(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Agnes of Sorrento"









: 















[tf\\.\\(\( < I H 1 f 



-f '< -i 

S 



5 ; 3 ^i V 



V 

i : 'i 

\' 

'I f -s 

i IHHI 



_P 






-.< .< ;< 



\ 



i< 
tx^ 

< 













THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

BEQUEST 

OF 
ANITA D. S. BLAKE 




Courtesy The Players. 
Author of a "Best Seller" That 
Has Not Been Forgotte 
Harriet Beecher Stowe. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 







MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, 

AUTHOR OF "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN," "THE MINISTER'S WOOING," ETC. 




THIHD EDITION. 







BOSTON: 
TICKNOR AND FIELDS. 

1862. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by 

MBS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, 
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts. 



RIVERSIDE, CAMBRIDGE: 
STEREOTYPED AND PRINTED BY H. 0. HOUOHTON. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAOI 
THE OLD TOWN 7 

CHAPTER H. 
THE DOVE-COT 15 

CHAPTER HI. 
THE GORGE 21 

CHAPTER IV. 
WHO AND WHAT . .27 

CHAPTER V. 
IL PADRE FRANCESCO .38 

CHAPTER VI. 
THE WALK TO THE CONVENT 52 

CHAPTER VH. 
THE DAY AT THE CONVENT . . . . . .68 

CHAPTER VHI. 
THE CAVALIER 88 

CHAPTER IX. 
THE ARTIST MONK 96 

CHAPTER X. 
THE INTERVIEW . 123 



iv CONTENTS 

CHAPTER XI. 

PAGE 

THE CONFESSIONAL 142 

CHAPTER XII. 
PERPLEXITIES 150 

CHAPTER XIII. 

THE MONIt AND THE CAVALIER 170 

CHAPTER XIV. 

THE MONK'S STRUGGLE 184 

CHAPTER XV. 
THE SERPENT'S EXPERIMENT . . . . * .210 

CHAPTER XVI. 

ELSIE PUSHES HER SCHEME 215 

CHAPTER XVII. 

THE MONK'S DEPARTURE 236 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
THE PENANCE 250 

CHAPTER XIX. 
CLOUDS DEEPENING 262 

CHAPTER XX. 
FLORENCE AND HER PROPHET 281 

CHAPTER XXI. 
THE ATTACK ON SAN MARCO 291 

CHAPTER XXII. 

THE CATHEDRAL 301 

CHAPTER XXIII. 
THE PILGRIMAGE 319 



CONTENTS. V 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

PAGE 
THE MOUNTAIN-FORTRESS 331 

CHAPTER XXV. 
THE CRISIS 344 

CHAPTER XXVI. 
ROME 4 . 360 

CHAPTER XXVII. 
THE SAINT'S REST 369 

CHAPTER XXVIII. 
PALM SUNDAY 380 

CHAPTER XXIX. 
THE NIGHT-RIDE 389 

CHAPTER XXX. 
"LET US ALSO GO, THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM*' . 401 

CHAPTER XXXI. 
MARTYRDOM 408 

CHAPTER XXXH. 
CONCLUSION . ,411 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE OLD TOWN. 

THE setting sunbeams slant over the antique gateway of 
Sorrento, fusing into a golden bronze the brown freestone 
vestments of old Saint Antonio, who with his heavy stone 
mitre and upraised hands has for centuries kept watch there 
upon. 

A quiet time he has of it up there in the golden Italian 
air, in petrified act of blessing, while orange lichens and green 
mosses from year to year embroider quaint patterns on the 
seams of his sacerdotal vestments, and small tassels of grass 
volunteer to ornament the folds of his priestly drapery, and 
golden showers of blossoms from some more hardy plant fall 
from his ample sleeve-cuffs. Little birds perch and chitter 
and wipe their beaks unconcernedly, now on the tip of his 
nose and now on the point of his mitre, while the world 
below goes on its way pretty much as it did when the good 
saint was alive, and, in despair of the human brotherhood, 
took to preaching to the birds and the fishes. 

Whoever passed beneath this old arched gateway, thus 

saint-guarded, in the year of our Lord's grace , might 

have seen under its shadow, sitting opposite to a stand of 
golden oranges, the little Agnes. 



8 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

A very pretty picture was she, reader, with such a face 
as you sometimes see painted in those wayside shrines of 
sunny Italy, where the lamp burns pale at evening, and gilly 
flower and cyclamen are renewed with every morning. 

She might have been fifteen or thereabouts, but was so 
small of stature that she seemed yet a child. Her black 
hair was parted in a white unbroken seam down to the high 
forehead, whose serious arch, like that of a cathedral-door, 
spoke of thought and prayer. Beneath the shadows of this 
brow lay brown, translucent eyes, into whose thoughtful 
depths one might look as pilgrims gaze into the waters of 
some saintly well, cool and pure down to the unblemished 
sand at the bottom. The small lips had a gentle compres 
sion, which indicated a repressed strength of feeling ; while 
the straight line of the nose, and the flexible, delicate nostril, 
were perfect as in those sculptured fragments of the antique 
which the soil of Italy so often gives forth to the day from 
the sepulchres of the past. The habitual pose of the head 
and face had the shy uplooking grace of a violet ; and yet 
there was a grave tranquillity of expression, which gave a 
peculiar degree of character to the whole figure. 

At the moment at which we have called your attention, 
the fair head is bent, the long eyelashes lie softly down on 
the pale, smooth cheek ; for the Ave Maria bell is sounding 
from the Cathedral of Sorrento, and the child is busy with 
her beads. 

By her side sits a woman of some threescore years, tall, 
stately, and squarely formed, with ample breadth of back 
and size of chest, like the robust dames of Sorrento. Her 
strong Roman nose, the firm, determined outline of her 
mouth, and a certain energy in every motion, speak the 
woman of will and purpose. There is a degree of vigor in 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 9 

the decision with which she lays down her spindle and bows 
her head, as a good Christian of those days would, at the 
swinging of the evening bell. 

But while the soul of the child in its morning freshness, 
free from pressure or conscience of earthly care, rose like 
an illuminated mist to heaven, the words the white-haired 
woman repeated were twined with threads of worldly pru 
dence, thoughts of how many oranges she had sold, with a 
rough guess at the probable amount for the day, and her 
fingers wandered from her beads a moment to see if the 
last coin had been swept from the stand into her capacious 
pocket, and her eyes wandering after them suddenly made 
her aware of the fact that a handsome cavalier was standing 
in the gate, regarding her pretty grandchild with looks of 
undisguised admiration. 

" Let him look ! " she said to herself, with a grim clasp on 
her rosary ; "a fair face draws buyers, and our oranges 
must be turned into money ; but he who does more than 
look has an affair with me ; so gaze away, my master, and 
take it out in buying oranges ! Ave Maria ! ora pro nobis, 
nunc et" etc., etc. 

A few moments, and the wave of prayer which had flowed 
down the quaint old shadowy street, bowing all heads as the 
wind bowed the scarlet tassels of neighboring clover-fields, 
was passed, and all the world resumed the work of earth 
just where they left off when the bell began. 

" Good even to you, pretty maiden ! " said the cavalier, 
approaching the stall of the orange-woman with the easy, 
confident air of one secure of a ready welcome, and bending 
down on the yet prayerful maiden the glances of a pair of 
piercing hazel eyes that looked out on each side of his aqui 
line nose with the keenness of a falcon's. 
I* 



10 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Good even to you, pretty one ! We shall take you for a 
saint, and worship you in right earnest, if you raise not those 
eyelashes soon." 

" Sir ! my lord ! " said the girl, a bright color flushing 
into her smooth brown cheeks, and her large dreamy eyes 
suddenly upraised with a flutter, as of a bird about to take 
flight. 

"Agnes, bethink yourself!" said the white-haired dame; 
"the gentleman asks the price of your oranges; be 
alive, child!" 

" Ah, my lord," said the young girl, " here are a dozen 
fine ones." 

"Well, you shall give them me, pretty one," said the 
young man, throwing a gold piece down on the stand with a 
careless ring. 

" Here, Agnes, run to the stall of Raphael the poulterer 
for change," said the adroit dame, picking up the gold. 

" Nay, good mother, by your leave," said the unabashed 
cavalier ; " I make my change with youth and beauty thus ! " 
And with the word he stooped down and kissed the fair fore 
head between the eyes. 

" For shame, Sir ! " said the elderly woman, raising her 
distaff, her great glittering eyes flashing beneath her 
silver hair like tongues of lightning from a white cloud. 
" Have a care ! this child is named for blessed Saint 
Agnes, and is under her protection." 

" The saints must pray for us, when their beauty makes 
us forget ourselves," said the young cavalier, with a smile. 
" Look me in the face, little one," he added ; " say, wilt 
thou pray for me ? " 

The maiden raised her large serious eyes, and surveyed 
the haughty, handsome face with that look of sober in- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 11 

quiry which one sometimes sees in young children, and the 
blush slowly faded from her cheek, as a cloud fades after 
sunset. 

" Yes, my lord," she answered, with a grave simplicity, 
" I Witt pray for you." 

" And hang this upon the shrine of Saint Agnes for my 
sake," he added, drawing from his finger a diamond ring, 
which he dropped into her hand; and before mother or 
daughter could add another word or recover from their sur 
prise, he had thrown the corner of his mantle over his 
shoulder and was off down the narrow street, humming the 
refrain of a gay song. 

" You have struck a pretty dove with that bolt," said an 
other cavalier, who appeared to have been observing the 
proceeding, and now, stepping forward, joined him. 

"Like enough," said the first, carelessly. 

" The old woman keeps her mewed up like a singing- 
bird," said the second ; " and if a fellow wants speech 
of her, it's as much as his crown is worth ; for Dame 
Elsie has a strong arm, and her distaff is known to be 
heavy." 

"Upon my word," said the first cavalier, stopping and 
throwing a glance backward, " where do they keep 
her?" 

" Oh, in a sort of pigeon's nest up above the Gorge ; 
but one never sees her, except under the fire of her grand 
mother's eyes. The little one is brought up for a saint, they 
say, and goes nowhere but to mass, confession, and the 
sacrament." 

" Humph ? " said the other, " she looks like some choice 
old picture of Our Lady, not a drop of human blood in 
her. When I kissed her forehead, she looked into my face 



12 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

as grave and innocent as a babe. One is tempted to try 
what one can do in such a case." 

" Beware the grandmother's distaff ! " said the other, 
laughing. 

" I've seen old women before," said the cavalier, as they 
turned down the street and were lost to view. 

Meanwhile the grandmother and grand-daughter were 
roused from the mute astonishment in which they were gaz 
ing after the young cavalier by a tittering behind them ; and 
a pair of bright eyes looked out upon them from be 
neath a bundle of long, crimson-headed clover, whose rich 
carmine tints were touched to brighter life by setting sun 
beams. 

There stood Giulietta, the head coquette of the Sorrento 
girls, with her broad shoulders, full chest, and great black 
eyes, rich and heavy as those of the silver-haired ox for 
whose benefit she had been cutting clover. Her bronzed 
cheek was smooth as that of any statue, and showed a color 
like that of an open pomegranate ; and the opulent, lazy 
abundance of her ample form, with her leisurely movements, 
spoke an easy and comfortable nature, that is to say, when 
Giulietta was pleased ; for it is to be remarked that there 
lurked certain sparkles deep down in her great eyes, which 
might, on occasion, blaze out into sheet-lightning, like her 
own beautiful skies, which, lovely as they are, can thunder 
and sulk with terrible earnestness when the fit takes them. 
At present, however, her face was running over with mis 
chievous merriment, as she slyly pinched little Agnes by 
the ear. 

" So you know not yon gay cavalier, little sister ? " 
she said, looking askance at her from under her long 
lashes. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 13 

" No, indeed ! What has an honest girl to do with know 
ing gay cavaliers ?" said Dame Elsie, bestirring herself with 
packing the remaining oranges into a basket, which she cov 
ered trimly with a heavy linen towel of her own weaving. 
" Girls never come to good who let their eyes go walking 
through the earth, and have the names of all the wild gal 
lants on their tongues. Agnes knows no such nonsense, 
blessed be her gracious patroness, with Our Lady and Saint 
Michael ! " 

" I hope there is no harm in knowing what is right before 
one's eyes," said Giulietta. " Anybody must be blind and 
deaf not to know the Lord Adrian. All the girls in Sor 
rento know him. They say he is even greater than he 
appears, that he is brother to the King himself; at any 
rate, a handsomer and more gallant gentleman never wore 
spurs." . 

" Let him keep to his own kind," said Elsie. " Eagles 
make bad work in dove-cots. No good comes of such gal 
lants for us." 

"Nor any harm, that I ever heard of/' said Giulietta. 
" But let me see, pretty one, what did he give you ? Ho 
ly Mother ! what a handsome ring ! " 

"It is to hang on the shrine of Saint Agnes," said the 
younger girl, looking up with simplicity. 

A loud laugh was the first answer to this communication. 
The scarlet clover-tops shook and quivered with the merri 
ment. 

" To hang on the shrine of Saint Agnes ! " Giulietta re 
peated. "That is a little too good!" 

" Go, go, you baggage ! " said Elsie, wrathfully brandish 
ing her spindle. " If ever you get a husband, I hope he'll 
give you a good beating ! You need it, I warrant ! Always 



14 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

stopping on the bridge there, to have cracks with the young 
men ! Little enough you know of saints, I dare say ! So 
keep away from my child ! Come, Agnes," she said, as she 
lifted the orange-basket on to her head ; and, straightening 
her tall form, she seized the girl by the hand to lead her 
away. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 15 



CHAPTER II. 

THE DOVE-COT. 

THE old town of Sorrento is situated on an elevated pla 
teau, which stretches into the sunny waters of the Mediter 
ranean, guarded on all sides by a barrier of mountains which 
defend it from bleak winds and serve to it the purpose of 
walls to a garden. Here, groves of oranges and lemons, 
with their almost fabulous coincidence of fruitage with flow 
ers, fill the air with perfume, which blends with that of 
roses and jessamines ; and the fields are so starred and 
enamelled with flowers that they might have served as the 
type for those Elysian realms sung by ancient poets. The 
fervid air is fanned by continual sea-breezes, which give a 
delightful elasticity to the otherwise languid climate. Under 
all these cherishing influences, the human being develops a 
wealth and luxuriance of physical beauty unknown in less 
favored regions. In the region about Sorrento one may be 
said to have found the land where beauty is the rule and not 
the exception. The singularity there is not to see handsome 
points of physical proportion, but rather to see those who 
are without them. Scarce a man, woman, or child you meet 
who has not some personal advantage to be commended, 
while even striking beauty is common. Also, under these 
kindly skies, a native courtesy and gentleness of manner 
make themselves felt. It would seem as if humanity, rocked 
in this flowery cradle, and soothed by so many daily caresses 
and appliances of nursing Nature, grew up with all that is 
kindliest on the outward, not repressed and beat in, as 



16 AGNES OF SOKRENTO. 

under the inclement atmosphere and stormy skies of the 
North. 

The -town of Sorrento itself overhangs the sea, skirting 
along rocky shores, which, hollowed here and there into 
picturesque grottoes, and fledged with a wild plumage of 
brilliant flowers and trailing vines, descend in steep preci 
pices to the water. Along the shelly beach, at the bottom, 
one can wander to look out on the loveliest prospect in the 
world. Vesuvius rises with its two peaks softly clouded in 
blue and purple mists, which blend with its ascending va 
pors, Naples and the adjoining villages at its base gleam 
ing in the distance like a fringe of pearls on a regal mantle. 
Nearer by, the picturesque rocky shores of the island of 
Capri seem to pulsate through the dreamy, shifting mists 
that veil its sides ; and the sea shimmers and glitters like 
the neck of a peacock with an iridescent mingling of colors : 
the whole air is a glorifying medium, rich in prismatic hues 
of enchantment. 

The town on three sides is severed from the main land 
by a gorge two hundred feet in depth and forty or fifty in 
breadth, crossed by a bridge resting on double arches, the 
construction of which dates back to the time of the ancient 
Romans. This bridge affords a favorite lounging-place for 
the inhabitants, and at evening a motley assemblage may be 
seen lolling over its moss-grown sides, men with their pic 
turesque knit caps of scarlet or brown falling gracefully on 
one shoulder, and women with their shining black hair and 
the enormous pearl ear-rings which are the pride and heir 
looms of every family. The present traveller at Sorrento 
may remember standing on this bridge and looking down the 
gloomy depths of the gorge, to where a fair villa, with its 
groves of orange-trees and gardens, overhangs the tremen 
dous depths below. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 17 

Hundreds of years since, where this'villa now stands was 
the simple dwelling of the two women whose history we have 
begun to tell you. There you might have seen a small stone 
cottage with a two-arched arcade in front, gleaming brill 
iantly white out of the dusky foliage of an orange-orchard. 
The dwelling was wedged like a bird-box between two 
fragments of rock, and behind it the land rose rocky, high, 
and steep, so as to form a natural wall. A small ledge or 
terrace of cultivated land here hung in air, below it, a 
precipice of two hundred feet down into the Gorge of Sor 
rento. A couple of dozen orange-trees, straight and tall, 
with healthy, shining bark, here shot up from the fine black 
volcanic soil, and made with their foliage a twilight shadow 
on the ground, so deep that no vegetation, save a fine vel 
vet moss, could dispute their claim to its entire nutritious 
offices. These trees were the sole wealth of the women and 
the sole ornament of the garden ; but, as they stood there, 
not only laden with golden fruit, but fragrant with pearly 
blossoms, they made the little rocky platform seem a perfect 
Garden of the Hesperides. The stone cottage, as we have 
said, had an open, whitewashed arcade in front, from which 
one could look down into the gloomy depths of the gorge, as 
into some mysterious underworld. Strange and weird it 
seemed, with its fathomless shadows and its wild grottoes, 
over which hung, silently waving, long pendants of ivy, while 
dusky gray aloes uplifted their horned heads from great 
rock-rifts, like elfin spirits struggling upward out of the 
shade. Nor was wanting the usual gentle poetry of flowers ; 
for white iris leaned its fairy pavilion over the black void 
like a pale-cheeked princess from the window of some dark 
enchanted castle, and scarlet geranium and golden broom and 
crimson gladiolus waved and glowed in the shifting beams of 



18 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

the sunlight. Also there was in this little spot what forms 
the charm of Italian gardens always, the sweet song and 
prattle of waters. A clear mountain-spring burst through 
the rock on one side of the little cottage, and fell with a 
lulling noise into a quaint moss-grown water-trough, which 
had been in former times the sarcophagus of some old 
Roman sepulchre. Its sides were richly sculptured with 
figures and leafy scrolls and arabesques, into which the sly- 
footed lichens with quiet growth had so insinuated them 
selves as in some places almost to obliterate the original 
design ; while, round the place where the water fell, a veil 
of ferns and maiden's hair, studded with tremulous silver 
drops, vibrated to its soothing murmur. The superfluous 
waters, drained off by a little channel on one side, were 
conducted through the rocky parapet of the garden, whence 
they trickled and tinkled from rock to rock, falling with a 
continual drip among the swaying ferns and pendent ivy- 
wreaths, till they reached the little stream at the bottom 
of the gorge. This parapet or garden-wall was formed of 
blocks or fragments of what had once been white marble, 
the probable remains of the ancient tomb from which the 
sarcophagus was taken. Here and there a marble acanthus- 
leaf, or the capital of an old column, or a fragment of sculp 
ture jutted from under the mosses, ferns, and grasses with 
which prodigal Nature had filled every interstice and car 
peted the whole. These sculptured fragments everywhere 
in Italy seem to whisper from the dust, of past life and death, 
of a cycle of human existence forever gone, over whose tomb 
the life of to-day is built. 

" Sit down and rest, my dove," said Dame Elsie to her 
little charge, as they entered their little enclosure. 

Here she saw for the first time, what she had not noticed 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 19 

in the heat and hurry of her ascent, that the girl was pant 
ing and her gentle bosom rising and falling in thick heart 
beats, occasioned by the haste with which she had drawn 
her onward. 

" Sit down, dearie, and I will get you a bit of supper." 

" Yes, grandmother, I will. I must tell my beads once 
for the soul of the handsome gentleman that kissed my fore 
head to-night." 

" How did you know that he was handsome, child ? " said 
the old dame, with some sharpness in her voice. 

" He bade me look on him, grandmother, and I saw it." 

" You must put such thoughts away, child," said the old 
dame. 

" Why must I ? " said the girl, looking up with an eye as 
clear and unconscious as that of a three-year old child. 

" If she does not think, why should I tell her ? " said 
Dame Elsie, as she turned to go into the house, and left the 
child sitting on the mossy parapet that overlooked the gorge. 
Thence she could see far off, not only down the dim, sombre 
abyss, but out to the blue Mediterranean beyond, now calmly 
lying in swathing-bands of purple, gold, and orange, while 
the smoky cloud that overhung Vesuvius became silver and 
rose in the evening light. 

There is always something of elevation and purity that 
seems to come over one from being in an elevated region. 
One feels morally as well as physically above the world, and 
from that clearer air able to look down on it calmly with 
disengaged freedom. Our little maiden sat for a few mo 
ments gazing, her large brown eyes dilating with a tremu 
lous lustre, as if tears were half of a mind to start in them, 
and her lips apart with a delicate earnestness, like one who 
is pursuing some pleasing inner thought. Suddenly rousing 



20 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

herself, she began by breaking the freshest orange-blossoms 
from the golden-fruited trees, and, kissing and pressing them 
to her bosom, she proceeded to remove the faded flowers of 
the morning from before a little rude shrine in the rock, 
where, in a sculptured niche, was a picture of the Madonna 
and Child, with a locked glass door in front of it. The pic 
ture was a happy transcript of one of the fairest creations 
of the religious school of Florence, done by one of those 
rustic copyists of whom Italy is full, who appear to possess 
the instinct of painting, and to whom we owe many of those 
sweet faces which sometimes look down on us by the way 
side from rudest and homeliest shrines. 

The poor fellow by whom it had been painted was one to 
whom years before Dame Elsie had given food and shelter 
for many months during a lingering illness; and he had 
painted so much of his dying heart and hopes into it that it 
had a peculiar and vital vividness in its power of affecting 
the feelings. Agnes had been familiar with this picture 
from early infancy. No day of her life had the flowers 
failed to be freshly placed before it. It had seemed to smile 
down sympathy on her childish joys, and to cloud over with 
her childish sorrows. It was less a picture to her than a 
presence ; and the whole air of the little orange-garden 
seemed to be made sacred by it. When she had arranged 
her flowers, she kneeled down and began to say prayers for 
the soul of the young gallant. 

" Holy Jesus," she said, "he is young, rich, handsome, and 
a king's brother ; and for all these things the Fiend may 
tempt him to forget his God and throw away his soul. Holy 
Mother, give him good counsel ! " 

" Come, child, to your supper," said Dame Elsie. " I 
have milked the goats, and everything is ready." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 21 



CHAPTER in. 

THE GORGE. 

AFTER her light supper was over, Agnes took her distaff, 
wound with shining white flax, and went and seated herself 
in her favorite place, on the low parapet that overlooked 
the gorge. 

This ravine, with its dizzy depths, its waving foliage, its 
dripping springs, and the low murmur of the little stream 
that pursued its way far down at the bottom, was one of 
those things which stimulated her impressible imagination, 
and filled her with a solemn and vague delight. The an 
cient Italian tradition made it the home of fauns and dry 
ads, wild woodland creatures, intermediate links between 
vegetable life and that of sentient and reasoning human 
ity. The more earnest faith that came in with Christian 
ity, if it had its brighter lights in an immortality of 
blessedness, had also its deeper shadows in the intenser 
perceptions it awakened of sin and evil, and of the mortal 
struggle by which the human spirit must avoid endless woe 
and rise to endless felicity. The myths with which the 
colored Italian air was filled in mediaeval ages no longer 
resembled those graceful, floating, cloud-like figures one 
sees in the ancient chambers of Pompeii, the bubbles 
and rainbows of human fancy, rising aimless and buoyant, 
with a mere freshness of animal life, against a black back 
ground of utter and hopeless ignorance as to man's past 
or future. They were rather expressed by solemn images 



22 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

of mournful, majestic angels and of triumphant saints, or 
fearful, warning presentations of loathsome fiends. Each 
lonesome gorge and sombre dell had tales no more of 
tricky fauns and dryads, but of those restless, wandering 
demons who, having lost their own immortality of blessed 
ness, constantly lie in wait to betray frail humanity, and 
cheat it of that glorious inheritance bought by the Great 
Redemption. 

The education of Agnes had been one which rendered 
her whole system peculiarly sensitive and impressible to 
all influences from the invisible and unseen. Of this ed 
ucation we shall speak more particularly hereafter. At 
present we see her sitting in the twilight on the moss- 
grown marble parapet, her distaff, with its silvery flax, 
lying idly in her hands, and her widening dark eyes gaz 
ing intently into the gloomy gorge below, from which arose 
the far-off complaining babble of the brook at the bottom 
and the shiver and sigh of evening winds through the 
trailing ivy. The white mist was slowly rising, wavering, 
undulating, and creeping its slow way up the sides of the 
gorge. Now it hid a tuft of foliage, and now it wreathed 
itself around a horned clump of aloes, and, streaming far 
down below it in the dimness, made it seem like the goblin 
robe of some strange, supernatural being. 

The evening light had almost burned out in the sky : 
only a band of vivid red lay low in the horizon out to sea, 
and the round full moon was just rising like a great silver 
lamp, while Vesuvius with its smoky top began in the ob 
scurity to show its faintly flickering fires. A vague agita 
tion seemed to oppress the child ; for she sighed deeply, and 
often repeated with fervor the Ave Maria. 

At this moment there began to rise from the very depths 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 23 

of the gorge below her the sound of a rich tenor voice, 
with a slow, sad modulation, and seeming to pulsate upward 
through the filmy, shifting mists. It was one of those voices 
which seem fit to be the outpouring of some spirit denied all 
other gifts of expression, and rushing with passionate fervor 
through this one gate of utterance. So distinctly were the 
words spoken, that they seemed each one to rise as with a 
separate intelligence out of the mist, and to knock at the 
door of the heart. 

Sad is my life, and lonely ! 

No hope for me, 
Save thou, my love, my only, 
I see! 

Where art thou, my fairest ? 

Where art thou gone ? 
Dove of the rock, I languish 
Alone ! 

They say thou art so saintly, 

Who dare love thee? 
Yet bend thine eyelids holy 
On me ! 

Though heaven alone possess thee, 

Thou, dwell' st above, 
Yet heaven, didst thou but know it, 
Is love. 

There was such an intense earnestness in these sounds, 
that large tears gathered in the wide dark eyes, and fell one 
after another upon the sweet alyssum and maiden's-hair that 
grew in the crevices of the marble wall. She shivered and 
drew away from the parapet, and thought of stories she had 
heard the nuns tell of wandering spirits who sometimes in 
lonesome places pour forth such entrancing music as bewil 
ders the brain of the unwary listener, and leads him to 
some fearful destruction. 



24 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Agnes ! " said the sharp voice of old Elsie, appearing at 
the door, " here ! where are you ! " 

" Here, grandmamma." 

" Who 's that singing this time o' night ? " 

" I don't know, grandmamma." 

Somehow the child felt as if that singing were strangely 
sacred to her, a rapport between her and something 
vague and invisible which might yet become dear. 

" Is 't down in the gorge ? " said the old woman, coming 
with her heavy, decided step to the parapet, and looking 
over, her keen black eyes gleaming like dagger-blades into 
the mist. " If there 's anybody there," she said, " let them 
go away, and not be troubling honest women with any of 
their caterwauling. Come, Agnes," she said, pulling the 
girl by the sleeve, " you must be tired, my lamb ! and your 
evening-prayers are always so long, best be about them, girl, 
so that old grandmamma may put you to bed. What ails 
the girl ? Been crying ! Your hand is cold as a stone." 

" Grandmamma, what if that might be a spirit ? " she 
said. " Sister Rosa told me stories of singing spirits that 
have been in this very gorge." 

" Likely enough," said Dame Elsie ; " but what 's that to 
us ? Let 'em sing ! so long as we don't listen, where 's 
the harm done? We will sprinkle holy water all round 
the parapet, and say the office of Saint Agnes, and let them 
sing till they are hoarse." 

Such was the triumphant view which this energetic good 
woman took of the power of the means of grace which her 
church placed at her disposal. 

Nevertheless, while Agnes was kneeling at her evening- 
prayers, the old dame consoled herself with a soliloquy, as 
with a brush she vigorously besprinkled the premises with 
holy water. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 25 

" Now, here 's the plague of a girl ! If she 's handsome, 
and nobody wants one that is n't, why, then, it 's a 
purgatory to look after her. This one is good enough, 
none of your hussies, like Giulietta : but the better they 
are, the more sure to have fellows after them. A mur 
rain on that cavalier, king's brother, or what not ! it 
was he serenading, I '11 be bound. I must tell Antonio, and 
have the girl married, for aught I see : and I don't want to 
give her to him either ; he did n't bring her up. There 's 
no peace for us mofhers. Maybe I '11 tell Father Francesco 
about it. That 's the way poor little Isella was carried 
away. Singing is of the Devil, I believe ; it always be 
witches girls. I 'd like to have poured some hot oil down 
the rocks : I 'd have made him squeak in another tone, I 
reckon. Well, well ! I hope I shall come in for a good seat 
in paradise for all the trouble I 've had with her mother, and 
am like to have with her, that 's all ! " 

In an hour more, the large, round, sober moon was shin 
ing fixedly on the little mansion in the rocks, silvering the 
glossy darkness of the orange-leaves, while the scent of the 
blossoms arose like clouds about the cottage. The moon 
light streamed through the unglazed casement, and made a 
square of light on the little bed where Agnes was sleeping, 
in which square her delicate face was framed, with its trem 
ulous and spiritual expression most resembling in its sweet 
plaintive purity some of the Madonna faces of Fra An- 
gelico, those tender wild-flowers of Italian religion and 
poetry. 

By her side lay her grandmother, with those sharp, hard, 

clearly cut features, so worn and bronzed by time, so lined 

with labor and care, as to resemble one of the Fates in the 

picture of Michel Angelo ; and even in her sleep she held 

2 



26 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

the delicate lily hand of the child in her own hard, brown 
one, with a strong and determined clasp. 

While they sleep, we must tell something more of the story 
of the little Agnes, of what she is, and what are the causes 
which have made her such. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 27 



CHAPTER IV. 

WHO AND WHAT. 

% 

OLD Elsie was not born a peasant. Originally she was 
the wife of a steward in one of those great families of 
Rome whose state and traditions were princely. Elsie, as 
her figure and profile and all her words and movements 
indicated, was of a strong, shrewd, ambitious, and courageous 
character, and well disposed to turn to advantage every gift 
with which Nature had endowed her. 

Providence made her a present of a daughter whose 
beauty was wonderful, even in a country where beauty is 
no uncommon accident. In addition to her beauty, the little 
Isella had quick intelligence, wit, grace, and spirit. As a 
child she became the pet and plaything of the Princess 
whom Elsie served. This noble lady, pressed by the ennui 
which is always the moth and rust on the purple and gold 
of rank and wealth, had, as other noble ladies had in those 
days, and have now, sundry pets : greyhounds, white and 
delicate, that looked as if they were made of Sevres china ; 
spaniels with long silky ears and fringy paws ; apes and 
monkeys, that made at times sad devastations in her ward 
robe ; and a most charming little dwarf, that was ugly 
enough to frighten the very owls, and spiteful as he was 
ugly. She had, moreover, peacocks, and macaws, and par 
rots, and all sorts of singing-birds, and falcons of every 
breed, and horses, and hounds, in short, there is no say 
ing what she did not have. One day she took it into her 



28 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

head to add the little Isella to the number of her acquisi 
tions. With the- easy grace of aristocracy, she reached out 
her jewelled hand and took Elsie's one flower to add to 
her conservatory, and Elsie was only too proud to have 
it so. 

Her daughter was kept constantly about the person of the 
Princess, and instructed in all the wisdom which would have 

* 

been allowed her, had she been the Princess's own daughter, 
which, to speak the truth, was in those days nothing very 
profound, consisting of a little singing and instrumenta 
tion, a little embroidery and dancing, with the power of 
writing her own name and of reading a love-letter. 

All the world knows that the very idea of a pet is some 
thing to be spoiled for the amusement of the pet-owner; and 
Isella was spoiled in the most particular and circumstantial 
manner. She had suits of apparel for every day in the year, 
and jewels without end, for the Princess was never weary 
of trying the effect of her beauty in this and that costume ; 
so that she sported through the great grand halls and down 
the long aisles of the garden much like a bright-winged 
humming-bird, or a damsel-fly all green and gold. She was 
a genuine child of Italy, full of feeling, spirit, and genius, 
alive in every nerve to the finger-tips ; and under the 
tropical sunshine of her mistress's favor she grew as an 
Italian rose-bush does, throwing its branches freakishly over 
everything in a wild labyrinth of perfume, brightness, and 
thorns. 

For a while her life was a triumph, and her mother tri 
umphed with her at an humble distance. The Princess was 
devoted to her with the blind fatuity with which ladies of 
rank at times will invest themselves in a caprice. She ar 
rogated to herself all the praises of her beauty and wit, al- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 29 

lowed her to flirt and make conquests to her heart's content, 
and engaged to many her to some handsome young officer 
of her train, when she had done being amused with her. 

Now we must not wonder that a young head of fifteen 
should have been turned by this giddy elevation, nor that 
an old head of fifty should have thought all things were pos 
sible in the fortune of such a favorite. Nor must we wonder 
that the young coquette, rich in the laurels of a hundred 
conquests, should have turned her bright eyes on the son 
and heir, when he came home from the University of Bo 
logna. Nor is it to be wondered at that this same son and 
heir, being a man as well as a Prince, should have done as 
other men did, fallen desperately in love with this dazzling, 
sparkling, piquant mixture of matter and spirit, which no 
university can prepare a young man to comprehend, which 
always seemed to run from him, and yet always threw a 
Parthian shot behind her as she fled. Nor is it to be won 
dered at, if this same prince, after a week or two, did not 
know whether he was on his head or his heels, or whether 
the sun rose in the east or the south, or where he stood, or 
whither he was going. 

In fact, the youthful pair very soon came into that dream 
land where are no more any points of the compass, no more 
division of time, no more latitude and longitude, no more up 
and down, but only a general wandering among enchanted 
groves and singing nightingales. 

It was entirely owing to old Elsie's watchful shrewdness 
and address that the lovers came into this paradise by the 
gate of marriage ; for the young man was ready to offer 
anything at the feet of his divinity, as the old mother was 
not slow to perceive. 

So they stood at the altar for the time being a pair of as 



SO AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

true lovers as Romeo and Juliet : but then, what has true 
love to do with the son of a hundred generations and heir to 
.a Roman principality ? 

Of course, the rose of love, having gone through all its 
stages of bud and blossom into full flower, must next begin 
to drop its leaves. Of course. Who ever heard of an im 
mortal rose ? 

The time of discovery came. Isella was found to be a 
mother; and then the storm burst upon her and drabbled 
her in the dust as fearlessly as the summer-wind sweeps 
down and besmirches the lily it has all summer been woo 
ing and flattering. 

The Princess was a very pious and moral lady, and of 
course threw her favorite out into the street as a vile weed, 
and virtuously ground her down under her jewelled high- 
heeled shoes. 

She could have forgiven her any common frailty ; of 
course it was natural that the girl should have been seduced 
by the all-conquering charms of her son ; but aspire to 
marriage with their house ! pretend to be her son's wife ! 
Since the time of Judas had such treachery ever been heard 
of? 

Something was said of the propriety of walling up the 
culprit alive, a mode of disposing of small family-matters 
somewhat a la mode in those times. But the Princess ac 
knowledged herself foolishly tender, and unable quite to 
allow this very obvious propriety in the case. 

She contented herself with turning mother and daughter 
into the streets with every mark of ignominy, which was 
reduplicated by every one of her servants, lackeys, and court- 
companions, who, of course, had always known just how the 
thing must end. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 31 

As to the young Prince he acted as a well-instructed 
young nobleman should, who understands the great differ 
ence there is between the tears of a duchess and those of 
low-born women. No sooner did he behold his conduct in 
the light of his mother's countenance than he turned his 
back on his low marriage with edifying penitence. He did 
not think it necessary to convince his mother of the real 
existence of a union whose very supposition made her so 
unhappy, and occasioned such an uncommonly disagreeable 
and tempestuous state of things in the well-bred circle where 
his birth called him to move. Being, however, a religious 
youth, he opened his mind to his family-confessor, by whose 
advice he sent a messenger with a large sum of money to 
Elsie, piously commending her and her daughter to the 
Divine protection. He also gave orders for an entire new 
suit of raiment for the Virgin Mary in the family -chapel, 
including a splendid set of diamonds, and promised unlimited 
candles to the altar of a neighboring convent. If all this 
could not atone for a youthful error, it was a pity. So he 
thought, as he drew on his riding-gloves and went off on 
a hunting-party, like a gallant and religious young noble 
man. 

Elsie, meanwhile, with her forlorn and disgraced daughter, 
found a temporary asylum in a neighboring mountain-village, 
where the poor, bedrabbled, broken-winged song-bird soon 
panted and fluttered her little life away. 

When the once beautiful and gay Isella had been hidden 
in the grave, cold and lonely, there remained a little wailing 
infant, which Elsie gathered to her -bosom. 

Grim, dauntless, and resolute, she resolved, for the sake 
of this hapless one, to look life in the face once more, and 
try the battle under other skies. 



32 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Taking the infant in her arms, she travelled with her far 
from the scene of her birth, and set all her energies at work 
to make for her a better destiny than that which had fallen 
to the lot of her unfortunate mother. 

She set about to create her nature and order her fortunes 
with that sort of downright energy with which resolute peo 
ple always attack the problem of a new human existence. 
This child -should be happy ; the rocks on which her mother 
was wrecked she should never strike upon, they were all 
marked on Elsie's chart. Love had been the root of all 
poor Isella's troubles, and Agnes never should know love, 
till taught it safely by a husband of Elsie's own choosing. 

The first step of security was in naming her for the chaste 
Saint Agnes, and placing her girlhood under her special pro 
tection. Secondly, which was quite as much to the point, she 
brought her up laboriously in habits of incessant industry, 
never suffering her to be out of her sight, or to have any 
connection or friendship, except such as could be carried on 
under the immediate supervision of her piercing black eyes. 
Every night she put her to bed as if she had been an infant, 
and, wakening her again in the morning, took her with her 
in all her daily toils, of which, to do her justice, she per 
formed all the hardest portion, leaving to the girl just enough 
to keep her hands employed and her head steady. 

The peculiar circumstance which had led her to choose 
the old town of Sorrento for her residence, in preference to 
any of the beautiful villages which impearl that fertile plain, 
was the existence there of a flourishing convent dedicated 
to Saint Agnes, under whose protecting shadow her young 
charge might more securely spend the earlier years of her 
life. 

With this view, having hired the domicile we have al- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. S3 

ready described, she lost no time in making the favorable 
acquaintance of the sisterhood, never coming to them 
empty-handed. The finest oranges of her garden, the 
whitest flax of her spinning, were always reserved as 
offerings at the shrine of the patroness whom she sought 
to propitiate for her grandchild. 

In her earliest childhood the little Agnes was led toddling 
to the shrine by her zealous relative ; and at the sight of 
her fair, sweet, awe-struck face, with its viny mantle of en 
circling curls, the torpid bosoms of the sisterhood throbbed 
with a strange, new pleasure, which they humbly hoped was 
not sinful, as agreeable things, they found, generally were. 
They loved the echoes of her little feet down the damp, 
silent aisles of their chapel, and her small, sweet, slender 
voice, as she asked strange baby-questions, which, as usual 
with baby-questions, hit all the insoluble points of philoso 
phy and theology exactly on the head. 

The child became a special favorite with the Abbess, 
Sister Theresa, a tall, thin, bloodless, sad-eyed woman, who 
looked as if she might have been cut out of one of the gla 
ciers of Monte Rosa, but in whose heart the little fair one 
had made herself a niche, pushing her way up through, as 
you may have seen a lovely blue-fringed gentian standing 
in a snow-drift of the Alps with its little ring of melted snow 
around it. 

Sister Theresa offered to take care of the child at any 
time when the grandmother wished to be about her labors ; 
and so, during her early years, the little one was often 
domesticated for days together at the Convent. A perfect 
mythology of wonderful stories encircled her, which the 
good sisters were never tired of repeating to each other. 
They were the simplest sayings and doings of childhood, 



34 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

handfuls of such wild-flowers as bespread the green turf of 
nursery-life everywhere, but miraculous blossoms in the 
eyes of these good women, whom Saint Agnes had unwit 
tingly deprived of any power of making comparisons or ever 
having Christ's sweetest parable of the heavenly kingdom 
enacted in homes of their own. 

Old Jocunda, the porteress, never failed to make a sensa 
tion with her one stock-story of how she found the child 
standing on her head and crying, having been put into this 
reversed position in consequence of climbing up on a high 
stool to get her little fat hand into the vase of holy water, 
failing in which Christian attempt, her heels went up and 
her head down, greatly to her dismay. 

" Nevertheless," said old Jocunda, gravely, " it showed an 
edifying turn in the child ; and when I lifted the little thing 
up, it stopped crying the minute its little fingers touched the 
water, and it made a cross on its forehead as sensible as the 
oldest among us. Ah, sisters, there 's grace there, or I 'm 
mistaken." 

All the signs of an incipient saint were, indeed, manifested 
in the little one. She never played the wild and noisy plays 
of common children, but busied herself in making altars and 
shrines, which she adorned with the prettiest flowers of the 
gardens, and at which she worked hour after hour in the 
quietest and happiest earnestness. Her dreams were a con 
stant source of wonder and edification in the Convent, for 
they were all of angels and saints ; and many a time, after 
hearing one, the sisterhood crossed themselves, and the Ab 
bess said, " Ex oribus parvulorum" Always sweet, dutiful, 
. submissive, cradling herself every night with a lulling of 
sweet hymns and infant murmur of prayers, and found sleep 
ing in her little white bed with her crucifix clasped to hor 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 35 

bosom, it was no wonder that the Abbess thought her the 
special favorite of her divine patroness, and, like her, the 
subject of an early vocation to be the celestial bride of One 
fairer than the children of men, who should snatch her away 
from all earthly things, to be united to Him in a celestial 
paradise. 

As the child grew older, she often sat at evening with 
wide, wondering eyes, listening over and over again to the 
story of the fair Saint Agnes : How she was a princess, 
living in her father's palace, of such exceeding beauty and 
grace that none saw her but to love her, yet of such sweet 
ness and humility as passed all comparison ; and how, when 
a heathen prince would have espoused her to his son, she 
said, "Away from me, tempter! for I am betrothed to a 
lover who is greater and fairer than any earthly suitor, he 
is so fair that the sun and moon are ravished by his beauty, 
so mighty that the angels of heaven are his servants ; " how 
she bore meekly with persecutions and threatenings and 
death for the sake of this unearthly love ; and when she had 
poured out her blood, how she came to her mourning friends 
in ecstatic vision, all white and glistening, with a fair lamb 
by her side, and bade them weep not for her, because she 
was reigning with Him whom on earth she had preferred to 
all other lovers. There was also the legend of the fair Ce 
cilia, the lovely musician whom angels had rapt away to 
their choirs ; the story of that queenly saint, Catharine, 
who passed through the courts of heaven, and saw the 
angels crowned with roses and lilies, and the Virgin on 
her throne, who gave her the wedding-ring that espoused 
her to be the bride of the King Eternal. 

Fed with such legends, it could not be but that a child 
with a sensitive, nervous organization and vivid imagination 



36 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

should have grown up with an unworldly and spiritual 
character, and that a poetic mist should have enveloped 
all her outward perceptions similar to that palpitating veil 
of blue and lilac vapor that enshrouds the Italian land 
scape. 

Nor is it to be marvelled at, if the results of this system 
of education went far beyond what the good old grandmother 
intended. For, though a stanch good Christian, after the 
manner of those times, yet she had not the slightest mind to 
see her grand - daughter a nun ; on the contrary, she was 
working day and night to add to her dowry, and had in her 
eye a reputable middle-aged blacksmith, who was a man of 
substance and prudence, to be the husband and keeper of 
her precious treasure. In a home thus established she 
hoped to enthrone herself, and provide for the rearing of a 
generation of stout-limbed girls and boys who should grow 
up to make a flourishing household in the land. This sub 
ject she had not yet broached to her grand-daughter, though 
daily preparing to do so, deferring it, it must be told, 
from & sort of jealous, yearning craving to have wholly 
to herself the child for whom she had lived so many 
years. 

Antonio, the blacksmith to whom this honor was des 
tined, was one of those broad-backed, full-chested, long- 
limbed fellows one shall often see around Sorrento, with 
great, kind, black eyes like those of an ox, and all the 
attributes of a healthy, kindly, animal nature. Content 
edly he hammered away at his business; and certainly, 
had not Dame Elsie of her own providence elected him 
to be the husband of her fair grand-daughter, he would 
never have thought of the matter himself; but, opening 
the black eyes aforenamed upon the girl, he perceived that 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 37 

she was fair, and also received an inner light through 
Dame Elsie as to the amount of her dowry; and, putting 
these matters together, conceived a kindness for the maid 
en, and awaited with tranquillity the time when he should 
be allowed to commence his wooing. 



38 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER V. 

IL PADRE FRANCESCO. 

THE next morning Elsie awoke, as was her custom, 
when the very faintest hue of dawn streaked the horizon. 
A hen who has seen a hawk balancing his wings and 
cawing in mid-air over her downy family could not have 
awakened with her feathers, metaphorically speaking, in a 
more bristling state of caution. 

"Spirits in the gorge, quotha?" said she to herself, as 
she vigorously adjusted her dress. "I believe so, spir 
its in good sound bodies, I believe ; and next we shall 
hear, there will be rope-ladders, and climbings, and the 
Lord knows what. I shall go to confession this very 
morning, and tell Father Francesco the danger; and in 
stead of taking her down to sell oranges, suppose I send 
her to the sisters to carry the ring and a basket of or 
anges ? " 

" Ah, ah ! " she said, pausing, after she was dressed, and 
addressing a coarse print of Saint Agnes pasted against 
the wall, " you look very meek there, and it was a 
great thing no doubt to die as you did ; but if you 'd lived 
to be married and bring up a family of girls, you'd have 
known something greater. Please, don't take offence with 
a poor old woman who has got into the way of speaking 
her mind freely ! I 'm foolish, and don't know much, 
so, dear lady, pray for me ! " And old Elsie bent her 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 39 

knee and crossed herself reverently, and then went out, 
leaving her young charge still sleeping. 

It was yet dusky dawn when she might have been seen 
kneeling, with her sharp, clear-cut profile, at the grate of 
a confession-box in a church in Sorrento. Within was 
seated a personage who will have some influence on our 
story, and who must therefore be somewhat minutely in 
troduced to the reader. 

II Padre Francesco had only within the last year ar 
rived in the neighborhood, having been sent as superior 
of a brotherhood of Capuchins, whose convent was perched 
on a crag in the vicinity. With this situation came a 
pastoral care of the district ; and Elsie and her grand 
daughter found in him a spiritual pastor very different 
from the fat, jolly, easy Brother Girolamo, to whose place 
he had been appointed. The latter had been one of those 
numerous priests taken from the peasantry, who never rise 
above the average level of thought of the body from which 
they are drawn. Easy, gossipy, fond of good living and 
good stories, sympathetic in troubles and in joys, he had 
been a general favorite in the neighborhood, without ex 
erting any particularly spiritualizing influence. 

It required but a glance at Father Francesco to see 
that he was in all respects the opposite of this. It was 
evident that he came from one of the higher classes, by 
that indefinable air of birth and breeding which makes 
itself felt under every change of costume. Who he might 
be, what might have been his past history, what rank he 
might have borne, what part played in the great warfare 
of life, was all of course sunk in the oblivion of his re 
ligious profession, where, as at the grave, a man laid 
down name and fame and past history and worldly goods, 



40 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

and took up a coarse garb and a name chosen from the 
roll of the saints, in sign that the world that had known 
him should know him no more. 

Imagine a man between thirty and forty, with that round, 
full, evenly developed head, and those chiselled features, 
which one sees on ancient busts and coins no less than in 
the streets of modern Rome. The cheeks were sunken 
and sallow ; the large, black, melancholy eyes had a wist 
ful, anxious, penetrative expression, that spoke a stringent, 
earnest spirit, which, however deep might be the grave 
in which it lay buried, had not yet found repose. The 
long, thin, delicately formed hands were emaciated and 
bloodless ; they clasped with a nervous eagerness a rosary 
and crucifix of ebony and silver, the only mark of 
luxury that could be discerned in a costume unusually 
threadbare and squalid. The whole picture of the man, 
as he sat there, had it been painted and hung in a gal 
lery, was such as must have stopped every person of a 
certain amount of sensibility before it with the convic 
tion that behind that strong, melancholy, earnest figure 
and face lay one of those hidden histories of human 
passion in which the vivid life of mediaeval Italy was so 
fertile. 

He was listening to Elsie, as she kneeled, with that easy 
air of superiority which marks a practised man of the 
world, yet with a grave attention which showed that her 
communication had awakened the deepest interest in his 
mind. Every few moments he moved slightly in his seat, 
and interrupted the flow of the narrative by an inquiry 
concisely put, in tones which, clear and low, had a solemn 
and severe distinctness, producing, in the still,' dusky twilight 
of the church, an almost ghostly effect. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 41 

When the communication was over, he stepped out of the 
confessional and said to Elsie in parting, " My daughter, 
you have done well to take this in time. The devices of 
Satan in our corrupt times are numerous and artful, and 
they who keep the Lord's sheep must not sleep. Before 
many days I will call .and examine the child ; meanwhile I 
approve your course." 

It was curious to see the awe-struck, trembling manner in 
which old Elsie, generally so intrepid and commanding, stood 
before this man in his brown rough woollen gown with his 
corded waist ; but she had an instinctive perception of the 
presence of the man of superior birth no less than a rever 
ence for the man of religion. 

After she had departed from the church, the Capuchin 
stood lost in thought ; and to explain his revery, we must 
throw some further light on his history. 

II Padre Francesco, as his appearance and manner inti 
mated, was in truth from one of the most distinguished fami 
lies of Florence. He was one of those whom an ancient 
writer characterizes as " men of longing desire." Born with 
a nature of restless stringency that seemed to doom him 
never to know repose, excessive in all things, he had made 
early trial of ambition, of war, and of what the gallants of 
his time called love, plunging into all the dissipated ex 
cesses of a most dissolute age, and outdoing in luxury and 
extravagance the foremost of his companions. 

The wave of a great religious impulse which in our 
times would have been called a revival swept over the 
city of Florence, and bore him, with multitudes of others, to 
listen to the fervid preaching of the Dominican monk, Je 
rome Savonarola ; and amid the crowd that trembled, wept, 
and beat their breasts under his awful denunciations, he, too, 



42 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

felt within himself a heavenly call, the death of an old 
life, and the uprising of a new purpose. 

The colder manners and more repressed habits of modern 
times can give no idea of the wild fervor of a religious 
revival among a people so passionate and susceptible to 
impressions as the Italians. It swept society like a spring 
torrent from the sides of the Apennines, bearing all before 
it. Houses were sacked with religious fervor by penitent 
owners, and licentious pictures and statuary and books, and 
all the thousand temptations and appliances of a luxurious 
age, were burned in the great public square. Artists con 
victed of impure and licentious designs threw their palettes 
and brushes into the expiatory flames, and retired to con 
vents, till called forth by the voice of the preacher, and bid 
to turn their art into higher channels. Since the days of 
Saint Francis no such profound religious impulse had agi 
tated the Italian community. 

In our times a conversion is signalized by few outward 
changes, however deep the inner life ; but the life of the 
Middle Ages was profoundly symbolical, and always re 
quired the help of material images in its expression. 

The gay and dissolute young Lorenzo Sforza took leave 
of the world with rites of awful solemnity. He made his 
will and disposed of all his worldly property, and assembling 
his friends, bade them the farewell of a dying man. Ar 
rayed as for the grave, he was laid in his coffin, and thus 
carried from his stately dwelling by the brethren of the 
Misericordia, who, in their ghostly costume, with mournful 
chants and lighted candles, bore him to the tomb of his an 
cestors, where the coffin was deposited in the vault, and its 
occupant passed the awful hours of the night in darkness 
and solitude. Thence he was carried, the next day, almost 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 43 

in a state of insensibility, to a neighboring convent of the 
severest order, where, for some weeks, he observed a peni 
tential retreat of silence and prayer, neither seeing nor hear 
ing any living being but his spiritual director. 

The effect of all this on an ardent and sensitive tempera 
ment can scarcely be conceived ; and it is not to be won 
dered at that the once gay and luxurious Lorenzo Sforza, 
when emerging from this tremendous discipline, was so 
wholly lost in the worn and weary Padre Francesco that it 
seemed as if in fact he had died and another had stepped 
into his place. The face was ploughed deep with haggard 
furrows, and the eyes were as those of a man who has seen 
the fearful secrets of another life. He voluntarily sought a 
post as far removed as possible from the scenes of his early 
days, so as more completely to destroy his identity with the 
past ; and he devoted himself with enthusiasm to the task of 
awakening to a higher spiritual life the indolent, self-indul 
gent monks of his order, and the ignorant peasantry of the 
vicinity. 

But he soon discovered, what every earnest soul learns 
who has been baptized into a sense of things invisible, how 
utterly powerless and inert any mortal man is to inspire 
others with his own insights and convictions. With bitter 
discouragement and chagrin, he saw that the spiritual man 
must forever lift the dead weight of all the indolence and 
indifference and animal sensuality that surround him, that 
the curse of Cassandra is upon him, forever to burn and 
writhe under awful visions of truths which no one around 
him will regard. In early life the associate only of the 
cultivated and the refined, Father Francesco could not but 
experience at times an insupportable ennui in listening to 
the confessions of people who had never learned either to 



44 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

think or to feel with any degree of distinctness, and whom 
his most fervent exhortations could not lift above the most 
trivial interests of a mere animal life. He was weary of 
the childish quarrels and bickerings of the monks, of their 
puerility, of their selfishness and self-indulgence, of their 
hopeless vulgarity of mind, and utterly discouraged with 
their inextricable labyrinths of deception. A melancholy 
deep as the grave seized on him, and he redoubled his aus 
terities, in the nope that by making life painful he might 
make it also short. 

But the first time that the clear, sweet tones of Agnes 
rang in his ears at the confessional, and her words, so full of 
unconscious poetry and repressed genius, came like a strain 
of sweet music through the grate, he felt at his heart a thrill 
to which it had long been a stranger, and which seemed to 
lift the weary, aching load from off his soul, as if some invis 
ible angel had borne it up on his wings. 

In his worldly days he had known women as the gallants 
in Boccaccio's romances knew them, and among them one 
enchantress whose sorceries had kindled in his heart one of 
those fatal passions which burn out the whole of a man's 
nature, and leave it, like a sacked city, only a smoulder 
ing heap of ashes. Deepest, therefore, among his vows of 
renunciation had been those which divided him from all 
womankind. The gulf that parted him and them was in his 
mind deep as hell, and he thought of the sex only in the 
light of temptation and danger. For the first time in his 
life, an influence serene, natural, healthy, and sweet breath 
ed over him from the mind of a woman, an influence so 
heavenly and peaceful that he did not challenge or suspect 
it, but rather opened his worn heart insensibly to it, as one 
in a fetid chamber naturally breathes freer when the fresh 
air is admitted. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 45 

How charming it was to find his most spiritual exhorta 
tions seized upon with the eager comprehension of a nature 
innately poetic and ideal! Nay, it sometimes seemed to 
him as if the suggestions which he gave her dry and leafless 
she brought again to him in miraculous clusters of flowers, 
like the barren rod of Joseph, which broke into blossoms 
when he was betrothed to the spotless Mary ; and yet, withal, 
she was so humbly unconscious, so absolutely ignorant of the 
beauty of all she said and thought, that she impressed him 
less as a mortal woman than as one of those divine miracles 
in feminine form of which he had heard in the legends of the 
saints. 

Thenceforward his barren, discouraged life began to blos 
som with way-side flowers, and he mistrusted not the 
miracle, because the flowers were all heavenly. The pious 
thought or holy admonition that he saw trodden under the 
swinish feet of the monks he gathered up again in hope, 
she would understand it ; and gradually all his thoughts be 
came like carrier-doves, which, having once learned the way 
to a favorite haunt, are ever fluttering to return thither. 

Such is the wonderful power of human sympathy, that the 
discovery even of the existence of a soul capable of under 
standing our inner life often operates as a perfect charm ; 
every thought, and feeling, and aspiration carries with it a 
new value, from the interwoven consciousness that attends it 
of the worth it would bear to that other mind ; so that, while 
that person lives, our existence is doubled in value, even 
though oceans divide us. 

The cloud of hopeless melancholy which had brooded over 
the mind of Father Francesco lifted and sailed away, he 
knew not why, he knew not when. A secret joyfulness and 
alacrity possessed his spirits ; his prayers became more fer- 



46 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

vent and his praises more frequent. Until now, his medita 
tions had been most frequently those of fear and wrath, 
the awful majesty of God, the terrible punishment of sin 
ners, which he conceived with all that haggard, dreadful 
sincerity of vigor which characterized the modern Etruscan 
phase of religion of which the " Inferno " of Dante was the 
exponent and the out-come. His preachings and his ex 
hortations had dwelt on that lurid world seen by the severe 
Florentine, at whose threshold hope forever departs, and 
around whose eternal circles of living torture the shivering 
spirit wanders dismayed and blasted by terror. 

He had been shocked and discouraged to find how utterly 
vain had been his most intense efforts to stem the course 
of sin by presenting these images of terror: how hard na 
tures had listened to them with only a coarse and cruel 
appetite, which seemed to increase their hardness and 
brutality ; and how timid ones had been withered by them, 
like flowers scorched by the blast of a furnace ; how, in 
fact, as in the case of those cruel executions and bloody 
tortures then universal in the jurisprudence of Europe, 
these pictures of eternal torture seemed to exert a morbid 
demoralizing influence which hurried on the growth of 
iniquity. 

But since his acquaintance with Agnes, without his know 
ing exactly why, thoughts of the Divine Love had floated 
into his soul, filling it with a golden cloud like that which 
of old rested over the mercy-seat in that sacred inner tem 
ple where the priest was admitted alone. He became more 
affable and tender, more tolerant to the erring, more fond of 
little children ; would stop sometimes to lay his hand on the 
head of a child, or to raise up one who lay overthrown in 
the street. The song of little birds and the voices of ani- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 47 

mal life became to him full of tenderness; and his prayers 
by the sick and dying seemed to have a melting power, such 
as he had never known before. It was spring in his soul, 
soft, Italian spring, such as brings out the musky 
breath of the cyclamen, and the faint, tender perfume of the 
primrose, in every moist dell of the Apennines. 

A year passed in this way, perhaps the best and happiest 
of his troubled life, a year in which, insensibly to himself, 
the weekly interviews with Agnes at the confessional became 
the rallying-points around which the whole of his life was 
formed, and she the unsuspected spring of his inner being. 

It was his duty, he said to himself, to give more than 
usual time and thought to the working and polishing of this 
wondrous jewel which had so unexpectedly been intrusted 
to him for the adorning of his Master's crown ; and so 
long as he conducted with the strictest circumspection of 
his office, what had he to fear in the way of so delight 
ful a duty ? He had never touched her hand ; never had 
even the folds of her passing drapery brushed against his 
garments of mortification and renunciation ; never, even in 
pastoral benediction, had he dared lay his hand on that 
beautiful head. It is true, he had not forbidden himself 
to raise his glance sometimes when he saw her coming in 
at the church-door and gliding up the aisle with downcast 
eyes, and thoughts evidently so far above earth, that she 
seemed, like one of Fra Angelico's angels, to be moving 
on a cloud, so encompassed with stillness and sanctity that 
he held his breath as she passed. 

But in the confession of Dame Elsie that morning he 
had received a shock which threw his whole interior being 
into a passionate agitation which dismayed and astonished 
him. 



48 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

The thought of Agnes, his spotless lamb, exposed to law 
less and licentious pursuit, of whose nature and probabili 
ties his past life gave him only too clear an idea, was of 
itself a very natural source of anxiety. But Elsie had 
unveiled to him her plans for her marriage, and consulted 
him on the propriety of placing Agnes immediately under 
the protection of the husband she had chosen for her ; and 
it was this part of her communication which had awakened 
the severest internal recoil, and raised a tumult of passions 
which the priest vainly sought either to assuage or under 
stand. 
% 

As soon as his morning duties were over, he repaired 
to his convent, sought his cell, and, prostrate on his face 
before the crucifix, began his internal reckoning with him 
self. The day passed in fasting and solitude. 

It is now golden evening, and on the square, flat roof 
of the convent, which, high-perched on a crag, overlooks 
the bay, one might observe a dark figure slowly pacing 
backward and forward. It is Father Francesco ; and as 
he walks up and down, one could see by his large, bright, 
dilated eye, by the vivid red spot on either sunken cheek, 
and by the nervous energy of his movements, that he is 
in the very height of some mental crisis, in that state 
of placid extase in which the subject supposes himself 
perfectly calm, because every nerve is screwed to the 
highest point of tension and can vibrate no more. 

What oceans had that day rolled over him and swept 
him, as one may see a little boat rocked on the capri 
cious surges of the Mediterranean ! Were, then, all his 
strivings and agonies in vain ? Did he love this woman 
with any earthly love ? Was he jealous of the thought 
of a future husband ? Was it a tempting demon that said 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 49 

to him, " Lorenzo Sforza might have shielded this treas 
ure from the profanation of lawless violence, from the 
brute grasp of an inappreciative peasant, but Father 
Francesco cannot " ? There was a moment when his 
. whole being vibrated with a perception of what a mar 
riage bond might have been that was indeed a sacrament, 
and that bound together two pure and loyal souls who 
gave life and courage to each other in all holy purposes 
and heroic deeds ; and he almost feared that he had 
cursed his vows, those awful vows, at whose remem 
brance his inmost soul shivered through every nerve.* 

But after hours of prayer and struggle, and wave after 
wave of agonizing convulsion, he gained one of those high 
points in human possibility where souls can stand a little 
while at a time, and where all things seem so transfigured 
and pure that they fancy themselves thenceforward for 
ever victorious over evil. 

As he walks up and down in the gold-and-purple even 
ing twilight, his mind seems to him calm as that glow 
ing sea that reflects the purple shores of Ischia, and the 
quaint, fantastic grottos and cliffs of Capri. All is golden 
and glowing; he sees all clear; he is delivered from his 
spiritual enemies ; he treads them under his feet. 

Yes, he says to himself, he loves Agnes, loves her 
ail-sacredly as her guardian angel does, who ever behold- 
eth the face of her Father in Heaven. Why, then, does 
he shrink from her marriage ? Is it not evident ? Has 
that tender soul, that poetic nature, that aspiring genius, 
anything in common with the vulgar, coarse details of a 
peasant's life? Will not her beauty always draw the eye 
of the licentious, expose her artless innocence to solicita 
tion which will annoy her and bring upon her head the 



50 AGXES OF SORRENTO. 

inconsiderate jealousy of her husband ? Think of Agnes 
made subject to the rude authority, to the stripes and cor 
rection, which men of the lower class, under the promptings 
of jealousy, do not scruple to inflict on their wives ! What 
career did society, as then organized, present to such a 
nature, so perilously gifted in body and mind? He has 
the answer. The Church has opened a career to woman 
which all the world denies her. 

He remembers the story of the dyer's daughter of Siena, 
the fair Saint Catharine. In his youth he had often vis 
ited the convent where one of the first artists of Italy has 
immortalized her conflicts and her victories, and knelt with 
his mother at the altar where she now communes with the 
faithful. He remembered how, by her sanctity, her hu 
mility, and her holy inspirations of soul, she had risen to 
the courts of princes, whither she had been sent as am 
bassadress to arrange for the interests of the Church ; and 
then rose before his mind's eye the gorgeous picture of 
Pinturicchio, where, borne in celestial repose and purity 
amid all the powers and dignitaries of the Church, she is 
canonized as one of those that shall reign and intercede 
with Christ in heaven. 

Was it wrong, therefore, in him, though severed from 
all womankind by a gulf of irrevocable vows, that he 
should feel a kind of jealous property in this gifted and 
beautiful creature? and though he might not, even in 
thought, dream of possessing her himself, was there sin in 
the vehement energy with which his whole nature rose up 
in him to say that no other man should, that she should 
be the bride of Heaven alone ? 

Certainly, if there were, it lurked far out of sight ; and 
the priest had a case that might have satisfied a conscience 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 51 

even more fastidious ; and he felt a sort of triumph in the 
results of his mental scrutiny. 

Yes, she should ascend from glory to glory, but his 
should be the hand that should lead her upward. He would 
lead her within the consecrated grate, he would pro 
nounce the awful words that should make it sacrilege for 
all other men to approach her ; and yet through life he 
should be the guardian and director of her soul, the one 
being to whom she should render an obedience as unlimited 
as that which belongs to Christ alone. 

Such were the thoughts of this victorious hour, which, 
alas ! were destined to fade as those purple skies and golden 
fires gradually went out, leaving, in place of their light and 
glory, only the lurid glow of Vesuvius. 



52 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE WALK TO THE CONVENT. 

ELSIE returned from the confessional a little after sun 
rise, much relieved and satisfied. Padre Francesco had 
shown such a deep interest in her narrative that she was 
highly gratified. Then he had given her advice which 
exactly accorded with her own views ; and such advice is 
always regarded as an eminent proof of sagacity in the 
giver. 

On the point of the marriage he had recommended de 
lay, a course quite in accordance with Elsie's desire, who, 
curiously enough, ever since her treaty of marriage with 
Antonio had been commenced, had cherished the most 
whimsical, jealous dislike of him, as if he were about to 
get away her grandchild from her ; and this rose at times 
so high that she could scarcely speak peaceably to him, a 
course of things which caused Antonio to open wide his 
great soft ox-eyes, and wonder at the ways of woman 
kind ; but he waited the event in philosophic tranquillity. 

The morning sunbeams were shooting many a golden 
shaft among the orange-trees when Elsie returned and 
found Agnes yet kneeling at her prayers. 

" Now, my little heart," said the old woman, when their 
morning meal was done, " I am going to give you a holiday 
to-day. I will go with you to the Convent, and you shall 
spend the day with the sisters, and so carry Saint Agnes 
her ring." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 53 

" Oh, thank you, grandmamma ! how good you are ! May 
I stop a little on the way, and pick some cyclamen and myr 
tles and daisies for her shrine ? " 

" Just as you like, child ; but if you are going to do that, 
we must be off soon, for I must be at my stand betimes to 
sell oranges : I had them all picked this morning while my 
little darling was asleep." 

" You always do everything, grandmamma, and leave me 
nothing to do : it is not fair. But, grandmamma, if we are 
going to get flowers by the way, let us follow down the 
stream, through the gorge, out upon the sea-beach, and so 
walk along the sands, and go by the back path up the 
rocks to the Convent : that walk is so shady and lovely 
at this time in the morning, and it is so fresh along by 
the sea-side ! " 

"As you please, dearie; but first fill a little basket with 
our best oranges for the sisters." 

" Trust me for that ! " And the girl ran eagerly to the 
house, and drew from her treasures a little white wicker 
basket, which she proceeded to line curiously with orange- 
leaves, sticking sprays of blossoms in a wreath round the 
border. 

" Now for some of our best blood-oranges ! " she said ; 
" old Jocunda says they put her in mind of pomegranates. 
And here are some of these little ones, see here, grand 
mamma ! " she exclaimed, as she turned and held up a 
branch just broken, where five small golden balls grew 
together with a pearly spray of white buds just beyond 
them. 

The exercise of springing up for the branch had sent 
a vivid glow into her clear brown cheek, and her eyes were 
dilated with excitement and pleasure ; and as she stood joy- 



54 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ously holding the branch, while the flickering shadows fell on 
her beautiful face, she seemed more like a painter's dream 
than a reality. 

Her grandmother stood a moment admiring her. 

" She 's too good and too pretty for Antonio or any other 
man : she ought to be kept to look at," she said to herself. 
" If I could keep her always, no man should have her ; but 
death will come, and youth and beauty go, and so somebody 
must care for her." 

When the basket was filled and trimmed, Agnes took it 
on her arm. Elsie raised and poised on her head the great 
square basket that contained her merchandise, and began 
walking erect and straight down the narrow rocky stairs 
that led into the gorge, holding her distaff with its white 
flax in her hands, and stepping as easily as if she bore no 
burden. 

Agnes followed her with light, irregular movements, 
glancing aside from time to .time, as a tuft of flowers or 
a feathery spray of leaves attracted her fancy. In a few 
moments her hands were too full, and her woollen apron of 
many-colored stripes was raised over one arm to hold her 
treasures, while a hymn to Saint Agnes, which she con 
stantly murmured to herself, came in little ripples of sound, 
now from behind a rock, and now out of a tuft of bushes, to 
show where the wanderer was hid. The song, like many 
Italian ones, would be nothing in English, only a musical 
repetition of sweet words to a very simple and childlike idea, 
the bella, bella, bella ringing out in every verse with a tender 
joyousness that seemed in harmony with the waving ferns 
and pendent flowers and long ivy-wreaths from among which 
its notes issued. " Beautiful and sweet Agnes," it said, in a 
thousand tender repetitions, " make me like thy little white 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 55 

lamb ! Beautiful Agnes, take me to the green fields where 
Christ's lambs are feeding ! Sweeter than the rose, fairer 
than the lily, take rne where thou art ! " 

At the bottom of the ravine a little stream tinkles its way 
among stones so mossy in their deep, cool shadow as to ap 
pear all verdure ; for seldom the light of the sun can reach 
the darkness where they lie. A little bridge, hewn from 
solid rock, throws across the shrunken stream an arch much 
wider than its waters seem to demand ; for in spring and 
autumn, when the torrents wash down from the mountains, 
its volume is often suddenly increased. 

This bridge was so entirely and evenly grown over with 
short thick moss that it might seem cut of some strange 
kind of living green velvet, and here and there it was 
quaintly embroidered with small blossoming tufts of white 
alyssum, or feathers of ferns and maiden's-hair which shook 
and trembled to every breeze. Nothing could be lovelier 
than this mossy bridge, when some stray sunbeam, slanting 
up the gorge, took a fancy to light it up with golden hues, 
and give transparent greenness to the tremulous thin leaves 
that waved upon it. 

On this spot Elsie paused a moment, and called back 
after Agnes, who had disappeared into one of those deep 
grottos with which the sides of the gorge are perforated, and 
which are almost entirely veiled by the pendent iry-wreaths. 

" Agnes ! Agnes ! wild girl ! come quick 1 " 

Only the sound of " Bella, bella Agnella " came out of the 
ivy-leaves to answer her ; but it sounded so happy and in 
nocent that Elsie could not forbear a smile, and in a mo 
ment Agnes came springing down with a quantity of the 
feathery lycopodium in her hands, which grows nowhere 
so well as in moist and dripping places. 



56 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Out of her apron were hanging festoons of golden broom, 
crimson gladiolus, and long, trailing sprays of ivy ; while she 
held aloft in triumph a handful of the most superb cyclamen, 
whose rosy crowns rise so beautifully above their dark quaint 
leaves in moist and shady places. 

" See, see, grandmother, what an offering I have ! Saint 
Agnes will be pleased with me to-day ; for I believe in her 
heart she loves flowers better than gems." 

" Well, well, wild one, time flies, we must hurry." And 
crossing the bridge quickly, the grandmother struck into a 
mossy foot-path that led them, after some walking, under the 
old Roman bridge at the gateway of Sorrento. Two hun 
dred feet above their heads rose the mighty arches, enam 
elled with moss and feathered with ferns all the way ; and 
below this bridge the gorge grew somewhat wider, its sides 
gradually receding and leaving a beautiful flat tract of land, 
which was laid out as an orange-orchard. The golden fruit 
was shut in by rocky walls on either side which here formed 
a perfect hot-bed, and no oranges were earlier or finer. 

Through this beautiful orchard the two at length emerged 
from the gorge upon the sea-sands, where lay the blue Medi 
terranean swathed in bands of morning mist, its many-col 
ored waters shimmering with a thousand reflected lights, and 
old Capri panting through sultry blue mists, and Vesuvius 
with his cloud-spotted sides and smoke-wreathed top burst 
into view. At a little distance a boat-load of bronzed fisher-" 
men had just drawn in a net, from which they were throw 
ing out a quantity of sardines, which flapped and fluttered in 
the sunshine like scales of silver. The wind blowing freshly 
bore thousands of little purple waves to break one after 
another at the foamy line which lay on the sand. 

Agnes ran gayly along the beach with her flowers and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 57 

vines fluttering from her gay striped apron, and her cheeks 
flushed with exercise and pleasure, sometimes stopping 
and turning with animation to her grandmother to point out 
the various floral treasures that enamelled every crevice and 
rift of the steep wall of rock which rose perpendicularly 
above their heads in that whole line of the shore which is 
crowned with the old city of Sorrento : and surely never did 
rocky wall show to the open sea a face more picturesque and 
flowery. The deep red cliff was hollowed here and there 
into fanciful grottos, draped with every varied hue and form 
of vegetable beauty. Here a crevice high in air was all 
abloom with purple gillyflower, and depending in festoons 
above it the golden blossoms of the broom ; here a cleft 
seemed to be a nestling-place for a colony of gladiolus, with 
its crimson flowers and blade-like leaves; here the silver- 
frosted foliage of the miller-geranium, or of the wormwood, 
toned down the extravagant brightness of other blooms by 
its cooler tints. In some places it seemed as if a sort of 
floral cascade were tumbling confusedly over the rocks, 
mingling all hues and all forms in a tangled mass of 
beauty. 

" Well, well," said old Elsie, as Agnes pointed to some 
.superb gillyflowers which grew nearly half-way up the 
precipice, " is the child possessed ? You have all the 
jjorge in your apron already. Stop looking, and let us 
hurry on." 

After a half-hour's walk, they came to a winding staircase 
cut in the rock, which led them a zigzag course up through 
galleries and grottos looking out through curious windows 
and loop-holes upon the sea, till finally they emerged at the 
old sculptured portal of a shady garden which was sur 
rounded by the cloistered arcades of the Convent of Saint 
Agnes. 



58 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

The Convent of Saint Agnes was one of those monuments 
in which the piety of the Middle Ages delighted to com 
memorate the triumphs of the new Christianity over the old 
Heathenism. 

The balmy climate and paradisiacal charms of Sorrento 
and the adjacent shores of Naples had made them favorite 
resorts during the latter period of the Roman Empire, a 
period when the whole civilized world seemed to human 
view about to be dissolved in the corruption of universal 
sensuality. The shores of Baiae were witnesses of the or 
gies and cruelties of Nero and a court made in his likeness, 
and the palpitating loveliness of Capri became the hot-bed 
of the unnatural vices of Tiberius. The whole of Southern 
Italy was sunk in a debasement of animalism and ferocity 
which seemed irrecoverable, and would have been so, had it 
not been for the handful of salt which a Galilean peasant 
had about that time cast into the putrid, fermenting mass of 
human society. 

We must not wonder at the zeal which caused the artistic 
Italian nature to love to celebrate the passing away of an 
era of unnatural vice and demoniac cruelty by visible images 
of the purity, the tenderness, the universal benevolence which 
Jesus had brought into the world. 

Some time about the middle of the thirteenth century, it 
had been a favorite enterprise of a princess of a royal family 
in Naples to erect a convent to Saint Agnes, the guardian 
of female purity, out of the wrecks and remains of an ancient 
temple of Venus, whose white pillars and graceful acanthus- 
leaves once crowned a portion of the precipice on which the 
town was built, and were reflected from the glassy blue of 
the sea at its feet. It was said that this princess was the first 
lady abbess. Be that as it may, it proved to be a favorite 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 59 

retreat for many ladies of rank and religious aspiration, 
whom ill-fortune in some of its varying forms led to seek 
its quiet shades, and it was well and richly endowed by its 
royal patrons. 

It was built after the manner of conventual buildings 
generally, in a hollow square, with a cloistered walk 
around the inside looking upon a garden. 

The portal at which Agnes and her grandmother knocked, 
after ascending the winding staircase cut in the precipice, 
opened through an arched passage into this garden. 

As the ponderous door swung open, it was pleasant to 
hear the lulling sound of a fountain, which came forth 
with a gentle patter, like that of soft summer rain, and to 
see the waving of rose-bushes and golden jessamines, and 
smell the perfumes of orange-blossoms mingling with those 
of a thousand other flowers. 

The door was opened by an odd-looking portress. She 
might be seventy-five or eighty ; her cheeks were of the 
color of very yellow parchment drawn in dry wrinkles; 
her eyes were those large, dark, lustrous ones so common 
in her country, but seemed, in the general decay and shrink 
ing of every other part of her face, to have acquired a wild, 
unnatural appearance ; while the falling away of her teeth 
left nothing to impede the meeting of her hooked nose with 
her chin. Add to this, she was hump-backed, and twisted in 
her figure ; and one needs all the force of her very good- 
natured, kindly smile to redeem the image of poor old 
Jocunda from association with that of some Thracian witch, 
and cause one to see in her the appropriate portress of a 
Christian institution. 

Nevertheless, Agnes fell upon her neck and imprinted a 
very fervent kiss upon what was left of her withered cheek, 



60 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

and was repaid by a shower of those epithets of endearment 
which in the language of Italy fly thick and fast as the petals 
of the orange-blossom from her groves. 

" Well, well," said old Elsie, " I 'm going to leave her 
here to-day. You 've no objections, I suppose ? " 

" Bless the sweet lamb, no ! She belongs here of good 
right. I believe blessed Saint Agnes has adopted her ; for 
I 've seen her smile, plain as could be, when the little one 
brought her flowers." 

