[Dec. 26, 1863.
ONCE A WEEK.
imprisonment also! Once again, I say, can you wonder that as a friend, as well as in the character of a priest, I should be anxious to prevent you from committing this sin, and at the same time this worldly imprudence?"
On this ground poor Beppo was more entirely unable to contend with his temper, than on the theological one. Mankind is provided with no internal voice to whisper to them of political probabilities. And Beppo had no reason for not believing every word that the priest had said on that head.
"I am sure we are all very much obliged to your reverence," he said; "of course I would not willingly do anything that should injure my father or Carlo, or bring any sorrow upon my mother."
"I am sure you would not, Beppo; and these considerations alone should suffice to decide you in favour of the course I was speaking of the other evening at the farm."
"But is your reverence sure that I might not be bringing them into trouble in some way by going against the present government? They, at all events, have the power in their hands now!"
"Yes! but they have a great deal too much upon their hands to look after one such fellow as you, Beppo! And besides that, they are too much afraid to make the people hostile to them. There is discontent against them enough, as it is. They will think twice before they do any thing to increase it. In taking part with the real government against the usurper, you will have all the really good men in the country with you. In the other case, there will be nobody to stand between you and the just anger of the Pontifical authorities!"
"Well," said Beppo, "it is a hard thing for a poor ignorant man, such as I am, your reverence, to tell how to act when popes and kings are at variance, and both parties claim his obedience; but I will be guided by your reverence in this matter, if you, on your part, will do one thing to please me;—and I am sure that it is a good Christian deed for any priest to do."
"Well, what is your condition, figliuolo mio?" said the priest, with much surprise and a little displeasure in his voice; "I am not in the habit of making conditions with my parishioners, when I find it necessary for their welfare to advise them to any particular line of conduct. Nevertheless, if it is in my power to do you a pleasure, you know that I shall be happy to do so. You need not have made a condition of it. I must say, indeed, that it would have been more becoming to have mentioned your wish in any other way."
"I humbly ask your reverence's pardon," said poor Beppo; "but I have been hard pushed by sorrow and trouble. And if your reverence would think it well to do this thing for me, it might be the saving of two souls, not of one only; for, to say the truth, I am well-nigh desperate with trouble!"
"Saving of souls, figliuolo mio, is more my business than yours. It is not seemly for the laity, let alone the uninstructed laity, to speak of such matters too lightly. It may well be, that you are a very incompetent judge of what may tend to the saving of souls, which you speak of so glibly." For the priest began to suspect, that the good deed to be asked of him might be nothing less than the taking of some step for the bringing together of Beppo and Giulia, and he had no intention to do anything for the saving of their souls in that direction. "Nevertheless," he added, "let me hear what it is that you would have me do. I should wish to content you, if it were only to soothe the pain of the misfortune that has fallen upon you. If it be anything that my duty and conscience make lawful to me, I will not refuse you."
"Your reverence no doubt remembers," said Beppo with a deep sigh, and after a little hesitation, "all the sad account you were giving my father and mother the other night of—of my unfortunate cousin?"
"Assuredly, it has been a matter of great concern to me. I fear there is little good to be hoped for her."
"She was a good girl as long as she was with us at Bella Luce, your reverence."
"She was good as long as she had no opportunity of being otherwise. What can be thought of that goodness, my son, which is apt to vanish at the first approach of temptation?"
"Yet we pray, my father, that we may not be led into temptation," said Beppo, submissively.
The priest looked at him with astonishment. He could not have imagined, that slow, simple Beppo had ever thought as much of what he was taught to pray, still less that he had the wit so to make application of the fruit of his thinking. But the priest neither guessed how intensely Beppo had suffered, nor knew what a powerful forcer and ripener of the intelligence such suffering is.
"Be cautious and chary, my son, in attempting to apply the sentiments with which we are taught to approach the heavenly throne, to the relationship of man with his fellows. We pray that our Heavenly Father may lead us not into temptation, but we must none the less try the strength of our own good resolutions, by measuring them against such temptations as