Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 10/Beppo, the conscript - Part 21
BEPPO, THE CONSCRIPT.
BY T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE FURLO PASS.
Beppo made his way slowly down through the thick wood, towards the monastery, heedless of his steps, and heedless of everything save the dull dead sense of overwhelming misery, which made everything else indifferent to him. Thus descending the steep hill-side, mainly because it was mechanically easier than to ascend, he came to the top of the precipice, immediately overhanging the buildings of the monastery, and had nearly fallen over. But he saved himself with the instinct of self-preservation, by catching hold of the slender stem of a young chestnut; and smiling bitterly the next moment at the thought that it would have been better for him to have fallen, he made his way down to the spot where the wall of rock, which hedged round the little territory of the friars, completing its semicircle, fell to the brink of the stream. There, at the extreme verge of the damp and mournful-looking meadow, he seated himself on the trunk of a fallen tree, and set to work, if possible, to think.
Since receiving that letter from Giulia he had been suffering hope once more to grow up in his heart; fool, miserable fool that he was. Of course it was all arranged. They had procured, no doubt by the influence of that Captain Brilli, that the Corporal should be sent to Bella Luce. There was no talk of soldiers coming to Bella Luce till after Giulia had returned to it. And he—oh! threefold ass and dupe that he was—he had laboured and planned to procure her return thither. And this anxiety to induce him to give himself up? No doubt it was plotted between her and the military authorities;—he was to be the price, very likely, of permission for the Corporal to marry her. To be sure; the thing was clear. He had been told enough of the efforts that the officers who had the management of the conscription were making to get the men, especially the more desirable materials for soldiers, by hook or by crook. Yes, it was as clear as daylight. If you can induce him to deliver himself up there shall be a permission, very sparingly granted in the Italian army, for the Corporal of Bersaglieri to marry.
Give himself up! Perhaps it was the best thing he could do. Go for a soldier, and find a soldier's death. But he would not be the price paid for the success of her shameless, scandalous, inconstancy and falsehood. No! He would go direct to Fano; he would never return to Bella Luce again. He would go and make his submission to the superior authorities, and take care that it was known that his worthless cousin had nothing to do in the matter.
And then the evening breeze brought to his ears the sound of the friars in the neighbouring little chapel, bawling their vesper psalms. And he thought that he could find it in his heart to take his place among them, gird the cord around his loins, and never go out of this darksome valley more. They were racked by no pangs of unrequited love, of that most miserable and most hopeless of all loves, the love which has been given, alas! all too irrevocably, to a heartless and unworthy woman!
He dragged himself, when the shutting-up hour came, to the miserable little dilapidated cell which had been assigned to him, and the night passed in going again and again over the same round of wretchedness Then came the necessity of meeting another day, of facing the sunlight, so gladdening and glorious for the light of heart, so floutingly garish and insulting to those that mourn.
But as the sun rose high into the heaven, and the strong fierce light was poured over all things, a certain change began to be operated in the tone of his feelings. A fierce and burning indignation at the wickedness of which he had been the victim, began to take the ascendant over the less self-asserting attitude of mind that, during the hours of darkness had. prompted him to desire only annihilation of self-consciousness—only to slink away into some unseen corner like a stricken stag—to forget everything and be forgotten.
No! it was not just; it was not righteous! Infamy and falsehood should not have their triumph, at least, without having heard once the truth. The words of indignant reproof, of withering scorn, of most just denunciation, were burning on his tongue. He felt that he must speak them! Once, only once, before he should go away, his eyes never more to look on her, nor here on him, once yet again he must speak! She could not fail to feel in some measure the infinite depth of infamy to which she had fallen, as he felt he could speak it to her. She could not but cower before his righteous scorn.
"Yes, he would go. He would speak those rightful words, and then——!"
But it was not quickly, as it has been related here, that his mind came to this point. Gradually, as he kept heaping coals of fire on his indignation, by feeding his imagination with fresh pictures of Giulia's falseness—of her hideous fickleness to him, and, yet more maddening, of her happy loves with another —gradually his fury came to that white heat at which speech became an imperious necessity to him.
But by that time the day was waning. Little more than twenty-four hours remained before the time he had named for the meeting at the foot of the ruined tower, by the churchyard; very little more than twenty-four hours; and in that time, let him make what speed he would, let hot indignation goad him as it might, he knew that it was impossible for him to reach the trysting place by the hour named, if he were to travel by the path over the mountains.
