Pietro of Abano
by Ludwig Tieck
The setting sun was flinging its red rays upon the towers and over
the houses of Padua, when a young stranger, newly arrived, had his
attention excited by a throng of people who were hurrying and running
along, and was carried by them out of his way. He askt a girl who was
passing quickly by him, what had set the whole town in such an
Don't you know then? answered she: the beautiful Crescentia, the
young thing, is just going to be buried; everybody wishes to have one
more sight of her; for she has always been counted the sweetest maiden
in the whole city. Her parents are heartbroken. The last words she
called back to him, from some distance beyond him.
The stranger turned round the dark palace into the great street, and
his ears were now met by the funeral hymn, and his eyes by the
flickering light of the pale-red torches. On drawing nearer, pusht
forward by the crowding of the people, he saw a scaffold covered with
black cloth. Around it were raised seats, likewise black, on which the
sorrowing parents and relations were sitting, all in stern gloom, some
faces with the look of despair. Figures now began to move forth from
the door of the house; priests and black forms bore an open coffin, out
of which wreaths of flowers and green garlands were hanging down.
In the midst of the blooming gay plants lay the maidenly form raised
upon cushions, pale, in a white robe, her lovely slender hands folded
and holding a crucifix, her eyes closed, dark black tresses hanging
full and heavy round her head, on which a wreath of roses and cypress
and myrtle was gleaming.
The coffin with its beautiful corpse was placed upon the scaffold;
the priests cast themselves down to pray; the parents gave yet louder
vent to their grief; yet more wailing grew the sound of the hymns; and
everybody around, even the strangers, sobbed and wept. The traveller
thought he had never yet seen so lovely a creature, as this corpse that
thus mournfully reminded him how fleeting life is, how vain and
perishable its charms.
Now sounded the solemn tolling of the bells, and the bearers were on
the point of taking up the coffin, to carry the corpse into the
burial-vault of the great church, when loud riotous shouts of
exultation and pealing laughter and the cries of an unrestrained joy
disturbed and alarmed the parents and kinsfolk, the priests and
mourners. All lookt indignantly round, when out of the next street a
merry troop of young men came boisterously toward them, singing and
huzzaing, and evermore again and again crying a long life! to their
venerable teacher. They were the students of the university, carrying
an aged man of the noblest aspect on a chair raised atop of their
shoulders, where he sat as on a throne, covered with a purple cloak,
his head adorned with a doctor's hat, from beneath which white silver
locks hung forth, while a long white beard flowed down majestically
over his black velvet doublet. Beside him came a fool with bells and in
a motley dress, jumping about, and striving by blows and by jests to
make way for the train through the people and the line of mourners: but
on a sign from the venerable old man the students lowered his chair; he
descended, and approacht the weeping parents, much moved and with a
Forgive me, said he mournfully and with a tear in his eye, that
this wild tumult thus breaks in upon your burial rites, which grieve
and shock me to the heart. I am just come back at length from my
journey; my scholars wisht to celebrate my enterance by their joy; I
yielded to their entreaties and preparations; and I now find ... how?
your Crescentia, that fairest emblem of all loveliness and virtue, here
before you in her coffin. And all around there is this dark pomp and
these forms of sorrow, accompanying her with tears and the heart's woe
to her place of rest.
He beckoned to his companions, and spake a few words. All had long
since become quiet and silent, and most of them now withdrew, that they
might not interrupt the funeral.
Then the mother came nearer tottering, and sank down before the form
of the old man, while she embraced his knee in convulsive grief. Ah!
why were you not here? she cried despairingly; your art, your
knowledge would have saved her. O Pietro! Pietro! you, the friend of
our house! how could you thus let your darling, the apple of your eye,
perish? But come! Awaken her even now! Pour into her even now one of
those wonderworking elixirs which you know how to compound; and in
return take all that we possess, so she be but again here, walking
about among us and talking to us.
Let not despair guide your tongue, answered Pietro: the Lord had
lent her to you; he has demanded her back from you; let not man presume
to arrest the arm of his wise counsels. Who are we, that we should
murmur against him? Shall the child of the dust, that is scattered to
nought by the wind, puff forth its weak breath in anger against the
eternal decrees? No, my dear friends, as Crescentia's parents, as
having loved her and been loved by her, cherish the feeling of your
grief; let none of it escape you. Grief should be as familiar an inmate
in our hearts as Pleasure and Gladness; for he too is sent us by our
Father, who beholds all our tears, and well understands and tries our
hearts, and knows what frail mortals can bear. Bear then this great
overwhelming woe for his sake, out of love to him; for it is all love,
whatsoever burthen he may cast upon you. Is not grief, is not the heart
in its wringing agony, the soul that would melt away in sorrow, a holy
and godly offering, which amid your burning tears you lay, as the most
precious of your possessions, before the everlasting Love of the Most
High? As such too is it considered by Him above, who numbers all your
sighs and tears. But our wicked enemy, who is always lurking at our
side, grudges us the holiness of this heavenly sorrow: it is he who
would foment and stir it up in you into despair, into rage against the
Father of love and of grief, that you may not in your anguish become
yet more thoroughly the children of Love, but may plunge and sink into
the abyss of Hatred. He, this Spirit of Lies, is now beguiling you and
maliciously whispering his tales in your ears, as though you had for
ever lost her, who yet was one with you only in spirit and soul and
love, and belonged to you only so far as she was invisible. He would
have you forget that this beauteous covering was only her garment, akin
to the dust, and now going back to the dust. Cast him back from you,
this lying Spirit; shame and confound him with the eternal almighty
truth which you hold up before him, that she is still yours, still near
you, still at your side, yea far more, far entirelier yours, than when
these party walls of mortal flesh kept you asunder, and in the midst of
all your love estranged you from each other. From this day forward she
is all your memory and hope and sorrow and joy; she shines upon you in
every gladdening light; she cheers you in the flowers of spring; she
kisses you in the gentle airs that breathe on your cheeks: and every
delight that henceforth blossoms in your hearts, is her heart and her
love to you; and this delight and this everlasting deathless love are
one with God. Carry her then to her resting-place, and follow her in
silent humble resignation, that her soul in the abode of everlasting
peace may not be disturbed and made uneasy by you.
All seemed to have become calmer; the father speechlessly held forth
his hand to him with an expression of cordial friendship and of a
comforted heart. They drew up in order; the procession set itself in
motion; the masks, the fraternities that made it their duty to attend
corpses, ranged themselves in their white gowns, with hooded faces, of
which nothing could be seen but the eyes.
Silently the train moved on: they had now nearly reacht the church,
when a rider on a foaming horse gallopt toward them.
What is the matter? cried the youth.
He threw a look into the coffin, and with a shriek of despair turned
his horse, darted away, and in his wild speed lost his hat, so that his
long hair waved about behind him in the evening breeze. He was the
bridegroom, come to the wedding.
Darkness gathered round the train of mourners, and their husht
rites, as the beauteous corpse sank down into the vault of her family.
* * * * *
When the crowd had disperst, the young stranger, who had followed
the procession in wonder mixt with sadness, went up to an old priest
who remained alone praying by the grave. He longed to learn who that
majestic old man was, that had seemed to him gifted with god-like
powers and more than earthly wisdom.
When the youth had laid his question modestly before the priest, the
latter stood up and, by the light of a lamp that shone upon them from a
window, lookt sharply into his eye.
The old man had a little spare form; his pale narrow face hightened
the fire of his eyes yet more; and his pincht lips quivered, as with
hoarse voice he answered: How! you don't know him? our far-famed
Petrus of Apone, or Abano, of whom people talk in Paris, and London,
and in the German Empire, and throughout all Italy? You know not the
greatest of philosophers and physicians, of astronomers and
astrologers, to learn from whom and to see whom the wild youth flock
hither from the far parts of Poland?
The young Spaniard, Alfonso, had moved back a step in delighted
surprise; for the renown of this great teacher had driven him too from
Barcelona over the sea. Then it was he, it was himself! he cried
enthusiastically: this too was why my heart felt so deeply moved. My
spirit recognized his. O generous, pious man, how I love you for
honouring him no less than do all the noble-minded and good in the
You too mean perchance to study under him? askt the priest with a
Certainly, answered the other, if he will vouchsafe to receive me
among his scholars.
The old man stood still, laid his hand on the youth's shoulder, and
then said mildly: My dear young friend, there is yet time; listen even
now to my fatherly warning, before it is too late. Do not deceive
yourself, as so many, even without number, have done already; be on
your guard, and watch over your soul. Are you then at your age thus
beforehand aweary of your peace and future blessedness? would you
requite your Saviour's love by becoming a runagate from him, and
denying him, and taking up arms as a rebel against him?
I understand you not, old man, replied Alfonso: did not you
yourself see and hear how piously, how christianly, with what a
heart-stirring majesty, the glorious man spake, and led back the erring
footsteps of sorrowing love by his heavenly comfort into the right
What is there that he cannot, that he will not do, the trickster,
the magician! exclaimed the old priest warmly.
Magician! returned Alfonso. So you too would take part in the
folly of the rabble that is unable to appreciate the knowledge of lofty
spirits, and would rather credit any absurdity than strengthen their
own souls by gazing upon the grandeur of a fellow-creature.
Only go on in this way, said the priest indignantly, and you
scarcely need go into his vaunted school. It is clear his magic has you
already in its snares, just as he subdues every heart that but beats
within his reach. Yes forsooth, the heathen, he has spoken and
prophesied today like a priest, and has for once besmeared his lies
with this varnish. In the same manner he is lord and master in the
house of the Podesta. Poor Crescentia could hardly in her last hours
find her way back to holy church: so bound and held fast was her soul
by the false doctrines the wicked hypocrite had flung like poisonous
nets around her young spirit. Now she has escaped him; the Lord has
called her to himself, and has sent this disease to save her soul with
the loss of her body.
The speakers were come into the large square before the church. The
youth was irritated, and, to give his feelings vent, exclaimed: What
boots all this fierce envy, my ghostly sir? Do you not see, can you not
perceive, how the world only falls away from you more and more, the
more you by your excommunications and anathemas and persecutions strive
to quench and stifle the new spirit? that spirit of eternal truth which
is now awakening all nations from their sleep, and which in spite of
your arts will never sink upon the pillow again to swallow your legends
in submissive faith.
Bravo! said the old man in high wrath: Have we not Averroes now
instead of Christ, and Aristoteles instead of the Almighty, and this
Pietro of yours, this Iscariot, instead of the Holy Ghost? And verily
the spirit of the earth has built up a high and stately body for him,
and has crowned it with a noble brow, and has set an eye of fire in it
and the sweet mouth of persuasion, and has poured grace and majesty
over his motions, that he may juggle and delude: while I, the unworthy
servant of the Lord, walk about here sickly and weak and without all
comeliness of feature, and have only my own confession, only my faith,
to give assurance that I am a christian. I cannot descend like him into
the depths of dazzling knowledge, nor measure the course of the stars,
nor foretell good and evil fortune; I am reviled and scorned by the
overwise; but I bear it humbly, for the love of him who has laid all
this upon me. Wait however until the end, and see whether his seven
spirits whom he holds under his magical spell, can save him then;
whether his Familiar, that spawn of hell, will then assist him.
Was his Familiar with him? askt Alfonso eagerly.
Did not you observe the monster, answered the monk, that had
trickt itself out like a clown? the abortion with that hump, those
twisted hands and arms, those crooked legs, those squinting eyes, and
that enormous nose jutting out from its unsightly face.
I took all that for a mask; said the youth.
No, this creature, replied the old man, need not put on a mask.
Such as he is, he is mask enough, and spectre, and imp of hell, this
Beresynth, as they call him.... Will you pass the night in our convent,
young man, until you have found a lodging?
No, rejoined he very positively; I will be indebted for no
hospitality to a man thus unjust and slanderous toward the noble being
whose name I heard with rapture while yet in my own country, and who
shall walk and shine before me here as my guide and model. It is bad
enough that I have been forced to hear such language from you, from a
man whose condition and age forbid my calling him to account for it. If
he alone is to be esteemed godly, who despises science and knowledge,
he alone a christian, who in a waking slumber dozes away the days of
his life and the powers of his soul, I depart out of the dull
communion. But it is not so; nor is it the man, the christian, or the
priest, that has been speaking from your lips, but your guild and
fraternity. Farewell, if with such feelings you can.
They parted, both much out of temper.
* * * * *
The young Florentine who had met the funeral procession in the city,
dasht like a madman through the gate, and then gallopt with reckless
vehemence across field and wood. When he found himself in the open
country, he hurled forth imprecations against the world and fate, tore
his hair, curst his stars and his youth, and then rusht almost
unconsciously onward. He spurred in the face of the wind that arose at
nightfall, as though seeking to cool the fire in his cheeks.
When it grew later, his horse, which had often stumbled already, and
which he had pulled up furiously every time, dropt exhausted to the
ground, and he was forced to pursue his way on foot. He knew not where
he was, still less whither he should go; only there stood before him
with inextinguishable features his own misery, and the vanity of the
world, and the treacherous inconstancy of all happiness.
Accursed madness of life! cried he in his despair through the
darkness: thus, thus cruelly dost thou awaken me out of my slumber! I
cannot choose but hate thee mortally for thy jugglings, thy
presumption, and for all those senseless hopes which smile upon our
youth and go along with us so like friends upon our journey, and, when
they have beguiled us into the wilderness, fly away from us and grin
and make mows at us. Life! what is this web of folly, this silly dream
of a feversick heart? One faint shivering-fit follows another; one
crazy phantom drives another out; our wishes caper around in the bald
waste, and do not even know themselves again. O death! O rest! O
nothingness! come to me, let me embrace thee, and set this stormy heart
free. O that I could but gasp out my last convulsive breath this very
instant! that tomorrow's sun might no more find my place upon earth,
that no thought might rise within me to greet its returning ray! Am I
not the very wretchedest creature that breathes? and so much the
poorer, for that a few hours since I deemed myself the happiest. Woe be
to youth! woe to love! Woe to the feelings of the heart, that let
themselves be so readily, so grossly deceived!