" Well, Agnes," said the old woman, " I shall come for 
you after the Ave Maria." Saying which, she lifted her 
basket and departed. 

The garden where the two were left was one of the most 
peaceful retreats that the imagination of a poet could cre 
ate. 

Around it ran on all sides the Byzantine arches of a 
cloistered walk, which, according to the quaint, rich fashion 
of that style, had been painted with vermilion, blue, and 
gold. The vaulted roof was spangled with gold stars on a 
blue ground, and along the sides was a series of fresco pic 
tures representing the various scenes in the life of Saint 
Agnes ; and as the foundress of the Convent was royal in 
her means, there was no lack either of gold or gems or of 
gorgeous painting. 

Full justice was done in the first picture to the princely 
wealth and estate of the fair Agnes, who was represented as 
a pure-looking, pensive child, standing in a thoughtful atti 
tude, with long ripples of golden hair flowing down over a 
simple white tunic, and her small hands clasping a cross on 
her bosom, while, kneeling at her feet, obsequious slaves and 
tire-women were offering the richest gems and the most 
gorgeous robes to her serious and abstracted gaze. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 61 

In another, she was represented as walking modestly to 
school, and winning the admiration of the son of the Roman 
Praetor, who fell sick so says the legend for the love 
of her. 

Then there was the demand of her hand in marriage by 
the princely father of the young man, and her calm rejec 
tion of the gorgeous gifts and splendid gems which he had 
brought to purchase her consent. 

Then followed in order her accusation before the tribu 
nals as a Christian, her trial, and the various scenes of her 
martyrdom. 

Although the drawing of the figures and the treatment of 
the subjects had the quaint stiffness of the thirteenth century, 
their general effect, as seen from the shady bowers of the 
garden, was of a solemn brightness, a strange and fanciful 
richness, which was poetical and impressive. 

In the centre of the garden was a fountain of white 
marble, which evidently was the wreck of something that 
had belonged to the old Greek temple. The statue of 
a nymph sat on a green mossy pedestal in the midst of a 
sculptured basin, and from a partially reversed urn on which 
she was leaning a clear stream of water dashed down from 
one mossy fragment to another, till it lost itself in the placid 
pool. 

The figure and face of this nymph, in their classic finish 
of outline, formed a striking contrast to the drawing of the 
Byzantine paintings within the cloisters, and their juxtapo 
sition in the same enclosure seemed a presentation of the 
spirit of a past and present era : the past so graceful in line, 
so perfect and airy in conception, so utterly without spiritual 
aspiration or life ; the present limited in artistic power, but 
so earnest, so intense, seeming to struggle and burn, amid its 



62 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

stiff and restricted boundaries, for the expression of some 
diviner phase of humanity. 

Nevertheless, the nymph of the fountain, different in style 
and execution as it was, was so fair a creature, that it was 
thought best, after the spirit of those days, to purge her from 
all heathen and improper histories by baptizing her in the 
waters of her own fountain, and bestowing on her the name* 
of the saint to whose convent she was devoted. The simple 
sisterhood, little conversant in nice poin-ts of antiquity, re 
garded her as Saint Agnes dispensing the waters of purity 
to her convent ; and marvellous and sacred properties were 
ascribed to the water, when taken fasting with a sufficient 
number of prayers and other religious exercises. All around 
the neighborhood of this fountain the ground was one bed of 
blue and white violets, whose fragrance filled the air, and 
which were deemed by the nuns to have come up there in 
especial token of the favor with which Saint Agnes regarded 
the conversion of this heathen relic to pious and Christian 
uses. 

This nymph had been an especial favorite of the child 
hood of Agnes, and she had always had a pleasure which 
she could not exactly account for in gazing upon it. It is 
seldom that one sees in the antique conception of the im 
mortals any trace of human feeling. Passionless perfection 
and repose seem to be their uniform character. But now 
and then from the ruins of Southern Italy fragments have 
been dug, not only pure in outline, but invested with a 
strange pathetic charm, as if the calm, inviolable circle of 
divinity had been touched by some sorrowing sense of that 
unexplained anguish with which the whole lower creation 
groans. One sees this mystery of expression in the face of 
that strange and beautiful Psyche which still enchants the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 63 

Museum of Naples. Something of this charm of mournful 
pathos lingered on the beautiful features of this nymph, 
an expression so delicate and shadowy that it seemed to ad 
dress itself only to finer natures. It was as if all the silent, 
patient woe and discouragement of a dumb antiquity had 
been congealed into this memorial. Agnes was often con 
scious, when a child, of being saddened by it, and yet drawn 
towards it with a mysterious attraction. 

About this fountain, under the shadow of bending rose- 
trees and yellow jessamines, was a circle of garden-seats, 
adopted also from the ruins of the past. Here a graceful 
Corinthian capital, with every white acanthus-leaf perfect, 
stood in a mat of acanthus-leaves of Nature's own making, 
glossy green and sharply cut; and there was a long portion 
of a frieze sculptured with graceful dancing figures ; and in 
another place a fragment of a fluted column, with lycopo- 
dium and colosseum vine hanging from its fissures in graceful 
draping. On these seats Agnes had dreamed away many a 
tranquil hour, making garlands of violets, and listening to 
the marvellous legends of old Jocunda. 

In order to understand anything of the true idea of con 
ventual life in those days, we must consider that books were 
as yet unknown, except as literary rarities, and reading and 
writing were among the rare accomplishments of the higher 
classes ; and that Italy, from the time that the great Roman 
Empire fell and broke into a thousand shivers, had been 
subject to a continual series of conflicts and struggles, which 
took from life all security. Norman, Dane, Sicilian, Span 
iard, Frenchman, and German mingled and struggled, now 
up and now down ; and every struggle was attended by the 
little ceremonies of sacking towns, burning villages, and 
routing out entire populations to utter misery and wretched- 



64 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ness. During these tumultuous ages, those buildings conse 
crated by a religion recognized alike by all parties afforded 
to misfortune the only inviolable asylum, and to feeble and 
discouraged spirits the only home safe from the prospect of 
reverses. 

If the destiny of woman is a problem that calls for grave 
attention even in our enlightened times, and if she is too 
often a sufferer from the inevitable movements of society, 
what must have been her position and needs in those ruder 
ages, unless the genius of Christianity had opened refuges 
for her weakness, made inviolable by the awful sanctions of 
religion ? 

What could they do, all these girls and women together, 
with the twenty-four long hours of every day, without read 
ing or writing, and without the care of children ? Enough : 
with their multiplied diurnal prayer periods, with each its 
chants and ritual of observances, with the preparation for 
meals, and the clearing away thereafter, with the care of 
the chapel, shrine, sacred gifts, drapery, and ornaments, 
with embroidering altar-cloths and making sacred tapers, 
with preparing conserves of rose-leaves and curious spiceries, 
with mixing drugs for the sick, with all those mutual 
offices and services to each other which their relations in one 
family gave rise to, and with divers feminine gossipries 
and harmless chatterings and cooings, one can conceive that 
these dove-cots of the Church presented often some of the 
most tranquil scenes of those convulsive and disturbed pe 
riods. 

Human nature probably had its varieties there as other 
where. There were there the domineering and the weak, 
the ignorant and the vulgar, and the patrician and the 
princess, and though professedly all brought on the footing 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 65 

of sisterly equality, we are not to suppose any Utopian de 
gree of perfection among them. The way of pure spiritu 
ality was probably, in the convent as well as out, that strait 
and narrow one which there be few to find. There, as 
elsewhere, the devotee who sought to progress faster toward 
heaven than suited the paces of her fellow-travellers was 
reckoned a troublesome enthusiast, till she got far enough in 
advance to be worshipped as a saint. 

Sister Theresa, the abbess of this convent, was the young 
est daughter in a princely Neapolitan family, who from her 
cradle had been destined to the cloister, in order that her 
brother and sister might inherit more splendid fortunes and 
form more splendid connections. She had been sent to this 
place too early to have much recollection of any other mode 
of life ; and when the time came to take the irrevocable 
step, she renounced with composure a world she had never 
known. 

Her brother had endowed her with a livre des heures, 
illuminated with all the wealth of blue and gold and divers 
colors which the art of those times afforded, a work exe 
cuted by a pupil of the celebrated Fra Angelico ; and the 
possession of this treasure was regarded by her as a far 
richer inheritance than that princely state of which she knew 
nothing. Her neat little cell had a window that looked 
down on the sea, on Capri, with its fantastic grottos, on 
Vesuvius, with its weird daily and nightly changes. The 
light that came in from the joint reflection of sea and sky 
gave a golden and picturesque coloring to the simple and 
bare furniture, and in sunny weather she often sat there, just 
as a lizard lies upon a wall, with the simple, warm, delight 
ful sense of living and being amid scenes of so much beauty. 
Of the life that people lived in the outer world, the strug- 



66 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

gle, the hope, the fear, the vivid joy, the bitter sorrow, 
Sister Theresa knew nothing. She could form no judg 
ment and give no advice founded on any such expe 
rience. 

The only life she knew was a certain ideal one, drawn 
from the legends of the saints ; and her piety was a calm, 
pure enthusiasm which had never been disturbed by a temp 
tation or a struggle. Her rule in the Convent was even and 
serene ; but those who came to her flock from the real 
world, from the trials and temptations of a real experience, 
were always enigmas to her, and she could scarcely compre 
hend or aid them. 

In fact, since in the cloister, as everywhere else, character 
will find its level, it was old Jocunda who was the real gov 
erness of the Convent. Jocunda was originally a peasant 
woman, whose husband had been drafted to some of the wars 
of his betters, and she had followed his fortunes in the camp. 
In the sack of a fortress, she lost her husband and four sons, 
all the children she had, and herself received an injury which 
distorted her form, and so she took refuge in the Convent. 
Here her energy and savoir-faire rendered her indispensa 
ble in every department. She made the bargains, bought 
the provisions, (being allowed to sally forth for these pur 
poses,) and formed the medium by which the timid, abstract, 
defenceless nuns accomplished those material relations with 
the world with which the utmost saintliness cannot afford to 
dispense. Besides and above all this, Jocunda's wide expe 
rience and endless capabilities of narrative made her an 
invaluable resource for enlivening any dull hours that might 
be upon the hands of the sisterhood ; and all these recom 
mendations, together with a strong mother- wit and native 
sense, soon made her so much the leading spirit in the Con- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 67 

vent that Mother Theresa herself might be said to be under 
her dominion. 

" So, so," she said to Agnes, when she had closed the gate 
after Elsie, r "you never come empty-handed. What 
lovely oranges ! worth double any that one can buy of 
anybody else but your grandmother." 

" Yes, and these flowers I brought to dress the altar." 

" Ah, yes ! Saint Agnes has given you a particular grace 
for that," said Jocunda. 

" And I have brought a ring for her treasury," said Ag 
nes, taking out the gift of the Cavalier. 

" Holy Mother ! here is something, to be sure ! " said 
Jocunda, catching it eagerly. " Why, Agnes, this is a dia 
mond, and as pretty a one as ever I saw. How it shines ! " 
she added, holding it up. " That's a prince's present. How 
did you get it ? " 

*-* I want to tell our mother about it," said Agnes. 

" You do ? " said Jocunda. " You 'd better tell me. I 
know fifty times as much about such things as she." 

" Dear Jocunda, I will tell you, too ; but I love Mother 
Theresa, and I ought to give it to her first." 

" As you please, then," said Jocunda. " Well, put your 
flowers here by the fountain, where the spray will keep them 
cool, and we will go to her." 



G8 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE DAY AT THE CONVENT. 

THE Mother Theresa sat in a sort of withdrawing-room, 
the roof of which rose in arches, starred with blue and gold 
like that of the cloister, and the sides were frescoed with 
scenes from the life of the Virgin. Over every door, and 
in convenient places between the paintings, texts of Holy 
Writ were illuminated in blue and scarlet and gold, with a 
richness and fancifulness of outline, as if every sacred letter 
had blossomed into a mystical flower. The Abbess- herself, 
with two of her nuns, was busily embroidering a new altar- 
cloth, with a lavish profusion of adornment ; and, from time 
to time, their voices rose in the musical tones of an ancient 
Latin hymn. The words were full of that quaint and mys 
tical pietism with which the fashion of the times clothed the 
expression of devotional feeling : 

" Jesu, corona virginum, 
Quern mater ilia concepit, 
Quae sola virgo parturit, 
Hsec vota clemens accipe. 

" Qui pascis inter lilia 
Septus choreis virginum, 
Sponsus decoris gloria 
Sponsisque reddens praemia. 

"Quocunque pergis, virgines 
Sequuntur atque laudibus 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 69 

Post te canentes cursitant 
Hymnosque dulces personant." * 

This little canticle was, in truth, very different from the 
hymns to Venus which used to resound in the temple which 
the convent had displaced. The voices which sung were of 
a deep, plaintive contralto, much resembling the richness of 
a tenor, and as they moved in modulated waves of chanting 
sound the effect was soothing and dreamy. Agnes stopped 
at the door to listen. 

" Stop, dear Jocunda," she said to the old woman, who was 
about to push her way abruptly into the room, " wait till it 
is over." 

Jocunda, who was quite matter-of-fact in her ideas of re 
ligion, made a little movement of impatience, but was recalled 
to herself by observing the devout absorption with which 
Agnes, with clasped hands and downcast head, was mentally 
joining in the hymn with a solemn brightness in her young 
face. 

" If she has n't got a vocation, nobody ever had one," said 
Jocunda, mentally. " Deary me, I wish I had more of one 
myself!" 

* " Jesus, crown of virgin spirits, 
Whom a virgin mother bore, 
Graciously accept our praises 
While thy footsteps we adore. 

" Thee among the lilies feeding 
Choirs of virgins walk beside, 
Bridegroom crowned with glorious beauty 
Giving beauty to thy bride. 

" Where thou goest still they follow 
Singing, singing as they move, 
All those souls forever virgin 
Wedded only to thy love." 



70 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

When the strain died away, and was succeeded by a con 
versation on the respective merits of two kinds of gold em- 
broidering-thread, Agnes and Jocunda entered the apartment. 
Agnes went forward and kissed the hand of the Mother 
reverentially. 

Sister Theresa we have before described as tall, pale, and 
sad-eyed, a moonlight style of person, wanting in all 
those elements of warm color and physical solidity which 
give the impression of a real vital human existence. The 
strongest affection she had ever known had been that which 
had been excited by the childish beauty and graces of Ag 
nes, and she folded her in her arms and kissed her forehead 
with a warmth that had in it the semblance of maternity. 

" Grandmamma has given me a day to spend with you, 
dear mother," said Agnes. 

" Welcome, dear little child ! " said Mother Theresa. 
u Your spiritual home always stands open to you." 

" I have something to speak to you of in particular, my 
mother," said Agnes, blushing deeply. 

" Indeed ! " said the Mother Theresa, a slight movement 
of curiosity arising in her mind as she signed to the two 
nuns to leave the apartment. 

" My mother," said Agnes, " yesterday evening, as grand 
mamma and I were sitting at the gate, selling oranges, a 
young cavalier came up and bought oranges of me, and he 
kissed my forehead and asked me to pray for him, and gave 
me this ring for the shrine of Saint Agnes." 

" Kissed your forehead ! " said Jocunda, " here 's a pretty 
go ! it is n't like you, Agnes, to let him." 

" He did it before I knew," said Agnes. " Grandmamma 
reproved him, and then he seemed to repent, and gave this 
ring for the shrine of Saint Agnes." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 71 

" And a pretty one it is, too," said Jocunda. " We have n't 
a prettier in all our treasury. Not even the great emerald 
the Queen gave is better in its way than this." 

" And he asked you to pray for him ? " said Mother The 
resa. 

"Yes, mother dear; he looked right into my eyes and 
made me look into his, and made me promise ; and I knew 
that holy virgins never refused their prayers to any one that 
asked, and so I followed their example." 

** I '11 warrant me he was only mocking at you for a poor 
little fool," said Jocunda ; " the gallants of our day don't be 
lieve much in prayers." 

" Perhaps so, Jocunda," said Agnes, gravely ; " but if that 
be the case, he needs prayers all the more." 

" Yes," said Mother Theresa. " Remember the story of 
the blessed Saint Dorothea, how a wicked young noble 
man mocked at her, when she was going to execution, and 
said, ' Dorothea, Dorothea, I will believe, when you shall 
send me down some of the fruits and flowers of Paradise ; ' 
and she, full of faith, said, * To-day I will send them ; ' and, 
wonderful to tell, that very day, at evening, an angel came 
to the young man with a basket of citrons and roses, and 
said, * Dorothea sends thee these, wherefore believe.' See 
what grace a pure maiden can bring to a thoughtless young 
man, for this young man was converted and became a 
champion of the faith." 

"That was in the old times," said Jocunda, sceptically. 
" I don't believe setting the lamb to pray for the wolf will do 
much in our day. Prithee, child, what manner of man was 
this gallant ? " 

" He was beautiful as an angel," said Agnes, " only it was 
not a good beauty. He looked proud and sad, both, like 



72 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

one who is not at ease in his heart. Indeed, I feel very 
sorry for him ; his eyes made a kind of trouble in my mind, 
that reminds me to pray for him often." 

"And I will join my prayers to yours, dear daughter," 
said the Mother Theresa ; " I long to have you with us, that 
we may pray together every day ; say, do you think your 
grandmamma will spare you to us wholly before long ? " 

" Grandmamma will not hear of it yet," said Agnes ; " and 
she loves me so, it would break her heart, if I should leave 
her, and she could not be happy here ; but, mother, you 
have told me we could carry an altar always in our hearts, 
and adore in secret. When it is God's will I should come 
to you, He will incline her heart." 

" Between you and me, little one," said Jocunda, " I think 
there will soon be a third person who will have something 
to say in the case." 

" Whom do you mean ? " said Agnes. 

"A husband," said Jocunda; "I suppose your grand 
mother has one picked out for you. You are neither 
hump-backed nor cross-eyed, that you shouldn't have one 
as well as other girls." 

" I don't want one, Jocunda ; and I have promised to 
Saint Agnes to come here, if she will only get grandmother 
to consent." 

" Bless you, my daughter ! " said Mother Theresa ; " only 
persevere and the way will be opened." 

" Well, well," said Jocunda, " we '11 see. Come, little one, 
if you would n't have your flowers wilt, we must go back 
and look after them." 

Reverently kissing the hand of the Abbess, Agnes with 
drew with her old friend, and crossed again to the garden to 
attend to her flowers. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 73 

" Well now, childie," said Jocunda, " you can sit here and 
weave your garlands, while I go and look after the conserves 
of raisins and citrons that Sister Cattarina is making. She 
is stupid at anything but her prayers, is Cattarina. Our 
Lady be gracious to me ! I think I got my vocation from 
Saint Martha, and if it wasn't for me, I don't know what 
would become of things in the Convent. Why, since I came 
here, our conserves, done up in fig-leaf packages, have had 
quite a run at Court, and our gracious Queen herself was 
good enough to send an order for a hundred of them last 
week. I could have laughed to see how puzzled the 
Mother Theresa looked ; much she knows about con 
serves ! I suppose she thinks Gabriel brings them straight 
down from Paradise, done up in leaves of the tree of life. 
Old Jocunda knows what goes to their making up ; she 's 
good for something, if she is old and twisted ; many a 
scrubby old olive bears fat berries," said the old portress, 
chuckling. 

" Oh, dear Jocunda," said Agnes, " why must you go this 
minute ? I want to talk with you about so many things ! " 

" Bless the sweet child ! it does want its old Jocunda, does 
it ? " said the old woman, in the tone with which one caresses 
a baby. " Well, well, it should then ! Just wait a minute, 
till I go and see that our holy Saint Cattarina has n't fallen 
a-praying over the conserving-pan. I '11 be back in a mo 
ment." 

So saying, she hobbled off briskly, and Agnes, sitting 
down on the fragment sculptured with dancing nymphs, 
began abstractedly pulling her flowers towards her, shak 
ing from them the dew of the fountain. 

Unconsciously to herself, as she sat there, her head 
drooped into the attitude of the marble nymph, and her 
4 



74 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

sweet features assumed the same expression of plaintive 
and dreamy thoughtfulness ; her heavy dark lashes lay on 
her pure waxen cheeks like the dark fringe of some tropical 
flower. Her form, in its drooping outlines, scarcely yet 
showed the full development of womanhood, which after- 
years might unfold into the ripe fulness of her country 
women. Her whole attitude and manner were those of 
an exquisitely sensitive and highly organized being, just 
struggling into the life of some mysterious new inner birth, 
into the sense of powers of feeling and being hitherto 
unknown even to herself. 

" Ah," she softly sighed to herself, " how little I am ! how 
little I can do ! Could I convert one soul ! Ah, holy Dor 
othea, send down the roses of heaven into his soul, that he 
also may believe ! " 

" Well, my little beauty, you have not finished even one 
garland," said the voice of old Jocunda, bustling up behind 
her. " Praise to Saint Martha, the conserves are doing 
well, and so I catch a minute for my little heart." 

So saying, she sat down with her spindle and flax by 
Agnes, for an afternoon gossip. 

" Dear Jocunda, I have heard you tell stories about spirits 
that haunt lonesome places. Did you ever hear about any 
in the gorge ? " 

Why, bless the child, yes, spirits are always pacing 
up and down in lonely places. Father Anselmo told me 
that; and he had seen a priest once that had seen that in 
the Holy Scriptures themselves, so it must be true." 

" Well,- did you ever hear of their making the most beau 
tiful music ? " 

" Have n't I ? " said Jocunda, " to be sure I have, 
singing enough to draw the very heart out of your body, 



AGATES OF SORRENTO. 75 

it 's an old trick they have. Why I want to know if you 
never heard about the King of Amalfi's son coming home 
from fighting for the Holy Sepulchre ? Why, there 's rocks 
not far out from this very town where the Sirens live ; and 
if the King's son had n't had a holy bishop on board, who 
slept every night with a piece of the true cross under his 
pillow, the green ladies wonld have sung him straight into 
perdition. They are very fair-spoken at first, and sing so 
that a man gets perfectly drunk with their music, and longs 
to fly to them ; but they suck him down at last under water, 
and strangle him, and that's the end of him." 
" You never told me about this before, Jocunda." 
" Have n't I, child ? Well, I will now. You see, this * 
good bishop, he dreamed three times that they would sail 
past these rocks, and he was told to give all the sailors holy 
wax from an altar-candle to stop their ears, so that they 
shouldn't hear the music. Well, the King's son said he 
wanted to hear the music, so he would n't have his ears 
stopped ; but he told 'em to tie him to the mast, so that he 
could hear it, but not to mind a word he said, if he begged 
'em ever so hard to untie him. 

" Well, you see they did it ; and the old bishop, he had 
his ears sealed up tight, and so did all the men ; but the 
young man stood tied to the mast, and when they sailed past 
he was like a demented creature. He called out that it was 
his lady who was singing, and he wanted to go to her, 
and his mother, who they all knew was a blessed saint in 
paradise years before ; and he commanded them to untie 
him, and pulled and strained on his cords to get free ; but 
they only tied him the tighter, and so they got him past, 
for, thanks to the holy wax, the sailors never heard a word, 
and so they kept their senses. So they all got safe home ; 



76 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

but the young prince was so sick and pining that he had to 
be exorcised and prayed for seven times seven days before 
they could get the music out of his head." 

" Why," said Agnes, " do those Sirens sing there yet ? " 

" Well, that was a hundred years ago. They say the old 
bishop, he prayed 'em down ; for he went out a little after 
on purpose, and gave 'em a precious lot of holy water ; most 
likely he got 'em pretty well under, though my husband's 
brother says he 's heard 'em singing in a small way, like 
frogs in spring-time ; but he gave 'em a pretty wide berth. 
You see, these spirits are what 's left of old heathen times, 
when, Lord bless us ! the earth was just as full of 'em as a 
bit of old cheese is of mites. Now a Christian body, if they 
take reasonable care, can walk quit of 'em ; and if they 
have any haunts in lonesome and doleful places, if one puts 
up a cross or a shrine, they know they have to go." 

" I am thinking," said Agnes, " it would be a blessed work 
to put up some shrines to Saint Agnes and our good Lord in 
the gorge, and I '11 promise to keep the lamps burning and 
the flowers in order." 

" Bless the child ! " said Jocunda, " that is a pious and 
Christian thought." 

" I have an uncle in Florence who is a father in the holy 
convent of San Marco, who paints and works in stone, 
not for money, but for the glory of God; and when he comes 
this way I will speak to him about it," said Agnes. " About 
this time in the spring he always visits us." 

" That 's mighty well thought of," said Jocunda. " And 
now, tell me, little lamb, have you any idea who this grand 
cavalier may be that gave you the ring ? " 

" No," said Agnes, pausing a moment over the garland of 
flowers she was weaving, " only Giulietta told me that 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 77 

he was brother to the King. Giulietta said everybody 
knew him." 

" I 'm not so sure of that," said Jocunda. " Giulietta 
always thinks she knows more than she does." 

" Whatever he may be, his worldly state is nothing to 
me," said Agnes. " I know him only in my prayers." 

"Ay, ay," muttered the old woman to herself, looking 
obliquely out of the corner of her eye at the girl, who was 
busily sorting her flowers ; " perhaps he will be seeking 
some other acquaintance." 

" You have n't seen him since ? " said Jocunda. 

" Seen him ? Why, dear Jocunda, it was only last even- 



" True enough. Well, child, don't think too much of him. 
Men are dreadful creatures, in these times especially ; 
they snap up a pretty girl as a fox does a chicken, and no 
questions asked." 

" I don't think he looked wicked, Jocunda ; he had a proud 
sorrowful look. I don't know what could make a rich, hand 
some young man sorrowful ; but I feel in my heart that he is 
not happy. Mother Theresa says that those who can do noth 
ing but pray may convert princes without knowing it." 

" Maybe it is so," said Jocunda, in the same tone in 
which thrifty professors of religion often assent to the same 
sort of truths in our days. " I 've seen a good deal of that 
sort of cattle in my day ; and one would think, by their ac 
tions, that praying souls must be scarce where they came 
from." 

Agnes abstractedly stooped and began plucking handfuls 
of lycopodium, which was growing green and feathery on 
one side of the marble frieze on which she was sitting ; in 
so doing, a fragment of white marble, which had been over- 



78 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

grown in the luxuriant green, appeared to view. It was 
that frequent object in the Italian soil, a portion of an old 
Roman tombstone. Agnes bent over, intent on the mystic 
" Dis Manibus" in old Roman letters. 

" Lord bless the child ! I 've seen thousands of them,'* 
said Jocunda ; " it 's some old heathen's grave, that 's been 
in hell these hundred years." 

" In hell ? " said Agnes, with a distressful accent. 

" Of course," said Jocunda. " Where should they be ? 
Serves 'em right, too ; they were a vile old set." 

" Oh, Jocunda, it 's dreadful to think of, that they should 
have been in hell all this time." 

"And no nearer the end than when they began," said 
Jocunda. 

Agnes gave a shivering sigh, and, looking up into the 
golden sky that was pouring such floods of splendor through 
the orange-trees and jasmines, thought, How could it be that 
the world could possibly be going on so sweet and fair over 
such an abyss ? 

" Oh, Jocunda ! " she said, " it does seem too dreadful to 
believe ! How could they help being heathen, being born 
so, and never hearing of the true Church ? " 

" Sure enough," said Jocunda, spinning away energetical 
ly, " but that 's no business of mine ; my business is to save 
my soul, and that 's what I came here for. The dear saints 
know I found it dull enough at first, for I 'd been used to 
jaunting round with my old man and the boys ; but what 
with marketing and preserving, and one thing and another, 
I get on better now, praise to Saint Agnes ! " 

The large, dark eyes of Agnes were fixed abstractedly 
on the old woman as she spoke, slowly dilating, with a sad, 
mysterious expression, which sometimes came over them. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 79 

" Ah ! how can the saints themselves be happy ? " she 
said. "One might be willing to wear sackcloth and sleep 
on the ground, one might suffer ever so many years and 
years, if only one might save some of them." 

" Well, it does seem hard," said Jocunda ; " but what 's 
the use of thinking of it ? Old Father Anselmo told us in 
one of his sermons that the Lord wills that his saints should 
come to rejoice in the punishment of all heathens and here 
tics ; and he told us about a great saint once, who took it 
into his head to be distressed because one of the old heathen 
whose books he was fond of reading had gone to hell, and 
he fasted and prayed, and would n't take no for an answer, 
till he got him out." 

" He did, then ? " said Agnes, clasping her hands in an 
ecstasy. 

" Yes ; but the good Lord told him never to try it again, 

and He struck him dumb, as a kind of hint, you know. 
Why, Father Anselmo said that even getting souls out of 
purgatory was no easy matter. He told us of one holy nun 
who spent nine years fasting and praying for the soul of her 
prince, who was killed in a duel, and then she saw in a vis 
ion that he was only raised the least little bit out of the fire, 

and she offered up her life as a sacrifice to the Lord to 
deliver him, but, after all, when she died he was n't quite de 
livered. Such things made me think that a poor old sinner 
like me would never get out at all, if I did n't set about it 
in earnest, though it a'n't all nuns that save their souls 
either. I remember in Pisa I saw a great picture of the 
Judgment-Day in the Campo Santo, and there were lots 
of abbesses, and nuns, and monks, and bishops too, that 
the devils were clearing off into the fire." 

" Oh, Jocunda, how dreadful that fire must be ! " 



80 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Yes," said Jocunda. " Father Anselmo said hell-fire 
was n't like any kind of fire we have here, made to warm 
us and cook our food, but a kind made especially to tor 
ment body and soul, and not made for anything else. I 
remember a story he told us about that. You see, there 
was an old duchess that lived in a grand old castle, and a 
proud, wicked old thing enough ; and her son brought home 
a handsome young bride to the castle, and the old duchess 
was jealous of her, 'cause, you see, she hated to give up 
her place in the house, and the old family-jewels, and all the 
splendid things, and so one time, when the poor young 
thing was all dressed up in a set of the old family-lace, what 
does the old hag do but set fire to it ! " 

" How horrible ! ' ; said Agnes. 

" Yes ; and when the young thing ran screaming in her 
agony, the old hag stopped her and tore off a pearl rosary 
that she was wearing, for fear it should be spoiled by the 
fire." 

" Holy Mother ! can such things be possible ? " said 
Agnes. 

" Well, you see, she got her pay for it. That rosary was 
of famous old pearls that had been in the family a hundred 
years ; but from that moment the good Lord struck it with a 
curse, and filled it white-hot with hell-fire, so that, if anybody 
held it a few minutes in their hand, it would burn to the 
bone. The old sinner made believe that she was in great 
affliction for the death of her daughter-in-law, and that it 
was all an accident, and the poor young man went raving 
mad, but that awful rosary the old hag could n't get rid of. 
She could n't give it away, she could n't sell it, but back 
it would come every night, and lie right over her heart, all 
white-hot with the fire that burned in it. She gave it to a 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 81 

convent, and she sold it to a merchant, but back it came ; 
and she locked it up in the heaviest chests, and she buried it 
down in the lowest vaults, but it always came back in the 
night, till she was worn to a skeleton ; and at last the old 
thing died without confession or sacrament, and went where 
she belonged. She was found lying dead in her bed one 
morning, and the rosary was gone ; but when they came to 
lay her out, they found the marks of it burned to the bone 
into her breast. Father Anselmo used to tell us this, to show 
us a little what hell-fire was like." 

" Oh, please, Jocunda, don't let us talk about it any more," 
said Agnes. 

Old Jocunda, with her tough, vigorous organization and 
unceremonious habits of expression, could not conceive the 
exquisite pain with which this whole conversation had vi 
brated on the sensitive being at her right hand, that what 
merely awoke her hard-corded nerves to a dull vibration of 
not unpleasant excitement was shivering and tearing the 
tenderer chords of poor little Psyche beside her. 

Ages before, beneath those very skies that smiled so 
sweetly over her, amid the bloom of lemon and citron, 
and the perfume of jasmine and rose, the gentlest of old 
Italian souls had dreamed and wondered what might be the 
unknown future of the dead, and, learning his lesson from 
the glorious skies and gorgeous shores which witnessed how 
magnificent a Being had given existence to man, had re 
corded his hopes of man's future in the words A.ut beatus, 
aut nihil ; but, singular to tell, the religion which brought 
with it all human tenderness and pities, the hospital for the 
sick, the refuge for the orphan, the enfranchisement of the 
slave, . this religion brought also the news of the eternal, 
hopeless, living torture of the great majority of mankind, 



82 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

past and present. Tender spirits, like those of Dante, car 
ried this awful mystery as a secret and unexplained anguish ; 
saints wrestled with God and wept over it ; but still the aw 
ful fact remained, spite of Church and sacrament, that the 
gospel was in effect, to the majority of the human race, not 
the glad tidings of salvation, but the sentence of unmitigable 
doom. 

The present traveller in Italy sees with disgust the dim 
and faded frescoes in which this doom is portrayed in all its 
varied refinements of torture ; and the vivid Italian mind 
ran riot in these lurid fields, and every monk who wanted. to 
move his audience was in his small way a Dante. The poet 
and the artist give only the highest form of the ideas of their 
day, and he who cannot read the " Inferno " with firm nerves 
may ask what the same representations were likely to have 
been in the grasp of coarse and common minds. 

The first teachers of Christianity in Italy read the Gospels 
by the light of those fiendish fires which consumed their fel 
lows. Daily made familiar with the scorching, the searing, 
the racking, the devilish ingenuities of torture, they trans 
ferred them to the future hell of the torturers. The senti 
ment within us which asserts eternal justice and retribution 
was stimulated to a kind of madness by that first baptism of 
fire and blood, and expanded the simple and grave warnings 
of the gospel into a lurid poetry of physical torture. Hence, 
while Christianity brought multiplied forms of mercy into 
the world, it failed for many centuries to humanize the 
savage forms of justice; and rack and wheel, fire and 
fagot were the modes by which human justice aspired to a 
faint imitation of what divine justice was supposed to extend 
through eternity. 

But it is remarkable always to observe the power of in- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 83 

dividual minds to draw out of the popular religious ideas of 
their country only those elements which suit themselves, and 
to drop others from their thought. As a bee can extract 
pure honey from the blossoms of some plants whose leaves 
are poisonous, so some souls can nourish themselves only 
with the holier and more ethereal parts of popular belief. 

Agnes had hitherto dwelt only on the cheering and the 
joyous features of her faith ; her mind loved to muse on 
the legends of saints and angels and the glories of paradise, 
which, with a secret buoyancy, she hoped to be the lot of 
every one she saw. The mind of the Mother Theresa was 
of the same elevated cast, and the terrors on which Jocunda 
dwelt with such homely force of language seldom made a 
part of her instructions. 

Agnes tried to dismiss these gloomy images from her 
mind, and, after arranging her garlands, went to decorate 
the shrine and altar, a cheerful labor of love, in which 
she delighted. 

To the mind of the really spiritual Christian of those ages 
the air of this lower world was not as it is to us, in spite of 
our nominal faith in the Bible, a blank, empty space from 
which all spiritual sympathy and life have fled, but, like the 
atmosphere with which Raphael has surrounded the Sistine 
Madonna, it was full of sympathizing faces, a great " cloud 
of witnesses." The holy dead were not gone from earth ; 
the Church visible and invisible were in close, loving, and 
constant sympathy, still loving, praying, and watching to 
gether, though with a veil between. 

It was at first with no idolatrous intention that the prayers 
of the holy dead were invoked in acts of worship. Their* 
prayers were asked simply because they were felt to be as 
really present with their former friends and as truly sym- 



84 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

pathetic as if no veil of silence had fallen between. In 
time this simple belief had its intemperate and idolatrous 
exaggerations, the Italian soil always seeming to have a 
fiery and volcanic forcing power, by which religious ideas 
overblossomed themselves, and grew wild and ragged with 
too much enthusiasm ; and, as so often happens with friends 
on earth, these too much loved and revered invisible friends 
became eclipsing screens instead of transmitting mediums of 
God's light to the soul. 

Yet we can see in the hymns of Savonarola, who per 
fectly represented the attitude of the highest Christian of 
those times, how perfect might be the love and veneration 
for departed saints without lapsing into idolatry, and with 
what an atmosphere of warmth and glory the true belief of 
the unity of the Church, visible and invisible, could inspire 
an elevated soul amid the discouragements of an unbelieving 
and gainsaying world. 

Our little Agnes, therefore, when she had spread all her 
garlands out, seemed really to feel as if the girlish figure that 
smiled in sacred white from the altar-piece was a dear friend 
who smiled upon her, and was watching to lead her up the 
path to heaven. 

Pleasantly passed the hours of that day to tfce girl, and 
when at evening old Elsie called for her, she wondered that 
the day had gone so fast. 

Old Elsie returned with no inconsiderable triumph from 
her stand. The cavalier had been several times during the 
day past her stall, and once, stopping in a careless way to 
buy fruit, commented on the absence of her young charge. 
This gave Elsie the highest possible idea of her own sagacity 
and shrewdness, and of the promptitude with which she had 
taken her measures, so that she was in as good spirits as 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 85 

people commonly are who think they have performed some 
stroke of generalship. 

As the old woman and young girl emerged from the dark- 
vaulted passage that led them down through the rocks on 
which the convent stood to the sea at its base, the light of a 
most glorious sunset burst upon them, in all those strange 
and magical mysteries of light which any one who has 
walked that beach of Sorrento at evening will never for 
get. 

Agnes ran along the shore, and amused herself with pick 
ing up little morsels of red and black coral, and those frag 
ments of mosaic pavements, blue, red, and green, which the 
sea is never tired of casting up from the thousands of ancient 
temples and palaces which have gone to wreck all around 
these shores. 

As she was busy doing this, she suddenly heard the voice 
of Giulietta behind her. 

" So ho, Agnes ! where have you been all day ? " 

" At the Convent," said Agnes, raising herself from 
her work, and smiling at Giulietta, in her frank, open 
way. 

"Oh, then you really did take the ring to Saint Ag 
nes?" 

" To be sure I did," said Agnes. 

" Simple child ! " said Giulietta, laughing ; " that was n't 
what he meant you to do with it. He meant it for you, 
only your grandmother was by. You never will have any 
lovers, if she keeps you so tight." 

" I can do without," said Agnes. 

" I could tell you something about this one," said Giu 
lietta. 

"You did tell me something yesterday," said Agnes. 



80 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" But I could tell you some more. I know he wants to 
see you again." 

"What for?" said Agnes. 

" Simpleton, he 's in love with you. You never had a 
lover; it's time you had." 

" I don't want one, Giulietta. I hope I never shall see 
him again." 

" Oh, nonsense, Agnes ! Why, what a girl you are ! 
Why, before I was as old as you, I had half-a-dozen lov 
ers." 

" Agnes," said the sharp voice of Elsie, coming up from 
behind, " don't run on ahead of me again ; and you, Mis 
tress Baggage, let my child alone." 

" Who 's touching your child ? " said Giulietta, scornfully. 
" Can't a body say a civil word to her ? " 

" I know what you would be after," said Elsie, " fill 
ing her head with talk of all the wild, loose gallants ; 
but she is for no such market, I promise you ! Come, 
Agnes." 

So saying, old Elsie drew Agnes rapidly along with her, 
leaving Giulietta rolling her great black eyes after them with 
an air of infinite contempt. 

" The old kite ! " she said ; " I declare he shall get speech 
of the little dove, if only to spite her. Let her try her best, 
and see if we don't get round her before she knows it. Pie- 
tro says his master is certainly wild after her, and I have 
promised to help him." 

Meanwhile, just as old Elsie and Agnes were turning into 
the orange-orchard which led into the Gorge of Sorrento, 
they met the cavalier of the evening before. 

He stopped, and, removing his cap, saluted them with as 
much deference as if they had been princesses. Old Elsie 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 87 

frowned, and Agnes blushed deeply; both hurried for 
ward. Looking back, the old woman saw that he was 
walking slowly behind them, evidently watching them close 
ly, yet not in a way sufficiently obtrusive to warrant an open 
rebuff. 



88 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE CAVALIER. 

NOTHING can be more striking, in common Italian life, 
than the contrast between out-doors and in-doors. Without, 
all is fragrant and radiant ; within, mouldy, dark, and damp. 
Except in the well-kept palaces of the great, houses in Italy 
are more like dens than habitations, and a sight of them is 
a sufficient reason to the mind of any inquirer, why their 
vivacious and handsome inhabitants spend their life princi 
pally in the open air. Nothing could be more perfectly 
paradisiacal than this evening at Sorrento. The sun had 
sunk, but left the air full of diffused radiance, which trem 
bled and vibrated over the thousand many-colored waves of 
the sea. The moon was riding in a broad zone of purple, 
low in the horizon, her silver forehead somewhat flushed in 
the general rosiness that seemed to penetrate and suffuse 
every object. The fishermen, who were drawing in their 
nets, gayly singing, seemed to be floating on a violet-and- 
gold-colored flooring that broke into a thousand gems at 
every dash of the oar or motion of the boat. The old stone 
statue of Saint Antonio looked down in the rosy air, itself 
tinged and brightened by the magical colors which floated 
round it. And the girls and men of Sorrento gathered in 
gossiping knots on the old Roman bridge that spanned the 
gorge, looked idly down into its dusky shadows, talking the 
while, and playing the time-honored game of flirtation which 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 89 

has gone on in all climes and languages since man and woman 
began. 

Conspicuous among them all was Giulietta, her blue-black 
hair recently braided and polished to a glossy radiance, and 
all her costume arranged to show her comely proportions to 
the best advantage, her great pearl ear-rings shaking as 
she tossed her head, and showing the flash of the emerald in 
the middle of them. An Italian peasant- woman may trust 
Providence for her gown, but ear-rings she attends to her 
self, for what is life without them ? The great pearl ear 
rings of the Sorrento women are accumulated, pearl by 
pearl, as the price of years of labor. Giulietta, however, 
had come into the world, so to speak, with a gold spoon in 
her mouth, since her grandmother, a thriving, stirring, 
energetic body, had got together a pair of ear-rings of un 
matched size, which had descended as heirlooms to her, 
leaving her nothing to do but display them, which she did 
with the freest good-will. At present she was busily occu 
pied in coquetting with a tall and jauntily-dressed fellow, 
wearing a plumed hat and a red sash, who seemed to be 
mesmerized by the power of her charms, his large dark eyes 
following every movement, as she now talked with him gayly 
and freely, and now pretended errands to this and that and 
the other person on the bridge, stationing herself here and 
there, that she might have the pleasure of seeing herself 
followed. 

" Giulietta," at last said the young man, earnestly, when 
he found her accidentally standing alone by the parapet, " I 
must be going to-morrow." 

" Well, what is that to me ? " said Giulietta, looking wick 
edly from under her eyelashes. 

" Cruel girl ! you know " 



'- 



90 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Nonsense, Pietro ! I don't know anything about you ; " 
but as Giulietta said this, her great, soft, dark eyes looked 
out furtively, and said just the contrary. 

"You will go with me?" 

" Did I ever hear anything like it ? One can't be civil 
to a fellow but he asks her to go to the world's end. Pray, 
how far is it to your dreadful old den?" 

" Only two days' journey, Giulietta." 

" Two days ! " 

" Yes, my life ; and you shall ride." 

" Thank you, Sir, I wasn't thinking of walking. But 
seriously, Pietro, I am afraid it 's no place for an honest 
girl to be in." 

" There are lots of honest women there, all our men 
have wives ; and our captain has put his eye on one, too, 
or I 'm mistaken." 

"What! little Agnes?" said Giulietta. "He will be 
bright that gets her. That old dragon of a grandmother is 
as tight to her as her skin." 

"Our captain is used to helping himself," said Pietro. 
" We might carry them both off some night, and no one the 
wiser ; but he seems to want to win the girl to come to him 
of her own accord. At any rate, we are to be sent back to 
the mountains while he lingers a day or two more round 
here. 

" I declare, Pietro, I think you all little better than Turks 
or heathens, to talk in that way about carrying off women ; 
and what if one should be sick and die among you ? What 
is to become of one's soul, I wonder ? " 

" Pshaw ! don't we have priests ? Why, Giulietta, we are 
all very pious, and never think of going out without saying 
our prayers. The Madonna is a kind Mother, and will 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 91 

wink very hard on the sins of such good sons as we are. 
There is n't a place in all Italy where she is kept better in 
candles, and in rings and bracelets, and everything a woman 
could want. We never come home without bringing her 
something; and then we have lots left to dress all our 
women like princesses ; and they have nothing to do from 
morning till night but play the lady. Come now ? " 

At the moment this conversation was going on in the 
balmy, seductive evening air at the bridge, another was 
transpiring in the Albergo della Torre, one of those dark, 
musty dens of which we have been speaking. In a damp, 
dirty chamber, whose brick floor seemed to have been un 
suspicious of even the existence of brooms for centuries, was 
sitting the cavalier whom we have so often named in con 
nection with Agnes. His easy, high-bred air, his graceful, 
flexible form and handsome face formed a singular contrast 
to the dark and mouldy apartment, at whose single unglazed 
window he was sitting. The sight of this splendid man gave 
an impression of strangeness, in the general bareness, much 
as if some marvellous jewel had been unaccountably found 
lying on that dusty brick floor. 

He sat deep in thought, with his elbow resting on a rick 
ety table, his large, piercing dark eyes seeming intently to 
study the pavement. 

The door opened, and a gray-headed old man entered, 
who approached him respectfully. 

" Well, Paolo ? " said the cavalier, suddenly starting. 

" My Lord," the men are all going back to-night." 

" Let them go, then," said the cavalier, with an impatient 
movement. " I can follow in a day or two." 

" Ah, my Lord, if I might make so bold, why should you 



92 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

expose your person by staying longer ? You may be recog 
nized and " 

" No danger," said the other, hastily. 

" My Lord, you must forgive me, but I promised my dear 
lady, your mother, on her death-bed " 

" To be a constant plague to me," said the cavalier, with a 
vexed smile and an impatient movement ; " but speak on, 
Paolo, for when you once get anything on your mind, one 
may as well hear it first as last." 

" Well, then, my Lord, this girl, I have made inquiries, 
and every one reports her most modest and pious, the 
only grandchild of a poor old woman. Is it worthy of a 
great lord of an ancient house to bring her to shame ? " 

" Who thinks of bringing her to shame ? * Lord of an 
ancient house'!" added the cavalier, laughing bitterly, 
" a landless beggar, cast out of everything, titles, estates, 
all ! Am I, then, fallen so low that my wooing would dis 
grace a peasant-girl ? " 

" My Lord, you cannot mean to woo a peasant-girl in any 
other way^than one that would disgrace her, one of the 
.-, House of Sarelli, that goes back to the days of the old Ro- 
* 'man Empire ! " 

" And what of the ' House of Sarelli that goes back to the 
days of the old Roman Empire ' ? It is lying like weeds' 
roots uppermost in the burning sun. What is left to me but 
the mountains and my sword ? No, I tell you, Paolo, Agos- 
tino Sarelli, cavalier of fortune, is not thinking of bringing 
disgrace on a pious and modest maiden, unless it would dis 
grace her to be his wife." 

" Now may the saints above help us ! Why, my Lord, 
our house in days past has been allied to royal blood. I 
could tell you how Joachim VI." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 93 

" Come, come, my good Paolo, spare me one of your chap 
ters of genealogy. The fact is, my old boy, the world is all 
topsy-turvy, and the bottom is the top, and it is n't much 
matter what comes next. Here are shoals of noble families 
uprooted and lying round like those aloes that the gardener 
used to throw over the wall in spring-time ; and there is 
that great boar of a Caesar Borgia turned in to batten and 
riot over our pleasant places." 

" Oh, my Lord," said the old serving-man, with a distress 
ful movement, " we have fallen on evil times, to be sure, and 
they say his Holiness has excommunicated us. Anselmo 
heard that in Naples yesterday." 

" Excommunicated ! " said the young man, every fea 
ture of his fine face, and every nerve of his graceful form 
seeming to quiver with the effort to express supreme con 
tempt. " Excommunicated ! I should hope so ! One would 
hope through Our Lady's grace to act so that Alexander, 
and his adulterous, incestuous, filthy, false-swearing, per 
jured, murderous crew, would excommunicate us ! In these 
times, one's only hope of paradise lies in being excommuni 
cated." 

" Oh, my dear master," said the old man, falling on his * 
knees, " what is to become of us ? That I should live to 
hear you talk like an infidel and unbeliever ! " 

" Why, hear you, poor old fool ! Did you never hear in 
Dante of the Popes that are burning in hell ? Was n't Dante 
a Christian, I beg to know ? " 

" Oh, my Lord, my Lord ! a religion got out of poetry, 
books, and romances won't do to die by. We have no busi 
ness with the affairs of the Head of the Church, it 's the 
Lord's appointment. We have only to shut our eyes and 
obey. It may all do well enough to talk so when you are 



94 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

young and fresh ; but when sickness and death come, then 
we must have religion, and if we have gone out of the 
only true Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, what becomes 
of our souls ? Ah, I misdoubted about your taking so much 
to poetry, though my poor mistress was so proud of it ; but 
these poets are all heretics, my Lord, that 's my firm be 
lief. But, my Lord, if you do go to hell, I 'm going there 
with you ; I 'm sure I never could show my face among the 
saints, and you not there." 

" Well, come, then, my poor Paolo," said the cavalier, 
stretching out his hand to his serving-man, "don't take it to 
heart so. "Many a better man than I has been excommuni 
cated and cursed from toe to crown, and been never a whit 
the worse for it. There 's Jerome Savonarola there in Flor 
ence a most holy man, they say, who has had revelations 
straight from heaven has been excommunicated; but he 
preaches and gives the sacraments all the same, and nobody 
minds it." 

" Well, it 's all a maze to me," said the old serving-man, 
shaking his white head. " I can't see into it. I don't dare 
to open my eyes for fear I should get to be a heretic ; it 
seems to me that everything is getting mixed up together. 
But one must hold on to one's religion ; because, after we 
have lost everything in this world, it would be too bad to 
burn in hell forever at the end of that." 

" Why, Paolo, I am a good Christian. I believe, with all 
my heart, in the Christian religion, like the fellow in Boc 
caccio, because I think it must be from God, or else the 
Popes and Cardinals would have had it out of the world 
long ago. Nothing but the Lord Himself could have kept 
it against them." 

" There you are, my dear master, with your romances ! 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 95 

Well, well, well ! I don't know how it '11 end. I say my 
prayers, and try not to inquire into what 's too high for me. 
But now, dear master, will you stay lingering after this girl 
till some of our enemies hear where you are and pounce 
down upon us ? Besides, the troop are never so well affect 
ed when you are away; there are quarrels and divisions." 

" "Well, well," said the cavalier, with an impatient move 
ment, "one day longer. I must get a chance to speak 
with her once more. I must see her." 



96 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE ARTIST MONK. 

ON the evening when Agnes and her grandmother re 
turned from the Convent, as they were standing after supper 
looking over the garden parapet into the gorge, their atten 
tion was caught by a man in an ecclesiastical habit, slowly 
climbing the rocky pathway towards them. 

" Is n't that brother Antonio ? " said Dame Elsie, leaning 
forward to observe more narrowly. " Yes, to be sure it is ! " 

" Oh, how glad I am ! " exclaimed Agnes, springing up 
with vivacity, and looking eagerly down the path by which 
the stranger was approaching. 

A few moments more of clambering, and the stranger met 
the two women at the gate with a gesture of benediction. 

He was apparently a little past the middle point of life, 
and entering on its shady afternoon. He was tall and 
well proportioned, and his features had the spare delicacy 
of the Italian outline. The round brow, fully developed in 
all the perceptive and aesthetic regions, the keen eye, 
shadowed by long, dark lashes, the thin, flexible lips, 
the sunken cheek, where, on the slightest emotion, there 
fluttered a brilliant flush of color, all were signs telling 
of the enthusiast in whom the nervous and spiritual pre 
dominated over the animal. 

At times, his eye had a dilating brightness, as if from the 
flickering of some inward fire which was slowly consuming 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 97 

the mortal part, and its expression was brilliant even to the 
verge of insanity. 

His dress was the simple, coarse, white stuff-gown of the 
Dominican friars, over which he wore a darker travelling- 
garment of coarse cloth, with a hood, from whose deep 
shadows his bright mysterious eyes looked like jewels 
from a cavern. At his side dangled a great rosary and 
cross of black wood, and under his arm he carried a port 
folio secured with a leathern strap, which seemed stuffed to 
bursting with papers. 

Father Antonio, whom we' have thus introduced to the 
reader, was an itinerant preaching monk from the Convent 
of San Marco in Florence, on a pastoral and artistic tour 
through Italy. 

Convents in the Middle Ages were the retreats of mul 
titudes of natures who did not wish to live in a state of 
perpetual warfare and offence, and all the elegant arts flour 
ished under their protecting shadows. Ornamental garden 
ing, pharmacy, drawing, painting, carving in wood, illumina 
tion, and calligraphy were not unfrequent occupations of the 
holy fathers, and the convent has given to the illustrious roll 
of Italian Art some of its most brilliant names. No institu 
tion in modern Europe had a more established reputation in 
all these respects than the Convent of San Marco in Flor 
ence. In its best days, it was as near an approach to an 
ideal community, associated to unite religion, beauty, and 
utility, as ever has existed on earth. It was a retreat from 
the commonplace prose of life into an atmosphere at once 
devotional and poetic ; and prayers and sacred hymns con 
secrated the elegant labors of the chisel and the pencil, no 
less than the more homely ones of the still and the crucible. 
San Marco, far from being that kind of sluggish lagoon ofter 



98 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

imagined in conventual life, was rather a sheltered hot-bed 
of ideas, fervid with intellectual, and moral energy, and 
before the age in every radical movement. At this pe 
riod, Savonarola, the poet and prophet of the Italian re 
ligious world of his day, was superior of this convent, 
pouring through all the members of the order the fire of 
his own impassioned nature, and seeking to lead them back 
to the fervors of more primitive and evangelical ages, and 
in the reaction of a worldly and corrupt Church was begin 
ning to feel the power of that current which at last drowned 
his eloquent voice in the cold waters of martyrdom. Sa 
vonarola was an Italian Luther, differing from the great 
Northern Reformer as the more ethereally strung and ner 
vous Italian differs from the bluff and burly German; and 
like Luther he became in his time the centre of every liv 
ing thing in society about him. He inspired the pencils of 
artists, guided the counsels of statesmen, and, a poet himself, 
was an inspiration to poets. Everywhere in Italy the monks 
of his order were travelling, restoring the shrines, preaching 
against the voluptuous and unworthy pictures with which 
sensual artists had desecrated the churches, and calling the 
people back by their exhortations to the purity of primitive 
Christianity. 

Father Antonio was a younger brother of Elsie, and had 
early become a member of the San Marco, enthusiastic not 
less in religion than in Art. His intercourse with his sister 
had few points of sympathy, Elsie being as decided a util 
itarian as any old Yankee female born in the granite hills 
of New Hampshire, and pursuing with a hard and sharp 
energy her narrow plan of life for Agnes. She regarded 
her brother as a very properly religious person, considering 
his calling, but was a little bored with his exuberant devotion, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 99 

and absolutely indifferent to his artistic enthusiasm. Agnes, 
on the contrary, had from a child attached herself to her 
uncle with all the energy of a sympathetic nature, and his 
yearly visits had been looked forward to on her part with 
intense expectation. To him she could, say a thousand things 
which she instinctively concealed from her grandmother ; 
and Elsie was well pleased with the confidence, because it 
relieved her a little from the vigilant guardianship that she 
otherwise held over the girl. When Father Antonio was 
near, she had leisure now and then for a little private gossip 
of her own, without the constant care of supervising Agnes. 

" Dear uncle, how glad I am to see you once more ! " was 
the eager salutation with which the young girl received the 
monk, as he gained the little garden. " And you have 
brought your pictures ; oh, I know you have so many 
pretty things to show me ! " 

"Well, well, child," said Elsie, "don't begin upon that 
now. A little talk of bread and cheese will be more in 
point. Come in, brother, and wash your feet, and let me 
beat the dust out of your cloak, and give you something to 
stay Nature ; for you must be fasting." 

" Thank you, sister," said the monk ; " and as for you, 
pretty one, never mind what she says. Uncle Antonio will 
show his little Agnes everything by-and-by. A good little 
thing it is, sister." 

" Yes, yes, good enough, and too good," said Elsie, 
bustling about ; " roses can't help having thorns, I sup 
pose." 

" Only our ever-blessed Rose of Sharon, the dear mysti 
cal Rose of Paradise, can boast of having no thorns," said 
the monk, bowing and crossing himself devoutly. 

Agnes clasped her hands on her bosom and bowed also, 



100 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

while Elsie stopped with her knife in the middle of a loaf 
of black bread, and crossed herself with somewhat of impa 
tience, like a worldly-minded person of our day, who is 
interrupted in the midst of an observation by a grace. 

After the rites of hospitality had been duly observed, the 
old dame seated herself contentedly in her door with her 
distaff, resigned Agnes to the safe guardianship of her 
uncle, and had a feeling of security in seeing them sitting 
together on the parapet of the garden, with the portfolio 
spread out between them, the warm twilight glow of the 
evening sky lighting up their figures as they bent in ardent 
interest over its contents. The portfolio showed a flutter 
ing collection of sketches, fruits, flowers, animals, insects, 
faces, figures, shrines, buildings, trees, all, in short, that 
might strike the mind of a man to whose eye nothing on the 
face of the earth is without beauty and significance. 

" Oh, how beautiful ! " said the girl, taking up one sketch, 
in which a bunch of ros^ cyclamen was painted rising out of 
a bed of moss. 

" Ah, that indeed, my dear ! " said the artist. " Would 
you had seen the place where I painted it ! I stopped 
there to recite my prayers one morning ; 't was by the side 
of a beautiful cascade, and all the ground was covered with 
these lovely cyclamens, and the air was musky with their 
fragrance. Ah, the bright rose-colored leaves ! I can get 
no color like them, unless some angel would bring me some 
from those sunset clouds yonder." 

" And oh, dear uncle, what lovely primroses ! " pursued 
Agnes, taking up another paper. 

" Yes, child ; but you should have seen them when I was 
coming down the south side of the Apennines ; these were 
everywhere so pale -and sweet, they seemed like the humil- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 101 

ity of our Most Blessed Mother in her lowly mortal state. 
I am minded to make a border of primroses to the leaf in 
the Breviary where is the * Hail, Mary ! ' for it seems as 
if that flower doth ever say, ' Behold the handmaid of the 
Lord ! ' " 

" And what will you do with the cyclamen, uncle ? does 
not that mean something ! " 

" Yes, daughter," replied the monk, readily entering into 
that symbolical strain which permeated all the heart and 
mind of the religious of his day, "I can see a meaning 
in it. For you see that the cyclamen puts forth its leaves in 
early spring deeply engraven with mystical characters, and 
loves cool shadows, and moist, dark places, but comes at 
length to wear a royal crown of crimson ; and it seems to 
me like the saints who dwell in convents and other prayer 
ful places, and have the word of God graven in their hearts 
in youth, till these blossom into fervent love, and they are 
crowned with royal graces." 

" Ah ! " sighed Agnes, " how beautiful and how blessed to 
be among such ! " 

" Thou sayest well, dear child. Blessed are the flowers 
of God that grow in cool solitudes, and have never been pro 
faned by the hot sun and dust of this world ! " 

" I should like to be such a one," said Agnes. " I often 
think, when I visit the sisters at the Convent, that I long 
to be one of them." 

" A pretty story ! " said Dame Elsie, who had heard the 
last words, " go into a convent and leave your poor grand 
mother all alone, when she has toiled night and day for so 
many years to get a dowry for you and find you a worthy 
husband ! " 

" I don't want any husband in this world, grandmamma," 
said Agnes. 



102 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



u What talk is this ? Not want a good husband to take 
care of you when your poor old grandmother is gone ? Who 
will provide for you ? " 

u He who took care of the blessed Saint Agnes, grand 
mamma." 

** Saint Agnes, to be sure ! That was a great many 
years ago, and times have altered since then ; in these 
days girls must have husbands. Is n't it so, brother An 
tonio ? " 

" But if the darling hath a vocation ? " said the artist, 
mildly. 

" Vocation ! I '11 see to that ! She sha'n't have a voca 
tion ! Suppose I 'm going to delve, and toil, and spin, and 
wear myself to the bone, and have her slip through my 
fingers at last with a vocation ? No, indeed ! " 

" Indeed, dear grandmother, don't be angry ! " said Ag 
nes. " I will do just as you say, only I don't want a 
husband." 

" Well, well, my little heart, one thing at a time ; you 
sha'n't have him till you say yes willingly," said Elsie, in a 
mollified tone. 

Agnes turned again to the portfolio and busied herself 
with it, her eyes dilating as she ran over the sketches. 

"Ah! what pretty, pretty bird is this?" she asked. 

" Knowest thou not that bird, with his little red beak ? " 
said the artist. " When our dear Lord hung bleeding, and 
no man pitied him, this bird, filled with tender love, tried to 
draw out the nails with his poor little beak, so much bet 
ter were the birds than we hard-hearted sinners ! hence 
he hath' honor in many pictures. See here, I shall put 
him into the office of the Sacred Heart, in a little nest curi 
ously built in a running vine of passion-flower. See here, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 103 

daughter, I have a great commission to execute a Brev 
iary for our house, and our holy Father was pleased to say 
that the spirit of the blessed Angelico had in some little 
humble measure descended on me, and now I am busy 
day and night ; for not a twig rustles, not a bird flies, 
nor a flower blossoms, but I .begin to see therein some 
hint of holy adornment to my blessed work." 

" Oh, Uncle Antonio, how happy you must be ! " said 
Agnes, her large eyes filling with tears. 

" Happy ! child, am I not ? " said the monk, looking 
up and crossing himself. " Holy Mother, am I not ? Do 
I not walk the earth in a dream of bliss, and see the foot 
steps of my Most Blessed Lord and his dear Mother on 
every rock and hill ? I see the flowers rise up in clouds to 
adore them. What am I, unworthy sinner, that such grace 
is granted me ? Often I fall on my face before the humblest 
flower where my dear Lord hath written his name, and con 
fess I am unworthy the honor of copying his sweet handi 
work." 

The artist spoke these words with his hands clasped and 
his fervid eyes upraised, like a man in an ecstasy ; nor can 
our more prosaic English give an idea of the fluent natural 
ness and grace with which such images melt into that lovely 
tongue which seems made to be the natural language of 
poetry and enthusiasm. 

Agnes looked up to him with humble awe, as to some 
celestial being ; but there was a sympathetic glow in her face, 
and she put her hands on her bosom, as her manner often 
was when much moved, and, drawing a deep sigh, said, 

" Would that such gifts were mine ! " 

" They are thine, sweet one," said the monk. " In 
Christ's dear kingdom is no mine or thine, but all that 



104 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

each hath is the property of others. I never rejoice sft 
much in my art as when I think of the communion of 
saints, and that all that our Blessed Lord will work through 
me is the property of the humblest soul in his kingdom. 
When I see one flower rarer than another, or a bird sing 
ing on a twig, I take note of the same, and say, ' This lovely 
work of God shall be for some shrine, or the border of a 
missal, or the foreground of an altar-piece, and thus shall 
his saints be comforted.' " 

" But," said Agnes, fervently, " how little can a poor 
young maiden do ! Ah, I do so long to offer myself up 
in some way to the dear Lord, who gave himself for us, and 
for his Most Blessed Church ! " 

As Agnes spoke these words, her cheek, usually so clear 
and pale, became suffused with a tremulous color, and her 
dark eyes had a deep, divine expression ; a moment after, 
the color slowly faded, her head drooped, and her long, dark 
lashes fell on her cheek, while her hands were folded on her 
bosom. The eye of the monk was watching her with an 
enkindled glance. 

" Is she not the very presentment of our Blessed Lady 
in the Annunciation ? " said he to himself. " Surely, this 
grace is upon her for this special purpose. My prayers are 
answered. 

" Daughter," he began, in a gentle tone, " a glorious work 
has been done of late in Florence under the preaching of 
our blessed Superior. Could you believe it, daughter, in 
these times of backsliding and rebuke there have been 
found painters base enough to paint the pictures of vile, 
abandoned women in the character of our Blessed Lady ; 
yea, and princes have been found wicked enough to buy 
them and put them up in churches, so that the people have 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 105 

had the Mother of all Purity presented to them in the guise 
of a vile harlot. Is it not dreadful ? " 

" How horrible ! " said Agnes. 

"Ah, but you should have seen the great procession 
through Florence, when all the little children were in 
spired by the heavenly preaching of our dear Master. 
These dear little ones, carrying the blessed cross and sing 
ing the hymns our Master had written for them, went from 
house to house and church to church, demanding that every 
thing that was vile and base should be delivered up to the 
flames, and the people, beholding, thought that the angels 
had indeed come down, and brought forth all their loose pic 
tures and vile books, such as Boccaccio's romances and other 
defilements, and the children made a splendid bonfire of 
them in the Grand Piazza, and so thousands of vile things 
were consumed and scattered. And then our blessed Master 
exhorted the artists to give their pencils to Christ and his 
Mother, and to seek for her image among pious and holy 
women living a veiled and secluded life, like that our Lady 
lived before the blessed Annunciation. ' Think you,' he said, 
'that the blessed Angelico obtained the grace to set forth 
our Lady in such heavenly wise by gazing about the streets 
on mincing women tricked out in all the world's bravery ? 
or did he not find her image in holy solitudes, among modest 
and prayerful saints ? ' ' 

"Ah," said Agnes, drawing in her breath with an ex 
pression of awe, " what mortal would dare to sit for the 
image of our Lady ! " 

" Dear child, there be women whom the Lord crowns with 

beauty when they know it not, and our dear Mother sheds 

so much of her spirit into their hearts that it shines out in 

their faces ; and among such must the painter look. Dear 

5* 



106 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

little child, be not ignorant that our Lord hath shed this great 
grace on thee. I have received a light that thou art to be 
the model for the ' Hail Mary ! ' in my Breviary."* 

" Oh, no, no, no ! it cannot be ! " said Agnes, covering her 
face with her hands. 

" My daughter, thou art very beautiful, and this beauty 
was given thee not for thyself, but to be laid like a sweet 
flower on the altar of thy Lord. Think how blessed, if, 
through thee, the faithful be reminded of the modesty and 
humility of Mary, so that their prayers become more fervent, 
would it not be a great grace ? " 

" Dear uncle," said Agnes, " I am Christ's child. If it be 
as you say, which I did not know, give me some days 
to pray and prepare my soul, that I may offer myself in all 
humility." 

During this conversation Elsie had left the garden and 
gone a little way down the gorge, to have a few moments of 
gossip with an old crony. The light of the evening sky had 
gradually faded away, and the full moon was pouring a 
shower of silver upon the orange-trees. As Agnes sat on the 
parapet, with the moonlight streaming down on her young, 
spiritual face, now tremulous with deep suppressed emotion, 
the painter thought he had never seen any human creature 
that looked nearer to his conception of a celestial being. 

They both sat awhile in that kind of quietude which often 
falls between two who have stirred some deep fountain of 
emotion. All was so still around them, that the drip and 
trickle of the little stream which fell from the garden wall 
into the dark abyss of the gorge could well be heard as it 
pattered from one rocky point to another, with a slender, 
lulling sound. 

Suddenly the reveries of the two were disturbed by the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 107 

shadow of a figure which passed into the moonlight and 
seemed to rise from the side of the gorge. A man envel 
oped in a dark cloak with a peaked hood stepped across the 
moss-grown garden parapet, stood a moment irresolute, then 
the cloak dropped suddenly from him, and the cavalier stood 
in the moonlight before Agnes. He bore in his hand a tall 
stalk of white lily, with open blossoms and buds and tender 
fluted green leaves, such as one sees in a thousand pictures of 
the Annunciation. The moonlight fell full upon his face, re 
vealing his haughty yet beautiful features, agitated by some 
profound emotion. The monk and the girl were both too 
much surprised for a moment to utter a sound ; and when, 
after an instant, the monk made a half-movement as if to 
address him, the cavalier raised his right hand with a sudden 
authoritative gesture which silenced him. Then turning 
toward Agnes, he kneeled, and kissing the hem of her robe, 
and laying the lily in her lap, " Holiest and dearest," he said, 
" oh, forget not to pray for me ! " He rose again in a 
moment, and, throwing his cloak around him, 'sprang over 
the garden wall, and was heard rapidly descending into the 
shadows of the gorge. 

All this passed so quickly that it seemed to both the spec 
tators like a dream. The splendid man, with his jewelled 
weapons, his haughty bearing, and air of easy command, 
bowing with such solemn humility before the peasant-girl, re 
minded the monk of the barbaric princes in the wonderful 
legends he had read, who had been drawn by some heavenly 
inspiration to come and render themselves up to the teach 
ings of holy virgins, chosen of the Lord, in divine solitudes. 
In the poetical world in which he lived all such marvels 
were possible. There were a thousand precedents for them 
in that devout dream-land, " The Lives of the Saints." 



108 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" My daughter," he said, after looking vainly down the 
dark shadows upon the path of the stranger, " have you 
ever seen this man before ? " 

" Yes, uncle ; yesterday evening I saw him for the first 
time, when sitting at my stand at the gate of the city. It 
was at the Ave Maria; he came up there and asked my 
prayers, and gave me a diamond ring for the shrine of 
Saint Agnes, which I carried to the convent to-day." 

" Behold, my dear daughter, the confirmation of what I 
have just said to thee ! It is evident that our Lady hath 
endowed thee with the great grace of a beauty which draws 
the soul upward towards the angels, instead of downward to 
sensual things, like the beauty of worldly women. What saith 
the blessed poet Dante of the beauty of the holy Beatrice ? 
that it said to every man who looked on her, * Aspire ! ' l 
Great is the grace, and thou must give special praise there 
for." 

" I would," said Agnes, thoughtfully, " that I knew who 

1 I cannot forbear quoting Mr. Norton's beautiful translation of this 
sonnet in the Atlantic Monthly for February, 1859 : 

" So gentle and so modest doth appear 
My lady when she giveth her salute, 
That every tongue becometh trembling mute 
Nor do the eyes to look upon her dare. 
And though she hears her praises, she doth go 
Benignly clothed with humility, 
And like a thing come down she seems to be 
From heaven to earth, a miracle to show. 
So pleaseth she whoever cometh nigh her, 
She gives the heart a sweetness through the eyes 
Which none can understand who doth not prove. 
And from her lip there seems indeed to move 
A spirit sweet and in Love's very guise, 
Which goeth saying to the soul, ' Aspire ! ' " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 109 

this stranger is, and what is his great trouble and need, 
his eyes are so full of sorrow. Giulietta said he was the 
King's brother, and was called the Lord Adrian. What 
sorrow can he have, or what need for the prayers of a poor 
maid like me ? " 

" Perhaps the Lord hath pierced him with a longing after 
the celestial beauty and heavenly purity of paradise, and 
wounded him with a divine sorrow, as happened to Saint 
Francis and to the blessed Saint Dominic," said the monk. 
" Beauty is the Lord's arrow, wherewith he pierceth to the 
inmost soul, with a divine longing and languishment which 
find rest only in him. Hence thou seest the wounds of love 
in saints are always painted by us with holy flames as 
cending from them. Have good courage, sweet child, and 
pray with fervor for this youth; for there be no prayers 
sweeter before the throne of God than those of spotless 
maidens. The Scripture saith, ' My beloved feedeth among 
the lilies.'" 

At this moment the sharp, decided tramp of Elsie was 
heard reentering the garden. 

" Come, Agnes," she said, " it is time for you to begin your 
prayers, or, the saints know, I shall not get you to bed till 
midnight. I suppose prayers are a good thing," she added, 
seating herself wearily ; " but if one must have so many of 
them, one must get about them early. There 's reason in 
all things." 

Agnes, who had been sitting abstractedly on the parapet, 
with her head drooped over the lily-spray, now seemed to 
collect herself. She rose up in a grave and thoughtful man 
ner, and, going forward to the shrine of the Madonna, re 
moved the flowers of the morning, and holding the vase 
under the spout of the fountain, all feathered with waving 



110 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

maiden -hair, filled it with fresh water, the drops falling from 
it in a thousand little silver rings in the moonlight. 

" I have a thought," said the monk to himself, drawing 
from his girdle a pencil and hastily sketching by the moon 
light. What he drew was a fragile maiden form, sitting 
with clasped hands on a mossy ruin, gazing on a spray of 
white lilies which lay before her. He called it, The Blessed 
Virgin pondering the Lily of the Annunciation. 

u Hast thou ever reflected," he said to Agnes, " what that 
lily might be like which the angel Gabriel brought to our 
Lady ? for, trust me, it was no mortal flower, but grew by 
the river of life. I have often meditated thereon, that it was 
like unto living silver with a light in itself, like the moon, 
even as our Lord's garments in the Transfiguration, which 
glistened like the snow. I have cast about in myself by 
what device a painter might represent so marvellous a 
flower." 

" Now, brother Antonio," said Elsie, " if you begin to 
talk to the child about such matters, our Lady alone knows 
when we shall get to bed. I am sure I 'm as good a Chris 
tian as anybody ; but, as I said, there 's reason in all things, 
and one cannot always be wondering and inquiring into 
heavenly matters, as to every feather in Saint Michael's 
wings, and as to our Lady's girdle and shoestrings and thim 
ble and work-basket ; and when one gets through with our 
Lady, then one has it all to go over about her mother, the 
blessed Saint Anne (may her name be ever praised !). I 
mean no disrespect, but I am certain the saints are reason 
able folk and must see that poor folk must live, and, in 
order to live, must think of something else now and then 
besides them. . That 's my mind, brother." 

"Well, well, sister," said the monk placidly, "no doubt 



AGNES OF SORKENTO. Ill 

you are right. There shall be no quarrelling in the Lord's 
vineyard ; every one hath his manner and place, and you 
follow the lead of the blessed Saint Martha, which is holy 
and honorable." 

" Honorable ! I should think it might be ! " said Elsie. 
" I warrant me, if everything had been left to Saint Mary's 
doings, our Blessed Lord and the Twelve Apostles might 
have gone supperless. But it 's Martha gets all the work, 
and Mary all the praise." 

"Quite right, quite right," said, the monk, abstractedly, 
while he stood out in the moonlight busily sketching the 
fountain. By just such a fountain, he thought, our Lady 
might have washed the clothes of the Blessed Babe. Doubt 
less there was some such in the court of her dwelling, all 
mossy, and with sweet waters forever singing a song of 
praise therein. 

Elsie was heard within the house meanwhile making 
energetic commotion, rattling pots and pans, and producing 
decided movements among the simple furniture of the dwell 
ing, probably with a view to preparing for the night's repose 
of the guest. 

Meanwhile Agnes, kneeling before the shrine, was going 
through with great feeling and tenderness the various man 
uals and movements of nightly devotion which her own 
religious fervor and the zeal of her spiritual advisers had 
enjoined upon her. Christianity, when it entered Italy, 
came among a people every act of whose life was colored 
and consecrated by symbolic and ritual acts of heathenism. 
The only possible way to uproot this was in supplanting it 
by Christian ritual and symbolism equally minute and per 
vading. Besides, in those ages when the Christian preacher 
was utterly destitute of all the help which the press now 



112 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

gives in keeping under the eye of converts the great inspir 
ing truths of religion, it was one of the first offices of every 
saint whose preaching stirred the heart of the people, to de 
vise symbolic forms, signs, and observances, by which the 
mobile and fluid heart of the multitude might crystallize into 
habits of devout remembrance. The rosary, the crucifix, 
the shrine, the banner, the procession, were catechisms and 
tracts invented for those who could not read, wherein the 
substance of pages was condensed and gave itself to the eye 
and the touch. Let us not, from the height of our day, with 
the better appliances which a universal press gives us, sneer 
at the homely rounds of the ladder by which the first multi 
tudes of the Lord's followers climbed heavenward. 

If there seemed somewhat mechanical in the number of 
times which Agnes repeated the " Hail, Mary ! " in the 
prescribed number of times she rose or bowed or crossed 
herself or laid her forehead in low humility on the flags of 
the pavement, it was redeemed by the earnest fervor which 
inspired each action. However foreign to the habits of a 
Northern mind or education such a mode of prayer may be, 
these forms to her were all helpful and significant, her soul 
was borne by them Godward, and often, as she prayed, it 
seemed to her that she could feel the dissolving of all earthly 
things, and the pressing nearer and nearer of the great cloud 
of witnesses who ever surround the humblest member of 
Christ's mystical body. 

" Sweet loving hearts around her beat, 

Sweet helping hands are stirred, 
And palpitates the veil between 
With breathings almost heard." 

Certain English writers, looking entirely from a worldly 
and philosophical stand-point, are utterly at a loss to account 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 113 

for the power which certain Italian women of obscure birth 
came to exercise in the councils of nations merely by the 
force of a mystical piety ; but the Northern mind of Europe 
is entirely unfitted to read and appreciate the psychological 
religious phenomena of Southern races. The temperament 
which in our modern days has been called the medii'stic, and 
which with us is only exceptional, is more or less a race-pe 
culiarity of Southern climates, and gives that objectiveness 
to the conception of spiritual things from which grew up 
a whole ritual and a whole .world of religious Art. The 
Southern saints and religious artists were seers, men and 
women of that peculiar fineness and delicacy of temperament 
which made them especially apt to receive and project out 
ward the truths of the spiritual life ; they were in that state 
of " divine madness " which is favorable to the most intense 
conception of the poet and artist, and something of this 
influence descended through all the channels of the people. 

When Agnes rose from prayer, she had a serene, exalted 
expression, like one who walks with some unseen excellence 
and meditates on some untold joy. As she was crossing the 
court to come towards her uncle, her eye was attracted by 
the sparkle of something on the ground, and, stooping, she 
picked up a heart-shaped locket, curiously made of a large 
amethyst, and fastened with a golden arrow. As she pressed 
upon this, the locket opened and disclosed to her view a 
folded paper. Her mood at this moment was so calm and 
elevated that she received the incident with no start or 
shiver of the nerves. To her it seemed a Providential to 
ken, which would probably bring to her some further knowl 
edge of this mysterious being who had been so especially 
confided to her intercessions. 

