Feb. 27, 1864.]
ONCE A WEEK.
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