Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/89

This page needs to be proofread.
Jan. 9, 1864.]
81
ONCE A WEEK.

that he was to be associated in it with his fellow parishioner; and besides, there were certain means of facilitation and provisions for the well-being of Beppo Vanni to be made, which the priest either did not care, or would not venture, to put in action in the case of a less valuable and reliable member of his flock. So Beppo, knowing nothing of the fate or intentions of his brother conscript, was to start alone.

The priest did not keep him waiting long. Three o’clock had been the hour named. Beppo, in his nervousness, had been at the trysting-place a few minutes before the time; yet, in coming up from Bella Luce, he had tarried awhile under the half-way cypress! The little bell in the church tower had not yet struck the quarter, when Beppo heard a footstep on the other side of the tower, and Don Evandro made his appearance.

“So you are here before me, figliuolo mio!” he said, scarcely above a whisper, though in truth there were no ears anywhere within hearing; “I am glad to see you so punctual; it is a good sign. Now give me your best attention, for it is very important that you should recollect the directions I am going to give you. In the first place, have you brought any food with you?”

“Yes, your reverence! I remembered what you told me. I have bread enough to last me through to-day, and a bit of salame” (a sort of sausage much used by the peasantry).

“That is all right! Because, observe, it will be well for you not to enter any village or house in the course of this day. You are sufficiently known in all this district to run the chance at least of being recognised. Not that there would be much fear of any harm from any of the people of our hills. Thank God, they are little likely to feel anything but sympathy for a fellow-subject of our Holy Father escaping from the clutches of the infidel Government. But there is no telling whom you might fall in with. There are all sorts of spies and evil-disposed persons about the country; and it is very desirable that no information of the route you have taken should reach the ears of the authorities. Therefore, keep at a distance from all habitations whatsoever during this first day. And for the first night—mark me!—make, in the first instance, as directly as you can consistently with avoiding all villages and houses, for Monte Conserva. Then, bearing southward, cross the river at Volpone, under Sant’ Andrea, and make for Monte Arcello; and thence go down till you are near the village of Aqualagna. You know Aqualagna?”

“Yes, your reverence; I have often been at Aqualagna; but I have been by the road through the Furlo.”

“Exactly so. That would be the usual way to go there, and much shorter than the route I have traced for you. But it is very desirable that you should put yourself on the other side of the Furlo, but should not pass through it;—you understand?”

The Furlo, it must be explained, is a very remarkable passage bored through the living rock by the Romans, by means of which the high road of communication between Umbria, Perugia, and Rome, and all the region to the south-west of the Apennines on the one side, and Romagna and the cities of the Adriatic on the other, is enabled to thread the valley of the Cardigliano torrent, instead of climbing the mountains, as it must have done if these great road-makers—the ancient masters of the world—had not opened this extraordinary passage. The Furlo is situated between the towns of Fossombrone and Cagli, a little to the north of the village of Aqualagna.

“Do not attempt to pass by the road through the Furlo,” continued the priest; “either now or on any future occasion while you may be out; for that is the spot where the road will be watched, and where any parties of soldiers who may be scouring the country will be sure to pass. Remember to avoid it. By placing it between you and this part of the country without ever passing through it, you will throw all pursuit off the scent more surely than in any other way. The track across the mountains which I have indicated to you is a long journey—a very long journey, for one day; but not more than such a pair of legs as yours can do: on the following day you may take it more easily. Now, observe just outside the village of Aqualagna, as you go on to the little bridge over the stream that runs into the river opposite Santa Lucia, you will see a Franciscan friar sitting by the road-side. He will get up as you come up to him, and you will say, instead of ‘Good evening, frate!’ ‘Good morning, frate!’ Do not say anything else. He will then walk on, and you must follow him till he comes to the door of a little oratory of our Blessed Lady on the other side of the village. He will just give a tap with his stick in passing, and walk on. Then you must go in at the door he struck. You will find clean straw, and food, and wine. Nobody will come near you. Eat, drink, and sleep; and start on your way before daylight in the morning, closing the door after you. The next day,” continued the priest, “take your way up the stream of the Cardigliano, towards