The Amulet
by Hendrik Conscience
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Translated Expressly for this Edition.


In the "Amulet," Hendrick Conscience has worked up an incident which occurred at Antwerp, in the 16th century, into a story of great power and deep interest. It was a dark and bloody deed committed, but swift and terrible was the retribution, strikingly illustrating how God laughs the sinner to scorn, and how the most cunningly devised schemes are frustrated, when He permits the light of His avenging justice to expose them in their enormity. On the contrary, it forcibly proves that virtuous actions, sooner or later, bear abundant fruit even in this world. If a man's sins bring upon his head a weight of woe, so do his good deeds draw down the benedictions of heaven and serve as a shield to protect him from his enemies.



















Previous to the close of the fifteenth century, the direction taken by European commerce remained unchanged. America had not been discovered, and the only known route to India was by land.

Venice, enthroned by her central position as queen of commerce, compelled the nations of Europe and Asia to convey to her port all the riches of the world.

One single city, Bruges in Flanders, serving as an international mart for the people of the North and South, shared, in some measure, the commercial prosperity of Venice; but popular insurrections and continual civil wars had induced a large number of foreign merchants to prefer Brabant to Flanders, and Antwerp was becoming a powerful rival to Bruges.

At this period two great events occurred, by which a new channel was opened to trade: Christopher Columbus discovered America, and Vasco de Gama, by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, pointed out a new route to India. This latter discovery, by presenting another grand highway to the world, deprived Venice of the peculiar advantages of her situation, and obliged commerce to seek a new emporium. Portugal and Spain were the most powerful nations on sea; countless ships left their ports for the two Indies, and brought back spices, pearls, and the precious metals for distribution throughout the Old World. This commercial activity required an emporium in the centre of Europe, halfway between the North and the South, whither Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians, as well as French, English, Germans, Swedes, and Russians, could resort with equal facility as to a perpetual mart for all the commodities exchanged between the Old and the New World.[1]

A few years before the commencement of the religious wars which proved so disastrous to the country, Antwerp was in a most flourishing condition. Thousands of ships of every form and size covered its broad river like a forest of masts, whose many-colored flags indicated the presence of traders from all the commercial nations of the globe.

Portuguese gallions carried thither the gems and spices of the East; Spanish gallions the gold and silver of America; Italian vessels were laden with the delicate fruits and rich stuffs of the Southern countries; German vessels with grains and metals; and all returned to their own countries heavily freighted with other merchandise, and made way for the ships which were continually arriving, and which, according to contemporary chronicles, were often obliged to wait six weeks before they succeeded in approaching the wharf.[2]

Small craft, such as hers, ascended the Scheldt, and even ventured out to sea in order to trade with the neighboring people. Transportation into the interior of the country was effected by means of very strong wagons, several hundred of which daily left Antwerp. The heavy vehicles which conveyed merchandise through Cologne to the heart of Germany were called Hessenwagens.[3]

This extraordinary activity induced many foreigners to establish themselves in a city where gold was so abundant, and where every one might reasonably hope for large profits.

At the period of which we speak, Antwerp counted among its inhabitants nearly a thousand merchants from other countries, each of whom had his own attendants; one chronicle estimates, perhaps with some exaggeration, the number of strangers engaged in commerce at five thousand.[4]

Twice a day these merchants met on Change, not only for purposes of trade and for information of the arrival of ships, but principally for banking operations.

To convey an idea of the amount of wealth at the disposal of the houses of Antwerp, it suffices to say that the king of Portugal obtained in one day in this city a loan of three millions of gold crowns, and Queen Mary of England contracted a debt of seventy millions of francs.

One merchant, called the rich Fugger, left at his death legacies amounting to nearly six millions of gold crowns, a sum which for that period would seem fabulous, if the fact were not established by indisputable documents.

This wealth and the presence of so many nations vying with each other had carried luxury to such a height that magistrates were frequently obliged to publish edicts, in order to restrain the lavish expenditure. This was not done on account of the foreign inhabitants of the place, but for the advantage of many noble families and the people of the middle classes, who were tempted by the example of others to a display of magnificence which might have seriously injured their fortunes.

The greater part of the Italian merchants from Lucca, Genoa, Florence, and other cities beyond the Alps, were noblemen, and from this circumstance they were thrown into intimate intercourse with the noble families of Antwerp, all of whom spoke fluently three or four languages, and who particularly studied to speak with purity and elegance the soft Italian idiom.[5]

In the Hipdorp, not far from the Church of St. James, stood an elegant mansion, which was the favorite resort of the elite of the Italian merchants. It was the residence of William Van de Werve, lord of Schilde.

Although this nobleman did not himself engage in mercantile transactions, because the aristocratic families of Brabant regarded commerce as an occupation unsuitable to persons of high birth,[6] he was very cordial and hospitable to all strangers whose rank entitled them to admission to his home circle. Moreover, he was extremely wealthy, luxurious in his manner of living, and so well versed in three or four different languages, that he could with ease enter into an agreeable and useful conversation in either of them.

The house of Mr. Van de Werve had still other attractions to noble foreigners. He had a daughter of extraordinary beauty, so lovely, so modest, notwithstanding the homage offered to her charms, that her admirers had surnamed her la bionda maraviglia, "the wonderful blonde."

One morning in the year 1550 the beautiful Mary Van de Werve was seated in her father's house in a richly sculptured arm-chair. The young girl had apparently just returned from church, as she still held in her hand a rosary of precious stones, and her hood lay on a chair near her. She seemed to be engrossed by some pleasing thought which filled her heart with a sweet anticipation, for a slight smile parted her lips, and her eyes were upraised to heaven as if imploring a favor from Almighty God.

Against the wall behind her hung a picture from the pencil of John Van Eyck, in which the great master had represented the Virgin in prayer, whilst she was still ignorant of the sublime destiny that awaited her.

The artist had lavished upon this masterpiece the most ardent inspirations of his pious and poetic genius, for the image seemed to live and think. It charmed by the beauty of feature, the majestic calm of expression, the sweetness of the smile, the look full of love cast from earth to heaven.

There was a striking resemblance between the creation of the artist and the young girl seated beneath in almost the same attitude. In truth, the youthful Mary Van de Werve was as beautiful as the poetical representation of her patroness. She had the same large blue eyes, whose expression, although calm and thoughtful, revealed a keen sensibility and a tender, loving soul; her golden hair fell in ringlets over a brow of marble whiteness, and no painter had ever traced a cheek of lovelier mould or more delicate hue; her whole being expressed that calm recollection and attractive gravity which is the true poetry of the immaterial soul, and which was comprehended only by the believing artists of the North before the material inspiration of pagan art had been transmitted to them from the South.

Mary Van de Werve was most richly attired; but there was in her dress an absence of ornament which appeared strange at that period of extreme pomp and show. A waist of sky-blue velvet encircled her slender form, and a brocade skirt fell in large folds to her feet. Only on her open sleeves appeared some gold thread, and the clasp which fastened the chamois-skin purse suspended from her girdle was encrusted with precious stones.

All her surroundings betokened her father's opulence: large stained-glass windows, covered with the armorial bearings of his ancestors, cast their varied hues upon the inlaid marble floor; tables and chairs of oak, slabs supporting exquisite statuary from the chisel of the most celebrated artists, were ranged along the walls; an ivory crucifix surmounted a silver basin of rare workmanship containing holy water. Even the massive andirons, which stood in the broad fireplace, were partly of gold and ornamented with the coat of arms.

Her prayer was finished, or it might be that her thoughts had taken another turn; she arose and walked slowly towards the large window which overlooked the garden. She fixed her eyes upon the beautiful blue sky; her countenance was bright, as though a sweet hope filled her heart, and a rosy hue suffused her cheeks.

An old man at this moment entered the room. Heavy moustaches shaded his lips, and a long beard fell upon his breast. There was something grave and severe in his imposing appearance and even in his dress; for although his doublet was of gold cloth, his whole body was enveloped in a long cloak, whose dark color was relieved by a lining of white fur.

"Good morning, Mary," he said, as he approached the young girl.

"May the blessing of God always be with you, dear father," she replied. "Come, see how lovely the sky is, and how brightly the sun shines."

"It is charming weather; we might almost imagine ourselves in the month of May."

"It is the eve of May, father." And with a joyous smile she drew her father to the window, and pointing to the sky, said: "The wind has changed; it blows from the direction of England."

"True; since yesterday it has been south-east."

"So much the better; the ships which have been kept out at sea can ascend the Scheldt with to-day's or to-morrow's tide."

"And you hope," said Mr. Van de Werve, shaking his head, "that among these vessels will be found the Il Salvatore, which is to bring the old Signor Deodati from Lucca?"

"I have so long implored of heaven this favorable wind," replied the young girl. "I thank the God of mercy that my prayer has been heard!"

Mr. Van de Werve was silent; his daughter's words had evidently made a disagreeable impression upon him.

She passed her arm caressingly around his neck, and said:

"Dear father, you are sorrowful; and yet you promised me to await tranquilly the arrival of Signor Deodati."

"It is true, my child," he replied; "but, as the time approaches when I must come to a decision, my soul is filled with anxiety. We are the descendants of an illustrious family, and our style of living should be so magnificent as to reflect credit on our rank. The Signor Geronimo, whom you seem to prefer to all others, lives very economically; he dresses simply, and abstains from all that kind of expenditure which, being an evidence of wealth and chivalric generosity, elevates a man in the eyes of the world. That makes me fear that his uncle is either in moderate circumstances or very avaricious."

