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■^J" » Mrs. HEIIST 1 





The Lake of Wine 

Adventures of the Comtb db la Mubtte 

At a Winter's Fire 

The Mysterious Singer 

Our Lady of Darkness 

From Door to Door 

Joan Brotherhood 

Love Like a Gipsy 


A Castle in Spain 

The Secret in the Hill 

The Extraordinary Confessions of Diana Please 




*. . . Some Jay of Italy, 
Whose mother was her painting, hath betrajred him/ 






, f ' * 

Pir$$ PubHtM in f^Oig 



ON a hot morning, in the year 1476 of poignant 
memory, there drew up before an osteria on the 
Milan road a fair cavalcade of travellers. These were 
Messer Carlo Lanti and his inamorata, together with a 
suite of tentmen, pages, falconers, bed-carriers, and other 
personnel of a migratory lord on his way from the cooling 
hills to the Indian summer of the plains. The chief of 
the little party, halting in advance of his fellows, lifted 
his plumed scarlet biretta with one strong young hand, 
and with the other, his reins hanging loose, ran a cluster 
of swarthy fingers through his black hair. 

' O little host ! ' he boomed, blaspheming — for all good 
Catholics, conscious of their exclusive caste, swore by 
God prescriptively — 'O little host, by the thirst of Christ's 
passion, wine ! ' 

*He will bring you hyssop— by the token, he will,' 
murmured the lady, who sat her white palfrey languidly 
beside him. She was a slumberous, ivory-faced creature, 
warm and insolent and lazy ; and the little bells of her 
bridle tinkled sleepily, as her horse pawed, gently rock- 
ing her. 

The cavalier grunted ferociously. * Let me see him ! ' 
and, bonneting himself again, sat with right arm akimbo. 


tt i 

■# «• Mrs. HENRY ORA.r'u.t. 





' "■;• / 



of our most illustrious lord, the Duke Galeazzo him- 

Lanti guffawed. 

' Thou talkest treason, dog. What is to rebuke there ? ' 

* What indeed, Magnificent ? Set a saint, / say, to 
catch a saint.' 

The other laughed louder. 

* The right sort of saint for that, I trow, from Giuseppe's 

'Nay, good my lord, the Lord Abbot himself is no 
less a saint.' 

' What ! ' roared Lanti, ' saints all around ! This is 
the right hagiolatry, where I need never despair of a 
niche for myself. I too am the son of my father, dear 
Messer Ciacco, as this Farablist is, I '11 protest, of your 
Abbot, whose piety is an old story. What ! you don't 
recognise a family likeness ? ' 

The landlord abased himself between deference and 

* It is not for me to say. Magnificent. I am no expert 
to prove the common authorship of this picture and the 

He lowered his eyes with a demure leer. Honest 
Lanti, bending to rally him, chuckled loudly, and then, 
rising, brought his whip with a boisterous smack across 
his shoulders. The landlord jumped and winced. 

' Spoken like a discreet son of the Church ! ' cried the 

He breathed out his chest, drained his glass, still 
laughing into it, and, handing it down, settled himself in 
his saddle. 

* And so,' he said, * this saintly whelp of a saint is on 
his way to rebuke the lord of Sforza ? ' 

' With deference, my lord, like a younger Nathan. So 
he hath been miscalled — I speak nothing from myself. 



The young man hath lived all his days among visions 
and voices ; and at the last, it seems, they Ve spelled him 
out Galeazzo— -though what the devil the need is there ? 
as your Magnificence says. But perhaps they made a 
mistake in the spelling. The blessed Fathers themselves 
teach us that the best holiness lacks education.' 

Madonna laughed out a little. ' This is a very good 
fool ! ' she murmured, and yawned. 

' I don't know about that,' said Lanti, answering the 
landlord, and wagging his sage head. ' I 'm not the 
most pious of men myself. But tell us, sirrah, how 
travels his innocence ? ' 

* On foot, my lord, like a prophet's.' 

* 'Twill the sooner lie prone.' He turned to my lady* 
'Wouldst like to add him to Cicada and thy monkey, 
and carry him along with us ? ' 

' Nay,' she said pettishly, ' I have enough of monstrosi- 
ties. Will you keep me in the sun all day ? ' 

'Well,' said Lanti, gathering his reins, 'it puzzles me 
only how the Abbot could part thus with his discretion.' 

' Nay, Illustrious,' answered the landlord, ' he was in a 
grievous pet, 'tis stated. But, there ! prophecy will no 
more be denied than love. A' must out or kill. And 
so he had to let Messer Bembo go his gaits with a letter 
only to this monastery and that, in providence of a 
sanctuary, and one even, 'tis whispered, to the good 
Duchess Bona herself. But here, by the token, he 

He bowed deferentially, backing apart. Messer Lanti 
stared, and gave a profound whistle. 

' O, indeed ! ' he muttered, showing his strong teeth, 
' this Giuseppe propagates the faith very prettily ! ' 

Madam Beatrice was staring too. She expressed no 
further impatience to be gone for the moment. A young 
man, followed by some kitchen company adoring and 


obsequious, had come out by the door, and stood regard- 
ing her quietly. She had expected some apparition of 
austerity, some lean, neurotic friar, wasting between 
dogmatism and sensuality. And instead she saw an 
angel of the breed that wrestled with Jacob. 

He was so much a child in appearance, with such an 
aspect of wonder and prettiness, that the first motion of 
her heart towards him was like the leap of motherhood. 
Then she laughed, with a little dye come to her cheek, 
and eyed him over the screen of feathers she held in her 

He advanced into the sunlight. 

' Greeting, sweet Madonna,' he said, in his grave young 
voice, * and fair as your face be your way ! ' and he was 
offering to pass her. 

She could only stare, the bold jade, at a loss for an 
answer. The soft umber eyes of the youth looked into 
hers. They were round and velvety as a rabbit's, with 
high, clean-pencilled brows over. His nose was short 
and pretty broad at the bridge, and his mouth was a 
little mouth, pouting as a child's, something combative, 
and with lips like tinted wax. Like a girl's his jaw was 
round and beardless, and his hair a golden fleece, cut 
square at the neck, and its ends brittle as if they had 
been singed in fire. His doublet and hose were of 
palest pink ; his bonnet, shoes, and mantlet of cypress- 
green velvet. Rose-coloured ribbons, knotted into silver 
buckles, adorned his feet ; and over his shoulder, pendent 
from a strand of the same hue, was slung a fair lute. 
He could not have passed, by his looks, his sixteenth 

Lanti pushed rudely forward. 

'A moment, saint troubadour, a moment!' he cried. 
' It will please us, hearing of your mission, to have a taste 
of your quality.' 


The youth, looking at him a little, swung his lute 
forward and smiled. 

* What would you have, gracious sir 7 ' he said. 

' What 7 Why, prophesy us our case in parable.' 

' I know not your name nor calling/ 

' A pretty prophet, forsooth* But I will enlighten thee. 
I am Carlo Lanti, gentleman of the Duke, and this fair 
lady the wife of him we call the Count of Casa Caprona.' 

The boy frowned a little, then nodded and touched 
the strings. And all in a moment he was improvising 
the strangest ditty, a sort of cantefable between prose 
and song : — 

' A lord of little else possessed a jewel, 
Of his small state incomparably the crown. 
But he, going on a journey once, 
To his wife committed it, saying, 
''This trust with you I pledge till my return ; 
See, by your love, that I redeem my trust." 
But she, when he was gone, thinking '' he will not know," 
Procured its exact fellow in green glass, 
And sold her lord's gem to one who bid her fair ; 
Then, conscience-haunted, wasted all those gains 
Secretly, without enjoyment, lest he should hear and wonder. 
But he returning, she gave him the bauble. 
And, deceived, he conmiended her ; and, shortly after, dying, 
Left her that precious jewel for all dower, 
Bequeathing elsewhere the residue of his estate. 
Now, was not this lady very well served. 
Inheriting the whole value, as she had appraised it, 
Of her lord's dearest possession ? 
Gentles, Dishonour is a poor estate.' 

