Weird Tales, Vol. II (of 2), p.1Part #II of Weird Tales series by E. T. A. Hoffmann
Produced by Charles Bowen, from scans obtained from TheInternet Archive.
Transcriber's notes:1. This book is derived from the Web Archive,https://www.archive.org/details/weirdtales05bealgoog.
2. The oe diphthong is represented by [oe].
3. Footnote references to volume I of this work are incorporated in thenote in order to provide easier reading.
BY E. T. W. HOFFMANN
A NEW TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN
WITH A BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR
By J. T. BEALBY, B.A. FORMERLY SCHOLAR OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. II.
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1885
TROW'S PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY, NEW YORK.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME II.
PAGETHE DOGE AND DOGESS,
MASTER MARTIN THE COOPER,
MADEMOISELLE DE SCUDERI,
MASTER JOHANNES WACHT,
THE DOGE AND DOGESS
This was the title that distinguished in the art-catalogue of the worksexhibited by the Berlin Academy of Arts in September, 1816, a picturewhich came from the brush of the skilful clever Associate of theAcademy, C. Kolbe. There was such a peculiar charm in the piece thatit attracted all observers. A Doge, richly and magnificently dressed,and a Dogess at his side, as richly adorned with jewellery, arestepping out on to a balustered balcony; _he_ is an old man, with agrey beard and rusty red face, his features indicating a peculiarblending of expressions, now revealing strength, now weakness, againpride and arrogance, and again pure good-nature; _she_ is a youngwoman, with a far-away look of yearning sadness and dreamy aspirationnot only in her eyes but also in her general bearing. Behind them is anelderly lady and a man holding an open sun-shade. At one end of thebalcony is a young man blowing a conch-shaped horn, whilst in front ofit a richly decorated gondola, bearing the Venetian flag and having twogondoliers, is rocking on the sea. In the background stretches the seaitself studded with hundreds and hundreds of sails, whilst the towersand palaces of magnificent Venice are seen rising out of its waves. Tothe left is Saint Mark's, to the right, more in the front, San GiorgioMaggiore. The following words were cut in the golden frame of thepicture.
Ah! senza amare, Andare sul mare Col sposo del mare, Non puo consolare.
To go on the sea With the spouse of the sea, When loveless I be, Is no comfort to me.
One day there arose before this picture a fruitless altercation as towhether the artist really intended it for anything more than a merepicture, that is, the temporary situation, sufficiently indicated bythe verse, of a decrepit old man who with all his splendour andmagnificence is unable to satisfy the desires of a heart filled withyearning aspirations, or whether he intended to represent an actualhistorical event. One after the other the visitors left the place,tired of the discussion, so that at length there were only two menleft, both very good friends to the noble art of painting. "I can'tunderstand," said one of them, "how people can spoil all theirenjoyment by eternally hunting after some jejune interpretation orexplanation. Independently of the fact that I have a pretty accuratenotion of what the relations in life between this Doge and Dogess were,I am more particularly struck by the subdued richness and power thatcharacterises the picture as a whole. Look at this flag with the wingedlions, how they flutter in the breeze as if they swayed the world. Obeautiful Venice!" He began to recite Turandot's riddle of Lion ofthe Adriatic, "_Dimmi, qual sia quella terribil fera_," &c. He hadhardly come to the end when a sonorous masculine voice broke in withCalaf's solution, "_Tu quadrupede fera_," &c. Unobserved by thefriends, a man of tall and noble appearance, his grey mantle thrownpicturesquely across his shoulder, had taken up a position behind them,and was examining the picture with sparkling eyes. They got intoconversation, and the stranger said almost in atone of solemnity, "Itis indeed a singular mystery, how a picture often arises in the mind ofan artist, the figures of which, previously indistinguishable,incorporate mist driving about in empty space, first seem to shapethemselves into vitality in his mind, and there seem to find theirhome. Suddenly the picture connects itself with the past, or even withthe future, representing something that has really happened or thatwill happen. Perhaps it was not known to Kolbe himself that the personshe was representing in this picture are none other than the Doge MarinoFalieri and his lady Annunciata."
The stranger paused, but the two friends urgently entreated him tosolve for them this riddle as he had solved that of the Lion of theAdriatic. Whereupon he replied, "If you have patience, my inquisitivesirs, I will at once explain the picture to you by telling youFalieri's history. But have you patience? I shall be verycircumstantial, for I cannot speak otherwise of things which stand solife-like before my eyes that I seem to have seen them myself. And thatmay very well be the case, for all historians--amongst whom I happen tobe one--are properly a kind of talking ghost of past ages."
The friends accompanied the stranger into a retired room, when, withoutfurther preamble, he began as follows:--
It is now a long time ago, and if I mistake not, it was in the month ofAugust, 1354, that the valiant Genoese captain, Paganino Doria byname, utterly routed the Venetians and took their town of Parenzo. Andhis well-manned galleys were now cruising backwards and forwards in theLagune, close in front of Venice, like ravenous beasts of prey which,goaded by hunger, roam restlessly up and down spying out where they maymost safely pounce upon their victims; and both people and seignorywere panic-stricken with fear. All the male population, liable tomilitary service, and everybody who could lift an arm, flew to theirweapons or seized an oar. The harbour of Saint Nicholas was thegathering-place for the bands. Ships and trees were sunk, and chainsriveted to chains, to lock the harbour-mouth against the enemy. Whilstthere was heard the rattle of arms and the wild tumult of preparation,and whilst the ponderous masses thundered down into the foaming sea, onthe Rialto the agents of the seignory were wiping the cold sweat fromtheir pale brows, and with troubled countenances and hoarse voicesoffering almost fabulous percentage for ready money, for the straitenedrepublic was in want of this necessary also. Moreover, it wasdetermined by the inscrutable decree of Providence that just at thisperiod of extreme distress and anxiety, the faithful shepherd should betaken away from his troubled flock. Completely borne down by the burdenof the public calamity, the Doge Andrea Dandolo died; the peoplecalled him the "dear good count" (_il caro contino_), because he wasalways cordial and kind, and never crossed Saint Mark's Square withoutspeaking a word of comfort to those in need of good advice, or giving afew sequins to those who were in want of money. And as every blow iswont to fall with double sharpness upon those who are discouraged bymisfortune, when at other times they would hardly have felt it at all,so now, when the people heard the bells of Saint Mark's proclaim insolemn muffled tones the death of their Duke, they were utterly undonewith sorrow and grief. Their support, their hope, was now gone, andthey would have to bend their necks to the Genoese yoke, they cried, indespite of the fact that Dandolo's loss did not seem to have any verycounteractive effect upon the progress that was being made with allnec
The object now was to elect a Doge who, endowed at one and the sametime with the valour and genius of a war captain, and with skill instatecraft, should save Venice, now tottering on her foundations, fromthe threatening power of her bold and ever-bolder enemy. But when thesenators assembled there was none but what had a gloomy face, hopelesslooks, and head bent earthwards and resting on his supporting hand.Where were they to find a man who could seize the unguided helm anddirect the bark of the state aright? At last the oldest of thecouncillors, called Marino Bodoeri, lifted up his voice and said, "Youwill not find him here around us, or amongst us; direct your eyes toAvignon, upon Marino Falieri, whom we sent to congratulate PopeInnocent on his elevation to the Papal dignity; he can find betterwork to do now; he's the man for us; let us choose him Doge to stemthis current of adversity. You will urge by way of objection that he isnow almost eighty years old, that his hair and beard are white assilver, that his blithe appearance, fiery eye, and the deep red of hisnose and cheeks are to be ascribed, as his traducers maintain, to goodCyprus wine rather than to energy of character; but heed not that.Remember what conspicuous bravery this Marino Falieri showed as admiralof the fleet in the Black Sea, and bear in mind the great serviceswhich prevailed with the Procurators of Saint Mark to invest thisFalieri with the rich countship of Valdemarino." Thus highly didBodoeri extol Falieri's virtues; and he had a ready answer for allobjections, so that at length all voices were unanimous in electingFalieri. Several, however, still continued to allude to his hot,passionate temper, his ambition, and his self-will; but they were metwith the reply: "And it is exactly because all these have gone from theold man, that we choose the _grey-beard_ Falieri and not the _youth_Falieri." And these censuring voices were completely silenced when thepeople, learning upon whom the choice had fallen, greeted it with theloudest and most extravagant demonstrations of delight. Do we not knowthat in such dangerous times, in times of such tension and unrest, anyresolution that really is a resolution is accepted as an inspirationfrom Heaven? Thus it came to pass that the "dear good count" and allhis gentleness and piety were forgotten, and every one cried, "By SaintMark, this Marino ought long ago to have been our Doge, and then weshould not have yon arrogant Doria before our very doors." And crippledsoldiers painfully lifted up their wounded arms and cried, "That isFalieri who beat the Morbassan--the valiant captain whosevictorious banners waved in the Black Sea." Wherever a knot of peoplegathered, there was one amongst them telling of Falieri's heroic deeds;and, as though Doria were already defeated, the air rang with wildshouts of triumph. An additional reason for this was that NicoloPisani who, Heaven knows why! instead of going to meet Doria withhis fleet, had coolly sailed away to Sardinia, was now returned.Doria withdrew from the Lagune; and what was really due to the approachof Pisani's fleet was ascribed to the formidable name of MarinoFalieri. Then the people and the seignory were seized by a kind offrantic ecstasy that such an auspicious choice had been made; and as anuncommon way of testifying the same, it was determined to welcome thenewly elected Doge as if he were a messenger from heaven bringinghonour, victory, and abundance of riches. Twelve nobles, eachaccompanied by a numerous retinue in rich dresses, had been sent by theSeignory to Verona, where the ambassadors of the Republic were again toannounce to Falieri, on his arrival, with all due ceremony, hiselevation to the supreme office in the state. Then fifteen richlydecorated vessels of state, equipped by the Podesta of Chioggia,and under the command of his own son Taddeo Giustiniani, took the Dogeand his attendant company on board at Chiozza; and now they moved onlike the triumphal procession of a most mighty and victorious monarchto St. Clement's, where the Bucentaur was awaiting the Doge.
At this very moment, namely, when Marino Falieri was about to set footon board the Bucentaur,--and that was on the evening of the 3d ofOctober about sunset--a poor unfortunate man lay stretched at fulllength on the hard marble pavement in front of the Customhouse. A fewrags of striped linen, of a colour now no longer recognisable, theremains of what apparently had once been a sailor's dress, such as wasworn by the very poorest of the people--porters and assistant oarsmen,hung about his lean starved body. There was not a trace of a shirt tobe seen, except the poor fellow's own skin, which peeped through hisrags almost everywhere, and was so white and delicate that the verynoblest need not have been shy or ashamed of it Accordingly, hisleanness only served to display more fully the perfect proportionsof his well-knit frame. A careful scrutiny of the unfortunate'slight-chestnut hair, now hanging all tangled and dishevelled about hisexquisitely beautiful forehead, his blue eyes dimmed with extrememisery, his Roman nose, his fine formed lips--he seemed to be not morethan twenty years old at the most--inevitably suggested that he was ofgood birth, and had by some adverse turn of fortune been thrown amongstthe meanest classes of the people.
As remarked, the youth lay in front of the pillars of the Custom-house,his head resting on his right arm, and his eyes riveted in a vacantstare upon the sea, without movement or change of posture. An observermight well have fancied that he was devoid of life, or that death hadfixed him there whilst turning him into an image of stone, had not adeep sigh escaped him from time to time, as if wrung from him byunutterable pain. And they were in fact occasioned by the pain of hisleft arm, which had apparently been seriously wounded, and was lyingstretched out on the pavement, wrapped up in bloody rags.
