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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDon Orsino - Chapter 23
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Don Orsino - Chapter 23 Post by :James Category :Long Stories Author :F. Marion Crawford Date :May 2011 Read :1816

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Don Orsino - Chapter 23


Orsino was not in an enviable frame of mind when he left the hotel. It is easier to bear suffering when one clearly understands all its causes, and distinguishes just how great a part of it is inevitable and how great a part may be avoided or mitigated. In the present case there was much in the situation which it passed his power to analyse or comprehend. He still possessed the taste for discovering motives in the actions of others as well as in his own, but many months of a busy life had dulled the edge of the artificial logic in which he had formerly delighted, while greatly sharpening his practical wit. Artificial analysis supplies from the imagination the details lacking in facts, but common sense needs something more tangible upon which to work. Orsino felt that the chief circumstance which had determined Maria Consuelo's conduct had escaped him, and he sought in vain to detect it.

He rejected the supposition that she was acting upon a caprice, that she had yesterday believed it possible to marry him, while a change of humour made marriage seem out of the question to-day. She was as capricious as most women, perhaps, but not enough so for that. Besides, she had been really consistent. Not even yesterday had she been shaken for a moment in her resolution not to be Orsino's wife. To-day had confirmed yesterday therefore. However Orsino might have still doubted her intention when he had gone to her side for the last time, her behaviour then and her final words had been unmistakable. She meant to leave Rome at once.

Yet the reasons she had given him for her conduct were not sufficient in his eyes. The difference of age was so small that it could safely be disregarded. Her promise to the dying Aranjuez was an engagement, he thought, by which no person of sense should expect her to abide. As for the question of her birth, he relied on that speech of Spicca's which he so well remembered. Spicca might have spoken the words thoughtlessly, it was true, and believing that Orsino would never, under any circumstances whatever, think seriously of marrying Maria Consuelo. But Spicca was not a man who often spoke carelessly, and what he said generally meant at least as much as it appeared to mean.

It was doubtless true that Maria Consuelo was ignorant of her mother's name. Nevertheless, it was quite possible that her mother had been Spicca's wife. Spicca's life was said to be full of strange events not generally known. But though his daughter might, and doubtless did believe herself a nameless child, and, as such, no match for the heir of the Saracinesca, Orsino could not see why she should have insisted upon a parting so sudden, so painful and so premature. She knew as much yesterday and had known it all along. Why, if she possessed such strength of character, had she allowed matters to go so far when she could easily have interrupted the course of events at an earlier period? He did not admit that she perhaps loved him so much as to have been carried away by her passion until she found herself on the point of doing him an injury by marrying him, and that her love was strong enough to induce her to sacrifice herself at the critical moment. Though he loved her much he did not believe her to be heroic in any way. On the contrary, he said to himself that if she were sincere, and if her love were at all like his own, she would let no obstacle stand in the way of it. To him, the test of love must be its utter recklessness. He could not believe that a still better test may be, and is, the constant forethought for the object of love, and the determination to protect that object from all danger in the present and from all suffering in the future, no matter at what cost.

Perhaps it is not easy to believe that recklessness is a manifestation of the second degree of passion, while the highest shows itself in painful sacrifice. Yet the most daring act of chivalry never called for half the bravery shown by many a martyr at the stake, and if courage be a measure of true passion, the passion which will face life-long suffering to save its object from unhappiness or degradation is greater than the passion which, for the sake of possessing its object, drags it into danger and the risk of ruin. It may be that all this is untrue, and that the action of these two imaginary individuals, the one sacrificing himself, the other endangering the loved one, is dependent upon the balance of the animal, intellectual and moral elements in each. We do not know much about the causes of what we feel, in spite of modern analysis; but the heart rarely deceives us, when we can see the truth for ourselves, into bestowing the more praise upon the less brave of two deeds. But we do not often see the truth as it is. We know little of the lives of others, but we are apt to think that other people understand our own very well, including our good deeds if we have done any, and we expect full measure of credit for these, and the utmost allowance of charity for our sins. In other words we desire our neighbour to combine a power of forgiveness almost divine with a capacity for flattery more than parasitic. That is why we are not easily satisfied with our acquaintances and that is why our friends do not always turn out to be truthful persons. We ask too much for the low price we offer, and if we insist we get the imitation.