Half-chaunting, half-talking, to an accompaniment of 
soft-touched chords, he ended with a little shrug of 
abandonment, and dropped the lute from his fingers. 
His voice had been small and low, but pure ; the sweet 
thrum of the strings had lifted it to rhapsody. Messer 
Lanti scratched his head. 


' Well, if that is a parable I ' he puzzled. * But suppos- 
ing it aims at our case, why — Casa Caprona is neither 
poor nor dead ; and as to a jewel ' 

He looked at Madam Beatrice, who was frowning and 
biting her lip. 

'Why heed the peevish stuff?' she said. 'Will you 
come ? I am sick to be moving.' 

Carlo was suddenly illuminated. 

*0, to be sure, of course!' he ejaculated — 'the 
jewel ' 

* Hold your tongue ! ' cried the lady sharply. 

The honest blockhead went into a roar of laughter. 

'He has touched thee, he has touched thee! And 
these are his means to convert the Duke! By Saint 
Ambrose, 'twill be a game to watch ! I swear he shall 
go with us.* 

' Not with my consent,' cried madam. 

Carlo, chuckling tormentingly, looked at her, then 
doffed his cap mockingly to the boy. 

* Sweet Messer Bembo,' he said, * I take your lesson 
much to heart, and pray you gratefully — as we are both 
for Milan, I understand — to give us the honour of your 
company thither. I am in good standing with the Duke, 
I say, and you would lose nothing by having a friend 
at court. Those half-boots' — he glanced at the pretty 
pumps — ' could as ill afford the penalties of the road as 
your innocence its dangers.' 

* I have no more fear than my divine Master,' said the 
boy boldly, * in carrying His gospel of love.' 

* Well for you,' said Carlo, with a grin of approval for 
his spirit ; ' but a gospel that goes in silken doublet and 
lovelocks is like to be struck dumb before it is uttered.' 

* As to my condition, sir,' said the boy, * I dress as for a 
feast, our Master having prepared the board. Are we 
not redeemed and invited? We walk in joy since the 


Resurrection, and Limbo is emptied of its gloom. The 
kingdom of man shall be love, and the government 
thereof. Preach heresy in rags. Twas the Lord Abbot 
equipped me thus, my own stout heart prevailing. 
" Well, they will encounter an angel walking by the 
road," quoth he, ** and, if they doubt, show 'em thy white 
shoulder- knobs, little Bernardino, and they will see the 
wings sprouting underneath like the teeth in a baby's 
gums." ' 

He was evidently, if sage or lunatic, an amazing child. 
The rough libertine was quite captivated by him. 

' Well, you will come with us, Bernardino 7 ' said he ; 
' for with a cracked skull it might go hard with you to 
prove your shoulder-blades.' 

' I will come, lord, to reap the harvest where I have 
sowed the grain.' 

He looked with a serene severity at the countess. 

' Shalt take thee pillion, Beatrice,' shouted Lanti. * Up, 
pretty troubadour, and recount her more parables by the 

' May I die but he shall not,' cried the girl. 

' He shall, I say.' 

' I will bite, and rake him with my nails.' 

* The more fool you, to spoil a saint ! Reproofs come 
not often in such a guise as this. Up, Bernardino, and 
parable her into submission ! ' 

She made a show of resisting, in the midst of which 
Bembo won to his place deftly on the fore-saddle. At 
the moment of his success, the fool Cicada sprang from 
the tavern door, and, lurching with wild, glazed eyes, 
leapt, hooting, upon the crupper of the beast, almost 
bringing it upon its haunches. With an oath Lanti 
brought down his whip with such fury that the fool rolled 
in the dust. 

'Drunken dog!' he roared, and would have ridden 


over the writhing body, had not Bembo backed the white 
palfrey to prevent him. 

•Thou strik'st the livery, not the man!' he cried. 
* Hast never thyself been drunk, and without the excuse 
of this poor fool to make a trade of folly ? ' 

Messer Lanti glared, then in a moment laughed. The 
battered grasshopper took advantage of the diversion to 
rise and slink to the rear. The next moment the whole 
cavalcade was in motion. 


THEY travelled on till sundown through the green 
plains ; and, for one good hour dating from their 
start, not a word would Madam Beatrice utter. Then 
she gave out — Messer Carlo being a distance in advance 
— but with ho grace at all. 

'You are an ill horseman, Saint. I am near jogged 
from my seat.' 

* Put thine arms about me.' 

* Nay, I am not holy enough.' 

She was silent again, for five minutes. 

* Your lute bangs my nose.' 

He shifted it. She held her peace during two minutes. 

* Who taught you to play it, Saint ? ' 

'It was one of the fathers. What would it profit you 
to know which ? ' 

' Nothing at all. I trow he was a good master to that 
and your gospel.' 

* My gospel ? ' 

* Ay, of love. He has made you worldly-wise for a 
saint. Hast ever before been beyond thy walls? * 

* Of course.' 

' And studied this and that? Experience, methinks,is 
the right nurse for such a creed. What made you accuse 
me of dishonour?' 

* I did not' 

' Nay, is that to be a saint ? ' 



' Whom the shoe fits, let her wear it.' 

* Bernardo ! Where got you the shoe f ' 
' Does it fit, I say ? • 

' I fear me 'twas in some bagnio.' 

* Where you had dropped it ? For shame I ' 
A rather long pause. 

*I will not be angry — ^just yet. Where got you the 
shoe, I say? An eavesdropper is well equipped for a 

' I am no eavesdropper.' 

* Who enlightened you ? ' 

* Your cicisbeo.' 

* Under that title ? ' 

' Nay ; it is not the devil's policy to call himself devil.' 
A shorter pause. 

* But you had heard of me ? ' 

'Nothing escapes the Church's hearing. Besides, 
Messer Lanti's summer lodge is within call, one may say, 
of San Zeno.' 

' You are daring. Dost know in what high favour he 
stands with the Duke ? ' 

' Else how could he have compassed Uriah's dismissal 
to the wars ? ' 

Silence, and then a sigh. 

* Whom do you mean by Uriah ? ' 

* Thy lord, the Count of Casa Caprona.' 
' He is a soldier, and an old man.' 

' Didst covenant with his age in thy marriage vows ? ' 

* Bernardino, I am very sleepy.' 

* Sleep, then, and forget thyself, and awake, another.' 
She sighed, and put her arms softly about him and her 

cheek against his shoulder. Messer Lanti, falling back, 
saw her thus, with closed eyes ; and laughed, and then 
frowned, and cried boisterously — 

' Hast converted her, Parablist ? Art a saint indeed ? ' 


He spurred forward again, with a discontented look, 
and madam opened her eyes. 

' What gossips are thine old monks, Bernardino ; and 
what hypocrites, denouncing the licence they example ! ' 

' I know not what you mean.' 

* Are they all saints, then, in San Zeno ? ' 

' That is for Rome to say. It is a good law which lays 
down this wine of sanctity to mature. In a hundred 
years we shall know what stood the test.' 

' Ah me ! And I am but seventeen. Will you speak 
for your Abbot ? ' 

' Ay, like a dear son.' 

