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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 extraordinary commotion.

“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 solemn demeanour.

“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 Christian world!”

“You too mean perchance to study under him?” askt the priest with a bitter tone.

“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 path?”

“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 dead.

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 hereabout.”

“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! speak out!”

“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 useless baggage.”

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 Florentine wine.

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 much.”

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 found.”

“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 glad.”

“Why so?”

“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 for.”

“Woman!” exclaimed Antonio with new horrour; “why thou knowest everything!”

“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 within.

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 of defiance.

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 assailer down.

“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 Podesta.

       * * * * *

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 lowest foundations.

“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 burst.”

“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 confusion.

“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 thou seest.”

“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 painfully.

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 information.

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 old debt.

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 misfortunes.

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 thee.”

“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 support thee.”

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 time.

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 small garden.

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 glancing.

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 stifled.

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' dear child?”

“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 this chain.”

“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 inquisition?”

“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 everything secret.”

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 offended you.”

“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 subject.”

“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 then?”

“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 any satisfaction.”

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 demeanour.

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 grave.

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 trembling.

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 tell how.

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 nightly resting-places.

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 prayers.

“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 again.

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 patience?”

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 his sword.

“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 Crescentia.

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 purer light.”

“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 master.”

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 love.

“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 this acquaintance.

       * * * * *

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 dwarf.

“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 enough.”

“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, cousin?”

“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 quietly.”

“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 these days.”

“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 science.”

“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 Castalio.”

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 bottom.

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 ruins.

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 doing so.”

“If you can prove it,” said the youth, “you shall have whatever you ask.”

“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 foundations.

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.