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to have been most fortunate when we see further than we do at the first, and you may hereafter rejoice over this day instead of weeping ; and this hope I the rather encourage, since it was by no fault of yours that the events of the morning were brought about."
“I may not controvert you, father ; but you cannot be surprised at my feeling deeply, acutely, bitterly.”
“ I do not wonder at your feelings, Amidea; but I beg you to combat and control them.”
“Ah, father! I am too broken-spirited to combat now; the first wound was deep, and before that was well healed to endure another--and from a hand so unexpected. Almanno said something to me of pride, but I have no pride now.
Pride," she repeated, laughing bitterly; "pride would ill become the halfwedded, deserted bride, carried to the very altar, and despatched thence-rejected-slighted-betrayed-pitied."
“You might lighten the dark colouring of your picture, Amidea ; you had at least the satisfaction of refusing Buondelmonte.”
“ But how have I refused him ? Is not all Florence witness of the indignity that wrung the refusal from me; had I any alternative? I shall be the scorn of all Italy—the damsel mocked with the shadow of a bridegroom; half-wedded, but no wife.
I shall be the story of chroniclers, the theme of minstrels, the topic of gossips. I shall not be able to go into the streets without being pointed at by the very children. Is it not anguish for a woman to have her name become a by-word? and now, too, when I had wasted such pains on my wounded heart to attach it to Buondelmonte, that he should slight my feelings thus ! ”
“Grieve not for him, my daughter; rather rejoice that you have been saved from him, as from the unworthy Bastiani.”
“Alas! it is but little consolation, Padre, to remind me that I have been twice a dupe and a victim. When a woman suffers the same misfortune twice, the world will judge that there must be some fault on her side, since she could not profit by the first experience. Oh! had but Florestan fallen a hero in battle, unsullied in fame and unperjured in love, how different had been my fate and feelings ! I should have dwelt with melancholy pleasure and unshaken constancy on his memory, instead of feeling this void in my heart. I should then never have listened to Buondelmonte ; never have been exposed to this insult.”
The priest interrupted her.
“ All is best as it is, Amidea ; you would otherwise have been tempted to act wrongly; you would have cherished a repining grief if Heaven had called away your lover while he was still worthy of your love; you would have been disobedient to the wishes of your family, and undutiful to your country's command.”
Do not reason with me, father; I cannot reason now, I can
" I do wrong,
only feel. Perfidious Buondelmonte! why did he not spare me this public affront? Why not come to me honourably, and say,
Amidea, I love another; release me for her sake, for mine, for your own? I would not have separated him from his beloved, my false friend, my unsuspected rival. I would have freed him, but I confess I should have done it with some pain, for I could not in a moment have forgotten the regard with which I had laboured to behold him. I learned my hard-taught lesson too studiously to forget it at once. Oh! that I may never see him more. I could as ill bear his presence as that of Florestan after his condemnation."
“Unjustifiable as Buondelmonte is,” replied the priest, "you do wrong to compare him with Bastiani.”
“I do indeed,” said Amidea, warmly. For now that Buondelmonte appeared to her in a disadvantageous light, the flame of her first love (long checked and smouldering, but never extinguished) began to kindle up again, and it acquired force from the indignation she had conceived against Buondelmonte. indeed, in comparing Florestan with Buondelmonte ; the one has had some consideration for me, the other none. Florestan never openly exposed me to the mockery of a whole city ; never publicly declared his preference of another, but, on the contrary, always denied his imputed sacrilegious love; and perhaps after all he spoke truth. Perhaps that nun had persuaded him that she was forced to take the vows, had interested his compassion, and induced him to release her from what she represented as her dungeon, without any idea of becoming her lover. Remember that on his arrest she was not with him: remember, too, that some have believed him entirely innocent—the Emperor did—even Buondelmonte!”
“ Amidea! have you forgotten the testimony of the Gleesingers ?”
“I was hasty," she replied, “in giving credence to obscure mysterious characters, led, perhaps, by some unworthy motive to assert a falsehood. I should have remembered our common adage, which places singers among the classes of persons to be shunned “Tre persone son da fuggire ; cantori, vecchi, innamorati."*
The Padre sighed. He saw with pain that his pupil was returning to her first attachment, which he might term her true one; for that had sprung up spontaneously like a native flower, but her regard for Buondelmonte had been forced like an exotic, and was only cherished by constant attention. But he perceived that to argue with Amidea now was worse than useless, for it would only give her an opportunity of defending Florestan till she would talk herself into a belief of his perfect innocence. He,
• Three kinds of persons are to be avoided; singers, old men, lovers.
therefore, judged it best to say but little then, till, after venting her feelings, she should grow calmer and more amenable to reason.