Agnes had learned of the Superior of the Convent the art 



114 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

of reading writing, which would never have been the birth 
right of the peasant-girl in her times, and the moon had that 
dazzling clearness which revealed every letter. She stood 
by the parapet, one hand lying in the white blossoming alys- 
surn which filled its marble crevices, while she read and 
seriously pondered the contents of the paper. 

TO AGNES. 

Sweet saint, sweet lady, may a sinful soul 
Approach thee with an offering of love, 
And lay at thy dear feet a weary heart 
That loves thee, as it loveth God above? 
If blessed Mary may without a stain 
Receive the love of sinners most defiled, 
If the fair saints that walk with her in white 
Refuse not love from earth's most guilty child, 
Shouldst thou, sweet lady, then that love deny 
Which all-unworthy at thy feet is laid? 
Ah, gentlest angel, be not more severe 
Than the dear heavens unto a loving prayer! 
Howe'er unworthily that prayer be said, 
Let thine acceptance be like that on high! 

There might have been times in Agnes's life when the 
reception of this note would have astonished and perplexed 
her ; but the whole strain of thought and conversation this 
evening had been in exalted and poetical regions, and the 
soft stillness of the hour, the wonderful calmness and clear 
ness of the moonlight, all seemed in unison with the strange 
incident that had occurred, and with the still stranger tenor 
of the paper. The soft melancholy, half-religious tone of it 
was in accordance with the whole under-current of her life, 
and prevented that start of alarm which any homage of a 
more worldly form might have excited. It is not to be won 
dered at, therefore, that she read it many times with pauses 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 115 

and intervals of deep thought, and then with a movement of 
natural and girlish curiosity examined the rich jewel which 
had enclosed it. At last, seeming to collect her thoughts, 
she folded the paper and replaced it in its sparkling casket, 
and, unlocking the door of the shrine, laid the gem with its 
enclosure beneath the lily-spray, as another offering to the 
Madonna. " Dear Mother," she said, " if indeed it be so, 
may he rise from loving me to loving thee and thy 
dear Son, who is Lord of all ! Amen ! " Thus praying, 
she locked the door and turned thoughtfully to her repose, 
leaving the monk pacing up and down in the moonlit 
garden. 

Meanwhile the cavalier was standing on the velvet mossy 
bridge which spanned the stream at the bottom of the gorge, 
watching the play of moonbeams on layer after layer of 
tremulous silver foliage in the clefts of the black, rocky walls 
on either side. The moon rode so high in the deep violet- 
colored sky, that her beams came down almost vertically, 
making green and translucent the leaves through which they 
passed, and throwing strongly marked shadows here and 
there on the flower-embroidered moss of the old bridge. 
There was that solemn, plaintive stillness in the air which 
makes the least sound the hum of an insect's wing, the 
cracking of a twig, the patter of falling water so distinct 
and impressive. 

It needs not to be explained how the cavalier, following 
the steps of Agnes and her grandmother at a distance, had 
threaded the path by which they ascended to their little 
sheltered nook, how he had lingered within hearing of 
Agnes's voice, and, moving among the surrounding rocks 
and trees, and drawing nearer and nearer as evening shad 
ows drew on, had listened to the conversation, hoping that 



116 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

some unexpected chance might gain him a moment's speech 
with his enchantress. 

The reader will have gathered from the preceding chapter 
that the conception which Agnes had formed as to the mil 
position of her admirer from the reports of Giulietta was 
false, and that in reality he was not Lord Adrian, the brother 
of the King, but an outcast and landless representative of 
one branch of an ancient and noble Roman family, whose 
estates had been confiscated and whose relations had been 
murdered, to satisfy the boundless rapacity of Caesar Borgia, 
the infamous favorite of the notorious Alexander VI. 

The natural temperament of Agostino Sarelli had been 
rather that of the poet and artist than of the warrior. In 
the beautiful gardens of his ancestral home it had been his 
delight to muse over the pages of Dante ; to sing to the lute, 
and to write in the facile flowing rhyme of his native Italian, 
the fancies of the dream-land of his youth. 

He was the younger brother of the family, the favorite 
son and companion of his mother, who, being of a tender 
and religious nature, had brought him up in habits of the 
most implicit reverence and devotion for the institutions of 
his fathers. 

The storm which swept over his house, and blasted all his 
worldly prospects, blasted, too, and withered all those relig 
ious hopes and beliefs by which alone sensitive and affection 
ate natures can be healed of the wounds of adversity without 
caving distortion or scar. For his house had been over 
thrown, his elder brother cruelly and treacherously murdered, 
himself and his retainers robbed and cast out, by a man who 
had the entire sanction and support of the Head of the 
Christian Church, the Vicar of Christ on Earth. So said 
the current belief of his times, the faith in which his 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 117 

sainted mother died; and the difficulty with which a man 
breaks away from such ties is in exact proportion to the 
refinement and elevation of his nature. 

In the mind of our young nobleman there was a double 
current. He was a Roman, and the traditions of his house 
went back to the time of Mutius Scaevola ; and his old nurse 
had often told him that grand story of how the young hero 
stood with his right hand in the fire rather than betray his 
honor. If the legends of Rome's ancient heroes cause the 
pulses of colder climes and alien races to throb with sympa 
thetic heroism, what must their power be to one who says, 
" These were my fathers" t Agostino read Plutarch, and 
thought, " I, too, am a Roman ! " and then he looked on 
the power that held sway over the Tarpeian Rock and the 
halls of the old " Sanctus Senatus," and asked himself, " By 
what right does it hold these ? " He knew full well that in 
the popular belief all those hardy and virtuous old Romans 
whose deeds of heroism so transported him were burning in 
hell for the crime of having been born before Christ ; and 
he asked himself, as he looked on the horrible and unnatural 
luxury and vice which defiled the Papal chair and ran riot 
through every ecclesiastical order, whether such men, with 
out faith, without conscience, and without even decency, were 
indeed the only authorized successors of Christ and his Apos 
tles? 

To us, of course, from our modern stand-point, the ques 
tion has an easy solution, but not so in those days, when 
the Christianity of the known world was in the Romish 
church, and when the choice seemed to be between that and 
infidelity. Not yet had Luther flared aloft the bold, cheery 
torch which showed the faithful how to disentangle Chris 
tianity from Ecclesiasticism. Luther in those days was a 



118 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

star lying low in the gray horizon of a yet unawakened 
dawn. 

All through Italy at this time there was the restless throb 
bing and pulsating, the aimless outreach of the popular 
heart, which marks the decline of one cycle of religious faith 
and calls for some great awakening and renewal. Savona 
rola, the priest and prophet of this dumb desire, was begin 
ning to heave a great heart of conflict towards that mighty 
struggle'with the vices and immoralities of his time in which 
he was yet to sink a martyr ; and even now his course was 
beginning to be obstructed by the full energy of the whole 
aroused serpent brood which hissed and knotted in the holy 
places of Rome. 

Here, then, was our Agostino, with a nature intensely 
fervent and poetic, every fibre of whose soul and nervous 
system had been from childhood skilfully woven and inter 
twined with the ritual and faith of his fathers, yearning 
towards the grave of his mother, yearning towards the 
legends of saints and angels with which she had lulled his 
cradle slumbers and sanctified his childhood's pillow, and yet 
burning with the indignation of a whole line of old Roman 
ancestors against an injustice and oppression wrought under 
the full approbation of the head of that religion. Half his 
nature was all the while battling the other half. Would he 
be Roman, or would he be Christian ? All the Roman in 
him said " No ! " when he thought of submission to the 
patent and open injustice and fiendish tyranny which had 
disinherited him, slain his kindred, and held its impure reign 
by torture and by blood. He looked on the splendid snow- 
crowned mountains whose old silver senate engirdles Rome 
with an eternal and silent majesty of presence, and he 
thought how often in ancient times they had been a shelter 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 119 

to free blood that would not endure oppression ; and so gath 
ering to his banner the crushed and scattered retainers of 
his father's house, and offering refuge and protection to mul 
titudes of others whom the crimes and rapacities of the 
Borgias had stripped of possessions and means of support, 
he fled to a fastness in the mountains between Rome and 
Naples, and became an independent chieftain, living by his 
sword. 

The rapacity, cruelty, and misgovernment of the various 
regular authorities of Italy at this time made brigandage a 
respectable and honored institution in the eyes of the people, 
though it was ostensibly banned both by Pope and Prince. 
Besides, in the multitude of contending factions which were 
every day wrangling for supremacy, it soon became apparent, 
even to the ruling authorities, that a band of fighting-men 
under a gallant leader, advantageously posted in the moun 
tains and understanding all their passes, was a power of no 
small importance to be employed on one side or the other ; 
and therefore it happened, that, though nominally outlawed 
or excommunicated, they were secretly protected on both 
sides, with a view to securing their assistance in critical 
turns of affairs. 

Among the common people of the towns and villages their 
relations were of the most comfortable kind, their depreda 
tions being chiefly confined to the rich and prosperous, who, 
as they wrung their wealth out of the people, were not con 
sidered particular objects of compassion when the same kind 
of high-handed treatment was extended toward themselves. 

The most spirited and brave of the young peasantry, if 
they wished to secure the smiles of the girls of their neigh 
borhood, and win hearts past redemption, found no surer 
avenue to favor than in joining the brigands. The leaders 



120 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

of these bands sometimes piqued themselves on elegant 
tastes and accomplishments ; and one of them is said to 
have sent to the poet Tasso, in his misfortunes and exile, 
an offer of honorable asylum and protection in his moun 
tain-fortress. 

Agostino Sarelli saw himself, in fact, a powerful chief; 
and there were times when the splendid scenery of his 
mountain-fastness, its inspiring air, its wild eagle-like gran 
deur, independence, and security, gave him a proud content 
ment, and he looked at his sword and loved it as a bride. 
But then again there were moods in which he felt all that 
yearning and disquiet of soul which the man of wide and 
tender moral organization must feel who has had his faith 
shaken in the religion of his fathers. To such a man the 
quarrel with his childhood's faith is a never-ending anguish ; 
especially is it so with a religion so objective, so pictorial, 
and so interwoven with the whole physical and nervous 
nature of man, as that which grew up and flowered in 
modern Italy. 

Agostino was like a man who lives in an eternal struggle 
of self-justification, his reason forever going over and 
over with its plea before his regretful and never-satis 
fied heart, which was drawn every hour of the day by 
some chain of memory towards the faith whose visible ad 
ministrators he detested with the whole force of his moral 
being. When the vesper-bell, with its plaintive call, rose 
amid the purple shadows of the olive-silvered mountains, 
when the distant voices of chanting priest and choir reached 
him solemnly from afar, when he looked into a church 
with its cloudy pictures of angels, and its window-panes 
flaming with venerable forms of saints and martyrs, it 
roused a yearning anguish, a pain and conflict, which all the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 121 

efforts of his reason could not subdue. How to be a Chris 
tian and yet defy the authorized Head of the Christian 
Church, or how to be a Christian and* recognize foul men 
of obscene and rapacious deeds as Christ's representatives, 
was the inextricable Gordian knot, which his sword could 
not divide. He dared not approach the Sacrament, he dared 
not pray, and sometimes he felt wild impulses to tread down 
in riotous despair every fragment of a religious belief which 
seemed to live in his heart only to torture him. He had 
heard priests scoff over the wafer they consecrated, he 
had known them to mingle poison for rivals in the sacra 
mental wine, and yet God had kept silence and not struck 
them dead ; and like the Psalmist of old he said, " Verily, I 
have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in 
innocency. Is there a God that judgeth in the earth ? " 

The first time he saw Agnes bending like a flower in the 
slanting evening sunbeams by the old gate of Sorrento, 
while he stood looking down the kneeling street and striv 
ing to hold his own soul in the sarcastic calm of utter 
indifference, he felt himself struck to the heart by an in 
fluence he could not defin^ The sight of that young face, 
with its clear, beautiful lines, and its tender fervor, recalled a 
thousand influences of the happiest and purest hours of his 
life, and drew him with an attraction he vainly strove to 
hide under an air of mocking gallantry. 

When she looked him in the face with such grave, sur 
prised eyes of innocent confidence, and promised to pray for 
him, he felt a remorseful tenderness as if he had profaned a 
shrine. All that was passionate, poetic, and romantic in his 
nature was awakened to blend itself in a strange mingling of 
despairing sadness and of tender veneration about this sweet 
image of perfect purity and faith. Never does love strike 
6 



122 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

so deep and immediate a root as in a sorrowful and desolated 
nature ; there it has nothing to dispute the soil, and soon 
fills it with its interlacing fibres. 

In this case it was not merely Agnes that he sighed for, 
but she stood to him as the fair symbol of that life-peace, 
that rest of soul which he had lost, it seemed to him, for 
ever. 

u Behold this pure, believing child," he said to himself, 
11 a true member of that blessed Church to which thou art 
a rebel ! How peacefully this lamb walketh the old ways 
trodden by saints and martyrs, while thou art an infidel and 
unbeliever ! " And then a stern voice within him answered, 
" What then ? Is the Holy Ghost indeed alone dispensed 
through the medium of Alexander and his scarlet crew of 
cardinals ? Hath the power to bind and loose in Christ's 
Church been indeed given to whoever can buy it with the 
wages of robbery and oppression ? Why does every prayer 
and pious word of the faithful reproach me ? Why is God 
silent ? Or is there any God ? Oh, Agnes, Agnes ! dear 
lily ! fair lamb ! lead a sinner into the green pastures where 
thou restest ! " 

So wrestled the strong nature, tempest-tossed in its 
strength, so slept the trustful, blessed in its trust, 
then in Italy, as now in all lands. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 123 



CHAPTER X. 

THE INTERVIEW. 

THE dreams of Agnes, on the night after her Conversa 
tion with the monk and her singular momentary interview 
with the cavalier, were a strange mixture of images, indi 
cating the peculiarities of her education and habits of daily- 
thought. 

She dreamed that she was sitting alone in the moonlight, 
and heard some one rustling in the distant foliage of the 
orange-groves, and from them came a young man dressed in 
white of a dazzling clearness like sunlight ; large pearly 
wings fell from his shoulders and seemed to shimmer with 
a phosphoric radiance ; his forehead was broad and grave, 
and above it floated a thin, tremulous tongue of flame ; his 
eyes had that deep, mysterious gravity which is so well ex 
pressed in all the Florentine paintings of celestial beings : 
and yet, singularly enough, this white-robed, glorified form 
seemed to have the features and lineaments of the mysteri 
ous cavalier of the evening before, the same deep, mourn 
ful, dark eyes, only that in them the light of earthly pride 
had given place to the calm, strong gravity of an assured 
peace, the same broad forehead, the same delicately 
chiselled features, but elevated and etherealized, glowing 
with a kind of interior ecstasy. He seemed to move from 
the shadow of the orange-trees with a backward floating of 
his lustrous garments, as if borne on a cloud just along the 
surface of the ground; and in his hand he held the lily- 



124 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

spray, all radiant with a silvery, living light, just as the 
monk had suggested to her a divine flower might be. Ag 
nes seemed to herself to hold her breath and marvel with 
a secret awe, and, as often happens in dreams, she wondered 
to herself, " Was this stranger, then, indeed, not even 
mortal, not even a king's brother, but an angel ? How 
strange," she said to herself, " that I should never have seen 
it in his. eyes!" Nearer and nearer the vision drew, and 
touched her forehead with the lily, which seemed dewy and 
icy cool ; and with the contact it seemed to her that a deli 
cious tranquillity, a calm ecstasy, possessed her soul, and the 
words were impressed in her mind, as if spoken in her ear, 
" The Lord hath sealed thee for his own ! " and then, 
with the wild fantasy of dreams, she saw the cavalier in his 
wonted form and garments, just as he had kneeled to her 
the night before, and he said, " Oh, Agnes ! Agnes ! little 
lamb of Christ, love me and lead me ! " and in her 
sleep it seemed to her that her heart stirred and throb 
bed with a strange, new movement in answer to those 
sad, pleading eyes, and thereafter her dream became more 
troubled. 

The sea was beginning now to brighten with the reflection 
of the coming dawn in the sky, and the flickering fire of Ve 
suvius was waxing sickly and pale ; and while all the high 
points of rocks were turning of a rosy purple, in the weird 
depths of the gorge were yet the unbroken shadows and 
stillness of night. But at the earliest peep of dawn the 
monk had risen, and now, as he paced up and down the 
little garden, his morning hymn mingled with Agnes's 
dreams, words strong with all the nerve of the old Latin, 
which, when they were written, had scarcely ceased to be 
the spoken tongue of Italy. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 125 

" Splendor paternse gloriae, 
De luce lucem proferens, 
Lux lucis et fons luminis, 
Dies diem illuminans! 

" Votis vocemus et Patrem, 
Patrem potentis gratiae, 
Patrem perennis gloriae: 
Culpam releget lubricam ! 

" Confirm et actus strenuos, 
Dentes retundat invidi, 
Casus secundet asperos, 
Donet gerendi gratiam! 

" Christus nobis sit cibus, 
Potusque noster sit fides: 
Laeti bibamus sobriam 
Ebrietatem spiritus! 

"Lgetus dies hie transeat, 
Pudor sit ut diluculum, 
Fides velut meridies, 
Crepusculum mens nesciat! " * 

The hymn in every word well expressed the character 
and habitual pose of mind of the singer, whose views of 

* Splendor of the Father's glory, 

Bringing light with cheering ray, 
Light of light and fount of brightness, 
Day, illuminating day! 

In our prayers we call thee Father, 

Father of eternal glory, 
Father of a mighty grace : 

Heal our errors, we implore thee ! 

Form our struggling, vague desires; 

Power of spiteful spirits break; 
Help us in life's straits, and give us 

Grace to suffer for thy sake! 



126 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

earthly matters were as different from the views of ordinary 
working mortals as those of a bird, as he flits and perches 
and sings, must be from those of the four-footed ox who 
plods. The <; sobriam ebrietatem spiritus " was with him first 
constitutional, as a child of sunny skies, and then cultivated 
by every employment and duty of the religious and artistic 
career to which from childhood he had devoted himself. If 
perfect, unalloyed happiness has ever existed in this weary, 
work-day world of ours, it has been in the bosoms of some 
of those old religious artists of the Middle Ages, whose 
thoughts grew and flowered in prayerful shadows, bursting 
into thousands of quaint and fanciful blossoms on the pages 
of missal and breviary. In them the fine life of color, form, 
and symmetry, which is the gift of the Italian, formed a rich 
stock on which to graft the true vine of religious faith, and 
rare and fervid were the blossoms. 

For it must be remarked in justice of the Christian relig 
ion, that the Italian people never rose to the honors of origi 
nality in the beautiful arts till inspired by Christianity. The 
Art of ancient Rome was a second-hand copy of the original 
and airy Greek, often clever, but never vivid and self- 
originating. It is to the religious Art of the Middle Ages, 
to the Umbrian and Florentine schools particularly, that we 
look for the peculiar and characteristic flowering of the 

Christ for us shall be our food; 

Faith in him our drink shall be; 
Hopeful, joyful, let us drink 

Soberness of ecstasy ! 

Joyful shall our day go by, 

Purity its dawning light, 
Faith its fervid noontide glow, 

And for us shall be no night! 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 127 

Italian mind. When the old Greek Art revived again in 
modern Europe, though at first it seemed to add richness 
and grace to this peculiar development, it smothered and 
killed it at last, as some brilliant tropical parasite exhausts 
the life of the tree it seems at first to adorn. Raphael and 
Michel Angelo mark both the perfected splendor and the 
commenced decline of original Italian Art ; and just in pro 
portion as their ideas grew less Christian and more Greek 
did the peculiar vividness and intense flavor of Italian na 
tionality pass away from them. They became again like 
the ancient Romans, gigantic imitators and clever copyists, 
instead of inspired kings and priests of a national develop 
ment. 

The tones of the monk's morning hymn awakened both 
Agnes and Elsie, and the latter was on the alert instantly. 

" Bless my soul ! " she said, " brother Antonio has a mar 
vellous power of lungs; he is at it the first thing in the 
morning. It always used to be so ; when he was a boy, he 
would wake me up before daylight singing." 

" He is happy, like the birds," said Agnes, " because he 
flies near heaven." 

" Like enough : he was always a pious boy ; his prayers 
and his pencil were ever uppermost : but he was a poor hand 
at work : he could draw you an olive-tree on paper ; but set 
him to dress it, and any fool would have done better." 

The morning rites of devotion and the simple repast being 
over, Elsie prepared to go to her business. It had occurred 
to her that the visit of her brother was an admirable pretext 
for withdrawing Agnes from the scene of her daily traffic, 
and of course, as she fondly supposed, keeping her from the 
sight of the suspected admirer. 

Neither Agnes nor the monk had disturbed her serenity 



128 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

by recounting the adventure of the evening before. Agnes 
had been silent from the habitual reserve which a difference 
of nature ever placed between her and her grandmother, 
a difference which made confidence on her side an utter 
impossibility. There are natures which ever must be silent 
to other natures, because there is no common language 
between them. In the same house, at the same board, shar 
ing the same pillow even, are those forever strangers and 
foreigners, whose whole stock of intercourse is limited to a 
few brief phrases on the commonest material wants of life, 
and who, as soon as they try to go farther, have no words 
that are mutually understood. 

" Agnes," said her grandmother, " I shall not need you at 
the stand to-day. There is that new flax to be spun, and 
you may keep company with your uncle. I '11 warrant me, 
you '11 be glad enough of that ! " 

" Certainly I shall," said Agnes, cheerfully. " Uncle's 
comings are my holidays." 

" I will show you somewhat further on my Breviary," said 
the monk. " Praised be God, many new ideas sprang up in 
my mind last night, and seemed to shoot forth in blossoms. 
Even my dreams have often been made fruitful in this divine 

work." 



" Many a good thought comes in dreams," said Elsie ; 
" but, for my part, I work too hard and sleep too sound to 
get much that way." 

" Well, brother/' said Elsie, after breakfast, " you must 
look well after Agnes to-day ; for there be plenty of wolves 
go round, hunting these little lambs." 

" Have no fear, sister," said the monk, tranquilly ; " the 
angels have her in charge. If our eyes were only clear 
sighted, we should see that Christ's little ones are never 
alone." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 129 

" All that is fine talk, brother ; but I never found that the 
angels attended to any of my affairs, unless I looked after 
them pretty sharp myself; and as for girls, the dear Lord 
knows they need a legion apiece to look after them. What 
with roystering fellows and smooth-tongued gallants, and 
with silly, empty-headed hussies like that Giulietta, one has 
much ado to keep the best of them straight. Agnes is one 
of the best, too, a well-brought up, pious,' obedient girl, 
and industrious as a bee. Happy is the husband who gets 
her. I would I knew a man good enough for her." 

This conversation took place while Agnes was in the gar 
den picking oranges and lemons, and filling the basket which 
her grandmother was to take to the town. The silver ripple 
of a hymn that she was singing came through the open 
door ; it was part of a sacred ballad in honor of Saint 
Agnes : 

" Bring me no pearls to bind my hair, 

No sparkling jewels bring to me ! 
Dearer by far the blood-red rose 
That speaks of Him who died for me. 

"Ah! vanish every earthly love, 

All earthly dreams forgotten be! 
My heart is gone beyond the stars, 
To live with Him who died for me." 

" Hear you now, sister," said the monk, " how the Lord 
keeps the door of this maiden's heart ? There is no fear of 
her ; and I much doubt, sister, whether you would do well to 
interfere with the evident call this child hath to devote her 
self wholly to the Lord." 

" Oh, you talk, brother Antonio, who never had a child in 
your life, and don't know how a mother's heart warms tow 
ards her children and her children's children ! The saints, 
6* 



130 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

as I said, must be reasonable, and ought n't to be putting 
vocations into the head of an old woman's only staff and 
stay ; and if they ought n't to, why, then, they won't. Agnes 
is a pious child, and loves her prayers and hymns ; and so 
she will love her husband, one of these days, as an honest 
woman should." 

" But you know, sister, that the highest seats in Paradise 
are reserved for the virgins who follow the Lamb." 

" Maybe so," said Elsie, stiffly ; " but the lower seats are 
good enough for Agnes and me. For my part, I would 
rather have a little comfort as I go along, and put up with 
less in Paradise, (may our dear Lady bring us safely there !) 
say I." 

So saying, Elsie raised the large, square basket of golden 
fruit to her head, and turned her stately figure towards the 
scene of her daily labors. 

The monk seated himself on the garden-wall, with his 
portfolio by his side, and seemed busily sketching and 
retouching some of his ideas. Agnes wound some silvery- 
white flax round her distaff, and seated herself near him 
under an orange-tree ; and while her small fingers were 
twisting the flax, her large, thoughtful eyes were wandering 
off on the deep blue sea, pondering over and over the 
strange events of the day before, and the dreams of the 
night. 

" Dear child," said the monk, " have you thought more 5f 
what I said to you ? " 

A deep blush suffused her cheek as she answered, 

" Yes, uncle ; and I had a strange dream last night." 

" A dream, my little heart ? Come, then, and tell it to its 
uncle. Dreams are the hushing of the bodily senses, that 
the eyes of the Spirit may open." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 131 

" Well, then," said Agnes, " I dreamed that I sat ponder 
ing as I did last evening in the moonlight, and that an angel 
came forth from the trees " 

" Indeed ! " said the monk, looking up with interest ; " what 
form had he ? " 

" He was a young man, in dazzling white raiment, and his 
eyes were deep as eternity ; and over his forehead was a 
silver flame, and he bore a lily-stalk in his hand, which was 
like what you told of, with light in itself." 

" That must have been the holy Gabriel," said the monk, 
" the angel that came to our blessed Mother. Did he say 
aught?" 

" Yes, he touched my forehead with the lily, and a sort of 
cool rest and peace went all through me, and he said, ' The 
Lord hath sealed thee for his own ! ' " 

" Even so," said the monk, looking up, and crossing him 
self devoutly, " by this token I know that my prayers are 
answered." 

" But, dear uncle," said Agnes, hesitating and blushing 
painfully, " there was one singular thing about my dream, 
this holy angel had yet a strange likeness to the young man 
that came here last night, so that I could not but marvel 
at it." 

" It may be that the holy angel took on him in part this 
likeness to show how glorious a redeemed soul might become, 
that you might be encouraged to pray. The holy Saint 
Monica thus saw the blessed Augustine standing clothed in 
white among the angels while he was yet a worldling and 
unbeliever, and thereby received the grace to continue her 
prayers for thirty years, till she saw him a holy bishop. 
This is a sure sign that this young man, whoever he 
may be, shall attain Paradise through your prayers. Tell 



132 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

me, dear little heart, is this the first angel thou hast 
seen?" 

" I never dreamed of them before. I have dreamed of 
our Lady, and Saint Agnes, and Saint Catharine of Siena ; 
and sometimes it seemed that they sat a long time by my 
bed, and sometimes it seemed that they took me with them 
away to some beautiful place where the air was full of 
music, and sometimes they filled my hands with such lovely 
flowers that when I waked I was ready to weep that they 
could no more be found. Why, dear uncle, do you see 
angels often ? " 

" Not often, dear child, but sometimes a little glimpse. 
But you should see the pictures of our holy Father Angel- 
ico, to whom the angels appeared constantly ; for so blessed 
was the life he lived, that it was more in heaven than on 
earth. He would never cumber his mind with the things 
of this world, and would not paint for money, nor for prince's 
favor ; nor would he take places of power and trust in the 
Church, or else, so great was his piety, they had made a 
bishop of him ; but he kept ever aloof and walked in the 
shade. He used to say, * They that would do Christ's work 
must walk with Christ.' His pictures of angels are indeed 
wonderful, and their robes are of all dazzling colors, like 
the rainbow. It is most surely believed among us that he 
painted to show forth what he saw in heavenly visions." 

" Ah ! " said Agnes, " how I wish I could see some of 
these things ! " 

" You may well say so, dear child. There is one picture 
of Paradise painted on gold, and there you may see our 
Lord in the midst of the heavens crowning his blessed 
Mother, and all the saints and angels surrounding ; and 
the colors are so bright that they seem like the sunset 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 133 

clouds, golden, and rosy, and purple, and amethystine, 
and green like the new, tender leaves of spring : for, you 
see, the angels are the Lord's flowers and birds that shine 
and sing to gladden his Paradise, and there is nothing bright 
on earth that is comparable to them, so said the blessed 
Angelico, who saw them. And what seems worthy of note 
about them is their marvellous lightness, that they seem to 
float as naturally as the clouds do, and their garments have 
a divine grace of motion like vapor that curls and wavers in 
the sun. Their faces, too, are most wonderful ; for they 
seem so full of purity and majesty, and withal humble, with 
an inexpressible sweetness ; for, beyond all others it was 
given to the holy Angelico to paint the immortal beauty of 
the soul." 

" It must be a great blessing and favor for you, dear uncle, 
to see all these things," said Agnes ; " I am never tired of 
hearing you tell of them." 

" There is one little picture," said the monk, " wherein he 
hath painted the death of our dear Lady ; and surely no 
mortal could ever conceive anything like her sweet dying 
face, so faint and weak and tender that each man sees his 
own mother dying there, yet so holy that one feels that it 
can be no other than the mother of our Lord; and around 
her stand the disciples mourning ; but above is our blessed 
Lord himself, who receives the parting spirit, as a tender 
new-born babe, into his bosom : for so the holy painters rep 
resented the death of saints, as of a birth in which each soul 
became a little child of heaven." 

" How great grace must come from such pictures ! " said 
Agnes. "It seems to me that the making of such holy 
things is one of the most blessed of good works. Dear 
uncle," she said, after a pause, "they say that this deep 



134 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

gorge is haunted by evil spirits, who often waylay and be 
wilder the unwary, especially in the hours of darkness." 

" I should not wonder in the least," said the monk ; " for 
you must know, child, that our beautiful Italy was of old so 
completely given up and gone over to idolatry that even her 
very soil casts up fragments of temples and stones that have 
been polluted. Especially around these shores there is 
scarcely a spot that hath not been violated in all times by 
vilenesses and impurities such as the Apostle saith it is a 
shame even to speak of. These very waters cast up marbles 
and fragments of colored mosaics from the halls which were 
polluted with devil-worship and abominable revellings; so 
that, as the Gospel saith that the evil spirits cast out by 
Christ walk through waste places, so do they cling to these 
fragments of their old estate." 

" Well, uncle, I have longed to consecrate the gorge to 
Christ by having a shrine there, where I might keep a 
lamp burning." 

" It is a most pious thought, child." 

" And so, dear uncle, I thought that you would undertake 
the work. There is one Pietro hereabout who is a skilful 
worker in stone, and was a playfellow of mine, though 
of late grandmamma has forbidden me to talk with him, 
and I think he would execute it under your direction." 

" Indeed, my little heart, it shall be done," said the monk, 
cheerfully ; " and I will engage to paint a fair picture of our 
Lady to be within ; and I think it would be a good thought 
to have a pinnacle on the outside, where should stand a 
statue of Saint Michael with his sword. Saint Michael 
is a brave and wonderful angel, and all the devils and vile 
spirits are afraid of him. I will set about the devices 
to-day." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 135 

And cheerily the good monk began to intone a verse of 
an old hymn, 

" Sub tutela Michaelis, 
Pax in terra, pax in ccelis." * 

In such talk and work the day passed away to Agnes ; 
but we will not say that she did not often fall into deep mus 
ings on the mysterious visitor of the night before. Often 
while the good monk was busy at his drawing, the distaff 
would droop over her knee and her large dark eyes become 
intently fixed on the ground, as if she were pondering some 
absorbing subject. 

Little could her literal, hard-working grandmother, or her 
artistic, simple-minded uncle, or the dreamy Mother The 
resa, or her austere confessor, know of the strange forcing 
process which they were all together uniting to carry on in 
the mind of this sensitive young girl. Absolutely secluded 
by her grandmother's watchful care from any actual knowl 
edge and experience of real life, she had no practical tests 
by which to correct the dreams of that inner world in which 
she delighted to live and move, and which was peopled with 
martyrs, saints, and angels, whose deeds were possible or 
probable only in the most exalted regions of devout poetry. 

So she gave her heart at once and without reserve to an 
enthusiastic desire for the salvation of the stranger, whom 
Heaven, she believed, had directed to seek her interces 
sions ; and when the spindle drooped from her hand, and 
her eyes became fixed on vacancy, she found herself won 
dering who he might really be, and longing to know yet 
a little more of him. 

Towards the latter part of the afternoon, a hasty mes- 

1 " 'Neath Saint Michael's watch is given 
Peace on earth and peace in heaven." 



136 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

senger came to summon her uncle to administer the last 
rites to a man who had just fallen from a building, and 
who, it was feared, might breathe his last unshriven. 

" Dear daughter, I must hasten and carry Christ to 
this poor sinner," said the monk, hastily putting all his 
sketches and pencils into her lap. " Have a care of these 
till I return, that is my good little one ! " 

Agnes carefully arranged the sketches and put them into 
the book, and then, kneeling before the shrine, began prayers 
for the soul of the dying man. 

She prayed long and fervently, and so absorbed did she 
become, that she neither saw nor heard anything that passed 
around her. 

It was, therefore, with a start of surprise, as she rose from 
prayer, that she saw the cavalier sitting on one end of the 
marble sarcophagus, with an air so composed and melan 
choly that he might have been taken for one of the mar 
ble knights that sometimes are found on tombs. 

" You are surprised to see me, dear Agnes," he said, with 
a calm, slow utterance, like a man who has assumed a posi 
tion he means fully to justify ; " but I have watched day 
and night, ever since I saw you, to find one moment to 
speak with you alone." 

" My Lord," said Agnes, " I humbly wait your pleasure. 
Anything that a poor maiden may rightly do I will endeav 
or, in all loving duty." 

"Whom do you take me for, Agnes, that you speak 
thus ? " said the cavalier, smiling sadly. 

" Are you not the brother of our gracious King ? " said 
Agnes. 

" No, dear maiden ; and if the kmd promise you lately 
made me is founded on this mistake, it may be retracted." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 137 

" No, my Lord," said Agnes, " though I now know not 
who you are, yet if in any strait or need you seek such poor 
prayers as mine, God forbid I should refuse them ! " 

" I am, indeed, in strait and need, Agnes ; the sun does 
not shine on a more desolate man than I am, one more 
utterly alone in the world ; there is no one left to love me. 
Agnes, can you not love me a little ? let it be ever so 
little, it shall content me." 

It was the first time that words of this purport had ever 
been addressed to Agnes ; but they were said so simply, so 
sadly, so tenderly, that they somehow seemed to her the 
most natural and proper things in the world to be said ; 
and this poor handsome knight, who looked so earnest and 
sorrowful, how could she help answering, " Yes ? " From 
her cradle she had always loved everybody and everything, 
and why should an exception be made in behalf of a very 
handsome, very strong, yet very gentle and submissive 
human being, who came and knocked so humbly at the door 
of her heart ? Neither Mary nor the saints had taught her 
to be hard-hearted. 

" Yes, my Lord," she said, " you may believe that I will 
love and pray for you ; but now, you must leave me, and not 
come here any more, because grandmamma would not be 
willing that I should talk with you, and it would be wrong 
to disobey her, she is so very good to me." 

" But, dear Agnes," began the cavalier, approaching her, 
" I have many things to say to you, I have much to tell 
you." 

" But I know grandmamma would not be willing," said 
Agnes ; " indeed you must not come here any more." 

" Well, then," said the stranger, " at least you will meet 
me at some time, tell me only where." 



138 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" I cannot, indeed, I cannot," said Agnes, distressed and 
embarrassed. " Even now, if grandmamma knew you were 
here, she would be so angry." 

" But how can you pray for me, when you know nothing 
of me?" 

" The dear Lord knoweth you," said Agnes ; " and when 
I speak of you, He will know what you need." 

" Ah, dear child, how fervent is your faith ! Alas for me, 
I have lost the power of prayer ! I have lost the believing 
heart my mother gave me, my dear mother who is now in 
heaven." 

" Ah, how can that be ? " said Agnes. " Who could lose 
faith in so dear a Lord as ours, and so loving a mother ? " 

" Agnes, dear little lamb, you know nothing of the world ; 
and I should be most wicked to disturb your lovely peace of 
soul with any sinful doubts. Oh, Agnes, Agnes, I am most 
miserable, most unworthy ! " 

" Dear Sir, should you not cleanse your soul by the holy 
sacrament of confession, and receive the living Christ within 
you ? For he says, ' Without me ye can do nothing.' " 

" Oh, Agnes, sacrament and prayer are not for such as me ! 
It is only through your pure prayers I can hope for grace." 

" Dear Sir, I have an uncle, a most holy man, and gentle 
as a lamb. He is of the convent San Marco in Florence, 
where there is a most holy prophet risen up." 

" Savonarola ? " said the cavalier, with flashing eyes. 

" Yes, that is he. You should hear my uncle talk of 
him, and how blessed his preaching has been to many souls. 
Dear Sir, come some time to my uncle." 

At this moment the sound of Elsie's voice was heard as 
cending the path to the gorge outside, talking with Father 
Antonio, who was returning. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 139 

Both started, and Agnes looked alarmed. 

" Fear nothing, sweet lamb," said the cavalier ; " I am 
gone." 

He kneeled and kissed the hand of Agnes, and disap 
peared at one bound over the parapet on the side opposite 
that which they were approaching. 

Agnes hastily composed herself, struggling with that half- 
guilty feeling which is apt to weigh on a conscientious nature 
that has been unwittingly drawn to act a part which would 
be disapproved by those whose good opinion it habitually 
seeks. The interview had but the more increased her cu 
riosity to know the history of this handsome stranger. Who, 
then, could he be ? What were his troubles ? She wished 
the interview could have been long enough to satisfy her 
mind on these points. From the richness of his dress, from 
his air and manner, from the poetry and the jewel that ac 
companied it, she felt satisfied, that, if not what she supposed, 
he was at least nobly born, and had shone in some splendid 
sphere whose habits and ways were far beyond her simple 
experiences. She felt towards him somewhat of the awe 
which a person of her condition in life naturally felt toward 
that brilliant aristocracy which in those days assumed the 
state of princes, and the members of which were supposed 
to look down on common mortals from as great a height as 
the stars regard the humblest flowers of the field. 

" How strange," she thought, '* that he should think so 
much of me ! What can he see in me ? And how can it 
be that a great lord, who speaks so gently and is so reveren 
tial to a poor girl, and asks prayers so humbly, can be so 
wicked and unbelieving as he says he is ? Dear God, it can 
not be that he is an unbeliever ; the great Enemy has been 
permitted to try him, to suggest doubts to him, as he has to 



140 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

holy saints before now. How beautifully he spoke about his 
mother ! tears glittered in his eyes then, ah, there must 
be grace there after all ! " 

" Well, my little heart," said Elsie, interrupting her rev 
eries, " have you had a pleasant day ? " 

" Delightful, grandmamma," said Agnes, blushing deeply 
with consciousness. 

" Well," said Elsie, with satisfaction, " one thing I know, 
I 've frightened off that old hawk of a cavalier with his 
hooked nose. I have n't seen so much as the tip of his shoe- 
tie to-day. Yesterday he made himself very busy around 
our stall ; but I made him understand that you never would 
come there again till the coast was clear." 

The monk was busily retouching the sketch of the Virgin of 
the Annunciation. He looked up, and saw Agnes standing 
gazing towards the setting sun, the pale olive of her cheek 
deepening into a crimson flush. His head was too full of his 
own work to give much heed to the conversation that had 
passed, but, looking at the glowing face, he said to himself, 

" Truly, sometimes she might pass for the rose of Sharon 
as well as the lily of the valley ! " 

The moon that evening rose an hour later than the night 
before, yet found Agnes still on her knees before the sacred 
shrine, while Elsie, tired, grumbled at the draft on her sleep 
ing-time. 

" Enough is as good as a feast," she remarked between her 
teeth ; 'still she had, after all, too much secret reverence for 
her grandchild's piety openly to interrupt her. But in those 
days, as now, there were the material and the spiritual, the 
souls who looked only on things that could be seen, touched, 
and tasted, and souls who looked on the things that were 
invisible. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 141 

Agnes was pouring out her soul in that kind of yearning, 
passionate prayer possible to intensely sympathetic people, 
in which the interests and wants of another seem to annihi 
late for a time personal consciousness, and make the whole 
of one's being seem to dissolve in an intense solicitude for 
something beyond one's self. In such hours prayer ceases 
to be an act of the will, and resembles more some over 
powering influence which floods the soul from without, bear 
ing all its faculties away on its resistless tide. 

Brought up from infancy to feel herself in a constant cir 
cle of invisible spiritual agencies, Agnes received this wave 
of intense feeling as an impulse inspired and breathed into 
her by some celestial spirit, that thus she should be made an 
interceding medium for a soul in some unknown strait or 
peril. For her faith taught her to believe in an infinite 
struggle of intercession in which all the Church Visible and 
Invisible were together engaged, and which bound them in 
living bonds of sympathy to an interceding Redeemer, so 
that there was no want or woe of human life that had not 
somewhere its sympathetic heart, and its never-ceasing 
prayer before the throne of Eternal Love. Whatever 
may be thought of the actual truth of this belief, it cer 
tainly was far more consoling than that intense individualism 
of modern philosophy which places every soul alone in its 
life-battle, scarce even giving it a God to lean upon. 



142 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XL 

THE CONFESSIONAL. 

THE reader, if a person of any common knowledge of 
human nature, will easily see the direction in which a young, 
inexperienced, and impressible girl would naturally be tend 
ing under all the influences which we perceive to have come 
upon her. 

But in the religious faith which Agnes professed there was 
a modifying force, whose power both for good and evil can 
scarcely be estimated. 

The simple Apostolic direction, " Confess your faults one 
to another," and the very natural need of personal pastoral 
guidance and assistance to a soul in its heavenward journey, 
had in common with many other religious ideas been forced 
by the volcanic fervor of the Italian nature into a certain 
exaggerated proposition. Instead of brotherly confession 
one to another, or the pastoral sympathy of a fatherly elder, 
the religious mind of the day was instructed in an awful 
mysterious sacrament of confession, which gave to some 
human being a divine right to unlock the most secret cham 
bers of the soul, to scrutinize and direct its most veiled and 
intimate thoughts, and, standing in God's stead, to direct the 
current of its most sensitive and most mysterious emo 
tions. 

Every young aspirant for perfection in the religious life 
had to commence by an unreserved surrender of the whole 
being in blind faith at the feet of some such spiritual director, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 143 

all whose questions must be answered, and all whose injunc 
tions obeyed, as from God himself. Thenceforward was to 
be no soul-privacy, no retirement, nothing too sacred to be 
expressed, too delicate to be handled and analyzed. In read 
ing the lives of those ethereally made and moulded women 
who have come down to our day canonized as saints in the 
Roman Catholic communion, one too frequently gets the 
impression of most regal natures, gifted with all the most 
divine elements of humanity, but subjected to a constant 
unnatural pressure from the ceaseless scrutiny and ungenial 
pertinacity of some inferior and uncomprehending person 
invested with the authority of a Spiritual Director. 

That there are advantages attending this species of inti 
mate direction, when wisely and skilfully managed, cannot be 
doubted. Grovelling and imperfect natures have often thus 
been lifted up and carried in the arms of superior wisdom 
and purity. The confession administered by a Fenelon or a 
Francis de Sales was doubtless a beautiful and most invigo 
rating ordinance; but the difficulty in its actual working is 
the rarity of such superior natures, the fact, that the most 
ignorant and most incapable may be invested with precisely 
the same authority as the most intelligent and skilful. 

He to whom the faith of Agnes obliged her to lay open 
her whole soul, who had a right with probing-knife and 
lancet to dissect all the finest nerves and fibres of her 
womanly nature, was a man who had been through all the 
wild and desolating experiences incident to a dissipated and 
irregular life in those turbulent days. 

It is true, that he was now with most stringent and earnest 
solemnity striving to bring every thought and passion into 
captivity to the spirit of his sacred vows ; but still, when a 
man has once lost that unconscious soul-purity which exists 



144 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

in a mind unscathed by the fires of passion, no after-tears 
can weep it back again. No penance, no prayer, no anguish 
of remorse can give back the simplicity of a soul that has 
never been stained. 

II Padre Francesco had not failed to make those inquiries 
into the character of Agnes's mysterious lover which he 
assumed to be necessary as a matter of pastoral faithful 
ness. ' 

It was not difficult for one possessing the secrets of the 
confessional to learn the real character of any person in the 
neighborhood, and it was with a kind of bitter satisfaction 
which rather surprised himself that the father learned 
enough ill of the cavalier to justify his using every possible 
measure to prevent his forming any acquaintance with 
Agnes. He was captain of a band of brigands, and, of 
course, in array against the State ; he was excommunicated, 
and, of course, an enemy of the Church. What but the 
vilest designs could be attributed to such a man ? Was he 
not a wolf prowling round the green, secluded pastures 
where as yet the Lord's lamb had been folded in unconscious 
innocence ? 

Father Francesco, when he next met Agnes at the confes 
sional, put such questions as drew from her the whole 
account of all that had passed between her and the stranger. 
The recital on Agnes's part was perfectly translucent and 
pure, for she had said no word and had had no thought that 
brought the slightest stain upon her soul. Love and prayer 
had been the prevailing habit of her life, and in promising 
to love and pray, she had had no worldly or earthly thought. 
The language of gallantry, or even of sincere passion, had 
never reached her ear ; but it had always been as natural to 
her to love every human being as for a plant with tendrils to 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 145 

throw them round the next plant, and therefore she enter 
tained the gentle guest who had lately found room in her 
heart without a question or a scruple. 

As Agnes related her childlike story of unconscious faith 
and love, her listener felt himself strangely and bitterly agi 
tated. It was a vision of ignorant purity and unconscious 
ness rising before him, airy and glowing as a child's soap- 
bubble, which one touch might annihilate; but he felt a 
strange remorseful tenderness, a yearning admiration, at its 
unsubstantial purity. There is something pleading and 
pitiful in the simplicity of perfect ignorance, a rare and 
delicate beauty in its freshness, like the morning-glory cup, 
which, once withered by the heat, no second morning can 
restore. Agnes had imparted to her confessor, by a myste 
rious sympathy, something like the morning freshness of her 
own soul ; she had redeemed the idea of womanhood from 
gross associations, and set before him a fair ideal of all that 
female tenderness and purity may teach to man. Her 
prayers, well he believed in them, but he set his teeth 
with a strange spasm of inward passion, when he thought of 
her prayers and love being given to another. He tried to 
persuade himself that this was only the fervor of pastoral 
zeal against a vile robber who had seized the fairest lamb 
of the sheepfold ; but there was an intensely bitter, miserable 
feeling connected with it, that scorched and burned his 
higher aspirations like a stream of lava running among 
fresh leaves and flowers. 

The conflict of his soul communicated a severity of 
earnestness to his voice and manner which made Agnes 
tremble, as he put one probing question after another, 
designed to awaken some consciousness of sin in her soul. 
Still, though troubled and distressed by his apparent disap 
7 



146 AGNES OF SORRENTO. * 

probation, her answers came always clear, honest, unfalter 
ing, like those of one who could not form an idea of 
evil. 

When the confession was over, he came out of his recess 
to speak with Agnes a few words face to face. His eyes 
had a wild and haggard earnestness, and a vivid hectic flush 
on either cheek told how extreme was his emotion. Agnes 
lifted her eyes to his with an innocent wondering trouble and 
an appealing confidence that for a moment wholly unnerved 
him. He felt a wild impulse to clasp her in his arms ; and 
for a moment it seemed to him he would sacrifice heaven and 
brave hell, if he could for one moment hold her to his heart, 
and say that he loved her, her, the purest, fairest, sweet 
est revelation of God's love that had ever shone on his soul, 
her, the only star, the only flower, the only dew-drop of 
a burning, barren, weary life. It seemed to him that it was 
not the longing, gross passion, but the outcry of his whole 
nature for something noble, sweet, and divine. 

But he turned suddenly away with a sort of groan, and, 
folding his robe over his face, seemed engaged in earnest 
prayer. Agnes looked at him awe-struck and breathless. 

" Oh, my father ! " she faltered, " what have I done ? " 

" Nothing, my poor child," said the father, suddenly turn 
ing toward her with recovered calmness and dignity ; " but 
I behold in thee a fair lamb whom the roaring lion is seek 
ing to devour. Know, my daughter, that I have made 
inquiries concerning this man of whom you speak, and find 
that he is an outlaw and a robber and a heretic, a vile 
wretch stained by crimes that have justly drawn down upon 
him the sentence of excommunication from our Holy Father 
the Pope." 

Agnes grew deadly pale at this announcement. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 147 

" Can it be possible ? " she gasped. " Alas ! what dread 
ful temptations have driven him to such sins?" 

" Daughter, beware how you think too lightly of them, or 
suffer his good looks and flattering words to blind you to 
their horror. You must from your heart detest him as a 
vile enemy." 

" Must I, my father ? " 

" Indeed you must." 

" But if the dear Lord loved us and died for us when we 
were his enemies, may we not pity and pray for unbelievers ? 
Oh, say, my dear father, is it not allowed to us to pray for 
all sinners, even the vilest?" 

" I do not say that you may not, my daughter," said the 
monk, too conscientious to resist the force of this direct 
appeal ; " but, daughter," he added, with an energy that 
alarmed Agnes, " you must watch your heart ; you must not 
suffer your interest to become a worldly love : remember 
that you are chosen to be the espoused of Christ alone." 

"While the monk was speaking thus, Agnes fixed on him 
her eyes with an innocent mixture of surprise and perplex 
ity, which gradually deepened into a strong gravity of gaze, 
as if she were looking through him, through all visible things 
into some far-off depth of mysterious knowledge. 

" My Lord will keep me," she said ; " my soul is safe in 
His heart as a little bird in its nest ; but while I love Him, 
I cannot help loving everybody whom He loves, even His 
enemies : and, father, my heart prays within me for this 
poor sinner, whether I will or no ; something within me 
continually intercedes for him." 

" Oh, Agnes ! Agnes ! blessed child, pray for me also," said 
the monk, with a sudden burst of emotion which perfectly 
confounded his disciple. He hid his face with his hands. 



148 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" My blessed father ! " said Agnes, " how could I deern 
that holiness like yours had any need of my prayers ? " 

" Child ! child ! you know nothing of me. I am a miser 
able sinner, tempted of devils, in danger of damnation." 

Agnes stood appalled at this sudden burst, so different 
from the rigid and restrained severity of tone in which the 
greater part of the conversation had been conducted. She 
stood silent and troubled ; while he, whom she had always 
regarded with such awful veneration, seemed shaken by 
some internal whirlwind of emotion whose nature she could 
not comprehend. 

At length Father Francesco raised his head, and recov 
ered his wonted calm severity of expression. 

" My daughter," he said, " little do the innocent lambs of 
the flock know of the dangers and conflicts through which 
the shepherds must pass who keep the Lord's fold. We 
have the labors of angels laid upon us, and we are but men. 
Often we stumble, often we faint, and Satan takes advantage 
of our weakness. I cannot confer with you now as I would ; 
but, my child, listen to my directions. Shun this young 
man ; let nothing ever lead you to listen to another word 
from him ; you must not even look at him, should you meet, 
but turn away your head and repeat a prayer. I do not 
forbid you to practise the holy work of intercession for his 
soul, but it must be on these conditions." 

" My father," said Agnes, " you may rely on my obedi 
ence"; and, kneeling, she kissed his hand. 

He drew it suddenly away, with a gesture of pain and 
displeasure. 

" Pardon a sinful child this liberty," said Agnes. 

" You know not what you do," said the father, hastily. 
" Go, my daughter, go at once ; I will confer with you 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 149 

some other time ; " and hastily raising his hand in an atti 
tude of benediction, he turned and went into the confes 
sional. 

" Wretch ! hypocrite ! whited sepulchre ! " he said to him 
self, " to warn this innocent child against a sin that is all 
the while burning in my own bosom ! Yes, I do love her, 
I do! I, that warn her against earthly love, I would 
plunge into hell itself to win hers ! And yet, when I know 
that the care of her soul is only a temptation and a snare to 
me, I cannot, will not give her up ! No, I cannot ! no, I 
will not ! Why should I not love her ? Is she not pure as 
Mary herself? Ah, blessed is he whom such a woman 
leads ! And I I have condemned myself to the society 
of swinish, ignorant, stupid monks, I must know no such 
divine souls, no such sweet communion ! Help me, blessed 
Mary ! help a miserable sinner ! " 

Agnes left the confessional perplexed and sorrowful. The 
pale, proud, serious face of the cavalier seemed to look at 
her imploringly, and she thought of him now with the pa 
thetic interest we give to something noble and great exposed 
to some fatal danger. " Could the sacrifice of my whole 
life," she thought, " rescue this noble soul from perdition, 
then I shall not have lived in vain. I am a poor little girl ; 
nobody knows whether I live or die. He is a s.trong and 
powerful man, and many must stand or fall with him. Bless 
ed be the Lord that gives to his lowly ones a power to work 
in secret places ! How blessed should I be to meet him in 
Paradise, all splendid as I saw him in my dream ! Oh, that 
would be worth living for, worth dying for ! " 



150 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XII. 

PERPLEXITIES. 

AGNES returned from the confessional with more sad 
ness than her simple life had ever known before. The 
agitation of her confessor, the tremulous eagerness of his 
words, the alternations of severity and tenderness in his 
manner to her, all struck her only as indications of the 
very grave danger in which she was placed, and the awful- 
ness of the sin and condemnation which oppressed the soul 
of one for whom she was conscious of *a deep and strange 
interest. 

She had the undoubting, uninquiring reverence which a 
Christianly educated child of those times might entertain for 
the visible head of the Christian Church, all whose doings 
were to be regarded with an awful veneration which never 
even raised a question. 

That the Papal throne was now filled by a man who had 
bought his election with the wages of iniquity, and dispensed 
its powers and offices with sole reference to the aggrandize 
ment of a family proverbial for brutality and obscenity, was 
a fact well known to the reasoning and enlightened orders 
of society at this time ; but it did not penetrate into those 
lowly valleys where the sheep of the Lord humbly pastured, 
innocently unconscious of the frauds and violence by which 
their dearest interests were bought and sold. 

The Christian faith we now hold, who boast our enlight- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 151 

ened Protestantism, has been transmitted to us through the 
hearts and hands of such, who, while princes wrangled 
with Pope, and Pope with princes, knew nothing of it all, 
but in lowly ways of prayer and patient labor, were one 
with us of modern times in the great central belief of the 
Christian heart, " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." 

As Agnes came slowly up the path towards the little 
garden, she was conscious of a burden and weariness of 
spirit she had never known before. She passed the little 
moist grotto, which in former times she never failed to visit 
to see if there were any new-blown cyclamen, without giving 
it even a thought. A crimson spray of gladiolus leaned 
from the rock and seemed softly to kiss her cheek, yet she 
regarded it not ; and once stopping and gazing abstractedly 
upward on the flower-tapestried walls of the gorge, as they 
rose in wreath and garland and festoon above her, she felt 
as if the brilliant yellow of the broom and the crimson of the 
gillyflowers, and all the fluttering, nodding armies of bright 
ness that were dancing in the sunlight, were too gay for 
such a world as this, where mortal sins and sorrows made 
such havoc with all that seemed brightest and best, and she 
longed to fly away and be at rest. 

Just then she heard the cheerful voice of her uncle in the 
little garden above, as he was singing at his painting. The 
words were those of that old Latin hymn of Saint Bernard, 
which, in its English dress, has thrilled many a Methodist 
class-meeting and many a Puritan conference, telling, in the 
welcome they meet in each Christian soul, that there is a 
unity in Christ's Church which is not outward, a secret, 
invisible bond, by which, under warring names and badges 
of opposition, His true followers have yet been one in Him, 
even though they discerned it not. 



152 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

''Jesu dulcis memoria, 
Dans vera cordi gaudia: 
Sed super mel et omnia 
Ejus dulcis prsesentia. 

"Nil canitur suavius, 
Nil auditur jocundius, 
Nil cogitatur dulcius, 
Quam Jesus Dei Filius. 

" Jesu, spes poenitentibus, 
Quam pius es petentibus, 
Quam bonus te quserentibus, 
Sed quis invenientibus ! 

"Nee lingua valet dicere, 
Nee littera exprimere: 
Expertus potest credere 
Quid sit Jesum diligere." * 

The old monk sang with all his heart ; and his voice, 
which had been a fine one in its day, had still that power 
which comes from the expression of deep feeling. One often 

* Jesus, the very thought of thee 

With sweetness fills my breast; 
But sweeter far thy face to see, 
And in thy presence rest ! 

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame, 

Nor can the memory find 
A sweeter sound than thy blest name, 

O Saviour of mankind ! 

hope of every contrite heart, 

O joy of all the meek, 
To those who fall how kind thou art, 

How good to those who seek ! 

But what to those who find ! Ah, this 

Nor tongue nor pen can show ! 
The love of Jesus, what it is 

None but his loved ones know. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 153 

hears this peculiarity in the voices of persons of genius and 
sensibility, even when destitute of any real critical merit. 
They seem to be so interfused with the emotions of the soul, 
that they strike upon the heart almost like the living touch 
of a spirit. 

Agnes was soothed in listening to him. The Latin words, 
the sentiment of which had been traditional in the Church 
from time immemorial, had to her a sacred fragrance and 
odor ; they were words apart from all common usage, a sac 
ramental language, never heard but in moments of devotion 
and aspiration, and they stilled the child's heart in its 
tossings and tempest, as when of old the Jesus they spake 
of walked forth on the stormy sea. 

" Yes, He gave His life for us ! " she said ; " He is ever 
reigning for us ! 

" ' Jesu dulcissime, e throno gloriae 
Ovem deperditara venisti quserere! 
Jesu suavissime, pastor fidissime, 
Ad te trahe me, ut semper sequar te! ' " * 

" What, my little one ! " said the monk, looking over the 
wall ; " I thought I heard angels singing. Is it not a beau 
tiful morning ? " 

" Dear uncle, it is," said Agnes. " And I have been so 
glad to hear your beautiful hymn ! it comforted me/' 

" Comforted you, little heart ? What a word is that ! 
When you get as far along on your journey as your old 
uncle, then you may talk of comfort. But who thinks of 
comforting birds or butterflies or young lambs ? " 

* Jesus most beautiful, from thrones in glory, 

Seeking thy lost sheep, thou didst descend ! 
Jesus most tender, shepherd most faithful, 
To thee, oh, draw thou me, that I may follow thee, 
Follow thee faithfully world without end ! 
7* 



154 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Ah, dear uncle, I am not so very happy," said Agnes, 
the tears starting into her eyes. 

" Not happy ? " said the monk, looking up from his draw 
ing. " Pray, what 's the matter now ? Has a bee stung 
your finger ? or have you lost your nosegay over a rock ? or 
what dreadful affliction has come upon you? hey, my little 
heart?" 

Agnes sat down on the corner of the marble fountain, 
and, covering her face with her apron, sobbed as if her 
heart would break. 

" What has that old priest been saying to her in the con 
fession ? " said Father Antonio to himself. " I dare say he 
cannot understand her. She is as pure as a dew-drop on a 
cobweb, and as delicate; and these priests, half of them 
don't know how to handle the Lord's lambs. Come now, 
little Agnes," he said, with a coaxing tone, " what is its 
trouble ? tell its old uncle, there 's a dear ! " 

" Ah, uncle, I can't ! " said Agnes, between her sobs. 

" Can't tell its uncle ! there 's a pretty go ! Perhaps 
you will tell grandmamma ? " 

" Oh, no, no, no ! not for the world ! " said Agnes, sobbing 
still more bitterly. 

" Why, really, little hef.rt of mine, this is getting serious," 
said the monk ; " let your old uncle try to help you." 

" It is n't for myself," said Agnes, endeavoring to check 
her feelings, "it is not for myself, it is for another, 
for a soul lost. Ah, my Jesus, have mercy ! " 

"A soul lost? Our Mother forbid!" said the monk, 
crossing himself. "Lost in this Christian land, so over 
flowing with the beauty of the Lord ? lost out of this fair 
sheepfold of Paradise ? " 

"Yes, lost," said Agnes, despairingly, "and if some- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 155 

body do not save him, lost forever ; and it is a brave and 
noble soul, too, like one of the angels that fell." 

" Who is it dear ? tell me about it," said the monk. 
" I am one of the shepherds whose place it is to go after 
that which is lost, even till I find it." 

" Dear uncle, you remember the youth who suddenly 
appeared to us in the moonlight here a few evenings 
ago ? " 

" Ah, indeed ! " said the monk, " what of him ? " 

" Father Francesco has told me dreadful things of him 
this morning." 

" What things ? " 

" Uncle, he is excommunicated by our Holy Father the 
Pope." 

Father Antonio, as a member of one of the most enlight 
ened and cultivated religious orders of the times, and as an 
intimate companion and disciple of Savonarola, had a full 
understanding of the character of the reigning Pope, and 
therefore had his" own private opinion of how much his 
excommunication was likely to be worth in the invisible 
world. He knew that the same doom had been threatened 
towards his saintly master, for opposing and exposing the 
scandalous vices which disgraced the high places of the 
Church; so that, on the whole, when he heard that this 
young man was excommunicated, so far from being im 
pressed with horror towards him, he conceived the idea 
that he might be a particularly honest fellow and good 
Christian. But then he did not hold it wise to disturb 
the faith of the simple-hearted by revealing to them the 
truth about the head of the Church on earth. 

While the disorders in those elevated regions filled the 
minds of the intelligent classes with apprehension and alarm, 



156 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

they held it unwise to disturb the trustful simplicity of the 
lower orders, whose faith in Christianity itself they supposed 
might thus be shaken. In fact, they were themselves some 
what puzzled how to reconcile the patent and manifest fact, 
that the actual incumbent of the Holy See was not under 
the guidance of any spirit, unless it were a diabolical one, 
with the theory which supposed an infallible guidance of the 
Holy Spirit to attend as a matter of course on that position. 
Some of the boldest of them did not hesitate to declare that 
the Holy City had suffered a foul invasion, and that a false 
usurper reigned in her sacred palaces in place of th Father 
of Christendom. The greater part did as people now do 
with the mysteries and discrepancies of a faith which on 
the whole they revere : they turned their attention from the 
vexed question, and sighed and longed for better days. 

Father Antonio did not, therefore, tell Agnes that the 
announcement which had filled her with such distress was 
far less conclusive with himself of the ill desert of the in 
dividual to whom it related. 

" My little heart," he answered, gravely, " did you learn 
the sin for which this young man was excommunicated ? " 

" Ah, me ! my dear uncle, I fear he is an infidel, an 
unbeliever. Indeed, now I remember it, he confessed as 
much to me the other day." 

" Where did he tell you this ? " 

" You remember, my uncle, when you were sent for to 
the dying man ? When you were gone, I kneeled down to 
pray for his soul ; and when I rose from prayer, this young 
cavalier was sitting right here, on this end of the fountain. 
He was looking fixedly at me, with such sad eyes, so full of 
longing and pain, that it was quite piteous ; and he spoke to 
me so sadly, I could not but pity him." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 157 

" What did he say to you, child ? " 

" Ah, father, he said that he was all alone in the world, 
without friends, and utterly desolate, with no one to love 
him ; but worse than that, he said he had lost his faith, that 
he could not believe." 

" What did you say to him ? " 

" Uncle, I tried, as a poor girl might, to do him some good. 
I prayed him to confess and take the sacrament ; but he 
looked almost fierce when I said so. And yet I cannot but 
think, after all, that he has not lost all grace, because he begged 
me so earnestly to pray for him ; he said his prayers could 
do no good, and wanted mine. And then I began to tell him 
about you, dear uncle, and how you came from that blessed 
convent in Florence, and about your master Savonarola ; and 
that seemed to interest him, for he looked quite excited, and 
spoke the name over, as if it were one he had heard before. 
I wanted to urge him to come and open his case to you ; and 
I think perhaps I might have succeeded, but that just then 
you and grandmamma came up the path ; and when I heard 
you coming, I begged him to go, because you know grand 
mamma would be very angry, if she knew that I had given 
speech to a man, even for a few moments ; she thinks men 
are so dreadful." 

" I must seek this youth," said the monk, in a musing 
tone ; " perhaps I may find out what inward temptation 
hath driven him away from the fold." 

" Oh, do, dear uncle ! do ! " said Agnes, earnestly. " I 
am sure that he has been grievously tempted and misled, for 
he seems to have a noble and gentle nature ; and he spoke 
so feelingly of his mother, who is a saint in heaven ; and 
he seemed so earnestly to long to return to the bosom of the 
Church." 



158 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" The Church is a tender mother to all her erring chil 
dren," said the monk. 

"And don't you think that our dear Holy Father the 
Pope will forgive him ? " said Agnes. " Surely, he will 
have all the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who would 
rejoice in one sheep found more than in all the ninety-and- 
nine who went not astray." 

The monk could scarcely repress a smile at imagining 
Alexander the Sixth in this character of a good shepherd, 
as Agnes's enthusiastic imagination painted the head of the 
Church ; and then he gave an inward sigh, and said, softly, 
" Lord, how long? " 

" I think," said Agnes, " that this young man is of noble 
birth, for his words and his bearing and his tones of voice 
are not those of common men ; even though he speaks so 
humbly and gently, there is yet something princely that 
looks out of his eyes, as if he were born to command ; 
and he wears strange jewels, the like of which I never saw, 
on his hands and at the hilt of his dagger, yet he seems 
to make nothing of them. But yet, I know not why, he 
spoke of himself as one utterly desolate and forlorn. Father 
Francesco told me that he was captain of a band of robbers 
who live in the mountains. One cannot think it is so." 

" Little heart," said the monk tenderly, " you can scarcely 
know what things befall men in these distracted times, when 
faction wages war with faction, and men pillage and burn 
and imprison, first on this side, then on that. Many a son 
of a noble house may find himself homeless and landless, 
and, chased by the enemy, may have no refuge but the fast 
nesses of the mountains. Thank God, our lovely Italy hath 
a noble backbone of these same mountains, which afford 
shelter to her children in their straits." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 159 

" Then you think it possible, dear uncle, that this may not 
be a bad man, after all ? " 

" Let us hope so, child. I will myself seek him out ; and 
if his mind have been chafed by violence or injustice, I will 
strive to bring him back into the good ways of the Lord. 
Take heart, my little one, all will yet be well. Come 
now, little darling, wipe your bright eyes, and look at these 
plans I have been making for the shrine we were talking of, 
in the gorge. See here, I have drawn a goodly arch with a 
pinnacle. Under the arch, you see, shall be the picture of 
our Lady with the blessed Babe. The arch shall be cun 
ningly sculptured with vines of ivy and passion-flower ; and 
on one side of it shall stand Saint Agnes with her lamb, 
and on the other, Saint Cecilia, crowned with roses ; and on 
this pinnacle, above all, Saint Michael, all in armor, shall 
stand leaning, one hand on his sword, and holding a 
shield with the cross upon it." 

" Ah, that will be beautiful ! " said Agnes. 

"You can scarcely tell," pursued the monk, "from this 
faint drawing, what the picture of our Lady is to be; but I 
shall paint her to the highest of my art, and with many 
prayers that I may work worthily. You see, she shall be 
standing on a cloud with a background all of burnished gold, 
like the streets of the New Jerusalem ; and she shall be 
clothed in a mantle of purest blue from head to foot, to rep 
resent the unclouded sky of summer ; and on her forehead 
she shall wear the evening star, which ever shineth when 
we say the Ave Maria ; and all the borders of her blue ves 
ture shall be cunningly wrought with fringes of stars ; and 
the dear Babe shall lean his little cheek to hers so peace 
fully, and there shall be a clear shining of love through her 
face, and a heavenly restfulness, that it shall do one's heart 



160 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

good to look at her. Many a blessed hour shall I have 
over this picture, many a hymn shall I sing as my work 
goes on. I must go about to prepare the panels forthwith ; 
and it were well, if there be that young man who works in 
stone, to have him summoned to our conference." 

"I think," said Agnes, "that you will find him in the 
town; he dwells next to the cathedral." 

"I trust he is a youth of pious life and conversation," 
said the monk. " I must call on him this afternoon ; for he 
ought to be stirring himself up by hymns and prayers, and 
by meditations on the beauty of saints and angels, for so 
goodly a work. What higher honor or grace can befall a 
creature than to be called upon to make visible to men that 
beauty of invisible things which is divine and eternal ? 
How many holy men have given themselves to this work in 
Italy, till, from being overrun with heathen temples, it is 
now full of most curious and wonderful churches, shrines, 
and cathedrals, every stone of which is a miracle of beauty ! 
I would, dear daughter, you could see our great Duomo in 
Florence, which is a mountain of precious marbles and many- 
colored mosaics ; and the Campanile that riseth thereby is 
like a lily of Paradise, so tall, so stately, with such an 
infinite grace, and adorned all the way up with holy em 
blems and images of saints and angels ; nor is there any 
part of it, within or without, that is not finished sacredly 
with care, as an offering to the most perfect God. Truly, 
our fair Florence, though she be little, is worthy, by her 
sacred adornments, to be worn as the lily of our Lady's 
girdle, even as she hath been dedicated to her." 

Agnes seemed pleased with the enthusiastic discourse of 
her uncle. The tears gradually dried from her eyes as she 
listened to him, and the hope so natural to the young and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 161 

untried heart began to reassert itself. God was merciful, 
the world beautiful ; there was a tender Mother, a reigning 
Saviour, protecting angels and guardian saints : surely, then, 
there was no need to despair of the recall of any wanderer ; 
and the softest supplication of the most ignorant and unwor 
thy would be taken up by so many sympathetic voices in 
the invisible world, and borne on in so many waves of bright 
ness to the heavenly throne, that the most timid must have 
hope in prayer. 

In the afternoon, the monk went to the town to seek the 
young artist, and also to inquire for the stranger for whom 
his pastoral offices were in requisition, and Agnes remained 
alone in the little solitary garden. 

It was one of those rich slumberous afternoons of spring 
that seem to bathe earth and heaven with an Elysian soft 
ness ; and from her little lonely nook shrouded in dusky 
shadows by its orange-trees, Agnes looked down the sombre 
gorge to where the open sea lay panting and palpitating in 
blue and violet waves, while the little white sails of fishing- 
boats drifted hither and thither, now silvered in the sun 
shine, now fading away like a dream into the violet vapor 
bands that mantled the horizon. The weather would have 
been oppressively sultry but for the gentle breeze which con 
stantly drifted landward with coolness in its wings. The 
hum of the old town came to her ear softened by distance 
and mingled with the patter of the fountain and the music 
of birds singing in the trees overhead. Agnes tried to busy 
herself with her spinning; but her mind constantly wan 
dered away, and stirred and undulated with a thousand dim 
and unshaped thoughts and emotions, of which she vaguely 
questioned in her own mind. Why did Father Francesco 
warn her so solemnly against an earthly love ? Did he not 



162 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

know her vocation ? But still he was wisest and must know 
best ; there must be danger, if he said so. But then, this 
knight had spoken so modestly, so humbly, so differently 
from Giulietta's lovers ! for Giulietta had sometimes found 
a chance to recount to Agnes some of her triumphs. How 
could it be that a knight so brave and gentle, and so piously 
brought up, should become an infidel ? Ah, uncle Antonio 
was right, he must have had some foul wrong, some dread 
ful injury I When Agnes was a child, in travelling with her 
grandmother through one of the highest passes of the Apen 
nines, she had chanced to discover a wounded eagle, whom 
an arrow had pierced, sitting all alone by himself on a rock, 
with his feathers ruffled, and a film coming over his great, 
clear, bright eye, and, ever full of compassion, she had 
taken him to nurse, and had travelled for a day with him 
in her arms ; and the mournful look of his regal eyes now 
came into her memory. " Yes," she said to herself, " he is 
like my poor eagle ! The archers have wounded him, so 
that he is glad to find shelter even with a poor maid like 
me ; but it was easy to see my eagle had been king among 
birds, even as this knight is among men. Certainly, God 
must love him, he is so beautiful and noble ! I hope 
dear uncle will find him this afternoon ; he knows how to 
teach him; as for me, I can only pray." 

Such were the thoughts that Agnes twisted into the shin 
ing white flax, while her eyes wandered dreamily over the 
soft hazy landscape. At last, lulled by the shivering sound 
of leaves, and the bird-songs, and wearied with the agita 
tions of the morning, her head lay back against the end of 
the sculptured fountain, the spindle slowly dropped from her 
hand, and her eyes were closed in sleep, the murmur of the 
fountain still sounding in her dreams. In her dreams she 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 163 

seemed to be wandering far away among the purple passes 
of the Apennines, where she had come years ago when she 
was a little girl ; with her grandmother she pushed through 
old olive-groves, weird and twisted with many a quaint 
gnarl, and rustling their pale silvery leaves in noonday 
twilight. Sometimes she seemed to carry in her bosom a 
wounded eagle, and often she sat down to stroke it and to 
try to give it food from her hand, and as often it looked 
upon her with a proud, patient eye, and then her grand 
mother seemed to shake her roughly by the arm and bid her 
throw the silly bird away ; but then again the dream 
changed, and she saw a knight lie bleeding and dying in a 
lonely hollow, his garments torn, his sword broken, and 
his face pale and faintly streaked with blood ; and she 
kneeled by him, trying in vain to stanch a deadly wound in 
his side, while he said reproachfully, " Agnes, dear Agnes, 
why would you not save me ? " and then she thought he 
kissed her hand with his cold dying lips ; and she shivered 
and awoke, to find that her hand was indeed held in that 
of the cavalier, whose eyes met her own when first she un 
closed them, and the same voice that spoke in her dream 
said, " Agnes, dear Agnes ! " 

For a moment she seemed stupefied and confounded, and 
sat passively regarding the knight, who kneeled at her feet 
and repeatedly kissed her hand, calling her his saint, his star, 
his life, and whatever other fair name poetry lends to love. 
All at once, however, her face flushed crimson red, she drew 
her hand quickly away, and, rising up, made a motion to 
retreat, saying, in a voice of alarm, 

" Oh, my Lord, this must not be ! I am committing deadly 
sin to hear you. Please, please go ! please leave a poor 
girl!" 



164 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Agnes, what does this mean ? " said the cavalier. " Only 
two days since, in this place, you promised to love me ; and 
that promise has brought me from utter despair to love of 
life. Nay, since you told me that, I have been able to pray 
once more ; the whole world seems changed for me : and 
now will you take it all away, you, who are all I have on 
earth?" 

" My Lord, I did not know then that I was sinning. Our 
dear Mother knows I said only what I thought was true and 
right, but I find it was a sin." 

" A sin to love, Agnes ? Heaven must be full of sin, then ; 
for there they do nothing else." 

" Oh, my Lord, I must not argue with you ; I am forbid 
den to listen even for a moment. Please go. I will never 
forget you, Sir, never forget to pray for you, and to love 
you as they love in heaven ; but I am forbidden to speak 
with you. I fear I have sinned in hearing and saying even 
this much." 

" Who forbids you, Agnes ? Who has the right to forbid 
your good, kind heart to love, where love is so deeply needed 
and so gratefully received ? " 

" My holy father, whom I am bound to obey as my soul's 
director," said Agnes ; " he has forbidden me so much as to 
listen to a word, and yet I have listened to many. How 
could I help it?" 

" Ever these priests ! " said the cavalier, his brow darken 
ing with an impatient frown ; " wolves in sheep's clothing ! " 

" Alas ! " said Agnes, sorrowfully, " why will you " 

" Why will I what ? " -he said, facing suddenly toward her, 
and looking down with a fierce, scornful determination. 

" Why will you be at war with the Holy Church ? Why 
will you peril your eternal salvation ? " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 165 

Is there a Holy Church ? Where is it ? Would there 
were one ! I am blind and cannot see it. Little Agnes, you 
promised to lead me ; but you drop my hand in the darkness. 
Who will guide me, if you will not ? " 

" My Lord, I am most unfit to be your guide. I am a 
poor girl, without any learning; but there is my uncle I 
spoke to you of. Oh, my Lord, if you only would go to 
him, he is wise and gentle both. I must go in now, my 
Lord, indeed, I must. I must not sin further. I must do 
a heavy penance for having listened and spoken to you, after 
the holy father had forbidden me." 

" No, Agnes, you shall not go in," said the cavalier, sud 
denly stepping before her and placing himself across the 
doorway ; " you shall see me, and hear me too. I take the 
sin on myself; you cannot help it. How will you avoid 
me ? Will you fly now down the path of the gorge ? I 
will follow you, I am desperate. I had but one comfort 
on earth, but one hope of heaven, and that through you ; 
and you, cruel, are so ready to give me up at the first word 
of your priest ! " 

" God knows if I do it willingly," said Agnes ; " but I 
know it is best ; for I feel I should love you too well, if I saw 
more of you. My Lord, you are strong and can compel me, 
but I beg you to leave me." 

" Dear Agnes, could you really feel it possible that you 
might love me too well ? " said the cavalier, his whole man 
ner changing. " Ah ! could I carry you far away to my 
home in the mountains, far up in the beautiful blue moun 
tains, where the air is so clear, and the weary, wrangling 
world lies so far below that one forgets it entirely, you 
should be my wife, my queen, my empress. You should 
lead me where you would; your word should be my law. 



166 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

I will go with you wherever you will, to confession, to 
sacrament, to prayers, never so often ; never will I rebel 
against your word ; if you decree, I will bend my neck to 
king or priest ; I will reconcile me with anybody or anything 
only for your sweet sake ; you shall lead me all my life ; 
and when we die, I ask only that you may lead me to our 
Mother's throne in heaven, and pray her to tolerate me for 
your sake. Come, now, dear, is not even one unworthy soul 
worth saving ? " 

" My Lord, you have taught me how wise my holy father 
was in forbidding me to listen to you. He knew better than 
I how weak was my heart, and how I might be drawn on 

from step to step till My Lord, I must be no man's 

wife. I follow the blessed Saint Agnes ? May God give 
me grace to keep my vows without wavering ! for then I 
shall gain power to intercede for you and bring down bless 
ings on your soul. Oh, never, never speak to me so again, 
my Lord ! you will make me very, very unhappy. If 
there is any truth in your words, my Lord, if you really 
love me, you will go, and you will never try to speak to me 
again." 