' Is he your father, Bernardo ? ' 

' Is he not the father of us all ? ' 

' Maybe. But 'tis of Benjamin I ask. Now, he is a 
strange father, methinks, to bid his Benjamin, thus 
apparelled, on a wild goose chase.' 

' He could not discount the voices/ 

* What voices ? ' 

The boy lifted his face and eyes to the heavens, and 
lowered them again with no answer but a sigh of rapture. 

'So? And did the voices bid thee wear a velvet 
mantlet and roses to thy shoes?' whispered the girl, 
with a tiny chuckle. 

' They said, '^ Not in cockle shells, but a plume, goes 
the Pilgrim of Love," ' answered Bembo. ' As I am and 
have been, God finds me fitting in His sight.' 

' And the Father Abbot, I wot ? ' 

*Yes: "Since," says he, "Christ bequeathed His 
Kingdom to beauty." ' 

'And you have inherited it? I think I will be your 
subject, Bernardo.' 

' I hope so. Madonna.' 

He spoke perfectly gravely, and made her a little 
courtly gesture backwards. 


* Well; said she, ' had / been Father Abbot, I had 
put this pet of my fancy in a cage.' 

'You know not of what you speak,' he answered 
seriously. ' God works great ends with little instruments. 
The puny bee is yet the very fairy midwife of the forests. 
I should have broke my heart had he denied me/ 

* It would have saved others, alack I ' 

* What do you mean ? ' 

* Nothing at all. Will you sing me another parable, 
Bernardo ? ' 

' Ay, Madonna ; and on what subject ? The woman 
taken in adultery ? ' 

* If you like ; and whom Christ forgave.' 
^ And He said: ** Go^ and sin no more!' ' 
She began to weep softly. 

' It is shocking to be so abused for a little thing. I 
would you were back with your monks.' 
He sighed. 

* Ah ! ' she murmured, still weeping, ' that this bee 
had been content to remain a pander to his flowers ! To 
dup hell's door with a reed ! You know not to what you 
have engaged yourself, my poor boy.' 

* To Christ, His service of Love,' he said simply. 

* Go back, go back ! ' she cried in pain. * There are 
ten thousand sophisters to interpret that word according 
to their lusts. Convert Galeazzo? Convert the brim- 
stone lake from burning! Dost know the manner of 
man he is ? ' 

* Else why am I here ? ' 

' Ay, but his moods, his passions, his nameless, shame- 
less deeds? He hath no pity but for his desires; no 
mercy but through his caprices. To cross him is to taste 
the rack, the fire, the living burial. He is possessed. 
Some believe him Caligula reincarnate — an atavism of 
that dreadful stock. And dost think to quench that 


furnace with a parable ? Unless, indeed — Go back, little 
Bembo, and waste thy passion for reform on thy monks.' 

' Madonna/ he said, * I obey the voices. I shall not 
be let to perish, since Christ died to save His world to 

It was the early rapture of the renaissance* pene- 
trating like an April song into these newly reclaimed 
lands. The wind blew from Florence, and all the 
peaceful vales, so long trodden into a bloody mire, 
were awakening to the ecstasy of the Promise. That 
men interpreted according to their lights — lights burning 
fast and passionate in most places, but in a few quiet 
and holy. The breed of German bandits, of foreign 
mercenaries, was swept away. Gone was the whole 
warring race of the Visconti, and in its place the 
peasant Sforza had set a guard about the land of his 
fierce adoption, that he might till and graft and prosper 
in peace. Italy had asserted itself the inheritance of its 
children, the Court of God's Vicegerent, the chosen land 
of Love's gospel. That, too, men interpreted according 
to their lights. ' We are all the vineyard of Rome,' said 
the little Parablist Alas! he thought Rome the Holy 
of Holies, and his father a saint. But his father, who 
adored him, had committed him, with bis blessing, to 
this mad romance! Such were the paradoxes of the 
Gospel of Love. 

Beatrice spoke no more, and they rode on in silence. 
About evening they came into a pleasant dell, where 
there was a level sward among rocks ; and a little stream, 
running down a stairway of stones, dropped laughing, 
like a child going to bed, into the quiet of a rushy pool. 
Great chestnuts clothed the slopes, and made a mantle, 
powdered with stars, to the setting sun. It was a very 
nest for love. 

Messer Lanti, halting, commanded the green tents to 



be pitched on the grass. Then, with a stormy scowl 
and a mockery of courtesy, he came to dismount his 

* Now/ says he, as he got her aside, 'if I do not show 
thy saint to be a petticoat, my hug of thee is like to 
prove a bear's.' 

' What ! ' she said, amazed : * Bernardo ? ' 

He ground his teeth. 

' I do not mark his pink cheeks for nothing.' 

* Well, an he be,' she retorted coldly, * I am liker, than 
if he be not, to lose my gallant.' 

* That depends,' he growled, ' upon whom your fickle- 
ship honours with that title '; and he strode away, calling 
roughly to Bembo, *Art for a bath, saint, before 

'Why, gladly. Carlo,' said the boy, *so we may be 

They went down to the pool together, and stripped 
and entered. Lanti saw a Ganymede, and was not 
pleased thereat. He came to supper in a very bad 
humour, which no innocent artifice of his guest could 
allay. The kill that day of their falcons — partridges, 
served in their own feathers, and stuffed with artichokes 
and truffles — was tough; the pears and peaches were 
sour ; the confetti savourless and of stale design. He 
rated his cook, cursed his servitors, and drank more than 
he ate. When the disagreeable meal was ended, he 
strode ruffling away, saying he desired his own sole 
company, which it were well that all should respect. 
Bembo saw him go, with a sigh and a smile. 

' Good, honest soul,' quoth he, ' that already wakes to 
the reckoning ! ' 

Madam misunderstood him, and pressed a little closer, 
with a happy echo of his sigh. Her eyes were soft 
with wine and passion. She had no precedent for 


doubting her influence on the moment she chose to 
make her own. 

'The reckoning!' she murmured. 'But I am wax 
in thy hands, pretty saint Shalt confess me, and take 
what toll thou wilt of my sins ? ' 

Her hand settled light as a bird on his. 

'Sing to me, Bernardino/ she whispered wooingly, 
' sith the cloud is gone from our moon, and I am in the 
will to love.' 

He shot one little startled glance her way; then 
slowly slung round his lute, and, touching the strings 
pensively, melted into the following reproach : — 

' Speak low ! What do you ask, false love ? Speak low 1 

Sin cannot speak too low. 
The night-wind stealing to thy bosom, 
The dead star, dropping like a blossom, 
Less voiceless be than thou I 

Low, lower yet, false love, if to confess 

What guilt, what shameful need ? 

God, who can hear the budding grass, 

And flake kiss flake in the snowy pass. 
Your secret else will heed. 

Ah t thou art silent, not from love, but fear. 

And true love knows no fear. 
Creeping, soft-footed, in the dust. 
It is not love, but conscious lust. 

Which dreads that God shall hear.' 

He rose swiftly beside her, while she sat, dumbly 
biting a lock of her own hair. The frown of outraged 
passion was in her eyes. What had the fool dared in 
rejecting her ! 

To touch the perfumed essence of sin with a rebuke 
which was like a caress — that, pace his monks, was 
Bernardo's rendering of the Gospel ; and who shall say 


that, in its girlish tenderness, its earnest emotionalism, 
it was not the most dangerous method of all? Not 
every adulterous woman is fit to meet the gentle fate of 
Christ's. It is not always well to doctor too much kind- 
ness with more. Surfeit, surely, is not safely cured, 
unless by a God, with sugar-plums. 

