, and basely withdrew from the 
undertaking! It would be enough to make him never again dare to 
hold up his head among men of spirit, or compel him always to 
keep his hand on his sword. And then, again, how could he ever 
return to, how ever remain in, that village, and that country, where, 
let alone the incessant and bitter remembrances of his passion, he 
should always bear about with him the disgrace of its failure? 
where public hatred would have increased, while his reputation for 
power and superiority would have proportionably diminished? 
where he might read in the face of every ragamuffin, even through 
the veil of profound reverences, a galling 'You've been gulled, and 
I'm glad of it!' The path of iniquity, as our manuscript here re- 
marks, is broad, but that does not mean that it is easy; it has its 
stumbling-blocks, and its thorns, and its course is tedious and weari- 
some, though it be a downward course. 

In this perplexity, unwilling either to give up his purpose, to go 
back, or to stop, and unable by himself to go forward, a plan occurred 
to Don Rodrigo's mind, by which he hoped to effect his design. This 
was to take as a partner and assistant in his enterprise, one whose 
hands could often reach beyond the views of others — a man at once, 
and devil, to whom the difficulty of an undertaking was frequently 
an incentive to engage in it. But this course also had its incon- 
veniences and its dangers; the more pressing, the less they could be 
calculated upon beforehand; since it was impossible to foresee where 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 293 

one might be led, when once embarked in an affair with this man : 
a powerful auxiliary, certainly, but a not less absolute and dangerous 
guide. 

These thoughts kept Don Rodrigo for several days in a state of 
worse than tedious perplexity. In the mean while, a letter arrived 
from his cousin, informing him that the plot against the friar was 
going on very well. Following close upon the lightning bursts 
forth the thunderclap; one fine morning, Don Rodrigo heard that 
Father Cristoforo had left the convent at Pescarenico. This success, 
so prompt, and so complete, together with Attilio's letter, encourag- 
ing him onward, and threatening him with intolerable ridicule if 
he withdrew, inclined Don Rodrigo still more to hazard every thing 
rather than give up; but that which finally decided him, was the 
unexpected news that Agnese had returned home, thus removing 
one obstacle from around Lucia. We will relate how these two 
circumstances were brought about, beginning with the last. 

The two unfortunate women were scarcely settled in their retreat, 
when the report of the disturbances in Milan spread rapidly over 
Monza, and, consequently, through the monastery; and following 
the grand news, came an infinite succession of particulars, which 
multiplied and varied every moment. The portress, situated just 
between the street and the monastery, was the channel of informa- 
tion both from within and from without, and, eagerly receiving these 
reports, retailed them at will to her guests. 'Two, six, eight, four, 
seven, had been imprisoned : they would hang them, some before the 
bakehouse of the Crutches, some at the end of the street where the 
Superintendent of provisions lived . . . Ay, ay, just listen, now! — 
one of them escaped — a man somewhere from Lecco, or thereabouts. 
I don't know the name; but some one will be passing who will be 
able to tell me, to see if you know him.' 

This announcement, together with the circumstance that Renzo 
would just have arrived at Milan on the fatal day, occasioned a good 
deal of disquietude to the women, and especially to Lucia; but what 
must it have been, when the portress came to tell them — 'It is a man 
from your very village who has escaped being hung — a silk-weaver, 
of the name of Tramaglino; do you know him?' 

Lucia, who was sitting henuning some needlework, immediately 



294 ALESSANDRO MANZONl 

let it fall from her hands; she became extremely pale, and changed 
countenance so much, that the portress would certainly have 
observed it, had she been nearer to her. Fortunately, however, she 
was standing at the door with Agnese, who, though much disturbed, 
yet not to such a degree as her daughter, preserved a calm counte- 
nance, and forced herself to reply, that in a Uttle village, everybody 
knew everybody; that she was acquainted with him, and could 
scarcely bring herself to believe that anything of the kind had 
happened to him, he was so peaceable a youth. She then asked if it 
was known for certain that he had escaped, and whither. 

'Every one says he has escaped, where to, they cannot say; it may 
be they will catch him again, or it may be he is in safety; but if they 
do get hold of him, your peaceable youth . . .' 

Fortunately, at this junaure, the portress was called away, and 
left them — the reader may imagine in what state of mind. For 
more than a day were the poor woman and her afflicted daughter 
obliged to remain in this painful suspense, imagining the causes, 
ways, and consequences, of this unhappy event, and commenting, 
in their own minds, or in a low voice with each other, on the terrible 
words their informer had left unfinished. 

At length, one Thursday, a man arrived at the monastery in search 
of Agnese. It was a fishmonger, of Pescarenico, going to Milan, as 
usual, to dispose of his fish; and the good Father Cristoforo had 
requested him, in passing through Monza, to call in at the monastery, 
to greet the women in his name, to tell them all he knew about this 
sad affair of Renzo's, to beseech them to have patience, and put 
their trust in God; and to assure them that he would certainly not 
forget them, but would watch his opj^wrtunity for rendering them 
assistance; and, in the mean time, would not fail to send them all 
the news he could collect every week, either by this means, or a 
similar one. The messenger could tell nothing new or certain about 
Renzo, except of the execution put into his house, and the search that 
was being made for him; but, at the same time, that this had been 
hitherto in vain, and that it was known for certain that he had 
reached the territory of Bergamo. Such a certainty, it is unnecessary 
to say, was a balm to poor Lucia's wounded heart: from that time 
her tears flowed more freely and calmly; she felt more comforted in 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 295 

her secret bursts of feeling with her mother; and expressions of 
thankfulness began to be mingled with her prayers. 

Gertrude frequently invited her into her private apartment, and 
sometimes detained her there a long while, feeling a pleasure in the 
ingenuousness and gentleness of the p)oor girl, and in hearing the 
thanks and blessings she poured upon her benefactress. She even 
related to her, in confidence, a part (the blameless part) of her 
history, and of what she had suffered, that she might come there 
to suffer, till Lucia's first suspicious astonishment gradually changed 
to compassion. In that history she found reasons more than enough 
to explain what she thought rather strange in the behaviour of her 
patroness, especially when she brought in to her aid Agnese's doc- 
trine about the characters of the nobility. Nevertheless, though some 
times induced to return the confidence which Gertrude reposed in 
her, yet she carefully avoided any mention of her fresh causes of 
alarm, of her new misfortune, and of the ties which bound her to 
the escaped silk-weaver, lest she should run any risk of spreading 
a report so full of her shame and sorrow. She also parried, to the 
best of her ability, all Gertrude's inquisitive questions about herself 
previous to her betrothal, but this was not so much from prudential 
motives, as because such an account appeared to the simple-minded 
girl more perplexing, more difficult to relate, than all she had heard, 
or thought it possible to hear, from the Signora. In the history of 
that lady there was oppression, intrigue, suffering — sad and mourn- 
ful things, but which, nevertheless, could be named: in her own 
there was a jiervading sentiment, a word, which she did not feel it 
possible to pronounce, when speaking of herself, and as a substitute 
for which she could never find a periphrasis that did not seem to 
her mind indchcate: love! 

Gertrude was sometimes tempted to be angry at these repulses; 
but there always appeared behind them so much affection, so much 
respect, so much gratitude, and even so much trustfulness! Some- 
times, perhaps, that modesty, so delicate, sensitive, and mysterious, 
displeased her still more on another account; but all was quickly 
forgotten in the soothing thought that every moment recurred to 
her mind when contemplating Lucia; — I am doing her good. — And 
this was true; for, besides the asylum she had provided, these con- 



296 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

versations and her familiar treatment were some comfort to Lucia. 
The poor girl also found another satisfaction in constant employ- 
ment; she always petitioned for something to do, and when she 
went into the Signora's parlour, generally took a little needlework 
with her, to keep her fingers employed: but what melancholy 
thoughts crowded her mind, wherever she went! While plying her 
needle, — an occupation to which hitherto she had given little atten- 
tion, — her reel constantly presented itself to her view; and with the 
reel, how many other things! 

The second Thursday, the same, or another messenger arrived, 
bringing salutations and encouragement from Father Cristoforo, 
and an additional confirmation of Renzo's escape; but no more 
positive information about his misfortunes. The reader may remem- 
ber that the Capuchin had hoped for some account from his brother- 
friar at Milan, to whom he had given Renzo a letter of recommenda- 
tion; he only replied, however, that he had seen neither letter nor 
person: that a stranger from the country had certainly been to the 
convent in search of him, but finding him out, had gone away, and 
had not again made his appearance. 

The third Thursday, no messenger came; which was not only de- 
priving the poor women of an anticipated and hoped-for source of 
consolation; but, as it usually happens, on every trifling occasion, 
to those in sorrow and suspense, was also a subject of much dis- 
quietude, and a hundred tormenting suspicions. Agnese had, for 
some time, been contemplating a visit to her native village, and this 
unexpected non-appearance of the promised messenger, determined 
her upon taking such a step. Lucia felt very strange at the thought 
of being left without the shelter of her mother's wing; but the 
longing desire she felt to know something, and her sense of security 
in that guarded and sacred asylum, conquered her great unwilling- 
ness; and it was arranged between them that Agnese should watch 
in the street the following day for the fishmonger, who must, neces- 
sarily pass that way on his return from Milan, and that she would 
ask him to be so good as to give her a seat in his cart, to take her 
to her own mountains. She met with him, accordingly, and asked 
if Father Cristoforo had given him no commission for her. The 
fishmonger said, that he had been out fishing the whole day before 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 297 

his departure, and had received neither news nor message from the 
Father. Agnese then made her request, which being granted without 
hesitation, she took her leave of the Signora and her daughter, with 
many tears; and promising to send them some news soon, and re- 
turn as quickly as possible, she set off. 

The journey was performed without accident. They passed part 
of the night in an inn on the road-side, as usual, and setting off on 
their way before sun-rise, arrived early in the morning at Pesca- 
renico. Agnese alighted on the little square before the convent, dis- 
missed her conductor with many thanks; and, since she was at the 
place, determined, before going home, to see her benefactor, the 
worthy friar. She rang the bell; the person who came to open the 
door was fra Galdino, the nut-seeker. 

'Oh, my good woman, what wind has brought you here?' 

'I want to see Father Cristoforo.' 

'Father Cristoforo.'' He's not here.' 

'Oh! will he be long before he comes back?' 

'Long!' said the friar, shrugging his shoulders, so as almost to bury 
his shorn head in his hood. 

'Where has he gone?' 

'To Rimini.' 

'To . . . ?' 

'To Rimini.' 

'Where is that?' 

'Eh! eh! eh!' replied the friar, vertically waving his extended hand 
in the air, to signify a great distance. 

'Alas me! But why has he gone away so suddenly?' 

'Because the Father provincial ordered it.' 

'And why have they sent him away at all, when he was doing 
so much good here? Ah, poor me!' 

'If superiors were obliged to render a reason for all the orders 
they give, where would be our obedience, my good woman?' 

'Yes; but this is my ruin.' 

'This is the way it will be. They will have wanted a good preacher 
at Rimini (there are some everywhere, to be sure, but sometimes 
they want a particular man, on purpose); the Father provincial 
there will have written to the Father provincial here, to know if 



298 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

he had such and such a person: and the Father provincial will have 
said, "Father Cristoforo is the man for him;" as, in fact, you see 
it is.' 

'Oh, poor us! When did he go?' 

'The day before yesterday.' 

'See now; if I had only done as I first wished, and come a few 
days sooner! And don't you know when he may return.'' Can't you 
guess at all?' 

'Eh, my good woman! Nobody knows, except the Father pro- 
vincial, if even he does. When once one of our preaching friars 
has taken the wing, one can never foresee on what branch he will 
finally alight. They are sought after here, and there, and everywhere; 
and we have convents in all the four quarters of the globe. Rest 
assured. Father Cristoforo will make a great noise with his course 
of Lent sermons, at Rimini; for he doesn't always preach extempore, 
as he did here, that the poor people might understand him; for the 
city pulpits he has his beautiful written sermons, and his best robes. 
The fame of this great preacher will spread; and they may ask for 
him at ... I don't know where. Besides, we ought to give him up, 
for we live on the charity of the whole world, and it is but just that 
we should serve the whole world.' 

'Oh dear, dear!' again cried Agnese, almost weeping: 'What can 
I do without him? He was like a father to us! It is the undoing 
of us.' 

'Listen, my good woman; Father Cristoforo was certainly an ad- 
mirable man; but we have others, you know, full of charity and 
ability, and who know how to deal with either ricii or poor. Will 
you have Father Atanasio? or Father Girolamo? or Father Zaccaria? 
Father Zaccaria, you know, is a man of great worth. And don't you 
wonder, as some ignorant people do, that he is so thin, and has 
such a weak voice, and such a miserable beard: I don't say that he 
is a good preacher, because everybody has his particular gifts; but 
he is just the man to give advice, you know.' 

'Oh holy patience!' exclaimed Agnese, with that mixture of grati- 
tude and impatience that one feels at an offer in which there is 
more good nature than suitableness: 'What does it matter to me 
what a man is or is not, when that good man, who's no longer here. 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 299 

was he who knew all our afiairs, and had made preparations to 
help usr' 

'Then you must have patience.' 

'1 know that,' replied Agnese: 'forgive me for troubling you.' 

'Oh don't say a word, my good woman; 1 am very sorry for you. 
And if you determine upon consuJting any of the Fathers, the con- 
vent is here, and won't go away. I shall see you soon, when I collea 
the oil.' 

'Good-bye,' said Agnese; and she turned towards her little village, 
forlorn, perplexed, and disconcerted, like a blind man who has lost 
his staff. 

Rather better informed than fra Galdino, we will now relate how 
things had really happened. Immediately on Attilio's arrival at Milan, 
he went, as he had promised Don Rodrigo, to pay a visit to their 
common uncle of the Privy-council. (This was a committee, com- 
posed, at that time, of thirteen persons of rank, with whom the gov- 
ernor usually consulted, and who, when he either died or resigned his 
office, temporarily assumed the command.) Their uncle, the Count, 
a robed member, and one of the oldest of the Council, enjoyed there 
a certain authority; but in displaying this authority, and making it 
felt by those around him, there was not his equal. Ambiguous 
language, significant silence, abrupt pauses in speaking, a wink of 
the eye, that seemed to say, 'I may not speak,' flattery without 
promises, and formal threatenings — all were directed to this end; 
and all, more or less, produced the desired effect; so that even the 
positive declaration, 'I can do nothing in this business,' pronounced 
sometimes in absolute truth, but pronounced so that it was not be- 
lieved, only served to increase the idea, and, therefore the reality, 
of his power: like the japanned boxes which may suU be occasionally 
seen in an apothecary's shop, with sundry Arabic characters stamped 
upon them, actually containing nothing, yet serving to keep up the 
credit of the shop. That of the Count, which had been for a long 
time increasing, by very gradual steps, had, at last, made a giant's 
stride, as the saying is, on an extraordinary occasion; namely, a jour- 
ney to Madrid, on an embassy to the Court, where the reception that 
he met with should be related by himself. To mention nothing else 
the Count Duke had treated him with particular condescension, and 



300 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

admitted him into his confidence so far as to have asked him, in the 
presence, he might say, of half the Court, how he Uked Madrid, and 
to have told him, another time, when standing in the recess of a 
window, that the Cathedral of Milan was the largest Christian tem- 
ple in the king's dominions. 

After paying all due ceremony to his uncle, and delivering his 
cousin's compliments, Attilio addressed him with a look of serious- 
ness, such as he knew how and when to assume: 'I think I am only 
doing my duty without betraying Rodrigo's confidence, when I ac- 
quaint my uncle with an affair, which, unless you interfere, may 
become serious, and produce consequences . . .' 

'One of his usual scrapes, I suppose?' 

'I can assure you that the fault is not on Rodrigo's side, but his 
spirit is roused; and, as I said, no one but you can . . .' 

'Well, let us hear, let us hear.' 

'There is a Capuchin friar in that neighbourhood, who bears a 
grudge against my cousin; and things have gone to such a pitch 
that . . .' 

'How often have I told you both to let the monks fry their own 
fish ? It is quite sufficient for those to have to do with them who are 
obliged . . . whose business it is . . .' and here he sighed. 'But you 
can avoid them . . .' 

'Signor uncle, I am bound to tell you that Rodrigo would have let 
them alone, had it been possible. It is the friar who is determined 
to quarrel with him, and has tried in every way to provoke him.' 

'What the has this friar to do with my nephew.?' 

'First of all, he is well known as a restless spirit, who prides him- 
self upon quarrelling with gentlemen. This fellow, too, has taken 
under his protection and direction, and I don't know what besides, 
a country girl of the village, whom he regards with an affection . . . 
an affection ... I don't say of what kind; but a very jealous, sus- 
picious, and sullen affection.' 

'I understand,' said the Count, and a ray of cunning intelligence 
shot across the depth of dulness nature had stamped upon his coun- 
tenance, now, however, partially veiled under the mask of a poli- 
tician. 

'Now, for some time,' continued Attilio, 'this friar has taken a 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 301 

fancy that Rodrigo has, I don't know what designs upon this . . .' 

'Taken a fancy, eh, taken a fancy? I know the Signer Don Rod- 
rigo too well; and it needs another advocate besides your lordship 
to justify him in these matters.' 

'That Rodrigo, Signor uncle, may have had some idle jesting 
with this girl, when he met her on the road, I can easily believe: 
he is young, and besides, not a Capuchin: but these are mere non- 
senses, not worth mentioning to my noble uncle: the serious part of 
the business is, that the friar has begun to talk of Rodrigo as he 
would of a common fellow, and has tried to instigate all the country 
against him.' 

'And the other friars?' 

'They don't meddle with it, because they know him to be a hot- 
headed fool, and bear a great respect to Rodrigo; but, on the other 
side, this monk has great reputation among the villagers as a saint, 
and . . .' 

'I fancy he doesn't know that Rodrigo is my nephew . . .' 

'Doesn't he, though? It is just this that urges him onward.' 

'How? how?' 

'Because — and he scruples not to publish it — he takes greater de- 
light in vexing Rodrigo, exactly because he has a natural protector 
of such authority as your lordship; he laughs at great people and 
politicians, and says that the cord of St Francis binds even swords 
and . . .' 

'The rash villain! What is his name?' 

'Fra Cristoforo, of * * *,' said Attilio; and his uncle, taking a 
tablet from his desk, and considerably incensed, inscribed within 
it the unfortunate name. In the mean while Attilio continued: 'This 
fellow has always had such a disposition: his former life is well 
known. He was a plebeian, who possessed a little money, and would, 
therefore, compete with the noblemen of his country; and out of rage 
at not being able to make them all yield to him, he killed one, and 
then turned friar to escape the gallows.' 

'Bravo! capital! we will see, we will see,' exclaimed the Count, 
panting and puffing with an important air. 

'Lately,' continued Attilio, 'he is more enraged than ever, because 
he has failed in a design which he was very eager about; and from 



302 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

this my noble uncle will understand what sort of man he is. This 
fellow wanted to marry his protegee; whether to remove her from 
the perils of the world, you understand, or whatever it might be, at 
any rate he was determined to marry her; and he had found the . . . 
the man, another of his proteges, a person whose name my honoured 
uncle may not improbably have heard; for I dare say the Privy- 
council have had some transactions with this worthy subject.' 

'Who is he?' 

'A silk-weaver, Lorenzo Tramaglino, he who . • .' 

'Lorenzo TramagUno!' exclaimed his uncle. 'Well done, my brave 
friar! Certainly! . . . indeed ... he had a letter for a ... A crime 
that . . . But it matters not; very well. And why did Don Rodrigo 
tell me nothing of all this; but let things go so far, without applying 
to one who is both able and willing to direct and help him?' 

'I will be candid with you. On the one hand, knowing how many 
intrigues and affairs you had in your head . . .' (here his uncle 
drew a long breath, and put his hand to his forehead, as if to inti- 
mate the fatigue he underwent in the settlement of so many intricate 
undertakings), 'he felt in a manner bound,' continued Attilio, 'not 
to give you any additional trouble. And besides, I will tell you 
the whole: from what I can gather, he is so vexed, so angry, so an- 
noyed at the insults offered him by this friar, that he is more desirous 
of getting justice for himself by some summary means, than of ob- 
taining it in the regular way of prudence by the assistance of your 
Lordship. I have tried to extinguish the flame; but seeing things 
taking a wrong course, I thought it my duty to inform your Lord- 
ship of everything, who, after all, is the head and chief prop of the 
house . . .' 

'You would have done better to have spoken a little sooner.' 

'True; but I continued to hope that the thing would die off of 
itself, or that the friar would, at last, come to his senses, or would, 
perhaps, leave the convent, as is often the case among the monks, 
who are one day here and another there; and then all would have 
been quietly ended. But . . .' 

'Now it is my business to settle it.' 

'So I have thought. I said to myself: The Signor, my uncle, with 
his discretion and authority, will know well enough how to prevent 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 303 

a quarrel, and at the same time secure Rodrigo's honour, which is 
almost, as it were, his own. This friar, thought I, is always boasting 
of the girdle of St Francis; but to employ this girdle seasonably, 
it is not necessary to have it always buckled around one's waist. 
My noble uncle has many means that I know not of: I only know 
that the Father provincial has, as is but right, a great respect for 
him; and if my honoured uncle thought that the best course, in this 
instance, would be to give the friar a change of air; two words . . .' 

'Your Lordship will be pleased to leave the arrangement to the 
person it belongs to,' said his uncle, rather abruptly. 

'Oh, certainly!' exclaimed Attilio, with a toss of his head, and a 
disguised smile of disdainful compassion. 'I am not intending to 
give advice to your Lordship! But the regard I have for the rep- 
utation of the family made me speak. And I am afraid I have been 
guilty of another error,' added he, with a thoughtful air; 'I fear I 
have wronged Rodrigo in your Lordship's opinion. I should have 
no peace if I were the cause of making you think that Rodrigo had 
not all the confidence in you, and all the submission to your will, 
that he ought to have. Believe me, Signor uncle, that, in this in- 
stance, it is merely . . .' 

'Come, come; you two won't wrong each other, if you can help it; 
you will be always friends, till one of you becomes prudent. Ever 
getting into some scrape or other, and expecting me to settle it: for 
. . . you will force me to say so, you give me more to think about, 
you two, than . , .' here he heaved a profound sigh — 'all these 
blessed affairs of state.* 

Attilio made a few more excuses, promises, and compliments, and 
then took his leave, accompanied by a — 'Be prudent,' — the Count's 
usual form of dismissal to his nephews. 



CHAPTER XIX 

IF a weed be discovered in a badly cultivated field, a fine root 
of sorrel, for example, and the spectator wish to ascertain with 
certainty whether it has sprung up from seed, either ripened 
in the field itself, or wafted thither by the wind, or dropped there by 
a bird in its flight, let him think as he wall about it, he will never 
come to a satisfactory conclusion. For the same reason we are un- 
able to decide whether the resolution formed by the Count of making 
use of the Father provincial to cut in two, as the best and easiest 
method, this intricate knot, arose from his own unassisted imagina- 
tion, or from the suggestions of Attilio. Certain it is, that Attilio had 
not thrown out the hint unintentionally; and however naturally 
he might expect that the jealous haughtiness of his noble relative 
would recoil at so open an insinuation, he was determined at any 
rate to make the idea of such a resource flash before his eyes, and 
let him know the course which he desired he should pursue. On 
the other hand, the plan was so exactly consonant with his uncle's 
disposition, and so naturally marked out by circumstances, that 
one might safely venture the assertion, that he had thought of, and 
embraced it, without the suggestion of any one. It was a most 
essential point towards the reputation of power which he had so much 
at heart, that one of his name, a nephew of his, should not be worsted 
in a dispute of such notoriety. The satisfaction that his nephew 
would take for himself, would have been a remedy worse than the 
disease, a foundation for future troubles, which it was necessary to 
overthrow at any cost, and without loss of time. Command him at 
once to quit his palace, and he would not obey, and, even should he 
submit, it would be a surrendering of the contest, a submission of 
their house to the superiority of a convent. Commands, legal force, 
or any terrors of that nature, were of no value against an adversary 
of such a character as Father Cristoforo: the regular and secular 
clergy were entirely exempt, not only in their persons, but in their 

304 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 305 

places of abode, from all lay-jurisdiction (as must have been observed 
even by one who has read no other story than the one before him) ; 
otherwise they would often have fared very badly. All that could be 
attempted against such a rival was his removal, and the only means 
for obtaining this was the Father provincial, at whose pleasure 
Father Cristoforo was either stationary, or on the move. 

Between this Father provincial and the Count of the Privy<ouncil 
there existed an acquaintanceship of long standing: they seldom 
saw each other, but whenever they met, it was with great demonstra- 
tions of friendship, and reiterated offers of service. It is sometimes 
easier to transact business advantageously with a person who pre- 
sides over many individuals than with only one of those same indi- 
viduals, who sees but his own motives, feels but his own passions, 
seeks only his own ends; while the former instantly perceives a 
hundred relations, contingencies, and interests, a hundred objects 
to secure or avoid, and can, therefore, be taken on a hundred differ- 
ent sides. 

When all had been well arranged in his mind, the Count one day 
invited the Father provincial to dinner, to meet a circle of guests 
selected with superlative judgment: — an assemblage of men of the 
highest rank, whose family alone bore a lofty title, and who by their 
carriage, by a certain native boldness, by a lordly air of disdain, and 
by talking of great things in familiar terms, succeeded, even without 
intending it, in impressing, and, on every occasion, keeping up, the 
idea of their superiority and power; together with a few clients 
bound to the house by an hereditary devotion, and to its head by 
the servitude of a whole Ufe; who, beginning with the soup to say 
'yes,' with their lips, their eyes, their ears, their head, their whole 
body, and their whole heart, had made a man, by dessert-time, almost 
forget how to say 'no.' 

At table, the noble host quickly turned the conversation upon 
Madrid. There are many ways and means of accomplishing one's 
object, and he tried all. He spoke of the court, the Count-duke, the 
ministers, and the governor's family; of the bull-baits, which he 
could accurately describe, having been a sf)ectator from a very ad- 
vantageous post; and of the Escurial, of which he could give a minute 
account, because one of the Count-duke's pages had conducted him 



306 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

through every nook and corner o£ it. For some time the company 
continued like an audience, attentive to him alone; but, by degrees, 
they divided into small groups of talkers, and he then proceeded to 
relate further anecdotes of the great things he had seen, as in confi- 
dence, to the Father provincial, who was seated near him, and who 
suffered him to talk on without interruption. But at a certain point 
he gave a turn to the conversation, and, leaving Madrid, proceeded 
from court to court, and from dignitary to dignitary, till he had 
brought ujwn the tapis Cardinal Barberini, a Capuchin, and brother 
to the then reigning Pope, Urban VIII. The Count was at last 
obliged to cease talking for a while, and be content to listen, and 
remember that, after all, there were some people in the world who 
were not born to live and act only for him. Shortly after leaving 
the table, he requested the Father provincial to step with him into 
another apartment. 

Two men of authority, age, and consummate experience, now 
found themselves standing opjx)site to each other. The noble lord 
requested the reverend Father to take a seat, and, placing himself 
at his side, began as follows: 'Considering the friendship that exists 
between us, I thought I might venture to speak a word to your 
Reverence on a matter of mutual interest, which it would be better 
to settle between ourselves, without taking any other courses, which 
might . . . But, without further preface, I will candidly tell you to 
what I allude, and I doubt not you will immediately agree with me. 
Tell me: in your convent of Pescarenico there is a certain Father 
Cristoforo of * * * ?' 

The Provincial bowed assent. 

'Your Paternity will be good enough then, frankly, like a friend, 
to tell me . . . this person . . . this Father ... I don't know him 
personally; I am acquainted with several Capuchin fathers, zealous, 
prudent, humble men, who are worth their weight in gold: I have 
been a friend to the order from my boyhood • . . But in every rather 
numerous family . . . there is always some individual, some wild 
. . . And this Father Cristoforo, I know by several occurrences that 
he is a person . . . rather inclined to disputes . . . who has not all 
the prudence, all the circumspection ... I dare say he has more 
than once given your Paternity some anxiety.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 307 

— I understand; this is a specimen, — thought the Provincial in the 
meantime. — It is my fault; I knew that that blessed Cristoforo was 
fitter to go about from pulpit to pulpit, than to be set down for six 
months in one place, specially in a country convent. — 

'Oh I' said he aloud, 'I am really very sorry to hear that your 
Highness entertains such an opinion of Father Cristoforo; for, as far 
as I know, he is a most exemplary monk in the convent, and is held 
in much esteem also in the neighbourhood.' 

'I understand perfectly; your Reverence ought . . . However, as 
a sincere friend, I wish to inform you of a thing which it is impor- 
tant for you to know; and even if you are already acquainted with it, 
I think, without exceeding my duty, I should caution you against 
the (I only say) possible consequences. Do you know that this 
Father Cristoforo has taken under his protection a man of that 
country, a man ... of whom your Paternity has doubtless heard 
mention; him who escaped in such disgrace from the hands of jus- 
tice, after having done things on that terrible day of St. Martin . . . 
things . . . Lorenzo Tramaglino."*' 

— Alas! — thought the Provincial, as he replied: 'This particular 
is quite new to me, but your Highness is sufficiently aware that it is 
a part of our office to seek those who have gone astray, to recall 
them . . .* 

'Yes, yes; but intercourse with ofifenders of a certain kind! . . . 
is rather a dangerous thing — a very delicate affair . . .' And here, 
instead of puffing out his cheeks and panting, he compressed his 
lips, and drew in as much air as he was accustomed to send forth 
with such profound importance. He then resumed: 'I thought it 
as well to give you this hint, because if ever his Excellency . . . He 
may have had some business at Rome ... I don't know, though 
. . . and there might come to you from Rome . . .' 

'I am much obliged to your Lx)rdship for this information, but I 
feel confident, that if they would make inquiries on this subject, 
they would find that Father Cristoforo has had no intercourse with 
the person you mention, unless it be to try and set him right again. 
I know Father Cristoforo well.' 

'You know, probably, already, better than I do, what kind of a 
man he was as a layman, and the life he led in his youth.' 



308 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'It is one of the glories of our habit, Signer Count, that a man who 
has given ever so much occasion in the world for men to talk about 
him, becomes a different person when he has assumed this dress. 
And ever since Father Cristoforo has worn the habit . . .' 

'1 would gladly believe it, I assure you — I would gladly believe it; 
but sometimes ... as the proverb says . . . "It is not the cowl that 
makes the friar."' 

The proverb was not exactly to the purpose, but the Count had 
cited it instead of another, which had crossed his mind: 'The wolf 
changes its skin, but not its nature.' 

'I have facts,' continued he; 'I have positive proofs . . .' 

'If you know for certain,' interrupted the Provincial, 'that this friar 
has been guilty of any fault, (and we are all liable to err), you will 
do me a favour to inform me of it. I am his superior, though un- 
worthily; but it is, therefore, my duty to correct and reprove.' 

'I will tell you; together with the unpleasing circumstance of the 
favour this Father displays towards the person I have mentioned, 
there is another grievous thing, which may . . . But we will settle 
all this between ourselves at once. This same Father Cristoforo has 
begun a quarrel with my nephew, Don Rodrigo • • •' 

'Indeed! I am very sorry to hear it! — very sorry indeed!' 

'My nephew is young, and hot-tempered; he feels what he is, and 
is not accustomed to be provoked . . .' 

'It shall be my business to make every inquiry on the subject. As 
I have often told your Lordship, and as you must know, with your 
great experience in the world, and your noble judgment, far better 
than I, we are all human, and liable to err . . . some one way, some 
another; and if our Father Cristoforo has failed . . .' 

'Your Reverence must perceive that these are matters, as I said, 
which had better be settled between ourselves, and remain buried 
with us — things which, if much meddled with, will only be made 
worse. You know how it often happens; these strifes and disputes 
frequently originate from a mere bagatelle, and become more and 
more serious as they are suffered to proceed. It is better to strike 
at the root before they grow to a head, or become the causes of a 
hundred other contentions. Suppress it, and cut it short, most rev- 
erend Father; suppress, and cut it short. My nephew is young; the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 309 

monk, from what I hear, has still all the spirit — all the . . . inclina- 
tions of a young man ; and it belongs to us who have some years on 
our shoulders — (too many, are there not, most reverend Father?) 
it belongs to us, I say, to have judgment for the young, and try to 
remedy their errors. Fortunately we are still in good time: the mat- 
ter has made no stir; it is still a case of a good principiis obsta. Let 
us remove the straw from the flame. A man who has not done well, 
or who may be a cause of some trouble in one place, sometimes gets 
on surprisingly in another. Your Paternity, doubtless, knows where 
to find a convenient p)ost for this friar. This will also meet the other 
circumstance of his having, perhaps, fallen under the suspicions o£ 
one . . . who would be very glad that he should be removed; and 
thus, by placing him at a little distance, we shall kill two birds with 
one stone; all will be quietly settled, or rather, there will be no harm 
done.' 

The Father provincial had expected this conclusion from the be- 
ginning of the interview. — Ay, ay! — thought he to himself; — I see 
well enough what you would bring me to. It's the usual way; if a 
poor friar has an encounter with you, or with any one of you, or 
gives you any offence, right or wrong, the superior must make him 
march immediately. — 

When the Count was at last silent, and had puffed forth a long- 
drawn breath, which was equivalent to a full stop: 'I understand 
very well,' said the Provincial, 'what your noble Lordship would 
say; but before taking a step . . .' 

'It is a step, and it is not a step, most reverend Father. It is a 
natural thing enough — a very common occurrence; and if it does 
not come to this, and quickly too, 1 foresee a mountain of disorders 
— an Iliad of woes. A mistake . . . my nephew, I do not believe 
... I am here, for this , . . But, at the point at which matters have 
now arrived, if we do not put a stop to it between ourselves, without 
loss of time, by one decided blow, it is not possible that it should 
remain a secret . . . and then, it is not only my nephew ... we 
raise a hornet's nest, most reverend Father. You know, we are a 
powerful family — we have adherents . . .' 

'Plainly enough . . .* 

'You understand me: they are all persons who have some blood in 



310 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

their veins, and who . . . count as somebody in the world. Their 
honour will come in; it will become a common affair; and then 
. . . even one who is a friend to peace ... It will be a great grief 
to me to be obliged ... to find myself ... I, who have always had 
so much kind feeling towards the Capuchin Fathers! You reverend 
Fathers, to continue to do good, as you have hitherto done, with so 
much edification among the people, stand in need of peace, should 
be free from strifes, and in harmony with those who . . . And, 
besides, you have friends in the world . . . and these affairs of 
honour, if they go any length, extend themselves, branch out on 
every side, and draw in . . . half the world. I am in a situation 
which obliges me to maintain a certain dignity . . . His Excellency 
. . . my noble colleagues ... it becomes quite a party matter . . . 
particularly with that other circumstance . . . You know how these 
things go.' 

'Certainly,' said the Father provincial, 'Father Cristoforo is a 
preacher; and I had already some thoughts ... I have just been 
asked . , . But at this juncture, and under the present circumstances, 
it might look Uke a punishment; and a punishment before having 
fully ascertained . . .' 

'Pshaw! punishment, pshaw! — merely a prudential arrangement 
— a convenient resource for preventing evils which might ensue . . . 
I have explained myself.' 

'Between the Signor Count and me things stand in this light, I 
am aware; but as your Lordship has related the circumstances, it is 
impossible, I should say, but that something is known in the country 
around. There are everywhere firebrands, mischief-makers, or, at 
least, malicious priers, who take a mad delight in seeing the nobility 
and the religious orders at variance; they observe it immediately, 
report it, and enlarge upon it . . . Everybody has his dignity to 
maintain; and 1 also, as Superior, (though unworthily,) have an 
express duty . . . The honour of the habit ... is not my private 
concern ... it is a deposit of which . . . Your noble nephew, since 
he is so high-spirited as your Lordship describes him, might take 
it as a satisfaction offered to him, and ... 1 do not say boast of it, 
and triumph over him, but . . .' 

'Is your Paternity joking with me? My nephew is a gentleman of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 311 

some consideration in the world . . . that is, according to his rank 
and the claims he has; but in my presence he is a mere boy, and will 
do neither more nor less than 1 bid him. I will go further, and tell 
you that my nephew shall know nothing about it. Why need we give 
any account of what we do? It is all transacted between ourselves, 
as old friends, and never need come to light. Don't give yourself a 
thought about this. I ought to be accustomed to be silent.' And he 
heaved a deep sigh. 'As to gossips,' resumed he, 'what do you sup- 
pose they can say ? The departure of a monk to preach somewhere 
else, is nothing so very uncommon! And then, we who see . . . we 
who foresee ... we who ought ... we need not give ourselves any 
concern about gossipings.' 

'At any rate, it would be well to try and prevent them on this oc- 
casion, by your noble nephew's making some demonstration, giving 
some open proof of friendship and deference . . . not for our sakes, 
as individuals, but for the sake of the habit . . .' 

'Certainly, certainly, this is but fair . . . However, there is no 
need of it; I know that the Capuchins are always received as they 
ought to be by my nephew. He does so from inclination; it is quite 
the disposition of the family; and besides, he knows it is gratifying 
to me. In this instance, however . . . something more marked . . . 
is only right. Leave me to settle it, most reverend Father; I will 
order my nephew . . . that is, I must cautiously suggest it to him, 
lest he should suspect what has passed between us. It would not 
do, you know, to lay a plaister where there is no wound. And as to 
what we have determined upon, the quicker the better. If you can 
find some post at a little distance ... to obviate every occasion . . .' 

'I have just been asked for a preacher at Rimini; and perhaps, even 
without any other reason, I should have thought of . . .' 

'Exactly apropos, exactly apropos. And when . . .?' 

'Since the thing must be done, it had better be done at once.' 

'Directly, directly, most reverend Father; better to-day than to- 
morrow. And,' continued he, as he rose from his seat, 'if I can do 
anything, I or my friends, for our worthy Capuchin Fathers . . .' 

'We know, by experience, the kindness of your house,' said the 
Father provincial, also rising, and advancing towards the door, 
behind his vanquisher. 



312 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'We have extinguished a spark,' said the Count, walking slowly 
forward; 'a spark, most reverend Father, which might have been 
fanned into a wide-spreading and dangerous flame. Between friends, 
two or three words will often settle great things.' 

On reaching the other apartment, he threw open the door, and 
insisted upon the Father's first entering; then following him in, 
they mingled with the rest of the company. 