All labour had ceased; the hum of trade was no longer heard; allVenice, in thousands of boats and gondolas, was gone out to meet themuch-lauded Falieri. Hence it was that the unhappy youth was sighingaway his pain in utter helplessness. But just as his weary head fellback upon the pavement, and he seemed on the point of fainting, ahoarse and very querulous voice cried several times in succession,"Antonio, my dear Antonio." At length Antonio painfully raisedhimself partly up; and, turning his head towards the pillars of theCustom-house, whence the voice seemed to proceed, he replied veryfaintly, and in a scarce intelligible voice, "Who is calling me? Whohas come to cast my dead body into the sea, for it will soon be allover with me." Then a little shrivelled wrinkled crone came up pantingand coughing, hobbling along by the aid of her staff; she approachedthe wounded youth, and squatting down beside him, she burst out into amost repulsive chuckling and laughing. "You foolish child, you foolishchild," whispered the old woman, "are you going to perish here--willyou stay here to die, while a golden fortune is waiting for you? Lookyonder, look yonder at yon blazing fire in the west; there are sequinsfor you! But you must eat, dear Antonio, eat and drink; for it's onlyhunger which has made you fall down here on this cold pavement. Yourarm is now quite well again, yes, that it is." Antonio recognised inthe old crone the singular beggar-woman who was generally to be seen onthe steps of the Franciscan Church, chuckling to herself and laughing,and soliciting alms from the worshippers; he himself, urged by someinward inexplicable propensity, had often thrown her a hard-earnedpenny, which he had not had to spare. "Leave me, leave me in peace, youinsane old woman," he said; "but you are right, it is hunger more thanmy wound which has made me weak and miserable; for three days I havenot earned a farthing. I wanted to go over to the monastery and seeif I could get a spoonful or two of the soup that is made for invalids;but all my companions have gone; there is not one to have compassionupon me and take me in his _barca_; and now I have fallen downhere, and shall, I expect, never get up again." "Hi! hi! hi! hi!"chuckled the old woman; "why do you begin to despair so soon? Why loseheart so quickly? You are thirsty and hungry, but I can help you. Hereare a few fine dried fish which I bought only to-day in the Mint; hereis lemon-juice and a piece of nice white bread; eat, my son; and thenwe will look at the wounded arm." And the old woman proceeded to bringforth fish, bread, and lemon juice from the bag which hun
Meanwhile the old woman was busy unwrapping the rags from his woundedarm, and it was found that, though it was badly crushed, the wound wasprogressing favourably towards healing. The old woman took a salve outof a little box and warmed it with the breath of her mouth, and as sherubbed it on the wound she asked, "But who then has given you such anasty blow, my poor boy?" Antonio was so refreshed and charged anewwith vital energy that he had raised himself completely up; his eyesflashed, and he shook his doubled fist above his head, crying, "Oh!that rascal Nicolo; he tried to maim me, because he envies me everywretched penny that any generous hand bestows upon me. You know, olddame, that I barely managed to hold body and soul together by helpingto carry bales of goods from ships and freight-boats to the _depot_of the Germans, the so-called Fontego--of course you know thebuilding"--Directly Antonio uttered the word Fontego, the oldwoman began to chuckle and laugh most abominably, and to mumble,"Fontego--Fontego--Fontego." "Have done with your insane laughing if Iam to go on with my story," added Antonio angrily. At once the oldwoman grew quiet, and Antonio continued, "after a time I saved a littlebit of money, and bought a new jerkin, so that I looked quite fine; andthen I got enrolled amongst the gondoliers. As I was always in a blithehumour, worked hard, and knew a great many good songs, I soon earned agood deal more than the rest. This, however, awakened my comrades'envy. They blackened my character to my master, so that he turned meadrift; and everywhere where I went or where I stood they cried afterme, 'German cur! Cursed heretic!' Three days ago, as I was helping tounload a boat near St. Sebastian, they fell upon me with sticks andstones. I defended myself stoutly, but that malicious Nicolo dealt me ablow with his oar, which grazed my head and severely injured my arm,and knocked me on the ground. Ay, you've given me a good meal, oldwoman, and I am sure I feel that your salve has done my arm a world ofgood. See, I can already move it easily--now I shall be able to rowbravely again." Antonio had risen up from the ground, and was swinginghis arm violently backwards and forwards, but the old woman again fellto chuckling and laughing loudly, whilst she hobbled round about himin the most extraordinary fashion--dancing with short tripping stepsas it were--and she cried, "My son, my good boy, my good lad--row onbravely--he is coming--he is coming. The gold is shining red in thebright flames. Row on stoutly, row on; but only once more, only oncemore; and then never again."
But Antonio was not paying the slightest heed to the old woman's words,for the most splendid of spectacles was unfolding itself before hiseyes. The Bucentaur, with the Lion of the Adriatic on her flutteringstandard, was coming along from St. Clement's to the measured stroke ofthe oars like a mighty winged golden swan. Surrounded by innumerable_barcas_ and gondolas, and with her head proudly and boldly raised, sheappeared like a princess commanding a triumphing army, that had emergedfrom the depths of the sea, wearing bright and gaily decked helmets.The evening sun was sending down his fiery rays upon the sea and uponVenice, so that everything appeared to have been plunged into a bath ofblazing fire; but whilst Antonio, completely forgetful of all hisunhappiness, was standing gazing with wonder and delight, the gleams ofthe sun grew more bloody and more bloody. The wind whistled shrilly andharshly, and a hollow threatening echo came rolling in from the opensea outside. Down burst the storm in the midst of black clouds, andenshrouded all in thick darkness, whilst the waves rose higher andhigher, pouring in from the thundering sea like foaming hissingmonsters, threatening to engulf everything. The gondolas and _barcas_were driven in all directions like scattered feathers. The Bucentaur,unable to resist the storm owing to its flat bottom, was yawing fromside to side. Instead of the jubilant notes of trumpets and cornets,there was heard through the storm the anxious cries of those indistress.
Antonio gazed upon the scene like one stupefied, without sense andmotion. But then there came a rattling of chains immediately in frontof him; he looked down, and saw a little canoe, which was chained tothe wall, and was being tossed up and down by the waves; and a thoughtentered his mind like a flash of lightning. He leaped into the canoe,unfastened it, seized the oar which he found in it, and pushed outboldly and confidently into the sea, directly towards the Bucentaur.The nearer he came to it the more distinctly could he hear shouts forhelp. "Here, here, come here--save the Doge, save the Doge." It is wellknown that little fisher-canoes are safer and better to manage in theLagune when it is stormy than are larger boats; and accordingly theselittle craft were hastening from all sides to the rescue of MarinoFalieri's invaluable person. But it is an invariable principle in lifethat the Eternal Power reserves every bold deed as a brilliant successto the one specially chosen for it, and hence all others have all theirpains for nothing. And as on this occasion it was poor Antonio who wasdestined to achieve the rescue of the newly elected Doge, he alonesucceeded in working his way on to the Bucentaur in his littleinsignificant fisher-canoe. Old Marino Falieri, familiar with suchdangers, stepped firmly, without a moment's hesitation, from thesumptuous but treacherous Bucentaur into poor Antonio's little craft,which, gliding smoothly over the raging waves like a dolphin, broughthim in a few minutes to St. Mark's Square. The old man, his clothingsaturated with wet, and with large drops of sea-spray in his greybeard, was conducted into the church, where the nobles with blanchedfaces concluded the ceremonies connected with the Doge's public entry.But the people, as well as the seignory, confounded by this unfortunate_contretemps_, to which was also added the fact that the Doge, in thehurry and confusion, had been led between the two columns where commonmalefactors were generally executed, grew silent in the midst of theirtriumph, and thus the day that had begun in festive fashion ended ingloom and sadness.
Nobody seemed to think about the Doge's rescuer; nor did Antoniohimself think about it, for he was lying in the peristyle of the DucalPalace, half dead with fatigue, and fainting with the pain caused byhis wound, which had again burst open. He was therefore all the moresurprised when just before midnight a Ducal halberdier took him by theshoulders, saying, "Come along, friend," and led him into the palace,where he pushed him into the Duke's chamber. The old man came to meethim with a kindly smile, and said, pointing to a couple of purses lyingon the table, "You have borne yourself bravely, my son. Here; takethese three thousand sequins, and if you want more ask for them; buthave the goodness never to come into my presence again." As he saidthese last words the old man's eyes flashed with fire, and the tip ofhis nose grew a darker red Antonio could not fathom the old man's mind;he did not, however, trouble himself overmuch about it, but with somelittle difficulty took up the purses, which he believed he had honestlyand rightly earned.
Next morning old Falieri, conspicuous in the splendours of his newlyacquired dignity, stood in one of the lofty bay windows of the palace,watching the bustling scene below, where the people were busy engagedin practising all kinds of weapons, when Bodoeri, who from the dayswhen he was a youth had enjoyed the intimate and unchangeablefriendship of the Doge, entered the apartment. As, however, the Dogewas quite wrapped up in himself and his dignity, and did not appear tonotice his entrance, Bodoeri clapped his hands together and cried witha loud laugh, "Come, Falieri, what are all these sublime thoughts thatare being hatched and nourished in your mind since you first put theDoge's bent bonnet on?" Falieri, coming to himself like one awakeningfrom a dream, stepped forward to meet his old friend with an air offorced amiability. He felt that he really owed his bonnet to Bodoeri,and the words of the latter seemed to be a reminder of the fact. Butsince every obligation weighed like a burden upon Falieri's proudambitious spirit, and he could not dismiss the oldest member of theCouncil, and his tried friend to boot, as he had dismissed poorAntonio, he constrained himself to utter a few words of thanks, andimmediately began to speak of the measures to be adopted to meet theirenemy, who was now developing so great an activ
Bodoeri now began to sketch the picture of a beautiful woman, and indoing so he knew how to mix his colours so cleverly, and lay them onwith so much vigour and effect, that old Falieri's eyes began tosparkle, and his face grew redder and redder, whilst he puckered up hismouth and smacked his lips as if he were draining sundry glasses offiery Syracuse. "But who is this paragon of loveliness of whom you arespeaking?" said he at last with a smirk. "I mean nobody else but mydear niece--it's she I mean," replied Bodoeri. "What! your niece?"interrupted Falieri. "Why, she was married to Bertuccio Nenolo when Iwas Podesta of Treviso." "Oh! you are thinking about my nieceFrancesca," continued Bodoeri, "but it is her sweet daughter whom Iintend for you. You know how rude, rough Nenolo was enticed to the warsand drowned at sea. Francesca buried her pain and grief in a Romannunnery, and so I had little Annunciata brought up in strict seclusionat my villa in Treviso"---- "What!" cried Falieri, again impatientlyinterrupting the old man, "you mean me to raise your niece's daughterto the dignity of Dogess? How long is it since Nenolo was married?Annunciata must be a child--at the most only ten years old. When I wasPodesta in Treviso, Nenolo had not even thought of marrying, andthat's"---- "Twenty-five years ago," interposed Bodoeri, laughing;"come, you are getting all at sea with your memory of the flight oftime, it goes so rapidly with you. Annunciata is a maiden of nineteen,beautiful as the sun, modest, submissive, inexperienced in love, forshe has hardly ever seen a man. She will cling to you with childlikeaffection and unassuming devotion." "I will see her, I will see her,"exclaimed the Doge, whose eyes again beheld the picture of thebeautiful Annunciata which Bodoeri had sketched.
