She looked him full in the eyes as she spoke; then she went up to him and kissed him. It was the first kiss she had given him since she had thrown herself in his arms in her father’s garden; but now he felt her whole being on her lips.
He would have held her fast, forgetting everything in the sweetness of her surrender; but she drew back quickly and, before he could guess her intention, throw open the door of the room to which de Crucis had withdrawn.
“Signor abate!” she said.
The Jesuit came forward. Odo was dimly aware that, for an instant, the two measured each other; then Fulvia said quietly:
“His excellency goes with you to Pianura.”
What more she said, or what de Crucis answered, he could never afterward recall. He had a confused sense of having cried out a last unavailing protest, faintly, inarticulately, like a man struggling to make himself heard in a dream; then the room grew dark about him, and in its stead he saw the old chapel at Donnaz, with its dimly-gleaming shrine, and heard the voice of the chaplain, harsh and yet strangely shaken:—“My chief prayer for you is that, should you be raised to this eminence, it may be at a moment when such advancement seems to thrust you in the dust.”
Odo lifted his head and saw de Crucis standing alone before him.
“I am ready,” he said.
Where are the portraits of those who have perished in spite of their vows?
One bright March day in the year 1783 the bells of Pianura began to ring at sunrise, and with their first peal the townsfolk were abroad.
The city was already dressed for a festival. A canopy of crimson velvet, surmounted by the ducal crown and by the “Humilitas” of the Valseccas, concealed the columns of the Cathedral porch and fell in royal folds about the featureless porphyry lions who had seen so many successive rulers ascend the steps between their outstretched paws. The frieze of ramping and running animals around the ancient baptistery was concealed by heavy green garlands alternating with religious banners; and every church and chapel had draped its doorway with crimson and placed above the image of its patron saint the ducal crown of Pianura.
No less sumptuous was the adornment of the private dwellings. The great families—the Trescorri, the Belverdi, the Pievepelaghi—had outdone each other in the display of golden-threaded tapestries and Genoese velvets emblazoned with armorial bearings; and even the sombre facade of the Boscofolto palace showed a rich drapery surmounted by the quarterings of the new Marchioness.