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The reward of it all.

Close to, the Villa, in the proper church: I was ever a fighter, so — one fight more, A pretty church, I say no word against, The best and the last!

Yet stranger-like, - while this Lorenzo I would hate that death bandaged my eyes,

seems and forbore,

My own particular place, I always say. And bade me creep past.

I used to wonder, when I stood scarce high No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like As the bed here, what the marble lion my peers

meant, The heroes of old,

With half his body rushing from the wall, Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's Eating the figure of a prostrate man arrears

(To the right, it is, of entry by the doorOf pain, darkness and cold.

20 An ominous sign to one baptized like me, For sudden the worst turns the best to the Married, and to be buried there, I hope. brave,

And they should add, to have my life comThe black minute 's at end,

plete, And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices He is a boy and Gaetan by name that rave,

Gaetano, for a reason, - if the friar 30 Shall dwindle, shall blend,

Don Celestine will ask this grace for me Shall change, shall become first a peace out Of Curate Ottoboni: he it was of pain,

Baptized me: he remembers my whole life Then a light, then thy breast,

As I do his gray hair. O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,

All these few things And with God be the rest !

I know are true, — will you remember

them?

Because time flies. The surgeon cared for THE RING AND THE BOOK

me,

To count my wounds, - twenty-two daggerBOOK VII

wounds,

Five deadly, but I do not suffer muchPOMPILIA

Or too much pain, -- and am to die to-night. I am just seventeen years and five months Oh how good God is that my babe was And, if I lived one day more, three full - Better than born, baptized and hid away weeks;

Before this happened, safe from being hurt! 'Tis writ so in the church's register, That had been sin God could not well forLorenzo in Lucina, all my names At length, so many names for one poor He was too young to smile and save him

self. - Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela | When they took, two days after he was Pompilia Comparini, - laughable I .

boru, Also 't is writ that I was married there | My babe away from me to be baptized Four years ago: and they will add, I hope, | And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should When they insert my death, a word or

find, two,

10 The country-woman, used to nursing babes, Omitting all about the mode of death, Said, “Why take on so ? where is the great This, in its place, this which one cares to

loss ? know,

These next three weeks he will but sleep That I had been a mother of a son

and feed, Exactly two weeks. It will be through Only begin to smile at the month's end; grace

He would not know you, if you kept him O'the Curate, not through any claim I. here, have;

Sooner than that; so, spend three merry Because tbe boy was born at, so baptized | weeks

old,

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Snug in the Villa, getting strong and stout, | Out of the little two weeks that she lived,
And then I bring him back to be your own, Fit for such memory as might assist:
And both of you may steal to — we know As good too as no family, no name,
where !”

Not even poor old Pietro's name, nor hers, The month — there wants of it two weeks Poor kind unwise Violante, since it seems this day !

They must not be my parents any more. Still, I balf fancied when I heard the knock That is why something put it in my head 99 At the Villa in the dusk, it might prove To call the boy “ Gaetano" - no old name she

For sorrow's sake; I looked up to the sky Come to say, “Since he smiles before the And took a new saint to begin anew. time,

One who has only been made saint - how Why should I cheat you out of one good

long? hour ?

Twenty-five years: so, carefuller, perhaps, Back I have brought him; speak to him and To gnard a namesake than those old saints judge !”

grow, Now I shall never see him; what is worse, Tired out by this time, - see my own five When he grows up and gets to be my age,

saints ! He will seem hardly more than a great boy; And if he asks, “ What was my mother On second thoughts, I hope he will regard like?

The history of me as what some one People may answer, “Like girls of seven

dreamed, teen "

And get to disbelieve it at the last : And how can he but think of this and that, Since to myself it dwindles fast to that, 110 Lucias, Marias, Sofias, who titter or blush Sbeer dreaming and impossibility, When he regards them as such boys may Just in four days too! All the seventeen do ?

years, Therefore I wish some one will please to say Not once did a suspicion visit me I looked already old though I was young; How very different a lot is mine Do I not ... say, if you are by to speak ... From any other woman's in the world. Look nearer twenty? No more like, at The reason must be, 't was by step and step least,

It got to grow so terrible and strange. Girls who look arch or redden when boys These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it laugh,

were, Than the poor Virgin that I used to know | Into my neighborhood and privacy, At our street-corner in a lonely niche, - Sat down where I sat, laid them where I The babe, that sat upon her knees, broke

lay;

120 off,

And I was found familiarized with fear, Thin white glazed clay, you pitied her the When friends broke in, held up a torch and more:

cried, She, not the gay ones, always got my rose. “Why, you Pompilia in the cavern thus,