A shower now drizzled through the cold air, and soon the drops grew
larger and thicker. The youth knew not whither he had strayed; the wood
lay already far behind him; no shelter was near. He began to gather up
his recollections; his grief became gentler; tears flowed from his
eyes. He already hated life less; it seemed to him as though the night
itself wisht to comfort him and to soothe his sorrow. Uncertain whether
to seek for his fallen horse again, or to hide himself in some hollow
from the rain, he lookt once more around, and at length far below him
across a valley and at the back of some trees discovered a little
dancing light, that like a friendly eye winkt to him through the thick
darkness and called him to approach it. He hastened toward the dubious
gleam, which now vanisht, and now again shone forth. All his powers,
all his feelings were bound as in sleep; his whole being had as it were
past away into a dream.
A storm now got up, and heavy low-hanging thunderclouds were rolling
slowly along. He was already approaching some trees, as it appeared to
him; but the darkness made it impossible to distinguish anything
whatever. A flash of lightning here dazzled him and a loud clap of
thunder stunned him, so that he fell into a ditch.
On lifting himself up again, the light which had allured him was
close at hand. He knockt at the little window that peept through some
trees, and begged for admittance and shelter from the rain and storm. A
loud hoarse voice answered from within; but the youth did not catch a
word; for the wind and thunder and rain, and the rustling of the trees,
all now raged so violently at once, that every sound beside them fell
The door of the little house opened into the garden: he had to
hasten through it; a female hand then took hold of him, led him along a
dark passage, and into a little room, from which the light of a lamp
and the fire on the hearth shone in his eyes. In the corner by the lamp
sat a hideous old woman spinning; the girl who had conducted him in set
to work over the fire; and for a long time he was unable to examine the
figures closelier by the doubtful quivering light; for a long time no
conversation could be carried on, the roaring of the thunder
overpowering every other sound.
This is a cruel storm! said the old woman during a pause with a
croaking voice. Whence do you come hither, young man?
I come from Padua since this evening.
Far indeed, cried the old woman: it lies six good leagues from
here. And whither are you going? for there is no public road
I know not, and care not to know. The wretched cannot frame any
plan or think about the future. Indeed how happy should I feel, were
there no future at all for me!
You are talking nonsense, young man; and that must not be. Heyday!
she exclaimed, as she lifted up the lamp and lookt at him more
narrowly, why he is a Florentine! That doublet and cape is what I have
not seen this many a day. Well now, this must surely bode me some good.
So the ugly weather has made me a present of a dear guest; for you must
know, my young gentleman, I too am from that blessed land. Ay Florence!
Ah, if one might but once more tread on thy ground and see thy dear
hills and gardens again! And your name, my dear young gentleman?
Antonio Cavalcanti, said the youth, who felt more confidence in
the old dame on finding that she was his countrywoman.
O what an accent! cried she almost rapturously: Cavalcanti! such
a one I too knew some years since, one Guido.
He was my father, said Antonio.
And is he no longer alive?
No, answered the young man; my mother too was taken from me a
long time ago.
I know it, I know it, my dear pretty boy. Ay, ay, it must now be
full fifteen years since she died. Alas yes, it was then, in those
troublous times, that she had to give up the ghost. And your dear
worthy father, he is the only person I have to thank for the judges not
having treated me just like a faggot some years after: they had somehow
got it into their pates that I was a witch, and there was no avail in
denying it. But Signor Guido fought my battle, what with reason and
what with ranting, what with entreaties and what with threats: so they
merely banisht me out of the dear land. And now this thunderstorm
brings me the son of my benefactor into my poor little cottage. Come,
give me your hand on the strength of it, youngster.
Antonio gave it to the old woman shuddering; for now at length he
was able to observe her more distinctly. She grinned at him friendly,
and displayed two long black teeth standing out between her bristly
lips; her eyes were small and sharp, her brow furrowed, her chin long;
she stretcht out two gaunt shrivelled arms toward him; and being
compelled, however loth, to embrace her, he felt the hump which made
her ugliness still more disgusting.
True! she said with a forced laugh, I am not remarkably pretty; I
was not so even in my younger days. There is something whimsical about
beauty; one can never tell or describe downrightly in what it consists;
it is always only the want of certain things which, when you have them
at their full size, make up what folks call ugliness. Come now, tell
me, such as I am, what do you think the most hideous thing about me?
My dear old dame, said the youth in confusion....
No, she cried, plump out with the truth, and without any
flattery. Everybody, you know, has some odd maggot or other; and as for
me, I pride myself no little on being utterly without all those things
which in the world they christen handsome. Now let me see your taste!
If I must, stammered Antonio, while in spite of his grief a smile
curled his lips, those two teeth are ... to my mind....
Ha, ha! cried the old woman laughing aloud, my two dear good old
black teeth are what pleases you the least about me. I can well believe
it: they stand like two scorcht palisades among the ruins of a fortress
in the wide empty space there. But you should have seen me ten years
back; then matters were much worse still. In those days I had a whole
mouth full of such portentous grinders; and they who loved me would say
it lookt frightful. Well, one by one they fell out, and these two alone
are left behind the last of all their race. When they are once gone, my
jaws will clap together like two doors, the upper lip will grow just
thrice as long, and again one can't tell what sort of a face will come
of it. Time, my dear young friend, is, as somebody found out many many
years ago, a bungling workman; he makes a creature pretty enough; then
he daubs and trims and pares and pulls and squeezes the thing about,
draws the nose and chin out of their sheaths, knocks in the cheeks,
eats ruts into the forehead, till he has turned it into a scarecrow;
and then at last he gets ashamed, smashes the whole wretched concern to
pieces, and shovels it over with earth that all the world may not see
his disgrace. Your cheeks too, smooth and polisht as they are, will not
be so like a roseleaf by and by. Here! let me look! verily you have the
rarest pearls of toothikins! a pity they must be used in chewing bread
and roast beef. Hey, hey! shew them to me ... wider open with the mouth
... but they stand very oddly ... hem! and that eyetooth! there is
meaning in all that.
Antonio knew not whether to scold or laugh; however he constrained
himself to be calm, and to let the old woman have her chatter; for
owing, as it seemed, to her former acquaintance with his family, she
possest a strange power over him. But how did he start with amazement
when she suddenly cried out: Crescentia!
For Heaven's sake! he said, almost breathlessly: do you know her?
can you see her? can you tell me anything about her?
What's the matter with you? howled the old woman: how can I help
knowing her, seeing she is my own daughter? Only look yourself how the
lazy slut has fallen asleep in her chair there, and lets the fire go
out and the soup get cold.
She took up the lamp and went to the chimney; but what were the
youth's feelings, when again for the second time on that day he beheld
his beloved, almost the same as in the evening? Her pale head lay dropt
back; her eyes were closed; every feature, even the dark tresses, were
those of his bride; just so were her little hands folded, and just so
did she too clasp a crucifix between them. Her white dress helpt to
increase the illusion; the flowers alone were wanting; but the dusk
wove something like wreaths of dark heavy foliage around her hair.
She is dead! sighed Antonio gazing fixedly upon her.
Sluggish is she, the lazy jade, said the old woman, and shook the
fair slumberer awake: she can do nothing but pray and sleep, the
Crescentia roused herself, and her confusion still hightened her
beauty. Antonio felt on the brink of madness at thus again seeing
before him one whom he had yet lost for ever.
Old witch! he cried out vehemently: where am I? and what forms
art thou bringing before my wandering senses? Speak, who is this lovely
being? Crescentia, art thou alive again? Dost thou still acknowledge me
as thine own! How camest thou hither?
Holla! my young prince, screamed the old woman; you are gabbling
away there, as though you had quite lost your little bit of an
understanding. Is the storm beating about inside of your pate? has the
lightning perchance singed your brains? She is my daughter, and always
has been so.
I do not know you, said the pale Crescentia, blushing sweetly: I
was never in the city.
Sit down, the old woman interposed; and eat and drink what I have
to give you.
The soup was placed on the table, along with some fruit; and the old
woman going to a small cupboard took out a flask of excellent
Antonio could eat but little; his eye was spellbound upon
Crescentia; and his disturbed and shattered imagination was evermore
persuading him anew that this was his lost bride. Then again he often
fancied he was lying enchained by a heavy dream, or had been seized by
a trance of madness which was transforming every object around him, so
that he was perhaps still in Padua, or at his own home, and saw nothing
but phantasmal forms, and could not recognize or understand any of the
friends who might be round about consoling him or mourning over him.
The storm had raved itself out, and the stars were shining in the
pacified dark sky. The old woman ate greedily, and drank still more
plenteously of the sweet wine.
Now at length, young Antonio, she began after some time, tell us,
prithee, what brought you to Padua, and what has driven you hither?
Antonio started as from sleep. You may well, he replied, demand
some account of your guest, since, beside that reason, you knew my
father, and it may be my mother too.
To be sure I knew her, said the old woman sniggering; nobody so
well as I. Yes, yes, she died just six months before your father
celebrated his second marriage with the Marchesa Manfredi.
So you know that too?
Why, it seems to me, she continued, as though I could see the
dainty trim doll at this very moment before me. Well, is your beautiful
stepmother still living? When they drove me out of the country she was
just in her prime full bloom.
I cannot again go through, said Antonio with a sigh, what I
suffered from that alien mother. She held my father as under
enchantment; and he was readier to wrong all his old friends, readier
to wrong his own son, than in anywise to offend her. At last however
their behaviour to each other altered; but my heart almost broke at the
sight of their hatred, while before it had only bled at the insults I
had to endure.
So there was plenty of bitter malice, askt the old hag with a
nauseous grin, throughout the whole family?
Antonio eyed her with a sharp look, and said confusedly: I know not
how I have come to be talking here about my own and my parents misery.
The old woman swallowed a bumper of red wine, which stood like blood
in the glass. Then with a loud laugh she said: Faith, I know no such
glorious pleasure, nothing, I mean, so like what one may call perfect
rapture and bliss, as when such a wedded couple, who in earlier days
were once a pair of fond lovers, fall out in this way, and snarl and
snap at each other, like cat and dog, or two tiger-beasts, and scold
and curse each other, and would each give up heart and soul to Satan,
only to hurt and pain or to get rid of the other. This, my young lad,
is the true glory of mortal life: but more especially, if the two
yoke-fellows have of yore gone stark mad with love, if they have done
everything, even what is a little bit out of the way, for each other,
if they have waded through much of what certain good pious folks would
call crimes and sins, merely for the sake of getting at one another,
merely for the sake of at last tying the knot, which they now so
cordially abhor. Trust me, this is a grand feast for Satan and all his
comrades, and it makes those below keep jubilee and sing psalms. And
here now even ... but I'll hold my tongue; I might easily say too
Crescentia lookt mournfully at the astonisht youth. Forgive her,
she whispered: you see she has drunk too much; pity her.
But in Antonio's soul there now rose up with fresh power the image
of former times and all their dark scenes. The sorrowful day came back
upon him, when he saw his stepmother on her deathbed, when his father
was in despair and curst himself and the hour of his birth, and called
upon the spirit of his first wife and prayed for forgiveness.
Have you nothing else to tell? askt the old woman, and thereby
awakened him from his dreamy amaze.
What shall I tell? said Antonio, with the deepest anguish: do not
you seem to know everything, or else to have learnt it by soothsay?
Need I tell you that an old servant, Roberto, poisoned her, having been
persecuted by her hatred and thus spurred on to revenge himself? that
this accursed villain attempted to throw the crime upon my father? He
escapes from prison, scales the garden-wall, and in the grotto thrusts
his dagger into my father's breast.
What old Roberto! Roberto! cried the old woman almost with a shout
of triumph: hey, only see how strangely some people will turn out! Ay,
ay, the sneak in his younger days was such a straitlaced hypocrite,
such a holy-seeming dog; afterward however he grew a fine spirited
fellow, as they tell me. It was in the grotto then? How cunningly
things fit together, and shell off till one gets at the kernel! In that
grotto your father in earlier days sat time after time with his first
wife; there at their betrothal he first swore eternal love to her. In
those times Roberto doubtless already wore that dagger; but he knew not
what an odd use he was to make of it some twenty years after. In that
grotto too the second spouse would often slumber beside the cool
fountain; and again the husband would lie there at her feet. Well,
Antonio, child, is not life a right merry, right silly, right absurd,
and right horrible hodgepodge? No man can say: 'that's a thing I never
will do'. The pangs and the feelings, the stings and the ravings, which
the black crew forge in hell's smithy, all these keep coming on and
coming on, slowly, wonderously, nearer and ever nearer: on a sudden
Horrour is in the house, and the frantic victim sits with it in the
corner, and gnaws at it as a dog gnaws a bone. Drink, drink, my
darling; this grape-juice sets all things to rights when its spirits
once get into the soul.... Now, and you? do tell me a little more.
I swore to revenge my father, said Antonio.
That's just right; returned the old woman: look you, my child,
when such a firebrand has been once hurled into a house, it must never
never go out again. From generation to generation down to grandchild
and cousin the poison is entailed; the children rave already; the wound
is always bleeding afresh; a new vein must be opened to save the
disaster and set it upon its legs again, when but for that it might be
in danger of breathing its last. O revenge, revenge is a goodly word!
But Roberto, said Antonio, had escaped, and was nowhere to be
A pity, a pity! exclaimed the old woman. Now of course thy
revenge drives thee over the world?
Yes in truth; I wandered through Italy, searcht in every town, but
could find no trace of the murderer. At last the fame of Pietro of
Abano fixt me at Padua. I wisht to learn wisdom from him; but when I
came into the house of the Podesta....
Well! speak out, child!
What shall I say? I know not whether I am raving or dreaming. There
I saw his daughter, the sweet, the lovely Crescentia. And I here see
her again before me ... yes it is herself ... that funeral procession
was a wicked, unseemly jest ... and this disguise, this flight hither
into the desert, is again a most unseemly piece of mummery. Acknowledge
thyself to me at length, at length, beloved, beautiful Crescentia. Thou
knowest it well, my heart only lives within thy bosom. To what end
these agonizing trials? Are thy parents perchance in the next room
there, and listening to all we are saying? Let them come in now at
last, at last; let us have done with this cruel probation, which will
soon drive me mad.
The pale Crescentia lookt at him with such an unutterable
expression, such a weight of sadness over her face, that the tears
gusht from his eyes.
Faith, he is drunk already! howled the old woman. Speak, tell me,
is the Podesta's daughter dead then? Dead is she? and when?
This evening, said the weeper, I met her corpse.