It was still possible, however, to do it, if he travelled by the direct road, through the Furlo pass, instead of making that large circuit. It was true that the priest had enjoined him by no means to use that route upon any occasion. But the desire that had come upon him of keeping the tryst he had made at the ruined tower, and there once for all pouring out all the pent-up grief and rage that were in his heart, was too strong to admit of being frustrated by such a difficulty. And, besides, as to the chances of capture by the patrolling parties of soldiers, he was quite reckless.
So it came to pass that Beppo was starting from Santa Maria della Valle di Abisso a few hours only sooner than Giulia was setting out from Bella Luce; and that he also was intending to travel by the Furlo pass.
He had none of the difficulties to meet, and precautions to take, which had been necessary to Giulia in starting on her expedition. But he thought it duo to his hosts to tell them that he should not be at the monastery that night, for that he purposed making an excursion to see how matters were going on— whether there were any parties of military in the neighbourhood, or any reason to fear that Santa Maria della Valle might be visited by them.
The Superior, when he mentioned his purpose, sought to deter him from it,—pointing out that it was incurring a risk for nothing,— that any such information as he required might be much more easily and safely obtained by one of the brotherhood than by him.
"Brother Simone is going on circuit tomorrow morning, my son," said the Superior; "he is a discreet and prudent man, and not without intelligence in the affairs of the world. Let him make the inquiries you wish. He would be able to do it without incurring any suspicion. And I have very little doubt that he could obtain a copy of the proclamation you are so desirous of seeing, and bring it home with him."
"I think, father, that I should prefer ascertaining the state of things myself. I will be very cautious. And something prompts me to go out to-night. I cannot rest in peace here till to-morrow morning."
"Not till to-morrow morning, my son! Not one night! What would it be if you had to remain here, without prospect of change, every night and every morning till the sun set behind yon mountain for the last time that your eyes were ever to see it? The truth is, that the still convent life has in these few days been so heavy to you, that from sheer restlessness you must needs go forth into the world! Well, go, my son! Should any thing unfortunate occur, you will have the justice to let his reverence the curate of Santa Lucia know that we were not to blame in the matter!"
"Assuredly, father. Trust me, no blame shall rest upon you for my fault. But I do not think that I am going into any danger."
"Nevertheless, my son, it is well to be prepared against it. And by a strange chance it SO happens that I am able to give you the means of being so. We are men of peace here, and have no arms of offence, or even of defence. But I will give you a line, which you shall give in passing to a worthy man at Piobico, who will furnish you with the means of keeping violence at a distance."
The Superior stepped into his cell, and in a minute or two came out with a note, sealed, and addressed to a person in the adjacent little town.
"Take this, my son, and avail yourself of it. You may be thankful for the precaution before you get back to Santa Maria! And if you are determined to go, good night, and good luck to you!"
Beppo took the note, thanked the Superior for his kindness, and was punted across the stream by one of the brethren. The Superior, looking after him, muttered to himself, "A shot fired is useful to the right cause any way. If the soldier is killed, the heretic king loses a man, and is shown that the country is disaffected. If the peasant is shot, there is the outcry against the government, and the odium."
Beppo went down the path by the side of the stream to the little town of Piobico, almost at a run; for the work that was before him at the end of his journey was in his mind, and his angry heart was eager for it. He presented the billet, as he had been bidden, at Piobico, more from the life-long habit of doing submissively what he was told to do by any member of the dominant caste in his native land, than for any other reason. Yet, it is as well, he thought to himself, to be on an equality with those who are out against me. The man to whom it was addressed, a quiet enough looking small shopkeeper, asked no questions, and made no remark; but having read the note, desired Beppo to pass into a back apartment for a minute, and there put into his hands a musket and a sufficient quantity of ammunition for its immediate use.
"Adieu, friend! I wish you luck!" was all he said as Beppo left his house.
"Adieu, and thanks!" said Beppo; and with the musket over his shoulder he strode off at a rapid pace through the darkness towards Aqualagna, at which point be would fall into the great high road which runs through the valley of the Cardigliano, and by the pass of Furlo. Nevertheless, it was nearly the morning Ave Maria before he came to that village, and by the time he was approaching the pass the day was breaking.
The pass of the Furlo consists of a tunnel, bored through the living limestone, at a point where the river Cardigliano, through whoso valley the road has been previously running, enters a narrow passage between two precipitous walls of rock, which render all further progress impossible by any other means. The Roman legionary was a great roadmaker; but he was a pigmy at his work compared to an English navvy. And the greatest works of Roman road-making, which excited the wonder and admiration of the world for successive centuries, sink into absolute insignificance in comparison with the triumphs of modern science in preparing a way for the iron horse.
