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Poor Amidea ! just as she spoke her exulting mood was disagreeably interrupted, and a fresh source of anxiety and uncertainty was opened to her.
Valdo and Antonio had soon missed Brunetto after he had escaped from them, and guessing whither he had gone, returned and heard him sing under Amidea's window the song to which they had previously objected. Valdo, judging it useless to contend with him, remained with Antonio silent and unseen in the darkness till Bruvetto retired. He then improvised some hasty lines to counteract the false hopes he considered Brunetto's song calculated to excite, adapted his composition to a well-known air, and taught it to Antonio sufficiently to obtain his accompaniment; then, advancing under the window, chanted the unwelcome song which so unpleasantly broke in upon the hopes of Amidea.
List to the warning-follow
Where all beneath is hollow.
Assist in her deceiving;
Whate'er we wish believing.
False is the hope that sang; the name
Now stain'd shall e'er recover
Of hero and true lover.
False the fallen soldier's glory;
Is hope's delusive story. The two Glee-singers immediately departed, leaving the Padre and his pupil in great perplexity. Amidea had been so much agitated during the day, had been so exhausted in her struggles with herself, so excited by her lately conceived hopes, that she was now quite overcome. She turned towards the Padre, intending to address him; she made an ineffectual effort to speak, and sank down in a state of insensibility.
Padre Severino calling aloud soon alarmed the Palazzo, and brought a crowd of its inmates, by whose assistance Amidea was restored to consciousness, but too much exhausted to converse, and she was left to the care of her cousin Francesca Uberti, and her female attendants.
This brawl to-day
First Part of King Henry 6th. All the heads of the Ghibelline families met together at the Palazzo Amidei to debate upon the measures to be taken in consequence of the insult offered to them in the person of Amidea. Some urged the open declaration of hostilities and the immediate seizing of the gates in the name of the Emperor, calculating on being joined by the populace and the hitherto neutral persons, now indignant at the affront offered to a lady and the disregard shown to the peace of Florence by the Guelphs. Others thought such an act would be premature, as no imperial troops in sufficient force were near enough to support them. They rather suggested waiting a little longer before they broke out into civil war; taking time to fortify their palaces, strengthen their party, and communicate with the Emperor, requesting him to send troops towards Florence, to be ready against the next emergency.
This advice pleased Mosca Lamberti (who privately resolved to use it for his own purposes), but he also wished to prevent the marriage of Buondelmonte and Imma; partly out of revenge on the Widow, and partly out of his great desire to become the husband of the rich heiress of the Donati, which he could not now hope without separating Buondelmonte from her. While, therefore, he concurred in the last given advice, he made in his own mind a resolution which he did not choose to communicate.
It was finally agreed upon among the Ghibellines, that besides strengthening themselves and appealing to the Emperor, they should send a memorial to Rome to the papal court, representing Buondelmonte's desecration of a sacred edifice, his perfidy to a solemn religious contract, and his disregard of his country's peace; and praying that no dispensation from his engagement be granted him, enabling him to marry another. The Amidei considered that though the wronged lady herself would be equally shackled if the prayer of this memorial should be granted, that was not of so much consequence as the prevention of Buondelmonte's desired marriage with Imma, for they judged that after Amidea's unfortunate attachment to Florestan and her ill-fated engagement with Buondelmonte, she would never again listen to overtures of matrimony. The memorial to the papal court was drawn up, and at one despatched.
Meanwhile the Guelphs who had assembled at the Palazzo Buondelmonti were not a little perplexed. They saw that the conduct of their chief had been very prejudicial to the party, would disgust all honourable men, and had given a great advan
and as certain of ruled this pros alliance. Bi
tage to the Ghibellines. All the moderate Guelphs condemned him ; some proposed conciliatory advances to the Amidei, and a renewed offer of Buondelmonte's alliance. But the powerful party of the Donati overruled this proposal as unnecessarily humiliating, and as certain of being rejected.
Buondelmonte himself also positively refused his consent to any such overture; for now that the difficult step of freeing himself from Amidea had been taken, he was all eagerness to obtain the hand, as he had already obtained the heart, of Imma.
At last the Guelphs decided on transmitting a memorial to the Pope, requesting a dispensation to absolve Buondelmonte from his contract with Amidea, and permission to marry Imma; alleging Amidea's own desire to annul her engagement, as expressed by her in the church of San Stefano before many witnesses, and pointing out the advantages accruing to the Guelphs by the union of their two most powerful families. The memorial was numerously signed, and sent to the sovereign Pontiff.
The Guelphs agreed among themselves that in the interim they would abstain from giving any additional cause of offence to the Ghibellines, and would keep aloof from them to avoid dissensions.
Florence now showed manifest signs of civil discord. The Ghibellines universally adopted party badges-banners with the Ghibelline device of the eagle flew on all their towers; eagles' feathers appeared in the caps of the inferior partisans, and the nobles wore their plumes in the left side of their caps. Palaces assumed the appearance of fortresses; persons of both factions thought it prudent to go armed; the populace loitered about in groups, talking politics; the opposite parties no longer exchanged greetings, and not unfrequently the meeting of Guelph and Ghibelline gave rise to sarcasms and reproaches.