This nobleman employed a studied politeness, great dexterity, and 
fine words, to accomplish his designs; and they produced corre- 
sponding effects. In fact, he succeeded, by the conversation we 
have related, in making Father Cristoforo go, on foot, from Pes- 
carenico to Rimini, which is a very tolerable distance. 

One evening, a Capuchin arrived at Pescarenico, from Milan, 
with a despatch to the Father-guardian. It contained an order for 
Father Cristoforo to repair at once to Rimini, where he was appointed 
to preach the course of Lent Sermons. The letter to the guardian 
contained instructions to insinuate to the said friar, that he must 
give up all thoughts of any business he might have in hand in the 
neighbourhood he was about to leave, and was not to keep up any 
corresfxjndence there: the bearer would be his companion by the 
way. The guardian said nothing that evening; but next morning he 
summoned Father Cristoforo, showed him the command, bade him 
take his wallet, staff, maniple, and girdle, and, with the Father 
whom he presented to him as a companion, immediately set off 
on his journey. 

What a blow this would be to the poor friar, the reader must 
imagine. Renzo, Lucia, Agnese, instantly rushed into his mind; 
and he exclaimed, so to say, to himself: — Oh my God! what will 
these p)oor creatures do, when I am no longer here! — But instantly 
raising his eyes to heaven, he reproached himself for want of faith, 
and for having supposed that he was necessary in anything. He 
crossed his hands on his breast, in token of obedience, and bowed 
his head before the guardian, who, taking him aside, told him the 
rest of the message, adding a few words of advice, and some sensible 
precepts. Father Cristoforo then went into his cell, took his basket, 
and placed therein his breviary, his sermons, and the bread of 
forgiveness, bound round his waist a leathern girdle, took leave of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 313 

his brethren whom he found in the convent, went to request the 
guardian's blessing, and then, with his companion, took the route 
which had been prescribed for him. 

We have said that Don Rodrigo, more than ever resolved to 
accomplish his praiseworthy undertaking, had determined to seek 
the assistance of a very formidable character. Of this personage we 
can give neither the name, surname, nor title, nor can we even 
venture a conjecture on any one of them; which is the more remark- 
able, as we find mention of him in more than one published book 
of those times. That it is the same personage, the identity of facts 
leaves no room for doubt; but everywhere a studious endeavour 
may be traced to conceal his name, as if the mention of it would 
have ignited the pen, and scorched the writer's hand. Francesco 
Rivola, in his Life of the Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, speaking of 
this pjerson, says: 'A nobleman, as powerful by wealth as illustrious 
by birth,' and nothing more. Giuseppe Ripamonti, who, in the fifth 
book of the fifth decade of his Storia Patria, makes more exclusive 
mention of him, describes him as 'one,' 'this person,' 'that person,' 
'this man,' 'that personage.' 'I will relate,' says he, in his elegant 
Latin, which we translate as follows, — 'the case of one, who, being 
among the first of the great men of the city, took up his residence 
in the country; where, securing himself by the force of crime, he 
set at nought justice and judges, all magisterial, and even all 
sovereign power. Situated on the very confines of the state, he led 
an independent life; a harbourer of outlaws, an outlaw at one time 
himself, and then safely returned . . .' We will extract, in the 
sequel, some other passages from this writer, which will serve to 
confirm and elucidate the account of our anonymous author, with 
whom we are travelling onward. 

To do what was forbidden by the public laws, or rendered difficult 
by an opposing power; to be the arbiter, the judge in other people's 
affairs, without further interest in them than the love of command; 
to be feared by all, and to have the upper hand among those who 
were accustomed to hold the same station over others : such had ever 
been the principal objects and desires of this man. From his youth 
he had always had a mingled feeling of contempt and impatient 
envy at the sight or report of the power, rencounters, strifes, or 



314 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

oppressive tyranny of others. Young, and living in a city, he omitted 
no opportunity, nay, even sought for them, of setting himself up 
against the most renowned of this profession, either entirely to 
subdue them, to struggle with them, and keep them in awe, or to 
induce them to solicit his friendship. Superior to most in riches and 
retinue, and, perhaps, to all in presumption and intrepidity, he 
compelled many to retire from competition; some he treated with 
haughtiness or contempt, some he took as friends; not, however, 
on an equality with himself, but, as alone would satisfy his proud 
and arrogant mind, as subordinate friends, who would be content 
to acknowledge their inferiority, and use their hands in his service. 
In fact, however, he became at length the grand actor, and the 
instrument of his companions, who never failed to solicit the aid 
of so powerful an auxiliary in all their undertakings, while for him 
to draw back, would be to forfeit his reputation, and come short 
of what he had assumed. He went on thus, till, on his own service 
and that of others, he had gone to such a length, that neither his 
name, family, friends, nor even his own audacity, sufficed to secure 
him against public proclamations and outlawry, and he was com- 
pelled to give way and leave the state. I believe it is to this circum- 
stance that a remarkable incident, related by Ripamonti, refers. 'On 
one occasion, when obliged to quit the country, the secrecy he used, 
and the respect and timidity he displayed, were such, that he rode 
through the city on horseback, followed by a pack of hounds, and 
accompanied with the sound of the trumpet; and, in passing before 
the palace of the court, left an insolent message with the guards, 
for the governor.' 

During his absence he continued the same practices, not even 
intermitting his correspondence with those of his friends who re- 
mained united to him (to translate literally from Ripamonti), 'in the 
secret alliance of atrocious consultations and fatal deeds.' It even 
appears that he engaged the foreign courts in other new and 
formidable undertakings, of which the above<ited historian speaks 
with mysterious brevity. 'Some foreign princes several times availed 
themselves of his assistance in important murders, and frequendy 
sent him reinforcements of soldiers, from a considerable distance, 
to act under his orders.' 

At length (it is not exactly known how long afterwards) either the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 315 

sentence of banishment against him being withdrawn, by some power- 
ful intercession, or the audacity of the man serving him in place 
of any other liberation, he resolved to return home, and, in fact, 
did return; not, however, to Milan, but to a castle on his manor, 
situated on the confines of the Bergamascan territory, at that time, 
as most of our readers know, under Venetian government; and here 
he fixed his abode. 'This dwelling,' we again quote Ripamonti, 'was, 
as it were, a dispensary of sanguinary mandates: the servants were 
outlaws and murderers; the very cooks and scullions were not 
exempt from homicide; the hands of the children were stained with 
blood.' Besides this amiable domestic circle, he had, as the same his- 
torian affirms, another set of dependents of a similar character dis- 
persed abroad, and quartered, so to say, at different posts in the 
two states on the borders of which he lived, who were always ready 
to execute his orders. 

All the tyrannical noblemen, for a considerable distance round, 
had been obliged, on one occasion or another, to choose between the 
friendship or the enmity of this super-eminent tyrant. Those, how- 
ever, who at first attempted to resist him, came ofJ so badly in the 
contest, that no one was ever induced to make a second trial. Neither 
was it possible, by maintaining a neutral course, or standing, as the 
saying is, in their own shoes, to keep themselves indefjendent of him. 
If a message arrived, intimating that such a person must desist from 
such an undertaking, or cease to molest such a debtor, or so forth, 
it was necessary to give a decided answer one way or other. When 
one party came, with the homage of a vassal, to refer any business to 
his arbitration, the other party was reduced to the hard alternative 
of either abiding by his sentence, or publicly declaring hostilities; 
which was equivalent to being, as the saying is, in the last stage 
of consumption. Men who were in the wrong had recourse to him 
that they might be right in effect; many being in the right, yet 
resorted to him to pre-engage so powerful a patronage, and close 
the way against their adversaries; thus both bad and good came to 
be dependent upon him. It sometimes happened that the weak, 
oppressed, harassed, and tyrannized over by some powerful lord, 
turned to him for protection; he would then take the part of the 
oppressed, and force the oppressor to abstain from further injuries, 
to repair the wrongs he had committed, and even to stoop to 



3l6 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

apologies; or, in case of his proving stubborn and unbending, he 
would completely crush his power, constrain him to quit the place 
where he had exercised such unjust influence, or even make him 
pay a more expeditious and more terrible penalty. In these cases, 
his name, usually so dreaded and abhorred, became, for a time, an 
object of blessing: for (I will not say, this justice, but) this remedy, 
this recompense of some sort, could not have been expected, under 
the circumstances of the times, from any other either public or 
private source. More frequently, and indeed ordinarily, his power 
and authority ministered to iniquitous desires, atrocious revenge, or 
outrageous caprice. But the very opposite uses he made of this 
power produced in the end the self-same effect, that of impressing 
all minds with a lofty idea of how much he could will and execute 
in spite of equity or iniquity, those two things which interjxjse so 
many impediments to the accomplishment of man's desires, and so 
often force him to turn back. The fame of ordinary oppressors warf 
for the most part restricted to the limited tract of country where 
they continually or frequently exercised their oppression: each dis- 
trict had its own tyrant; and these so resembled each other, that 
there was no reason that people should interfere with those from 
whom they sustained neither injury nor molestation. But the fame 
of this man had long been diffused throughout every corner of 
the Milanese: his hfe was everywhere the subject of popular stories; 
and his very name carried with it the idea of something formidable, 
dark, and fabulous. The suspicions that were everywhere enter- 
tained of his confederates and tools of assassination, contributed to 
keep alive a constant memento of him. They were nothing more 
than suspicions; since who would have openly acknowledged such 
a dependence? but every tyrant might be his associate, every robber 
one of his assassins; and the very uncertainty of the fact rendered 
the opinion more general, and the terror more profound. At every 
appearance of an unknown ruffian, more savage-looking than usual; 
at every enormous crime, the author of which could not be at first 
pointed out or conjectured, the name of this man was pronounced 
and whispered about, whom, thanks to the unhappy circumspection, 
to give it no other epithet, of our author's, we shall be obliged to 
designate The Unnamed. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 317 

The distance between his castle and the palace of Don Rodrigo 
was not more than seven miles: and no sooner had the latter become 
a lord and tyrant than he could not help seeing that, at so short 
a distance from such a personage, it would not be possible to carry 
on this profession without either coming to blows, or walking hand 
in hand with him. He had, therefore, of?ered himself and been 
accepted, for a friend, in the same way, that is, as the rest: he had 
rendered him more than one service (the manuscript says nothing 
further) ; and had each time been rewarded by promises of requital 
and assistance in any cases of emergency. He took great pains, 
however, to conceal such a friendship, or at least of what nature and 
how strict it was. Don Rodrigo liked well enough to play the 
tyrant, but not the fierce and savage tyrant: the profession was to 
him a means, not an end: he wished to hve at freedom in the city, 
to enjoy the conveniences, diversions, and honours of social life; 
and for this end he was obliged to keep up a certain appearance, 
make much of his family, cultivate the friendship of persons in 
place, and keep one hand on the scales of justice, so as on any 
occasion to make them preponderate in his favour, either removing 
them altogether from view, or bringing them to bear with double 
force on the head of some individual, on whom he could thus more 
easily accomplish his designs than by the arm of private violence. 
Now, an intimacy, or it would be better to say an alliance, with a 
person of such notoriety, an open enemy of the public f>ower, would 
certainly not have advanced his interests in these respects, and par- 
ticularly with his uncle. However, the slight acquaintance which 
he was unable to conceal, might pass very well for an indispensable 
attention towards a man whose enmity was much to be deprecated, 
and thus it might receive excuse from necessity; since one who 
assumes the charge of providing for another without the will or 
the means, in the long run consents that his protege shall provide 
for himself up to a certain fxjint in his own affairs; and if he does 
not expressly give his consent, at least he winks at it. 

One morning, Don Rodrigo set off on horseback, in the guise of 
a hunter, with a small escort of bravoes on foot, Griso at his side, 
and four others following behind him, and took the road to the 
castle of the Unnamed. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE castle of the Unnamed was commandingly situated 
over a dark and narrow valley, on the summit of a cliff 
projecting from a rugged ridge of hills, whether united to 
them or separated from them it is difficult to say, by a mass of crags 
and rocks, and by a boundary of caverns and abrupt precipices, 
both flanking it and on the rear. The side which overlooked the 
valley was the only accessible one; rather a steep acclivity, certainly, 
but even and unbroken: the simimit was used for pasturage, while 
the lower grounds were cultivated, and scattered here and there 
with habitations. The bottom was a bed of large stones, the channel, 
according to the season, of either a rivulet or a noisy torrent, which 
at that time formed the boundary of the two states. The opposite 
ridges, forming, so to speak, the other wall of the valley, had a 
small cultivated tract, gently inclining from the base; the rest was 
covered with crags, stones, and abrupt risings, untrodden, and desti- 
tute of vegetation, excepting here and there a solitary bush in the 
interstices, or on the edges of the rocks. 

From the height of this castle, Uke an eagle from his sanguinary 
nest, the savage nobleman surveyed every spot around where the 
foot of man could tread, and heard no human sound above him. 
At one view he could overlook the whole vale, the declivities, the 
bed of the stream, and the practicable paths intersecting the valley. 
That which approached his terrible abode by a zigzag and serpentine 
course appeared to a spectator from below like a winding thread; 
while from the windows and loop-holes on the summit, the Signer 
could leisurely observe any one who was ascending, and a hundred 
times catch a view of him. With the garrison of bravoes whom he 
there maintained, he could even oppose a tolerably numerous troop 
of assailants, stretching any number of them on the ground, or 
hurling them to the bottom, before they could succeed in gaining 
the height. He was not very likely, however, to be put to the trial, 

3«8 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 319 

since no one who was not on good terms with the owner o£ the 
castle would venture to set foot within its walls, or even in the 
valley or its environs. The bailiff who should have chanced to be 
seen there would have been treated like an enemy's spy seized 
within the camp. Tragical stories were related oE the last who had 
dared to attempt the undertaking; but they were then tales of by- 
gone days; and none of the village youths could remember having 
seen one of this race of beings, either dead or alive. 

Such is the description our anonymous author gives of the place: 
nothing is said of the name; and for fear of putting us in the way 
of discovering it, he avoids all notice of Don Rodrigo's journey, 
bringing him at one jump into the midst of the valley, and setting 
him down at the foot of the ascent, just at the entrance of the steep 
and winding footpath. Here stood an inn, which might also be 
called a guard-house. An antique sign suspended over the door, 
displayed on each side, in glowing colours, a radiant sun; but the 
public voice, which sometimes repeats names as they are first pro- 
nounced, and sometimes remodels them after its own fashion, never 
designated this tavern but by the title of the Malanotte} 

At the sound of a party approaching on horseback, an ill-looking 
lad appeared at the door-way, well armed with knives and pistols, 
and after giving a glance at them, re-entered to inform three ruffians, 
who, seated at table, were playing with a very dirty pack of cards, 
reversed and laid one upon another like so many tiles. He who 
seemed to be the leader rose, and advancing towards the door, 
recognized a friend of his master's, and saluted him with a bow. 
Don Rodrigo, returning the salutation with great politeness, in- 
quired if his master were in the casde, and receiving for an answer 
that he believed so, he dismounted from his horse, throwing the 
reins to Tiradritto, one of his retinue. Then, taking his musket 
from his shoulder, he handed it to Montanarolo, as if to disencumber 
himself of a useless weight, and render his ascent easier; but in 
reality, because he knew well enough that no one was permitted to 
mount that steep who carried a gun. Then taking out of his purse 
two or three berlinghe, he gave them to Tanabuso, saying: 'Wait 
for me here; and in the mean time enjoy yourselves with these good 

' Bad Night. 



320 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

people.' He then presented the estimable chief of the party with a few 
gold coins, one half for himself, and the rest to be divided among 
his companions; and at length, in company with Griso, who had 
also laid aside his weapons, began to ascend the cliff on foot. In 
the mean while, the three above-mentioned bravoes, together with 
their fourth companion, Squinternotto, (what amiable names to be 
preserved with so much care!) remained behind with the three 
players, and the unfortunate boy, who was training for the gallows, 
to game, drink, and relate by turns their various feats of prowess. 

Another bravo belonging to the Unnamed shortly overtook Don 
Rodrigo in his ascent; and after eying him for a moment, recognized 
a friend of his master's, and bore him company; by this means, 
sparing him the annoyance of telling his name, and giving a further 
account of himself, to the many others whom he met, and with 
whom he was unacquainted. On reaching the castle, and being ad- 
mitted, (having left Griso, however, outside,) he was conducted a 
roundabout way through dark corridors, and various apartments 
hung with muskets, sabres, and partisans, in each of which a bravo 
stood on guard; and after having waited some time, was at last 
ushered into the room where the Unnamed was expecting him. 

The Signor advanced to meet Don Rodrigo, returning his saluta- 
tion, and at the same time eying him from head to foot with the 
closest scrutiny, according to his usual habit, now almost an involun- 
tary one, towards any one who approached him, even towards his 
oldest and most tried friends. He was tall, sun-burnt, and bald; and 
at first sight this baldness, the whiteness of his few remaining hairs, 
and the wrinkles on his face, would have induced the judgment 
that he was considerably beyond the sixty years he had scarcely yet 
attained: though on a nearer survey, his carriage and movements, 
the cutting sarcasm of his features, and the deep fire that sparkled 
in his eye, indicated a vigour of body and mind which would have 
been remarkable even in a young man. 

Don Rodrigo told him that he came to solicit his advice and 
assistance; that, finding himself engaged in a difficult undertaking, 
from which his honour would not now suffer him to retire, he had 
called to mind the promises of his noble friend, who never prom- 
ised too much, or in vain; and he then proceeded to relate his in- 



I PROMESSI SPOSl 321 

famous enterprise. The Unnamed, who already had some indefinite 
knowledge of the affair, listened attentively to the recital, both be- 
cause he was naturally fond of such stories, and because there was 
implicated in it a name well known and exceedingly odious to him, 
that of Father Cristoforo, the open enemy of tyrants, not only in 
word, but, when possible, in deed also. The narrator then proceeded 
to exaggerate, in evidence, the difficulties of the undertaking: — the 
distance of the place, a monastery, the Signora! ... At this word, 
the Unnamed, as if a demon hidden in his heart had suggested it, 
abruptly interrupted him, saying that he would take the enterprise 
upon himself. He took down the name of our poor Lucia, and dis- 
missed Don Rodrigo with the promise: 'You shall shordy hear from 
me what you are to do.' 

If the reader remembers that infamous Egidio whose residence 
adjoined the monastery where poor Lucia had found a retreat, we 
will now inform him that he was one of the nearest and most 
intimate associates in iniquity of the Unnamed; and it was for this 
reason that the latter had so promptly and resolutely taken upon 
him to pledge his word. Nevertheless, he was no sooner left alone, 
than he began to feel, I will not say, repentance, but vexation at 
having made the promise. For some time past he had experienced, 
not exactly remorse, but a kind of weariness of his wicked course of 
life. These feelings, which had accumulated rather in his memory 
than on his conscience, were renewed each time any new crime was 
committed, and each time they seemed more multiplied and intoler- 
able: it was like constantly adding and adding to an already incom- 
modious weight. A certain repugnance experienced on the com- 
mission of his earlier crimes, afterwards overcome and almost 
entirely excluded, again returned to make itself felt. But in his first 
misgivings, the image of a distant and uncertain future, together 
with the consciousness of a vigorous habit of body and a strong 
constitution, had only confirmed him in a supine and presumptuous 
confidence. Now, on the contrary, it was the thoughts of the future 
that embittered the retrospect of the past. — To grow old! To die! 
And then ? — It is worthy of notice, that the image of death, which 
in present danger, when facing an enemy, usually only nerved his 
spirit, and inspired him with impetuous courage, — this same image, 



322 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

when presented to his mind in the solemn stillness of night, and in 
the security of his own castle, was always accompanied with a feeling 
of undefined horror and alarm. It was not death threatened hy an 
enemy who was himself mortal; it was not to be repulsed by 
stronger weapons, or a readier arm; it came alone, it was suggested 
from within; it might still be distant, but every moment brought it 
a step nearer; and even while he was hopelessly struggling to banish 
the remembrance of this dreaded enemy, it was coming fast upon 
him. In his early days, the frequent examples of violence, revenge, 
and murder, which were perjjetually exhibited to his view, while 
they inspired him with a daring emulation, served at the same time 
as a kind of authority against the voice of conscience: now an in- 
distinct but terrible idea of individual responsibility, and judgment 
independent of example, incessantly haunted his mind; now the 
thought of his having left the ordinary crowd of wicked doers, and 
surpassed them all, sometimes impressed him with a feeling of dread- 
ful solitude. That God, of whom he had once heard, but whom he 
had long ceased either to deny or acknowledge, solely occupied as 
he was in acting as though he existed not, now, at certain moments 
of depression without cause, and terror without danger, he imagined 
he heard repeating within him, 'Nevertheless, I am.' In the first 
heat of youthful passion, the laws which he had heard announced 
in His name had only appeared hateful to him; now, when they 
returned unbidden to his mind, he regarded them, in spite of him- 
self, as something which would have a fulfilment. But that he might 
suffer nothing of this new disquietude to be apparent either in word 
or deed, he carefully endeavoured to conceal it under the mask of 
deeper and more vehement ferocity; and by this means also he 
sought to disguise it from himself, or entirely to stifle it. Envying 
(since he could neither annihilate nor forget them) the days in 
which he had been accustomed to commit iniquity without remorse, 
and without further solicitude than for its success, he used every 
endeavour to recall them, and to retain or recover his former un- 
fettered, daring, and undisturbed will, that he might convince him- 
self he was still the same man. 

On this occasion, therefore, he had hastily pledged his word to 
Don Rodrigo, that he might close the door against all hesitation. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 323 

Feeling, however, on his visitor's departure, a failing of the resolu- 
tion that he had summoned up to make the promise, and gradually 
overwhelmed with thoughts presenting themselves to his mind, 
which tempted him to break his word, and which, if yielded to, 
would have made him sink very low in the eyes of his friend, a 
secondary accomplice, he resolved at once to cut short the painful 
conflict, and summoned Nibbio^ to his presence, one of the most 
dexterous and venturesome ministers of his enormities, and the one 
whom he was accustomed to employ in his corresfxjndence with 
Egidio. With a resolute countenance he ordered him immediately to 
mount his horse, to go straight to Monza, to inform Egidio of the 
engagement he had made, and to request his counsel and assistance 
in fulfilling it. 

The worthless messenger returned more expeditiously than his 
master expected, with Egidio's reply, that die undertaking was easy 
and secure: if the Unnamed would send a carriage which would 
not be known as his, with two or three well-disguised bravoes, 
Egidio would undertake the charge of all the rest, and would man- 
age the whole affair. At this announcement, the Unnamed, whatever 
might be passing in his mind, hastily gave orders to Nibbio to 
arrange all as Egidio required, and to go himself, with two others 
whom he named, upon this expedition. 

Had Egidio been obliged to reckon only on ordinary means for 
the accomplishment of the horrible service he had been requested to 
undertake, he certainly would not thus readily have given so unhesi- 
tating a promise. But in that very asylum, where it would seem all 
ought to have been an obstacle, the atrocious villain had a resource 
known only to himself; and that which would have been the greatest 
difficulty to others became an instrument to him. We have already 
related how the unhappy Signora on one occasion lent an ear to 
his addresses; and the reader may have understood that this was not 
the last umc, — that it was but the first step in a career of abomination 
and bloodshed. The same voice, rendered imperative, and almost 
authoritative through guilt, now imposed upon her the sacrifice of 
the innocent creature who had been committed to her care. 

The proposal was frightful to Gertrude. To lose Lucia by an 

*A kite. 



324 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

unforeseen accident, and without any fault on her part, would have 
seemed to her a misfortune, a bitter punishment: but now she was 
enjoined to deprive herself of her society by a base act of perfidy, 
and to convert a means of expiation into a fresh subject for remorse. 
The unhappy lady tried every method to extricate herself from the 
horrible command; — every method, except the only one which 
would have been infallible, and which still remained in her power. 
Guilt is a rigid and inflexible tyrant, against whom all are powerless 
but those who entirely rebel. On this Gertrude could not resolve, 
and she obeyed. 

It was the day fixed; the appointed hour approached; Gertrude 
retired with Lucia into her private apartment, and there lavished 
upon her more caresses than usual, which Lucia received and re- 
turned with increasing affection: as the lamb, trembling under the 
hand of the shepherd as he coaxes and gently urges it forward, 
turns to lick that very hand, unconscious that the butcher waits 
outside the sheepfold, to whom the shepherd a moment before 
has sold it. 

'I want you to do me a great service; one that nobody but you 
can do. I have plenty of persons ready to obey me, but none whom 
I dare trust. On some very important business, which I will tell you 
about afterwards, I want to speak to the Father-guardian of the 
Capuchins who brought you here to me, my poor Lucia; but it is 
absolutely necessary that no one should know I have sent for him. 
I have nobody but you who can secretly carry this message . . .' 

Lucia was terrified at such a request; and with her own native 
modesty, yet not without a strong expression of surprise, she en- 
deavoured to dissuade her by adducing reasons which the Signora 
ought to have understood and foreseen: without her mother, with- 
out an escort, by a solitary road, in an unknown country . . . But 
Gertrude, instructed in an infernal school, manifested much surprise 
and displeasure at finding this stubborn opposition in one whom 
she had so greatly benefited, and pretended to think her excuses 
very frivolous. In broad daylight — a mere step — a road Lucia had 
travelled only a few days before, and which could be so described 
that even a person who had never seen it could not possibly go 
astray! ... In short, she said so much, that the poor girl, touched 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 325 

at once with gratitude and shame, suffered the words to escape: 
'Well, what am I to do?' 

'Go to the convent of the Capuchins,' and here she again described 
the road; 'ask for the Father-guardian, and tell him to come to me 
as quickly as possible; but not to let any one know that he comes 
at my request.' 

'But what shall I say to the portress, who has never seen me go 
out, and will therefore be sure to ask whither I am going?' 

'Try to get out without her seeing you; and if you can't manage 
it, tell her you are going to such a church, where you have vowed 
to offer up some prayers.' 

Here was a new difficulty for Lucia, — to tell a falsehood; but the 
Signora again showed herself so vexed by her repulses, and made 
her so ashamed of herself for interposing a vain scruple in the way 
of gratitude, that the poor girl, stupefied rather than convinced, and 
greatly affected by her words, replied: 'Very well; I will go. And 
may God help me!' 

And she set off. 

But Gertrude, who from her grated window followed her with a 
fixed and anxious look, no sooner saw her set foot on the threshold, 
than, overcome by an irresistible emotion, she exclaimed: 'Listen, 
Lucia!' 

Lucia turned round, and advanced towards the window. But 
another thought, the thought accustomed to predominate, had al- 
ready prevailed over Gertrude's unhappy mind. Pretending that she 
was not yet satisfied with the instructions she had given, she again 
described to Lucia the road she must follow, and dismissed her, 
saying: 'Do everything as I have told you, and return quickly.' 
Lucia departed. 

She passed the gate of the cloister unobserved, and took the road 
along the side of the wall, with her eyes bent to the ground; by the 
help of the directions she had received, and her own recollection, 
she found the city gate, and went out. Self-possessed, but still rather 
trembling, she proceeded along the high road, and shortly reached 
the turn to the convent, which she immediately recognized. This 
road was, and still is, buried, like the bed of a river, between two 
high banks bordered with trees, which spread their branches over 



326 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

it like a vaulted roof. Lucia felt her fears increase, and quickened 
her steps, as she found herself quite alone on entering it: but a few 
paces further her courage revived on seeing a travelling carriage 
standing, and two travellers looking this and that way, as if un- 
certain of the road. On drawing nearer, she overheard one of them 
saying: 'Here is a good woman, who will show us the way.' In fact, 
when she had got opposite the carriage, the same person, with a 
more courteous manner than countenance, turned and addressed 
her: 'My good girl, can you tell us which is the way to Monza?' 

'You have taken the wrong direction,' replied the poor girl: 
'Monza is there . . .' and turning to point it out with her finger, 
the other companion (it was Nibbio) seized her unexpectedly round 
the waist, and lifted her from the ground. Lucia, in great alarm, 
turned her head round, and uttered a scream; the ruffian pushed her 
into the carriage; a third, who was seated in the back of it, concealed 
from view, received her and forced her, in spite of her struggles and 
cries, to sit down opposite to him; while another put a handkerchief 
over her mouth, and stifled her cries. Nibbio now hastily threw 
himself into the carriage, shut the door, and they set off at a rapid 
pace. The other, who had made the treacherous inquiry, remained 
in the road, and looked hurriedly around: no one was to be seen: 
he therefore sprang upon the bank, grasped a branch of the hedge 
which was planted upon the summit, pushed through the fence, and 
entering a plantation of green oaks, which, for a short distance, ran 
along the side of the road, stooped down there, that he might not 
be seen by the people who would probably be attracted by the cries. 
This man was one of Egidio's villains; he had been to watch near 
the gate of the monastery, had seen Lucia go out, had noticed her 
dress and figure, and had then run by a shorter way to wait for her 
at the appointed spot. 

Who can represent the terror, the anguish of the unfortunate girl, 
or describe what was passing in her mind? She of)ened her terrified 
eyes, from anxiety to ascertain her horrible situation, and quickly 
closed them again with a shudder of fear at the sight of the dreadful 
faces that met her view: she writhed her body, but found that she 
was held down on all sides; she collected all her strength, and made 
a desperate effort to push towards the door; but two sinewy arms 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 327 

held her as if she were nailed to the bottom of the carriage, while 
four other powerful hands supported her there. At every signal she 
gave of intending to utter a cry, the handkerchief was instantly 
stuffed into her mouth to smother the sound, while three infernal 
mouths, with voices more human than they were accustomed to 
utter, continued to repeat: 'Be still, be still; don't be afraid, we don't 
want to do you any harm.' After a few moments of agonized 
struggle, she seemed to become quieter; her arms sank by her side, 
her head fell backwards, she half opened her eyelids, and her eyes 
became fixed; the horrible faces which surrounded her appeared to 
mingle and flock before her in one monstrous image; the colour 
fled from her cheek; a cold moisture overspread her face; her con- 
sciousness vanished, and she fainted away. 

'Come, come, courage,' said Nibbio. 'Courage, courage,' repeated 
the two other ruffians; but the prostration of every faculty preserved 
Lucia, at that moment, from hearing the consolations addressed to 
her by those horrible voices. 

'The ! she seems to be dead,' said one of them: 'if she's really 

dead!' 

'Pshaw!' said the other: 'It's only a swoon, such as women often 
fall into. I know well enough that when I've wanted to send another, 
be it man or woman, into the other world, it has required something 
more than this.' 

'Hold your tongues,' said Nibbio. 'Attend to your own business, 
and mind nothing else. Take your muskets from under the seat, 
and keep them in readiness; for there arc always some villains hid- 
den in the wood we are entering. Not in your hands, the ! put 

them behind your backs, and let them lie there; don't you see that 
she's a cowardly chicken, who faints for nothing? If she sees fire- 
arms, it will be enough to kill her outright. And when she recovers, 
take good care you don't frighten her; don't touch her unless I 
beckon to you; I am enough to manage her. And hold your tongues: 
leave me to talk to her.' 

In the meanwhile, the carriage, which was proceeding at a very 
rapid pace, entered the wood. 

After some time, the unhappy Lucia gradually began to come to 
her senses, as if awaking from a profound and troubled sleep, and 



328 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

slowly opened her eyes. At first she found it difficult to distinguish 
the gloomy objects that surrounded her, and collect her scattered 
thoughts; but she at last succeeded in recalling her fearful situation. 
The first use she made of her newly recovered, though still feeble, 
powers, was to rush towards the door, and attempt to throw herself 
out; but she was forcibly restrained, and had only time to get a 
glance at the wild solitude of the place through which they were 
passing. She again uttered a cry; but Nibbio, holding up the hand- 
kerchief in his dreaded hand, 'Come,' said he, in the gentlest tone 
he could command, 'be quiet, and it will be better for you. We 
don't want to do you any harm; but if you don't hold your tongue, 
we'll make you.' 

'Let me go! Who are you? Where are you taking me? Why 
have you seized me? Let me go, let me go!' 

'I tell you, you needn't be afraid: you're not a baby, and you 
ought to understand that we don't want to do you any harm. Don't 
you see that we might have murdered you a hundred times, if we 
had any bad intentions? — so be quiet.' 

'No, no, let me go on my own business; I don't know you.* 

'We know you, however.' 

'O most holy Virgin! Let me go, for pity's sake. Who are you? 
Why have you taken me?' 

'Because we have been bid to do so.' 

'Who? Who? Who can have bid you?' 

'Hush I' said Nibbio, with a stern look; 'you mustn't ask me such 
questions.' 

Lucia made a third attempt to throw herself suddenly out of the 
window; but finding it in vain, she again had recourse to entreaties; 
and with her head bent, her cheeks bathed with tears, her voice 
interrupted by sobs, and her hands clasped before her, 'Ohl' cried 
she, 'for the love of God and the most holy Virgin, let me go! What 
harm have I done ? I am an innocent creature, and have done nobody 
any harm. I forgive you the wrongs you have done me, from the 
bottom of my heart, and will pray God for you. If any of you have 
a daughter, a wife, a mother, think what they would suffer, if they 
were in this state. Remember that we must all die, and that you will 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 329 

one day want God to be merciful towards you. Let me go; leave 
me here; the Lord will teach me to find my way.' 

'We cannot.' 

'You cannot! Oh my God! Why can't you? Where are you taking 
me? Why?' . . . 

'We cannot; it's no use asking. Don't be afraid, for we won't 
harm you: be quiet, and nobody'll touch you.' 

Overcome with distress, agony, and terror at finding that her 
words made no impression, Lucia turned to Him who holds the 
hearts of men in His hand, and can, when it pleaseth Him, soften 
the most obdurate. She sank back into the corner where she had 
been placed, crossed her arms on her breast, and prayed fervently, 
from the bottom of her heart; then, drawing out her rosary, she 
began to repeat the prayers with more faith and devotion than she 
had ever done before in her life. From time to time she would turn 
to entreat her companions, in hopes that she might gain the mercy 
she implored; but she implored in vain. Then she fell back, and 
again became senseless, only to awake to new anguish. But we have 
not the heart to relate these agonizing vicissitudes more at length; 
a feeling of overpowering compassion makes us hasten to the close 
of this mournful journey, which lasted for more than four hours; 
succeeding which we shall be obliged to describe many hours of 
still more bitter anguish. We will transport ourselves to the castle 
where the unhappy girl was expected. She was awaited by the Un- 
named with a solicitude and anxiety of mind which were very 
unusual. Strange! that he who had disposed of so many lives with 
an imperturbed heart, who in so many undertakings had considered 
as nothing the sufferings he inflicted, unless it were sometimes 
to glut his appetite with the fierce enjoyment of revenge, should 
now feel a recoiling, a regret — I might almost say, a feeling of alarm, 
at the authority he was exercising over this Lucia, — a stranger, a poor 
peasant-girl! From a lofty window of his castle he had been for 
some time watching the entrance of the valley; by and by the car- 
riage made its appearance, slowly advancing along the road; for the 
rapid pace at which they had at first started had curbed the mettle 
and cooled the ardour of the horses. And although, from the post 



330 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

where he stood to watch, the convoy looked no larger than one of 
those diminutive vehicles with which children are wont to amuse 
themselves, yet he hesitated not a moment to recognize it; and his 
heart began afresh to beat violently. 

— Will she be there? — thought he immediately; and he continued 
to say to himself: — ^What trouble this creature gives me! I will free 
myself from it. — 

And he prepared to summon one of his men, and despatch him 
immediately to meet the carriage, with orders to Nibbio to turn 
round, and conduct her at once to Don Rodrigo's palace. But an 
imperative no, that instantly flashed across his mind, made him at 
once abandon this design. Wearied at length by the desire of ordering 
something to be done, and intolerably tired of idly waiting the 
approach of the carriage, as it advanced slowly, step by step, like a 
traitor to his punishment, he at length summoned an old woman 
of his household. 

This person was the daughter of a former keeper of the casde, 
had been born within its walls, and spent all her Ufe there. All that 
she had seen and heard around her from her very infancy, had con- 
tributed to impress upon her mind a lofty and terrible idea of the 
power of her masters; and the principal maxim that she had acquired 
from instruction and example was, that they must be obeyed in every- 
thing, because they were capable of doing either great good or great 
harm. The idea of duty, deposited like a germ in the hearts of all men, 
and mingling in hers with sentiments of respect, dread, and servile 
devotion, was associated with, and solely directed to, these objects. 
When the Unnamed became her lord, and began to make such ter- 
rible use of his power, she felt, from the first, a kind of horror, and, 
at the same time, a more profound feeUng of subjection. In time she 
became habituated to what she daily saw and heard around her: the 
potent and unbridled will of such a Signor was, in her idea, a kind 
of justice appointed by fate. When somewhat advanced in years, 
she had married a servant of the household, who, being sent on some 
hazardous expedition, shortly afterwards left his bones on the high- 
way, and her a widow in the castle. The vengeance which the Signor 
quickly took on the instruments of his death, yielded her a savage 
consolation, and increased her pride at being under such protection. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 331 

From that time forward she rarely set foot outside the castle, and, 
by degrees, retained no other ideas of human life than such as she 
received within its precincts. She was not confined to any particular 
branch of service, but among such a crowd of ruffians, one or other 
was constantly finding her some thing to do, which furnished her 
with a never-failing subject for grumbling. Sometimes she would 
have clothes to repair, sometimes a meal to provide in haste, for one 
who had returned from an expedition, and sometimes she was called 
upon to exercise her medical skill in dressing a wound. The com- 
mands, reproaches, and thanks of these ruffians, were generally 
seasoned with jokes and rude speeches: 'old woman' was her usual 
appellation; while the adjuncts which were perpetually attached to 
it, varied according to the circumstances and humour of the speaker. 
Crossed thus in her idleness, and irritated in her peevish temper, 
which were her two predominant passions, she sometimes returned 
these compliments with language in which Satan might have recog- 
nized more of his own spirit than in that of her tormentors. 

'You see that carriage down there?' said the Signor to this amiable 
specimen of woman-kind. 

'I see it,' replied she, protruding her sharp chin, and staring with 
her sunken eyes, as if trying to force them out of their sockets. 

'Bid them prepare a litter immediately; get into it yourself, and 
let it be carried to Malanotte instantly, that you may get there before 
the carriage; it is coming on at a funeral pace. In that carriage 
there is . . . there ought to be ... a young girl. If she's there, tell 
Nibbio it is my order that she should be put into the litter, and that 
he must come directly to me. You will come up in the litter with 
the . . . girl; and when you aYe up here, take her into your own 
room. If she asks you where you are taking her, whom the castle 
belongs to, take care . . .' 

