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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mansana - Chapter 6
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Captain Mansana - Chapter 6 Post by :simkl Category :Long Stories Author :Bjornstjerne Bjornson Date :May 2012 Read :2611

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Captain Mansana - Chapter 6


Two 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 Theresa to the Cathedral. He had caught sight of her as she knelt in prayer; she, too, had noticed him, and, what was more, had shown herself evidently pleased to see him, and had greeted him with that look of indescribable meaning which had charmed him that other evening on the Corso. He could not continue gazing at her without making himself obtrusive or attracting attention; and, feeling the incense-laden gloom of the cathedral atmosphere intolerable, he had come outside into the free, fresh air, where his thoughts could wander in undisturbed harmony with the beauty of his surroundings. He heard the sound of the people pouring out of church behind him, and watched them, in their carriages or on foot, winding down the steep road at his feet. He would not look round, but waited persistently till he should see her also, immediately below him. Suddenly he heard footsteps, double footsteps, close behind him; his heart beat fast, a mist grew before his eyes; he dared not, for all the world, have turned round at that moment. The footsteps stopped; some one was standing quite near to him, fronting the old wall. He knew, as by an instinct, who it was, and, unless he would show himself discourteous, could now no longer refrain from turning round. She, in the meanwhile, had stood looking out over the bay, the ships, the sea, quick, however, to notice when he turned towards her. Her cheeks flushed, and their colour deepened as she said, smiling, "Pardon me for taking this opportunity, but I chanced to see you, and was anxious to offer you my thanks."

She stopped short; he saw that she had something more to say, but the words would not come, and he waited during what seemed to him an eternity, before she continued:

"Silence is sometimes the highest form of magnanimity--I thank you."

She bowed, and he took this opportunity of stealing another glance at her. How charming was her courteous movement! How bewitching her smile as she turned to leave him, followed by her companion! What grace in the inimitable walk, and in the exquisite figure, robed in its crimson velvet gown, across which her long veil fluttered playfully.

She walked in the direction of her carriage, which had been waiting for her some distance down the winding road, and now came to meet her, turning as it neared the upper wall. But before it reached her she heard rapid footsteps, almost quickening to a run, following her. She looked round and waited, well knowing whose steps they were. She was amused at his impulsive eagerness, and smiled, partly perhaps with an idea of putting him at his ease.

"I did not grasp your meaning at once," he said as he saluted her, the colour deepening on his sunburnt cheeks. "I should like you to know that it was not consideration for you which kept me silent, but regard for my own self-respect. I do not wish to be credited with an honour which is not my due. I beg you to forgive my gross rudeness."

His deep voice trembled; he bowed his head. Mansana was no orator, but the genuine earnestness of his words and manner, and the emotion evident in the hand which quivered as he raised it to his cap in farewell salutation, produced on the princess all the effect of real eloquence. Thus it came to pass that Princess Leaney, charmed by Mansana's candour, conceived a strong inclination to reward him--an inclination strengthened by thoughts of a great discovery she had just made concerning herself. And so it also happened that Princess Theresa left her carriage waiting, and walked past it, with Captain Mansana on one side of her, and the companion, as usual, on the other. Nor was this all, for the princess--still with Mansana at her side--walked back once more; and together, for more than a full hour, they strolled to and fro, with the old wall just above them and the glorious scenery at their feet. At last, however, she was in her carriage; she had driven away, and, at the turn where the steep and winding road led into the level highway, she had once again looked up to bow and smile in answer to his prolonged farewell salute. Yet, though more than another hour had passed since then, Mansana was still walking up and down alone. The bold curves and outlines of the bay, the green slopes of the mountain sides, the limitless expanse of deep blue sea, the distant sails, the curling wreaths of smoke in the horizon.... Ah! the untold beauties of this bay of Ancona.

In their unforeseen meeting on that memorable evening, she discovered in him traits of character and qualities not dissimilar to her own. She showed him that her earlier history and his had many points in common, while she confessed, too, the foolish obstinacy and restless ambition of her nature. He heard all this from her own lips with a joy he scarcely could conceal. His being seemed dominated by a hovering image of ideal beauty, shadowed, it is true, by faults and failings similar to his own, but enriched by a halo of grace and beauty which had power to draw even him within its rays. Ah! the bay of Ancona. How beautiful it was, with its curving shores, its waves tinged to a deep blue-black by every passing breeze, and, over all, a mellow tint which melted seawards into a misty, luminous haze!

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Captain Mansana - Chapter 7 Captain Mansana - Chapter 7

Captain Mansana - Chapter 7
CHAPTER VIIAfter this encounter, Mansana might very well have gone to visit the princess at her palace, but he still hesitated, perhaps with the secret hope that she might make one more advance towards him. The kind of self-brooding vanity, which he had so long cherished in secret, can be carried to absurd extremes, and is apt to be at once too retiring and too exacting. His shy reserve forbade him to call upon her, in spite of her express invitation, and yet he was audacious enough to cherish a hope that she would seek him at the place where he

Captain Mansana - Chapter 5 Captain Mansana - Chapter 5

Captain Mansana - Chapter 5
CHAPTER VWe 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