'For shame!' he said quietly; 'for shame! Christ 
weeps for thee ! ' 

She looked up with a frozen, insolent smile. 

* Yet there is no tear in all the night, prophet* 

He raised his hand. A star trailed down the sky, and 
disappeared behind the trees. It startled her for a 
moment, and in that moment he was gone, striding into 
the moonlight. She saw a sword gleam in the shadow 
of the tent. 

* Carlo ! ' she hissed ; * Carlo ! follow and kill him ! ' 
Messer Lanti came out of his ambush, sheathing his 

blade. His teeth grinned in the white glow. He 
sauntered up to her, and stood looking down, hand 
on hip. 

'Not for all the bona-robas in the world,' he said, 
and struck his hilt lightly. 'This I dedicate to his 
service from this day. Let who crosses my little saint 
beware it.' 

He burst out laughing, not fierce, but low. 

' Thou art well served in thy confessor, woman. Wert 
never dealt a fitter penance.' 

It was significant enough that he had no word but 
mockery for her discomfiture. He might have spitted 
the seduced on a point of gallantry ; for the siren, she 
was sacred through her calling. 

In the meanwhile Bernardo had left the green, had 
passed the low, roistering camp pitched at a respectful 
distance beyond, and had thrown himself upon his 
knees in the wide fields. 


'Sweet Jesus/ he prayed, 'O justify Thy Kingdom 
before Thy servant I Already my young footsteps are 
warned of the bitter pass to come. Be Thou with me 
in the rocky ways, lest I faint and slip before my 

He remained long minutes beseeching, while the 
moon, anchored in a little stream of clouds, seemed to 
his excited imagination the very boat which awaited 
the coming of One who should walk the waters. He 
stretched out his arms to it. 

* Lord save me,' he cried, * or I sink ! ' 

He heard a snuffle at his back, and looked round and 
up to find the fool Cicada regarding him glassily. 

' Sink ! ' stuttered the creature, swaying where he 
stood. 'Lord save me too! I am under already — 
drowned in Malmsey I ' 

Bembo rose to his feet with a happy sigh. ' Exultate 
Deo adjutori nostro !* he murmured, ' I am answered.' 

His clear, serene young brow confronted the fuddled 
wrinkles of the other's like an angel's. 

'Cicada mio,' he said endearingly; 'judge if God is 
dull of hearing, when, on the echo of my cry, here is one 
holding out his hand to me I ' 

The Fool, staring stupidly, lifted his own lean right 
paw, and squinted to focus his gaze on it. 

' Meaning me ? — meaning this ? ' he said. 

Bembo nodded. 

' A return, with interest, on the little service I was able 
to render thee this morning. O, I am grateful, Cicada I ' 

The Fool, utterly bemused, squatted him down on the 
grass in a sudden inspiration, and so brought his wits to 
anchor. Bernardo fell on his knees beside him. 

' What moved you to come and save me ? ' he said 
softly. ' What moved you ? ' 

Cicada, disciplined to seize the worst occasion with an 


epigram, made a desperate effort to concentrate his 
parts on the present one. 

'The wine in my head/ he mumbled, waggling that 
sage member. "Tis the wet-nurse to all valour. I 
walked but out of the furnace a furlong to cool myself, 
and lo ! I am a hero without knowing it.' 

He looked up dimly, his face working and twitching 
in the moonlight. 

' Recount, expound, and enucleate,' said he. * From 
what has the Fool saved the Parablist ? ' 

* From the deep waters,' said Bembo, * into which he 
had entered, magnifying his height' 

The Fool fell a-chuckling. 

* There was a hunter once,' said he, * that thought he 
would sound his horn to a hymn, and behold ! he was 
chasing the deer before he had fingered the first stops. 
Expound me the parable, Parablist. Thou preachest 
universal goodwill, they say ? ' 

' Ay, do I.' 

* Thou shalt be confuted with thine own text.* 
' How, dear Fool ? ' 

*Why, shall not every wife be kind to her friend's 
husband ? ' 

' Ay, if she would be unkind to her own.' 

The Fool scratched his head, his hood thrown back. 

'And so, in thy wisdom, thou step'st into a puddle, 
and lo ! it is over thy ears. Will you come out, good 
Signor Goodwill, and ride home in a baby's pannier ? ' 

Bembo caught one of the wrinkled hands in his soft 

'Dear Cicada,' he said, 'are there not tears in your 
heart the whiles you mock ? Do you not love me. Cicada, 
as one you have saved from death ? ' 

Some sort of emotion startled the harsh features of 
the Fool, 


* What better love could I show/ he muttered, * than 
to warn thee back from the toils that stretch for thy 
wings ? ' 

' Ah, to warn me, to warn me, Cicada ! ' cried the boy, 
' but not home to the nest. How shall he ever fly that 
fears to quit it ? Be rather like my mother. Cicada, and 
advise these my simple wings/ 

The Fool caught his breath in a sudden gasp — 

' Thy mother ! I ! ' 

A spasm of pain seemed to cross his face. He laughed 

* An Angel out of a Fool ! That were a worthy 
parent to hold divinity in leading-strings.' 

'Zitto, Cicca mio!' said Bembo sweetly, pressing a 
finger to his lips. ' Do I not know what wit goes to the 
acting of folly — what experience, what observation ? If 
thou wouldst lend these all to my help and aid ! ' 

' In what ? ' 

' In this propaganda to govern men by love.' 

* Thou playest, a child, with the cross-bow.' 

' I know it. I have been warned ; direct thou my hand.' 

' I ! ' exclaimed the Fool once more in a startled cry. 
And suddenly, wonder of wonders 1 he was grovelling at 
the other's knees, pawing them, weeping and moaning, 
hiding his face in the grass. 

' What saint is this ? ' he cried, * what saint that claims 
the Fool to his guide ? ' 

' Alas ! ' said the boy, ' no saint, but a child of the 
human God.' 

' And He mated with Folly,' cried Cicada, ' and Folly 
is to direct the bolt ! ' 

He sat up, beating his brow in an ecstasy, then all in a 
moment forbore, and was as calm as death. 

* So be it,' he said. * Be thou the divine fool, and I thy 


With a quick movement Bembo caught the Fool's 
cheeks between his palms. 

* Ay, mother/ said he, with a little choking laugh, * but 
see that thy hand on mine be steady, lest the quarrel fly 
wide or rebound upon ourselves.' 

It was the true mark indeed to which the cunning 
rascal had all this time been sighting his bow. He 
watched anxiously now for the tokens of a hit. 

The Fool sat very still awhile. 

* Speak clearer,' he muttered ; then of a sudden : * What 
wouldst ask of me ? ' 

'Ah! dear,' sighed Bembo; *only that thou wouldst 
justify thyself of this new compact of ours.' 

* I am clean — as thou readest love. Who but God 
would consort with Folly? The Fool is cursed to 

* Cicada, dear, but there is no Chastity without 

The Fool tore himself away, and slunk crouching back 
upon the grass. 

* I renounce thy God ! ' he chattered hoarsely, * that 
would have me false to my love, my mistress, my one 
friend ! Who has borne me through these passes, stood 
by me in pain and madness, dulled the bitter tooth of 
shame while it tore my entrails? Cure wantonness in 
women, gluttony in wolves, before you ask me to be 
dastard to my dear.' 

* Alas ! ' cried Bembo, ' then am I lost indeed ! ' 

A long pause followed, till in a moment the Fool had 
flung himself once more upon his face. 

