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beyond all interpretation or human speech. I led her back to her seat as the last glorious notes of Parepa’s voice rose triumphant over all earthly pain and sorrow.
And I thought that no queen ever went to her grave with a greater ceremony than this young daughter of poverty and toil, committed to the care of the angels.
That same night thousands listened to Parepa's matchless voice. Applause rose to the skies, and Parepa's own face was gloriously swept with emotion. I joined in the enthusiasm, but above the glitter and shimmering of jewels and dress, and the heavy odors of Easter flowers, the sea of smiling faces, and the murmur of voices, I could only behold by the dim light of a tenement window the singer's uplifted face, the wondering countenance of the poor on-lookers, and the mother's wide, startled, tearful eyes; I could only hear above the sleet on the roof and the storm outside Parepa's voice singing up to heaven: “Take, oh! take her to thy care!”
Those evening bells! those evening bells !
How many a tale their music tells.
Of youth, and home, and that sweet time
When last I heard their soothing chime.
Those joyous hours are passed away;
And many a heart that then was gay
Within the tomb now darkly dwells,
And hears no more those evening bells.
And so 'twill be when I am gone;
That tuneful peal will still ring on,
While other bards shall walk these dells,
And sing your praise, sweet evening bells.
So it is come! The doctor's glossy smile
Deceives me not. I saw him shake his head,
Whispering, and heard poor Giulia sob without,
As, slowly creeping, he went down the stair.
Were they afraid that I should be afraid?
I, who have died once and been laid in tomb?
They need not.
Little one, look not so pale.
I am not raving. Ah! you never heard
The story. Climb up there upon the bed:
Sit close and listen. After this one day
I shall not tell you stories any more.
How old are you, my rose? What! almost twelve?
Almost a woman! scarcely more than that
Was your fair mother when she bore her bud;
And scarcely more was I when, long years since,
I left my father's house, a bride in May.
You know the house, beside St. Andrea's church,
Gloomy and rich, which stands and seems to frown
On the Mercato, humming at its base.
That was my play-place ever as a child;
And with me used to play a kinsman's son,
Antonio Rondinelli. Ah, dear days!
Two happy things we were, with none to chide,
Or hint that life was anything but play.
Sudden the play-time ended. All at once
“You must wed,” they told me. “What is wed?”
I asked; but with the word I bent my brow,
Let them put on the garland, smiled to see
The glancing jewels tied about my neck;
And so, half-pleased, half-puzzled, was led forth
By my grave husband, older than my sire.
O the long years that followed! It would seem
That the sun never shone in all those years,
Or only with a sudden, troubled glint
Flashed on Antonio's curls, as he went by
Doffing his cap, with eyes of wistful love
Raised to my face - my conscious, woeful face.
Were we so much to blame? Our lives had twined
Together, none forbidding, for so long.
They let our childish fingers drop the seed,
Unhindered, which should ripen to tall grain;
They let the firm, small roots tangle and grow,
Then rent them, careless that it hurt the plant.
I loved Antonio, and he loved me.
Life was all shadow, but it was not sin !
I loved Antonio; but I kept me pure,
Not for my husband's sake, but for the sake
Of him, my first-born child, my little child,
Mine for a few short weeks, whose touch, whose look
Thrilled all my soul and thrills it to this day.
I loved: but, hear me swear, I kept me pure!
It was hard
To sit in darkness while the rest had light,
To move to discords when the rest had song,
To be so young and never to have lived.
I bore, as women bear, until one day
Soul said to flesh, "This I endure no more,"
And with the word uprose, tore clay apart,
And what was blank before grew blanker still.
It was a fever, so the leeches said.
I had been dead so long, I did not know
The difference or heed. Oil on my breast,
The garments of the grave about me wrapped,
They bore me forth and laid me in the tomb.
Open the curtain, child. Yes, it is night.
It was night then, when I awoke to feel
That deadly chill, and see by ghostly gleams
Of moonlight, creeping through the grated door,
The coffins of my fathers all about.
Strange, hollow clamors rang and echoed back,
As, struggling out of mind, I dropped and fell.
With frantic strength I beat upon the grate;
It yielded to my touch. Some careless hand
Had left the bolt half-slipped. My father swore
Afterward, with a curse, he would make sure
Next time. Next time! That hurts me even now!
Dead or alive I issued, scarce sure which,
And down the darkling street I wildly fled,
Led by a little, cold, and wandering moon,
Which seemed as lonely and as lost as I:
I had no aim, save to reach warmth and light
And human touch; but still my witless steps
Led to my husband's door, and there I stopped,
By instinct, knocked, and called.
A window oped. A voice - 'twas his demanded: “Who is there?” "Tis I, Ginevra.” Then I heard the tone Change into horror, and he prayed aloud And called upon the saints, the while I urged, “O, let me in, Francesco; let me in! I am so cold, so frightened, let me in!”
Then with a crash, the window was shut fast:
And, though I cried and beat upon the door
And wailed aloud, no other answer came.
Weeping, I turned away, and feebly strove
Down the hard distance toward my father's house.
“They will have pity and will let me in,"
I thought. “They loved me and will let me in."
Cowards! At the high window overhead
They stood and trembled, while I plead and prayed.
“I am your child, Ginevra. Let me in!
I am not dead. In
mercy, let me in!”
“The holy saints forbid !” declared my sire.
My mother sobbed and vowed whole pounds of wax
To St. Eustachio, would he but remove
This fearful presence from her door. Then sharp
Came click of lock, and a long tube was thrust
From out the window, and my brother cried,
"Spirit or devil, go! or else I fire!”
Where should I go? Back to the ghastly tomb
And the cold coffined ones! Up the long street,
Wringing my hands and sobbing low, I went.
My feet were bare and bleeding from the stones;
My hands were bleeding too; my hair hung loose
Over my shroud. So wild and strange a shape
Saw never Florence since.
At last I saw a flickering point of light
High overhead, in a dim window set.
I had lain down to die: but at the sight
I rose, crawled on, and with expiring strength
Knocked, sank again, and knew not even then
It was Antonio's door by which I lay.
A window opened, and a voice called out: