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Captain Mansana - Chapter 5 Post by :cclittle Category :Long Stories Author :Bjornstjerne Bjornson Date :May 2012 Read :593

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Captain Mansana - Chapter 5

CHAPTER V

We have seen how Mansana bore himself in the funeral procession the next day, and we know now why he walked behind his father's bier with that elastic gait, that buoyant and springy step. He had expected to find in the woman he had insulted, an implacable adversary, and was prepared to meet her enmity with disdain. But a single glance in the Corso from the eyes of Theresa Leaney, as she stood there in all her triumphant brilliancy and beauty, had set up a new image in his soul. It was the image of Theresa herself as the radiant goddess and mistress of his being. Before her majestic purity, how false and empty seemed all the calumnies he had heard! How vulgar and insolent his own audacious attack upon her! Was _this the woman he had had the effrontery to persecute, to annoy?

He pondered over the mental conditions which could make him capable of such a profanation. Step by step he traced their development, in his own harsh experiences of life, as he followed his father's body to the grave. He traced them back indeed to that father himself, since it was from him that he had inherited the bitter and perilous self-confidence which had sunk deep into his heart, and grown and flourished there. Under such influences he had indulged, to the full, the crude, wilful, egoism which had made him a law unto himself and his own desires and impulses the only standard by which he tested his actions, even as his father had done before him.

How often he had seen his mother weep! How often that noble and beautiful lady, as she sat alone with her boys, had let her tears fall in silent reproach of the man who had sacrificed wife, children, fortune, in a feverish pursuit of shadows. Yes, of shadows; for what was it that urged him on but the obstinate pride, the ambition, the vindictiveness, which in the beginning are often associated with patriotism and in the end are apt to become its masters? Giuseppe Mansana understood this as he thought over his own case and that of hundreds of others who passed in review before his mind.

The music clashed, the cannon thundered, the air was heavy with flowers and quivering with "Evvivas" in honour of his dead father's memory.

And yet, thought the son, what an empty, sterile life it had been after all. Plot and prison, prison and plot; with mother, wife, children, left to want, family estates sold, and nothing gained but the unquiet heart's alternations from suffering to revenge, from revenge to suffering again! And _that_, he mused, was my legacy from him: the suffering, the hatred, and with it all the vacant, unfulfilled life.

Close round him gathered the elder Mansana's old companions; they clasped his hand, they congratulated him on the honours paid to his father; they heaped praises on himself as one worthy to inherit a tradition so glorious.

And still his thoughts ran on. Yes, my life has been as hollow as his. The fierce joy of vengeance while the war lasted; when it ended a restless striving after adventure, a vain ambition, a proud sense of invincible success, took possession of my life--brutal, self-absorbed, hollow, all of it. And he vowed that henceforward his comrades should have something else to talk about besides the latest wild exploit of Giuseppe Mansana; and that he would keep before his mind a nobler ambition than the haughty satisfaction he derived from the consciousness that, whatever his own achievements might be, he never spoke of them or of himself.

As they drew nearer his father's native town, the demonstrations became more animated, and larger crowds poured forth to gaze at Giuseppe Mansana, the dead hero's son, already well known by reputation. But to that son himself, as he passed through the familiar haunts of his boyish days, it seemed as if he could perceive the figure of his grandmother sitting by the roadside and throwing stones at the procession as it went by. He could almost fancy the old woman aiming, in her impotent wrath, at that baneful influence which had trampled down her life, and with it, all she had gathered round her to make that life happy.

And so, when his mother's anxious, sorrow-laden eyes rested on his, he felt her glance almost as an insult. _She could know nothing of the thoughts that had been passing through his mind, nor realise how his own life had shaped itself before him as the gloomy sequel to his father's. But why should she gaze at him with those anxious, troubled eyes, at the very moment when he had resolved to cut himself adrift from all the temptations of ambition? The mute appeal awoke no answering softness in his breast, and he met it with a look of cold and obstinate negation.

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CHAPTER VITwo days later he was standing on the high ground near the wall, that surrounds the old Cathedral precincts in Ancona; his attention was riveted neither on the battered red marble lions which support the columns of the porch, nor yet upon the beauties of the bay which lay beneath him. His eyes wandered indiscriminately over the sailing vessels and the laden boats and barges, and over the busy, bustling life of the arsenal and the quays, but his thoughts were in the great church he had just quitted; for there he had seen _her_. A solemn ceremonial had brought
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CHAPTER IVWhen Princess Theresa Leaney came to herself again, all her strength and energy seemed gone from her. She would not rise, she scarcely touched her food, and allowed no one to remain near her. In silence her companion passed through the large mirror-room that adjoined the ante-room; in silence she returned when her duties were accomplished, and when she entered the small Gothic apartment which the princess occupied near the centre of the palace, she was still careful to observe the same silence. The servants followed her example. This elderly chaperon of Theresa's had been brought up in a convent,
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