'Oh!' said the old woman. 

'But,' continued the Unnamed, 'try to encourage her.' 

'What must I say to her?' 

'What must you say to her? Try to encourage her, I tell you. Have 
you come to this age, and don't know how to encourage others when 
they want it! Have you ever known sorrow of heart? Have you 
never been afraid? Don't you know what words soothe and comfort 



332 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

at such moments? Say those words to her; find them in the remem- 
brance of your own sorrows. Go directly.' 

As soon as she had taken her departure, he stood for a while at 
the window, with his eyes fixed on the carriage, which had already 
considerably increased in size; afterwards he watched the sun, at 
that moment sinking behind the mountain; then he contemplated 
the fleecy clouds scattered above the setting orb, and from their usual 
greyish hue almost instantaneously assuming a fiery tinge. He drew 
back, closed the window, and began to pace up and down the apart- 
ment with the step of a hurried traveller. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE old woman immediately hastened to obey, and to give 
commands, under the sanction of that name, which by 
whomsoever pronounced, always set the whole household 
on the alert; for it never entered the imagination of any one, that 
another person would venture to use it unauthorized. She reached 
Malanotte shortly before the carriage arrived; and on seeing it ap- 
proach, got out of the Utter, beckoned to the driver to stop, advanced 
towards the door, and whispered to Nibbio, who put his head out of 
the window, the wishes of his master. 

Lucia aroused herself, on feeling the carriage stop, and, awaking 
from a kind of lethargy, was seized with renewed terror, as she 
wildly gazed around her. Nibbio had pushed himself back on the 
seat, and the old woman, with her chin resting on the door, was 
looking at Lucia, and saying, 'Come, my good girl; come, you poor 
thing; come with me, for I have orders to treat you well, and try 
to comfort you.' 

At the sound of a female voice, the poor girl felt a ray of comfort 
— a momentary flash of courage; but she quickly relapsed into still 
more terrible fears. 'Who are you?' asked she, in a trembling voice, 
fixing her astonished gaze on the old woman's face. 

'Come, come, you poor creature,' was the unvaried answer she 
received. Nibbio, and his two companions, gathering from the 
words, and the unusually softened tones of the old hag, what were 
the intentions of their lord, endeavoured, by kind and soothing 
words, to persuade the unhappy girl to obey. She only continued, 
however, to stare wildly around; and though the unknown and sav- 
age character of the place, and the close guardianship of her keepers, 
forbade her indulging a hope of relief, she nevertheless, attempted 
to cry out; but seeing Nibbio cast a glance towards the handkerchief, 
she stopped, trembled, gave a momentary shudder, and was then 
seized, and placed in the litter. The old woman entered after her; 

333 



334 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Nibbio left the other two villains to follow behind as an escort, while 
he himself took the shortest ascent to attend to the call of his master. 

'Who are you?' anxiously demanded Lucia of her unknown and 
ugly-visaged companion: 'Why am I with you? Where am I? 
Where are you taking me?' 

'To one who wishes to do you good,' replied the aged dame; 'to 
a great . . . Happy are they to whom he wishes good! You are 
very lucky, I can tell you. Don't be afraid — be cheerful; he bid me 
try to encourage you. You'll tell him, won't you, that I tried to com- 
fort you?' 

'Who is he ? — why ? — what does he want with me ? I don't belong 
to him! Tell me where I am! let me go! bid these people let me go — 
bid them carry me to some church. Oh! you who are a woman, in 
the name of Mary the Virgin! . . •' 

This holy and soothing name, once repeated with veneration in 
her early years, and now for so long a time uninvoked, and, perhaps, 
unheard, produced in the mind of the unhappy creature, on again 
reaching her ear, a strange, confused, and distant recollection, like 
the remembrance of light and form in an aged person, who has been 
blind from infancy. 

In the meanwhile, the Unnamed, standing at the door of his 
castle, was looking downwards, and watching the litter, as before 
he had watched the carriage, while it slowly ascended, step by step; 
Nibbio rapidly advancing before it at a distance which every moment 
became greater. When he had at length attained the summit, 'Come 
this way,' cried the Signor; and taking the lead, he entered the casde, 
and went into one of the apartments. 

'Well?' said he, making a stand. 

'Everything exactly right,' replied Nibbio, with a profound obei- 
sance; 'the intelligence in time, the girl in time, nobody on the spot, 
only one scream, nobody attracted by it, the coachman ready, the 
horses swift, nobody met with: but . . .' 

'But what?' 

'But ... I will tell the truth; I would rather have been com- 
manded to shoot her in the back, without hearing her speak — with- 
out seeing her face.' 

"What? . . . what? , . . what do you mean?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 335 

'I mean that all this time ... all this time ... I have felt too 
much compassion for her.' 

'Compassion! What do you know of compassion? What is com- 
passion?' 

'I never understood so well what it was as this time; it is some- 
thing that rather resembles fear; let it once take possession of you, 
and you are no longer a man.' 

'Let me hear a httle of what she did to excite your compassion.' 

'O, most noble Signer! such a time! . . . weeping, praying, and 
looking at one with such eyes! and becoming pale as death! and 
then sobbing, and praying again, and certain words . • .' 

— I won't have this creature in my house, — thought the Unnamed, 
meanwhile, to himself. — In an evil hour, I engaged to do it; but 
I've promised — I've promised. When she's far away . . . And raising 
his face with an imperious air towards Nibbio, 'Now,' said he, 'you 
must lay aside compassion, mount your horse, take a companion — 
two, if you like — and ride away, till you get to the palace of this 
Don Rodrigo, you know. Tell him to send immediately . . . imme- 
diately, or else . . .' 

But another internal no, more imperative than the first, prohibited 
his finishing. 'No,' said he, in a resolute tone,almost, as it were, to 
express to himself the command of this secret voice. 'No: go and take 
some rest; and to-morrow morning . . . you shall do as I will tell 
you.' 

— This girl must have some demon of her own, — thought he, when 
left alone, standing with his arms crossed on his breast, and his gaze 
fixed upon a spot on the floor, where the rays of the moon, entering 
through a lofty window, traced out a square of pale light, chequered 
like a draught-board by the massive iron bars, and more minutely 
divided into smaller compartments by the little panes of glass. — 
Some demon, or . . . some angel who protects her . . . Compassion 
in Nibbio! . . . To-morrow morning — to-morrow morning, early 
she must be off from this; she must go to her place of destination; 
and she shall not be s[X)ken of again, and, — continued he to himself, 
with the resolution with which one gives a command to a rebellious 
child, knowing that it will not be obeyed; — and she shall not be 
thought of again, either. That aninul of a Don Rodrigo must not 



336 ALESSANDRC MANZONI 

come to pester me with thanks; for ... I don't want to hear her 
spoken of any more. I have served him because . . . because I prom- 
ised; and I promised, because ... it was my destiny. But I'm de- 
termined the fellow shall pay me well for this piece of service. Let 
me see a little ... — 

And he tried to devise some intricate undertaking, to impose upon 
Don Rodrigo by way of compensation, and almost as a punishment; 
but the words again shot across his mind — Compassion in Nibbio! — 
What can this girl have done? — continued he, following out the 
thought; — I must see her. Yet no — yes, I will see her. — 

He went from one room to another, came to the foot of a flight 
of stairs, and irresolutely ascending, proceeded to the old woman's 
apartment; here he knocked with his foot at the door. 

"Who's there?' 

'Open the door.' 

The old woman made three bounds at the sound of his voice; 
the bolt was quickly heard grating harshly in the staples, and the 
door was thrown wide open. The Unnamed cast a glance round the 
room, as he paused in the doorway; and by the light of a lamp which 
stood on a three-legged table, discovered Lucia crouched down on 
the floor, in the corner farthest from the entrance. 

'Who bid you throw her there, like a bag of rags, you uncivil old 
beldame?' said he to the aged matron, with an angry frown. 

'She chose it herself,' replied she, in an humble tone. 'I've done my 
best to encourage her; she can tell you so herself; but she won't mind 
me.' 

'Get up,' said he to Lucia, approaching her. But she, whose already 
terrified mind had experienced a fresh and mysterious addition to 
her terror at the knocking, the of)ening of the door, his footstep, and 
his voice, only gathered herself still closer into the corner, and, with 
her face buried in her hands, remained perfectly motionless, except- 
ing that she trembled from head to foot. 

'Get up; I will do you no harm . . . and I can do you some good,* 
repeated the Signer . . . 'Get up!' thundered he forth at last, irri- 
tated at having twice commanded in vain. 

As if invigorated by fear, the unhappy girl instantly raised herself 
upon her knees, and joining her hands, as she would have knelt 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 337 

before a sacred image, lifted her eyes to the face of the Unnamed, 
and instantly dropping them, said: 'Here I am, kill me if you will.' 

'I have told you I would do you no harm,' replied the Unnamed, 
in a softened tone, gazing at her agonized features of grief and terror. 

'Courage, courage,' said the old woman; 'if he himself tells you 
he will do you no harm . . .' 

'And why,' rejoined Lucia, with a voice in which the daringness 
of despairing indignation was mingled with the tremor of fear, 
'why make me suffer the agonies of hell.? What have I done to 
you.' . . .' 

'Perhaps they have treated you badly.? Tell me . . .' 

'Treated me badly! They have seized me by treachery — by force! 
Why — why have they seized me.? Why am I here.? Where am I.? 
I am a poor harmless girl. What have I done to you .? In the name 
of God . . .' 

'God, God!' interrupted the Unnamed, 'always God! They who 
cannot defend themselves — who have not the strength to do it, must 
always bring forward this God, as if they had spoken to him. What 
do you expect by this word.? To make me? . . .* and he left the 
sentence unfinished. 

'O Signor, expect! What can a poor girl like me expect, except 
that you should have mercy upon me.? God pardons so many sins 
for one deed of mercy. Let me go; for charity's sake, let me go. It 
will do no good to one who must die, to make a poor creature suffer 
thus. Oh! you who can give the command, bid them let me go! 
They brought me here by force. Bid them send me again with this 
woman, and take me to • • * , where my mother is. Oh! most 
holy Virgin! My mother! my mother! — for pity's sake, my mother. 
Perhaps she is not far from here ... I saw my mountains. Why do 
you give me all this suffering.? Bid them take me to a church; I 
will pray for you all my life. What will it cost you to say one word ? 
Oh, see! you are moved to pity: say one word, oh say it! God par- 
dons so many sins for one deed of mercy!' 

— Oh, why isn't she the daughter of one of the rascally dogs that 
outlawed me! — thought the Unnamed; — of one of the villains 
who wish me dead; then I should enjoy her sufferings; but 
instead • . • — 



338 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Don't drive away a good inspiration!' continued Lucia, earnestly, 
reanimated by seeing a certain air of hesitation in the countenance 
and behaviour of her oppressor. 'If you don't grant me this mercy, 
the Lord will do it for me. I shall die, and all will be over with me; 
but you . . . Perhaps, some day, even you . . . But no, no; I will 
always pray the Lord to keep you from every evil. What will it 
cost you to say one word? If you knew what it was to suffer this 
agony! . . .' 

'Come, take courage,' interrupted the Unnamed, with a gentleness 
that astonished the old woman. 'Have I done you any harm? Have 
I threatened you?' 

'Oh no! I see that you have a kind heart, and feel some pity for 
an unhappy creature. If you chose, you could terrify me more than 
all the others: you could kill me with fear; but instead of that, you 
have . . . rather lightened my heart; God will reward you for it. 
Finish your deed of mercy: set me free, set me free.' 

'To-morrow morning . . .' 

'Oh! set me free now — now . . . 

'To-morrow morning, I will see you again, I say. Come, in the 
mean while, be of good courage. Take a little rest; you must want 
something to eat. They shall bring you something directly.' 

'No, no; I shall die, if anybody comes here; I shall die! Take me 
to a church . . . God will reward you for that step.' 

'A woman shall bring you something to eat,' said the Unnamed; 
and having said so, he stood wondering at himself how such a 
remedy had entered his mind, and how the wish had arisen to seek 
a remedy for the sorrows of a poor humble villager. 

'And you,' resumed he hastily, turning to the aged matron, 'per- 
suade her to eat something, and let her lie down to rest on this bed; 
and if she is willing to have you as a companion, well; if not, you can 
sleep well enough for one night on the floor. Encourage her, I say, 
and keep her cheerful. Beware that she has no cause to complain of 
you.' 

So saying, he moved quickly towards the door. Lucia sprang up, 
and ran to detain him, and renew her entreaties; but he was gone. 

'Oh, poor me! Shut the door quickly.' And having heard the door 
closed, and the bolt again drawn, she returned to seat herself in her 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 339 

corner. 'Oh, poor me!' repeated she, sobbing; 'whom shall I implore 
now? Where am I? Do you tell me — tell me, for pity's sake, who 
is this Signor ... he who has been speaking to me?' 

'Who is he, eh? — who is he? Do you think I may tell you? Wait 
till he tells you himself. You are proud, because he protects you; 
and you want to be satisfied, and make me your go-between. Ask 
him yourself. If 1 were to tell you this, 1 shouldn't get the good 
words he has just given you. I am an old woman, an old woman,' 
continued she, muttering between her teeth. 'Hang these young 
folks, who may make a fine show of either laughing or crying, just 
as they like, and yet are always in the right.' But hearing Lucia's 
sobs and the commands of her master returning in a threatening 
manner to her memory, she stooped toward the f)oor crouching girl, 
and, in a gentler and more humane tone, resiuned: 'Come, I have 
said no harm to you; be cheerful. Don't ask me questions which 
I've no business to answer; but pluck up heart, my good girl. Ah! if 
you knew how many people would be glad to hear him speak, as he 
has spoken to you! Be cheerful, for he will send you something to 
eat just now; and I know ... by the way he spoke, I'm sure it will 
be something gcxxl. And then you lie down, and . . . you will leave 
just a little corner for me,' added she, with an accent of suppressed 
rancour. 

'I don't want to eat, I don't want to sleep. Let me alone; don't 
come near me; but you won't leave the room?' 

'No, no, not I,' said the old woman, drawing back, and seating her- 
self on an old arm-chair, whence she cast sundry glances of alarm, 
and at the same time of envy, towards the poor girl. Then she looked 
at the bed, vexed at the idea of being, perhaps, excluded from it for 
the whole night, and grumbling at the cold. But she comforted her- 
self with the thoughts of supper, and with the hope that there might 
be some to spare for her. Lucia was sensible of neither cold nor hun- 
ger, and, almost as if deprived of her senses, had but a confused idea 
of her very grief and terror, like the undefined objects seen by a 
delirious patient. 

She roused herself, when she heard a knocking at the door; and 
raising her head, exclaimed, in much alarm, 'Who's there? — who's 
there? Don't let any one in!' 



340 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Nobody, nobody; good news!' said the old woman; 'it's Martha 
bringing something to eat.' 

'Shut the door, shut the door!' cried Lucia. 

'Ay, directly,' replied the old woman; and taking a basket out of 
Martha's hand, she hastily nodded to her, shut the door, and came 
and set the basket on a table, in the middle of the room. She then 
repeatedly invited Lucia to come and partake of the tempting re- 
past, and employing words, which, according to her ideas, were most 
likely to be efficacious in restoring the poor girl's appetite, broke forth 
into exclamations on the excellence of the food; — 'Morsels which, 
when common people have once got a taste, they don't forget in a 
hurry! Wine, which her master drank with his friends . . . when 
any of them happened to arrive . . . and they wanted to be merry! 
Hem!' But seeing that all these charms produced no effect — 'It is 
you who won't eat,' said she. 'Don't you be saying to-morrow that 
I didn't try to persuade you. I'll eat something, however; and then 
there'll be more than enough left for you, when you come to your 
senses, and are willing to do as you are bid.' So saying, she applied 
herself with avidity to the refreshments. When she had satisfied 
herself, she rose, advanced towards the corner, and bending over 
Lucia, again invited her to take something, and then lie down. 

'No, no, I don't want anything,* replied she, with a feeble and 
almost drowsy voice. Then with more energy she continued; 'Is 
the door locked? — is it well secured?' And having looked around, 
she rose, and feeling with her hands, walked with a suspicious step 
towards the door. 

The old woman sprang thither before her, stretched out her hand 
to the lock, seized the handle, shook it, rattled the bolt, and made 
it grate against the staple that received and secured it. 'Do you hear ? 
— do you see? — is it well locked? Are you content now?' 

'Oh, content! I content here!' said Lucia, again arranging herself 
in her corner. 'But the Lord knows I'm here!' 

'Come to bed; what would you do there, crouching like a dog? 
Did ever anybody see a person refuse comforts, when he could get 
them?' 

'No, no; let me alone.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 341 

'Well, it's your own wish. See, I'll leave you the best place; I'm 
lying here on the very edge; I shall be uncomfortable enough, for 
your sake. If you want to come to bed, you know what you have 
to do. Remember, I've asked you very often.' So saying, she 
crept, dressed as she was, under the counterpane, and soon all was 
silent. 

Lucia remained motionless, shrunk up into the corner, her knees 
drawn close to her breast, her hands resting on her knees, and her 
face buried in her hands. She was neither asleep nor awake, but 
worn out with a rapid succession — a tumultuous alternation, of 
thoughts, anticipations, and heart-throbbings. Recalled, in some 
degree, to consciousness, and recollecting more distinctly the horrors 
she had seen and suffered that terrible day, she would now dwell 
mournfully on the dark and formidable realities in which she found 
herself involved; then, her mind being carried onward into a still 
more obscure region, she had to struggle against the phantoms con- 
jured up by uncertainty and terror. In this distressing state she con- 
tinued for a long time, which we would here prefer to pass over 
rapidly; but at length, exhausted and overcome, she relaxed her 
hold on her benumbed limbs, and sinking at full length upon the 
floor, remained for some time in a state closely resembling real sleep. 
But suddenly awaking, as at some inward call, she tried to arouse 
herself completely, to regain her scattered senses, and to remember 
where she was, and how, and why. She listened to some sound that 
caught her ear; it was the slow, deep breathing of the old woman. 
She opened her eyes, and saw a faint light, now glimmering for a 
moment, and then again dying away: it was the wick of the lamp, 
which, almost ready to expire, emitted a tremulous gleam, and 
quickly drew it back, so to say, like the ebb and flow of a wave on 
the sea-shore; and thus, withdrawing from the surrounding objects 
ere there was time to display them in distinct colouring and relief, 
it merely presented to the eye a succession of confused and indis- 
tinct glimpses. But the recent impressions she had received quickly 
returned to her mind, and assisted her in distinguishing what ap- 
peared so disorderly to her visual organs. When fully aroused, the 
unhappy girl recognized her prison; all the recollections of the hor- 



342 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

rible day that was fled, all the uncertain terrors of the future, rushed 
at once upon her mind: the very calm in which she now found her- 
self after so much agitation, the sort of repose she had just tasted, 
the desertion in which she was left, all combined to inspire her with 
new dread, till, overcome by alarm, she earnestly longed for death. 
But at this juncture, she remembered that she could still pray; and 
with that thought there seemed to shine forth a sudden ray of com- 
fort. She once more took out her rosary, and began to repeat the 
prayers; and in proportion as the words fell from her trembling lips 
she felt an indefinite confiding faith taking possession of her heart. 
Suddenly another thought rushed into her mind, that her prayer 
might, perhaps, be more readily accepted, and more certainly heard, 
if she were to make some offering in her desolate condition. She 
tried to remember what she most prized, or rather, what she had 
once most prized; for at this moment her heart could feel no other 
affection than that of fear, nor conceive any other desire than that of 
deliverance. She did remember it, and resolved at once to make the 
sacrifice. Rising upon her knees, and clasping her hands, from 
whence the rosary was suspended before her breast, she raised her 
face and eyes to heaven, and said, 'O most holy Virgin! thou to 
whom I have so often recommended myself, and who hast so often 
comforted me! — ^thou who hast borne so many sorrows, and art now 
so glorious! — thou who hast wrought so many miracles for the poor 
and afflicted, help me! Bring me out of this danger; bring me safely 
to my mother, O Mother of our Lord; and I vow unto thee to con- 
tinue a virgin! I renounce for ever my unfortunate betrothed, that 
from henceforth I may belong only to thee!' 

Having uttered these words, she bowed her head, and placed the 
beads around her neck, almost as a token of her consecration, and, 
at the same time, as a safeguard, a part of the armour for the new 
warfare to which she had devoted herself. Seating herself again on 
the floor, a kind of tranquillity, a more childlike reliance, gradually 
diffused themselves over her soul. The to-morrow morning, re- 
peated by the unknown nobleman, came to her mind, and seemed to 
her ear to convey a promise of deliverance. Her senses, wearied by 
such struggles, gradually gave way before these soothing thoughts; 
until at length, towards day-break, and with the name of her pro- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 343 

tectress upon her lips, Lucia sank into a profound and unbroken 
sleep. 

But in this same castle there was one who would willingly have 
followed her example, yet who tried in vain. After departing, or 
rather escaping, from Lucia, giving orders for her supper, and pay- 
ing his customary visits to several posts in his castle, with her image 
ever vividly before his eyes, and her words resounding in his ears, the 
nobleman had hastily retired to his chamber, impetuously shut the 
door behind him, and hurriedly undressing, had lain down. But that 
image, which now more closely than ever haunted his mind, seemed 
at that moment to say: 'Thou shalt not sleep!' — ^What absurd 
womanly curiosity tempted me to go see her? — thought he. — That 
fool of a Nibbio was right: one is no longer a man; yes, one is no 
longer a man! . . . I? ... am I no longer a man? What has hapv 
pened ? What devil has got possession of me ? What is there new in 
all this? Didn't I know, before now, that women always weep and 
implore? Even men do sometimes, when they have not the power to 
rebel. What the ! have I never heard women cry before? — 

And here, without giving himself much trouble to task his mem- 
ory, it suggested to him, of its own accord, more than one instance 
in which neither entreaties nor lamentations availed to deter him 
from the completion of enterprises upon which he had once resolved. 
But these remembrances, instead of inspiring him with the courage 
he now needed to prosecute his present design as it would seem he 
exf)ected and wished they might, instead of helping to dispel his 
feelings of compassion, only added to them those of terror and 
consternation, until they compelled him to return to that first image 
of Lucia, against which he had been seeking to fortify his courage. — 
She still lives, — said he: — She is here; I am in time; I can yet say to 
her, Go, and be happy; I can yet see that countenance change; I 
can even say. Forgive me . . . Forgive me? I ask forgiveness? And 
of a woman, too? 1} ... Ah, however! if one word, one such word 
could do me good, could rid me of the demon that now possesses 
me, I would say it; yes, I feel that I would say it. To what am I 
reduced! I'm no longer a man; surely, no longer a man! . . . Away! 
— said he, turning himself with impetuosity on the couch which 
had now become so hard, under the covering which had now be- 



344 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

come so intolerable a weight: — Away! these are fooleries which have 
many a time passed through my head. This will take its flight 
too. — 

And to effect such a riddance, he began seeking some important 
subject, some of the many which often so busily occupied his mind, 
in hopes he might be entirely engrossed by it; but he sought in vain. 
All appeared changed: that which once most urgently stimulated 
his desires, now no longer possessed any charms for him: his pas- 
sions, like a steed suddenly become restive at the sight of a shadow, 
refused to carry him any further. In reflecting on enterprises en- 
gaged in, and not yet concluded, instead of animating himself to 
their completion, and feeling irritated at the obstacles interposed, 
(for anger at this moment would have been sweet to him,) he felt 
regret, nay, almost consternation, at the steps already taken. His 
hfe presented itself to his mind devoid of all interest, deprived of 
all will, divested of every action, and only laden with insupportable 
recollections; every hour resembling that which now rolled so slowly 
and heavily over his head. He drew out before his fancy all his ruf- 
fians in a kind of battle-array, and could contrive nothing of im- 
portance in which to employ one of them; nay, the very idea of 
seeing them again, and mixing among them, was an additional 
weight, a fresh object of annoyance and detestation. And when he 
sought an occupation for the morrow, a feasible employment, he 
could only remember that on the morrow, he might liberate his 
unfortunate prisoner. 

— I will set her free; yes, I will. I will fly to her by day-break, 
and bid her depart safely. She shall be accompanied by . . . And 
my promise? My engagement? Don Rodrigo? . . . Who is Don 
Rodrigo ? — 

Like one suddenly surprised by an unexpected and embarrassing 
question from a superior, the Unnamed hastily sought for an answer 
to the query he had just put to himself, or rather which had been 
suggested to him by that new voice which had all at once made 
itself heard, and sprung up to be, as it were, a judge of his former 
self. He tried to imagine any reasons which could have induced 
him, almost before being requested, to engage in inflicting so much 
suffering, without any incentives of hatred or fear, on a poor un- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 345 

known creature, only to render a service to this man; but instead 
of succeeding in discovering such motives as he would now have 
deemed sufficient to excuse the deed, he could not even imagine how 
he had ever been induced to undertake it. The willingness, rather 
than the determination to do so, had been the instantaneous impulse 
of a mind obedient to its old and habitual feelings, the consequence 
of a thousand antecedent actions; and to account for this one deed, 
the unhappy self -examiner found himself involved in an examination 
of his whole life. Backwards from year to year, from engagement 
to engagement, from bloodshed to bloodshed, from crime to crime, 
each one stood before his conscience-stricken soul, divested of the 
feelings which had induced him to will and commit it, and therefore 
appearing in all its monstrousness, which those feelings had, at the 
time,prevented his perceiving. They were all his own, they made up 
himself; and the horror of this thought, renewed with each fresh 
remembrance, and cleaving to all, increased at last to desperation. 
He sprang up impetuously in his bed, eagerly stretched out his hand 
towards the wall at his side, touched a pistol, grasped it, reached 
it down, and ... at the moment of finishing a life which had be- 
come insupportable, his thoughts, seized with terror and a (so to say) 
superstitious dread, rushed forward to the time which would still 
continue to flow on after his end. He pictured with horror his dis- 
figured corpse, lying motionless, and in the power of his vilest sur- 
vivor; the astonishment, the confusion of the castle in the morning: 
everything turned upside down; and he, powerless and voiceless, 
thrown aside, he knew not whither. He fancied the reports that 
would be spread, the conversations to which it would give rise, both 
in the casde, the neighbourhood, and at a distance, together with 
the rejoicings of his enemies. The darkness and silence around him 
presented death in a still more mournful and frightful aspect; it 
seemed to him that he would not have hesitated in open day, out 
of doors, and in the presence of spectators, to throw himself into 
the water, and vanish. Absorbed in such tormenting reflections, 
he continued alternately snapping and unsnapping the cock of his 
pistol with a convulsive movement of his thumb, when another 
thought flashed across his mind. — If this other hfe, of which they 
told me when I was a boy, of which everybody talks now, as if it 



346 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

were a certain thing, if there be not such a thing, if it be an invention 
of the priests; what am I doing? why should I die? what matters 
all that I have done? what matters it? It is an absurdity, my . . . 
But if there really be another life! ... — 

At sucli a doubt, at such a risk, he was seized with a blacker and 
deeper despair, from which even death afforded no escape. He 
dropped the pistol, and lay with his fingers twined among his hair, 
his teeth chattering, and trembling in every limb. Suddenly the 
words he had heard repeated a few hours before rose to his remem- 
brance:— God pardons so many sins for one deed of mercy! — They 
did not come to him with that tone of humble supplication in which 
they had been pronounced; they came with a voice of authority, 
which at the same time excited a distant glimmering of hope. It 
was a moment of relief: he raised his hands from his temples, and, 
in a more composed attitude, fixed his mind's eye on her who had 
uttered the words; she seemed to him no longer like his prisoner and 
suppliant, but in the posture of one who dispenses mercy and con- 
solation. He anxiously awaited the dawn of day, that he might fly 
to liberate her, and to hear from her Ups other words of alleviation 
and life, and even thought of conducting her himself to her mother. 
— And then? what shall I do to-morrow for the rest of the day? 
What shall I do the day after to-morrow? And the day after that 
again? And at night? the night which will return in twelve hours? 
Oh, the night! no, no, the night! — And falling again into the weary 
void of the future, he sought in vain for some employment of time, 
some way of Uving through the days and nights. One moment he 
proposed leaving his castle, and going into some distant country, 
where he had never been known or heard of; but he felt that he 
should carry himself with him. Then a dark hope would arise that 
he should resume his former courage and inclinations, and that this 
would prove only a transient delirium. Now he dreaded the light 
which would show him to his followers so miserably changed; then 
he longed for it, as if it would bring light also to his gloomy thoughts. 
And, lo! about break of day, a few moments after Lucia had fallen 
asleep, while he was seated motionless in his bed, a floating and con- 
fused murmur reached his ear, bringing with it something joyous 
and festive in its sound. Assuming a Ustening posture, he distin- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 347 

guished a distant chiming of bells; and, giving still more attention, 
could hear the mountain echo, every now and then, languidly re- 
peating the harmony, and mingling itself with it. Immediately after- 
wards his ear caught another, and still nearer peal: then another, 
and another. — What rejoicings are these? What are they all so merry 
about? What is their cause of gladness? — He sprang from his bed 
of thorns; and, half-dressing himself in haste, went to the window, 
threw up the sash, and looked out. The mountains were still wrapt 
in gloom; the sky was not so much cloudy, as composed of one 
entire lead-coloured cloud; but by the already glimmering light of 
day, he distinguished in the road, at the bottom of the valley, num- 
bers of people passing eagerly along, — some leaving their dwellings 
and moving on with the crowd, and all taking the same direction 
towards the outlet of the vale on the right of the castle; he could 
even distinguish the joyous bearing and holiday dress of the pas- 
sengers. — What the is the matter with these people? What 

cause of merriment can there be in this cursed neighbourhood? — 
And calling a confidential bravo who slept in the adjoining room, 
he asked him what was the cause of this movement. The man re- 
plied that he knew no more than his master, but would go directly 
to make inquiry. The Signor remained with his eyes riveted upon 
the moving spectacle, which increasing day rendered every moment 
more distinct. He watched crowds pass by, and new crowds con- 
stantly appear; men, women, children, in groups, in couples, or 
alone; one, overtaking another who was before him, walked in 
company with him; another, just leaving his door, accompanied the 
first he fell in with by the way; and so they proceeded together, like 
friends in a preconcerted journey. Their behaviour evidently indi- 
cated a common haste and joy; and the unharmonious, but simul- 
taneous burst of the different chimes, some more, some less con- 
tiguous and distinct, seemed, so to say, the common voice of these 
gestures, and a supplement to the words which could not reach 
him from below. He looked and looked, till he felt more than 
common curiosity to know what could communicate so unanimous 
a will, so general a festivity, to so many different people. 



CHAPTER XXII 

SHORTLY afterwards the bravo returned with the informa- 
tion, that Cardinal Federigo Borromco, archbishop of Milan, 
had arrived the day before at * * *, with the purpose of 
spending there that which was now just dawning; that the news of 
his arrival, which had been spread around for a considerable distance 
the preceding evening, had excited a desire in the people to go and 
see this great man; and that the bells were ringing, both to express 
their joy, and more widely to diffuse the glad intelligence. When 
again alone, the Signer continued to look down into the valley, 
still more absorbed in thought. — For a man! Everybody eager, 
everybody joyful, at the sight of a man! And yet, doubtless, each 
has his own demon that torments him. But none, none will have one 
like mine! None will have passed such a night as I have! What 
has this man about him to make so many people merry? Some 
pence, perhaps, that he will distribute at random among them . . . 
But all these cannot be going for alms. Well then, a few acknowl- 
edgments and salutations — a word or two . . . Oh! if he had any 
words for me that could impart peace! if! . . . Why shouldn't I go 
too.' Why not."" ... I will go! what else can I do? I will go; and 
I will talk with him: face to face I'll have some talk with him. 
What shall I say, though? Well, whatever, whatever . . . I'll hear 
first what the man has to say for himself! — 

Having come to this vague determination, he hastily finished 
dressing himself, and put on, over all, a great coat, which had 
something of a military cut about it; he then took up the pistol 
which lay upon the bed, and secured it on one side of his belt, fasten- 
ing at the other its fellow, which hung upon a nail in the wall; stuck 
a dagger into this same girdle; and taking a carabine from the wall, 
which was almost as famous as himself, swung it across his shoulders: 
then he put on his hat, quitted the apartment, and repaired at once 
to that in which he had left Lucia. Setting down his carabine in a 

348 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 349 

corner near the door, he knocked, at the same time letting them 
know, by his voice, who he was. The old woman sprang out of 
bed, threw some article of clothing around her, and flew to open 
the door. The Signor entered, and, casting a glance around the 
room, saw Lucia lying in her little corner, and perfectly quiet. 

'Does she sleep?' asked he, in an under-tone, of the old woman: 
'But is she sleeping there? were these my orders, you old hag?' 

'I did all I could,' replied the woman; 'but she wouldn't eat, and 
she wouldn't come . . .' 

'Let her sleep quietly; take care you don't disturb her; and when 
she awakes . . . Martha shall wait in the next room; and you must 
send her to fetch anything that she may ask for. When she awakes 
. . . tell her that I . . . that the master has gone out for a little 
while, that he will be back soon, and that ... he will do all that 
she wishes.' 

The old woman stood perfectly astonished, thinking to herself: — 
This girl must surely be some princess! — 

The Signor then left the room, took up his carabine, sent Martha 
to wait in the adjoining apartment, and the first bravo whom he 
met to keep guard, that no one but this woman might presume to 
approach Lucia; and then, leaving the casde, took the descent with 
a rapid step. 

The manuscript here fails to mention the distance from the castle 
to the village where the Cardinal was staying: it cannot, however, 
have been more than a moderate walk. We do not infer the prox- 
imity merely from the flocking thither of the inhabitants of the 
valley; since we find, in the histories of these times, that people 
came for twenty miles, or more, to get but one sight of Cardinal 
Federigo. From the circumstances that we are about to relate, as 
happening on this day, we may, however, easily conjecture that the 
distance cannot have been very great. The bravoes whom he met 
ascending, stopped respectfully as their lord passed, waiting to see 
if he had any orders to give, or if he wished of them to accompany 
him on some expedition, and seemed perfectly astonished at his 
countenance and the glances he returned in answer to their saluta- 
tions. 

When, however, he reached the base, and entered the public road, 



350 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

it- was a very different matter. There was a general whispering among 
the first passengers who observed him, an exchange of suspicious 
looks, and an endeavour on each side to get out of his reach. For 
the whole length of the way he could not take two steps by the side 
of another passenger; for every one who found him quickly gaining 
upon him, cast an uneasy look around, made him a low bow, and 
slackened his pace so as to remain behind. On reaching the village, 
he found a large crowd assembled; his name spread rapidly from 
mouth to mouth, the moment he made his appearance, and the 
throng fell back to make way for him. He accosted one of these 
prudent gentry, and asked where the Cardinal was. 'In the Curate's 
house,' replied the addressed party,reverently, at the same time point- 
ing out the mansion. The Signor went forward, entered a Httle court, 
where many priests were assembled, all of whom regarded him with 
surprised and doubtful looks, and saw before him an opsen door, 
which gave admission into a small hall, where there was also collected 
a considerable number of priests. Taking his carabine from his shoul- 
ders, he deposited it in one corner of the little court, and then en- 
tered the hall, where he was received with significant glances, mur- 
murs, and his oft-repeated name; then all was silent. Turning to one 
of those who surrounded him, he asked where the Cardinal was, and 
said that he wished to speak to him. 

'I am a stranger,' replied the priest; but hastily glancing around, 
he called the chaplain and cross-bearer, who, seated in a corner of 
the hall, was saying, in an under-tone, to his companion, 'This man? 
this notorious character? what can he have to do here? Make way!' 
However, at this call, which resounded in the general silence, he 
was obliged to come forward; he made a lowly reverence to the 
Unnamed, listened to his inquiry, raised his eyes with uneasy curios- 
ity towards his face, and instantly bending them on the ground, 
stood hesitating for a moment, and then said, or rather stammered 
out: 'I don't know whether his illustrious Lordship ... just now 
... is to be .. . can . . . may . . . But I will go and see.' And 
he very unwillingly carried the message into the adjoining room, 
where the Cardinal was by himself. 

At this point in our story, we cannot do less than pause for a little 
while; as the traveller, wearied and worn out with a lengthened 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 351 

journey, through a wild and sterile country, retards his pace, and 
halts for a little time under the shade of a noble tree, reclining on 
the grassy bank of a stream of running water. We have now fallen 
upon a person, whose name and memory, occurring when they will 
to the mind, refresh it with a calm emotion of reverence, and a 
pleasurable feeling of sympathy; how much more, then, after so 
many mournful pictures — after the contemplation of such fearful 
and hateful depravity! On the history of this personage, we must 
absolutely expend a few words: he who cares not about hearing 
them, and is anxious to proceed with the story, may pass on at once 
to the succeeding chapter. 

Federigo Borromeo, born in 1564, was among those characters, rare 
in whatever age, who have employed singular talents, all the re- 
sources of great wealth, all the advantages of privileged rank, and 
an unwearying diligence in the search and exercise of the highest 
objects and principles. His life resembles a rivulet, which, issuing 
limpid from the rock, flows in a ceaseless and unruffled, though 
lengthened course, through various lands, and, clear and limpid still, 
falls at last into the ocean. Amidst comforts and luxuries, he at- 
tended, even from childhood, to those lessons of self-denial and hu- 
mility, and those maxims on the vanity of worldly pleasures, and 
the sinfulness of pride, on true dignity and true riches, which, 
whether acknowledged or not in the heart, have been transmitted 
from one generation to another in the most elementary instruction 
in religion. He attended, I say, to these lessons and maxims; he re- 
ceived them in real earnest; he tried them, and found them true; he 
saw, therefore, that other and contrary lessons and maxims could 
not possibly be true, which yet were transmitted from age to age, 
with the same asseveration, and sometimes by the same lips; and he 
resolved to lake, as the rule of his thoughts and actions, those which 
were indeed right. By these he understood that life was not de- 
signed to be a burden to many, and a pleasure to only a few; but 
was intended as a time of employment for all, of which every one 
would have to give an account; and he began from a child to consider 
how he could render his useful and holy. 