And the Furlo, celebrated for so many hundred years, is but a small and common-place tunnel after all. Nevertheless, the position and surroundings of it are picturesque and striking. The walls of rock, through which a road-maker yet more puissant than even the English navvy, has riven a passage for the waters of the Cardigliano, are of a very respectable height, and of a good colour. The channel of the river is narrow, and yet the volume of water that rushes through it is at times very great; and the road, for some time before entering and after quitting the tunnel, is carried along a ledge of rock at a considerable height above it.
At the spot at which the road enters the tunnel on its way down the stream,—in the direction, therefore, in which Beppo was travelling,—there is a narrow ledge of rock on the face of the wall-like precipice, at nearly the same altitude as the road, and accessible from it. To a traveller coming from that side it seems as if this ledge of rock might have been made available for carrying the road, and the necessity for boring the tunnel avoided. But the traveller coming in the other direction, from the lower ground and the Adriatic side, sees no such ledge when he enters the tunnel at his end. It comes, in fact, to a sudden stop between the two extremities of the tunnel, and offered, therefore, to the first engineers, when they were seeking a passage for their road, merely a baulk and deception.
A subsequent generation, however, has utilised this fraudulent ledge as far as it goes, by building on it a little chapel, and what seems, by the remains of it, to have been a dwelling for an officiating priest. I do not know, by-the-by, that there is any good reason for attributing the happy idea of turning this queerly-placed fragment of soil to such a purpose, to the men of a subsequent generation to that of the original makers of the road, though the ruined buildings now visible are assuredly the work of mediaeval and not of Roman architects. But the former were as fond of chapels as the latter,—as firmly persuaded of the desirability of erecting them on certain spots, and in certain localities; had the same ideas respecting the nature of the advantages to be derived from building them in such positions, and piety of a precisely similar calibre to prompt them to erect such buildings. There is every probability, therefore, that a fane dedicated to some Pagan deity existed on this ledge of rock, before the now crumbling walls of the lodging for a Christian saint and his officiating priest had appropriated the spot.
As the ruins now stand, entirely filling the narrow space, and hiding all beyond them from the eye of one approaching them from up the stream, it looks on that side as if a way might be found by entering them without passing through the tunnel;—a mere delusion; as at the back of the ruins is the sheer precipice, with the torrent seething and roaring far down beneath them.
Beppo had walked on sturdily all night, had passed through the village of Aqualagna a little before the dawn, and was approaching the entrance of the Furlo tunnel just as the sun was peeping over the tops of the hills, sufficiently to shed a grey cold light down in the ravine of the Cardigliano. He had been carrying his loaded gun carelessly over his shoulder all night, but he now brought it in front of him, ready for use if need were; for the nature of the place, and the observations which the priest had made to him respecting the desirability of avoiding it, and the probability that soldiers would be on the look-out there for deserters if anywhere, occurred to him.
With ear and eye on the alert, therefore, he was on the point of entering the darkness of the tunnel, when he heard a voice that made him start, saluting the dawn by chanting the morning Ave Maria, as it was coming through the gallery in the opposite direction.
He started violently, held his breath, and bent his ear to listen. But though the voice as it came on could be heard plainly enough, the strange re-echoing of the vaulted arch, and the tricks played with the sounds by the unusual acoustic conditions of the tunnel, made it difficult to recognise it. Beppo sprang to the top of the low parapet wall which borders the road, and from that stepped on to the little space in front of the ruins of the chapel. As he so stood facing the ruins, the precipice and the river were on his right hand, and the road with the entrance to the tunnel on his left. And there, with his musket on his arm, he awaited till the owner of the voice should emerge from the darkness. The voice came on, plaintively chanting its morning song to the Virgin, and it became certain that it was the voice of a woman. But, although some note had, when he first heard it, thrilled him with a recognition, which his ear seemed to have made without the participation of his mind, it was still so changed by the tunnel that he could not with any certainty recognise it.