"But, father, permit me to say that the Signor Deodati of Lucca is very rich and of high birth," replied the young girl, sadly. "Did not the banker Marco Riccardi give you satisfactory information on that point?"

"And should he be miserly, Mary, will he accept the conditions I propose? I shall demand of him the renunciation of a considerable portion of his possessions in favor of his nephew Geronimo. Would it not be an insult to you, which your brothers would avenge, were your hand to be refused from pecuniary motives? I regret that you have so irrevocably fixed your affections on the Signor Geronimo, when you might have chosen among a hundred others richer and of higher estate. The head of the powerful house of Buonvisi had more claim upon my sympathy and yours."

"Simon Turchi!" said the young girl, sorrowfully bowing her head.

"What has this poor Signor Turchi left undone during the past three years to prove his chivalric love?" replied her father. "Festivals, banquets, concerts, boating on the Scheldt, nothing has been spared; he has expended a fortune to please you. At one time you did not dislike him; but ever since the fatal night when he was attacked by unknown assassins and wounded in the face, you look upon him with different eyes. Instead of being grateful to the good Turchi, you comport yourself in such a manner towards him, that I am induced to believe that you hate him."

"Hate the Signor Turchi!" exclaimed Mary, as if frightened by the accusation. "Dear father, do not indulge such a thought."

"He is a handsome, dignified gentleman, my child."

"Yes, father; he has long been an intimate friend of the Signor Geronimo."[7]

Mr. Van de Werve took his daughter's hand, and said, gently: "Geronimo may be finer-looking to a woman's eye; but his future depends upon his uncle's kindness. He is young and inexperienced, and he possesses nothing himself. The Signor Turchi, on the contrary, is rich and highly esteemed in the world as partner and administrator of the well-known house of Buonvisi. Think better of your choice, Mary; satisfy my desires and your brothers': it is not yet too late."

Tears filled the eyes of the young girl; she replied, however, with a sweet resignation: "Father, I am your submissive child. Command, and I will obey without a murmur, and humbly kiss the venerated hand which imposes the painful sacrifice. But Geronimo! poor Geronimo!"

At these words her fortitude forsook her; she covered her face with her hands, and wept bitterly; her tears fell like bright pearls upon the marble floor.

For some moments Mr. Van de Werve contemplated his daughter with ever-increasing pity; then overcome by the sight of her grief, he took her hand, and tenderly pressing it, he said to her: "Cheer up, my dear Mary, do not weep. We will see what answer the Signor Deodati will return to the conditions I will propose to him. Geronimo is of noble birth; if his uncle will consent to bestow upon him a suitable fortune, your desires shall be fulfilled."

"But, dear father," said the still weeping girl, "that depends upon the magnitude of your demands. If you ask impossibilities of the Signor Deodati—"

"No, no, have no anxiety," said Mr. Van de Werve, interrupting her. "I will endeavor to fulfil my duty as a father, and at the same time to spare you any future sorrow. Are you satisfied now?"

Mary silently embraced her father, and her eyes expressed such gratitude that Mr. Van de Werve was deeply moved, and said, tenderly:

"Who could refuse you anything? Age, experience, prudence, all yield before one glance of your eye. Conceal your emotion; I hear some one coming."

A servant opened the door, and announced, "The Signor Geronimo."

The young nobleman thus introduced was remarkable for his fine form, and the graceful elegance of his manners and carriage. His complexion was of that light and clear brown which adds so much to the manly beauty of some Southern nations. The dark beard and hair, his spirited black eyes, gave a singular charm to his countenance, while his calm and sweet smile indicated goodness of heart.

Although upon his entrance he strove to appear cheerful, Mary's eye detected a concealed sadness.

The dress of Geronimo was simple in comparison with the rich attire of the other Italian nobles, his compatriots. He wore a felt hat ornamented with a long plume, a Spanish cloak, a cloth doublet lined with fur, violet satin breeches, and gray boots. His modest attire was relieved only by the sword which hung at his side; for the hilt glittered with precious stones, and the armorial bearings engraved upon it proved him to be of noble birth.

"Che la pace sia in quelle casa!" (May peace be in this house!) he said, as he entered the hall.

He bowed profoundly to Mr. Van de Werve, and saluted him most respectfully; but the traces of tears which he perceived on Mary's face so startled him that he interrupted his ceremonious greetings, and fixed his eyes inquiringly upon her. She had been weeping, and yet she smiled joyously.

"Mary is naturally very susceptible, Signor Geronimo," said Mr. Van de Werve. "I was speaking to her of her beloved mother, and she wept. You appear, and she smiles as though she knew no sorrow."

The young girl did not await the conclusion of this explanation; before her father had finished speaking, she led her lover to the window, pointed to the weathercock, and said: "Look, Geronimo, the wind is from the west."

"I noticed it last night," replied the young man, with an involuntary sigh.

"Rejoice then, for to-day your uncle may be in sight of the city."

"I do not think so; however, it is possible," said the young man, sadly.

"How coldly you speak, Geronimo!" exclaimed the young girl, in surprise; "what cloud obscures your soul?"

"I myself notice something extraordinary in your manner, signor," remarked the father. "You seem dejected; have you received bad news of your uncle?"

Geronimo hesitated for an answer; then, as though endeavoring to drive away unpleasant thoughts, he said, in a faltering voice: "No, no, it is not that. I witnessed just now near the Dominican Convent something which touched me deeply, and I have not yet recovered from the shock. Have you not heard of a Florentine merchant named Massimo Barberi?"

"Is he noble?" asked Mary. "I do not remember him."

"No, a commoner, but a man highly esteemed."

"I know him well," said Mr. Van de Werve. "I met him lately in company with Lopez de Galle, for whom he had attended to some financial affairs. What have you to tell us concerning him?"

"Something terrible, Mr. Van de Werve. I saw the corpse of poor Barberi taken out of a sewer; he had two dagger-wounds in his throat. He was undoubtedly attacked and slain last night."

"It is had to see so many murders committed in Antwerp," said Mr. Van de Werve. "This is the fourth during the past month. The victims each time have been either Spaniards or Italians, and that vengeance or jealousy was the cause is sufficiently proved by the fact that in no case have the bodies been despoiled of their money or jewels. This custom of lying in wait, attacking and killing each other, often without cause, is an outrage both against God and man. And do you not yourself sometimes fear, Signor Geronimo, the assassin's dagger?"

The young man shook his head.

"For instance," continued Mary's father, "this is the eve of May, I need not ask if you intend to offer to Mary the homage of a serenade. It is the custom of your countrymen to pay this attention to young girls, and you would not omit this opportunity were it not for the advice of a man of experience. Geronimo, listen to the words of calm reason: do not rashly expose yourself to the danger of death; abandon your design this time. Many of your compatriots have aspired to Mary's hand; they have been less successful than you, and on this account they may harbor unkind feelings towards you."

The young man received this advice with a smile which indicated its refusal.

"It is difficult, sir, to speak of such things in the presence of the one who is to be the object of our homage. Permit me, however, the liberty to decide upon the manner in which I will acquit myself of my duty to this young lady."

"But permit me, signor, to tell you," said the old man, in an offended tone, "that it does you no honor to reject the advice of a man of experience, in order to carry out an unimportant fancy. Rashness does not indicate courage, but rather an absence of good sense."

"Father," exclaimed Mary, in a supplicating tone, "be not angry with Signor Geronimo; he will incur no danger."

"Foolish confidence!" said the old man. "Why should Geronimo think himself less exposed to danger than others? That Geronimo should be rash is excusable; but, Mary, you deserve a severe reprimand for encouraging your friend in his perilous design."

The young girl bowed her head at this reproof of her father, and murmured as if to excuse herself: "Geronimo has a relic, father."

This revelation embarrassed the young man, and he glanced reproachfully at Mary.

She said, caressingly:

"Don't be displeased, Geronimo; show the relic to my father, and he will then know why you do not fear that any accident will happen to you."

The young man felt that he could not refuse Mary's request. He drew from under his doublet an object suspended on a steel chain, and, approaching Mr. Van de Werve, he placed it in his hand.

It was a flat medal of greenish copper, on which were engraven unknown letters and signs. A cross between two bent sabres, and beneath them a crescent, filled up the centre of the medal. At the foot of the cross was a gray stone, rudely inlaid. The whole was rough and heavy.

Mr. Van de Werve examined this medal attentively for some time; he turned it over and over, as though he sought to comprehend the signification of this singular emblem.

"A relic!" he murmured. "Here are two cimeters, a crescent, and cabalistic characters. It is a Mohammedan talisman, and, perhaps, an emblem shocking to our holy religion!"

"You are certainly mistaken, sir," replied Geronimo.

"Is not the cross placed above the crescent, and would not that signify that the faith of Christ has triumphed over the doctrines of Mahomet?"

"But why do you call it a relic?"

"Mary so named it, not I. It is an amulet, and if it has any power, it derives it from the gray stone beneath the cross. This stone is a draconite, taken, at the risk of life, from the head of a dragon in the country of the negroes."

