Nineteen-year-old Arthur Burton spends much time with his confessor Lorenzo Montanelli, rector of the seminary. Arthur idolizes the padre (as he calls the Catholic priest). A year ago the mother of the young man died, Gladys. Now Arthur lives in Pisa with half-brothers.
The young man is very handsome: “Everything was as elegant in it as if it was carved: long eyebrows, thin lips, small arms, legs.” When he was sitting still, he could be mistaken for a pretty girl dressed in a man’s dress, but with flexible movements he looked like a tamed panther – true, without claws. “
Arthur trusts the mentor his secret: he became part of the “Young Italy” and will fight for the freedom of this country with his comrades. Montanelli feels misfortune, but he can not dissuade the young man from this idea.
In the organization is Arthur’s childhood companion – Gemma Warren, Jim, as Burton calls her.
Montanelli offer a bishopric, and he leaves for Rome for several months. In his absence, the young man confesses at the new rector about his love for the girl and jealousy for the one-party Bolle.
Soon Arthur is arrested. He spends time in the cell with hot prayers. During interrogations, he does not give out his comrades. Arthur is released, but from Jim he learns that the organization considers him guilty of Bolla’s arrest. Realizing that the priest broke the secret of the confession,
At home, his brother’s wife makes a scandal and tells Arthur that his own father is Montanelli. A young man smashes a crucifix and writes a suicide note. He throws his hat into the river and illegally floats away to Buenos Aires.
Part two. Thirteen years later
1846 year. In Florence, members of the Mazzini party are discussing ways to combat power. Dr. Riccardo suggests asking for help from Gadfly – Felice Rivares, a political satirist. The sharp word of Rivares in pamphlets is what you need.
At the evening at the party Grassini, Gemma Bolla, the widow of Giovanni Bolla, for the first time sees the Gadfly. “He was swarthy like a mulatto, and despite his lameness, he was as agile as a cat, he looked like a black jaguar, his forehead and left cheek were disfigured by a long, crooked scar-apparently from a saber blow… when he began to stammer, the left side of his face twitched a nervous cramp. ” Gadfly is impudent and does not count with propriety: he appeared at Grassini with his mistress – dancer Zita Reni.
Cardinal Montanelli arrives in Florence. Gemma saw him for the last time immediately after Arthur’s death. Then, as if petrified, the dignitary said to the girl: “Calm down, my child, you did not kill Arthur, but I. I deceived him and he found out about it.” That day the padre fell on the street in a fit. Signora Bolla again wants to see Montanelli and goes from Martini to the bridge, where the cardinal will go.
On this walk they meet the Gadfly. Gemma, in horror, recoils from Rivares: she saw Arthur in it.
Rivares is very sick. He suffers serious pain, members of the party take turns on duty at his bedside. Zita during illness, he does not admit to himself. Leaving him after duty, Martini encounters a dancer. Suddenly she bursts into reproaches: “I hate you all.” He lets you sit next to him all night and give him medicines, and I dare not even look at him in the door click! ” Martini is dumbfounded: “This woman loves him for a joke!”
Gadfly is on the mend. During Gemma’s watch, he tells her how in South America he was beaten with a poker by a drunken sailor, about working in a circus as a freak, as he escaped from his home in his youth. Senora Bolla reveals his grief: through her fault, a man “who loved more than anyone else in the world” perished.
Gemma suffers from doubts: what if the Gadfly is Arthur? So many coincidences… “And those blue eyes and those nervous fingers?” She tries to find out the truth, showing a portrait of the ten-year-old Arthur Ovod, but he does not betray himself.
Rivares is asking Signor Ball to use her connections to transport weapons to the Papal States. She agrees.
Zita showered Rivares with reproaches: he never loved her. The man Felice loves more than anything else in the world – Cardinal Montanelli: “Do you think I did not notice what look you saw off his carriage?” And the Gadfly confirms this.
In Brisighella, he, disguised as a beggar, receives the necessary note from his accomplices. There, Rivaress managed to talk with Montanelli. Seeing that the padre wound did not heal, he is ready to open to him, but, remembering his pain, stops. “Oh, if he could forgive, if only he could erase from the memory of the past – a drunken sailor, a sugar plantation, a wandering circus! What misery you will compare with this.”
Returning, the Gadfly learns that Zita left with the camp and is going to marry the gypsy.
The man who transported arms was arrested. The Gadfly decides to go to correct the situation. Before his departure, Gemma tries once again to gain recognition from him, but at this moment enters Martini.
In Brisighella, Rivares is arrested: in a shootout, the Gadfly lost his composure after seeing Montanelli. The colonel asks the cardinal for consent to a military court, but he wants to see the prisoner. At the meeting, the Gadfly insults the cardinal in every possible way.