' Lay not this thing on me,' he cried, clutching at the 
grass ; * lay it not ! It is to tear my last hope by the 
roots, to banish me from the kingdom of dreams, to bury 
me in the everlasting ice ! I will follow thee in all else, 
humbly and adoringly ; I will try to vindicate this love 



which has stooped from heaven to a clown ; I will perish 
in thy service — only waste not my paradise in the moment 
of its realisation.' 

Bembo stooped, kneeling, and laid one hand softly on 
his shoulder. 

' Poor Cicada/ he said, * poor Cicada ! Alas ! I am a 
child where I had hoped a man, and my head sinks 
beneath the waters. Tired am I, and fain to go rest my 
head in a lap that erst invited me. Return thou to thy 
bottle, as I to my love.' 

The Fool, trailing himself up on his knees, caught his 
hands in a wild, convulsive clutch. 

' Fiend or angel ! ' he cried, * thou shalt not ! — The 
woman ! — The skirts of the scarlet woman ! Go rest 
thyself — not there — but in peace. From this moment 
I abjure it-— dost hear, I abjure it ? I kill my love for 
love's sake. O! O!' 

And he fell writhing, like a wounded snake, on the 

^ Salve, sancta parens ! ' said Bembo, lifting up his hands 
fervently to the queen of night. The pious rogue was 
quite happy in his stratagem, since it had won him his 
first convert to cleanness. 


THE lady of Casa Caprona had flown her tassel- 
gentle and missed her quarry. Outwardly she 
seemed little disturbed by her failure — as insolent as 
indolent — an imperious serenity in a velvet frame. The 
occasion which had given, which was still giving, Carlo 
a tough thought or two to digest, she had already, on 
the morning following her discomfiture, assimilated, 
apparently without a pang. *The which doth demon- 
strate,' thought Cicada, as he took covert and venomous 
note of her, 'a signal point of diflference between the 
sexes. In self-indulgent wickedness there may be little 
to distinguish man from woman. In the reaction from 
it, there is this: The man is subject to qualms of 
conscience ; the woman is not. She may be disenchanted, 
surfeited, aggrieved against fate or circumstance ; she is 
not offended with herself. Remorse never yet spoiled 
her sleep, unless where she desired and doubted it 
on her account in another. What she hath done she 
hath done ; and what she hath failed to do slumbers for 
her among the unrealities — among things unborn — seeds 
in the womb of Romance, which, though she be the first 
subject for it, she understands as little as she does 
beauty. From the outset hath she been manoeuvring to 
confuse the Nature in man by using its distorted image 
in herself to lure him. Out upon her crimps and lacings! 

He would be dressing and thinking to-day like an 

S5— ^ 


Arcadian shepherd, an she had not warped his poor 
vision with her sorcery! She wears the vestments of 
ugliness, and its worship is her religion.' 

It must be admitted that he offered himself a cross 
illustration to his own text. The desperate concession 
wrung from him last night in a moment of vinous 
exaltation, had found his sober morning senses under a 
mountain of depression. He was bitterly aggrieved 
against fate ; yet the only quarrel he had with himself 
was for that mad vow of temperance, not for the vice 
which had exacted it of him. The tongue in his head 
was like a heater in an iron. Tantalus draughts lipped 
and bubbled against his palate. The parched soil of his 
heart, he felt, would never again blossom in little lonely 
oases — never again know the solace of dreams aloof from 
the world. His traffic being by no means with heaven, 
God, he supposed, had sent an angel to convert it. And 
he had succumbed through the angel's calling him — 
mother 1 

He struck his hollow breast with a wild laugh. He 
groaned over the memory of that emotional folly. He 
damned himself, his trade, his employer, his aching head — 
everything and every one, in short, but the author of his 
misery. Him he could not curse — not more than if that 
preposterous relationship between them had been real. 
Neither did he once dream of violating his word to him, 
since it had been given — absurd thought — to his child. 

He was none the less savage against circumstance — 
vicious, desperate, insolent with his master, as cross all 
over as a Good Friday bun. Messer Lanti, himself in a 
curiously sober mood, indulged his most acrid sallies 
with a good-humoured tolerance which, contemptuously 
oblivious as it was of any late smart of his own inflict- 
ing, was harder than the blow itself in its implication of 
a fault overlooked. 


'Rally, Ciccal' said he, as they were preparing to 
horse ; ' look'st as sour as a green crab. What ! If we 
are to ride with Folly, give us a fool's text for the 
journey, man.' 

Cicada dwelt a moment on his stirrup, looking round 

' And who to illustrate it, lord ? ' 

' Why, thy lord, if thou wilt,' said Carlo. ' He will be 
no curmudgeon in a bid for laughter.' 

The Fool gained his mule's saddle, and digging heels 
into the beast's flanks, drove forward. Lanti, with a 
whoop, spurred alongside of him. Cicada slowed to a 

* Hast overtaken Folly, master ? ' said he, with a leer. 
' I knew you would not be long.' 

Carlo scratched his head. The Fool turned and rode 
back ; so did the other. By the brook-side little Bembo 
was preparing to mount a steed with which he had been 
accommodated, since the lady had peremptorily declined 
to ride pillion to him again. Cicada referred to him with 
a gesture. 

* For us,' he '^said, * we are two fools in a leash, sith 
Sanctity, stopping where he was, is at the goal be- 
fore us.' 

Lanti grumbled : ' O, if this is a text 1 ' and beat his 

wits desperately. 

' A text, sirrah ! ' he roared, * a text for the journey.' 
' I will rhyme it you,' said the Fool imperturbably, 

pointing his bauble at Madam Beatrice, who at the 

moment stepped from the green tent : — 

' Nothing is gained to start apace, 
After another hath won the race. 

Shall you and I be jogging, master ? ' 

"""fcapti raised his whip furiously. Cicada, slipping from 

his mb^y dodged behind Bembo. 


* Save me ! ' he squealed, * save me I I am sound. It 
is folly to give a sound man a tonic' 

Carlo burst into a vexed laugh. 

* Well/ said he, ' go to. I think I am in a rare mood 
for charity,' 

The little party breakfasted on cups of clear water 
from the spring, and, in the fresh of the morning, folded 
its tents and started leisurely on the final stages of its 
journey. Madonna, lazy-lidded, sat her palfrey like a 
vine-goddess. Her bosom rose and fell in absolute 
tranquillity. She bestirred herself only, when Bembo 
rode near, to lavish ostentatious fondness on her Carlo, 
a regard which her Carlo repaid with a like ostentation 
of attention towards his little saint. It was an open 
conspiracy of souls, bared to one another, to justify 
their nakedness before heaven ; only the woman carried 
off her shame with an air. Bernardo she ignored 
loftily ; but her heart was busy, under all its calm ex- 
terior, with a poisonous point of vengeance. 

Presently, the sun striking hot, she dismounted and 
withdrew into her litter, a miniature long waggon, drawn 
on rude wheels by a yoke of sleepy oxen, and having 
an embroidered tilt opening to the side. A groom, 
walking there in attendance, led her palfrey by the 
bridle. Lanti and his guest, with the Fool for company, 
rode a distance ahead. The young nobleman was 
thoughtful and silent; yet it was obvious that he, with 
the others, felt the relief of that secession. Bernardo 
broke into a bright laugh, and rallied Cicada on his 

* Why should I be merry,' said the jester, with a sour 
face, 'when I was invited to a feast, and threatened 
with a cudgelling for attending ? ' 

Bernardo looked at him lovingly. He thought this 
was some allusion to his self-enforced abstinence. 


*Dear Cicca/ said he, *the feast was not worth the 

'O, was it notl' cried Cicada with a hoarse crow. 
* But I spoke of my lord's brains, which, by the token, 
are the right flap-doodle.' 