A half contemptuous smile curled the lips of the old man as he contemplated the talisman in silence. At last he said: "I remember, Signor Geronimo, to have read in Pliny curious details of the draconite and its extraordinary powers, but I also remember that the great naturalist forgets to tell us the inherent qualities of the stone. Alas! signor, would you trust in this talisman, and believe that it could protect you against the dagger of the assassin? The people of the South have a strange piety: in their superstition they confound what is holy with things which owe their efficacy, if they possess any, to the conjurations of sorcerers."

The young noble colored slightly, and replied: "You are mistaken, sir, as far as I am concerned. For my justification allow me to tell you that this amulet belonged to a pilgrim; that it rested one entire night of Good Friday upon the tomb of our Lord at Jerusalem; but I will be candid, and say to you that I do not consider it possessed of the power to preserve me from danger. And yet I always wear it with the firm and unshaken conviction that it will protect me in a critical hour from some misfortune."

"Perhaps it belonged to your deceased parents," said Mr. Van de Werve, struck by the singular explanation of the young man.

"No, sir," replied Geronimo; "this amulet is to me a cherished souvenir of a day upon which God gave me the grace to perform a good action. I would willingly tell you how the amulet fell into my hands, and why I believe in its power to protect me, but it is a long story."

"I would, nevertheless, be much pleased if you would satisfy my curiosity," said the old noble.

"If you desire it," replied Geronimo, "I will comply with your wishes.

"You know that five years ago, when I undertook for the first time the voyage from Lucca to Antwerp, I was made prisoner by Algerian pirates, and carried as a slave to Barbary. I was sold to a Moorish lord, who made me work in the fields until my uncle should send the ransom which would restore me to liberty. In the same field in which some light work was appointed me, I saw an old blind woman attached like a mule to a plough, and driven on by blows from a heavy stick. She was a Christian slave, whose eyes had been put out in wanton cruelty. I learned that she was an Italian by birth, a native of a small village in the environs of Porto Fiero, a seaport not far from Genoa. She had no relatives who could pay her ransom, and she had consequently been fastened to the plough like a beast of burden until death should come to deliver her. The frightful fate of this miserable slave so filled me with compassion, that I shed tears of grief and rage when I heard afar off her piercing cries as the rod of the overseer descended upon her. One day my indignation was so roused, when the pagan wretches had knocked her down and were treating her even more cruelly than usual, that I dared to defend her by force. Had not my master expected a large sum for my ransom, a frightful death would have been the punishment of my audacity. After being kept a few days in prison and harshly treated, I was sent back to the fields to work as before. The condition of the blind slave was not in the least changed; she was still inhumanly beaten. Her misfortunes pierced my heart, and I was maddened by my inability to protect from pagan cruelty a woman who was my sister by our common faith and a common misfortune. No longer venturing to have recourse to force, I sought other means to mitigate her sufferings. During the few hours of repose granted to us, or rather to our overseers, I hastened to the blind woman and shared with her the best of my food; I strove to fortify her by the hope that God would liberate her from this terrible slavery; I told her, that should I ever become free, I would procure her liberation, even were it necessary to renounce for years my own pleasures that I might amass sufficient for her ransom. I spoke to her of our country, of the goodness of God, and of the probability of my liberation. The poor blind woman kissed my hands, and called me an angel sent by God to illumine the darkness of her life by the sweet rays of consolation and piety. I was only a few months her fellow-slave. My uncle, learning my captivity through messengers I had employed, sent to Algiers an armed vessel to liberate me. Besides the amount of my ransom, he sent me means to transport some valuable merchandise from Barbary to Italy. When I took leave of the blind woman, I was so deeply touched by her sorrow, that I pondered upon the means of restoring her to liberty. It is true that in order to effect this, I would be obliged to employ a large portion of the money sent me by my uncle for the purchase of merchandise, and I was convinced that my uncle, who was inflexible in exacting fidelity to commercial regulations, would overwhelm me with his anger, but my heart gained the ascendency over my reason, and Christian charity triumphed. Listening only to my compassion, I ransomed the unfortunate woman, and with my own hands I unbound her chains. That was the happiest moment of my life."

Mary and her father were both touched by the recital of the young man.

"Oh, Geronimo," exclaimed Mary, "may God bless you for having been so compassionate to the poor Christian slave!"

"You did well, Geronimo," said Mr. Van de Werve, "and I esteem and love you more for your generosity to the unfortunate blind woman. How happy her unexpected liberation must have made her!"

"When I told her she was free, and that she could accompany me to her native land, she was almost wild with joy; she laughed and wept by turns; she cast herself upon the ground, and raising her hands to heaven, thanked God; she embraced my knees and watered my feet with her tears. Not knowing how to testify her gratitude, she drew this strange amulet from her bosom and presented it to me, conjuring me to wear it always. She told me that it possessed the power of protecting and saving the one who carried it on his person, when all human aid failed or was insufficient. As to the origin of the amulet, she only knew that it had been brought back from Jerusalem by one of her ancestors, who had made a pilgrimage thither in expiation of an involuntary homicide, and from that time it had been, religiously guarded in their family as a precious relic. She had no doubt of its power, and related many strange things to justify her faith. She maintained that she owed to the amulet her unexpected return to Italy."

"Does she still live?" asked Mary.

"When in sight of Italy, I put her on board of a boat bound to Porto Fiero; I gave her a small sum of money, and begged the boatman to attend to her comforts. Poor Teresa Mostajo—that is her name—I doubt not, is living peacefully in her native village, and prays much for me. This is the only reason why I attribute any virtue to the amulet; I believe in the protection of this sign because it has been sanctified by an act of Christian charity, and by the grateful prayers of the poor blind woman tormented by the pagans for the name of Christ."

The old cavalier remained a moment silent, absorbed in thought. Then taking the hand of the young man, he said to him: "I did not know you before, Geronimo. I hope it may be in my power to prove to you how much your generosity ennobles you and elevates you in my esteem; but although your confidence in the amulet rests on so laudable a sentiment, I would not rely too much upon it. You know the proverb says: 'Help yourself, and Heaven will help you.'"

"Do not suppose, Mr. Van de Werve, that on that account I would be guilty of any foolish imprudence. I know that the eye and sword are good sentinels. When I pass through the streets at night, I am always well accompanied, and my hand never leaves the hilt of my sword. Therefore have no anxiety on this point, and permit me to perform my duty to her to whom I owe homage and respect."

At that moment the painted—glass windows trembled under the stroke of a large clock from some neighboring belfry. This suddenly turned Mary's thoughts into another channel.

"The clock of St. James is striking ten," she said.

"Father, will you walk with me to the dock-yard to see if any new ships have arrived?"

"What is the hour of high tide?" her father asked Geronimo.

"At noon," he replied.

"Why need we go so soon to the dock-yard?" asked the old cavalier. "Many days may yet pass before the Il Salvatore appears in the Scheldt. Do not fear, Mary, that the Signor Deodati will take us by surprise. Don Pezoa, the agent of the king of Portugal, has given orders that I shall be notified as soon as the galley we are awaiting is signaled in the river, at noon."

He was interrupted by the entrance of a servant, who announced that the Chevalier John Van Schoonhoven,[8] the bailiff, desired to speak with him.

Geronimo was about to withdraw, but Mr. Van de Werve said to him, cordially:

"Remain, signor; I will send Petronilla, Mary's duenna as a companion for her; the interview with the Chevalier Schoonhoven may not detain me long. We will afterwards go to the dock-yard, and we will at least enjoy the fine weather. Stay, I beg you."

Hardly had he left the hall when an old woman entered, and seated herself near the door. She drew a chaplet from her pocket, and commenced praying in a low voice. This was apparently an habitual act with her, for neither the young girl nor the young man took the least notice of the duenna.

Mary approached her lover, and said, gaily: "Rejoice, Geronimo! My father has just promised not to propose very heavy conditions to your uncle."

"I am most grateful for his kindness," said the young man, sadly.

"What can be the matter?" asked Mary, surprised by his indifference. "I noticed you were depressed when you first came. Be more hopeful; perhaps the Il Salvatore will ascend the Scheldt to-day."

"God grant it may not arrive!" said Geronimo, heaving a deep sigh.

"Do you then fear your uncle's arrival?" exclaimed Mary, in an agitated voice.

"Do not speak so loud, Mary; your duenna must not hear what I am about to communicate to you. Yes; since yesterday morning I have dreaded my uncle's arrival. Previously I implored it of Heaven as the choicest blessing, and now the thought of it makes me tremble."

"Have you then heard from your uncle?"

"Alas! my friend, at the very moment when all seemed the brightest, when I was thanking God for a happiness which I thought already mine, a dark cloud comes to overshadow my life. I seem even now to hear my uncle's voice pronouncing the cruel sentence which condemns me to a life-long sorrow."

The young girl turned deadly pale, and anxiously awaited an explanation of the mystery.

"My beloved Mary," he whispered, "it is a secret which I can only confide to you in part, and which in strict honor I should perhaps conceal entirely. Four weeks ago a merchant, highly esteemed, was left by a curious train of circumstances without funds, and he begged me to lend him ten thousand crowns. Should I refuse his request, the credit of his house would be irretrievably ruined. His name I considered sufficient security for ten times the amount he wished to borrow. At all events, although it pained me to disobey my uncle's positive injunctions, I could not deny the assistance which was asked of me. I lent the ten thousand crowns, and obtained a receipt with a written promise of payment in one month. Yesterday the note fell due; my debtor asks a delay until to-morrow. I met him an hour ago, and he has not yet obtained the money."