Orsino loved Maria Consuelo with all his heart, as much as a young man of little more than one and twenty can love the first woman to whom he is seriously attached. There was nothing heroic in the passion, perhaps, nothing which could ultimately lead to great results. But it was a strong love, nevertheless, with much, of devotion in it and some latent violence. If he did not marry Maria Consuelo, it was not likely that he would ever love again in exactly the same way. His next love would be either far better or far worse, far nobler or far baser--perhaps a little less human in either case.

He walked slowly away from the hotel, unconscious of the people in the street and not thinking of the direction he took. His brain was in a whirl and his thoughts seemed to revolve round some central point upon which they could not concentrate themselves even for a second. The only thing of which he was sure was that Maria Consuelo had taken herself from him suddenly and altogether, leaving him with a sense of loneliness which he had not known before. He had gone to her in considerable distress about his affairs, with the certainty of finding sympathy and perhaps advice. He came away, as some men have returned from a grave accident, apparently unscathed it may be, but temporarily deprived of some one sense, of sight, or hearing, or touch. He was not sure that he was awake, and his troubled reflexions came back by the same unvarying round to the point he had reached the first time--if Maria Consuelo really loved him, she would not let such obstacles as she spoke of hinder her union with him.

For a time Orsino was not conscious of any impulse to act. Gradually, however, his real nature asserted itself, and he remembered how he had told her not long ago that if she went away he would follow her, and how he had said that the world was small and that he would soon find her again. It would undoubtedly be a simple matter to accompany her, if she left Rome. He could easily ascertain the hour of her intended departure and that alone would tell him the direction she had chosen. When she found that she had not escaped him she would very probably give up the attempt and come back, her humour would change and his own eloquence would do the rest.

He stopped in his walk, looked at his watch and glanced about him. He was at some distance from the hotel and it was growing dusk, for the days were already short. If Maria Consuelo really meant to leave Rome precipitately, she might go by the evening train to Paris and in that case the people of the hotel would have been informed of her intended departure.

Orsino only admitted the possibility of her actually going away while believing in his heart that she would remain. He slowly retraced his steps, and it was seven o'clock before he asked the hotel porter by what train Madame d'Aranjuez was leaving. The porter did not know whether the lady was going north or south, but he called another man, who went in search of a third, who disappeared for some time.

"Is it sure that Madame d'Aranjuez goes to-night?" asked Orsino trying to look indifferent.

"Quite sure. Her rooms will be free to-morrow."

Orsino turned away and slowly paced up and down the marble pavement between the tall plants, waiting for the messenger to come back.

"Madame d'Aranjuez leaves at nine forty-five," said the man, suddenly reappearing.

Orsino hesitated a moment, and then made up his mind.

"Ask Madame if she will receive me for a moment," he said, producing a card.

The servant went away and again Orsino walked backwards and forwards, pale now and very nervous. She was really going, and was going north--probably to Paris.

"Madame regrets infinitely that she is not able to receive the Signor Prince," said the man in black at Orsino's elbow. "She is making her preparations for the journey."

"Show me where I can write a note," said Orsino, who had expected the answer.

He was shown into the reading-room and writing materials were set before him. He hurriedly wrote a few words to Maria Consuelo, without form of address and without signature.

"I will not let you go without me. If you will not see me, I will be in the train, and I will not leave you, wherever you go. I am in earnest."

He looked at the sheet of note-paper and wondered that he should find nothing more to say. But he had said all he meant, and sealing the little note he sent it up to Maria Consuelo with a request for an immediate answer. Just then the dinner bell of the hotel was rung. The reading-room was deserted. He waited five minutes, then ten, nervously turning over the newspapers and reviews on the long table, but quite unable to read even the printed titles. He rang and asked if there had been no answer to his note. The man was the same whom he had sent before. He said the note had been received at the door by the maid who had said that Madame d'Aranjuez would ring when her answer was ready. Orsino dismissed the servant and waited again. It crossed his mind that the maid might have pocketed the note and said nothing about it, for reasons of her own. He had almost determined to go upstairs and boldly enter the sitting-room, when the door opposite to him opened and Maria Consuelo herself appeared.