So she too! continued the old woman merrily, as she filled her
glass again. Well, now will the family of Marconi in Venice be right
Because they are now the only heirs to their rich kinsman. This is
what the long-sighted knaves have always wisht, but could never hope
Woman! exclaimed Antonio with new horrour; why thou knowest
Not everything, replied she, but some little. And then a good
deal more may perhaps be guessed at. And I will not deny it, a little
witchcraft now and then helps on the game. Only don't be too much
frightened at it. Nor in truth was it altogether for nothing that their
Florentine worships would have built me a throne of faggots: some petty
trifling bits of reasons for this wish they might fairly enough have
brought forward.... Look me in the face, boy! stroak away the curls
from thy forehead: good! now give me thy left hand: the right: heyday!
strange and marvellous! That's it; some near misfortune is hanging over
thee; but if thou outlivest it, thou wilt see thy beloved again.
In the next world! sighed Antonio.
The next world? what is the next world? cried the old hag in her
drunkenness: no, in this world, here, on what we call earth. What
words the fools make use of! There is no next world, you silly
ninnyhammer! he who does not skim off the fat from the broth while he
is here, is a wretched gull. This however is what they clack to their
simple brood, that they may behave prettily, and keep within bounds,
and go the way one would lead them: but whosoever believes none of
their fabling, he is free on the strength of this, and can do what his
heart lusteth after.
Antonio eyed her wrathfully, and was about to make an indignant
reply; but the pale Crescentia interposed such a humble beseeching look
for her mother that his anger was disarmed.
The old woman yawned and rubbed her eyes, and it was not long
before, stupefied as she was by the repeated draughts of strong wine,
she fell fast asleep.
The fire on the hearth was gone out, and the lamp now only cast a
faint glimmer. Antonio sank into a deep study, and Crescentia sat by
the window on a low stool.
Can I sleep anywhere? the weary youth at length askt.
There is another room above, said Crescentia sobbing; and he now
first observed that she had been crying bitterly all the time. She
trimmed the lamp, to make it burn brighter, and walkt silently before
him. He followed her up a narrow staircase, and after they were above
in the low dark loft, the damsel set the light on a little table and
was on the point of retiring. But when already at the door she turned
back again, stared at the young man as with a look of death, stood
tottering before him, and then fell sobbing aloud and with violent
unintelligible lamentations as in a convulsion down at his feet.
What is the matter with thee, my sweet girl? he exclaimed, and
tried to lift her up: hush thee; tell me thy sorrow.
No, let me lie here! cried the weeper. O that I might die here at
your feet, might die this very instant. No, it is too horrible. And
that I can do nothing, can hinder nothing, that I must behold the crime
in silence and helplessly! But you must hear it.
Compose thyself then, said Antonio comforting her, that thou
mayst recover thy voice and thy words.
I look, she continued passionately and interrupted by her tears,
so like your lost love, and it is I who am to lead you by the hand
into the house of murder. My mother may easily foretell that a near
misfortune is hanging over you: she well knows the gang that assemble
here nightly. No one has ever yet escaped alive from this hell. Every
moment is bringing him nearer and nearer, the fierce Ildefonso, or the
detestable Andrea, with their followers and comrades. Alas! and I can
only be the herald of your death, can offer you no help, no safety.
Antonio was horrour-struck. Pale and trembling he graspt after his
sword, tried his dagger, and summoned courage and resolution again.
Much as he had but now wisht for death, it was yet too frightful to be
thus forced to end his life in a robber's den.
And thou, he began, thou with this face, with this form, canst
bring thyself to be a companion, a helpmate to the accursed?
I cannot run away, she sighed despondingly: how joyfully would I
fly from this house! Alas! and this night, tomorrow, I am to be taken
from hence, and dragged over the sea; I am to be made the wife of
Andrea or Ildefonso. Is it not better to die now?
Come, cried Antonio, the door is open; escape with me; the night,
the forest will lend us their shelter.
Only look around you, said the girl; only see how both here and
in the room below all the windows are secured with strong iron bars;
the door of the house is fastened with a large key which my mother
never parts with. Did you not perceive, sir, how she threw the door
into the lock when you entered?
Then let the old hag fall first, cried Antonio: we'll tear the
keys from her....
What, kill my mother! shriekt the pale maiden, and clambered
forcibly round him, to hold him fast.
Antonio quieted her. He proposed to her that, as the old woman was
drunk and sleeping soundly, they should take the large house-key gently
from her side, then open the door, and escape. From this plan
Crescentia seemed to catch some hope: they both went silently down into
the room below, and found the old woman still fast asleep. Crescentia
crept trembling up to her, sought for the key, found it, and succeeded
after a time in loosening it from the string at her girdle. She
beckoned to the youth; they stept on tiptoe to the door; they
cautiously fixt the iron key in the lock; Antonio was now straining his
hand to draw back the bolt without noise; when he felt that some one
else was working at the lock on the outside in the same noiseless
manner. The door opened softly and in came face to face to Antonio a
large wild-looking man.
Ildefonso! screamed the damsel, and the youth at the first glance
recognized the murderer Roberto.
What is this? said he with a hollow voice. Where got you that
key? whither are you going?
Roberto! cried Antonio, and furiously seized the gigantic man by
the throat. They wrestled violently; but the nimbler strength of the
youth got the better and threw the villain upon the floor; he then
knelt upon his breast and plunged his dagger into his heart.
The old woman meanwhile had awaked with loud screams, had started up
on seeing the battle, and howling and cursing had torn her daughter
away; she dragged her up to the room overhead, and bolted the door from
Antonio was now mounting to break into the loft, when several dark
forms stalkt in, and were no little astounded at finding their leader
dead on the ground.
I am your captain now! cried a broad bearded figure, fiercely
drawing his sword.
Provided Crescentia is mine! answered a younger robber in a tone
Each persisting in having his own way, they began a murderous
combat. The lamp was thrown over, and amid yells and imprecations the
battle rolled in the darkness from corner to corner.
Have you lost your senses? shouted another voice athwart them:
you are letting the stranger get off; knock him down first, and then
fight your quarrel out.
But blind with fury they heard him not. Already the first grey
uncertain gleam of early morning was dawning. Antonio now felt a
murderer's fist at his breast; but quickly and strongly he struck the
I am slain! cried he, falling upon the floor: Madmen, blockade
the doors; don't let him run away.
Meanwhile Antonio had found the way out; he sprang through the
little garden and over the fence; the robbers, who by this time had
come to their senses, hurried after him. He was only a few paces before
them, and they tried to cut him off. One of them threw stones after
him; but they missed their mark. Amid hollowing and threatening they
had reacht the wood.
Here the path split into sundry directions, and Antonio was at a
loss which to choose. He lookt back, and saw the robbers separated; he
attackt the nearest, and wounded him so that he let his sword drop. But
at the same moment he heard shouts, and saw new forms along a by-path
hastening thither; his road would soon be blockt up.
In this extremity of need he met with his horse again on a little
plot of grass in the wood. It seemed to have recovered from yesterday's
over-fatigue. He leapt upon it, after rapidly seizing and righting the
bridle; and with its utmost speed, as if the animal had felt his
danger, it bore him along a foot-track out of the forest.
By degrees the cries of his pursuers sounded more and more distant;
the wood grew lighter; and when he had reason to trust that there was
nothing more to be afraid of, he saw the city lying before him in the
glory of the rising sun.
People met him; countrymen were going the same road toward the city;
travellers joined company with him; and in this way he came back to
Padua, making little answer to the manifold questions and inquiries,
why his dress was in such disorder, and why he had no hat. The citizens
stared in wonder at him as he dismounted before the great house of the
* * * * *
In the city on that same night strange things had been going on,
which as yet were a secret to everybody. Scarcely had the darkness
spread thickly abroad, when Pietro, whom people commonly called by the
name of his birthplace, Apone or Abano, retiring into his secret study
at the back of his house, set all his apparatus, all the instruments of
his art, in due order, for some mysterious and extraordinary
undertaking. He himself was clad in a long robe charactered with
strange hieroglyphs; he had described the magical circles in the hall,
and he arranged everything with his utmost skill, to be certain of the
result. He had searcht diligently into the configuration of the stars,
and was now awaiting the auspicious moment.
His companion, the hideous Beresynth, was also drest in magical
garments. He fetcht everything at his master's bidding, and set it down
just as Pietro thought needful. Painted hangings were unrolled over the
walls; the floor of the room was covered over; the great magical mirror
was placed upright; and nearer and nearer came the moment which the
magician deemed the most fortunate.
Hast thou put the crystals within the circles? demanded Pietro.
Yes; returned his busy mate, whose ugliness kept bustling to and
fro merrily and unweariably amid the vials, mirrors, human skeletons,
and all the other strange implements. The incense was now brought; a
flame blazed upon the altar; and the magician cautiously, almost with
trembling, took the great volume out of his most secret cabinet.
Do we start now? cried Beresynth.
Silence! answered the old man solemnly: interrupt not these holy
proceedings by any profane or any useless words.
He read, at first in a low voice, then louder and more earnestly as
he paced with measured steps to and fro, and then again round in a
circle. After a while he paused and said: Look out, how the heavens
are shaping themselves.
Thick darkness, replied the servant on his return, has enwrapt
the sky; the clouds are driving along; rain is beginning to drip.
They favour me! exclaimed the old man: it must succeed.
He now knelt down, and murmuring his incantations often toucht the
ground with his forehead. His face was heated; his eyes sparkled. He
was heard to pronounce the holy names which it is forbidden to utter;
and after a long time he sent his servant out again to look at the
firmament. Meanwhile the onrush of the storm was heard; lightning and
thunder chased each other; and the house seemed to tremble to its
Hearken to the tempest! shouted Beresynth coming back hastily:
Hell has risen up from below, and is raging with fire and fierce
cracking crashes of thunder; a whirlwind is raving through the midst of
it; and the earth is quaking with fear. Hold with your conjuring, lest
the spokes of the world splinter, and the rim that holds it together
Fool! simpleton! cried the magician: have done with thy useless
prating! Tear back all the doors; throw the house door wide open.
The dwarf withdrew to perform his master's orders. Meanwhile Pietro
lighted the consecrated tapers; with a shudder he walkt up to the great
torch that stood upon the high candlestick; this too at last was
burning; then he threw himself on the ground and conjured louder and
louder. His eyes flasht; all his limbs shook and shrunk as in
convulsions; and a cold sweat of agony trickled from his brow.
With wild gestures, as if scared out of his senses, the dwarf rusht
in again, and leapt for safety within the circles. The world is at the
last gasp, he shriekt, pale and with chattering teeth: the storms are
rolling onward; but all beneath the voiceless night is dismay and
horrour; every living thing has fled into its closet, or crept beneath
the pillows of its bed to skulk away from its fears.
The old man lifted up a face of ghastly paleness from the floor, and
with wrencht and indistinguishable features screamed in sounds not his
own: Be silent, wretch, and disturb not the work. Give heed, and keep
a fast hold on thy senses. The greatest things are still behind.
With a voice as if he would split his breast, he read and conjured
again: his breath seemed often to fail him; it was as though the
gigantic effort must kill him.
Hereupon a medley of voices were suddenly heard as in a quarrel,
then again as in talk: they whispered; they shouted and laught; songs
darted from among them, together with the jumbled notes of strange
instruments. All the vessels grew alive, and strode forward, and went
back again; and out of the walls in every room gusht creatures of every
kind, vermin and monsters and hideous abortions in the richest
Master! screamed Beresynth: the house is growing too tight. What
shall we do with all these ghosts? they must eat one another. O woe! O
woe! they are all with cub, and are come here to whelp: new brutes keep
sprouting out of the old ones, and the child is always wilder and
frightfuller than its dam. My wits are leaving me in the lurch. And
then this music into the bargain, this ringing and piping, and laughter
athwart it, and funeral hymns enough to make one cry! Look master!
look! the walls, the rooms are stretching themselves, and spreading out
into vast halls; the ceilings are running away out of sight; and the
creatures are still shooting forth, and thicken as fast as the space
grows. Have you no counsel? have you no help?
In complete exhaustion Pietro now raised himself; his whole form was
changed, and he seemed to be dying. Look out once more, he said
faintly: turn thine eyes toward the dome, and bring me tidings of what
I am treading the rabble here on the head, roared Beresynth,
totally bewildered; they are disporting themselves in twining about me
like serpents, and are laughing me to scorn. Are they ghosts? are they
demons, or empty phantoms? Get away! Well, if you won't move out of my
path, I'll stamp downright upon your green and blue snouts. Everybody
must take care of number one, even if a devil is to be the sufferer.
He stumbled out muttering.
Things now grew tranquil, and Pietro stood up. He waved his arm, and
all those strange forms which had been crawling about the floor and
twisting around each other in the air, vanisht. He wiped off the sweat
and tears, and drew his breath more freely.
His servant came back and said: Master, all is quiet and well; but
sundry light forms flitted by me and lost themselves in the dark sky.
Thereupon, while I kept staring immovably toward the dome, a mighty
crash sounded, as if all the strings of a harp were breaking at once,
and a clap came that made the streets and the houses all tremble. The
great door of the church burst open; flutes warbled sweetly and
lovelily; and a soft light brightness streamed forth from the heart of
the church. Immediately after the form of a woman stept into the
radiance, pale, but glancing, bedeckt with crowns of flowers; she
glided through the door, and gleams of light strewed a path for her to
tread along. Her head upright, her hands folded, she is floating hither
toward our dwelling. Is this she for whom you have been waiting?
Take the golden key, answered Pietro, and unlock the innermost
richest chamber of my house. See that the purple tapestries are spread
out, that the perfumes are scattering their sweetness. Then away, and
get thee to bed. Make no further inquiry into what happens. Be obedient
and silent, as thou valuest thy life.
I know you too well, returned the dwarf, and walkt off with the
key, casting back another look of something like mischievous delight.
Meanwhile a lovely murmur approacht. Pietro went into the
entrance-hall, and in glided the pale body of Crescentia, in her robe
of death, still holding the crucifix in her folded hands. He stood
still before her; she drew up the lids from her large eyes, and shrank
back from him with such a quick start that the wreaths of flowers dropt
down from her shaking head.
Without speaking a word he wrested her fast-claspt hands asunder;
but in the left she kept the crucifix tightly clencht. By the right
hand he led her through room after room, and she moved by his side
stiffly and with indifference, never looking around.