How comes that arm of yours about a wolf ? How happy those are who know how to And the soft length, — lies in and out your write!

feet Such could write what their son should read | And laps you round the knee, — a snake in time,

it is ?" Had they a whole day to live out like me. And so on. Also my name is not a common name, “ Pompilia,” and may help to keep apart

Well, and they are right enough, A little the thing I am from what girls are. | By the torch they hold up now: for first, But then how far away, how hard to find

observe, Will anything about me have become, I never had a father, - no, nor yet Even if the boy bethink himself and ask! A mother: my own boy can say at least, 130 No father that ever knew at all, 90“I had a mother whom I kept two weeks !" Nor ever had — no, never had, I say! Not I, who little used to donbt ... I doubt That is the truth, - nor any mother left, I Good Pietro, kind Violante, gave me birth?

79

They loved me always as I love my babe As if we neither of us lacked excuse, 179 (- Nearly so, that is — quite so could not And anyhow are punished to the full, be

And downright love atones for everything! Did for me all I meant to do for him, Nay, I heard read out in the public court Till one surprising day, three years ago, Before the judge, in presence of my friends, They both declared, at Rome, before some Letters 't was said the priest had sent to me, judge

And other letters sent bim by myself, In some court where the people flocked to We being lovers! bear, .

139 That really I had never been their child,

Listen what this is like! Was a mere castaway, the careless crime When I was a mere child, my mother ... Of an unknown man, the crime and care too

that's much

Violante, you must let me call her so, Of a woman known too well, - little to Nor waste time, trying to unlearn the these,

word, ... Therefore, of whom I was the flesh and She brought a neighbor's child of my own blood:

age What then to Pietro and Violante, both | To play with me of rainy afternoons: No more my relatives than you or you? And, since there hung a tapestry on the Nothing to them! You know what they

wall, declared.

We two agreed to find each other out

Among the figures. « Tisbe, that is you, So with my husband, — just such a surprise, With half-moon on your hair-knot, spear in Such a mistake, in that relationship!

hand, Every one says that husbands love their Flying, but no wings, only the great scarf wives,

150 Blown to a bluish rainbow at your back: Guard them and guide them, give them Call off your hound and leave the stag happiness;

alone!” 'Tis duty, law, pleasure, religion: well, | “ — And there are you, Pompilia, such You see how much of this comes true in

green leaves

190 mine!

Flourishing out of your five finger-ends, People indeed would fain have somehow And all the rest of you so brown and rough: proved

Why is it you are turned a sort of tree?" He was no husband: but he did not hear, You know the figures never were ourselves Or would not wait, and so has killed us all. Though we nicknamed them so. Thus, all Then there is . . . only let me name one

my life, more!

As well what was, as what, like this, was There is the friend, - men will not ask not, about,

158 Looks old, fantastic and impossible: But tell untruths of, and give nicknames to, I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades. And think my lover, most surprise of all ! — Even to my babe! I thought, when he Do only hear, it is the priest they mean,

was born, Giuseppe Caponsacchi: a priest -- love, Something began for once that would not And love me! Well, yet people think he

end, did.

Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay I am married, he has taken priestly vows, Forevermore, eternally quite mine. They know that, and yet go on, say, the Well, so he is, - but yet they bore him off, same,

The third day, lest my husband should lay “Yes, how he loves you!” “That was

traps love– they say,

And catch him, and by means of him catch When anything is answered that they ask:

me. Or else “ No wonder you love him ” — they Since they have saved him so, it was well say.

done: Then they shake heads, pity much, scarcely Yet thence comes such confusion of what

blame

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walk!

With what will be, - that late seems long | Oh what a happy friendly eve was that!

ago, And, what years should bring round, al And, next day, about noon, out Pietro ready come,

went-
Till even he withdraws into a dream 210 He was so happy and would talk so much,
As the rest do: I fancy him grown great, Until Violante pushed and laughed him
Strong, stern, a tall young man who tutors

forth
me,

Sight-seeing in the cold, — “So much to Frowns with the others, “ Poor imprudent child !

I’ the churches ! Swathe your throat three Why did you venture ont of the safe streets ?

times !” she cried, Why go so far from help to that lone house? “And, above all, beware the slippery ways, Why open at the whisper and the knock ?” And bring us all the news by supper

time!” Six days ago when it was New Year's day, | He came back late, laid by cloak, staff and We bent above the fire and talked of him,

hat, What he should do when he was grown and Powdered so thick with snow it made us great.

laugh, Violante, Pietro, each had given the arm Rolled a great log upon the ash o' the I leant on, to walk by, from couch to chair

hearth, And fireside, laughed, as I lay safe at last, And bade Violante treat us to a flask, “ Pompilia's march from bed to board is Because he had obeyed her faithfully, made,

Gone sight-see through the seven, and found Pompilia back again and with a babe,

no church Shall one day lend his arm and help her | To his mind like San Giovanni — “There's

the fold,

- 260 Then we all wished each other more New And all the sheep together, big as cats! Years.