His desire was gratified the self-same day; for immediately he got backto his own apartments from the meeting of the Great Council, the craftyBodoeri, who no doubt had many reasons for wishing to see his nieceDogess at Falieri's side, brought the lovely Annunciata to himsecretly. Now, when old Falieri saw the angelic maiden, he was quitetaken aback by her wonderful beauty, and was scarcely able to stammerout a few unintelligible words as he sued for her hand. Annunciata, nodoubt well instructed by Bodoeri beforehand, fell upon her knees beforethe princely old man, her cheeks flushing crimson. She grasped his handand pressed it to her lips, softly whispering, "O sir, will you indeedhonour me by raising me to a place at your side on your princelythrone? Oh! then I will reverence you from the depths of my soul, andwill continue your faithful handmaiden as long as I have breath." OldFalieri was beside himself with happiness and delight. As Annunciatatook his hand he felt a convulsive throb in every limb; and then hishead and all his body began to tremble and totter to such a degree thathe had to sink hurriedly into his great arm-chair. It seemed as if hewere about to refute Bodoeri's good opinion as to the strength andtoughness of his eighty summers. Bodoeri, in fact, could not keep backthe peculiar smile that darted across his lips; innocent, un*sophisticated Annunciata observed nothing; and happily no one else waspresent Finally it was resolved for some reason--either because oldFalieri felt in what an uncomfortable position he would appear in theeyes of the people as the betrothed of a maiden of nineteen, or becauseit occurred to him as a sort of presentiment that the Venetians, whowere so prone to mockery, ought not to be so directly challenged toindulge in it, or because he deemed it better to say nothing at allabout the critical period of betrothal--at any rate, it was resolved,with Bodoeri's consent, that the marriage should be celebrated with thegreatest secrecy, and that then some days later the Dogess should beintroduced to the seignory and the people as if she had been some timemarried to Falieri, and had just arrived from Treviso, where she hadbeen staying during Falieri's mission to Avignon.
Let us now turn our eyes upon yon neatly dressed handsome youth who isgoing up and down the Rialto with his purse of sequins in his hand,conversing with Jews, Turks, Armenians, Greeks. He turns away hisface with a frown, walks on further, stands still, turns round, andultimately has himself rowed by a gondolier to St. Mark's Square. Therehe walks up and down with uncertain hesitating steps, his arms foldedand his eyes bent upon the ground; nor does he observe, or even haveany idea, that all the whispering and low coughing from various windowsand various richly draped balconies are love-signals which are meantfor him. Who would have easily recognised in this youth the sameAntonio who a few days before had lain on the marble pavement in frontof the Custom-house, poor, ragged, and miserable? "My dear boy! My deargolden boy, Antonio, good day, good day!" Thus he was greeted by theold beggar-woman, who sat on the steps leading to St. Mark's Church,and whom he was going past without observing. Turning abruptly round,he recognised the old woman, and, dipping his hand into his purse, tookout a handful of sequins with the intention of throwing them to her."Oh! keep your gold in your purse," chuckled and laughed the old woman;"what should I do with your money? am I not rich enough? But if youw
As Antonio uttered this word, the old woman, as if struck by alightning-flash, came rolling down the high marble steps like a ball.Antonio leapt forward and grasped her by both hands, and so preventedher from falling heavily. "O my good lad, my good lad," said the oldcrone in a low, querulous voice, "what a hideous word that was whichyou uttered. Kill me rather than repeat that word to me again. Oh! youdon't know how deeply you have cut me to the heart, me--who have such atrue affection for you--no, you don't know"---- Abruptly breaking off,she wrapped up her head in the dark brown cloth flaps which covered hershoulders like a short mantle, and sighed and moaned as if sufferingunspeakable pain. Antonio felt his heart strangely moved; lifting upthe old woman, he carried her up into the vestibule of the church, andset her down upon one of the marble benches which were there. "You havebeen kind to me, old woman," he began, after he had liberated her headfrom the ugly cloth flaps, "you have been kind to me, since it is toyou that I really owe all my prosperity; for if you had not stood by mein the hour of need, I should long ere this have been at the bottom ofthe sea, nor should I have rescued the old Doge, and received thesegood sequins. But even if you had not shown that kindness to me, I yetfeel that I should have a special liking for you as long as I live, inspite of the fact that your insane behaviour--chuckling and laughing sohorribly--strikes my heart with awe. To tell you the truth, old dame,even when I had hard work to get a living by carrying merchandise androwing, I always felt as if I must work still harder that I might havea few pence to give you." "O son of my heart, my golden Tonino," criedthe old woman, raising her shrivelled arms above her head, whilst herstaff fell rattling on the marble floor and rolled away from her, "OTonino mine, I know it; yes, I know it; you must cling to me with allyour soul, you may do as you will, for--but hush! hush! hush!" The oldwoman stooped painfully down in order to reach her staff, but Antoniopicked it up and handed it to her.
Leaning her sharp chin on her staff, and riveting her eyes in a setstare upon the ground, she began to speak in a reserved but hollowvoice, "Tell me, my child, have you no recollection at all of anyformer time, of what you did or where you were before you foundyourself here, a poor wretch hardly able to keep body and soultogether?" With a deep sigh, Antonio took his seat beside the old croneand then began, "Alas! mother, only too well do I know that I was bornof parents living in the most prosperous circumstances; but who theywere and how I came to leave them, of this I have not the slightestnotion, nor could I have. I remember very well a tall handsome man, whooften took me in his arms and smothered me with kisses and put sweetsin my mouth. And I can also in the same way call to mind a pleasant andpretty lady, who used to dress and undress me and place me in a softlittle bed every night, and who in fact was very kind to me in everyway. They used to talk to me in a foreign, sonorous language, and Ialso stammered several words of the same tongue after them. Whilst Iwas an oarsman my jealous rivals used to say I must be of Germanorigin, from the colour of my hair and eyes, and from my general build.And this I believe myself, for the language which that man spoke (hemust have been my father) was German. But the most vivid recollectionwhich I have of that time is that of one terrible night, when I wasawakened out of deep sleep by a fearful scream of distress. People wererunning about the house; doors were being opened and banged to; I grewterribly frightened, and began to cry loudly. Then the lady who used todress me and take care of me burst into the room, snatched me out ofbed, stopped my mouth, enveloped me in shawls, and ran off with me.From that moment I can remember nothing more, until I found myselfagain in a splendid house, situated in a most charming district. Thenthere rises up the image of a man whom I called 'father,' a majesticman of noble but benevolent appearance. Like all the rest in the house,he spoke Italian.
"For several weeks I had not seen my father, when one day severalugly-looking strangers came and kicked up a great deal of noise in thehouse, rummaging about and turning out everything. When they saw methey asked who I was, and what I was doing there? 'Don't you know I'mAntonio, and belong to the house?' I replied; but they laughed in myface and tore off all my fine clothes and turned me out of doors,threatening to have me whipped if I dared to show myself again. I ranaway screaming and crying. I had not gone a hundred yards from thehouse when I met an old man, whom I recognised as being one of myfoster-father's servants. 'Come along, Antonio,' he said, taking holdof my hand, 'come along, my poor boy, that house is now closed to usboth for ever. We must both look out and see how we can earn a crust ofbread.'
"The old man brought me along with him here. He was not so poor as heseemed to be from his mean clothing. Directly we arrived I saw him ripup his jerkin and produce a bag of sequins; and he spent the whole dayrunning about on the Rialto, now acting as broker, now dealing on hisown account. I had always to be close at his heels; and whenever he hadmade a bargain he had a habit of begging a trifle for the _figliuolo_(little boy). Every one whom I looked boldly in the face was glad topull out a few pence, which the old man pocketed with infinitesatisfaction, affirming, as he stroked my cheeks, that he was saving itup to buy me a new jerkin. I was very comfortable with the old man,whom the people called Old Father Bluenose, though for what reason Idon't know. But this life did not last long. You will remember thatterrible time, old woman, when one day the earth began to tremble, andtowers and palaces were shaken to their very foundations and began toreel and totter, and the bells to ring as if tolled by the arms ofinvisible giants. Hardly seven years have passed since that day.Fortunately I escaped along with my old man out of the house before itfell in with a crash behind us. There was no business doing; everybodyon the Rialto seemed stunned, and everything lifeless. But thisdreadful event was only the precursor of another approaching monster,which soon breathed out its poisonous breath over the town and thesurrounding country. It was known that the pestilence, which had firstmade its way from the Levant into Sicily, was committing havoc inTuscany. As yet Venice had been spared. One day Old Father Bluenosewas dealing with an Armenian on the Rialto; they were agreed over theirbargain, and warmly shook hands. Father Bluenose had sold the Armeniancertain good wares at a very low price, and now asked for the usualtrifle for the _figliuolo_. The stranger, a big stalwart man with athick curly beard (I can see him now), bent a kind look upon me, andthen kissed me, pressing a few sequins into my hand, which I hastilypocketed. We took a gondola to St. Mark's. On the way the old man askedme for the sequins, but for some reason or other, I don't know whatinduced me to do it, I maintained that I must keep them myself, sincethe Armenian had wished me to do so. The old man got angry; but whilsthe was quarrelling with me I noticed a disagreeable dirty yellow colourspreading over his face, and that he was mixing up all sorts ofincoherent nonsense in his talk. When we reached the Square he reeled aboutlike a drunken man, until he fell to the ground in front of the DucalPalace--dead. With a loud wail I threw myself upon the corpse. The peoplecame running round us, but as soon as the dreaded cry 'The pestilence!the pestilence!' was heard, they scattered and flew apart in terror. At thesame moment I was seized by a dull numbing pain, and my senses left me.
"When I awoke I found I was in a spacious room, lying on a plainmattress, and covered with a blanket. Round about me there were fullytwenty or thirty other pale ghastly forms lying on similar mattresses.As I learned later, certain compassionate monks, who happened to bejust coming out of St. Mark's, had, on finding signs of life in me, putme in a gondola and got me taken
"Say no more, old woman, say no more," interrupted Antonio; "there isstill something else which embitters my life, following me aboutincessantly everywhere; I know it will be the utter ruin of me in theend. An unspeakable longing,--a consuming aspiration for something,--Ican neither say nor even conceive what it is--has taken completepossession of my heart and mind since I awoke to renewed life in thehospital. Whilst I was still poor and wretched, and threw myself downat night on my hard couch, weary and worn out by the hard heavy labourof the day, a dream used to come to me, and, fanning my hot brow withbalmy rustling breezes, shed about my heart all the inexpressible blissof some single happy moment, in which the Eternal Power had beenpleased to grant me in thought a glimpse of the delights of heaven, andthe memory of which was treasured up in the recesses of my soul I nowrest on soft cushions, and no labour consumes my strength: but if Iawaken out of a dream, or if in my waking hours the recollection ofthat great moment returns to my mind, I feel that the lonely wretchedexistence I lead is just as much an oppressive burden now as it wasthen, and that it is vain for me to try and shake it off. All mythinking and all my inquiries are fruitless; I cannot fathom what thisglorious thing is which formerly happened in my life. Its mysteriousand alas! to me, unintelligible echo, as it were, fills me with suchgreat happiness; but will not this happiness pass over into the mostagonising pain, and torture me to death, when I am obliged toacknowledge that all my hope of ever finding that unknown Eden again,nay, that even the courage to search for it, is lost? Can there indeedremain traces of that which has vanished without leaving any signbehind it?" Antonio ceased speaking, and a deep and painful sighescaped his breast.
