Read CHAPTER X of The Children of the King, free online book, by F. Marion Crawford, on

Bastianello sat still in his boat, but he no longer looked to seaward, facing the breeze.  He kept an eye on the pier, looking out for his brother, who had not appeared since the midday meal.  The piece of information he had just received was worth communicating, for it raised Teresina very much in the eyes of Bastianello, and he did not doubt that it would influence Ruggiero in the right direction.  Bastianello, too, was keen enough to see that anything which gave him an opportunity of discussing the girl with his brother might be of advantage, in that it might bring Ruggiero to the open expression of a settled purpose ­either to marry the girl or not.  And if he once gave his word that he would not, Bastianello would be no longer bound to suffer in silence as he had suffered so many weeks.  The younger of the brothers was less passionate, less nervous and less easily moved in every way than the elder, but he possessed much of the same general character and all of the same fundamental good qualities ­strength, courage and fidelity.  In his quiet way he was deeply and sincerely in love with Teresina, and meant, if possible and if Ruggiero did not take her, to make her his wife.

At last Ruggiero’s tall figure appeared at the corner of the building occupied by the coastguard station, and Bastianello immediately whistled to him, giving a signal which had served the brothers since they were children.  Ruggiero started, turned his head and at once jumped into the first boat he could lay hands on and pulled out alongside of his brother.

“What is it?” he asked, letting his oars swing astern and laying hold on the gunwale of the sail boat.

“About Teresina,” answered Bastianello, taking his pipe from his mouth and leaning towards his brother.  “The son of the Son of the Fool was swimming about here just now, and he hauled himself half aboard of me and made faces.  So I took the boat-hook to hit his fingers.  And just then he said to me, ’You have a beautiful pair of masters you and your brother.’  ‘Why?’ I asked, and I held the boat-hook ready.  But I would not have hurt the boy, because he is one of ours.  So he told me that he had just seen the Count up there in the garden of the hotel, trying to kiss Teresina and offering her the gold, and I gave him half a cigar to tell me the rest, because he would not, and made faces.”

“May he die murdered!” exclaimed Ruggiero in a low voice, his face as white as canvas.

“Wait a little, she is a good girl,” answered Bastianello.  “Teresina threw the gold upon the ground and told the Count that he was an infamous one and a liar.  And then she went away.  And I think the boy was speaking the truth, because if it were a lie he would have spoken in another way.  For it was as easy to say that the Count kissed her as to say that she would not let him, and he would have had the tobacco all the same.”

“May he die of a stroke!” muttered Ruggiero.

“But if I were in your place,” said his brother calmly, “I would not do anything to your padrone, because the girl is a good girl and gave him the good answer, and as for him ­” Bastianello shrugged his shoulders.

“May the sharks get his body and the devil get his soul!”

“That will be as it shall be,” answered Bastianello.  “And it is sure that if God wills, the grampuses will eat him.  But we do not know the end.  What I would say is this, that it is time you should speak to the girl, because I see how white you get when we talk of her, and you are consuming yourself and will have an illness, and though I could work for both you and me, four arms are better than two, in summer as in winter.  Therefore I say, go and speak to her, for she will have you and she will be better with you than near that apoplexy of a San Miniato.”

Ruggiero did not answer at once, but pulled out his pipe and filled it and began to smoke.

“Why should I speak?” he asked at last.  There was a struggle in his mind, for he did not wish to tell Bastianello outright that he did not really care for Teresina.  If he betrayed this fact it would be hard hereafter to account for his own state, which was too apparent to be concealed, especially from his brother, and he had no idea that the latter loved the girl.

“Why should you speak?” asked Bastianello, repeating the words, and stirring the ashes in his pipe with the point of his knife.  “Because if you do not speak you will never get anything.”

“It will be the same if I do,” observed Ruggiero stolidly.