" Never, Agnes ? never ? Think what you are saying ! " 
" Oh, I do think ! I know it must be best," said Agnes, 
much agitated ; " for, if I should see you often and hear 
your voice, I should lose all my strength. I could never 
resist, and I should lose heaven for you and me too. Leave 
me, and I will never, never forget to pray for you ; and go 
quickly too, for it is time for my grandmother to come 
home, and she would be so angry, she would never believe 
I had not been doing wrong, and perhaps she would make 
me marry somebody that I do not wish to. She has threat 
ened that many times ; but I beg her to leave me free to go 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 167 

to my sweet home in the convent and my dear Mother 
Theresa." 

" They shall never marry you against your will, little 
Agnes, I pledge you my knightly word. I will protect you 
from that. Promise me, dear, that, if ever you be man's 
wife, you will be mine. Only promise me that, and I will 

go-" 

" Will you ? " said Agnes, in an ecstacy of fear and ap 
prehension, in which there mingled some strange troubled 
gleams of happiness. " Well, then, I will. Ah ! I hope it 
is no sin ! " 

" Believe me, dearest, it is not," said the knight. " Say it 
again, say, that I may hear it, say, ' If ever I am man's 
wife, I will be thine,' say it, and I will go." 

" Well, then, my Lord, if ever I am man's wife, I will be 
thine," said Agnes. " But I will be no man's wife. My 
heart and hand are promised elsewhere. Come, now, my 
Lord, your word must be kept." 

" Let me put this ring on your finger, lest you forget," 
said the cavalier. "It was my mother's ring, and never 
during her lifetime heard anything but prayers and hymns. 
It is saintly, and worthy of thee." 

" No, my Lord, I may not. Grandmother would inquire 
about it. I cannot keep it ; but fear not my forgetting : I 
shall never forget you." 

" Will you ever want to see me, Agnes ? " 

"I hope not, since it is not best. But you do not go." 

" Well, then, farewell, my little wife ! farewell, till I claim 
thee ! " said the cavalier, as he kissed her hand, and vaulted 
over the wall. 

" How strange that I cannot make him understand ! " said 
Agnes, when he was gone. " I must have sinned, I must 



1G8 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

have done wrong ; but I have been trying all the while to 
do right. Why would he stay so, and look at me so with 
those deep eyes ? I was very hard with him, very ! I 
trembled for him, I was so severe ; and yet it has not dis 
couraged him enough. How strange that he would call me 
so, after all, when I explained to him I never could marry ! 
Must I tell all this to Father Francesco ? How dread 
ful ! How he looked at me before ! How he trembled and 
turned away from me ! What will he think now ? Ah, me ! 
why must I tell him ? If I could only confess to my mother 
Theresa, that would be easier. We have a mother in 
heaven to hear us ; why should we not have a mother on 
earth ? Father Francesco frightens me so ! His eyes burn 
me ! They seem to burn into my soul, and he seems angry 
with me sometimes, and sometimes looks at me so strangely ! 
Dear, blessed Mother," she said, kneeling at the shrine, 
"help thy little child! I do not want to do wrong: I want 
to do right. Oh that I could come and live with thee ! " 

Poor Agnes ! a new experience had opened in her hereto 
fore tranquil life, and her day was one of conflict. Do what 
she would, the words that had been spoken to her in the 
morning would return to her mind, and sometimes she 
awoke with a shock of guilty surprise at finding she had 
been dreaming over what the cavalier said to her of living 
with him alone, in some clear, high, purple solitude of those 
beautiful mountains which she remembered as an enchanted 
dream of her childhood. Would he really always love her, 
then, always go with her to prayers and mass and sacrament, 
and be reconciled to the Church, and should she indeed have 
the joy of feeling that this noble soul was led back to heav 
enly peace through her ? Was not this better than a barren 
life of hymns and prayers in a cold convent ? Then the 



AGNES OF SOKRENTO. 169 

very voice that said these words, that voice of veiled strength 
and manly daring, that spoke with such a gentle pleading, 
and yet such an undertone of authority, as if he had a right 
to claim her for himself, she seemed to feel the tones of 
that voice in every nerve ; and then the strange thrilling 
pleasure of thinking that he loved her so. Why should he, 
this strange, beautiful knight ? Doubtless he had seen splen 
did high-born ladies, he had seen even queens and prin 
cesses, and what could he find to like in her, a poor little 
peasant ? Nobody ever thought so much of her before, and 
he was so unhappy without her ; it was strange he should 
be ; but he said so, and it must be true. After all, Father 
Francesco might be mistaken about his being wicked. On 
the whole, she felt sure he was mistaken, at least in part. 
Uncle Antonio did not seem to be so much shocked at what 
she told him ; he knew the temptations of men better, per 
haps, because he did not stay shut up in one convent, but 
travelled all about, preaching and teaching. If only he 
could see him, and talk with him, and make him a good 
Christian, why, then, there would be no further need of 
her ; and Agnes was surprised to find what a dreadful, 
dreary blank appeared before her when she thought of this. 
Why should she wish him to remember her, since she never 
could be his ? and yet nothing seemed so dreadful as that 
he should forget her. So the poor little innocent fly beat 
and fluttered in the mazes of that enchanted web, where 
thousands of her frail sex have beat and fluttered before. 

8 



170 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE MONK AND THE CAVALIER. 

FATHER ANTONIO had been down through the streets of 
the old town of Sorrento, searching for the young stone-cut 
ter, and, finding him, had spent some time in enlightening 
him as to the details of the work he wished him to execute. 

He found him not so easily kindled into devotional fervors 
as he had fondly imagined, nor could all his most devout ex 
hortations produce one quarter of the effect upon him that 
resulted from the discovery that it was the fair Agnes who 
originated the design and was interested in its execution. 
Then did the large black eyes of the youth kindle into some 
thing of sympathetic fervor, and he willingly promised to do 
his very best at the carving. 

" I used to know the fair Agnes well, years ago," he said, 
" but of late she will not even look at ine ; yet I worship her 
none the less. Who can help it that sees her ? I don't think 
she is so hard-hearted as she seems ; but her grandmother 
and the priests won't so much as allow her to lift up her eyes 
when one of us young fellows goes by. Twice these five 
years past have I seen her eyes, and then it was when I con 
trived to get near the holy water when there was a press 
round it of a saint's day, and I reached some to her on my 
finger, and then she smiled upon me and thanked me. 
Those two smiles are all I have had to live on for all this 
time. Perhaps, if I work very well, she will give me 
another, and perhaps she will say, 'Thank you, my good 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 171 

Pietro ! ' as she used to, when I brought her birds' eggs or 
helped her across the ravine, years ago." 

" Well, ray brave boy, do your best," said the monk, " and 
let the shrine be of the fairest white marble. I will be an 
swerable for the expense ; I will beg it of those who have 
substance." 

" So please you, holy father," said Pietro, " I know of a 
spot, a little below here on the coast, where was a heathen 
temple in the old days; and one can dig therefrom long 
pieces of fair white marble, all covered with heathen images. 
I know not whether your Reverence would think them fit for 
Christian purposes." 

" So much the better, boy ! so much the better ! " said the 
monk, heartily. "Only let the marble be fine and white, 
and it is as good as converting a heathen any time to baptize 
it to Christian uses. A few strikes of the chisel will soon 
demolish their naked nymphs and other such rubbish, and 
we can carve holy virgins, robed from head to foot in all 
modesty, as becometh saints." 

" I will get my boat and go down this very afternoon," 
said Pietro ; " and, Sir, I hope I am not making too bold in 
asking you, when you see the fair Agnes, to present unto her 
this lily, in memorial of her old playfellow." 

" That I will, my boy ! And now I think of it, she spoke 
kindly of you as one that had been a companion in her 
childhood, but said her grandmother would not allow her to 
speak to you now." 

" Ah, that is it ! " said Pietro. " Old Elsie is a fierce old 
kite, with strong beak and long claws, and will not let the 
poor girl have any good of her youth. Some say she means 
to marry her to some rich old man, and some say she will 
shut her up in a convent, which I should say was a sore hurt 



172 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

and loss to the world. There are a plenty of women, whom 
nobody wants to look at, for that sort of work ; and a beauti 
ful face is a kind of psalm which makes one want to be 
good." 

" Well, well, my boy, work well and faithfully for the 
saints on this shrine, and I dare promise you many a smile 
from this fair maiden ; for her heart is set upon the glory 
of God and his saints, and she will smile on any one who 
helps on the good work. I shall look in on you daily for a 
time, till I see the work well started." 

So saying, the old monk took his leave. Just as he was 
passing out of the house, some one brushed rapidly by him, 
going down the street. As he passed, the quick eye of the 
monk recognized the cavalier whom he had seen in the 
garden but a few evenings before. It was not a face and 
form easily forgotten, and the monk followed him at a little 
distance behind, resolving, if he saw him turn in anywhere, 
to follow and crave an audience of him. 

Accordingly, as he saw the cavalier entering under the low 
arch that led to his hotel, he stepped up and addressed him 
with a gesture of benediction. 

" God bless you, my son ! " 

" What would you with me, father ? " said the cavalier, 
with a hasty and somewhat suspicious glance. 

" I would that you would give me an audience of a few 
moments on some matters of importance," said the monk, 
mildly. 

The tones of his voice seemed to have excited some vague 
remembrance in the mind of the cavalier ; for he eyed him 
narrowly, and seemed trying to recollect where he had seen 
him before. Suddenly a light appeared to flash upon his 
mind ; for his whole manner became at once more cordial. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 173 

" My good father," he said, " my poor lodging and leisure 
are at your service for any communication you may see fit 
to make." 

So saying, he led the way up the damp, ill-smelling stone 
staircase, and opened the door of the deserted room where 
we have seen him once before. Closing the door, and seating 
himself at the one rickety table which the room afforded, he 
motioned to the monk to be seated also ; then taking off his 
plumed hat, he threw it negligently on the table beside him, 
and passing his white, finely formed hand through the black 
curls of his hair, he tossed them carelessly from his forehead, 
and, leaning his chin in the hollow of his hand, fixed his 
glittering eyes on the monk in a manner that seemed to 
demand his errand. 

" My Lord," said the monk, in those gentle, conciliating 
tones which were natural to him, " I would ask a little help 
of you in regard of a Christian undertaking which I have 
here in hand. The dear Lord hath put it into the heart of 
a pious young maid of this vicinity to erect a shrine to the 
honor of our Lady and her dear Son in this gorge of Sor 
rento, hard by. It is a gloomy place in the night, and hath 
been said to be haunted by evil spirits ; and my fair niece, 
who is full of all holy thoughts, desired me to draw the 
plan for this shrine, and, so far as my poor skill may go, 
I have done so. See here, my Lord, are the draw 
ings." 

The monk laid them down on the table, his pale cheek 
flushing with a faint glow of artistic enthusiasm and pride, 
as he explained to the young man the plan and drawings. 

The cavalier listened courteously, but without much ap 
parent interest, till the monk drew from his portfolio a paper 
and said, 



174 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" This, my Lord, is my poor and feeble conception of the 
most sacred form of our Lady, which I am to paint for the 
centre of the shrine." 

He laid down the paper, and the cavalier, with a sudden 
exclamation, snatched it up, looking at it eagerly. 

" It is she ! " he said ; " it is her very self ! the divine 
Agnes, the lily flower, the sweet star, the only one 
among women ! " 

" I see you have recognized the likeness," said the monk, 
blushing. " I know it hath been thought a practice of 
doubtful edification to represent holy things under the image 
of aught earthly ; but when any mortal seems especially 
gifted with a heavenly spirit outshining in the face, it may 
be that our Lady chooses that person to reveal herself in." 

The cavalier was gazing so intently on the picture that 
he scarcely heard the apology of the monk ; he held it 
up, and seemed to study it with a long admiring gaze. 

" You have great skill with your pencil, my father," he 
said ; " one would not look for such things from under a 
monk's hood." 

" I belong to the San Marco in Florence, of which you 
may have heard," said Father Antonio, " and am an un 
worthy disciple of the traditions of the blessed Angelico, 
whose visions of heavenly things are ever before us ; and 
no less am I a disciple of the renowned Savonarola, of 
whose fame all Italy hath heard before now." 

" Savonarola ? " said the other, with eagerness, " he that 
makes these vile miscreants that call themselves Pope and 
cardinals tremble ? All Italy, all Christendom, is groaning 
and stretching out the hand to him to free them from these 
abominations. My father, tell me of Savonarola : how goes 
he, and what success hath he ? " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 175 

" My son, it is now many months since I left Florence ; 
since which time I have been sojourning in by-places, re 
pairing shrines and teaching the poor of the Lord's flock, 
who are scattered and neglected by the idle shepherds, who 
think only to eat the flesh and warm themselves with the 
fleece of the sheep for whom the Good Shepherd gave his 
life. My duties have been humble and quiet ; for it is not 
given to me to wield the sword of rebuke and controversy, 
like my great master." 

" And you have not heard, then," said the cavalier, eager 
ly, " that they have excommunicated him ? " 

" I knew that was threatened," said the monk, " but I did 
not think it possible that it could befall a man of such shin 
ing holiness of life, so signally and openly owned of God 
that the very gifts of the first Apostles seem revived in 
him." 

" Does not Satan always hate the Lord," said the cavalier. 
" Alexander and his councils are possessed of the Devil, if 
ever men were, and are sealed as his children by every 
abominable wickedness. The Devil sits in Christ's seat, and 
hath stolen his signet-ring, to seal decrees against the Lord's 
own followers. What are Christian men to do in such 
case ? " 

The monk sighed and looked troubled. 

" It is hard to say," he answered. " So much I know, 
that before I left Florence our master wrote to the King of 
France touching the dreadful state of things at Rome, and 
tried to stir him up to call a general council of the Church. 
I much fear me this letter may have fallen into the hands 
of the Pope." 

" I tell you, father," said the young man, starting up and 
laying his hand on his sword, " we must fight ! It is the 



176 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

sword that must decide this matter! Was not the Holy 
Sepulchre saved from the Infidels by the sword ? and 
once more the sword must save the Holy City from worse 
infidels than the Turks. If such doings as these are allowed 
in the Holy City, another generation there will be no Chris 
tians left on earth. Alexander and Caesar Borgia and the 
Lady Lucrezia are enough to drive religion from the world. 
They make us long to go back to the traditions of our Ro 
man fathers, who were men of cleanly and honorable 
lives and of heroic deeds, scorning bribery and deceit. 
They honored God by noble lives, little as they knew of 
Him. But these men are a shame to the mothers that 
bore them." 

" You speak too truly, my son," said the monk. " Alas ! 
the creation groaneth and travaileth in pain with these 
things. Many a time and oft have I seen our master 
groaning and wrestling with God on this account. For it 
is to small purpose that we have gone through Italy preach 
ing and stirring up the people to more holy lives, when from 
the very hill of Zion, the height of the sanctuary, come 
down these streams of pollution. It seems as if the time 
had come that the world could bear it no longer." 

" Well, if it come to the trial of the sword, as come it 
must," said the cavalier, " say to your master that Agostino 
Sarelli has a band of one hundred tried men and an impreg 
nable fastness in the mountains, where he may take refuge, 
and where they will gladly hear the Word of God from 
pure lips. They call us robbers, us who have gone out 
from the assembly of robbers, that we might lead honest and 
cleanly lives. There is not one among us that hath not lost 
houses, lands, brothers, parents, children, or friends through 
their treacherous cruelty. There be those whose wives and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 177 

sisters have been forced into the Borgia harem ; there be 
those whose children have been tortured before their eyes, 
those who have seen the fairest and dearest slaughtered 
by these hell-hounds, who yet sit in the seat of the Lord and 
give decrees in the name of Christ. Is there a God ? If 
there be, why is He silent ? " 

" Yea, my son, there is a God," said the monk ; " but 
His ways are not as ours. A thousand years in His sight 
are but as yesterday, as a watch in the night. He shall 
come, and shall not keep silence." 

" Perhaps you do not know, father," said the young man, 
" that I, too, am excommunicated. I am excommunicated, 
because, Caesar Borgia having killed my oldest brother, and 
dishonored and slain my sister, and seized on all our pos 
sessions, and the Pope having protected and confirmed him 
therein, I declare the Pope to be not of God, but of the 
Devil. I will not submit to him, nor be ruled by him ; and 
I and my fellows will make good our mountains against 
him and his crew with such right arms as the good Lord 
hath given us." 

" The Lord be with you, my son ! " said the monk ; " and 
the Lord bring His Church out of these deep waters ! 
Surely, it is a lovely and beautiful Church, made dear and 
precious by innumerable saints and martyrs who have given 
their sweet lives up willingly for it ; and it is full of records 
of righteousness, of prayers and alms and works of mercy 
that have made even the very dust of our Italy precious and 
holy. Why hast Thou abandoned this vine of Thy plant 
ing, Lord ? The boar out of the wood doth waste it ; 
the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we be 
seech Thee, and visit this vine of Thy planting ! " 

The monk clasped his hands and looked upward plead- 
8* 



178 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ingly, the tears running down his wasted cheeks. Ah, many 
such strivings and prayers in those days went up from silent 
hearts in obscure solitudes, that wrestled and groaned under 
that mighty burden which Luther at last received strength 
to heave from the heart of the Church. 

" Then, father, you do admit that one may be banned by 
the Pope, and may utterly refuse and disown him, and yet 
be a Christian?" 

" How can I otherwise ? " said the monk. " Do I not see 
the greatest saint this age or any age has ever seen under 
the excommunication of the greatest sinner ? Only, my son, 
let me warn you. Become not irreverent to the true Church, 
because of a false usurper. Reverence the sacraments, the 
hymns, the prayers all the more for this sad condition in 
which you stand. What teacher is more faithful in these 
respects than my master? Who hath more zeal for our 
blessed Lord Jesus, and a more living faith in Him ? Who 
hath a more filial love and tenderness towards our blessed 
Mother ? Who hath more reverent communion with all the 
saints than he ? Truly, he sometimes seems to me to walk 
encompassed by all the armies of heaven, such a power 
goes forth in his words, and such a holiness in his life." 

" Ah," said Agostino, " would I had such a confessor ! 
The sacraments might once more have power for me, and I 
might cleanse my soul from unbelief." 

" Dear son," said the monk, " accept a most unworthy, but 
sincere follower of this holy prophet, who yearns for thy 
salvation. Let me have the happiness of granting to thee 
the sacraments of the Church, which, doubtless, are thine 
by right as one of the flock of the Lord Jesus. Come to me 
some day this week in confession, and thereafter thou shalt 
receive the Lord within thee, and be once more united to 
Him." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 179 

" My good father," said the young man, grasping his hand, 
and much affected, " I will come. Your words have done 
me good ; but I must think more of them. I will come 
soon ; but these things cannot be done without pondering ; it 
will take some time to bring my heart into charity with all 
men." 

The monk rose up to depart, and began to gather up his 
drawings. 

" For this matter, father," said the cavalier, throwing sev 
eral gold pieces upon the table, " take these, and as many 
more as you need ask for your good work. I would will 
ingly pay any sum," he added, while a faint blush rose to his 
cheek, " if you would give me a copy of this. Gold would 
be nothing in comparison with it." 

" My son," said the monk, smiling, " would it be to thee 
an image of an earthly or a heavenly love?" 

" Of both, father," said the young man. " For that dear 
face has been more to me than prayer or hymn ; it has beer 
even as a sacrament to me, and through it I know not what 
of holy and heavenly influences have come to me." 

" Said I not well," said the monk, exulting, " that there 
were those on whom our Mother shed such grace that their 
very beauty led heavenward ? Such are they whom the 
artist looks for, when he would adorn a shrine where the 
faithful shall worship. Well, my son, I must use my poor 
art for you ; and as for gold, we of our convent take it not 
except for the adorning of holy things, such as this shrine." 

" How soon shall it be done ? " said the young man, 
eagerly. 

" Patience, patience, my Lord ! Rome was not built in a 
day, and our art must work by slow touches ; but I will do 
my best. But wherefore, my Lord, cherish this image?" 



180 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Father, are you of near kin to this maid ? " 

" I am her mother's only brother." 

" Then I say to you, as the nearest of her male kin, that I 
seek this maid in pure and honorable marriage ; and she 
hath given me her promise, that, if ever she be wife of mor 
tal man, she will be mine." 

" But she looks not to be wife of any man," said the 
monk ; " so, at least, I have heard her say ; though her 
grandmother would fain marry her to a husband of her 
choosing. 'T is a wilful woman, is my sister Elsie, and a 
worldly, not easy to persuade, and impossible to drive." 

" And she hath chosen for this fair angel some base peas 
ant churl who will have no sense of her exceeding loveli 
ness ? By the saints, if it come to this, I will carry her 
away with the strong arm ! " 

" That is not to be apprehended just at present. Sister 
Elsie is dotingly fond of the girl, which hath slept in her 
bosom since infancy." 

" And why should I not demand her in marriage of your 
sister ? " said the young man. 

" My Lord, you are an excommunicated man, and she 
would have horror of you. It is impossible ; it would not 
be to edification to make the common people judges in such 
matters. It is safest to let their faith rest undisturbed, and 
that they be not taught to despise ecclesiastical censures. 
This could not be explained to Elsie ; she would drive you 
from her doors with her distaff, and you would scarce wish 
to put your sword against it. Besides, my Lord, if you were 
not excommunicated, you are of noble blood, and this alone 
would be a fatal objection with my sister, who hath sworn 
on the holy cross that Agnes shall never love one of your 
race." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 181 

" What is the cause of this hatred ? " 

" Some foul wrong which a noble did her mother," said 
the monk ; " for Agnes is of gentle blood on her father's 
side." 

"I might have known it," said the cavalier to himself; 
" her words and ways are unlike anything in her class. 
Father," he added, touching his sword, "we soldiers are 
fond of cutting all Gordian knots, whether of love or relig 
ion, with this. The sword, father, is the best theologian, the 
best casuist. * The sword rights wrongs and punishes evil 
doers, and some day the sword may cut the way out of this 
embarrass also." 

" Gently, my son ! gently ! " said the monk ; " nothing is 
lost by patience. See how long it takes the good Lord to 
make a fair flower out of a little seed ; and He does all 
quietly, without bluster. Wait on Him a little in peaceful- 
ness and prayer, and see what He will do for thee." 

" Perhaps you are right, my father," said the cavalier, 
cordially. " Your counsels have done me good, and I shall 
seek them further. But do not let them terrify my poor 
Agnes with dreadful stories of the excommunication that 
hath befallen me. The dear saint is breaking her good little 
heart for my sins, and her confessor evidently hath forbidden 
her to speak to me or look at me. If her heart were left to 
itself, it would fly to me like a little tame bird, and I would 
cherish it forever ; but now she sees sin in every innocent, 
womanly thought, poor little dear child-angel that she 
is!" 

"Her confessor is a Franciscan," said the monk, who, 
good as he was, could not escape entirely from the ruling 
prejudice of his order, " and, from what I know of him, I 
should think might be unskilful in what pertaineth to the 



182 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

nursing of so delicate a lamb. It is not every one to whom 
is given the gift of rightly directing souls." 

" I 'd like to carry her off from him ! " said the cavalier, 
between his teeth. " I will, too, if he is not careful ! " 
Then he added aloud, " Father, Agnes is mine, mine by 
the right of the truest worship and devotion that man could 
ever pay to woman, mine because she loves me. For I 
know she loves me ; I know it far better than she knows it 
herself, the dear innocent child ! and I will not have her 
torn from me to waste her life in a lonely, barren convent, 
or to be the wife of a stolid peasant. I am a man of my 
word, and I will vindicate my right to her in the face of God 
and man." 

" "Well, well, my son, as I said before, patience, one 
thing at a time. Let us say our prayers and sleep to-night, 
to begin with, and to-morrow will bring us fresh counsel." 

" Well, my father, you will be for me in this matter ? " 
said the young man. 

" My son, I wish you all happiness ; and if this be for 
your best good and that of my dear niece, I wish it. But, 
as I said, there must be time and patience. The way must 
be made clear. I will see how the case stands ; and you 
may be sure, when I can in good conscience, I will befriend 
you." 

" Thank you, my father, thank you ! " said the young 
man, bending his knee to receive the monk's parting bene 
diction. 

" It seems to me not best," said the monk, turning once 
more, as he was leaving the threshold, "that you should 
come to me at present where I am, it would only raise a 
storm that I could not allay ; and so great would be the 
power of the forces they might bring to bear on the child, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 183 

that her little heart might break and the saints claim her too 
soon." 

"Well, then, father, come hither to me to-morrow at this 
same hour, if I be not too unworthy of your pastoral care." 

" I shall be too happy, my son," said the monk. " So 
be it." 

And he turned from the door just as the bell of the cathe 
dral struck the Ave Maria, and all in the street bowed in 
the evening act of worship. 



184 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE MONK'S STRUGGLE. 

THE golden sunshine of the spring morning was deadened 
to a sombre tone in the shadowy courts of the Capuchin 
convent. The reddish brown of the walls was flecked with 
gold and orange spots of lichen; and here and there, in 
crevices, tufts of grass, or even a little bunch of gold-bloom 
ing flowers, looked hardily forth into the shadowy air. A 
covered walk, with stone arches, enclosed a square filled 
with dusky shrubbery. There were tall funereal cypresses, 
whose immense height and scraggy profusion of decaying 
branches showed their extreme old age. There were gaunt, 
gnarled olives, with trunks twisted in immense serpent folds, 
and bows wreathed and knotted into wild, unnatural con 
tractions, as if their growth had been a series of spasmodic 
convulsions, instead of a calm and gentle development of 
Nature. There were overgrown clumps of aloes, with the 
bare skeletons of former flower-stalks standing erect among 
their dusky horns or lying rotting on the ground beside them. 
The place had evidently been intended for the culture of 
shrubbery and flowers, but the growth of the trees had long 
since so intercepted the sunlight and fresh air that not even 
grass could find root beneath their branches. The ground 
was covered with a damp green mould, strewn here and 
there with dead boughs, or patched with tufts of fern and 
lycopodium, throwing out their green hairy roots into the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 185 

moist soil. A few half-dead roses and jasmines, remnants 
of former days of flowers, still maintained a struggling ex 
istence, but looked wan and discouraged in the effort, and 
seemed to stretch and pine vaguely for a freer air. In fact, 
the whole garden might be looked upon as a sort of symbol 
of the life by which it was surrounded, a life stagnant, 
unnatural, and unhealthy, cut off from all those thousand 
stimulants to wholesome development which are afforded by 
the open plain of human existence, where strong natures 
grow distorted in unnatural efforts, though weaker ones find 
in its lowly shadows a congenial refuge. 

We have given the brighter side of conventual life in the 
days we are describing : we have shown it as often a needed 
shelter of woman's helplessness during ages of political un 
certainty and revolution ; we have shown it as the congenial 
retreat where the artist, the poet, the student, and the man 
devoted to ideas found leisure undisturbed to develop them 
selves under the consecrating protection of religion. The 
picture would be unjust to truth, did we not recognize, what, 
from our knowledge of human nature, we must expect, a 
conventual life of far less elevated and refined order. We 
should expect that institutions which guarantied to each in 
dividual a livelihood, without the necessity of physical labor 
or the responsibility of supporting a family, might in time 
come to be incumbered with many votaries in whom indo 
lence and improvidence were the only impelling motives. 
In all ages of the world the unspiritual are the majority, 
the spiritual the exceptions. It was to the multitude that 
Jesus said, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, 
but because ye did eat and were filled," and the multitude 
has been much of the same mind from that day to this. 

The convent of which we speak had been for some years 



186 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

under the lenient rule of the jolly Brother Girolamo, an 
easy, wide-spread, loosely organized body, whose views of 
the purpose of human existence were decidedly Anacreontic. 
Fasts he abominated, night-prayers he found unfavorable 
to his constitution ; but he was a judge of olives and good 
wine, and often threw out valuable hints in his pastoral 
visits on the cooking of maccaroni, for which he had himself 
elaborated a savory recipe ; and the cellar and larder of the 
convent, during his pastorate, presented so many urgent 
solicitations to conventual repose, as to threaten an incon 
venient increase in the number of brothers. The monks in 
his time lounged in all the sunny places of the convent like 
so many loose sacks of meal, enjoying to the full the dolce 
far niente which seems to be the universal rule of Southern 
climates. They ate and drank and slept and snored ; they 
made pastoral visits through the surrounding community 
which were far from edifying; they gambled, and tippled, 
and sang most unspiritual songs ; and keeping all the while 
their own private pass-key to Paradise tucked under their 
girdles, were about as jolly a set of sailors to Eternity as 
the world had to show. In fact, the climate of Southern 
Italy and its gorgeous scenery are more favorable to volup 
tuous ecstasy than to the severe and grave warfare of the 
true Christian soldier. The sunny plains of Capua demor 
alized the soldiers of Hannibal, and it was not without a 
reason that ancient poets made those lovely regions the 
abode of Sirens whose song maddened by its sweetness, and 
of a Circe who made men drunk with her sensual fascina 
tions, till they became sunk to the form of brutes. Here, 
if anywhere, is the lotos-eater's paradise, the purple skies, 
the enchanted shores, the soothing gales, the dreamy mists, 
which all conspire to melt the energy of the will, and to 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 187 

make existence either a half doze of dreamy apathy or an 
awaking of mad delirium. 

It was not from dreamy, voluptuous Southern Italy that 
the religious progress of the Italian race received any vigor 
ous impulses. These came from more northern and more 
mountainous regions, from the severe, clear heights of Flor 
ence, Perugia, and Assisi, where the intellectual and the 
moral both had somewhat of the old Etruscan earnestness 
and gloom. 

One may easily imagine the stupid alarm and helpless 
confusion of these easy-going monks, when their new Supe 
rior came down among them hissing with a white heat from 
the very hottest furnace-fires of a new religious experience, 
burning and quivering with the terrors of the world to come, 
pale, thin, eager, tremulous, and yet with all the martial 
vigor of the former warrior, and all the habits of command 
of a former princely station. His reforms gave no quarter to 
right or left ; sleepy monks were dragged out to midnight- 
prayers, and their devotions enlivened with vivid pictures of 
hell-fire and ingenuities of eternal torment enough to stir the 
blood of the most torpid. There was to be no more gor 
mandizing, no more wine-bibbing ; the choice old wines were 
placed under lock and key for the use of the sick and poor 
in the vicinity ; and every fast of the Church, and every 
obsolete rule of the order, were revived with unsparing 
rigor. It is true, they hated their new Superior with all 
the energy which laziness and good-living had left them, but 
they every soul of them shook in their sandals before him ; 
for there is a true and established order of mastery among 
human beings, and when a man of enkindled energy and 
intense will comes among a flock of irresolute commonplace 
individuals, he subjects them to himself by a sort of moral 



188 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

paralysis similar to what a great, vigorous gymnotus distrib 
utes among a fry of inferior fishes. The bolder ones, who 
made motions of rebellion, were so energetically swooped 
upon, and consigned to the discipline of dungeon and hread- 
and-water, that less courageous natures made a merit of 
siding with the more powerful party, mentally resolving to 
carry by fraud the points which they despaired of accom 
plishing by force. 

On the morning we speak of, two monks might have 
been seen lounging on a stone bench by one of the arches, 
looking listlessly into the sombre garden-patch we have 
described. The first of these, Father Anselmo, was a cor 
pulent fellow, with an easy swing of gait, heavy animal 
features, and an eye of shrewd and stealthy cunning: the 
whole air of the man expressed the cautious, careful volup 
tuary. The other, Father Johannes, was thin, wiry, and 
elastic, with hands like birds' claws, and an eye that re 
minded one of the crafty cunning of a serpent. His smile 
was a curious blending of shrewdness and malignity. He 
regarded his companion from time to time obliquely from 
the corners of his eyes, to see what impression his words 
were making, and had a habit of jerking himself up in the 
middle of a sentence and looking warily round to see if any 
one were listening, which indicated habitual distrust. 

" Our holy Superior is out a good while this morning," he 
said, at length. 

The observation was made in the smoothest and most 
silken tones, but they carried with them such a singular 
suggestion of doubt and inquiry that they seemed like an 
accusation. 

" Ah ? " replied the other, perceiving evidently some in 
tended undertone of suspicion lurking in the words, but 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 189 

apparently resolved not to commit himself to his com 
panion. 

" Yes," said the first ; " the zeal of the house of the Lord 
consumes him, the blessed man ! " 

" Blessed man ! " echoed the second, rolling up his eyes, 
and giving a deep sigh, which shook his portly proportions 
so that they quivered like jelly. 

" If he goes on in this way much longer," continued Father 
Johannes, " there will soon be very little mortal left of him ; 
the saints will claim him." 

Father Anselmo gave something resembling a pious groan, 
but darted meanwhile a shrewd observant glance at the 
speaker. 

" What would become of the convent, were he gone ? " 
said Father Johannes. " All these blessed reforms which he 
has brought about would fall back ; for our nature is fear 
fully corrupt, and ever tends to wallow in the mire of sin 
and pollution. What changes hath he wrought in us all ! 
To be sure, the means were sometimes severe. I remem 
ber, brother, when he had you under ground for more than 
ten days. My heart was pained for you ; but I suppose 
you know that it was necessary, in order to bring you to that 
eminent state of sanctity where you now stand." 

The heavy, sensual features of Father Anselmo flushed 
up with some emotion, whether of anger or of fear it was 
hard to tell ; but he gave one hasty glance at his companion, 
which, if a glance could kill, would have struck him dead, 
and then there fell over his countenance, like a veil, an ex 
pression of sanctimonious humility, as he replied, 

" Thank you for your sympathy, dearest brother. I re 
member, too, how I felt for you that week when you were 
fed only on bread and water, and had to take it on your 



190 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

knees off the floor, while the rest of us sat at table. How- 
blessed it must be to have one's pride brought down in that 
way ! When our dear, blessed Superior first came, brother, 
you were as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, but now 
what a blessed change ! It must give you so much peace ! 
How you must love him ! " 

" I think we love him about equally," said Father Johan 
nes, his dark, thin features expressing the concentration of 
malignity. " His labors have been blessed among us. Not 
often does a faithful shepherd meet so loving a flock. I 
have been told that the great Peter Abelard found far 
less gratitude. They tried to poison him in the most holy 
wine." 

" How absurd ! ". interrupted Father Anselmo, hastily ; 
" as if the blood of the Lord, as if our Lord himself could 
be made poison ! " 

" Brother, it is a fact," insisted the former, in tones silvery 
with humility and sweetness. 

" A fact that the most holy blood can be poisoned ? " re 
plied the other, with horror evidently genuine. 

" I grieve to say, brother," said Father Johannes, " that 
in my profane and worldly days I tried that experiment on a 
dog, and the poor brute died in five minutes. Ah, brother,'* 
he added, observing that liis obese companion was now 
thoroughly roused, " you see before you the chief of sinners ! 
Judas was nothing to me ; and yet, such are the triumphs of 
grace, I am an unworthy member of this most blessed and 
pious brotherhood ; but I do penance daily in sackcloth and 
ashes for my offence." 

u But, Brother Johannes, was it really so ? did it real 
ly happen?" inquired Father Anselmo, looking puzzled. 
" Where, then, is our faith ? " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 191 

" Doth our faith rest on human reason, or on the evidence 
of our senses, Brother Anselmo? I bless God that I have 
arrived at that state where I can adoringly say, ' I believe, 
because it is impossible.' Yea, brother, I know it to be a 
fact that the ungodly have sometimes destroyed holy men, 
like our Superior, who could not be induced to taste wine 
for any worldly purpose, by drugging the blessed cup ; so 
dreadful are the ragings of Satan in our corrupt nature ! " 

" I can't see into that," said Father Anselmo, still looking 
confused. 

" Brother," answered Father Johannes, " permit an un 
worthy sinner to remind you that you must not try to see 
into anything ; all that is wanted of you in our most holy 
religion is to shut your eyes and believe ; all things are 
possible to the eye of faith. Now, humanly speaking," he 
added, with a peculiarly meaning look, " who would believe 
that you kept all the fasts of our order, and all the extraor 
dinary ones which it hath pleased our blessed Superior to 
lay upon us, as you surely do ? A worldling might swear, 
to look at you, that such flesh and color must come in some 
way from good meat and good wine ; but we remember how 
the three children throve on the pulse and rejected the meat 
from the king's table." 

The countenance of Father Anselmo expressed both anger 
and alarm at this home-thrust, and the changes did not es 
cape the keen eye of Father Johannes, who went on. 

" I directed the eyes of our holy father upon you as a 
striking example of the benefits of abstemious living, show 
ing that the days of miracles are not yet past in the Church, 
as some sceptics would have us believe. He seemed to study 
you attentively. I have no doubt he will honor you with 
some more particular inquiries, the blessed saint!" 



192 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Father Anselmo turned uneasily on his seat and stealthily 
eyed his companion, to see, if possible, how much real knowl 
edge was expressed by his words, and then answered on 
quite another topic. 

" How this garden has fallen to decay ! We miss old 
Father Angelo sorely, who was always trimming and cleans 
ing it. Our Superior is too heavenly-minded to have much 
thought for earthly things, and so it goes." 

Father Johannes watched this attempt at diversion with a 
glitter of stealthy malice, and, seeming to be absorbed in 
contemplation, broke out again exactly where he had left off 
on the unwelcome subject. 

" I mind me now, Brother Anselmo, that, when you came 
out of your cell to prayers, the other night, your utterance 
was thick, and your eyes heavy and watery, and your gait un 
certain. One would swear that you had been drunken with 
new wine ; but we knew it was all the effect of fasting and 
devout contemplation, which inebriates the soul with holy 
raptures, as happened to the blessed Apostles on the day of 
Pentecost. I remarked the same to our holy father, and he 
seemed to give it earnest heed, for I saw him watching you 
through all the services. How blessed is such watchful 
ness ! " 

" The Devil take him ! " said Father Anselmo, suddenly 
thrown off his guard ; but checking himself, he added, con 
fusedly, "I mean " 

" I understand you, brother," said Father Johannes ; " it 
is a motion of the old nature not yet entirely subdued. A 
little more of the discipline of the lower vaults, which you 
have found so precious, will set all that right." 

" You would not inform against me ? " said Father An 
selmo, with an expression of alarm. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 193 

" It would be my duty, I suppose," said Father Johannes, 
with a sigh ; " but, sinner that I am, I never could bring 
my mind to such proceedings with the vigor of our blessed 
father. Had I been Superior of the convent, as was talked 
of, how differently might things have proceeded ! I should 
have erred by a sinful laxness. How fortunate that it was 
he, instead of such a miserable sinner as myself! " 

"Well, tell me, then, Father Johannes, for your eyes 
are shrewd as a lynx's, is our good Superior so perfect as 
he seems ? or does he have his little private comforts some 
times, like the rest of us ? Nobody, you know, can stand it 
to be always on the top round of the ladder to Paradise. 
For my part, between you and me, I never believed all that 
story they read to us so often about Saint Simeon Stylites, 
who passed so many years on the top of a pillar and never 
came down. Trust me, the old boy found his way down 
sometimes, when all the world was asleep, and got somebody 
to do duty for him meantime, while he took a little some 
thing comfortable. Is it not so ? " 

" I am told to believe, and I do believe," said Father Jo 
hannes, casting down his eyes, piously ; " and, dear brother, 
it ill befits a sinner like me to reprove ; but it seemeth to 
me as if you make too much use of the eyes of carnal in 
quiry. Touching the life of our holy father, I cannot believe 
the most scrupulous watch can detect anything in his walk 
or conversation other than appears in his profession. His 
food is next to nothing, a little chopped spinach or some 
bitter herb cooked without salt for ordinary days, and on 
fast days he mingles this with ashes, according to a saintly 
rule. As for sleep, I believe he does without it ; for at no 
time of the night, when I luive knocked at the door of his 
cell, have I found him sleeping. He is always at his prayers 
9 



194 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

or breviary. His cell hath only a rough, hard board for a 
bed, with a log of rough wood for a pillow ; yet he com 
plains of that as tempting to indolence." 

Father Anselmo shrugged his fat shoulders, ruefully. 

" It 's all well enough," he said, " for those that want to 
take this hard road to Paradise ; but why need they drive 
the flock up with them?" 

" True enough, Brother Anselmo," said Father Johannes ; 
"but the flock will rejoice in it in the end, doubtless. I 
understand he is purposing to draw yet stricter the reins of 
discipline. We ought to be thankful." 

" Thankful ? We can't wink but six times a week now," 
said Father Anselmo ; " and by and by he won't let us wink 
at all." 

" Hist ! hush ! here he comes," said Father Johannes. 
" What ails him ? he looks wild, like a man distraught." 

In a moment more, in fact, Father Francesco strode hastily 
through the corridor, with his deep-set eyes dilated and glit 
tering, and a vivid hectic flush on his hollow cheeks. He 
paid no regard to the salutation of the obsequious monks ; in 
fact, he seemed scarcely to see them, but hurried in a disor 
dered manner through the passages and gained the room 
of his cell, which he shut and locked with a violent clang. 

" What has come over him now ? " said Father Anselmo. 

Father Johannes stealthily followed some distance, and 
then stood with his lean neck outstretched and his head 
turned in the direction where the Superior had disappeared. 
The whole attitude of the man, with his acute glittering eye, 
might remind one of a serpent making an observation before 
darting after his prey. 

"Something is working him," he said to himself; "what 
may it be?" 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 195 

Meanwhile that heavy oaken door had closed on a narrow 
cell, bare of everything which could be supposed to be a 
matter of convenience in the abode of a human being. A 
table of the rudest and most primitive construction was gar 
nished with a skull, whose empty eye-holes and grinning 
teeth were the most conspicuous objects in the room. Be 
hind this stood a large crucifix, manifestly the work of no 
common master, and bearing evident traces in its workman 
ship of Florentine art : it was, perhaps, one of the relics of 
the former wealth of the nobleman who had buried his name 
and worldly possessions in this living sepulchre. A splen 
did manuscript breviary, richly illuminated, lay open on the 
table ; and the fair fancy of its flowery letters, the lustre of 
gold and silver on its pages, formed a singular contrast to 
the squalid nakedness of everything else in the room. This 
book, too, had been a family heirloom ; some lingering shred 
of human and domestic affection sheltered itself under the 
protection of religion in making it the companion of his self- 
imposed life of penance and renunciation. 

Father Francesco had just returned from the scene in 
the confessional we have already described. That day had 
brought to him one of those pungent and vivid inward rev 
elations which sometimes overset in a moment some delusion 
that has been the cherished growth of years. Henceforth 
the reign of self-deception was past, there was no more 
self-concealment, no more evasion. He loved Agnes, he 
knew it, he said it over and over again to himself with a 
stormy intensity of energy ; and in this hour the whole of his 
nature seemed to rise in rebellion against the awful barriers 
which hemmed in and threatened this passion. He now saw 
dearly that all that he had been calling fatherly tenderness, 
pastoral zeal, Christian unity, and a thousand other evangel- 



196 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ical names, was nothing more nor less than a 'passion that 
had gone to the roots of existence and absorbed into itself all 
that there was of him. Where was he to look for refuge ? 
What hymn, what prayer had he not blent with her image ? 
It was this that he had given to her as a holy lesson, it 
was that that she had spoken of to him as the best expres 
sion of her feelings. This prayer he had explained to her, 

he remembered just the beautiful light in her eyes, which 
were fixed on his so trustingly. How dear to him had been 
that unquestioning devotion, that tender, innocent humility ! 

how dear, and how dangerous ! 

We have read of flowing rivulets, wandering peacefully 
without ripple or commotion, so long as no barrier stayed 
their course, suddenly chafing in angry fury when an im 
passable dam was thrown across their waters. So any 
affection, however genial and gentle in its own nature, may 
become an ungovernable, ferocious passion, by the interven 
tion of fatal obstacles in its course. In the case of Father 
Francesco, the sense of guilt and degradation fell like a 
blight over all the past that had been so ignorantly happy. 
He thought he had been living on manna, but found it 
poison. Satan had been fooling him, leading him on blind 
fold, and laughing at his simplicity, and now mocked at his 
captivity. And how nearly had he been hurried by a sud 
den and overwhelming influence to the very brink of dis 
grace ! He felt himself shiver and grow cold to think of it. 
A moment more and he had blasted that pure ear with for 
bidden words of passion ; and even now he remembered, 
with horror, the look of grave and troubled surprise in 
those confiding eyes, that had always looked up to him 
trustingly, as to God. A moment more and he had be 
trayed the faith he taught her, shattered her trust in the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 197 

holy ministry, and perhaps imperilled her salvation. He 
breathed a sigh of relief when he thought of it, he had 
not betrayed himself, he had not fallen in her esteem, he still 
stood on that sacred vantage-ground where his power over 
her was so great, and where at least he possessed her confi 
dence and veneration. There was still time for recollection, 
for self-control, for a vehement struggle which should set all 
right again : but, alas ! how shall a man struggle who finds 
his whole inner nature boiling in furious rebellion against 
the dictates of his conscience, self against self? 

It is true, also, that no passions are deeper in their hold, 
more pervading and more vital to the whole human being, 
than those that make their first entrance through the higher 
nature, and, beginning with a religious and poetic ideality, 
gradually work their way through the whole fabric of the 
human existence. From grosser passions, whose roots lie in 
the senses, there is always a refuge in man's loftier nature. 
He can, cast them aside with contempt, and leave them as 
one whose lower story is flooded can remove to a higher loft, 
and live serenely with a purer air and wider prospect. But 
to love that is born of ideality, of intellectual sympathy, of 
harmonies of the spiritual and immortal nature, of the very 
poetry and purity of the soul, if it be placed where reason 
and religion forbid its exercise and expression, what refuge 
but the grave, what hope but that wide eternity where all 
human barriers fall, all human relations end, and love ceases 
to be a crime ? A man of the world may struggle by change 
of scene, place, and employment. He may put oceans be 
tween himself and the things that speak of what he desires 
to forget. He may fill the void in his life with the stirring 
excitement of the battle-field, or the whirl of travel from 
city to city, or the press of business and care. But what 



198 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

help is there for him whose life is tied down to the narrow 
sphere of the convent, to the monotony of a bare cell, to 
the endless repetition of the same prayers, the same chants, 
the same prostrations, especially when all that ever redeemed 
it from monotony has been that image and that sympathy 
which conscience now bids him forget ? 

When Father Francesco precipitated himself into his cell 
and locked the door, it was with the desperation of a man 
who flies from a mortal enemy. It seemed to him that all 
eyes saw just what was boiling within him, that the wild 
thoughts that seemed to scream their turbulent importunities 
in his ears were speaking so loud that all the world would 
hear. He should disgrace himself before the brethren whom 
he had so long been striving to bring to order and to teach 
the lessons of holy self-control. He saw himself pointed at, 
hissed at, degraded, by the very men who had quailed before 
his own reproofs ; and scarcely, when he had bolted the door 
behind him, did he feel himself safe. Panting and breath 
less, he fell on his knees before the crucifix, and, bowing his 
head in his hands, fell forward upon the floor. As a spent 
wave melts at the foot of a rock, so all his strength passed 
away, and he lay awhile in a kind of insensibility, a state 
in which, though consciously existing, he had no further 
control over his thoughts and feelings. In that state of 
dreamy exhaustion his mind seemed like a mirror, which, 
without vitality or will of its own, simply lies still and 
reflects the objects that may pass over it. As clouds sail 
ing in the heavens cast their images, one after another, on 
the glassy floor of a waveless sea, so the scenes of his former 
life drifted in vivid pictures athwart his memory. He saw 
his father's palace, the wide, cool, marble halls, the 
gardens resounding with the voices of falling waters. He 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 199 

saw the fair face of his mother, and played with the jewels 
upon her hands. He saw again the picture of himself, in all 
the flush of youth and health, clattering on horseback through 
the streets of Florence with troops of gay young friends, now 
dead to him as he to them. He saw himself in the bowers 
of gay ladies, whose golden hair, lustrous eyes, and siren 
wiles came back shivering and trembling in the waters of 
memory in a thousand undulating reflections. There were 
wild revels, orgies such as Florence remembers with 
shame to this day. There was intermingled the turbulent 
din of arms, the haughty passion, the sudden provocation, 
the swift revenge. And then came the awful hour of con 
viction, the face of that wonderful man whose preaching had 
Btirred all souls, and then those fearful days of penance, 
' that darkness of the tomb, that dying to the world, 
those solemn vows, and the fearful struggles by which they 
had been followed. 

" Oh, my God ! " he cried, " is it all in vain ? so many 
prayers ? so many struggles ? and shall I fail of salvation 
at last?" 

He seemed to himself as a swimmer, who, having ex 
hausted his last gasp of strength in reaching the shore, is 
suddenly lifted up on a cruel wave and drawn back into the 
deep. There seemed nothing for him but to fold his arms 
and sink. 

For he felt no strength now to resist, he felt no wish 
to conquer, he only prayed that he might lie there and die. 
It seemed to him that the love which possessed him and 
tyrannized over his very being was a doom, a curse sent 
upon him by some malignant fate with whose power it was 
vain to struggle. He detested his work, he detested his 
duties, he loathed his vows, and there was not a thing 



200 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

in his whole future to which he looked forward otherwise 
than with the extreme of aversion, except one to which he 
clung with a bitter and defiant tenacity, the spiritual guid 
ance of Agnes. Guidance ! he laughed aloud, in the 
bitterness of his soul, as he thought of this. He was her 
guide, her confessor, to him she was bound to reveal 
every change of feeling; and this love that he too well 
perceived rising in her heart for another, he would wring 
from her own confessions the means to repress and circum 
vent it. If she could not be his, he might at least prevent 
her from belonging to any other, he might at least keep 
her always within the sphere of his spiritual authority. Had 
he not a right to do this ? had he not a right to cherish an 
evident vocation, a right to reclaim her from the embrace 
of an excommunicated infidel, and present her as a chaste 
bride at the altar of the Lord ? Perhaps, when that was 
done, when an irrevocable barrier should separate her from 
all possibility of earthly love, when the awful marriage-vow 
should have been spoken which should seal her heart for 
heaven alone, he might recover some of the blessed calm 
which her influence once brought over him, and these wild 
desires might cease, and these feverish pulses be still. 

Such were the vague images and dreams of the past and 
future that floated over his mind, as he lay in a heavy sort 
of lethargy on the floor of his cell, and hour after hour 
passed away. It grew afternoon, and the radiance of even 
ing came on. The window of the cell overlooked the broad 
Mediterranean, all one blue glitter of smiles and sparkles. 
The white-winged boats were flitting lightly to &nd fro, like 
gauzy-winged insects in the summer air, the song of the 
fishermen drawing their nets on the beach floated cheerily 
upward. Capri lay like a half-dissolved opal in shimmering 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 201 

clouds of mist, and Naples gleamed out pearly clear in the 
purple distance. Vesuvius, with its cloud-spotted sides, its 
garlanded villas and villages, its silvery crown of vapor, 
seemed a warm-hearted and genial old giant lying down in 
his gorgeous repose, and holding all things on his heaving 
bosom in a kindly embrace. 

So was the earth flooded with light and glory, that the tide 
poured into the cell, giving the richness of an old Venetian 
painting to its bare and squalid furniture. The crucifix 
glowed along all its sculptured lines with rich golden hues. 
The breviary, whose many-colored leaves fluttered as the 
wind from the sea drew inward, was yet brighter in its gor 
geous tints. It seemed a sort of devotional butterfly perched 
before the grinning skull, which was bronzed by the en 
chanted light into warmer tones of color, as if some remem 
brance of what once it saw and felt came back upon it. So 
also the bare, miserable board which served for the bed, and 
its rude pillow, were glorified. A stray sunbeam, too, flut 
tered down on the floor like a pitying spirit, to light up that 
pale, thin face, whose classic outlines had now a sharp, 
yellow setness, like that of swooning or death ; it seemed to 
linger compassionately on the sunken, wasted cheeks, on the 
long black lashes that fell over the deep hollows beneath the 
eyes like a funereal veil. Poor man ! lying crushed and torn, 
like a piece of rockweed wrenched from its rock by a storm, 
and thrown up withered upon the beach ! 

From the leaves of the breviary there depends, by a frag 
ment of gold braid, a sparkling something that wavers and 
glitters in the evening light. It is a cross of the cheapest 
and simplest material, that once belonged to Agnes. She 
lost it from her rosary at the confessional, and Father Fran 
cesco saw it fall, yet would not warn her of the loss, for he 
9* 



202 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

longed to possess something that had belonged to her. He 
made it a mark to one of her favorite hymns ; but she never 
knew where it had gone. Little could she dream, in her 
simplicity, what a power she held over the man who seemed 
to her an object of such awful veneration. Little did she 
dream that the poor little tinsel cross had such a mighty 
charm with it, and that she herself, in her childlike simplic 
ity, her ignorant innocence, her peaceful tenderness and 
trust, was raising such a turbulent storm of passion in the 
heart which she supposed to be above the reach of all human 
changes. 

And now, through the golden air, the Ave Maria is sound 
ing from the convent-bells, and answered by a thousand tones 
and echoes from the churches of the old town, and all Chris 
tendom gives a moment's adoring pause to celebrate the 
moment when an angel addressed to a mortal maiden words 
that had been wept and prayed for during thousands of years. 
Dimly they sounded through his ear, in that half-deadly 
trance, not with plaintive sweetness and motherly tender 
ness, but like notes of doom and vengeance. He felt rebel 
lious impulses within, which rose up in hatred against them, 
and all that recalled to his mind the faith which seemed a 
tyranny, and the vows which appeared to him such a hope 
less and miserable failure. 

But now there came other sounds nearer and more earthly. 
His quickened senses perceive a busy patter of sandalled 
feet outside his cell, and a whispering of consultation, and 
then the silvery, snaky tones of Father Johannes, which had 
that oily, penetrative quality which passes through all sub 
stances with such distinctness. 

" Brethren," he said, " I feel bound in conscience to knock. 
Our blessed Superior carries his mortifications altogether 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 203 

too far. His faithful sons must beset him with filial in 
quiries." 

The condition in which Father Francesco was lying, like 
many abnormal states of extreme exhaustion, seemed to be 
attended with a mysterious quickening of the magnetic 
forces and intuitive perceptions. He felt the hypocrisy of 
those tones, and they sounded in his ear like the suppressed 
hiss of a deadly serpent. He had always suspected that this 
man hated him to the death ; and he felt now that he was 
come with his stealthy tread and his almost supernatural 
power of prying observation, to read the very inmost secrets 
of his heart. He knew that he longed for nothing so much 
as the power to hurl him from his place and to reign in his 
stead; and the instinct of self-defence roused him. He 
started up as one starts from a dream, waked by a whisper 
in the ear, and, raising himself on his elbow, looked towards 
the door. 

A cautious rap was heard, and then a pause. Father 
Francesco smiled with a peculiar and bitter expression. The 
rap became louder, more energetic, stormy at last, inter 
mingled with vehement calls on his name. 

Father Francesco rose at length, settled his garments, 
passed his hands over his brow, and then, composing himself 
to an expression of deliberate gravity, opened the door and 
stood before them. 

" Holy father," said Father Johannes, "the hearts of your 
sons have been saddened. A whole day have you withdrawn 
your presence from our devotions. We feared you might 
have fainted, your pious austerities so often transcend the 
powers of Nature." 

" I grieve to have saddened the hearts of such affectionate 
sons," said the Superior, fixing his eye keenly on Father 



204 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Johannes ; " but I have been performing a peculiar office of 
prayer to-day for a soul in deadly peril, and have been so 
absorbed therein that I have known nothing that passed. 
There is a soul among us, brethren," he added, " that stands 
at this moment so near to damnation that even the most 
blessed Mother of God is in doubt for its salvation, and 
whether it can be saved at all God only knows." 

These words, rising up from a tremendous groundswell of 
repressed feeling, had a fearful, almost supernatural earnest 
ness that made the body of the monks tremble. Most of 
them were conscious of living but a shabby, shambling, dis 
sembling life, evading in very possible way the efforts of 
their Superior to bring them up to the requirements of their 
profession ; and therefore, when these words were bolted 
out among them witli such a glowing intensity, every one of 
them began mentally feeling for the key of his own private 
and interior skeleton-closet, and wondering which of their 
ghastly occupants was coming to light now. 

Father Johannes alone was unmoved, because he had 
long since ceased to have a conscience. A throb of moral 
pulsation had for years been an impossibility to the dried 
and hardened fibre of his inner nature. He was one of 
those real, genuine, thorough unbelievers in all religion and 
all faith and all spirituality, whose unbelief grows only more 
callous by the constant handling of sacred things. Ambi 
tion was the ruling motive of his life, and every faculty 
was sharpened into such acuteness under its action that his 
penetration seemed at times almost preternatural. 

While he stood with downcast eyes and hands crossed 
upon his breast, listening to the burning words which re 
morse and despair wrung from his Superior, he was calmly 
and warily studying to see what could be made of the evi- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 205 

dent interior conflict that convulsed him. Was there some 
secret sin ? Had that sanctity at last found the temptation 
that was more than a match for it ? And what could 
it be? 

To a nature with any strong combative force there is no 
tonic like the presence of a secret and powerful enemy, and 
the stealthy glances of Father Johannes's serpent eye did 
more towards restoring Father Francesco to self-mastery 
than the most conscientious struggles could have done. He 
grew calm, resolved, determined. Self-respect was dear to 
him, and dear to him no less that reflection of self-respect 
which a man reads in other eyes. He would not forfeit his 
conventual honor, or bring a stain on his order, or, least 
of all, expose himself to the scoffing eye of a triumphant 
enemy. Such were the motives that now came to his aid, 
while as yet the whole of his inner nature rebelled at the 
thought that he must tear up by the roots and wholly ex 
tirpate this love that seemed to have sent its fine fibres 
through every nerve of his being. " No ! " he said to him 
self, with a fierce interior rebellion, " that I will not do ! 
Right or wrong, come heaven, come hell, I will love her : 
and if lost I must be, lost I will be ! " And while this 
determination lasted, prayer seemed to him a mockery. He 
dared not pray alone now, when most he needed prayer ; 
but he moved forward with dignity towards the convent- 
chapel to lead the vesper devotions of his brethren. Out 
wardly he was calm and rigid as a statue ; but as he com 
menced the service, his utterance had a terrible meaning 
and earnestness that were felt even by the most drowsy and 
leaden of his flock. It is singular how the dumb, imprisoned 
soul, locked within the walls of the body, sometimes gives 
such a piercing power to the tones of the voice during the 



206 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

access of a great agony. The effect is entirely involuntary, 
and often against the most strenuous opposition of the will ; 
but one sometimes hears another reading or repeating words 
with an intense vitality, a living force, which tells of some 
inward anguish or conflict of which the language itself gives 
no expression. 

Never were the long-drawn intonations of the chants and 
prayers of the Church pervaded by a more terrible, wild 
fervor than the Superior that night breathed into them. 
They seemed to wail, to supplicate, to combat, to menace, 
to sink in despairing pauses of helpless anguish, and anon to 
rise in stormy agonies of passionate importunity ; and the 
monks quailed and trembled, they scarce knew why, with 
forebodings of coming wrath and judgment. 

In the evening exhortation, which it had been the Supe 
rior's custom to add to the prayers of the vesper-hour, he 
dwelt with a terrible and ghastly eloquence on the loss of 
the soul. 

" Brethren," he said, " believe me, the very first hour of 
a damned spirit in hell will outweigh all the prosperities 
of the most prosperous life. If you could gain the whole 
world, that one hour of hell would outweigh it all ; how 
much more such miserable, pitiful scraps and fragments of 
the world as they gain who for the sake of a little fleshly 
ease neglect the duties of a holy profession ! There is a 
broad way to hell through a convent, my brothers, where 
miserable wretches go who have neither the spirit to serve 
the Devil wholly, nor the patience to serve God ; there be 
many shaven crowns that gnash* their teeth in hell to-night, 
many a monk's robe is burning on its owner in living 
fire, and the devils call him a fool for choosing to be damned 
in so hard a way. ' Could you not come here by some 



AGNES OF SOF.11ENTO. 207 

easier road than a cloister ? ' they ask. * If you must sell 
your soul, why did you not get something for it ? ' Breth 
ren, there be devils waiting for some of us ; they are laugh 
ing at your paltry shifts and evasions, at your efforts to 
make things easy, for they know how it will all end at 
last. E-ouse yourselves ! Awake ! Salvation is no easy 
ma tter, nothing to be got between sleeping and waking. 
Watch, pray, scourge the flesh, fast, weep, bow down in 
sackcloth, mingle your bread with ashes, if by any means 
ye may escape the everlasting fire ! " 

" Bless me ! " said Father Anselmo, when the services 
were over, casting a half-scared glance after the retreating 
figure of the Superior as he left the chapel, and drawing a. 
long breath ; " it 's enough to make one sweat to hear him 
go on. What has come over him ? Anyhow, I '11 give 
myself a hundred lashes this very night : something must 
be done." 

" Well," said another, " I confess I did hide a cold wing 
of fowl in the sleeve of my gown last fast-day. My old 
aunt gave it to me, and I was forced to take it for relation's 
sake ; but I '11 do so no more, as I 'm a living sinner. I '11 
do a penance this very night." 

Father Johannes stood under one of the arches that 
looked into the gloomy garden, and, with his hands crossed 
upon his breast, and his cold, glittering eye fixed stealthily 
now on one and now on another, listened with an ill-dis 
guised sneer to these hasty evidences of fear and remorse in 
the monks, as they thronged the corridor on the way to their 
cells. Suddenly turning to a young brother who had lately 
joined the convent, he said to him, 

" And what of the pretty Clarice, my brother ? " 

The blood flushed deep into the pale cheek of the young 



208 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

monk, and his frame shook with some interior emotion as 
he answered, 

" She is recovering." 

" And she sent for thee to shrive her ? " 

" My God ! " said the young man, with an imploring, 
wild expression in his dark eyes, " she did ; but I would 
not go." 

" Then Nature is still strong," said Father Johannes, piti 
lessly eying the young man. 

" When will it ever die ? " said the stripling, with a de 
spairing gesture ; " it heeds neither heaven nor hell." 

" Well, patience, boy ! if you have lost an earthly bride, 
you have gained a heavenly one. The Church is our es 
poused in white linen. Bless the Lord, without ceasing, for 
the exchange." 

There was an inexpressible mocking irony in the tones in 
which this was said, that made itself felt to the finely vital 
ized spirit of the youth, though to all the rest it sounded like 
the accredited average pious talk which is more or less the 
current coin of religious organizations. 

Now no one knows through what wanton deviltry Father 
Johannes broached this painful topic with the poor youth ; 
but he had a peculiar faculty, with his smooth tones and his 
sanctimonious smiles, of thrusting red-hot needles into any 
wounds which he either knew or suspected under the coarse 
woollen robes of his brethren. He appeared to do it in all 
coolness, in a way of psychological investigation. 

He smiled, as the youth turned away, and a moment after 
started as if a thought had suddenly struck him. 

" I have it ! " he said to himself. " There may be a 
woman at the bottom of this discomposure of our holy 
father; for he is wrought upon by something to the very 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 209 

bottom of his soul. I have not studied human nature so 
many years for nothing. Father Francesco hath been much 
in the guidance of women. His preaching hath wrought 
upon them, and perchance among them. Aha ! " he said to 
himself, as he paced up and down. " I have it ! I '11 try 
an experiment upon him ! " 



210 AGNES OF SORKENTO. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE SERPENT'S EXPERIMENT. 

FATHER FRANCESCO sat leaning his head on his hand 
by the window of his cell, looking out upon the sea as it rose 
and fell, with the reflections of the fast coming stars glitter 
ing like so many jewels on its breast. The glow of evening 
had almost faded, but there was a wan, tremulous light from 
the moon, and a clearness produced by the reflection of such 
an expanse of water, which still rendered objects in his cell 
quite discernible. 

In the terrible denunciations and warnings just uttered, he 
had been preaching to himself, striving to bring a force on 
his own soul by which he might reduce its interior rebellion 
to submission ; but, alas ! when was ever love cast out by 
fear ? He knew not as yet the only remedy for such sorrow, 
that there is a love celestial and divine, of which earth 
ly love in its purest form is only the sacramental symbol and 
emblem, and that this divine love can by God's power so 
outflood human affections as to bear the soul above all 
earthly idols to its only immortal rest. This great truth 
rises like a rock amid stormy seas, and many is the sailor 
struggling in salt and bitter waters who cannot yet believe 
it is to be found. A few saints like Saint Augustin had 
reached it, but through what buffetings, what anguish ! 

At this moment, however, there was in the heart of the 
father one of those collapses which follow the crisis of some 
mortal struggle. He leaned on the window-sill, exhausted 
and helpless. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 211 

Suddenly, a kind of illusion of the senses came over him, 
such as is not infrequent to sensitive natures in severe crises 
of mental anguish. He thought he heard Agnes singing, as 
he had sometimes heard, her when he had called in his pas 
toral ministrations at the little garden and paused awhile 
outside that he might hear her finish a favorite hymn, which, 
like a shy bird, she sung all the more sweetly for thinking 
herself alone. 

Quite as if they were sung in his ear, and in her very 
tones, he heard the words of Saint Bernard, which we have 
already introduced to our reader : 

" Jesu dulcis memoria, 
Dans vera cordi gaudia: 
Sed super mel et oninia 
Ejus dulcis praesentia. 



'Jesu, spes pomitentibus, 
Quam pius es petentibus, 
Quam bonus te quaerentibus, 
Sed quis invenientibus ! " 



Soft and sweet and solemn was the illusion, as if some spirit 
breathed them with a breath of tenderness over his soul ; 
and he threw himself with a burst of tears before the cru 
cifix. 

" O Jesus, where, then, art Thou ? Why must I thus 
suffer ? She is not the one altogether lovely ; it is Thou, 
Thou, her Creator and mine ! Why, why cannot I find 
Thee ? Oh, take from my heart all other love but Thine 
alone ! " 

Yet even this very prayer, this very hymn, were blent 
with the remembrance of Agnes ; for was it not she who first 
had taught him the lesson of heavenly love ? Was not she 
the first one who had taught him to look upward to Jesus 



212 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

other than as an avenging judge ? Michel Angelo has 
embodied in a fearful painting, which now deforms the Sis- 
tine Chapel, that image of stormy vengeance which a re 
ligion debased by force and fear had substituted for the 
tender, good shepherd of earlier Christianity. It was only 
in the heart of a lowly maiden that Christ had been made 
manifest to the eye of the monk, as of old he was revealed 
to the world through a virgin. And how could he, then, 
forget her, or cease to love her, when every prayer and 
hymn, every sacred round of the ladder by which he must 
climb, was so full of memorials of her ? While crying and 
panting for the supreme, the divine, the invisible love, he 
found his heart still craving the visible one, the one so 
well known, revealing itself to the senses, and bringing with 
it the certainty of visible companionship. 

As he was thus kneeling and wrestling with himself, a 
sudden knock at his door startled him. He had made it a 
point, never, at any hour of the day or night, to deny him 
self to a brother who sought him for counsel, however dis 
agreeable the person and however unreasonable the visit. 
He therefore rose and unbolted the door, and saw Father 
Johannes standing with folded arms and downcast head, in 
an attitude of composed humility. 

" What would you with me, brother ? " he asked, calmly. 

" My father, I have a wrestling of mind for one of our 
brethren whose case I would present to you." 

" Come in, my brother," said the Superior. At the same 
time he lighted a little iron lamp, of antique form, such as 
are still in common use in that region, and seating himself 
on the board which served for his couch, made a motion to 
Father Johannes to be seated also. 

The latter sat down, eying, as he did so, the whole in- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 213 

terior of the apartment, so far as it was revealed by the glim 
mer of the taper. 

" Well, my son," said Father Francesco, " what is it ? " 

' I have rny doubts of the spiritual safety of Brother Ber 
nard/' said Father Johannes. 

" Wherefore?" asked the Superior, briefly. 

44 Holy father, you are aware of the history of the brother, 
mid of the worldly affliction that drove him to this blessed 
profession ? " 

" I am," replied the Superior, with the same brevity. 

" He narrated it to me fully," said Father Johannes. 
" The maiden he was betrothed to was married to another 
in his absence on a long journey, being craftily made to sup 
pose him dead." 

" I tell you I know the circumstances," said the Superior. 

" I merely recalled them, because, moved doubtless by 
your sermon, he dropped words to me to-night which led me 
to suppose that this sinful, earthly love was not yet extir 
pated from his soul. Of late the woman was sick and nigh 
unto death, and sent for him." 

" But he did not go ? " interposed Father Francesco. 

" No, he did not, grace was given him thus far, but 
he dropped words to me to the effect, that in secret he still 
cherished the love of this woman ; and the awful words 
your Reverence has been speaking to us to-night have 
moved me with fear for the youth's soul, of the which I, as 
an elder brother, have had some charge, and I came to con 
sult with you as to what help there might be for him." 

Father Francesco turned away his head a moment and 
there was a pause ; at last he said, in a tone that seemed 
like the throb of some deep, interior anguish, 

" The Lord help him ! " 



214 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Amen ! " said Father Johannes, taking keen note of the 
apparent emotion. 

" You must have experience in these matters, my father," 
he added, after a pause, " so many hearts have been laid 
open to you. 'I would crave to know of you what you think 
is the safest and most certain cure for this love of woman, if 
once it hath got possession of the heart." 

" Death ! " said Father Francesco, after a solemn pause. 

" I do not understand you," said Father Johannes. 

" My son," said Father Francesco, rising up with an air 
of authority, " you do not understand, there is nothing in 
you by which you should understand. This unhappy brother 
hath opened his case to me, and I have counselled him all I 
know of prayer and fastings and watchings and mortifica 
tions. Let him persevere in the same ; and if all these fail, 
the good Lord will send the other in His own time. There 
is an end to all things in this life, and that end shall certainly 
come at last. Bid him persevere and hope in this. And 
now, brother," added the Superior, with dignity, " if you 
have no other query, time flies and eternity comes on, 
go, watch and pray, and leave me to my prayers, also." 

He raised his hand with a gesture of benediction, and 
Father Johannes, awed in spite of himself, felt impelled to 
leave the apartment. 

" Is it so, or is it not ? " he said. " I cannot tell. He did 
seem to wince and turn away his head when I proposed the 
case ; but then he made fight at last. I cannot tell whether 
I have got any advantage or not ; but patience ! we shall 
see!" 



AGNES OF SOKKENTO. 215 



CHAPTER XVI. 

ELSIE PUSHES HER SCHEME. 

THE good Father Antonio returned from his conference 
with the cavalier with many subjects for grave pondering. 
This man, as he conjectured, so far from being an enemy 
either of Church or State, was in fact in many respects in 
the same position with his revered master, as nearly so 
as the position of a layman was likely to resemble that of 
an ecclesiastic. His denial of the Visible Church, as rep 
resented by the Pope and Cardinals, sprang not from an 
irreverent, but from a reverent spirit. To accept them as 
exponents of Christ and Christianity was to blaspheme and 
traduce both, and therefore he only could be counted in the 
highest degree Christian who stood most completely opposed 
to them in spirit and practice. 

His kind and fatherly heart was interested in the brave 
young nobleman. He sympathized fully with the situation 
in which he stood, and he even wished success to his love ; 
but then how was he to help him with Agnes, and above all 
with her old grandmother, without entering on the awful task 
of condemning and exposing that sacred authority which all 
the Church had so many years been taught to regard as in 
fallibly inspired ? Long had all the truly spiritual members 
of the Church who gave ear to the teachings of Savonarola 
felt that the nearer they followed Christ the more open was 
their growing antagonism to the Pope and the Cardinals; 



216 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

but still they hung back from the responsibility of inviting 
the people to an open revolt. 

Father Antonio felt his soul deeply stirred with the news 
of the excommunication of his saintly master ; and he mar 
velled, as he tossed on his restless bed through the night, 
how he was to meet the storm. He might have known, had 
he been able to look into a crowded assembly in Florence 
about this time, when the unterrified monk thus met the 
news of his excommunication : 

" There have come decrees from Rome, have there ? 
They call me a son of perdition. Well, thus may you 
answer : He to whom you give this name hath neither 
favorites nor concubines, but gives himself solely to preach 
ing Christ. His spiritual sons and daughters, those who 
listen to his doctrine, do not pass their time in infamous 
practices. They confess, they receive the communion, they 
live honestly. This man gives himself up to exalt the 
Church of Christ : you to destroy it. The time approaches 
for opening the secret chamber : we will give but one turn 
of the key, and there will come out thence such an infection, 
such a stench of this city of Rome, that the odor shall spread 
through all Christendom, and all the world shall be sick 
ened." 

But Father Antonio was of himself wholly unable to come 
to such a courageous result, though capable of following to 
the death the master who should do it for him. His was the 
true artist nature, as unfit to deal with rough human forces 
as a bird that flies through the air is unfitted to a hand-to- 
hand grapple with the armed forces of the lower world. 
There is strength in these artist natures. Curious com 
putations have been made of the immense muscular power 
that is brought into exercise when a swallow skims so 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 217 

smoothly through the blue sky ; but the strength is of a 
kind unadapted to mundane uses, and needs the ether for 
its display. Father Antonio could create the beautiful ; he 
could warm, could elevate, qould comfort ; and when a 
stronger nature went before him, he could follow with an 
unquestioning tenderness of devotion : but he wanted the 
sharp, downright power of mind that could cut and cleave 
its way through the rubbish of the past, when its institutions, 
instead of a commodious dwelling, had come to be a loath 
some prison. Besides, the true artist has ever an enchanted 
island of his own ; and when this world perplexes and 
wearies him, he can sail far away and lay his soul down to 
rest, as Cytherea bore the sleeping Ascanius far from the 
din of battle, to sleep on flowers and breathe the odor of a 
hundred undying altars to Beauty. 

Therefore, after a restless night, the good monk arose in 
the first purple of the dawn, and instinctively betook him 
to a review of his drawings for the shrine, as a refuge from 
troubled thought. He took his sketch of the Madonna 
and Child into the morning twilight and began meditating 
thereon, while the clouds that lined the horizon were glow 
ing rosy purple and violet with the approaching day. 

" See there ! " he said to himself, " yonder clouds have 
exactly the rosy purple of the cyclamen which my little 
Agnes loves so much ; yes, I am resolved that this cloud 
on which our Mother standeth shall be of a cyclamen color. 
And there is that star, like as it looked yesterday evening, 
when I mused upon it. Methought I could see our Lady's 
clear brow, and .the radiance of her face, and I prayed that 
some little power might be given to show forth that which 
transports me." 

And as the monk plied his pencil, touching here and 
10 



218 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

there, and elaborating the outlines of his drawing, he 
sung, 

"Ave, Maris Stella, 
Dei mater alma, 
Atque semper virgo, 
Felix coeli porta! 

" Virgo singularis, 
Inter omnes mitis, 
Nos culpis solutos 
Mites fac et castos! 

" Vitam prassta puram, 
Iter para tutam, 
Ut videntes Jesum 
Semper collastemur! " * 

As the monk sung, Agnes soon appeared at the door. 
" Ah, my little bird, you are there ! " he said looking up. 
" Yes," said Agnes, coming forward, and looking over his 
shoulder at his work. 

" Did you find that young sculptor ? " she asked. 

" That I did, a brave boy, too, who will row down the 

* Hail, thou Star of Ocean, 
Thou forever virgin, 
Mother of the Lord ! 
Blessed gate of Heaven, 
Take our heart's devotion! 

Virgin one and only, 
Meekest 'mid them all, 
From our sins set free, 
Make us pure like thee, 
Freed from passion's thrall! 

Grant that in pure living, 
Through safe paths below, 
Forever seeing Jesus, 
Rejoicing we may go! 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 219 

coast and dig us marble from an old heathen temple, which 
we will baptize into the name of Christ and his Mother." 

" Pietro was always a good boy," said Agnes. 

"Stay," said the monk, stepping into his little sleeping- 
room ; " he sent you this lily ; see, I have kept it in water 
all night." 

" Poor Pietro, that was good of him ! " said Agnes. " I 
would thank him, if I could. But, uncle," she added, in 
a hesitating voice, " did you see anything of that other 
one?" 

" That I did, child, and talked long with him." 

" Ah, uncle, is there any hope for him ? " 

" Yes, there is hope, great hope. In fact, he has prom 
ised to receive me again, and I have hopes of leading him 
to the sacrament of confession, and after that " 

" And then the Pope will forgive him ! " said Agnes, joy 
fully. 

The face of the monk suddenly fell ; he was silent, and 
went on retouching his drawing. 

" Do you not think he will ? " said Agnes, earnestly. 
" You said the Church was ever ready to receive the re 
pentant." 

"The True Church will receive him," said the monk, 
evasively ; " yes, my little one, there is no doubt of it." 

" And it is not true that he is captain of a band of rob 
bers in the mountains ? " said Agnes. " May I tell Father 
Francesco that it is not so ? " 

" Child, this young man hath suffered a grievous wrong 

and injustice ; for he is lord of an ancient and noble estate, 

out of which he hath been driven by the cruel injustice of a 

most wicked and abominable man, the Duke di Valentines,* 

* Caesar Borgia was created Due de Valeutinois by Louis XII. of France. 



220 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

who hath caused the death of his brothers and sisters, and 
ravaged the country around with fire and sword, so that he 
hath been driven with his retainers to a fortress in the 
mountains." 

" But," said Agnes, with flushed cheeks, " why does not 
our blessed Father excommunicate this wicked duke ? Sure 
ly this knight hath erred ; instead of taking refuge in the 
mountains, he ought to have fled with his followers to Rome, 
where the dear Father of the Church hath a house for all 
the oppressed. It must be so lovely to be the father of all 
men, and to take in and comfort all those who are distressed 
and sorrowful, and to right the wrongs of all that are op 
pressed, as our dear Father at Rome doth ! " 

The monk looked up at Agnes's clear glowing face with a 
sort of wondering pity. 

