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- The Fool Errant - 1/54 -


THE FOOL ERRANT

BEING THE MEMOIRS OF

FRANCIS-ANTONY STRELLEY, ESQ.

CITIZEN OF LUCCA

EDITED BY MAURICE HEWLETT

AUTHOR OF "THE QUEEN'S QUAIR," "NEW CANTERBURY TALES," "RICHARD YEA-AND-NAY," "LITTLE NOVELS OF ITALY," ETC., ETC.

Published July, 1905.

To

J. M. BARRIE

AFFECTIONATELY

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

I. MY EXORDIUM: A JUSTIFICATORY PIECE II. AURELIA AND THE DOCTOR III. MY DANGEROUS PROGRESS IV. FATAL AVOWAL V. DISASTER VI. I COMMENCE PILGRIM VII. I AM MISCONCEIVED AT THE HOSPITAL VIII. THE PEDLAR OF CRUCIFIXES IX. I AM HUMILIATED, LIFTED UP, AND LEFT CURIOUS X. I FALL IN AGAIN WITH FRA PALAMONE XI. I EXERCISE COMMON SENSE, IMAGINATION AND CHARITY XII. I SEEK--AND FIND XIII. HAVING EMPTIED MY POCKET, I OFFER MY HAND, BUT RESERVE MY HEART XIV. MY HAPPY DAYS; THEIR UNHAPPY END XV. I AM IN BONDAGE XVI. VIRGINIA AND I FALL OUT, BUT ARE RECONCILED XVII. ERCOLE AT THE FAIR XVIII. FRA PALAMONE BREAKS THE LAW, AND I MY CHAIN XIX. I AM AGAIN MISCONCEIVED XX. SURPRISING CHANGE IN MY FORTUNES XXI. MY DIVERSIONS: COUNT GIRALDI XXII. I WORK FOR AURELIA, AND HEAR OF HER XXIII. AURELIA FORGIVES XXIV. VIRGINIA VEXES XXV. I PREPARE FOR BLISS XXVI. I DISAPPOINT MY FRIENDS XXVII. I SLAY A MAN XXVIII. VIRGINIA ON HER METTLE XXIX. I TAKE SANCTUARY XXX. I MARRY AND GO TO LUCCA XXXI. MY ADVENTURES AT THE INN XXXII. WE LIVE HAPPILY IN LUCCA XXXIII. TREACHERY WORKS AGAINST US XXXIV. I FALL IN WITH THE PLAYERS XXXV. TEMPTED IN SIENA, BELVISO SAVES ME XXXVI. MY UNREHEARSED EFFECT AND ITS MIDNIGHT SEQUEL XXXVII. I COMMIT A DOUBLE MURDER XXXVIII. AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER LIFTS ME UP XXXIX. VIRGINIA DECLINES THE HEIGHTS XL. I GET RID OF MY ENEMY AND PART FROM MY FRIEND XLI. I RETURN TO FLORENCE AND THE WORLD OF FASHION XLII. I STAND AT A CROSS-ROAD XLIII. AGITATIONS AT THE VILLA SAN GIORGIO XLIV. I CONFRONT MY ENEMIES XLV. THE MEETING XLVI. THE DISCOVERY XLVII. THE FINAL PROOF XLVIII. THE LAST

INTRODUCTION

The top-heavy, four-horsed, yellow old coach from Vicenza, which arrived at Padua every night of the year, brought with it in particular on the night of October 13, 1721, a tall, personable young man, an Englishman, in a dark blue cloak, who swang briskly down from the coupe and asked in stilted Italian for "La sapienza del Signer Dottor' Lanfranchi." From out of a cloud of steam--for the weather was wet and the speaker violently hot--a husky voice replied, "Eccomi--eccomi, a servirla." The young man took off his hat and bowed.

"Have I the honour to salute so much learning?" he asked courteously. "Let me present myself to my preceptor as Mr. Francis Strelley of Upcote."

"His servant," said the voice from the cloud, "and servant of his illustrious father. Don Francis, be accommodated; let your mind be at ease. Your baggage? These fellows are here for it. Your valise? I carry it. Your hand? I take it. Follow me."

These words were accompanied by action of the most swift and singular kind. Mr. Strelley saw two porters scramble after his portmanteaux, had his valise reft from his hand, and that hand firmly grasped before he could frame his reply. The vehemence of this large perspiring sage caused the struggle between pride and civility to be short; such faint protests as he had at command passed unheeded in the bustle and could not be seen in the dark.

