Italy : 29. Montorio

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  Generous, and ardent, and as romantic as he could be,
Montorio was in his earliest youth, when, on a summer-
evening, not many years ago, he arrived at the Baths of
* * *.  With a heavy heart, and with many a blessing  on
his head, he had set out on his travels at day-break.  It
was his first flight  from  home;  but he was not to enter
the world; and the moon was up and in the zenith, when
he alighted at the Three Moors,  a  venerable  house  of
vast dimensions, and anciently a palace of the Albertini
family, whose arms were emblazoned on the walls.
  Every window was full of light, and great was the stir,
Above and below; but his thoughts were on those he had
left so lately; and retiring early to rest,  and  to  a  couch,
the very  first  for  which  he had ever exchanged his own,
he was soon among them once more;  undisturbed in his
sleep by the music that came at intervals from a pavilion
in the garden, where some of the company had assembled
to dance.
  But, secluded as he was, he was not secure from intru-
sion;  and Fortune resolved on that night to play a frolic
in his chamber, a frolic that was to determine the colour
of his life.  Boccaccio himself has not recorded a wilder;
nor would he, if he had known it, have left the story untold.
  At first glimmering of day he awaked; and, look-
ing round, he beheld --- it could not be an illusion; yet
any thing so lovely, so angelical, he had never seen before
--- no, not even in his dreams --- a Lady still younger than
himself, and in the profoundest, the sweetest slumber by
his side.  But while he gazed, she was gone, and through
a door that had escaped his notice.  Like a Zephyr she
trod the floor with her dazzling and beautiful feet, and,
while he gazed, she was gone.  Yet still he gazed; and,
snatching up a bracelet which she had dropt in her flight,
'Then she is earthly!' he cried.  'But whence could she
come?  All innocence, all purity, she mst have wandered
in her sleep.'
  When he arose, his anxious eyes sought her every
where; but in vain.  Many of the young and the gay were
abroad, and moving as usual in the light of the morning;
but, among them all, there was nothing like Her.  Within
or without, she was nowhere to be seen;  and, at length,
in his despair he resolved to address himself to his Hostess.
  'Who were my nearest neighbours in that turret?'
  'The Marchioness de * * * * and her two daughters,
the Ladies Clara and Violetta; the youngest beautiful as
the day!'
  'And where are they now?'
  'They are gone; but we cannot say whither.  They
set out soon after sun-rise.'
  At  a  late  hour  they  had  left the pavilion, and  had
retired to their toilet-chamber, a  chamber  of  oak  richly
carved, that had once  been  an  oratory, and  afterwards,
what was no less essential to a house of that antiquity, a
place  of  resort  for  two  or  three  ghosts  of  the  family.
But, having  long  lost  its  sanctity,  it  had  now  lost  its
terrors; and, gloomy as its aspect was, Violetta was soon
sitting there alone.  'Go,'  said  she  to  her  sister,  when
her mother withdrew  for  the  night, and  her  sister  was
preparing to follow, 'Go, Clara.  I will not be long' ---------
and down she sat to a chapter of the Promessi Sposi.
  But she might well forget her promise, forgetting where
she was.  She was now under the wand of an enchanter,
and  she  read  and  read  till  the  clock struck three,  and
the taper flickered in the socket.  She started up  as  from
a trance;  she threw off her wreath of roses;  she gathered
her tresses into a net;  and snatching  a  last  look  in  the
mirror,  her  eyelids  heavy  with  sleep,  and  the  light
glimmering  and  dying, she  opened  a  wrong door, a door
that  had  been  left  unlocked; and, stealing  along  on  tip-
toe, ( how  often  may  Innocence  wear  the semblance of
Guilt! )  she  lay  down  as  by  her  sleeping  sister;  and
instantly,  almost  before  the  pillow on which she reclined
her head had done sinking,  her  sleep was as the sleep of
  When morning came,  a  murmur  strange  to  her ear
alarmed  her. --- What could it be? -- Where was she? ---
She looked not;  she listened not;  but like  a  fawn  from
the covert, up she sprung and was gone.
  It was she then that  he  sought;  it was she who, so
unconsciously,  had  taught  him  to love; and, night and
day,  he pursued her,  till  in  the Cathedral of Perugia he
discovered her at a solemn service, as she knelt between
her mother and her sister among the rich and the poor.
  From that hour did he endeavour  to  win her regard by
every attention,  every assiduity  that  Love could dictate ;
nor  did  he  cease  till  he  had  won  it  and  till  she  had
consented to be his; but  never did the secret escape from
his lips;  nor  was  it  still  some  years  afterwards that he
said  to  her, on  an  anniversary of their nuptials, 'Violetta,
it  was  a  joyful  day  to  me,  a  day from which I date the
happiness  of  my  life ;  but,  if  marriages  are  written  in
heaven,'  and,  as  he  spoke,  he  restored  to  her arm the
bracelet  which  he  had treasured up so long, 'how strange
are  the  circumstances  by  which  they  are  sometimes
brought  about!  for, if  You had  not lost yourself, Violetta,
I might never have found you.'

© Samuel Rogers