“I believe that very little,” returned the other.  “And I will tell you something.  If I were to speak to Teresina for you and say, ’Here is my brother Ruggiero, who is not a great signore, but is well grown and has two arms which are good, and a matter of seven or eight hundred francs in the bank, and who is very fond of you, but he does not know how to say it.  Think well if you will have him,’ I would say, ’and if you will not, give me an honest answer and God bless you and let it be the end.’  That is how I would speak, and she would think about it for a week or perhaps two, and then she would say to me, ’Bastianello, tell your brother that I will have him.’  Or else she would say, ’Bastianello, tell your brother that I thank him, but that I have no heart in it.’  That is what she would say.”

“It may be,” said Ruggiero carelessly.  “But of course she would thank, and say ‘Who is this Ruggiero?’ and besides, the world is full of women.”

Bastianello was about to ask the interpretation of this rather enigmatical speech when there was a stir on the pier and two or three boats put out, the men standing in them and sculling them stern foremost.

“Who is it?” asked Bastianello of the boatman who passed nearest to him.

“The Giovannina,” answered the man.

She had returned from her last voyage to Calabria, having taken macaroni from Amalfi and bringing back wine of Verbicaro.  A fine boat, the Giovannina, able to carry twenty tons in any weather, and water-tight too, being decked with hatches over which you can stretch and batten down tarpaulin.  A pretty sight as she ran up to the end of the breakwater, old Luigione standing at the stern with the tiller between his knees and the slack of the main-sheet in his hand.  She was running wing and wing, with her bright new sails spreading far over the water on each side.  Then came a rattle and a sharp creak as the main-yard swung over and came down on deck, the men taking in the bellying canvas with wide open arms and old Luigione catching the end of the yard on his shoulder while he steered with his knees, his great gaunt profile black against the bright sky.  Down foresail, and the good felucca forges ahead and rounds the little breakwater.  Let go the anchor and she is at rest after her long voyage.  For the season has not been good and she has been hauled on a dozen beaches before she could sell her cargo.  The men are all as brown as mahogany, and as lean as wolves, for it has been a voyage with share and share alike for all the crew and they have starved themselves to bring home more money to their wives.

Then there is some bustle and confusion, as Luigione brings the papers ashore and friends crowd around the felucca in boats, asking for news and all talking at once.

“We have been in your town, Ruggiero,” said one of the men, looking down into the little boat.

“I hope you gave a message from me to Don Pietro Casale,” answered Ruggiero.

“Health to us, Don Pietro is dead,” said the man, “and his wife is not likely to live long either.”

“Dead, eh?” cried Bastianello.  “He is gone to show the saints the nose we gave him when we were boys.”

“We can go back to Verbicaro when we please,” observed Ruggiero with a smile.

“Lend a hand on board, will you?” said the sailor.

So Ruggiero made the boat fast with the painter and both brothers scrambled over the side of the felucca.  They did not renew their conversation concerning Teresina, and an hour or two later they went up to the hotel to be in readiness for their masters, should the latter wish to go out.  Ruggiero sat down on a bench in the garden, but Bastianello went into the house.

In the corridor outside the Marchesa’s rooms he met Teresina, who stopped and spoke to him as she always did when she met him, for though she admired both the brothers, she liked Bastianello better than she knew ­perhaps because he talked more and seemed to have a gentler temper.

“Good-day, Bastianello,” she said, with a bright smile.

“And good-day to you, Teresina,” answered Bastianello.  “Can you tell me whether the padroni will go out to-day in the boat?”

“I think they will not,” answered the girl.  “But I will ask.  But I think they will not, because there is the devil in the house to-day, and the Signorina looks as though she would eat us all, and that is a bad sign.”

“What has happened?” asked Bastianello.  “You can tell me, because I will tell nobody.”

“The truth is this,” answered Teresina, lowering her voice.  “They have betrothed her to the Count, and she does not like it.  But if you say anything .”  She laughed a little and shook her finger at him.

Bastianello threw his head back to signify that he would not repeat what he had heard.  Then he gazed into Teresina’s eyes for a moment.

“The Count is worse than an animal,” he said quietly.