They reacht the furthest chamber. Purple and gold, silk and velvet,
were its costly garniture. The light only glimmered in faintly by day
through the heavy curtains. He pointed to the couch; and the
unconscious holder of a charmed life stoopt and bent down like a lily
that the wind shakes; she sank upon the red coverlet and breathed
From a golden vial the old man poured a precious essence into a
little crystal cup, and set it before her mouth. Her pale lips sipt the
wonderous draught; she again unfolded her eyes, fixt them on her former
friend, turned away from him with an expression of loathing, and fell
into a deep sleep.
The old man carefully closed the chamber again. Everything in the
house was quiet. He betook himself to his own room, there in the midst
of his books and magical instruments to await the rising of the sun and
the business of the day.
* * * * *
When the unhappy youth, Antonio, had rested, the Podesta rode forth
on the following day with him and with a large train of armed
followers, to seek for the hut with the hideous old woman and the
robbers, and to take them prisoners. On hearing Antonio's story, the
disconsolate father became very eager to see the damsel who was said to
be so like his lost daughter. Can it be, said the old man on their
way, that a dream to which I have only too often abandoned myself, is
about to become true?
The father was in such haste that he gave the youth no further
explanation. They came to the neighbouring wood; and here Antonio
thought he recollected himself and had found his track again. But that
night had so bewildered him, and excited such a turmoil throughout his
whole frame, that he could not make out the way further on, which he
had taken during the storm, half stunned by the roaring of the thunder,
on foot, wandering over ploughed land and meadow.
They crost the large plain in every quarter; wherever trees or
bushes were to be seen, thither Antonio spurred his horse, in the hope
of meeting with that den of robbers and the marvellous apparition
within it; or at least, should the inhabitants have absconded, as he
might well expect, of gaining some sort of tidings about them.
At length the Podesta, after they had been roaming about thus for a
great part of the day, began to fancy that the youth's heated
imagination had merely beheld these phantoms in the wild ravings of his
grief. Such happiness, he exclaimed, would be too great; and I am
born only for misfortune.
On reaching a village they were forced to let their horses and
servants bait. The inhabitants said they knew nothing of any such
suspicious neighbours, nor had the bodies of the slain been found
anywhere round about. After a short pause Antonio again set off, but
the Podesta now followed him more mistrustingly. Inquiries were made of
every peasant they fell in with; but none could give them any certain
Toward evening they got to a building that appeared to have been
destroyed; ashes and rubbish lay around; some charred beams peered out
from among the stones; the trees that stood near were scorcht.
Here the youth seemed to recognize what he saw. This, he affirmed
confidently, had been the abode of the murderers and of that wonderous
Crescentia. They made halt. Far and wide through the waste country
there was no house to be seen, no human being to call to.
A servant rode to the next hamlet, and returned an hour after,
bringing an old man on horseback. This old man said he knew that a good
year since a hut had been burnt down there, having been set fire to by
some soldiers; that the owner of the estate had already been ten years
at Rome waiting for an office promist him in the church; and that his
bailiff had taken a journey to Ravenna for the sake of getting in an
Vext and wearied the travellers rode back to the city. The Podesta
Ambrosio determined to give up his office, to withdraw from public
life, and to leave Padua, where everything reminded him only of his
Antonio resolved to learn in the school of the renowned Apone how to
bear his wretchedness, and perchance to forget it. He removed into the
house of that great man, who had long treated him with much kindness.
* * * * *
So you too, said the little priest some time after to the
melancholy Antonio, have given yourself up to this ill-starred school,
to this pernicious man who will ensnare your soul to its destruction.
Why are you angry, answered Antonio courteously, my pious friend?
May not religion and knowledge shake hands in amity, as they do in this
admirable teacher? in him whom the whole world admires, whom princes
esteem and cherish, whom our holy father himself means to raise to a
spiritual dignity. Why are you incenst against him who comes forward to
meet you and all mankind with his love? Did you know how his doctrine
comforts me, how he lifts up my soul and guides it heavenward, how in
his mouth piety and religion find the words and images of inspiration,
which bear his scholars as with the wings of the spirit into the
regions above the earth, you would not think and speak thus harshly of
him. Learn to know him more nearly; seek his intercourse; and you will
soon be moved by penitence and love to abjure your dislike and your
over-hasty judgement against him.
Love him! cried the priest: no, never! Keep yourself safe, young
man, from his clutches and those of his servant with hell's stamp upon
him, who cannot gull any one with the same fair seeming as his master.
True, rejoined Antonio, little Beresynth is a queer figure, and a
hideous one too. I wonder myself that our noble Pietro can endure to
have him perpetually at his side, wherever he is and whatever he is
doing. But ought a hump or any other such ugly mark to render us cruel
toward a poor wretch whom nature has neglected?
Fine words! grand phrases! exclaimed the priest impatiently: such
are the very sentiments to make conjurors and quacks thrive apace. See,
there comes the abomination! I cannot even bear to look upon him, much
less to have any dealings with him. A creature whom the Lord has markt
in this wise, is knowable enough; and let everybody in whom all human
feeling is not yet quencht, get out of his way.
Beresynth, who had caught the last words, came up to them with
divers ungainly jumps.
My very reverend sir, he exclaimed, do you then yourself happen
to be of such mightily exquisite beauty, that you have a right to judge
thus intolerantly? My master from his youth up has been a majestic and
stately man; and yet he thinks far otherwise of me and my fellows.
What! you little stinted, stunted, stumpy, bile-faced animal, whose
nose is for ever running crimson with spite! You with the crooked
corners of your seesaw mouth, with the broken ridges and ditches in
your shrivelled half-inch forehead, you would make an outcry about my
ugliness! Why the bit of a dwarf can hardly peer out of its pulpit when
it is hubbubbing there, and is so gossamer-shankt it durst not walk
across the great square if the wind chance to be blowing strong; the
congregation are hard put to find him out when he is grimacing and
gesticulating before the altar, and need all their christian faith and
hope to believe him actually corporeally present; and such a
hop-o'-my-thumb, such a ghostly ne'er-to-be-seen, would take the tone
of a Goliah here. With thy leave, thou most invisible man of godliness,
one might cut out of my nose alone as stout a pillar of the faith as
thou art; and I won't reckon in the brace of humps which my backbone
and breastbone have built up in rivalry of each other.
The priest Theodore had already left them in anger before the end of
this speech; and the melancholy Antonio chid the little dwarf for his
wantonness. But the latter cried; Now pray don't you also begin to
preach. Once for all I will bear that from no one else than my master;
for he came into the world on special purpose to teach morality and
philosophy and their kin. But this weathercock of a priest here, that
is driven round with such a creaking merely by his envy and malice,
because he fancies that my noble master is lowering both his authority
and his purse, he shall not unkennel his tongue from his toothless
jaws, where I can but thrust in my unwasht mouth. And from a young
student too I will brook no contradiction; for I used to have my beard
shaved, while your father was still carried about in his chrisom-cloth;
I was earning stripes at school and getting the fool's cap hung round
my ears, when they put your worshipful grandfather into his first pair
of breeches: so shew respect where it is due, and never forget whom you
have before you.
Don't be angry, little man, said Antonio: I meant it well with
Mean it just as you please, returned the other. My master is to
be a prelate, do you know that yet? and lord rector of the university.
And he has received a new gold chain as a token of royal favour from
Paris. And you must come to him; for he is going away from Padua, and
wants to speak to you once more before he sets off. And don't crawl
about so among the parsons, if you mean to be a philosopher.
Hopping and jumping to and fro from side to side he ran down the
street again; and Antonio said to Alfonso, who now came up to him, and
who for some time past had been forming a friendship with him: I never
know, when talking to that little abortion, whether it means its words
in earnest or only in jest. He seems always to be scoffing at himself
and at everything else in the world.
This, answered Alfonso, is a kind of necessary amends to him, a
way of comforting himself for his deformity: by his sneers he to his
own fancy makes all other creatures just like himself. But have you
heard of the new honours that have been bestowed on our illustrious
teacher and master?
The world, replied Antonio, acknowledges his high worth; and now
that even our holy father, the pope, is making him a prelate, this will
at length silence the envious priests and monks who are for ever trying
to charge the virtuous and pious man with heresy.
They parted; and Antonio hurried home, to take leave of his teacher
for some days. The little dwarf Beresynth was awaiting him in the
doorway with a friendly grin.
* * * * *
It was already growing dark within the house; and as Beresynth left
the youth to himself, he walkt, on not finding his teacher in the hall
or even in the library, through a number of rooms, and thus advanced
even to the innermost, which he had never yet entered. Here beside a
dim lamp Pietro was sitting, and was no little surprised to see the
Florentine come in; who on his part was astonisht at the skeletons, the
strange instruments, and extraordinary machinery around the old man.
Not without confusion the latter came up to him.
I did not expect you here, said he, but thought to find you
without, or to look for you up in your own room. I must set off to meet
the legate of our holy father, the pope, that with due humility and
gratitude I may receive the letter and the new dignity which his grace
and paternal kindness have vouchsafed to confer upon me.
Antonio was embarrast, and seemed to be examining the instruments,
having never seen any thing like them.
You are wondering, said the old man after a while, at all these
things, which are necessary for my studies. When you have attended a
course of my lectures on natural philosophy, I shall be able hereafter
to explain everything which now perhaps you may deem incomprehensible.
But at this moment something happened that drew away Antonio's
attention from all these objects. A door that seemed shut was only
ajar; it opened, and he saw into a room filled with a red purplish
light; and at the door in the midst of this roseate glow was standing a
pale ghost that winkt and smiled.
With the speed of lightning the old man turned round, dasht the door
thunderingly to, and fastened it with a gold key. Trembling and pale as
a corpse he then threw himself into a chair, while large drops of sweat
ran down from his forehead.
When he was somewhat recovered, he beckoned to Antonio, still
trembling and said with a faltering voice: This mystery also, my young
friend, will hereafter become clear to you; think, my dearest son, the
best of me. Thee above all, thou child of many sorrows and of my love,
will I lead into the lowest depths of my knowledge; thou shalt be my
true scholar, my heir. But leave me at present; go up to thy lonely
chamber, and call in fervent prayer upon heaven and its holy powers to
Antonio could make no answer, so amazed and horrourstruck was he by
the apparition, so perplext by his honoured teacher's speech; for it
seemed to him as though Pietro was struggling to check a burst of
anger, as if represt rage were flashing from his firy eyes, which after
their sudden dimness rapidly shot forth fiercer glances.
He went away; and in the antechamber he found Beresynth, who with
grinning mouth was catching flies and then tossing them to a monkey.
Both seemed engaged in a match which could make the most portentous
faces. His master now called aloud for the servant, and the monster
hopt in. Antonio heard a loud squabble, and Pietro appeared to be
violently angry. Whining and yelling Beresynth came out of the room; a
stream of blood was rushing down from his enormous nose.
Can't he keep his doors shut himself, howled the abortion,
allsapient and allpotent as he is? When the master is a blockhead, the
servant must bear the blame. Betake you yourself, most honorablest sir,
up to your most attic study, and leave me with my good friend, my dear
Pavian here, in peace. He has still a human heart, the dear faithful
creature. Merry comrade as he is, in his tender moments he is the most
exquisite fellow. Come march! Pylades would feast on some more flies,
which his Orestes must catch for him.
Antonio left the room almost stupefied.
* * * * *
The Florentine youth had taken up his abode in his teacher's house,
for the sake of giving himself up without any interruption to his
sorrows and his studies. He had chosen the most retired and highest
room in the whole building, to be quite alone and unvisited by anybody.
When he lookt from hence over the beautiful and fruitful fields about
the city, and followed the course of the river with his eyes, he
thought the more intensely of his, lost love. He had got her picture
from her parents, as well as some toys she had played with in her
childhood; above all he delighted in a nightingale, that in its moving
plaints seemed to him to be only pouring forth the woes of his own
heart. This bird had been fostered by Crescentia with the utmost care
and fondness; and Antonio preserved it like something holy, as the last
relic of his earthly happiness.
With other young men of his own age he never mingled, excepting the
Spaniard Alfonso, to whom he was united by their equally enthusiastic
admiration of Pietro Abano. The Podesta Ambrosio had resigned his
office and left the city: he meant to spend the rest of his life at
Rome, for the sake of getting beyond the reach of his relations at
Venice. He had given up the thought of ever again finding the twin
daughter who had been stolen from him in her infancy; and his grief had
been embittered by Antonio's calling back this hope with such a shock
into his soul. He was convinced the young man had misled him and
himself been deceived by the fevered dreams of that night.
In the morning Pietro set off with his trusty servant. Antonio was
left alone in the large house, the rooms of which were all lockt up.
The night had past over him in sleeplessness. That terrific figure was
evermore standing before his eyes, which, greatly as it had appalled
him, had yet reawakened all his most delightful feelings. It was as
though all power of thinking had died away within him; visions which he
could not hold fast kept moving in ever-rolling circles before his
imagination. It was a frightful feeling to him, that he knew not what
to think of his venerated teacher, that he had a boding of lawless
mysteries, and of a horrour which since that look into the chamber
seemed to be awaiting him, to strip him of all optimism, and to deliver
him up to madness and despair.
The nightingale began singing before his window, and he saw that it
was blowing hard and raining. His fondness for the bird made him take
it in and set it atop of a high old wardrobe. He clambered up and was
leaning over to place the cage steadily, when the chain from which the
portrait of his beloved was hanging broke, and the picture slid to the
wall and down behind the old oak chest. The unhappy are terrified by
the veriest trifles. He got down hastily to seek for his darling
treasure. He stoopt down to the ground, but his search was vain; it was
not to be seen beneath the large heavy cabinet. Everything, whether of
great or little moment, in his life seemed to be persecuting him as it
were under some spell. He shoved at the old piece of furniture and
tried to push it out of its place; but it was fastened to the wall. His
impatience grew more vehement with every hinderance. He seized an old
iron bar which he found in the anteroom, and laboured with all his
strength to move the wardrobe; and at last, after much heaving and
wrenching and a hundred fruitless efforts, it gave way with a loud
cracking as if an iron cramp or chain had snapt. The cabinet now by
degrees came forward, and Antonio was at length able to squeeze himself
in between it and the wall. He immediately saw his beloved portrait. It
was lying upon the broad knob of a door, which jutted out of the wall.