" Dear little child," he said, " there is a Jerusalem above 
which is mother of us all, and these things are done there. 

* Ccelestis urbs Jerusalem, 
Beata pacis visio, 
Quse celsa de viventibus 
Saxis ad astra tolleris, 
Sponsseque ritu cingeris 
Mille angelorum millibus! '" 

The face of the monk glowed as he repeated this ancient 
hymn of the Church,* as if the remembrance of that gen 
eral assembly and church of the first-born gave him comfort 
in his depression. 

* This very ancient hymn is the fountain-head from which through 
various languages have trickled the various hymns of the Celestial City, 
such as 

"Jerusalem, my happy home! " 
and Quarles's 

" mother dear, Jerusalem ! " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 221 

Agnes felt perplexed, and looked earnestly at her uncle 
as he stooped over his drawing, and saw that there were 
deep lines of anxiety on his usually clear, placid face, a 
look as of one who struggles mentally with some untold 
trouble. 

" Uncle," she said, hesitatingly, " may I tell Father Fran 
cesco what you have been telling me of this young man ? " 

" No, my little one, it were not best. In fact, dear 
child, there be many things in his case impossible to explain, 
even to you ; but he is not so altogether hopeless as you 
thought ; in truth, I have great hopes of him. I have ad 
monished him to come here no more, but I shall see him 
again this evening." 

Agnes wondered at the heaviness of her own little heart, 
as her kind old uncle spoke of his coming there no more. 
Awhile ago she dreaded his visits as a most fearful tempta 
tion, and thought perhaps he might come at any hour ; now 
she was sure he would not, and it was astonishing what a 
weight fell upon her. 

"Why am I not thankful?" she asked herself. "Why 
am I not joyful ? Why should I wish to see him again, 
when I should only be tempted to sinful thoughts, and when 
my dear uncle, who can do so much for him, has his soul in 
charge ? And what is this which is so strange in his case ? 
There is some mystery, after all, something, perhaps, 
which I ought not to wish to know. Ah, how little can we 
know of this great wicked world, and of -lie reasons which 
our superiors give for their conduct ! It is ours humbly to 
obey, without a question or a doubt. Holy Mother, may I 
not sin through a vain curiosity or self-will ! May I ever 
say, as thou didst, ' Behold the handmaid of the Lord ! be it 
unto me according to His word!'" 



222 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

And Agnes went about her morning devotions with fer 
vent zeal, and did not see the monk as he dropped the pencil, 
and, covering his face with his robe, seemed to wrestle in 
some agony of prayer. 

" Shepherd of Israel/' he said, " why hast Thou forgotten 
this vine of Thy planting ? The boar out of the wood doth 
waste it, the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Dogs 
have encompassed Thy beloved ; the assembly of the violent 
have surrounded him. How long, O Lord, holy and true, 
dost Thou not judge and avenge ? " 

" Now, really, brother," said Elsie, coming towards him, 
and interrupting his meditations in her bustling, business 
way, yet speaking in a low tone that Agnes should not hear, 
"I want you to help me with this child in a good common- 
sense fashion : none of your high-flying notions about saints 
and angels, but a little good common talk for every-day peo 
ple that have their bread and salt to look after. The fact is, 
brother, this girl must be married. I went last night to talk 
with Antonio's mother, and the way is all open as well as 
any living girl could desire. Antonio is a trifle slow, and 
the high-flying hussies call him stupid ; but bis mother says 
a better son never breathed, and he is as obedient to all her 
orders now as when he was three years old. And she has 
laid up plenty of household stuff for him, and good hard 
gold pieces to boot : she let me count them myself, and I 
showed her that which I had scraped together, and she 
counted it, and we agreed that the children that come of 
such a marriage would come into the world with something 
to stand on. Now Agnes is fond of you, brother, and per 
haps it would be well for you to broach the subject. The 
fact is, when I begin to talk, she gets her arms round my 
old neck and falls to weeping and kissing me at such a rate 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 223 

as makes a fool of me. If the child would onty be rebel 
lious, one could do something ; but this love takes all the 
stiffness out of one's joints ; and she tells me she never 
wants a husband, and she will be content to live with me all 
her life. The saints know it is n't for my happiness to put 
her out of my old arms ; but I can't last forever, my old 
back grows weaker every year ; and Antonio has strong 
arms to defend her from all these roystering fellows who fear 
neither God nor man, and swoop up young maids as kites do 
chickens. And then he is as gentle and manageable as a 
this-year ox ; Agnes can lead him by the horn, she will 
be a perfect queen over him ; for he has been brought up to 
mind the women." 

" Well, sister," said the monk, " hath our little maid any 
acquaintance with this man ? Have they ever spoken to 
gether ? " 

" Not much. I have never brought them to a very close 
acquaintance ; and that is what is to be done. Antonio is 
not much of a talker ; to tell the truth, he does not know as 
much to say as our Agnes : but the man's place is not to say 
fine things, but to do the hard work that shall support the 
household." 

" Then Agnes hath not even seen him ? " 

" Yes, at different times I have bid her regard him, and 
said to her, * There goes a proper man and a good Christian, 
a man who minds his work and is obedient to his old 
mother : such a man will make a right good husband for 
some girl some day.'" 

"And did you ever see that her eye followed him with 
pleasure ? " 

" No, neither him nor any other man, for my little Agnes 
hath no thought of that kind ; but, once married, she will 



224 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

> 

like him fast enough. All I want is to have you begin the 
subject, and get it into her head a little." 

Father Antonio was puzzled how to meet this direct 
urgency of his sister. He could not explain to her his own 
private reasons for believing that any such attempt would be 
utterly vain, and only bring needless distress on his little 
favorite. He therefore answered, 

" My good sister, all such thoughts lie so far out of the 
sphere of us monks, that you could not choose a worse per 
son for such an errand. I have never had any communings 
with the child than touching the beautiful things of my art, 
and concerning hymns and prayers and the lovely world of 
saints and angels, where they neither marry nor are given 
in marriage ; and so I should only spoil your enterprise, if I 
should put my unskilful hand to it." 

" At any rate," said Elsie, " don't you approve of my 
plan ? 

" I should approve of anything that would make our dear 
little one safe and happy, but I would not force the matter 
against her inclinations. You will always regret it, if you 
make so good a child shed one needless tear. After all, 
sister, what need of haste ? 'T is a young bird yet. Why 
push it out of the nest ? When once it is gone, you will 
never get it back. Let the pretty one have her little day to 
play and sing and be happy. Does she not make this gar 
den a sort of Paradise with her little ways and her sweet 
words ? Now, my sister, these all belong to you ; but, once 
she is given to another, there is no saying what may come. 
One thing only may you count on with certainty : that these 
dear days, when she is all day by your side and sleeps in 
your bosom all night, are over, she will belong to you no 
more, but to a strange man who hath neither toiled nor 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 225 

wrought for her, and all her pretty ways and dutiful thoughts 
must be for him." 

" I know it, I know it," said Elsie, with a sudden wrench 
of that jealous love which is ever natural to strong, passion 
ate natures. "I'm sure it isn't for my own sake I urge 
this. I grudge him the girl. After all, he is but a stupid 
head. What has he ever done, that such good-fortune should 
befall him ? He ought to fall down and kiss the dust of my 
shoes for such a gift, and I doubt me much if he will ever 
think to do it. These men think nothing too good for them. 
I believe, if one of the crowned saints in heaven were offered 
them to wife, they would think it all quite natural, and not a 
whit less than their requirings." 

" Well, then, sister," said the monk, soothingly, " why 
press this matter? why hurry? The poor little child is 
young ; let her frisk like a lamb, and dance like a butterfly, 
and sing her hymns every day like a bright bird. Surely 
the Apostle saith, ' He that giveth his maid in marriage 
doeth well, but he that giveth her not doeth better.' " 

" But I have opened the subject already to old. Meta," 
said Elsie ; " and if I don't pursue it, she will take it into 
her head that her son is lightly regarded, and then her back 
will be up, and one may lose the chance ; and on the whole, 
considering the money and the fellow, I don't know a safer 
way to settle the girl." 

" Well, sister, as I have remarked," said the monk, " I 
could not order my speech to propose anything of this kind 
to a young maid ; I should so bungle that I might spoil all. 
You must even propose it yourself." 

" I would not have undertaken it," said Elsie, " had I not 
been frightened by that hook-nosed old kite of a cavalier 
that has been sailing and perching round. We are two lone 
10* 



226 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

women here, and the times are unsettled, and one never 
knows, that hath so fair a prize, but she may be carried off, 
and then no redress from any quarter." 

" You might lodge her in the convent," said the monk. 

" Yes, and then, the first thing I should know, they would 
have got her away from me entirely. I have been well 
pleased to have her much with the sisters hitherto, because 
it kept her from hearing the foolish talk of girls and gal 
lants, and such a flower would have had every wasp and 
bee buzzing round it. But now the time is coming to marry 
her, I much doubt these nuns. There 's old Jocunda is a 
sensible woman, who knew something of the world before 
she went there, but the Mother Theresa knows no more 
than a baby ; and they would take her in, and make her as 
white and as thin as that moon yonder now the sun has 
risen ; and little good should I have of her, for I have no 
vocation for the convent, it would kill me in a week. No, 
she has seen enough of the convent for the present. I 
will even take the risk of watching her myself. Little has 
this gallant seen of her, though he has tried hard enough ! 
But to-c'.ay I may venture to take her down with me." 

Father Antonio felt a little conscience-smitten in listening 
to these triumphant assertions of old Elsie ; for he knew 
that she would pour all her vials of wrath on his head, did 
she know, that, owing to his absence from his little charge, 
the dreaded invader had managed to have two interviews 
with her grandchild, on the very spot that Elsie deemed the 
fortress of security ; but he wisely kept his own counsel, 
believing in the eternal value of silence. In truth, the 
gentle monk lived so much in the unreal and celestial 
world of Beauty, that he was by no means a skilful guide 
for the passes of common life. Love, other than that ethe- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 227 

real kind which aspires towards Paradise, was a stranger 
to his thoughts, and he constantly erred in attributing to 
other people natures and purposes as unworldly and spirit- 
yal as his own. Thus had he fallen, in his utter simplicity, 
into the attitude of a go-between protecting the advances of 
a young lover with the shadow of his monk's gown, and he 
became awkwardly conscious, that, if Elsie should find out 
the whole truth, there would be no possibility of convincing 
her that what had been done in such sacred simplicity on all 
sides was not the basest manoeuvring. 

Elsie took Agnes down with her to the old stand in the 
gateway of the town. On their way, as had probably been 
arranged, Antonio met them. We may have introduced 
him to the reader before, who likely enough has forgotten 
by this time our portraiture ; so we shall say again, that the 
man was past thirty, tall, straight, well-made, even to the 
tapering of his well-formed limbs, as are the generality of 
the peasanty of that favored region. His teeth were white 
as sea-pearl ; his cheek, though swarthy, had a deep, healthy 
flush ; and his great velvet black eyes looked straight out 
from under their long silky lashes, just as do the eyes of 
the beautiful oxen of his country, with a languid, change 
less tranquillity, betokening a good digestion, and a well-fed, 
kindly animal nature. He was evidently a creature that 
had been nourished on sweet juices and developed in fair 
pastures, under genial influences of sun and weather, one 
that would draw patiently in harness, if required, without 
troubling his handsome head how he came there, and, 
his labor being done, would stretch his healthy body to 
rumination, and rest with serene, even unreflecting qui 
etude. 

He had been duly lectured by his mother, this morn- 



228 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ing, on the propriety of commencing his wooing, and was 
coming towards them with a bouquet in his hand. 

" See there," said Elsie, " there is our young neighbor 
Antonio coming towards us. There is a youth whom I am, 
willing you should speak to, none of your ruffian gal 
lants, but steady as an ox at his work, and as kind at the 
crib. Happy will the girl be that gets him for a hus 
band ! " 

Agnes was somewhat troubled and saddened this morn 
ing, and absorbed in cares quite new to her life before ; but 
her nature was ever kindly and social, and it had been laid 
under so many restrictions by her grandmother's close method 
of bringing up, that it was always ready to rebound in favor 
of anybody to whom she allowed her to show kindness. 
So, when the young man stopped and shyly reached forth 
to her a knot of scarlet poppies interminged with bright 
vetches and wild blue larkspurs, she took it graciously, and, 
frankly beaming a smile into his face, said, 

" Thank you, my good Antonio ! " Then fastening them 
in the front of her bodice, " There, they are beautiful ! " 
she said, looking up with the simple satisfaction of a child. 

"They are not half so beautiful as you are," said the 
young peasant ; " everybody likes you." 

" You are very kind, I am sure," said Agnes. " I like 
everybody, as far as grandmamma thinks it best." 

" I am glad of that," said Antonio, " because then I hope 
you will like me." 

" Oh, yes, certainly, I do ; grandmamma says you are very 
good, and I like all good people." 

" Well, then, pretty Agnes," said the young man, " let me 
carry your basket." 

" Oh, you don't need to ; it does not tire me." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 229 

" But I should like to do something for you," insisted the 
y<?ung man, blushing deeply. 

" Well, you may, then," said Agnes, who began to wonder 
at the length of time her grandmother allowed this conversa 
tion to go on without interrupting it, as she generally had 
done when a young man was in the case. Quite to her 
astonishment, her venerable relative, instead of sticking as 
close to her as her shadow, was walking forward very fast 
without looking behind. 

"Now, Holy Mother," said that excellent matron, "do 
help this young man to bring this affair out straight, and 
give an old woman, who has had a world of troubles, a 
little peace in her old age ! " 

Agnes found herself, therefore, quite unusually situated, 
alone in the company of a handsome young man, and ap 
parently with the consent of her grandmother. Some girls 
might have felt emotions of embarrassment, or even alarm, 
at this new situation ; but the sacred loneliness and seclu 
sion in which Agnes had been educated had given her a 
confiding fearlessness, such as voyagers have found in the 
birds of bright foreign islands which have never been in 
vaded by man. She looked up at Antonio with a pleased, 
admiring smile, much such as she would have given, if a 
great handsome stag, or other sylvan companion, had stepped 
from the forest and looked a friendship at her through his 
large liquid eyes. She seemed, in an innocent, frank way, 
to like to have him walking by her, and thought him very 
good to carry her basket, though, as she told him, he need 
not do it, it did not tire her in the least. 

" Nor does it tire me, pretty Agnes," said he, with an em 
barrassed laugh. " See what a great fellow I am, how 
strong ! Look, I can bend an iron bar in my hands ! I 



230 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

am as strong as an ox, and I should like always to use my 
strength for you." 

u Should you ? How very kind of you ! It is very 
Christian to use one's strength for others, like the good 
Saint Christopher." 

" But I would use my strength for you because I love 
you, gentle Agnes ! " 

" That is right, too," replied Agnes. " We must all love 
one another, my good Antonio." 

" You must know what I mean," said the young man. " I 
mean that I want to marry you." 

" I am sorry for that, Antonio," replied Agnes, gravely ; 
" because I do not want to marry you. I am never going 
to marry anybody." 

" Ah, girls always talk so, my mother told me ; but no 
body ever heard of a girl that did not want a husband; 
that is impossible," said Antonio, with simplicity. 

" I believe girls generally do, Antonio ; but I do not : my 
desire is to go to the convent." 

"To the convent, pretty Agnes? Of all things, what 
should you want to go to the convent for? You never 
had any trouble. You are young, and handsome, and 
healthy, and almost any of the fellows would think him 
self fortunate to get you." 

" I would go there to live for God and pray for souls," 
said Agnes. 

" But your grandmother will never let you ; she means 
you shall marry me. I heard her and my mother talking 
a.bout it last night ; and my mother bade me come on, for 
she said it was all settled." 

" I never heard anything of it," said Agnes, now for the 
first time feeling troubled. " But, my good Antonio, if you 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 231 

really do like me and wish me well, you will not want to 
distress me ? " 

" Certainly not." 

" Well, it will distress me very, very much, if you persist 
in wanting to marry me, and if you say any more on the 
subject." 

" Is that really so ? " said Antonio, fixing his great velvet 
eyes with an honest stare on Agnes. 

" Yes, it is so, Antonio ; you may rely upon it." 

" But look here, Agnes, are you quite sure ? Mother 
says girls do not always know their mind." 

" But I know mine, Antonio. Now you really will dis 
tress and trouble me very much, if you say anything more 
of this sort." 

" I declare, I am sorry for it," said the young man. 
" Look ye, Agnes, I did not care half as much about it 
this morning as I do now. Mother has been saying this 
great while that I must have a wife, that she was getting 
old ; and this morning she told me to speak to you. I 
thought you would be all ready, indeed I did." 

" My good Antonio, there are a great many very hand 
some girls who would be glad, I suppose, to marry you. I 
believe other girls do not feel as I do. Giulietta used to 
laugh and tell me so." 

" That Giulietta was a splendid girl," said Antonio. " She 
used to make great eyes at me, and try to make me play 
the fool ; but my mother would not hear of her. Now she 
has gone off with a fellow to the mountains." 

" Giulietta gone ? " 

" Yes, have n't you heard of it ? She 's gone with one 
of the fellows of that dashing young robber-captain that has 
been round our town so much lately. All the girls are wild 



232 AGNES OF SORRENTO, 

after these mountain fellows. A good, honest boy like me, 
that hammers away at his trade, they think nothing of; 
whereas one of these fellows with a feather in his cap has 
only to twinkle his finger at them, and they are off like a 
bird." 

The blood rose in Agnes's cheeks at this very unconscious 
remark ; but she walked along for some time with a coun 
tenance of grave reflection. 

They had now gained the street of the city, where old 
Elsie stood at a little distance waiting for them. 

" Well, Agnes," said Antonio, " so you reall; are in 
earnest ? " 

" Certainly I am." 

" Well, then, let us be good friends, at any rate," said the 
young man. 

" Oh, to be sure, I will," said Agnes, smiling with all the 
brightness her lovely face was capable of. " You are a kind, 
good man, and I like you very much. I wi 11 always remem 
ber you kindly." 

" Well, good-bye, then," said Antonio, offering his hand. 

" Good-bye," said Agnes, cheerfully giving hers. 

Elsie, beholding the cordiality of this parting, comforted 
herself that all was right, and ruffled all her feathers with the 
satisfied pride of a matron whose family plans are succeeding. 

"After all," she said to herself, "brother was right, 
best let young folks settle these matters themselves. Now 
see the advantage of such an education as I have given 
Agnes ! Instead of being betrothed to a good, honest, 
forehanded fellow, she might have been losing her poor, 
silly heart to some of these lords or gallants who throw 
away a girl as one does an orange when they have sucked 
it. Who knows what mischief this cavalier might have 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 233 

done, if I had not been so watchful? Now let him come 
prying and spying about, she will have a husband to defend 
her. A smith's hammer is better than an old woman's spin 
dle, any day." 

Agnes took her seat with her usual air of thoughtful grav 
ity, her mind seeming to be intensely preoccupied, and her 
grandmother, though secretly exulting in the supposed cause, 
resolved not to open the subject with her till they were at 
home or alone at night. 

" I have my defence to make to Father Francesco, too," 
she said to herself, " for hurrying on this betrothal against 
his advice ; but one must manage a little with these priests, 
the saints forgive me ! I really think sometimes, because 
they can't marry themselves, they would rather see every 
pretty girl in a convent than with a husband. It 's natural 
enough, too. Father Francesco will be like the rest of the 
world : when he can't help a thing, he will see the will of 
the Lord in it." 

Thus prosperously the world seemed to go with old Elsie. 
Meantime, when her back was turned, as she was kneeling 
over her basket, sorting out lemons, Agnes happened to look 
up, and there, just under the arch of the gateway, where she 
had seen him the first time, sat the cavalier on a splendid 
horse, with a white feather streaming backward from his 
black riding-hat and dark curls. 

He bowed low and kissed his hand to her, and before she 
knew it her eyes met his, which seemed to flash light and 
sunshine all through her ; and then he turned his horse and 
was gone through the gate, while she, filled with self-reproach, 
was taking her little heart to task for the instantaneous throb 
of happiness which had passed through her whole being at 
that sight. She had not turned away her head, nor said a 



234 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

prayer, as P'ather Francesco told her to do, because the 
whole thing had been sudden as a flash ; but now it was 
gone, she prayed, " My God, help me not to love him ! let 
me love Thee alone ! " But many times in the course of the 
day, as she twisted her flax, she found herself wondering 
whither he could be going. Had he really gone to that 
enchanted cloud-land, in the old purple Apennines, whither 
he wanted to carry her, gone, perhaps, never to return ? 
That was best. But was he reconciled with the Church ? 
Was that great, splendid soul that looked out of those eyes 
to be forever lost, or would the pious exhortations of her 
uncle avail ? And then she thought he had said to her, that, 
if she would go with him, he would confess and take the 
sacrament, and be reconciled with the Church, and so his 
soul be saved. 

She resolved to tell this to Father Francesco. Perhaps 

he would No, she shivered as she remembered the 

severe, withering look with which the holy father had spoken 
of him, and the awfulness of his manner, he would never 

consent. And then her grandmother No, there was no 

possibility. 

Meanwhile Agnes's good old uncle sat in the orange-shaded 
garden, busily perfecting his sketches; but his mind was 
distracted, and his thoughts wandered, and often he rose, 
and, leaving his drawings, would pace up and down the little 
place, absorbed in earnest prayer. The thought of his mas 
ter's position was hourly growing upon him. The real world 
with its hungry and angry tide was each hour washing higher 
and higher up on the airy shore of the ideal, and bearing the 
pearls and enchanted shells of fancy out into its salt and 
muddy waters. 

" Oh, my master, my father ! " he said, " is the martyr's 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 235 

crown of fire indeed waiting thee ? Will God desert His 
own ? But was not Christ crucified ? and the disciple is 
not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. But 
surely Florence will not consent. The whole city will make 
a stand for him ; they are ready, if need be, to pluck out 
their eyes and give them to him. Florence will certainly 
be a refuge for him. But why do I put confidence in mail ? 
In the Lord alone have I righteousness and strength." 

And the old monk raised the psalm, " Quare fremunt 
gentes" and his voice rose and fell through the flowery 
recesses and dripping grottoes of the old gorge, sad and 
earnest like the protest of the few and feeble of Christ's 
own against the rushing legions of the world. Yet, as he 
sang, courage and holy hope came into his soul from the 
sacred words, just such courage as they afterwards 
brought to Luther and to the Puritans in later times. 



23 G AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE MONK'S DEPARTURE. 

THE three inhabitants of the little dovecot were sitting 
in their garden after supper, enjoying the cool freshness. 
The place was perfumed with the smell of orange-blossoms, 
brought out by gentle showers that had fallen during the 
latter part of the afternoon, and all three felt the tranquil 
lizing effects of the sweet evening air. The monk sat bend 
ing over his drawings, resting the frame on which they lay 
on the mossy garden-wall, so as to get the latest advantage 
of the rich golden twilight which now twinkled through the 
sky. Agnes sat by him on the same wall, now glancing 
over his shoulder at his work, and now leaning thoughtfully 
on her elbow, gazing pensively down into the deep shadows 
of the gorge, or out where the golden light of evening 
streamed under the arches of the old Roman bridge, to 
the wide, bright sea beyond. 

Old Elsie bustled about with unusual content in the lines 
of her keen wrinkled face. Already her thoughts were run 
ning on household furnishing and bridal finery. She un 
locked an old chest which from its heavy quaint carvings of 
dark wood must have been some relic of the fortunes of her 
better days, and, taking out of a little till of the same a 
string of fine silvery pearls, held them up admiringly to the 
evening light. A splendid pair of pearl ear-rings also was 
produced from the same receptacle. 

She sighed at first, as she looked at these things, and then 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 237 

smiled with rather an air of triumph, and, coming to where Ag 
nes reclined on the wall, held them up playfully before her. 

" See here, little one ! " she said. 

" Oh, what pretty things ! where did they come from ? " 
said Agnes, innocently. 

" Where did they ? Sure enough ! Little did you or any 
one else know old Elsie had things like these ! But she 
meant her little Agnes should hold up her head with the 
best. No girl in Sorrento will have such wedding finery 
as this?" 

" Wedding finery, grandmamma," said Agnes, faintly, 
" what does that mean ? " 

" What does that mean, sly-boots ? Ah, you know well 
enough ! What were you and Antonio talking about all the 
time this morning ? Did he not ask you to marry him ? " 

" Yes, grandmamma ; but I told him I was not going to 
marry. You promised me, dear grandmother, right here, the 
other night, that I should not marry till I was willing ; and 
I told Antonio I was not willing." 

" The girl says but true, sister/' said the monk ; " you 
remember you gave her your word that she should not bo 
married till she gave her consent willingly." 

" But, Agnes, my pretty one, what can be the objection ? " 
said old Elsie, coaxingly. "Where will you find a better- 
made man, or more honest, or more kind ? and he is 
handsome ; and you will have a home that all the girls 
will envy." 

" Grandmamma, remember, you promised me, you 
promised me," said Agnes, looking distressed, and speak 
ing earnestly. 

" Well, well, child ! but can't I ask a civil question, if I 
did ? What is your objection to Antonio ? " 



238 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Only that I don't want to be married." 

" Now you know, child," said Elsie, " I never will consent 
to your going to a convent. You might as well put a knife 
through my old heart as talk to me of that. And if you 
don't go, you must marry somebody ; and who could be bet 
ter than Antonio ? " 

" Oh, grandmamma, am I not a good girl ? What have I 
done, that you are so anxious to get me away from you ? " 
said Agnes. " I like Antonio well enough, but I like you 
ten thousand times better. Why cannot we live together 
just as we do now ? I am strong. I can work a great deal 
harder than I do. You ought to let me work more, so that 
you need not work so hard and tire yourself, let me carry 
the heavy basket, and dig round the trees." 

" Pooh ! a pretty story ! " said Elsie. " We are two lone 
women, and the times are unsettled ; there are robbers and 
loose fellows about, and we want a protector." 

" And is not the good Lord our protector ? has He not 
always kept us, grandmother ? " said Agnes. 

" Oh, that's well enough to say, but folks can't always get 
along so ; it 's far better trusting the Lord with a good 
strong man about, like Antonio, for instance. I should 
like to see the man that would dare be uncivil to his wife. 
But go your ways, it 's no use toiling away one's life for 
children, who, after all, won't turn their little finger for 
you." 

" Now, dear grandmother," said Agnes, " have I not said 
I would do everything for you, and work hard for you ? 
Ask me to do anything else in the world, grandmamma ; I 
will do anything to make you happy, except marry this man, 
that I cannot." 

" And that is the only thing I want you to do. Well, I 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 239 

suppose I may as well lock up these things ; I see my gifts 
are not cared for." 

And the old soul turned and went in quite testily, leaving 
Agnes with a grieved heart, sitting still by her uncle. 

" Never weep, little one," said the kind old monk, when he 
saw the silent tears falling one after another; "your grand 
mother loves you, after all, and will come out of this, if we 
are quiet." 

" This is such a beautiful world," said Agnes, " who would 
think it would be such a hard one to live in ? such battles 
and conflicts as people have here ! " 

" You say well, little heart ; but great is the glory to be 
revealed ; so let us have courage." 

" Dear uncle, have you heard any ill-tidings of late ? " 
asked Agnes. " I noticed this morning you were cast down, 
and to-night you look so tired and sad." 

" Yes, dear child, heavy tidings have indeed come. My 
dear master at Florence is hard beset by wicked men, and 
in great danger, in danger, perhaps, of falling a martyr 
to his holy zeal for the blessed Jesus and his Church." 

" But cannot our holy father, the Pope, protect him ? You 
should go to Rome directly and lay the case before him." 

" It is not always possible to be protected by the Pope," 
said Father Antonio, evasively. " But I grieve much, dear 
child, that I can be with you no longer. I must gird up my 
loins and set out for Florence, to see with my own eyes how 
the battle is going for my holy master." 

" Ah, must I lose you, too, my dear, best friend ? " said 
Agnes. " What shall I do ? " 

"Thou hast the same Lord Jesus, and the same dear 
Mother, when I am gone. Have faith in God, and cease not 
to pray for His Church, and for me, too." 



240 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" That I will, dear uncle ! I will pray for you more than 
ever, for prayer now will be all my comfort. But," she 
added, with hesitation, "oh, uncle, you promised to visit 
him ! " 

" Never fear, little Agnes, I will do that. I go to him 
this very night, now even, for the daylight waxes too 
scant for me to work longer." 

" But you will come back and stay with us to-night, un 
cle ? " 

" Yes, I will, but to-morrow morning I must be up and 
away with the birds ; and I have labored hard all day to 
finish the drawings for the lad who shall carve the shrine, 
that he may busy himself thereon in my absence." 

" Then you will come back ? " 

" Certainly, dear heart, I will come back ; of that be as 
sured. Pray God it be before long, too." 

So saying, the good monk drew his cowl over his head, 
and, putting his portfolio of drawings under his arm, began 
to wend his way towards the old town. 

Agnes watched him departing, her heart in a strange flut 
ter of eagerness and solicitude. What were these dreadful 
troubles which were coming upon her good uncle ? who 
those enemies of the Church that beset that saintly teacher 
he so much looked up to ? And why was lawless violence 
allowed to run such riot in Italy, as it had in the case of the 
unfortunate cavalier ? As she thought things over, she was 
burning with a repressed desire to do something herself to 
abate these troubles. 

" I am not a knight," she said to herself, " and I cannot 
fight for the good cause. I am not a priest, and I cannot 
argue for it. I cannot preach and convert sinners. What, 
then, can I do ? I can pray. Suppose I should make a pil- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 241 

grimage ? Yes, that would be a good work, and I will. 
I will walk to Rome, praying at every shrine and holy place ; 
and then, when I come to the Holy City, whose very dust is 
made precious with the blood of the martyrs and saints, I 
will seek the house of our dear father, the Pope, and entreat 
his forgiveness for this poor soul. He will not scorn me, for 
he is in the place of the blessed Jesus, and the richest prin 
cess and the poorest maiden are equal in his sight. "Ah, 
that will be beautiful ! Holy Mother," she said, falling on 
her knees before the shrine, " here I vow and promise that 
I will go praying to the Holy City. Smile on me and help 
me!" 

And by the twinkle of the flickering lamp which threw its 
light upon the picture, Agnes thought surely the placid face 
brightened to a tender maternal smile, and her enthusiastic 
imagination saw in this an omen of success. 

Old Elsie was moody and silent this evening, vexed at 
the thwarting of her schemes. It was the first time that the 
idea had ever gained a foothold in her mind, that her docile 
and tractable grandchild could really have for any serious 
length of time a will opposed to her own, and she found it 
even now difficult to believe it. Hitherto she had shaped 
her life as easily as she could mould a biscuit, and it was all 
plain sailing before her. The force and decision of this 
young will rose as suddenly upon her as the one rock in the 
middle of the ocean which a voyager unexpectedly discov 
ered by striking on it. 

But Elsie by no means regarded the game as lost. She 
mentally went over the field, considering here and there 
what was yet to be done. 

The subject had fairly been broached. Agnes had lis 
tened to it, and parted in friendship from Antonio. Now 
11 



242 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

his old mother must be soothed and pacified ; and Antonio 
must be made to persevere. 

" What is a girl worth that can be won at the first ask 
ing ? " quoth Elsie. " Depend upon it, she will fall to think 
ing of him, and the next time she sees him she will give 
him a good look. The girl never knew what it was to have 
a lover. No wonder she does n't take to it at first ; there 's 
where her bringing up comes in, so different from other 
girls'. Courage, Elsie ! Nature will speak in its own time." 

Thus soliloquizing, she prepared to go a few steps from 
their dwelling, to the cottage of Meta and Antonio, which 
was situated at no great distance. 

" Nobody will think of coming here this time o' night," she 
said, " and the girl is in for a good hour at least with her 
prayers, and so I think I may venture. I don't really like 
to leave her, but it 's not a great way, and I shall be back in 
a few moments. I want just to put a word into old Meta's 
ear, that she may teach Antonio how to demean himself." 

And so the old soul took her spinning and away she went, 
leaving Agnes absorbed in her devotions. 

The solemn starry night looked down steadfastly on the 
little garden. The evening wind creeping with gentle stir 
among the orange-leaves, and the falling waters of the foun 
tain dripping their distant, solitary way down from rock to 
rock through the lonely gorge, were the only sounds that 
broke the stillness. 

The monk was the first of the two to return ; for those 
accustomed to the habits of elderly cronies on a gossiping 
expedition of any domestic importance will not be surprised 
that Elsie's few moments of projected talk lengthened im 
perceptibly into hours. 

Agnes came forward anxiously to meet her uncle. He 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 243 

seemed wan and haggard, and trembling with some recent 
emotion. 

" What is the matter with you, dear uncle ? " she asked. 
" Has anything happened ? " 

" Nothing, child, nothing. I have only been talking on 
painful subjects, deep perplexities, out of which I can scarce 
ly see my way. "Would to God this night of life were past, 
and I could see morning on the mountains ! " 

" My uncle, have you not, then, succeeded in bringing this 
young man to the bosom of the True Church ? " 

" Child, the way is hedged up, and made almost impassa 
ble by difficulties you little wot of. They cannot be told 
to you ; they are enough to destroy the faith of the very 
elect." 

Agnes's heart sank within her ; and the monk, sitting 
down on the wall of the garden, clasped his hands over one 
knee and gazed fixedly before him. 

The sight of her uncle, generally so cheerful, so elastic, 
so full of bright thoughts and beautiful words, so utterly 
cast down, was both a mystery and a terror to Agnes. 

" Oh, my uncle," 'she said, " it is hard that I must not 
know, and that I can do nothing, when I feel ready to die 
for this cause ! What is one little life ? Ah, if I had a 
thousand to give, I could melt them all into it, like little 
drops of rain in the sea ! Be not utterly cast down, good 
uncle ! Does not our dear Lord and Saviour reign in the 
heavens yet?" 

" Sweet little nightingale ! " said the monk, stretching his 
hand towards her. " Well did my master say that he gained 
strength to his soul always by talking with Christ's little 
children ! " 

" And all the dear saints and angels, they are not dead or 



244 AGI!JES OF SORRENTO. 

idle either," said Agnes, her face kindling; "they are busy 
all around us. I know not what this trouble is you speak 
of; but let us think what legions of bright angels and holy 
men and women are caring for us." 

" Well said, well said, dear child ! There is, thank God, 
a Church Triumphant, a crowned queen, a glorious bride ; 
and the poor, struggling Church Militant shall rise to join 
her ! What matter, then, though our way lie through dun 
geon and chains, through fire and sword, if we may attain to 
that glory at last?" 

" Uncle, are there such dreadful things really before 
you?" 

" There may be, child. I say of my master, as did the 
holy Apostles : * Let us also go, that we may die with him.' 
I feel a heavy presage. But I must not trouble you, child. 
Early in the morning I will be up and away. I go with 
this youth, whose pathway lies a certain distance along 
mine, and whose company I seek for his good as well as 
my pleasure." 

" You go with him ? " said Agnes, with a start of surprise. 

"Yes ; his refuge in the mountains lies between here and 
Rome, and he hath kindly offered to bring me on my way 
faster than I can go on foot ; and I would fain see our beau 
tiful Florence as soon as may be. O Florence, Florence, 
Lily of Italy ! wilt thou let thy prophet perish ? " 

" But, uncle, if he die for the faith, he will be a blessed 
martyr. That crown is worth dying for," said Agnes. 

" You say well, little one, you say well ! ' Ex oribus 
parvulorum.' But one shrinks from that in the person of a 
friend which one could cheerfully welcome for one's self. 
Oh, the blessed cross ! never is it welcome to the flesh, and 
yet how joyfully the spirit may walk under it!" 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 245 

" Dear uncle, I have made a solemn vow before our Holy 
Mother this night," said Agnes, " to go on a pilgrimage to 
Rome, and at every shrine and holy place to pray that these 
great afflictions which beset all of you may have a happy 
issue." 

" My sweet heart, what have you done ? Have you 
considered the unsettled roads, the wild, unruly men 
that are abroad, the robbers with which the mountains are 
filled ? " 

" These are all Christ's children and my brothers," said 
Agnes ; " for them was the most holy blood shed, as well as 
for me. They cannot harm one who prays for them." 

" But, dear heart of mine, these ungodly brawlers think 
little of prayer ; and this beautiful, innocent little face will 
but move the vilest and most brutal thoughts and deeds." 

" Saint Agnes still lives, dear uncle, and He who kept 
her in worse trial. I shall walk through them all pure as 
snow, I am assured I shall. The star which led the wise 
men and stood over the young child and his mother will lead 
me, too." 

" But your grandmother ? " 

" The Lord will incline her heart to go with me. Dear 
uncle, it does not beseem a child to reflect on its elders, yet 
I cannot but see that grandmamma loves this world and me 
too well for her soul's good. This journey will be for her 
eternal repose." 

" Well, well, dear one, I cannot now advise. Take advice 
of your confessor, and the blessed Lord and his holy Mother 
be with you ! But come now, I would soothe myself to 
sleep ; for I have need of good rest to-night. Let us sing 
together our dear master's hymn of the Cross." 

And the monk and the maiden sung together : 



246 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

"lesu, sommo conforto, 
Tu sei tutto il mio amore 
E'l mio beato porto, 
E santo Redentore. 

O gran bonta, 

Dolce pieta, 

Felice quel che teco unito sta! 

"Deh, quante volte ofFeso 
T' ha 1' alma e '1 cor meschino, 
E tu sei in croce steso 
Per salvar me, tapino! 

"lesu, fuss' io confitto 
Sopra quel duro ligno, 
Dove ti vedo afflitto, 
lesu, Signer benigno! 

"0 croce, fammi loco, 
E le mie membra prendi, 
Che del tuo dolce foco 
II cor e 1' alma accendi! 

"Infiamma il mio cor tanto 
Dell' amor tuo divino, 
Ch' io arda tutto quanto, 
Che paia un serafino! 

" La croce e '1 Crocifisso 
Sia nel mio cor scolpito, 
Ed io sia sempre affisso 
In gloria oy' egli e ito! " * 

As the monk sung, his soul seemed to fuse itself into the 
sentiment with that natural grace peculiar to his nation. He 

* Jesus, best comfort of my soul, 

Be thou my only love, 
My sacred saviour from my sins, 
My door to heaven above ! 
lofty goodness, love divine, 
Blest is the soul made one with thine ! 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 247 

walked up and down the little garden, apparently forgetful 
of Agnes or of any earthly presence, and in the last verses 
stretched his hands towards heaven with streaming tears and 
a fervor of utterance indescribable. 

The soft and passionate tenderness of the Italian words 
must exhale in an English translation, but enough may 
remain to show that the hymns with which Savonarola at 
this time sowed the mind of Italy often mingled the Mo 
ravian quaintness and energy with the Wesleyan purity and 
tenderness. One of the great means of popular reform 
which he proposed was the supplanting of the obscene and 
licentious songs, which at that time so generally defiled the 
minds of the young, by religious words and melodies. The 

Alas, how oft this sordid heart 

Hath wounded thy pure eye ! 
Yet for this heart upon the cross 

Thou gav'st thyself to die ! 

Ah, would I were extended there, 

Upon that cold, hard tree, 
Where I have seen thee, gracious Lord, 

Breathe out thy life for me ! 

Cross of my Lord, give room ! give room ! 

To thee my flesh be given ! 
Cleansed in thy fires of love and pain, 

My soul rise pure to heaven ! 

Burn in my heart, celestial flamo, 

With memories of him, 
Till, from earth's dross refined, I rise 

To join the seraphim ! 

Ah, vanish each unworthy trace 

Of earthly care or pride, 
Leave only, graven on my heart, 

The Cross, the Crucified! 



248 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

children and young people brought up under his influence 
were sedulously stored with treasures of sacred melody, as 
the safest companions of leisure hours, and the surest guard 
against temptation. 

" Come now, my little one," said the monk, after they had 
ce'ased singing, as he laid his hand on Agnes's head. " I 
am strong now ; I know where I stand. And you, my little 
one, you are one of my master's ' Children of the Cross.' 
You must sing the hymns of our dear master, that I have 
taught you, when I am far away. A hymn is a singing 
angel, and goes walking through the earth, scattering the 
devils before it. Therefore he who creates hymns imitates 
the most excellent and lovely works of our Lord God, who 
made the angels. These hymns watch our chamber-door, 
they s'it upon our pillow, they sing to us when we awake ; 
and therefore our master was resolved to sow the minds of 
his young people with them, as our lovely Italy is sown 
with the seeds of all colored flowers. How lovely has it 
often been to me, as I sat at my work in Florence, to hear 
the little children go by. chanting of Jesus and Mary, and 
young men singing to young maidens, not vain flatteries of 
their beauty, but the praises of the One only Beautiful, 
whose smile sows heaven with stars like flowers ! Ah, in 
my day I have seen blessed times in Florence ! Truly was 
she worthy to be called the Lily City ! for all her care 
seemed to be to make white her garments to receive her 
Lord and Bridegroom. Yes, though she had sinned like the 
Magdalen, yet she loved much, like her. She washed His 
feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her 
head. Oh, my beautiful Florence, be true to thy vows, be 
true to thy Lord and Governor, Jesus Christ, and all shall 
be well!" 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 249 

" Amen, dear uncle ! " said Agnes. " I will not fail to 
pray day and night, that thus it may be. And now, if you 
must travel so far, you must go to rest. Grandmamma has 
gone long ago. I saw her steal by as we were singing." 

u And is there any message from my little Agnes to this 
young man ? " asked the monk. 

" Yes. Say to him that Agnes prays daily that he may 
be a worthy son and soldier of the Lord Jesus." 

" Amen, sweet heart ! Jesu and His sweet Mother bless 
thee!" 



11* 



250 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE PENANCE. 

THE course of our story requires us to return to the 
Capuchin convent, and to the struggles and trials of its 
Superior ; for in his hands is the irresistible authority 
which must direct the future life of Agnes. 

From no guilty compliances, no heedless running into 
temptation, had he come to love her. The temptation had 
met him in the direct path of duty ; the poison had been 
breathed in with the perfume of sweetest and most life- 
giving flowers : nor could he shun that temptation, nor 
cease to inhale that fatal sweetness, without confessing 
himself vanquished in a point where, in his view, to yield 
was to be lost. The subtle and deceitful visit of Father Jo 
hannes to his cell had the effect of thoroughly rousing him 
to a complete sense of his position, and making him feel the 
immediate, absolute necessity of bringing all the energy of 
his will, all the resources of his nature to bear on its present 
difficulties. For he felt, by a fine intuition, that already he 
was watched and suspected ; any faltering step now, any 
wavering, any change in his mode of treating his female 
penitents, would be maliciously noted. The military educa 
tion of his early days had still left in his mind a strong re 
siduum of personal courage and honor, which made him 
regard it as dastardly to flee when he ought to conquer, and 
therefore he set his face as a flint for victory. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 251 

But reviewing his interior world, and taking a survey of 
the work before him, he felt that sense of a divided person 
ality which often becomes so vivid in the history of indi 
viduals of strong will and passion. It seemed to him that 
there were two men within him : the one turbulent, passion 
ate, demented ; the other vainly endeavoring by authority, 
reason, and conscience to bring the rebel to subjection. 
The discipline of conventual life, the extraordinary auster 
ities to which he had condemned himself, the monotonous 
solitude of his existence, all tended to exalt the vivacity of 
the nervous system, which, in the Italian constitution, is at 
all times disproportionately developed ; and when those 
weird harp-strings of the nerves are once thoroughly un 
strung, the fury and tempest of the discord sometimes ut 
terly bewilders the most practised self-government. 

But he felt that something must be done with himself, and 
done immediately; for in a few days he must again meet 
Agnes at the confessional. He must meet her, not with 
weak tremblings and passionate fears, but calm as Fate, 
inexorable as the Judgment-Day. He must hear her con 
fession, not as man, but as God ; he must pronounce his judg 
ments with a divine dispassionateness. He must dive into 
the recesses of her secret heart, and, following with subtile 
analysis all the fine courses of those fibres which were feeling 
their blind way towards an earthly love, must tear them re 
morselessly away. Well could he warn her of the insidious- 
ness of earthly affections ; better than any one else he could 
show her how a name that was blended with her prayers 
and borne before the sacred shrine in her most retired and 
solemn hours might at last come to fill all her heart with a 
presence too dangerously dear. He must direct her gaze up 
those mystical heights where an unearthly marriage awaited 



252 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

her, its sealed and spiritual bride ; he must hurry her foot 
steps onward to the irrevocable issue. 

All this was before him. But ere it could be done, he 
must subdue himself, he must become calm and pulseless, 
in deadly resolve; and what prayer, what penance might 
avail for this ? If all that he had already tried had so mis 
erably failed, what hope ? He resolved to quit for a season 
all human society, and enter upon one of those desolate 
periods of retreat from earthly converse well known in the 
annals of saintship as most prolific in spiritual victories. 

Accordingly, on the day after the conversation with 
Father Johannes, he startled the monks by announcing to 
them that he was going to leave them for several days. 

" My brothers," he said, " the weight of a fearful penance 
is laid upon me, which I must work out alone. I leave you 
to-day, and charge you not to seek to follow my footsteps ; 
but, as you hope to escape hell, watch and wrestle for me and 
yourselves during the time I am gone. Before many days I 
I hope to return to you with renewed spiritual strength." 

That evening, while Agnes and her uncle were sitting 
together in their orange-garden, mingling their parting pray 
ers and hymns, scenes of a very different description sur 
rounded the Father Francesco. 

One who looks on the flowery fields and blue seas of this 
enchanting region thinks that the Isles of the Blest could 
scarcely find on earth a more fitting image ; nor can he 
realize, till experience proves it to him, that he is in the 
immediate vicinity of a weird and dreary region which might 
represent no less the goblin horrors of the damned. 

Around the foot of Vesuvius lie fair villages and villas 
garlanded with roses and flushing with grapes whose juice 
gains warmth from the breathing of its subterraneous fires, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 253 

while just above them rises a region more awful than can 
be created by the action of any common causes of sterility. 
There, immense tracts sloping gradually upward show a des 
olation so peculiar, so utterly unlike every common solitude 
of Nature, that one enters upon it with the shudder we give 
at that which is wholly unnatural. On all sides are gigantic 
serpent convolutions of black lava, their immense folds rolled 
into every conceivable contortion, as if, in their fiery agonies, 
they had struggled and wreathed and knotted together, and 
then grown cold and black with the imperishable signs of 
those terrific convulsions upon them. Not a blade of grass, 
not a flower, not even the hardiest lichen, springs up to re 
lieve the utter deathliness of the scene. The eye wanders 
from one black, shapeless mass to another, and there is ever 
the same suggestion of hideous monster life, of goblin con 
vulsions and strange fiend-like agonies in some age gone 
by. One's very footsteps have an unnatural, metallic clink, 
and one's garments brushing over the rough surface are 
torn and fretted by its sharp, remorseless touch, as if its 
very nature were so pitiless and acrid that the slightest con 
tact revealed it. 

The sun was just setting over the beautiful Bay of Naples, 
with its enchanted islands, its jewelled city, its flowery 
villages, all bedecked and bedropped with strange shiftings 
and flushes of prismatic light and shade, as if they belonged 
to some fairy-land of perpetual festivity and singing, 
when Father Francesco stopped in his toilsome ascent up 
the mountain, and seating himself on ropy ridges of black 
lava, looked down on the peaceful landscape. 

Above his head, behind him, rose the black cone of the 
mountain, over whose top the lazy clouds of thin white smoke 
were floating, tinged with the evening light; around him, 
the desolate convulsed waste, so arid, so supernaturally 



254 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

dreary ; and below, like a soft enchanted dream, the beautiful 
bay, the gleaming white villas and towers, the picturesque 
islands, the gliding sails, flecked and streaked and dyed with 
the violet and pink and purple of the evening sky. The 
thin new moon and one glittering star trembled through 
the rosy air. 

The monk wiped from his brow the sweat that had been 
caused by the toil of his hurried journey, and listened to 
the bells of the Ave Maria pealing from the different 
churches of Naples, filling the atmosphere with a soft trem 
ble of solemn dropping sound, as if spirits in the air took up 
and repeated over and over the angelic salutation which a 
thousand earthly lips were just then uttering. Mechanically 
he joined in the invocation which at that moment united the 
hearts of all Christians, and as the words passed his lips, he 
thought, with a sad, desolate longing, of the hour of death 
of which they spake. 

" It must come at last," he said. " Life is but a moment. 
Why am I so cowardly ? why so unwilling to suffer and to 
struggle ? Am I a warrior of the Lord, and do I shrink 
from the toils of the camp, and long for the ease of the court 
before I have earned it ? Why do we clamor for happiness ? 
Why should we sinners be happy ? And yet, God, why 
is the world made so lovely as it lies there, why so rejoicing, 
and so girt with splendor and beauty, if we are never to 
enjoy it ? If penance and toil were all we were sent here 
for, why not make a world grim and desolate as this around 
me ? then there would be nothing to seduce us. But our 
path is a constant fight ; Nature is made only to be resisted ; 
we must walk the sharp blade of the sword over the fiery 
chasm to Paradise. Come, then ! no shrinking ! let me 
turn my back on everything dear and beautiful, as now on 
this landscape ! " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 255 

He rose and commenced the perpendicular ascent of the 
cone, stumbling and climbing over the huge sliding blocks 
of broken lava, which grated and crunched beneath his feet 
with a harsh metallic ring. Sometimes a broken fragment or 
two would go tinkling down the rough path behind him, and 
sometimes it seemed as if the whole loose black mass from 
above were about to slide, like an avalanche, down upon his 
head ; he almost hoped it would. Sometimes he would 
stop, overcome by the toil of the ascent, and seat himself 
for a moment on a black fragment, and then his eye 
would wander over the wide and peaceful panorama below. 
He seemed to himself like a fly perched upon some little 
roughness of a perpendicular wall, and felt a strange airy 
sense of pleasure in being thus between earth and heaven. 
A sense of relief, of beauty, and peacefulness would steal 
over him, as if he were indeed something disfranchised and 
disembodied, a part of the harmonious and beautiful world 
that lay stretched out beneath him ; in a moment more he 
would waken himself with a start, and resume his toilsome 
journey with a sullen and dogged perseverance. 

At last he gained the top of the mountain, that weird, 
strange region where the loose, hot soil, crumbling beneath 
his feet, was no honest foodful mother-earth, but an acrid 
mass of ashes and corrosive minerals. Arsenic, sulphur, and 
many a sharp and bitter salt were in all he touched, every 
rift in the ground hissed with stifling steam, while rolling 
clouds of dun sullen smoke, and a deep hollow booming, like 
the roar of an immense furnace, told his nearness to the great 
crater. He penetrated the sombre tabernacle, and stood on 
the very brink of a huge basin, formed by a wall of rocks 
around a sunken plain, in the midst of which rose the black 
cone of the subterraneous furnace, which crackled and roared 



256 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

and from time to time spit up burning stones and cinders or 
oozed out slow ropy streams of liquid fire. 

The sulphurous cliffs were dyed in many a brilliant shade 
of brown and orange by the admixture of various ores, but 
their brightness seemed strange and unnatural, and the diz 
zying whirls of vapor, now enveloping the whole scene in 
gloom, now lifting in this spot and now in that, seemed to 
magnify the dismal pit to an indefinite size. Now and then 
there would come up from the very entrails of the mountain 
a sort of convulsed sob of hollow sound, and the earth would 
quiver beneath his feet, and fragments from the surrounding 
rocks would scale off and fall with crashing reverberations 
into the depth beneath ; at such moments it would seem as 
if the very mountain were about to crush in and bear him 
down in its ruins. 

Father Francesco, though blinded by the smoke and 
choked by the vapor, could not be content without descend 
ing into the abyss and exploring the very penetralia of its 
mysteries. Steadying his way by means of a cord which he 
fastened to a firm projecting rock, he began slowly and pain 
fully clambering downward. The wind was sweeping across 
the chasm from behind, bearing the noxious vapors away 
from him, or he must inevitably have been stifled. It took 
him some little time, however, to effect his descent ; but at 
length he found himself fairly landed on the dark floor of the 
gloomy enclosure. 

The ropy, pitch-black undulations of lava yawned here 
and there in red-hot cracks and seams, making it appear to 
be only a crust over some fathomless depth of molten fire, 
whose meanings and boilings could be heard below. These 
dark congealed billows creaked and bent as the monk stepped 
upon them, and burned his feet through his coarse sandals ; 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 257 

yet he stumbled on. Now and then his foot would crush in, 
where the lava had hardened in a thinner crust, and he 
would draw it suddenly back from the lurid red-hot metal 
beneath. The staff on which he rested was constantly 
kindling into a light blaze as it slipped into some heated 
hollow, and he was fain to beat out the fire upon the cooler 
surface. Still he went on half-stifled by the hot and pun 
gent vapor, but drawn by that painful, unnatural curiosity 
which possesses one in a nightmare dream. The great cone 
in the centre was the point to which he wished to attain, 
the nearest point which man can gain to this eternal mystery 
of fire. It was trembling with a perpetual vibration, a hol 
low, pulsating undertone of sound like the surging of the sea 
before a storm, and the lava that boiled over its sides rolled 
slowly down with a strange creaking ; it seemed the con 
densed, intensified essence and expression of eternal fire, 
rising and still rising from some inexhaustible fountain of 
burning. 

Father Francesco drew as near as he could for the stifling 
heat and vapor, and, resting on his staff, stood gazing in 
tently. The lurid light of the fire fell with an unearthly 
glare on his pale, sunken features, his wild, haggard eyes, 
and his torn and disarranged garments. In the awful soli 
tude and silence of the night he felt his heart stand still, as 
if indeed he had touched with his very hand the gates of 
eternal woe, and felt its fiery breath upon his cheek. He 
half-imagined that the seams and clefts which glowed in 
lurid lines between the dark billows would gape yet wider 
and show the blasting secrets of some world of fiery despair 
below. He fancied that he heard behind and around the 
mocking laugh of fiends, and that confused clamor of min 
gled shrieks and lamentations which Dante describes as fill- 



258 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ing the dusky approaches to that forlorn realm where hope 
never enters. 

" Ah, God," he exclaimed, " for this vain life of man ! 
They eat, they drink, they dance, they sing, they marry and 
are given in marriage, they have castles and gardens and 
villas, and the very beauty of Paradise seems over it all, 
and yet how close by burns and roars the eternal fire ! 
Fools that we are, to clamor for indulgence and happiness 
in this life, when the question is, to escape everlasting burn 
ings ! If I tremble at this outer court of God's wrath and 
justice, what must be the fires of hell ? These are but 
earthly fires ; they can but burn the body : those are made 
to burn the soul ; they are undying as the soul is. What 
would it be to be dragged down, down, down, into an abyss 
of soul-fire hotter than this for ages on ages ? This might 
bring merciful death in time : that will have no end." 

The monk fell on his knees and breathed out piercing 
supplications. Every nerve and fibre within him seemed 
tense with his agony of prayer. It was not the outcry for 
purity and peace, not a tender longing for forgiveness, not a 
filial remorse for sin, but the nervous anguish of him who 
shrieks in the immediate apprehension of an unendurable 
torture. It was the cry of a man upon the rack, the 
'despairing scream of him who feels himself sinking in a 
burning dwelling. Such anguish has found an utterance 
in Stradella's celebrated " Pieta, Signore," which still tells 
to our ears, in its wild moans and piteous shrieks, the 
religious conceptions of his day ; for there is no phase of 
the Italian mind that has not found expression in its 
music. 

When the oppression of the heat and sulphurous vapor 
became too dreadful to be borne, the monk retraced his way 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 259 

and climbed with difficulty up the steep sides of the crater, 
till he gained the summit above, where a comparatively free 
air revived him. All night he wandered up and down in 
that dreary vicinity, now listening to the mournful roar and 
crackle of the fire, and now raising his voice in penitential 
psalms or the notes of that terrific " Dies Irae " which sums 
up all the intense fear and horror with which the religion 
of the Middle Ages clothed the idea of the final catastrophe 
of humanity. Sometimes prostrating himself with his face 
towards the stifling soil, he prayed with agonized intensity 
till Nature would sink in a temporary collapse, and sleep, in 
spite of himself, would steal over him. 

So waned the gloomy hours of the night away, till the 
morning broke in the east,' turning all the blue wavering 
floor of the sea to crimson brightness, and bringing up, with 
the rising breeze, the barking of dogs, the lowing of kine, 
the songs of laborers and boatmen, all fresh and breezy 
from the repose of the past night. 

Father Francesco heard the sound of approaching foot 
steps climbing the lava path, and started with a nervous 
trepidation. Soon he recognized a poor peasant of the 
vicinity, whose child he had tended during a dangerous 
illness. He bore with him a little basket of eggs, with a 
melon and a fresh green salad. 

" Good-morning, holy father," he said, bowing humbly. 
u I saw you coming this way last night, and I could hardly 
sleep for thinking of you ; and my good woman, Teresina, 
would have it that I should come out to look after you. I 
have taken the liberty to bring a little offering ; it was the 
best we had." 

" Thank you, my son," said the monk, looking wistfully 
at the fresh, honest face of the peasant. " You have taken 



260 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

too much trouble for such a sinner. I must not allow my 
self such indulgences." 

" But your Reverence must live. Look you," said the 
peasant, " at least your reverence will take an egg. See 
here, how handily I can cook one," he added, striking his 
stick into a little cavity of a rock, from which, as from an 
escape-valve, hissed a jet of hot steam, " see here, I nestle 
the egg in this little cleft, and it will be done in a twinkling. 
Our good God gives us our fire for nothing here." 

There was something wholesomely kindly and cheerful in 
the action and expression of the man, which broke upon the 
overstrained and disturbed musings of the monk like day 
light on a ghastly dream. The honest, loving heart sees 
love in everything ; even the fire is its fatherly helper, and 
not its avenging enemy. 

Father Francesco took the egg, when it was done, with a 
silent gesture of thanks. 

" If I might make bold to say," said the peasant, encour 
aged, " your Reverence should have some care for yourself. 
If a man will not feed himself, the good God will riot feed 
him ; and we poor people have too few friends already to 
let such as you die. Your hands are trembling, and you 
look worn out. Surely you should take something more, 
for the very love of the poor." 

" My son, I am bound to do a heavy penance, and to work 
ut a great conflict. I thank you for your undeserved kind- 
ess. Leave me now to myself, and come no more to dis 
turb my prayers. Go, and God bless you ! " 

" Well," said the peasant, putting down the basket and 
melon, " I shall leave these things here, any way, and I beg 
your Reverence to have a care of yourself. Teresina fretted 
all night for fear something might come to you. The bam- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 261 

lino that you cured is grown a stout little fellow, and eats 
enough for two, and it is all of you ; so she cannot forget 
it. She is a busy little woman, is Teresina ; and when she 
gets a thought in her head, it buzzes, buzzes, like a fly in a 
bottle, and she will have it your Reverence is killing your 
self by inches, and says she, * What will all the poor do when 
lie is gone ? ' So your Reverence must pardon us. We 
mean it all for the best." 

So saying, the man turned and began sliding and slipping 
down the steep ashy sides of the mountain cone with a dex 
terity which carried him to the bottom in a few moments ; 
and on he went, sending back after him a cheerful little air, 
the refrain of which is still to be heard in our days in that 
neighborhood. A word or two of the gay song fluttered 
back on the ear of the monk, 

"Tutta gioja, tutta festa." 

So gay and airy it was in its ringing cadence that it seemed 
a musical laugh springing from sunny skies, and came flut 
tering into the dismal smoke and gloom of the mountain-top 
like a very butterfly of sound. It struck on the sad, leaden 
ear of the monk much as we might fancy the carol of a 
robin over a grave might seem, could the cold sleeper below 
wake one moment to its perception. If it woke one regret 
ful sigh and drew one wandering look downward to the elys- 
ian paradise that lay smiling at the foot of the mountain, he 
instantly suppressed the feeling, and set his face in its old 
deathly stillness. 



262 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

CLOUDS DEEPENING. 

AFTER the departure of her uncle to Florence, the life 
of Agnes was troubled and harassed from a variety of 
causes. 

First, her grandmother was sulky and moody, and though 
saying nothing directly on the topic nearest her heart, yet 
intimating by every look and action that she considered 
Agnes as a most ungrateful and contumacious child. Then 
there was a constant internal perplexity, a constant wea 
rying course of self-interrogation and self-distrust, the pain 
of a sensitive spirit which doubts at every moment whether 
it may not be falling into sin. The absence of her kind 
uncle at this time took from her the strongest support on 
which she had leaned in her perplexities. Cheerful, airy, 
and elastic in his temperament, always full of fresh-springing 
and beautiful thoughts, as an Italian dell is of flowers, the 
charming old man seemed, while he stayed with Agnes, to 
be the door of a new and fairer world, where she could walk 
in air and sunshine, and find utterance for a thousand 
thoughts and feelings which at all other times lay in cold 
repression in her heart. His counsels were always so 
wholesome, his sympathies so quick, his devotion so fer 
vent and cheerful, that while with him Agnes felt the 
burden of her life insensibly lifted and carried for her as 
by some angel guide. 

Now they had all come back upon her, heavier a thou- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 263 

sand-fold than ever they had been before. Never did she 
so much need counsel and guidance, never had she so 
much within herself to be solved and made plain to her own 
comprehension ; yet she thought with a strange shiver of 
her next visit to her confessor. That austere man, so chill 
ing, so awful, so far above all conception of human weak 
nesses, how should she dare to lay before him all the secrets 
of her breast, especially when she must confess to having 
disobeyed his most stringent commands ? She had had 
another interview with this forbidden son of perdition, but 
how it was she knew not. How could such things have 
happened ? Instead of shutting her eyes and turning her 
head and saying prayers, she had listened to a passion 
ate declaration of love, and his last word had called her his 
wife. Her heart thrilled every time she thought of it ; and 
somehow she could not feel sure that it was exactly a thrill 
of penitence. It was all like a strange dream to her ; and 
sometimes she looked at her little brown hands and won 
dered if he really had kissed them, he, the splendid 
strange vision of a man, the prince from fairy-land ! 
Agnes had never read romances, it is true, but she had 
been brought up on the legends of the saints, and there 
never wast a marvel possible to human conception that had 
not been told there. Princes had come from China and 
Barbary and Abyssinia and every other strange out-of-the- 
way place, to kneel at the feet of fair, obdurate saints who 
would not even turn the head to look at them ; but she had 
acted, she was conscious, after a much more mortal fashion, 
and so made herself work for confession and penance. Yet 
certainly she had not meant to do so ; the interview came on 
her so suddenly, so unexpectedly ; and somehow he would 
speak, and he would not go when she asked him to ; and 



264 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

she remembered how he looked when he stood right before 
her in the door-way and told her she should hear him, how 
the color flushed up in his cheeks, what a fire there was in 
his great dark eyes ; he looked as if he were going to do 
something desperate then ; it made her hold her breath even 
now to think of it. 

" These -princes and nobles," she thought, " are so used to 
command, it is no wonder they make us feel as if they .must 
have their will. I have heard grandmother call them wolves 
and vultures, that are ready to tear us poor folk to pieces ; 
but I am sure he seems gentle. I 'm sure it is n't wicked 
or cruel for him to want to make me his wife ; and he 
could n't know, of course, why it was n't right he should ; 
and it really is beautiful of him to love me so. Oh, if I 
were only a princess, and he loved me that way, how glad I 
should be to give up everything and go to him alone ! And 
then we would pray together ; and I really think that would 
be much better than praying all alone. He said men had so 
much more to tempt them. Ah, that is true ! How can 
little moles that grub in the ground know of the dangers of 
eagles that fly to the very sun ? Holy Mother, look merci 
fully upon him and save his soul ! " 

Such were the thoughts of Agnes the day when she was 
preparing for her confession ; and all the way to church she 
found them floating and dissolving and reappearing in new 
forms in her mind, like the silvery smoke-clouds which were 
constantly veering and sailing over Vesuvius. 

Only one thing was firm and never changing, and that 
was the purpose to reveal everything to her spiritual direc 
tor. When she kneeled at the confessional with closed eyes, 
and began her whispered acknowledgments, she tried to feel 
as if she were speaking in the ear of God alone, that 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 265 

God whose spirit she was taught to believe, for the time 
being, was present in His minister before whom her inmost 
heart was to be unveiled. 

He who sat within had just returned from his lonely re 
treat with his mind and nerves in a state of unnatural ten 
sion, a sort of ecstatic clearness and calmness, which he 
mistook for victory and peace. During those lonely days 
when he had wandered afar from human converse, and was 
surrounded only by objects of desolation and gloom, he had 
passed through as many phases of strange, unnatural experi 
ence as there were flitting smoke-wreaths eddying about him. 

There are depths in man's nature and his possibilities 
which no plummet has ever sounded, the wild, lonely 
joys of fanatical excitement, the perfectly ravenous appetite 
for self-torture, which seems able, in time, to reverse the 
whole human system, and make a heaven of hell. How 
else can we understand the facts related both in Hindoo 
and in Christian story, of those men and women who have 
found such strange raptures in slow tortures, prolonged from 
year to year, till pain became a habit of body and mind ? 
It is said, that, after the tortures of the rack, the reaction 
of the overstrained nerves produces a sense of the most 
exquisite "relief and repose ; and so when mind and body are 
harrowed, harassed to the very outer verge of endurance, 
come wild throbbings and transports, and strange celestial 
clairvoyance, which the mystic hails as the descent of the 
New Jerusalem into his soul. 

It had seemed to Father Francesco, when he came down 
from the mountain, that he had left his body behind him, 
that he had left earth and earthly things; his very feet touch 
ing the ground seemed to tread not on rough, resisting soil, 
but upon elastic cloud. He saw a strange excess of beauty 
12 



266 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

in every flower, in every leaf, in the wavering blue of the sea, 
in the red grottoed rocks that overhung the shore, with their 
purple, green, orange, and yellow hangings of flower-and- 
leaf-tapestry. The songs of the fishermen on the beach, the 
peasant-girls cutting flowery fodder for the cattle, all seemed 
to him to have an unnatural charm. As one looking through 
a prism sees a fine bordering of rainbow on every object, so 
he beheld a glorified world. His former self seemed to him 
something forever past and gone. He looked at himself as 
at another person, who had sinned and suffered, and was 
now resting in beatified repose ; and he fondly thought all 
this was firm reality, and believed that he was now proof 
against all earthly impressions, able to hear and to judge 
with the dispassionate calmness of a disembodied spirit. 
He did not know that this high-strung calmness, this fine 
clearness, were only the most intense forms of nervous sensi 
bility, and as vividly susceptible to every mortal impression 
as is the vitalized chemical plate to the least action of the 
sun's rays. 

When Agnes began her confession, her voice seemed to 
him to pass through every nerve ; it seemed as if he could 
feel her presence thrilling through the very wood of the 
confessional. He was astonished and dismayed aC his own 
emotion. But when she began to speak of the interview 
with the cavalier, he trembled from head to foot with uncon 
trollable passion. Nature long repressed came back in a 
tempestuous reaction. He crossed himself again and again, 
he tried to pray, and blessed those protecting shadows which 
concealed his emotion from the unconscious one by his side. 
But he set his teeth in deadly resolve, and his voice, as 
he questioned her, came forth cutting and cold as ice crys 
tals. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 267 

" Why did you listen to a word ? " 

" My father, it was so sudden. He wakened me from 
sleep. I answered him before I thought." 

" You should not have been sleeping. It was a sinful 
indolence." 

"Yes, my father." 

" See now to what it led. The enemy of your soul, ever 
watching, seized this moment to tempt you." 

" Yes, my father." 

" Examine your soul well," said Father Francesco, in a 
tone of austere severity that made Agnes tremble. " Did 
you not find a secret pleasure in his words?" 

"My father, I fear I did," said she, with a trembling 
voice. 

" I knew it ! I knew it ! " the priest muttered to himself, 
while the great drops started on his forehead, in the intensity 
of the conflict he repressed. Agnes thought the solemn 
pause that followed was caused by the horror that had been 
inspired by her own sinfulness. 

"You did not, then, heartily and truly wish him to go 
from you ? " pursued the cold, severe voice. 

" Yes, my father, I did. I wished him to go with all my 
soul." 

" Yet you say you found pleasure in his being near you," 
said Father Francesco, conscious how every string of his 
own being, even in this awful hour, was vibrating with a 
sort of desperate, miserable joy in being once more near to 
her. 

" Ah," sighed Agnes, " that is true, my father, woe is 
me ! Please tell me how I could have helped it. I was 
pleased before I knew it." 

" And you have been thinking of what he said to you 



268 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

with pleasure since ? " pursued the confessor, with an intense 
severity of manner, deepening as he spoke. 

" I have thought of it," faltered Agnes. 

" Beware how you trifle with the holy sacrament ! An 
swer frankly. You have thought of it with pleasure. Con 
fess it." 

" I do not understand myself exactly," said Agnes. " I 
have thought of it partly with pleasure and partly with 
pain." 

" Would you like to go with him and be his wife, as he 
said?" 

"If it were right, father, not otherwise." 

" Oh, foolish child ! oh, blinded soul ! to think of right in 
connection with an infidel and heretic ! Do you not see that 
all this is an artifice of Satan ? He can transform himself 
into an angel of light. Do you suppose this heretic would 
be brought back to the Church by a foolish girl? Do you 
suppose it is your prayers he wants ? Why does he not 
seek the prayers of the Church, of holy men who have 
power with God ? He would bait his hook with this 
pretence that he may catch your soul. Do you believe me ? " 

"I am bound to believe you, my father." 

" But you do not. Your heart is going after this wicked 
man." 

" Oh, my father, I do not wish it should. I never wish or 
expect to see him more. I only pray for him that his soul 
may not be lost." 

" He has gone, then ? " 

" Yes, my father. And he went with my uncle, a most 
holy monk, who has undertaken the work of his salvation. 
He listens to my uncle, who has hopes of restoring him to 
the Church." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 269 

" That is well. And now, my daughter, listen to me. 
You must root out of your thought every trace and remem 
brance of these words of sinful earthly love which he hath 
spoken. Such love would burn your soul to all eternity 
with fire that never could be quenched. If you can tear 
away all roots and traces of this from your heart, if by fast 
ing and prayer and penance you can become worthy to be 
a bride of your divine Lord, then your prayers will gain 
power, and you may prevail to secure his eternal salvation. 
But listen to me, daughter, listen and tremble ! If ever 
you should yield to his love and turn back from this heav 
enly marriage to follow him, you will accomplish his damna 
tion and your own ; to all eternity he will curse you, while 
the fire rages and consumes him, he will curse the hour 
that he first saw you." 

These words were spoken with an intense vehemence 
which seemed almost supernatural. Agnes shivered and 
trembled ; a vague feeling of guilt overwhelmed and dis 
heartened her ; she seemed to herself the most lost and 
abandoned of human beings. 

" My father, I shall think no penance too severe that may 
restore my soul from this sin. I have already made a vow 
to the blessed Mother that I will walk on foot to the Holy 
City, praying in every shrine and holy place ; and I humbly 
ask your approval." 

This announcement brought to the mind of the monk a 
sense of relief and deliverance. He felt already, in the 
terrible storm of agitation which this confession had aroused 
within him, that nature was not dead, and that he was infi 
nitely farther from the victory of passionless calm than he 
had supposed. He was still a man, torn with human 
passions, with a love which he must never express, and a 



270 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

jealousy which burned and writhed at every word which he 
had wrung from its unconscious object. Conscience had 
begun to whisper in his ear that there would be no safety to 
him in continuing this spiritual dictatorship to one whose 
every word unmanned him, that it was laying himself 
open to a ceaseless temptation, which in some blinded, dreary 
hour of evil might hurry him into acts of horrible sacrilege ; 
and he was once more feeling that wild, stormy revolt of 
his inner nature that so distressed him before he left the 
convent. 

This proposition of Agnes' struck him as a compromise. 
It would take her from him only for a season, she would go 
under his care and direction, and he would gradually recover 
his calmness and self-possession in her absence. Her pil 
grimage to the holy places would be a most proper and fit 
preparation for the solemn marriage-rite which should for 
ever sunder her from all human ties, and make her inacces 
sible to all solicitations of human love. Therefore, after an 
interval of silence, he answered, 

" Daughter, your plan is approved. Such pilgrimages 
have ever been held meritorious works in the Church, and 
there is a special blessing upon them." 

" My father," said Agnes, " it has always been in my 
heart from my childhood to be the bride of the Lord ; but 
my grandmother, who brought me up, and to whom I owe 
the obedience of a daughter, utterly forbids me : she will 
not hear a word of it. No longer ago than last Monday she 
told me I might as well put a knife into her heart as speak 
of this." 

u And you, daughter, do you put the feelings of any 
earthly friend before the love of your Lord and Creator 
who laid down His life for you? Hear what He saith: 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 271 

f He that loveth father or mother more than me is not wor 
thy of me.' " 

" But my poor old grandmother has no one but me in the 
world, and she has never slept a night without me ; she is 
getting old, and she has worked for me all her good days ; 
it would be very hard for her to lose me." 

" Ah, false, deceitful heart ! Has, then, thy Lord not 
labored for thee ? Has He not borne thee through all the 
years of thy life ? And wilt thou put the love of any mor 
tal before His ? " 

" Yes," replied Agnes, with a sort of hardy sweetness, 
" but my Lord does not need me as grandmother does ; He 
is in glory, and will never be old or feeble ; I cannot work 
for Him and tend Him as I shall her. I cannot see my 
way clear at present ; but when she is gone, or if the saints 
move her to consent, I shall then belong to God alone." 

" Daughter, there is some truth in your words ; and if 
your Lord accepts you, He will dispose her heart. Will 
she go with you on this pilgrimage ? " 

"I have prayed that she might, father, that her soul 
may be quickened ; for I fear me, dear old grandmamma 
has found her love for me a snare, she has thought too 
much of my interests and too little of her own soul, poor 
grandmamma ! " 

" Well, child, I shall enjoin this pilgrimage on her as a 
penance." 

" I have grievously offended her lately," said Agnes, " in 
rejecting an offer of marriage with a man on whom she had 
set her heart, and therefore she does not listen to me as she 
is wont to do." 

" You have done right in refusing, my daughter. I will 
speak to her of this, and show her how great is the sin of 



272 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

opposing a holy vocation in a soul whom the Lord calls to 
Himself, and enjoin her to make reparation by uniting with 
you in this holy work." 

Agnes departed from the confessional without even look 
ing upon the face of her director, who sat within listening to 
the rustle of her dress as she rose, listening to the soft 
fall of her departing footsteps, and praying that grace might 
be given him not to look after her : and he did not, though 
he felt as if his life were going with her. 

Agnes tripped round the aisle to a little side-chapel where 
a light was always kept burning by her before a picture of 
Saint Agnes, and, kneeling there, waited till her grand 
mother should be through with her confession. 

" Ah, sweet Saint Agnes," she said, " pity me ! I am a 
poor ignorant young girl, and have been led into grievous 
sin ; but I did not mean to do wrong, I have been trying 
to do right ; pray for me, that I may overcome as you did. 
Pray our dear Lord to send you with us on this pilgrimage, 
and save us from all wicked and brutal men who would do 
us harm. As the Lord delivered you in sorest straits, keep 
ing soul and body pure as a lily, ah, pray Him to keep me ! 
I love you dearly, watch over me and guide me." 

In those days of the Church, such addresses to the glori 
fied saints had become common among all Christians. They 
were not regarded as worship, any more than a similar out 
pouring of confidence to a beloved and revered friend yet 
in the body. Among the hymns of Savonarola is one ad 
dressed to Saint Mary Magdalen, whom he regarded with 
an especial veneration. The great truth, that God is not 
the God of the dead, but of the living, that all live to Him, 
was in those ages with the truly religious a part of spiritual 
consciousness. The saints of the Church Triumphant, hav- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 273 

ing become one with Christ as he is one with the Father, 
were regarded as invested with a portion of his divinity, and 
as the ministering agency through which his mediatorial 
government on earth was conducted ; and it was thought to 
be in the power of the sympathetic heart to attract them 
by the outflow of its affections, so that their presence often 
overshadowed the walks of daily life with a cloud of healing 
and protecting sweetness. 

If the enthusiasm of devotion in regard to these invisible 
friends became extravagant and took the language due to 
God alone, it was no more than the fervid Italian nature 
was always doing with regard to visible objects of affection. 
Love with an Italian always tends to become worship, and 
some of the language of the poets addressed to earthly loves 
rises into intensities of expression due only to the One, Sov 
ereign, Eternal Beauty. One sees even in the writings of 
Cicero that this passionate adoring kind of love is not con 
fined to modern times. When he loses the daughter in 
whom his heart is garnered up, he finds no comfort except 
in building a temple to her memory, a blind outreaching 
towards the saint- worship of modern times. 

Agnes rose from her devotions, and went with downcast 
eyes, her lips still repeating prayers, to the font of holy 
water, which was in a dim shadowy corner, where a painted 
window cast a gold and violet twilight. Suddenly there was 
a rustle of garments in the dimness, and a jewelled hand es 
sayed to pass holy water to her on the tip of its finger. This 
mark of Christian fraternity, common in those times, Agnes 
almost mechanically accepted, touching her slender finger to 
the one extended, and making the sign of the cross, while 
she raised her eyes to see who stood there. Gradually the 
haze cleared from her mind, and she awoke to the con- 
12* 



274 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

sciousness that it was the cavalier ! He moved to come 
towards her, with a bright smile on his face ; but suddenly 
she became pale as one who has seen a spectre, and, pushing 
from her with both hands, she said faintly, " Go, go ! " and 
turned and sped up the aisle silently as a sunbeam, joining 
her grandmother, who was coming from the confessional 
with a gloomy and sullen brow. 