“If you knew how true that is!” exclaimed Teresina, blushing deeply and turning away.  “I will ask the Marchesa if she will go out,” she added, as she walked quickly away.

Bastianello waited and in a few moments she came back.

“Not to-day,” she said.

“So much the better.  I want to say something to you, Teresina.  Will you listen to me?  Can I say it here?” Bastianello felt unaccountably nervous, and when he had spoken he regretted it.

“I hope it is good news,” answered the girl.  “Come to the window at the end of the corridor.  We shall be further from the door there, and there is more air.  Now what is it?” she asked as they reached the place she had chosen.

“It is this, Teresina,” said Bastianello, summoning all his courage for what was the most difficult undertaking of his life.  “You know my brother Ruggiero.”

“Eh!  I should think so!  I see him every day.”

“Good.  He also sees you every day, and he sees how beautiful you are, and now he knows how good you are, because the little boy of the Son of the Fool saw you with that apoplexy of a Count in the garden to-day, and heard what you said, and came and told me, and I told Ruggiero because I knew how glad he would be.”

Dio mio!” cried Teresina.  She had blushed scarlet while he was speaking, and she covered her face with both hands.

“You need not hide your face, Teresina,” said Bastianello, with a little emotion.  “You can show it to every one after what you have done.  And so I will go on, and you must listen.  Ruggiero is not a great signore like the Count of San Miniato, but he is a man.  And he has two arms which are good, and two fists as hard as an ox’s hoofs, and he can break horse-shoes with his hands.”

“Can you do that?” asked Teresina with an admiring look.

“Since you ask me ­yes, I can.  But Ruggiero did it before I could, and showed me how, and no one else here can do it at all.  And moreover Ruggiero is a quiet man and does not drink nor play at the lotto, and there is no harm in a game of beggar-my-neighbour for a pipe of tobacco, on a long voyage when there is no work to be done, and ­”

“Yes, I know,” said Teresina, interrupting him.  “You are very much alike, you too.  But what has this about Ruggiero to do with me, that you tell me it all?”

“Who goes slowly, goes safely, and who goes safely goes far,” answered Bastianello.  “Listen to me.  Ruggiero has also seven hundred and sixty-three francs in the bank, and will soon have more, because he saves his money carefully, though he is not stingy.  And Ruggiero, if you will have him, will work for you, and I will also work for you, and you shall have a good house, and plenty to eat and good clothes besides the gold ­”

“But Bastianello mio!” cried Teresina, who had suspected what was coming, “I do not want to marry Ruggiero at all.”

She clasped her hands and gazed into the sailor’s eyes with a pretty look of confusion and regret.

“You do not want to marry Ruggiero!” Bastianello’s expression certainly betrayed more surprise than disappointment.  But he had honestly pleaded his brother’s cause.  “Then you do not love him,” he said, as though unable to recover from his astonishment.

“But no ­I do not love him at all, though he is so handsome and good.”

Madonna mia!” exclaimed Bastianello, turning sharply round and moving away a step or two.  He was in great perturbation of spirit, for he loved the girl dearly, and he began to fear that he had not done his best for Ruggiero.

“But you did love him a few days ago,” he said, coming back to Teresina’s side.

“Indeed, I never did!” she said.

“Nor any one else?” asked Bastianello suddenly.

“Eh!  I did not say that,” answered the girl, blushing a little and looking down.

“Well do not tell me his name, because I should tell Ruggiero, and Ruggiero might do him an injury.  It is better not to tell me.”

Teresina laughed a little.

“I shall certainly not tell you who he is,” she said.  “You can find that out for yourself, if you take the trouble.”

“It is better not.  Either Ruggiero or I might hurt him, and then there would be trouble.”

“You, too?”

“Yes, I too.”  Bastianello spoke the words rather roughly and looked fixedly into Teresina’s eyes.  Since she did not love Ruggiero, why should he not speak?  Yet he felt as though he were not quite loyal to his brother.