He put Bembo between himself and Lanti. 

'Judge between us,' he cried, * judge between us, 
Messer Parablist. He offered to serve himself up to 
me, and, when I had no more than opened my mouth, 
was already at my ribs.' 

Carlo, on the further side, laughed loud. 

* It is always the same here,' grumbled the Fool. 
' They will have our stings drawn like snakes' before they 
will sport with us. They love not in this Italy the joke 
which tells against themselves — of that a poor motley must 
ware. It muzzles him, muzzles him — drives the poison 
down and in ; and you wonder at the bile in my face 1 ' 

He fell back, having uttered his snarl, with politic 
suddenness, and posted to the rear of the litter. The 
moment he was away, Bembo turned upon his host with 
a kindling look of affection. 

* I am glad to have thee alone one moment,' said he. 
' O Carlo, dear ! the base bright metal so to seduce thine 
eyes. Are they not opened ? ' 

Now the tale of madam's discomfiture at her amoroso's 
hands the night before had not been long in reaching 
the boy's ears. She had not deigned, equally in con- 
fessing her predilections as her shame, to utter them out 
of the common hearing. Modesty in intrigue was a 
paradox; and, in any case, one could undress without 
emotion in the presence of one's dogs. 

So Cicada, putting two and two together, had gathered 
the whole story, and given this spiritual bantling of his 
a hint as to his wise policy thereon, scarce a sentence of 
which had he uttered before he was casting down his 


eyes and mumbling inarticulate under the piercing gaze 
of an honesty which would have been even less effective 
had it spoken. Then had he slunk away, blessing all 
beatitudes whose innocence entailed such responsibilities 
on their worshippers ; and, as a result, here was Master 
Truth taking his own course with the problem. 

Messer Lanti's eyes opened indeed to hear truth so 
fearless ; but he made an acrid face. 

* On my soul ! ' he muttered, glistening, and stopped, 
and his brow was shadowed a moment under a devil's 
wing. Then suddenly, with an oath, he clapped spurs to 
his horse, and galloped a furlong, and, circling, came back 
at a trot, and falling again alongside, put a quite gentle 
hand on the boy's bridle arm. 

* Dear, pretty Messer Truth,' said he, * I pray you, on 
my sincerity, turn your horse's head. Whither, think 
you, are you making ? ' 

' Why, for heaven, I hope. Carlo,' said the boy with a 

^ Milan is not the gate to it,' answered the rough voice, 
quite entreatingly. ' Go back, I advise you. You will 
break your heart on the stones. Why, look here : dost 
think I am so concerned to have this intrigue proved the 
common stuff of passion ? I care not the feather in thy 
cap, Bernardino. Nay, I am the better for it, sith it 
opens the way to a change. And so with ten thousand 
others. There is the measure of your task. Now, will 
you go back ? ' 

* No, by my faith ! ' 

Lanti growled, and grunted, and smacked his thigh. 

^ Then I cannot help thee : and yet I will help thee. 
Saint Ambrose! To remodel the world to goodwill, 
statecraft and all, on the lisp of a red mouth 1 Wilt be 
the fashion for just a year and a day, shouldering us, 
every one, poor gallants, to the wall ? Why should I love 


thee for that ? and I love thee nevertheless. There thou 
goest in a silken doublet, to whip all hell with a lute- 
string; and I — I had shown less temerity horsed and 
armoured, and with a whole roaring crusade at my back.' 
Bembo smiled very kindly. 

* Christ's love was all His sword and buckler,' said he, 
VAnd He was crucified,' said Carlo grimly. 

' And died a virgin,' answered the boy, * that He might 
make for ever chaste Love His heir.' 

* Well,* grumbled Lanti, * there reigns an impostor these 
fourteen hundred years or so in His place, that 's all. I 
hope the right heir may prove his title, 'Tis a long 
tenure to dispossess. Methinks men have forgotten.' 

* Yes, they have forgotten,' said the boy ; and he began 
to sing so sweetly as he rode, that the other, after a grunt 
or two, sunk into a mere grudging rapture of listening. 

In the meantime, sombre and taciturn, the Fool rode 
in the rear. Before him hulked the great shoulders, 
stoppered with the little round head, of Narcisso, the 
groom who led Madonna's palfrey. Cicada, regarding 
this beauty, snarled out a laugh to himself. 'Sure 
never,' he thought, 'was parental fondness worse 
bestowed than in nicknaming such a satyr.' The 
creature's small, bony jaw, like a pike's, underhung, 
black-tufted, viciousness incarnate; his pursed, over- 
lapping brow, with the dirty specks of eyes set fixedly in 
the under-hollows — in all, the mean smallness of his 
features, contrasted with the slouching, fleshly bulk below, 
suggested one of those antediluvian monsters, whose 
huge bodies and little mouths and throttles give one a 
sense of disproportion that is almost like an indecency. 
Nevertheless, Narcisso was madam's chosen attendant at 
her curtain side, where occasionally Cicada would detect 
some movement, or the shadow of one, which convinced 
him that the two were in stealthy communication. 


Indeed, he had posted himself where he was, with no 
other purpose than to watch for such a sign. 

Once he saw the hem of the curtain lift ever so slightly, 
and Narcisso at the same instant respond, with a secret 
movement of his hand, towards the place. Something 
glittered momentarily, and was extinguished. Cicada 
stretched himself in his saddle, and began to whistle. 

Presently he pushed ahead once more and joined his 
master. Opening with some jest, he led him away, and 
they fell into an amble together. Afterwards it was 
apparent to some of Messer Lanti's following that, as 
the morning advanced, their lord's brow darkened from 
its early rude frankness, and began to exhibit certain 
tokens of a wakening devil with which they had plenty 
of reason to be familiar. Perhaps he wanted his dinner. 
Perhaps the near-approaching termination of his summer 
idyll — for they were long now in the great Lombardy 
plain, and the towers of Milan were growing, low and 
small, out of the horizon — was depressing him. Anyhow, 
his first condescension was all gone by noon, when they 
halted, a league short of the city, to rest and dine at the 
* Angel and Tower,' a prosperous inn of the suburbs set 
among mellowing vineyards. 

Of all the company Bernardo was perhaps the only 
one unconscious of the threatening atmosphere. Won- 
derful thoughts were kindling in him at the near prospect 
of this, the goal to all his hopes and ambitions. Milan ! 
It was Milan at last — the capital of his promised estate 
of love. Blue and small, swimming far away in the sun 
mists of the plains, he felt that he could clasp it all in his 
arms, and carry it to the foot of the Throne. His eyes 
brightened with clear tears : this salvage of the dark, 
dead ages reclaimed to God ! ^Dominef* he exclaimed 
in ecstasy, clasping his hands : ' Emttte lucent tuam et 
veritatem tuam I O Lord, touch mine eyes, that they 


may penetrate even where Thy light shineth like a glow- 
worm in deep mosses ! ' 

Carlo roughly shouted him to their meal. His heart 
was throbbing with an emotional rapture as he obeyed. 
The table was served in a trellised alley, under hanging 
stalactites of grapes. Beatrice flagged on a bench at the 
end of the board, her shoulders sunk into a bower all 
crushed of sunshine and green shadows. It was the 
vine-goddess come home, soft, sensual, making a lust of 
fatigue. Her lids were half-closed ; her teeth showed in 
a small, indolent smile ; light, reflected from the purple 
clusters, slept on the warm ivory of her skin. Bernardo, 
coming opposite her, stood transfixed before a vision of 
such utter animal loveliness. His breath seemed to 
mount quicker as he gazed. Carlo drummed on the 
board, where he sat hunched over it. Lx)oking from one 
to the other, he puffed out a little ironic laugh. 