Buondelmonte was held in such abhorrence by the Ghibellines, had become so unpopular with the lower orders, and had given so much offence even to the moderate Guelphs, that he could no longer appear in the streets without being exposed to insult; and he was obliged to defer his visits to the Palazzo Donati till night, and even then to leave his own dwelling and enter that of La Donati by a private postern, and to go and return by the less frequented ways.
None of the persons immediately concerned were as happy at the success of their wishes as they expected to have been: Buondelmonte was much annoyed at his own unpopularity, which his conscience whispered to him was not undeserved. Imma was greatly grieved at the evils to which her lover was exposed for her sake; she felt shame and remorse when she thought of Amidea, and she experienced some internal fears of future retribution, which she could not conceal from her mother and her lover. The Widow was disconcerted at the general displeasure which the success of her scheme occasioned. She was not without misgivings as to the ultimate consequences of an affair censured even by the reasonable part of the Guelphs; for she had not anticipated the disapprobation of any of that faction. And both the Donati and the Buondelmonti families found themselves obliged to disburse considerable sums of money to forward their suit at Rome.
When we contemplate any circumstance at a distance, we see only its general outline; it is not till it becomes actually present that we are aware of its contingencies and consequences ; as when we see a man at some distance we can but perceive his general contour and the colour of his clothes. It is only when he is close to us that we see the character of his features and the minutiæ of his dress.
Mosca Lamberti, alone in his Palazzo, had summoned to his presence his half-brother, Piero, and they sat in conversation on the recent events.
“ That scheming old Widow," said Mosca ; " I saw she had something in petto, but I own I did not guess it was to marry her daughter to a man already half married ; and desiring me to renew my proposals a month after the marriage of Buondelmonte and Amidea ! and she laughing secretly all the while. That is an affront I will never forgive. Look to your son-in-law, Madonna Donati; the knot you intend him to tie may never be tied, or may be cut by a Ghibelline blade.”
Piero, who had often been vexed by Mosca's sarcasms, now enjoyed his annoyance.
" Why, Mosca, your star is on the decline-outwitted by a woman ! where is your rich Guelph wife? when do you enter on the government of Florence? when am I to salute you Duke? Alas! now that you have begun to fail you will continue to do so; one failure always ushers in another—and why? Because when a man makes a failure he loses his self-confidence, and that is the chief ingredient of all the success. He is like a horse balked at a leap, he cannot address himself to it cleverly again. Ha, ha, ha!"
“ Diovolo che te porti !" ejaculated Mosca : “Buondelmonte shall never marry Imma.”
“And who is to prevent it?” said Piero, sneeringly.
“My good brother," repeated Piero, “Hah, there is some service to be demanded of me; I am the 'good brother' when I am wanted, the ‘mongrel' when I am not. Well, what is it?”.
“ There is but one thing sure on earth, Piero, and that is death."
“Well?” said Piero, with curiosity. Mosca continued, “ It is the only certain way of preventing
Buondelmonte from taking my intended bride; the only certain revenge on the wily Widow. Piero, he must die !"
There was a silence: at length Piero answered in a low voice“Not by my hand."
“Most scrupulous man,” said Mosca, disdainfully, “thy hand has ever been very immaculate.”
“It has never been stained with human blood,” replied Piero, quietly. “I mean to put a limit to my transgressions, and some day to repent of them; and I do not want to make the burden of my penance heavier than I need.”
"Your hand, my good fellow," replied Lamberti, “has been stained with sacrilege, and when you come to make your confession and repent, that will be held as heinous as murder; yes, and even more so by good churchmen. What! do I forget who robbed the church at Empoli of its silver candlesticks, and melted them into bars to pay a gambling debt? And do you forget that when my faithful confidant runs restive I need not keep his secret any longer?"
Piero looked uneasy for a moment, then retorted— “And your hands, Messer Lamberti, have been free from sacrilegious transactions! Betray my secret, and I betray yours."
“ Fool,” laughed out Mosca, “I have good proofs of your peccadilloes, and I have taken care that you should have none of mine. Who will believe the unsupported tale of an obscure man against a noble ? Tush, man! all the Ghibellines would uphold me for party's sake, even if you had proofs; but you know you have none, and the only persons who could corroborate you are dead.”
Piero bit his lips and looked down, and Mosca continued
“ Piero, you are bound to me, even as a man who has sold his soul to the devil. You must obey me; your dagger must forbid the marriage between Buondelmonte and Imma."
" Why must I do it?" expostulated Piero. ". Your hand is, I fancy, better acquainted with the dagger than mine; it is a privilege of your nobility.”
“You upbraided me but now,” said Mosca, " that I had failed, and that other failures follow of course; I stand advised by your wisdom, and I transfer the enterprise to you, rather than risk it with myself, who, you say, am growing unlucky.”
“ Messer Mosca,” said Piero, “ you are an unbeliever; do not pretend to be superstitious. You only want to place me, instead of yourself, in the danger that would result from failure."
* Have I ever put you into a risk that I did not pay you well for? Did I not give you two bags of silver for the last adventire? But come, Piero, as you pretend to be growing conscientious, I will give you something better than money, even all my lands in