Teresina’s cheeks grew red and then a little pale.  She twisted the cord of the Venetian blind round and round her hand, looking down at it all the time.  Bastianello stood motionless before her, staring at her thick black hair.

“Well?” asked Teresina looking up and meeting his eyes and then lowering her own quickly again.

“What, Teresina?” asked Bastianello in a changed voice.

“You say you also might do that man an injury whom I love.  I suppose that is because you are so fond of your brother.  Is it so?”

“Yes ­and also ­”

“Bastianello, do you love me too?” she asked in a very low tone, blushing more deeply than before.

“Yes.  I do.  God knows it.  I would not have said it, though.  Ah, Teresina, you have made a traitor of me!  I have betrayed my brother ­and for what?”

“For me, Bastianello.  But you have not betrayed him.”

“Since you do not love him ­” began the sailor in a tone of doubt.

“Not him, but another.”

“And that other ­”

“It is perhaps you, Bastianello,” said Teresina, growing rather pale again.

“Me!” He could only utter the one word just then.

“Yes, you.”

“My love!” Bastianello’s arm went gently round her, and he whispered the words in her ear.  She let him hold her so without resistance, and looked up into his face with happy eyes.

“Yes, your love ­did you never guess it, dearest?” She was blushing still, and smiling at the same time, and her voice sounded sweet to Bastianello.

Only a sailor and a serving-maid, but both honest and both really loving.  There was not much eloquence about the courtship, as there had been about San Miniato’s, and there was not the fierce passion in Bastianello’s breast that was eating up his brother’s heart.  Yet Beatrice, at least, would have changed places with Teresina if she could, and San Miniato could have held his head higher if there had ever been as much honesty in him as there was in Bastianello’s every thought and action.

For Bastianello was very loyal, though he thought badly enough of his own doings, and when Beatrice called Teresina away a few minutes later, he marched down the corridor with resolute steps, meaning not to lose a moment in telling Ruggiero the whole truth, how he had honestly said the best things he could for him and had asked Teresina to marry him, and how he, Bastianello, had been betrayed into declaring his love, and had found, to his amazement, that he was loved in return.

Ruggiero was sitting alone on one of the stone pillars on the little pier, gazing at the sea, or rather, at a vessel far away towards Ischia, running down the bay with every stitch of canvas set from her jibs to her royals.  He looked round as Bastianello came up to him.

“Ruggiero,” said the latter in a quiet tone.  “If you want to kill me, you may, for I have betrayed you.”

Ruggiero stared at him, to see whether he were in earnest or joking.

“Betrayed me?  I do not understand what you say.  How could you betray me?”

“As you shall know.  Now listen.  We were talking about Teresina to-day, you and I. Then I said to myself, ’I love Teresina and Ruggiero loves her, but Ruggiero is first.  I will go to Teresina and ask her if she will marry him, and if she will, it is well.  But if she will not, I will ask Ruggiero if I may court her for myself.’  And so I did.  And she will tell you the truth, and I spoke well for you.  But she said she never loved you.  And then, I do not know how it was, but we found out that we loved each other and we said so.  And that is the truth.  So you had better get a pig of iron from the ballast and knock me on the head, for I have betrayed my brother and I do not want to live any more, and I shall say nothing.”

Then Ruggiero who had not laughed much for some time, felt that his mouth was twitching raider his yellow beard, and presently his great shoulders began to move, and his chest heaved, and his handsome head went back, and at last it came out, a mighty peal of Homeric laughter that echoed and rolled down the pier and rang clear and full, up to the Marchesa’s terrace.  And it chanced that Beatrice was there, and she looked down and saw that it was Ruggiero.  Then she sighed and drew back.

But Bastianello did not understand, and when the laugh subsided at last, he said so.

“I laughed ­yes.  I could not help it.  But you are a good brother, and very honest, and when you want to marry Teresina, you may have my savings, and I do not care to be paid back.”