Old Elsie had been enjoined to unite with her grandchild 
in this scheme of a pilgrimage, and received the direction 
with as much internal contumacy as would a thriving church- 
member of Wall Street a proposition to attend a protracted 
meeting in the height of the business season. Not but that 
pilgrimages were holy and gracious works, she was too 
good a Christian not to admit that, but why must holy 
and gracious works be thrust on her in particular ? There 
were saints enough who liked such things ; and people could 
get to heaven without, if not with a very abundant en 
trance, still in a modest way, and Elsie's ambition for 
position and treasure in the spiritual world was of a very 
moderate cast. 

" Well, now, I hope you are satisfied," she said to Agnes, 
as she pulled her along with no very gentle hand ; " you 've 
got me sent off on a pilgrimage, and my old bones must 
be rattling up and down all the hills between here and 
Rome, and who 's to see to the oranges? they '11 all be 
stolen, every one." 

" Grandmother," began Agnes in a pleading voice 

" Oh, you hush up ! I know what you 're going to say : 
1 The good Lord will take care of them.' I wish He may ! 
He has His hands full, with all the people that go cawing 
and psalm-singing like so many crows, and leave all their 
affairs to Him!" 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 275 

Agnes walked along disconsolate, with her eyes full of 
tears, which coursed one another down her pale cheeks. 

" There 's Antonio," pursued Elsie, " would perhaps look 
after things a little. He is a good fellow, and only yester 
day was asking if he could n't do something for us. It 's you 
he does it for, but little you care who loves you, or what 
they do for you ! " 

At this moment they met old Jocunda, whom we have 
before introduced to the reader as portress of the Convent. 
She had on her arm a large square basket, which she was 
storing for its practical uses. 

" Well, well, Saint Agnes be praised, I have found you at 
last," she said. " I was wanting to speak about some of your 
blood-oranges for conserving. An order has come down 
from our dear gracious lady, the Queen, to prepare a lot for 
her own blessed eating, and you may be sure I would get 
none of anybody but you. But what 's this, my little heart, 
my little lamb ? crying ? tears in those sweet eyes ? 
What 's the matter now ? " 

" Matter enough for me ! " said Elsie. " It 's a weary 
world we live in. A body can't turn any way and not meet 
with trouble. If a body brings up a girl one way, why, 
every fellow is after her, and one has no peace ; and if a 
body brings her up another way, she gets her head in the 
clouds, and there 's no good of her in this world. Now look 
at that girl, does n't everybody say it 's time she were 
married ? but no marrying for her ! Nothing will do but 
we must off to Rome on a pilgrimage, and what 's the 
good of that, I want to know ? If it 's praying that 's to be 
done, the dear saints know she's at it from morning till 
night, and lately she 's up and down three or four times a 
night with some prayer or other." 



276 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Well, well," said Jocunda, " who started this idea ? " 

" Oh, Father Francesco and she got it up between them, 

and nothing will do but I must go, too." 

" Well, now, after all, my dear," said Jocunda, " do you 
know, I made a pilgrimage once, and it is n't so bad. One 
gets a good deal by it, first and last. Everybody drops 
something into your hand as you go, and one gets treated as 
if one were somebody a little above the common ; and then 
in Rome one has a princess or a duchess or some noble lady 
who washes one's feet, and gives one a good supper, and 
perhaps a new suit of clothes, and all that, and ten to one 
there comes a pretty little sum of money to boot, if one 
plays one's cards well. A pilgrimage is n't bad, after all ; 

one sees a world of fine things, and something new every 
day." 

" But who is to look after our garden and dress our 
trees?" 

" Ah, now, there 's Antonio, and old Meta his mother," 
said Jocunda, with a knowing wink at Agnes. "I fancy 
there are friends there that would lend a hand to keep things 
together against the little one comes home. If one is going 
to be married, a pilgrimage brings good luck in the family. 
All the saints take it kindly that one comes so far to see 
them, and are more ready to do a good turn for one when 
one needs it. The blessed saints are like other folks, they 
like to be treated with proper attention." 

This view of pilgrimages from the material stand-point 
had more effect on the mind of Elsie than the most elaborate 
appeals of Father Francesco. She began to acquiesce, 
though with a reluctant air. 

Jocunda, seeing her words had made some impression, 
pursued her advantage on the spiritual ground. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 277 

" To be sure/' she added, " I don't know how it is with 
you ; but I know that / have, one way and another, rolled 
up quite an account of sins in my life. When I was tramp 
ing up and down with my old man through the country, 
now in this castle and then in that camp, and now and then 
in at the sacking of a city or village, or something of the 
kind, the saints forgive us ! it does seem as if one got 
into things that were not of the best sort, in such times. 
It 's true, it 's been wiped out over and over by the priest ; 
but then a pilgrimage is a good thing to make all sure, in 
case one's good works should fall short of one's sins at last. 
I can tell you, a pilgrimage is a good round weight to throw 
into the scale ; and when it comes to heaven and hell, you 
know, my dear, why, one cannot be too careful." 

" Well, that may be true enough," said Elsie, " though, 
as to my sins, I have tried to keep them regularly squared 
up and balanced as I went along. I have always been regu 
lar at confession, and never failed a jot or tittle in what the 
holy father told me. But there may be something in what 
you say ; one can't be too sure ; and so I '11 e'en school my 
old bones into taking this tramp." 

That evening, as Agnes was sitting in the garden at sun 
set, her grandmother bustling in and out, talking, groaning, 
and hurrying in her preparations for the anticipated under 
taking, suddenly there was a rustling in the branches over 
head, and a bouquet of rose-buds fell at her feet. Agnes 
picked it up, and saw a scrip of paper coiled among the 
flowers. In a moment remembering the apparition of the 
cavalier in the church in the morning, she doubted not from 
whom it came. So dreadful had been the effect of the 
scene at the confessional, that the thought of the near pres 
ence of her lover brought only terror. She turned pale; 



278 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

her hands shook. She shut her eyes, and prayed that she 
might not be left to read the paper ; and then, summoning 
all her resolution, she threw the bouquet with force over the 
wall. It dropped down, down, down the gloomy, shadowy 
abyss, and was lost in the damp caverns below. 

The cavalier stood without the wall, waiting for some 
responsive signal in reply to his missive. It had never 
occurred to him that Agnes would not even read it, and he 
stood confounded when he saw it thrown back with such 
apparent rudeness. He remembered her pale, terrified look 
on seeing him in the morning. It was not indifference or 
dislike, but mortal fear, that had been shown in that pale 
face. 

" These wretches are practising on her," he said, in wrath, 

" filling her head with frightful images, and torturing her 
sensitive conscience till she sees sin in the most natural and 
innocent feelings." 

He had learned from Father Antonio the intention of 
Agnes to go on a pilgrimage, and he longed to see and talk 
with her, that he might offer her his protection against dan 
gers which he understood far better than she. It had never 
even occurred to him that the door for all possible communi 
cation would be thus suddenly barred in his face. 

"Very well," he said to himself, with a darkening brow, 

" let them have it their own way here. She must pass 
through my dominions before she can reach Rome, and I 
will find a place where I can be heard, without priest or 
grandmother to let or hinder. She is mine, and I will care 
for her." 

But poor Agnes had the woman's share of the misery to 
bear, in the fear and self-reproach and distress which every 
movement of this kind cost her. The involuntary thrill at 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 279 

seeing her lover, at hearing from him, the conscious struggle 
which it cost her to throw back his gift, were all noted by 
her accusing conscience as so many sins. The next day she 
sought again her confessor, and began an entrance on those 
darker and more chilly paths of penance, by which, accord 
ing to the opinion of her times, the peculiarly elect of the 
Lord were supposed to be best trained. * Hitherto her relig 
ion had been the cheerful and natural expression of her 
tender and devout nature according to the more beautiful 
and engaging devotional forms of her Church. During the 
year when her confessor had been, unconsciously to himself, 
led by her instead of leading, her spiritual food had been its 
beautiful old hymns and prayers, which she found no weari 
ness in often repeating. But now an unnatural conflict was 
begun in her mind, directed by a spiritual guide in whom 
every natural and normal movement of the soul had given 
way before a succession of morbid and unhealthful experi 
ences. From that day Agnes wore upon her heart one of 
those sharp instruments of torture which in those times 
were supposed to be a means of inward grace, a cross 
with seven steel points for the seven sorrows of Mary. She 
fasted with a severity which alarmed her grandmother, who 
in her inmost heart cursed the day that ever she had placed 
her in the way of saintship. 

U A11 this will just end in spoiling her beauty, making 
her as thin as a shadow," said Elsie ; " and she was good 
enough before." 

But it* did not spoil her beauty, it only changed its 
character. The roundness and bloom melted away, but 
there came in their stead that solemn, transparent clearness 
of countenance, that spiritual light and radiance, which the 
old Florentine painters gave to their Madonnas. 



280 AGNES OF SORRENTO.. 

It is singular how all religious exercises and appliances 
take the character of the nature that uses them. The pain 
and penance, which so many in her day bore as a cowardly 
expedient for averting divine wrath, seemed, as she viewed 
them, a humble way of becoming associated in the sufferings 
of her Redeemer. "Jesu dulcis memoria" was the thought 
that carried a redeeming sweetness with every pain. Could 
she thus, by suffering with her Lord, gain power like Him to 
save, a power which should save that soul so dear and so 
endangered ! " Ah," she thought, " I would give my life- 
blood, drop by drop, if only it might avail for his salva 
tion ! " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 281 



CHAPTER XX. 

FLORENCE AND HER PROPHET. 

IT was drawing towards evening, as two travellers, ap 
proaching Florence from the south, checked their course on 
the summit of one of the circle of hills which command a 
view of the city, and seemed to look down upon it with ad 
miration. One of these was our old friend Father Antonio, 
and the other the cavalier. The former was mounted on 
an ambling mule, whose easy pace suited well -with his 
meditative habits ; while the other reined in a high-mettled 
steed, who, though now somewhat jaded under the fatigue 
of a long journey, showed by a series of little lively motions 
of his ears and tail, and by pawing the ground impatiently, 
that he had the inexhaustible stock of spirits which goes 
with good blood. 

" There she lies, my Florence," said the monk, stretching 
his hands out with enthusiasm. " Is she not indeed a shel 
tered lily growing fair among the hollows of the mountains ? 
Little she may be, Sir, compared to old Rome ; but every 
inch of her is a gem, every inch ! " 

And, in truth, the scene was worthy of the artist's enthu 
siasm. All the overhanging hills that encircle the city with 
their silvery olive-gardens and their pearl-white villas were 
now lighted up with evening glory. The old gray walls of 
the convents of San Miniato and the Monte Oliveto were 
touched with yellow ; and even the black obelisks of the 
cypresses in their cemeteries had here and there streaks and 



282 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

dots of gold, fluttering like bright birds among their gloomy 
branches. The distant snow-peaks of the Apennines, which 
even in spring long wear their icy mantles, were shimmer 
ing and changing like an opal ring with tints of violet, green, 
blue, and rose, blended in inexpressible softness by that 
dreamy haze which forms the peculiar feature of Italian 
skies. 

In this loving embrace of mountains lay the city", divided 
by the Arno as by a line of rosy crystal barred by the grace 
ful arches of its bridges. Amid the crowd of palaces and 
spires and towers rose central and conspicuous the great 
Duomo, just crowned with that magnificent dome which was 
then considered a novelty and a marvel in architecture, and 
which Michel Angelo looked longingly back upon when he 
was going to Rome to build that more wondrous orb of Saint 
Peter's. White and stately by its side shot up the airy 
shaft of the Campanile ; and the violet vapor swathing the 
whole city in a tender indistinctness, these two striking 
objects, rising by their magnitude far above it, seemed to 
stand alone in a sort of airy grandeur. 

And now the bells of the churches were sounding the Ave 
Maria, filling the air with sweet and solemn vibrations, as 
if angels were passing to and fro over head, harping as they 
went ; and ever and anon the great bell of the Campanile 
came pulsing in with a throb of sound of a quality so differ 
ent that one hushed one's breath to hear. It might be fan 
cied to be the voice of one of those kingly archangels that 
one sees drawn by the old Florentine religious artists, a 
voice grave and unearthly, and with a plaintive undertone 
of divine mystery. 

The monk and the cavalier bent low in their saddles, and 
seemed to join devoutly in the worship of the hour. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 283 

One need not wonder at the enthusiasm of the returning 
pilgrim of those days for the city of his love, who feels the 
charm that lingers around that beautiful place even in mod 
ern times. Never was there a spot to which the heart could 
insensibly .grow with a more home-like affection, never 
one more thoroughly consecrated in every stone by the 
sacred touch of genius. 

A republic, in the midst of contending elements, the his 
tory of Florence, in the Middle Ages, was a history of what 
shoots and blossoms the Italian nature might send forth, 
when rooted in the rich soil of liberty. It was a city of 
poets and artists. Its statesmen, its merchants, its common 
artisans, and the very monks in its convents, were all per 
vaded by one spirit. The men of Florence in its best days 
were men of a large, grave, earnest mould. What the Pu 
ritans of New England wrought out with severest earnest 
ness in their reasonings and their lives these early Puritans 
of Italy embodied in poetry, sculpture, and painting. They 
built their Cathedral and their Campanile, as the Jews of 
old built their Temple, with awe and religious fear, that they 
might thus express by costly and imperishable monuments 
their sense of God's majesty and beauty. The modern trav 
eller who visits the churches and convents of Florence, or 
the museums where are preserved the fading remains of its 
early religious Art, if he be a person of any sensibility, can 
not fail to be affected with the intense gravity and earnest 
ness which pervade them. They seem less to be paintings 
for the embellishment of life than eloquent picture-writing 
by which burning religious souls sought to preach the truths 
of the invisible world to the eye of the multitude. Through 
all the deficiencies of perspective, coloring, and outline inci 
dent to the childhood and early youth of Art, one feels the 



284 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

passionate purpose of some lofty soul to express ideas cf 
patience, self-sacrifice, adoration, and aspiration far tran 
scending the limits of mortal capability. 

The angels and celestial beings of these grave old painters 
are as different from the fat little pink Cupids or lovely 
laughing children of Titian and Correggio as are the ser 
mons of President Edwards from the love-songs of Tom 
Moore. These old seers of the pencil give you grave, radi 
ant beings, strong as man, fine as woman, sweeping down 
ward in lines of floating undulation, and seeming by the 
ease with which they remain poised in the air to feel none 
of that earthly attraction which draws material bodies earth 
ward. Whether they wear the morning star on their fore 
head, or bear the lily or the sword in their hand, there is 
still that suggestion of mystery and power about them, that 
air of dignity and repose, that speak the children of a nobler 
race than ours. One could well believe such a being might 
pass in his serene poised majesty of motion through the 
walls of a gross material dwelling without deranging one 
graceful fold of his swaying robe or unclasping the hands 
folded quietly on his bosom. Well has a modern master of 
art and style said of these old artists, " Many pictures are 
ostentatious exhibitions of the artist's power of speech, the 
clear and vigorous elocution of useless and senseless words ; 
while the earlier efforts of Giotto and Cimabue are the burn 
ing messages of prophecy delivered by the stammering lips 
of infants." 

But at the time we write, Florence had passed through 
her ages of primitive religious and republican simplicity, and 
was fast^hastening to her downfall. The genius, energy, and 
prophetic enthusiasm of Savonarola had made, it is true, a 
desperate rally on the verge of the precipice ; but no one 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 285 

man has ever power to turn back the downward slide of a 
whole generation. 

When Father Antonio left Sorrento in company with the 
cavalier, it was the intention of the latter to go with him 
only so far as their respective routes should lie together. 
The band under the command of Agostino was posted in a 
ruined fortress in one of those airily perched old mountain- 
towns which form so picturesque and characteristic a feature 
of the Italian landscape. But before they reached this spot, 
the simple, poetic, guileless monk, with his fresh artistic na 
ture, had so won upon his travelling companion that a most 
enthusiastic friendship had sprung up between them, and 
Agostino could not find it in his heart at once to separate 
from him. Tempest-tossed and homeless, burning with a 
sense of wrong, alienated from the faith of his fathers 
through his intellect and moral sense, yet clinging to it with 
his memory and imagination, he found in the tender devo 
tional fervor of the artist monk a reconciling and healing 
power. He shared, too, in no small degree, the feelings 
which now possessed the breast of his companion for the 
great reformer whose purpose seemed to meditate nothing 
less than the restoration of the Church of Italy to the prim 
itive apostolic simplicity. He longed to see him, to listen 
to the eloquence of which he had heard so much. Then, too, 
he had thoughts that but vaguely shaped themselves in his 
mind. This noble man, so brave and courageous, menaced 
by the forces of a cruel tyranny, might he not need the pro 
tection of a good sword ? He recollected, too, that he had 
an uncle high in the favor of the King of France, to whom 
he had written a full account of his own situation. Might 
he not be of use in urging this uncle to induce the French 
King to throw before Savonarola the shield of his protec- 



286 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

tion ? At all events, he entered Florence this evening with 
the burning zeal of a young neophyte who hopes to effect 
something himself for a glorious and sacred cause embodied 
in a leader who commands his deepest veneration. 

" My son," said Father Antonio, as they raised their heads 
after the evening prayer, "I am at this time like a man 
who, having long been away from his home, fears, on re 
turning, that he shall hear s"ome evil tidings of those he hath 
left. I long, yet dread, to go to my dear Father Girolamo 
and the beloved brothers in our house. There is a presage 
that lies heavy on my heart, so that I cannot shake it off. 
Look at our glorious old Duomo ; doth she not sit there 
among the houses and palaces as a queen-mother among 
nations, worthy, in her greatness and beauty, to represent 
the Church of the New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lord ? 
Ah, I have seen it thronged and pressed with the multitude 
who came to crave the bread of life from our master ! " 

" Courage, my friend ! " said Agostino ; " it cannot be that 
Florence will suffer her pride and glory to be trodden down. 
Let us hasten on, for the shades of evening are coming fast, 
and there is a keen wind sweeping down from your snowy 
mountains." 

And the two soon found themselves plunging into the 
shadows of the streets, threading their devious way to the 
convent. 

At length they drew up before a dark wall, where the 
Father Antonio rung a bell. 

A door was immediately opened, a cowled head appeared, 
and a cautious voice asked, 

Who is there ? " 

" Ah, is that you, good Brother Angelo ? " said Father 
Antonio, cheerily. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 287 

" And is it you, dear Brother Antonio ? Come in ! come 
in ! " was the cordial response, as the two passed into 
the court ; " truly, it will make all our hearts leap to see 
you." 

" And, Brother Angelo, how is our dear father ? I have 
been so anxious about him ! " 

"Oh, fear not! he sustains himself in God, and is full 
of sweetness to us all." 

" But do the people stand by him, Angelo, and the Signo- 
ria ? " 

" He has strong friends as yet, but his enemies are like 
ravening wolves. The Pope hath set on the Franciscans, 
and they hunt him as dogs do a good stag. But whom 
have you here with you ? " added the monk, raising his torch 
and regarding the knight. 

" Fear him not ; he is a brave knight and good Chris 
tian, who comes to offer his sword to our father and seek his 
counsels." 

" He shall be welcome," said the porter, cheerfully. " We 
will have you into the refectory forthwith, for you must be 
hungry." 

The young cavalier, following the flickering torch of his 
conductor, had only a dim notion of long cloistered corridors, 
out of which now and then, as the light flared by, came a 
golden gleam from some quaint old painting, where the pure 
angel forms of Angelico stood in the gravity of an immortal 
youth, or the Madonna, like a bending lily, awaited the mes 
sage of Heaven ; but when they entered the refectory, a 
cheerful voice addressed them, and Father Antonio was 
clasped in the embrace of the father so much beloved. 

" Welcome, welcome, my dear son ! " said that rich voice 
which had thrilled so many thousand Italian hearts with its 



288 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

music. " So you are come back to the fold again. How 
goes the good work of the Lord ? " 

" Well, everywhere," said Father Antonio; and then, rec 
ollecting his young friend, he suddenly turned and said, 

" Let me present to you one son who comes to seek your 
instructions, the young Signer Agostino, of the noble house 
of Sarelli." 

The Superior turned to Agostino with a movement full of 
a generous frankness, and warmly extended his hand, at the 
same time fixing upon him the mesmeric glance of a pair 
of large, deep blue eyes, which might, on slight observation, 
have been mistaken for black, so great was their depth and 
brilliancy. 

Agostino surveyed his new acquaintance with that min 
gling of ingenuous respect and curiosity with which an 
ardent young man would regard the most distinguished 
leader of his age, and felt drawn to him by a certain at 
mosphere of vital cordiality such as one can feel better 
than describe. 

" You have ridden far to-day, my son, you must be 
weary," said the Superior, affably, " but here you must 
feel yourself at home ; command us in anything we can do 
for you. The brothers will attend to those refreshments 
which are needed after so long a journey ; and when you 
have rested and supped, we shall hope to see you a little 
more quietly." 

So saying, he signed to one or two brothers who stood by, 
and, commending the travellers to their care, left the apart 
ment. 

In a few moments a table was spread with a plain and 
wholesome repast, to which the two travellers sat down with 
appetites sharpened by their long journey. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 289 

During the supper, the brothers of the convent, among 
whom Father Antonio had always been a favorite, crowded 
around him in a state of eager excitement. 

" You should have been here the last week," said one ; 
" such a turmoil as we have been in ! " 

" Yes," said another, " the Pope hath set on the Fran 
ciscans, who, you know, are always ready enough to take up 
with anything against our order, and they have been pur 
suing our father like so many hounds." 

" There hath been a whirlwind of preaching here and 
there," said a third, " in the Duomo, and Santa Croce, 
and San Lorenzo ; and they have battled to and fro, and 
all the city is full of it." 

" Tell him about yesterday,, about the ordeal," shouted an 
eager voice. 

Two or three voices took up the story at once, and began 
to tell it, all the others correcting, contradicting, or adding 
incidents. From the confused fragments here and there 
Agostino gathered that there had been on the day before 
a popular spectacle in the grand piazza, in which, according 
to an old superstition of the Middle Ages, Fra Girolamo 
Savonarola and his opponents were expected to prove the 
truth of their words by passing unhurt through the fire ; that 
two immense piles of combustibles had been constructed with 
a narrow passage between, and the whole magistracy of the 
city convened, with a throng of the populace, eager for the 
excitement of the spectacle ; that the day had been spent 
in discussions, and scruples, and preliminaries; and that, 
finally, in. the afternoon, a violent storm of rain arising 
had dispersed the multitude and put a stop to the whole 
exhibition. 

" But the people are not satisfied," said Father Angelo ; 
13 



290 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

"and there are enough mischief-makers among them to 
throw all the blame on our father." 

" Yes," said one, " they say he wanted to burn the Holy 
Sacrament, because he was going to take it with him into 
the fire." 

" As if it could burn ! " said another voice. 

"It would to all human appearance, I suppose," said a 
third. 

" Any way," said a fourth, " there is some mischief brew 
ing; for here is our friend Prospero Rondinelli just come 
in, who says, when he came past the Duomo, he saw people 
gathering, and heard them threatening us : there were as 
many as two hundred, he thought." 

" We ought to tell Father Girolamo," exclaimed several 
voices. 

" Oh, he will not be disturbed ! " said Father Angelo. 
" Since these affairs, he hath been in prayer in the chap 
ter-room before the blessed Angelico's picture of the Cross. 
When we would talk with him of these things, he waves us 
away, and says only, ' I am weary ; go and tell Jesus.' " 

" He bade me come to him after supper," said Father 
Antonio. " I will talk with him." 

" Do so, that is right," said two or three eager voices, 
as the monk and Agostino, having finished their repast, arose 
to be conducted to the presence of the father. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 291 



CHAPTER XXI. 

THE ATTACK ON SAN MARCO. 

THEY found him in a large and dimly lighted apartment, 
sitting absorbed in pensive contemplation before a picture of 
the Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, which, whatever might be 
its naive faults of drawing and perspective, had an intense 
earnestness of feeling, and, though faded and dimmed by the 
lapse of centuries, still stirs in some faint wise even the prac 
tised dilettanti of our day. 

The face upon the cross, with its majestic patience, seemed 
to shed a blessing down on the company of saints of all ages 
who were grouped by their representative men at the foot. 
Saint Dominic, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustin, Saint Je 
rome, Saint Francis, and Saint Benedict were depicted as 
standing before the Great Sacrifice in company with the 
Twelve Apostles, the two Maries, and the fainting mother 
of Jesus, thus expressing the unity of the Church Uni 
versal in that great victory of sorrow and glory. The paint 
ing was enclosed above by a semicircular bordering composed 
of medallion heads of the Prophets, and below was a similar 
medallion border of the principal saints and worthies of the 
Dominican order. In our day such pictures are visited by 
tourists with red guide-books in their hands, who survey 
them in the intervals of careless conversation ; but they 
were painted by the simple artist on his knees, weeping and 
praying as he worked, and the sight of them was accepted 
by like simple-hearted Christians as a perpetual sacrament 
of the eye, by which they received Christ into their souls. 



292 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

So absorbed was the father in the contemplation of this 
picture, that he did not hear the approaching footsteps of the 
knight and monk. When at last they came so near as 
almost to touch him, he suddenly looked up, and it became 
apparent that his eyes were full of tears. 

He rose, and, pointing with a mute gesture toward the 
painting, said, 

" There is more in that than in all Michel Angelo Buona- 
rotti hath done yet, though he be a God-fearing youth, 
more than in all the heathen marbles in Lorenzo's gardens. 
But sit down with me here. I have to come here often, 
where I can refresh my courage." 

The monk and knight seated themselves, the latter with 
his attention riveted on the remarkable man before him. 
The head and face of Savonarola are familiar to us by" 
many paintings and medallions, which, however, fail to 
impart what must have been that effect of his personal 
presence which so drew all hearts to him in his day. 
The knight saw a man of middle age, of elastic, well-knit 
figure, and a flexibility and grace of motion which seemed 
to make every nerve, even to his finger-ends, vital with the 
expression of his soul. The close-shaven crown and the 
plain white Dominican robe gave a severe and statuesque 
simplicity to the lines of his figure. His head and face, like 
those of most of the men of genius whom modern Italy has 
produced, were so strongly cast in the antique mould as to 
leave no doubt of the identity of modern Italian blood with 
that of the great men of ancient Italy. His low, broad 
forehead, prominent Roman nose, well-cut, yet fully out 
lined lips, and strong, finely moulded jaw and chin, all 
spoke the old Roman vigor and energy, while the flexible 
delicacy of all the muscles of his face and figure gave an 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 293 

inexpressible fascination to his appearance. Every emotion 
and changing thought seemed to flutter and tremble over his 
countenance as the shadow of leaves over sunny water. His 
eye had a wonderful dilating power, and when he was ex 
cited seemed to shower sparks ; and his voice possessed a 
surprising scale of delicate and melodious inflections, which 
could take him in a moment through the whole range of 
human feeling, whether playful and tender or denunciatory 
and terrible. Yet, when in repose among his friends, there 
was an almost childlike simplicity and artlessness of man 
ner which drew the heart by an irresistible attraction. 
At this moment it was easy to see by his pale cheek and 
the furrowed lines of his face that he had been pass 
ing through severe struggles; but his mind seemed stayed 
on some invisible centre, in a solemn and mournful 
calm. 

" Come, tell me something of the good works of the Lord 
in our Italy, brother," he said, with a smile which was al 
most playful in its brightness. " You have been through 
all the lowly places of the land, carrying our Lord's bread 
to the poor, and repairing and beautifying shrines and altars 
by the noble gift that is in you." 

" Yes, father," said the monk ; " and I have found that 
there are many sheep of the Lord that feed quietly among 
the mountains of Italy, and love nothing so much as to 
hear of the dear Shepherd who laid down His life for 
them." 

" Even so, even so," said the Superior, with animation ; 
" and it is the thought of these sweet hearts that comforts 
me when my soul is among lions. The foundation stand- 
eth sure, the Lord knoweth them that are His." 

"And it is good and encouraging," said Father Antonio, 



294 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" to see the zeal of the poor, who will give their last penny 
for the altar of the Lord, and who flock so to hear the word 
and take the sacraments. I have had precious seasons of 
preaching and confessing, and have worked in blessedness 
many days restoring and beautifying the holy pictures 
and statues whereby these little ones have been comforted. 
What with the wranglings of princes and the factions and 
disturbances in our poor Italy, there be many who suffer in 
want and loss of all things, so that no refuge remains to 
them but the altars of our Jesus, and none cares for them 
but He." 

" Brother," said the Superior, " there be thousands of 
flowers fairer than man ever saw that grow up in waste 
places and in deep dells and shades of mountains ; but God 
bears each one in His heart, and delighteth Himself in 
silence with them : and so doth He with these poor, sim 
ple, unknown souls. The True Church is not a flaunting 
queen who goes boldly forth among men displaying her 
beauties, but a veiled bride, a dove that is in the cleft of 
the rocks, whose voice is known only to the Beloved. Ah ! 
when shall the great marriage-feast come, when all shall 
behold her glorified ? I had hoped to see the day here in 
Italy : but now " 

The father stopped, and seemed to lapse into unconscious 
musing, his large eye growing fixed and mysterious in its 
expression. 

" The brothers have been telling me somewhat of the 
tribulations you have been through," said Father Antonio, 
who thought he saw a good opening to introduce the subject 
nearest his heart. 

" No more of that ! no more ! " said the Superior, turn 
ing away his head with an expression of pain and weariness; 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 295 

" rather let us look up. What think you, brother, are all 
these doing now ? " he said, pointing to the saints in the pic 
ture. " They are all alive and well, and see clearly through 
our darkness." Then, rising up, he added, solemnly, " What 
ever man may say or do, it is enough for me to feel that my 
dearest Lord and His blessed Mother and all the holy arch 
angels, the martyrs and prophets and apostles, are with me. 
The end is coming." 

" But, dearest father," said Antonio, " think you the Lord 
will suffer the wicked to prevail ? " 

" It may be for a time," said Savonarola. " As for me, I 
am in His hands only as an instrument. He is master of 
the forge and handles the hammer, and when He has done 
using it He casts it from Him. Thus He did with Jeremiah, 
whom He permitted to be stoned to death when his preach 
ing mission was accomplished ; and thus He may do with 
this hammer when He has done using it." 

At this moment a monk rushed into the room with a face 
expressive of the utmost terror, and called out, 

" Father, what shall we do ? The mob are surrounding 
the convent ! Hark ! hear them at the doors ! " 

In truth, a wild, confused roar of mingled shrieks, cries, 
and blows came in through the open door of the apartment ; 
and the pattering sound of approaching footsteps was heard 
like showering rain-drops along the cloisters. 

" Here come Messer Nicolo de' Lapi, and Francesco Va- 
lori ! " called out a voice. 

The room was soon filled with a confused crowd, consist 
ing of distinguished Florentine citizens, who had gained 
admittance through a secret passage, and the excited nov 
ices and monks. 

"The streets outside the convent are packed close with 



296 AGNES OF SOERENTO. 

men," cried one of the citizens ; " they have stationed 
guards everywhere to cut off our friends who might come 
to help us." 

" I saw them seize a young man who was quietly walk 
ing, singing psalms, and slay him on the steps of the Church 
of the Innocents," said another ; " they cried and hooted, 
' No more psalm-singing ! ' ' 

" And there 's Arnolfo Battista," said a third ; "he went 
out to try to speak to them, and they have killed him, cut 
him down with thair sabres." 

" Hurry ! hurry ! barricade the door ! arm yourselves ! " 
was the cry from other voices. 

" Shall we fight, father ? shall we defend ourselves ? " 
cried others, as the monks pressed around their Supe 
rior. 

When the crowd first burst into the room, the face of the 
Superior flushed, and there was a slight movement of sur 
prise ; then he seemed to recollect himself, and murmuring, 
" I expected this, but not so soon," appeared lost in mental 
prayer. To the agitated inquiries of his flock, he answered, 
"No, brothers; the weapons of monks must be spiritual, 
not carnal." Then lifting on high a crucifix, he said, 
" Come with me, and let us walk in solemn procession to 
the altar, singing the praises of our God." 

The monks, with the instinctive habit of obedience, fell 
ito procession behind their leader, whose voice, clear and 
strong, was heard raising the Psalm, " Quare fremunt 
gentes " : 

" Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a 
vain thing ? 

" The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers 
take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his 
Anointed, saying, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 297 

" ' Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their 
cords from us.' 

" He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh : the Lord 
shall have them in derision." 

As one voice after another took up the chant, the solemn 
enthusiasm rose and deepened, and all present, whether ec 
clesiastics or laymen, fell into the procession and joined in 
the anthem. Amid the wild uproar, the din and clatter of 
axes, the thunders of heavy battering-implements on the 
stone walls and portals, came this long-drawn solemn wave 
of sound, rising and falling, now drowned in the savage 
clamors of the mob, and now bursting out clear and full like 
the voices of God's chosen amid the confusion and struggles 
of all the generations of this mortal life. 

White-robed and grand the procession moved on, while 
the pictured saints and angels on the walls seemed to smile 
calmly down upon them from a golden twilight. They 
passed thus into the sacristy, where with all solemnity and 
composure they arrayed their Father and Superior for the 
last time in his sacramental robes, and then, still chanting, 
followed him to the high altar, where all bowed in prayer. 
And still, whenever there was a pause in the stormy uproar 
and fiendish clamor, might be heard the clear, plaintive 
uprising of that strange singing, " O Lord, save thy peo 
ple, and bless thine heritage ! " 

It needs not to tell in detail what history has told of that 
tragic night : how the doors at last were forced, and the 
mob rushed in ; how citizens and friends, and many of the 
monks themselves, their instinct of combativeness overcom 
ing their spiritual beliefs, fought valiantly, and used torches 
and crucifixes for purposes little contemplated when they 
were made. 



298 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Fiercest among the combatants was Agostino, who three 
times drove back the crowd as they were approaching the 
choir, where Savonarola and his immediate friends were still 
praying. Father Antonio, too, seized a sword from the 
hand of a fallen man and laid about him with an impetuosity 
which would be inexplicable to any .who do not know what 
force there is in gentle natures when the objects of their 
affections are assailed. The artist monk fought for his mas 
ter with the blind desperation with which' a woman fights 
over the cradle of her child. 

All in vain! Past midnight, and the news comes that 
artillery is planted to blow down the walls of the convent, 
and the magistracy, who up to this time have lifted not a 
finger to repress the tumult, send word to Savonarola to 
surrender himself to them, together with the two most active 
of his companions, Fra Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silves- 
tro Maruffi, as the only means of averting the destruction of 
the whole order. They offer him assurances of protection and 
safe return, which he does not in the least believe : neverthe 
less, he feels that his hour is come, and gives himself up. 

His preparations were all made with a solemn method 
which showed that he felt he was approaching the last act in 
the drama of life. He called together his flock, scattered 
and forlorn, and gave them his last words of fatherly advice, 
encouragement, and comfort, ending with the remarkable 
declaration, " A Christian's life consists in doing good and 
suffering evil." " I go with joy to this marriage-supper," 
he said, as he left the church for the last sad preparations. 
He and his doomed friends then confessed and received the 
sacrament, and after that he surrendered himself into the 
hands of the men who he felt in his prophetic soul had come 
to take him to torture and to death. 



AGNES <JF SORRENTO. 299 

As he gave himself into their hands, he said, " I commend 
to your care this flock of mine, and these good citizens of 
Florence who have been with us ; " and then once more 
turning to his brethren, said, "Doubt not, my brethren. 
God will not fail to perfect His work. Whether I live or 
die, He will aid and console you." 

At this moment there was a struggle with the attendants 
in the outer circle of the crowd, and the voice of Father 
Antonio was heard crying out earnestly, " Do not hold 
rne ! I will go with him ! I must go with him ! " " Son," 
said Savonarola, " I charge you on* your obedience not to 
come. It is I and Fra Domenico who are to die for the 
love of Christ." And thus, at the ninth hour of the night, 
he passed the threshold of San Marco. 

As he was leaving, a plaintive voice of distress was heard 
from .a young novice who had been peculiarly dear to him, 
who stretched his hands after him, crying, " Father ! 
father ! why do you leave us desolate ? K Whereupon he 
turned back a moment, and said, " God will be your help. 
If we do not see each other again in this world, we surely 
shall in heaven." 

When the party had gone forth, the monks and citizens 
stood looking into each other's faces, listening with dismay to 
the howl of wild ferocity that was rising around the depart 
ing prisoner. 

" What shall we do ? " was the outcry from many 
voices. 

" I know what I shall do," said Agostino. " If any man 
here will find me a fleet horse, I will start for Milan this 
very hour ; for my uncle is now there on a visit, and he is a 
counsellor of weight with the King of France : we must get 
the King to interfere." 



300 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Good ! good ! good ! " rose from a hundred voices. 

" I will go with you," said Father Antonio. " I shall 
have no rest till I do something." 

" And I," quoth Jacopo Niccolini, " will saddle for you, 
without delay, two horses of part Arabian blood, swift of 
foot, and easy, and which will travel day and night without 
sinking." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 301 



CHAPTER XXII. 

THE CATHEDBAL. 

THE rays of the setting sun were imparting even more 
than their wonted cheerfulness to the airy and bustling 
streets of Milan. There was the usual rush and roar of busy 
life which mark the great city, and the display of gay cos 
tumes and brilliant trappings proper to a ducal capital which 
at that time gave the law to Europe in all matters of taste 
and elegance, even as Paris does now. It was, in fact, from 
the reputation of this city in matters of external show that 
our English term Milliner was probably derived ; and one 
might well have believed this, who saw the sweep of the 
ducal cortege at this moment returning in pomp from the 
afternoon airing. Such glittering of gold-embroidered man 
tles, such bewildering confusion of colors, such flashing of 
jewelry from cap and dagger-hilt and finger-ring, and even 
from bridle and stirrup, testified that the male sex at this 
period in Italy were no whit behind the daughters of Eve in 
that passion for personal adornment which our age is wont to 
consider exclusively feminine. Indeed, all that was visible 
to the vulgar eye of this pageant was wholly masculine ; 
though no one doubted that behind the gold-embroidered 
curtains of the litters which contained the female notabilities 
of the court still more dazzling wonders might be concealed. 
Occasionally a white jewelled hand would draw aside one 
of these screens, and a pair of eyes brighter than any gems 



302 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

would peer forth ; and then there would be tokens of a visi 
ble commotion among the plumed and gemmed cavaliers 
around, and one young head would nod to another with jests 
and quips, and there would be bowing and curveting and all 
the antics and caracolings supposable among gay young 
people on whom the sun shone brightly, and who felt the 
world going well around them, and deemed themselves the 
observed of all observers. 

Meanwhile, the mute, subservient common people looked 
on all this as a part of their daily amusement. Meek dwell 
ers in those dank, noisome caverns, without any opening but 
a street-door, which are called dwelling-places in Italy, they 
lived in uninquiring good-nature, contentedly bringing up 
children on coarse bread, dirty cabbage-stumps, and other 
garbage, while all that they could earn was sucked upward 
by capillary attraction to nourish the extravagance of those 
upper classes on which they stared with such blind and igno 
rant admiration. 

This was the lot they believed themselves born for, and 
which every exhortation of their priests taught them to 
regard as the appointed ordinance of God. The women, to 
be sure, as women always will be, were true to the instinct 
of their sex, and crawled out of the damp and vile-smelling 
recesses of their homes with solid gold ear-rings shaking in 
their ears, and their blue-black lustrous hair ornamented with 
a glittering circle of steel pins or other quaint coiffure. 
There was sense in all this : for had not even Dukes of 
Milan been found so condescending and affable as to admire 
the charms of the fair in the lower orders, whence had come 
sons and daughters who took rank among princes and prin 
cesses ? What father, or what husband, could be insensible 
to prospects of such honor ? What priest would not readily 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 303 

absolve such sin ? Therefore one might have observed more 
than one comely dark-eyed woman, brilliant as some tropical 
bird in the colors of her peasant dress, who cast coquettish 
glances toward high places, not unacknowledged by patroniz 
ing nods in return, while mothers and fathers looked on in 
triumph. These were the days for the upper classes : the 
Church bore them all in her bosom as a tender nursing- 
mother, and provided for all their little peccadilloes with 
even grandmotherly indulgence, and in return the world was 
immensely deferential towards the Church ; and it was 
only now and then some rugged John Baptist, in raiment of 
camel's hair, like Savonarola, who dared to speak an indeco 
rous word of God's truth in the ear of power, and Herod 
and Herodias had ever at hand the good old recipe for quiet 
ing such disturbances. John Baptist was beheaded in prison, 
and then all the world and all the Scribes and Pharisees 
applauded ; and only a few poor disciples were found to take 
up the body and go and tell Jesus. 

The whole piazza around the great Cathedral is at this 
moment full of the dashing cavalcade of the ducal court, 
looking as brilliant in the evening light as a field of poppy, 
corn-flower, and scarlet clover at Sorrento ; and there, amid 
the flutter and rush, the amours and intrigues, the court 
scandal, the laughing, the gibing, the glitter, and dazzle, 
stands that wonderful Cathedral, that silent witness, that 
strange, pure, immaculate mountain of airy, unearthly love 
liness, the most striking emblem of God's mingled vast- 
ness and sweetness that ever it was given to human heart 
to devise or hands to execute. If there be among the many 
mansions of our Father above, among the houses not made 
with hands, aught purer and fairer, it must be the work of 
those grand spirits who inspired and presided over the 



304 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

tion of this celestial miracle of .beauty. In the great, vain, 
wicked city, all alive with the lust of the flesh, the lust of 
the eye, and the pride of life, it seemed to stand as much 
apart and alone as if it were in the solemn desolation of the 
Campagna, or in one of the wide deserts of Africa, so 
little part or lot did it appear to have in anything earthly, 
so little to belong to the struggling, bustling crowd who 
beneath its white dazzling pinnacles seemed dwarfed into 
crawling insects. They who could look up from the dizzy, 
frivolous life below saw far, far above them, in the blue 
Italian air, thousands of glorified saints standing on a thou 
sand airy points of brilliant whiteness, ever solemnly ador 
ing. The marble which below was somewhat touched and 
soiled with the dust of the street seemed gradually to refine 
and brighten as it rose into the pure regions of the air, till 
at last in those thousand distant pinnacles it had the ethe 
real translucence of wintry frost-work, and now began to 
glow with the violet and rose hues of evening, in solemn 
splendor. 

The ducal cortege sweeps by ; but we have mounted the 
dizzy, dark staircase that leads to the roof, where, amid the 
bustling life of the city, there is a promenade of still and 
wondrous solitude. One seems to have ascended in those 
few moments far beyond the tumult and dust of earth 
ly things, to the silence, the clearness, the tranquillity of 
ethereal regions. The noise of the rushing tides of life 
below rises only in a soft and distant murmur ; while 
around, in the wide, clear distance, is spread a prospect 
which has not on earth its like or its equal. The beauti 
ful plains of Lombardy lie beneath like a map, and the 
northern horizon-line is glittering with the entire sweep 
of the Alps, l;ke a solemn senate of archangels with dia- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 305 

mond mail and glittering crowns. Mont Blanc, Monte 
Rosa with its countenance of light, the Jungfrau and all 
the weird brothers of the Oberland, rise one after another 
to the delighted gaze, and the range of the Tyrol melts 
far off into the blue of the sky. On another side, the 
Apennines, with their picturesque outlines and cloud-spot 
ted sides, complete the enclosure. All around, wherever the 
eye turns, is the unbroken phalanx of mountains ; and this 
temple, with its thousand saintly statues standing in attitudes 
of ecstasy and prayer, seems like a worthy altar and shrine 
for the beautiful plain which the mountains enclose : it seems 
to give all Northern Italy to God. 

The effect of the statues in this high, pure air, in this 
solemn, glorious scenery, is peculiar. They seem a meet 
companionship for these exalted regions. They seem to 
stand exultant on their spires, poised lightly as ethereal 
creatures, the fit inhabitants of the pure blue sky. One 
feels that they have done with earth ; one can fancy tfcem 
a band of white-robed kings and priests forever ministering 
in that great temple of which the Alps and the Apennines 
are the walls and the Cathedral the heart and centre. 
Never were Art and Nature so majestically married by 
Religion in so worthy a temple. 

One form could be discerned standing in rapt attention, 
gazing from a platform on the roof upon the far-distant 
scene. He was enveloped in the white coarse woollen gown 
of the Dominican monks, and seemed wholly absorbed in 
meditating on the scene before him, which appeared to move 
him deeply; for, raising his hands, he repeated aloud from the 
Latin Vulgate the words of an Apostle : 

" Accessistis ad Sion montem et civitatem Dei viventis, 
lerusalem caelestem, et multorum millium angelorum fre- 



306 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

quentiam, ecclesiara primitivorum, qui inscripti sunt in 
cselis." l 

At this moment the evening worship commenced within 
the Cathedral, and the whole building seemed to vibrate 
with the rising swell of the great organ, while the grave, 
long-drawn tones of the Ambrosian Liturgy rose surging in 
waves and dying away in distant murmurs, like the rolling 
of the tide on some ocean-shore. The monk turned and 
drew near to the central part of the roof to listen, and as he 
turned he disclosed the well-known features of Father Antonio. 

Haggard, we.ary, and travel-worn, his first impulse, on en 
tering the city, was to fly to this holy solitude, as the wan 
dering sparrow of sacred song sought her nest amid the 
altars of God's temple. Artist no less than monk, he found 
in this wondrous shrine of beauty a repose both for his 
artistic and his religious nature; and while waiting for 
Agostino Sarelli to find his uncle's residence, he had deter 
mined to pass the interval in this holy solitude. Many 
hours had he paced alone up and down the long promenades 
of white marble which run everywhere between forests of daz 
zling pinnacles and flying buttresses of airy lightness. Now 
he rested in fixed attention against the wall above the choir, 
which he could feel pulsating with throbs of sacred sound, as 
if a great warm heart were beating within the fair marble 
miracle, warming it into mysterious life and sympathy. 

" I would now that boy were here to worship with me," 
he said. " No wonder the child's faith fainteth : it takes 
such monuments as these of the Church's former days to 
strengthen one's hopes. Ah, woe unto those by whom such 
offence cometh ! " 

1 " Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, 
the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the 
general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 307 

At this moment the form of Agostino was seen ascending 
the marble staircase. 

The eye of the monk brightened as he came towards him. 
He put out one hand eagerly to take his, and raised the 
other with a gesture of silence. 

" Look," he said, " and listen ! Is it not the sound of 
many waters and mighty thunderings ? " 

Agostino stood subdued for the moment by the magnificent 
sights and sounds ; for, as the sun went down, the distant 
mountains grew every moment more unearthly in their brill 
iancy, and as they lay in a long line, jewelled bright 
ness mingling with the cloud-wreaths of the far horizon, one 
might have imagined that he in truth beheld the foundations 
of that celestial city of jasper, pearl, and translucent gold 
which the Apostle saw, and that the risings and fallings of 
choral sound which seemed to thrill and pulsate through the 
marble battlements were indeed that song like many waters 
sung by the Church Triumphant above. 

For a few moments the monk and the young man stood 
in silence, till at length the monk spoke. 

"You have told me, my son, that your heart often troubles 
you in being more Roman than Christian ; that you some 
times doubt whether the Church on earth be other than a 
fiction or a fable. But look around us. Who are these, 
this great multitude who praise and pray continually in this 
temple of the upper air ? These are they who have come 
out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made 
them white in the blood of the Lamb. These are not the 
men that have sacked cities, and made deserts, and written 
their triumphs in blood and carnage. These be men that 
have sheltered the poor, and built houses for orphans, and 
sold themselves into slavery to redeem their brothers in 



308 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Christ. These be pure women who have lodged saints, 
brought up children, lived holy and prayerful lives. These 
be martyrs who have laid down their lives for the testimony 
of Jesus. There were no such churches in old Rome, no 
such saints." 

" Well," said Agostino, " one thing is certain. If such be 
the True Church, the Pope and the Cardinals of our day 
have no part in it ; for they are the men who sack cities and 
make desolations, who devour widows' houses and for a pre 
tence make long prayers. Let us see one of them selling 
himself into slavery for the love of anybody, while they 
seek to keep all the world in slavery to themselves ! " 

" That is the grievous declension our master weeps over," 
said the monk. " Ah, if the Bishops of the Church now 
were like brave old Saint Ambrose, strong alone by faith 
and prayer, showing no more favor to an unrepentant Em 
peror than to the meanest slave, then would the Church be a 
reality and a glory ! Such is my master. Never is he afraid 
of the face of king or lord, when he has God's truth to 
speak. You should have heard how plainly he dealt with 
our Lorenzo de' Medici on his death-bed, how he refused 
him absolution, unless he would make restitution to the poor 
and restore the liberties of Florence." 

" I should have thought," said the young man, sarcasti 
cally, " that Lorenzo the Magnificent might have got abso 
lution cheaper than that. Where were .ill the bishops in 
his dominion, that he must needs send for Jerome Savo 
narola ? " 

" Son, it is ever so," replied the monk. " If there be a 
man that cares neither for Duke nor Emperor, but for God 
alone, then Dukes and Emperors would give more for his 
good word than for a whole dozen of common priests." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 309 

" I suppose it is something like a rare manuscript or a 
singular gem : these virtuosi have no rest till they have 
clutched it. The thing they cannot get is always the thing 
they want." 

" Lorenzo was always seeking our master," said the monk. 
" Often would he come walking in our gardens, expecting 
surely he would hasten down to meet him ; and the brothers 
would run all out of breath to his cell to say, ' Father, Lo 
renzo is in the garden.' ' He is welcome,' would he answer, 
with his pleasant smile. * But, father, will you not descend 
to meet him ? ' < Hath he asked for me ? ' < No.' ' Well, 
then, let us not interrupt his meditations,' he would answer, 
and remain still at his reading, so jealous was he lest he 
should seek the favor of princes and forget God, as does all 
the world in our day." 

" And because he does not seek the favor of the men of 
this world he will be trampled down and slain. Will the 
God in whom he trusts defend him?" 

The monk pointed expressively upward to the statues 
thdt stood glorified above them, still wearing a rosy radi 
ance, though the shadows of twilight had fallen on all the 
city below. 

" My son," he said, " the victories of the True Church are 
not in time, but in eternity. How many around us were 
conquered on earth that they might triumph in heaven ! 
What saith the Apostle ? ' They were tortured, not ac 
cepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resur 
rection.' " 

" But, alas ! " said Agostino, " are we never to see the 
right triumph here ? I fear that this noble name is written 
in blood, like so many of whom the world is not worthy. 
Can one do nothing to help it ? " 



310 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" How is that ? What have you heard ? " said the monk, 
eagerly. " Have you seen your uncle ? " 

" Not yet ; he is gone into the country for a day, so say 
his servants. I saw, when the Duke's court passed, my 
cousin, who is in his train, and got a moment's speech with 
him ; and he promised, that, if I would wait for him here, 
he would come to me as soon as he could be let off from 
his attendance. When he comes, it were best that we 
confer alone." 

" I will retire to the southern side," said the monk, " and 
await the end of your conference;" and with that he crossed 
the platform on which they were standing, and, going down 
a flight of white marble steps, was soon lost to view amid the 
wilderness of frost-like carved work. 

He had scarcely vanished, before footsteps were heard 
ascending the marble staircase on the other side, and the 
sound of a voice humming a popular air of the court. 

The stranger was a young man of about five-and-twenty, 
habited with all that richness and brilliancy of coloring 
which the fashion of the day permitted to a young exqui 
site. His mantle of purple velvet falling jauntily off from 
one shoulder disclosed a doublet of amber satin richly em 
broidered with gold and seed-pearl. The long white plume 
which drooped from his cap was Tield in its place by a large 
diamond which sparkled like a star in the evening twilight. 
His finely moulded hands were loaded with rings, and ruffles 
of the richest Venetian lace encircled his wrists. He had 
worn over all a dark cloak with a peaked hood, the usual 
evening disguise in Italy ; but as he gained the top-stair of 
the platform, he threw it carelessly down and gayly offered 
his hand. 

" Good even to you, cousin mine ! So you see I am as 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 311 

true to my appointment as if your name were Leonora or 
Camilla instead of Agostino. How goes it with you ? I 
wanted to talk with you below, but I saw we must have a 
place without listeners. Our friends the saints are too high 
in heavenly things to make mischief by eavesdropping." 

"Thank you, Cousin Carlos, for your promptness. And 
now to the point. Did your father, my uncle, get the letter 
I wrote him about a month since ? " 

" He did ; and he bade me treat with you about it. It's 
an abominable snarl this they have got you into. My father 
says, your best way is to come straight to him in France, 
and abide till things take a better turn : he is high in favor 
with the King and can find you a very pretty place at court, 
and he takes it upon him in time to reconcile the Pope. Be 
tween you and me, the old Pope has no special spite in the 
world against you : he merely wants your lands for his son, 
and as long as you prowl round and lay claim to them, why, 
you must stay excommunicated ; but just clear the coast and 
leave them peaceably and he will put you back into the 
True Church, and my father will charge himself with your 
success. Popes don't last forever, or there may come an 
other falling out with the King of France, and either way 
there will be a chance of your being one day put back into 
your rights ; meanwhile, a young fellow might do worse than 
have a good place in our court." 

During this long monologue, which the young speaker 
uttered with all the flippant self-sufficiency of worldly people 
with whom the world is going well, the face of the young 
nobleman who listened presented a picture of many strong 
contending emotions. 

" You speak," he said, " as if 'man had nothing to do in 
this world but seek his own ease and pleasure. What lies 



312 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

nearest my heart is not that I am plundered of my estates, 
and my house uprooted, but it is that my beautiful Rome, the 
city of my fathers, is a prisoner under the heel of the tyrant. 
It is that the glorious religion of Christ, the holy faith in 
which my mother died, the faith made venerable by all these 
saints around us, is made the tool and instrument of such 
vileness and cruelty that one is tempted to doubt whether it 
were not better to have been born of heathen in the good 
old times of the Roman Republic, God forgive me for 
saying so ! Does the Most Christian King of France know 
that the man who pretends to rule in the name of Christ is 
not a believer in the Christian religion, that he does not 
believe even in a God, that he obtained the holy seat by 
simony, that he uses all its power to enrich a brood of 
children whose lives are so indecent that it is a shame to 
modest lips even to say what they do ? " 

" Why, of course," said the other, " the King of France is 
pretty well informed about all these things. You know old 
King Charles, when he marched through Italy, had more 
than half a mind, they say, to pull the old Pope out of his 
place ; and he might have done it easily. My father was 
in his train at that time, and he says the Pope was fright 
ened enough. Somehow they made it all up among them, 
and settled about their territories, which is the main thing, 
after all ; and now our new King, I fancy, does not like to 
meddle with him : between you and me, he has his eye in 
another direction here. This gay city would suit him admi 
rably, and he fancies he can govern it as well as it is gov 
erned now. My father does not visit here with his eyes 

shut, / can tell you. But as to the Pope Well, you 

see such things are delicate to handle. After all, my dear 
Agostiiio, we are not priests, our business is with this 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 313 

world ; and, no matter how they came by them, these fellows 
have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and one cannot 
afford to quarrel with them, we must have the ordinances, 
you know, or what becomes of our souls ? Do you suppose, 
now, that I should live as gay and easy a life as I do, if I 
thought there were any doubt of my salvation ? It 's a 
mercy to us sinners that the ordinances are not vitiated by 
the sins of the priests ; it would go hard with us, if they 
were : as it is, if they will live scandalous lives, it is their 
affair, not ours." 

" And is it nothing," replied the other, " to a true man 
who has taken the holy vows of knighthood on him, whether 
his Lord's religion be defamed and dishonored and made a 
scandal and a scoffing ? Did not all Europe go out to save 
Christ's holy sepulchre from being dishonored by the feet of 
the Infidel ? and shall we let infidels have the very house 
of the Lord, and reign supreme in His holy dwelling-place ? 
There has risen a holy prophet in Italy, the greatest since 
the time of Saint Francis, and his preaching hath stirred 
all hearts to live more conformably with our holy faith ; and 
now for his pure life and good works he is under excommu 
nication of the Pope, and they have seized and imprisoned 
him, and threaten his life." 

" Oh, you mean Savonarola," said the other. ." Yes, we 
have heard of him, a most imprudent, impracticable fel 
low, who will not take advice nor be guided. My father, I 
believe, thought well of him once, and deemed that in the 
distracted state of Italy he might prove serviceable in for 
warding some of his plans : but he is wholly wrapt up in his 
own notions ; he heeds no will but his own." 

" Have you heard anything," said Agostino, " of a letter 
which he wrote to the King of France lately, stirring him up 



314 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

to call a General Council of the Christian Church to consider 
what is to be done about the scandals at Rome ? " 

" Then he has written one, has he ? " replied the young 
man ; " then the story that I have heard whispered about 
here must be true. A man who certainly is in a condition 
to know told me day before yesterday that the Duke had 
arrested a courier with some such letter, and sent it on to 
the Pope : it is likely, for the Duke hates Savonarola. If 
that be true, it will go hard with him yet ; for the Pope has 
a long arm for an enemy." 

" And so," said Agostino, with an expression of deep con 
cern, " that letter, from which the good man hoped so much, 
and which was so powerful, will only go to increase his 
danger ! " 

" The more fool he ! he might have known that it was 
of no use. Who was going to take his part against the 
Pope?" 

" The city of Florence has stood by him until lately," said 
Agostino, " and would again, with a little help." 

" Oh, no ! never think it, my dear Agostino ! Depend 
upon it, it will end as such things always do, and the man 
is only a madman that undertakes it. Hark ye, cousin, what 
have you to do with this man ? Why do you attach yourself 
to the side that is sure to lose ? I cannot conceive what you 
would be at. This is no way to mend your fortunes. Come 
to-night to my father's palace : the Duke has appointed us 
princely lodgings, and treats us with great hospitality, and 
my father has plans for your advantage. Between us, there 
is a fair young ward of his, of large estates and .noble blood, 
whom he designs for you. So you see, if you turn your 
attention in this channel, there may come a reinforcement of 
the family property, which will enable you to hold out until 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 315 

the Pope dies, or some prince or other gets into a quarrel 
with him, which is always happening, and then a move may 
be made for you. My father, I '11 promise you, is shrewd 
enough, and always keeps his eye open to see where there 
is a joint in the harness, and have a trusty dagger-blade all 
whetted to stick under. Of course, he means to see you 
righted ; he has the family interest at heart, and feels as 
indignant as you could at the rascality which has been perpe 
trated ; but I am quite sure he will tell you that the way is 
not to come out openly against the Pope and join this fanat 
ical party." 

Agostino stood silent, with the melancholy air of a man 
who has much to say, and is deeply moved by considerations 
which he perceives it would be utterly idle and useless to 
attempt to explain. If the easy theology of his friend were 
indeed true, if the treasures of the heavenly kingdom, 
glory, honor, and immortality, could indeed be placed in 
unholy hands, to be bought and sold and traded in, if holi 
ness of heart and life, and all those nobler modes of living 
and being which were witnessed in the histories of the thou 
sand saints around him, were indeed but a secondary thing 
in the strife for worldly place and territory, what, then, 
remained for the man of ideas, of aspirations ? In such a 
state of society, his track must be like that of the dove 
in sacred history, who found no rest for the sole of her 
foot. 

Agostino folded his arms and sighed deeply, and then 
made answer mechanically, as one whose thoughts are afar 
off. 

" Present my duty," he said, " to my uncle, your father, 
and say to him that I will wait on him to-night." 

" Even so," said the young man, picking up his cloak and 



316 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

folding it about him. "And now, you know, I must go. 
Don't be discouraged ; keep up a good heart ; you shall see 
what it is to have powerful friends to stand by you ; all will 
be right yet. Come, will you go with me now ? " 

" Thank you," said Agostino, " I think I would be alone a 
little while. My head is confused, and I would fain think 
over matters a little quietly." 

" Well, au revoir, then. I must leave you to the com 
pany of the saints. But be sure and come early." 

So saying, he threw his cloak over his shoulder and saun 
tered carelessly down the marble steps, humming again the 
gay air with which he had ascended. 

Left alone, Agostino once more cast a glance on the 
strangely solemn and impressive scene around him. He 
was standing on a platform of the central tower which over 
looked the whole building. The round, full moon had now 
risen in the horizon, displacing by her solemn brightness the 
glow of twilight ; and her beams were reflected by the deli 
cate frost-work of the myriad pinnacles which rose in a 
bewildering maze at his feet. It might seem to be some 
strange enchanted garden of fairy-land, where a luxuriant 
and freakish growth of Nature had been suddenly arrested 
and frozen into eternal stillness. Around in the shadows at 
tjie foot of the Cathedral the lights of the great gay city 
twinkled and danced and veered and fluttered like fireflies 
in the damp, dewy shadows of some moist meadow in sum 
mer. The sound of clattering hoofs and rumbling wheels, 
of tinkling guitars and gay roundelays, rose out of that 
obscure distance, seeming far off and plaintive like the dream 
of a life that is past. The great church seemed a vast 
world ; the long aisles of statued pinnacles with their pure 
floorings of white marble appeared as if they might be the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 317 

corridors of heaven ; and it seemed as if the crowned and 
sceptred saints in their white marriage-garments might come 
down and walk there, without ever a spot of earth on their 
unsullied whiteness. 

In a few moments Father Antonio had glided back to the 
side of the young man, whom he found so lost in reverie 
that not till he laid his hand upon his arm did he awaken 
from his meditations. 

" Ah ! " he said, with a start, " my father, is it you ? " 

" Yes, my son. What of your conference ? Have you 
learned anything?" 

" Father, I have learned far more than I wished to 
know." 

" What is it, my son ? Speak it at once." 

" Well, then, I fear that the letter of our holy father to 
the King of France has been intercepted here in Milan, 
and sent to the Pope." 

" What makes you think so ? " said the monk, with an 
eagerness that showed how much he felt the intelligence. 

" My cousin tells me that a person of consideration in the 
Duke's household, who is supposed to be in a position to 
know, told him that it was so." 

Agostino felt the light grasp which the monk had laid 
upon his arm gradually closing with a convulsive pressure, 
and that he was trembling with intense feeling. 

" Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight ! " 
he said, after a few moments of silence. 

" It is discouraging," said Agostino, " to see how little 
these princes care for the true interests of religion and the 
service of God, how little real fealty there is to our Lord 
Jesus." 

" Yes," said the monk, " all seek their own, and not the 



318 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

things that are Christ's. It is well written, ' Put not your 
trust in princes.'" 

" And what prospect, what hope do you see for him ? " 
said Agostino. " Will Florence stand firm ? " 

" I could have thought so once," said the monk, " in 
those days when I have seen counsellors and nobles and 
women of the highest degree all humbly craving to hear the 
word of God from his lips, and seeming to seek nothing so 
much as to purify their houses, their hands, and their hearts, 
that they might be worthy citizens of that commonwealth 
which has chosen the Lord Jesus for its gonfalonier. I have 
seen the very children thronging to kiss the hem of his robe, 
as he walked through the streets ; but, oh, my friend, did 
not Jerusalem bring palms and spread its garments in the 
way of Christ only four days before he was crucified ? " 

The monk's voice here faltered. He turned away and 
seemed to wrestle with a tempest of suppressed sobbing. A 
moment more, he looked heavenward and pointed up with a 
smile. 

" Son," he said, " you ask what hope there is. I answer, 
There is hope of such crowns as these wear who came out 
of great tribulation and now reign with Christ in glory." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 319 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

THE PILGRIMAGE. 

THE morning sun rose clear and lovely on the old red 
rocks of Sorrento, and danced in a thousand golden scales 
and ripples on the wide Mediterranean. The shadows of 
the gorge were pierced by long golden shafts of light, here 
falling on some moist bed of crimson cyclamen, there shining 
through a waving tuft of gladiolus, or making the abundant 
yellow fringes of the broom more vivid in their brightness. 
The velvet-mossy old bridge, in the far shadows at the bot 
tom, was lit up by a chance beam, and seemed as if it might 
be something belonging to fairy-land. 

There had been a bustle and stir betimes in the little 
dove-cot, for to-morrow the inmates were to leave it for a 
long, adventurous journey. 

To old Elsie, the journey back to Rome, the city of her 
former days of prosperity, the place which had witnessed 
her ambitious hopes, her disgrace and downfall, was full of 
painful ideas. There arose to her memory, like a picture, 
those princely halls, with their slippery, cold mosaic floors, 
their long galleries of statues and paintings, their enchanting 
gardens, musical with the voice of mossy fountains, fragrant 
with the breath of roses and jasmines, where the mother 
of Agnes had spent the hours of her youth and beauty. 
She seemed to see her flitting hither and thither down the 
stately ilex-avenues, like some gay singing-bird, to whom 
were given gilded cages and a constant round of caresses 



320 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

and sweets, or like the flowers in the parterres, which lived 
and died only as the graceful accessories of the grandeur of 
an old princely family. 

She compared, mentally, the shaded and secluded life 
which Agnes had led with the specious and fatal brilliancy 
which had been the lot of her mother, her simple peasant 
garb with those remembered visions of jewelry and silk 
and embroideries with which the partial patronage of the 
Duchess or the ephemeral passion of her son had decked 
out the poor Isella ; and then came swelling at her heart a 
tumultuous thought, one which she had repressed and kept 
down for years with all the force of pride and hatred. Ag 
nes, peasant-girl though she seemed, had yet the blood of 
that proud old family in her veins ; the marriage had been a 
true one; she herself had witnessed it. 

" Yes, indeed," she said to herself, " were justice done, she 
would now be a princess, a fit mate for the nobles of the 
land ; and here I ask no more than to mate her to an honest 
smith, I that have seen a prince kneel to kiss her moth 
er's hand, yes, he did, entreat her on his knees to be 
his wife, I saw it. But then, what came of it ? Was 
there ever one of these nobles that kept oath or promise to 
us of the people, or that cared for us longer than the few 
moments we could serve his pleasure ? Old Elsie, you have 
done wisely ! keep your dove out of the eagle's nest : it is 
foul with the blood of poor innocents whom he has torn to 
pieces in his cruel pride ! " 

These thoughts swelled in silence in the mind of Elsie, 
while she was busy sorting and arranging her household 
stores, and making those thousand-and-one preparations 
known to every householder, whether of much or little, who 
meditates a long journey. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 321 

To Agnes she seemed more than ever severe and hard ; 
yet probably there never was a time when every pulse of 
her heart was beating more warmly for the child, and every 
thought of the future was more entirely regulated with ref 
erence to her welfare. It is no sinecure to have the entire 
devotion of a strong, enterprising, self-willed friend, as Ag 
nes had all her life found. One cannot gather grapes of 
thorns or figs of thistles, and the affection of thorny and 
thistly natures has often as sharp an acid and as long prick 
ers as wild gooseberries, yet it is their best, and must be 
so accepted. 

Agnes tried several times to offer her help to her grand 
mother, but was refused so roughly that she dared not offer 
again, and therefore went to her favorite station by the para 
pet in the garden, whence she could look up and down the 
gorge, and through the arches of the old mossy Roman 
bridge that spanned it far down by the city-wall. All these 
things had become dear. to her by years of familiar silent 
converse. The little garden, with its old sculptured basin, 
and the ever-lulling dash of falling water, the tremulous 
draperies of maiden's-hair, always beaded with shining drops, 

the old shrine, with its picture, its lamp, and flower-vase, 

the tall, dusky orange-trees, so full of blossoms and fruit, 
so smooth and shining in their healthy bark, all seemed 
to her as so many dear old friends whom she was about to 
leave, perhaps forever. 

What this pilgrimage would be like, she scarcely knew : 
days and weeks of wandering, over mountain-passes, 
in deep, solitary valleys, as years ago. when her grand 
mother brought her, a little child, from Rome. 

In the last few weeks, Agnes seemed to herself to have 
become wholly another being. Silently, insensibly, her feet 
14* 



322 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

had crossed the enchanted river that divides childhood from 
womanhood, and all the sweet ignorant joys of that first 
early paradise lay behind her. Up to this time her life had 
seemed to her a charming dream, full of blessed visions and 
images: legends of saints, and hymns, and prayers had 
blended with flower-gatherings in the gorge, and light daily 
toils. 

Now, a new, strange life had been born within her, 
a life full of passions, contradictions, and conflicts. A love 
had sprung up in her heart, strange and wonderful, for one 
who till within these few weeks had been entirely unknown 
to her, who had never toiled for, or housed, or clothed, or 
cared for her as her grandmother had, and yet whom a few 
short interviews, a few looks, a few words, had made to 
seem nearer and dearer than the old, tried friends of her 
childhood. In vain she confessed it as a sin, in vain she 
strove against it ; it came back to her in every hymn, in 
every prayer. Then she would press the sharp cross to her 
breast, till a thousand stings of pain would send the blood in 
momentary rushes to her pale cheek, and cause her delicate 
lips to contract with an expression of stern endurance, and 
pray that by any penance and anguish she might secure his 
salvation. 

To save one such glorious soul, she said to herself, was 
work enough for one little life. She was willing to spend it 
all in endurance, unseen by him, unknown to him, so that at 
last he should be received into that Paradise which her ar 
dent imagination conceived so vividly. Surely, there she 
should meet him, radiant as the angel of her dream ; and 
then she would tell him that it was all for his sake that she 
had refused to listen to him here. And these sinful long 
ings to see him once more, these involuntary Teachings of 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 323 

her soul after an earthly companionship, she should find 
strength to overcome in this pilgrimage. She should go to 
Rome, the very city where the blessed Paul poured out 
his blood for the Lord Jesus, where Peter fed the flock, 
till his time, too, came to follow his Lord in the way of 
the cross. She should even come near to her blessed Re 
deemer ; she should go up, on her knees,, those very steps 
to Pilate's hall where He stood bleeding, crowned with 
thorns, His blood, perhaps, dropping on the very stones. 
Ah, could any mortal love distract her there ? Should she 
not there find her soul made free of every earthly thrall to 
love her Lord alone, as she had loved Him in the artless 
and ignorant days of her childhood, but better, a thou 
sand times? 

" Good-morning to you, pretty dove ! " said a voice from 
without the garden-wall ; and Agnes, roused from her rev- 
ery, saw old Jocunda. 

" I came down to help you off," she said, as she came into 
the little garden. " Why, my dear little saint ! you are 
looking white as a sheet, and with those tears ! What 's it 
all for, baby?" 

" Ah, Jocunda ! grandmamma is angry with me all the 
time now. I wish I could go once more to the convent and 
see my dear Mother Theresa. She is angry, if I but name 
it ; and yet she will not let me do anything here to help her, 
and so I don't know what to do." 

" W T ell, at any rate, don't cry, pretty one ! Your grand 
mamma is worked with hard thoughts. We old folks are 
twisted and crabbed and full of knots with disappointment 
and trouble, like the mulberry -trees that they keep for vines 
to run on. But I '11 speak to her ; I know her ways j she 
shall let you go ; I '11 bring her round." 



324 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" So-ho, sister ! " said the old soul, hobbling to the door, 
and looking in at Elsie, who was sitting flat on the stone 
floor of her cottage, sorting a quantity of flax that lay around 
her. The severe Roman profile was thrown out by the 
deep shadows of the interior, and the piercing black eyes, 
the silver-white hair, and the strong, compressed lines of the 
mouth, as she worked, and struggled with the ghosts of her 
former life, made her look like no unapt personification of 
one of the Fates reviewing her flax before she commenced 
the spinning of some new web of destiny. 

" Good-morning to you, sister ! " said Jocunda. " I heard 
you were off to-morrow, and I came to see what I could do 
to help you." 

" There 's nothing to be done for me, but to kill me," said 
Elsie. " I am weary of living." 

" Oh, never say that ! Shake the dice again, my old man 
used to say, God rest his soul ! Please Saint Agnes, 
you '11 have a brave pilgrimage." 

"Saint Agnes be hanged!" said Elsie, gruffly. "I'm 
out with her. It was she put all these notions into my girl's 
head. Because she did n't get married herself, she don't 
want any one else to. She has no consideration. I 've 
done with her : I told her so this morning. The candles 
I 've burned and the prayers I 've gone through with, that 
she might prosper me in this one thing ! and it 's all gone 
against me. She 's a baggage, and shall never see another 
penny of mine, that 's flat ! " 

Such vituperation of saints and sacred images may be 
heard to this day in Italy, and is a common feature of idol- 
worship in all lands ; for, however the invocation of the 
saints could be vitalized in the hearts of the few spiritual, 
there is no doubt that in the mass of the common people it 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 325 

had all the well-defined symptoms of the grossest idolatry, 
among which fits of passionate irreverence are one. The 
feeling, which tempts the enlightened Christian in sore dis 
appointment and vexation to rise in rebellion against a wise 
Providence, in the childish twilight of uncultured natures 
finds its full expression unawed by reverence or fear. 

" Oh, hush, now ! " said Jocunda. " What is the use of 
making her angry just as you are going to Rome, where she 
has the most power ? All sorts of ill-luck will befall you. 
Make up with her before you start, or you may get the fever 
in the marshes and die, and then who will take care of poor 
Agnes ? " 

" Let Saint Agnes look after her ; the girl loves her bet 
ter than she does me or anybody else," said Elsie. " If she 
cared anything about me, she 'd marry and settle down, as I 
want her to." 

" Oh, there you are wrong," said Jocunda. " Marrying is 
like your dinner : one is not always in stomach for it, and 
one's meat is another's poison. Now who knows but this 
pilgrimage may be the very thing to bring the girl round ? 
I Ve seen people cured of too much religion by going to 
Rome. You know things a'n't there as our little saint fan 
cies. Why, between you and me, the priests themselves 
have their jokes on those who come so far to so little pur 
pose. More shame for 'em, say I, too; but we common 
people must n't look into such things too closely. Now take 
it cheerfully, and you '11 see the girl will come back tired 
of tramping and able to settle down in a good home with a 
likely husband. I have a brother in Naples who is turning 
a pretty penny in the fisheries ; I will give you directions to 
find him ; his wife is a wholesome Christian woman ; and 
if the little one be tired by the time you get there, you 



326 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

might do worse than stop two or three days with them. It 's 
a brave city ; seems made to have a good time in. Come, 
you let her just run up to the convent to bid good-by to 
the Mother Theresa and the sisters." 

" I don't care where she goes,'' said Elsie, ungraciously. 

" There, now ! " said Jocunda, coming out, " Agnes, 
your grandmother bids you go to the convent to say good- 
by to the sisters ; so run along, there 's a little dear. The 
Mother Theresa talks of nothing else but you since she heard 
that you meditated this ; and she has broken in two her own 
piece of the True Cross which she 's carried in the gold and 
pearl reliquary that the Queen sent her, and means to give 
it to you. One does n't halve such gifts, without one's whole 
heart goes with them." 

" Dear mother ! " said Agnes, her eyes filling with tears. 
" I will take her some flowers and oranges for the last time. 
Do you know, Jocunda, I feel that I never shall come back 
here to this dear little home where I have been so happy ? 

everything sounds so mournful and looks so mournful ! 
I love everything here so much ! '* 

" Oh, dear child, never give in to such fancies, but pluck 
up heart. You will be sure to have luck, wherever you go, 

especially since the mother will give you that holy relic. 
I myself had a piece of Saint John Baptist's thumb-nail 
sewed up in a leather bag, which I wore day and night all 
the years I was tramping up and down with my old man ; 
but when he died, I had it buried with him to ease his soul. 
For you see, dear, he was a trooper, and led such a rackety, 
up-and-down life, that I doubt but his confessions were but 
slipshod, and he needed all the help he could get, poor old 
soul ! It 's a comfort to think he has it." 

" Ah, Jocunda, seems to me it were better to trust to the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 327 

free love of our dear Lord who died for us. and pray to 
Him, without ceasing, for his soul." 

" Like enough, dearie ; but then, one can't be too sure, 
you know. And there is n't the least doubt in my mind that 
that was a true relic, for I got it in the sack of the city of 
Volterra, out of the private cabinet of a noble lady, with a 
lot of jewels and other matters that made quite a little purse 
for us. Ah, that was a time, when that city was sacked ! 
It was hell upon earth for three days, and all our men acted 
like devils incarnate ; but then they always will in such 
cases. But go your ways now, dearie, and I '11 stay with 
your grandmamma ; for, please God, you must be up and 
away with the sun to-morrow." 

Agnes hastily arranged a little basket of fruit and flowers, 
and took her way down through the gorge, under the Ro 
man bridge, through an orange-orchard, and finally came 
out upon the sea-shore, and so along the sands below the 
cliffs on which the old town of Sorrento is situated. 

So cheating and inconsistent is the human heart, es 
pecially in the feminine subject, that she had more than 
once occasion to chide herself for the thrill with which she 
remembered passing the cavalier once in this orange-garden, 
and the sort of vague hope which she detected that some 
where along this road he might appear again. 

" How perfectly wicked and depraved I must be," she 
said to herself, " to find any pleasure in such a thought of 
one I should pray never to meet again ! " 

And so the little soul went on condemning herself in those 
exaggerated terms which the religious vocabulary of con 
ventual life furnished ready-made for the use of penitents 
of every degree, till by the time she arrived at the convent 
she could scarcely have been more oppressed with a sense 



328 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

of sin, if she hacl murdered her grandmother and eloped with 
the cavalier. 

On her arrival in the convent court, the peaceful and 
dreamy stillness contrasted strangely with the gorgeous 
brightness of the day outside. The splendid sunshine, the 
sparkling sea, the songs of the boatmen, the brisk passage of 
gliding sails, the bright hues of the flowers that garlanded 
the rocks, all seemed as if the earth had been arrayed for 
some gala-day ; but the moment she had passed the portal, 
the silent, mossy court, with its pale marble nymph, its 
lull of falling water, its turf snow-dropt with daisies and 
fragrant with blue and white violets, and the surround 
ing cloistered walks, with their pictured figures of pious 
history, all came with a sad and soothing influence on her 
nerves. 

The nuns, who had heard the news of the projected pil 
grimage, and regarded it as the commencement of that 
saintly career which they had always predicted for her, 
crowded around her, kissing her hands and her robe, and 
entreating her prayers at different shrines of especial sanctity 
that she might visit. 

The Mother Theresa took her to her cell, and there hung 
round her neck, by a golden chain, the relic which she de 
signed for her, and of whose genuineness she appeared to 
possess no manner of doubt. 