Presently it came near, still continuing its chant, and, in the next minute, Giulia stepped into the grey light, plodding along with manifest weariness, but still pressing eagerly onward. Beppo's surprise was so great that it nearly overmastered and replaced his indignation. What could be the meaning of it! She had evidently, like himself, been walking all the night; and it seemed impossible to doubt that her journey must, in some way or other, and for some purpose or other, have reference to himself. But for what conceivable object could she have chosen to have come thus far away from the spot where he had appointed to meet her? Not, as it seemed to him certain, with any view of falling in with him. That could scarcely be, inasmuch as his being there at all arose from circumstances which even he himself could not have foretold a few hours ago. If she had had any communication with the priest, he would have told her that there was no chance of meeting him just where, by the unexpected effect of circumstances, she had met him. And again, without communication with the priest, she could have had, he thought, no knowledge of his whereabouts whatsoever. Nor could he suppose that she had been directed by the priest to the monastery of Santa Maria della Valle di Abisso, and was on her way thither; for he had told her in his letter, sent by the messenger, that he would be at the ruined tower at Santa Lucia that Sunday evening; and she could not, therefore, expect to find him at Santa Maria.
She came along the road, emerging from the tunnel into the light of the dawn, intent only on pursuing her way, and did not see him. In fact, it was hardly possible that she should see him unless she had turned her head so as to look backwards as she came out from the dark passage. Standing on the bit of ground that has been described, he was in fact behind her when she stepped out from it. And she would have passed ou without observing him if he had remained silent, for she was walking quickly, and manifestly anxious only to press onwards.
Beppo's first impulse was to fling himself into the road in front of her, and at her feet. But the thought of the next second reminded him that his present business with her was of a different kind; that he was there as an accuser and denouncer, and not as a lover.
"Giulia!" he cried, rather in the voice and tone of a judge arraigning a prisoner before him than in one of passion or tenderness.
She started so violently as almost to fall to the ground, yet her surprise was very far less than his had been; in fact, except the startling suddenness of the call from behind her, and the strangeness of the manner in which he spoken to her, she had no cause for surprise at all. She was travelling in the hope and expectation of meeting him; and if she had known anything about the distances of the places in question, she would have been expecting to meet him much about then and there.
He added no word to the one he had so sternly uttered, but remained standing drawn up to his full height, with his gun on his arm, glaring down on her from the higher ground, about three feet above the level of the road on which he stood.
"Oh, Beppo! thank God I have found you! I have been walking all night in the hope of meeting you, to warn you——to warn you "—she went on out of breath with eagerness and hurry—"not to come to the tower in the churchyard!——There are soldiers at Santa Lucia——"
"In what house?" demanded he, sternly.
"In our house, at Bella Luce."
"What soldiers? he said in the same tone.
"Bersaglieri! an officer and four men."
"Who is the officer?" said Beppo, with a concentrated fury, increased by what appeared to him her attempt at subterfuge and evasion.
"I don't know how it came about"——she began, hesitating and greatly distressed, not because she had had the slightest intention of concealing the fact from him, but because she perceived that he had already conceived the suspicions which she would have given her life to disabuse him of; and because the information would have to reach him, if indeed it had not reached him already, in so unfortunate a manner, and one so calculated to confirm him in them.
"You do know!" he said, interrupting her with stern harshness. "Who is the officer living with you at Bella Luce?"
"Living with me!—oh, Heaven, Beppo!" she said, with a sob.
"Who is the officer?" he said for the third time, with increasing harshness and even ferocity of manner.
"It is Corporal Tenda, Beppo. I came here——
"Vile! shameless! perjured woman!" began he in a slow, grating voice, with a crescendo weight of scorn on each word; but she interrupted him with an energy that broke through the violence of his invective.
"Beppo! Beppo! I mu3t speak! You shall say what you will to me afterwards! I will bear it all! But there is no time to lose. Beppo, I have walked all night,—all night as fast as I could, but I am sure I have had somebody behind me all the time. I could see nobody when I stopped to listen, but from time to time I have heard steps, and I seemed to feel as if somebody was near me and following me. I am afraid the soldiers are on my track. Go back, Beppo! go back! make haste!"
"Feel as if he was near to you! Double—triple traitress! Yes, you have felt his nearness to you—his breath on your cheek. Faugh! loathsome creature! And now you are come to earn your reward and his by betraying me into his hands! Let him come on!"
"Oh, Beppo! oh, God! Beppo! For the holy Virgin's sake! don't say! don't think!——kill me! throw me into the river! I will jump in if you bid me!—but go back! don't lose time! Hark! there are steps in the tunnel! They are running! They have heard us! Beppo! run!"
"Run where? You have managed it very well! Let your lover come and earn your hand! Let him come! And unless you want to make the next world as well as this a hell to me——stand out of the way of this, yourself!" tapping the gun-barrel as he spoke the last words.
The steps coming rapidly through the tunnel were now heard close at hand, and Beppo retreated back across the little plot of ground in front of the ruined buildings on the ledge of rock, till he placed his back against the wall, and then examined the priming of his musket.
