[Feb. 27, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.
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