beaten country: and I was admired for my devotion.
The dear old poet, Agostino, praised me. It stopped
his epigrams—during a certain time, at
least. Colonel Corte admired me. Marco Sana,
Giulio Bandinelli admired me. Vast numbers admired
me. I need not add that I admired myself.
I plunged into intrigues with princes, and priests,
and republicans. A clever woman was at my elbow.
In the midst of all this, my marriage: I had
seven weeks of peace; and then I saw what I was.
You feel that you are tired, when you want to go another
way and you feel that you have been mad when you want
to undo your work. But I could not break the
chains I had wrought, for I was a chief of followers.
The men had come from exile, or they had refused to
join the Roman enterprise:—they, in fact,
had bound themselves to me; and that means, I was
irrevocably bound to them. I had an insult to
wipe out: I refrained from doing it, sincerely,
I may tell you, on the ground that this admired life
of mine was precious. I will heap no more clumsy
irony on it: I can pity it. Do you see now
how I stand? I know that I cannot rely on the
king’s luck or on the skill of his generals,
or on the power of his army, or on the spirit in Lombardy:
neither on men nor on angels. But I cannot draw
back. I have set going a machine that’s
merciless. From the day it began working, every
moment has added to its force. Do not judge me
by your English eyes: other lands, other habits;
other habits, other thoughts. And besides, if
honour said nothing, simple humanity would preserve
me from leaving my band to perish like a flock of sheep.”
He uttered this with a profound conviction of his
quality as leader, that escaped the lurid play of
self-inspection which characterized what he had previously
spoken, and served singularly in bearing witness to
the truth of his charge against himself.
“Useless!” he said, waving his hand at
anticipated remonstrances. “Look with the
eyes of my country; not with your own, my friend.
I am disgraced if I do not go out. My friends
are disgraced if I do not head them in. Brescia—sacrificed!—murdered!—how
can I say what? Can I live under disgrace or
remorse? The king stakes on his army; I on the
king. Whether he fights and wins, or fights and
loses, I go out. I have promised my men—promised
them success, I believe!—God forgive me!
Did you ever see a fated man before? None had
plotted against me. I have woven my own web,
and that’s the fatal thing. I have a wife,
the sweetest woman of her time. Goodnight to
her! our parting is over.”
He glanced at his watch. “Perhaps she will
be at the door below. Her heart beats like mine
just now. You wish to say that you think me betrayed,
and therefore I may draw back? Did you not hear
that Bergamo has risen? The Brescians are up
too by this time. Gallant Brescians! they never
belie the proverb in their honour; and to die among
them would be sweet if I had all my manhood about
me. You would have me making a scene with Violetta.”