'Wonderest what is passing there, boy?' said he. 
' Wilt never know. Not a hair would she turn though, 
like Althea, she were to find herself in child with a 

Bernardo lowered his eyes with a blush. 

* Nay,* said he, * my thoughts of Madonna were more 
tempered. I coveted only her beauty for heaven.' 

'Anon, Messer, anon!' cried the other banteringly: 
* be not so free with my property. I hold her yet about 
the waist, seest, with a silver fetter? If there be a prior 
claim to mine ' 

* Ay, Chastity's,' put in the boy. 
Lanti hooted. 

* Tempt her, if thou wilt, with such a suitor. She will 
follow him as she would the hangman. Wilt throw off 
thy belt, Beatrice ? I gave a thousand scudi for it. See 
what Chastity here will offer thee in its room.' 

*I will answer, if I may examine it,' said Bembo 


gravely. ' Will you tell her to unclasp it, Carlo, and let 
me look ? I see it is all hinged of antique coins. There 
was a Father at San Zeno collected such things/ 

* What, ladies' girdles I ' 

' Now, Carlo 1 you know I mean the coins. Methinks 
I recognise a text in one of them.' 

Beatrice shrugged her shoulders, with a little yawn 
expressive of intolerable boredom. 

* Well,' quoth Lanti Impatiently, * let him see it, you ; 
and he shall parable us for grace to meat, while these 
laggard dogs ' — he looked over his shoulder, growling for 
his dinner. 

Beatrice unclasped the cincture without a word, and 
flung it indifferently across the table. She had lain as 
impassive throughout her own discussing by the others 
as a slave being negotiated in a market. Not a tremor 
of her eyelids had acknowledged either her lord's rude- 
ness or Bembo's provisional compliment 

The boy took up the belt and examined it. He was 
conscious of a sweet perfume that had come into his 
hands with the trinket His lips were parted a little, 
his cheeks flushed. Presently he put it down softly, and 
looked across at Beatrice. 

* It is what I thought,' said he — * the coin, I mean — a 
denarius of Tiberius, in the thirty-first year of Our Lord. 
Shall I tell you what it says to me. Madonna ? ' 

She did not take the trouble to answer. 

* Yes,' roared Carlo. 

Bembo slung his lute to the front, and began coaxing 

forth one of those odd, shy accompaniments of his, into 

which, a moment later, his voice melted : — 

' When Tiberius was Emperor, 
For thirty silver pieces bearing his image 
Did Judas betray his Lord ; 

Then, himself betrayed to blood-guilt, cast them ringing 
On the flags of the Temple, and maddened forth and died. 


But the Jew elders eyed askance 

The sleek, round coins, accurst and yet no whit 

Depreciated as currency, 

And ogling them and each other, were silent, till one spoke : 

" 111 come ; well sped. We need a place to bury the dead. 

Let the Potter take these, and in return 

Change us his field, o'er which we long have haggled. 

So shall this outlay bring us two-fold profit. 

Yet leave us conscience-clean before the Lord." 

Thus, gentles dear, was bought " The Field of Blood" ; 

And thus the wicked, damned price returned 

Into the veins of traffic, there to circulate 

And poison where it ran. 

One piece found Hope, and changed was for Despair ; 

And Charity one led to hoard for self; 

And one reached Faith, and Faith became a whore. 

But, most of all, what had betrayed Love sore. 

Sweet Love was used to betray for evermore.* 

His voice broke on a long-drawn wailing chord. A 
little silence succeeded. Then, like one spent, he took 
up the belt and offered it to Beatrice. 

' O Madonna ! ' he said, ' it is a denarius of the Caesar 
that betrayed Love. Take back thy wages.' 

She dragged down a spray of vine-leaves, and fanned 
herself furiously with it, making no other response. 

' So ! I am Judas ! ' cried Carlo ; and began to bite his 
moustache, mouthing and glowering. 

'Love!' he sputtered, Move! Is there no love in 
nature? You talk of the human God, you ' 

Beatrice broke in scornfully : — 

' It is the world-wisdom of the monastery. He shall 
sing you love only by the Litany. His queen shall be a 
virgin immaculate, and her bosom a shrine for the white 
lambs of chastity to fold in. A fine proselyte for pas- 
sion's understanding ! I would not be so converted for 
all Palestine.' 

r— la^T 


Carlo laughed, with some fierce recovery to good* 

'Hearest her, Bernardo? Thou shalt not prevail 
there, unless by convincing that thou speak'st from 

Bembo had sunk down upon the bench, where, resting 
languidly, he still fingered the strings of his lute. Now 
suddenly, steadfastly, he looked across at the girl, and 
began to sing again : — 

' Love kept me an hour 
From aU hours that pass ; 
In her breast, like a flower. 
She stored it, sweet, fragrant, 
Of all time the vagrant, 

Alas, and alas ! 

Of all time the flower. 
Of all hours that pass, 
For me was that hour. 
When I cared claim it. 
And kiss it and shame it, 

Alas, and alas ! 

I dared not, sweet hour — 
I let thee go pass ; 
And heaven is my dower. 
My crown is stars seven : 
I am a saint in heaven, 

Alas, and alas ! ' 

He never took his eyes, while he sang, off the wonder- 
ing face opposite him. It was strangely transformed by 
the end — flesh startled out of ivory — the face of a 
wakened Galatea. Narcisso coming at the moment to 
place the first dishes of the meal before the company, she 
sat up, her hands to her bosom, with a quick, agitated 


'It is well/ she said. 'I am thy convert, saint in 
heaven ! ' She lifted the dish before her, and held it out 
with a nervous smile. ' Let us exchange pledges, by the 
token. Give me thy meat, and take mine.' 

Carlo, watching and listening, knitted his brow in a 
sudden frown, and his hand stole down to his belt. 

* Give me thy dish,' said Beatrice, almost with 

Bernardo laughed. With the finish of his madrigal he 
had pushed his lute, in a hurry of pink shame, to his 

*Nay, Madonna,' he protested. 'Like the simplest 
doctor, I but spoke my qualifications. Feeling is half- 
way to curing, and the best recommended physician is 
he who hath practised on himself. I ask no reward but 
thy forbearance.' 

' Give it me,' she still said. She was on her feet. She 
kissed the rim of the dish. * Wilt thou refuse now ? 
Bid him to, Carlo.' 

* Not I,' said Lanti. ' Hath not, no more than myself, 
been whipped into the classics for nothing ? Quod all 
cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum. We know what that 
means, he and I.' 

She seemed to turn very pale. 

*Nay,' said Bernardo, jumping up, *if Madonna con- 
descends?' and the exchange was made, and the men 
fell to. 

In a moment or two Lanti looked up. 

* What ails thee, Beatrice? ' 

* I am not hungry.' 

The word had scarcely left her lips before, leaping to 
his feet, and sprawling across the table, he had snatched 
the untasted dish from under her hands, turned, and 
dashed it with its contents full in the face of Narcisso, 
who waited, with others, behind. Fouled, bleeding. 


half-stunned, the man crashed down in a heap, and in 
the same instant his master was upon him, poniard in 

' Confess, wretch, before I kill thee ! ' he roared. * It 
was meant for my guest I Thou wouldst have poisoned 

'Mercy!' shrieked the creature, through his filthy 
mask. * O lord, mercy ! ' 

The girl, risen in her place, stood panting as if she had 
been running. She had voice no more than to gasp 
across, ' Bernardo ! For the love of God ! Bernardo ! ' 
and that was all. 