During his narrative the old crone had behaved like one who sympathisedfully with his trouble, and felt all that he felt, and like a mirrorreflected every movement and gesture which the pain wrung from him."Tonino," she now began in a tearful voice, "my dear Tonino, do youmean to tell me that you let your courage sink because the remembranceof some glorious moment in your life has perished out of your mind? Youfoolish child! You foolish child! Listen to--hi! hi! hi!" The old womanbegan to chuckle and laugh in her usual disagreeable way, and to hopabout on the marble floor. Some people came; she cowered down in heraccustomed posture; they threw her alms. "Antonio--lead me away,Antonio--away to the sea," she croaked Almost involuntarily--he couldnot explain how it came about--he took her by the arm and led herslowly across St. Mark's Square. On the way the old woman mutteredsoftly and solemnly, "Antonio, do you see these dark stains of bloodhere on the ground? Yes, blood--much blood--much blood everywhere! But,hi! hi! hi! Roses will spring up out of the blood--beautiful red rosesfor a wreath for you--for your sweetheart. O good Lord of all, whatlovely angel of light is this, who is coming to meet you with suchgrace and such a bright starry smile? Her lily-white arms are stretchedout to embrace you. O Antonio, you lucky, lucky lad! bear yourselfbravely! bear yourself bravely! And at the sweet hour of sunsetyou may pluck myrtle-leaves--myrtle-leaves for the bride--for themaiden-widow--hi! hi! hi! Myrtle-leaves plucked at the hour of sunset,but these will not be blossoms until midnight! Do you hear thewhisperings of the night-winds? the longing moaning swell of the sea?Row away bravely, my bold oarsman, row away bravely!" Antonio's heartwas deeply thrilled with awe as he listened to the old crone's wonderfulwords, which she mumbled to herself in a very peculiar and extraordinaryway, mingled with an incessant chuckling.
They came to the pillar which bears the Lion of the Adriatic. The oldwoman was going on right past it, still muttering to herself; butAntonio, feeling very uncomfortable at the old crone's behaviour,and being, moreover, stared at in astonishment by the passers-by,stopped and said roughly, "Here--sit you down on these steps, oldwoman, and have done with your talk; it will drive me mad. It is afact that you saw my sequins in the fiery images in the clouds; but,for that very reason, what do you mean by prating about angels oflight--bride--maiden-widow--roses and myrtle-leaves? Do you want tomake a fool of me, you fearful woman, till some insane attempt hurriesme to destruction? You shall have a new hood--bread--sequins--all thatyou want, but leave me alone." And he was about to make off hastily;but the old woman caught him by the mantle, and cried in a shrillpiercing voice, "Tonino, my Tonino, do take a good look at me for once,or else I must go to the very edge of the Square yonder and in despairthrow myself over into the sea." In order to avoid attracting more eyesupon him than he was already doing, Antonio actually stood still."Tonino," went on the old woman, "sit down here beside me; my heart isbursting, I must tell you--Oh! do sit down here beside me." Antonio satdown on the steps, but so as to turn his back upon her; and he took outhis account-book, whose white pages bore witness to the zeal with whichhe did business on the Rialto.
The old woman now whispered very low, "Tonino, when you look upon myshrivelled features, does there not dawn upon your mind the slightest,faintest recollection of having known me formerly a long, long timeago?" "I have already told you, old woman," replied Antonio in the samelow tones, and without turning round, "I have already told you, that Ifeel drawn towards you in a way that I can't explain to myself, but Idon't attribute it to your ugly shrivelled face. Nay, when I look atyour strange black glittering eyes and sharp nose, at your blue lipsand long chin, and bristly grey hair, and when I hear your abominablechuckling and laughing, and your confused talk, I rather turn away fromyou with disgust, and am even inclined to believe that you possess someexecrable power for attracting me to you." "O God! God! God!" whinedthe old dame, a prey to unspeakable pain, "what fiendish spirit ofdarkness has put such fearful thoughts into your head? O Tonino, mydarling Tonino, the woman who took such tender loving care of you whena child, and who saved your life from the most threatening danger onthat awful night--it was I."
In the first moments of startled surprise Antonio turned round as ifshot; but then he fixed his eyes upon the old woman's hideous face andcried angrily, "So that is the way you think you are going to befoolme, you abominable insane old crone! The few recollections which I haveretained of my childhood are fresh and lively. That kind and prettylady who tended me--Oh! I can see her plainly now! She had a fullbright face with some colour in it--eyes gently smiling-beautifuldark-brown hair--dainty hands; she could hardly be thirty years old,and you--you, an old woman of ninety!" "O all ye saints of Heaven!"interrupted the old dame, sobbing, "all ye blessed ones, what shall Ido to make my Tonino believe in me, his faithful Margaret?" "Margaret!"murmured Antonio, "Margaret! That name falls upon my ears like musicheard a long long time ago, and for a long long time forgotten.But--no, it is impossible--impossible." Then the old dame went on morecalmly, dropping her eyes, and scribbling as it were with her staff onthe ground, "You are right; the tall handsome man who used to take youin his arms and kiss you and give you sweets was your father, Tonino;and the language in which we spoke to each other was the beautifulsonorous German. Your father was a rich and influential merchant inAugsburg. His young and lovely wife died in giving birth to you. Then,since he could not settle down in the place where
"My father, a barber-surgeon, of whom it was said that he practisedforbidden science as well, had made me familiar from my earliestchildhood with the mysterious virtues of Nature's remedies. By him Iwas taught to wander through the fields and woods, learning theproperties of many healing herbs, of many insignificant mosses, thehours when they should be plucked and gathered, and how to mix thejuices of the various simples. But to this knowledge there was added avery special gift, which Heaven has endowed me with for someinscrutable purpose. I often see future events as if in a dim anddistant mirror; and almost without any conscious effort of will, Ideclare in expressions which are unintelligible to myself what I haveseen; for some unknown Power compels me, and I cannot resist it. Nowwhen I had to stay behind in Venice, deserted of all the world, Iresolved to earn a livelihood by means of my tried skill. In a brieftime I cured the most dangerous diseases. And furthermore, as mypresence alone had a beneficial effect upon my patients, and the softstroking of my hand often brought them past the crisis in a fewminutes, my fame necessarily soon spread through the town, and moneycame pouring in in streams. This awakened the jealousy of thephysicians, quacks who sold their pills and essences in St. Mark'sSquare, on the Rialto, and in the Mint, poisoning their patientsinstead of curing them. They spread abroad that I was in league withthe devil himself; and they were believed by the superstitious folk. Iwas soon arrested and brought before the ecclesiastical tribunal. O myTonino, what horrid tortures did they inflict upon me in order to forcefrom me a confession of the most damnable of all alliances! I remainedfirm. My hair turned white; my body withered up to a mummy; my feet andhands were paralysed. But there was still the terrible rack left--thecunningest invention of the foul fiend,--and it extorted from me aconfession at which I shudder even now. I was to be burnt alive; butwhen the earthquake shook the foundations of the palaces and of thegreat prison, the door of the underground dungeon in which I layconfined sprang open of itself, and I staggered up out of my grave asit were through rubbish and ruins. O Tonino, you called me an oldwoman of ninety; I am hardly more than fifty. This lean, emaciatedbody, this hideously distorted face, this icicle-like hair, these lamefeet--no, it was not the lapse of years, it was only unspeakabletortures which could in a few months change me thus from a strong womaninto the monstrous creature I now am. And my hideous chuckling andlaughing--this was forced from me by the last strain on the rack, atthe memory of which my hair even now stands on an end, and I feelaltogether as if I were locked in a red-hot coat of mail; and sincethat time I have been constantly subject to it; it attacks me withoutmy being able to check it. So don't stand any longer in awe of me,Tonino, Oh! it was indeed your heart which told you that as a littleboy you lay on my bosom." "Woman," said Antonio hoarsely, wrapped up inhis own thoughts, "woman, I feel as if I must believe you. But who wasmy father? What was he called? What was the awful fate which overtookhim on that terrible night? Who was it who adopted me? And--what wasthat occurrence in my life which now, like some potent magical spellfrom a strange and unknown world, exercises an irresistible sway overmy soul, so that all my thoughts are dissipated into a dark night-likesea, so to speak? When you tell me all this, you mysterious woman, thenI will believe you." "Tonino," replied the old crone, sighing, "foryour own sake I must keep silent; but the time when I may speak willsoon come. The Fontego--the Fontego--keep away from the Fontego."
"Oh!" cried Antonio angrily, "you need not begin to speak your darksentences again to enchant me by some devilish wile or other. My heartis rent, you must speak, or"---- "Stop," interrupted she, "nothreats--am I not your faithful nurse, who tended you?"---- Withoutwaiting to hear what the old woman had got further to say, he pickedhimself up and ran away swiftly. From a distance he shouted to her,"You shall nevertheless have a new hood, and as many sequins besides asyou like."
It was in truth a remarkable spectacle, to see the old Doge MarinoFalieri and his youthful wife: he, strong enough and robust enough invery truth, but with a grey beard, and innumerable wrinkles in hisrusty brown face, with some difficulty bearing his head erect, forminga pathetic figure as he strode along; she, a perfect picture of grace,with the pure gentleness of an angel in her divinely beautiful face, anirresistible charm in her longing glances, a queenly dignity enthronedupon her open lily-white brow, shadowed by her dark locks, a sweetsmile upon her cheeks and lips, her pretty head bent with winsomesubmissiveness, her slender form moving with ease, scarce seeming totouch the earth--a beautiful lady in fact, a native of another and ahigher world. Of course you have seen angelic forms like this,conceived and painted by the old masters. Such was Annunciata. How thencould it be otherwise but that every one who saw her was astonished andenraptured with her beauty, and all the fiery youths of the Seignorywere consumed with passion, measuring the old Doge with mocking looks,and swearing in their hearts that they would be the Mars to thisVulcan, let the consequences be what they might? Annunciata soon foundherself surrounded with admirers, to whose flattering and seductivewords she listened quietly and graciously, without thinking anything inparticular about them. The conception which her pure angelic spirit hadformed of her relation to her aged and princely husband was that sheought to honour him as her supreme lord, and cling to him with all theunquestioning fidelity of a submissive handmaiden. He treated herkindly, nay tenderly; he pressed her to his ice-cold heart and calledher his darling; he heaped up all the jewels he could find upon her;what else could she wish for from him, what other rights could she haveupon him? In this way, therefore, it was impossible for the thought ofunfaithfulness to the old man ever in any way to find lodgment in hermind; all that lay beyond the narrow circle of these limited relationswas to this good child an unknown region, whose forbidden borders werewrapped in dark mists, unseen and unsuspected by her. Hence all effortsto win her love were fruitless.