He kist it, and turned the handle, which yielded. A door opened; and he
resolved to push the great wardrobe somewhat further away, and to
explore this strange matter; for he thought the owner of the house
himself could hardly be acquainted with this secret passage, which had
been concealed with so much care, and, as it appeared, for so long a
When he had gained a little more room, he saw that behind the door
there was a narrow winding staircase. He went down a few steps; the
thickest darkness came round him. He descended lower and still lower;
the stairs seemed to lead down almost to the bottom of the house. He
was on the point of returning, when he struck against a stoppage; for
the flight of steps was now at an end. As he groped up and down in the
darkness, his hand hit on a brass ring, which he pulled, and instantly
the wall opened, and a red glow streamed into his face. Before he
passed through, he examined the door, and found that a spring which the
ring had set in motion, had driven it back. He put it to and stept
cautiously into the room.
It was covered with costly red tapestry; purple curtains of heavy
silk hung down before the windows: a bed of brilliant scarlet
embroidered with gold rose in the middle of the room. Everything was
still; no sound was heard from the street; the windows lookt into a
A painful anxiety came over the youth as he stood in the midst of
the chamber; he listened attentively, and at length seemed to hear the
low whisper of a breath, as from a sleeper. With throbbing heart he
turned round, and went forward, to spy whether any one was upon the
bed; he spread open the silken hangings, and ... he thought he must be
in a dream; for before him lay, pale as a corpse, but in a sweet
slumber, the form of his beloved Crescentia. Her bosom heaved visibly;
something like a slight blush had tinged her pale lips, which were
softly closed, quivering imperceptibly as a gentle smile ever and anon
flitted over them. Her hair was loose and lay in its dark heavy locks
upon her shoulders. Her dress was white, with a golden clasp at her
girdle. For a long time Antonio stood lost in gazing; at last as if
driven by a supernatural power he snatcht the lovely white hand, and
began to pull up the sleeper by force. She darted a plaintive cry
forth; and frightened by it he let go the arm again, which dropt
languidly upon the pillow.
But the dream, so seemed it, had flown away; the net of sleep which
had held the wonderous form inclosed, was rent asunder: and as clouds
and mists move along the side of the hills on the gentle morning breeze
in wavy forms and now rise and now sink again, so the slumberer began
to stir, stretcht herself as if powerless, and in slow and graceful
motions seemed striving to emerge from her sleep. Her arms raised
themselves, so that the broad sleeves fell back and displayed their
full beauteous roundness; her hands folded themselves, and then dropt
down again; the head arose, and the bright neck lifted itself freely
up; but the eyes were still fast closed; the black tresses fell over
the face, but the long taper fingers stroaked them back; now the fair
one was sitting quite upright; she crost her arms over her breast,
heaved a hard sigh, and on a sudden her large eyes stood wide open and
She gazed at the youth; but it was as though she saw him not; she
shook her head; then she graspt the gold tassel which was fastened to
the top of the bed, lifted herself strongly up, and the tall slender
form was now standing on its feet raised up on high in the midst of the
scarlet drapery. She then stept safely and firmly down from the couch,
walkt a few paces up to Antonio who had drawn back, and with a childish
exclamation of surprise, as when children are suddenly gladdened by a
new plaything, she laid her hand upon his shoulder, smiled lovelily
upon him, and cried with a soft voice: Antonio!
But he, pierced through and through with fear and horrour and joy
and amazement and the deepest pity, knew not whether to fly from her,
to embrace her, to cast himself at her feet, or to melt away in tears
and die. That was the selfsame sound which of yore he had heard so
often and with such delight, at which his whole heart had turned round.
Thou livest? he cried with a voice which the swell of his feelings
The sweet smile that had mounted from her pale lips over her cheeks
even into her radiant eyes, suddenly split, and froze into a stiff
expression of the deepest most unutterable woe.
Antonio could not endure the glance of those eyes; he covered his
face with his hands, and shriekt: Art thou a ghost?
The figure came still closer, prest down his arms with her hands, so
that his face lay bare, and said with a gently fluttering voice: No,
look at me; I am not dead; and yet I live not. Give me that cup there.
A fragrant liquid was floating in the crystal vessel; he held it out
to her trembling; she set it to her mouth and sipt the drink by slow
draughts. Alas! my poor Antonio! she then said: I will only borrow
these earthly powers that I may disclose the most monstrous of crimes
to thee, that I may beseech thy aid, that I may prevail on thee to help
me to that rest after which all my feelings so fervently yearn.
She had sunk back into the arm-chair, and Antonio was sitting at her
feet. Hellish arts, she again began, have seemingly awakened me from
death. The same man whom my inexperienced youth honoured as an apostle,
is a spirit of darkness. He gave me this shadow of life. He loves me,
as he says. How my heart shrank back from him when my awakening eye
beheld him. I sleep, I breathe; I may, if I choose, be restored to life
altogether, so that wicked man has promist me, if I will give myself up
to him with my whole heart, if in secret concealment I will let him
become my husband.... O Antonio, how hard is every word to me, every
thought! All his art crumbles before my longing for death. It was
frightful, when my spirit, already at rest, with new visions already
unfolding before it, was summoned back so cruelly out of its calm
peace. My body was already a stranger to me, a hostile and hateful
thing. I came back like the freed slave to chains and a dungeon. Help
me, my true lover; save me.
How! said Antonio: Oh God in Heaven! what have I lived to! in
what a state do I find thee again! And thou canst not, mayst not return
to life altogether? thou canst not again be mine, again be thy parents'
Impossible! cried Crescentia with a tone of anguish, and her
paleness became yet whiter from dismay. Alas! Life! How can any one
seek it again, who has once been set free from it? Thou, my poor
Antonio, conceivest not the deep longing, the love, the rapture,
wherewith I think upon death and pant for it. Even more intensely than
of yore I loved thee, even more fervently than my lips at the Easter
festival pined for the holy wafer, do I now yearn for death. Then I
shall love thee more freely and more wholly in God; then I shall be
given back to my parents. Then I shall live; formerly I was dead; now I
am a cloud and a shadow, a riddle to myself and to thee. Alas, when thy
love and our youth have gleamed in upon me in my present state, when I
have heard my well-known nightingale from above pouring her song into
my loneliness, what a sweet shuddering, what a dark joy and pain have
then rippled through the dusk of my being! O help me to get loose from
What can I do for thee? askt Antonio.
Her talking had again broken the strength of the apparition: she
paused awhile with closed eyelids; then she spake faintly: Alas! if I
could go into a church, if I could be present when the Lord is lifted
up and appears to the congregation in the sacrament, then in that
blessed moment I should die of rapture.
What should hinder me, said Antonio, from informing against the
villain, and delivering him up to the tribunals and to the
No! no! no! groaned the figure in the greatest terrour: thou dost
not know him; he is too mighty; he would make his escape, and again
tear me to him within the circle of his wickedness. Quietly and by
silence alone can we succeed; he must feel secure. A chance has brought
thee to me. Thou must make him believe himself quite safe, and keep
The youth collected his senses; he talkt much with his former
betrothed; but speaking became more and more difficult to her; her
eyelids dropt down; she drank once more of the wonderous potion; then
she made him lead her to the couch.
Farewell! she said, as if already in a dream; do not forget me.
She mounted upon the bed, laid herself gently down; her hands
searcht for the crucifix, which she kist with her eyes closed; then she
held out her hand to her lover, and beckoned him away as she stretcht
herself out to sleep.
Antonio gazed at her awhile; then with the spring he shut the
invisible door again, crept back up the narrow winding stairs to his
chamber, fixt the wardrobe in its old place, and burst into hot tears
as the song of the nightingale welcomed him with the swell of its
mournful notes. He too longed for death, and only wisht beforehand to
release her, who but a few days since was to have been his earthly
bride, from her marvellous and awful state.
* * * * *
In order to be out of the way when his teacher returned from his
journey, Antonio had bent his steps toward the loneliest part of the
wood. It was an annoyance to him to meet his friend, the Spaniard,
here; for he was in no mood to carry on a conversation. However, as
there was no avoiding his comrade, he resigned himself in silent
sadness to the society which at other times had been a pleasure to him
and a comfort. He only half listened to what his friend said, and
answered but sparingly. As was almost always the case, Pietro was again
the theme of Alfonso's boundless admiration.
Why are you thus stingy of your words today? he at length began,
somewhat vext: is my company troublesome to you? or are you no longer
as capable as you used to be of honouring our great teacher and giving
him the glory he deserves?
Antonio was forced to collect himself, not to sink away entirely
into his dreamy state.
What is the matter with you? askt Alfonso again: it seems I have
No, you have not; cried the Florentine; but if you have any
regard for me, if you would not excite my anger, if you would not have
the bitterest feelings rend my heart, do give over chaunting the
praises of your idolized Pietro for today. Let us talk on some other
Ha! by Heaven! exclaimed Alfonso: so the parsons have twisted
your feeble senses round at last. Go your own way henceforward, young
man; wisdom, I now well see, is too lofty a prize for you. Your head is
too weak for this fare; and you are longing again for the pap you were
wont to get from the former fathers of your soul. You will do better to
stay with them, at least till your milk teeth have dropt out.
You are talking overweeningly, cried Antonio in wrath; or rather
you are utterly ignorant of what you are saying, and I deserve not this
language from you.
How has our teacher deserved, said the Spaniard hastily, he who
has taken you in like a father, he who favours you so highly above all
the young men of our university, who allows you to dwell in his house,
who entrusts you with all the thoughts of his heart, by what offense
has he deserved, that you should thus mean-spiritedly deny him?
If I were to answer now, returned Antonio angrily, that you do
not know him, that I have reasons, and the fullest, to think otherwise
of him, again you would not understand me.
Verily, said Alfonso with a sneer, you have already scaled so
high into the most secret places of his philosophy, that the common
unfavoured child of earth is unable to follow you. Here again one sees
that half-merit and quarter-merit puff themselves up the most. Pietro
Abano is more lowly-minded than you, his feeble mimic.
You are unmannerly! exclaimed the young Florentine irritated to
the utmost. If I were now to assure you by my honour, by my faith, by
heaven, and by everything which must needs be holy and venerable to you
and me, that in all Italy, in all Europe, there is no such wicked
villain, no so atrocious hypocrite as this....
Who? shouted Alfonso.
Pietro Abano, said Antonio now grown calm: what would you say
Nothing! furiously cried the other, who had not allowed him to
finish: save that you, and everybody else who dares to speak in that
way, are the paltriest knaves that ever had the audacity to blaspheme
holy things. Draw, if you would not be called a mean coward as well as
a base slanderer.
Antonio's drawn sword met the challenger with the same speed; and it
was in vain that a hoarse anxious voice cried out to them: Hold!
Alfonso was wounded in the breast; and the blood at the same time ran
from Antonio's arm.
The old priest, who had wisht to separate the quarrellers, now
hastened forward; bound up their wounds and stancht the blood; then he
called to some students that he had seen a little way off, and told
them to carry the wounded Alfonso to the city.
Before he was removed, Antonio went up to him and whispered in his
ear: If you are a man of honour, not a word about the cause of our
fray will pass over your lips. In four days time we will meet again:
and if you are not of my way of thinking then, I am ready to give you
Alfonso pledged his solemn promise; all the bystanders too assured
Antonio that the wound as well as the whole affair should be kept a
secret, not to expose him to any danger.
When they were all gone Antonio walkt with the priest Theodore
deeper into the wood.
Why, began the latter, will you, for a fiend's sake, make over
your own soul to hell? I see, you are now of a different opinion; but
is the sword the spokesman that should preach truth to a brother?
Antonio felt in doubt how much he should disclose to the monk;
however he said nothing about the wonderful event that had befallen
him, and only entreated that, at the approaching festival of Easter, he
might be allowed to enter the great church during high mass through the
sacristy, near the altar.
After some objections Theodore complied, though he could not
conceive what was the youth's purpose in asking for this permission.
All Antonio said further was: I wish to bring a friend into the church
that way, whose entrance at the great door might perhaps be stopt.
* * * * *
All the bells in the city were ringing, that the holy feast of
Easter might be kept with gladness and devotion. The people flockt
toward the dome, to celebrate the most joyous of Christian festivals,
and also to behold the renowned Apone in his new dignity. The students
escorted their illustrious teacher, who walkt along amid the reverent
salutations of the nobles, the council, and the citizens, in seeming
piety and humility, an example to all, the pride of the city, the
inspiring model of the youth. At the door of the cathedral the crowd
shrank back in timid respect, to make way for their honoured bishop,
who, in the garb of a prelate, with the golden chain round his neck,
with his white beard and the white locks on his head, might be compared
to an emperor or an ancient doctor of the church in his majestic
A seat had been raised up on high for the great man near the altar,
that the students and the people might see him; and when the multitude
of the devout had poured into the church, the service began.
Theodore, the little priest, read mass on this day; and young and
old, gentle and simple, all rejoiced to keep the festival of their
Lord's resurrection in a worthy manner, and to behold the pomp of
worship returning, glad that after the days of severe fasting, after
the saddening representations of suffering and sorrow, they might now
comfort themselves with the feeling of a new life springing forth from
The first part of the divine service was already over, when people
were astonisht to see Antonio Cavalcanti stepping into the church by
the side of the altar, leading a thickly veiled figure in his hand. He
placed the figure on the raised pavement just in face of Pietro, and
then threw himself down before the altar praying. The muffled form
remained standing stiff and high, and beneath the covering one saw the
firy black eyes. Pietro lifted himself from his seat, and sank back
into it pale and trembling. The music of the mass now gusht and rolled
in fuller symphonies; the muffled form disentangled itself slowly from
its veils; the face became free; and those who were nearest with
horrour recognized the dead Crescentia. A shudder passed through the
whole church; even over those who were furthest off a secret shivering
crept, to see the image pale as death standing so tall there, and
praying so fervently, and never turning her large burning eyes from the
priest at the altar. Even the great mighty Pietro himself seemed
changed into a corpse; from his distorted features one might have held
him to be dead, but that his life betrayed itself in his violent
Now the priest turned round and lifted up the consecrated host;
trumpets announced the renewed presence of the Lord; and with a voice
of triumph, with a face of high transport, her arms widely outspread,
as she cried aloud Hosannah! so that the church resounded with it,
the pale apparition dropt down, and lay dead, stiff, and motionless,
before Pietro's feet.
The people rusht forward; the music stopt; curiosity, astonishment,
horrour, and affright spake from every asking countenance; the nobles
and students went up to comfort and support the venerable old man, who
appeared so deeply shockt; when Antonio with a yelling sound shouted:
Murder! Murder! and began the most fearful charge, the most appalling
tale, unfolded the hellish arts, the accursed magic of the dismayed
sinner, spake of himself and of Crescentia and of their awful meeting
again, until anger and rage and imprecations and loathing and curses
raved like a stormy sea around the criminal, and threatened to
annihilate him, to tear him to pieces in the madness of their fury.