She was dressed in a dark close-fitting travelling costume, but she wore no hat. Her face was quite colourless and looked if possible even more unnaturally pale by contrast with her bright auburn hair. She shut the door behind her and stood still, facing Orsino in the glare of the electric lights.

"I did not mean to see you again," she said, slowly. "You have forced me to it."

Orsino made a step forward and tried to take her hand, but she drew back. The slight uncertainty often visible in the direction of her glance had altogether disappeared and her eyes met Orsino's directly and fearlessly.

"Yes," he answered. "I have forced you to it. I know it, and you cannot reproach me if I have. I will not leave you. I am going with you wherever you go."

He spoke calmly, considering the great emotion he felt, and there was a quiet determination in his words and tone which told how much he was in earnest. Maria Consuelo half believed that she could dominate him by sheer force of will, and she would not give up the idea, even now.

"You will not go with me, you will not even attempt it," she said.

It would have been difficult to guess from her face at that moment that she loved him. Her face was pale and the expression was almost hard. She held her head high as though she were looking down at him, though he towered above her from his shoulders.

"You do not understand me," he answered, quietly. "When I say that I will go with you, I mean that I will go."

"Is this a trial of strength?" she asked after a moment's pause.

"If it is, I am not conscious of it. It costs me no effort to go--it would cost me much to stay behind--too much."

He stood quite still before her, looking steadily into her eyes. There was a short silence, and then she suddenly looked down, moved and turned away, beginning to walk slowly about. The room was large, and he paced the floor beside her, looking down at her bent head.

"Will you stay if I ask you to?"

The question came in a lower and softer tone than she had used before.

"I will go with you," answered Orsino as firmly as ever.

"Will you do nothing for my asking?"

"I will do anything but that."

"But that is all I ask."

"You are asking the impossible."

"There are many reasons why you should not come with me. Have you thought of them all?"


"You should. You ought to know, without being told by me, that you would be doing me a great injustice and a great injury in following me. You ought to know what the world will say of it. Remember that I am alone."

"I will marry you."

"I have told you that it is impossible--no, do not answer me! I will not go over all that again. I am going away to-night. That is the principal thing--the only thing that concerns you. Of course, if you choose, you can get into the same train and pursue me to the end of the world. I cannot prevent you. I thought I could, but I was mistaken. I am alone. Remember that, Orsino. You know as well as I what will be said--and the fact is sure to be known."

"People will say that I am following you--"

"They will say that we are gone together, for every one will have reason to say it. Do you suppose that nobody is aware of our--our intimacy during the last month?"

"Why not say our love?"

"Because I hope no one knows of that--well, if they do--Orsino, be kind! Let me go alone--as a man of honour, do not injure me by leaving Rome with me, nor by following me when I am gone!"

She stopped and looked up into his face with an imploring glance. To tell the truth, Orsino had not foreseen that she might appeal to his honour, alleging the danger to her reputation. He bit his lip and avoided her eyes. It was hard to yield, and to yield so quickly, as it seemed to him.

"How long will you stay away?" he asked in a constrained voice.

"I shall not come back at all."

He wondered at the firmness of her tone and manner. Whatever the real ground of her resolution might be, the resolution itself had gained strength since they had parted little more than an hour earlier. The belief suddenly grew upon him again that she did not love him.

"Why are you going at all?" he asked abruptly. "If you loved me at all, you would stay."

She drew a sharp breath and clasped her hands nervously together.

"I should stay if I loved you less. But I have told you--I will not go over it all again. This must end--this saying good-bye! It is easier to end it at once."

"Easier for you--"

"You do not know what you are saying. You will know some day. If you can bear this, I cannot."

"Then stay--if you love me, as you say you do."

"As I say I do!"

Her eyes grew very grave and sad as she stopped and looked at him again. Then she held out both her hands.