“But I do not understand,” repeated Bastianello, in the greatest bewilderment.  “You loved her so ­”

“Teresina?  No.  I never loved Teresina, but I never knew you did, or I would not have let you believe it.  It is much more I who have cheated you, Bastianello, and when you and Teresina are married I will give you half my earnings, just as I now put them in the bank.”

“God be blessed!” exclaimed Bastianello, touching his cap, and staring at the same vessel that had attracted Ruggiero’s attention.

“She carries royal studding-sails,” observed Ruggiero.  “You do not often see that in our part of the world.”

“That is true,” said Bastianello.  “But I was not thinking of her, when I looked.  And I thank you for what you say, Ruggiero, and with my heart.  And that is enough, because it seems that we know each other.”

“We have been in the same crew once or twice,” said Ruggiero.

“It seems to me that we have,” answered his brother.

Neither of the two smiled, for they meant a good deal by the simple jest.

“Tell me, Ruggiero,” said Bastianello after a pause, “since you never loved Teresina, who is it?”

“No, Bastianello.  That is what I cannot tell any one, not even you.”

“Then I will not ask.  But I think I know, now.”

Going over the events of the past weeks in his mind, it had suddenly flashed upon Bastianello that his brother loved Beatrice.  Then everything explained itself in an instant.  Ruggiero was such a gentleman ­in Bastianello’s eyes, of course ­it was like him to break his heart for a real lady.

“Perhaps you do know,” answered Ruggiero gravely, “but if you do, then do not tell me.  It is a business better not spoken of.  But what one thinks, one thinks.  And that is enough.”

A crowd of brown-skinned boys were in the water swimming and playing, as they do all day long in summer, and dashing spray at each other.  They had a shabby-looking old skiff with which they amused themselves, upsetting and righting it again in the shallow water by the beach beyond the bathing houses.

“What a boat!” laughed Bastianello.  “A baby can upset her and it takes a dozen boys to right her again!”

“Whose is she?” enquired Ruggiero idly, as he filled his pipe.

“She?  She belonged to Black Rag’s brother, the one who was drowned last Christmas Eve, when the Leone was cut in two by the steamer in the Mouth of Procida.  I suppose she belongs to Black Rag himself now.  She is a crazy old craft, but if he were clever he could patch her up and paint her and take foreigners to the Cape in her on fine days.”

“That is true.  Tell him so.  There he is.  Ohé!  Black Rag!”

Black Rag came down the pier to the two brothers, a middle-aged, bow-legged, leathery fellow with a ragged grey beard and a weather-beaten face.

“What do you want?” he asked, stopping before them with his hands in his pockets.

“Bastianello says that old tub there is yours, and that if you had a better head than you have you could caulk her and paint her white with a red stripe and take foreigners to the Bath of Queen Giovanna in her on fine days.  Why do you not try it?  Those boys are making her die an evil death.”

“Bastianello always has such thoughts!” laughed the sailor.  “Why does he not buy her of me and paint her himself?  The paint would hold her together another six months, I daresay.”

“Give her to me,” said Ruggiero.  “I will give you half of what I earn with her.”

Black Rag looked at him and laughed, not believing that he was in earnest.  But Ruggiero slowly nodded his head as though to conclude a bargain.

“I will sell her to you,” said the sailor at last.  “She belonged to that blessed soul, my brother, who was drowned ­health to us ­to-day is Saturday ­and I never earned anything with her since she was mine.  I will sell her cheap.”

“How much?  I will give you thirty francs for her.”

Bastianello stared at his brother, but he made no remark while the bargain was being made, nor even when Ruggiero finally closed for fifty francs, paid the money down and proceeded to take possession of the old tub at once, to the infinite and forcibly expressed regret of the lads who had been playing with her.  Then the two brothers hauled her up upon the sloping cement slip between the pier and the bathing houses, and turned her over.  The boys swam away, and Black Rag departed with his money.

“What have you bought her for, Ruggiero?” asked Bastianello.