In the next instant the Corporal and one of his men emerged from the tunnel.
"We heard his voice," cried the former. "Let him surrender and all will be well. Signora Giulia, this has been the saddest night's work to me that I ever had to do. Signor Beppo," he called aloud, "I summon you to surrender!"
"And I tell you to take me, if you want me!" answered Beppo, whose voice made the two men first aware of his exact whereabouts. "Observe, I am armed!"
"I have had to do with armed men before now, Signor Beppo," returned the Corporal quietly; "but then I was not so loth to do them a mischief as I am to hurt you; and that makes a difference. But I am going to take you, because it is my duty, and I can't help it. We are two to one, see!"
"You are three to one, you mean!" said Beppo, with a fierce sneer.
"Oh, Signor Beppo!" replied Tenda, "I should have scorned to say such a word as that, if I had been you. La Signora Giulia—"
"If you mean to take me, come on!" shouted Beppo. "Here stands the prize you are playing for. Surely you can't hesitate to come on and win it."
"What must be, must," said the Corporal, giving a glance as he spoke at the priming of his own weapon, and springing up on the parapet wall, and then confronting Beppo, who kept his ground with his back to the ruins, about some ten paces from him. It was possible to enter the ruined building, and it might be practicable for a man engaged in escaping from the pursuit of another to dodge about among the fragments of walls of the chapel, and the miniature dwelling that had been attached to it. But there was no possibility of escaping from the little bit of land which juts out in the manner that has been described; unless, indeed, the possibility—so desperate as hardly to be considered a possibility—of throwing oneself from the ledge of rock into the boiling stream beneath be deemed such.
The little bit of ground which separated Beppo from the Corporal, and on which the ruined walls behind the former are built, will be understood, if the description of the locality has been successfully made intelligible to the reader, to be on the outside of the rock, through which the tunnel was bored, in such sort that a very short passage might have been bored from the chapel into the tunnel, which passage would, in that case, have entered the tunnel at right angles.
"If you advance a step, I fire!" cried Beppo. "I have a right to fire in self-defence."
"Signor Beppo," said the Corporal, standing quite still, and holding the muzzle of his piece pointed upwards, while that of Beppo was levelled at him,—" Signor Beppo, I and my comrade are going to take you, because it is our bounden duty to do so;—not, God knows, because I have any wish or liking for the job; but I beg you to observe for your own sake, that if you shoot me, you will have to answer for murder done in resisting an officer in the execution of his duty, whereas, if I should have the misfortune to shoot you, I shall be held to have done no more than my duty under the circumstances. And having warned you how the matter stands, I must do my duty."
So saying, but without levelling his rifle, the Corporal made a stride forwards towards the deserter, and in the same instant Beppo fired, first one barrel, and in the next second the other barrel of his piece, both harmlessly, as was likely enough to be the case, even at ten paces distance, when the aim was that of a peasant, who had never fired a gun under such circumstances, or in a hurry before.
At the sound of the two shots, Giulia, who was in the road at the entrance to the tunnel, screamed and put her hands before her eyes. And the Corporal, looking round at her for an instant, exclaimed, "No harm done yet; and there won't be any now, I hope."
Beppo heard the scream and the answer, and a bitter thought of her fear for the safety of her lover, and of his re-assuring reply to her, even then gave him an additional pang.
But as soon as ever he perceived the failure of his two shots, he dashed into the ruins, at the same moment that the Corporal—who was not aware of the impossibility of passing out at the back of them, and so rejoining the road below the tunnel—rushed forwards to secure him.
Beppo, however, who was acquainted with the locality, knew well that there were only two possibilities before him, either surrender, or the mad and desperate alternative of throwing himself down the precipice into the river. But, reckless, maddened by passion and despair as he was, and determined only that the man he detested should not have the triumph and the praise, and most of all, as he had fancied in his jealousy, the reward of taking him, he did not hesitate an instant. Throwing down his gun in the ruins, he rushed, while the Corporal was rapidly glancing round the chapel, which was the part of the building first entered from the little platform on which they had both been standing when the shots were fired, to a spot where a breach in the wall of what had been the priest's dwelling, opened sheer upon the top of the precipice.