In 1580 he declared his resolution of dedicating himself to the 
ministry of the Church, and received ordination from the hands of 



352 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

his cousin Carlo, whom long and universal suffrage had already 
signalized as a saint. Shortly afterwards, he entered the college 
founded by this relative in Pavia, which still bears the name of their 
house; and here, while applying himself with assiduity to the occu- 
pations which were prescribed, he added to them two others of his 
own free will; and these were, to give instruction to the most igno- 
rant and neglected among the population, in the doctrines of the 
Christian religion; and to visit, assist, comfort, and relieve the sick 
and needy. He employed the authority conceded to him by all 
around, in inducing his companions to second him in such works of 
charity; and set a noble example of spending, in every honest and 
beneficial employment, a pre-eminence which, considering his su- 
perior mind and talents, he would, perhaps, equally have attained 
had he been the lowest in rank and fortune. The advantages of a 
different nature, which the circumstances of fortune could have pro- 
cured for him, he not only sought not after, but studiously neglected. 
He kept a table rather meagre than frugal, and wore a dress rather 
mean than decent; while the whole tenor of his life and behaviour 
was in conformity with these particulars. Nor did he think it nec- 
essary to alter it, because some of his relatives exclaimed loudly 
against such a practice, and complained that by this means he would 
degrade the dignity of the house. He had also another warfare to 
maintain against his instructors, who stealthily, and as it were by 
surprise, endeavoured to place before, behind, and around him, more 
noble appendages, something which might distinguish him from 
others, and make him appwar the first in the place: either thinking, 
by this means, to ingratiate themselves with him in the long run; 
or influenced by that servile attachment which prides itself in, and 
rejoices at, the splendour of others; or being among the number of 
those prudent persons who shrink back with alarm from the extreme 
of virtue as well as vice, are for ever proclaiming that perfection lies 
in a medium between the two, and fix that medium exactly at the 
point which they have reached, and where they find themselves very 
much at their ease. Federigo not only refused these kindly offices, 
but rebuked the officious instruments: and that between the ages of 
childhood and youth. 
That, during the life of the Cardinal Carlo, his senior by twenty- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 353 

six years, in his authoritative and, so to say, solemn presence, 
surrounded by homage and respectful silence, incited by the famC; 
and impressed with the tokens of sanctity, Federigo, as a boy and a 
youth, should have endeavoured to conform himself to the behaviour 
and talents of such a cousin, is certainly not to be wondered at; but it 
is, indeed, much to be able to say, that, after his death, no one could 
perceive that Federigo, then twenty years of age, had lost a guide 
and censor. The increasing fame of his talents, erudition, and piety; 
the relationship and connection of more than one powerful Cardinal; 
the credit of his family; his very name, to which Carlo had almost 
annexed in people's minds an idea of sanctity and sacerdotal pre- 
eminence; all that should, and all that could, lead men to ecclesiastical 
dignities, concurred to predict them for him. But he, persuaded in 
heart of what no one who professes Christianity can deny with the 
lips, that there is no real superiority of a man over his fellowmen, 
excepting in so far as he devotes himself to their service, both dreaded 
exaltation, and sought to avoid it; not, indeed, that he might shrink 
from serving others — for few lives have been more devoted to this 
object than his own — but because he considered himself neither 
worthy enough of so high and perilous a service, nor sufficiently 
competent for it. For these reasons, the Archbishopric of Milan being 
offered to him in 1595, by Clement VIII., he seemed much disturbed 
and refused the charge without hesitation. He yielded afterwards, 
however, to the express command of the Pope. 

Such demonstrations (who knows it not?) are neither difficult nor 
uncommon; and it requires no greater effort of subtlety for hypocrisy 
to make them, than for raillery to deride them, and hold them cheap 
on every occasion. But do they, therefore, cease to be the natural 
expression of a wise and virtuous principle? One's life is the touch- 
stone of profession; and the profession of this sentiment, though it 
may have been on the tongue of all the impostors and all the scoffers 
in the world, will ever be worthy of admiration, when preceded and 
followed by a life of disinterested self-sacrifice. 

In Federigo, as Archbishop, was apparent a remarkable and con- 
stant carefulness to devote to himself no more of his wealth, his 
time, his care — in short, of his whole self, than was absolutely neces- 
sary. He said, as everybody says, that ecclesiastical revenues are the 



354 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

patrimony of the poor; how he showed he understood such a maxim 
in reality, will be evident from this fact. He caused an estimate to 
be taken of the sum required for his own expenditure, and that of 
those in his personal service; and being told that six hundred sctidi 
would be sufficient, {scudo was at that time the name of a golden 
coin which, retaining the same weight and value, was afterwards 
called a zeccfiino,)' he gave orders that this sum should annually 
be set apart out of his patrimonial estate, for the expenses of the table. 
So sparing and scrupulous was he in his personal outlay, that he was 
careful never to leave off a dress which was not completely worn out; 
uniting, however, as was recorded by contemporary writers, to this 
habit of simplicity, that of singular neatness; two remarkable quali- 
ties, in fact, in this age of ostentation and uncleanliness. That noth- 
ing, again, might be wasted of the remnants of his frugal table, he 
assigned them to a hospital for the poor; one of whom came daily, 
by his orders, to the dining apartment, to gather up all that remained. 
Such instances of economy might, perhaps, suggest the idea of a 
close, parsimonious, over-careful virtue, of a mind wrapt up in atten- 
tion to minutiae, and incapable of elevated designs, were it not for 
the Ambrosian Library, still standing, which Federigo projected with 
such noble magnificence, and executed, from the foundations up- 
wards, with such munificent Uberality; to supply which with books 
and manuscripts, besides the presentation of those he had already 
collected with great labour and expense, he sent eight of the most 
learned and experienced men he could find, to make purchases 
throughout Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Flanders, Greece, Leb- 
anon, and Jerusalem. By this means, he succeeded in gathering to- 
gether about thirty thousand printed volumes, and fourteen thousand 
manuscripts. To this library he united a college of doctors (nine in 
number at first, and maintained at his charge while he lived; after- 
wards, the ordinary income not sufficing for this expense, they were 
reduced to two). Their office was to cultivate various branches of 
study, theology, history, polite literature, and the Oriental languages, 
obliging each one to pubUsh some work on the subject assigned to 
him. To this he also added a college, which he called Trilingue, for 
the study of the Greek, Latin, and ItaUan languages; a college of 
' Sequin: — an luilian gold coin, worth about ten shillings of English money. 



I PROMEssi sposi 355 

pupils, for instruction in these several faculties and languages, that 
they might become professors in their turn; a printing-office for the 
Oriental languages, for Hebrew, that is to say, Chaldaic, Arabic, Per- 
sian, and Armenian; a gallery of paintings, another of statues, and a 
school for the three principal arts of design. For these last he could 
find professors already existing; but as to the rest, we have seen the 
trouble it cost him to collect books and manuscripts. Undoubtedly, 
it would be more difficult to meet with types in those languages, then 
much less cultivated in Europe than they are at present; and still more 
difficult than types, would be men who understood them. Suffice it 
to say, that, out of nine professors, eight were taken from among 
the young pupils of the seminary; from which circumstance we may 
infer what was his opinion of the schools then established, and the 
celebrity gained in those days; an opinion agreeing with that which 
posterity seems to have formed of them, by suffering both one and 
the other to sink into oblivion. In the regulations which he left for 
the use and government of the library, a provision for perpetual 
utility is conspicuous, not only admirable in itself, but, in many par- 
ticulars, judicious and elegant, far beyond the general ideas and 
habits of the age. He required the librarian to keep up a corre- 
spondence with the most learned men in Europe, that he might 
have information of the state of science, and intelligence of the best 
works on any subject that should be published, and immediately 
purchase them. He gave him in charge to point out to the students 
those works which might assist them in their designs; and ordered 
that the advantages of consulting the works here preserved should 
be open to all, whether citizens or strangers. Such a regulation 
will now appear quite natural — one and the same thing with the 
founding of a library; but in those days it was not so. In a history 
of the Ambrosian Library, written (with the precision and elegance 
usual in that age) by one Pier-paolo Bosca, a librarian, after the death 
of Federigo, it is expressly noted as a remarkable fact, that, in this 
library, built by a private individual almost entirely at his own ex- 
pense, the books were accessible to the view of all, and brought to 
any one who should demand them, with liberty to sit down and 
study them, and the provision of pen, ink, and paper, to take notes; 
while, in some other celebrated pubUc libraries in Italy, the volumes 



356 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

were not only not visible, but concealed in closets, where they were 
never disturbed, except when the humanity, as he says, of the presi- 
dents prompted them sometimes to display them for a moment. As 
to accommodation and conveniences for study provided for those 
who frequented it, they had not the least idea of such a thing. So 
that, to furnish such libraries, was to withdraw books from the use 
of the public; one of those means of cultivation, many of which 
were, and still are, employed, that only serve to render the soil more 
sterile. 

It were useless to inquire what were the effects of this foundation 
of Borromeo on public education: it would be easy enough to dem- 
onstrate in two words, according to the general method of demonstra- 
tion, that they were miraculous, or that they were nothing; but to 
investigate and explain, up to a certain point, what they really were, 
would be a work of much difficulty, Uttle advantage, and somewhat 
ill-timed. Rather let us think what a generous, judicious, benevolent, 
persevering lover of the improvement of mankind he must have 
been, who planned such an undertaking — who planned it on so 
grand a scale, and who executed it in the midst of ignorance, inert- 
ness, and general contempt of all studious application, and, conse- 
quently, in spite of 'What does it matter?' and 'There's something 
else to thin\ about;' and, 'What a fine invention!' and, 'This was cer- 
tainly wanting;' and similar remarks, which, undoubtedly, will have 
been more in number than the scttdi expended by him in the under- 
taking, amounting to a hundred and five thousand, the greatest part 
of his property. 

To style such a man beneficent and liberal in a high degree, it 
would be unnecessary, perhaps, that he should have s[-)ent much 
in the immediate relief of the needy; and there are, besides, many in 
whose opinion expenditure of the character we have described, 
and, indeed, I may say all expenditure, is the best and more bene- 
ficial almsgiving. But in Federigo's opinion, almsgiving, prop- 
erly speaking, was a paramount duty; and here, as in everything 
else, his actions were in accordance with his principles. His life was 
one continual overflowing charity. On occasion of this very scarcity, 
to which our story has already alluded, we shall have presently to 
relate several traits which will exhibit the judgment and delicacy he 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 357 

knew how to employ even in his UberaHty. Of the many remarkable 
examples which his biographers have recorded of this virtue, we will 
here cite but one. Having heard that a certain nobleman was using 
artifices and compulsion to force into a convent one of his daughters 
who wished rather to be married, he had an interview with her 
father; and drawing from him the acknowledgment that the true 
motive of this oppression was the want of four thousand scudi, which, 
according to his idea, were necessary towards marrying his daughter 
suitably, Federigo immediately presented the required dowry. Some 
may perhaps think this an extravagant act of bounty, not well-judged, 
and too condescending to the foolish caprices of a vain nobleman; 
and that four thousand scudi might have been better employed in 
this or that manner. To which we have nothing to answer, excepting 
that it were devoutly to be wished that one could more frequently 
see excesses of a virtue so unfettered by prevailing opinion, (every age 
has its own,) and so free from the general tendency, as in this instance 
that must have been, which induced a man to give four thousand 
scudi, that a young person might not be made a nun. 

The inexhaustible charity of this man appeared, not only in his 
almsgiving, but in his whole behaviour. Easy of access to all, he 
considered a cheerful countenance and an affectionate courtesy par- 
ticularly due to those in the lower ranks of life; and the more so in 
proportion as they were little thought of by the world. Here, there- 
fore, he had to combat with the gentlemen of the ne quid nimis 
school, who were anxious to keep him within limits, i. e., within their 
limits. One of these, on occasion of a visit to a wild and mountain- 
ous country, when Federigo was teaching some poor children, and 
during the interrogations and instruction was fondly caressing them, 
besought him to be more cautious in handling such children, as 
they were dirty and repelling: as if the worthy gentleman supposed 
that Federigo had not discernment enough to make the discovery, 
or acumen enough to suggest this recondite counsel for himself. 
Such, in certain circumstances of times and things, is the misfortune 
of men exalted to high stations, that while they so seldom find any 
one to inform them of their failings, there is no lack of persons 
courageous enough to reprove them for doing right. But the good 
Bishop, not without anger, replied: 'They are my lambs, and perhaps 



358 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

may never again see my face; and would you not have me caress 
them?' 

Very seldom, however, did he exhibit any anger, being admired 
for his mild and imperturbable gentleness of behaviour, which might 
be attributed to an extraordinarily happy temperament of mind; 
while, in truth, it was the effect of constant discipline over a natu- 
rally hasty and passionate disposition. If ever he showed himself se- 
vere, nay, even harsh, it was towards those pastors under his authority 
whom he discovered guilty of avarice, or negligence, or any other 
conduct opposed to the spirit of their high vocation. Upon what 
might affect his own interest or temporal glory, he never betokened 
either joy, regret, eagerness, or anxiety: wonderful indeed if these 
emotions were not excited in his mind; more wonderful if they were. 
Not only in the many conclaves at which he had assisted, did he 
acquire the reputation of having never aspired to that lofty post so 
desirable to ambition, and so terrible to piety; but on one occasion, 
when a colleague, who possessed considerable influence, came to offer 
him his vote and those of his (so, alas! it was termed) faction, Fed- 
erigo refused the proposal in such a manner that his friend imme- 
diately abandoned the idea, and turned his views elsewhere. This 
same humility, this dread of pre-eminence, was equally apparent 
in the more common occurrences of life. Careful and indefati- 
gable in ordering and governing everything, where he considered 
it his duty to do so, he always shrank from intruding into the 
affairs of others, and even when solicited, refused, if possible, to 
interfere; — discretion and temperance far from common, as every- 
body knows, in men as zealous in the cause of good as Federigo 
was. 

Were we to allow ourselves to prosecute the pleasing task of col- 
lecting together the remarkable points in his character, the result 
would certainly be a compUcation of virtues in apparent opposition 
to each other, and assuredly difficult to find combined. We cannot, 
however, omit to notice one more excellency in his excellent life: 
replete as it was with action, government, functions, instruction, 
audiences, diocesan visitations, journeys, and controversies, he not 
only found time for study, but devoted as much to this object as a pro- 
fessor of literature would have required. Indeed, among many other 



I PROMESSl SPOSI 359 

and various titles of commendation, he possessed in a high degree, 
among his contemporaries, that of a man of learning. 

We must not, however, conceal that he held with firm persuasion, 
and maintained, in fact, with persevering constancy, some opinions 
which, in the present day, would appear to every one rather singular 
than ill-founded; even to such as would be anxious to consider thera 
sound. For any one who would defend him on this head, there is 
the current and commonly received excuse, that they were the errors 
of the age, rather than his own; an excuse, to say the truth, which, 
when it results from the minute consideration of facts, may be valid 
and significant; but which generally, applied in the usual naked 
way, and as we must do in this instance, comes in the end to mean 
exactly nothing at all. And, besides, not wishing to resolve com- 
plicated questions with simple formulic, we will venture to leave 
this unsolved; resting satisfied with having thus cursorily mentioned, 
that in a character so admirable as a whole, we do not pretend to 
affirm that every particular was equally so, lest we should seem to 
have intended making a funeral oration. 

We shall not be doing injustice to our readers to suppose that some 
of them may inquire, whether this person has left any monument of 
so much talent and erudition. Whether he has left any! The works 
remaining from him, great and small, Latin and Italian, published 
and manuscript, amount to about a hundred volumes, preserved in 
the library he himself founded: moral treatises, discourses, disserta- 
tions on history, sacred and profane antiquities, literature, arts, and 
various other subjects. 

— And however does it happen, — this inquirer may ask, — that so 
many works are forgotten, or at least so little known, so little sought 
after? How is it, that with such talents, such learning, such expe- 
rience of men and things, such profound thought, such a sense of 
the good and the beautiful, such purity of mind, and so many other 
qualities which constitute the elegant author; how is it, that out of 
a hundred works, he has not left even one to be considered excellent 
by those who approve not of the whole, and to be known by title 
even by those who have never read it? How is it that all of them 
together have not sufficed, at least by their number, to procure for 
his name a literary fame among posterity? — 



360 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

The inquiry is undoubtedly reasonable, and the question sufficiently 
interesting: because the reasons of this phenomenon are to be found, 
or, at least, must be sought for, in many general facts; and when 
found, would lead to the explanation of other similar phenomena. 
But they would be many and prolix: and what if they should not 
prove satisfactory ? if they should make the reader turn away in dis- 
gust ? So that it will be better to resume our 'walk through' the story, 
and instead of digressing more at length on the character of this 
wonderful man, proceed to observe him in action under the conduct 
of our anonymous author. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

CARDINAL FEDERIGO was employed, according to his 
usual custom in every leisure interval, in study, until the 
hour arrived for repairing to the church for the celebration 
of Divine Service, when the chaplain and cross bearer entered with 
a disturbed and gloomy countenance. 

'A strange visitor, my noble Lord, — strange indeed!' 

'Who?' asked the Cardinal. 

'No less a personage than the Signor * ♦ *' replied the chaplain; 
and pronouncing the syllables with a very significant tone, he 
uttered the name which we cannot give to our readers. He then 
added: 'He is here outside in person; and demands nothing less 
than to be introduced to your illustrious Grace,' 

'He!' said the Cardinal, with an animated look, shutting his book, 
and rising from his seat; 'let him come in! — let him come in directly!' 

'But • . . ' rejoined the chaplain, without attempting to move, 
'your illustrious Lordship must surely be aware who he is: that out- 
law, that famous . . .' 

'And is it not a most happy circumstance for a bishop, that such 
a man should feel a wish to come and seek an interview with him?' 

'But . . .' insisted the chaplain, 'we may never speak of certain 
things, because my Lord says that it is all nonsense: but, when it 
comes to the point, I think it is a duty . . . Zeal makes many ene- 
mies, my Lord; and we know positively that more than one ruffian 
has dared to boast that some day or other . . .' 

'And what have they done?' interrupted the Cardinal. 

'I say that this man is a plotter of mischief, a desperate character, 
who holds correspondence with the most violent desperadoes, and 
who may be sent . . .' 

'Oh, what discipline is this,' again interrupted Federigo, smiling, 
'for the soldiers to exhort their general to cowardice? then resuming 
a grave and thoughtful air, he continued: 'Saint Carlo would not 

361 



362 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

have deliberated whether he ought to receive such a man: he would 
have gone to seek him. Let him be admitted directly: he has already 
waited too long.' 

The chaplain moved towards the door, saying in his heart: — 
There's no remedy: these saints are all obstinate. — 

Having opened the door, and surveyed the room where the Signer 
and his companions were, he saw that the latter had crowded to- 
gether on one side, where they sat whispering and cautiously peeping 
at their visitor, while he was left alone in one corner. The chaplain 
advanced towards him, eying him guardedly from head to foot, and 
wondering what weapons he might have hidden under that great 
coat; thinking, at the same time, that really, before admitting him, 
he ought at least to have proposed . . . but he could not resolve 
what to do. He approached him, saying: 'His Grace waits for your 
Lordship. WiJl you be good enough to come with me?' And as he 
preceded him through the little crowd, which instandy gave way for 
him, he kept casting glances on each side, which meant to say: 
What could I do ? don't you know yourselves that he always has his 
own way? 

On reaching the apartment, the chaplain opened the door, and 
introduced the Unnamed. Federigo advanced to meet him with a 
happy and serene look, and his hand extended, as if to welcome 
an expected guest, at the same time making a sign to the chaplain 
to go out, which was immediately obeyed. 

When thus left alone, they both stood for a moment silent and in 
suspense, though from widely different feelings. The Unnamed, 
who had, as it were, been forcibly carried there by an inexplicable 
compulsion, rather than led by a determinate intention, now stood 
there, also as it were by compulsion, torn by two contending feelings: 
on the one side, a desire and confused hope of meeting with some 
alleviation of his inward torment; on the other, a feeling of self- 
rebuked shame at having come thither, like a penitent, subdued, 
and wretched, to confess himself guilty, and to make supplication 
to a man: he was at a loss for words, and, indeed, scarcely sought 
for them. Raising his eyes, however, to the Archbishop's face, he 
became gradually filled with a feeling of veneration, authoritative, 
and at the same time soothing; which, while it increased his confi- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 363 

dence, gently subdued his haughtiness, and, without offending his 
pride, compelled it to give way, and imposed silence. 

The bearing of Federigo was, in fact, one which announced su- 
periority, and, at the same time, excited love. It was naturally sedate, 
and almost involuntarily commanding, his figure being not in the 
least bowed or wasted by age; while his solemn, yet sparkling eye, 
his open and thoughtful forehead, a kind of virginal floridness, 
which might be distinguished even among grey locks, paleness, and 
the traces of abstinence, meditation, and labour: in short, all liis fea- 
tures indicated that they had once possessed that which is most 
strictly entitled beauty. The habit of serious and benevolent thought, 
the inward peace of a long life, the love that he felt towards his 
fellow-creatures, and the uninterrupted enjoyment of an inelifable 
hope, had now substituted the beauty (so to s;>y) of old age, which 
shone forth more attractively from the magnificent simplicity of 
the purple. 

He fixed, for a moment, on the countenance of the Unnamed, a 
penetrating look, long accustomed to gather from this index what 
was passing in the mind; and imagining he discovered, under that 
dark and troubled mien, something every moment more correspond- 
ing with the hope he had conceived on the first announcement of 
such a visit, 'Oh!' cried he, in an animated voice, 'what a welcome 
visit is this! and how thankful I ought to be to you for taking such 
a step, although it may convey to me a little reproof!' 

'Reproof!' exclaimed the Signer, much surprised, but soothed by 
his words and manner, and glad that the Cardinal had broken the 
ice, and started some sort of conversation. 

'Certainly, it conveys to me a reproof,' replied the Archbishop, 'for 
allowing you to be beforehand with me when so often, and for so 
long a time, I might and ought to have come to you myself.' 

'You come to me! Do you know who I am? Did they deliver in 
my name rightly?' 

'And the happiness I feel, and which must surely be evident in 
my countenance, do you think I should feel it at the announcement 
and visit of a stranger? It is you who make me experience it; you, 
I say, whom I ought to have sought ; you whom I have, at least, loved 
and wept over, and for whom 1 have so often prayed; you, among 



364 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

all my children, for each one I love from the bottom of my heart, 
whom I should most have desired to receive and embrace, if I had 
thought I might hope for such a thing. But God alone knows how 
to work wonders, and supplies the weakness and tardiness of 
His unworthy servants.' 

The Unnamed stood astonished at this warm reception, in lan- 
guage which corresponded so exactly with that which he had not 
yet expressed, nor, indeed, had fully determined to express; and, 
affected, but exceedingly surprised, he remained silent. 'Well!' re- 
sumed Federigo, still more affectionately, 'you have good news to 
tell me; and you keep me so long expecting it?' 

'Good news! I have hell in my heart; and can I tell you any 
good tidings.? Tell me, if you know, what good news you can 
expect from such as I am.'' 

'That God has touched your heart, and would make you His own,' 
replied the Cardinal, calmly. 

'God! God! God! If I could see Him! If I could hear Him! 
Where is this God.'' 

'Do you ask this.' you? And who has Him nearer than you? 
Do you not feel Him in your heart, overcoming, agitating you, never 
leaving you at ease, and at the same time drawing you forward, pre- 
senting to your view a hope of tranquillity and consolation, a conso- 
lation which shall be full and boundless, as soon as you recognize 
Him, acknowledge, and implore Him?' 

'Oh, surely! there is something within that oppresses, that consumes 
me! But God! If this be God, if He be such as they say, what do 
you suppose He can do with me?' 

These words were uttered with an accent of despair; but Federigo, 
with a solemn tone, as of calm inspiration, replied: 'What can God 
do with you? What would He wish to make of you? A token of 
His power and goodness: He would acquire through you a glory, 
such as others could not give Him. The world has long cried out 
against you, hundreds and thousands of voices have declared their 
detestation of your deeds . . .' (The Unnamed shuddered, and felt 
for a moment surprised at hearing such unusual language addressed 
to him, and still more surprised that he felt no anger, but rather, 
almost a relief.) 'What glory,' pursued Federigo, 'will thus redound 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 365 

to GodI They may be voices of alarm, of self-interest; of justice, 
perhaps — a justice so easy! so natural! Some perhaps, yea, too many, 
may be voices of envy of your wretched power; of your hitherto 
deplorable security of heart. But when you, yourself, rise up to con- 
demn your past life, to become your own accuser, then! then, indeed, 
God will be glorified! And you ask what God can do with you. 
Who am I, a poor mortal, that I can tell you what use such a Being 
may choose henceforth to make of you; how He can employ your 
impetuous will, your unwavering perseverance, when He shall have 
animated and invigorated them with love, with hope, with repent- 
ance? Who are you, weak man, that you should imagine yourself 
capable of devising and executing greater deeds of evil, than God 
can make you will and accomplish in the cause of good ? What can 
God do with you? Pardon you! save you! finish in you the work 
of redemption! Are not these things noble and worthy of Him ? Oh, 
just think! if I, an humble and feeble creature, so worthless and full 
of myself — I, such as I am, long so ardently for your salvation, that, 
for its sake, I would joyfully give (and He is my witness!) the few 
days that still remain to me; oh, think what, and how great, must 
be the love of Him, Who inspires me with this imperfect, but ardent 
affection; how must He love you, what must He desire for you. 
Who has bid and enabled me to regard you with a charity that con- 
sumes me!' 

While these words fell from his lips, his face, his expression, his 
whole manner, evinced his deep feeling of what he uttered. The 
countenance of his auditor changed, from a wild and convulsive 
look, first to astonishment and attention, and then gradually yielded 
to deeper and less painful emotions; his eyes, which from infancy 
had been unaccustomed to weep, became suffused; and when the 
words ceased, he covered his face with his hands, and burst into a 
flood of tears. It was the only and most evident reply. 

'Great and good God!' exclaimed Federigo, raising his hands and 
eyes to heaven, 'what have I ever done, an unprofitable servant, an 
idle shepherd, that Thou shouldest call me to this banquet of grace! 
that Thou shouldest make me worthy of being an instrument in so 
joyful a miracle!' So saying, he extended his hand to take that of 
the Unnamed. 



366 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'No!' cried the penitent nobleman; 'no! keep away from me: 
defile not that innocent and beneficent hand. You don't know all 
that the one you would grasp has committed.' 

'Suffer me,' said Federigo, taking it with affectionate violence, 
'suffer me to press the hand which will repair so many wrongs, dis- 
pense so many benefits, comfort so many afflicted, and be extended, 
disarmed, peacefully, and humbly, to so many enemies.' 

'It is too much!' said the Unnamed, sobbing, 'leave me, my Lord; 
good Federigo, leave me! A crowded assembly awaits you; so many 
good people, so many innocent creatures, so many come from a 
distance, to see you for once, to hear you: and you are staying to 
talk . . . with whom!' 

'We will leave the ninety and nine sheep,' repUed the Cardinal; 
'they are in safety, upon the mountain: 1 wish to remain with that 
which was lost. Their minds are, perhaps, now more satisfied than 
if they were seeing their pxx)r bishop. Perhaps God, Who has 
wrought in you this miracle of mercy, is diffusing in their hearts a 
joy of which they know not yet the reason. These people are, per- 
haps, united to us without being aware of it: perchance the Spirit 
may be instilling into their hearts an undefined feeling of charity, 
a petition which He will grant for you, an offering of gratitude of 
which you are, as yet, the unknown object.' So saying, he threw 
his arms round the neck of the Unnamed, who, after attempting 
to disengage himself, and making a momentary resistance, yielded, 
completely overcome by this vehement expression of affection, em- 
braced the Cardinal in his turn, and buried in his shoulder his 
trembling and altered face. His burning tears dropped upon the 
stainless purple of Federigo, while the guiltless hands of the holy 
bishop affectionately pressed those members, and touched that gar- 
ment, which had been accustomed to hold the weapons of violence 
and treachery. 

Disengaging himself, at length, from this embrace, the Unnamed 
again covered his eyes with his hand, and raising his face to heaven, 
exclaimed; 'God is, indeed, great! God is, indeed, good! I know 
myself now, now I understand what I am; my sins are present before 
me, and I shudder at the thought of myself; yet! ... yet I feel an 
alleviation, a joy; yes, even a joy, such as I V»ave never before known 
during the whole of my horrible life!' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 367 

'It is a little taste,' said Federigo, 'which God gives you, to incline 
you to His service, and encourage you resolutely to enter upon the 
new course of life which Ues before you, and in which you will have 
so much to undo, so much to repair, so much to mourn over!' 

'Unhappy man that I am!' exclaimed the Signor: 'how many, 
oh, how many . . . things for which I can do nothing besides 
mourn ! But, at least, I have undertakings scarcely set on foot which 
I can break off in the midst, if nothing more: one there is which I 
can quickly arrest, which I can easily undo, and repair.' 

Federigo listened attentively, while the Unnamed briefly related, 
in terms of, perhaps, deeper execration than we have employed, his 
attempt upon Lucia, the sufferings and terrors of the unhappy girl, 
her importunate entreaties, the frenzy that these entreaties had 
aroused within him, and how she was still in the castle . . . 

'Ah, then! let us lose no time!' exclaimed Federigo, breathless 
with eagerness and compassion. 'You are indeed blessed! This is 
an earnest of God's forgiveness! He makes you capable of becoming 
the instrument of safety to one whom you intended to ruin. God 
bless you! Nay, He has blessed you! Do you know where our 
unhappy protegee comes from?' 

The Signor named Lucia's village. 

'It's not far from this,' said the Cardinal, 'God be praised; and prob- 
ably . . .' So saying, he went towards a little table, and rang a bell. 
The cross-bearing chaplain immediately attended the summons with 
a look of anxiety, and instantly glanced towards the Unnamed. 
At the sight of his altered countenance, and his eyes still red with 
weeping, he turned an inquiring gaze upon the Cardinal; and per- 
ceiving, amidst the invariable composure of his countenance, a look 
of solemn pleasure and unusual solicitude, he would have stood 
with open mouth, in a sort of ecstasy, had not the Cardinal quickly 
aroused him from his contemplations, by asking whether, among 
the parish-priests who were assembled in the next room, there were 
one from * • ♦. 

'There is, your illustrious Grace,' replied the chaplain. 

'Let him come in directly,' said Federigo,'and with him the priest 
of this parish.' 

The chaplain quitted the room, and on entering the hall where 
the clergy were assembled, all eyes were immediately turned upon 



368 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

him; while, with a look of blank astonishment, and a countenance in 
which was still depicted the rapture he had felt, he lifted up his 
hands, and waving them in the air, exclaimed, 'Signori! Signori! 
hicc mutatio dexterce Excelsi.' And he stood for a moment without 
uttering another word. Then assuming the tone and language of a 
message, he added, 'His most noble and very reverend Lordship 
desires to speak with the Signor Curate of this parish, and the Signor 
Curate of • • *.' 

The first party summoned immediately came forward; and, at 
the same time, there issued from the midst of the crowd, an T 
drawled forth with an intonation of surprise. 

'Are you not the Signor Curate of * * •?' replied the chaplain. 

'I am; but . . .' 

'His most noble and very reverend Lx^rdship asks for you.' 

'Me?' again replied the same voice, clearly expressing in this mono- 
syllable, 'What can they want with me?' But this time, together 
with the voice, came forth the living being, Don Abbondio himself, 
with an unwilling step, and a countenance between astonishment and 
disgust. The chaplain beckoned to him with his hand, as if he meant 
to say, 'Come, let us go; is it so very alarming?' and escorting them 
to the door, he opened it, and introduced them into the apart- 
ment. 

The Cardinal reHnquished the hand of the Unnamed, with whom, 
meanwhile, he had been concerting arrangements, and withdrawing 
a little aside, beckoned to the curate of the village. Briefly relating 
the circumstances, he asked whether he could immediately find a 
trustworthy woman who would be willing to go to the castle in a 
litter, and fetch away Lucia; a kind and clever person, who would 
know how to conduct herself in so novel an expedition, and whose 
manners and language would be most likely to encourage and tran- 
quilize the unfortunate girl, to whom, after so much anguish and 
alarm, even liberation itself might be an additional cause of appre- 
hension. After a moment's thought, the Curate said that he knew 
just the very person, and then took his departure. The Cardinal now 
caUing to him the chaplain, desired him to have a litter and bearers 
immediately prepared and to see that two mules were saddled, for 
riders; and as soon as he had quitted the apartment, turned to Don 
Abbondio. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 369 

This worthy gentleman, who had kept tolerably close to the Arch- 
bishop, that he might be at a respectful distance from the other Sig- 
nor, and had, in the mean time, been casting side glances, first to one,' 
and then to the other, dubitating the while within himself what ever 
all this strange manoeuvring might mean, now advanced a step 
forward, and, making a respectful bow, said, 'I was told that your 
most illustrious Lordship wanted me; but I think there must be some 
misunderstanding.' 

'There is no misunderstanding, I assure you,' replied Federigo; 
'I have glad news to give you, and a pleasant and most agreeable task 
to impose upon you. One of your parishioners, whom you must have 
lamented as lost, Lucia Mondella, is again found, and is near at 
hand, in the house of my good friend here; and you will go now with 
him, and a woman, whom the Signor Curate of this place has gone 
to seek; you will go, I say, to fetch thence one of your own children, 
and accompany her hither.' 

Don Abbondio did his best to conceal the vexation — the what 
shall I say? — the alarm, the dismay excited by this proposal, or com- 
mand; and unable any longer to restrain or dismiss a look of inex- 
pressible discontent already gathering in his countenance, he could 
only hide it by a profound reverence, in token of obedient acceptance; 
nor did he again raise his face, but to make another equally profound 
obeisance to the Unnamed, with a piteous look, which seemed to 
say, 'I am in your hands, have pity upon me; Parcere subjectis.' 

The Cardinal then asked him what relations Lucia had. 

'Of near relations, with whom she lives, or might live, she has 
only a mother,' replied Don Abbondio. 

'Is she at home?' 

'Yes, my Lord.' 

'Well,' replied Federigo, 'since this poor girl cannot be so directly 
restored to her own home, it will be a great consolation to her to 
see her mother as quickly as possible; so, if the Signor Curate of 
this village doesn't return before I go to church, I request you will 
tell him to find a cart, or some kind of conveyance, and despatch a 
person of discretion to fetch her mother here.' 

'Had not / better go?' said Don Abbondio. 

'No, no, not you; I've already requested you to undertake another 
commission,' replied the Cardinal. 



370 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'I proposed it,' rejoined Don Abbondio, 'to prepare her poor 
mother for the news. She is a very sensitive woman, and it requires 
one who knows her disposition, and how to go to work with her 
the right way, or he will do her more harm than good.' 

'And therefore I have requested you to acquaint the Signor Curate 
of my wish that a proper person should be chosen for this office: 
you will do better elsewhere,' replied the Cardinal. And he would 
willingly have added: That jwor girl at the castle has far more need 
of shortly seeing a known and trusted countenance, after so many 
hours of agony, and in such terrible ignorance as to the future. But 
this was not a reason to be so clearly expressed before the present 
third party. Indeed, the Cardinal thought it very strange that it 
had not immediately occurred to Don Abbondio; that he had not 
thought of it himself; and the proffer he had made, and so warmly 
insisted upon, seemed so much out of place, that he could not help 
suspecting there must be something hidden beneath. He gazed 
upwn his face, and there readily detected his fear of journeying with 
that terrible person, and of being his guest even for a few moments. 
Anxious, therefore, entirely to dissipate these cowardly appre- 
hensions, yet unwilling to draw the curate aside and whisper with 
him in secret, while his new friend formed the third of their party, 
he judged that the best plan would be to do what, indeed, he would 
have done without such a motive, that is, address the Unnamed him- 
self; and thus Don Abbondio might at length understand, from his 
replies, that he was no longer an object of fear. He returned, there- 
fore, to the Unnamed, and addressing him with that frank cordiality 
which may be met with in a new and powerful affection, as well as 
in an intimacy of long standing, 'Don't think,' said he, 'that I shall 
be content with this visit for to-day. You will return, won't you, 
with this worthy clergyman?' 

'Will I return?' replied the Unnamed. 'Should you refuse me, I 
would obstinately remain outside your door, like the beggar. I want 
to talk with you; I want to hear you, to see you; 1 deeply need 
you!' 

Federigo took his hand and pressed it, saying: 'Do the clergyman 
of this village, then, and me, the favour of dining with us to-day. 
I shall expect you. In the mean while, I must go to offer up prayers 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 371 

and praises with the people; and you to reap the first-fruits of 
mercy.' 

Don Abbondio, at these demonstrations, stood hke a cowardly 
child, who watches a person boldly petting and stroking a large, 
surly, shaggy dog, with glaring eyes, and a notoriously bad name 
for biting and growhng, and hears its master say that his dog is a 
good and very quiet beast : he looks at the owner and neither contra- 
dicts nor assents; he looks at the animal, afraid to approach him for 
fear the 'very gentle beast' should show his teeth, were it only from 
habit; and equally afraid to run away, lest he should be thought a 
coward; and can only utter an internal aspiration: — Would that I 
were safe in my own house! 

In quitting the apartment, in company with the Unnamed, whose 
hand he still grasped, the Cardinal cast another glance u|X)n the 
poor man who remained behind, looking very awkward and morti- 
fied, and with a doleful expression of countenance. Thinking that 
possibly his vexation arose from being apparendy overlooked, and 
left, as it were, in a corner, parucularly in contrast with the 
notoriously wicked character now so warmly received and welcomed, 
he turned towards him in passing, and hung back for a moment, 
and said to him, with a friendly smile: 'Signer Curate, thou wert 
ever with me in the house of our kind Father, but this . . . this one 
perierat, et infenttis est.' 

'Oh, how glad 1 am to hear it!' said Don Abbondio, making a 
profound reverence to the two together. 

The Archbishop then went on, gave a slight push to the door, 
which was immediately opened from without by two servants who 
stood outside, and the notable pair stood before the longing eyes 
of the clergy assembled in the apartment. They gazed with interest 
u[X)n their two countenances, both of which bore the traces of a 
very different, but equally profound emotion: a grateful tenderness, 
an humble joy, on Federigo's venerable features; and on those of 
the Unnamed, confusion, tempered with consolation, a new and 
unusual modesty, and a feeling of contrition, through which the 
vigour of his wild and fiery temf)er was, nevertheless, still apparent. 
It was afterwards found that the passage in the prophet Isaiah had 
occurred to more than one of the spectators: The wolf and the 



372 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw U\e the bullock^. 
(Isa. Ixv. 25.) Behind them came Don Abbondio, to whom no one 
paid any attention. 