Vehement, indeed, in all that he did was Dr. Porfirio Lanfranchi, Professor of Civil Law: it was astonishing that a bulk so large and loosely packed could be propelled by the human will at so headlong a speed. Yet, spurred by that impetus alone, he pounded and splashed through the puddled, half-lit street of Padua at such a rate that Mr. Strelley, though longer in the leg, fully of his height, and one quarter his weight, found himself trotting beside his conductor like any schoolboy. The position was humiliating, but it did not seem possible to escape it. The doctor took everything for granted; and besides, he so groaned and grunted at his labours, his goaded flesh protested so loudly, the pitfalls were so many, and the pace so severe, that nothing in the world seemed of moment beyond preserving foothold. Along the winding way--between the half-discerned arcades, palace gateways, black entries, church portals--down the very middle of the street flew master and pupil without word spoken. They reached the Pra, skirted its right- hand boundary for some hundreds of yards, and came to the door of a tall, narrow, white house. Upon this door the doctor kicked furiously until it was opened; then, with a malediction upon the oaf who snored behind it, up he blundered, three stairs at a time, Strelley after him whether or no; and stayed not in his rush towards the stars until he had reached the fourth-floor landing, where again he kicked at a door; and then, releasing his victim's hand, took off hat and wig together and mopped his dripping pate, as he murmured, "Chaste Madonna, what a ramble! What a stroll for the evening, powerful Mother of us all!" Such a stroll had never yet been taken by Mr. Francis Strelley of Upcote in his one-and-twenty years' experience of legs; nor did he ever forget this manner of being haled into Italy, nor lose his feeling of extremely helpless youth in the presence of the doctor, his tutor and guardian. But to suppose the business done by calculation of that remarkable man is to misapprehend him altogether. Dr. Lanfranchi's head worked, as his body did, by flashes. He calculated nothing, but hit at everything; hit or miss, it might be--but "Let's to it and have done" was his battle- cry.

The lamp over the door of his apartment revealed him for the disorderly genius he was--a huge, blotch-faced, tumble-bellied man, bullet-headed, bull-necked, and with flashing eyes. Inordinate alike in appetite, mind and action, he was always suffering for his furies, and always making a fine recovery. Just now he was at the last gasp for a breath, or so you would have said to look at him. But not so; his exertions were really his stimulant. Presently he would eat and drink consumedly, drench himself with snuff, and then spend half the night with his books, preparing for to-morrow's lecture. Of this sort was Dr. Porfirio Lanfranchi, who had more authority over the wild students of Padua than the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Senate put together.

The same lamp played upon the comely and ingenuous face, upon the striking presence of Mr. Strelley, and showed him a good-looking, good- tempered, sanguine young man of an appearance something less than his age. He was tall and supple, wore his own fair hair tied with a ribbon, was blue-eyed and bright-lipped, and had a notable chin--firm, square at the jaw, and coming sharply to a point. He looked you straight in the face--such was his habit--but by no means arrogantly or with defiance; seriously rather, gravely and courteously, as if to ask, "Do I take your precise meaning to be--?" Such a look was too earnest for mere good manners; he was serious; there was no laughter in him, though he was not of a melancholy sort. He pondered the world and its vagaries and examined them, as they presented themselves in each case, UPON THE MERITS. This, which was, I think, his strongest characteristic, should show that he lacked the humorous sense; and he did. He had no time to laugh; wondering engaged him. The life of the world on its round showed him miracles daily; he looked for them very often, but more frequently they thrust themselves upon him. Sunrise now--what an extraordinary thing! He never ceased to be amazed at that. The economy of the moon, too, so exquisitely adapted to the needs of mankind! Nations, tongues (hardly to be explained by the sublime folly of a Babel), the reverence paid to elders, to women; the sense of law and justice in our kind: in the leafy shades of Upcote in Oxfordshire, he had pondered these things during his lonely years of youth and adolescence--had pondered, and in some cases already decided them UPON THE MERITS. This was remarkably so in the matter of Betty Coy, as he will tell you for himself before long. Meantime, lest I keep Dr. Lanfranchi too long upon the threshold of his own house, all I shall add to my picture of his pupil now is that he was the eldest son and third child of Squire Antony Strelley of Upcote, a Catholic, non-juring, recusant, stout old gentleman of Oxfordshire, and of Dame Mary, born Arundell, his wife; and that he was come to study the moral and civil law at this famous University of Padua, like many an Englishman of his condition before him. He was twenty-one years of age, had as much money as was good for him and much more poetry than enough in his valise--to say nothing of the germ of those notes from which he afterwards (long afterwards) compiled the ensuing memoirs.

Dr. Lanfranchi had not said "Accidente!" more than twice, nor kicked his door more than half a dozen times, before it was opened by a young and pretty lady, who held a lamp above her head. She was, apparently, a very


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