But the flames of passion--of love for the beautiful Dogess--burned innone so violently and so uncontrolled as in Michele Steno.Notwithstanding his youth, he was invested with the important andinfluential post of Member of the Council of Forty. Relying upon thisfact, as well as upon his personal beauty, he felt confident ofsuccess. Old Marino Falieri he did not fear in the least; and, indeed,the old man seemed to indulge less frequently in his violent outbreaksof furious passion, and to have laid aside his rugged untamablefierceness, since his marriage. There he sat beside his beautifulAnnunciata, spruce and prim, in the richest, gayest apparel, smirkingand smiling, challenging in the sweet glances of his grey eyes,--fromwhich a treacherous tear stole from time to time,--those who werepresent to say if any one of them could boast of such a wife as his.Instead of speaking in the rough arrogant tone of voice in which he hadformerly been in the habit of expressing himself, he whispered, scarcemoving his lips, addressed every one in the most amiable manner, andgranted the most absurd petitions. Who would have recognised in thisweak amorous old man the same Falieri who had in a fit of passionbuffeted the bishop on Corpus Christi Day at Treviso, and who haddefeated the valiant Morbassan. This growing weakness spurred onMichele Steno to attempt the most extravagant schemes. Annunciata didnot understand why he was constantly pursuing her with his looks andwords; she had no conception of his real purpose, but always preservedthe same gentle, calm, and friendly bearing towards him. It was justthis quiet unconscious behaviour, however, which drove him wild, whichdrove him to despair almost. He determined to effect his end bysinister means. He managed to involve Annunciata's most confidentialmaid in a love intrigue, and she at last permitted him to visit her atnight. Thus he believed he had paved a way to Annunciata's unpollutedchamber; but the Eternal Power willed that this treacherous iniquityshould recoil upon the head of its wicked author.
One night it chanced that the Doge, who had just re
Michele Steno was wild with fury at the failure of his well-plannedscheme, and at the disgrace of being thus banished from the presence ofhis idol. Now when he had to see from a distance how gently and kindlythe Dogess spoke to other young men of the Seignory--that was indeedher natural manner--his envy and the violence of his passion filled hismind with evil thoughts. The Dogess had without doubt only scorned himbecause he had been anticipated by others with better luck; and he hadthe hardihood to utter his thoughts openly and publicly. Now whether itwas that old Falieri had tidings of this shameless talk, or whether hecame to look upon the occurrence of that memorable night as the warningfinger of destiny, or whether now, in spite of all his calmness andequanimity, and his perfect confidence in the fidelity of his wife, hesaw clearly the danger of the unnatural position in which he stood inrespect to her--at any rate he became ill-tempered and morose. He wasplagued and tortured by all the fiends of jealousy, and confinedAnnunciata to the inner apartments of the Ducal Palace, so that no manever set eyes upon her. Bodoeri took his niece's part, and soundlyrated old Falieri; but he would not hear of any change in his conduct.
All this took place shortly before Holy Thursday. On the occasion ofthe popular sports which take place on this day in St. Mark's Square,it was customary for the Dogess to take her seat beside the Doge, undera canopy erected on the balcony which lies opposite to the Piazetti.Bodoeri reminded the Doge of this custom, and told him that it would bevery absurd, and sure to draw down upon him the mocking laughter ofboth populace and Seignory, if, in the teeth of custom and usage, helet his perverse jealousy exclude Annunciata from this honour. "Do youthink," replied old Falieri, whose pride was immediately aroused, "doyou think I am such an idiotic old fool that I am afraid to show mymost precious jewel for fear of thievish hands, and that I could notprevent her being stolen from me with my good sword? No, old man, youare mistaken; to-morrow Annunciata shall go with me in solemnprocession across St. Mark's Square, that the people may see theirDogess, and on Holy Thursday she shall receive the nosegay from thebold sailor who comes sailing down out of the air to her." The Doge wasthinking of a very ancient custom as he said these words. On HolyThursday a bold fellow from amongst the people is drawn up from the seato the summit of the tower of St. Mark's, in a machine that resembles alittle ship and is suspended on ropes, then he shoots from the top ofthe tower with the speed of an arrow down to the Square where the Dogeand Dogess are sitting, and presents a nosegay of flowers to theDogess, or to the Doge if he is alone.
The next day the Doge carried out his intention. Annunciata had to donher most magnificent robes; and surrounded by the Seignory and attendedby pages and guards, she and Falieri crossed the Square when it wasswarming with people. They pushed and squeezed themselves to deathalmost to see the beautiful Dogess; and he who succeeded in settingeyes upon her thought he had taken a peep into Paradise and had beheldthe loveliest of the bright and beautiful angels. But according toVenetian habits, in the midst of the wildest outbreaks of their franticadmiration, here and there were heard all sorts of satiric phrases andrhymes--and coarse enough too--aimed at old Falieri and his young wife.Falieri, however, appeared not to notice them, but strode along aspathetically as possible at Annunciata's side, smirking and smiling allover his face, and free on this occasion from all jealousy, although hemust have seen the glances full of burning passion which were directedupon his beautiful lady from all sides. Arrived before the principalentrance to the Palace, the guards had some difficulty in driving backthe crowd, so that the Doge and Dogess might go in; but here and therewere still standing isolated knots of better-dressed citizens, whocould not very well be refused entrance into even the inner quadrangleof the Palace. Now it happened just at the moment that the Dogessentered the quadrangle, that a young man, who with a few others stoodunder the portico, fell down suddenly upon the hard marble floor, as ifdead, with the loud scream, "O good God! good God!" The people rantogether from every side and surrounded the dead man, so that theDogess could not see him; yet, as the young man fell, she felt as if ared-hot knife were suddenly thrust into her heart; she grew pale; shereeled, and was only prevented from fainting by the smelling-bottles ofthe ladies who hastened to her assistance. Old Falieri, greatly alarmedand put out by the accident, wished the young man and his fit anywhere;and he carried his Annunciata, who hung her pretty head on her bosomand closed her eyes like a sick dove, himself up the steps into her ownapartments in the interior of the Palace, although it was very hardwork for him to do so.
Meanwhile the people, who had increased to crowds in the innerquadrangle, had been spectators of a remarkable scene. They were aboutto lift up the young man, whom they took to be quite dead, and carryhim away, when an ugly old beggar-woman, all in rags, came limping upwith a loud wail of grief; and punching their sides and ribs with hersharp elbows she made a way for herself through the thick of the crowd.When she at length saw the senseless youth, she cried, "Let him be,fools; you stupid people, let him be; he is not dead." Then shesquatted down beside him; and taking his head in her lap she gentlyrubbed and stroked his forehead, calling him by the sweetest of names.As the people noted the old woman's ugly apish face, and the repulsiveplay of its muscles, bending over the young fellow's fine handsomeface, his soft features now stiff and pale as in death, when they sawher filthy rags fluttering about over the rich clothing the young manwore, and her lean brownish-yellow arms and long hands trembling uponhis forehead and exposed breast--they could not in truth resistshuddering with awe. It looked as if it were the grinning form of deathhimself in whose arms the young man lay. Hence the crowd standing roundslipped away quietly one after the other, till there were only a fewleft They, when the young man opened his eyes with a deep sigh, tookhim up and carried him, at the old woman's request, to the Grand Canal,where a gondola took them both on board, the old woman and the youth,and brought them to the house which
When Antonio was quite recovered from his stupefaction and perceivedthe old woman at his bed-side, and knew that she had just been givinghim some strengthening drops, he said brokenly in a hoarse voice,bending a long gloomy melancholy gaze upon her, "_You_ with me,Margaret--that is good; what more faithful nurse could I have foundthan you? Oh! forgive me, mother, that I, a doltish, senseless boy,doubted for an instant what you discovered to me. Yes, you are _the_Margaret who reared me, who cared for me and tended me; I knew it allthe time, but some evil spirit bewildered my thoughts. I have seen her;it is she--it is she. Did I not tell you there was some mysteriousmagical power dwelling in me, which exercised an uncontrollablesupremacy over me? It has emerged from its obscurity dazzling withlight, to effect my destruction through nameless joy. I now knowall--everything. Was not my foster-father Bertuccio Nenolo, and did henot bring me up at his country-seat near Treviso?" "Yes, yes," repliedthe old woman, "it was indeed Bertuccio Nenolo, the great sea-captain,whom the sea devoured as he was about to adorn his temples with thevictor's wreath." "Don't interrupt me," continued Antonio; "listenpatiently to what I have to say.
"With Bertuccio Nenolo I lived in clover. I wore fine clothes; thetable was always covered when I was hungry; and after I had said mythree prayers properly I was allowed to run about the woods and fieldsjust as I pleased. Close beside the villa there was a little wood ofsweet pines, cool and dark, and filled with sweet scents and songs.There one evening, when the sun began to sink, I threw me down beneatha big tree, tired with running and jumping about, and stared up at theblue sky. Perhaps I was stupefied by the fragrant smell of theflowering herbs in the midst of which I lay; at any rate, my eyesclosed involuntarily, and I sank into a state of dreamy reverie, fromwhich I was awakened by a rustling, as if some one had struck a blow inthe grass beside me. I started up into a sitting posture; an angelicchild with heavenly eyes stood near me and looked down upon me, smilingmost sweetly and bewitchingly. 'O good boy,' she said, in a low softvoice, 'how beautiful and calmly you sleep, and yet death, nasty death,was so near to you.' Close beside my breast I saw a small black snakewith its head crushed; the little girl had killed the poisonous reptilewith a switch from a nut-tree, and just as it was wriggling on to mydestruction. Then a trembling of sweet awe fell upon me; I knew thatangels often came down from heaven above to rescue men in person fromthe threatening attack of some evil enemy. I fell upon my knees andraised my folded hands. 'Oh! you are surely an angel of light, sent byGod to save my life,' I cried. The pretty creature stretched out botharms towards me and said softly, whilst a deeper flush mantled upon hercheeks, 'No, good boy; I am not an angel, but a girl--a child likeyou.' Then my feeling of awe gave place to a nameless delight, whichspread like a gentle warmth through all my limbs. I rose to my feet; weclasped each other in our arms, our lips met, and we were speechless,weeping, sobbing with sweet unutterable sadness.
"Then a clear silvery voice cried through the wood, 'Annunciata!Annunciata!' 'I must go now, darling boy, mother is calling me,'whispered the little girl. My heart was rent with unspeakable pain.'Oh! I love you so much,' I sobbed, and the scalding tears fell fromthe little girl's eyes upon my cheeks. 'I am so--so fond of you, goodboy,' she cried, pressing a last kiss upon my lips. 'Annunciata,' thevoice cried again; and the little girl disappeared behind the bushes.Now that, Margaret, was the moment when the mighty spark of love fellupon my soul, and it will gather strength, and, enkindling flame afterflame, will continue to burn there for ever. A few days afterwards Iwas turned out of the house.
"Father Bluenose told me, since I did not cease talking about thelovely child who had appeared to me, and whose sweet voice I thoughtI heard in the rustling of the trees, in the gushing murmurs ofthe springs, and in the mysterious soughing of the sea--yes, thenFather Bluenose told me that the girl could be none other thanNenolo's daughter Annunciata, who had come to the villa with hermother Francesca, but had left it again on the following day. Omother--Margaret--help me. Heaven! This Annunciata--is the Dogess."And Antonio buried his face in the pillows, weeping and sobbing withunspeakable emotion.
"My dear Tonino," said the old woman, "rouse yourself and be a man;come, do resist bravely this foolish emotion. Come, come, how can youthink of despairing when you are in love? For whom does the goldenflower of hope blossom if not for the lover? You do not know in theevening what the morning may bring; what you have beheld in your dreamscomes to meet you in living form. The castle that hovered in the airstands all at once on the earth, a substantial and splendid building.See here, Tonino, you are not paying the least heed to my words; but mylittle finger tells me, and so does somebody else as well, that thebright standard of love is gaily waving for you out at sea. Patience,Tonino--patience, my boy!" Thus the old woman sought to comfort poorAntonio; and her words did really sound like sweet music. He would notlet her leave him again. The beggar-woman had disappeared from thesteps of the Franciscan Church, and in her stead people saw SignorAntonio's housekeeper, dressed in becoming matronly style, limpingabout St. Mark's Square and buying the requisite provisions for histable.