"But if your debtor is rich and powerful, you need not indulge your fears to-day; to-morrow, perhaps, he will fulfil his promise," remarked the young girl, with ill-concealed anxiety.

"My fears may mislead me, Mary, but I am sure that my debtor's affairs are in a very bad condition. At his urgent entreaty I made no entry of the loan upon the books, in order to conceal the transaction from the clerks; but still I have not the amount in hand. O Mary! my uncle has an eagle eye in business affairs; he will at once discover the deficit of ten thousand crowns—a deficit resulting from my lending money: a thing he has always warned me against, and which, even recently, he strictly forbade. My uncle is a good father to me, but this act of disobedience is sufficient to deprive me forever of his favor. I foresee many future evils."

"Why were you so imprudent, Geronimo? You ought to have refused so large a loan."

"I could not possibly refuse, Mary."

"But you hold an acknowledgment of the debt and a promise of payment. Summon this merchant before the magistrates; at Antwerp justice is promptly and impartially dealt to all."

"Impossible!" replied the young man, in a plaintive voice; "my debtor is a man to whom I owe many obligations; a complaint from me would be the cause of irreparable ruin to him. Let us hope that he will succeed in procuring the ten thousand crowns. He told me even this morning that he would endeavor to give me bills of exchange on Spain."

"But of whom are you speaking?" said Mary; "your language is so mysterious."

"I will not tell his name. Be not offended by my reserve; there is between merchants a law of secrecy which honor forbids us to violate."

Mary appeared to respect this law; but she was evidently absorbed in bitter reflections.

Either the communication of his difficulties to his beloved had given him new strength, or the sight of her sorrow made him affect a confidence he did not feel, for he said to her in a cheerful manner:

"Come, Mary, you must not yield to discouragement. Perhaps I exaggerate the danger. My debtor is a member of a house which equals any other in consideration and wealth. In a few days, to-day even, or to-morrow, he may acquit himself of the debt, and should my uncle arrive before the restitution, I will endeavor to delay his examination of the books."

He took the young girl's hand, and exclaimed, with joyous enthusiasm: "O Mary, my beloved, may Heaven be propitious to our vows! May the benediction of the priest descend upon our union! We will pass in Italy the first months of our happy life; Italy—that earthly paradise where God has lavished all the treasures of nature, and man all the treasures of art."

They heard Mr. Van de Werve's voice in the hall giving urgent orders to the servants.

"Mary," said Geronimo, "your father is coming. I implore you not to divulge, in any manner, what I have told you. Keep my secret even from your father; remember that the least indiscretion might cause the ruin of an honorable merchant."

"Make haste, Geronimo; Mary, prepare for a drive," exclaimed Mr. Van de Werve, as he entered the hall. "Signor Deodati has arrived; the Il Salvatore is in sight. Don Pezoa has just sent me information to that effect, and he has placed his gondola and boatmen at our service. The weather is beautiful and calm; we will go to meet the Il Salvatore."

Mary, as though forgetting in this unexpected news all that Geronimo had told her, ran joyfully and put on her hood before her duenna had time to approach her. Geronimo also looked happy, and prepared to meet his uncle without loss of time.

In a few minutes all was ready; the horses were harnessed to the carriage, the great gate was flung open, and the equipage was driven rapidly through the street.



On that day the Scheldt presented at Antwerp a striking spectacle. Many ships which had been detained in the North Sea by the east wind were approaching the city, with their various colored flags floating on the breeze, while, far as the eye could reach, the broad expanse of water was covered with sails, and still, in the dim horizon, mast after mast seemed to arise from the waves as harbingers of an immense flotilla.

The sailors displayed gigantic strength in casting anchor and manoeuvring their vessels so as to obtain an advantageous position. The crews of the different ships vied with each other, and exerted themselves so energetically that the heavily laden crafts trembled under the strained cables. From each arose a song wild and harsh as the sharp creaking of the capstan, but joyous as the triumphant shout of a victorious army. These chants, sung in every tongue of the commercial world by robust sailors, seemed, as they were wafted over the river to the city, like the long, loud acclamations of a vast multitude.

The only sounds which could be heard in the midst of these confused cries were the voices of the captains speaking through the trumpets; and when a Portuguese gallion, coming from the West Indies, appeared before the city, a salvo of cannon rose like the rolling of thunder above all other sounds.

The sun shone brightly upon this animated scene of human activity, and broke and sparkled in colored light up in the rippling waves of the broad river.

Hundreds of flags floated in the air; gondolas and longboats furrowed the waters; from boat and wharf joyous greetings of friends mingled with the song of the sailors. Even the wagoners from beyond the Rhine, who had ranged their strongly-built wagons near the cemetery of Burg, in order to load them with spices for Cologne, could not resist the influence of the beautiful May-day and the general hilarity; they collected near the gate of the dock-yard, and entoned in their German tongue a song so harmonious and sweet, and yet so manly, that every other sound in their vicinity was hushed.

At this moment an elegant vehicle passed the gate of the dock-yard, and stopped near the German wagoners as the last strain of their song died upon the air.

A young man, and after him an old man and a young girl richly attired, alighted from the carriage.

Those immediately around, merchants as well as workmen, stepped respectfully aside and saluted Mr. Van de Werve, whilst glancing admiringly at his daughter. Some Italians of lower rank murmured loud enough to reach Mary's ears: "Ecco la bionda maraviglia."

Mr. Van de Werve ordered his people to await him at the gate of the dock-yard, and passed on, saluting those whom he met, to the place where the Portuguese flag indicated the gondola of Lopez de Galle, which was prepared to receive him. They threw a carpet across the plank upon which Mary was to step in passing into the gondola. Mary, her father, and Geronimo entered the boat; the six oars dipped simultaneously into the water, and, pushed by the strong arms of the Portuguese sailors, the gondola sped rapidly through the waves. Swift as a fish and light as a swan, it skimmed the surface of the Scheldt, and made many a turn through the numerous vessels until it had succeeded in finding an open way down the river. Then the sailors exerted all their strength, as if to show the beautiful young girl what they were capable of in their trade. The gondola, obeying the impulse given it by the oarsmen, bounded forward under each stroke of the oars, and gracefully poised itself on the waves caused by its rapid passage.

Complete silence reigned in the gondola; the sailors looked with timid admiration upon the beautiful countenance of the young girl. Mary, with downcast eyes, was persuading herself that Geronimo's uncle would undoubtedly consent to their union. The young man was absorbed in thought, and yielded by turns to joy, hope, and fear. Mr. Van de Werve contemplated the city, and seemed to enjoy the magnificent spectacle presented by Antwerp when seen at a distance, and which, with its lofty towers and splendid edifices, rose from the river like another Venice.

Suddenly Geronimo rose and pointed in the distance, exclaiming, joyously, "See, the Il Salvatore!"

Mary, glancing around, eagerly asked: "Where? Is it the vessel bearing a red cross on its flag?"

"No, Mary, it is behind the ships of war; it is that large vessel with three masts—on its flag is a picture of the Saviour: Il Salvatore."

While the gondola rapidly sped on its way, the eyes of all were fixed upon the galley, in order, if possible, to distinguish the features of those who stood on deck.

Suddenly Geronimo clapped his hands, exclaiming, "God be praised! I see my uncle."

"Which is he?" inquired Mr. Van de Werve.

The young man replied, joyously: "Do you not see standing on the forecastle five or six passengers who wear parti-colored dresses, with plumed hats? In the midst of them is a man of lofty stature, completely enveloped in a brown cloak. He has long white hair, and his silvery beard looks like snow-flakes resting on his dark mantle. That is my old uncle, Signor Deodati."

"What a superb-looking old man!" exclaimed Mary, in admiration.

"In truth," said Mr. Van de Werve, "as well as I can judge at this distance, his appearance is very striking."

"My uncle inspires respect wherever he goes," said the young man, enthusiastically. "His sixty-five years appear on his brow as an aureola of experience and wisdom; he is learned, good, and generous."

And waving his hat, he cried out: "Ah, he recognizes us! He salutes us; he smiles. At last I see him after four years of separation. My God, I thank thee for having protected him!"

The young man's joy was so great that Mary and her father were also moved.

"So lively an affection for your uncle does you credit, Geronimo," said Mr. Van de Werve. "God loves a grateful heart; may He grant you to-day the desires of your heart!"

But the young man did not hear these words of encouragement; standing in the gondola, he waved to his uncle as if endeavoring to express to him by signs his joy at seeing him.

The gondola approached the galley, which slowly ascended the Scheldt in a favorable wind and with a rising tide.

The light boat soon gained the large ship. Before the ladder was lowered, Geronimo caught the cable of the galley, and ere Mary had recovered from her terror, he had reached the deck and was in his uncle's arms.

Mr. Van de Werve mounted the ladder cautiously, and approached Signor Deodati, with whom he exchanged the most cordial salutations.

Mary remained in the gondola; she saw Geronimo embrace his uncle repeatedly; she rejoiced to perceive that the eyes of the old man were filled with tears of emotion. She was still more happy when she saw the affability with which her father and Geronimo's uncle conversed together, as though they were old friends.

Very soon the Signor Deodati descended into the gondola to accompany Mr. Van de Werve and Geronimo to the city.

The Flemish cavalier introduced his daughter to the Italian noble.

