Saracinesca: Volume 2

Macmillan

About the author

F. Marion Crawford was born on August 2, 1854, in Bagni de Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. He was the son of the American sculptor Thomas Crawford. He was educated by a French governess; then at St. Paul's School, Concord, N.H.; in the quiet country village of Hatfield Regis, under an English tutor; at Trinity College, Cambridge, where they thought him to become a mathematician; at Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, and at the University of Rome, where a special interest in Oriental languages sent him to India with the idea of preparing for a professorship. He spent a short time as a newspaper editor there. His first novel, Mr. Isaacs, was published in 1882. During his lifetime, he wrote over forty novels and one play, Francesca da Rimini. His novels include Dr. Claudius, A Roman Singer, A Cigarette Maker's Romance, The Witch of Prague, The Heart of Rome, and The Diva's Ruby. He died on April 9, 1909.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Macmillan
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Published on
Dec 31, 1887
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Pages
432
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Best For
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Language
English
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This content is DRM free.
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Subiaco lies beyond Tivoli, southeast from Rome, at the upper end of a wild gorge in the Samnite mountains. It is an archbishopric, and gives a title to a cardinal, which alone would make it a town of importance. It shares with Monte Cassino the honour of having been chosen by Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, his sister, as the site of a monastery and a convent; and in a cell in the rock a portrait of the holy man is still well preserved, which is believed, not without reason, to have been painted from life, although Saint Benedict died early in the fifth century. The town itself rises abruptly to a great height upon a mass of rock, almost conical in shape, crowned by the cardinal's palace, and surrounded on three sides by rugged mountains. On the third, it looks down the rapidly widening valley in the direction of Vicovaro, near which the Licenza runs into the Anio, in the neighbourhood of Horace's farm. It is a very ancient town, and in its general appearance it does not differ very much from many similar ones amongst the Italian mountains; but its position is exceptionally good, and its importance has been stamped upon it by the hands of those who have thought it worth holding since the days of ancient Rome. Of late it has, of course, acquired a certain modernness of aspect; it has planted acacia trees in its little piazza, and it has a gorgeously arrayed municipal band. But from a little distance one neither hears the band nor sees the trees, the grim medi¾val fortifications frown upon the valley, and the time-stained dwellings, great and small, rise in rugged irregularity against the lighter brown of the rocky background and the green of scattered olive groves and chestnuts. Those features, at least, have not changed, and show no disposition to change during generations to come.

In the year 1844, modern civilization had not yet set in, and Subiaco was, within, what it still appears to be from without, a somewhat gloomy stronghold of the Middle Ages, rearing its battlements and towers in a shadowy gorge, above a mountain torrent, inhabited by primitive and passionate people, dominated by ecclesiastical institutions, and, though distinctly Roman, a couple of hundred years behind Rome itself in all matters ethic and ¾sthetic. It was still the scene of the Santacroce murder, which really decided Beatrice Cenci's fate; it was still the gathering place of highwaymen and outlaws, whose activity found an admirable field through all the region of hill and plain between the Samnite range and the sea, while the almost inaccessible fortresses of the higher mountains, towards Trevi and the Serra di Sant' Antonio, offered a safe refuge from the halfhearted pursuit of Pope Gregory's lazy soldiers.Ê

 Mrs. Sam Wyndham was generally at home after five o’clock. The established custom whereby the ladies who live in Beacon Street all receive their friends on Monday afternoon did not seem to her satisfactory. She was willing to conform to the practice, but she reserved the right of seeing people on other days as well.

Mrs. Sam Wyndham was never very popular. That is to say, she was not one of those women who are seemingly never spoken ill of, and are invited as a matter of course, or rather as an element of success, to every dinner, musical party, and dance in the season.

Women did not all regard her with envy, all young men did not think she was capital fun, nor did all old men come and confide to her the weaknesses of their approaching second childhood. She was not invariably quoted as the standard authority on dress, classical music, and Boston literature, and it was not an unpardonable heresy to say that some other women might be, had been, or could be, more amusing in ordinary conversation. Nevertheless, Mrs. Sam Wyndham held a position in Boston which Boston acknowledged, and which Boston insisted that foreigners such as New Yorkers, Philadelphians and the like, should acknowledge also in that spirit of reverence which is justly due to a descent on both sides from several signers of the Declaration of Independence, and to the wife of one of the ruling financial spirits of the aristocratic part of Boston business.

As a matter of fact, Mrs. Wyndham was about forty years of age, as all her friends of course knew; for it is as easy for a Bostonian to conceal a question of age as for a crowned head. In a place where one half of society calls the other half cousin, and went to school with it, every one knows and accurately remembers just how old everybody else is. But Mrs. Wyndham might have passed for younger than she was among the world at large, for she was fresh to look at, and of good figure and complexion. Her black hair showed no signs of turning gray, and her dark eyes were bright and penetrating still. There were lines in her face, those microscopic lines that come so abundantly to American women in middle age, speaking of a certain restless nervousness that belongs to them especially; but on the whole Mrs. Sam Wyndham was fair to see, having a dignity of carriage and a grace of ease about her that at once gave the impression of a woman thoroughly equal to the part she had to play in the world, and not by any means incapable of enjoying it.

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