Holy Thursday was come. It was to be celebrated on this occasion inmore magnificent fashion than it had ever been before. In the middle ofthe Piazzetta of St. Mark's a high staging was erected for a specialkind of artistic fire--something perfectly new, which was to beexhibited by a Greek--a man experienced in such matters. In the eveningold Falieri came out on the balcony along with his beautiful lady,reflecting his pride and happiness in the magnificence of hissurroundings, and with radiant eyes challenging all who stood near toadmire and wonder. As he was about to take his seat on the chair ofstate he perceived Michele Steno actually on the same balcony with him,and saw that he had chosen a position whence he could keep his eyesconstantly fixed upon the Dogess, and must of necessity be observed byher. Completely overmastered by furious rage, and wild with jealousy,Falieri shouted in a loud and commanding tone that Steno was to be atonce removed from the balcony. Michele Steno raised his hand againstFalieri, but that same moment the guards appeared, and compelled him toquit his place, which he did, foaming with rage and grinding his teeth,and threatening revenge in the most horrible imprecations.
Meanwhile Antonio, utterly beside himself at sight of his belovedAnnunciata, had made his way out through the crowd, and was stridingbackwards and forwards in the darkness of the night alone along theedge of the sea, his heart rent by unutterable anguish. He debatedwithin himself whether it would not be better to extinguish theconsuming fire within him in the ice-cold waves than to be slowlytortured to death by hopeless pain. But little was wanting, and he hadleapt into the sea; he was already standing on the last step that goesdown to the water, when a voice called to him from a little boat, "Ay,a very good evening to you, Signor Antonio." By the reflection cast bythe illuminations of the Square, he recognised that it was merryPietro, one of his former comrades. He was standing in the boat, hisnew cap adorned with feathers and tinsel, and his new striped jacketgaily decorated with ribbons, whilst he held in his hand a large andbeautiful nosegay of sweet-scented flowers. "Good evening, Pietro,"shouted Antonio back, "what grand folks are you going to row to-nightthat you are decked off so fine?" "Oh!" replied Pietro, dancing tillhis boat rocked; "see you, Signor Antonio, I am going to earn my threesequins to-day; for I'm going to make the journey up to St. Mark'sTower and then down again, to take this nosegay to the beautifulDogess." "But isn't that a risky and break-neck adventure, Pietro, myfriend?" asked Antonio. "Well," he replied, "there is some littlechance of breaking one's neck, especially as we go to-day right throughthe middle of the artificial fire. The Greek says, to be sure, that hehas arranged everything so that the fire will not hurt a hair ofanybody's head, but"---- Pietro shrugged his shoulders.
Antonio stepped down to Pietro in the boat, and now perceived that
Meanwhile the Doge's balcony was the scene of tumult and confusion. Asmall strip of paper had been found fastened to the Doge's seat,containing in the common Venetian dialect the words:
Il Dose Falier della bella muier, I altri la gode e lui la mantien.
(The Doge Falieri, the husband of the beautiful lady; others kiss her,and he--he keeps her.)
Old Falieri burst into a violent fit of passion, and swore that theseverest punishment should overtake the man who had been guilty of thisaudacious offence. As he cast his eyes about they fell upon MicheleSteno standing beneath the balcony in the Square, in the full light ofthe torches; he at once commanded his guards to arrest him as theinstigator of the outrage. This command of the Doge's provoked auniversal cry of dissent; in giving way to his overmastering rage hewas offering insult to both Seignory and populace, violating the rightsof the former, and spoiling the latter's enjoyment of their holiday.The members of the Seignory left their places; but old Marino Bodoerimixed among the people, actively representing the grave nature of theoutrage that had been done to the head of the state, and seeking todirect the popular hatred upon Michele Steno. Nor had Falieri judgedwrongly; for Michele Steno, on being expelled from the Duke's balcony,had really hurried off home, and there written the above-mentionedslanderous words; then when all eyes were fixed upon the artificialfire, he had fastened the strip of paper to the Doge's seat, andwithdrawn from the gallery again unobserved. He maliciously hoped itwould be a galling blow for them, for both the Doge and the Dogess, andthat the wound would rankle deeply--so deeply as to touch a vital part.Willingly and openly he admitted the deed, and transferred all blame tothe Doge, since he had been the first to give umbrage to _him_.
The Seignory had been for some time dissatisfied with their chief, forinstead of meeting the just expectations of the state, he gave proofsdaily that the fiery warlike courage in his frozen and worn-out heartwas merely like the artificial fire which bursts with a furious rushout of the rocket-apparatus, but immediately disappears in blacklifeless flakes, and has accomplished nothing. Moreover, since hisunion with his young and beautiful wife (it had long before leaked outthat he was married to her directly after attaining to the Dogate) oldFalieri's jealousy no longer let him appear in the character of heroiccaptain, but rather of _vechio Pantalone_ (old fool); hence it was thatthe Seignory, nursing their swelling resentment, were more inclined tocondone Michele Steno's fault, than to see justice done to theirdeeply-wounded chief. The matter was referred by the Council of Ten tothe Forty, one of the leaders of which Michele had formerly been. Theverdict was that Michele Steno had already suffered sufficiently, and amonth's banishment was quite punishment enough for the offence. Thissentence only served to feed anew and more fully old Falieri'sbitterness against a Seignory which, instead of protecting their ownhead, had the impudence to punish insults that were offered to him asthey would offences of merely the most insignificant description.
As generally happens in the case of lovers, once a single ray of thehappiness of love has fallen upon them, they are surrounded for daysand weeks and months by a sort of golden veil, and dream dreams ofParadise; and so Antonio could not recover himself from the stupefyingrapture of that happy moment; he could hardly breathe for delirioussadness. He had been well scolded by the old woman for running such agreat risk; and she never ceased mumbling and grumbling about exposureto unnecessary danger.
But one day she came hopping and dancing with her staff in the strangeway she had when apparently affected by some foreign magical influence.Without heeding Antonio's words and questions, she began to chuckleand laugh, and kindling a small fire in the stove, she put a littlepan on it, into which she poured several ingredients from manyvarious-coloured phials, and made a salve, which she put into a littlebox; then she limped out of the house again, chuckling and laughing.She did not return until late at night, when she sat down in theeasy-chair, panting and coughing for breath; and after she had in ameasure recovered from her great exhaustion, she at length began,"Tonino, my boy Tonino, whom do you think I have come from? See--try ifyou can guess. Whom do I come from? where have I been?" Antonio lookedat her, and a singular instinctive feeling took possession of him."Well now," chuckled the old woman, "I have come from her--her herself,from the pretty dove, lovely Annunciata." "Don't drive me mad, oldwoman!" shouted Antonio. "What do you say?" continued she, "I am alwaysthinking about you, my Tonino.
"This morning, whilst I was haggling for some fine fruit under theperistyle of the Palace, I heard the people talking with bated breathof the accident that had befallen the beautiful Dogess. I inquiredagain and again of several people, and at last a big, uncultivated, redhaired fellow, who stood leaning against a column, yawning and chawinglemons, said to me, 'Oh well, a young scorpion has been trying itslittle teeth on the little finger of her left hand, and there's been adrop or two of blood shed--that's all. My master, Signor DoctorGiovanni Basseggio, is now in the palace, and he has, no doubt, beforethis cut off her pretty hand, and the finger with it.' Just as thefellow was telling me this there arose a great noise on the broadsteps, and a little man--such a tiny little man--came rolling down atour feet, screaming and lamenting, for the guards had kicked him downas if he had been a nine pin. The people gathered round him, laughingheartily; the little man struggled and fought with his legs in the airwithout being able to get up; but the red-haired fellow rushed forward,snatched up the little doctor, tucked him under his arm, and ran offwith him as fast as his legs could carry him to the Canal, where he gotinto a gondola with him and rowed away--the little doctor screaming andyelling with all his might the whole time. I knew how it was; just asSignor Basseggio was getting his knife ready to cut off the prettyhand, the Doge had had him kicked down the steps. I also thought ofsomething else--quick--quick as you can--go home make a salve--and thencome back here to the Ducal Palace.
"And I stood on the great stairs with my bright little phial in myhand. Old Falieri was just coming down; he darted a glance at me, and,his choler rising, said, 'What doe
"For three hours I sat there, holding her little hand in mine, strokingand attending to it. Then the darling woman woke up out of the gentleslumber into which she had fallen, and no longer felt any pain. After Ihad made a fresh poultice, she looked at me with eyes brimming withgladness. Then I said, 'O most noble lady, you once saved a boy's lifewhen you killed the little snake that was about to attack him as heslept.' O Tonino, you should have seen the hot blood rush into her paleface, as if a ray of the setting sun had fallen upon it--and how hereyes flashed with the fire of joy. 'Oh! yes, old woman,' she said, 'oh!I was quite a child then--it was at my father's country villa. Oh! hewas a dear pretty boy--I often think of him now. I don't think I haveever had a single happy experience since that time.' Then I began totalk about you, that you were in Venice, that your heart still beatwith the love and rapture of that moment, that, in order to gaze _once_more in the heavenly eyes of the angel who saved you, you had faced therisk of the dangerous aerial voyage, that you it was who had given herthe nosegay on Holy Thursday. 'O Tonino, Tonino,' she cried in anecstasy of delight, 'I felt it, I felt it; when he pressed my hand tohis lips, when he named my name, I could not conceive why it went sostrangely to my heart; it was indeed pleasure, but pain as well. Bringhim here, bring him to me--the pretty boy.'" As the old woman said thisAntonio threw himself upon his knees and cried like one insane, "O goodGod! pray let no dire fate overtake me now--now at least until I haveseen her, have pressed her to my heart." He wanted the old woman totake him to the Palace the very next day; but she flatly refused, sinceold Falieri was in the habit of paying visits to his sick wife nearlyevery hour that came.
Several days went by; the old woman had completely cured the Dogess;but as yet it had been quite impossible to take Antonio to see her. Theold woman soothed his impatience as well as she could, always repeatingthat she was constantly talking to beautiful Annunciata about theAntonio whose life she had saved, and who loved her so passionately.Tormented by all the pangs of desire and yearning love, Antonio spenthis time in going about in his gondola and restlessly traversing thesquares. But his footsteps involuntarily turned time after time in thedirection of the Ducal Palace. One day he saw Pietro standing on thebridge close to the back part of the Palace, opposite the prisons,leaning on a gay-coloured oar, whilst a gondola, fastened to one of thepillars, was rocking on the Canal. Although small, it had a comfortablelittle deck, was adorned with tasteful carvings, and even decoratedwith the Venetian flag, so that it bore some resemblance to theBucentaur. As soon as Pietro saw his former comrade he shouted out tohim, "Hi! Signor Antonio, the best of good greetings to you; yoursequins have brought me good luck." Antonio asked somewhat absentlywhat sort of good luck he meant, and learned the important intelligencethat nearly every evening Pietro had to take the Doge and Dogess in hisgondola across to Giudecca, where the Doge had a nice house not farfrom San Giorgio Maggiore. Antonio stared at Pietro, and then burst outspasmodically, "Comrade, you may earn another ten sequins and more ifyou like. Let me take your place; I will row the Doge over." But Pietroinformed him that he could not think of doing so, for the Doge knew himand would not trust himself with anybody else. At length when Antonio,his mind excited by all the tortures of love, began to give way tounbridled anger, and violently importune him, and to swear in an insaneand ridiculous fashion that he would leap after the gondola and drag itdown under the sea, Pietro replied laughing, "Why, Signor Antonio,Signor Antonio, why, I declare you have quite lost yourself in theDogess's beautiful eyes." But he consented to allow Antonio to go withhim as his assistant in rowing; he would excuse it to old Falieri onthe ground of the weight of the boat, as well, as being himself alittle weak and unwell, and old Falieri did always think the gondolawent too slowly on this trip. Off Antonio ran, and he only justreturned to the bridge in time, dressed in coarse oarsman's clothing,his face stained, and with a long moustache stuck above his lips, forthe Doge came down from the Palace with the Dogess, both attired mostsplendidly and magnificently. "Who's that stranger fellow there?" beganthe Doge angrily to Pietro; and it required all Pietro's most solemnasseverations that he really required an assistant, before the old mancould be induced to allow Antonio to help row the gondola.