“She has copper nails,” observed the other examining the bottom carefully.  “She is worth fifty francs.  Your thought was good.  To-morrow she will be dry and we will caulk the seams, and the next day we will paint her and then we can take foreigners to the Cape in her if we have a chance and the signori do not go out.  Lend a hand, Bastianello; we must haul her up behind the boats.”

Bastianello said nothing and the two strong men almost carried the old tub to a convenient place for working at her.

“Do you want to do anything more to her to-night?” asked Bastianello.


“Then I will go up.”

“Very well.”

Ruggiero smiled as he spoke, for he knew that Bastianello was going to try and get another glimpse of Teresina.  The ladies would probably go to drive and Teresina would be free until they came back.

He sat down on a boat near the one he had just bought, and surveyed his purchase.  He seemed on the whole well satisfied.  It was certainly good enough for the foreigners who liked to be pulled up to the cape on summer evenings.  She was rather easily upset, as Ruggiero had noticed, but a couple of bags of pebbles in the right place would keep her steady enough, and she had room for three or four people in the stern sheets and for two men to pull.  Not bad for fifty francs, thought Ruggiero.  And San Miniato had asked about going after crabs by torchlight.  This would be the very boat for the purpose, for getting about in and out of the rocks on which the crabs swarm at night.  Black Rag might have earned money with her.  But Black Rag was rather a worthless fellow, who drank too much wine, played too much at the public lottery and wasted his substance on trifles.

Ruggiero’s purchase was much discussed that evening and all the next day by the sailors of the Piccola Marina.  Some agreed that he had done well, and some said that he had made a mistake, but Ruggiero said nothing and paid no attention to the gossips.  On the next day and the day after that he was at work before dawn with Bastianello, and Black Rag was very much surprised at the trim appearance of his old boat when the brothers at last put her into the water and pulled themselves round the little harbour to see whether the seams were all tight.  But he pretended to put a good face on the matter, and explained that there were more rotten planks in her than any one knew of and that only the nails below the water line were copper after all, and he predicted a short life for Number Fifty Seven, when Ruggiero renewed the old licence in the little harbour office.  Ruggiero, however, cared for none of these things, but ballasted the tub properly with bags of pebbles and demonstrated to the crowd that she was no longer easy to upset, inviting any one who pleased to stand on the gunwale and try.

“But the ballast makes her heavy to pull,” objected Black Rag, as he looked on.

“If you had arms like the Children of the King,” retorted the Cripple, “you would not trouble yourself about a couple of hundredweight more or less.  But you have not.  So you had better go and play three numbers at the lottery, the day of the month, the number of the boat and any other one that you like.  In that way you may still make a little money if you have luck.  For you have made a bad bargain with the Children of the King, and you know it.”

Black Rag was much struck by the idea and promptly went up to the town to invest his spare cash in the three numbers, taking his own age for the third.  As luck would have it the two first numbers actually turned up and he won thirty francs that week, which, as he justly observed, brought the price of the boat up to eighty.  For if he had not sold her he would never have played the numbers at all, and no one pretended that she was worth more than eighty francs, if as much.

Then, one morning, San Miniato found Ruggiero waiting outside his door when he came out.  The sailor grew leaner and more silent every day, but San Miniato seemed to grow stouter and more talkative.

“If you would like to go after crabs this evening, Excellency,” said the former, “the weather is good and they are swarming on the rocks everywhere.”

“What does one do with them?” asked San Miniato.  “Are they good to eat?”

“One knows that, Excellency.  We put them into a kettle with milk, and they drink all the milk in the night and the next day they are good to cook.”

“Can we take the ladies, Ruggiero?”

“In the sail boat, Excellency, and then, if you like, you and the Signorina can go with me in the little one with my brother, and I will pull while Bastianello and your Excellency take the crabs.”

“Very well.  Then get a small boat ready for to-night, Ruggiero.”

“I have one of my own, Excellency.”

“So much the better.  If the ladies will not go, you and I can go alone.”

“Yes, Excellency.”

San Miniato wondered why Ruggiero was so pale.