They talkt of gaolers and chains; the inquisitors drew near; when
Pietro started up as in a frenzy, thrust and struck about him with
clencht fists, and seemed to spread himself out to a gigantic size. He
walkt up to Crescentia's body that lay smiling like the picture of a
saint, gazed at her once more, and then passed roaring and with
flashing eyes through the crowd.
A new horrour seized the people; they made room for the huge form;
all moved out of his way. Thus Pietro came to the open street: but the
mob now bethought themselves, and with cries and curses and revilings
pursued the fugitive, who ran hastily onward, while his long robes flew
far behind him, and the gold chain beat and rattled upon his breast and
shoulders. The rabble, as they could not catch him, tore up the stones
from the pavement, and threw them after him; and wounded, bleeding,
dripping with sweat, his teeth chattering from fear, Pietro at last
reacht the threshold of his house.
He hid himself in the innermost apartments; and Beresynth came
forward inquisitively, asking all sorts of questions, to meet the mob
and the rush of the people.
Fall upon the maskt devil! the familiar! they all shouted: tear
in pieces the profane creature who never yet set foot in a church!
He was dragged and pusht into the street; no answer was made to his
inquiries and intreaties, to his howls and shrieks, nor indeed was
anything heard through the stormy tumult except curses and threats of
death. Bring me before the magistrate! at length screamed the dwarf;
there my innocence will be made clear as day.
The constables were summoned, and seizing him led him toward the
prison. All the people prest after him. In here with him! cried the
chief of the officers: chains and faggots are waiting for thee.
He tried to tear himself away from them; the constables laid hold on
him and shoved him to and fro: one seized him by the collar, another by
the arm, the next clung round his leg to hold him fast, a fourth caught
his head to make quite sure of him.
While they were pulling him backward and forward in this way amid
shouts and curses and laughter, on the sudden they all started off from
one another; for each had got nothing but a piece of clothing, a
sleeve, cap, or shoe of the monster; he himself was nowhere to be seen.
He could not have run away; he seemed to have vanisht; but nobody could
When they had broken into Apone's chamber, those who rusht in found
him lying on his bed, lifeless, having bled to death. They plundered
the house; the magical implements, the books, the strange furniture,
were all made over to the flames; and throughout the whole city nothing
resounded except curses on the man whom but this morning all had
honoured as a messenger from Heaven. This only embittered the loathing
with which they now revolted from the phantom.
* * * * *
When the turmoil by which the people were agitated was somewhat
allayed, the body of Pietro was silently buried at night, without the
consecrated churchyard. Antonio and Alfonso renewed their friendship,
and attacht themselves to the pious Theodore, who, after going through
the solemn rites and pronouncing a devout oration, had the body of the
beautiful Crescentia laid a second time in the vault designed for her.
Antonio however could not bear to stay any longer at Padua; he resolved
to revisit his native city, that he might settle his affairs, and then
perhaps get admitted into a convent. Alfonso on the other hand
determined to make a pilgrimage to Rome, where the holy Father had just
been proclaiming a year of jubilee with a plenary indulgence for sins.
Not only throughout Italy was every one in motion; but from France too,
and Germany, and Spain, came numerous trains of pilgrims, to celebrate
this till then unheard of solemnity, this great festival of the church,
in the holy city.
After the friends had parted, Antonio pursued his lonely path,
shunning the great road, partly for the sake of brooding
uninterruptedly over his sorrows, and partly to avoid the swarms that
were flocking along the highway, and were often troublesome at the
Thus following his own mood, he roamed through the plains and
through the vallies of the Apennines. One evening the sun set and no
inn was to be seen. As the shades were deepening, he heard a hermit's
little bell tinkling in a wood on one side. He bent his steps toward
the sound, and when the darkness of night was already closing, he
arrived at a small hut, to which a narrow plank led across a brook,
surrounded by bushes.
He found an aged infirm man praying with the deepest devotion before
a crucifix. The hermit received the youth, who greeted him courteously,
with kindness made up a couch of moss for him in a recess of the rock
which was separated by a door from his cell, and placed some of his
fruit, some water, and a little wine before him. When Antonio was
refresht, he was greatly pleased with the conversation of the monk, who
in earlier times had lived in the world, and served as a soldier in
many campaigns. In this way it had grown late in the night, and the
youth betook himself to his bed, just as another weak and sickly monk
entered, who meant to pass the night with the hermit in prayer.
When Antonio had rested about an hour he started suddenly out of his
sleep. It seemed to him as though loud voices were disputing. He sat
up; and all doubt about the quarelling and squabbling was removed. The
tones too struck him as if he knew them; and he askt himself whether he
was not dreaming. He went to the door, and found a crevice through
which he could pry into the front room.
How was he amazed at beholding Pietro Abano, whom he could not but
deem dead, speaking loudly, with eyes of rage and a red face, and
striding about with violent gestures! Over against him stood little
Beresynth's hideous carcase.
So you have got your persecutor, cried the latter with a croaking
voice, who has made you thus wretched, the lovesick godly fool, here
under your roof! he has run of his own accord like a silly rabbit into
the snare: and you are shillishallying about cutting his throat.
Silence! cried the large figure: I have already taken counsel
with my spirits; they will not consent; I have no hold upon him; for he
is imprisoned in no sin.
Smite him dead then, said the little one, without your spirits,
with your own gracious hands: so his virtue and his sinlessness will
not avail him much; and I should be a sorry servant if I were not to
stand by you in so praiseworthy an exploit.
Well then! said Pietro: let us go to work; take thou the hammer;
I'll carry the axe; he is fast asleep now.
They advanced toward the door; but Antonio tore it back, to meet the
villains boldly in the face. He had drawn his sword; but he remained
like a statue, standing with uplifted arm, when he saw two sickly
decrepit hermits lying on their knees before the cross, mumbling their
Do you want anything? askt his host, rising toilsomely from the
floor. Antonio was so astounded, he could make no answer.
Why that drawn sword? askt the weak stooping hermit; and
wherefore these menacing looks?
Antonio drew back with the excuse that a frightful dream had scared
and worried him. He could not fall asleep again; his senses were in
such a tumult. Ere long he again plainly heard Beresynth's croaking
voice; and Pietro said with a full clear tone: Have done; thou seest
he is armed and warned; he will not trust himself to sleep again.
We must overpower him then; screamed the little one: now that he
has recognized us, we are quite undone every way. The pious slave will
go and give us up to the inquisition tomorrow; and the pious rabble
will then be at hand in a trice with their faggots and flames.
Through the chink in the door he perceived the two magicians. He
again rusht in with his sword drawn, and again found two decrepit old
men lying on the ground and whining their prayers. Enraged at the
cheating forms, he seized them in his arms and wrestled violently with
them; they defended themselves desperately; it was now Pietro, now the
hermit, one moment the imp Beresynth, the next a crippled old monk.
After much screaming and raving, cursing and wailing, he at last
succeeded in thrusting them out of the cell, which he then carefully
fastened. He now heard a whining without and entreaties and groans,
mixt up with the whispering of many voices, and with songs and yells;
afterward rain and wind seemed to be stirring, and a storm afar off
rolled athwart the multitudinous sound. Stunned at length by all this,
Antonio fell asleep, leaning on his sword as he sat before the
crucifix; and when the cold morning breeze awakened him, he found
himself on the highest peak of a narrow ridge in the midst of a thick
forest, and thought he heard bursts of scornful laughter behind him.
It was at the peril of his life that he climbed down the steep
precipice, tearing his clothes, and wounding his face and hands and
feet. He had then to wander wearisomely through the forest: there was
not a soul to call to, not a hut to be discovered far around, often as
he mounted the hights to explore. When it was almost night, faint with
fatigue, hunger, and exhaustion, he fell in with an old collier who
refresht him in his little hut. He learnt that he must be some twelve
miles and upward from the hermitage he had met with the evening before.
It was only late on the following day that, somewhat strengthened and
cheered, he could pursue his journey toward Florence.
* * * * *
Antonio had returned to Florence for the sake of visiting his
kindred and his paternal house again. He could not make up his mind on
what course of life to enter, since all the happiness of existence had
proved so treacherous, and even realities had shewn themselves to him
under the aspect of a mad dream.
He settled his affairs, and gave himself up to his sorrow in the
great palace of his fathers; where that fatal grotto and every
well-known room only harast his mind with the liveliest images of his
own and his parents misfortunes. He thought too of that hateful witch
who was so entangled in his fate, and of that Crescentia who had
appeared to him and then vanisht again in a way scarcely less
marvellous than his bride. If he could have caught the slightest
glimmering of hope, he might in time have grown reconciled to life
At last there rose up within his soul, like a pale star, the wish of
making a pilgrimage to Rome, which he had never yet seen, there to
partake in the graces bestowed upon the faithful, to visit the famous
churches and holy relics, to divert his thoughts from himself in the
midst of the streaming multitude, the throng of numberless strangers
who had journied thither from all quarters of the earth, and to seek
out his friend Alfonso. He also expected that he should find old
Ambrosio in the great city, should receive comfort from this mourner
who had meant to become his father, and might perhaps afford him too
some comfort in his affliction. With these feelings and views he set
out on his way, and after some time arrived at Rome.
He was astonisht when he entered the great city. He had framed no
conception of her grandeur, her ancient monuments, or of such a
concourse of innumerable strangers. It might well be deemed matter of
wonder if one found out any friend or acquaintance, without being able
beforehand to give an accurate account of where he lived. And yet this
wonderful chance befell him in his suddenly meeting Ambrosio, as he was
going up to the Capitol from which the old man was coming down. The
Podesta carried him to his house, where Antonio greeted the sorrowing
mother. The rumour of Pietro's strange end, of Crescentia's return to
life and second departure from it, had already been bruited as far as
Rome: this marvellous story was in the mouth of every pilgrim,
disfigured with confused additions and contradictions, and drest out by
frequent repeating into the very reverse of the truth. The parents
listened with alternations of joy and woe to the story as Antonio told
it, awestruck as they both were, especially the mother, who gave vent
to her loathing in execrations against the old hypocritical magician,
and in her rage more than half believed that he had himself been the
cause of her daughter's death, having perhaps taken a bribe for that
purpose from the family of Marconi, that he had poisoned her for the
sake of awakening her corpse again to gratify his frantic abominations.
Let us leave all this to heaven; said the old man. What happened
and was notorious to the whole city and country, was quite horrible
enough, without involving others, who may perhaps have been innocent,
in this enormous wickedness. However, let the matter with regard to the
Marconis stand as it may, I am perfectly resolved that they shall never
be the better off for my fortune. By the help of my patrons here I
shall obtain leave to make over my property to some convents or
charitable foundations; and perhaps my weariness of life may lead me to
end my own days as a monk or hermit.
But what, threw in the mother weeping, if it were possible after
all to find out that second Crescentia again, of whom Antonio has told
us! The child was stolen from me during your absence in a most
incomprehensible manner; the witch who named the Marconis on that
night, the likeness, all, all agrees so wonderfully, that surely we
ought not to cast away hope, that first and chief good of life, too
early, not too hastily, in our despair.
Good Eudoxia, said the father, have done, have done with all
these dreams and stories and wild fancies: for us there remains in this
world nothing that is certain, except death; and that ours may be pious
and easy, is what we must wish and pray to heaven for.
And if hereafter, when it is already too late, exclaimed the
mother, our poor orphan child should be found again, may not the
unhappy girl justly reproach us for not relying on the bounty and mercy
of Heaven, and waiting for her return with a little more calmness and
Ambrosio cast a dark frown on the youth, and then said: This too
has come in over and above all the rest to deepen our wretchedness: you
have infected my poor wife with your sick fancies, and have thereby
robbed her of her peace, the only, the last blessing of life.
What mean you by these words? askt Antonio.
Young man, answered the father, ever since that ride of yours
through field and forest, when you pinned that wild tale upon me about
the events which you said had befallen you the night before....
Signor Ambrosio! cried Antonio, and his hand fell involuntarily on
Leave that alone, continued the old man calmly: far be from me
the wish to accuse you of a falsehood; I have too long known your noble
character, and your love for truth. But has it never struck you, my
poor young friend, without my putting it into your head, that ever
since the night when you met my daughter's coffin, having come with the
thought to carry her home with you the next day as your bride, your
senses have got into disorder, your reason has been much weakened?
During that lonely night, beneath that storm, in the strongly excited
state of your passions, you fancied you saw my lost child again; and
the recollections of your unfortunate father, of your long-lost mother,
connected themselves with her image. In this way were those visions
bred, and fixt themselves firmly in your brain. Did we find a single
trace of the hut? Was a human creature in the neighbourhood able to
tell us a word about the robbers you killed? That awful meeting again
with my real daughter, in which I perforce must believe, is of itself
enough to fever the very coldest feelings into madness; and need one
marvel then at your talking of having encountered another
impossibility, at your story about finding the dead Pietro come to life
among the mountains, and not knowing him again, and about those almost
farcical tricks of jugglery that were played you, all which you have
related to us with the very same assurance? No, my good Antonio, pain
and grief have distracted your sounder senses, so that you see and
believe in things which have no real existence.
Antonio was perplext and knew not what to reply. Greatly as the loss
of his beloved had shaken all the faculties of his soul, he still was
too clearly conscious of the events he had past through, to bring their
reality thus in question.
He now felt a new motive to activity: he wisht at least to prove
that the story of that night was no dreamy phantom, that his second
Crescentia was an actual being; and thus it became his liveliest desire
to find her again, and to restore her to her afflicted parents, or at
least make Ambrosio acknowledge that he had misjudged him.
In this mood he left his old friend, and wandered about the city to
and fro, prest by the concourse of people, and half stunned by shouts,
and questions, and stories in all the languages of the earth. Thus,
shoved and pusht about, he had been driven on as far as the Lateran,
when he fancied that, as the crowd now and then opened a little, he
distinctly perceived, though some way off, that selfsame hideous old
woman, the mother of the beautiful maiden, who bore the name of his
He endeavoured to get up to her, and seemed to be succeeding, when a
train of pilgrims came pouring from a cross street, who cut him off
entirely, and made all further advance impossible. While he was
struggling with all his might, and working his way up the steps of St
John's Church, that he might be able to overlook the multitude, he felt
a friendly slap on his shoulder, and a wellknown voice pronounced his
name. It was the Spaniard Alfonso.