It often happens that in the midst of the wildest delirium of delightand rapture the soul, strengthened as it were by the power of themoment, is able to impose fetters upon itself, and to control theflames of passion which threaten to blaze out from the heart. In asimilar way Antonio, albeit he was close beside the lovely Annunciataand the seam of her dress touched him, was able to hide his consumingpassion by maintaining a firm and powerful hold upon his oar, and,whilst avoiding any greater risk, by only glancing at her momentarilynow and then. Old Falieri was all smirks and smiles; he kissed andfondled beautiful Annunciata's little white hands, and threw his armaround her slender waist. In the middle of the channel, when St. Mark'sSquare and magnificent Venice with all her proud towers and palaces layextended before them, old Falieri raised his head and said, gazingproudly about him, "Now, my darling, is it not a grand thing to ride onthe sea with the lord--the husband of the sea? Yes, my darling, don'tbe jealous of my bride, who is submissively bearing us on her broadbosom. Listen to the gentle splashing of the wavelets; are they notwords of love which she is whispering to the husband who rules her?Yes, yes, my darling, you indeed wear my ring on your finger, but shebelow guards in the depths of her bosom the ring of betrothal which Ithrew to her." "Oh! my princely Sir," began Annunciata, "oh! how canthis cold treacherous water be your bride? it quite makes me shiver tothink that you are married to this proud imperious element." OldFalieri laughed till his chin and beard tottered and shook. "Don'tdistress yourself, my pet," he said, "it's far better, of course, torest in your soft warm arms than in the ice-cold lap of my bride belowthere; but it's a grand thing to ride on the sea with the lord of thesea!" Just as the Doge was saying these words, the faint strains ofmusic at a distance came floating towards them. The notes of a softmale voice, gliding along the waves of the sea, came nearer and nearer;the words that were sung were--
Ah! senza amare, Andare sul mare, Col sposo del' mare Non puo consolare.
Other voices took up the strain, and the same words were repeated againand again in every-varying alternation, until the song died away likethe soft breath of the wind as it were. Old Falieri appeared not to paythe slightest heed to the song; on the contrary, he was relating to theDogess with much prolixity the meaning and history of the solemnitywhich takes place on Ascension Day when the Doge throws his ring fromthe Bucentaur and is married to the sea.
He spoke of the victories of the republic, and how she had formerlyconquered Istria and Dalmatia under the rule of Peter Urseolus theSecond, and how this ceremony had its origin in that conquest Butif old Falieri heeded not the song, so now his tales were lost upon theDogess. She sat with her mind completely wrapped up in the sweet soundswhich came floating along the sea. When the song came to an end hereyes wore a strange far-off look, as if she were awakening from aprofound dream and striving to see and interpret the images whichsportively mocked h
Antonio could hardly wait until the following evening, since he hopedthen to have the desired message from his beloved Annunciata. Atlast--at last the old woman came limping in, dropped panting into thearm-chair, and clapped her thin bony hands together again and again,crying. "Tonino, O Tonino! what in the world has happened to our deardarling? When I went into her room, there she lay on the couch with hereyes half closed, her pretty head resting on her arm, neitherslumbering nor awake, neither sick nor well. I approached her: 'Oh!noble lady,' said I, 'what misfortune has happened to you? Does yourscarce-healed wound hurt you still?' But she looked at me, oh! withsuch eyes, Antonio--I have never seen anything like them. And directlyI looked down into the humid moonlight that was in them, they withdrewbehind the dark clouds of their silken lashes. Then sighing a sigh thatcame from the depths of her heart, she turned her lovely pale face tothe wall and whispered softly--so softly, but oh! so sadly! that I wascut right to the heart, '_Amare--amare--ah! senza amare!_' I fetched alittle chair and sat down beside her, and began to talk about you. Sheburied herself in the cushions; and her breathing, coming quicker andquicker and quicker, turned to sighing. I told her candidly that youhad been in the gondola disguised, and that I would now at once withoutdelay take you, who were dying of love and longing, to see her. Thenshe suddenly started up from the cushions, and whilst the scaldingtears streamed down her cheeks, she exclaimed vehemently, 'For God'ssake! By all the Holy Saints! no--no--I cannot see him, old woman. Iconjure you, tell him he is never--never again to come near me--never.Tell him he is to leave Venice, to go away at once!' 'So then you willlet my poor Antonio die?' I interposed. Then she sank back upon thecushions, apparently smarting from the most unutterable anguish, andher voice was almost choked with tears as she sobbed out, 'Shall not Ialso die the bitterest of deaths?' At this point old Falieri enteredthe room, and at a sign from him I had to withdraw." "She has rejectedme--away--away into the sea!" cried Antonio, giving way to utterdespair. The old woman chuckled and laughed in her usual way, and wenton, "You simple child! you simple child! don't you see that lovelyAnnunciata loves you with all the intensity, with all the agonised loveof which a woman's heart is capable? You simple boy! Late to-morrowevening slip into the Ducal Palace; you will find me in the secondgallery on the right from the great staircase, and then we will seewhat's to be done."
The following evening as Antonio, trembling with expectant happiness,stole up the great staircase, his conscience suddenly smote him, asthough he were about to commit some great crime. He was so dazed, andhe trembled and shook so, that he was scarcely able to climb thestairs. He had to stop and rest by leaning himself against a columnimmediately in front of the gallery that had been indicated to him. Allat once he was plunged in the midst of a bright glare of torches, andbefore he could move from the place old Bodoeri stood in front of him,accompanied by some servants, who bore the torches. Bodoeri fixed hiseyes upon the young man, and then said, "Ha! you are Antonio; you havebeen assigned this post, I know; come, follow me." Antonio, convincedthat his proposed interview with the Dogess was betrayed, followed, notwithout trembling. But imagine his astonishment when, on entering aremote room, Bodoeri embraced him and spoke of the importance of thepost that had been assigned to him, and which he would have to maintainwith courage and firm resolution that very night. But his amazementincreased to anxious fear and dismay when he learned that a conspiracyhad been long ripening against the Seignory, and that at the head of itwas the Doge himself. And this was the night in which, agreeably to theresolutions come to in Falieri's house on Giudecca, the Seignory was tofall and old Marino Falieri was to be proclaimed sovereign Duke ofVenice.
Antonio stared at Bodoeri without uttering a word; Bodoeri interpretedthe young man's silence as a refusal to take part in the execution ofthe formidable conspiracy, and he cried incensed, "You cowardly fool!You shall not leave this palace again; you shall either take up arms onour side or die--but talk to this man first" A tall and noble figurestepped forward from the dark background of the apartment. As soon asAntonio saw the man's face, which he could not do until he came intothe light of the torches, and recognised it, he threw himself upon hisknees and cried, completely losing his presence of mind at seeing himwhom he never dreamt of seeing again, "O good God! my father, BertuccioNenolo! my dear foster-parent." Nenolo raised the young man up, claspedhim in his arms, and said in a gentle voice, "Aye, of a verity I amBertuccio Nenolo, whom you perhaps thought lay buried at the bottom ofthe sea, but I have only quite recently escaped from my shamefulcaptivity at the hands of the savage Morbassan. Yes, I am the BertuccioNanolo who adopted you. And I never for a moment dreamt that the stupidservants whom Bodoeri sent to take possession of the villa, which hehad bought of me, would turn you out of the house. You infatuatedyouth! Do you hesitate to take up arms against a despotic caste whosecruelty robbed you of a father? Ay! go down to the quadrangle of theFontego, and the stains which you will there see on the stone pavementsare the stains of your father's blood. The Seignory when making over tothe German merchants the _depot_ and exchange which you know under thename of the Fontego, forbade all those who had offices assigned to themto take the keys with them when they went away; they were to leave themwith the official in charge of the Fontego. Your father acted contraryto this law, and had therefore incurred a heavy penalty. But now whenthe offices were opened on your father's return, there was foundamongst his wares a chest of false Venetian coins. He vainly protestedhis innocence; it was only too evident that some malicious fiend,perhaps the official in charge himself, had smuggled in the chest inorder to ruin your father. The inexorable judges, satisfied that thechest had been found in your father's offices, condemned him to death.He was executed in the quadrangle of the Fontego; nor would you now beliving if faithful Margaret had not saved you. I, your father's truestfriend, adopted you; and in order that you might not betray yourselfto the Seignory, you were not told what was your father's name. Butnow--now, Anthony Dalbirger,--now is the time--now, to seize your armsand revenge upon the heads of the Seignory your father's shamefuldeath."
Antonio, fired by the spirit of vengeance, swore to be true to theconspirators and to act with invincible courage. It is well known thatit was the affront put upon Bertuccio Nenolo by Dandulo when he wasappointed to superintend the naval preparations, and on the occasion ofa quarrel struck Nenolo in the face, that induced him to join with hisambitious son-in-law in his conspiracy against the Seignory. BothNenolo and Bodoeri were desirous for old Falieri to assume the princelymantle in order that they might themselves rise along with him. Theconspirators' plan was to spread abroad the news that the Genoese fleetlay before the Lagune. Then when night came the great bell in St.Mark's Tower was to be rung, and the town summoned to arms, under thefalse pretext of defence. This was to be the signal for theconspirators, whose numbers were considerable, and who were scatteredthroughout all Venice, to occupy St. Mark's Square, make themselvesmasters of the remaining principal squares of the town, murder theleading men of
But it was not the will of Heaven that this murderous scheme shouldsucceed, nor that the fundamental constitution of the harassed stateshould be trampled in the dust by old Falieri--a man inflamed withpride and haughtiness. The meetings in Falieri's house on Giudecca hadnot escaped the watchfulness of the Ten; but they failed altogether tolearn any reliable intelligence. But the conscience of one of theconspirators, a fur-merchant of Pisa, Bentian by name, pricked him; heresolved to save from destruction his friend and gossip, NicolasLeoni, a member of the Council of Ten. When twilight came on, he wentto him and besought him not to leave his house during the night, nomatter what occurred. Leoni's suspicion was aroused; he detained thefur-merchant, and on pressing him closely learned the whole scheme. Inconjunction with Giovanni Gradenigo and Marco Cornaro he called theCouncil of Ten together in St. Salvador's (church); and there, in lessthan three hours, measures were taken calculated to stifle all theefforts of the conspirators on the first sign of movement.