"I am going, now. Good-bye."

The blood came back to Orsino's face. It seemed to him that he had reached the crisis of his life and his instinct was to struggle hard against his fate. With a quick movement he caught her in his arms, lifting her from her feet and pressing her close to him.

"You shall not go!"

He kissed her passionately again and again, while she fought to be free, straining at his arms with her small white hands and trying to turn her face from him.

"Why do you struggle? It is of no use." He spoke in very soft deep tones, close to her ear.

She shook her head desperately and still did her best to slip from him, though she might as well have tried to break iron clamps with her fingers.

"It is of no use," he repeated, pressing her still more closely to him.

"Let me go!" she cried, making a violent effort, as fruitless as the last.


Then she was quite still, realising that she had no chance with him.

"Is it manly to be brutal because you are strong?" she asked. "You hurt me."

Orsino's arms relaxed, and he let her go. She drew a long breath and moved a step backward and towards the door.

"Good-bye," she said again. But this time she did not hold out her hand, though she looked long and fixedly into his face.

Orsino made a movement as though he would have caught her again. She started and put out her hand behind her towards the latch. But he did not touch her. She softly opened the door, looked at him once more and went out.

When he realised that she was gone he sprang after her, calling her by name.


There were a few people walking in the broad passage. They stared at Orsino, but he did not heed them as he passed by. Maria Consuelo was not there, and he understood in a moment that it would be useless to seek her further. He stood still a moment, entered the reading-room again, got his hat and left the hotel without looking behind him.

All sorts of wild ideas and schemes flashed through his brain, each more absurd and impracticable than the last. He thought of going back and finding Maria Consuelo's maid--he might bribe her to prevent her mistress's departure. He thought of offering the driver of the train an enormous sum to do some injury to his engine before reaching the first station out of Rome. He thought of stopping Maria Consuelo's carriage on her way to the tram and taking her by main force to his father's house. If she were compromised in such a way, she would be almost obliged to marry him. He afterwards wondered at the stupidity of his own inventions on that evening, but at the time nothing looked impossible.

He bethought him of Spicca. Perhaps the old man possessed some power over his daughter after all and could prevent her flight if he chose. There were yet nearly two hours left before the train started. If worst came to worst, Orsino could still get to the station at the last minute and leave Rome with her.

He took a passing cab and drove to Spicca's lodgings. The count was at home, writing a letter by the light of a small lamp. He looked up in surprise as Orsino entered, then rose and offered him a chair.

"What has happened, my friend?" he asked, glancing curiously at the young man's face.

"Everything," answered Orsino. "I love Madame d'Aranjuez, she loves me, she absolutely refuses to marry me and she is going to Paris at a quarter to ten. I know she is your daughter and I want you to prevent her from leaving. That is all, I believe."

Spicca's cadaverous face did not change, but the hollow eyes grew bright and fixed their glance on an imaginary point at an immense distance, and the thin hand that lay on the edge of the table closed slowly upon the projecting wood. For a few moments he said nothing, but when he spoke he seemed quite calm.

"If she has told you that she is my daughter," he said, "I presume that she has told you the rest. Is that true?"

Orsino was impatient for Spicca to take some immediate action, but he understood that the count had a right to ask the question.

"She has told me that she does not know her mother's name, and that you killed her husband."

"Both these statements are perfectly true at all events. Is that all you know?"

"All? Yes--all of importance. But there is no time to be lost. No one but you can prevent her from leaving Rome to-night. You must help me quickly."

Spicca looked gravely at Orsino and shook his head. The light that had shone in his eyes for a moment was gone, and he was again his habitual, melancholy, indifferent self.

"I cannot stop her," he said, almost listlessly.

"But you can--you will, you must!" cried Orsino laying a hand on the old man's thin arm. "She must not go--"

"Better that she should, after all. Of what use is it for her to stay? She is quite right. You cannot marry her."

"Cannot marry her? Why not? It is not long since you told me very plainly that you wished I would marry her. You have changed your mind very suddenly, it seems to me, and I would like to know why. Do you remember all you said to me?"