Immediately beneath this, about half way down to the river, a depth of something more than twenty feet perhaps, the wall of rock jutted out over the stream, narrowing the distance across it by some eight or ten feet; and on the sort of promontory thus formed, where a deposit of soil had in the course of years accumulated, there had once grown a good-sized tree. Had it been there still, it would have very materially facilitated Beppo's enterprise. But it had long since decayed and fallen, and there was only a fragment of its rotting stump, nearly level with the rock from which it had sprung, remaining. Nevertheless, this stump supplied a certain amount of foot-hold on the promontory in question, making it possible for a human being to find a standing-place there. Possible, that is, if a man could have reached the spot in a quiet manner; but not such as that it should be possible for any man to jump perpendicularly down on it from a height of twenty feet, and there, in the utter absence of anything to catch hold of with the hands, remain stationary.
Nevertheless, without an instant's pause for either examination or reflection, Beppo jumped from the base of the broken wall above down on to the rotting stump, probably without having at all considered whether it was possible for him to remain there, or what step he should next take. On the other side of the river the rock was nearly as precipitous; but in consequence of the set of the current being to the side of the tunnel and the road, there was a little alluvial soil at the foot of the rocks by the margin of the water on the opposite bank; and in this foot or two of soil there was a growth of dwarfed alders and cistus bushes.
When he lighted quite unhurt on the rotting tree-stump, half way down the precipice on the other side, his body felt, even more quickly than his brain could reach the conviction, that no effort could enable him to remain there. He must either fall or make a new instantaneous spring. The former was certain, the latter only probable destruction. So, gathering all the vast though seldom-used strength of his large bony limbs for one supreme and desperate effort, he sprang right towards the bushes, and, though the leap would have at any other time, and under any other circumstances, appeared to him wholly preposterous and out of the question, lighted among them but little the worse for the adventure.
Of course all this was done and accomplished in a few seconds; and when Corporal Tenda, blundering on in his search through the ruins, came to the broken place in the wall from which Beppo had jumped, he could hardly believe his eyes, when he saw him safe on the other side of the Cardigliano.
"I thought you were going to take me, Signor Caporale?" panted Beppo. "Go and tell those who sent you, and her who brought you, that it is not so easy to take a Romagnole contadino who does not chose to be taken."
Tenda, on catching sight of him, had, in an instant, instinctively raised his rifle to his shoulder, and had his finger on the trigger; but after a moment of hesitation, he threw the muzzle up.
"It would be my duty to shoot you dead where you stand; and mind, when you join us you'll have a deal to learn, for we Bersaglieri don't fire in the way you did just now. My duty, and nothing more nor less," he repeated; "but I can't do it. I can't do it, in the first place, for her sake, and in the second place, because it would be one part for duty and two parts for myself; and that would make murder of it. I shan't shoot you, let it be how it will."
"What! Won't that serve the turn with her as well as taking me? Fire away, Corporal; she will be just as much pleased, and I a deal better."
"Can't have the pleasure of serving you; I'm not going to do it, I tell you. Though for speaking in the way you do, you deserve it a deal better than you do the love of the prettiest and best girl that ever breathed. So now I shall leave you to get out of that hole you have jumped into the best way you can; and bid you good morning till the next time we meet, when I hope I may be able to knock a little sense into that hard head and jealous-mad heart of yours!"
So saying, the Corporal turned away, and going back into the road, told Giulia that Beppo had escaped safe and sound to the other side of the river by taking such a jump as no man ever took before; and that they had nothing for it but to return by the way they had come, and hope for better luck another time.
He admitted that, fearing they might possibly miss their object by waiting till the time named in the note discovered by his comrade, he had determined on keeping watch at the ruined tower; and that on seeing her start on her walk the previous evening, he had felt no doubt at all that her purpose was to warn Beppo that he was waited for, and that the only way to lay hands on him therefore was to follow her, without letting her know that she was watched.
"And now, what does he think of me?" said Giulia, with a sob that seemed to burst her heart.
"And what will he think when he knows all, signora? Think of that. He shall know all, trust me for that. I would not shoot him just now when I might have done it, and ought by rights to have done it, on purpose. If he don't think and feel that he is the happiest fellow in Christendom, and that no man was ever blessed by the love of such a girl before," said the Corporal, speaking with immense energy, "he must be a bad fellow,— and I don't think he is a bad fellow at bottom. Shall we have the honour of escorting you home, signora?"
"No, please, Signor Caporale; I must return alone as I came. I must indeed, please! I must get some rest before I can walk home. I should like to sleep a little. They will be very angry with me at home. Perhaps you will have the goodness, Signor Caporale, to say that I am coming home;—that you have seen me; and—and—perhaps, if you don't mind, the best thing you could say, would be to tell them that I went away secretly to try to warn Beppo that you were after him."