Friends organize an escape for the Gadfly. But with him a new attack of the disease happens, and already being in the courtyard of the fortress, he loses consciousness. He is shackled and strapped. Despite the persuasion of the doctor, the colonel refuses Rivares in opium.
Gadfly asks for a meeting with Montanelli. He visits the prison. Knowing about the serious illness of the prisoner, the cardinal is horrified by the cruel treatment with him. The gadfly does not stand up and the padre opens. The dignitary realizes that his carino has not drowned. Arthur puts Montanelli before the choice: either he or a god. Cardinal leaves the cell. The Gadfly shouts after him: “I can not stand it!” Radre, come back! Come back! “
The Cardinal gives consent to a military court. Soldiers who have time to love the Gadfly shoot by. Finally Rivares falls. At this moment, Montanelli appears in the courtyard. The last words of Arthur are addressed to the cardinal: “Radre… your god… is satisfied?”
Friends of the Gadfly learn about his execution.
During the festive service, Montanelli sees blood in everything: the rays of the sun, roses, red carpets. In his speech, he blames the parishioners for the death of his son, brought by the cardinal to the sacrifice for them, as the Lord sacrificed Christ.
Gemma receives a letter from the Gadfly, written before the execution. It confirms that Felice Rivares is Arthur. “She lost him, she lost again!” Martini brings news of the death of Montanelli from a heart attack.
The novel “Gadfly” begins with a description of the life of Arthur Burton – an attractive young man of 19 years. He talks a lot with his confessor and friend Lorenzo Montanelli. Arthur calls the priest Padre and worships him.
In another conversation, Arthur tells the mentor that he joined the Young Guard and is planning to fight with Italy’s girlfriend Jemma Warren for the freedom of Italy. The priest anticipates misfortune, but can not convince the young man.
Montanelli receives an offer to become a bishop and for a few months leaves for Rome. At this time, Arthur confesses to the new rector of the seminary, talking about his feelings for the girl and about how jealous she is of her comrade Bolle.
Very soon Arthur is imprisoned. A young man does not give out party members during interrogations. However, after the release of freedom, he learns from Gemma that members of the “Young Guard” blame him for Bolla’s arrest. The young man understands that his confessor has broken the secret of confession, and unconsciously confirms his betrayal, for which he receives a slap from his girlfriend. He never succeeds in explaining to her what really happened.
At home during a scandal, arranged by his brother’s wife, Arthur learns that Montanelli is his real father. He breaks the crucifix, staged suicide and escapes to Buenos Aires.
Events develop 13 years later in Florence. When Mazzini discusses ways to combat power, Dr. Riccardo proposes to enlist the help of political satirist Felice Rivares, known to the public as the Gadfly.
Gemma Ball, who is already the widow of Giovanni Bolla, for the first time sees Gadfly at Grassini’s party. The man is swarthy, his face is disfigured by a terrible scar, he limps. But, despite this, he is extremely bold and spits on decency, which confirms his appearance with his mistress Zita.
In the city arrives Cardinal Montanelli. The last time Gemma met him after Arthur’s death. The woman wants to see the cardinal again and together with Martini goes to the bridge, on which Montanelli must pass. There they meet Rivares, and Gemma learns Arthur in it.
Gadfly is very sick, and party members take care of it. Gemma is also on duty at Rivares. He tells her about his life, she – about the fact that she once became the culprit of the death of a man “who loved more than anyone else in the world.” The woman is trying to find out if she thinks wrongly that the Gadfly is Arthur. But he does not betray himself.
Rivaress persuades Signor Ball to help with the transport of weapons to the Papal States. Zita accuses the Gadfly of not loving her, and the only person he values is Cardinal Montanelli. Rivares does not refute her words.
Meet with the padre from him in Brisighella. Seeing that the priest still suffers because of Arthur, he almost reveals his personality to him, but stops, remembering the pain he had to experience.
Upon their return, Rivares is informed that Zita is going to marry a gypsy and left with the camp.
The man who carried the weapons was arrested. To remedy the situation, the Gadfly goes to him. Before leaving, Jemma again tries to get the truth out of him, but Martini’s arrival prevented her.
After the shooting in Brizigelle, the Gadfly is arrested. Friends tried to rescue Rivares, but during the escape with him, there is an attack of the disease, and he loses consciousness. A man is chained and refuses to give an anesthetic.
Rivares is asking for a meeting with Montanelli. He opens Padre. The Cardinal wants to help his carino, but Arthur agrees to accept his help if he refuses religion and dignity. Montanelli can not do this and agrees to a military court.
The gadflies are shot. His last words: “Padre… your god… is satisfied?”
Gemma receives a letter from the Gadfly, which he wrote before the execution, confirming that he is Arthur. “I’ve lost again!”
Montanelli dies of a heart attack after a half-mad and passionate sermon, in which she mourns for herself and her son.