Caesara- (pages 3-4)
'God only knows, father, how you manage to be in such good spirits. I have moments of sadness, whereas you... I don’t think so.'
'Sad, Hyeronimo? I’ll be damned if I was ever sad. Sadness avoids me as my chum avoids incense. But never mind; come into town with me. Today, looking in upon you abbot, I cut a surly, sulky mien, I said I needed your help for burial rituals, lying as usual; to make a long story short, he concedes to you my honorable society of sextons. We’ll go into town; I know a good place for wine, my lord! We’ll play cards with other brethren; we’ll smoke long pipes and get drunk as long as the day is long, and we’ll gaze through the windows at the ladies! No harm done, of course.'
'I wonder who he dickens made you take the cloth, you rascally Hyeronimo?'
'Who did? The devil himself!'
We should be wrong in thinking that all these levities of the monks meant something. Their so-called infamy was just childlike nonsense in spite of the loose speech it was couched in. A glass of wine, a game of cards, a smoke, now and then a furtive look at a smiling maid’s profile, such was always, in fact, their so-called licentiousness. The charm lay in the mystery that hypocritically wrapped their small worldly steps.
Hyeronimo flung his cassock away, cut a sinister face, the old man cut quite a crazy one to impress the frightened porter and they both left the monastery precincts as fast as they could, only to temper the speed of their walk on the highroad that led to town.
'Countess, I will persuade your father to force you to be mine.'
'No one may doubt that you can do it, no one that you are capable of doing it. My father owes you money and you want his daughter. Nothing could be more natural. You will agree about the price like the two honorable men that you are. But as long as I am not your wife, I have a right to ask you to desist. There will be time enough for you to torture me when I become your woman.'
The lovely countess turned her back upon him and looked out of the window into the street. She began to laugh at the sight of an old monk doing his best to look pious in order to impress the passersby.
Hyeronimo and Onufrey were standing in the street. Onufrey was fingering the rosary beads held in both hands crossed upon his belly; Hyeronimo stood with a demeanor deeply and nobly serious.
The marquis Castelmare gave a long fierce look to the maiden who despised his love, then left abruptly, slamming the door behind him.
'Good looks that monk has', the countess murmured smiling. 'And what an old fool! He looks like a jester playing the part of an intrigue. Such noble features in that young man. He looks a demon, handsome, serious and indifferent. As it happens, Francesco is looking for a model to sit for his demon in ‘The Fall of the Angels’. If we could only get hold of the monk.'
'Maestro', she shouted, drawing two chairs to the window.
An old man entered, dressed in a velvet blouse, his face noble and serene, his beard gray. He came up to the maiden, a question on his lips.
'Come along, sit beside me. Just look at that young monk. A fine demon in the Fall of the Angels, don’t you think.'
'A fine Adonis in Venus and Adonis', the painter said with a smile, 'you being Venus, he Adonis.'
'Why, that’s putting in rather strongly.'
Francesco took her hand into his own and put his lips on her fine forehead.
'You’re such a child,' he said in a low voice, 'and why not? You want love. Every string of your heart trembles at this word. Do you want a man whom you do not love, that man Castelmare, to take you as his wife? You know I am rich, you know I love you as if you were my own child. You know that your father would sell you, provided he gets the price he demands, because he’s destitute, a rake, a gambler. You know that the only way to avoid misfortune is to run away from this house. You want a father? Here I am. You want a home? Mine is open to you. You want a lover, Caesara? There he is. I have been in love, too. I have known that sweet pain in my younger days. You are pining for it; yet would you be ready to give up the finest model for a painter: an angel of genius, for demons are angels of genius, the others who stayed behind in heaven are a bit dull.'
'Why, father, you wouldn’t have me run after him, would you?' she said, her face turning red.
'Do you want me to run after him?'