The old man gazed upon the ravishing beauty of the young girl in speechless admiration. Mary's lovely features were illumined by an enchanting smile which moved the old man's heart; her large blue eyes were fixed upon him with so soft and supplicating an expression that the Signor Deodati, extending his hand, murmured: "E la graziosa donzella!" (The beautiful girl!)

But Mary, encouraged by his look of affection, and unconsciously urged by a mysterious instinct, extended both hands to the old man, who folded her in his arms and pressed her to his heart.

Geronimo, overjoyed at the reception given to Mary by his uncle, turned aside to conceal his emotion.

"Iddio vi dia pace in nostra patria! May God grant you peace in our country, Signor Deodati!" said Mary, taking the old man's hand. "Come sit by me; I am so happy to know you. Do not think me bold; Geronimo has spoken so much of you, that I have long respected and loved you. And then, in our Netherlands we always welcome a stranger as a brother."

Signor Deodati seated himself by her as she desired, and as the gondola returned to the city, the old man said, in surprise: "But you speak Italian like a native of Lucca. How soft and musical my native tongue sounds from your lips!"

"There is my teacher," said Mary, pointing to Geronimo.

"That is not true, my uncle. Her modesty causes her to mislead you. Miss Van de Werve speaks equally well both Spanish and French, nor is she ignorant of Latin."

"Can that be so?" asked the elder Deodati, with an incredulous smile.

"That is nothing extraordinary in our city of Antwerp," said Mr. Van de Werve. "Most ladies of noble birth, and even merchants' daughters, speak two or three foreign languages. It is a necessity rather than a pleasure for us; for since the people of the South will not or can not learn our tongue, we are obliged to become familiar with theirs."

The Signor Deodati, as though a new and sudden thought possessed his mind, seized his nephew's hand, and fixing his eyes affectionately upon him, said in a calm tone: "I am pleased with you, Geronimo. Young as you are, you have conducted prudently the affairs of a large commercial house; you have acted as an experienced man; in order to please me, you have denied yourself pleasures which are so seductive to youth. Taking the place of your father, I have kept a vigilant eye upon you, and it gladdens my old heart to know that I have in my successor a virtuous cavalier and a prudent merchant. I know your desires, my son. Be not disturbed, but hopeful. I undertook a long voyage only to recompense you, if possible, for your gratitude."

He arose, and said to Mary: "I am loath to leave you, my dear young lady; but I have a few words to say privately to your father. You will excuse me more readily, as I yield my place to Geronimo."

Saying this, he walked with Mr. Van de Werve to the extremity of the boat, where both seated themselves upon a bench.

Trembling with fear, hope, and joyous anticipations, Mary and Geronimo watched the two parents, endeavoring to divine from the expression of their countenances the result of their conversation. At first both were perfectly calm; by degrees they grew more excited; the derisive smile on the lips of Mr. Van de Werve betrayed the bitterness of his feelings, as the Signor Deodati in a decided manner counted on his fingers. They were discussing the great affair—the dowry and inheritance. Their only thought was money!

Geronimo turned pale as he saw his uncle shake his head with evident dissatisfaction; and Mary trembled as she noticed the displeased expression of her father.

The private conversation lasted a long time, and still took no favorable turn; on the contrary, the two old men ceased speaking, as though displeased with each other.

Signor Deodati addressed a question to Mr. Van de Werve, to which the latter replied negatively.

Both then arose, and approaching Geronimo and Mary, sat down in silence. Their countenances betrayed vexation and mutual displeasure.

The young man, with tearful eyes, looked inquiringly at his uncle. Mary bowed her head, but her heaving bosom gave evidence of the struggle of her heart.

For some time there was a painful silence in the gondola. Mr. Van de Werve contemplated his daughter, who seemed overwhelmed by sorrow. Signor Deodati was deeply moved by Geronimo's earnest gaze.

The Italian noble was the first to break silence. "Come, sir," he said, "let us make these young people happy."

"With all my heart, signor; but what will you do? My daughter is descended from an illustrious house; she must live in the world in a manner to do honor to her birth; as her father, I have duties to fulfil which I cannot disregard."

"Poor Geronimo!" said the Signor Deodati, in a tone of compassion, and with a deep sigh. "You would accuse me of cruelty, would you not? and this lovely young girl would hate the old man for his insensibility. It was not for that I crossed the seas in my old age."

He reflected a few minutes, then extending his hand to Mr. Van de Werve, he said: "My lord, I wish to show my good-will. I accept entirely your conditions, and in recompense for my sacrifices I ask only your friendship. Shall our children then be happy?"

Mr. Van de Werve grasped cordially the hand which was extended to him, and said to his daughter: "Mary, embrace this good gentleman; he will be your second father."

Mary cast herself into the arms of the old man; a cry of joy escaped the lips of Geronimo; even the sailors, although they comprehended but little of what they saw, were touched.

Whilst they were yet exchanging felicitations, the gondola swept around the point of land which had concealed the city from view, and Antwerp, with its thousand vessels, its lofty spires and noble edifices, lay spread out in all its majestic beauty before the eyes of Signor Deodati.

A cry of admiration burst from his lips.

"O che bella citta! What a beautiful city!" he exclaimed.

"What is that magnificent tower, which like sculptured lace lifts its beautiful spire proudly to heaven, and like a giant looks down upon all others? What are those singular buildings whose rounded cupolas and pointed roofs so far exceed in height the surrounding houses? Oh! let the gondola float with the current; your city enchants me, and I wish to enjoy the view for a few moments."

Mr. Van de Werve gratified the curiosity of the Italian gentleman by pointing out to him the most remarkable buildings of the city, saying: "Before you now is the new city constructed at his own expense by Gillibert de Schoonbeke—a man to whom Antwerp owes its later increase and the creation of countless streets and houses.[9] Those large and massive towers, in which you may notice loopholes, and which stand immediately upon the Scheldt, were the ancient fortifications of the city. That small, graceful spire is the Convent of Faucon; it is called here, Our Lady of Valkenbroek. Yonder, near the river, is the church of Borgt, the oldest temple of our city; for in 642 a wooden chapel stood on the spot, and in 1249 it was consecrated as a parish church, just as it now is.[10] That lofty edifice at the foot of the gigantic tower of Notre Dame is the entrepot of Spain. Every nation has its own manufactories and magazines, where every one may claim the protection of his flag. The massive, unfinished tower belongs to the church of Saint James; the original plan was to elevate it above the spire of Notre Dame, but the work has been long discontinued for want of funds. Do you see, a little further on, that square building surmounted by a dome? It is the palace of Fugger, the Croesus of our times: he was elevated to the nobility by Maximilian on account of his wealth. Furnishing money to kings and nations, he sees gold daily pouring into his coffers, and if God does not interfere, the royal power will bow before that of the opulent banker. On the right you have the church of Saint Andrew, and near it the convent of Saint Michael, where our Emperor Charles stays when he visits his good city of Antwerp."[11]

While the gondola was skimming over the surface of the water, and Mr. Van de Werve was explaining to Signor Deodati the various edifices which were worthy of remark, there stood upon the shore, at a corner of the dock-yard, a man who coolly followed the boat with his eyes, and who endeavored to comprehend what was passing in the gondola, and to discover what might be the emotions of the young man and the young girl who were seated within it.

Notwithstanding the fine weather, the man was enveloped in an ample cloak, and wore a hat with broad brim, over which fell a purple plume. His doublet was of gold cloth, and his breeches were of brown satin. At his side glittered the jewelled hilt of a sword.

He was of lofty stature, and his whole bearing indicated noble birth; his style of dress and black hair and eyes attested his Italian origin. The most remarkable thing about his person was a long narrow scar across his face, as though he had been wounded by a sharp blade. The mark was not disfiguring, particularly when his features were in repose; but when he was agitated by some violent passion or uncontrollable emotion, the edges of the scar assumed different hues, and appeared of a dull white mixed with red and purple.

At the moment of which we speak his eyes were fixed upon the gondola with an expression of irritated jealousy, and his lips were strongly contracted. The color of the scar had changed with his increasing emotion, and it was of a deep red. He stood so near the water that his feet touched it, and thus he prevented any one from passing before him and witnessing the tumult of his soul.

Even the peculiar expression of his countenance did not betray the current of his thoughts; but certainly he was preoccupied by no good design, for his whole demeanor bespoke a wild despair and burning jealousy.

For some time he watched in the same attitude the course of the gondola, which drifted with the current, until he saw the oarsmen seize their oars, and he supposed they were about to land.

Then his whole frame shook convulsively under his efforts to control his emotion. He became exteriorly calm, the scar on his cheek paled, and in an unconcerned manner, with a light step and bright smile, he walked along the wharf to the spot where he supposed the gondola would stop.

Geronimo, who had seen him approaching, sprung upon the bank before the boat was moored, and ran to him with singular haste. He took his hand, and said in an undertone:

"Ebbene, caro mio Simone? Have you obtained the money, Simon? My uncle has arrived. Should he discover that the money-vault lacks so considerable a sum, you and I are both lost. But you have the money, have you not? You will give it to me to-day?"

"Pity me, Geronimo," said the other, sighing. "Various fatal circumstances render all my efforts unavailing."

"You have not the money?" murmured the young man, despairingly.

"No; to-morrow, or perhaps day after to-morrow."[12]

"Good heavens! suppose my uncle reproves me in anger. I implore you, Simon, to procure the amount. Do not cause my destruction!"

