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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mansana - Chapter 12
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Captain Mansana - Chapter 12 Post by :Dusty13 Category :Long Stories Author :Bjornstjerne Bjornson Date :May 2012 Read :2895

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Captain Mansana - Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII

Giuseppe Mansana had gone to Borghi's quarters without finding him, and had searched for him in vain at the _cafe frequented by the officers of the garrison, and later in the day, among the crowds of holiday-makers. During these wanderings he encountered many officers of his acquaintance, some of them accompanied by civilian friends, and it struck him that they relapsed into silence when they saw him, and spoke to one another in whispers as he passed them. Yet he felt that, whatever might be thought of the enterprise on which he was now embarked, he was in honour bound to carry it through successfully.

Late in the evening, worn out in mind and body, but alert and watchful, he sat down in front of the _cafe which faced the Brandinis' apartments. There was a light in Amanda's window. She was putting together the few necessaries she proposed to take with her, for, in order to give their journey the appearance of a short, casual trip, she had decided to leave their weightier luggage to be sent after them. But to Mansana it appeared more than likely that this lighted casement was intended to be a signal to some one. And presently it seemed as if his suspicions were correct. Wearied with the strain and fatigue of the day, Amanda stepped out upon the verandah, for a breath of fresh air. Her movements were very perceptible as she stood with her figure thrown into relief against the light within, and Mansana could see that she bent down to peer into the darkened square below her. Was she then expecting somebody who would come into the square from the side street? It seemed so, and presently steps were heard approaching from that direction. The newcomer was a man who kept close under the shadow of the houses, as he made his way to the foot of Amanda's balcony. As he passed under a street lamp, the light just enabled Mansana to catch a hurried glimpse of an officer's kepi, and a young, clean-shaven face, and he also noticed that Amanda bent still lower over the trellis of the verandah. A young girl in love--especially when her love is clouded by danger--is apt to imagine that she sees her lover's figure everywhere. The officer slackened his pace as his eyes fell upon her, and under the balcony itself he halted and looked up. Amanda retired hastily from the verandah, closing the windows behind her as she entered the room, and the officer passed on. Was this their mode of arranging a rendezvous? With rapid strides Mansana crossed the square, but the stranger had already reached the street that led out of it, and when Mansana turned the corner in pursuit, he was no longer in sight. In which house had he taken refuge? Mansana could hardly knock up the whole street to inquire, and was perforce obliged to abandon the pursuit.

It was, in fact, a mere accident. A young officer who happened to be lodging in the neighbouring street, paused for a moment under a balcony, on which he saw a young lady standing alone. Yet it was this trivial accident which virtually determined Mansana's destiny.

He went to bed, not to sleep, but to pass the night tossing restlessly in wakeful anguish, and registering an oath, again and again, that before the next day had passed she should be his or he would cease to live. But the next morning she did not appear at the trysting-place on the hillside. An hour he waited, but there was no sign of his friends, and he made his way to the house in which they lived. Before the door of their apartment he found an old woman carrying a tray with their breakfast, and to the door itself was fixed a sheet of paper. As Mansana lifted the knocker, the old woman said to him, "There seems to be no one within. Will you read the paper which hangs there?" Mansana did so:

"Gone away; will write. B."

That was all. Heedless of the old woman, who called after him to ask what the paper said, he flung it from him and strode hastily away.

* * *

When the Princess Leaney arrived at Ancona on the following day, and found no Mansana there to greet her at the railway station, she was seized by a sudden indefinable apprehension. Hurrying to the telegraph-office she sent him an anxiously worded despatch, which testified to her alarm. She went home, and waited for the answer, her fears gaining ground as the minutes went by. At length a messenger arrived with the money that had been paid for the reply to the telegram, and the information that the message could not be delivered, as Captain Mansana had quitted the town.

At this her fears completely overwhelmed her. The self-reproach, under which she had lived for days, assumed mountainous proportions, and its shadow seemed to blot out all other thoughts. She must find him wherever he was, talk to him, care for him, yes, and nurse him, if, as she gravely feared, there was need for that. The same evening, with one servant only in attendance, she was on the platform of the railway station.

At dawn of the next day she was pacing backwards and forwards at the junction where the train from the West was to be met. She paid no attention to her few fellow-travellers, in whom, however, her self-absorption added to the interest and curiosity she aroused as she swept by them in her restless walk to and fro, with her long white fur cloak thrown back over her shoulders, and her loose hair and floating veil tangled together below her fur cap. In her large, wide-opened eyes, and in the whole face, there was the tense expression of overwrought emotion and exhaustion. In her walk she several times passed a tall lady, very simply dressed, who was looking intently into the luggage van, round which a busy little group had collected. Once, just as Theresa passed the group, an officer came up and spoke a few words to the lady, and in answer to a question addressed to him by one of the railway officials, replied with the word "Mansana."

The princess started.

"Mansana?" she cried. "What----"

"Princess Leaney?" exclaimed the officer, in accents of astonishment, as he saluted her.

"Is it you, Major Sardi?" she answered, and added hastily: "But Mansana? What of him? You mentioned his name."

"Yes. This is his mother."

The Major presented the younger lady to the elder. As the mother drew her veil aside, the calm, noble face that was revealed filled Theresa with an instant sense of confidence and strength. She threw herself into the lady's arms as if she had found there a haven of refuge from all her storms of anxiety and distress, and burst into a convulsive fit of weeping.

The Signora Mansana said nothing, but she soothed the agitated girl with a few gentle and caressing touches of her hand, and stood waiting quietly till her passion had spent itself and she had regained her self-possession. Presently Theresa was sufficiently composed to ask where Mansana was.

"That," answered the elder lady calmly, "we none of us know."

"But we hope to find out before long," added the Major.

White as a sheet, Theresa sprang up, and looked from one to another.

"Tell me," she cried; "what is it that has happened?"

Thoughtful and composed, the older woman, who had been through so much of storm and stress, said quietly:

"We have the same journey before us, I imagine. Let us get a carriage to ourselves, and then we can talk matters over, and consider what is best to be done."

The suggestion was gratefully accepted and acted upon.

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CHAPTER XIIIThe Brandinis had sought refuge in the house of Nina Borghi, the old man's sister, and the mother of Luigi, and it so happened that the train by which they fled was the same in which the hero Luigi also took his flight. It was, however, only early the next morning, at a station, just as Luigi was leaving the train, that they discovered each other. The unexpected sight of them so put Luigi off his balance, he would have passed them without speaking, but that the old man seized him by the arm and obliged him to listen to
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CHAPTER XIThat same evening, Amanda's curiosity was stirred by receiving a letter conveyed to her with every appearance of precaution. She struck a light, and found that it came from Luigi--the first he had ever sent to her--and thus it ran: "MY AMANDA,--There is a madman in pursuit of me, and he threatens my life. An hour ago he got me to swear solemnly, and to put my hand to the oath, that I would renounce all pretensions to you, and never even speak to you again. I was a poltroon to submit to it. I know that well enough, and
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