« PreviousContinue »
was no longer to be seen over the door; a sign which she had taken, if we may believe the tradition there, in honor of a maternal uncle, a grand-master of that order, whose achievements in PALESTINE she would sometimes relate. A mountain-stream ran through the garden; and, at no great distance, where the road turned on its way to BOLOGNA, stood a little chapel in which a lamp was always burning before a picture of the Virgin,-a picture of great antiquity, the work of some Greek artist.
Here she was dwelling, respected by all who knew her, when an event took place which threw her into the deepest affliction. It was at noon-day in September that three foottravellers arrived, and, seating themselves on a bench under her vine-trellis, were supplied with a flagon of Aleatico by a lovely girl, her only child, the image of her former self. The eldest spoke like a Venetian, and his beard was short, and pointed after the fashion of Venice. In his demeanor he affected great courtesy, but his look inspired little confidence; for, when he smiled, which he did continually, it was with his lips only, not with his eyes; and they were always turned from yours. His companions were bluff and frank in their manner, and on their tongues had many a soldier's oath. In their hats they wore a medal, such as in that age was often distributed in war; and they were evidently subalterns in one of those free bands which were always ready to serve in any quarrel, if a service it could be called where a battle was little more than a mockery, and the slain, as on an opera-stage, were up and fighting to-morrow. Overcome with the heat, they threw aside their cloaks, and, with their gloves tucked under their belts, continued for some time in earnest conversation.
At length they rose to go; and the Venetian thus ad
dressed their hostess: "Excellent lady, may we leave under your roof, for a day or two, this bag of gold?" "You may," she replied, gayly. "But remember, we fasten only with a latch. Bars and bolts we have none in our village; and, if we had, where would be your security?". "In your word, lady."
"But what if I died to-night? Where would it be then?" said she, laughing. "The money would go to the church; for none could claim it.”
"Perhaps you will favor us with an acknowledgment.” "If you will write it."
An acknowledgment was written accordingly, and she signed it before Master Bartolo, the village physician, who had just called on his mule to learn the news of the day; the gold to be delivered when applied for, but to be delivered (these were the words) not to one- nor to two but to the three; words wisely introduced by those to whom it belonged, knowing what they knew of each other. The gold they had just released from a miser's chest in PERUGIA; and they were now on a scent that promised
They and their shadows were no sooner departed, than the Venetian returned, saying, "Give me leave to set my seal on the bag, as the others have done;" and she placed it on a table before him. But in that moment she was called away to receive a cavalier, who had just dismounted from his horse; and, when she came back, it was gone. The temptation had proved irresistible; and the man and the money had vanished together.
"Wretched woman that I am!" she cried, as in an agony of grief she threw herself on her daughter's neck, "what will become of us? Are we again to be cast out into the
wide world?.. Unhappy child, would that thou hadst never been born!" and all day long she lamented; but her tears availed her little. The others were not slow in returning to claim their due; and there were no tidings of the thief; he had fled far away with his plunder. A process against her was instantly begun in BOLOGNA; and what defence could she make, how release herself from the obligation of the bond? Wilfully cr in negligence she had parted with the gold, she had parted with it to one, when she should have kept it for all; and inevitable ruin awaited her! "Go, GIANETTA," said she to her daughter, "take this veil which your mother has worn and wept under so often, and implore the counsellor Calderino to plead for us on the day of trial. He is generous, and will listen to the unfortunate. But, if he will not, go from door to door; Monaldi cannot refuse Make haste, my child; but remember the chapel as you pass by it. Nothing prospers without a prayer."
Alas! she went, but in vain. These were retained against them; those demanded more than they had to give; and all bade them despair. What was to be done? No advocate; and the cause to come on to-morrow!
Now GIANETTA had a lover; and he was a student of the law, a young man of great promise, LORENZO MARTELLI. He had studied long and diligently under that learned lawyer, GIOVANNI ANDREAS, who, though little of stature, was great in renown, and by his contemporaries was called the Arch-doctor, the Rabbi of Doctors, the Light of the World. Under him he had studied, sitting on the same bench with Petrarch; and also under his daughter NOVELLA, who would often lecture to the scholars when her father was otherwise engaged, placing herself behind a small curtain. lest her beauty should divert their thoughts from the sub
ject; a precaution in this instance at least unnecessary, LORENZO having lost his heart to another.298
To him she flies in her necessity; but of what assistance can he be? He has just taken his place at the bar, but he has never spoken; and how stand up alone, unpractised and unprepared as he is, against an array that would alarm the most experienced? - " "Were I as mighty as I am weak," said he, "my fears for you would make me as nothing. But I will be there, GIANETTA; and may the Friend of the friendless give me strength in that hour! Even now my heart fails me; but, come what will, while I have a loaf to share you and your mother shall never want. I will beg through the world for you."
The day arrives, and the court assembles. The claim is stated, and the evidence given. And now the defence is called for but none is made; not a syllable is uttered; and, after a pause and a consultation of some minutes, the judges are proceeding to give judgment, silence having been proclaimed in the court, when LORENZO rises and thus addresses them: "Reverend signors. Young as I am, may I venture to speak before you? I would speak in behalf of one who has none else to help her; and I will not keep you long. Much has been said; much on the sacred nature of the obligation-and we acknowledge it in its full force. Let it be fulfilled, and to the last letter. It is what we solicit, what we require. But to whom is the bag of gold to be delivered? What says the bond? Not to one-not to twobut to the three. Let the three stand forth and claim it." From that day (for who can doubt the issue?) none were sought, none employed, but the subtle, the eloquent LORENZO. Wealth followed fame; nor need I say how soon he sat at his marriage-feast, or who sat beside him.
ONE of two things MONTRIOLI may have,
At noon, the king. Then comes the council-board; And then the chase, the supper. When, ah! when, The leisure and the liberty I sigh for?
Not when at home; at home a miscreant crew,
The steward, his stories longer than his rent-roll,
He clanks his fetters to disturb my peace.