"Yes, and I was in earnest, as I am now. And I was wrong in telling you what I thought at the time."

"At the time! How can matters have changed so suddenly?"

"I do not say that matters have changed. I have. That is the important thing. I remember the occasion of our conversation very well. Madame d'Aranjuez had been rather abrupt with, me, and you and I went away together. I forgave her easily enough, for I saw that she was unhappy--then I thought how different her life might be if she were married to you. I also wished to convey to you a warning, and it did not strike me that you would ever seriously contemplate such a marriage."

"I think you are in a certain way responsible for the present situation," answered Orsino. "That is the reason why I come to you for help."

Spicca turned upon the young man rather suddenly.

"There you go too far," he said. "Do you mean to tell me that you have asked that lady to marry you because I suggested it?"

"No, but--"

"Then I am not responsible at all. Besides, you might have consulted me again, if you had chosen. I have not been out of town. I sincerely wish that it were possible--yes, that is quite another matter. But it is not. If Madame d'Aranjuez thinks it is not, from her point of view there are a thousand reasons why I should consider it far more completely out of the question. As for preventing her from leaving Rome I could not do that even were I willing to try."

"Then I will go with her," said Orsino, angrily.

Spicca looked at him in silence for a few moments. Orsino rose to his feet and prepared to go.

"You leave me no choice," he said, as though Spicca had protested.

"Because I cannot and will not stop her? Is that any reason why you should compromise her reputation as you propose to do?"

"It is the best of reasons. She will marry me then, out of necessity."

Spicca rose also, with more alacrity than generally characterised his movements. He stood before the empty fireplace, watching the young man narrowly.

"It is not a good reason," he said, presently, in quiet tones. "You are not the man to do that sort of thing. You are too honourable."

"I do not see anything dishonourable in following the woman I love."

"That depends on the way in which you follow her. If you go quietly home to-night and write to your father that you have decided to go to Paris for a few days and will leave to-morrow, if you make your arrangements like a sensible being and go away like a sane man, I have nothing to say in the matter--"

"I presume not--" interrupted Orsino, facing the old man somewhat fiercely.

"Very well. We will not quarrel yet. We will reserve that pleasure for the moment when you cease to understand me. That way of following her would be bad enough, but no one would have any right to stop you."

"No one has any right to stop me, as it is."

"I beg your pardon. The present circumstances are different. In the first instance the world would say that you were in love with Madame d'Aranjuez and were pursuing her to press your suit--of whatever nature that might be. In the second case the world will assert that you and she, not meaning to be married, have adopted the simple plan of going away together. That implies her consent, and you have no right to let any one imply that. I say, it is not honourable to let people think that a lady is risking her reputation for you and perhaps sacrificing it altogether, when she is in reality trying to escape from you. Am I right, or not?"

"You are ingenious, at all events. You talk as though the whole world were to know in half an hour that I have gone to Paris in the same train with Madame d'Aranjuez. That is absurd!"

"Is it? I think not. Half an hour is little, perhaps, but half a day is enough. You are not an insignificant son of an unknown Roman citizen, nor is Madame d'Aranjuez a person who passes unnoticed. Reporters watch people like you for items of news, and you are perfectly well known by sight. Apart from that, do you think that your servants will not tell your friends' servants of your sudden departure, or that Madame d'Aranjuez' going will not be observed? You ought to know Rome better than that. I ask you again, am I right or wrong?"

"What difference will it make, if we are married immediately?"

"She will never marry you. I am convinced of that."

"How can you know? Has she spoken to you about it?"

"I am the last person to whom she would come."

"Her own father--"

"With limitations. Besides, I had the misfortune to deprive her of the chosen companion of her life, and at a critical moment. She has not forgotten that."

"No she has not," answered Orsino gloomily. The memory of Aranjuez was a sore point. "Why did you kill him?" he asked, suddenly.