So I find you exactly in the place, said he joyfully, where I
lookt for you.
What do you mean by that? askt Antonio.
First let us get out of the way of this torrent of human flesh,
cried the other: in this place, from the myriads of tongues that are
wagging, from the ceaseless buz of this monstrous Babylonian beehive,
one can't hear a single word.
They took a walk out into the country; and here Alfonso confest to
his friend that, since he had been at Rome, he had devoted himself to
the science of astrology, divination, and other like things, which he
had formerly held in abhorrence, having been of opinion that they could
only be acquired by accursed means and by the help of evil spirits.
But since the day, he continued, when I made acquaintance with the
incomparable Castalio, this knowledge appears to me in a far higher and
And is it possible, exclaimed Antonio, that after all those
fearful events at Padua, you can again expose your soul to such perils?
Do you not clearly see that whatsoever is to be attained in a natural
way and by means of our own reason does not repay the trouble, being
nothing more than a set of petty tricks that can only excite merriment
and laughter! that everything beyond on the other hand, which does not
turn upon empty delusion, cannot possibly be called into being, unless
by evil and damnable powers?
Declaiming, said the Spaniard, is not proving. We are far too
young to understand the whole of our own nature; much less can we
comprehend the rest of the world and all its unexplored mysteries. When
you once see the man whom I have so much to thank for, all your doubts
will vanish. Pious, simple-hearted, nay childlike, as he is, every look
of his eye pours the light of confidence into you.
And how was it with Apone? Antonio threw in.
He, replied his friend, always wanted to be coming forward in the
light of a supernatural being: he was evermore labouring, consciously
and purposely, to appear as a messenger from Heaven, and with
counterfeit splendour to dazzle the ordinary sons of men. He delighted
in pomp; he would indeed be condescending at times, but it was only to
make the enormous distance between him and us more palpably felt. Did
he not revel in the admiration which the nobles and citizens, the young
and old, were all forced to pay him? But my present friend (for such he
is, because he renders himself altogether my equal) has no wish to seem
great and sublime: he smiles at the endeavours of so many men to do so,
and considers this of itself as an assurance that there is something
spurious and hollow to be concealed; since a clear consciousness of
worth would only wish to pass for what it feels itself to be, and the
wisest of mortals must after all acknowledge that he too, as well as
the most ignorant vagabond, is merely a child of the dust.
You make me curious; said Antonio: so he knows both what is past
and what is to come? the destinies of men? and could tell me how happy
or unhappy the cast of my future life is to be? whether certain secret
wishes can be accomplisht? Would he then be able to decipher and divine
such parts of my history as are obscure even to myself?
It is in this very thing that his wisdom lies, answered Alfonso
with enthusiasm; by means of letters and numbers, in the simplest and
most harmless way, he finds out everything for which those wretches
have to employ conjurations and charms and yells and screams and the
agonies of death. Hence too you will find none of that odious magical
apparatus about him, no crystals with spirits blockt up in them, no
mirrors and skeletons, no incense, and no nauseous imps: he has all his
stores in himself. I told him about you; and he found out by his
calculations that I was quite sure of meeting you today at this hour on
the steps of the Lateran church. And so it has turned out at the very
instant he foretold.
Antonio was desirous of becoming acquainted with this wonderfully
gifted old man, in the hope of learning his destiny from him. They
dined in a garden, and toward evening went back to the city. The
streets had grown somewhat quieter; they could pursue their way with
less hinderance. At dusk they came into the allies which pass close
behind the tomb of Augustus. They walkt through a little garden; a
friendly light glimmered upon them from the windows of a small house.
They pulled the bell; the door opened; and full of the strangest and
highest expectations Antonio entered with his friend into the hall.
* * * * *
Antonio was surprised at seeing before him a simple-mannered
middle-sized young man, who from his appearance could not be much above
thirty years old. With an unaffected air he greeted the youth on his
entrance like an old acquaintance.
Be welcome! said he with a pleasing voice: your Spanish friend
has told me much good of you, so that I have long lookt forward with
pleasure to becoming acquainted with you. Only you must by no means
fancy that you are come to one of the sages, to an adept, or forsooth
to a man before whom hell trembles in its foundations: you will find me
a mere mortal, such as you yourself are and may become, as may every
man whom such graver studies, and retirement from the vain tumult of
the world, do not scare away.
Antonio felt comfortable and at ease, greatly as he was astonisht:
he cast his eyes round the room, which beside a few books and a lute
displayed nothing out of the way. In his own mind he compared this
little house and its straightforward inmate with the palace and the
pomp, the instruments and the mysteries, of his former teacher, and
said: In truth one sees no traces here of that high and hidden
knowledge which my friend has been extolling to me, and in which you
are said to be infallible.
Castalio laught heartily, and then replied: No, my young friend,
not infallible; no mortal can go so far as that. Only look around you;
this is my sitting-room; there in that little chamber stands my bed: I
have neither space nor means for hiding any instruments of fraud, or
setting any artificial machinery in action. All those circles and
glasses, those celestial globes and maps of the stars, which your
conjurers need for their tricks, would find no room here: and those
poor creatures after all are only deluded by the spirit of falsehood,
because they will not labour to learn the powers of their own minds. He
however who descends into the depths of his own soul, with humility and
a pious disposition to guide him, he who is in earnest in wishing to
know himself, will at the same time find every thing here which he
would vainly strive by desperate means and devices to extort from
Heaven and Hell. Become like children. In this exhortation the
whole mystery lies hidden. Only let our feelings be pure, and we may
again, even though it be but for hours or moments, cast off all that
our first parents drew down upon themselves by their wanton
disobedience; we walk again as in paradise; and Nature with all her
powers comes forward as she did then, in the youthful bridal age of the
world, to meet the transfigured man. Is not this the very thing which
proves our spirit to be a spirit, that bodily hinderances, space and
time, with the confusion they breed, cannot confine it? It soars even
now on the wings of yearning and devotion far above all the circles of
the stars: nothing checks its flight, save that earthly power which,
when sin entered, pounced upon it and enslaved it. This however we can
and ought to subdue, by prayer, by self-abasement before the Lord, by
confessing our vast guilt, and by boundless gratitude to him for his
unfathomable love; and then we see and hear the things that are
curtained from us by space and time; we are here and there; the future
comes forward and, like the past, pours out its secrets before us; the
whole realm of knowledge, of comprehension, lies open to us; the powers
of heaven become our willing servants: and yet to the truly wise man
one glimpse into the mysteries of the Godhead, one emotion of his own
heart when toucht by God's love, is far higher, and far more precious
knowledge, than all the treasures which do homage to the inquiring
mind, than the revealed soul of history or of the present time, than
the bending knees of a thousand angels who are ready to call him their
Alfonso cast a look of enthusiasm upon his friend; and Antonio could
not refrain from acknowledging to himself that here in the garb of
lowly simplicity he found more than had ever delighted him from Apone's
mouth, even at the time of his greatest admiration for that
ostentatious philosopher. Indeed he was already become fully convinced
that the knowledge which people call supernatural may be easily united
with piety and a thorough resignation to the Lord.
Do you know now what my fate has been? askt the youth with
emotion: can you tell me anything about the events that are hereafter
to befall me?
If I learn the year, the day, and the hour of your birth, answered
Castalio, compare the horoscope I shall then draw with the lines of
your face and the marks on your hands, and afterward give free range to
my mind in contemplating the results, I hardly doubt my being able to
tell you something about your destinies.
Antonio gave him a pocket-book, in which his father had himself
noted down the hour of his birth. Castalio placed some wine before the
young men, himself partaking a little of it, turned over a few books,
and then sat down to calculate, without however entirely breaking off
his conversation with his guests. It only seemed as if the cheerful
young man had some common business in hand, which was far from
requiring the whole of his attention. Thus amid laughing and lively
talk an hour may have past away, when Castalio stood up and beckoned to
Antonio to go with him to the window.
I know not, he began, how far you trust your friend there, or what
you may wish to keep secret from him.
Hereupon he examined Antonio's face and hands very minutely, and
then in regular connexion told him the story of his parents and their
misfortunes, the early violent death of his mother, and his father's
sinful passion, together with his murder by the hand of his wicked
complice. Afterward he came to Antonio's own affairs, how he had sought
for the murderer and pursued him, and had been detained at Padua by
So you, he concluded, as not without astonishment I have learnt,
are the very young man who a short time since detected the wickedness
of the abominable Apone in such a wonderful way, and who delivered the
shameless villain over to his punishment, although you yourself only
became still unhappier than before, from having to lose your beloved a
second time in so horrible a manner.
Antonio confirmed all that the friendly man said, and had gained
such confidence in him, that he felt just as if he was talking to
himself. He then went on to tell him about the adventures of that
night, about the second Crescentia, and the odious witch, who, he could
not help fancying, had appeared to him a second time on that day.
Can you inform me now, he askt eagerly, whether this is all true,
who that Crescentia is, and whether I shall ever see her again and
carry her back to her parents?
Castalio became more thoughtful than before. Unless that strange
creature Beresynth, he answered, the imp that used to be at the
magician's side, has been disguising himself as a woman, to escape from
his pursuers, I feel assured that I shall find the hag out. Only have
patience till tomorrow, and I will then give you your answer. Meanwhile
you may be satisfied that the occurrences of that night were no
phantoms of your mind, but realities; thus far you may set yourself and
your elderly friend at rest.
The young people were lost in thought as they left the wonderful
man, and Antonio thankt the Spaniard heartily for having procured him
* * * * *
Antonio had not been mistaken. It was in fact the old woman that he
had caught sight of in the crowd. She was living in a little hut,
behind some ruinous houses, not far from the Lateran. Persecuted,
destitute, deserted and hated and dreaded by all the world, she was
here, in the abode of wretchedness, reduced to the brink of despair.
She seldom ventured to shew herself abroad, and on this day too had
only gone out from necessity, to bring her Crescentia, who had run away
from her, back again.
As everybody shrank out of her path, as it was hard work for her
even to obtain here and there an alms, and as her former arts found few
lovers, she was no little astonisht that evening to hear a knock at her
door, while cries and shouts were tossing without. She took her lamp,
and, opening the door, saw a swarm of street-boys and of the lowest
rabble at the heels of a little crooked figure fantastically clad in
red velvet and gold.
Does not the worthy Pancrazia live here? screamed the deformed
Ay, to be sure! said the old woman, as she forcibly banged the
door to, and tried to drive away the people on the outside by abuse.
Who are you, worthy Sir? what do you seek from an old forlorn lady?
Set yourself down, said the little stranger, and kindle some more
light, that we may spy and look at one another; and whereas you call
yourself poor, take these gold pieces, and we will sip a glass of wine
together to our better acquaintance.
The old woman smirkt, lighted some wax-candles which she kept lockt
up in a drawer, and said: I have still a flask of good Florence,
worshipful sir, that shall warm our insides. She opened a little
cupboard and placed the red comforter upon the table, pouring out the
first glass for her unknown guest.
Why do you call me worshipful? askt he.
Don't the pieces of gold declare it? answered she: and your
doublet, and the lace upon it, and the feather in your hat? Are you not
a prince, not a magnate?
No! howled the little one: what, odds bodikins! cousin, don't you
know me in the least? and yet in my younger days people wanted to
flatter me by assuring me that we in some degree resembled each other:
and faith! when I come to look thus closely at your figure, your
physiognomy, your expression, your sweet smile, and those twinkling
stars in your eyes there, and when I weigh all this with scrupulous
impartiality, why, cousin Pancrazia of the house of Posaterrena in
Florence, and little Beresynth of the family of Fuocoterrestro in
Milan, are for such degrees of kin, as cousinhood, like each other
O gemini! screamed the old woman in delight: so you are the
Beresynth of Milan about whom I heard so much talk in my childhood.
Hey! Hey! so am I at this late hour in the day, in the depth of old
age, to become acquainted with such a lovely cousin face to face!
Ay! said the dwarf: just nose to nose; for that great bastion
thrown up there is certainly the biggest piece of bonework in our
faces. For curiosity's sake, dear coz, let us make an experiment for
once, whether we can manage to give each other a cousinly kiss.... No,
purely impossible! the far outjutting promontories immediately begin
rattling against each other, and forclose our lowly lips from
everything like a soft meeting. We must force our noble Roman noses
aside with our two fists. So! Don't let it fly, my lady cousin! I might
come by a box on the ears that would make my last teeth tumble out.
With a hearty laugh the hag cried: Hey! I have not been so merry
this long time. But what did they want with you before the door there,
What! screamed the little one: to look at me, to delight their
eyes with me, nothing more. Is not man, my highly esteemed cousin
gossip, a thoroughly silly animal? Here in Rome now have hundreds of
thousands been assembled whole months, for their Redeemer's honour, as
they give out, and to do penance for their sins and get rid of them;
and the moment I peep out of the window (I only arrived here the day
before yesterday) be it merely in my nightcap, and still more when I
come forth at full length and in my Sunday suit into the marketplace,
one can't help swearing that the whole gang of them have started out of
every hole and corner in Europe merely for my sake: they so leer, and
ogle me, and whisper, and ask questions, and laugh, and are in
ecstacies. I might grow rich, meseems, were I to let myself be stared
at for money while I stay here; and if I chance to give them all this
pleasure gratis, forthwith a pack of blockheads begin barking and
hallooing at my tail. To see a long-tailed monkey, apes or seals, the
dogs must put themselves to some expense; yet instead of enjoying my
magnanimity quietly and like sensible people, they rave and revile me
all round, and hunt for every expression of loathing they can root out
of the animal creation, to display their gross ignorance.
Very true! very true! sighed the old woman: it fares no better
with me. Are the beasts such sheer fools then? Only let a body have a
regular, average, commonplace nose, eyes, and chin, and all goes on
Look at the fish, continued Beresynth, who are dunces in many
things. What philosophical tolerance! and yet among them many a fellow
is all snout, and confronts the learned physiognomists of the ocean
with a countenance, grave, cold, calm in the consciousness of its
originality: nay, the whole deep brims and swims with one can't count
how many eccentric faces, and gills, and teeth, and eyes astart from
their sockets, and every other kind of striking contour: but every
monster there floats his own way quietly and peaceably, without having
his sleeve twitcht or any other annoyance. Man alone is so absurd as to
laugh and sneer at his fellow creatures.