A silence ensued; Amidea sat with her eyes fixed on the ground in deep thought. At length she exclaimed
“ Treacherous Buondelmonte! for him I have made myself so poor, deprived myself of my long-hidden treasures, of every relic of the once happy past, and for one who cared not for the sacrifice—who could not appreciate it. Had I but kept one withered flower, it would have been something in my heart's extreme destitution. And that beautiful portrait ! why did I not preserve it even as a work of art? I thought it sin to keep in existence the cold silent resemblance of poor Florestan; yet such a man as Buondelmonte is not ashamed to appear abroad; nay, even finds admirers and defenders. Beautiful, beautiful,” she repeated, as she called Florestan's person to mind. “Do you not remember his mild dark eye, his placid brow, his sweet and gentle smile ? All that beauty is mouldered in the grave, his very picture is crumbled into dust and ashes. Dear Padre, now in my heart's poverty you will not refuse to give me back that book I yielded before to your desire ? Do, pray do, restore to me that last remaining consolation."
Before Padre Severino could reply, they heard under the window the voices of the Glee-singers uniting in a
Sweet lady, listen to our lay;
Chase care away.
We see a star thou canst not see,
The storm now lulls that raged before,
On peaceful shore. The mind of Amidea, already excited, became still more so by this song, which even Padre Severino mentally confessed must allude to her.
“Did you hear that?" cried sle; “those mysterious minstrels promise me hope, and from them the promise is auspicious. Surely they have some clue to Florestan's fate.”
“The hope," remarked the priest, “cannot be connected with any future justification of Bastiani. They have insisted on his guilt, and once before they sang of a dishonoured grave."
Strange contradictions," sighed Amidea. She thought awhile, and then exclaimed,—“Stay, an idea has flashed upon my mind; perhaps they were formerly bribed by some of the Buondelmonti to say what they have done, in order to eradicate from my heart every lingering feeling for Florestan, and now that my marriage is broken off they are at liberty to hint at the truth.”
The Padre tried to reason with her on the groundlessness of her conjecture, and while they were discussing the subject an animated dispute took place between the Glee-singers without.
Valdo and Antonio had consented to sing the serenade composed by Brunetto, supposing it merely intended as a kind attempt to amuse the thoughts of Amidea, without containing any particular meaning or allusion; but when Brunetto proposed a second song, which he repeated to them, they immediately perceived that Amidea must apply it to the memory of Florestan, and both strenuously objected; Valdo alleging that it was deception and cruelty to inspire a noble lady with hopes that could never be realized, and he declared himself unable to penetrate into Brunetto's motive for such extraordinary, and, as he thought, blameable conduct.
Brunetto had his own reasons for not explaining himself; he appeared to yield the point silently, and accompanied his comrades a short way from the Palazzo Amidei. But he paced behind them with slow and reluctant steps, and as they turned the corner of a street he slipped from them, hastily returned, resumed his station under Amidea's window, and began preluding till he saw, by the opening of her lattice and the motion of her lamp, that he had attracted her attention. He did not choose at this time to sing in his natural tones, but he had so much power over his voice that he produced a pleasing falsetto, which he judged by the absence of all light from that side of the Palazzo, except what appeared in Amidea's room, reached her ears alone, as he addressed to her his
The true tender heart's-ease ! it droop'd down its head;
tints were vanish’d, its sweetness was fled :
Now mark ye the story! this lily once white,
The sun that shall give him fresh strength to arise
“Now can you doubt, father?” cried Amidea in ecstasy ; "what can be more clear? Nothing but the name is wanting. Wanting? No, it would be superfluous; the tale is too plainly told to need it. Florestan's fame will be cleared. It is as I guessed; the Gleesingers were employed by the Buondelmonti to make their former assertions."
Padre Severino was almost as much agitated as Amidea. “ Truly," said he, “I cannot deny that this song alludes to Bastiani, and promises his posthumous justification at least ; but there are such contradictions in these men's assertions. But stay ; I observe that we have heard only one voice now, as though the other two Glee-singers were not assenting parties to the song.
"No, no," replied Amidea, “one sang alone that not a syllable should be lost among the mingling voices; that I should hear every word which promises justice to Florestan's memory. Oh! happy Amidea!” she added, clasping her hands; “happy at length in the knowledge that my affections were not unworthily bestowed ; that I shall have the memory of the faithful, the brave, the noble, to fill the void in my heart and soothe my solitary musings. Yes, and I will dwell upon it in reparation of my forced infidelity; for you know, Padre, that when my reason bowed to apparent conviction, my heart still combatted in favour of Florestan. You know how much labour it cost both you and myself to silence my heart, and endear Buondelmonte to my judgment
. Now farewell, struggles ! farewell, sorrow!"