" But how pale you are, my sweet child ! " she said. 
" What has happened to alter you so much ? Your cheeks 
look so thin, and there are deep, dark circles round your 
eyes." 

"Ah, my mother, it is because of my sins." 

" Your sins, dear little one ! What sins can you be 
guilty of?" 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 329 

" All, my dear mother, I have been false to my Lord, and 
let the love of an earthly creature into my heart." 

" What can you mean ? " said the mother. 

" Alas, dear mother, the cavalier who sent that ring ! " 
said Agnes, covering her face with her hands. 

Now the Mother Theresa had never left the walls of that 
convent since she was ten years old, had seen no men 
except her father and uncle, who once or twice made her a 
short call, and an old hunchback who took care of their 
garden, safe in his armor of deformity. Her ideas on the 
subject of masculine attractions were, therefore, as vague as 
might be the conceptions of the eyeless fishes in the Mam 
moth Cave of Kentucky with regard to the fruits and flow 
ers above ground. All that portion of her womanly nature 
which might have throbbed lay in a dead calm. Still there 
was a faint flutter of curiosity, as she pressed Agnes to tell 
her story, which she did with many pauses and sobs and 
blushes. 

" And is he so very handsome, my little heart ? " she said, 
after listening. " What makes you love him so much in so 
little time?" 

" Yes, he is beautiful as an angel." 

" I never saw a young man, really," said the Mother The 
resa. " Uncle Angelo was lame, and had gray hair ; and 
papa was very fat, and had a red face. Perhaps he looks 
like our picture of Saint Sebastian ; I have often thought 
that I might be in danger of loving a young man that looked 
like him." 

" Oh. he is more beautiful than that picture or any pic 
ture ! " said Agnes, fervently ; " and, mother, though he is 
excommunicated, I can't help feeling that he is as good as 
he is beautiful. My uncle had strong hopes that he should 



330 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

restore him to the True Church ; and to pray for his soul I 
am going on this pilgrimage. Father Francesco says, if I 
will tear away and overcome this love, I shall gain so much 
merit that my prayers will have power to save his soul. 
Promise me, dear mother, that you and all the sisters will 
help me with your prayers ; help me to work out this 
great salvation, and then I shall be so glad to come back 
here and spend all my life in prayer ! " 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 331 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE MOUNTAIN FORTRESS. 

AND so on a bright spring morning our pilgrims started. 
Whoever has traversed the road from Sorrento to Naples, 
that wonderful path along the high rocky shores of the 
Mediterranean, must remember it only as a wild dream of 
enchantment. On one side lies the sea, shimmering in bands 
of blue, purple, and green to the swaying of gentle winds, 
exhibiting those magical shiftings and changes of color pe 
culiar to these waves. Near the land its waters are of pale, 
transparent emerald, while farther out they deepen into blue 
and thence into a violet-purple, which again, towards the 
horizon-line, fades into misty pearl-color. The shores rise 
above the sea in wild, bold precipices, grottoed into fantastic 
caverns by the action of the waves, and presenting every 
moment some new variety of outline. As the path of the 
traveller winds round promontories whose mountain-heights 
are capped by white villages and silvery with olive-groves, 
he catches the enchanting sea-view, now at this point, and 
now at another, with Naples glimmering through the mists in 
the distance, and the purple sides of Vesuvius ever changing 
with streaks and veins of cloud-shadows, while silver vapors 
crown the summit. Above the road the steep hills seem 
piled up to the sky, every spot terraced, and cultivated 
with some form of vegetable wealth, and the wild, untamable 
rocks garlanded over with golden broom, crimson gilly 
flowers, arid a thousand other bright adornments. The road 



332 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

lies through villages whose gardens and orange-orchards fill 
the air with sweet scents, and whose rose-hedges some 
times pour a perfect cascade of bloom and fragrance over 
the walls. 

Our travellers started in the dewy freshness of one of 
those gorgeous days which seem to cast an illuminating 
charm over everything. Even old Elsie's stern features 
relaxed somewhat under the balmy influences of sun and 
sky, and Agnes's young, pale face was lit up with a brighter 
color than for many a day before. Their pilgrimage through 
this beautiful country had few incidents. They walked in 
the earlier and latter parts of the day, reposing a few hours 
at noon near some fountain or shrine by the wayside, 
often experiencing the kindly veneration of the simple 
peasantry, who cheerfully offered them refreshments, and 
begged their prayers at the holy places whither they 
were going. 

In a few days they reached Naples, where they made a 
little stop with the hospitable family to whom Jocunda had 
recommended them. From Naples their path lay through 
the Pontine Marshes ; and though the malaria makes this 
region a word of fear, yet it is no less one of strange, soft, 
enchanting beauty. A wide, sea-like expanse, clothed with 
an abundance of soft, rich grass, painted with golden bands 
and streaks of bright yellow flowers, stretches away to a 
purple curtain of mountains, whose romantic outline rises 
constantly in a thousand new forms of beauty. The upland 
at the foot of these mountains is beautifully diversified with 
tufts of trees, and the contrast of the purple softness of the 
distant hills with the dazzling gold and emerald of the wide 
meadow-tracts they enclose is a striking feature in the land 
scape. Droves of silver-haired oxen, with their great, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 833 

dreamy, dark eyes and polished black horns, were tran 
quilly feeding knee-deep in the lush, juicy grass, and herds 
of buffaloes, uncouth, but harmless, might be seen pasturing 
or reposing in the distance. On either side of the way 
were \vaving tracts of yellow fleur-de-lis, and beds of arum, 
with its arrowy leaves and white blossoms. It was a 
wild luxuriance of growth, a dreamy stillness of solitude, 
so lovely that one could scarce remember that it was 
deadly. 

Elsie was so impressed with the fear of the malaria, that 
she trafficked with an honest peasant, who had been hired 
to take back to Rome the horses which had been used to 
convey part of the suite of a nobleman travelling to Naples, 
to give them a quicker passage across than they could have 
made on foot. It is true that this was quite contrary to the 
wishes of Agnes, who felt that the journey ought to be per 
formed in the most toilsome and self-renouncing way, and 
that they should trust solely to prayer and spiritual protec 
tion to ward off the pestilential exhalations. 

In vain she quoted the Psalm, "Thou shalt not be afraid 
for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, 
nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the 
destruction that wasteth at noon-day," and adduced cases 
of saints who had walked unhurt through all sorts of 
dangers. 

" There 's no use talking, child," said Elsie. " I 'm older 
than you, and have seen more of real men and women ; and 
whatever they did in old times, I know that nowadays the 
saints don't help those that don't take care of themselves ; 
and the long and the short of it is, we must ride across 
those marshes, and get out of them as quick as possible, 
or we shall get into Paradise quicker than we want to." 



334 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

In common with many other professing Christians, Elsie 
felt that going to Paradise was the very dismallest of alter 
natives, a thing to be staved off as long as possible. 

After many days of journeying, the travellers, somewhat 
weary and foot-sore, found themselves in a sombre and 
lonely dell of the mountains, about an hour before the going 
down of the sun. The slanting yellow beams turned to sil 
very brightness the ashy foliage of the gnarled old olives, 
which gaunt and weird clung with their great, knotty, strag 
gling roots to the rocky mountain-sides. Before them, the 
path, stony, steep, and winding, was rising upward and still 
upward, and no shelter for the night appeared, except in a 
distant mountain-town, which, perched airily as an eagle's 
nest on its hazy height, reflected from the dome of its church 
and its half-ruined old feudal tower the golden light of sun 
set. A drowsy-toned bell was ringing out the Ave Maria 
over the wide purple solitude of mountains, whose varying 
outlines were rising around. 

" You are tired, my little heart," said old Elsie to Ag 
nes, who had drooped during a longer walk than usual. 

"No, grandmamma," said Agnes, sinking on her knees 
to repeat her evening prayer, which she did, covering her 
face with her hands. 

Old Elsie kneeled too ; but, as she was praying, being 
a thrifty old body in the use of her time, she cast an eye 
up the steep mountain-path and calculated the distance of 
the little airy village. Just at that moment she saw two 
or three horsemen, who appeared to be stealthily observing 
them from behind the shadow of some large rocks. 

When their devotions were finished, she hurried on her 
grandchild, saying, 

" Come, dearie ! it must be we shall find a shelter 
soon." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 335 

The horsemen now rode up behind them. 

" Good-evening, mother ! " said one of them, speaking 
from under the shadow of a deeply slouched hat. 

Elsie made no reply, but hurried forward. 

" Good-evening, pretty maid ! " he said again, riding still 
nearer. 

" Go your ways in the name of God," said Elsie. " We 
are pilgrims, going for our souls to Rome ; and whoever hin 
ders us will have the saints to deal with." 

" Who talks of hindering you, mother ? " responded the 
other. " On the contrary, we come for the express purpose 
of helping you along." 

" We want none of your help," said Elsie, gruffly. 

" See, now, how foolish you are ! " said the horseman. 
" Don't you see that that town is a good seven miles off, and 
not a bit of bed or supper to be had till you get there, and 
the sun will be down soon ? So mount up behind me, and 
here is a horse for the little one." 

In fact, the horsemen at this moment opening disclosed to 
view a palfrey with a lady's saddle, richly caparisoned, as if 
for a person of condition. With a sudden movement, two 
of the men dismounted, confronted the travellers, and the 
one who had acted as spokesman, approaching Agnes, said, 
in a tone somewhat imperative, 

" Come, young lady, it is our master's will that your poor 
little feet should have some rest." 

And before Agnes could remonstrate, he raised her into 
the saddle as easily as if she had been a puff of thistle-down, 
and then turning to Elsie, he said, 

" For you, good mother, if you wish to keep up, you must 
e'en be content with a seat behind me." 

" Who are you ? and how dare you ? " said Elsie, indig 
nantly. 



336 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

u Good mother," said the man, u you see God's will is thpt 
you should submit, because we are four to you two, and there 
are fifty more within call. So get up without more words, 
and I swear by the Holy Virgin no harm shall be done 
you." 

Elsie looked and saw Agnes already some distance before 
her, the bridle of her palfrey being held by one of the horse 
men, who rode by her side and seemed to look after her 
carefully ; and so, without more ado, she accepted the ser 
vices of the man, and, placing her foot on the toe of his 
riding-boot, mounted to the crupper behind him. 

" That is right," said he. " Now hold on to me lustily, 
and be not afraid." 

So saying, the whole troop began winding as rapidly as 
possible up the steep, rocky path to the mountain-town. 

Notwithstanding the surprise and alarm of this most unex 
pected adventure, Agnes, who had been at the very point of 
exhaustion from fatigue, could not but feel the sensation of 
relief and repose which the seat in an easy saddle gave her. 
The mountain air, as they arose, breathed fresh and cold on 
her brow, and a prospect of such wondrous beauty unrolled 
beneath her feet that her alarm soon became lost in admira 
tion. The mountains that rose everywhere around them 
seemed to float in a transparent sea of luminous vapor, with 
olive-orchards and well-tilled fields lying in far, dreamy dis 
tances below, while out towards the horizon silver gleams of 
the Mediterranean gradually widened to the view. Soothed 
by the hour, refreshed by the air, and filled with admiration 
for the beauty of all she saw, she surrendered herself to her 
situation with a feeling of solemn religious calm, as to some 
unfolding of the Divine Will, which might unroll like the 
landscape beneath her. They pursued their way in silence, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 337 

rising higher and higher out of the shadows of the deep 
valleys below, the man who conducted them observing a 
strict reserve, but seeming to have a care for their wel 
fare. 

The twilight yet burned red in the sky, and painted with 
solemn lights the mossy walls of the little old town, as they 
plunged under a sombre antique gate- way, and entered on a 
street as damp and dark as a cellar, which went up almost 
perpendicularly between tall, black stone walls that seemed 
to have neither windows nor doors. Agnes could only 
remember clambering upward, turning short corners, clatter 
ing down steep stone steps, under low archways, along 
narrow, ill-smelling passages, where the light that seemed so 
clear without the town was almost extinguished in utter 
night. 

At last they entered the damp court of a l*uge, irregular 
pile of stone buildings. Here the men suddenly drew up, 
and Agnes's conductor, dismounting, came and took her 
silently from her saddle, saying briefly, " Come this way." 

Elsie sprang from her seat in a moment, and placed 
herself at the side of her child. 

" No, good mother," said the man with whom she had 
ridden, seizing her powerfully by the shoulders, and turning 
her round. 

" What do you mean ? " said Elsie, fiercely. " Are you 
going to keep me from my own child?" 

" Patience ! " replied the man. " You can't help yourself, 
so recommend yourself to God, and no harm shall come to 
you." 

Agnes looked back at her grandmother. 

"Fear not, dear grandmamma," she said, "the blessed 
angels will watch over us." 
15 



338 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

As she spoke, she followed her conductor through long, 
damp, mouldering passages, and up flights of stone steps, and 
again through other long passages, smelling of mould and 
damp, till at last he opened the door of an apartment from 
which streamed a light so dazzling to the eyes of Agnes that 
at first she could form no distinct conception as to where 
she was. 

As soon as her eyesight cleared, she found herself in an 
apartment which to her simplicity seemed furnished with an 
unheard-of luxury. The walls were richly frescoed and 
gilded, and from a chandelier of Venetian glass the light fell 
upon a foot-cloth of brilliant tapestry which covered the 
marble floor. Gilded chairs and couches, covered with the 
softest Genoese velvet, invited to repose ; while tables inlaid 
with choice mosaics stood here and there, sustaining rare 
vases, musicaljnstruments, and many of the light, fanciful 
ornaments with which, in those days, the halls of women of 
condition were graced. At one end of the apartment was 
an alcove, where the rich velvet curtains were looped away 
with heavy cords and tassels of gold, displaying a smaller 
room, where was a bed with hangings of crimson satin 
embroidered with gold. 

Agnes stood petrified with amazement, and put her hand 
to her head, as if to assure herself by the sense of touch 
that she was not dreaming, and then, with an impulse of 
curious wonder, began examining the apartment. The rich 
furniture and the many adornments, though only such as 
were common in the daily life of the great at that period, 
had for her simple eyes all the marvellousness of the most 
incredible illusion. She touched the velvet couches almost 
with fear, and passed from object to object in a sort of maze. 
When she arrived at the alcove, she thought she heard a 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 339 

slight rustling within, and then a smothered langh. Her 
heart beat quick as she stopped to listen. There was a titter 
ing sound, and a movement as if some one were shaking the 
curtain, and at last Giulietta stood in the door-way. 

For a moment Agnes stood looking at her in utter bewil 
derment* Yes, surely it was Giulietta, dressed out in all the 
bravery of splendid apparel, her black hair shining and lus 
trous, great solid ear-rings of gold shaking in her ears, and 
a row of gold coins displayed around her neck. 

She broke into a loud laugh at the sight of Agnes's 
astonished face. 

" So, here you are ! " she said. " Well, now, did n't I tell 
you so ? You see he was in love with you, just as I said ; 
and if you would n't come to him of your own accord, he 
must fly off with you." 

" Oh, Giulietta ! " said Agnes, springing towards her and 
catching her hands, " what does all this mean ? and where 
have they carried poor grandmamma ? " 

" Oh, never worry about her ! Do you know you are in 
high favor here, and any one who belongs to you gets good 
quarters? Your grandmother just now is at supper, I 
doubt not, with my mother ; and a jolly time they will have 
of it, gossiping together." 

" Your mother here, too ? " 

" Yes, simple, to be sure ! I found it so much easier 
living here than in the old town, that I sent for her, that she 
might have peace in her old age. But how do you like 
your room ? Were you not astonished to see it so brave ? 
Know, then, pretty one, that it is all on account of the good 
courage of our band. For, you see, the people there in 
Rome (we won't say who) had given away all our captain's 
lands and palaces and villas to this one and that, as pleased 



340 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

them ; and one pretty little villa in the mountains not far 
from here went to a stout old cardinal. What does a 
band of our men do, one night, but pounce on old red-hat 
and tie him up, while they helped themselves to what they 
liked through the house ? True, they could n't bring house 
and all ; but they brought stores of rich furnishing, *and left 
him thanking the saints that he was yet alive. So we ar 
ranged your rooms right nobly, thinking to please our captain 
when he comes. If you are not pleased, you will be ungrate 
ful, that 's all." 

" Giulietta," said Agnes, who had scarcely seemed to listen 
to this prattle, so anxious was she to speak of what lay near 
est her heart, " I want to see grandmamma. Can't you bring 
her to me ? " 

" No, my little princess, I can't. Do you know you are 
my mistress now ? Well, you are ; but there 's one that 's 
master of us both, and he says none must speak with you till 
he has seen you." 

" And is he here ? " 

" No, he has been some time gone Northward, and has not 
returned, though we expect him to-night. So compose 
yourself, and ask for anything in the world, but to see your 
grandmother, and I will show that I am your humble servant 
to command." 

So saying, Giulietta courtesied archly and laughed, show 
ing her white, shiny teeth, which looked as bright as pearls. 

Agnes sat down on one of the velvet couches, and leaned 
her head on her hand. 

" Come, now, let me bring you some supper," said Giu 
lietta. " What say you to a nice roast fowl and a bottle of 
wine ? " 

" How can you speak of such things in the holy time of 
Lent ? " said Agnes. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 341 

" Oh, never you fear about that ! Our holy Father Ste- 
fano sets such matters right for any of us in a twinkling, and 
especially would he do it for you." 

" Oh, but Giulietta, I don't want anything. I could n't eat, 
if I were to try." 

" Ta, ta, ta ! " said Giulietta, going out. " Wait till you 
smell it. I shall be back in a little while." 

And she left the room, locking the door after her. 

In a few moments she returned, bearing a rich silver tray, 
on which was a covered dish that steamed a refreshing odor, 
together with a roll of white bread, and a small glass flacon 
containing a little choice wine. 

By much entreaty and coaxing, Agnes was induced to 
partake of the bread, enough to revive her somewhat after 
the toils of the day ; and then, a little reassured by the 
familiar presence of Giulietta, she began to undress, her 
former companion officiously assisting her. 

" There, now, you are tired, my lady princess," she said. 
"I'll unlace your bodice. One of these days your gowns 
will be all of silk, and stiff with gold and pearls." 

" Oh, Giulietta," said Agnes, " don't ! let me, I don't 
need help/' 

" Ta, ta, ta ! you must learn to be waited on," said 
Giulietta, persisting. " But, Holy Virgin ! what is the 
matter here? Oh, Agnes, what are you doing to your 
self?" 

"It's a penance, Giulietta," said Agnes, her face flush 
ing. 

u Well, I should think it was ! Father Francesco ought 
to be ashamed of himself; he is a real butcher!" 

" He does it to save my soul, Giulietta. The cross of our 
Lord without will heal a deadly wound within." 



342 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

In her heart, Giulietta had somewhat of secret reverence 
for such austerities, which the whole instruction of her time 
and country taught her to regard as especially saintly. Peo 
ple who live in the senses more than in the world of reflec 
tion feel the force of such outward appeals. Giulietta made 
the sign of the cross, and looked grave for several min 
utes. 

" Poor little dove ! " she said at last, " if your sins must 
needs be expiated so, what will become of me ? It must be 
that you will lay up stores of merit with God ; for surely 
your sins do not need all this. Agnes, you will be a saint 
some day, like your namesake at the Convent, I truly do 
believe." 

" Oh, no, no, Giulietta ! don't talk so ! God knows I 
wrestle with forbidden thoughts all the while. I am no saint, 
but the chief of sinners." 

" That 's what the saints all say," said Giulietta. " But, 
my dear princess, when he comes, he will forbid this ; he is 
lordly, and will not suffer his little wife " 

" Giulietta, don't speak so, I cannot hear it, I must 
not be his wife, I am vowed to be the spouse of the 
Lord." 

" And yet you love our handsome prince," said Giulietta ; 
"and there is the great sin you are breaking your little 
heart about. Well, now, it 's all of that dry, sour old Father 
Francesco. I never could abide him, he made such 
dismal pother about sin ; old Father Girolamo was worth a 
dozen of him. If you would just see our good Father 
Stefano, now, he would set your mind at ease about your 
vows in a twinkling ; and you must needs get them loosed, 
for our captain is born to command, and when princes stoop 
to us peasant-girls, it is n't for us to say nay. It 's being 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 343 

good as Saint Michael himself for him to think of you only 
in the holy way of marriage. I'll warrant me, there's 
many a lord cardinal at Rome that is n't so good ; and as to 
princes, he is one of a thousand, a most holy and religious 
knight, or he would do as others do when they have the 
power." 

Agnes, confused and agitated, turned away, and, as if 
seeking refuge, laid her down in the bed, looking timidly up 
at the unwonted splendor, and then, hiding her face in the 
pillow, began repeating a prayer. 

Giulietta sat by her a moment, till she felt, from the relax 
ing of the little hand, that the reaction of fatigue and intense 
excitement was beginning to take place. Nature would 
assert her rights, and the heavy curtain of sleep fell on the 
weary little head. Quietly extinguishing the lights, Giulietta 
left the room, locking the door. 



344 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE CRISIS. 

AGNES was so entirely exhausted with bodily fatigue and 
mental agitation that she slept soundly till awakened by the 
beams of the morning sun. Her first glance up at the gold- 
embroidered curtains of her bed occasioned a bewildered 
surprise ; she raised herself and looked around, slowly 
recovering her consciousness and the memory of the strange 
event which had placed her where she was. She rose hastily 
and went to the window to look out. This window was in a 
kind of circular tower projecting from the side of the build 
ing, such as one often sees in old Norman architecture ; 
it overhung not only a wall of dizzy height, but a precipice 
with a sheer descent of some thousand feet ; and far below, 
spread out like a map in the distance, lay a prospect of en 
chanting richness. The eye might wander over orchards of 
silvery olives, plantations with their rows of mulberry-trees 
supporting the vines, now in the first tender spring green, 
scarlet fields of clover, and patches where the young corn 
was just showing its waving blades above the brown soil. 
Here and there rose tufts of stone-pines with their dark 
umbrella-tops towering above all other foliage, while far off 
in the blue distance a silvery belt of glittering spangles 
showed where the sea closed in the horizon-line. So high 
was the perch, so distant and dreamy the prospect, that 
Agnes felt a sensation of giddiness, as if she were suspended 
over it in the air, and turned away from the window, to 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 345 

look again at what seemed to her the surprising and unheard- 
of splendors of the apartment. There lay her simple peas 
ant garb on the rich velvet couch, a strange sight in the 
midst of so much luxury. Having dressed herself, she sat 
down, and, covering her face with her hands, tried to reflect 
calmly on the position in which she was placed. 

With the education she had received, she could look on 
this strange interruption of her pilgrimage only as a special 
assault upon her faith, instigated by those evil spirits that 
are ever setting themselves in conflict with the just. Such 
trials had befallen saints of whom she had read. They had 
been assailed by visions of worldly ease and luxury suddenly 
presented before them, for which they were tempted to deny 
their faith and sell their souls. Was it not, perhaps, as a 
punishment for having admitted the love of an excommuni 
cated heretic into her heart, that this sore trial had been per 
mitted to come upon her ? And if she should fail ? She 
shuddered, when she recalled the severe and terrible manner 
in which Father Francesco had warned her against yielding 
to the solicitations of an earthly love. To her it seemed as 
if that holy man must have been inspired with a prophetic 
foresight of her present position, and warned her against it. 
Those awful words came burning into her mind as when 
they seemed to issue like the voice of a spirit from the 
depths of the confessional : "If ever you should yield to 
his love, and turn back from this heavenly marriage to 
follow him, you will accomplish his damnation and your 
own." 

Agnes trembled in an agony of real belief, and with a 

vivid terror of the world to come such as belonged to the 

almost physical certainty with which the religious teaching 

of her time presented it to the popular mind. Was she, 

15* 



346 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

indeed, the cause of such awful danger to his soul ? Might 
a false step now, a faltering human weakness, indeed plunge 
that soul, so dear, into a fiery abyss without bottom or shore ? 
Should she forever hear his shrieks of torture and despair, 
his curses on the hour he had first known her ? Her very 
blood curdled, her nerves froze, as she thought of it, and 
she threw herself on her knees and prayed with an anguish 
that brought the sweat in beaded drops to her forehead, 
strange dew for so frail a lily ! and her prayer rose above 
all intercession of saints, above the seat even of the Virgin 
Mother herself, to the heart of her Redeemer, to Him who 
some divine instinct told her was alone mighty to save. We 
of the present day may look on her distress as unreal, as the 
result of a misguided sense of religious obligation ; but the 
great Hearer of Prayer regards each heart in its own scope 
of vision, and helps not less the mistaken than the enlight 
ened distress. And for that matter, who is enlightened? 
who carries to God's throne a trouble or a temptation in 
which there is not somewhere a misconception or a mistake ? 
And so it came to pass. Agnes rose from prayer with an 
experience which has been common to the members of the 
True Invisible Church, whether Catholic, Greek, or Protes 
tant. " In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and 
strengthenedst me with strength in my soul." She had that 
vivid sense of the sustaining presence and sympathy of an 
Almighty Saviour which is the substance of which all relig 
ious forms and appliances are the shadows ; her soul was 
stayed on God, and was at peace, as truly as if she had been 
the veriest Puritan maiden that ever worshipped in a New- 
England meeting-house. She felt a calm superiority to all 
things earthly, a profound reliance on that invisible aid 
which comes from God alone. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 347 

She was standing at her window, deep in thought, when 
Giulietta entered, fresh and blooming, bearing the 
breakfast-tray. 

" Come, my little princess, here I am," she said, " with 
your breakfast ! How do you find yourself, this morn 
ing ?" 

Agnes came towards her. 

" Bless us, how grave we are ! " said Giulietta. " What 
has come over us?" 

" Giulietta, have you seen poor grandmamma this morn 
ing?" 

" Poor grandmamma ! " said Giulietta, mimicking the sad 
tone in which Agnes spoke, "to be sure I have. I left 
her making a hearty breakfast. So fall to, and do the 
same, for you don't know who may come to see you this 
morning." 

" Giulietta, is he here ? " 

" He ! " said Giulietta, laughing. " Do hear the little 
bird ! It begins to chirp already ! No, he is not here yet ; 
but Pietro says he will come soon, and Pietro knows all his 
movements." 

" Pietro is your husband ? " said Agnes, inquiringly. 

" Yes, to be sure, and a pretty good one, too, as men 
go," said Giulietta. " They are sorry bargains, the best of 
them. But you '11 get a prize, if you play your cards well. 
Do you know that the King of Naples and the King of 
France have both sent messages to our captain ? Our men 
hold all the passes between Rome and Naples, and so every 
one sees the sense of gaining our captain's favor. But eat 
your breakfast, little one, while I go and see to Pietro and 
the men." 

So saying, she bustled out of the room, locking the door 
behind her. 



348 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

Agnes took a little bread and water, resolved to fast 
and pray, as the only defence against the danger in which 
she stood. 

After breakfasting, she retired into the inner room, and, 
opening the window, sat down and looked out on the pros 
pect, and then, in a low voice, began singing a hymn of 
Savonarola's, which had been taught her by her uncle. It 
was entitled " Christ's Call to the Soul." The words were 
conceived in that tender spirit of mystical devotion which 
characterizes all this class of productions. 

" Fair soul, created in the primal hour, 

Once pure and grand, 
And for whose sake I left my throne and power 

At God's right hand, 

By this sad heart pierced through because I loved thee, 
Let love and mercy to contrition move thee ! 

" Cast off the sins thy holy beauty veiling, 

Spirit divine ! 
Vain against thee the hosts of hell assailing: 

My strength is thine ! 

Drink from my side the cup of life immortal, 
And love will lead thee back to heaven's portal ! 

" I, for thy sake, was pierced with many sorrows, 

And bore the cross, 
Yet heeded not the galling of the arrows, 

The shame and loss. 

So faint not thou, whate'er the burden be : 
But bear it bravely, even to Calvary! " 

While Agnes was singing, the door of the outer room 
was slowly opened, and Agostino Sarelli entered. He had 
just returned from Florence, having ridden day and night 
to meet her whom he expected to find within the walls of 
his fastness. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 349 

He entered so softly that Agnes did not hear his approach, 
and he stood listening to her singing. He had come back 
with his mind burning with indignation against the Pope 
and the whole hierarchy then ruling in Rome ; but conver 
sation with Father Antonio and the scenes he had witnessed 
at San Marco had converted the blind sense of personal 
wrong into a fixed principle of moral indignation and oppo 
sition. He no longer found himself checked by the plead 
ing of his early religious recollections ; for now he had a 
leader who realized in his own person all his conceptions of 
those primitive apostles and holy bishops who first fed the 
flock of the Lord in Italy. He had heard from his lips the 
fearless declaration, " If Rome is against me, know that it is 
not contrary to me, but to Christ, and its controversy is with 
God : doubt not that God will conquer ; " and he embraced 
the cause with all the enthusiasm of patriotism and knight 
hood. In his view, the most holy place of his religion had 
been taken by a robber, who reigned in the name of Christ 
only to disgrace it ; and he felt called to pledge his sword, 
his life, his knightly honor to do battle against him. He 
had urged his uncle in Milan to make interest for the cause 
of Savonarola with the King of France ; and his uncle, with 
that crafty diplomacy which in those days formed the staple 
of what was called statesmanship, had seemed to listen favor 
ably to his views, intending, however, no more by his ap 
parent assent than to withdraw his nephew from the dangers 
in which he stood in Italy, and bring him under his own 
influence and guardianship in the court of France. But the 
wily diplomats had sent Agostino Sarelli from his presence 
with the highest possible expectations of his influence both 
with the King of France and the Emperor of Germany 
in the present religious crisis in Italy. 



350 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

And now the time was come, Agostino thought, to break 
the spell under which Agnes was held, to show her the 
true character of the men whom she w y as beholding through 
a mist of veneration arising entirely from the dewy fresh 
ness of ignorant innocence. All the way home from Flor 
ence he had urged his horse onward, burning to meet her. 
to tell her all that he knew and felt, to claim her as his own, 
and to take her into the sphere of light and liberty in which 
he himself moved. He did not doubt his power, when she 
should once be where he could speak with her freely, with 
out fear of interruption. Hers was a soul too good and 
pure, he said, to be kept in chains of slavish ignorance any 
longer. When she ceased singing, he spoke from the outer 
apartment, " Agnes ! " 

The name was uttered in the softest tone, but it sent 
the blood to her heart, as if it were the summons of doom. 
Everything seemed to swim before her, and grow dark for 
a moment ; but by a strong effort she lifted her heart in 
prayer, and, rising, came towards him. 

Agostino had figured her to himself in all that soft and 
sacred innocence and freshness of bloom in which he had 
left her, a fair angel child, looking through sad, innocent 
eyes on a life whose sins and sorrows, and deeper loves and 
hates, she scarcely comprehended, one that he might fold 
in his arms with protecting tenderness, while he gently 
reasoned with her fears and prejudices ; but the figure that 
stood there in the curtained arch, with its solemn, calm, 
transparent paleness of face, its large, intense dark eyes, 
now vivid with some mysterious and concentrated resolve, 
struck a strange chill over him. Was it Agnes or a disem 
bodied spirit that stood before him ? For a few moments 
there fell such a pause between them as the intensity of 



AGXES OF SORRENTO. 351 

some unexpressed feeling often brings with it, and which 
seems like a spell. 

"Agnes ! Agnes ! is it you ?" at last said the knight, in a 
low, hesitating tone. " Oh, my love, what has changed you 
so ? Speak ! do speak ! Are you angry with me ? Are 
you angry that I brought you here?" 

" My Lord, I am not angry," said Agnes, speaking in a 
cold, sad tone; "but you have committed a great sin in 
turning aside those vowed to a holy pilgrimage, and you 
tempt me to sin by this conversation, which ought not to be 
between us." 

" Why not ? " said Agostino. " You would not see me at 
Sorrento. I sought to warn you of the dangers of this pil 
grimage, to tell you that Rome is not what you think it is, 
that it is not the seat of Christ, but a foul cage of unclean 
birds, a den of wickedness, that he they call Pope is a 
vile impostor" 

" My Lord," said Agnes, speaking with a touch of some 
thing even commanding in her tone, " you have me at ad 
vantage, it is true, but you ought not to use it in trying to 
ruin my soul by blaspheming holy things." And then she 
added, in a tone of indescribable sadness, "Alas, that so 
noble and beautiful a soul should be in rebellion against the 
only True Church ! Have you forgotten that good mother 
you spoke of? What must she feel to know that her son is 
an infidel!" 

" I am not an infidel, Agnes ; I am a true knight of our 
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and a believer in the One 
True, Holy Church." 

" How can that be ? " said Agnes. " Ah, seek not to de 
ceive me ! My Lord, such a poor little girl as I am is not 
worth the pains." 



352 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" By the Holy Mother, Agnes, by the Holy Cross, I do 
not seek to deceive you ! I speak on my honor as a knight 
and gentleman. I love you truly and honorably, and seek 
you among all women as my spotless wife, and would I lie 
to you?" 

" My Lord, you have spoken words which it is a sin for 
me to hear, a peril to your soul to say ; and if you had not, 
you must not seek me as a wife. Holy vows are upon me. 
I must be the wife of no man here ; it is a sin even to think 
of it." 

" Impossible, Agnes ! " said Agostino, with a start. " You 
have not taken the veil already ? If you had " 

" No, my Lord, I have not. I have only promised and 
vowed in my heart to do so when the Lord shall open the 
way." 

" But such vows, dear Agnes, are often dispensed ; they 
may be loosed by the priest. Now hear me, only hear 
me. I believe as your uncle believes, your good, pious 
uncle, whom you love so much. I have taken the. sacra 
ment from his hand ; he has blessed me as a son. I believe 
as Jerome Savonarola believes. He it is, that holy prophet, 
who has proclaimed this Pope and his crew to be vile usur 
pers, reigning in the name of Christ." 

" My Lord ! my Lord ! I must not hear more ! I must 
not, I cannot, I will not ! " said Agnes, becoming vio 
lently agitated, as she found herself listening with interest to 
the pleadings of her lover. 

" Oh, Agnes, what has turned your heart against me ? I 
thought you promised to love me a little ? " 

" Oh, hush ! hush ! don't plead with me ! " she said, with 
a wild, affrighted look. 

He sought to come towards her, and she sprang forward 
and threw herself at his feet. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 353 

" Oh, my Lord, for mercy's sake let me go ! Let us go 
on our way ! We will pray for you always, yes, always I" 
And she looked up at him in an agony of earnestness. 

" Am I so hateful to you, then, Agnes ? " 

" Hateful ? Oh, no, no ! God knows you are I 

I yes, I love you too well, and you have too much power 
over me ; but, oh, do not use it ! If I hear you talk I shall 
yield, I surely shall, and we shall be lost, both of us ! 
Oh, my God ! I shall be the means of your damnation ! " 

" Agnes ! " 

" It is true ! it is true ! Oh, do not talk to me, but prom 
ise me, promise me, or I shall die ! Have pity on me ! have 
pity on yourself! " 

In the agony of her feelings her voice became almost 
a shriek, and her wild, affrighted face had a deadly pal 
lor; she looked like one in a death-agony. Agostino was 
alarmed, and hastened to soothe her, by promising whatever 
she required. 

" Agnes, dear Agnes, I submit ; only be calm. I prom 
ise anything, anything in the wide world you can ask." 

"Will you let me go?" 

Yes." 

" And will you let my poor grandmamma go with me ? " 

"Yes." 

" And you will not talk with me any more ? " 

" Not if you do not wish it. And now," he said, " that I 
have submitted to all these hard conditions, will you suffer 
me to raise you?" 

He took her hands and lifted her up; they were cold, 
and she was trembling and shivering. He held them a 
moment ; she tried to withdraw them, and he let them go. 

" Farewell, Agnes ! " he said. " I am going." 



354 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

She raised both her hands and pressed the sharp cross to 
her bosom, but made no answer. 

" I yield to your will," he continued. " Immediately when 
I leave you, your grandmother will come to you, and the 
attendants who brought you here will conduct you to the 
high-road. For me, since it is your will, I part here. 
Farewell, Agnes ! " 

He held out his hand, but she stood as before, pale and 
silent, with her hands clasped on her breast. 

" Do your vows forbid even a farewell to a poor, humble 
friend ? " said the knight, in a low tone. 

" I cannot," said Agnes, speaking at broken intervals, in a 
suffocating voice, " for your sake I cannot ! I bear this 
pain for you, for you ! Oh, repent, and meet me in 
heaven ! " 

She gave him her hand ; he kneeled and kissed it, pressed 
it to his forehead, then rose and left the room. 

For a moment after the departure of the cavalier, Agnes 
felt a bitter pang, the pain which one feels on first realiz 
ing that a dear friend is lost forever ; and then, rousing her 
self with a start and a sigh, she hurried into the inner room 
and threw herself on her knees, giving thanks that the 
dreadful trial was past, and that she had not been left to 
fail. 

In a few moments she heard the voice of her grandmother 
in the outer apartment, and the old wrinkled creature clasped 
her grandchild in her arms, and wept with a passionate aban 
donment of fondness, calling her by every tender and endear 
ing name which mothers give to their infants. 

" After all," said Elsie, " these are not such bad people, 
and I have been right well entertained among them. They 
are of ourselves, they do not prey on the poor, but only 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 355 

on our enemies, the princes and nobles, who look on us as 
sheep to be shorn and slaughtered for their wearing and 
eating. These men are none such, but pitiful to poor peas 
ants and old widows, whom they feed and clothe out of the 
spoils of the rich. As to their captain, would you believe 
it ? he is the same handsome gentleman who once gave 
you a ring, you may have forgotten him, as you never 
think of such things, but I knew him in a moment, and 
such a religious man, that no sooner did he find that we were 
pilgrims on a holy errand, than he gave orders to have us 
set free with all honor, and a band of the best of them to 
escort us through the mountains ; and the people of the town 
are all moved to do us reverence, and coming with garlands 
and flowers to wish us well and ask our prayers. So let us 
set forth immediately." 

Agnes followed her grandmother through the long pas 
sages and down the dark, mouldy stairway to the court-yard, 
where two horses were standing caparisoned for them. A 
troop of men in high peaked hats, cloaked and plumed, 
were preparing also to mount, while a throng of women and 
children stood pressing around. When Agnes appeared, 
enthusiastic cries were heard : " Viva Jesu ! " " Viva Ma 
ria ! " " Viva ! viva Jesu ! nostro Re ! " and showers of 
myrtle-branches and garlands fell around. " Pray for us ! " 
" Pray for us, holy pilgrims ! " was uttered eagerly by one 
and another. Mothers held up their children ; and beggars 
and cripples, aged and sick, never absent in an Italian 
town, joined with loud cries in the general enthusiasm. 
Agnes stood amid it all, pale and serene, with that elevated 
expression of heavenly calm on her features which is often 
the clear shining of the soul after the wrench and torture of 
Borne great interior conflict. She felt that the last earthly 



356 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

chain was broken, and that now she belonged to Heaven 
alone. She scarcely saw or heard what was around her, 
wrapt in the calm of inward prayer. 

" Look at her ! she is beautiful as the Madonna ! " said 
one and another. " She is divine as Santa Catarina ! " 
said others. " She might have been the wife of our chief, 
who is a nobleman of the oldest blood, but she chose to be 
the bride of the Lord," said others: for Giulietta, with a 
woman's love of romancing, had not failed to make the 
most among her companions of the love-adventures of 
Agnes. 

Agnes meanwhile was seated on her palfrey, and the 
whole train passed out of the court-yard into the dim, nar 
row street, men, women, and children following. On 
reaching the public square, they halted a moment by the 
side of the antique fountain to water their horses. The 
groups that surrounded it at this time were such as a 
painter would have delighted to copy. The women arid 
girls of this obscure mountain-town had all that peculiar 
beauty of form and attitude which appears in the studies of 
the antique ; and as they poised on their heads their copper 
water-jars of the old Etruscan pattern, they seemed as if 
they might be statues of golden bronze, had not the warm 
tints of their complexion, the brilliancy of their large eyes, 
and the bright picturesque colors of their attire given the 
richness of painting to their classic outlines. Then, too, the 
men, with their finely-moulded limbs, their figures so straight 
and strong and elastic, their graceful attitudes, and their 
well-fitting, showy costumes, formed a no less imposing fea 
ture in the scene. Among them all sat Agnes waiting on 
her palfrey, seeming scarcely conscious of the enthusiasm 
which surrounded her. Some admiring friend had placed 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 357 

in her hand a large bough of blossoming hawthorn, which 
she held unconsciously, as, with a sort of childlike sim 
plicity, she turned from right to left, to make reply to the 
request for prayers, or to return thanks for the offered bene 
diction of some one in the crowd. 

When all the preparations were at last finished, the pro 
cession of mounted horsemen, with a confused gathering of 
the population, passed down the streets to the gates of the 
city, and as they passed they sang the words of the Crusad 
ers' Hymn, which had fluttered back into the traditionary 
memory of Europe from the knights going to redeem the 
Holy Sepulchre. 

" Fairest Lord Jesus, 

Ruler of all Nature, 
O Thou of God and man the Son ! 

Thee will I honor, 

Thee will I cherish, 
Thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown! 

" Fair are the meadows, 

Fairer still the woodlands, 
Robed in the pleasing garb of spring: 

Jesus shines fairer, 

Jesus is purer, 
Who makes the woful heart to sing! 

" Fair is the sunshine, 

Fairer still the moonlight, 
And all the twinkling starry host: 

Jesus shines fairer, 

Jesus is purer, 
Than all the angels heaven can boast!" 

They were singing the second verse, as, emerging from 
the dark old gate-way of the town, all the distant landscape 
of silvery olive-orchards, crimson clover-fields, blossoming 



358 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

almond-trees, fig-trees, and grapevines, just in the tender 
green of spring, burst upon their view. Agnes felt a kind 
of inspiration. From the high mountain elevation she 
could discern the far-off brightness of the sea, all between 
one vision of beauty, and the religious enthusiasm which 
possessed all around her had in her eye all the value of the 
most solid and reasonable faith. With us, who may look on 
it from a colder and more distant point of view, doubts may 
be suggested whether this naive impressibility to religious 
influences, this simple, whole-hearted abandonment to their 
expression, had any real practical value. The fact that any 
or all of the ac"tors might before night rob or stab or lie 
quite as freely as if it had not occurred may well give reason 
for such a question. Be this as it may, the phenomena is 
not confined^ to Italy or the religion of the Middle Ages, but 
exhibits itself in many a prayer-meeting and camp-meeting 
of modern days. For our own part, we hold it better to 
have even transient upliftings of the nobler and more devout 
element of man's nature than never to have any at all, and 
that he who goes on in worldly and sordid courses, without 
ever a spark of religious enthusiasm or a throb of aspira 
tion, is less of a man than he who sometimes soars heaven 
ward, though his wings be weak and he fall again. 

In all this scene Agostino Sarelli took no part. He had 
simply given orders for the safe-conduct of Agnes, and then 
retired to his own room. From a window, however, he 
watched the procession as it passed through the gates of the 
city, and his resolution was immediately taken to proceed at 
once by a secret path to the place where the pilgrims should 
emerge upon the high-road. 

He had been, induced to allow the departure of Agnes, 
from seeing the utter hopelessness by any argument or per- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 359 

suasion of removing a barrier that was so vitally interwoven 
with the most sensitive religious nerves of her being. He 
saw in her terrified looks, in the deadly paleness of her face, 
how real and unaffected was the anguish which his words 
gave her ; he saw that the very consciousness of her own 
love to him produced a sense of weakness which made her 
shrink in utter terror from his arguments. 

" There is no remedy," he said, " but to let her go to 
Rome and see with her own eyes how utterly false and vain 
is the vision which she draws from the purity of her own 
believing soul. What Christian would not wish that these 
fair dreams had any earthly reality ? But this gentle dove 
must not be left unprotected to fly into that foul, unclean 
cage of vultures and harpies. Deadly as the peril may be 
to me to breathe the air of Rome, I will be around her in 
visibly to watch over her." 



360 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

HOME. 

A VISION rises upon us from the land of shadows. We 
see a wide plain, miles and miles in extent, rolling in soft 
billows of green, and girded on all sides by blue mountains, 
whose silver crests gleaming in the setting sunlight tell that 
the winter yet lingers on their tops, though spring has 
decked all the plain. So silent, so lonely, so fair is this 
waving expanse with its guardian mountains, it might be 
some wild solitude, an American prairie or Asiatic steppe, 
but that in the midst thereof, on some billows of rolling land, 
we discern a city, sombre, quaint, and old, a city of 
dreams and mysteries, a city of the living and the dead. 
And this is Rome, weird, wonderful, ancient, mighty 
Rome, r mighty once by physical force and grandeur, might 
ier now in physical decadence and weakness by the spell of 
a potent moral enchantment. 

As the sun is moving westward, the whole air around be 
comes flooded with a luminousness which seems to transfuse 
itself with pervading presence through every part of the 
city, and make all its ruinous and mossy age bright and 
living. The air shivers with the silver vibrations of hun 
dreds of bells, and the evening glory goes up and down, soft- 
footed and angelic, transfiguring all things. The broken 
columns of the Forum seem to swim in golden mist, and 
luminous floods fill the Coliseum as it stands with its thou 
sand arches looking out into the city like so many sightless 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 361 

eye-holes in the skull of the past. The tender light pours 
up streets dank and ill-paved, into noisome and cavernous 
dens called houses, where the peasantry of to-day vegetate 
in contented subservience. It illuminates many a dingy 
court-yard, where the moss is green on the walls, and 
gurgling fountains fall into quaint old sculptured basins. If 
lights up the gorgeous palaces of Rome's modern princes, 
built with stones wrenched from ancient ruins. It streams 
through a wilderness of churches, each with its tolling 
prayer-bell, and steals through painted windows into the 
dazzling confusion of pictured and gilded glories that glitter 
and gleam from roof and wall within. And it goes, too, 
across the Tiber, up the filthy and noisome Ghetto, where, 
hemmed in by ghostly superstition, the sons of Israel are 
growing up without vital day, like wan white plants in cel 
lars ; and the black mournful obelisks of the cypresses in the 
villas around, it touches with a solemn glory. The castle 
of St. Angelo looks like a great translucent, luminous orb, 
and the statues of saints and apostles on the top of St. John 
Lateran glow as if made of living fire, and seem to stretch 
out glorified hands of welcome to the pilgrims that are ap 
proaching the Holy City across the soft, palpitating sea of 
green that lies stretched like a misty veil around it. 

Then, as now, Rome was an enchantress of mighty and 
wonderful power, with her damp, and mud, and mould, her 
ill-fed, ill-housed populace, her ruins of old glory rising dim 
and ghostly amid her palaces of to-day. With all her awful 
secrets of rapine, cruelty, ambition, injustice, with her 
foul orgies of unnatural crime, with the very corruption 
of the old buried Roman Empire steaming up as from a 
charnel-house, and permeating all modern life with its efflu 
vium of deadly uncleanness, still Rome had that strange, 
16 



362 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

bewildering charm of melancholy grandeur and glory which 
made all hearts cleave to her, and eyes and feet turn long 
ingly towards her from the ends of the earth. Great souls 
and pious yearned for her as for a mother, and could not be 
quieted till they had kissed the dust of her streets. There 
they fondly thought was rest to be found, that rest which 
through all weary life ever recedes like the mirage of the 
desert; there sins were to be shriven which no common 
priest might forgive, and heavy burdens unbound from the 
conscience by an infallible wisdom ; there was to be revealed 
to the praying soul the substance of things hoped for, the 
evidence of things not seen. Even the mighty spirit of 
Luther yearned for the breast of this great unknown mother, 
and came humbly thither to seek the repose which he found 
afterwards in Jesus. 

At this golden twilight-hour along the Appian Way come 
the pilgrims of our story with prayers and tears of thankful 
ness. Agnes looks forward and sees the saintly forms on 
St. John Lateran standing in a cloud of golden light and 
stretching out protecting hands to bless her. 

" See, see, grandmother ! " she exclaimed, " yonder is 
our Father's house, and all the saints beckon us home ! 
Glory be to God who hath brought us hither ! " 

Within the church the evening-service is going on, and 
the soft glory streaming in reveals that dizzying confusion 
of riches and brightness with which the sensuous and color- 
loving Italian delights to encircle the shrine of the Heavenly 
Majesty. Pictured angels in cloudy wreaths smile down 
from the gold-fretted roofs and over the round, graceful 
arches ; and the floor seems like a translucent sea of pre 
cious marbles and gems fused into solid brightness, and re 
flecting in long gleams and streaks dim intimations of the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 363 

sculptured and gilded glories above. Altar and shrine are 
now veiled in that rich violet hue which the Church has 
chosen for its mourning color ; and violet vestments, taking 
the place of the gorgeous robes of the ecclesiastics, tell the 
approach of that holy week of sadness when all Christendom 
falls in penitence at the feet of that Almighty Love once 
sorrowful and slain for her. 

The long-drawn aisles are now full to overflowing with 
that weird chanting which one hears nowhere but in Rome 
at this solemn season. Those voices, neither of men nor 
women, have a wild, morbid energy which seems to search 
every fibre of the nervous system, and, instead of soothing 
or calming, to awaken strange yearning agonies of pain, 
ghostly unquiet longings, and endless feverish, unrestful 
cravings. The sounds now swell and flood the church as 
with a rushing torrent of wailing and clamorous supplication, 
now recede and moan themselves away to silence in far- 
distant aisles, like the last faint sigh of discouragement and 
despair. Anon they burst out from the room, they drop 
from arches and pictures, they rise like steam from the 
glassy pavement, and, meeting, mingle in wavering clamors 
of lamentation and shrieks of anguish. One might fancy 
lost souls from out the infinite and dreary abysses of utter 
separation from God might thus wearily and aimlessly moan 
and wail, breaking into agonized tumults of desire, and 
trembling back into exhaustions of despair. Such music 
brings only throbbings and yearnings, but no peace ; and 
yonder, on the glassy floor, at the foot of a crucifix, a poor 
mortal lies sobbing and quivering under its pitiless power, as 
if it had wrenched every tenderest nerve of memory, and 
torn open every half-healed wound of the soul. 

When the chanting ceases, he rises slow and tottering, 



364 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

and we see in the wan face turning towards the dim light 
the well-remembered features of Father Francesco. Driven 
to despair by the wild, ungovernable force of his unfortunate 
love, weary of striving, overborne with a hopeless and con 
tinually accumulating load of guilt, he had come to Rome to 
lay down at the feet of heavenly wisdom the burden which 
he can no longer bear alone ; and rising now, he totters to a 
confessional where sits a holy cardinal to whom has been 
deputed the office to hear and judge those sins which no 
subordinate power in the Church is competent to absolve. 

Father Francesco kneels down with a despairing, confid 
ing movement, such as one makes, when, after a long strug 
gle of anguish, one has found a refuge ; and the church 
man within inclining his ear to the grating, the confession 
begins. 

Could we only be clairvoyant, it would be worth our 
while to note the difference between the two faces, separated 
only by the thin grating of the confessional, but belonging 
to souls whom an abyss wide as eternity must forever divide 
from any common ground of understanding. 

On the one side, with ear close to the grate, is a round, 
smoothly developed Italian head, with that rather tumid out 
line of features which one often sees in a Roman in middle 
life, when easy living and habits of sensual indulgence begin 
to reveal their signs in the countenance, and to broaden and 
confuse the clear-cut, statuesque lines of early youth. Evi 
dently, that is the head of an easy-going, pleasure-loving 
man, who has waxed warm with good living, and performs 
the duties of his office with an unctuous grace as something 
becoming and decorous to be gone through with. Evidently, 
he is puzzled and half-contemptuous at the revelations which 
come through the grating in hoarse whispers from those thin, 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 365 

trembling lips. The other man, who speaks with the sweat 
of anguish beaded on his brow, with a mortal pallor on his 
thin, worn cheeks, is putting questions to the celestial guide 
within which seem to that guide the ravings of a crazed 
lunatic ; and yet there is a deadly, despairing earnestness in 
the appeal that makes an indistinct knocking at the door of 
his heart, for the man is born of woman, and can feel that 
somehow or other these are the words of a mighty agony. 

He addresses him some words of commonplace ghostly 
comfort, and gives a plenary absolution. The Capuchin 
monk rises up and stands meekly wiping the sweat from 
his brow, the churchman leaves his box, and they meet face 
to face, when each starts, seeing in the other the apparition 
of a once well-known countenance. 

" What ! Lorenzo Sforza ! " said the churchman. " Who 
would have thought it ? Don't you remember me ? " 

" Not' Lorenzo Sforza," said the other, a hectic brilliancy 
flushing his pale cheek ; " that name is buried in the tomb 
of his fathers ; he you speak to knows it no more. The 
unworthy Brother Francesco, deserving nothing of God or 
man, is before you." 

" Oh, come, come ! " said the other, grasping his hand in 
spite of his resistance ; " that is all proper enough in its 
place ; but between friends, you know, what 's the use ? It 's 
lucky we have you here now ; we want one of your family 
to send on a mission to Florence, and talk a little reason into 
the citizens and the Signoria. Come right away with me to 
the Pope." 

" Brother, in God's name let me go ! I have no mission 
to the great of this world ; and I cannot remember or be 
called by the name of other days, or salute kinsman or 
acquaintance after the flesh, without a breach of vows." 



366 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Poh, poll ! you are nervous, dyspeptic ; you don't under 
stand things. Don't you see you are where vows can be 
bound and loosed ? Come along, and let us wake you out 
of this nightmare. Such a pother about a pretty peasant- 
girl 1 One of your rank and taste, too ! I warrant me 
the little sinner practised on you at the confessional. I 
know their ways, the whole of them ; but you mourn over 
it in a way that is perfectly incomprehensible. If you had 
tripped a little, paid a compliment, or taken a liberty or 
two, it would have been only natural ; but this desperation, 
when you have resisted like Saint Anthony himself, shows 
your nerves are out of order and you need change." 

" For God's sake, brother, tempt me not ! " said Father 
Francesco, wrenching himself away, with such a haggard 
and insane vehemence as quite to discompose the church 
man ; and drawing his cowl over his face, he glided swiftly 
down a side-aisle and out the door. 

The churchman was too easy-going to risk the fatigue of 
a scuffle with a man whom he considered as a monomaniac ; 
but he stepped smoothly and stealthily after him and watched 
him go out. 

" Look you," he said to a servant in violet livery who was 
waiting by the door, " follow yonder Capuchin and bring me 
word where he abides. He may be cracked," he said to 
himself ; " but, after all, one of his blood may be worth 
mending, and do us good service either in Florence or 
Milan. We must have him transferred to some convent 
here, where we can lay hands on him readily, if we want 
him." 

Meanwhile Father Francesco wends his way through 
many a dark and dingy street to an ancient Capuchin con 
vent, where he finds brotherly admission. Weary and de- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 367 

spairing is he beyond all earthly despair, for the very altar 
of his God seems to have failed him. He asked for bread, 
and has got a stone, he asked a fish, and has got a scor 
pion. Again and again the worldly, almost 'scoffing, tone of 
the superior to whom he has been confessing sounds like the 
hiss of a serpent in his ear. 

But he is sent for in haste to visit the bedside of the 
Prior, who has long been sick and failing, and who gladly 
embraces this opportunity to make his last confession to a 
man of such reputed sanctity in his order as Father Fran 
cesco. For the acute Father Johannes, casting about for 
various means to empty the Superior's chair at Sorrento, 
for his own benefit, and despairing of any occasion of slan 
derous accusation, had taken the other tack of writing to 
Rome extravagant laudations of such feats of penance and 
saintship in his Superior as in the view of all the brothers 
required that such a light should no more be hidden in an 
obscure province, but be set on a Roman candlestick, where 
it might give light to the faithful in all parts of the world. 
Thus two currents of worldly intrigue were uniting to push 
an unworldly man to a higher dignity than he either sought 
or desired. 

When a man has a sensitive or sore spot in his heart, 
from the pain of which he would gladly flee to the ends of 
the earth, it is marvellous what coincidences of events will 
be found to press upon it wherever he may go. Singu 
larly enough, one of the first items in the confession of the 
Capuchin Superior related to Agnes, and his story was in 
substance as follows. In his youth he had been induced by 
the persuasions of the young son of a great and powerful 
family to unite him in the holy sacrament of marriage with 
a protegee of his mother's ; but the marriage being detected, 



368 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

it was disavowed by the young nobleman, and the girl and 
her mother chased out ignominiously, so that she died in 
great misery. For his complicity in this sin the conscience 
of the monk ha*d often troubled him, and he had kept track 
of the child she left, thinking perhaps some day to make 
reparation by declaring the true marriage of her mother. 
That the residence of this young girl had been at Sor 
rento, where she had been living quite retired, under the 
charge of her old grandmother, and here the dying man 
made inquiry if Father Francesco was acquainted with any 
young person answering to the description which he gave. 

Father Francesco had no difficulty in recognizing the 
person, and assured the dying penitent, that, in all human 
probability, she was at this moment in Rome. The monk 
then certified upon the holy cross to the true marriage of 
her mother, and besought Father Francesco to make the 
same known to one of her kindred whom he named. He 
further informed him, that this family, having fallen under 
the displeasure of the Pope and his son, Cresar Borgia, 
had been banished from the city, and their property con 
fiscated, so that there was none of them to be found there 
abouts except an aged widowed sister of the young man, 
who, having married into a family in favor with the Pope, 
was allowed to retain her possessions, and now resided in a 
villa near Rome, where she lived retired, devoting her 
whole life to works of piety. The old man therefore con-, 
jured Father Francesco to lose no time in making this 
religious lady understand the existence of so near a kins 
woman, and take her under her protection. Thus strangely 
did Father Francesco find himself again obliged to take up 
that enchanted thread which had led him into labyrinths so 
fatal to his peace. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 369 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE SAINT'S BEST. 

AGNES entered the city of Rome in a trance of enthu 
siastic emotion, almost such as one might imagine in a soul 
entering the heavenly Jerusalem above. To her exalted 
ideas she was approaching not only the ground hallowed by 
the blood of apostles and martyrs, not merely the tombs of 
the faithful, but the visible " general assembly and church 
of the first-born which are written in heaven." Here 
reigned the appointed representative of Jesus, and she 
imagined a benignant image of a prince clothed with honor 
and splendor, who was yet the righter of all wrongs, the 
redresser of all injuries, the friend and succorer of the poor 
and needy ; and she was firm in a secret purpose to go to 
this great and benignant father, and on her knees entreat 
him to forgive the sins of her lover, and remove the excom 
munication that threatened at every moment his eternal 
salvation. For she trembled to think of it, a sudden 
accident, a thrust of a dagger, a fall from his horse, might 
put him forever beyond the pale of repentance, he might 
die unforgiven, and sink to eternal pain. 

If any should wonder that a Christian soul could preserve 
within itself an image so ignorantly fair, in such an age, 
when the worldliness and corruption in the Papal chair were 
obtruded by a thousand incidental manifestations, and were 
illuded to in all the calculations of simple common people, 
who looked at facts with a mere view to the guidance of 
16* 



370 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

their daily conduct, it is necessary to remember the nature 
of Agnes's religious training, and the absolute renunciation 
of all individual reasoning which from infancy had been laid 
down before her as the first and indispensable prerequisite 
of spiritual progress. To believe, to believe utterly and 
blindly, not only without evidence, but against evidence, 
to reject the testimony even of her senses, when set 
against the simple affirmation of her superiors, had been 
the beginning, middle, and end of her religious instruction. 
When a doubt assailed her mind on any point, she had been 
taught to retire within herself and repeat a prayer ; and in 
this way her mental eye had formed the habit of closing to 
anything that might shake her faith as quickly as the phy 
sical eye closes at a threatened blow. Then, as she was of a 
poetic and ideal nature, entirely differing from the mass of 
those with whom she associated, she had formed that habit 
of abstraction and mental revery which prevented her hear 
ing or perceiving the true sense of a great deal that went on 
around her. The conversations that commonly were carried 
on in her presence had for her so little interest that she 
scarcely heard them. The world in which she moved was a 
glorified world, wherein, to be sure, the forms of every 
day life appeared, but appeared as different from what 
they were in reality as the old mouldering daylight view of 
Rome is from the warm translucent glory of its evening 
transfiguration. 

So in her quiet, silent heart she nursed this beautiful hope 
of finding in Rome the earthly image of her Saviour's home 
above, of finding in the head of the Church the real image 
of her Redeemer, the friend to whom the poorest and 
lowliest may pour out their souls with as much freedom as 
the highest and noblest. The spiritual directors who had 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 371 

formed the mind of Agnes in her early days had been per 
sons in the same manner taught to move in an ideal world 
of faith. The Mother Theresa had never seen the realities 
of life, and supposed the Church on earth to be all that the 
fondest visions of human longing could paint it. The hard, 
energetic, prose experience of old Jocunda, and the down 
right way with which she sometimes spoke of things as a 
trooper's wife must have seen them, were repressed and 
hushed down, as the imperfect faith of a half-reclaimed 
worldling, they could not be allowed to awaken her from 
the sweetness of so blissful a dream. In like manner, 
when Lorenzo Sforza became Father Francesco, he strove 
with earnest prayer to bury his gift of individual reason in 
the same grave with his family name and worldly experience. 
As to all that transpired in the real world, he wrapped him 
self in a mantle of imperturbable silence ; the intrigues of 
popes and cardinals, once well known to him, sank away as 
a forbidden dream ; and by some metaphysical process of 
imaginative devotion, he enthroned God in the place of the 
dominant powers, and taught himself to receive all that came 
from them in uninquiring submission, as proceeding from 
unerring wisdom. Though he had begun his spiritual life 
under the impulse of Savonarola, yet so perfect had been his 
isolation from all tidings of what transpired in the external 
world that the conflict which was going on between that 
distinguished man and the Papal hierarchy never reached 
his ear. He sought and aimed as much as possible to make 
his soul like the soul of one dead, which adores and wor 
ships in ideal space, and forgets forever the scenes and rela 
tions of earth ; and he had so long contemplated Rome 
under the celestial aspects of his faith, that, though the 
shock of his first confession there had been painful, still it 



372 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

was insufficient to shake his faith. It had been God's will, 
he thought, that where he looked for aid he should meet 
only confusion, and he bowed to the inscrutable will, and 
blindly adored the mysterious revelation. If such could be 
the submission and the faith of a strong and experienced 
man, who can wonder at the enthusiastic illusions of an inno 
cent, trustful child ? 

Agnes and her grandmother entered the city of Rome just 
as the twilight had faded into night; and though Agnes, full 
of faith and enthusiasm, was longing to begin immediately 
the ecstatic vision of shrines and holy places, old Elsie com 
manded her not to think of anything further that night. 
They proceeded, therefore, with several other pilgrims who 
had entered the city, to a church specially set apart for their 
reception, connected with which were large dormitories and 
a religious order whose business was to receive and wait 
upon them, and to see that all their wants were supplied. 
This religious foundation is one of the oldest in Rome ; and 
it is esteemed a work of especial merit and sanctity among 
the citizens to associate themselves temporarily in these 
labors in Holy Week. Even princes and princesses come, 
humble and lowly, mingling with those of common degree, 
and all, calling each other brother and sister, vie in kind 
attentions to these guests of the Church. 

When Agnes and Elsie arrived, several of these volunteer 
assistants were in waiting. Agnes was remarked among all 
the rest of the company for her peculiar beauty and the rapt 
enthusiastic expression of her face. 

Almost immediately on their entrance into the reception- 
hall connected with the church, they seemed to attract the 
attention of a tall lady dressed in deep mourning, and accom 
panied by a female servant, with whom she was conversing 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 373 

on those terms of intimacy which showed confidential rela 
tions between the two. 

" See ! " she said, " my Mona, what a heavenly face is 
there! that sweet child has certainly the light of grace 
shining through her. My heart warms to her." 

" Indeed," said the old servant, looking across, " and well 
it may, dear lamb come so far ! But, Holy Virgin, how 
my head swims ! How strange ! that child reminds me 
of some one. My Lady, perhaps, may think of some one 
whom she looks like." 

" Mona, you say true. I have the same strange impres 
sion that I have seen a face like hers, but who or where I 
cannot say." 

" What would my Lady say, if I said it was our dear 
Prince ? God rest his soul ! " 

" Mona, it is so, yes," added the lady, looking more 
intently, " how singular ! the very traits of our house 
in a peasant-girl ! She is of Sorrento, I judge, by her cos 
tume, what a pretty one it is ! That old woman is her 
mother, perhaps. I must choose her for my care, and, 
Mona, you shall wait on her mother." 

So saying, the Princess Paulina crossed the hall, and, 
bending affably over Agnes, took her hand and kissed her, 
saying, 

"Welcome, my dear little sister, to the house of our 
Father I " 

Agnes looked up with strange, wondering eyes into the 
face that was bent to hers. It was sallow and sunken, with 
deep lines of ill-health and sorrow, but the features were 
noble, and must once have been beautiful ; the whole action, 
voice, and manner were dignified and impressive. Instinc 
tively she felt that the lady was of superior birth and 



374 AGNES OF SORRENTO, 

breeding to any with whom she had been in the habit of 
associating. 

" Come with me," said the lady ; " and this your moth 
er " she added. 

" She is my grandmother," said Agnes. 

" Well, then, your grandmother, sweet child, shall be 
attended to by my good sister Mona here." 

The Princess Paulina drew the hand of Agnes through 
her arm, and, laying her hand affectionately on it, looked 
down and smiled tenderly on her. 

" Are you very tired, my dear ? " 

" Oh, no ! no ! " said Agnes, "I am so happy, so blessed 
to be here ! " 

" You have travelled a long way ? " 

" Yes, from Sorrento ; but I am used to walking, I did 
not feel it to be long, my heart kept me up, I wanted 
to come home so much." 

" Home ? " said the Princess. 

" Yes, to my soul's home, the house of our dear Father 
the Pope." 

The Princess started, and looked incredulously down for a 
moment ; then noticing the confiding, whole-hearted air of 
the child, she sighed and was silent. 

" Come with me above," she said, " and let me attend a 
little to your comfort." 

" How good you are, dear lady ! " said Agnes. 

" I am not good, my child, I am only your unworthy 
sister in Christ;" and as the lady spoke, she opened the 
door into a room where were a number of other female 
pilgrims seated around the wall, each attended by a person 
whose peculiar care she seemed to be. 

At the feet of each was a vessel of water, and when the 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 375 

seats were all full, a cardinal in robes of office entered, and 
began reading prayers. Each lady present, kneeling at the 
feet of her chosen pilgrim, divested them carefully of their 
worn and travel-soiled shoes and stockings, and proceeded to 
wash them. It was not a mere rose-water ceremony, but a 
good hearty washing of feet that for the most part had great 
need of the ablution. While this service was going on, the 
cardinal read from the Gospel how a Greater than they all 
had washed the feet of His disciples, and said, " If I, your 
Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to 
wash one another's feet." Then all repeated in concert the 
Lord's Prayer, while each humbly kissed the feet she had 
washed, and proceeded to replace the worn and travel-soiled 
shoes and stockings with new and strong ones, the gift of 
Christian love. Each lady then led her charge into a room 
where tables were spread with a plain and wholesome repast 
of all such articles of food as the season of Lent allowed. 
Each placed her protegee at table, and carefully attended to 
all her wants at the supper, and afterwards dormitories were 
opened for their repose. 

The Princess Paulina performed all these offices for Ag 
nes with a tender earnestness which won upon her heart. 
The young girl thought herself indeed in that blessed society 
of which she had dreamed, where the high-born and the 
rich become through Christ's love the servants of the poor 
and lowly, and through all the services she sat in a sort 
of dream of rapture. How lovely this reception into the 
Holy City ! how sweet thus to be taken to the arms of the 
great Christian family, bound together in the charity which 
is the bond of perfectness ! 

" Please tell me, dear lady," said Agnes, after supper, 
"who is that holy man that prayed with us?" 



876 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Oh, he he is the Cardinal Capello," said the Princess. 

" I should like to have spoken with him," said Agnes. 

" Why, my child ? " 

" I wanted to ask him when and how I could get speech 
with our dear Father the Pope, for there is somewhat on 
my mind that I would lay before him." 

" My poor little sister," said the Princess, much perplexed, 
" you do not understand things. What you speak of is im 
possible. The Pope is a great king." 

" I know he is," said Agnes, " and so is our Lord 
Jesus, but every soul may come to him." 

"I cannot explain to you now," said the Princess, 
" there is not time to-night. But I shall see you again. I 
will send for you to come to my house, and there talk with 
you about many things which you need to know. Mean 
while, promise me, dear child, not to try to do anything of 
the kind you spoke of until I have talked with you." 

" Well, I will not," said Agnes, with a glance of docile 
affection, kissing the hand of the Princess. 

The action was so pretty, the great, soft, dark eyes 
looked so fawn-like and confiding in their innocent tender 
ness, that the lady seemed much moved. 

" Our dear Mother bless thee, child ! " she said, laying 
her hand on her head, and stooping to kiss her forehead. 

She left her at the door of the dormitory. 

The Princess and her attendant went out of the church- 
door, where her litter stood in waiting, The two took their 
seats in silence, and silently pursued their way through the 
streets of the old dimly-lighted city and out of one of its 
principal gates to the wide Campagna beyond. The villa 
of the Princess was situated on an eminence at some dis 
tance from the city, and the night-ride to it was solemn and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 377 

solitary. They passed along the old Appian* 'Way over 
pavements that had rumbled under the chariot-wheels of the 
emperors and nobles of a by-gone age, while along their 
way, glooming up against the clear of the sky, wre vast 
shadowy piles, the tombs of the dead of other days. All 
mouldering and lonely, shaggy and fringed with bushes and 
streaming wild vines through which the night-wind sighed 
and rustled, they might seem to be pervaded by the rest 
less spirits of the dead ; and as the lady passed them, she 
shivered, and, crossing herself, repeated an inward prayer 
against wandering demons that walk in desolate places. 

Timid and solitary, the high-born lady shrank and cowered 
within herself with a distressing feeling of loneliness. A 
childless widow in delicate health, whose paternal family 
had been for the most part cruelly robbed, exiled, or de 
stroyed by the reigning Pope and his family, she felt her 
own situation a most unprotected and precarious one, since 
the least jealousy or misunderstanding might bring upon her, 
too, the ill-will of the Borgias, which had proved so fatal to 
the rest of her race. No comfort in life remained to her 
but her religion, to whose practice she clung as to her all ; 
but even in this her life was embittered by facts to which, 
with the best disposition in the world, she could not shut her 
eyes. Her own family had been too near the seat of power 
not to see 'all the base intrigues by which that sacred and 
solemn position of Head of the Christian Church had been 
traded for as a marketable commodity. The pride, the in 
decency, the cruelty of those who now reigned in the name 
of Christ came over her mind in contrast with the picture 
painted by the artless, trusting faith of the peasant-girl with 
whom she had just parted. Her mind had been too thor 
oughly drilled in the non-reflective practice of her faith to 



378 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

dare to puf forth any act of reasoning upon facts so visible 
and so tremendous, she rather trembled at herself for 
seeing what she saw and for knowing what she knew, and 
feared somehow that this very knowledge might endanger 
her salvation ; and so she rode homeward cowering and 
praying like a frightened child. 

" Does my Lady feel ill ? " said the old servant, anxiously. 

" No, Mona, no, not in body." 

" And what is on my Lady's mind now ? " 

" Oh, Mona, it is only what is always there. To-morrow 
is Palm Sunday, and how can I go to see the murderers and 
robbers of our house in holy places ? Oh, Mona, what can 
Christians do, when such men handle holy things ? It was 
a comfort to wash the feet of those poor simple pilgrims, who 
tread in the steps of the saints of old ; but how I felt when 
that poor child spoke of wanting to see the Pope ! " 

" Yes," said Mona, " it 's like sending the lamb to get 
spiritual counsel of the wolf." 

" See what sweet belief the poor infant has ! Should not 
the head of the Christian Church be such as she thinks ? 
Ah, in the old days, when the Church here in Rome was 
poor and persecuted, there were popes who were loving 
fathers and not haughty princes." 

" My dear Lady," said the servant, " pray, consider, the 
very stones have ears. We don't know what day we may 
be turned out, neck and heels, to make room for some of 
their creatures." 

" Well, Mona," said the lady, with some spirit, " I 'm sure 
I have n't said any more than you have." 

" Holy Mother ! and so you have n't, but somehow things 
look more dangerous when other people say them. A 
pretty child that was, as you say ; but that old thing, her 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 379 

grandmother, is a sharp piece. She is a Roman, and lived 
here in her early days. She says the little one was born 
hereabouts ; but she shuts up her mouth like a vice, when 
one would get more out of her." 

" Mona, I shall not go out to-morrow ; but you go to the 
services, and find the girl and her grandmother, and bring 
them out to me. I want to counsel the child." 

" You may be sure," said Mona, " that her grandmother 
knows the ins and outs of Rome as well as any of us, for all 
she has learned to screw up her lips so tight." 

" At any rate, bring her to me, because she interests me." 

" Well, well, it shall be so," said Mona. 



380 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

PALM SUNDAY. 

THE morning after her arrival in Rome, Agnes was 
awakened from sleep by a solemn dropping of bell- tones 
which seemed to fill the whole air, intermingled dimly at 
intervals with long-drawn plaintive sounds of chanting. 
She had slept profoundly, overwearied with her pilgrimage, 
and soothed by that deep lulling sense of quiet which comes 
over one, when, after long and weary toils, some auspicious 
goal is at length reached. She had come to Rome, and 
been received with open arms into the household of the 
saints, and seen even those of highest degree imitating the 
simplicity of the Lord in serving the poor. Surely, this 
was indeed the house of God and the gate of heaven ; and 
so the bell-tones and chants, mingling with her dreams, 
seemed naturally enough angel-harpings and distant echoes 
of the perpetual adoration of the blessed. She rose and 
dressed herself with a tremulous joy. She felt full of hope 
that somehow in what way she could not say this 
auspicious beginning would end in a full fruition of all her 
wishes, an answer to all her prayers. 

" Well, child," said old Elsie, " you must have slept well ; 
you look fresh as a lark." 

" The air of this holy place revives me," said Agnes, with 
enthusiasm. 

" I wish I could say as much," said Elsie. " My bones 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 381 

ache yet with the tramp, and I suppose nothing will do but 
we must go out now to all the holy places, up and down and 
hither and yon, to everything that goes on. I saw enough 
of it all years ago when I lived here." 

" Dear grandmother, if you are tired, why should you 
not rest? I can go forth alone in this holy city. No 
harm can possibly befall me here. I can join any of the 
pilgrims who are going to the holy places where I long 
to worship." 

" A likely story ! " said Elsie. " I know more about old 
Rome than you do, and I tell you, child, that you do not stir 
out a step without me ; so if you must go, I must go too, 
and like enough it 's for my soul's health. I suppose it is," 
she added, after a reflective pause. 

" How beautiful it was that we were welcomed so last 
night ! " said" Agnes, " that dear lady was so kind to 
me!" 

" Ay, ay, and well she might be ! " said Elsie, nodding her 
head. " But there 's no truth in the kindness of the nobles 
to us, child. They don't do it because they love us, but be 
cause they expect to buy heaven by washing our feet and 
giving us what little they can clip and snip off from their 
abundance." 

" Oh, grandmother," said Agnes, " how can you say so ? 
Certainly, if any one ever spoke and looked lovingly, it was 
that dear lady." 

" Yes, and she rolls away in her carriage, well content, 
and leaves you with a pair of new shoes and stockings, 
you, as worthy of a carriage and a palace as she." 

" No, grandmamma ; she said she should send for me to 
talk more with her." . 

" She said she should* send for you ? " said Elsie. " Well, 



382 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

well, that is strange, to be sure ! that is wonderful ! " she 
added, reflectively. " But come, child, we must hasten 
through our breakfast and prayers, and go to see the 
Pope, and all the great birds with fine feathers that fly 
after him." 

" Yes, indeed ! " said Agnes, joyfully. " Oh, grandmamma, 
what a blessed sight it will be ! " 

" Yes, child, and a fine sight enough he makes with his 
great canopy and his plumes and his servants and his trum 
peters ; there is n't a king in Christendom that goes so 
proudly as he." 

" No other king is worthy of it," said Agnes. " The Lord 
reigns in him." 

" Much you know about it ! " said Elsie, between her 
teeth, as they started out. 

The streets of Rome through which they walked were 
damp and cellar-like, filthy and ill-paved ; but Agnes neither 
saw nor felt anything of inconvenience in this : had they 
been floored, like those of the New Jerusalem, with trans 
lucent gold, her faith could not have been more fervent. 

Rome is at all times a forest of quaint costumes, a pan 
tomime of shifting scenic effects of religious ceremonies. 
Nothing there, however singular, strikes the eye as out- 
of-the-way or unexpected, since no one knows precisely to 
what religious order it may belong, or what individual vow 
or purpose it may represent. Neither Agnes nor Elsie, 
therefore, was surprised, when they passed through the door 
way to the street, at the apparition of a man covered from 
head to foot in a long robe of white serge, with a high- 
peaked cap of the same material drawn completely down 
over his head and face. Two round holes cut in this ghostly 
head-gear revealed simply two black glittering eyes, which 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 383 

shone with that singular elfish effect which belongs to the 
human eye when removed from its appropriate and natural 
accessories. As they passed out, the figure rattled a box on 
which was painted an image of despairing souls raising im 
ploring hands from very red tongues of flame, by which it 
was understood at once that he sought aid for souls in Pur 
gatory. Agnes and her grandmother each dropped therein 
a small coin and went on their way ; but the figure followed 
them at a little distance behind, keeping carefully within 
sight of them. 

By means of energetic pushing and striving, Elsie con 
trived to secure for herself and her grandchild stations in 
the piazza in front of the church, in the very front rank, 
where the procession was to pass. A motley assemblage it 
was, this crowd, comprising every variety of costume of 
rank and station and ecclesiastical profession, cowls and 
hoods of Franciscan and Dominican, picturesque head 
dresses of peasant-women of different districts, plumes 
and ruffs of more aspiring gentility, mixed with every 
quaint phase of foreign costume belonging to the strangers 
from different parts of the earth ; for, like the old Jewish 
Passover, this celebration of Holy Week had its assemblage 
of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, 
Cretes, and Arabians, all blending in one common memorial. 