And on what, said the beldam, after all does this mighty
difference turn? I am sure I never yet saw a nose that was but a single
yard long: an inch, at most two, hardly ever three, make the vast
distinction between what they call monsters, and what they are pleased
in their modesty to style beauty. And now to come to a hump. If it were
not in one's way sometimes in bed, as you know, coz, it is in itself
far more agreeable to the eye than those dull flats by way of backs,
where in many a lank lathy booby the tiresome straight line stretches
up as far as one can see without a single twist, or curl, or flourish.
You are in the right, my dame cousin! cried Beresynth already
drunk to his drunken hostess. What can Nature be about when she turns
off the things they christen beauties from her pottery-wheel? Why, they
are hardly worth the trouble of setting to work at them. But such
cabinet pieces as you and I! there the creative power, or the principle
of nature, or the soul of the world, or the mundane animal, or whatever
title one chooses to give the thing, can look at its product with a
certain degree of complacency and satisfaction. For it has your curved
lines: it starts off into noticeable angles; it is jagged like corals;
it darts forward like crystals; it agglomerates like basalt; nay, there
is no conceivable line that does not hop, skip, and jump about our
bodies. We, coz, are the spoilt, the cockered children of the
formation: and this is why the common rabble of nature are so malicious
and envious toward us. Their slim wretched fashion is next door to the
slimy eel: there is nothing edifying in such an edifice. From that
piece of monotony to the prawn is already a good step; and how far
above that is the seal! how do we surpass them both, as well as the
seastar, the crab, and the lobster, my trustiest cousin, in our
excursive irregularities, which defy all the mathematicians in the
world to find an expression for their law. But coz, pray where did you
get those two gorgeous teeth? the incomparable couple cut a grand and
gloomy figure there across the chasm ... of your unfathomable mouth,
and form a capital bridge over the gulf that gapes between the dark
cliffs of your gums.
O you rogue! O you flatterer! laught the old woman: but your
darling chin that comes forward so complaisantly, and is so ready to
wait upon you and spread itself out like a table. Don't you think you
could put a good-sized platter upon it comfortably, where your mouth
might then quietly nibble away, while your hands were seeking work
elsewhere. This I call an economical arrangement.
We won't spoil ourselves by too much praise; said the dwarf: we
are already, it seems, vain enough of our advantages; and after all we
did not give them to ourselves.
You are right, said she. But what profession are you of, cousin?
where do you live?
Oddly enough; answered Beresynth: sometimes here, sometimes
there, like a vagabond: however I now mean to settle quietly; and as I
heard there was still a near kinswoman of mine living, I resolved to
seek her out and beg her to come and live with me. This is what brought
me hither. In my youth I was an apothecary in Calabria; there they
drove me away, because they fancied I manufactured love-powders. O
dear, as if there was any need of 'em nowadays. Then once upon a time I
was a tailor; the outcry was, I thieved too much: a pastrycook; all
accused me of thinning the cat and dog population. I wanted to put on a
monk's cowl; but no convent would let me in. Then came my doctoring
days, and I was to be burnt; for they muttered about, what think you?
witchcraft. I became a scholar, wrote essays, systems of philosophy,
poems: those who could not read were sure I was blaspheming God and
Christianity, and that was too bad. After many long years I betook
myself to the man who was making such a pother in the world, Pietro
Apone, and became his familiar, next a hermit, and what not? The best
is that in every state of life I have made money and hoarded it up; so
that I can now lay down my grey head free from want and care. And now,
coz, for your history.
Just like yours; answered she: the innocent are always
persecuted. I have had a few times to stand in the pillory; have been
banisht out of half a dozen countries; among other things they even
wanted to burn me; they would have it I conjured, I stole children, I
bewitcht people, I fabricated poisons.
And coz, said Beresynth in the openness of his heart, there was
some truth in all this, was not there? innocent as you are. I at least
must confess it as to myself, and perhaps it may lie in the family,
that I have given in to more than one of the aforesaid practices. My
amiable gossip, he who has once swallowed a titbit of dear witchcraft,
can never keep his fingers from it afterward as long as he lives. The
thing is just like dram-drinking: once get the taste for it, and
tongue, and throat, and gums, and marry! even lungs and liver, will
never let it go.
You know human nature, I see, my dear cousin; said the hag, with a
grin that tried to be a simper. Such trifles as a little murder and
witchcraft, poisoning and stealing, run in the blood even of the
innocentest. Bawding was a thing in which I could never hit the mark.
And what shall one say when one has to endure thanklessness and woe
from one's own children? My daughter, though she has seen how I suffer
hunger and trouble, and how I have stinted and starved my old mouth,
merely to put her into fine clothes, the graceless wench would never
let me coax her into earning but a single half-crown. Some time since
she might have made a good match of it! there was Ildefonso and Andrea,
and many other brave fellows besides, who supported our whole house,
herself among the rest; but she set up the paltry pretense that the
gentry were robbers and murderers, and that she could not let them into
her heart. The gallants were such generous spirits, they meant to have
the baggage actually tied to them in church; but silly youth has
neither sense nor truth. Now they are lying in their graves, those
worthy men, and have been turned out of life's doors in a most
scandalous way. But this does not move her a whit more than my sorrow
and distress; so that I can't make her consent to live with a rich
young noble cavalier, the nephew of a cardinal, who could floor this
whole room with gold. The silly jade has run away, and they absolutely
won't give her up to me again. Such is the respect shewn to a mother in
Let her go, the worthless trumpery! cried Beresynth: we shall
live happily together without her, I warrant; our ways of thinking and
feeling are so well paired.
But why should she run away, continued the old woman, like a
faithless cat after a flogging? We might have parted as if we loved
each other, and like two rational beings. Surely some occasion would
have turned up before long of selling the greensick minx advantageously
to an old lover or a young one; and this might have succeeded too, why
should not it? if she had not lockt up a silly young fellow in her
heart, whom she loves, as she tells me.
O have done, gammer! screamed Beresynth, reeling and already half
asleep. If you begin to talk about love, coz, I shall tumble into such
a laughing convulsion that I shall not recover from it for this next
three days. Love! that stupid word broke the neck of my famous master,
Pietro. But for this tarantula-dance the great hawk-nose would still be
sitting as professor at his lecturing desk, and tickling the young
goslings with philosophy and wisdom as they perkt up their yellow beaks
to catch the crumbs he dropt into them. Marry! old beldam, this
monkey-trick of love, this Platonic drunkenness of the soul, was the
only thing wanting to us, to me as well as you, and then the miracle of
our heroic existence would have been quite perfect.... Well, goodbye,
old dame; tomorrow night about this time I'll come to fetch you, and
then we never part more.
Cousin, said Pancrazia, goodbye, till we meet again. Since you
came through my door, I have grown quite a different creature. We will
make a royal housekeeping of it hereafter.
So we too have had our jubilee now! stammered Beresynth, who was
already standing in the street, and who reeled through the dark night
to his lodging.
* * * * *
Antonio meanwhile had already been to prepare old Ambrosio and his
wife, telling them he was now sure of finding out the hideous old woman
again, and no doubt her daughter Crescentia also. The mother readily
believed him; but the father persisted in his doubts.
Even before the sun had set, the youth was again with his friend at
the door of the wise Castalio. The latter met them smiling, and said:
Here, Antonio, take this paper: you will find noted down on it, in
what street, in what house, you may meet with the old crone. When you
have discovered her, you will no longer entertain any doubts about my
I am already convinced; replied Antonio: I was so even yesterday:
you are the wisest of mortals, and by the help of your art will make me
the happiest. I will go to seek for the old woman: and if Crescentia is
not dead or lost, I shall carry her to the arms of her parents.
Powerfully excited and full of expectation he was about to depart in
haste; his hand was already on the door-knob; when a low timid knock
was heard on the outside, accompanied by a hoarse coughing and a
scraping of feet.
Who's there? cried Castalio; and, when the friends opened the
door, in came Beresynth, who immediately stationed himself in the
middle of the room, and with sundry antick bows and writhings of his
features, offered his services to the wise man.
Who are you? exclaimed Castalio, who had changed colour, and pale
and trembling had shrunk back a few steps.
A villain he is, the fiend! cried Antonio: a magician, whom we
must put into the inquisition's hands. It is the accursed Beresynth
himself, whose name, my honoured friend, you have already heard, and of
whom I have told you.
Think you so, young jackanapes? said Beresynth with a sneer of the
deepest contempt. With you, children, I have no business. Do you not
know me? cried he turning to Castalio: perhaps you have nothing for
me to do.
How should I? said Castalio with a faltering voice: I never saw
you before. Leave me; I must decline your services. In this little
house of mine I have no room for any stranger.
Beresynth paced with his biggest strides up and down. So, you don't
know me? It may be; folks alter a good deal sometimes; for no man is
always in his bloom. But, it strikes me, people ought not to forget me,
or to mistake me for any one else, quite so soon as they might many of
your smooth nicely painted ninnies.... And you too, as he turned round
to the youths, you perchance don't know that wisdommonger there.
O yes! said Antonio: he is our best friend, the excellent
Here the dwarf raised such an enormous shout of laughter, that the
walls and windows of the room clattered and echoed it back. Castalio!
Castalio! screamed he as if possest: why not Aganippe too, or
Hippocrene? So, you have got spectacles before your eyes, and your
souls stare stupidly with a calf's look out of your round pumpkins of
heads! Rub your noses, and see, and recognize, I pray you, your
honoured Pietro of Abano, the great jack-of-all-trades from Padua!
He who called himself Castalio had sunk as if fainting into a chair:
his trembling was so violent that all his limbs fluttered; the muscles
of his face quivered with such force that no feature in it could be
distinguisht; and after the young men had gazed on it for some time
amazedly, they thought with horrour they perceived that from this
distortion of all the lineaments came forth the well-known countenance
of the aged Apone.
With a loud scream the magician started from his seat, clencht his
fists, and foamed at the mouth; he seemed in his fury of a gigantic
size. Well, yes! he roared in a tone of thunder: it is I, I, Pietro!
and thou slave, thou art spoiling my game, as I was destroying those
young brats after a new fashion. What wouldst thou, worm, of me, who am
thy master, and who have cast thee off? Tremblest thou not through all
thy bones at the thought of my vengeance and punishment?
Beresynth again raised the same pealing horrid laugh. Vengeance!
Punishment! he repeated grinning. Fool! matchless fool! art thou now
for the first time to find out that such language toward me does not
beseem thee? that thou juggler, must crawl in the dust before me? that
a glance of my eye, a grasp of my iron arm, will dash thee to pieces,
thou earth-born mummery with thy wretched tricks, which only prospered
through my countenance.
A spectre stood in the hall. His eyes shot forth sparks of fire; his
arms spread themselves out like an eagle's wings; his head toucht the
ceiling: Pietro lay whining and howling at his feet. It was I, so the
demon spake on, who furthered thy paltry tricks; who deluded the
people; who made thee sin and thrive in thy sins. Thou troddest me
under foot; I was thy scorn; thy high-minded wisdom triumpht over my
silliness. Now I am thy master. Now thou shalt follow me as my
bondslave into my kingdom.... Depart hence, ye poor wretches! he cried
to the youths: what more we have still to settle, it befits not you to
behold! and a tremendous clap of thunder shook the house to the
Dazzled, horrour-struck, Antonio and Alfonso rusht out; their knees
tottered; their teeth chattered. Without knowing how, they found
themselves again in the street; they fled into a neighbouring church;
for a howling whirlwind now arose, with thunder and lightning, and the
house, when they lookt behind them, was burning and had fallen in
Two dark shadows hovered over the flame, fighting, as it seemed, and
twining round each other, and wrestling and dashing each other to and
fro: yells of despair and peals of scornful laughter resounded
alternately between the pauses of the loudly raving storm.
* * * * *
It was a long time before Antonio could collect calmness enough to
go and seek for the house of the old woman according to the directions
he had received. He found her drest out; and she cried to him merrily:
What! Florentine! are you too come to see me again at last?
Where is your daughter? askt Antonio, trembling with anxiety.
If you wish to have her now, replied the old woman, I won't keep
her from you. But you must pay honestly for her, you or the Podesta of
Padua, if he still lives; for she is his child, whom I stole from him
long since, because the Marconis vouchsafed me a round sum of money for
If you can prove it, said the youth, you shall have whatever you
Proofs, as many as you please, cried the beldam: trinkets with
arms on them, clothes she had on at the time, a mole on her right
shoulder, which of course her mother must know best. But you shall also
have letters from the Marconis, writings which I carried off with her
from Padua in my hurry, everything ... only money must be forthcoming.
Antonio paid her all that he had about him, and then gave her the
jewels from his hat and clothes, some pearls, and a gold chain. She
swept it all in laughing, while she said: Don't be surprised that I am
in such haste, and so easily satisfied. The wench has run away from me,
because she was determined not to have any lover, and has stuck herself
into the nunnery beside Trajan's column: the abbess would not give her
up to me; but only send in your name, and the young chit will jump into
your arms; for she dreams and thinks of nothing but you; you have so
bewitcht her silly heart, that ever since that night, which you will
probably remember, she has not spoken a single word of sense, and can't
bear to hear the mention of a lover or a husband. I am glad to be quit
of her in this way; I am going with my noble cousin, Signor Beresynth,
who came of his own accord to invite me, this very night to his villa.
Fare thee well young man! good luck attend you with your Crescentia!
Antonio took all the letters, the baby clothes, and every proof of
Crescentia's birth. At the door he was met by the terrible being that
called itself Beresynth. He hastened on, and was so light of heart, so
winged on his way, that he did not notice the storm behind him, which
threatened to lay the country waste, and to heave the houses from their
During the night the overhappy parents examined the letters; and
these, as well as the clothes, convinced them that this second
Crescentia was their child, the twin sister of her that died, whom at
her christening they had named Cecilia. In the morning the father
fetcht the lovely pale girl from the convent; and she felt as though in
heaven at belonging to such noble parents, and at having again found a
youth who adored her, and to whom on that perilous night she could not
help giving up her whole heart for ever.
Rome talkt for some time of the two unfortunate persons whom the
storm had slain: and Ambrosio lived thenceforward with his wife, his
recovered daughter, and his son-in-law, Antonio, in the neighbourhood
of Naples. The youth amid the bliss of love ceast to mourn over the
sorrows of his younger days; and the parents were comforted by their
children and grandchildren for the loss of their beautiful and most
dearly loved Crescentia.