"I am pregnant of a child, the pledge of our mutual love; I can no longer have any doubt of it, my beloved, and I forewarn you that I have made up my mind to quit Rome alone, and to go away to die where it may please God, if you refuse to take care of me and save me. I would suffer anything, do anything, rather than let my father discover the truth."
"If you are a man of honour," I said, "you cannot abandon the poor girl. Marry her in spite of your father, in spite of her own, and live together honestly. The eternal Providence of God will watch over you and help you in your difficulties:"
My advice seemed to bring calm to his mind, and he left me more composed.
At the beginning of January, 1744, he called again, looking very cheerful. "I have hired," he said, "the top floor of the house next to Barbara's dwelling; she knows it, and to-night I will gain her apartment through one of the windows of the garret, and we will make all our arrangements to enable me to carry her off. I have made up my mind; I have decided upon taking her to Naples, and I will take with us the servant who, sleeping in the garret, had to be made a confidante of."
"God speed you, my friend!"
A week afterwards, towards eleven o'clock at night, he entered my room accompanied by an abbe.
"What do you want so late?"
"I wish to introduce you to this handsome abbe."
I looked up, and to my consternation I recognized Barbara.
"Has anyone seen you enter the house?" I enquired.
"No; and if we had been seen, what of it? It is only an abbe. We now pass every night together."
"I congratulate you."
"The servant is our friend; she has consented to follow us, and all our arrangements are completed."
"I wish you every happiness. Adieu. I beg you to leave me."
Three or four days after that visit, as I was walking with the Abbe Gama towards the Villa Medicis, he told me deliberately that there would be an execution during the night in the Piazza di Spagna.
"What kind of execution?"
"The bargello or his lieutenant will come to execute some 'ordine santissimo', or to visit some suspicious dwelling in order to arrest and carry off some person who does not expect anything of the sort."
"How do you know it?"
"His eminence has to know it, for the Pope would not venture to encroach upon his jurisdiction without asking his permission."
"And his eminence has given it?"
"Yes, one of the Holy Father's auditors came for that purpose this morning."
"But the cardinal might have refused?"
"Of course; but such a permission is never denied."
"And if the person to be arrested happened to be under the protection of the cardinal--what then?"
"His eminence would give timely warning to that person."
We changed the conversation, but the news had disturbed me. I fancied that the execution threatened Barbara and her lover, for her father's house was under the Spanish jurisdiction. I tried to see the young man but I could not succeed in meeting him, and I was afraid lest a visit at his home or at M. Dalacqua's dwelling might implicate me. Yet it is certain that this last consideration would not have stopped me if I had been positively sure that they were threatened; had I felt satisfied of their danger, I would have braved everything.
About midnight, as I was ready to go to bed, and just as I was opening my door to take the key from outside, an abbe rushed panting into my room and threw himself on a chair. It was Barbara; I guessed what had taken place, and, foreseeing all the evil consequences her visit might have for me, deeply annoyed and very anxious, I upbraided her for having taken refuge in my room, and entreated her to go away.
Fool that I was! Knowing that I was only ruining myself without any chance of saving her, I ought to have compelled her to leave my room, I ought to have called for the servants if she had refused to withdraw. But I had not courage enough, or rather I voluntarily obeyed the decrees of destiny.
When she heard my order to go away, she threw herself on her knees, and melting into tears, she begged, she entreated my pity!
Where is the heart of steel which is not softened by the tears, by the prayers of a pretty and unfortunate woman? I gave way, but I told her that it was ruin for both of us.
"No one," she replied, "has seen me, I am certain, when I entered the mansion and came up to your room, and I consider my visit here a week ago as most fortunate; otherwise, I never could have known which was your room."
"Alas! how much better if you had never come! But what has become of your lover?"
"The 'sbirri' have carried him off, as well as the servant. I will tell you all about it. My lover had informed me that a carriage would wait to-night at the foot of the flight of steps before the Church of Trinita del Monte, and that he would be there himself. I entered his room through the garret window an hour ago. There I put on this disguise, and, accompanied by the servant, proceeded to meet him. The servant walked a few yards before me, and carried a parcel of my things. At the corner of the street, one of the buckles of my shoes being unfastened, I stopped an instant, and the servant went on, thinking that I was following her. She reached the carriage, got into it, and, as I was getting nearer, the light from a lantern disclosed to me some thirty sbirri; at the same instant, one of them got on the driver's box and drove off at full speed, carrying off the servant, whom they must have mistaken for me, and my lover who was in the coach awaiting me. What could I do at such a fearful moment? I could not go back to my father's house, and I followed my first impulse which brought me here. And here I am! You tell me that my presence will cause your ruin; if it is so, tell me what to do; I feel I am dying; but find some expedient and I am ready to do anything, even to lay my life down, rather than be the cause of your ruin."