THE MUNIFICENCE OF PRINCE BORGHESE.
If the Romans remember the vices of their princely families, they are proud of storing up the memory of their virtues too; and the following narrative was told me with great enthusiasm.
LIBERALITY is a distinguishing characteristic of the Borghese family. It was always a matter of emulation who should get taken into their service, and no one who was once placed there ever let himself be sent away again, it was too good a thing to lose.
There was a man-servant, however, once who gave the Prince, I think it was the father of this one, an insolent answer, and he turned him off.
No one would take that man. Wherever he applied, when they asked him, 'Where have you lived?' and he answered, 'in casa Borghese,' everyone answered, 'Oh, if you couldn't live with Borghese, I'm sure I've nothing better to offer you!' and the door was shut in his face. It wasn't in one place or two, but everywhere, Borghese's character is so well known in Rome. As he couldn't get a place, however, he was reduced to near starvation, and he had a wife and six children, all with nothing to eat. Every article of furniture went to the Monte di Pietà, and almost every article of clothing; and yet hunger stared them in the face.
Then the man got desperate, and he went out one night and waited for Borghese in a lonely street in the dark, with a knife in his hand, and said, 'Your purse!'
Borghese thought he had a gang behind him, round the corner, and handed him his purse. But the man only took out three pauls and gave it back, and he looked so thin and haggard that Borghese could not but notice it, dark as it was, though he had forgotten his face.
'That is not a thief, he is some poor fellow who wants relief,' said Borghese to his servant. 'Go after him and see what he does, but take care not to be seen,' and he walked home alone. In less than half an hour the servant came back. He had seen him spend the three pauls in food; had seen him take it home to his family; had seen them scarcely covered with rags; had seen the room denuded of furniture; had heard the man say, as he put the food on the table, 'Here is wherewith to keep you alive another day, and to-morrow I die in sin, for I had to steal it.'
Then Borghese called up the steward (Maestro di Casa), and told him to go to the house and find out who the man was, and leave them what was wanted for the night.
The steward did as he was told, and left a scudo that the man might get a supper without eating stolen food, but without saying who sent him, for he had learnt by his inquiries that he was the servant whom Borghese had sent away.
The next day Borghese sent and clothed all the family; furnished their place again for them; put the children to schools, and gave the parents ten scudi a month. He wouldn't take the man back, having once had to send him away--for that was his rule--but he gave him a pension for the rest of his life.