When they had reached the middle of the room, the Cardinal's 
groom of the chamber entered on the opposite side, and informed 
his master that he had executed all the orders communicated to 
him by the chaplain; that the litter and mules were in readiness, 
and they only waited the arrival of the female whom the curate 
was to bring. The Cardinal bid him tell the priest, when he came 
back, that Don Abbondio wished to speak with him; and then all 
the rest was left under the direction of the latter and the Unnamed, 
whom the Cardinal again shook warmly by the hand on taking 
leave, saying: 'I shall expect you.' Then, turning to salute Don 
Abbondio with a bow, he set off in the direction of the church, 
followed by the clergy, half grouped and half in procession, while 
the fellow-travellers remained alone in the apartment. 

The Unnamed stood wrapt up in his own thoughts, and impatient 
for the moment when he might go to liberate his Lucia from her 
sufferings and confinement, — his, now, in a very different sense 
from that in which she was so the day before: and his face expressed 
a feeling of intense agitation, which to Don Abbondio's suspicious 
eye, might easily appear something worse. He peeped and glanced 
at him from the corner of his eye, and longed to start some friendly 
conversation: — But what can I say to him? — thought he: — must I 
say again, I am glad.? Glad of what.' that having hitherto been a 
devil, he has at last resolved to become a gentleman, like others ? A 
fine compliment, indeed! Eh, eh, eh! however I may turn the words, 
/ am glad can mean nothing else. And, after all, will it be true 
that he has become a gentleman? so on a sudden! There are so 
many displays made in the world, and from so many motives! 
What do I know about it? And, in the mean time, I have to go 
with him: and to that castle! oh, what a tale! what a tale! what a 
tale is this to tell! who would have told me this, this morning! Ah, 
if I can but escape in safety, my lady Perpetua shan't soon hear the 
end of it from me, for having sent me here by force, when there 
was no necessity for it, out of my own parish: with her fine plausible 
reasons, that all the priests, for many a mile round, would flock 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 373 

hither, even those who were further off than I; and that I mustn't 
be behindhand; and this, that, and the other; and then to embark 
me in a business of this sort! O, poor me! But I must say something 
to this man. — And he had just thought of that something, and was 
on the point of opening his mouth to say: — I never anticipated the 
pleasure of being thrown into such honourable company, — when 
the groom of the chamber entered, with the curate of the parish, 
who announced that the woman was waiting in the litter; and 
then turned to Don Abbondio, to receive from him the further 
commission of the Cardinal. Don Abbondio delivered himself as 
well as he could in the confusion of mind under which he was 
labouring; and then, drawing up to the groom, said to him: 'Pray 
give me, at least, a quiet beast; for, to tell the truth, I am but a 
poor horseman.' 

'You may imagine,' replied the groom, with a half smile: 'it is 
the secretary's mule, who is a very learned man.' 

'That will do . . .' replied Don Abbondio, and he continued to 
ruminate: — Heaven send me a good one. — 

The Signor had readily set off the moment he heard the announce- 
ment; but on reaching the door, and perceiving that Don Abbondio 
was remaining behind, he stood still to wait for him. When he 
came up, hastily, with an apologizing look, the Signor bowed and 
made him pass on first, with a courteous and humble air, which 
somewhat reanimated the spirits of the unfortunate and tormented 
man. But scarcely had he set foot in the court-yard, when he saw 
a new object of alarm, which quickly dissipated all his reviving 
confidence; he beheld the Unnamed go towards the corner, take 
hold of the barrel of his carabine with one hand, and of the strap 
with the other, and with a rapid motion, as if performing the mili- 
tary exercise, swing it over his shoulder. 

— Alas! alas! woe is me! — thought Don Abbondio: — what would 
he do with that weapon? Suitable sackcloth, truly! fine discipline 
for a new convert! And supposing some fancy should take him? 
Oh, what an expedition! what an expedition! — 

Could this Signor have suspected for a moment what kind of 
thoughts they were which were passing through his companion's 
mind, it is difficult to say what he would not have done to reassure 



374 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

him; but he was far enough away from such a suspicion, and Don 
Abbondio carefully avoided any movement which would distinctly 
express — I don't trust your Lordship. — On reaching the door into 
the street, they found the two animals in readiness: the Unnamed 
mounted one, which was held for him by an hostler. 

'Isn't it vicious?' said Don Abbondio to the valet, as he stood 
with one foot suspended on the stirrup, and the other still resting 
on the ground. 

'You may go with a perfectly easy mind; it's a very lamb,' replied 
the man, and Don Abbondio, grasping the saddle, and assisted by 
the groom, gradually mounted upwards, and, at last, found himself 
safely seated on the creature's back. 

The litter, which stood a few paces in advance, and was borne by 
two mules, moved forward at the word of the attendant, and the 
party set off. 

They had to pass before the church, which was full to overflow- 
ing with people; and through a little square, also swarming with the 
villagers, and newly arrived visitors, whom the building could not 
accommodate. The glad news had already spread; and on the 
appearance of the party, and more especially of him who, only a 
few hours before had been an object of terror and execration, but 
was now the object of joyful wonder, there arose from the crowd 
almost a murmur of applause; and as they made way for him, even 
their eagerness was hushed in the desire to obtain a near view of 
him. The litter passed on, the Unnamed followed; and when he 
arrived before the open door of the church, took off his hat, and 
bowed his hitherto dreaded forehead, till it almost touched the 
animal's mane, amidst the murmur of a hundred voices, exclaiming, 
'God bless you!' Don Abbondio, also, took off his hat, and bending 
low, recommended himself to Heaven; but hearing the solemn 
harmony of his brethren, as they chanted in chorus, he was so over- 
come with a feeling of envy, a mournful tenderness of spirit, and 
a sudden fervour of heart, that it was with difficulty he restrained 
his tears. 

When they got beyond the habitations into the open country, and 
in the often entirely deserted windings of the road, a still darker 
cloud overspread his thoughts, The only object on which his eye 



I PROMESSl SPOSI 375 

could rest with any confidence, was the attendant on the litter, who, 
belonging to the Cardinal's household, must certainly be an honest 
man; and who, besides, did not look like a coward. From time to 
time passengers appeared, sometimes even in groups, who were 
flocking to see the Cardinal, and this was a great relief to Don 
Abbondio; it was, however, but transitory, and he was advancing 
towards that tremendous valley, where he should meet none but 
the vassals of his companion; and what vassals! He now more than 
ever longed to enter into conversation with this companion, both to 
sound him a little more, and to keep him in good humour; but 
even this wish vanished on seeing him so completely absorbed in 
his own thoughts. He must then talk to himself; and we will 
present the reader with a part of the poor man's soliloquy during his 
journey, for it would require a volume to record the whole. 

— It is a fine thing, truly, that saints as well as sinners must have 
quicksilver in their compositions, and cannot be content with fussing 
about and busying themselves, but must also bring into the dance 
with them the whole world, if they can; and that the greatest busy- 
bodies must just come u{X)n me, who never meddle with anybody, 
and drag me by the hair into their affairs; me, who ask for nothing 
but to be left alone! That mad rascal of a Don Rodrigo! What 
does he want to make him the happiest man in the world, if he 
had but the least grain of judgment? He is rich, he is young, he 
is respected and courted: he is sick with too much prosperity, and 
must needs go about making trouble for himself and his neighbour. 
He might follow the ways of Saint Michael; oh, no! my gentleman 
doesn't choose: he chooses to set up the trade of molesting women, 
the most absurd, the most vile, the most insane business in the 
world: he might ride to heaven in his carriage, and chooses rather 
to walk halting to the devil's dwelling. And this man? . . . And 
here he looked at him, as if he suspected he could hear his very 
thoughts. — This man! after turning the world upside down with 
his wickedness, now he turns it upside down with his conversion 
... if it prove really so. In the mean while, it falls to me to make 
the trial! ... So it is, that when people are born with this madness 
in their veins, they must always be making a noise! Is it so difficult 
to act an honest part all one's life, as I have done? Oh, no, my 



376 ALESSANDRO MANZONl 

good sir; they must kill and quarter, play the devil . . . oh, poor me\ 
. . . and then comes a great stir even when doing penance. Re- 
pentance, when there is an inclination to it, can be performed at 
home, quietly, without so much show, without giving so much 
trouble to one's neighbours. And his illustrious Lordship, instantly, 
with open arms calling him his dear friend, his dear friend; and 
this man listens to all he says as if he had seen him work miracles; 
and then he must all at once come to a resolution, and rush into it 
hand and foot, one minute here, and the next there; we, at home, 
should call this precipitation. And to deliver a poor curate into his 
hands without the smallest security! this may be called playing 
with a man at great odds. A holy bishop, as he is, ought to value 
his curates as the apple of his eye. It seems to me there might be a 
little moderation, a little prudence, a little charity along with 
sanctity . . . Supposing this should be all a mere show? Who 
can tell all the intentions of men? and particularly of such a man 
as this? To think that it is my lot to go with him to his own house! 
There may be some underwork of the devil here: oh, poor me! it is 
best not to think about it. How is Lucia mixed up with all this? 
It is plain Don Rodrigo had some designs upon her: what |")eople: 
and suppose it is exactly thus, how then has this man got her into 
his clutches? Who knows, 1 wonder? It is all a secret with my 
Lord; and to me, whom they are making trot about in this way, 
they don't tell a word. I don't care about knowing other jieople's 
affairs; but when I have to risk my skin in the matter, I have a 
right to know something. If it be only to go and fetch away this 
poor creature, patience! though he could easily enough bring her 
straight away himself. And besides, if he is really converted, if he 
has become a holy father, what need is there of me? Oh, what a 
chaos! Well; it is Heaven's will it should be thus: it will be a very 
great inconvenience, but patience! I shall be glad, too, for this 
poor Lucia: she also must have escaped some terrible issue: Heaven 
knows what she must have suffered: I pity her; but she was born 
to be my ruin ... At least, I wish I could look into his heart, and 
see what he is thinking about. Who can understand him? Just 
look, now; one minute he looks like Saint Antony in the desert, 
the next he is like Holofernes himself. Oh, poor me! poor me! 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 377 

Well; Heaven is under an obligation to help me, since I didn't get 
myself into this danger with my own good will. — 

In fact, the thoughts of the Unnamed might be seen, so to say, 
passing over his countenance, as in a stormy day the clouds flit 
across the face of the sun, producing every now and then an 
alternation of dazzling light and gloomy shade. His soul, still quite 
absorbed in reflection upon Federigo's soothing words, and, as it 
were, renewed and made young again with fresh life, now rose 
with cheerful hope at the idea of mercy, pardon, and love; and then 
again sank beneath the weight of the terrible past. He anxiously 
tried to select those deeds of iniquity which were yet reparable, and 
those which he could still arrest in the midst of their progress; he 
considered what remedies would be most certain and expeditious, 
how to disentangle so many knots, what to do with so many 
accomplices; but it was all obscurity and difficulty. In this very 
expedition, the easiest of execution, and so near its termination, he 
went with a willingness mingled with grief at the thought, that in 
the mean while the poor girl was suffering, God knew how much, 
and that he, while burning to liberate her, was all the while the 
cause of her suffering. At every turn, or fork in the road, the mule- 
driver looked back for direction as to the way: the Unnamed signified 
it with his hand, and at the same time beckoned to him to make 
haste. 

They entered the valley. How must Don Abbondio have felt 
then! That renowned valley, of which he had heard such black 
and horrible stories, to be actually within it! Those men of notorious 
fame, the flower of the bravoes of Italy, men without fear and 
without mercy, — to see them in flesh and blood, — to meet one, two, 
or three, at every turn of a corner! They bowed submissively to 
the Signor; but their sunburnt visages! their rough mustachios! 
their large fierce eyes! they seemed to Don Abbondio's mind to 
mean, — Shall we dispatch that Priest? — So that, in a moment of 
extreme consternation, the thought rushed into his mind, — Would 
that I had married them! worse could not befall me. — In the mean 
while they went forward along a gravelly path by the side of the 
torrent: on one hand was a view of isolated and solid rocks; on the 
other, a population which would have made even a desert seem 



378 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

desirable: Dante was not in a worse situation in the midst of 
Malebolge. 

They passed the front of Malanotte; where bravoes were lounging 
at the door, who bowed to the Signer, and gazed at his companion 
and the htter. They knew not what to think; the departure of the 
Unnamed in the morning by himself had already seemed extraor- 
dinary, and his return was not less so. Was it a captive that he was 
conducting? And how had he accomplished it alone? And what 
was the meaning of a strange litter? And whose could this livery 
be? They looked and looked, but no one moved, because such was 
the command they read in his eye and expression. 

They climl)ed the ascent, and reached the summit. The bravoes 
on the terrace and round the gate retired on either side to make 
room for him; the Unnamed motioned to them to retreat no farther, 
spurted forward and passed before the litter, beckoned to the driver 
and Don Abbondio to follow him, entered an outer court, and thence 
into a second, went towards a small postern, made signs to a bravo, 
who was hastening to hold his stirrup, to keep back, and said to 
him, 'You there, and no one nearer.' He then dismounted, and 
holding the bridle, advanced towards the litter, addressed himself 
to the female who had just drawn back the curtain, and said to her 
in an undertone: 'Comfort her directly; let her understand at once 
that she is at liberty, and among friends. God will reward you for 
it." He then ordered the driver to open the door, and assist her to 
get out. Advancing, then, to Don Abbondio, with a look of greater 
serenity than the poor man had yet seen, or thought it possible he 
could see, on his countenance, in which there might now be traced 
joy at the good work which was at length so near its completion, he 
lent him his arm to dismount, saying to him at the same time, in a 
low voice: 'Signor Curate, I do not apologize for the trouble you 
have had on my account; you are bearing it for One who rewards 
bountifully, and for this His poor creature!' 

This look, and these words, once more put some heart into Don 
Abbondio; and, drawing a long breath, which for an hour past 
had been striving ineffectually to find vent, he replied, whether or 
not in a submissive tone it need not be asked: 'Is your Lordship 
joking with me? But, but, but, but! . . .' And, accepting the hand 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 379 

which was so courteously offered, he slid down from the saddle as 
he best could. The Unnamed took the bridle, and handed it with 
his own to the driver, bidding him wait there outside for them. 
Taking a key from his pocket, he opened the postern, admitted the 
curate and the woman, followed them in, advanced to lead the way, 
went to the foot of the stairs, and they all three ascended in silence. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

IUCIA had aroused herself only a short time before, and part 
of that time she had been striving to awaken herself thor- 
^ oughly, and to sever the disturbed dreams of sleep from the 
remembrances and images of a reahty which too much resembled 
the feverish visions of sickness. The old woman quickly made up 
to her, and, with a constrained voice of humility, said: 'Ah! have 
you slept? You might have slept in bed: I told you so often enough 
last night.' And receiving no reply, she continued, in a tone of pettish 
entreaty: 'Just eat something; do be prudent. Oh, how wretched 
you look! You must want something to eat. And then if, when he 
comes back, he's angry with me!' 

'No, no; I want to go away. I want to go to my mother. Your 
master promised I should; he said, to-morrow morning. Where 
is he?' 

'He's gone out; but he said he'd be back soon, and would do all 
you wished.' 

'Did he say so? did he say so? Very well; I wish to go to my 
mother, directly, directly.' 

And behold! the noise of footsteps was heard in the adjoining 
room; then a tap at the door. The old woman ran to it, and asked, 
'Who's there?' 

'Open the door,' replied the well-known voice, gently. 

The old woman drew back the bolt, and, with a slight push, the 
Unnamed half opened the door, bid her come out, and hastily 
ushered in Don Abbondio and the good woman. He then nearly 
closed the door again, and waiting himself outside, sent the aged 
matron to a distant part of the castle, as he had before dismissed 
the other one, who was keeping watch outside. 

All this bustle, the momerA of expectation, and the first appearance 
of strange figures, made Lucia's heart bound with agitation; for, if 
her present condition was intolerable, every change was an additional 

380 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 381 

cause of alarm. She looked up, and beheld a priest and a woman; 
this somewhat reanimated her; she looked more closely; is it he or 
not ? At last, she recognized Don Abbondio, and remained with her 
eyes fixed, as if by enchantment. The female then drew near, and 
bending over her, looked at her compassionately, taking both her 
hands, as if to caress and raise her at the same time, and saying: 
'Oh, my poor girl! come with us, come with us.' 

'Who are you?' demanded Lucia; but without listening to the 
reply, she again turned to Don Abbondio, who was standing two 
or three yards distant, even his countenance expressing some com- 
passion; she gazed at him again, and exclaimed: 'You! Is it you! 
The Signor Curate.? Where are we.' ... Oh, poor me! I have 
lost my senses!' 

'No, no,' replied Don Abbondio, 'it is indeed I: take courage. 
Don't you see we are here to take you away? I am really your 
curate, come hither on purpose on horseback . . .' 

As if she had suddenly regained all her strength, Lucia pre- 
cipitately sprang upon her feet: then .igain fixing her eyes on those 
two faces, she said: 'It is the Madonna, then, that has sent you.' 

'I believe indeed it is,' said the good woman. 

'But can we go away? Can we really go away?' resumed Lucia, 
lowering her voice, and assuming a timid and suspicious look. 
'And all these people? . . .' continued she, with her lips compressed, 
and quivering with fear and horror: 'And that Lord . . . that man! 
. . . He did, indeed, promise . . .' 

'He is here himself in person, came on purpose with us,' said 
Don Abbondio; 'he is outside waiting for us. Let us go at once; 
we mustn't keep a man like him waiting.' 

At this moment, he of whom they were speaking opened the 
door, and showing himself at the entrance, came forward into the 
room. Lucia, who but just before had wished for him, nay, having 
no hope in any one else in the world, had wished for none but him, 
now, after having seen and listened to friendly faces and voices, 
could not restrain a sudden shudder : she started, held her breath, and 
throwing herself on the good woman's shoulder, buried her face in 
her bosom. At the first sight of that countenance, on which, the 
evening before, he had been unable to maintain a steady gaze, now 



382 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

rendered more pale, languid and dejected, by prolonged suffering 
and abstinence, the Unnamed had suddenly checked his steps; now, 
at the sight of her impulse of terror, he cast his eyes on the ground, 
stood for a moment silent and motionless, and then replying to 
what the poor girl had not expressed in words, 'It is true,' exclaimed 
he; 'forgive me!' 

'He is come to set you free; he's no longer what he was; he has 
become good; don't you hear him asking your forgiveness?' said the 
good woman, in Lucia's ear. 

'Could he say more? Come, lift up your head; don't be a baby: 
we can go directly,' said Don Abbondio. Lucia raised her face, 
looked at the Unnamed, and seeing his head bent low, and his 
embarrassed and humble look, she was seized with a mingled feeling 
of comfort, gratitude, and pity, as she replied, 'Oh, my Lord I God 
reward you for this deed of mercy!' 

'And you a thousandfold, for the good you do me by these words.' 

So saying, he turned round, went towards the door, and led the 
way out of the room. Lucia, completely reassured, followed, leaning 
on the worthy female's arm, while Don Abbondio brought up the 
rear. They descended the staircase, and reached the little door that 
led into the court. The Unnamed opened it, went towards the 
litter, and, with a certain politeness, almost mingled with timidity, 
(two novel qualities in him,) offered his arm to Lucia, to assist her 
to get in; and afterwards to the worthy dame. He then took the 
bridles of the two mules from the driver's hand, and gave his arm 
to Don Abbondio, who had approached his gentle steed. 

'Oh, what condescension!' said Don Abbondio, as he mounted 
much more nimbly than he had done the first time; and as soon 
as the Unnamed was also seated, the party resumed their way. The 
Signor's brow was raised: his countenance had regained its cus- 
tomary expression of authority. The ruffians whom they passed on 
their way, discovered, indeed, in his face the marks of deep thought, 
and an extraordinary solicitude; but they neither understood, nor 
could understand, more about it. They knew not yet anything of 
the great change which had taken place in their master; and, un- 
doubtedly, none of them would have divined it merely from 
conjecture. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 383 

The good woman immediately drew the curtains over the little 
windows; and then, affectionately taking Lucia's hands, she applied 
herself to comfort her with expressions of pity, congratulation, and 
tenderness. Seeing, then, that not only fatigue from the suffering 
she had undergone, but the perplexity and obscurity of all that had 
happened, prevented the poor girl from being sensible of the joy 
of her deliverance, she said all she could think of most likely to 
recall her recollection, and to clear up, and set to rights, so to say, 
her poor scattered thoughts. She named the village she came from, 
and to which they were now going. 

'Yes!' said Lucia, who knew how short a distance it was from 
her own, 'Ah, most holy Madonna, I praise thee! My mother! my 
mother!' 

'We will send to fetch her directly,' said the good woman, not 
knowing that it was already done. 

'Yes, yes, and God will reward you for it . . . And you, who are 
you? How have you come . . .' 

'Our Curate sent me,' said the good woman, 'because God has 
touched this Signer's heart, (blessed be His name!) and he came to 
our village to speak to the Signor Cardinal Archbishop, for he is 
there in his visitation, that holy man of God; and he had repented 
of his great sins, and wished to change his life; and he told the 
Cardinal that he had caused a poor innocent to be seized, meaning 
you, at the instigation of another person, who had no fear of God; 
but the Curate didn't tell me who it could be.' 

Lucia raised her eyes to heaven. 

'You know who it was, perhaps,' continued the good woman. 

'Well; the Signor Cardinal thought that, as there was a young girl 
in the question, there ought to be a female to come back with her; 
and he told the Curate to look for one; and the Curate, in his good- 
ness, came to me . . .' 

'Oh, the Lord recompense you for your kindness!' 

'Well, just listen to me, my [xwr child! And the Signor Curate 
bid me encourage you, and try to comfort you directly, and point 
out to you how the Lord has saved you by a miracle . . .' 

'Ah yes, by a miracle indeed; through the intercession of the 
Madonna!' 



384 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Well, that you should have a right spirit, and forgive him who 
has done you this wrong, and be thankful that God has been merci- 
ful to him, yes, and pray for him too; for, besides that you will be 
rewarded for it, you will also find your heart Hghtened.' 

Lucia replied with a look which expressed assent as clearly as 
words could have done, and with a sweetness which words could 
not have conveyed. 

'Noble girl!' rejoined the woman. 'And your Curate, too, being at 
our village, (for there are numbers assembled from all the country 
round to elect four public officers,) the Signor Cardinal thought it 
better to send him with us; but he has been of little use: I had before 
heard that he was a pxjor-spirited creature; but, on this occasion, I 
couldn't help seeing that he was as frightened as a chicken in a 
bundle of hemp.' 

'And this man . . .' asked Lucia, 'this person who has become 
good . . . who is he?' 

'What! don't you know him?' said the good woman, mentioning 
his name. 

'Oh, the mercy of the Lord!' exclaimed Lucia. How often had she 
heard that name repeated with horror in more than one story, in 
which it always appeared as, in other stories, that of the monster 
Orcus! And at the thought of having once been in his dreaded 
power, and being now under his merciful protection — at the thought 
of such fearful danger, and such unlooked-for deUverance; and at 
the remembrance of whose face it was that had at first appeared to 
her so haughty, afterwards so agitated, and then so humbled, she 
remained in a kind of ecstasy, only occasionally repeating, 'Oh, what 
a mercy!' 

'It is a great mercy, indeed!' said the good woman. 'It will be a 
great relief to half the world, to all the country round. To think 
how many people he kept in fear; and now, as our Curate told 
me . . . and then, only to see his face, he is become a saint! And 
the fruits are seen so directly.' 

To assert this worthy person did not feel much curiosity to know 
rather more explicitly the wonderful circumstances in which she 
was called upon to bear a part, would not be the truth. But we 
must say, to her honour, that, restrained by a respectful pity for 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 385 

Lucia, and feeling, in a manner, the gravity and dignity of the 
charge which had been entrusted to her, she never even thought of 
putting an indiscreet or idle question; throughout the whole journey, 
her words were those of comfort and concern for the poor girl. 

'Heaven knows how long it is since you have eaten anything!' 

'I don't remember . . . not for some time.' 

'Poor thing! you must want something to strengthen you?' 

'Yes,' replied Lucia, in a faint voice. 

'Thank God, we shall get something at home directly. Take 
heart, for it's not far now.' 

Lucia then sank languidly to the bottom of the litter, as if over- 
come with drowsiness, and the good woman left her quietly to 
repose. 

To Don Abbondio the returti was certainly not so harassing as the 
journey thither not long before; but, nevertheless, even this was 
not a ride of pleasure. When his overwhelming fears had subsided, 
he felt, at first, as if relieved from every burden; but very shortly a 
hundred other fancies began to haunt his imagination; as the ground 
whence a large tree has been uprooted remains bare and empty for 
a time, but is soon abundantly covered with weeds. He had become 
more sensitive to minor causes of alarm; and in thoughts of the 
present, as well as the future, failed not to find only too many 
materials for self-torment. He felt now, much more than in coming, 
the inconveniences of a mode of travelling to which he was not at 
all accustomed, and particularly in the descent from the castle to the 
bottom of the valley. The mule-driver, obedient to a sign from the 
Unnamed, drove on the animals at a rapid pace; the two riders 
followed in a line behind, with corresponding speed, so that, in 
sundry steep places, the unfortunate Don Abbondio, as if forced up 
by a lever behind, rolled forward, and was obliged to keep himself 
steady by grasping the pommel of the saddle; not daring to request 
a slower pace, and anxious, also, to get out of the neighbourhood 
as quickly as he could. Besides this, wherever the road was on an 
eminence, on the edge of a steep bank, the mule, according to the 
custom of its species, seemed as if aiming, out of contempt, always 
to keep on the outside, and to set its feet on the very brink; and Don 
Abbondio saw, almost perpendicularly beneath him, a good leap,. 



386 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

or, as he thought, a precipice. — Even you, — said he to the animal, 
in his heart, — have a cursed inclination to go in search of dangers, 
when there is such a safe and wide path. — And he pulled the bridle 
to the opposite side, but in vain; so that, grumbling with vexation 
and fear, he suffered himself, as usual, to be guided at the will of 
others. The ruffians no longer gave him so much alarm, now that 
he knew for certain how their master regarded them. — But, — re- 
flected he, — if the news of this grand conversion should get abroad 
among them while we are still here, who knows how these fellows 
would take it? Who knows what might arise from it? What, if they 
should get an idea that I am come hither as a missionary! Heaven 
preserve me! they would martyr me! — The haughty brow of the 
Unnamed gave him no uneasiness. — To keep those visages there in 
awe, — thought he, — it needs no less than this one here; I understand 
that myself; but why has it fallen to my lot to be thrown amongst 
such people? — 

But enough; they reached the foot of the descent, and at length 
also issued from the valley. The brow of the Unnamed became 
gradually smoother. Don Abbondio, too, assumed a more natural 
expression, released his head somewhat from imprisonment between 
his shoulders, stretched his legs and arms, tried to be a little more 
at his ease, which, in truth, made him look like a different creature, 
drew his breath more freely, and, with a calmer mind, proceeded 
to contemplate other and remoter dangers. — What will that villain 
of a Don Rodrigo say? To be left in this way, wronged, and open 
to ridicule; just fancy whether that won't be a bitter dose. Now's 
the time when he'll play the devil outright. It remains to be seen 
whether he won't be angry with me, because I have been mixed up 
with this business. If he has already chosen to send these two 
demons to meet me on the high road with such an intimation, what 
will he do now. Heaven knows! He can't quarrel with his illustrious 
Lordship, for he's rather out of his reach; he'll be obliged to gnaw the 
bit with him. But all the while the venom will be in his veins, and 
he'll be sure to vent it upon somebody. How will all these things 
end? The blow must always fall somewhere; the lash must be 
uplifted. Of course, his illustrious Lordship intends to place Lucia 
in safety: that other unfortunate misguided youth is beyond reach, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 387 

and has already had his share; so behold the lash must fall upon 
my shoulders. It will indeed be cruel, if, after so many incon- 
veniences and so much agitation, without my deserving it, too, in 
the least, I should have to bear the punishment. What will his 
most illustrious Grace do now to protect me, after having brought 
me into the dance? Can he ensure that this cursed wretch won't 
play me a worse trick than before.? And, besides, he has so many 
things to think of; he puts his hand to so many businesses. How 
can he attend to all? Matters are sometimes left more entangled 
than at first. Those who do good, do it in the gross; when they have 
enjoyed this satisfaction, they've had enough, and won't trouble 
themselves to look after the consequences; but they who have such 
a taste for evil-doings, are much more diligent; they follow it up to 
the end, and give themselves no rest, because they have an ever- 
devouring canker within them. Must I go and say that I came here 
at the express command of his illustrious Grace, and not with my 
own good will? That would seem as if I favoured the wicked side. 
Oh, sacred Heaven! I favour the wicked side! For the pleasure it 
gives me! Well; the best plan will be to tell Perpetua the case as it 
is, and then leave it to her to circulate it, provided my Lord doesn't 
take a fancy to make the whole matter public, and bring even me 
into the scene. At any rate, as soon as ever we arrive, if he's out of 
church, I'll go and take my leave of him as quickly as possible; if 
he's not, I'll leave an apology, and go off home at once. Lucia is 
well attended to; there's no need for me; and after so much trouble, 
I, too, may claim a little repose. And besides . . . what if my Lord 
should feel some curiosity to know the whole history, and it should 
fall to me to give an account of that wedding business! This is all 
that is wanting to complete it. And if he should come on a visit to 
my parish ? . . . Oh, let it be what it will, I will not trouble myself 
about it beforehand; 1 have troubles enough already. For the present, 
I shall shut myself up at home. As long as his Grace is in this 
neighbourhood, Don Rodrigo won't have the face to make a stir. 
And afterwards ... oh, afterwards! Ah, I see that my last years 
are to be spent in sorrow! — 

The party arrived before the services in the church were over; 
they passed through the still assembled crowd, which manifested 



388 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

no less emotion than on the former occasion, and then separated. 
The two riders turned aside into a small square, at the extremity of 
which stood the Curate's residence, while the litter went forward 
to that of the good woman. 

Don Abbondio kept his word: scarcely dismounted, he paid the 
most obsequious compliments to the Unnamed, and begged him to 
make an apology for him to his Grace, as he must return im- 
mediately to his parish on urgent business. He then went to seek 
for what he called his horse, that is to say, his walking-stick, which 
he had left in a corner of the hall, and set off on foot. The Unnamed 
remained to wait till the Cardinal returned from church. 

The good woman, having accommodated Lucia with the best 
seat in the best place in her kitchen, hastened to prepare a little 
refreshment for her, refusing, with a kind of rustic cordiality, her 
reiterated expressions of thanks and apology. 

Hastily putting some dry sticks under a vessel, which she had 
replaced upon the fire, and in which floated a good capon, she 
quickly made the broth boil; and then, filling from it a pwrringer, 
already furnished with sops of bread, she was at length able to 
offer it to Lucia. And on seeing the poor girl refreshed at every 
spKxsnful, she congratulated herself aloud, that all this had happened 
on a day when, as she said, the cat was not sitting on the hearth- 
stone. 'Everybody contrives to set out a table to-day,' added she, 
'unless it be those poor creatures who can scarcely get bread of 
vetches, and a polenta of millet; however, they all hope to beg 
something to-day, from such a charitable Signor. We, thank Heaven, 
are not so badly off: what with my husband's business, and a little 
plot of ground, we can live very well, so that you needn't hesitate 
to eat with a good appetite; the chicken will soon be done, and 
you can then refresh yourself with something better.' And, receiving 
the little porringer from her hand, she turned to prepare the dinner, 
and to set out the table for the family. 

Invigorated in body, and gradually revived in heart, Lucia now 
began to settle her dress, from an instinctive habit of cleanliness 
and modesty: she tied up and arranged afresh her loose and dis- 
hevelled tresses, and adjusted the handkerchief over her bosom, 
and around her neck. In doing this, her fingers became entangled 



I PROMESSl SPOSI 389 

in the chaplet she had hung there: her eye rested upon it; aroused 
an instantaneous agitation in her heart; the remembrance of her 
vow, hitherto suppressed and stifled by the presence of so many 
other sensations, suddenly rushed upon her mind, and presented 
itself clearly and distinctly to her view. The scarcely recovered 
powers of her soul were again at once overcome; and had she not 
been previously prepared by a life of innocence, resignation, and 
confiding faith, the consternation she experienced at that moment 
would have amounted to desperation. After a tumultuous burst of 
such thoughts as were not to be expressed in words, the only ones 
she could form in her mind were, — Oh, poor me, whatever have 
I done! — 

But scarcely had she indulged the thought, when she felt a kind 
of terror at having done so. She recollected all the circumstances 
of the vow, her insupportable anguish, her despair of all human 
succour, the fervency of her prayer, the entireness of feeling with 
which the promise had been made. And after having obtained her 
petition, to repent of her promise seemed to her nothing less than 
sacrilegious ingratitude and perfidy towards God and the Virgin; 
she imagined that such unfaithfulness would draw down upon her 
new and more terrible misfortunes, in which she could not find con- 
solation even in prayer; and she hastened to abjure her momentary 
regret. Reverently taking the rosary from her neck, and holding it 
in her trembling hand, she confirmed and renewed the vow, im- 
ploring, at the same time, with heartrending earnestness, that strength 
might be given her to fulfill it; and that she might be spared such 
thoughts and occurrences as would be likely, if not to disturb her 
resolution, at least to harass her beyond endurance. The distance 
of Renzo, without any probability of return, that distance which 
she had hitherto felt so painful, now seemed to her a dispensation 
of Providence, who had made the two events work together for the 
same end; and she thought to find in the one a motive of consolation 
for the other. And, following up this thought, she began represent- 
ing to herself that the same Providence, to complete the work, would 
know what means to employ to induce Renzo himself to be resigned, 
to think no more . . . But scarcely had such an idea entered her 
mind, when all was again overturned. The poor girl, feeling her 



390 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

heart still prone to regret the vow, again had recourse to prayer, con- 
firmation of the promise, and inward struggles, from which she 
arose, if we may be allowed the expression, like the wearied and 
wounded victor from his fallen enemy. 

At this moment she heard approaching footsteps and joyous cries. 
It was the Uttle family returning from church. Two little girls and 
a young boy bounded into the house, who, stopping a moment to 
cast an inquisitive glance at Lucia, ran to their mother, and gathered 
around her; one inquiring the name of the unknown guest, and 
how, and why; another attempting to relate the wonderful things 
they had just witnessed; while the good woman replied to each and 
all, 'Be quiet, be quiet.' With a more sedate step, but with cordial 
interest depicted on his countenance, the master of the house then 
entered. He was, if we have not yet said so, the tailor of the village 
and its immediate neighbourhood; a man who knew how to read, 
who had, in fact, read more than once // Leggendario de Santi, 
and / Reali di Francia, and who passed among his fellow-villagers 
as a man of talent and learning; a character, however, which he 
modestly disclaimed, only saying, that he had mistaken his vocation, 
and that, had he applied himself to study, instead of so many others 
. . . and so on. With all this, he was the best-tempered creature in 
the world. Having been present when his wife was requested by 
the Curate to undertake her charitable journey, he had not only 
given his approbation, but would also have added his persuasion, 
had it been necessary. And now that the services, the pomp, the 
concourse, and above all, the sermon of the Cardinal, had, as the 
saying is, elevated all his best feelings, he returned home with 
eager anticipations, and an anxious desire to know how the thing 
had succeeded, and to find the innocent young creature safe. 

'See, there she is!' said his good wife, as he entered, pointing to 
Lucia, who blushed, and rose from her seat, beginning to stammer 
forth some apology. But he, advancing towards her, interrupted 
her excuses, congratulating her on her safety, and exclaiming, 'Wel- 
come, welcome! You are the blessing of Heaven in this house. How 
glad I am to see you here! I was pretty sure you would be brought 
out safely; for I've never found that the Lord began a miracle 
without bringing it to a good end; but I'm glad to see you here. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 391 

Poor girl! but it is indeed a great thing to have received a mir- 
acle!" 

Let it not be thought that he was the only person who thus 
denominated this event, because he had read the Legendary; as long 
as the remembrance of it lasted, it was spoken of in no other terms 
in the whole village, and throughout the neighbourhood. And, to 
say truth, considering its attendant and following consequences, no 
other name is so appropriate. 

Then, sidling up to his wife, who was taking the kettle off the 
hook over the fire, he whispered, 'Did everything go on well?' 

'Very well; I'll tell you afterwards.' 

'Yes, yes, at your convenience.' 

Dinner now being quickly served up, the mistress of the house 
went up to Lucia, and leading her to the table, made her take a 
seat; then cutting off a wing of the fowl, she set it before her, and 
she and her husband sitting down, they both begged their dispirited 
and bashful guest to make herself at home, and take something to 
eat. Between every mouthful, the tailor began to talk with great 
eagerness, in spite of the interruptions of the children, who stood 
round the table to their meal, and who, in truth, had seen too many 
extraordinary things, to play, for any length of time, the part of 
mere listeners. He described the solemn ceremonies, and then passed 
on to the miraculous conversion. But that which had made the 
most impression upon him, and to which he most frequently re- 
turned, was the Cardinal's sermon. 

'To see him there before the altar,' said he, 'a gentleman like him, 
hke a Curate . . .' 

'And that gold thing he had on his head . . .' said a little girL 

'Hush. To think, I say, that a gentleman like him, such a learned 
man, too, that from what people say, he has read all the books there 
are in the world; a thing which nobody else has ever done, not 
even in Milan — ^to think that he knew how to say things in such a 
way, that every one understood . . ,' 

'Even I understood very well,' said another little prattler. 

'Hold your tongue; what may you have understood, I wonder?* 

'I understood that he was explaining the Gospel, instead of the 
Signor Curate.' 



392 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Well, be quiet. I don't say those who know something, for then 
one is obliged to understand; but even the dullest and most ignorant 
could follow out the sense. Go now and ask them if they could 
repeat the words that he spoke : I'll engage they could not remember 
one; but the meaning they will have in their heads. And without 
ever mentioning the name of that Signer, how easy it was to see 
that he was alluding to him! Besides, to understand that, one had 
only to observe him with the tears standing in his eye. And then 
the whole church began to weep . . .' 

'Yes, indeed, they did,' burst forth the little boy; 'but why were 
they all crying in that way, like children?' 

'Hold your tongue. Surely there are some hard hearts in this 
country. And he made us see so well, that though there is a famine 
here, we ought to thank God, and be content; do whatever we can, 
work industriously, help one another, and then be content, because 
it is no disgrace to suffer and be poor; the disgrace is to do evil. 
And these are not only fine words; for everybody knows that he 
lives like a f)Oor man himself, and takes the bread out of his own 
mouth to give to the hungry, when he might be enjoying good times 
better than any one. Ah! then it gives one satisfaction to hear a man 
preach: not like so many others: "Do what I say, and not what I 
do." And then he showed us that even those who are not what they 
call gentlemen, if they have more than they actually want, are 
bound to share it with those who are suffering.' 

