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“Ben venuto Giovanni, I wished to speak to you on a matter of which I have been thinking much, particularly to-day ; and to beg, first your indulgence and then your assistance, in what must appear to you a foolish fancy, and which even to myself sometimes seems hardly a reasonable one."
“You, Amidea, have an unreasonable fancy ! impossible! But speak, and command me."
And now Amidea hesitated and coloured—“ The Glee-singers," she faltered.
“ What of them ?” asked Buondelmonte.
She gathered courage. “I scarce know why, but I have imagined, from the tenor of some of their songs, that they have been acquainted with,”.... she paused.
* With Bastiani ?” said Buondelmonte.
“ Then,” resumed Amidea, “ perhaps it is very foolish, but I feel a restless desire to speak to them. There was much that was contradictory in his fate, and the total disappearance of that unhappy nun is mysterious. These men might explain all that seems obscure."
" And what then ?" observed Padre Severino. “Could they bring back the dead? What can avail aught that you might learn ?"
“ Thus much," she answered ; “ mystery is attractive to the thoughts; while it exists it will employ them. Were it cleared away the tantalizing interest would cease, and my wavering conjectures be at rest for ever.”
“ And what are these conjectures ? ” asked Buondelmonte.
She answered with a sigh-“ Sometimes I fancy that the accused might have been innocent, or at least more excusable than we have hitherto believed.”
“ Alas! replied Buondelmonte, “ I once thought so too --once hoped to have cleared the fame of the brave dead; but my hopes were vain. I told you of my former interview with the basssinger, and the questions he asked concerning some unknown female ; but I concealed a part of what passed lest it should give you pain. But it is right I should disclose it now, for your own guidance." And he related to her the expressions of hate and accusation used by Valdo against the memory of Florestan.
Amidea, shocked and disappointed, was silent a few moments, but soon resumed
“ Then he did know that unhappy man ; let me question him; let ine follow this urgent impulse. I may learn something valuable, though painful; something that will call home my wandering thoughts for ever.”
Buondelmonte looked at the priest; the old man replied to his look
experleid appaits tenhough
“ Be it so, my son ; I have reasoned with her in vain ; and I yield the more readily, because in my experience through life I have found that where there is some strong and apparently unaccountable impulse on the mind, it is best to follow it if its tendency be not evil. In opposing it we may oppose some salutary though mysterious influence."
Buondelmonte assented ; and it was arranged that he should remain with Amidea and Padre Severino till they heard the voices of the Glee-singers without; and then that he should endeavour to bring them into the court of the Palazzo at least, and aid Amidea in her purposed interview.
Of the three that sat together at the window in the twilight listening for a distant sound, the old alone was calm ; the young were agitated. But he was near the end of the voyage of life-he was already in the still waters of the haven---they were far without, tossing on the variable high seas of youth.
Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,
Macbeth. That night the Glee-singers entered Florence at a later hour than usual. The moon rose full and clear, and lent to the city a sombre loveliness far surpassing its noon-day appearance; for Florence in those days boasted none of its present most remarkable architectural beauties. Neither the grand cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Convent of the Jesuits, nor the sumptuous Palazzo Pitti, nor the beautiful Bridge of the Trinity, were then in existence.
As the Glee-singers traversed the streets, partly illuminated by the moon, partly wrapped in shadow, they found them nearly deserted, except where some matron of the lower class, in her short green petticoat, grey corset, canvass shoes, and large white coif, was drawing water for the morrow's demands from a massive stone fountain ; or where some friar, in his cowl and dark serge robes, was returning from visiting a sick bed to his friary—the black recesses of whose arches relieved with their shade the general spread of light on the grey walls, and the dark trees of the cemetery behind lifted their branching heads high above the surrounding wall.
As the Glee-singers advanced, they passed many a palace of the nobility towering above the humbler dwellings in their vicinity, and casting a broad black shadow. They resembled for
May, 1845.-VOL. XLIII.--NO. CLXIX,
tresses rather than palaces; they displayed no graceful colonnade, no light portico. They were huge square stone masses, having innumerable narrow windows with heavy stone mullions, arched entrances elevated by steps above the ground, and ornamented with armorial bearings, battlements, and turrets full of loop-holes, and studded with iron rings to receive torches. All along the walls a stone ledge jutted out in the manner of a bench, and a cornice projecting over it from the upper story formed a kind of canopy for the benefit of the retainers and menials when lounging there to enjoy the fresh air and the “delicioso far niente.” * Wherever the gate of one of these palaces lay open, the eye could catch within a view of a square court with numerous doors and windows in the building that formed its sides, some trees, a fountain, and a grate leading to a kind of garden. A square tower— often 150 feet high-rose in the centre of the front over the grand gate of the palaces of the “Nobles of the Tower,” or Nobili della Torre ; and a massive square lodge marked the entrance to the palaces of the “ Nobles of the Lodge,” or Nobili della Loggia. The great number of these fortress-like edifices gave to Florence the aspect of a “ City of the Nobles, a city of individual power.” of
As the Glee-singers proceeded they remarked, through various openings, the Arno gliding along and reflecting the dancing moon-beams from its waters—the ruins of some Roman building, theatre, or thermes—the city walls—the iron-studded city gateand beyond and overtopping all, the dark and mighty Apennines.