"Because he was an adventurer, a liar and a thief--three excellent reasons for killing any man, if one can. Moreover he struck her once--with that silver paper cutter which she insists on using--and I saw it from a distance. Then I killed him. Unluckily I was very angry and made a little mistake, so that he lived twelve hours, and she had time to get a priest and marry him. She always pretends that he struck her in play, by accident, as he was showing her something about fencing. I was in the next room and the door was open--it did not look like play. And she still thinks that he was the paragon of all virtues. He was a handsome devil--something like you, but shorter, with a bad eye. I am glad I killed him."

Spicca had looked steadily at Orsino while speaking. When he ceased, he began to walk about the small room with something of his old energy. Orsino roused himself. He had almost begun to forget his own position in the interest of listening to the count's short story.

"So much for Aranjuez," said Spicca. "Let us hear no more of him. As for this mad plan of yours, you are convinced, I suppose, and you will give it up. Go home and decide in the morning. For my part, I tell you it is useless. She will not marry you. Therefore leave her alone and do nothing which can injure her."

"I am not convinced," answered Orsino doggedly.

"Then you are not your father's son. No Saracinesca that I ever knew would do what you mean to do--would wantonly tarnish the good name of a woman--of a woman who loves him too--and whose only fault is that she cannot marry him."

"That she will not."

"That she cannot."

"Do you give me your word that she cannot?"

"She is legally free to marry whom she pleases, with or without my consent."

"That is all I want to know. The rest is nothing to me--"

"The rest is a great deal. I beg you to consider all I have said, and I am sure that you will, quite sure. There are very good reasons for not telling you or any one else all the details I know in this story--so good that I would rather go to the length of a quarrel with you than give them all. I am an old man, Orsino, and what is left of life does not mean much to me. I will sacrifice it to prevent your opening this door unless you tell me that you give up the idea of leaving Rome to-night."

As he spoke he placed himself before the closed door and faced the young man. He was old, emaciated, physically broken down, and his hands were empty. Orsino was in his first youth, tall, lean, active and very strong, and no coward. He was moreover in an ugly humour and inclined to be violent on much smaller provocation than he had received. But Spicca imposed upon him, nevertheless, for he saw that he was in earnest. Orsino was never afterwards able to recall exactly what passed through his mind at that moment. He was physically able to thrust Spicca aside and to open the door, without so much as hurting him. He did not believe that, even in that case, the old man would have insisted upon the satisfaction of arms, nor would he have been afraid to meet him if a duel had been required. He knew that what withheld him from an act of violence was neither fear nor respect for his adversary's weakness and age. Yet he was quite unable to define the influence which at last broke down his resolution. It was in all probability only the resultant of the argument Spicca had brought to bear and which Maria Consuelo had herself used in the first instance, and of Spicca's calm, undaunted personality.

The crisis did not last long. The two men faced each other for ten seconds and then Orsino turned away with an impatient movement of the shoulders.

"Very well," he said. "I will not go with her."

"It is best so," answered Spicca, leaving the door and returning to his seat.

"I suppose that she will let you know where she is, will she not?" asked Orsino.

"Yes. She will write to me."

"Good-night, then."


Without shaking hands, and almost without a glance at the old man, Orsino left the room.

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Don Orsino - Chapter 24 Don Orsino - Chapter 24

Don Orsino - Chapter 24
CHAPTER XXIVOrsino walked slowly homeward, trying to collect his thoughts and to reach some distinct determination with regard to the future. He was oppressed by the sense of failure and disappointment and felt inclined to despise himself for his weakness in yielding so easily. To all intents and purposes he had lost Maria Consuelo, and if he had not lost her through his own fault, he had at least tamely abandoned what had seemed like a last chance of winning her back. As he thought of all that had happened he tried to fix some point in the past, at which

Don Orsino - Chapter 22 Don Orsino - Chapter 22

Don Orsino - Chapter 22
CHAPTER XXII.Orsino felt suddenly relieved when he had left his office in the afternoon. Contini's gloomy mood was contagious, and so long as Orsino was with him it was impossible not to share the architect's view of affairs. Alone, however, things did not seem so bad. As a matter of fact it was almost impossible for the young man to give up all his illusions concerning his own success in one moment, and to believe himself the dupe of his own blind vanity instead of regarding himself as the winner in the fight for independence of thought and action. He could