Here he interrupted himself, as if checked by some thought. He 
hesitated a moment; then filling a platter from the several dishes 
on the table, and adding a loaf of bread, he put it into a cloth, and 
taking it by the four corners, said to his eldest girl: 'Here, take 
this.' He then put into her other hand a little flask of wine, and 
added: 'Go down to the widow Maria, leave her these things, and 
tell her it is to make a little feast wdth her children. But do it 
kindly and nicely, you know; that it may not seem as if you were 
doing her a charity. And don't say anything, if you meet any one; 
and take care you break nothing.' 

Lucia's eyes glistened, and her heart glowed with tender emotion; 
as from the conversation she had already heard, she had received 
more comfort than an expressly consolatory sermon could possibly 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 393 

have imparted to her. Her mind, attracted by these descriptions, 
these images of pomp, and these emotions of piety and wonder, and 
sharing in the very enthusiasm of the narrator, was detached from 
the consideration of its own sorrows; and on returning to them, 
found itself strengthened to contemplate them. Even the thought 
of her tremendous sacrifice, though it had not lost its bitterness, 
brought with it something of austere and solemn joy. 

Shortly afterwards, the Curate of the village entered, and said 
that he was sent by the Cardinal to inquire after Lucia, and to inform 
her that his Grace wished to see her some time during the day; and 
then, in his Lordship's name, he returned many thanks to the worthy 
couple. Surprised and agitated, the three could scarcely find words 
to reply to such messages from so great a personage. 

'And your mother hasn't yet arrived?' said the Curate to Lucia. 

'My mother!' exclaimed the poor girl. Then hearing from him 
how he had been sent to fetch her by the order and suggestion of 
the Archbishop, she drew her apron over her eyes, and gave way 
to a flood of tears, which continued to flow for some time after the 
Curate had taken his leave. When, however, the tumultuous feelings 
which had been excited by such an announcement began to yield 
to more tranquil thoughts, the poor girl remembered that the now 
closely impending happiness of seeing her mother again, a happiness 
so unhoped-for a few hours previous, was what she had expressly 
implored in those very hours, and almost stipulated as a condition 
of her vow. Bring me in safety to my mother, she had said; and 
these words now presented themselves distincdy to her memory. 
She strengthened herself more than ever in the resolution to main- 
tain her promise, and afresh and more bitterly lamented the struggle 
and regret she had for a moment indulged. 

Agnese, indeed, while they were talking about her, was but a very 
little way off. It may easily be imagined how the poor woman felt 
at this unexpected summons, and at the announcement, necessarily 
defective and confused, of an escaped but fearful danger, — an obscure 
event, which the messenger could neither circumstantiate nor explain, 
and of which she had not the slightest ground of explanation in her 
own previous thoughts. After tearing her hair, — after frequent 
exclamations of 'Ah, my God! Ah, Madonna!' — after putting various 



394 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

questions to the messenger which he had not the means of satisfy- 
ing, she threw herself impetuously into the vehicle, continuing to 
utter, on her way, numberless ejaculations and useless inquiries. But 
at a certain pwint she met Don Abbondio, trudging on, step after 
step, and before each step, his walking-stick. After an 'oh!' from 
both parties, he stopped; Agnese also stopped and dismounted; and 
drawing him apart into a chestnut-grove on the roadside, she there 
learnt from Don Abbondio all that he had been able to ascertain 
and observe. The thing was not clear; but at least Agnese was 
assured that Lucia was in safety; and she again breathed freely. 

After this Don Abbondio tried to introduce another subject, and 
give her minute instructions as to how she ought to behave before 
the Archbishop, if, as was likely, he should wish to see her and her 
daughter; and, above all, that it would not do to say a word about 
the wedding . . . But Agnese, perceiving that he was only speaking 
for his own interest, cut him short, without promising, indeed with- 
out proposing, anything, for she had something else to think about; 
and immediately resumed her journey. 

At length the cart arrived, and stopped at the tailor's house. Lucia 
sprang up hastily: Agnese dismounted and rushed impetuously into 
the cottage, and, in an instant, they were locked in each other's arms. 
The good dame, who alone was present, tried to encourage and calm 
them, and shared with them in their joy; then, with her usual dis- 
cretion, she left them for a while alone, saying that she would go and 
prepare a bed for them, for which, indeed, she had the means, though, 
in any case, both she and her husband would much rather have slept 
upon the ground, than suffer them to go in search of shelter else- 
where for that night. 

The first burst of sobs and embraces being over, Agnese longed 
to hear Lucia's adventures, and the latter began, mournfully, to relate 
them. But, as the reader is aware, it was a history which no one 
knew fully; and to Lucia herself there were some obscure passages, 
which were, in fact, quite inextricable: more particularly the fatal 
coincidence of that terrible carriage being in the road, just when 
Lucia was passing on an extraordinary occasion. On this point, both 
mother and daughter were lost in conjecture, without ever hitting 
the mark, or even approaching the real cause. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 395 

As to the principal author of the plot, neither one nor the other 
could for a moment doubt but that it was Don Rodrigo. 

'Ah, the black villain! ah, the infernal firebrand!' exclaimed 
Agnese : 'but his hour will come. God will reward him according to 
his works; and then he, too, will feel . . .' 

'No, no, mother; no!' interrupted Lucia; 'don't predict suffering 
for him; don't predict it to any one! If you knew what it was to 
suffer! If you had tried it! No, no! rather let us pray God and the 
Madonna for him: that God would touch his heart, as he has done 
to this other poor Signor, who was worse than he is, and is now 
a saint.' 

The shuddering horror that Lucia felt in retracing such recent and 
cruel scenes, made her more than once pause in the midst; more 
than once she said she had not courage to go on; and, after many 
tears, with difficulty resumed her account. But a different feeling 
checked her at a certain point of the narration, — at the mention of 
the vow. The fear of being blamed by her mother as imprudent 
and precipitate; or that, as in the affair of the wedding, she should 
bring forward one of her broad rules of conscience, and try to make 
it prevail; or that, poor woman, she should tell it to some one in con- 
fidence, if nothing else, to obtain light and counsel, and thus make 
it publicly known, from the bare idea of which Lucia shrank back 
with insupportable shame; together with a feeUng of present shame, 
an inexplicable repugnance to speak on such a subject; — all these 
things together determined her to maintain absolute silence on this 
important circumstance, proposing, in her own mind, to open herself 
first to Father Cristoforo. But what did she feel, when, in inquiring 
after him, she heard that he was no longer at Pescarenico; that he 
had been sent to a town far, far away, to a town bearing such and 
such a name! 

'And Renzo?' said Agnese. 

'He's in safety, isn't he.'' said Lucia, hastily. 

'That much is certain, because everybody says so; it is thought, 
too, pretty surely, that he's gone to the territory of Bergamo; but 
the exact place nobody knows: and hitherto he has sent no news of 
himself. Perhaps he hasn't yet found a way of doing so.' 

'Ah, if he's in safety, the Lord be praised!' said Lucia; and she 



396 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

was seeking some other subject of conversation, when they were 
interrupted by an unexpected novelty — the appearance of the Car- 
dinal Archbishop. 

This holy prelate, having returned from church, where we last 
left him, and having heard from the Unnamed of Lucia's safe arrival, 
had sat down to dinner, placing his new friend on his right hand, 
in the midst of a circle of priests, who were never weary of casting 
glances at that countenance, now so subdued without weakness, so 
humble without dejection, and of comparing him with the idea 
they had so long entertained of this formidable personage. 

Dinner being removed, the two again withdrew together. After 
a conversation, which lasted much longer than the first, the Un- 
named set ofl anew for his Castle, on the same mule which had 
borne him thither in the morning; and the Cardinal, calling the 
priest of the parish, told him that he wished to be guided to the 
house where Lucia had found shelter. 

'Oh, my Lord!' replied the parish priest, 'allow me, and I will 
send direcdy to bid the young girl come here, with her mother, if 
she has arrived, and their hosts too, if my Lord wishes — indeed, all 
that your illustrious Grace desires to see.' 

'I wish to go myself to see them,' replied Federigo. 

'There's no necessity for your illustrious Lordship to give your- 
self that trouble; I will send directly to fetch them: it's very quickly 
done,' insisted the persevering spoiler of his plans, (a worthy man 
on the whole), not comprehending that the Cardinal wished by this 
visit to do honour at once to the unfortunate girl, to innocence, to 
hospitality, and to his own ministry. But the superior having again 
expressed the same desire, the inferior bowed, and led the way. 

When the two companions were seen to enter the street every 
one immediately gathered round them; and, in a few moments, 
people flocked from every direction, forming two wings at their 
sides, and a train behind. The Curate officiously repeated, 'Come, 
come, keep back, keep off; fye! fyei' Federigo, however, forbade 
him; 'Let them alone, let them alone;' and he walked on, now rais- 
ing his hand to bless the people, now lowering it to fondle the 
children, who gathered round his feet. In this way they reached the 
house, and entered, the crowd hedging round the door outside. In 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 397 

this crowd the tailor also found himself, having followed behind, 
like the rest, with eager eyes and open mouth, not knowing whither 
they were going. When he saw, however, this unexf>ected whither, 
he forced the throng to make way, it may be imagined with what 
bustle, crying over and over again, 'Make way for one who has a 
right to pass;' and so went into the house. 

Agnese and Lucia heard an increasing murmur in the street, and 
while wondering what it could be, saw the door thrown open, and 
admit the purple-clad prelate, and the priest of the parish. 

'Is this she?' demanded Federigo of the Curate; and on receiving 
a sign in the affirmative, he advanced towards Lucia, who was hold- 
ing back with her mother, both of them motionless, and mute with 
surprise and bashfulness; but the tone of his voice, the countenance, 
the behaviour, and, above all, the words of Federigo, quickly re- 
animated them. 'Poor girl,' he began, 'God has permitted you to be 
put to a great trial; but He has surely shown you that His eye was 
still over you, that He had not forgotten you. He has restored you 
in safety, and has made use of you for a great work, to show infinite 
mercy to one, and to relieve, at the same time, many others.' 

Here the mistress of the house came into the apartment, who, at 
the bustle outside, had gone to the window upstairs, and seeing 
who was entering the house, hastily ran down, after slightly arrang- 
ing her dress; and almost at the same moment the tailor made 
his appearance at another door. Seeing their guests engaged in 
conversation, they quietly withdrew into one corner, and waited 
there with profound respect. The Cardinal, having courteously 
saluted them, continued to talk to the women, mingling with his 
words of comfort many inquiries, thinking he might possibly gather 
from their replies some way of doing good to one who had under- 
gone so much suffering. 

'It would be well if all priests were like your Lordship, if they 
would sometimes take the part of the poor, and not help to put them 
into difficulties to get themselves out,' said Agnese, emboldened by 
the kind and affable behaviour of Federigo, and annoyed at the 
thought that the Signor Don Abbondio, after having sacrificed 
others on every occasion, should now even attempt to forbid their 
giving vent to their feelings, and complaining to one who was set in 



398 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

authority over him, when, by an unusual chance, the occasion for 
doing so presented itself. 

'Just say all that you think,' said the Cardinal: 'speak freely.' 

'I mean to say, that if our Signor Curate had done his duty, 
things wouldn't have gone as they have.' 

But the Cardinal renewing his request that she should explain 
herself more fully, she began to feel rather perplexed at having to 
relate a story in which she, too, had borne a part she did not care to 
make known, especially to such a man. However, she contrived to 
manage it, with the help of a little curtailing. She related the 
intended match, and the refusal of Don Abbondio; nor was she 
silent on the pretext of the superiors which he had brought forward 
(ah, Agnese!); and then she skipped on to Don Rodrigo's attempt, 
and how, having been warned of it, they had been able to make 
their escape. 'But indeed,' added she, in conclusion, 'we only escaped 
to be again caught in the snare. If instead, the Signor Curate had 
honestly told us the whole, and had immediately married my poor 
children, we would have gone away all together directly, privately, 
and far enough off, to a place where not even the wind would have 
known us. But, in this way, time was lost; and now has happened 
what has happened.' 

'The Signor Curate shall render me an account of this matter,' 
said the Cardinal. 

'Oh, no, Signor, no!' replied Agnese: 'I didn't speak on that 
account: don't scold him; for what is done, is done; and, besides, it 
will do no good; it is his nature; and on another occasion he would 
do just the same.' 

But Lucia, dissatisfied with this way of relating the story, added: 
'We have also done wrong: it shows it was not the Lord's will that 
the plan should succeed.' 

'What can you have done wrong, my poor girl.?' asked Federigo. 

And, in spite of the threatening glances which her mother tried to 
give her secretly, Lucia, in her turn, related the history of their 
attempt in Don Abbondio's house; and concluded by saying, 'We 
have done wrong, and God has punished us for it.' 

'Take, as from His hand, the sufferings you have undergone, 
and be of good courage,' said Federigo; 'for who have reason to 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 399 

rejoice and be hopeful, but those who have suffered, and are ready 
to accuse themselves?' 

He then asked where was the Betrothed; and hearing from 
Agnese (Lucia stood silent, with her head bent, and downcast eyes) 
how he had been outlawed, he felt and expressed surprise and dis- 
satisfaction, and asked why it was. 

Agnese stammered out what little she knew of Renzo's history. 

'I have heard speak of this youth,' said the Cardinal; 'but how 
happens it that a man involved in aflairs of this sort is in treaty o£ 
marriage with this young girl?' 

'He was a worthy youth,' said Lucia, blushing, but in a firm voice. 

'He was even too quiet a lad,' added Agnese; 'and you may ask 
this of anybody you like, even of the Signor Curate. Who knows 
what confusion they may have made down there, what intrigues? 
It takes little to make poor people seem rogues.' 

'Indeed, it's too true,' said the Cardinal; 'I'll certainly make in- 
quiries about him;' and learning the name and residence of the 
youth, he made a memorandum of them on his tablets. He added, 
that he expected to be at their village in a few days, that then Lucia 
might go thither without fear, and that, in the mean while, he would 
think about providing her some secure retreat, till everything was 
arranged for the best. 

Then, turning to the master and mistress of the house, who 
immediately came forward, he renewed the acknowledgment which 
he had already conveyed through the priest of the parish, and asked 
them whether they were willing to receive, for a few days, the 
guests which God had sent them. 

'Oh yes, sir!' replied the woman, in a tone of voice and with a 
look which meant much more than the bare words seemed to 
express. But her husband, quite excited by the presence of such 
an interrogator, and by the wish to do him honour on so important 
an occasion, anxiously sought for some fine reply. He wrinkled his 
forehead, strained and squinted with his eyes, compressed his lips, 
stretched his intellect to its utmost extent, strove, fumbled about in 
his mind, and there found an overwhelming medley of unfinished 
ideas and half-formed words: but time pressed; the Cardinal signi- 
fied that he had already interpreted his silence; the poor man opened 



400 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

his mouth and pronounced the words, 'You may imagine!' At this 
point not another word would occur to him. This failure not only 
disheartened and vexed him at the moment, but the tormenting re- 
membrance ever after spoiled his complacency in the great honour 
he had received. And how often, in the thinking it over, and fancy- 
ing himself again in the same circumstances, did numberless words 
crowd ufxjn his mind, as it were, out of spite, any of which would 
have been better than that silly, You may imagine! But are not the 
very ditches full of wisdom — too late! 

The Cardinal took his leave, saying, 'The blessing of God be 
upon this house.' 

The same evening he asked the Curate in what way he could best 
compensate to the tailor, who certainly could not be rich, for the 
expenses he must have incurred, especially in these times, by his 
hospitality. The Curate replied, that, in truth, neither the profits 
of his business nor the produce of some small Belds which the good 
tailor owned, would be enough this year to allow of his being liberal 
to others; but that, having laid by a little in the preceding years, he 
was among the most easy in circumstances in the neighbourhood, 
and could afford to do a kindness without inconvenience, as he 
certainly would with all his heart; and that, under any circum- 
stances, he would deem it an insult to be offered money in compen- 
sation. 

'He will, probably,' said the Cardinal, 'have demands on people 
unable to pay.' 

'You may judge yourself, my most illustrious Lord: these poor 
people pay from the overplus of the harvest. Last year there was. no 
overplus; and this one, everybody falls short of absolute necessaries.' 

'Very well,' replied Federigo, 'I will take all these debts upon my- 
self; and you will do me the pleasure of getting from him a list of 
the sums, and discharging them for me.' 

'It will be a tolerable sum.' 

'So much the better: and you will have, I dare say, many more 
wretched, and almost destitute of clothing, who have no debts, 
because they can get no credit.' 

'Alas! too many! One does what one can; but how can we supply 
all in times like these?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 401 

'Tell him to clothe them at my expense, and pay him well. Really, 
this year, all that does not go for bread seems a kind of robbery; 
but this is a particular case.' 

We cannot close the history of this day, without briefly relating 
how the Unnamed concluded it. 

This time the report of his conversion had preceded him in the 
valley, and quickly spreading throughout it, had excited among all 
the inhabitants consternation, anxiety, and angry whisperings. To 
the first bravoes or servants (it mattered not which) whom he met, 
he made signs that they should follow him; and so on, on either hand. 
All fell behind with unusual perplexity of mind, but with their 
accustomed submission; so that, with a continually increasing train, 
he at length reached the Castle. He beckoned to those who were 
loitering about the gate to follow him with the others; entered the 
first court, went towards the middle, and here, seated all the while 
on his saddle, uttered one of his thundering calls: it was the 
accustomed signal at which all his dependents, who were within 
hearing, immediately flocked towards him. In a moment, all those 
who were scattered throughout the Castle attended to the summons, 
and mingled with the already assembled party, gazing eagerly at 
their master. 

'Go, and wait for me in the great hall,' said he; and, from his 
higher station on horseback, he watched them all move off. He 
then dismounted, led the animal to the stables himself, and repaired 
to the room where he was expected. On his appearance, a loud 
whispering was instantly hushed, and retiring to one side, they left 
a large space in the hall quite clear for him: there may have been, 
perhaps, about thirty. 

The Unnamed raised his hand, as if to preserve the silence his 
presence had already created, raised his head, which towered above 
all those of the assemblage, and said: 'Listen, all of you, and let no 
one speak unless I bid him. My friends! the path we have hitherto 
followed leads to the depths of hell. I do not mean to upbraid you, 
I, who have been foremost of you all, the worst of all; but listen to 
what I have to say. The merciful God has called me to change my 
life; and I will change it, I have already changed it: so may He do 
with you all! Know, then, and hold it for certain, that I am resolved 



402 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

rather to die than to do anything more against His holy laws. I 
revoke all the wicked commands you may any of you have received 
from me; you understand me; indeed, I command you not to do 
anything I have before commanded. And hold it equally certain, 
that no one, from this time forward, shall do evil with my sanction, 
in my service. He who will remain with me under these conditions 
shall be to me as a son; and I shall feel happy at the close of that 
day in which I shall not have eaten, that I may supply the last of 
you with the last loaf I have left in the house. He who does not 
wish to remain, shall receive what is due of his salary, and an 
additional gift : he may go away, but must never again set foot here, 
unless it be to change his life; for this purpose he shall always be 
received with open arms. Think about it to-night: to-morrow morn- 
ing I will ask you one by one for your reply, and will then give you 
new orders. For the present retire, every one to his post. And God, 
who has exercised such mercy towards me, incline you to good 
resolutions!' 

Here he ceased, and all continued silent. How various and tumul- 
tuous soever might be the thoughts at work in their hardened minds, 
they gave no outward demonstration of emotion. They were ac- 
customed to receive the voice of their master as the declaration of 
a will from which there was no appeal: and that voice, announcing 
that the will was changed, in no wise denoted that it was enfeebled. 
It never crossed the mind of one of them that, because he was con- 
verted, they might therefore assume over him, and reply to him as 
to another man. They beheld in him a saint, but one of those saints 
who are depicted with a lofty brow, and a sword in their hands. 
Besides the fear he inspired, they also entertained for him (especially 
those born in his service, and they were a large proportion) the affec- 
tion of subjects; they had all, besides, a kindly feeling of admiration 
for him, and experienced in his presence a species of, I will even say, 
modest humility, such as the rudest and most wanton spirits feel 
before an authority which they have once recognized. Again, the 
things they had just heard from his lips were doubtless odious to 
their ears, but neither false, nor entirely alien to their understandings: 
if they had a thousand times ridiculed them, it was not because they 
disbelieved them; but to obviate, by ridicule, the fear which any 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 403 

serious consideration o£ them would have awakened. And now, on 
seeing the effect of this fear on a mind like that of their master, 
there was not one who did not either more or less sympathize with 
him, at least for a little while. In addition to all this, those among 
them who had first heard the grand news beyond the valley, had at 
the same time witnessed and related the joy, the exultation of the 
people, the new favour with which the Unnamed was regarded, 
and the veneration so suddenly exchanged for their former hatred — 
their former terror. So that in the man whom they had always re- 
garded, so to say, as a superior being, even while they, in a great 
measure, themselves constituted his strength, they now beheld the 
wonder, the idol of a multitude; they beheld him exalted above 
others, in a different, but not less real, manner; ever above the com- 
mon throng, ever at the head. They stood now confounded, uncer- 
tain one of another, and each one of himself. Some murmured; some 
began to plan whither they could go to find shelter and employment; 
some questioned with themselves whether they could make up their 
minds to become honest men; some even, moved by his words, felt 
a sort of inclination to do so; others, without resolving upon any- 
thing, proposed to promise everything readily, to remain in the mean 
while where they could share the loaf so willingly offered, and in 
those days so scarce, and thus gain time for decision: no one, how- 
ever, uttered a syllable. And when, at the close of his speech, the 
Unnamed again raised his authoritative hand, and beckoned to them 
to disperse, they all moved off in the direction of the door as quietly 
as a flock of sheep. He followed them out, and placing himself in 
the middle of the courtyard, stood to watch them by the dim evening 
light, as they separated from each other, and repaired to their several 
posts. Then, returning to fetch a lantern, he again traversed the 
courts, corridors, and halls, visited every entrance, and after seeing 
that all was quiet, at length retired to sleep. Yes, to sleep, because he 
was sleepy. 

Never, though he had always industriously courted them, had he, 
in any conjuncture, been so overburdened with intricate, and at the 
same time urgent, affairs, as at the present moment: yet he was 
sleepy. The remorse, which had robbed him of rest the night before, 
was not only unsubdued, but even spoke more loudly, more sternly. 



404 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

more absolutely: yet he was sleepy. The order, the kind of govern- 
ment established by him in that Castle for so many years, with so 
much care, and such a singular union of rashness and perseverance, 
he had now himself overturned by a few words; the unlimited de- 
votion of his dependents, their readiness for any undertaking, their 
ruffian-like fidelity, on which he had long been accustomed to de- 
pend, — these he had himself shaken; his various engagements had 
become a tissue of perplexities; he had brought confusion and un- 
certainty into his household: yet he was sleepy. 

He went, therefore, into his chamber, approached that bed, which, 
the night before, he had found such a thorny couch, and knelt down 
at its side with the intention of praying. He found, in fact, in a deep 
and hidden corner of his mind, the prayers he had been taught to 
repeat as a child; he began to recite them, and the words so long 
wrapped up, as it were, together, flowed one after another, as if 
emerging once more to light. He experienced in this act a mixture 
of undefined feehngs; a kind of soothing pleasure, in this actual re- 
turn to the habits of innocent childhood; a doubly bitter contrition 
at the thought of the gulf that he had placed between those former 
days and the present; an ardent desire to attain, by works of expia- 
tion, a clearer conscience, a state more nearly resembling that of 
innocence, to which he could never return; together with a feeling 
of deep gratitude, and of confidence in that mercy which could lead 
him towards it, and had already given so many tokens of willingness 
to do so. Then, rising from his knees, he lay down, and was quickly 
wrapt in sleep. 

Thus ended a day still so much celebrated when our anonymous 
author wrote: a day of which, had he not written, nothing would 
have been known, at least nothing of the particulars; for Ripamonti 
and Rivola, whom we have quoted above, merely record that, after 
an interview with Federigo, this remarkable tyrant wonderfully 
changed his course of life, and for ever. And how few are there who 
have read the works of these authors! Fewer still are there who will 
read this of ours. And who knows whether in the valley itself, if 
any one had the inclination to seek, and the ability to find it, there 
now remains the smallest trace, the most confused tradition, of such 
an event? So many things have taken place since that time! 



CHAPTER XXV 

NEXT day, there was no one spoken o£ in Lucia's village, and 
throughout the whole territory of Lecco, but herself, the 
Unnamed, the Archbishop, and one other person, who, 
however ambitious to have his name in men's mouths, would will- 
ingly, on this occasion, have dispensed with the honor: we mean the 
Signor Don Rodrigo. 

Not that his doings had not before been talked about; but they 
were detached, secret conversations; and that man must have been 
very well acquainted with his neighbour who would have ventured 
to discourse with him freely on such a subject. Nay, people did not 
even exercise those feelings on the subject of which they were capa- 
ble; for, generally speaking, when men cannot give vent to their 
indignation without imminent danger, they not only show less than 
they feel, or disguise it entirely, but they feel less in reaUty. But 
now, who could refrain from inquiring and reasoning about so no- 
torious an event, in which the hand of Heaven had been seen, and 
in which two such personages bore a conspicuous part? One, in 
whom such a spirited love of justice was united to so much authority; 
the other who, with all his boldness, had been induced, as it were, 
to lay down his arms, and submit. By the side of these rivals, Don 
Rodrigo looked rather insignificant. Now, all understood what it 
was to torment innocence with the wish to dishonour it; to persecute 
it with such insolent perseverance, with such atrocious violence, 
with such abominable treachery. They reviewed, on this occasion, 
all the other feats of the Signor, and said what they thought about 
all, each one being emboldened by finding everybody else of the 
same opinion. There were whisperings, and general murmurs; cau- 
tiously uttered, however, on account of the numberless bravoes he 
had around him. 

A large share of public animadversion fell also upon his friends 
and flatterers. They said of the Signor Podesta what he richly de- 

405 



406 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

served, always deaf, and blind, and dumb, on the doings of this 
tyrant; but this also cautiously, for the Podesta had bailiffs. With 
the Doctor Azzecca-Garbugli, who had no weapons but gossiping 
and cabals, and with other flatterers like himself, they did not use 
so much ceremony; these were pointed at, and regarded with very 
contemptuous and suspicious glances, so that, for some time, he 
judged it expedient to keep as much within doors as possible. 

Don Rodrigo, astounded at this unlooked-for news, so different 
to the tidings he had expected day after day, and hour after hour, 
remained ensconced in his den-like palace, with no one to keep him 
company but his bravoes, devouring his rage, for two days, and on 
the third set off for Milan. Had there been nothing else but the 
murmuring of the people, perhaps since things had gone so far, he 
would have stayed on purpose to face it, or even to seek an oppor- 
tunity of making an example to others of one of the most daring; 
but the certain intelligence that the Cardinal was coming into the 
neighbourhood fairly drove him away. The Count, his uncle, who 
knew nothing of the story but what he had been told by Attilio, 
would certainly expect that on such an occasion, Don Rodrigo should 
be the first to wait upon the Cardinal, and receive from him in 
public the most distinguished reception: every one must see how he 
was on the road to this consummation! The Count expected it, and 
would have required a minute account of the visit; for it was an 
important opportunity of showing in what esteem his family was 
held by one of the head {wwers. To extricate himself from so odious 
a dilemma, Don Rodrigo, rising one morning before the sun, threw 
himself into his carriage, Griso and some other bravoes outside, both 
in front and behind; and leaving orders that the rest of his house- 
hold should follow him, took his departure, like a fugitive — like, 
(it will, perhaps, be allowed us to exalt our characters by so illus- 
trious a comparison) — like Catiline from Rome, fretting and fum- 
ing, and swearing to return very shortly in a different guise to execute 
his vengeance. 

In the mean while, the Cardinal proceeded on his visitation among 
the parishes in the territory of Lecco, taking one each day. On the 
day in which he was to arrive at Lucia's village, a large part of the 
inhabitants were early on the road to meet him. At the entrance of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 407 

the village, close by the cottage of our two poor women, was erected 
a triumphal arch, constructed of upright stakes, and poles laid cross- 
wise, covered with straw and moss, and ornamented with green 
boughs of holly, distinguishable by its scarlet berries, and other 
shrubs. The front of the chiu-ch was adorned with tapestry; from 
every window-ledge hung extended quilts and sheets, and infants 
swaddling-clothes, disposed like drapery; in short, all the few nec- 
essary articles which could be converted, either bodily or otherwise, 
into the apjjearance of something sup>erfluous. Towards evening, 
(the hour at which Federigo usually arrived at the church, on his vis- 
itation-tours), all who had remained within doors, old men, women 
and children, for the most part, set off to meet him, some in proces- 
sion, some in groups, headed by Don Abbondio, who, in the midst of 
the rejoicing, looked disconsolate enough, both from the stunning 
noise of the crowd, and the continual hurrying to and fro of the peo- 
ple, which, as he himself expressed it, quite dimmed his sight, to- 
gether with a secret apprehension that the women might have been 
babbling and that he would be called upon to render an account of 
the wedding. 

At length the Cardinal came in sight, or, to speak more correcdy, 
the crowd in the midst of which he was carried in his litter, sur- 
rounded by his attendants; for nothing could be distinguished of 
his whole party, but a signal towering in the air above the heads 
of the people, part of the cross, which was borne by the chaplain, 
mounted u(X)n his mule. The crowd, which was dancing with Don 
Abbondio, hurried forward in a disorderly manner to join the ap- 
proaching party; while he, after ejaculating three or four times, 
'Gently; in procession; what are you doing?' turned back in vexa- 
tion, and muttering to himself, 'It's a perfect Babel, it's a perfect 
Babel' went to take refuge in the church until they had dispersed; 
and here he awaited the Cardinal. 

The holy prelate in the mean while advanced slowly, bestowing 
benedictions with his hand, and receiving them from the mouths of 
the multitude, while his followers had enough to do to keep their 
places behind him. As Lucia's countrymen, the villagers were anx- 
ious to receive the Archbishop with more than ordinary honours, 
but this was no easy matter; for it had long been customary, where- 



408 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ever he went, for all to do the most they could. At the very begin- 
ning of his episcopate, on his first solemn entry into the cathedral, 
the rush and crowding of the populace upon him were such as to 
excite fears for his life; and some of the gentlemen who were nearest 
to him, had actually drawn their swords to terrify and repulse the 
press. Such were their violent and uncouth manners, that even in 
making demonstrations of kindly feeling to a bishop in church, and 
attempting to regulate them, it was necessary almost to have recourse 
to bloodshed. And that defence would not, perhaps, have proved suf- 
ficient, had not two priests, strong in body, and bold in spirit, raised 
him in their arms, and carried him at once from the door of the 
temple to the very foot of the high altar. From that time forward, 
in the many episcopal visits he had to make, his first entrance into 
the church might, without joking, be reckoned among his pastoral 
labours, and sometimes even among the dangers he had incurred. 

On this occasion, he entered as he best could, went up to the altar, 
and thence, after a short prayer, addressed, as was his custom, a few 
words to his auditors, of his affection for them, his desire for their 
salvation, and the way in which they ought to prepare themselves 
for the services of the morrow. Then retiring to the parsonage, 
among many other things he had to consult about with the Curate, 
he questioned him as to the character and conduct of Renzo. Don 
Abbondio said that he was rather a brisk, obstinate, hot-headed 
fellow. But, on more particular and precise interrogations, he was 
obliged to admit that he was a worthy youth, and that he himself 
could not understand how he could have played all the mischievous 
tricks at Milan, which had been reported of him. 

'And about the young girl,' resumed the Cardinal; 'do you think 
she may now return in security to her own home?' 

'For the present,' replied Don Abbondio, 'she might come and be 
as safe — the present, I say — as she wishes; but,' added he with a 
sigh, 'your illustrious Lordship ought to be always here, or, at least, 
near at hand.' 

'The Lord is always near,' said the Cardinal: 'as to the rest, I will 
think about placing her in safety.' And he hastily gave orders that, 
next morning early, a litter should be despatched, with an attendant, 
to fetch the two women. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 409 

Don Abbondio came out from the interview quite delighted that 
the Cardinal had talked to him about the two young people, without 
requiring an account of his refusal to marry them. — Then he knows 
nothing about it, — said he to himself: — Agnese has held her tongue. 
Wonderful! They have to see him again; but I will give them fur- 
ther instructions, that I will. — He knew not, poor man, that Federigo 
had not entered upon the discussion, just because he intended to 
speak to him about it more at length when they were disengaged; 
and that he wished, before giving him what he deserved, to hear 
his side of the question. 

But the intentions of the good prelate for the safe placing of Lucia 
had, in the mean while, been rendered unnecessary : after he had left 
her, other circumstances had occurred which we will now proceed 
to relate. 

The two women, during the few days which they had to pass in 
the tailor's hospitable dwelling, had resumed, as far as they could, 
each her former accustomed manner of living. Lucia had very soon 
begged some employment; and, as at the monastery, diligently plied 
her needle in a small retired room shut out from the gaze of the 
people. Agnese occasionally went abroad, and at other times sat 
sewing with her daughter. Their conversations were more melan- 
choly, as well as more affectionate; both were prepared for a separa- 
tion; since the lamb could not return to dwell so near the wolf's 
den: and when and what would be the end of this separation? The 
future was dark, inextricable; for one of them in particular. Agnese, 
nevertheless, indulged in her own mind many cheerful anticipations, 
that Renzo, if nothing evil had happened to him, would, sooner or 
later, send some news of himself, and if he had found some employ- 
ment to which he could settle, if (and how could it be doubted ? ) he 
still intended to keep faith with Lucia; why could they not go and 
live with him .'' With such hopes she often entertained her daughter, 
who found it, it is difficult to say, whether more mournful to listen 
to them, or painful to reply. Her great secret she had always kept 
to herself; and uneasy, certainly, at concealing anything from so good 
a mother, yet restrained, invincibly as it were, by shame, and the 
different fears we have before mentioned, she went from day to day 
without speaking. Her designs were very different from those of 



410 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

her mother, or rather, she had no designs; she had entirely given 
herself up to Providence. She always therefore endeavoured to divert 
or let drop the conversation; or else said, in general terms, that she 
had no longer any hope or desire for anything in this world except 
to be soon restored to her mother; more frequently, however, tears 
came opportunely instead of words. 

'Do you know why it appears so to you?' said Agnese; 'because 
you've suffered so much, and it doesn't seem possible that it can turn 
out for good to you. But leave it to God; and if . . . Let a ray come, 
but one ray; and then / know whether you will always care about 
nothing.' Lucia kissed her mother, and wept. 

Besides this, a great friendship quickly sprang up between them 
and their hosts: where, indeed, should it exist, unless between bene- 
factors and the benefited, when both one and the other are worthy, 
good people? Agnese, particularly, had many long chats with the 
mistress of the house. The tailor, too, gave them a little amusement 
with his stories and moral discourses: and, at dinner especially, had 
always some wonderful anecdote to relate of Buovo d'Antona, or 
the Fathers of the Desert. 

A few miles from this village resided, at their country-house, a 
couple of some importance, Don Ferrante and Donna Prassede: their 
family, as usual, is unnamed by our anonymous author. Donna 
Prassede was an old lady, very much inclined to do good, the most 
praise-worthy employment, certainly, that a person can undertake; 
but which, like every other, can be too easily abused. To do good, 
we must know how to do it; and, like everything else, we can only 
know this through the medium of our own passions, our own judg- 
ment, our own ideas; which not unfrequently are rather as correct as 
they are capable of being, than as they ought to be. Donna Pras- 
sede acted towards her ideas as it is said one ought to do towards 
one's friends; she had few of them; but to those few she was very 
much attached. Among the few, there were, unfortunately, many 
distorted ones; nor was it these she loved the least. Hence it hap- 
pened, either that she proposed to herself as a good end what was 
not such in reality, or employed means which would rather produce 
an opposite effect, or thought them allowable when they were not 
at all so, from a certain vague supposition, that be who does more 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 411 

than his duty, may also go beyond his right; it happened that she 
could not see in an event what was actually there, or did see what 
was not there; and many other similar things, which may and do 
happen to all, not excepting the best; but to Donna Prassede far 
too often, and, not unfrequently, all at once. 

On hearing Lucia's wonderful case, and all that was reported 
on this occasion of the young girl, she felt a great curiosity to see 
her, and sent a carriage, with an aged attendant, to fetch both 
mother and daughter. The latter shrugged her shoulders, and be- 
sought the tailor, who was the bearer of the message, to find some 
sort of excuse for her. So long as it only related to the common 
people, who tried to make acquaintance with the young girl who 
had been the subject of a miracle, the tailor had willingly rendered 
her that service; but in this instance, resistance seemed in his eyes a 
kind of rebellion. He made so many faces, uttered so many exclama- 
tions, used so many arguments — ^"that it wasn't customary to do so, 
and that it was a grand house, and that one shouldn't say "No" to 
great people, and that it might be the making of their fortune, and 
that the Signora Donna Prassede, besides all the rest, was a saint 
tool' — in short, so many things, that Lucia was obliged to give way: 
more especially, as Agnese confirmed all these reasonings with a 
corresponding number of ejaculations: 'Certainly, surely.' 

Arrived in the lady's presence, she received them with much cour- 
tesy and numberless congratulations; questioning and advising them 
with a kind of almost innate superiority, but corrected by so many 
humble expressions, tempered by so much interest in their behalf, 
and sweetened with so many expressions of piety, that Agnese, almost 
immediately, and Lucia not long afterwards, began to feel relieved 
from the oppressive sense of awe with which the presence of such 
a lady had inspired them; nay, they even found something attractive 
in it. In short, hearing that the Cardinal had undertaken to find 
Lucia a place of retreat, and urged by a desire to second, and, at the 
same time, anticipate his good intention, Donna Prassede proposed 
to take the young girl into her own house, where no other services 
would be required of her than the use of her needle, scissors, and 
spindle; adding, that she would take upon herself the charge of 
informing his Lordship. 