"Oh!" muttered the other, in a hoarse, altered voice, "were I to be the cause of any misfortune to you, I would avenge you upon myself in a bloody manner."

"No, no," said the young man, in a compassionate tone, "banish these horrible thoughts. I will wait; I will seek a delay, and endeavor to divert my uncle's attention for a few days. Alas! I am filled with anxiety: at the very moment, too, that my uncle has consented to my marriage with Mary!"

Simon's face became fearfully contorted.

"Your uncle has consented?" he said, in a stifled voice.

"And Mr. Van de Werve?"

"He agrees to it also. O Simon! pardon me my happiness. I know, my poor friend, that this news is most painful to you; but did we not loyally promise each other, that were one of us to succeed in our suit, it should not break our long-tried friendship?"

"Fool! God has abandoned me!" muttered the other between his teeth.

"There is my uncle with Mr. Van de Werve," said Geronimo.

"Cheer up, Simon; hide your emotion. When I am my own master, I will aid you in your affairs. In the meantime put your trust in God."

The man with the scar made a powerful effort to control himself, and advancing cheerfully to meet Mr. Van de Werve, he said to his companion:

"My emotion was natural under the circumstances; now that the blow has fallen, it is all over. Pained as I am, Geronimo, I congratulate you cordially. If I could only obtain the money, and spare you anything disagreeable! I will do all in my power."

Mr. Van de Werve joined them, and after the first salutations said to the old Deodati: "I am happy to present to you my friend, the Signor Simon Turchi, who is at the head of the house of the Buonvisi, and who frequently does me the honor to visit me."

"Ah! I know him well," said Deodati, cordially taking Simon's hand. "The signor is from Lucca, and the son of an esteemed friend."

"You are welcome this side of the Alps, Signor Deodati," replied Simon Turchi. "My father often spoke of your mutual friendship. May God grant you prosperity in Brabant!"

"I am under many obligations to you, signor," replied the old Deodati, "for the affectionate interest you have shown in my nephew. That my business affairs have been as well transacted in this country as though I had been here myself, I am indebted to your experience and wise counsels. I know from Geronimo's letters that he is sensible of the favor and deeply grateful for it."

Simon Turchi was about to disclaim the praise bestowed upon him, but the carriage drew near, and Mr. Van de Werve said:

"I hope, signor, that you will honor us with your company this evening. We will pass together a few hours with our noble guest."

Simon excused himself, saying that some important commercial affairs demanded his attention; but as Mary and Geronimo urged him to accept the invitation, he promised to see them, at least for a short time.

They bade adieu as the carriage drove out of the gate of the dock-yard.

Simon Turchi followed it with his eyes, immovable as a statue, until the sound of the rolling wheels was lost in the distance. Then he convulsively crossed his arms and dropped his head, as though the certainty of a terrible misfortune had overwhelmed him.

He remained a long time plunged in thought; but he was startled from his reverie by a vehicle which dashed along near him, and by the call of the driver warning him of his danger. He stepped aside and looked around him, as though seeking a way of escape from the wharf and the crowd of workmen. He walked slowly towards the church of Saint Walburga, and around the wall enclosing the cemetery. He entered, wandered awhile among the tombs, until reaching an obscure spot, where he was concealed by an angle of the church, he paused.

He pressed his brow with his hands, as if to shut out painful thoughts; the scar on his face frequently changed color, and at intervals his whole frame shook with emotion. At last, as if his reflections had assumed a determined form, he muttered:

"The arm-chair? it is not completed! And then he would be too late. A dagger, a sword, an assassin lying in wait? If Julio were only more courageous; but he is a cowardly boaster. Why did I take into my service such a poltroon? He would not dare run the risk of striking a fatal blow; but I can force him to it, force him even to be bold. I need but pronounce his real name; but the murder of a friend is a frightful crime; and then, perhaps, to be discovered, betrayed—to die on a scaffold like a common felon—I, the head of the house of the Buonvisi!"[13]

This thought made him shudder. After a few moments' reflection, he said, more calmly: "I will go to the bailiff Van Schoonhoven; he has espoused my cause with Mr. Van de Werve; he will, perhaps, be offended that Mary's hand has been disposed of contrary to his urgent solicitations. Perhaps he may have influence to prevent the marriage."

An ironical smile curled his lip.

"Fool that I am!" he muttered. "And the ten thousand crowns? and the disgrace of bankruptcy? Oh, the infernal thought! might I not take from a corpse the acknowledgment of the debt? I will go to Mr. Van de Werve's; I must speak with Geronimo; I must know where tins evening he—"

The words died upon his lips, and a sudden terror shook him from head to foot.

He had heard behind him the voice of a man who spoke in a low tone, and who seemed to be a spy.

Could he have heard what Simon Turchi had so imprudently spoken in this solitary corner of the cemetery?

Turning in his anguish, he saw two persons, three or four steps behind him, looking at him with a mocking air.

Under other circumstances the Italian cavalier would certainly have called the unknown men to account for their insolent curiosity; but fear deprived him of all courage and energy.

He dropped his head, concealed his face as far as possible, crossed the cemetery with long and rapid strides, and disappeared behind the wall of the enclosure.



Not far from the bridge De la Vigne, Simon Turchi had a magnificent dwelling, where the offices of the commercial house of Buonvisi were situated; but he possessed also, at the extremity of the city, pleasure-grounds, where in fine weather he was accustomed to invite his friends and acquaintances to festivals, banquets, and concerts. His domains were near the church of Saint George, surrounded by grounds belonging to the hospital.

Exteriorly it appeared to be only a wall of enclosure, shaded by lofty trees, and without openings. Against the horizon were seen two glittering weathercocks surmounting two small towers arising in the midst of foliage. Within there was, however, a vast garden diversified with winding paths, flowery parterres, hillocks, and grottos. Here and there, scattered among the thickets of verdure, appeared marble statues representing principally the gods of pagan mythology. In the centre of the garden was a pond, in which seemed to float a crowd of monstrous animals, such as dragons, basilisks, lizards, and salamanders. It was a fountain; and when the robinets were opened these monsters spouted the water in every direction from their eyes and mouths.

But at the bottom of the garden and at some distance from the wall of enclosure was an antique pavilion of gray-stone, the walls of which were nearly covered with ivy, and which, in spite of their dark hue, presented a very picturesque appearance.

With the exception of the small and narrow windows, which were protected by iron bars, and the staircase of slate which gave admittance, this heavy building presented nothing remarkable, unless it were two round turrets, which rose above the surrounding roofs and even above the gigantic trees in its vicinity.

The garden had been evidently long neglected, for all the walks were covered with weeds, and in the flower-beds were the half decayed props which had supported the plants of the previous autumn. The statues were spotted by the dust and rain; a fine moss covered the monsters of the fountains, and the little water remaining in the pond was stagnant.

These evidences of the absence of man, the sombre hue of the edifice, the shrubs growing untrimmed, but, above all, the complete silence, gave a mournful air of abandonment to the place, and in this solitude the soul was necessarily filled with painful reflections.

It was already late in the afternoon; the sun was about to sink below the horizon, its slanting rays illumined only the weathercocks on the top of the towers. Within the thickets and at the entrance of the grottos, night already reigned. Not the slightest sound was heard in this place. The noise of the people at work in the city resounded in the air, the chiming of the church-bells was wafted from the distance over this solitary dwelling; but as no sound arose from the habitation itself, the distant hum from an active multitude rendered the silence of the spot all the more striking.

Only at intervals a dull sound like the grating noise of a file seemed to issue from the old edifice; but it was so indistinct and so often interrupted that it was not sufficient to destroy the solitude and silence of the place.

Suddenly two heavy strokes, as if from a hammer, resounded through the garden. Some one had knocked at the exterior door for admittance.

A few moments afterwards a man appeared on the staircase of the pavilion, and descended into the garden.

He was tall and slender; his hair and beard were red, and a red moustache covered his upper lip. His cheeks, though sunken and emaciated, were very red. His eyes were wild in their expression. His arms and legs were of extraordinary length; his movements were heavy and slow, as though his limbs had been dislocated and his muscles without strength.

His dress denoted him to be a menial: he wore a vest of black leather, a red doublet and breeches of the same color, without embroidery or ornament.

At this moment his sleeves were rolled up, and his thin arms were bare to the elbows. In his hand he held a file, and apparently he had been interrupted in some urgent work by the knock at the door. Having reached the outer door, he drew a key from his doublet, and asked in Italian:

"Who knocks?"

"Open the door, Julio; it is your companion Bernardo," was the reply in the same tongue.

"Of course, on the way you stopped at the Camel, and drank some pots of Hamburg beer? Did you bring me as much as a pint?" asked the man with the red beard. "Nothing? have you nothing? I have worked until I am exhausted; I am dying of hunger, and no one thinks of me. Let me see the spring."

Saying these words, he took from his companion's hands a bent steel spring and examined it attentively, closing and opening it as if to judge of its form and power of resistance.

Bernardo was a deformed man of low stature; the projection on his back might be styled a hump—it was so prominent. His physiognomy denoted pusillanimity; but there was, at the same time, a malicious sparkle in his eye, and it was with a mocking smile that he contemplated the man with the red beard.

The latter said to him in a commanding tone: "The spring appears to be good. Go bring me a pint of Rhenish wine from the Saint George."

