In such a school borne along the brimming tide of pleasure by the soft breeze of homage did Madame di Bracciano's political intelligence rapidly ripen: and if by a glittering gaiety, ease of manner, and a species of decorous gallantry, her life appeared to continue the traditions of Anne of Austria's time, the restrained firmness of her opinions, her reverence for absolute authority, her settled resolve to owe nothing to any one save to her own Great King, combined to link her fast to the new school of power and respect founded by Louis XIV. in the plenitude of his sway.

As similar intrigues are not uncommon in Italy, if we may credit travellers, the comtess did not manifest the least incredulity, but congratulated Albert on his success. They promised, upon separating, to meet at the Duke of Bracciano's ball, to which all Rome was invited. The heroine of the bouquet kept her word; she gave Albert no sign of her existence the morrow or the day after.

The garden in which Vittoria meets Bracciano is the villa of Magnanapoli; Zanche, the Moorish slave, combines Vittoria's waiting-woman, Caterina, and the Greek sorceress who so mysteriously dogged Marcello's footsteps to the death. The suspicion of Bracciano's murder is used to introduce a quaint episode of Italian poisoning.

He worked upon the Duke of Bracciano's mind so cleverly, that he brought this haughty prince to the point of an insane passion for Peretti's young wife; and meanwhile so contrived to inflame the ambition of Vittoria and her mother, Tarquinia, that both were prepared to dare the worst of crimes in expectation of a dukedom. The game was a difficult one to play.

"You alarm me," cried Franz. "I see that I shall not only go alone to the Duke of Bracciano's, but also return to Florence alone." "If my unknown be as amiable as she is beautiful," said Albert, "I shall fix myself at Rome for six weeks, at least. I adore Rome, and I have always had a great taste for archaeology."

Franz resolved to wait for Albert as late as possible. He ordered the carriage, therefore, for eleven o'clock, desiring Signor Pastrini to inform him the moment that Albert returned to the hotel. At eleven o'clock Albert had not come back. Franz dressed himself, and went out, telling his host that he was going to pass the night at the Duke of Bracciano's.

Such details are only excusable in the present narrative on the ground that Bracciano's disease considerably affects our moral judgment of the woman who could marry a man thus physically tainted, and with her husband's blood upon his hands. At any rate, the Duke's lupa justified his trying what change of air, together with the sulphur waters of Abano, would do for him.

"Yes," replied Franz, "here I am," and he, in his turn, left the caves. They advanced to the plain. "Ah, your pardon," said Albert, turning round; "will you allow me, captain?" And he lighted his cigar at Vampa's torch. "Now, my dear count," he said, "let us on with all the speed we may. I am enormously anxious to finish my night at the Duke of Bracciano's."

"I think so, also," replied Albert; "and I very much fear you will go alone to the Duke of Bracciano's ball." Franz and Albert had received that morning an invitation from the celebrated Roman banker. "Take care, Albert," said Franz. "All the nobility of Rome will be present, and if your fair incognita belong to the higher class of society, she must go there."