412 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Beyond the obvious and immediate good in this work Donna 
Prassede saw in it, and proposed to herself another, perhaps a more 
considerable one in her ideas, that of directing a young mind, and of 
bringing into the right way one who greatly needed it; for, from 
the first moment she had heard Lucia mentioned, she became in- 
stantly persuaded, that, in a young girl who could have promised 
herself to a scoundrel, a villain, in short, a scape-gallows, there must 
be some fault, some hidden wickedness lurking within: Tell me 
what company you l{eep, and I'll tell you what you are. Lucia's visit 
had confirmed this persuasion: not that, on the whole, as the saying 
is, she did not seem to Donna Prassede a good girl; but there were 
many things to favour the idea. That head hung down till her chin 
was buried in her neck; her not replying at all, or only in broken 
sentences, as if by constraint, might indicate modesty; but they un- 
doubtedly denoted a great deal of wilfulness: it did not require 
much discernment to discover that that young brain had its own 
thoughts on the subject. And those blushes every moment, and 
those suppressed sighs . • . Two such eyes, too, which did not 
please Donna Prassede at all. She held it for certain, as if she knew 
it on good grounds, that all Lucia's misfortunes were a chastisement 
from Heaven for her attachment to a rascal, and a warning to her 
to give him up entirely; and these premises being laid down, she 
proposed to co-operate towards so good an end. Because, as she 
often said both to herself and others, she made it her object to 
second the will of Heaven; but she often fell into the misconception 
of taking for the will of Heaven the fancies of her own brain. How- 
ever, she took care not to give the least hint of the second intention 
we have named. It was one of her maxims, that, to bring a good 
design to a useful issue, the first requisite, in the greater number of 
instances, is not to let it be discovered. 

The mother and daughter looked at each other. Considering the 
mournful necessity of their separating, the offer seemed to both of 
ihem most acceptable, when they had no choice for it, on account 
of the vicinity of the residence to their village, whither, let the worst 
come to the worst, they would return, and be able to meet at the 
approaching festivity. Seeing assent exhibited in each other's eyes, 
they both turned to Donna Prassede with such acknowledgments 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 413 

as expressed their acceptance of the proposal. She renewed her kind 
affability and promises, and said that they would shortly have a 
letter to present to his Lordship. After the women had taken their 
departure, she got Don Ferrante to compose the letter. He, being a 
learned person, as we shall hereafter relate more particularly, was 
always employed by her as secretary on occasions of importance. On 
one of such magnitude as this, Don Ferrante exerted his utmost 
stretch of ingenuity; and on delivering the rough draught to his 
partner to copy, warmly recommended the orthography to her notice; 
this being one of the many things he had studied, and the few over 
which he had any command in the house. Donna Prassede copied 
it very diligently, and then despatched the letter to the tailor's. This 
was two or three days before the Cardinal sent the litter to convey 
the two women home. 

Arriving at the village before the Cardinal had gone to church, 
they alighted at the curate's house. There was an order to admit 
them immediately : the chaplain, who was the first to see them, exe- 
cuted the order, only detaining them so long as was necessary to 
school them very hastily in the ceremonials they ought to observe to- 
wards his Lordship, and the titles by which they should address him, 
his usual practice wherever he could effect it unknown to his Grace. 
It was a continual annoyance to the poor man to see the little cere- 
mony that was used towards the Cardinal in this particular. 'All,' 
said he to the rest of the household, 'through the excess of kindness 
of that saintly man — from his great familiarity.' And then he re- 
lated how, with his own ears, he had more than once even heard 
the reply: '^es, sir', and 'No, sir! 

The Cardinal was, at this moment, busily talking with Don 
Abbondio on some parish matters: so that the latter had not the 
desired opportunity of giving his instructions also to the women. 
He could only bestow upon them in passing, as he withdrew and 
they came forward, a glance, which meant to say how well-pleased 
he was with them, and conjuring them, like good creatures, to con- 
tinue silent. 

After the first kind greetings on one hand, and the first reverent 
salutations on the other, Agnese drew the letter from her bosom, 
and handed it to the Cardinal, saying: 'It is from the Signora Donna 



414 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Prassede, who says, she knows your most illustrious Lordship well, 
my Lord; it's natural enough, among such great people, that they 
should know each other. When you have read it, you'll see.' 

'Very well,' said Federigo, when he had read the letter, and ex- 
tracted the honey from Don Ferrante's flowers of rhetoric. He knew 
the family well enough to feel certain that Lucia had been invited 
thither with good intentions, and that there she would be secure from 
the machinations and violence of her persecutor. What opinion he 
entertained of Donna Prassede's head, we have no positive informa- 
tion. Probably she was not the person whom he would have chosen 
for such a purpose; but, as we have said, or hinted, elsewhere, it was 
not his custom to undo arrangements made by those whose duty it 
was to make them, that he might do them over again better. 

Take this separation also, and the uncertainty in which you are 
placed, calmly,' added he; 'trust that it will soon be over, and that 
God will bring matters to that end to which He seems to have di- 
rected them; but rest assured, that whatever He wills shall happen, 
will be the best for you.' To Lucia, in particular, he gave some fur- 
ther kind advice; another word or two of comfort to both; and then, 
bestowing on them his blessing, he let them go. At the street-door 
they found themselves surrounded by a crowd of friends of both 
sexes, the whole jxjpulation, we may almost say, who were waiting 
for them, and who conducted them home, as in triumph. Among 
the women there was quite a rivalry in congratulations, sympathy, 
and inquiries; and all exclaimed with dissatisfaction, on hearing that 
Lucia would leave them the next day. The men vied with each other 
in offering their services; — every one wished to keep guard at the 
cottage for that night. Upon this fact, our anonymous author thinks 
fit to ground a proverb: Would you have many ready to help you? 
be sure not to need them. 

So many welcomes confounded and almost stunned Lucia; though, 
on the whole, they did her good, by somewhat distracting her mind 
from those thoughts and recollections which, even in the midst of 
the bustle and excitement, rose only too readily on crossing that 
threshold, on entering those rooms, at the sight of every object. 

When the bells began to ring, announcing the approach of the 
hour for Divine service, everybody moved towards the church. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 415 

and, to our newly-returned friends, it was a second triumphal 
march. 

Service being over, Don Abbondio, who had hastened forward to 
see if Perpetua had everything well arranged for dinner, was in- 
formed that the Cardinal wished to speak with him. He went 
immediately to his noble guest's apartment, who, waiting till he 
drew near; 'Signor Curate,' he began — and these words were uttered 
in such a way as to convey the idea, that they were the preface to a 
long and serious conversation — 'Signor Curate, why did you not 
unite in marriage this Lucia with her betrothed husband?' 

— Those people have emptied the sack this morning, — thought 
Don Abbondio, as he stammered forth in reply, — 'Your most illus- 
trious Lordship will, doubtless, have heard speak of the confusions 
which have arisen out of this affair: it has all been so intricate, that, 
to this very day, one cannot see one's way clearly in it: as your 
illustrious Lordship may yourself conclude from this, that the young 
girl is here, after so many accidents, as it were by miracle; and that 
the bridegroom, after other accidents, is nobody knows where.' 

'I ask,' replied the Cardinal, 'whether it is true that, before all 
these circumstances took place, you refused to celebrate the marriage, 
when you were requested to do so, on the appointed day; and if so, 
why?' 

'Really ... if your illustrious Lordship knew . . . what intima- 
tions . . . what terrible injunctions I have received not to speak 
..." And he paused, without concluding, with a certain manner 
intended respectfully to insinuate, that it would be indiscreet to wish 
to know more. 

'Bur,' said the Cardinal, with a voice and look much more serious 
than usual, 'it is your Bishop who, for his own duty's sake, and for 
your justification, wishes to learn from you why you have not done 
what, in your regular duties, you were bound to do?' 

'My Lord,' said Don Abbondio, shrinking almost into a nut-shell, 
'I did not like to say before . . . But it seemed to me that, things 
being so entangled, so long gone by, and now irremediable, it was 
useless to bring them up again . . . However — however, I say, I 
know your illustrious Lordship will not betray one of your poor 
priests. For you see, my Lord, your illustrious Lordship cannot be 



4l6 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

everywhere at once; and I remain here exposed . . . But, when you 
command it, I will tell you ... I will tell you all.' 

'Tell me: I only wish to find you free from blame.' 

Don Abbondio then began to relate the doleful history; but sup- 
pressing the principal name, he merely substituted a great Signor; 
thus giving to prudence the Uttle that he could in such an emergency. 

'And you had no other motive.-" asked the Cardinal, having at- 
tentively heard the whole. 

'Perhaps I have not sufficiently explained myself,' replied Don 
Abbondio. 'I was prohibited, under pain of death, to perform this 
marriage.' 

'And does this appear to you a sufficient reason for omitting a 
positive duty.?' 

'I have always endeavoured to do my duty, even at very great 
inconvenience; but when one's Hfe is concerned . . .' 

'And when you presented yourself to the Church,' said Federigo, 
in a still more solemn tone, 'to receive Holy Orders, did she caution 
you about your life.' Did she tell you that the duties belonging to 
the ministry were free from every obstacle, exempt from every dan- 
ger.' or did she tell you that where danger begins, there duty would 
end } Did she not expressly say the contrary } Did she not warn you, 
that she sent you forth as a sheep among wolves.' Did you not 
know that there are violent oppressors, to whom what you are 
commanded to perform would be displeasing? He from whom we 
have received teaching and example, in imitation of whom we suffer 
ourselves to be called, and call ourselves, shepherds; when He de- 
scended upon earth to execute His office, did He lay down as a con- 
dition the safety of His life.' And to save it, to preserve it, I say, 
a few days longer upon earth, at the expense of charity and duty, 
did he institute the holy unction, the imposition of hands, the gift 
of the priesthood .' Leave it to the world to teach this virtue, to ad- 
vocate this doctrine. What do I say.' Oh, shame! the world itself 
rejects it: the world also makes its own laws, which fix the limits 
of good and evil; it, too, has its gospel, a gospel of pride and hatred; 
and it will not have it said that the love of life is a reason for trans- 
gressing its precepts. It will not, and it is obeyed. And we! children 
and proclaimers of the promise! What would the Church be, if 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 417 

such language as yours were that of all your brethren? Where 
would she be, had she appeared in the world with these doctrines?' 

Don Abbondio hung his head. His mind during these arguments 
was like a chicken in the talons of a hawk, which holds its prey 
elevated to an unknown region, to an atmosphere it has never before 
breathed. Finding that he must make some reply, he said in an 
unconvinced tone of submission, 'My Lord, I shall be to blame. 
When one is not to consider one's life, I don't know what to say. 
But when one has to do with some people, people who possess 
power, and won't hear reason, I don't see what is to be gained by it, 
even if one were willing to play the bravo. This Signor is one whom 
it is impossible either to conquer, or win over.' 

'And don't you know that suffering for righteousness' sake is our 
conquest? If you know not this, what do you preach? What are 
you teacher of ? What is the good news you announce to the poor ? 
Who requires from you that you should conquer force by force? 
Surely you will not one day be asked, if you were able to overcome 
the powerful; for this purpose neither your mission nor rule was 
given to you. But you will assuredly be demanded, whether you 
employed the means you possessed to do what was required of you, 
even when they had the temerity to prohibit you.' 

— These saints are very odd, — thought Don Abbondio meanwhile: 
— in substance, to extract the plain meaning, he has more at heart 
the affections of two young people than the life of a poor priest. — 
And, as to himself, he would have been very well satisfied had the 
conversation ended here; but he saw the Cardinal, at every pause, 
wait with the air of one who expects a reply, a confession, or an 
apology, — in short, something. 

'I repeat, my Lord,' answered he, therefore, 'that I shall be to 
blame . • . One can't give one's self courage.' 

'And why then, I might ask you, did you undertake an office which 
binds up)on you a continual warfare with the passions of the world ? 
But I will rather say, how is it you do not remember that, if in this 
ministry, however you may have been placed there, courage is nec- 
essary to fulfil your obligations, there is One who will infallibly 
bestow it upon you, when you ask Him? Think you all the millions 
of martyrs naturally possessed courage? that they naturally held life 



41 8 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in contempt? So many young persons, just beginning to enjoy it 
— so many aged ones, accustomed to regret that it is so near its end — 
so many children — so many mothers? All possessed courage, be- 
cause courage was necessary, and they relied upon God. Knowing 
your own weakness, and the duties to which you were called, have 
you ever thought of preparing yourself for the difficult circumstances 
in which you might be placed, in which you actually are placed 
at present? Ah! if for so many years of pastoral labours you have 
loved your flock (and how could you not love them?) — if you 
have placed in them your affections, your cares, your happiness, 
courage ought not to fail you in the moment of need : love is intrepid. 
Now, surely, if you loved those who have been committed to your 
spiritual care, those whom you call children, when you saw two 
of them threatened, as well as yourself, ah, surely! as the weakness 
of the flesh made you tremble for yourself, so love would have made 
you tremble for them. You would feel humbled for your former 
fears, as the effect of your corrupt nature; you would have implored 
strength to overcome them, to expel them as a temptation. But a 
holy and noble fear for others, for your children, this you would 
have listened to, this would have given you no peace; this would 
have incited — constrained you to think and do all you could to 
avert the dangers that threatened them . . . With what has this 
fear, this love, inspired you ? What have you done for them ? What 
have you thought for them?' 
And he ceased, in token of expectation. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

AT such a question, Don Abbondio, who had been studying to 
ZJm find some reply in the least precise terms possible, stood 
Jl. .m. without uttering a word. And, to speak the truth, even 
we, with the manuscript before us, and pen in hand, having nothing 
to contend with but words, nor anything to fear but the criticisms 
of our readers, even we, I say, feel a kind of repugnance in proceed- 
ing; we feel somewhat strange in this setting forth, with so little trou- 
ble, such admirable precepts of fortitude and charity, of active solici- 
tude for others, and unlimited sacrifice of self. But remembering that 
these things were said by one who also practised them, we will 
confidently proceed. 

'You give me no answer!' resumed the Cardinal. 'Ah, if you had 
done, on your part, what charity and duty required of you, however 
things had turned out, you would now have something to answer! 
You see, then, yourself what you have done. You have obeyed the 
voice of Iniquity, unmindful of the requirements of duty. You have 
obeyed her punctually: she showed herself to you to signify her de- 
sire; but she wished to remain concealed from those who could have 
sheltered themselves from her reach, and been on their guard against 
her; she did not wish to resort to arms, she desired secrecy, to mature 
her designs of treachery and force at leisure; she required of you 
transgression and silence. You have transgressed, and kept silence. 
I ask you, now, whether you have not done more? — you will tell 
me whether it be true that you alleged false pretexts for your re- 
fusal, that you might not reveal the true motive.' And he paused 
awhile, awaiting a reply. 

— The tell-tales have reported this too, — thought Don Abbondio; 
but as he gave no token in words of having anything to say, the 
Cardinal continued: 'If it be true, then, that you told these poor 
people what was not the case, to keep them in the ignorance and dark- 
ness in which iniquity wished them to be ... I must believe it, 

419 



420 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

then; it only remains for me to blush for it with you, and to hope 
that you will weep for it with me! See, then, to what this solicitude 
(good God! and but just now you adduced it as a justification!) 
this solicitude for your temporal life has led you! It has led you 
• . . repel freely these words, if you think them unjust; take them 
as a salutary humiliation, if they are not ... it has led you to de- 
ceive the weak, to lie to your own children.' 

— Just see now how things go! — thought Don Abbondio again to 
himself: to that fiend, — meaning the Unnamed, — his arms round 
his neck; and to me, for a half-lie, uttered for the sole purpose of 
saving my life, all this fuss and noise. But they are our superiors; 
they're always in the right. It's my ill star that everybody sets upon 
me; even saints. — And, speaking aloud, he said: 'I have done wrong; 
I see that I've done wrong; but what could I do in an extremity of 
that kind.?' 

'Do you still ask this? Have not I told you already? Must I 
tell you again? You should have loved, my son; loved and prayed. 
Then you would have felt that iniquity may, indeed, have threats 
to employ, blows to bestow, but not commands to give; you would 
have united, according to the law of God, those whom man wished 
to put asunder; you would have extended towards these unhappy 
innocents the ministry they had a right to claim from you: God 
Himself would have been surety for the consequences, because you 
had followed His will: by following another's, you have come in as 
answerable: and for what consequences! But supposing all human 
resources failed you, supposing no way of escape was open, when 
you looked anxiously around you, thought about it, sought for it? 
Then you might have known, that when your poor children were 
married, they would themselves have provided for their escaf)e, that 
they were ready to flee from the face of their powerful enemy, and 
had already designed a place of refuge. But even without this, did 
you not remember that you had a superior? How would he have 
this authority to rebuke you for having been wanting in the duties 
of your office, did he not feel himself bound to assist you in fulfiUing 
them? Why did you not think of acquainting your bishop with the 
impediment that infamous violence had placed in the way of the 
exercise of your ministry? 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 421 

— The very advice of Perpetual — thought Don Abbondio, pettishly, 
who, in the midst of this conversation, had most vividly before his 
eyes the image of the bravoes, and the thought that Don Rodrigo 
was still alive and well, and that he would, some day or other, be 
returning in glory and triumph, and furious with revenge. And 
though the presence of so high a dignitary, together with his coun- 
tenance and language, filled him with confusion, and inspired him 
with fear; yet it was not such fear as completely to subdue him, or 
expel the idea of resistance: because this idea was accompanied by the 
recollection, that, after all, the Cardinal employed neither musket, 
nor sword, nor bravoes. 

'Why did you not remember,' pursued the bishop, 'that if there 
were no other retreat open to these betrayed innocents, I at least 
was ready to receive them, and put them in safety, had you directed 
them to me — the desolate to a bishop, as belonging to him, as a pre- 
cious part, I don't say, of his charge, but of his riches? And as to 
yourself, I should have become anxious for you; I should not have 
slept till I was sure that not a hair of your head would be injured. 
Do you think I had not the means of securing your life? Think you, 
that he who was so very bold, would have remitted nothing of his 
boldness, when he was aware that his plots and contrivances were 
known elsewhere, were known to me, that I was watching him, and 
was resolved to use all the means within my power in your defence? 
Didn't you know that if men too often promise more than they can 
perform, so they not unfre<]uently threaten more than they would 
attempt to execute? Didn't you know that iniquity dejjends not only 
on its own strength, but often also on the fears and credulity of 
others?' 

— Just Perpetua's arguments, — again thought Don Abbondio, never 
reflecting that this singular concurrence of his servant and Federigo 
Borromeo, in deciding on what he might and should have done, 
would tell very much against him. 

'But you,' pursued the Cardinal, in conclusion, 'saw nothing, and 
would see nothing, but your own temporal danger; what wonder 
that it seemed to you sufficient to outweigh every other considera- 
tion?' 

'It was because I myself saw those terrible faces,' escaped from 



422 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Abbondio in reply; '1 myself heard their words. Your illustrious 
Lordship can talk very well; but you ought to be in a poor priest's 
shoes, and find yourself brought to the point.' 

No sooner, however, had he uttered these words, than he bit his 
tongue with vexation; he saw that he had allowed himself to be 
too much carried away by petulance, and said to himself, — Now 
comes the storm! — But raising his eyes doubtfully, he was utterly 
astonished to see the countenance of that man, whom he never 
could succeed in divining or comprehending, pass from the solemn 
air of authority and rebuke, to a sorrowful and pensive gravity. 

' 'Tis too true!' said Federigo; 'such is our miserable and terrible 
condition. We must rigorously exact from others what God only 
knows whether we should be ready to yield: we must judge, correct, 
reprove; and God knows what we ourselves should do in the same 
circumstances, what we actually have done in similar ones! But woe 
unto me, had I to take my own weakness as the measure of other 
people's duties, or the rule of my own teaching! Yet I certainly ought 
to give a good example, as well as good instruction, to others, and not 
be like the Pharisees, who "lade men with burdens grievous to be 
borne, while they themselves touch not the burden with one of their 
fingers." Well then, my son, my brother; as the errors of those in 
authority are often better known to others than to themselves; if 
you are aware of my having, from pusillanimity, or from any other 
motive, failed in any part of my duty, tell me of it candidly, and help 
me to amend; so that where example has been wanting, confession 
at least may supply its place. Remonstrate freely with me on my 
weaknesses; and then my words will acquire more value in my 
mouth, because you will feel more vividly that they are not mine, 
but are the words of Him who can give both to you and me the 
necessary strength to do what they prescribe.' 

— Oh, what a holy man! but what a tormentor! — thought Don 
Abbondio; — he doesn't even spare himself: that I should examine, 
interfere with, criticize, and accuse even himself — He then said 
aloud: 'Oh, my Lord, you are joking with me! Who does not know 
the fortitude of mind, the intrepid zeal of your illustrious Lordship?' 
And in his heart he added — Even too much so. — 

'I did not ask you for praise, which makes me tremble,' said Fed- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 423 

erigo; 'for God knows my failings, and what I know of them myself 
is enough to confound me; but I wished that we should humble 
ourselves together before Him, that we might depend upon Him 
together. I would, for your own sake, that you should feel how your 
conduct has been, and your language still is, opposed to the law you 
nevertheless preach, and according to which you will be judged.' 

'All falls upon me,' said Don Abbondio: 'but these people, who 
have told you this, didn't probably, tell you, too, of their having 
introduced themselves treacherously into my house, to take me by 
surprise, and to contract a marriage contrary to the laws.' 

'They did tell me, my son : but it is this that grieves, that depresses 
me, to see you still anxious to excuse yourself; still thinking to excuse 
yourself by accusing others; still accusing others of what ought to 
make part of your own confession. Who placed them, I don't say 
under the necessity, but under the temptation, to do what they have 
done? Would they have sought this irregular method, had not the 
legitimate one been closed against them ? Would they have thought 
of snaring their pastor, had they been received to his arms, assisted, 
advised by him? or of surprising him, had he not concealed himself? 
And do you lay the blame upon them? And are you indignant, 
because, after so many misfortunes, — what do I say ? in the midst of 
misfortune, — they have said a word or two, to give vent to their 
sorrows, to their and your pastor? That the appeals of the oppressed, 
and the complaints of the afflicted, are odious to the world, is only 
too true; but we! ... But what advantage would it have been to 
you, had they remained silent? Would it turn to your profit that 
their cause should be left entirely to the judgment of God? Is it not 
a fresh reason why you should love these persons, (and you have 
many already), that they have afforded you an opportunity of hear- 
ing the sincere voice of your pastor, that they have given you the 
means of knowing more clearly, and in part discharging, the great 
debt you owe them? Ah! if they have provoked, offended, annoyed 
you, I would say to you, (and need I say it?) love them exactly for 
that reason. Love them, because they have suffered, because they still 
suffer, because they are yours, because they are weak, because you 
have need of pardon, to obtain which, think of what efficacy their 
prayer may be.' 



424 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Abbondio was silent, but it was no longer an unconvinced 
and scornful silence: it was that of one who has more things to 
think about than to say. The words he had heard were unexpected 
consequences, novel applications, of a doctrine he had nevertheless 
long believed in his heart, without a thought of disputing it. The 
misfortunes of others, from the contemplation of which his fear of 
personal misfortune had hitherto diverted his mind, now made a 
new impression upon him. 

And if he did not feel all the contrition which the address was 
intended to produce (for this same fear was ever at hand to execute 
the office of defensive advocate), yet he felt it in some degree; he 
experienced dissatisfaction with himself, a kind of pity for others, — 
a mixture of compunction and shame. It was, if we may be allowed 
the comparison, like the crushed and humid wick of a candle, which, 
on being presented to the flame of a large torch, at first smokes, spirts, 
crackles, and will not ignite; but it lights at length, and, well or ill, 
burns. He would have accused himself bitterly, he would even have 
wept, had it not been for the thought of Don Rodrigo; and, as it 
was, betrayed sufficient emotion to convince the Cardinal that his 
words had not been entirely without eflect. 

'Now,' pursued he, 'the one a fugitive from his home, the other 
on the fwint of abandoning it, both with too good reasons for absent- 
ing themselves, and without a probability of ever meeting again here, 
even if God purposes to re-unite them; now, alas! they have too 
little need of you, now you have no opportunity of doing them any 
service; nor can our limited foresight predict any for the future. But 
who knows whether a God of mercy may not be preparing some for 
you? Ah! suffer them not to escape! Seek them, be on the watch 
for them; beseech Him to create them for you.' 

'I will not fail, my Lord, I will not fail, I assure you,' replied Don 
Abbondio, in a tone that showed it came from the heart. 

'Ah yes, my son, yes!' exclaimed Federigo; and with a dignity 
full of affection, he concluded, 'Heaven knows how I should have 
wished to hold a different conversation with you. We have both lived 
long; Heaven knows if it has not been painful to me to be obliged 
thus to grieve your gray hairs with reprimands; how much more 
gladly I would have shared with you our common cares and sor- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 425 

rows, and conversed with you on the blessed hope to which we have 
so nearly approached. God grant that the language which I have 
been compelled to use, may be o£ use to us both. You would not 
wish that He should call me to account at the last day, for having 
countenanced you in a course of conduct in which you have so 
unhappily fallen short of your duty. Let us redeem the time; 
the hour of midnight is at hand; the Bridegroom cannot tarry; let 
us, therefore, keep our lamps burning. Let us offer our hearts, mis- 
erable and empty as they are, to God that He may be pleased to fill 
them with that charity which amends the past, which is a pledge of 
the future, which fears and trusts, weeps and rejoices, with true 
wisdom; which becomes, in every instance, the virtue of which we 
stand in need.' 

So saying, he left the room, followed by Don Abbondio. 

Here our anonymous author informs us, that this was not the only 
interview between these two persons, nor Lucia the only subject 
of these interviews; but that he has confined himself to the mention 
of this one, that he might not digress too far from the principal ob- 
ject of his narrative. And, for the same reason, he does not make 
mention of other notable things, said and done by Federigo, through- 
out the whole course of his visitation; or of his hberality, or of the 
dissensions composed, and the ancient feuds between individuals, 
families, and entire towns, extinguished, or (which was, alas! far 
more frequent) suppressed; or of sundry ruffians, and petty tyrants, 
tamed either for life, or for some time; — all of them things which 
occurred more or less in every part of the diocese where this excel- 
lent man made any stay. 

He then goes on to say how, next morning, Donna Prassede came, 
according to agreement, to fetch Lucia, and to pay her respects to 
the Cardinal, who spoke in high terms of the young girl, and recom- 
mended her warmly to the Signora. Lucia parted from her mother, 
it may be imagined with what tears, left her cottage, and a second 
time said farewell to her native village, with that sense of doubly 
bitter sorrow, which is felt on leaving a spot which was once dearly 
loved, and can never be so again. But this parting from her mother 
was not the last; for Donna Prassede had announced that she should 
still reside some time at their country house, which was not very far 



426 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

off; and Agnese had promised her daughter to go thither, to give 
and receive a more mournful adieu. 

The Cardinal was himself just starting for another parish, when 
the Curate of that in which the castle of the Unnamed was situated, 
arrived, and requested to speak to him. On being admitted, he pre- 
sented a packet and a letter from that nobleman, wherein he besought 
Federigo to prevail upon Lucia's mother to accept a hundred scudi 
of gold, which were contained in the parcel, to serve either as a 
dowry for the young girl, or for any other use which the two women 
might deem more suitable; requesting him at the same time to tell 
them, that if ever, on any occasion, they thought he could render 
them any service, the poor girl knew too well where he lived; and 
that, for him, this would be one of the most desirable events that 
could happen. The Cardinal immediately sent for Agnese, who 
listened with equal pleasure and amazement to the courteous mes- 
sage, and suffered the packet to be put into her hand without much 
scrupulous ceremony. 'May God reward this Signor for it,' said she; 
'and will your illustrious Lordship thank him very kindly? And 
don't say a word about it to anybody, because this is a kind of coun- 
try .. . Excuse me, Sir; I know very well that a gentleman like you 
won't chatter about these things; but . . . you understand me.' 

Home she went as quickly as possible; shut herself up in her room, 
unwrapped the parcel, and, however prepared by anticipation, be- 
held with astonishment so many of those coins all together, and all 
her own, of which she had, p>erhaps, never seen more than one at 
once before, and that but seldom; she counted them over, and then 
had some trouble in putting them together again, and making the 
whole hundred stand up upon their edges; for every now and then, 
they would jut out, and slide from under her inexpert fingers; at 
length, however, she succeeded in rolling them up, after a fashion, 
put them in a handkerchief, so as to make quite a large parcel, and 
wrapping a piece of cord several times round it, went and tucked 
it into a corner of her straw mattress. The rest of the day was spent 
in castle-building, devising plans for the future, and longing for the 
morrow. After going to bed, she lay for a long time awake, with the 
thought of the hundred scudi she had beneath her to keep her 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 427 

company; and when asleep she saw them in her dreams. By break 
of day she arose, and set off in good time towards the villa where her 
daughter was residing. 

Though Lucia's extreme reluctance to speak of her vow was in no 
degree diminished, she had, on her part, resolved to force herself 
to open her mind to her mother in this interview, as it would be the 
last they should have for a long time. 

Scarcely were they left alone, when Agnese, with a look full of 
animation, and, at the same time, in a suppressed tone of voice, as 
if there were some one present who she was afraid would hear, be- 
gan: 'I've a grand thing to tell you;' and proceeded to relate her 
unexf)ected good fortune. 

'God bless this Signer,' said Lucia: 'now you have enough to be 
well off yourself, and you can also do good to others.' 

'Why!' replied Agnese, 'don't you see how many things we may 
do with so much money? Listen; I have nobody but you — but you 
two, I may say; for, from the time that he began to address you, I've 
always considered Renzo as my son. The whole depends upon 
whether any misfortune has happened to him, seeing he gives no 
sign of being alive: but oh! surely all won't go ill with us.'' We'll 
hope not, we'll hope not. For me, I should have liked to lay my bones 
in my native country; but now that you can't be there, thanks 
to that villain! and when I remember that he is near, even my coun- 
try has become hateful to me; and with you two I can be happy any- 
where. I was always inclined to go with you both to the very end 
of the world, and have ever been in readiness; but how could we 
do it without money .' Do you understand, now .'' The little sum that 
the poor fellow had been scarcely able to lay by, with all his frugality, 
justice came, and cleared it away; but the Lord has sent us a fortune 
to make up for it. Well, when he has found a way of letting us 
know that he's alive, where he is, and what are his intentions, I'll 
come to Milan and fetch you; ay, I'll come myself. Once upon a 
time, I should have thought twice about such a thing, but misfor- 
tunes make one experienced and independent; I've gone as far as 
Monza, and know what it is to travel. I'll bring with me a proper 
companion, — a relation, as I may say, — Alessio, of Maggianico; for. 



428 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to say the truth, a fit person isn't to be found in the country at all. 
I'll come with him; we will pay the expense, and ... do you under- 
stand?' 

But perceiving that, instead of cheering up, Lucia became more 
and more dejected, and only exhibited emotion unmixed with plea- 
sure, she stopped abruptly in the midst of her speech, and said, 'But 
what's the matter with you? Don't you see it?' 

'Poor mamma!' exclaimed Lucia, throwing her arm round her 
neck, and burying her weeping face in her bosom. 

'What is the matter?' again asked her mother, anxiously. 

'I ought to have told you at first,' said Lucia, raising her head, and 
composing herself, 'but I never had the heart to do it: pity me.' 

'But tell me then, now.' 

'I can no longer be that poor fellow's wife!' 

'How? how?' 

With head hung down, a beating heart, and tears rolling down 
her cheeks, like one who relates something which, though a misfor- 
tune, is unalterable, Lucia disclosed her vow; and, at the same time, 
clasping her hands, again besought her mother's forgiveness for 
having hitherto concealed it from her; she implored her not to speak 
of such a thing to any living being, and to give her help, and facili- 
tate the fulfilment of what she had promised. 

Agnese remained stupefied with consternation. She would have 
been angry with her for her silence to her mother, but the more 
serious thoughts the case itself aroused stifled this personal vexation; 
she would have reproached her for the act, but it seemed to her that 
that would be a murmuring against Heaven; the more so, as Lucia 
began to depict, more vividly than ever, the horrors of that night, 
the absolute desolation, and the unhoped-for deliverance, between 
which the promise had been so expressly, so solemnly made. And all 
the while, example after example rose to the recollection of the lis- 
tener, which she had often heard repeated, and had repeated herself 
to her daughter, of strange and terrible punishments following upon 
the violation of a vow. After a few moments of astonishment, she 
said, 'And what will you do now?' 

'Now,' replied Lucia, 'it is the Lord who must think for us; the 
Lord, and the Madonna. I have placed myself in their hands; they 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 429 

have not forsaken me hitherto; they will not forsake me now, that 
. . . The mercy I ask for myself of the Lord, the only mercy, after 
the salvation of my soul, is, that He will let me rejoin you; and He 
will grant it me — yes, I feel sure He will. That day ... in that car- 
riage • . . Ah, most holy Virgin! . . . those men! . . . who would 
have told me that they were bringing me to this, that they would 
bring me to join my mother the next day?' 

'But not to tell your mother of it at once!' said Agnese, with a kind 
of anger, subdued by affection and pity. 

'Oh, pity me! I had not the heart . . . and what use would it have 
been to grieve you so long ago?' 

'And Renzo?' said Agnese, shaking her head. 

'Ah!' exclaimed Lucia, with a sudden start, '1 must think nothing 
more of that poor fellow. Long ago God had not destined . . . See 
how it appears that it was His will we should be kept asunder. And 
who knows? . . . but no, no; the Lord will have preserved him 
from danger, and will make him even happier without me.' 

'But now, you see,' replied Agnese, 'if it were not that you are 
bound for ever, for all the rest, if no misfortune has happened to 
Renzo, I might have found a remedy with so much money.' 

'But should we have got this money,' replied Lucia, 'if I had not 
passed through such a night? ... It is the Lord who has ordered 
everything as it is; His will be done.' And here her voice was 
choked with tears. 

At this unexpected argument, Agnese remained silent and thought- 
ful. In a few moments, however, Lucia, suppressing her sobs, re- 
sumed: 'Now that the deed is done, we must submit to it with 
cheerfulness; and you, my poor mother, you can help me, first, by 
praying to the Lord for your unhappy daughter, and then . . . that 
poor fellow must be told of it, you know. Will you see to this, and 
do me also this kindness; for you can think about it. When you can 
find out where he is, get some one to write to him; find a man . . . 
Oh, your cousin, Alessio, is just the man, a prudent and kind person, 
who has always wished us well, and won't gossip and tell tales; get 
him to write the thing just as it is, where I have been, how I have suf- 
fered, and that God has willed it should be thus; and that he must 
set his heart at rest, and that I can never, never be anybody's wife! 



430 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

And tell him of it in a kind and clever way; explain to him that I 
have promised, that I have really made a vow . . . When he knows 
that 1 have promised the Madonna ... he has always been good 
and religious . . . And you, the moment you have any news of 
him, get somebody to write to me; let me know that he is well, 
and then ... let me never hear anything more.' 

Agnese, with much feeling, assured her daughter that everything 
should be done as she desired. 

'There's one thing more I have to say,' resumed Lucia; 'this poor 
fellow ... if he hadn't had the misfortune to think of me, all that 
has happened to him never would have happened. He's a wan- 
derer in the wide world; they've ruined him on setting out in life; 
they've carried away all he had, all those little savings he had made, 
poor fellow; you know why . . . And we have so much money! 
Oh, mother! as the Lord has sent us so much wealth, and you look 
upon this poor fellow, true enough, as belonging to you . . . yes, 
as your son, oh! divide it between you; for, most assuredly, God 
won't let us want. Look out for the opportunity of a safe bearer, and 
send it him; for Heaven knows how much he wants it!' 

'Well, what do you think?' replied Agnese: 'I'll do it, indeed. 
Poor youth! Why do you think I was so glad of this money? But! 
... I certainly came here very glad, so I did. Well, I'll send it him; 
poor youth! But he, too ... I know what I would say; certainly, 
money gives pleasure to those who want it; but it isn't this that will 
make him rich.' 

Lucia thanked her mother for her ready and liberal assent, with 
such deep gratitude and aflection, as would have convinced an 
observer that her heart still secretly clung to Renzo, more, perhaps, 
than she herself believed. 

'And what shall I, a poor solitary woman, do without you?' said 
Agnese, weeping in her turn. 

'And I without you, my poor mother! and in a stranger's house! 
and down there in Milan! . . . But the Lord will be with us both, 
and afterwards will bring us together again. Between eight and nine 
months hence, we shall see each other once more here; and by that 
time, or even before it, I hope. He will have disjwsed matters to 
our comfort. Leave it to Him. I will ever, ever beseech the Madonna 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 431 

for this mercy. If I had anything else to offer her, I would do it; 
but she is so merciful, that she will obtain it for me as a gift.' 

With these, and other similar and oft-repeated words of lamenta- 
tion and comfort, of opposition and resignation, of interrogation and 
confident assurance, with many tears, and after long and renewed 
embraces, the women tore themselves apart, promising, by turns, 
to see each other the next autumn, at the latest; as if the fulfilment of 
these promises depended upon themselves, and as people always do, 
nevertheless, in similar cases. 

Meanwhile, a considerable time passed away, and Agnese could 
hear no tidings of Renzo. Neither letter nor message reached her 
from him; and among all those whom she could ask from Bergamo, 
or the neighbourhood, no one knew anything at all about him. 

Nor was she the only one who made inquiries in vain: Cardinal 
Federigo, who had not told the poor woman merely out of com- 
pliment that he would seek for some information concerning the 
unfortunate man, had, in fact, immediately written to obtain it. 
Having returned to Milan after his visitation, he received a reply, 
in which he was informed, that the address of the person he had 
named could not be ascertained; that he had certainly made some 
stay in such a place, where he had given no occasion for any talk 
about himself; but that, one morning, he had suddenly disappeared; 
that a relative of his, with whom he had lodged there, knew not 
what had become of him, and could only repeat certain vague and 
contradictory rumours which were afloat, that the youth had en- 
listed for the Levant, had passed into Germany, or had perished 
in fording a river; but that the writer would not fail to be on the 
watch, and if any better authenticated tidings came to light, would 
immediately convey them to his most illustrious and very reverend 
Lordship. 

These, and various other reports, at length spread throughout the 
territory of Lecco, and, consequently, reached the ears of Agnese. 
The poor woman did her utmost to discover which was the true 
account, and to arrive at the origin of this and that rumour; but 
she never succeeded in tracing it further than they say, which, even 
at the present day, suffices, by itself, to attest the truth of facts. Some- 
times she had scarcely heard one tale, when some one would come 



432 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and tell her not a word of it was true; only, however, to give her 
another in compensation, equally strange and disastrous. The truth 
is, all these rumours were alike unfounded. 