They paused for awhile on the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, where stood the ancient and mutilated statue of Mars, who, in the days of Paganism, was the tutelar deity of the city when founded by the Romans and called Florentia. Above them shone the moon, with its purest lustre, in a dark blue sky; beneath them murmured the glittering Arno, and at a little distance rose the massive form of a church, through whose windows gleamed the red glare of torches that lighted the religious at their late devotions, and contrasted with the pure pale rays that illuminated the cypresses of the burying-ground, and glinted upon the neighbouring houses, and silvered the thin smoke before it faded into the quiet air.
The Glee-singers remained a few minutes on the bridge; Brunetto gazing on the lighted windows of the church ; Valdo leaning over the parapet of the bridge, watching the gliding moon-lit waters; and Antonio seated at the foot of the old statue of Mars, contemplating its time-worn, weather-beaten trunk. As he looked upon it he sighed, and thought—This poor wreck of past ages, many houseless midnight wanderers, perhaps, have rested at
its feet as I do; but none, none, through all the centuries that have elapsed since first it was placed here, so heart-sick, so weary of existence as I am. Would that it might witness my release!
Antonio little thought how nearly his wish should be accomplished. His mental eye was spared the prophetic vision of that scene of death soon to be acted on that very spot—the tide of mingled blood soon to stain the base of that very statue.
How strange is the destiny of human wishes ! We may reiterate wishes of happiness and peace for ourselves and for our friends, and they are borne away by the idle winds ; they are lost, and never fructify: but if, in an impatient moment, we querulously utter one wish of evil import, it is caught up, as it were, by some lurking and malignant sprite, and brought to its fulfilment when we least expect and desire it.
Ah! where slumbers our good angel while our evil genius is so watchful and so prompt ? Is it that our best wishes have on them such a stain of earth, such a taint of worldliness, that our good angel will not sully himself by becoming their bearer ; while malignant powers hurry on the penalty due to our impatience and distrust? When, in our petulance, we do breathe evil wishes, it is our just punishment that they are fulfilled.
After a short delay the Glee-singers left the Ponte Vecchio, and proceeded till they reached the Palazzo Amidei ; and there Brunetto halted, and, leaning against an opposite wall, fixed his eyes on the windows of Amidea's apartment, where the lights within permitted him to catch glimpses of some indistinct figures. He seemed absorbed in a reverie, and stood still for some minutes, regardless of his comrades, who were waiting for him to proceed.
At length Valdo broke in upon his musings.
“What, comrade, are you composing a song on the instability of woman's affections ? The lady of that palace may inspire you; she has already forgotten her first love, and has clasped hands with a second in the brief space of a few months."
"Speak more reverently,” said Brunetto, in a voice trembling with emotion ; “speak more reverently of a noble sacrifice of personal feelings to public peace.”
“Nay,” replied Valdo, “I ought not to blame her, though fickleness is so woman-like; she had no right to be faithful to the memory of an unworthy lover. But I am cross and unreasonable. While we were gazing on the Arno, I was thinking of a female phantom, beautiful, but unstable as its glittering waters, till my brain began to turn. Come, let us sing, that I may compose myself.”
Brunetto assented, though his voice was unsteady, and the trio began to prelude together. The moment these sounds were heard, the windows and doors of the neighbouring houses were opened, and many persons came forward to listen to the Gleesingers. Their song was one in praise of the Emperor Frederic, but tradition has preserved only a few desultory verses :
Is there a name in story
Of fame more bright than thine,
To plot thine early fall;
Unscath'd above them all.
With spear and triple shield;
Hath struck them from the field.
Sweet 'mid the shrill war-cries,
Of thy poet-lyre arise.
Men! have ye hearts that honour
The warrior's glorious fame;
The poet's holier claim?
Come where his trophies shine,
The lyre and sword—the poet-warrior--the Glee-singers could not have presented their hero to Italian imaginations in more attractive colours. The effect upon their younger hearers was such as they intended, and so loud a clamour of applause rose at the end of the song as caused a surly old Guelph artisan to growl out his disapprobation :
“I marvel the podesta does not interfere with these nightly vagabonds, who disturb the repose of honest citizens by yelping their factious songs.”
- Yelping !” cried a woman in the crowd ; Valta col malanno, thou old Guelph cur; thou art more likely to yelpay, and to snarl too, at every turn. Yelp, indeed! those sweet voices the saints might delight in. Santa Maria ! but I wish well to the Ghibellines; theirs must needs be a right cause that engages such goodly young minstrels." · A lad of the lower class flung up his cap, exclaiming, “ Viva Federigo! I am for him and the Ghibellines-ready to do battle to-morrow."