"You know well that our master has forbidden it. Let me go; the signor ordered me to return immediately to the factory."

"Get me the wine, or I will break this spring in a thousand pieces over your hump."

"Always threatening!" muttered Bernardo. "You know I am not wanting in good-will. I will go for the wine; give me the money."

"Money? I have not a farthing in my pocket. Lend me the price of this pint."

"My purse is empty, Julio; but yours? Our master gave you ever so many shillings yesterday. You told me so yourself."

"Bah! the dice made way with the whole of it."

"Hardened gambler!" said Bernardo, with a sigh. "You would risk your soul at the gaming-table if any one held out to you a gold coin."

"Very likely!" replied Julio, in an indifferent tone; "my soul is hardly worth more."

"What impious words! We are alone now, but there is One above who hears what we say. He will punish you, Julio."

The red-haired man shrugged his shoulders.

"Continue your dissolute habits," resumed Bernardo; "lose your money in gambling, drown your senses in intoxication: at the end of this path there is a gallows, and behind it the devil, to whom all such souls are welcome. Adieu! reflect upon my words, and remember that the justice of God will one day demand an account of your life. Adieu!"

Julio sprang towards the small door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.

"Cease this trifling," said the other, evidently ill at ease.

"Open the door, Julio, or I will complain of you to our master."

"What do I care for our master?" said the man, laughing.

"You say, Bernardo, that I shall end my days on the gallows. No, no; the proverb says, that he who draws the sword shall perish by the sword. I have pierced so many with my dagger, that my turn must come to fall by the dagger. Last night, Bernardo, I had rare sport. I knocked down eight, wounded one in the arm, and as to three or four others whom I left extended on the ground, my dagger knows better than I what mischief was done them. Come in with me, and I will tell you all about it."

"No, I have not time."

"You must take the time. You shall not leave here until you have heard my adventures of last night."

"It is always the same story over again. If I believed you, I would suppose that the cemeteries were too small to contain the bodies of all whom you have slain. Open the door, Julio, and let me go, I beg you."

The other took his hand, and dragging him by force into the house, said: "I am here alone all day, with no one to whom I can speak one word; it is enough to paralyze my tongue. You shall listen to my adventures whether you wish it or not. Judge, Bernardo, by the recital of my great deeds what an honor it is to you to be the comrade of so intrepid a man. Be not ill-humored; you know it is useless to resist me. Don't laugh; were I to try it, I could toss you about like a ball; but you are my friend, and besides, you are too weak to contend with me. Therefore, fear nothing."

They reached the house and entered a kind of parlor, where Julio threw upon the table the spring he held in his hand, and seating himself, he said to his companion:

"Take a chair, Bernardo. You are about to hear some strange adventures. Do you know the ruffian Bufferio? He is a jolly fellow, who cares as little for the life of a man as for that of a fly. There is not a man in the parish of Saint Andrew who does not tremble at the sight of him. In a by-street there is a tavern in a large cellar, where one can hear the rattling of dice all night long, and they play for piles of gold—where it comes from, the devil only knows. Late yesterday evening I was passing through this street, when the noise of the dice fell upon my ear. You must know, Bernardo, that this sound is as enchanting music attracting me; it overpowers my will. I descended into the tavern and called for a glass of beer. I seated myself among the players, and challenged any of them to play against me. I won and lost; but at last good luck was on my side, and my pockets were so full that they could hardly bear the weight of the florins. To console the losers, I ordered the hostess to bring a pint of wine to each of them; but in spite of my generosity the villains looked at me angrily, and seemed to excite each other to take revenge upon me. They strove to pick a quarrel. They were like a band of thieves and assassins; but the rascals saw with whom they had to deal. My defiant look, my bold words, my intrepid countenance, kept them at a respectful distance from me. Suddenly the dreaded Bufferio entered the cellar. He had no sooner learned from his comrades how fortune had favored me than he challenged me to play with him. It was just what I wanted. I don't know how it happened, but I lost every game. Each time we doubled the stakes; a cold sweat bathed my brow as I saw florin after florin quietly put in the pocket of my adversary, until I had only one farthing left. This time fortune favored me; but Bufferio insisted that the dice had not been fairly thrown, and he swept the table of all the money staked. I sprang to my feet and called him a cheat. He instantly dealt me a heavy blow. Furious and thirsting for vengeance, I drew my dagger. Immediately twenty daggers glittered above my head. Perhaps, Bernardo, you think that I trembled? You do not know me; when I am thus in the midst of danger, an entire army could not terrify me; for in whatever other qualities I may be deficient, I do not lack courage and intrepidity. When I saw the villains about to rush upon me, I darted forward like a lion, and I cut about on every side so furiously with my dagger, that all, even to the gigantic Bufferio, fled from the cellar. I pursued them into the street; there the combat recommenced; but my adversaries fared badly. In a few moments Bufferio lay dead upon the ground between two of his comrades; the others, being badly wounded, had taken flight. I stood alone upon the field of battle, a triumphant conqueror! I remained in the same spot for a quarter of an hour, to see if any other enemies would present themselves, but the wretches had had enough for one night."

Bernardo listened to this recital with an incredulous smile. When it was concluded, he silently shook his head.

"Well! what have you to say of this adventure?" asked Julio. "Might it not be narrated in the chronicles as an heroic adventure?"

"Certainly; in your place many others would have died of fright. But this morning I saw this Bufferio, whom you declare to be dead, walking alive in the public square."

"Impossible; you are mistaken."

"Perhaps so; but I know the ruffian well, for I have twice seen him in the pillory."

"If he is not dead, he will certainly not be able to make his appearance in the streets for six months to come."

"Of course, you took your money from Bufferio?"

"How could I?"

"Since he lay lifeless at your feet, why did you not recover the money he had stolen from you?"

The red-haired man was at a loss for an answer; but after awhile he stammered out: "You are right. In the hurry of the struggle I did not think of it, and then I had not the time: the watchmen ran on hearing the noise of the affray, and you may imagine that I did not care to fall into the hands of the bailiff."

"I do not understand you; it seems to me you mentioned having remained a quarter of an hour upon the spot," said Bernardo, with a slight smile. "I suppose, Julio, there was much blood shed."

"It flowed in torrents."

Bernardo eyed his companion from head to foot in great surprise.

"I would like to ask you something, but you might not understand the joke, and you would be angry with me," he said.

"Say candidly what you think," replied his companion.

"I am extremely surprised, Julio, that there is not the smallest drop of blood, not the least spot, upon your clothes. With your permission, I will say you dreamed all that?"

Julio sprang from his seat, gnashed his teeth, and looked at his companion as if ready to devour him.

"What! you dare to laugh at me? Are you then tired of life? Fool! were I only to lay my hand upon you, you would be crushed to atoms."

Bernardo arose also, and said, in a tone half ironical and half supplicating: "Pardon me, Julio; I believe all you told me, and I never doubted your marvellous courage. If sometimes I laugh at serious things, do not be offended; this kind of joking is usual with men."

"If you were not so feeble and powerless a being, I would have already laid you at my feet," said Julio; "as it is, I long to plunge my dagger in your breast."

"Leave it in its scabbard, Julio, and I will go to buy you a stoop[14] of Hamburg beer."

"Ah, hypocrite!" exclaimed Julio, "then you have money. I will renew my friendship for you, if you will do me a favor. I am in absolute want of money; lend me a few shillings, and the first one who insults you, I promise you, shall be a dead man."

"But, Julio, were I to give them to you, you would gamble with them at once."

"No, you are wrong this time; I would pay for some things our master ordered me to buy yesterday."

Bernardo drew a small purse from his doublet, and handed to his companion its scanty contents.

"Here is all I possess," he said. "I fear they will go like the others."

Julio thrust the shillings into his pocket, and muttered:

"I do not deny that I may go this evening to the parish of Saint Andrew, to see if any one would dare play against me."

"Julio, Julio, I pity you!" said Bernardo, sadly. "I do not wish to lecture you; but you have an unfortunate and aged mother who requires your aid. You are always talking of sending her assistance, and for six months past every farthing has been lost at play. Perhaps in the meantime your mother has suffered for want of food."

This reproach seemed to affect Julio deeply. He looked down abashed, and then said, dejectedly: "Bernardo, never speak to me again of my mother. You touch the only sensitive spot in my heart. And yet you are right; I am a monster! Oh! this miserable play! I will do better in future. Go away now, and let me continue my work."

"What are you making?" asked Bernardo. "This is the third spring you have ordered, and each time from a different locksmith."

"It is a secret known only to my master and myself."

"A secret?" said Bernardo. "Springs, a secret! What can it mean?"

"Come with me, and I will show you. The signor may be angry if he chooses, I don't care. But, Bernardo, you must be as silent as one deaf and dumb."

He conducted his companion to a room, and throwing open the door showed him a large arm-chair, which in form was like the other chairs around, excepting that from each arm extended two bent springs.

"This is what I have worked at, without stopping, for four days. I wish the bewitched chair to the devil! I have already exhausted myself; but the new spring is good, and in a few minutes I will have finished."

Bernardo examined attentively the unfinished chair, and looked frightened.

"Heavens!" he exclaimed, "a chair for a trap! Do you entrap men here?"

Julio nodded his head affirmatively.

Pale from anxiety, Bernardo muttered: "May God preserve me! What crime is in contemplation? Does our master know anything of this terrible piece of furniture?"