Antonio's commission was to take a body of men and go to St. Mark'sTower, and see that the bell was tolled. Arrived there, he found thetower occupied by a large force of Arsenal troops, who, on hisattempting to approach, charged upon him with their halberds. His ownband, seized with a sudden panic, scattered like chaff; and he himselfslipped away in the darkness of the night. But he heard the footstepsof a man following close at his heels; he felt him lay hands upon him,and he was just on the point of cutting his pursuer down when by meansof a sudden flash of light he recognised Pietro. "Save yourself," criedhe, "save yourself, Antonio,--here in my gondola. All is betrayed.Bodoeri--Nenolo--are in the power of the Seignory; the doors of theDucal Palace are closed; the Doge is confined a prisoner in his ownapartment--watched like a criminal by his own faithless guards. Comealong--make haste--get away." Almost stupefied, Antonio sufferedhimself to be dragged into the gondola. Muffled voices--the clash ofweapons--single cries for help--then with the deepest blackness of thenight there followed a breathless awful silence. Next morning thepopulace, stricken with terror, beheld a fearful sight; it made everyman's blood run cold in his veins. The Council of the Ten had that verysame night passed sentence of death upon the leaders of the conspiracywho had been seized. They were strangled, and suspended from thebalcony at the side of the Palace overlooking the Piazzetta, the onewhence the Doge was in the habit of witnessing all ceremonies,--andwhere, alas! Antonio had hovered in the air before the lovelyAnnunciata, and where she had received from him the nosegay of flowers.Amongst the corpses were those of Marino Bodoeri and Bertuccio Nenolo.Two days later old Marino Falieri was sentenced to death by the Councilof Ten, and executed on the so-called Giant Stairs of the Palace.
Antonio wandered about unconsciously, like a man in a dream; no onelaid hands upon him, for no one recognised him as having been of thenumber of the conspirators. On seeing old Falieri's grey head fall, hestarted up, as it were, out of his death-like trance. With a mostunearthly scream--with the shout, "Annunciata!" he rushed storming inthe Palace, and along the passages. Nobody stopped him; the guards, asif stupefied by the terrible thing that had just taken place, onlystared after him. The old crone came to meet him, loudly lamenting andcomplaining; she seized his hand and--a few steps more, and along withher he entered Annunciata's room. There she lay, poor thing, on thecouch, as if already dead. Antonio rushed towards her and covered herhands with burning kisses, calling her by the sweetest and tenderestnames.
Then she slowly opened her lovely heavenly eyes and saw Antonio; atfirst, however, it appeared as if it cost her an effort to call him tomind; but speedily she raised herself up, threw both her arms aroundhis neck, and drew him to her bosom, showering down her hot tears uponhim and kissing his cheeks--his lips. "Antonio--my Antonio--I love you,oh! more than I can tell you--yes, yes, there _is_ a heaven on earth.What are my father's and my uncle's and my husband's death incomparison with the blissful joy of your love? Oh! let us flee--fleefrom this scene of blood and murder." Thus spake Annunciata, her heartrent by the bitterest anguish, as well as by the most passionate love.Amid thousands of kisses and never-ending tears, the two loversmutually swore eternal fidelity; and, forgetting the fearful events ofthe terrible day that was past, they turned their eyes from the earthand looked up into the heaven which the spirit of love had unfolded totheir view. The old woman advised them to flee to Chiozza; thenceAntonio intended to travel in an opposite direction by land towards hisown native country.
His friend, Pietro, procured him a small boat and had it brought to thebridge behind the Palace. When night came, Annunciata, enveloped in athick shawl, crept stealthily down the steps with her lover, attendedby old Margaret, who bore some valuable jewel caskets in her hood. Theyreached the bridge unobserved, and unobserved they embarked in theirsmall craft. Antonio seized the oar, and away they went at a quick andvigorous rate. The bright moonlight danced along the waves in front ofthem like a gladsome messenger of love. They reached the open sea. Thenbegan a peculiar whistling and howling of the wind far above theirheads; black shadows came trooping up and hung themselves like a darkveil over the bright face of the moon. The dancing moonshine, thegladsome messenger of love, sank in the black depths of the sea amongstits muttering thunders. The storm came on and drove the black piled-upmasses of clouds in front of it with wrathful violence. Up and downtossed the boat. "O help us! God, help us!" screamed the old woman.Antonio, no longer master of the oar, clasped his darling Annunciata inhis arms, whilst she, aroused by his fiery kisses, strained him to herbosom in the intensity of her rapturous affection. "O my Antonio!"--"Omy Annunciata!" they whispered, heedless of the storm which raged andblustered ever more furiously. Then the sea, the jealous widow of thebeheaded Doge Falieri, stretched up her foaming waves as if they weregiant arms, and seized upon the lovers, and dragged them, along withthe old woman, down, down into her fathomless depths.
As soon as the man in the mantle had thus concluded his narrative, hejumped up quickly and left the room with strong rapid strides. Thefriends followed him with their eyes, silently and very muchastonished; then they went to take another look at the picture. The oldDoge again looked down upon them with a smirk, in his ridiculous fineryand foppish vanity; but when they carefully looked into the Dogess'sface they perceived quite plainly that the shadow of some unknownpain--a pain of which she only had a foreboding--was throned upon herlily brow, and that dreamy aspirations of love gleamed from behind herdark lashes, and hovered around her sweet lips. The Hostile Powerseemed to be threatening death and destruction from out the distant seaand the vaporous clouds which enshrouded St. Mark's. They now had aclear conception of the deeper significance of the charming picture;but so often as they looked upon it again, all the sympathetic sorrowwhich they had felt at the history of Antonio and Annunciata's lovereturned upon them and filled the deepest recesses of their souls withits pleasurable awe.
FOOTNOTES TO "THE DOGE AND DOGESS."
[Footnote 1: Written for the _Taschenbuch der Liebe und Freundschaftgewidmet_, 1819; edited by S. Schuetze, Frankfort-on-Main.]
[Footnote 2: C W. Kolbe, junr., historical and genre painter, was bornin 1781 and died in 1853.]
[Footnote 3: The story _Turandot_ has a history. Its prototype is inthe Persian poet Nizami (1141-1203). From Gozzi it was translated intoGerman by Werthes; and it was from his translation that Schiller workedup his play in November and December, 1801. The proud Turandot,daughter of the Emperor of China, entertains such loathing of marriagethat she rejects all suitors, until on her father's threatening tocompel her to wed, she institutes a kind of version of the caskets inthe _Merchant of Venice_. Any prince may woo for her, but in a peculiarway. He must solve three riddles in the full assembly of the court. Ifhe succeeds, he wins the princess; if he does not succeed, he loses hisown head. In Gozzi the three riddles are about the Year, the Sun, and(extremely inapposite to the circumstances) the Lion of the Adriatic.The two last Schiller replaced by riddles about the Eye and thePlou
[Footnote 4: Calaf, Prince of Astrakhan, successfully solves theriddles and wins the Princess Turandot.]
[Footnote 5: The story of this Doge's conspiracy has furnishedmaterials for a tragedy to Byron (1821), Casimir Delavinge (1829), andAlbert Lindner (1875). A translation of the story is given by Mr. F.Cohen (Sir F. Palgrave) from Sanuto's _Chronicle_, in the Appendix tothe play in Byron's works.]
[Footnote 6: Paganino Dona, one of the greatest of Genoese admirals,took and burnt Parenzo, a town on the west coast of Istria, on the 11thof August, 1354. At this period the rivalry between the two republics,Venice and Genoa, in their commercial relations with the East and inthe Black Sea, was especially bitter, and they were almost constantlyat war with each other.]
[Footnote 7: Andrea Dandolo (1307-1354), Doge from 1343 to 1354. Duringhis reign Venice actively extended her commercial conquests in theBlack Sea and the countries around the Levant, engaged part of the timein active hostilities with the Genoese.]
[Footnote 8: The sequin was a gold coin of Venice and Tuscany, worthabout 9s. 3d. It is sometimes used as equivalent to ducat (Note, page63, Vol. i.)]
[Footnote 9: Pope Innocent VI., Pope at Avignon, from 1352 to 1362.]
[Footnote 10: Hoffmann states that he derived his materials for thisstory from Le Bret's "History of Venice,"--a book which, unfortunately,up to the time of going to press, the translator had not been able toobtain.]
[Footnote 11: Nicolo Pisani, a very active naval commander in thethird war with Genoa (1350-1355), fought battles in the Bosphorus, offSardinia, and at Porto Longo, near Modon (Greece).]
[Footnote 12: Sardinia was for many, many years an object ofcontention between Pisa, Genoa, and the Aragonese. At this time (1354)it belonged to the latter, but the Genoese were constantly endeavouringto stir up the people of the island to revolt against the Aragonese;hence we may see reason for Pisani's being in Sardinian waters.]
[Footnote 13: Equivalent to "Governor," Chioggia was an old townthirty miles south of Venice, at the southern extremity of the Lagune.Chiozza = Chioggia.]
[Footnote 14: The state barge of Venice; the word means "little goldenboat." Pope Alexander III. bestowed upon the Doge Sebastian Ziani, forhis victory over Frederick Barbarossa near Parenzo on Ascension Day,1177, a ring in token of the suzerainty of Venice over the Adriatic.From this time dates the observance of the annual ceremony of theDoge's marrying the Adriatic from the Bucentaur.]
[Footnote 15: San Giorgio Maggiore. Venice, as everybody knows, is notbuilt upon the mainland but upon islands. The two largest, whosegreatest length is from east to west, are divided by the Grand Canal,upon which axe situated most of the palaces and important publicbuildings. South of these two principal islands, and separated fromthem by the Giudecca Canal, are the islands of Giudecca and San GiorgioMaggiore close together, the latter on the east and opposite the southentrance to the Grand Canal, beyond which are the Piazetta and St.Mark's Square.]
[Footnote 16: This is larger than the gondola, and also more modern; itis calculated to hold six persons, and even luggage.]
[Footnote 17: The Fondaco de' Tedeschi, erected in 1506, on the GrandCanal. It was formerly decorated externally with paintings by Titianand his pupils. At first it served as _depot_ for the wares of Germanmerchants (whence its name), but is now used as a custom-house.]
[Footnote 18: Louis I. the Great of Hungary (1342-1382). The Dalmatianand Istrian sea-board formed a fruitful source of contention betweenthe Venetians and Hungary, Louis proving a very formidable opponent tothe Republic.]
[Footnote 19: At this epoch Venice was the mart and mediatory betweenthe West and the East, the commercial riches of the latter having beenopened up to the feudal civilisation of Europe, chiefly through theCrusades. Hence the cosmopolitan character of the merchants on theRialto.]
[Footnote 20: In the year 1348, Venice was visited by an earthquake,and this was followed by the plague (the Black Death). In order tocomplete the roll of the republic's misfortunes in this gloomy year, itmay be added that she also lost almost the whole of her Black Sea fleetto the Genoese.]
[Footnote 21: It may perhaps be interesting to observe that a preciselysimilar occurrence forms the central feature in H. v. Kleist's"Erdbeben in Chili" (1810), perhaps one of the best of his shortstories.]
[Footnote 22: Narrated in the translation of the Chronicle of Sanuto bySir Francis Palgrave in Byron's notes to "Marino Faliero."]
[Footnote 23: On the island of Sapenzia, south-west of the Morea.]
[Footnote 24: Pietro Urseolo I. was Doge from 991 to 1009; Dalmatia wassubdued in 997.]
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