Amid the strange variety of persons among whom they 
were crowded, Elsie remarked the stranger in the white 
sack, who had followed them, and who had stationed him 
self behind them, but it did not occur to her that his 
presence there was other than merely accidental. 

And now came sweeping up the grand procession, brilliant 
with scarlet and gold, waving with plumes, sparkling with 
gems, it seemed as if earth had been ransacked and hu- 



384 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

man invention taxed to express the ultimatum of all that 
could dazzle and bewilder, and, with a rustle like that 
of ripe grain before a swaying wind, all the multitude 
went down on their knees as the cortege passed. Agnes 
knelt, too, with clasped hands, adoring the sacred vision 
enshrined in her soul ; and as she knelt with upraised eyes, 
her cheeks flushed with enthusiasm, her beauty attracted 
the attention of more than one in the procession. 

" There is the model which our master has been looking 
for," said a young and handsome man in a rich dress of 
black velvet, who, by his costume, appeared to hold the rank 
of first chamberlain in the Papal suite. 

The young man to whom he spoke gave a bold glance at 
Agnes and answered, 

" Pretty little rogue, how well she does the saint ! * 

" One can see, that, with judicious arrangement, she might 
make a nymph as well as a saint," said the first speaker. 

" A Daphne, for example," said the other, laughing. 

" And she would n't turn into a laurel, either," said the 
first. " Well, we must keep our eye on her." And as they 
were passing into the church-door, he beckoned to a servant 
in waiting and whispered something, indicating Agnes with 
a backward movement of his hand. 

The servant, after this, kept cautiously within observing 
distance of her, as she with the crowd pressed into the church 
to assist at the devotions. 

Long and dazzling were those ceremonies, when, raised 
on high like an enthroned God, Pope Alexander VI. re 
ceived the homage of bended knee from the ambassadors of 
every Christian nation, from heads of all ecclesiastical orders, 
and from generals and chiefs and princes and nobles, who, 
robed and plumed and gemmed in all the brightest and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 385 

proudest that earth could give, bowed the knee humbly and 
kissed his foot in return for the palm-branch which he pre 
sented. Meanwhile, voices of invisible singers chanted the 
simple event which all this splendor was commemorating, 
how of old Jesus came into Jerusalem meek and lowly, rid 
ing on an ass, how His disciples cast their garments in 
the way, and the multitude took branches of palm-trees to 
come forth and meet Him, how He was seized, tried, con 
demned to a cruel death, and the crowd, with dazzled and 
wondering eyes following the gorgeous ceremonial, reflected 
little how great was the satire of the contrast, how different 
the coming of that meek and lowly One to suffer and to die 
from this triumphant display of worldly pomp and splendor 
in His professed representative. 

But to the pure all things are pure, and Agnes thought 
only of the enthronement of all virtues, of all celestial char 
ities and unworldly purities in that splendid ceremonial, and 
longed within herself to approach so near as to touch the 
hem of those wondrous and sacred garments. It was to her 
enthusiastic imagination like the unclosing of celestial doors, 
where the kings and priests of an eternal and heavenly 
temple move to and fro in music, with the many-colored 
glories of rainbows and sunset clouds. Her whole nature 
was wrought upon by the sights and sounds of that gorgeous 
worship, she seemed to burn and brighten like an altar- 
coal, her figure appeared to dilate, her eyes grew deeper and 
shone with a starry light, and the colpr of her cheeks flushed 
up with a vivid glow, nor was she aware how often eyes 
were turned upon her, nor how murmurs of admiration fol 
lowed all her absorbed, unconscious movements. " Ecco ! 
JEccola ! " was often repeated from mouth to mouth around 
her, but she heard it not. 
17 



386 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

When at last the ceremony was finished, the crowd rushed 
again out of the church to see the departure of various dig 
nitaries. There was a perfect whirl of dazzling equipages, 
and glittering lackeys, and prancing horses, crusted with 
gold, naming in scarlet and purple, retinues of cardinals and 
princes and nobles and ambassadors all in one splendid con 
fused jostle of noise and brightness. 

Suddenly a servant in a gorgeous scarlet livery touched 
Agnes on the shoulder, and said, in a tone of author 
ity, 

"Young maiden, your presence is commanded." 

" Who commands it ? " said Elsie, laying her hand on her 
grandchild's shoulder fiercely. 

" Are you mad ? " whispered two or three women of the 
lower orders to Elsie at once ; " don't you know who that is ? 
Hush, for your life ! " 

" I shall go with you, Agnes," said Elsie, resolutely. 

" No, you will not," said the attendant, insolently. " This 
maiden is commanded, and none else." 

" He belongs to the Pope's nephew," whispered a voice in 
Elsie's ear. " You had better have your tongue torn out 
than say another word." Whereupon, Elsie found herself 
actually borne backward by three or four stout women. 

Agnes looked round and smiled on her, a smile full of 
innocent trust, and then, turning, followed the servant 
into the finest of the equipages, where she was lost to 
view. 

Elsie was almost wild with fear and impotent rage ; but a 
low, impressive voice now spoke in her ear. It came from 
the white figure which had followed them in the morning. 

" Listen," it said, " and be quiet ; don't turn your head, 
but hear what I tell you. Your child is followed by those 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 387 

who will save her. Go your ways whence you came. Wait 
till the hour after the Ave Maria, then come to the Porta 
San Sebastiano, and all will be well." 

When Elsie turned to look she saw no one, but caught a 
distant glimpse of a white figure vanishing in the crowd. 

She returned to her asylum, wondering and disconsolate, 
and the first person whom she saw was old Mona. 

" Well, good-morrow, sister ! " she said. " Know that I 
am here on a strange errand. The Princess has taken such 
a liking to you that nothing will do but we must fetch you 
and your little one out to her villa. I looked everywhere 
for you in church this morning. Where have you hid your 
selves ? " 

"We were there," said Elsie, confused, and hesitating 
whether to speak of what had happened. 

" Well, where is the little one ? Get her ready ; we 
have horses in waiting. It is a good bit out of the 
city." 

" Alack ! " said Elsie, " I know not where she is." 

"Holy Virgin!" said Mona, "how is this?" 

Elsie, moved by the necessity which makes it a relief to 
open the heart to some one, sat down on the steps of the 
church and poured forth the whole story into the listening 
ear of Mona. 

" Well, well, well ! " said the old servant, " in our days, 
one does not wonder at anything, one never knows one 
day what may come the next, but this is bad enough ! " 

" Do you think," said Elsie, " there is any hope in that 
strange promise ? " 

" One can but try it," said Mona. 

" If you could but be there then," said Elsie, " and take 
us to your mistress." 



388 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Well, I will wait, for my mistress has taken an especial 
fancy to your little one, more particularly since this morning, 
when a holy Capuchin came to our house and held a long 
conference with her, and after he was gone I found my lady 
almost in a faint, and she would have it that we should start 
directly to bring her out here, and I had much ado to let her 
see that the child would do quite as well after services were 
over. I tired myself looking about for you in the crowd." 

The two women then digressed upon various gossiping 
particulars, as they sat on the old mossy, grass-grown steps, 
looking up over house-tops yellow with lichen, into the blue 
spring air, where flocks of white pigeons were soaring and 
careering in the soft, warm sunshine. Brightness and 
warmth and flowers seemed to be the only idea natural to 
that charming weather, and Elsie, sad-hearted and forebod 
ing as she was, felt the benign influence. Rome, which had 
been so fatal a place to her peace, yet had for her, as it has 
for every one, potent spells of a lulling and soothing power. 
Where is the grief or anxiety that can resist the enchant 
ment of one of Rome's bright, soft, spring days ? 



AGNES OF SOIiRENTO. 389 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

THE NIGHT-RIDE. 

THE villa of the Princess Paulina was one of those soft, 
idyllic paradises which lie like so many fairy-lands around 
the dreamy solitudes of Rome. They are so fair, so wild, so 
still, these villas ! Nature in them seems to run in such 
gentle sympathy with Art, that one feels as if they had not 
been so much the product of human skill as some indigenous 
growth of Arcadian ages. There are quaint terraces shad 
owed by clipped ilex-trees, whose branches make twilight 
even in the sultriest noon ; there are long-drawn paths, 
through wildernesses where cyclamens blossom in crimson 
clouds among crushed fragments of sculptured marble green 
with the moss of ages, and glossy-leaved myrtles put forth 
their pale blue stars in constellations under the leafy shad 
ows. Everywhere is the voice of water, ever lulling, ever 
babbling, and taught by Art to run in many a quaint caprice, 
here to rush down marble steps slippery with sedgy green, 
there to spout up in silvery spray, and anon to spread into a 
cool, waveless lake, whose mirror reflects trees and flowers 
far down in some visionary underworld. Then there are 
wide lawns, where the grass in spring is a perfect rainbow 
of anemones, white, rose, crimson, purple, mottled, streaked, 
and dappled with ever varying shade of sunset clouds. 
There are soft, moist banks where purple and white violets 
grow large and fair, and trees all interlaced with ivy, which 
runs and twines everywhere, intermingling its dark, graceful 



390 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

leaves and vivid young shoots with the bloom and leafage of 
all shadowy places. 

In our day, these lovely places have their dark shadow 
ever haunting their loveliness : the malaria, like an unseen 
demon, lies hid in their sweetness. And in the time we are 
speaking of, a curse not less deadly poisoned the beauties 
of the Princess's villa, the malaria of fear. 

The gravelled terrace in front of the villa commanded, 
through the clipped arches of the ilex-trees, the Campagna 
with its soft, undulating bands of many-colored green, and 
the distant city of Rome, whose bells were always filling the 
air between with a tremulous vibration. Here, during the 
long sunny afternoon while Elsie and Monica were crooning 
together on the steps of the church, the Princess Paulina 
walked restlessly up and down, looking forth on the way 
towards the city for the travellers whom she expected. 

Father Francesco had been there that morning and com 
municated to her the dying message of the aged Capuchin, 
from which it appeared that the child who had so much in 
terested her was her near kinswoman. Perhaps, had her 
house remained at the height of its power and splendor, she 
might have rejected with scorn the idea of a kinswoman 
whose existence had been owing to a mesalliance ; but a 
member of an exiled and disinherited family, deriving her 
only comfort from unworldly sources, she regarded this 
event as an opportunity afforded her to make expiation for 
one of the sins of her house. The beauty and winning 
graces of her young kinswoman were not without their in 
fluence in attracting a lonely heart deprived of the support 
of natural ties. The Princess longed for something to love, 
and the discovery of a legitimate object of family affection 
was an event in the weary monotony of her life ; and there- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 391 

fore it was that the hours of the afternoon seemed long while 
she looked forth towards Rome, listening to the ceaseless 
chiming of its bells, and wondering why no one appeared 
along the road. 

The sun went down, and all the wide plain seemed like 
the sea at twilight, lying in rosy and lilac and purple 
shadowy bands, out of which rose the old city, solemn and 
lonely as some enchanted island of dream-land, with a flush 
of radiance behind it and a tolling of weird music filling all 
the air around. Now they are chanting the Ave Maria in 
hundreds of churches, and the Princess worships in distant 
accord, and tries to still the anxieties of her heart with many 
a prayer. Twilight fades and fades, the Campagna becomes 
a black sea, and the distant city looms up like a dark rock 
against the glimmering sky, and the Princess goes within 
and walks restlessly through the wide halls, stopping first at 
one open window and then at another to listen. Beneath 
her feet she treads a cool mosaic pavement where laughing 
Cupids are dancing. Above, from the ceiling, Aurora and 
the Hours look down in many-colored clouds of brightness. 
The sound of the fountains without is so clear in the intense 
stiljness that the peculiar voice of each one can be told. 
That is the swaying noise of the great jet that rises from 
marble shells and falls into a wide basin, where silvery 
swans swim round and round in enchanted circles ; and the 
other slenderer sound is the smaller jet that rains down its 
spray into the violet-borders deep in the shrubbery ; and 
that other, the shallow babble of the waters that go down 
the marble steps to the lake. How dreamlike and plaintive 
they all sound in the night stillness ! Tlie nightingale sings 
from the dark shadows of the wilderness ; and the musky 
odors of the cyclamen come floating ever and anon through 



392 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

the casement, in that strange, cloudy way in which flower 
scents seem to come and go in the air in the night season. 

At last the Princess fancies she hears the distant tramp 
of horses' feet, and her heart beats so that she can scarcely 
listen : now she hears it, and now a rising wind, sweep 
ing across the Campagna, seems to bear it moaning away. 
She goes to a door and looks out into the darkness. Yes, 
she hears it now, quick and regular, the beat of many 
horses' feet coming in hot haste along the road. Surely the 
few servants whom she has sent cannot make all this noise ! 
and she trembles with vague affright. Perhaps it is a 
tyrannical message, bringing imprisonment and death. She 
calls a maid, and bids her bring lights into the reception- 
hall. A few moments more, and there is a confused stamp 
ing of horses' feet approaching the house, and she hears the 
voices of her servants. She runs into the piazza, and sees 
dismounting a knight who carries Agnes in his arms pale 
and fainting. Old Elsie and Monica, too, dismount, with 
the Princess's men-servants; but, wonderful to tell, there 
seems besides them to be a train of some hundred armed 
horsemen. 

The timid Princess was so fluttered and bewildered, that 
she lost all presence of mind, and stood in uncomprehending 
wonder, while Monica pushed authoritatively into the house, 
and beckoned the knight to bring Agnes and lay her on a 
sofa, when she and old Elsie busied themselves vigorously 
with restoratives. 

The Lady Paulina, as soon as she could collect her scat 
tered senses, recognized in Agostino the banished lord of the 
Sarelli family, a race who had shared with her own the 
hatred and cruelty of the Borgia tribe ; and he in turn had 
recognized a daughter of the Colonnas. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 393 

He drew her aside into a small boudoir adjoining the 
apartment. 

" Noble lady," he said, " we are companions in misfortune, 
and so, I trust, you will pardon what seems a tumultuous 
intrusion on your privacy. I and my men came to Rome 
in disguise, that we might watch over and protect this poor 
innocent, who now finds asylum with you." 

" My Lord," said the Princess, " I see in this event the 
wonderful working of the good God. I have but just learned 
that this young person is my near kinswoman ; it was only 
this morning that the fact was certified to me on the dying 
confession of a holy Capuchin, who privately united my 
brother to her mother. The marriage was an indiscretion 
of his youth ; but afterwards he fell into more grievous sin 
in denying the holy sacrament, and leaving his wife to die 
in misery and dishonor, and perhaps for this fault such great 
judgments fell upon him. I wish to make atonement in 
such sort as is yet possible by acting as a mother to this 
child." 

" The times are so troublous and uncertain," said Agos- 
tino, " that she must have stronger protection than that of 
any woman. She is of a most holy and religious nature, 
but as ignorant of sin as an angel who never has seen any 
thing out of heaven; and so the Borgias enticed her into 
their impure den, from which, God helping, I have saved 
her. I tried all I could to prevent her coming to Rome, and 
to convince her of the vileness that ruled here ; but the poor 
little one could not believe me, and thought me a heretic 
only for saying what she now knows from her own senses." 

The Lady Paulina shuddered with fear. 

" Is it possible that you have come into collision with the 
dreadful Borgias ? What will become of us ? " 
17* 



394 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

"I brought a hundred men into Rome in different dis 
guises," said Agostino, "and we gained over a servant in 
their household, through whom I entered and carried her off. 
Their men pursued us, and we had a fight in the streets, 
but for the moment we mustered more than they. Some 
of them chased us a good distance. But it will not do for 
us to remain here. As soon as she is revived enough, we 
must retreat towards one of our fastnesses in the mountains, 
whence, when rested, we shall go northward to Florence, 
where I have powerful friends, and she has also an uncle, a 
holy man, by whose counsels she is much guided." 

"You must take me with you," said the Princess, in a 
tremor of anxiety. " Not for the world would I stay, if it 
be known you have taken refuge here. For a long time 
their spies have been watching about me ; they only wait 
for some occasion to seize upon my villa, as they have on the 
possessions of all my father's house. Let me flee with you. 
I have a brother-in-law in Florence who hath often urged 
me to escape to him till times mend, for, surely, God will 
not allow the wicked to bear rule forever." 

" Willingly, noble lady, will we give you our escort, the 
more so that this poor child will then have a friend with her 
beseeming her father's rank. Believe me, lady, she will do 
no discredit to her lineage. She was trained in a convent, 
and her soul is a flower of marvellous beauty. I must de 
clare to you here that I have wooed her honorably to be my 
wife, and she would willingly be so, had not some scruples 
of a religious vocation taken hold on her, to dispel which I 
look for the aid of the holy father, her uncle." 

" It would be a most fit and proper thing," said the Prin 
cess, " thus to ally our houses, in hope of some good time to 
come which shall restore their former standing and posses- 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 395 

sions. Of course some holy man must judge of the obstacle 
interposed by her vocation ; but I doubt not the Church 
will be an indulgent mother in a case where the issue seems 
so desirable." 

" If I be married to her," said Agostino, " I can take her 
out of all these strifes and confusions which now agitate our 
Italy to the court of France, where I have an uncle high in 
favor with the King, and who will use all his influence to 
compose these troubles in Italy, and bring about a better 
day." 

While this conversation was going on, bountiful refresh 
ments had been provided for the whole party, and the at 
tendants of the Princess received orders to pack all her 
jewels and valuable effects for a sudden journey. 

As soon as preparations could be made, the whole party 
left the villa of the Princess for a retreat in the Alban 
Mountains, where Agostino and his band had one of their 
rendezvous. Only the immediate female attendants of the 
Princess, and one or two men-servants, left with her. The 
silver plate, and all objects of particular value, were buried 
in the garden. This being done, the keys of the house were 
intrusted to a gray-headed servant, who with his wife had 
grown old in the family. 

It was midnight before everything was ready for starting. 
The moon cast silver gleams through the ilex-avenues, and 
caused the jet of the great fountain to look like a wavering 
pillar of cloudy brightness, when the Princess led forth 
Agnes upon the wide veranda. Two gentle, yet spirited 
little animals from the Princess's stables were there 
awaiting them, and they were lifted into their saddles by 
Agostino. 

" Fear nothing, Madam," he said, observing how the 



396 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

hands of the Princess trembled ; " a few hours will put 
us in perfect safety, and I shall be at your side con 
stantly." 

Then lifting Agnes to her seat, he placed the reins in 
her hand. 

" Are you rested ? " he asked. 

It was the first time since her rescue that he had spoken 
to Agnes. The words were brief, but no expressions of 
endearment could convey more than the manner in which 
they were spoken. 

" Yes, my Lord," said Agnes firmly, " I am rested." 

" You think you can bear the ride ? " 

" I can bear anything, so I escape," she said. 

The company were now all mounted, and were marshalled 
in regular order. A body of armed men rode in front ; then 
came Agnes and the Princess, with Agostino between them, 
while two or three troopers rode on either side ; Elsie, 
Monica, and the servants of the Princess followed close 
behind, and the rear was brought up in like manner by 
armed men. 

The path wound first through the grounds of the villa, 
with its plats of light and shade, its solemn groves of stone- 
pines rising like palm-trees high in air above the tops of all 
other trees, its terraces and statues and fountains, all seem 
ing so lovely in the midnight stillness. 

" Perhaps I am leaving all this forever," said the Prin 
cess. 

" Let us hope for the best," said Agostino. " It cannot 
be that God will suffer the seat of the Apostles to be sub 
jected to such ignominy and disgrace much longer. I am 
amazed that no Christian kings have interfered before for the 
honor of Christendom. I have it from the best authority 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 397 

that the King of Naples burst into tears when he heard of 
the election of this wretch to be Pope. He said that it was 
a scandal which threatened the very existence of Christiani 
ty. He has sent me secret messages divers times expressive 
of sympathy, but he is not of himself strong enough. Our 
hope must lie either in the King of France or the Emperor 
of Germany : perhaps both will engage. There is now a 
most holy monk in Florence who has been stirring all hearts 
in a wonderful way. It is said that the very gifts of miracles 
and prophesy are revived in him, as among the holy Apos 
tles, and he has been bestirring himself to have a General 
Council of the Church to look into these matters. When I 
left Florence, a short time ago, the faction opposed to him 
broke into the convent and took him away. I myself was 
there." 

" What ! " said Agnes, " did they break into the convent 
of the San Marco? My uncle is there." 

" Yes, and he and I fought side by side with the mob who 
were rushing in." 

" Uncle Antonio fight ! " said Agnes, in astonishment. 

" Even women will fight, when what they love most is 
attacked," said the knight. 

He turned to her, as he spoke, and saw in the moonlight 
a flash from her eye, and an heroic expression on her face, 
such as he had never remarked before ; but she said nothing. 
The veil had been rudely torn from her eyes ; she had seen 
with horror the defilement and impurity of what she had 
ignorantly adored in holy places, and the revelation seemed 
to have wrought a change in her whole nature. 
* " Even you could fight, Agnes," said the knight, " to save 
your religion from disgrace." 

" No," said she ; " but," she added, with gathering firm- 



398 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

ness, " I could die. I should be glad to die with and for the 
holy men who would save the honor of the true faith. I 
should like to go to Florence to my uncle. If he dies for 
his religion, I should like to die with him." 

" Ah, live to teach it to me ! " said the knight, bending 
towards her, as if to adjust her bridle-rein, and speaking in 
a voice scarcely audible. In a moment he was turned again 
towards the Princess, listening to her. 

" So it seems," she said, " that we shall be running into 
the thick of the conflict in Florence." 

" Yes, but my uncle hath promised that the King of 
France shall interfere. I have hope something may even 
now have been done. I hope to effect something myself." 

Agostino spoke with the cheerful courage of youth. Ag 
nes glanced timidly up at him. How great the change in 
her ideas ! No longer looking on him as a wanderer from 
the fold, an enemy of the Church, he seemed now in the 
attitude of a champion of the faith, a defender of holy men 
and things against a base usurpation. What injustice had 
she done him, and how patiently had he borne that injustice ! 
Had he not sought to warn her against the danger of ven 
turing into that corrupt city ? Those words which so much 
shocked her, against which she had shut her ears, were all 
true ; she had found them so ; she could doubt no longer. 
And yet he had followed her, and saved her at the risk of 
his life. Could she help loving one who had loved her so 
much, one so noble and heroic ? Would it be a sin to love 
him ? She pondered the dark warnings of Father Fran 
cesco, and then thought of the cheerful, fervent piety of her 
old uncle. How warm, how tender, how life-giving had 
been his presence always ! how full of faith and prayer, how 
fruitful of heavenly words and thoughts had been all his 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 399 

ministrations ! and yet it was for him and with him and 
his master that Agostino Sarelli was fighting, and against 
him the usurping head of the Christian Church. Then there 
was another subject for pondering during this night-ride. 
The secret of her birth had been told her by the Princess, 
who claimed her as kinswoman. It had seemed to her at 
first like the revelations of a dream ; but as she rode and 
reflected, gradually the idea shaped itself in her mind. She 
was, in birth and blood, the equal of her lover, and hence 
forth her life would no more be in that lowly plane where it 
had always moved. She thought of the little orange-garden 
at Sorrento, of the gorge with its old bridge, the Convent, 
the sisters, with a sort of tender, wondering pain. Perhaps 
she should see them no more. In this new situation she 
longed once more to see and talk with her old uncle, and to 
have him tell her what were her duties. 

Their path soon began to be a wild clamber among the 
mountains, now lost in the shadow of groves of gray, rustling 
olives, whose knotted, serpent roots coiled round the rocks, 
and whose leaves silvered in the moonlight whenever the 
wind swayed them. Whatever might be the roughness and 
difficulties of the way, Agnes found her knight ever at her 
bridle-rein, guiding and upholding, steadying her in her sad 
dle when the horse plunged down short and sudden descents, 
and wrapping her in his mantle to protect her from the chill 
mountain-air. When the day was just reddening in the sky, 
the whole troop made a sudden halt before a square stone 
tower which seemed to be a portion of a ruined building, and 
here some of the men dismounting knocked at an arched 
door. It was soon swung open by a woman with a lamp in 
her hand, the light of which revealed very black hair and 
eyes, and heavy gold ear-rings. 



400 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

" Have my directions been attended to ? " said Agostino, 
in a tone of command. " Are there places made ready for 
these ladies to sleep?" 

" There are, my Lord," said the woman, obsequiously, 
" the best we could get ready on so short a notice." 

Agostino came up to the Princess. " Noble Madam," 
he said, " you will value safety before all things ; doubtless 
the best that can be done here is but poor, but it will give 
you a few hours for repose where you may be sure of being 
in perfect safety." 

So saying, he assisted her and Agnes to dismount, and 
Elsie and Monica also alighting, they followed the woman 
into a dark stone passage and up some rude stone steps. 
She opened at last the door of a brick-floored room, where 
beds appeared to have been hastily prepared. There was 
no furniture of any sort except the beds. The walls were 
dusty and hung with cobwebs. A smaller apartment open 
ing into this had beds for Elsie and Monica. 

The travellers, however, were too much exhausted with 
their night-ride to be critical, the services of disrobing and 
preparing for rest were quickly concluded, and in less than 
an hour all were asleep, while Agostino was busy concerting 
the means for an immediate journey to Florence. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 401 



CHAPTER XXX. 

" LET US ALSO GO, THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM." 

FATHER ANTONIO sat alone in his cell in the San Marco 
in an attitude of deep dejection. The open window looked 
into the garden of the convent, from which steamed up the 
fragrance of violet, jasmine, and rose, and the sunshine lay 
fair on all that was without. On a table beside him were 
many loose and scattered sketches, and an unfinished page 
of the Breviary he was executing, rich in quaint tracery of 
gold and arabesques, seemed to have recently occupied his 
attention, for his palette was wet and many loose brushes 
lay strewed around. Upon the table stood a Venetian glass 
with a narrow neck and a bulb clear and thin as a soap- 
bubble, containing vines and blossoms of the passion-flower, 
w,hich he had evidently been using as models in his 
work. 

The page he was illuminating was the prophetic Psalm" 
which describes the ignominy and sufferings of the Redeem 
er. It was surrounded by a wreathed border of thorn- 
branches interwoven with the blossoms and tendrils of the 
passion-flower, and the initial letters of the first two words 
were formed by a curious combination of the hammer, the 
nails, the spear, the crown of thorns, the cross, and other 
instruments of the Passion ; and clear, in red letter, 
gleamed out those wonderful, mysterious words, consecrated 
by the remembrance of a more than mortal anguish, 
" My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " 



402 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

The artist-monk had perhaps fled to his palette to assuage 
the throbbings of his heart, as a mourning mother flies to 
the cradle of her child ; but even there his grief appeared 
to have overtaken him, for the work lay as if pushed from 
him in an access of anguish such as comes from the sudden 
recurrence of some overwhelming recollection. He was 
leaning forward with his face buried in his hands, sobbing 
convulsively. 

The door opened, and a man advancing stealthily behind 
laid a hand kindly on his shoulder, saying softly, " So, so, 
brother ! " 

Father Antonio looked up, and, dashing his hand hastily 
across his eyes, grasped that of the new-comer convulsive 
ly, and saying only, " Oh, Baccio ! Baccio ! " hid his face 
again. 

The eyes of the other filled with tears, as he answered 
gently, 

" Nay, but, my brother, you are killing yourself. They 
tell me that you have eaten nothing for three days, and slept 
not for weeks ; you will die of this grief." 

" Would that I might ! Why could not I die with him 
as well as Fra Domenico ? Oh, my master ! my dear 
master ! " 

" It is indeed a most heavy day to us all," said Baccio 
della Porta, the amiable and pure-minded artist better 
known to our times by his conventual name of Fra Bar- 
tolommeo. " Never have we had among us such a man ; 
and if there be any light of grace in my soul, his preach 
ing first awakened it, brother. I only wait to see him 
enter Paradise, and then I take farewell of the world for 
ever. I am going to Prato to take the Dominican habit, 
and follow him as near as I may." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 403 

" It is well, Baccio, it is well," said Father Antonio ; 
"but you must not put out the light of your genius in 
those shadows, you must still paint for the glory of 
God." 

" I have no heart for painting now," said Baccio, de 
jectedly. " He was my inspiration, he taught me the holier 
way, and he is gone." 

At this moment the conference of the two was interrupted 
by a knocking at the door, and Agostino Sarelli entered, 
pale and disordered. 

" How is this ? " he said, hastily. " What devils' carnival 
is this which hath broken loose in Florence ? Every good 
thing is gone into dens and holes, and every vile thing that 
can hiss and spit and sting is crawling abroad. What do 
the princes of Europe mean to let such things be ? " 

" Only the old story," said Father Antonio, " Principes 
convenerunt in unum adversus Dominum, adversus Christum 



So much were all three absorbed in the subject of their 
thoughts, that no kind of greeting or mark of recognition 
passed among them, such as is common when people meet 
after temporary separation. Each spoke out from the ful 
ness of his soul, as from an overflowing bitter fountain. 

" Was there no one to speak for him, no one to stand 
up for the pride of Italy, the man of his age ? " said 
Agostino. 

" There was one voice raised for him in the council," said 
Father Antonio. " There was Agnolo Niccolini : a grave 
man is this Agnolo, and of great experience in public affairs, 
and he spoke out his mind boldly. He told them flatly, that, 
if they looked through the present time or the past ages, 
they would not meet a man of such a high and noble order 



404 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

as this, and that to lay at our door the blood of a man the 
like of whom might not be born for centuries was too impi 
ous and execrable a thing to be thought of. I '11 warrant me, 
he made a rustling among them when he said that, and the 
Pope's commissary old Romalino then whispered and 
frowned ; but Agnolo is a stiff old fellow when he once be 
gins a thing, he never minded it, and went through with 
his say. It seems to me he said that it was not for us to 
quench a light like this, capable of giving lustre to the faith 
even when it had grown di'm in other parts of the world, 
and not to the faith alone, but to all the arts and sciences 
connected with it. If it were needed to put restraint on 
him, he said, why not put him into some fortress, and give 
him commodious apartments, with abundance of books, and 
pen, ink, and paper, where he would write books to the 
honor of God and the exaltation of the holy faith ? He told 
them that this might be a good to the world, whereas con 
signing him to death without use of any kind would bring 
on our republic perpetual dishonor." 

" Well said for him ! " said Baccio, with warmth ; " but 
I '11 warrant me, he might as well have preached to the 
north wind in March, his enemies are in such a fury." 

" Yes, yes," said Antonio, " it is just as it was of old : the 
chief priests and Scribes and Pharisees were instant with 
loud voices, requiring he should be put to death ; and the 
easy Pilates, for fear of the tumult, washed their hands 
of it." 

" And now," said Agostino, " they are putting up a great 
gibbet in the shape of a cross in the public square, where 
they will hang the three holiest and best men of Florence ! '' 

" I came through there this morning," said Baccio, " and 
there were young men and boys shouting, and howling, and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 405 

singing indecent songs, and putting up indecent pictures, 
such as those he used to preach against. It is just as you 
say. All things vile have crept out of their lair, and tri 
umph that the man who made them afraid is put down ; and 
every house is full of the most horrible lies about him, 
things that they said he confessed." 

" Confessed ! " said Father Antonio, " was it not enough 
that they tore and tortured him seven times, but they must 
garble and twist the very words that he said in his agony ? 
The process they have published is foully falsified, stuffed 
full of improbable lies ; for I myself have read the first 
draught of all he did say, just as Signer Ceccone took it 
down as they were torturing him. I had it from Jacopo 
Manelli, canon of our Duomo here, and he got it from Cec- 
conne's wife herself. They not only can torture and slay 
him, but they torture and slay his memory with lies." 

" Would I were in God's place for one day ! " said Agos- 
tino, speaking through his clenched teeth. " May I be for 
given for saying so ! " 

"We are hot and hasty," said Father Antonio, "ever 
ready to call down fire from heaven, but after all, ' the 
Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.' ' Unto the upright 
there ariseth light in the darkness.' Our dear father is sus 
tained in spirit and full of love. Even when they let him 
go from the torture, he fell on his knees, praying for his 
tormentors." 

" Good God ! this passes me ! " said Agostino, striking 
his hands together. " Oh, wherefore hath a strong man 
arms and hands, and a sword, if he must stand still and see 
such things done ? If I had only my hundred mountaineers 
here, I would make one charge for him to-morrow. If I 
could only do something ! " he added, striding impetuously 



406 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

up and down the cell and clenching his fists. " What ! hath 
nobody petitioned to stay this thing?" 

" Nobody for him," said Father Antonio. " There was 
talk in the city yesterday that Fra Domenico was to be par 
doned ; in fact, Romalino was quite inclined to do it, but 
Battista Alberti talked violently against it, and so Romalino 
said, * Well, a monk more or less is n't much matter,' and 
then he put his name down for death with the rest. The 
order was signed by both commissaries of the Pope, and one 
was Fra. Turiano, the general of our order, a mild man, full 
of charity, but unable to stand against the Pope." 

" Mild men are nuisances in such places," said Agostino, 
hastily ; " our times want something of another sort." 

" There be many who have fallen away from him even in 
our house here," said Father Antonio, " as it was with 
our blessed Lord, whose disciples forsook him and fled. It 
seems to be the only thought with some how they shall 
make their peace with the Pope." 

"And so the thing will be hurried through to-morrow," 
said Agostino, " and when it 's done and over, I '11 warrant 
me there will be found kings and emperors to say they 
meant to have saved him. It 's a vile, evil world, this of 
ours ; an honorable man longs to see the end of it. But," 
he added, coming up and speaking to Father Antonio, " I 
have a private message for you." 

" I am gone this moment," said Baccio, rising with ready 
courtesy ; " but keep up heart, brother." 

So saying, the good-hearted artist left the cell, and Agos 
tino said, 

" I bring tidings to you of your kindred. Your niece and 
sister are here in Florence, and would see you. You will 
find them at the house of one Gherardo Rosselli, a rich citi 
zen of noble blood." 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 407 

" "Why are they there ? " said the monk, lost in amaze 
ment. 

" You must know, then, that a most singular discovery 
hath been made by your niece at Rome. The sister of her 
father, being a lady of the princely blood of Colonna, hath 
been assured of her birth by the confession of the priest that 
married him ; and being driven from Rome by fear of the 
Borgias, they came hither under my escort, and wait to see 
you. So, if you will come with me now, I will guide you 
to them." 
. " Even so," said Father Antonio. 



408 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

MARTYRDOM. 

IN a shadowy chamber of a room overlooking the grand 
square of Florence might be seen, on the next morning, 
some of the principal personages of our story. Father 
Antonio, Baccio della- Porta, Agostino Sarelli, the Princess 
Paulina, Agnes, with her grandmother, and a mixed crowd 
of citizens and ecclesiastics, who all spoke in hushed and 
tremulous voices, as men do in the chamber of mourners at a 
funeral. The great, mysterious bell of the Campanile was 
swinging with dismal, heart-shaking toll, like a mighty voice 
from the spirit-world ; and it was answered by the tolling of 
all the bells in the city, making such wavering clangors and 
vibrating circles in the air over Florence that it might 
seem as if it were full of warring spirits wrestling for 
mastery. 

Toll ! toll ! toll ! O great bell of the fair Campanile ! for 
this day the noblest of the wonderful men of Florence is to 
be offered up. Toll ! for an era is going out, the era of 
her artists, her statesmen, her poets, and her scholars. Toll ! 
for an era is coming in, the era of her disgrace and sub 
jugation and misfortune ! 

The stepping of the vast crowd in the square was like the 
patter of a great storm, and the hum of voices rose up like 
the murmur of the ocean ; but in the chamber all was so 
still that one could have heard the dropping of a pin. 

Under the balcony of this room were seated in pomp and 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 409 

state the Papal commissioners, radiant in gold and scarlet 
respectability ; and Pilate and Herod, on terms of the most 
excellent friendship, were ready to act over again the part 
they had acted fourteen hundred years before. Now has 
arrived the moment when the three followers of the Man of 
Calvary are to be degraded from the fellowship of His visi 
ble Church. 

Father Antonio, Agostino, and Baccio, stood forth in the 
balcony, and, drawing in their breath, looked down, as the 
three men of the hour, pale and haggard with imprisonment 
and torture, were brought up amid the hoots and obscene 
jests of the populace. Savonarola first was led before the 
tribunal, and there, with circumstantial minuteness, endued 
with all his priestly vestments, which again, with separate 
ceremonies of reprobation and ignominy, were taken from 
him. He stood through it all serene as stood his Master 
when stripped of His garments on Calvary. There is a 
momentary hush of voices and drawing in of breaths in the 
great crowd. The Papal legate takes him by the hand and 
pronounces the words, " Jerome Savonarola, I separate thee 
from the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant." 

He is going to speak. 

" What says he ? " said Agostino, leaning over the balcony. 

Solemnly and clear that impressive voice which so often 
had thrilled the crowds in that very square made answer, 

" From the Church Militant you may divide me ; but 
from the Church Triumphant, no, that is above your 
power! " and a light flashed out in his face as if a smile 
from Christ had shone down upon him. 

" Amen ! " said Father Antonio ; " he hath witnessed a 
good confession," and turning, he went in, and, burying 
his face in his hands, remained in prayer. 
18 



410 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

When like ceremonies had been passed through with the 
others, the three martyrs were delivered to the secular exe 
cutioner, and, amid the scoffs and jeers of the brutal crowd, 
turned their faces to the gibbet. 

" Brothers, let us sing the Te Deum," said Savonarola. 

" Do not so infuriate the mob," said the executioner, 
"for harm might be done." 

" At least let us repeat it together," said he, " lest we 
forget it." 

And so they went forward, speaking to each other of the 
glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of 
the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, and giving thanks 
aloud in that great triumphal hymn of the Church of all 
Ages. 

When the lurid fires were lighted which blazed red and 
fearful through that crowded square, all in that silent cham 
ber fell on their knees, and Father Antonio repeated prayers 
for departing souls. 

To the last, that benignant right hand which had so often 
pointed the way of life to that faithless city was stretched 
out over the crowd in the attitude of blessing ; and so loving, 
not hating, praying with exaltation, and rendering blessing 
for cursing, the souls of the martyrs ascended to the great 
cloud of witnesses above. 



AGNES OF SORRENTO. 411 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

CONCLUSION. 

A FEW days after the death of Savonarola, Father An 
tonio was found one morning engaged in deep converse with 
Agnes. 

The Princess Paulina, acting for her family, desired to 
give her hand to the Prince Agostino Sarelli, and the inter 
view related to the religious scruples which still conflicted 
with the natural desires of the child. 

" Tell me, my little one," said Father Antonio, " frankly 
and truly, dost thou not love this man with all thy heart ? " 

" Yes, my father, I do," said Agnes ; " but ought I not to 
resign this love for the love of my Saviour ? " 

" I see not why," said the monk. " Marriage is a sacra 
ment as well as holy orders, and it is a most holy and ven 
erable one, representing the divine mystery by which the 
souls of the blessed are united to the Lord. I do not hold 
with Saint Bernard, who, in his zeal for a conventual life, 
seemed to see no other way of serving God but for all men 
and women to become monks and nuns. The holy order is 
indeed blessed to those souls whose call to it is clear and 
evident, like mine ; but if there be a strong and virtuous 
love for a worthy object, it is a vocation unto marriage, 
which should not be denied." 

" So, Agnes," said the knight, who had stolen into the 
room unperceived, and who now boldly possessed himself of 
one of her hands " Father Antonio hath decided this 



412 AGNES OF SORRENTO. 

matter," he added, turning to the Princess and Elsie, who 
entered, "and everything having been made ready for my 
journey into France, the wedding ceremony shall take place 
on the morrow, and, for that we are in deep affliction, it 
shall be as private as may be." 

And so on the next morning the wedding ceremony took 
place, and the bride and groom went on their way to France, 
where preparations befitting their rank awaited them. 

Old Elsie was heard to observe to Monica, that there was 
some sense in making pilgrimages, since this to Rome, which 
she had undertaken so unwillingly, had turned out so satis 
factory. 

In the reign of Julius II., the banished families who had 
been plundered by the Borgias were restored to their rights 
and honors at Rome ; and there was a princess of the house 
of Sarelli then at Rome, whose sanctity of life and manners 
was held to go back to the traditions of primitive Christian 
ity, so that she was renowned not less for goodness than for 
rank and beauty. 

In those days, too, Raphael the friend of Fra Bartolom- 
meo, placed in one of the grandest halls of the Vatican, 
among the Apostles and Saints, the image of the traduced 
and despised martyr whose ashes had been cast to the winds 
and waters in Florence. His memory lingered long in Italy, 
so that it was even claimed that miracles were wrought in 
his name and by his intercession. Certain it is, that the 
living words he spoke were seeds of immortal flowers which 
blossomed in secret dells and obscure shadows of his beau 
tiful Italy. 

THE END. 



03^ Any Books in this list will be sent free of postage, on receipt 
of price. 

BOSTON, 135 WASHINGTON STREET, 
MAT, 1862. 

A LIST OF BOOKS 

PUBLISHED BY 

TICKNOR AND FIELDS. 



Sir Walter Scott. 

ILLUSTRATED HOUSEHOLD EDITION OF THE WAVER- 

LEY NOVELS. 50 volumes. In portable size, 16mo. form. Now 
Complete. Price 75 cents a volume. 

The paper is of fine quality; the stereotype plates are not old 
ones repaired, the type having been cast expressly for this edi 
tion. The- Novels are illustrated with capital steel plates en 
graved in the best manner, after drawings and paintings by the 
most eminent artists, among whom are Birket Foster, Darley, 
Billings, Landseer, Harvey, and Faed. This Edition contains 
all the latest notes and corrections of the author, a Glossary and 
Index ; and some curious additions, especially in " Guy Man- 
nering" and the "Bride of Lammermoor;" being the fullest 
edition of the Novels ever published. The notes are at the foot 
of the page, a great convenience to the reader. 

Any of the following Novels sold separate. 
WAVERLEY, 2 vols. ST. RONAN'S WELL, 2 vols. 

GUY MANNERING. 2 vols. REDGAUNTLET, 2 vols. 

THE ANTIQUARY, 2 vols. THE BETROTHED, ! 9 i 

ROB Ror, 2 vols. THE HIGHLAND WIDOW, J 

OLD MORTALITY, 2 vols. THE TALISMAN, \ 

BLACK DWARF, ) 2 Tolq Two DROVERS, 

LEGEND OF MONTROSE, J MY AUNT MARGARET'S MIRROR, f-2 vols. 

HEART OF MID LOTHIAN, 2 vols. THE TAPESTRIED CHAMBER, 
BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR, 2 vols. THE LAIRD'S JOCK, J 

IVANHOE, 2 vols. WOODSTOCK, 2 vols. 

THE MONASTERY, 2 vols. THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH. 2 vols. 

THE ABBOT, 2 vols. ANNE OF GEIERSTEIN, 2 vols. 

KENILWORTH, 2 vols. COUNT ROBERT OF PARIS, 2 vols. 

THE PIRATE, 2 vols. THE SURGEON'S DAUGHTER, ) 

THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL, 2 vols. CASTLE DANGEROUS, | 2 vols. 

PEVERIL OF THE PEAK, 2 vols. INDEX AND GLOSSARY, ) 

QUENTIN DURWARD, 2 VOlS. 

TALES OF A GRANDFATHER. Illustrated. 6 vols. $4.50. 
LIFE. By J. G. Lockhart. In Press. Uniform with Novels. 
Vols. 1, 2, 3 and 4 now ready. Cloth. 75 cents per vol. 



2 A Lift of Books Publifhed 
Thomas De Quincey. 

CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER, AND Sus- 

PIRIA DE PROFUNDIS. With Portrait. 75 cents. 
BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAYS. 75 cents. 
MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS. 75 cents. 
THE CAESARS. 75 cents. 
LITERARY REMINISCENCES. 2 vols. $1.50. 
NARRATIVE AND MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS. 2 vols. $1.50. 
ESSAYS ON THE POETS, &c. 1 vol. 16mo. 75 cents. 
HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL ESSAYS. 2 vols. $1.50. 
AUTOBIOGRAPHIC SKETCHES. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
ESSAYS ON PHILOSOPHICAL WRITERS, &c. 2 vols. 16mo. 

$1.50. 

LETTERS TO A YOUNG MAN, AND OTHER PAPERS. 1 vol. 

75 cents. 
THEOLOGICAL ESSAYS AND OTHER PAPERS. 2 vols. 

$1.50. 

THE NOTE BOOK. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
MEMORIALS AND OTHER PAPERS. 2 vols. 16mo. $1.50. 
THE AVENGER AND OTHER PAPERS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
LOGIC OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, AND OTHER PAPERS. 

1 vol. 75 cents. 

BEAUTIES, selected from the writings of Thomas De Quin 
cey. With an Introductory Notice and fine Portrait of the 
author. 1 vol. $1.25. 

Thomas Hood. 

MEMORIALS. Edited by his Children. 2 vols. $1.75. 

Alfred Tennyson. 

POETICAL WORKS. With Portrait. 2 vols. Cloth. $2.00. 
POCKET EDITION OF POEMS COMPLETE. 2 vols. $1.50. 
POEMS. Complete in one volume* With Portrait. $1.00, 
THE PRINCESS. Cloth. 50 cents. 
IN MEMORIAM. Cloth. 75 cents. 

The Same. Holiday Edition. W T ith Portraits of Tennyson 
and Arthur Hallam, and Biographical Sketch. $2.50. 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 3 

MAUD, AND OTHER POEMS. Cloth. 50 cents. 

IDYLLS OF THE KING. A new volume. Cloth. 75 cents. 

Charles Dickens. 

[ENGLISH EDITION.] 

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF CHARLES DICKENS. Fine 

Library Edition. Published simultaneously in London and 
Boston. English print, fine cloth binding, 22 vols. 12mo. 

$27.50. 

Henry W. Longfellow. 

POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. Boards, $2.00. Cloth, $2.25. 
POCKET EDITION OF POETICAL WORKS. In two volumes. 

$1.75. 
POCKET EDITION OF PROSE WORKS COMPLETE. In two 

volumes. $1.75. 

THE SONG OF HIAWATHA. $1.00. 
EVANGELINE : A Tale of Acadia. 75 cents. 
THE GOLDEN LEGEND. A Poem. $1.00. 
HYPERION. A Romance. $1.00. 
OUTRE-MER. A Pilgrimage. $1.00. 
KAVANAGH. A Tale. 75 cents. 
THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH. 1 vol. 16mo. 

75 cents. 
Illustrated editions of EVANGELINE, POEMS, HYPERION, 

THE GOLDEN LEGEND, and MILES 



Charles Reade. 

PEG WOFFINGTON. A Novel. 75 cents. 

CHRISTIE JOHNSTONS. A Novel. 75 cents. 

CLOUDS AND SUNSHINE. A Novel. 75 cents. 

" NEVER TOO LATE TO MEND." 2 vols. $1.50. 

WHITE LIES. A Novel. 1 vol. $1.25. 

PROPRIA QU^E MARIBUS and THE Box TUNNEL. 25 cts. 

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT. 75 cents. 



4 A Lift of Books Publifhed 
James Russell Lowell. 

COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS. In Blue and Gold. 2 vols. 

$1.50. 

POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. 16mo. Cloth. $1.50. 
SIR LAUNFAL. New Edition. 25 cents. 
A FABLE FOR CRITICS. New Edition. 50 cents. 
THE BIGLOW PAPERS. New Edition. 63 cents. 
CONVERSATIONS ON THE OLD POETS. 3d edition. 75 cts. 
FIRESIDE TRAVELS. In Press. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

TWICE-TOLD TALES. Two volumes. $1.50. 
THE SCARLET LETTER. 75 cents. 
THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES. $1.00. 
THE SNOW IMAGE, AND OTHER TALES. 75 cents. 
THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE. 75 cents. 

MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE. 2 Vols. $1.50. 

THE MARBLE FAUN. 2 vols $1.50. 
TRUE STORIES. 75 cents. 

A WONDER-BOOK FOR GlRLS AND BOYS. 75 Cents. 

TANGLEWOOD TALES. 88 cents. 

Edwin P. Whipple. 

ESSAYS AND REVIEWS. 2 vols. $2.00. 
LECTURES ON LITERATURE AND LIFE. 63 cents. 
WASHINGTON AND THE REVOLUTION. 20 cents. 

Charles Kingsley. 

Two YEARS AGO. A New Novel. $1.25. 

AMYAS LEIGH. A Novel. $1.25. 

GLAUCUS ; OR, THE WONDERS OF THE SHORE. 50 cts. 

POETICAL WORKS. 75 cents. 

THE HEROES ; OR, GREEK FAIRY TALES. 75 cents. 

ANDROMEDA AND OTHER POEMS. 50 cents. 

SIR WALTER RALEIGH AND nis TIME, &c. $1.25. 

NEW MISCELLANIES. 1 vol. $1.00. 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 5 

Mrs. Howe. 

PASSION FLOWERS. 75 cents. 

WORDS FOR THE HOUR. 75 cents. 

THE WORLD'S OWN. 50 cents. 

A TRIP TO CUBA. 1 vol. 16mo. 75 cents. 

George S. Hillard. 

Six MONTHS IN ITALY. 1 vol. 16mo. $1.50. 

DANGERS AND DUTIES OF THE MERCANTILE PROFES 
SION. 25 cents. 

SELECTIONS FROM THE WRITINGS OF WALTER SAVAGE 
LANDOB. 1 vol. IGmo. 75 cents. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes. 

ELSIE VENNER : a Romance of Destiny. 2 vols. Cloth. $1.75. 

POEMS. With fine Portrait. Cloth. $1.00. 

ASTR^A. Fancy paper. 25 cents. 

THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE. With Il 
lustrations by Hoppin. 16mo. $1.00. 

The Same. Large Paper Edition. 8vo. Tinted paper. $3.00. 

THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 16mo. 
$1.00. 

The Same. Large Paper Edition. 8vo. Tinted paper. $3.00, 

SONGS IN MANY KEYS. A new volume. $1.25. 

CURRENTS AND COUNTER-CURRENTS, AND OTHER MEDI 
CAL, ESSAYS. 1 vol. Cloth. $1.25. 

BORDER LINES IN SOME PROVINCES OF MEDICAL SCI 
ENCE. 1 vol. Cloth. 50 cents. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

ESSAYS. 1st Series. 1 vol. $1.00. 
ESSAYS. 2d Series. 1 vol. $1.00. 
MISCELLANIES. 1 vol. $1.00. 
REPRESENTATIVE MEN. 1 vol. $1.00. 
ENGLISH TRAITS. 1 vol. $1.00. 
POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 
CONDUCT OF LIFE. 1 vol. $1.00. 



6 A Lift of Books Publifhed 
Goethe. 

WILHELM MEISTER. Translated by Carlyle. 2 vols. $2.50. 
FAUST. Translated by Hayward. 75 cents. 
FAUST. Translated by Charles T. Brooks. $1.00. 
CORRESPONDENCE WITH A CHILD. Bettina. 1 vol. 12mo. 

$1.25. 

Henry Giles. 

LECTURES, ESSAYS, &c. 2 vols. $1.50. 
DISCOURSES ON LIFE. 75 cents. 
ILLUSTRATIONS OF GENIUS. Cloth. $1.00. 

John G. Whittier. 

POCKET EDITION OF POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.50. 

OLD PORTRAITS AND MODERN SKETCHES. 75 cents. 

MARGARET SMITH'S JOURNAL. 75 cents. 

SONGS OF LABOR, AND OTHER POEMS. Boards. 50 cts. 

THE CHAPEL OF THE HERMITS. Cloth. 50 cents. 

LITERARY RECREATIONS, &c. Cloth. $1.00. 

THE PANORAMA, AND OTHER POEMS. Cloth. 50 cents. 

HOME BALLADS AND POEMS. - A new volume. 75 cents. 

Capt. Mayne Reid. 

THE PLANT HUNTERS. With Plates. 75 cents. 

THE DESERT HOME : OR, THE ADVENTURES OF A LOST 

FAMILY IN THE WILDERNESS. With fine Plates. $1.00. 
THE BOY HUNTERS. With fine Plates. 75 cents. 
THE YOUNG VOYAGEURS : OR, THE BOY HUNTERS IN 

THE NORTH. With Plates. 75 cents. 
THE FOREST EXILES. With fine Plates. 75 cents. 
THE BUSH BOYS. With fine Plates. 75 cents. 
THE YOUNG YAGERS. With fine Plates. 75 cents. 
RAN AWAY TO SEA : AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY FOR BOYS. 

With fine Plates. 75 cents. 
THE BOY TAR: A VOYAGE IN THE DARK. A New 

Book. With fine Plates. 75 cents. 
ODD PEOPLE. With Plates. 75 cents. 
The Same. Cheap Edition. With Plates. 50 cents. 
BRUIN : OR, THE GRAND BEAR HUNT. With Plates. 75 cts. 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 7 

Rev. F. W. Robertson. 

SERMONS. First Series, $1.00. 

" Second " $1.00. 

" Third " $1.00. 

" Fourth $1.00. 

LECTURES AND ADDRESSES ON LITERARY AND SOCIAL 

TOPICS. $1.00. 

Mrs. Jameson. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF WOMEN. Blue and Gold. 75 cents. 

LOVES OF THE POETS. " " 75 cents. 

DIARY OF AN ENNUYEE. " " 75 cents. 

SKETCHES OF ART, &c. " * " 75 cents. 

STUDIES AND STORIES. " " 75 cents. 

ITALIAN PAINTERS. " " 75 cents. 

LEGENDS OF THE MADONNA. " " 75 cents. 

SISTERS OF CHARITY. 1 vol. 16mo. 75 cents. 

Grace Greenwood. 

GREENWOOD LEAVES. 1st and 2d Series. $1.25 each. 

POETICAL WORKS. With fine Portrait. 75 cents. 

HISTORY OF MY PETS. With six fine Engravings. Scarlet 
cloth. 50 cents. 

RECOLLECTIONS OF MY CHILDHOOD. With six fine En 
gravings. Scarlet cloth. 50 cents. 

HAPS AND MISHAPS OF A TOUR IN EUROPE. $1.25. 

MERRIE ENGLAND. 75 cents. 

A FOREST TRAGEDY, AND OTHER TALES. $1.00. 

STORIES AND LEGENDS. 75 cents. 

STORIES FROM FAMOUS BALLADS. Illustrated. 50 cents. 

BONNIE SCOTLAND. Illustrated. 75 cents. 

Henry D. Thoreau. 

WALDEN. 1 vol. 16mo. $1.00. 

A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND MERRIMAC RIVERS. 

1 vol. I2mo. $1.25. 



8 A Lift of Books Publifhed 

Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 

THE PEARL OF ORR'S ISLAND. 1 vol. $1.25. 
AGNES OF SORRENTO. 1 vol. $1.25. 

Samuel Smiles. 

LIFE OF GEORGE STEPHENSON, ENGINEER. $1.00. 
SELF HELP ; WITH ILLUSTRATIONS OF CHARACTER AND 

CONDUCT. With Portrait. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES. With Plates. $1.25. 

Theodore Winthrop. 

CECIL DREEME. 1 vol. Cloth. $1.00. 
JOHN BRENT. . 1 vol. Cloth. $1.00. 

Miss Cummins. 

EL FUREIDIS. By the Author of " The Lamplighter," &c. 
$1.00. 

Thomas Hughes. 

SCHOOL DAYS AT RUGBY. By An Old Boy. 1 vol. 16mo. 

$1.00. 

The Same. Illustrated edition. $1.50. 
THE SCOURING OF THE WHITE HORSE, OR THE LONG 

VACATION HOLIDAY OF A LONDON CLERK. By The Author 

of " School Days at Rugby." 1 vol. 16mo. $1.00. 
TOM BROWN AT OXFORD. A Sequel to School Days at 

Eugby. 2 vols. 16mo. With, fine Steel Portrait of the Author, 

$2.00. 

Mrs. Mowatt. 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ACTRESS. $1.25. 
PLAYS. ARMAND AND FASHION. 50 cents. 
MIMIC LIFE. 1 vol. $1.25. 
THE TWIN ROSES. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

Bayard Taylor. 

POEMS OF HOME AND TRAVEL. Cloth. 75 cents. 
POEMS OF THE ORIENT. Cloth. 75 cents. 
A POET'S JOURNAL. In Press. 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 9 

R. H. Dana, Jr. 

To CUBA AND BACK, a Vacation Voyage, by the Author of 

" Two Years before the Mast." 75 cents. 



Miscellaneous Works. 

[POETRY.] 

ALFORD'S (HENRY) POEMS. 1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. $1.00. 
ANGEL IN THE HOUSE: THE BETROTHAL. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. 75 cents. 
" " THE ESPOUSALS. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. 75 cents. 

ARNOLD'S (MATTHEW) POEMS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
AYTOUN'S BOTHWELL. A Narrative Poem. 1 vol. 75 

cents. 
BAILEY'S (P. J.) THE MYSTIC. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 

50 cents. 
" " THE AGE. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 75 

cents. 
BARRY CORNWALL'S ENGLISH SONGS AND OTHER 

POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 

" " DRAMATIC POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 

BOKER'S PLAYS AND POEMS. 2 vols. 16mo. Cloth. 

$2.00. 

BROOKS'S GERMAN LYRICS. 1 vol. $1.00. 

" FAUST. A new Translation. 1vol. $1.00. 
BROWNING'S (ROBERT) POEMS. 2 vols. $2.00. 

" " MEN AND WOMKN. 1 vol. $1.00. 

GARY'S (ALICE) POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 
GARY'S (PIICEBK) POEMS AND PARODIES. 1 vol. 75 cts. 
FRESH HEARTS THAT FAILED. By the Author of "The 

New Priest." 1 vol. 50 cents. 
HAYNE'S POEMS. 1 vol. 63 cents. 

" AVOLIO AND OTHER POEMS. 1 vol. 16mO. 

Cloth. 75 cents. 
HUNT'S (LEIGH) POEMS. 2 vols. Blue and Gold. $1.50. 

" *' RIMINI. 1 vol. 50 cents. 

HYMNS OF THE AGES. 1 vol. Enlarged edition. $1.25. 
HYMNS OF THE AGES. 2d Series. 1 vol. $1.25. 
The Same. 8vo. Bevelled boards. Each volume, $3.00. 
JOHNSON'S (KosA V) POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 
KEMBLE'S (MRS.) POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 
LUNT'S (GEO.) LYRIC POEMS. 1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. 

63 cents. 
" " JULIA. 1 vol. 50 cents. 



10 A Lift of Books Publifhed 



LOCKHART'S (J. G.) SPANISH BALLADS. With Portrait. 

1 vol. 75 cents. 

MACKAY'S POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 
MASSEY'S (GERALD) POEMS. 1 vol. Blue and Gold. 75 

cents. 
MEMORY AND HOPE. A Collection of Consolatory Pieces. 

1 vol. $2.00. 

MOTHERWELL'S POEMS. 1 vol. Blue and Gold. 75 cts. 
" MINSTRELSY, ANCIENT AND MODERN. 

2 vols. $1.50. 

MULOCH'S (Miss) POEMS. (By Author of "John Hali 
fax.") 1 vol. 75 cents. 

OWEN MEREDITH'S POEMS. 1vol. Blue and Gold. 75 cts. 
PARSONS'S POEMS. 1 vol. $1.00. 

" DANTE'S INFERNO. Translated. In Press. 
PERCIVAL'S POEMS. 2 vols. Blue and Gold. $1.75. 
QUINCY'S (J. P.) CHARICLES. A Dramatic Poem. 1 vol. 

50 cents. 

" " LYTERIA : A Dramatic Poem. 50 cents. 

READ'S (T. BUCHANAN) POEMS. New and complete edi 
tion. 2 vols. $2.00. 
REJECTED ADDRESSES. By Horace and James Smith. 

New edition. 1 vol. 63 cents. 

SAXE'S (J. G.) POEMS. With Portrait. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
" " THE MONEY KING AND OTHER POEMS. 

With new Portrait. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

" " POEMS the two foregoing vols. in one. 

$1.25. 

" " POEMS. Complete in Blue and Gold. With 

Portrait. 75 cents. 

SMITH'S (ALEXANDER) LIFE DRAMA. 1 vol. 50 cents. 
" " CITY POEMS. 1 vol. 63 cents. 

" EDWIN OF DEIRA. With Por 

trait. 75 cents. 
STODDARD'S (R. H.) POEMS. 1 vol. 63 cents. 

u " SONGS OF SUMMER. 1 vol. 75 cts. 

SPRAGUE'S (CHARLES) POETICAL AND PROSE WORKS. 

With Portrait. 1 vol. 88 cents. 
THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
THALATTA. A Book for the Seaside. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
WARRENIANA. 1 vol. 63 cents. 

[PROSE.] 

ALLSTON'S MONALDI. A Tale. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 

75 cents. 
ARAGO'S (FRANCOIS) BIOGRAPHIES OF DISTINGUISHED 

SCIENTIFIC MEN. 2 vols. 16mo. $2.00. 
ARNOLD'S (On. THOMAS) LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE. 

Edited by A. P. Stanley. 2 vols. 12mo. Cloth. $2.00. 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 11 



ARNOLD'S (W. D.) OAKFIELD. A Novel. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. $1.00. 

ALMOST A HEROINE. By the Author of " Charles Au- 
chester." 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. $1.00. 

ARABIAN DAYS' ENTERTAINMENT. Translated from the 
German, by H. P. Curtis. Illustrated. 1 vol. $1.25. 

ADDISON'S SIR ROGER DE COVERLET. From the " Spec 
tator." 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 75 cents. 

The Same. 1vol. 16mo. Cloth, gilt edge. $1.25. 

ANGEL VOICES ; OR, WORDS OF COUNSEL FOR OVER 
COMING THE WORLD. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth, gilt, 38; gilt 
edge, 50; full gilt, 63 cents. 

The Same. Holiday Edition. Tinted paper. 50 cents. 

AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF INSTRUCTION. Lectures deliv 
ered before the Institute in 1840-41-42-43-44-45-46-47-48-49- 
50-51-52-53-54-55-56-57-58-59-60. 21 vols. 12mo. Sold in 
separate volumes, each 50 cents. 

BACON'S (DKLIA) THE SHAKSPERIAN PROBLEM SOLVED. 
With an Introduction by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1 vol. 8vo. 
Cloth. $3.00. 

BARTOL'S CHURCH AND CONGREGATION. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. $1.00. 
BAILEY'S ESSAYS ON OPINIONS AND TRUTH. 1 vol. 

16mo. Cloth. $1.00. 

BARRY CORNWALL'S ESSAYS AND TALES IN PROSE. 

2 vols. $1.50. 

BOSTON BOOK. Being Specimens of Metropolitan Litera 
ture. Cloth, $1.25; gilt edge, $1.75; full gilt, $2.00. 

BUCKINGHAM'S (J. T.) PERSONAL MEMOIRS. With Por 
trait. 2 vols. 16mo. Cloth. $1.50. 

CHANNING'S (E. T.) LECTURES ON RHETORIC AND ORA 
TORY. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 75 cents. 

CHANNING'S (DR. WALTER) PHYSICIAN'S VACATION. 
1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. $1.50. 

COALE'S (DR. W. E.) HINTS ON HEALTH. 1 vol. I6mo. 
Cloth. 63 cents. 

COMBK ON THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN. 30th edition. 
12mo. Cloth. 75 cents. 

CHAPEL LITURGY. Book of Common Prayer, according 
to the use of King's Chapel, Boston. 1 vol. 8vo. Sheep, $2.00*, 
sheep, extra, $2.50; sheep, extra, gilt edge, $3.00; morocco, 
$3.50; do. gilt edge, $4.00; do. extra gilt edge, $4.50. 

The Same. Cheaper edition. 1 vol. 12mo. Sheep, $1.50. 

CROSLAND'S (MRS.) LYDIA : A WOMAN'S BOOK. 1 vol. 

75 cents. 
" " ENGLISH TALES AND SKETCHES. 

1 vol. $1.00. 

CROSLAND'S (MRS.) MEMORABLE WOMEN. Illustrated. 

1 vol. $1.00. 

DANA'S (R. H.) To CUBA AND BACK. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. 75 cents. 



12 A Lift of Books Publifhed 



DUFFERIN'S (LORD) YACHT VOYAGE. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. $1.00. 

EL FUREIDIS. By the author of "The Lamplighter." 
1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. $1.00. 

ERNEST CARROLL ; OR, ARTIST-LIFE IN ITALY. 1 vol. 
16mo. Cloth. 88 cents. 

FREMONT'S LIFE, EXPLORATIONS, AND PUBLIC SER 
VICES. By C. W. Uphara. With Illustrations. 1 vol. I6mo. 
Cloth. 75 cents. 

GASKELL'S (MRS.) UUTH. A Novel. 8vo. Paper. 38 cts. 

GUESSES AT TRUTH. By Two Brothers. 1 vol. 12mo. 

$1.50. 

GREENWOOD'S (F. W. P.) SERMONS OF CONSOLATION. 
16mo. Cloth, $1.00; cloth, gilt edge, $1.50; 
morocco, plain gilt edge, $2.00; morocco, 
extra gilt edge, $2.50. 

" HISTORY OF THE KING'S CHAPEL, BOS 

TON. 12mo. Cloth. 50 cents. 
HODSON'S SOLDIER'S LIFE IN INDIA. 1 vol. 16 mo. Cloth. 

$1.00. 

HOWITT'S (WILLIAM) LAND, LABOR, AND GOLD. 2 vols. 

$2.00. 

" " A BOY'S ADVENTURES IN AUSTRA 

LIA. 75 cents. 
HOWITT'S (ANNA MARY) AN ART STUDENT IN MUNICH. 

$1.25. 

" " A SCHOOL OF LIFE. A Story. 

75 cents. 
HUFELAND'S ART OF PROLONGING LIFE. 1 vol. IGmo. 

Cloth. 75 cents. 
JERROLD'S (DOUGLAS) LIFE. By his Son. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cloth. $1.00. 
" " WIT. By his Son. 1 vol. IGmo. 

Cloth. 75 cents. 

JUDSON'S (MRS. E. C.) ALDERBROOK. By Fanny For 
rester. 2 vols. $1.75. 

" " THE KATHAYAN SLAVE, AND 

OTHER PAPERS. 1 vol. 63 cents. 

" " MY TWO SISTERS : A SKETCH 

FROM MEMORY. 50 cents. 
KAVANAGH'S (JULIA) SEVEN YEARS. 8vo. Paper. 30 

cents. 
KINGSLEY'S (HENRY) GEOFFRY HAMLYN. 1 vol. 12mo. 

Cloth. $1.25. 

KRAPF'S TRAVELS AND RESEARCHES IN EASTERN 

AFRICA. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. $1.25. 
LESLIE'S (C. 11.) AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL RECOLLECTIONS. 

Edited by Tom Taylor. With Portrait. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. 

$1.25. 
LAKE HOUSE. From the German of Fanny Lewald. 

1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. 75 cents. 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 13 



LOWELL'S (REV. DR. CHARLES) PRACTICAL SERMONS. 

1 vol. 12 mo. Cloth. 
$1.25. 

" " OCCASIONAL SERMONS. 

With fine Portrait. 1 
vol. 12mo. Cloth. $1.25. 

LIGHT ox THE DARK RIVER; OR, MEMOIRS or MRS. 

HAMLIN. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. $1.00. 
The Same. 16mo. Cloth, gilt edge. $1.50. 
LONGFELLOW (REV. S.) AND JOHNSON (REV. S.) A book 

of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion. 6th edition. 

63 cents. 
LABOR AND LOVE. A Tale of English Life. 1 vol. 16mo. 

Cluth. 50 cents. 
LEE'S (Mus. E. B.) MEMOIR OF THE BUCKMINSTERS. 

$1.25. 

" " FLORENCE, THE PARISH ORPHAN. 

50 cents. 

" " PARTHENIA. 1 vol. 16mo. $1.00. 

LUNT'S (GEORGE) THREE ERAS IN THE HISTORY OF 

NEW ENGLAND. 1 vol. $1.00. 

MADEMOISELLE MORI: A Tale of Modern Rome. 1 vol 
12mo. Cloth. $1.25. 

M^CLINTOCK'S NARRATIVE OF THE SEARCH FOR SIR 
JOHN FRANKLIN. Library edition. With Maps and Illustra 
tions. 1 vol. small 8vo. $1.50. 

The Same. Popular Edition. 1 vol. 12mo. 75 cents. 
MANN'S (HORACE) THOUGHTS FOR A YOUNG MAN. 

1 vol. 25 cents. 

" " SERMONS. 1 vol. $1.00. 

MANN'S (MRS. HORACE) PHYSIOLOGICAL COOKERY-BOOK. 

1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 63 cents. 
MELVILLE'S HOLMBY HOUSE. A Novel. 8vo. Paper. 

50 cents. 
MITFORD'S (Miss) OUR VILLAGE. Illustrated. 2 vols. 

16mo. $2.50. 

" " ATHERTON, AND OTHER STORIES. 

1 vol. 16mo. $1.25. 

MORLEY'S LIFE OF PALISSY THE POTTER. 2 vols. 16mo. 

Cloth. $1.50. 

MOUNTFORD'S THORPE. 1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. $1.00. 
NORTON'S (C. E.) TRAVEL AND STUDY IN ITALY. 1 vol. 

16mo. Cloth. 75 cents. 
NEW TESTAMENT. A very handsome edition, fine paper 

and clear type. 12mo. Sheep binding, plain, $1.00; roan, 

plain, $1.50;" calf, plain, $1.75; calf, gilt edge, $2.00; Turkey 

morocco, plain, $2.50 ; do. gilt edge, $3.00. 
OTIS'S (MRS. H. G.) THE BARCLAYS OF BOSTON. 1 vol 

Cloth. $1.25. 

PARSONS'S (THEOPHILUS) LIFE. By his Son. 1 vol. 12mo. 

Cloth. $1.50. 



14 A Lift of Books Publifhed 



PRESCOTT'S HISTORY OF THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH. 

Illustrated. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. $1.75. 
POORK'S (BEX PERLEY) Louis PHILIPPE. 1 vol. 12mo. 

Cloth. $1.00. 
PHILLIPS'S ELEMENTARY TREATISE ON MINERALOGY. 

With numerous additions^ to the Introduction. By Francis Al- 
ger. With numerous Engravings. 1 vol. New edition in press. 

PRIOR'S LIFE OF EDMUND BURKE. 2 vols. 16mo. Cloth. 

$2.00. 

RAB AND HIS FRIENDS. By John Brown, M. D. Illus 
trated. 15 cents. 

SALA'S JOURNEY DUE NORTH. 1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. Si. 00. 

SCOTT'S (SiR WALTER) IVANHOE. In one handsome vol 
ume. $1.75. 

SIDNEY'S (SiR PHILIP) LIFE. By Mrs. Davis. 1 vol. 
Cloth. $1.00. 

SHELLEY MEMORIALS. Edited by the Daughter-in-law 
of the Poet. 1 vol. 16mo. 75 cents. 

SWORD AND GOWN. By the Author of " Guy Living 
stone." 1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. 75 cents. 

SHAKSPKAR'S (CAPTAIN H.) WILD SPORTS OF INDIA. 
1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 75 cents. 

SEMI-DETACHED HOUSE. A Novel. 1 vol. IGmo. Cloth. 
75 cents. 

SMITH'S (WILLIAM) THORNDALE ; OR, THE CONFLICT 
OF OPINIONS. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. $1.25. 

SUMNKR'S (CHARLES) ORATIONS AND SPEECHES. 2 vols. 

16mo. Cloth. $2.50. 
'ST. JOHN'S (BAYLE) VILLAGE LIFE IN EGYPT. 2 vols. IGmo. 

Cloth. $1.25. 
TYND ALL'S (PROFESSOR) GLACIERS OF THE ALPS. With 

Illustrations. 1 vol. Cloth. $1.50. 

TYLL OWLGLASS'S ADVENTURES. With Illustrations by 

Crowquill. 1 vol. Cloth, gilt. $2.50. 

THE SAND-HILLS OF JUTLAND. By Hans Christian An 
dersen. 1 vol. 16mo. 75 cents. 

THE SOLITARY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ. By the Author of 
" Picoiola." 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 50 cents. 

TRUE WOMANHOOD. A Novel. By John Neal. 1 vol. 

$1.25. 

TUCKERMAN'S POEMS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

TAYLOR'S (HENRY) NOTES FROM LIFE. 1 vol. IGmo, 

Cloth. 50 cents. 

TRELAWNY'S KKCOLLECTIONS OF SHELLEY AND BYRON. 

1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 75 cents. 
WARREN'S (DR. JOHN C.) LIFE. By Edward Warren, 

M. D. 2 vols. 8vo. $3.50. 

" THE PRESERVATION OF HEALTH. 

1 vol. 38 cents. 
WALLIS'S (S. T.) SPAIN AND HER INSTITUTIONS. 1 vol. 

16mo. Cloth. $1.00, 



by TlCKNOR AND FlELDS. 15 



WORDSWORTH'S (WILLIAM) BIOGRAPHY. By Dr. Chris 
topher Wordsworth. 2 vols. 16tno. Cloth. $2.50. 

WENSLEY: A STORY WITHOUT A MORAL. 1 vol. 16mo. 
Paper. 50 cents. 

The Same. Cloth. 75 cents. 

WHEATON'S (ROBERT) MEMOIRS. 1 vol. 16mo. Cloth. 

$1.00. 

In Blue and Gold. 

LONGFELLOW'S POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.75. 

" PROSE WORKS. 2 vols. $1.75. 

TENNYSON'S POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.50. 
WHITTIKK'S POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.50. 
LEIGH HUNT'S POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.50. 
GERALD MASSEY'S POETICAL WORKS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
MRS. JAMESON'S CHARACTERISTICS OF WOMEN. 75 cts. 

" DIARY OF AN ENNUYEE. 1 vol. 75 cts. 

" LOVES OF THE POETS. 1 vol. 75 cts. 

" SKETCHES OF ART, &c. 1 vol. 75 cts. 

" STUDIES AND STORIES. 1 vol. 75 cts. 

" ITALIAN PAINTERS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

" LEGENDS OF THE MADONNA. 1 vol. 

75 cents. 
OWEN MEREDITH'S POEMS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

" LUCILE : A Poem. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

BOWRING'S MATINS AND VESPERS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
LOWELL'S (J. RUSSELL) POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.50. 
PERCIVAL'S POETICAL WORKS. 2 vols. $1.75. 
MOTHERWELL'S POEMS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
SYDNEY DOBELL'S POEMS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
WILLIAM ALLINGHAM'S POEMS. 1 vol. 75 cents. 
HORACE. Translated by Theodore Martin. 1 vol. 75 cts. 
SAXE'S POETICAL WORKS. With Portrait. 1 vol. 75 cents. 

Works Lately Published. 

SIR THOMAS BROWNE'S WRITINGS. A New and Elegant 
Edition, comprising " Religio Medici," "Urn-Burial," "Chris 
tian Morah," &c. With fine Portrait. 1 vol. $1.50. 

SPARE HOURS. By John Brown, M. D. 1 vol. $1.50. 

MEMOIRS, LETTERS AND REMAINS OF ALEXIS DE 
TOCQUEVILLE, Author of " Democracy in America." 2 vols. 
$2.50. 

MARGRET HOWTH: A story of To-Day. 1 vol. 16mo. 
75 cents. 



16 A Lift of Books Publifted. 



Works Lately Published. 

SERMONS Preached in Harvard Chapel. By James Walker, 

D. D. 1 vol. $1.50. 
EDWIN OF DEIRA. By Alexander Smith, Author of " A 

Life Drama," &c. 1 vol. With fine Portrait of the Author. 

75 cents. 
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, LETTERS, AND LITERARY RE- 

MALXS OF Mas. THRALE PIOZZI. Edited by A. Hayward, Esq. 

1 vol. $1.50. 

THE LIFE AND CAREER OF MAJOR JOHN ANDRE. BY 

Winthrop Sargent. l*vol. $1.50. 
THE SABLE CLOUD. By Nehemiah Adams, D. D., Author 

of "A South-Side View of Slavery." 1 vol. 75 cents. 
FAITHFUL FOREVER. By Coventry Pat-more, Author of 

" The Angel in the House." 1 vol. $1.00. 
OVER THE CLIFFS : A Novel. By Charlotte Chanter, 

(a sister of Rev. Charles Kingsley.) 1 vol. $1'.00. 
THE RECREATIONS OF A COUNTRY PARSON. 2 vols. 

$1.25 each. Sold together or separately. 
LEISURE HOURS IN TOWN. By the " Country Parson/' 

1 vol. $1.25. 

REMINISCENCES OF SCOTTISH LIFE AND CHARACTER. 

By Dean Ramsay. From the Seventh Enlarged Edinburgh 

Edition. With an American Preface. 1 vol. IGmo. $1.00. 
POEMS BY REV. WM. CROSWELL, D. D. Edited, with a 

Memoir, by Rev. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, D. D. 1 vol. $1.00. 
PERSONAL HISTORY OF LORD BACON. From Original 

Letters and Documents. By Hepworth Dixon. 1 vol. $1.25. 
POEMS. By Rose Terry. 1 vol. IGmo. 75 cents. 
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE REV. DR. ALEXANDER 

CAKLYLE. Containing Memorials of the Men and Events of 

his Times. Edited by John Hill Burton. 1 vol. $1.50. 
FAVORITE AUTHORS : A Companion Book of Prose and 

Poetry. With 26 fine Steel Portraits. $2.50. 
HEROES OF EUROPE. A capital Boy's Book. With 16 

Illustrations. 1 vol. 16mo. $1.00. 
BONNIE SCOTLAND. By Grace Greenwood. Illustrated. 

75 cents. 
THE SEVEN LITTLE SISTERS, who live in the Round Ball 

that floats in the Air. Illustrated. 63 cents. 










. 



















- 
.