And such a shepherd, half the size of life, Pietro began to scheme — “ Our cause is Starts up and hears the angel” — when, at gained;

the door, The law is stronger than a wicked man: A tap: we started np: you know the rest. Let him henceforth go his way, leave us

Pietro at least had done no harm, I know; We will avoid the city, tempt no more 230 Nor even Violante, so much harm as makes The greedy ones by feasting and parade, – Such revenge lawful. Certainly she erred Live at the other villa, we know where, Did wrong, how shall I dare say otherStill farther off, and we can watch the babe

wise ? — Grow fast in the good air; and wood is In telling that first falsehood, buying me cheap

From my poor faulty mother at a price, 270 And wine sincere outside the city gate. To pass off upon Pietro as his child. I still have two or three old friends will If one should take my babe, give him a

grope Their way along the mere half-mile of road, Say he was not Gaetano and my own, With staff and lantern on a moonless night But that some other woman made his month When one needs talk: they 'll find me, never And hands and feet, - how very false were fear,

that! And I'll find them a flask of the old sort No good could come of that; and all barm

240

did. Violante said, “You chatter like a crow: Yet if a stranger were to represent Pompilia tires o' the tattle, and sball to bed: “Needs must you either give your babe to Do not too much the first day, - somewhat more

And let me call him mine forevermore, To-morrow, and, the next, begin the cape Or let your husband get him” – ah, my And hood and coat! I have spun wool

God,

280 enough."

That were a trial I refuse to face !

ours!

name,

yet!”

me

Well, just so here: it proved wrong but This it was set her on to make amends, seemed right

This brought about the marriage — simply To poor Violante — for there lay, she said,

this! My poor real dying mother in her rags, Do let me speak for her you blame so Who put me from her with the life and all,

much! Poverty, pain, shame and disease at once, When Paul, my busband's brother, found To die the easier by what price I fetched —

me out, Also (I hope) because I should be spared Heard there was wealth for who should Sorrow and sin, — why may not that have

marry me, helped ?

1 289 So, came and made a speech to ask my My father, — he was no one, any one,

hand The worse, the likelier, — call him, — he For Guido, – she, instead of piercing who came,

straight Was wicked for his pleasure, went his way, Through the pretence to the ignoble truth, And left no trace to track by; there re Fancied she saw God's very finger point, mained

Designate just the time for planting me Nothing but me, the unnecessary life, (The wild-brier slip she plucked to love and To catch up or let fall, - and yet a thing

wear) She could make happy, be made happy In soil where I could strike real root, and with,

grow, This poor Violante, — who would frown And get to be the thing I called myself: thereat ?

For, wife and husband are one flesh, God

says, Well, God, you see! God plants us where And I, whose parents seemed such and we grow.

were none, It is not that, because a bud is born

Should in a husband have a husband now, At a wild brier's end, full i' the wild beast's Find nothing, this time, but was what it way,

seemed, We ought to pluck and put it out of reach - All truth and no confusion any more. On the oak-tree top, — say, “There the I know she meant all good to me, all pain bud belongs !"

To herself, — since how could it be augbt She thought, moreover, real lies were lies but pain

To give me up, so, from her very breast, For harm's sake; whereas this had good at The wilding flower-tree-branch that, all heart,

those years, Good for my mother, good for me, and She had got used to feel for and find fixed ? good

She meant well: has it been so ill i the For Pietro who was meant to love a babe,

main ?

340 And needed one to make bis life of use, That is but fair to ask: one cannot judge Receive his house and land when he should Of what has been the ill or well of life, die.

The day that one is dying, - Sorrows Wrong, wrong, and always wrong! how

change plainly wrong!

Into not altogether sorrow-like; For see, this fault kept pricking, as faults I do see strangeness but scarce misery,

3r0 Now it is over, and no danger more. All the same at her heart: this falsehood My child is safe; there seems not so much hatched,

pain. She could not let it go nor keep it fast. It comes, most like, that I am just absolved, She told me so, the first time I was Purged of the past, the foul in me, washed found :

fair, Locked in her arms once more after the One cannot both have and not have, you pain,

know,

350 When the nuns let me leave them and go Being right now, I am happy and color home,

things. And both of us cried all the cares away, - | Yes, everybody that leaves life sees all

300

told

do,

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