The Governor of Milan, and Captain-General in Italy, Don Gon- 
zalo Fernandez de Cordova, had complained bitterly to the Venetian 
minister, resident at Milan, because a rogue, and public robber, a 
promoter of plundering and massacre, the famous Lorenzo Tramag- 
hno, who, while in the very hands of justice, had excited an insurrec- 
tion to force his escape, had been received and harboured in the 
Bergamascan territory. The minister in residence replied, that he 
knew nothing about it; he would write to Venice, that he might be 
able to give his Excellency any explanation that could be procured 
on the subject. 

It was a maxim of Venetian pwlicy to second and cultivate the 
inclination of Milanese silk-weavers to emigrate into the Bergamas- 
can territory, and, with this object, to provide many advantages 
for them, more especially that without which every other was worth- 
less; we mean, security. As, however, when two great diplomatists 
dispute, in however trifling a matter, third parties must always have 
a taste in the shape of consequences, Bortolo was warned, in confi- 
dence, it was not known by whom, that Renzo was not safe in that 
neighbourhood, and that he would do wisely to place him in some 
other manufacture for a while, even under a false name. Bortolo 
understood the hint, raised no objections, explained the matter to 
his cousin, took him with him in a carriage, conveyed him to another 
new silk-mill, about fifteen miles off, and presented him, under the 
name of Antonio Rivolta, to the owner, who was a native of the 
Milanese, and an old acquaintance. This person, though the times 
were so bad, needed little entreaty to receive a workman who was 
recommended to him as honest and skilful by an intelligent man 
like Bortolo. On the trial of him afterwards, he found he had only 
reason to congratulate himself on the acquisition; excepting that, at 
first, he thought the youth must be naturally rather stupid, because, 
when any one called Antonio, he generally did not answer. 

Soon after, an order came from Venice, in peaceable form, to the 
sheriff of Bergamo, requiring him to obtain and forward informa- 
tion, whether, in his jurisdiction, and more expressly in such a village, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 433 

such an individual was to be found. The sheriff, having made the 
necessary researches in the manner he saw was desired, transmitted 
a reply in the negative, which was transmitted to the minister at 
Milan, who transmitted it to Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova. 

There were not wanting inquisitive people who tried to learn 
from Bortolo why this youth was no longer with him, and where he 
had gone. To the first inquiry he replied, 'Nay, he has disappeared!' 
but afterwards, to get rid of the most pertinacious without giving 
them a suspicion of what was really the case, he contrived to enter- 
tain them, some with one, some with another, of the stories we 
have before mentioned : always, however, as uncertain reports, which 
he also had heard related, without having any positive accounts. 

But when inquiries came to be made of him by commission from 
the Cardinal, without mentioning his name, and with a certain show 
of importance and mystery, merely giving him to understand that 
it was in the name of a great personage, Bortolo became the more 
guarded, and deemed it the more necessary to adhere to his general 
method of reply; nay, as a great personage was concerned, he gave 
out by wholesale all the stories which he had pubUshed, one by one, 
of his various disasters. 

Let it not be imagined that such a person as Don Gonzalo bore 
any personal enmity to the poor mountain silk-weaver; that in- 
formed, perhaps, of his irreverence and ill-language towards his 
Moorish king, chained by the throat, he would have wreaked his 
vengeance upon him; or that he thought him so dangerous a subject 
as to be worth pursuing even in flight, and not suffered to live even 
at a distance, like the Roman senate with Hannibal. Don Gonzalo 
had too many and too important affairs in his head to trouble him- 
self about Renzo's doings; and if it seems that he did trouble himself 
about them, it arose from a singular combination of circumstances, 
by which the poor unfortunate fellow, without desiring it, and with- 
out being aware of it, either then, or ever afterwards, found himself 
linked, as by a very subtile and invisible chain, to these same too 
many and too important affairs. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

IT has already occurred to us more than once to make mention 
of the war which was at this time raging, for the succession to 
the states of the Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga, the second of that 
name; but it has always occurred in a moment of great haste, so that 
we have never been able to give more than a cursory hint of it. Now, 
however, for the due understanding of our narrative, a more par- 
ticular notice of it is required. They are matters which any 
one who knows anything of history must be acquainted with; but 
as, from a just estimate of ourselves, we must suppxjse that this 
work can be read by none but the ignorant, it will not be amiss that 
we should here relate as much as will suffice to give some idea of 
them to those who need it. 

We have said that on the death of this duke, the first in the line 
of succession, Carlo Gonzaga, head of a younger branch now estab- 
lished in France, where he possessed the duchies of Nevers and 
Rhetel, had entered upon the possession of Mantua, and we may 
now add, of Monferrat: for our haste made us leave this name on 
the point of the pen. The Spanish minister, who was resolved at 
any compromise (we have said this too) to exclude the new prince 
from these two fiefs, and who, to exclude him, wanted some pretext 
(because wars made without any pretext would be unjust), had 
declared himself the upholder of the claims which another Gonzaga 
Ferrante, prince of the Guastalla, pretended to have upon Mantua; 
and Carlo Emanuele I., duke of Savoy, and Margherita Gonzaga, 
duchess dowager of Lorraine, upon Monferrat. Don Gonzalo, who 
was of the family of the great commander, and bore his name, who 
had already made war in Flanders, and was extremely anxious to 
bring one into Italy, was perhaps the person who made most stir 
that this might be undertaken: and in the mean while, interpreting 
the intentions, and anticipating the orders of the above-named minis- 
ter, he concluded a treaty with the Duke of Savoy for the invasion 

434 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 435 

and partition of Monferrat; and afterwards readily obtained a ratifi- 
cation of it from the Count Duke, by persuading him that the acquisi- 
tion of Casale would be very easy, which was the most strongly 
defended point of the portion assigned to the King of Spain. He pro- 
tested, however, in the king's name, against any intention of occupy- 
ing the country further than under the name of a deposit, until the 
sentence of the Emperor should be declared; who, partly from the 
influence of others, partly from private motives of his own, had, 
in the mean while, denied the investiture to the new duke, and 
intimated to him that he should give up to him in sequestration the 
controverted states: afterwards, having heard the different sides, 
he would restore them to him who had the best claim. To these 
conditions the Duke of Nevers would not consent. 

He had, however, friends of some eminence in the Cardinal de 
Richelieu, the Venetian noblemen, and the Pope. But the first of 
these, at that time eng.iged in the siege of La Rochelle, and in a war 
with England, and thwarted by the party of the queen-mother, 
Maria de' Medici, who, for certain reasons of her own, was opposed 
to the house of Nevers, could give nothing but hopes. The Venetians 
would not stir, nor even declare themselves in his favour, unless a 
French army were first brought into Italy; and while secretly aiding 
the duke as they best could, they contented themselves with putting 
off the Court of Madrid and the Governor of Milan with protests, 
propositions, and peaceable or threatening admonitions, according 
to circumstances. Urban VIII. recommended Nevers to his friends, 
interceded in his favour with his enemies, and designed projects of 
accommodation; but would not hear a word of sending men into 
the field. 

By this means the two confederates for offensive measures were 
enabled the more securely to begin their concerted operations. Carlo 
Emanuele invaded Monferrat from his side; Don Gonzalo willingly 
laid siege to Casale, but did not find in the undertaking all the 
satisfaction he had promised himself: for it must not be imagined 
that war is a rose without a thorn. The Court did not provide him 
with nearly all the means he demanded; his ally, on the contrary, 
assisted him too much: that is to say, after having taken his own 
portion, he went on to take that which was assigned to the King 



436 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

of Spain. Don Gonzalo was enraged beyond expression; but fear- 
ing that, if he made any noise about it, this duke, as active in 
intrigues and fickle in treaty, as bold and valiant in arms, would 
revolt to the French, he was obliged to shut his eyes to it, gnaw the 
bit, and put on a satisfied air. The siege, besides, went on badly, 
being protracted to a great length, and sometimes thrown back, 
owing to the steady, cautious, and resolute behaviour of the besieged, 
the lack of sufficient numbers on the part of the besiegers, and, 
according to the report of some historian, the many false steps taken 
by Don Gonzalo; on which point we leave truth to choose her own 
side, being inclined even, were it really so, to consider it a very 
happy circumstance, if it were the cause that in this enterprise there 
were some fewer than usual slain, beheaded, or wounded; and, 
ceeteris paribus, rather fewer tiles injured in Casale. In the midst of 
these perplexities, the news of the sedition at Milan arrived, to the 
scene of which he repaired in person. 

Here, in the report which was given him, mention was also made 
of the rebellious and clamorous flight of Renzo, and of the real or 
supposed doings which had been the occasion of his arrest; and 
they could also inform him that this person had taken refuge in 
the territory of Bergamo. This circumstance arrested Don Gonzalo's 
attention. He had been informed from another quarter, that great 
interest had been felt at Venice in the insurrection at Milan; that 
they had supf)osed he would be obliged on this account to abandon 
the siege of Casale; and that they imagined he was reduced to great 
despondency and perplexity about it: the more so, as shortly after 
this event, the tidings had arrived, so much desired by these noble- 
men, and dreaded by himself, of the surrender of La Rochelle. 
Feeling considerably annoyed, both as a man and a poHtician, that 
they should entertain such an opinion of his proceedings, he sought 
every opportunity of undeceiving them, and persuading them, by 
induction, that he had lost none of his former boldness; for to say, 
explicitly, I have no fear, is just to say nothing. One good plan is 
to show displeasure, to complain, and to expostulate: accordingly, 
the Venetian ambassador having waited upon him to pay his respects, 
and at the same time to read in his countenance and behaviour how 
he felt within, Don Gonzalo, after having spoken lightly of the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 437 

tumult, like a man who had already provided a remedy for every- 
thing, made those complaints about Renzo which the reader already 
knows; as he is also acquainted with what resulted from them in 
consequence. From that time, he took no further interest in an 
affair of so little importance, which, as far as he was concerned, was 
terminated; and when, a long time afterwards, the reply came to 
him at the camp at Casale, whither he had returned, and where he 
had very different things to occupy his mind, he raised and threw 
back his head, like a silkworm searching for a leaf; reflected for a 
moment, to recall more clearly to his memory a fact of which he 
only retained a shadowy idea; remembered the circumstance, had 
a vague and momentary recollection of the person; passed on to 
something else, and thought no more about it. 

But Renzo, who, from the little which he had darkly com- 
prehended, was far from supposing so benevolent an indifference, 
had, for a time, no other thought, or rather, to speak more cor- 
rectly, no other care, than to keep himself concealed. It may be 
imagined whether he did not ardently long to send news of himself 
to the women, and receive some from them in exchange; but there 
were two great difficulties in the way. One was, that he also would 
have been forced to trust to an amanuensis, for the poor fellow knew 
not how to write, nor even read, in the broad sense of the word; 
and if, when asked the question, as the reader may perhaps re- 
member, by the Doctor Azzecca-Garbugli, he replied in the affirma- 
tive, it was not, certainly, a boast, a mere bravado, as they say; it 
was the truth, that he could manage to read print, when he could 
take his time over it: writing, however, was a different thing. He 
would be obliged, then, to make a third party the depositary of his 
affairs, and of a secret so jealously guarded: and it was not easy in 
those times to find a man who could use his p)en, and in whom con- 
fidence could be placed, particularly in a country where he had no 
old acquaintances. The other difficulty was to find a bearer; a man 
who was going just to the place he wanted, who would take charge 
of the letter, and really recollect to deliver it; all these, too, qualifica- 
tions rather difficult to be met with in one individual. 

At length, by dint of searching and sounding, he found somebody 
to write for him; but ignorant where the women were, or whether 



438 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

they were still at Monza, he judged it better to enclose the letter 
directed to Agnese under cover to Father Cristoforo, with a line 
or two also for him. The writer undertook the charge, moreover, 
of forwarding the packet, and delivered it to one who would pass 
not far from Pescarenico; this person left it with many strict charges, 
at an inn on the road, at the nearest point to the monastery; and, as 
it was directed to a convent, it reached this destination; but what 
became of it afterwards was never known. Rcnzo, receiving no 
reply, sent off a second letter, nearly like the first, which he enclosed 
in another to an acquaintance or distant relation of his at Lecco. 
He sought for another bearer, and found one; and this time the 
letter reached the person to whom it was addressed. Agnese posted 
off to Maggianico, had it read and interpreted to her by her cousin 
Alessio; concerted with him a reply, which he put down in writing 
for her, and found means of sending it to Antonio Rivolta in his 
present place of abode: all this, however, not quite so expeditiously 
as we have recounted it. Renzo received the reply, and in time sent 
an answer to it. In short, a correspondence was set on foot between 
the two parties, neither frequent nor regular, but still kept up by 
starts, and at intervals. 

To form some idea, however, of this correspondence, it is necessary 
to know a little how such things went on in those days — indeed, 
how they go on now; for in this particular, I believe, there is little 
or no variation. 

The peasant who knows not how to write, and finds himself 
reduced to the necessity of communicating his ideas to the absent, 
has recourse to one who understands the art, taking him, as far as 
he can, from among those of his own rank, — for, with others, he is 
either shamefaced, or afraid to trust them; he informs them, with 
more or less order and perspicuity, of past events; and in the same 
manner, describes to him the thoughts he is to express. The man of 
letters understands part, misunderstands part, gives a little advice, 
proposes some variation, says, 'Leave it to me;' then he takes the 
pen, transfers the idea he has received, as he best can, from speaking 
to writing, corrects it his own way, improves it, puts in flourishes, 
abbreviates, or even omits, according as he deems most suitable for 
his subject; for so it is, and there is no help for it, he who knows 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 439 

more than his neighbours will not be a passive instrument in their 
hands; and when he interferes in other people's affairs, he will force 
them to do things his own way. In addition to all this, it is not 
always quite a matter of course that the above-named literate him- 
self expresses all that he intended; nay, sometimes it happens just 
the reverse, as, indeed, it does even to us who write for the press. 
When the letter thus completed reaches the hands of the cor- 
respondent, who is equally unpractised in his a, b, c, he takes it 
to another learned genius of that tribe, who reads and expounds 
it to him. Questions arise on the matter of understanding it, be- 
cause the person interested, presuming upon his acquaintance with 
the antecedent circumstances, asserts that certain words mean such 
and such a thing; the reader, resting upon his greater experience in 
the art of composition, affirms that they mean another. At last, the 
one who does not know, is obliged to put himself into the hands of 
the one who does, and trusts to him the task of writing a reply; 
which, executed like the former example, is liable to a similar style 
of interpretation. If, in addition, the subject of the correspondence 
be a rather delicate topic, if secret matters be treated of in it, which 
it is desirable should not be understood by a third party, in case 
the letter should go astray; if with this view there be a positive in- 
tention of not expressing things quite clearly, then, however short 
a time the correspondence is kept up, the parties invariably finish by 
understanding each other as well as the two schoolmen who had dis- 
puted for four hours upon abstract mutations; not to take our simile 
from living beings, lest we expose ourselves to have our ears boxed. 
Nov/, the case of our two correspondents was exactly what we 
have described. The first letter written in Renzo's name, contained 
many subjects. Primarily, besides an account of the flight, by far 
more concise, but, at the same time, more confused, than that which 
we have given, was a relation of his actual circumstances, from 
which both Agnese and her interpreter were very far from deriving 
any lucid or tolerably correct idea. Then he spoke of secret intelli- 
gence, change of name, his being in safety, but still requiring con- 
cealment; things in themselves not very familiar to their under- 
standings, and related in the letter rather enigmatically. Then fol- 
lowed warm and impassioned inquiries about Lucia's situation, with 



440 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

dark and mournful hints of the rumours which had reached even 
his ears. There were, finally, uncertain and distant hopes and plans 
in reference to the future; and for the present promises and entreaties 
to keep their plighted faith, not to lose patience or courage, and to 
wait for better days. 

Some time passed away, and Agnese found a trusty messenger, 
to convey an answer to Renzo, with the fifty scudi assigned to him 
by Lucia. At the sight of so much gold, he knew not what to think; 
and, with a mind agitated by wonder and suspense, which left no 
room for gratification, he set off in search of his amanuensis, to 
make him interpret the letter, and find the key to so strange a 
mystery. 

Agnese's scribe, after lamenting, in the letter, the want of per- 
spicuity in Renzo's epistle, went on to describe, in a way at least 
quite as much to be lamented, the tremendous history of that person 
(so he expressed himself) ; and here he accounted for the fifty scudi; 
then he went on to speak of the vow, employing much circum- 
locution in the expression of it, but adding, in more direct and ex- 
plicit terms, the advice to set his heart at rest, and think no more 
about it. 

Renzo very nearly quarrelled with the reader; he trembled, 
shuddered, became enraged with what he had understood, and 
with what he could not understand. Three or four times did he 
make him read over the melancholy writing, now comprehending 
better, now finding what had at first appeared clear, more and more 
incomprehensible. And, in this fervour of passion, he insisted upon 
his amanuensis immediately taking pen in hand, and writing a 
reply. After the strongest expressions imaginable of pity and horror 
at Lucia's circumstances — 'Write,' pursued he, as he dictated to his 
secretary, 'that I won't set my heart at rest, and that I never will; 
and that this is not advice to be giving to a lad like me; and that I 
won't touch the money; that I'll put it by, and keep it for the young 
girl's dowry; that she already belongs to me; and that I know 
nothing about a vow; and that I have often heard say that the 
Madonna interests herself to help the afflicted, and obtains favours 
for them; but that she encourages them to despise and break their 
word, I never heard; and that this vow can't hold good; and that 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 441 

with this money we have enough to keep house here; and that I am 
somewhat in difficuhies now, it's only a storm which will quickly 
pass over;' and other similar things. Agnese received this letter 
also, and replied to it; and the correspondence continued in the 
manner we have described. 

Lucia felt greatly relieved when her mother had contrived, by 
some means or other, to let her know that Renzo was alive, safe, 
and acquainted with her vow, and desired nothing more than that 
he should forget her; or, to express it more exactly, that he should 
try to forget her. She, on her part, made a similar resolution a 
hundred times a day with respect to him; and employed, too, every 
means she could think of to put it into effect. She continued to work 
indefatigably with her needle, trying to apply her whole mind to 
it; and when Renzo's image presented itself to her view, would 
begin to repeat or chant some prayers to herself. But that image, 
just as if it were actuated by pure malice, did not generally come 
so openly; it introduced itself stealthily behind others, so that the 
mind might not be aware of having harboured it, till after it had 
been there for some time. Lucia's thoughts were often with her 
mother; how should it have been otherwise? and the ideal Renzo 
would gently creep in as a third party, as the real person had so 
often done. So, with everybody, in every place, in every remem- 
brance of the past, he never failed to introduce himself. And if the 
poor girl allowed herself sometimes to penetrate in fancy into the 
obscurity of the future, there, too, he would appear, if it were only 
to say: I, ten to one, shall not be there. However, if not to think 
of him at all were a hopeless undertaking, yet Lucia succeeded up 
to a certain point, in thinking less about him, and less intensely 
than her heart would have wished. She would even have succeeded 
better, had she been alone in desiring to do so. But there was Donna 
Prassede, who, bent on her part, upon banishing the youth from her 
thoughts, had found no better expedient than constantly talking 
about him. 'Well,' she would say, 'have you given up thinking 
of him?' 

'I am thinking of nobody,' replied Lucia. 

Donna Prassede, however, not to be appeased by so evasive an 
answer, repUed that there must be deeds, not words; and enlarged 



442 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

upon the usual practices of young girls, 'who,' said she, 'when they 
have set their hearts upon a dissolute fellow, (and it is just to such 
they have a leaning), won't consent to be separated from them. An 
honest and rational contract to a worthy man, a well-tried character, 
which, by some accident, happens to be frustrated, — they are quickly 
resigned; but let it be a villain, and it is an incurable wound.' And 
then she commenced a panegyric upon the poor absentee, the rascal 
who had come to Milan to plunder the town, and massacre the 
inhabitants; and tried to make Lucia confess all the knavish tricks 
he had played in his own country. 

Lucia, with a voice tremulous with shame, sorrow, and such 
indignation as could find place in her gentle breast and humble con- 
dition, affirmed and testified that the poor fellow had done nothing 
in his country to give occasion for anything but good to be said of 
him; 'she wished,' she said, 'that some one were present from his 
neighbourhood, that the lady might hear his testimony.' Even on 
his adventures at Milan, the particulars of which she could not learn, 
she defended him merely from the knowledge she had had of him 
and his behaviour, from his very childhood. She defended him, or 
intended to defend him, from the simple duty of charity, from her 
love of truth, and, to use just the expression by which she described 
her feelings to herself, as her neighbour. But Donna Prassede drew 
fresh arguments from these apologies, to convince Lucia that she 
had quite lost her heart to this man. And, to say the truth, in these 
moments it is difficult to say how the matter stood. The disgraceful 
picture the old lady drew of the poor youth, revived, from opp)Osition, 
more vividly and distinctly than ever in the mind of the young girl, 
the idea which long habit had established there; the recollections 
she had stifled by force, returned in crowds upon her; aversion and 
contempt recalled all her old motives of esteem and sympathy, and 
blind and violent hatred only excited stronger feelings of pity. With 
these feelings, who can say how much there might or might not be 
of another affection which follows upon them, and introduces itself 
so easily into the mind? Let it be imagined what it would do in 
one whence it was attempted to eject it by force. However it may 
be, the conversation, on Lucia's side, was never carried to any great 
length, for words were very soon resolved into tears. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 443 

Had Donna Prassede been induced to treat her in this way from 
some inveterate hatred towards her, these tears might, f>erhaps, have 
vanquished and silenced her; but as she spoke with the intention of 
doing good, she went on without allowing herself to be moved by 
them, as groans and imploring cries may arrest the weapons of an 
enemy, but not the instrument of the surgeon. Having, however, 
discharged her duty for that time, she would turn from reproaches 
and denunciations to exhortation and advice, sweetened also by a 
little praise; thus designing to temper the bitter with the sweet, the 
better to obtain her purpose, by working upon the heart under every 
state of feeling. These quarrels, however, (which had always nearly 
the same beginning, middle, and end), left no resentment, properly 
speaking, in the good Lucia's heart against the harsh sermonizer, 
who, after all, treated her, in general, very kindly; and even in this 
instance, evinced a good intention. Yet they left her in such 
agitation, with such a tumult of thoughts and affections, that it 
required no litde time, and much effort, to regain her former degree 
of calmness. 

It was well for her that she was not the only one to whom Donna 
Prassede had to do good; for, by this means, these disputes could 
not occur so frequently. Besides the rest of the family, all of whom 
were persons more or less needing amendment and guidance — be- 
sides all the other occasions which offered themselves to her, or she 
contrived to find, of extending the same kind office, of her own free 
will, to many to whom she was under no obligations; she had also 
five daughters, none of whom were at home, but who gave her 
much more to think about than if they had been. Three of these 
were nuns, two were married: hence Donna Prassede naturally 
found herself with three monasteries and two houses to super- 
intend; a vast and complicated undertaking, and the more 
arduous, because two husbands, backed by fathers, mothers, and 
brothers; three abbesses, supported by other dignitaries, and by many 
nuns, would not accept her superintendence. It was a complete war- 
fare, alias five warfares, concealed, and even courteous, up to a 
certain point, but ever active, ever vigilant. There was in every 
one of these places a continued watchfulness to avoid her solicitude, 
to close the door against her counsels, to elude her inquiries, and 



444 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to keep her in the dark, as far as possible, on every undertaking. 
We do not mention the resistance, the difficulties she encountered in 
the management of other still more extraneous affairs: it is well 
known that one must generally do good to men by force. The place 
where her zeal could best exercise itself, and have full play, was in 
her own house: here everybody was subject in everything, and for 
everything, to her authority, saving Don Ferrante, with whom things 
went on in a manner entirely peculiar. 

A man of studious turn, he neither loved to command nor obey. 
In all household matters, his wife was the mistress, with his free 
consent; but he would not submit to be her slave. And if, when 
requested, he occasionally lent her the assistance of his pen, it was 
because it suited his taste; and after all, he knew how to say no, 
when he was not convinced of what she wished him to write. 'Use 
your own sense,' he would say, in such cases; 'do it yourself, since it 
seems so clear to you.' Donna Prassede, after vainly endeavouring 
for some time to induce him to recant, and do what she wanted, 
would be obliged to content herself with murmuring frequently 
against him, with calling him one who hated trouble, a man who 
would have his own way, and a scholar: a title which, though pro- 
nounced with contempt, was generally mixed with a Uttle com- 
placency. 

Don Ferrante passed many hours in his study, where he had a 
considerable collection of books, scarcely less than three hundred 
volumes: all of them choice works, and the most highly esteemed 
on their numerous several subjects, in each of which he was more 
or less versed. In astrology, he was deservedly considered as more 
than a dilettante; for he not only possessed the generical notions and 
common vocabulary of influences, aspects, and conjunctions; but 
he knew how to talk very aptly, and as it were ex cathedra, of the 
twelve houses of the heavens, of the great circles, of lucid and ob- 
scure degrees, of exultation and dejection, of transitions and revolu- 
tions — in short, of the most assured and most recondite principles of 
the science. And it was for perhaps twenty years that he maintained, 
in long and frequent disputes, the system of Cardano against another 
learned man who was staunchly attached to that of Alcabizio, from 
mere obstinacy, as Don Ferrante said; who, readily acknowledging 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 445 

the superiority of the ancients, could not, however, endure that 
unwiUingness to yield to the moderns, even when they evidently 
have reason on their side. He was also more than indifferently 
acquainted with the history of the science; he could, on an occasion, 
quote the most celebrated predictions which had been verified, and 
reason clearly and learnedly on other celebrated predictions which 
had failed, showing that the fault was not in the science, but in those 
who knew not how to apply it. 

He had learnt as much of ancient philosophy as might have suf- 
ficed him, but still went on acquiring more from the study of 
Diogenes Laertius. As, however, these systems, how beautiful soever 
they may be, cannot all be held at once; and as, to be a philosopher, 
it is necessary to choose an author, so Don Ferrante had chosen 
Aristotle, who, he used to say, was neither ancient nor modern; he 
was the philosopher, and nothing more. He possessed also various 
works of the wisest and most ingenious disciples of that school 
among the moderns: those of its impugners he would never read, 
not to throw away time, as he said; nor buy, not to throw away 
money. Surely, by way of exception, did he find room in his library 
for those celebrated two-and-twenty volumes De Siibtilitate, and for 
some other antiperipatetic work of Cardano's, in consideration of his 
value in astrology. He said, that he who could write the treatise 
De Restitutione temporum et motuum caelestium, and the book 
Duodecim geniturarum , deserved to be listened to even when he 
erred; that the great defect of this man was, that he had too much 
talent; and that no one could conceive what he might have arrived 
at, even in philosophy, had he kept himself in the right way. In 
short, although, in the judgment of the learned, Don Ferrante passed 
for a consummate peripatetic, yet he did not deem that he knew 
enough about it himself; and more than once he was obliged to 
confess, with great modesty, that essence, universals, the soul of the 
world, and the nature of things, were not so very clear as might be 
imagined. 

He had made a recreation rather than a study of natural philos- 
ophy; the very works of Aristotle on this subject he had rather read 
than studied: yet, with this slight perusal, with the notices in- 
cidentally gathered from treatises on general philosophy, with a few 



446 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

cursory glances at the Magia naturale of Porta, at the three histories, 
lapidum, animalium , plantarum, of Cardano, at the treatise on herbs, 
plants, and animals, by Albert Magnus, and a few other works of 
less note, he could entertain a party of learned men, for a while, 
with dissertations on the most wonderful virtues and most remark- 
able curiosities of many medicinal herbs; he could minutely describe 
the forms and habits of sirens and the solitary phoenix; and explain 
how the salamander exists in the fire without burning; how the 
remora, that diminutive fish, has strength and ability completely to 
arrest a ship of any size in the high seas; how drops of dew become 
pearls in the shell; how the chameleon feeds on air; how ice, by 
being gradually hardened, is formed into crystal, in the course of 
time; with many other of the most wonderful secrets of nature. 

Into those of magic and witchcraft he had penetrated still more 
deeply, as it was a science, says our anonymous author, much more 
necessary and more in vogue in those days, in which the facts were 
of far higher importance, and it was more within reach to verify 
them. It is unnecessary to say that he had no other object in view 
in such a study, than to inform himself, and to become acquainted 
with the very worst arts of the sorcerers, in order that he might 
guard against them and defend himself. And, by the guidance 
principally of the great Martino Dclrio (a leader of the science), 
he was capable of discoursing ex projesso upon the fascination of 
love, the fascination of sleep, the fascination of hatred, and the 
infinite varieties of these three principal genuses of enchantment, 
which are only too often, again says our anonymous author, beheld 
in practice at the present day, attended by such lamentable effects. 

Not less vast and profound was his knowledge of history, par- 
ticularly universal history, in which his authors were Tarcagnota, 
Dolce, Bugatti, Campana, and Guazzo; in short, all the most highly 
esteemed. 

'But what is history,' said Don Ferrante, frequently, 'without 
politics? — A guide who walks on and on, with no one following 
to learn the road, and who consequently throws away his steps; as 
politics without history is one who walks without a guide.' There 
was therefore a place assigned to statistics on his shelves; where, 
among many of humbler rank and less renown, appeared, in all 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 447 

their glory, Bedino, Cavalcanti, Sansovino, Paruta, and Boccalini. 
There were two books, however, which Don Ferrante infinitely 
preferred above all others on this subject; two which, up to a certain 
time, he used to call the first, without ever being able to decide to 
which of the two this rank should exclusively belong: one was the 
Principe and Discorsi of the celebrated Florentine secretary; 'a great 
rascal, certainly,' said Don Ferrante, 'but profound': the other, the 
Ragion di Stato of the no less celebrated Giovanni Botero; 'an honest 
man, certainly,' said he again, 'but shrewd.' Shortly after, however, 
just at the period which our story embraces, a work came to light 
which terminated the question of pre-eminence, by surpassing the 
works of even these two Matadores, said Don Ferrante; a book in 
which was enclosed and condensed every trick of the system, that it 
might be known, and every virtue, that it might be practised; a 
book of small dimensions, but all of gold; in one word, the Statista 
Regnante of Don Valeriano Castiglione, that most celebrated man, 
of whom it might be said that the greatest scholars rivalled each 
other in sounding his praises, and the greatest personages in trying 
to rob him of them; that man, whom Pope Urban VIII. honoured, 
as is well known, with magnificent encomiums; whom the Car- 
dinal Borghese and the Viceroy of Naples, Don Pietro di Toledo, 
entreated to relate, — one, the doings of Pope Paul V., the other, 
the wars of his Catholic Majesty in Italy, and both in vain; that 
man, whom Louis XIII., King of France, at the suggestion of Car- 
dinal de Richelieu, nominated his historiographer; on whom Duke 
Carlo Emanuele, of Savoy, conferred the same office; in praise of 
whom, not to mention other lofty testimonials, the Duchess Cristina, 
daughter of the most Christian King Henry IV., could, in a diploma, 
among many other titles, enumerate 'the certainty of the reputation 
he is obtaining in Italy of being the first writer of our times.' 

But if, in all the above-mentioned sciences, Don Ferrante might 
be considered a learned man, one there was in which he merited 
and enjoyed the title of Professor — the science of chivalry. Not only 
did he argue on it in a really masterly manner, but, frequently re- 
quested to interfere in affairs of honour, always gave some decision. 
He had in his library, and one may say, indeed, in his head, the 
works of the most renowned writers on this subject: Paris del 



448 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Pozzo, Fausto da Longiano, Urrea, Muzio, Romei, Albergato, the 
first and second Forno of Torquato Tasso, of whose other works, 
'Jerusalem DeUvered,' as well as 'Jerusalem Taken,' he had ever in 
readiness, and could quote from memory, on occasion, all the passages 
which might serve as a text on the subject of chivalry. The author, 
however, of all authors, in his estimation, was our celebrated Fran- 
cesco Birago, with whom he was more than once associated in giving 
judgment on cases of honour; and who, on his side, spxike of Don 
Ferrante in terms of particular esteem. And from the time that the 
Discorsi Cavallereschi of this renowned writer made their appear- 
ance, he predicted, without hesitation, that this work would destroy 
the authority of Olevano, and would remain, together with its other 
noble sisters, as a code of primary authority among posterity: and 
every one may see, says our anonymous author, how this prediction 
has been verified. 

From this he passes on to the study of belles lettres; but we begin 
to doubt whether the reader has really any great wish to go forward 
with us in this review, and even to fear that we may already have 
won the title of servile copyist for ourselves, and that of a bore, to 
be shared with the anonymous author, for having followed him out 
so simply, even thus far, into a subject foreign to the principal 
narrative, and in which, probably, he was only so diffuse, for the 
purpose of parading erudition, and showing that he was not behind 
his age. However, leaving written what is written, that we may 
not lose our labour, we will omit the rest to resume the thread of 
our story: the more willingly, as we have a long period to traverse 
without meeting with any of our characters, and a longer still, before 
finding those in whose success the reader will be most interested, 
if anything in the whole story has interested him at all. 

Until the autumn of the following year, 1629, they all remained, 
some willingly, some by force, almost in the state in which we left 
them, nothing happening to any one, and no one doing anything 
worthy of being recorded. The autumn at length approached, in 
which Agnese and Lucia had counted upon meeting again; but a 
great public event frustrated that expectation: and this certainly 
was one of its most trifling effects. Other great events followed, 
which, however, made no material change in the destinies of our 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 449 

characters. At length, new circumstances, more general, more in- 
fluential, and more extensive, reached even to them, — even to the 
lowest of them, according to the world's scale. It was like a vast, 
sweeping, and irresistible hurricane, which, uprooting trees, tearing 
off roots, levelling battlements, and scattering their fragments in 
every direction, stirs up the straws hidden in the grass, pries into 
every corner for the light and withered leaves, which a gentler 
breeze would only have lodged there more securely, and bears them 
off in its headlong course of fury. 

Now, that the private events which yet remain for us to relate may 
be rendered intelligible, it will be absolutely necessary for us, even 
here, to promise some kind of account of these public ones, and thus 
make a still further digression. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

AFTER the sedition of St. Martin's, and the following day, it 
Zj^ seemed that abundance had returned to Milan, as by enchant- 
A, .^ment. The bread shops were plentifully supplied; the price 
as low as in the most proUfic years, and flour in proportion. They 
who during those two days had employed themselves in shouting, 
or doing something worse, had now (excepting a few who had 
been seized) reason to congratulate themselves: and let it not be 
imagined that they spared these congratulations, after the first fear 
of being captured had subsided. In the squares, at the corners of 
the streets, and in the taverns, there was undisguised rejoicing, a 
general murmur of applauses, and half-uttered boasts of having 
found a way to reduce bread to a moderate price. 

In the midst, however, of this vaunting and festivity, there was 
(and how could it be otherwise?) a secret feeling of disquietude, 
and presentiment that the thing could not last long. They besieged 
the bakers and meal-sellers, as they had before done in the former 
artificial and transient abundance procured by the first tariff of 
Antonio Ferrer; he who had a little money in advance, invested it 
in bread and flour, which were stored up in chests, small barrels, 
and iron vessels. By thus emulating each other in enjoying present 
advantage, they rendered (I do not say, its long duration impossible, 
for such it was of itself already, but even) its continuance from 
moment to moment ever more difficult. And lo! on the 15th Novem- 
ber, Antonio Ferrer, De orden de su Excelencia, issued a proclama- 
tion, in which all who had any corn or flour in their houses were 
forbidden to buy either one or the other, and every one else to pur- 
chase more than would be required for two days, under pain of 
pecuniary and corporal punishments, at the will of his Excellency. 
It contained, also, intimations to the elders, (a kind of public officer), 
and insinuations to all other persons, to inform against offenders; 
orders to magistrates to make strict search in any houses which 

450 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 451 

might be reported to them; together with fresh commands to the 
bakers to keep their shops well furnished with bread, under pain, 
in case of failure, of five years in the galleys, or even greater penalties, 
at the will of his Excellency. He who can imagine such a proclama- 
tion executed, must have a very clever imagination; and, certainly, 
had all those issued at that time taken effect, the duchy of Milan 
would have had at least as many people on the seas as Great Britain 
itself may have at present. 

At any rate, as they ordered the bakers to make so much bread, it 
was also necessary to give some orders that the materials for making 
it should not fail. They had contrived, (as, in times of scarcity, the 
endeavour is always renewed to reduce into bread different alimen- 
tary materials, usually consumed under another form), they had 
contrived, I say, to introduce rice into a composition, called mixed 
bread. On the 23rd November, an edict was published, to limit to 
the disposal of the superintendent, and the twelve members who 
constituted the board of provision, one-half of the dressed rice 
{risone it was then, and is still, called there) which every one pos- 
sessed; with the threat, to any one who should dispose of it without 
the permission of these noblemen, of the loss of the article, and a 
fine of three crowns a bushel. The honesty of this proceeding every 
one can appreciate. 

But it was necessary to pay for this rice, and at a price very dis- 
proportioned to that of bread. The burden of supplying the enor- 
mous inequality had been imposed upon the city; but the Council of 
the Decurioni, who had undertaken to discharge the debt in behalf 
of the city, deliberated the same day, 23rd November, about remon- 
strating with the governor on the impossibility of any longer 
maintaining such an engagement; and the governor, in a decree of 
the 7th December, fixed the price of the above-named rice at twelve 
livres per bushel. To those who should demand a higher price, as 
well as to those who should refuse to sell, he threatened the loss of 
the article, and a fine of equal value, and greater pecuniary, and 
even corporal punishment, including the galleys, at the will of his 
Excellency, according to the nature of the case, and the ran/^ of the 
offender. 

The price of undressed rice had been already limited before the 



452 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

insurrection; as the tariff, or, to use that most famous term of modern 
annals, the maximum of wheat, and other of the commonest grains, 
had probably been established in different decrees, which we have 
not happened to meet with. 

Bread and flour being thus reduced to a moderate price at Milan, 
it followed of consequence that people flocked thither in crowds 
to obtain a supply. To obviate this inconvenience, as he said, Don 
Gonzalo, in another edict of the 15th December, prohibited carry- 
ing bread out of the city, beyond the value of twenty pence, under 
penalty of the loss of the bread itself, and twenty-five crowns; or, 
in case of inability, of two stripes in public, and greater punishment 
still, as usual, at the will of his Excellency. On the 22nd of the same 
month, (and why so late, it is difficult to say), a similar order was 
issued with regard to flour and grain. 

The multitude had tried to procure abundance by pillage and 
incendiarism; the legal arm would have maintained it with the 
ga