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quarter.” The snow is all around. Through it five wolflike figures are stealing
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
“Open to Caponsacchi,” Guido cried :
I knew a necessary change in things. We are moving now among the crowd that surges round the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, where the bodies of Pietro and Violante, hacked past recognition, are being displayed. We listen to the voices from out the throng, insisting on this or that interpretation of the matter, some for Guido, some against him, and some aiming at an intermediate judgment.
Then, from the rough outdoor tribunal of public opinion we are introduced to the law court, where the judges, “ Tommati, Venturini, and the rest,” are assembled to hear the murder charge.
First, Guido appears, after having been duly tortured.
Soft-cushioned he sits; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
He proffers his defence.
Then, before the same judges, the young priest stands forth, proud and strong. Hitherto his reputation had not been of the best,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
but now a man transformed, and all aglow with the splendour of a fine enthusiasm.
Again the scene changes, and we are in the hospital, bending over the dying Pompilia. 'Tis a miracle, they say, that she is still alive, after four days, “though pierced with twenty-two dagger wounds.” Reverently we listen while this soul “ sighs its lowest and its last.”
With mind still set on the actual trial before the judges, two other figures stand forth, important and distinct. These are the leading counsel on either side. First there is “ Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli, called Procurator of the poor at Rome, now advocate for Guido and his mates."
The jolly learned man of middle age,
While composing his great speech for the defence, he is thinking about the birthday feast for his little boy of eight that is to come off by-and-bye.
Paternity at smiling strife with law. Then we have the no less effective portrait of his opponent, Giovambattista of the Bottini, “Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour.”
Then the outward man is depicted
Blue juvenile pure eyes and pippin cheek,
With sudden age, bright and devastated hair.
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
From the other world he feels impress at times. We are shown how this grand old man of eighty-six, “is wont to do God's work on earth”; we see:
The manner of his sitting out the dir
One table, and one lathen crucifix. Thus, in the first book, we have a general survey of the entire field ; thus, “step by step,” we are led from the level of to-day, “ up to the summit of so long ago.” We are introduced to the personages of the drama; in the books that follow we hear them speaking for themselves.
In Book II, the “Half-Rome” that stands for Guido, voices itself in the shrewd, plausible, confident declamation of one of those typical men who, while merely echoing the prejudices of a class, never doubts for a moment his own independence and originality. He has buttonholed a friend on the outskirts of the crowd that is thronging hour after hour to gloat over the gruesome spectacle in the church of San Lorenzo.
First, the case is stated with cruel plausibility against the Comparini. They were a self-indulgent, vulgar old pair, whose only grief it was, as the years rolled on, that they were childless, and this grieved them chiefly because, dying without issue, the wealth by which they set such store, would pass to distant heirs. But Violante's womanwit is equal to the emergency, and in due time, baby Pompilia appears on the scene. Twelve years pass, and Pietro, having muddled away his money, finds himself a poor man, The next step therefore, is to marry little Pompilia advantageously. By a piece of good luck Count Guido Franceschini is hooked. A clandestine marriage is arranged, and the poor Count finds himself saddled with a doll-like child-wife, and the pair of greedy blood-suckers whom she called her parents. The whole party go to live at Arezzo together. There is disgust on both sides. The Count, though of ancient lineage, is a very reduced nobleman indeed. The small economies of the dreary, stately household are utterly distastetul to the old people, long accustomed, as they were, to all the creature comforts of middle-class town life. They loudly express their disappointment, and tell their grievances to every willing ear. Finally, they went away.
Cursed life signorial, and sought Rome once more.
But the worst was yet to come. Violante, once safe at home, discovers that she has a conscience. It is the old Pope's Jubilee, and a chance that will not occur again for having sins forgiven. So out the truth comes in frank confession—"Pompilia was a fable, not a fact: she never bore a child in her whole life !” Then cruelly, bluntly told, comes the story of how the unborn babe had been trafficked for with a shameless mother. “The babe had been a find of the filth-heap, sir, catch from the kennel! ”
It is suggested that the “confession" was in itself a lie, yet more abominable than the thing confessed; a mere scheme to bespatter Guido's ancient name, and to cheat him of the dowry that was due only to the Comparini's
lawful child. In any case the husband is to be pitied, and he is described by his partizan as acting with exemplary patience.
All might yet have gone well but for the woman's wantonness.
Pompilia left alone, now found herself ;
So it goes on till, one fine morning, Guido awakes from what he asserts was a drugged sleep, and finds that his wife had disappeared. The gossips laugh good humouredly at the old joke of the discomfited husband, and there are tongues enough to tell circumstantially how that, at first dawn, “the lamb-like innocent of fifteen years," and “the all-consoling Caponsacchi” had taken flight together in a post-chaise by the Roman road. The outraged husband starts in fierce pursuit. Two days he