"Was it not from him that you received the order to bring me the springs?"

The humpbacked man made the sign of the cross, and muttered a few indistinct words.

Suddenly Julio laughed immoderately, and slapping him on the shoulder exclaimed: "Foolish boy! he already sees a victim in this chair, and the blood flowing as freely as in some old woman's story. Be at ease, Bernardo; this is done only to satisfy a caprice of our master. He intends to clean the garden and repair the fountain. He will place this arm-chair in an arbor near the fountain; the guest who seats himself in it will be caught, and the salamanders may throw the water upon him as long as they please. It is a mania of our master."

"What a coward I am!" said Bernardo, laughing at his own fears. "Open the door now, Julio; I should have been at the factory long ago."

They both left the house talking together, and they turned their steps towards the exterior door.

The red-haired man soon returned alone. He removed the spring from the parlor-table, and took it with him to the room where he had terrified his companion by the revelation of his master's secret. He seated himself on the ground near the chair, and taking some tools he began to arrange the spring, and to try if it would produce the effect intended. Whilst thus occupied he laughed aloud, and said:

"The stupid humpback! One could make him believe that cats laid eggs! He believed all I told him of Bufferio and his comrades as though they were gospel truths. The coward! To empty his pocket of its last farthing, it is only necessary to frighten him! I have two shillings. Night is coming on, and it is growing dark. Presently I will go to the tavern of the 'Silver Dice.' I will play at first with a few farthings, then for white pieces, at last for florins and even crowns! This time I will stop playing as soon as my pocket is full of money. Then at least I will send something to my poor mother. In what condition is she now? Perhaps she no longer lives on earth; that would be better for her. Poor and blind, and her only dependence a son who must conceal his true name in order to escape the gallows; a gambler, drunkard—in a word, a real jail-bird! Yes, if fortune favors me, I will send her something. The signor promised me to have it conveyed to Lucca. Ah! the spring is fixed. Let me see if the machine does its duty."

He rose, placed his hand on the arm of the chair as if about to take his seat in it; suddenly he sprang aside, exclaiming: "Fool that you are, you were about to do a fine thing! I would have been caught by my own trap; and if the signor had forgotten to come this evening, I would have remained clasped in that traitorous chair. But don't I hear some one coming? A key grating in the lock of the garden gate? Yes, it is the Signor Turchi."

Seating himself on the ground before the arm-chair, with his back turned to the door, Julio began to work with apparent eagerness; and in order to assume a greater air of indifference, he sang snatches of a well-known song.

The door opened, and Signor Turchi stood upon the threshold. He remained for an instant motionless, contemplating in silence his servant, who continued his song as though unconscious of the presence of his master.

Simon slowly approached him and laid his hand upon his shoulder; but before he could say a word, Julio drew his dagger from its scabbard, and springing to his feet, made a motion as if to stab his master.

"O cielo, e voi signor? Is it you, signor?" cried Julio. "You slip through the garden like a thief. It is almost dark; an accident might have happened."

"Stop your foolish jesting, Julio. A man does not kill another without finding out with whom he is dealing."

"Do you think so, signor? Why, if five or six men were to take me by surprise, not one would be left alive."

"You speak as if the life of a man were of no more value than that of a bird."

"Less, signor; it is not worth a farthing."

"We will have proof of this," said Simon, in a peculiar tone, as he turned towards the door. "For years I have heard you boasting; this evening I will discover what you are—a brave man or a coward."

Julio drew himself to his full height, put his arms akimbo, and was about to speak, but his master prevented him.

"No useless words!" said Simon, imperiously, "Light the lamp, and come to my bed-room."

He left the room without making any inquiry in regard to the chair, and ascended a winding staircase. Opening the door of a large room, he threw himself upon a chair, and rubbed his brow with his hands like a man tormented by painful thoughts.

After awhile his hands fell upon his knees, and his eyes wandering in feverish agitation through the dim twilight, he muttered:

"At last it is decided! the murder of a friend! He my friend? He is my mortal enemy! Has he not deprived me of Mary's love? Has he not destroyed all my hopes? Has he not devoted me to eternal infamy? His uncle has consented; he will become his partner, the proprietor of an immense fortune, the husband of Mary—of Mary, who was destined by her father to be my wife! He will be powerful, rich, and happy; he will be surrounded by every luxury; he will astonish the world by the magnificence of his style of living, and from the pinnacle of his grandeur he will cast an eye of lawful pride upon Turchi dishonored and ruined! Miserable dog that I am! Deodati will discover that I owe him ten thousand crowns. He will appeal to the courts of justice, and I will be condemned as a rogue; they will discover that I have spent more than I possessed. Outraged, despised, mocked, shall I fall forever into the abyss of misery and infamy? No, no; let him die! His death alone can save me. If he perishes as I have planned, I no longer owe him the ten thousand crowns; Mary becomes my wife, and I am master of her dowry. In that case I am still the powerful, honored chief of the house of Buonvisi! But time presses; to-morrow it may be too late! I hear Julio coming. Upon him rests all my hope."

The servant entered and placed a lighted candle upon the table.

"Now, signor," he said, "to what trial do you wish to subject my courage? However difficult it may be, it will not be beyond my strength."

"Close the blinds; lower the windows," said Turchi; "sit down and listen attentively to my words. I am about to talk to you of an important affair."

The red-haired man regarded his master with a malicious and incredulous smile, but he took the seat indicated to him without a word of comment.

"Julio," said Simon, "I am dejected and undecided. There is a man who pretends to be my friend, but who has secretly been my bitter enemy. He has always artfully calumniated and deceived me, and injured me in my fortune and honor; he has pushed his machinations to such a degree that I will soon be condemned to eternal infamy and misery, unless, by a bold stroke of vengeance, I break through the snares he has laid for my destruction. Be calm, Julio; it does you honor to be inflamed with anger against the enemies of your master; but listen. I discovered, three days ago, that it was this treacherous friend who paid the assassins to inflict the wound of which I still bear the scar on my face. Thus, he first shed my blood and attempted my life; now he plans my ruin and dishonor. Julio, what would you do in my place?"

"What would I do? Ask my dagger, signor; if it could speak, it would tell you of wonderful exploits."

"Then you would not hesitate to undertake a difficult task?"

"Hesitate! you insult me, signor. I would not hesitate were twenty swords brandished over my head."

"Understand, Julio, that had I doubted your intrepidity, I would not have spoken to you of such grave affairs. I give you the highest proof of confidence by intrusting my vengeance to your hands. I will tell you who is my enemy, and where you can strike him secretly. Kill him, and you shall be liberally recompensed."

This mission appeared unpalatable to Julio.

"Yes," he stammered; "but that is not my way of acting. I will pick a quarrel with your enemy, and if he dares to raise a finger against me, he is a dead man."

"Impossible; he is of noble birth."

"And if I insulted him, his valets would fall upon me and beat me."

"That is true. There is but one way, Julio; I will tell you where you can stab him at night without the least danger."

"I? shall I treacherously kill your enemy? This gentleman has never injured me. Since how long has it been the custom for valets to avenge the grievances of their masters? It is your own affair, signor."

"You value the life of a man as little as a farthing, you said," replied Simon Turchi, with bitter irony; "and now you allege the most puerile reasons as excuses. You are a coward, Julio."

"I am not; but I do not choose to lie in wait and stab a man in the dark."

"That is a feint, a subterfuge, to conceal your cowardice."

"Since it is so simple and easy, why do you not deal the blow yourself, signor?"

The scar on Simon Turchi's face became of a livid white; his whole frame trembled with rage; but by a strong effort he controlled his emotion, and after a few moments he said, with a contemptuous smile upon his lips:

"Four years ago I took you into my service through pity; I have paid you well, excused all your faults, your intoxication, your passion for gambling; I have not dismissed you, although you have deserved it a hundred times; and now, when for the first time you can be useful to me, you have not the courage. I wished to try you. What I said was only a jest. To-morrow, Julio, you will leave my service. You are a liar and a coward."

"Do not condemn me so severely, signor," said the servant, in a supplicating tone of voice. "I am willing to risk my life a thousand times for you; but to lie in wait for an unknown man and kill him deliberately—this is an infamous crime of which I am not capable."

"Hypocrite!" exclaimed Simon Turchi; "you speak as though I were ignorant of your past history. If a price is set upon your head in the city of Lucca, if at this moment you are under sentence of death, is it not because you assassinated or helped to assassinate the Judge Voltai?"

These words struck Julio with terror. He replied, humbly:

"Signor, I have already told you that in this affair I was more unfortunate than guilty. I was upon the spot where the murder was committed, and I was arrested with those who gave the fatal blow. Believe me, I knew nothing of their designs. I do not deny that in a contest or quarrel I spare no one; but up to this moment my dagger has never shed blood without provocation."

Simon fixed his eyes upon his servant, and said in a menacing tone: "Suppose, in order to avenge myself for thy base ingratitude, I should make known to the superintendent of Lucca who is the man I have in my service? Suppose I were to tell him that the real name of Julio Julii is Pietro Mostajo? Who would be bound hand and foot and sent in the hold of a ship of war to expiate his crimes upon a scaffold in Italy?"

Julio turned pale and trembled. He moved restlessly upon his chair, and complained in a low voice of the false accusations and injustice of men; but his master eyed all his movements in a scornful manner, until at last the servant, disconcerted, exclaimed impulsively:

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