* No mercy, beast ! * thundered Carlo. • Down with thee 
to hell unshriven 1 ' 

His strenuous lifted arm was caught in a baby grasp. 

' Carlo I forbear I The right is mine ! Give me the 
knife ! Nay, I am the stronger I ' 

With the blood-lust halted in him for one moment, the 
powerful creature turned upon his puny assailant with a 
roar : — 

* The stronger ! Thou ! ' 

Nevertheless he rose, though he held the reptile 
crushed under his foot, while the company, landlord and 
all, stood huddled aghast. His breast was heaving like 
the pulse of a volcano. 

* The knife ! ' he gurgled hoarsely ; * well, the right is 
thine, as thou sayest. Take it — under with thee, dog ! — 
and drive in.' 

Bembo seized and flung the dagger into the thick of 
the vines ; then threw himself on his knees, and, with all 
his strength, tore the heavy foot from its victim. 

^Narcisso,' he said, Ms it true? wouldst have slain 
Love I Ah, fool, not to know that Love is immortal I ' 

* Now, Christ in heaven,' roared Carlo, • if that shall 
save him ! ' 


Bernardo rose, and sprang, and cast himself upon his 
breast, writhing his limbs about him. 

' Fly ! ' he shrieked, ' fly ! while I hold him ! ' Then to 
Lanti: *Ah, dear, do not hurt me, who owe thee so 
much ! ' 

The fallen scoundrel was quick to the opportunity. 
He rose and fled, bloody and bemired, from the arbour. 
Madonna, seeing him escape, sunk, with a fainting sigh, 
upon her bench. 

Carlo mouthed after his vanishing prey; yet he was 
tender with his burden. 

* Love ! ' he groaned : * Thou ow'st me ? Not this — so 
damned to folly ! There, let go. He was but the tool — 
and, for the rest ' 

He glowered round. 

' Hush ! ' said Bembo. ' It is but the fruits of her 
teaching. Blame not thy pupil, Carlo.' 
' My pupil ! ' 

* Is she Christ's — or art thou ? Love gives life. Carlo ; 
and all life is God's, since Christ redeemed it.' 

* What then ? ' 

* Why, is not thine honour thy life ? ' 
' I would die at least to prove it.' 

* Alas ! and thou hast dishonoured love, which is life, 
which is God's. Wouldst eat thy cake and have it, great 
schoolboy ? ' 

* Pish ! Art beyond me.' 

* Why, if love is life, and life is honour — ergo, love is 

* Is it ? I dare say.' 

' But thou must know it' 

' I know nothing but that thou hast balked my ven- 
geance ; and with that, and having exercised thy jaw, 
let us go back to dinner.' 

' Domine^ emitte tuam lucent ! ' sighed Bembo. 


Milan of his line, was very characteristically 
engaged in a very characteristic room of his resplendent 
castello of the Porta Giovia, which dominated the whole 
city from the north-east. This room, buried like a 
captivating lust in the heart of the Rocca, or inner 
citadel of the castello, swarmed with those deft pro- 
curers to the great, panders between Art and emotion, 
who are satisfied, by contributing, each his share, to the 
glorification of a sensual despotism, to partake a re- 
diffused flavour of its sum. They were poets, painters, 
and musicians, sculptors and learned doctors, and every 
one, despite his independent calling, a sycophant. Before 
the power, central and paramount, which alone in their 
particular orbit could amass within itself the total of 
their lesser lights, they prostrated themselves as before a 
God. It is so in all ages of man. He will contribute, of 
choice, to the prosperous charity ; he will lay his gifts at 
the opulent shrine. The worldling, says Shakespeare, 
makes his testament of more to much. ' Ah I i^est leplus 
grand rot du monde I ' once cried Madame de S^vign^ of 
Louis XIV., who had danced with her. * He is the finest 
gentleman I have ever seen ! ' cried Johnson enthusias- 
tically at a later date, after an interview with Farmer 
George ; and though — perhaps because — the stout old 
Colossus was as independent as reason itself, he spoke 


the general moral. Professors were here, too, who did 
not blush to proclaim the exalted scion of Condottieri, 
the blood-lusting monster, the infernal atavism of Caligula, 
for the first gentleman in Italy, or to prostitute their 
erudition in his service. 

It was Madonna Beatrice who had drawn that analogy, 
and there was plenty of justification for it ; as also, it 
must be said, plenty of more immediate precedent for 
the abominations of this Galeazzo. If, like the grand- 
matricidal Roman, he had poisoned his mother, the 
Visconti, his predecessors, with their atrocious blood- 
profanations and exaltations of bastardy, were responsible 
for the conditions which had made so dreadful an act 
conceivable. If, emulating Caligula's treatment of frail 
vestals, he had buried alive some too-accommodating 
virgin of the cloister, whom he had first debauched, he 
could quote the Visconti precedent of carnality indulged 
till it became a very ecstasy of fiend-possession. Between 
old Rome and modern Milan, indeed, there was little to 
prefer. Caligula used to throw spectators in the theatres 
to the beasts, having first torn out the tongues of his 
victims, lest his ears should be offended by their articulate 
appeals. Bernabo Visconti and his brother, with whom 
he shared the duchy, agreed upon an edict subjecting 
State criminals to a scale of tortures which was calculated 
to culminate in death in not less than forty days. Gio- 
vanni Maria and Filippo Maria, last of the accursed race, 
organised man-hunts in the streets of their capitals, and 
fed their hounds on human flesh. 

To starve his victims to death, and, when they com- 
plained (it was an age of practical jokes), to stuff their 
mouths with filth, was a pet sport with Galeazzo. Once, 
for a wretch who had killed a hare, a crime unpardonable, 
he procured a death of laughable, unspeakable torment 
by forcing him to devour the animal, bones and fur and all. 


It is enough. They were all madmen, in fact, moral 
abortions of that * breeding-in ' of demi-gods which sows 
the world with chimeras. It is not good for any man to 
be subject to no government but his own, and least of all 
when a vicious heredity has imposed a sickness on his 
reason. Blood affinities on the near side of incest, power 
unquestioned, unbridled self-indulgences — these are no 
progenitors of temperance and liberality. Amongst 
savages, generations of inter-manyings will but refine 
exquisitely on savagery; and the despots of this era 
were little more than the last expressions of a decadent 
barbarism. Galeazzo, and such as Galeazzo, were, it is 
true, to project the long shadows of their lusts and 
cruelties over the times forthcoming ; yet it is as certain 
that with him the limits of the worst were reached, and 
hereafter peoples and rulers were to grow to some com- 
mon accord of participation in the enlightenments of 
their ages. 

One might have fancied in him, in his apparent reach- 
ings to foreclose on such a state, to appropriate to himself 
not its moral but its material accessories, some uneasy 
premonition of the truth. He stood on the line of 
partition, his sympathies with the past, his greed for the 
opulent future, and, hesitating, was presently to drop 
between. That paradox of the lusts of savagery and the 
lusts of intellect hobnobbing in the individual, which 
characterised so many of his contemporaries, cried aloud 
in him. He was superstitious and a sceptic. Like 
Malatesta of Rimini — who could enshrine beneath the 
shadow of one glorious church the bones of a favourite 
mistress and those of an admired heathen philosopher 
which he had brought expressly from Greece for the 
purpose — he would make a compromise between Pagan- 
ism and Christianity. He worshipped God and the 
devil, as if his arrogance halted at nothing short of 


reconciling two equal but antagonistic powers. He 
surrounded himself with monks and infidels; acclaimed 
impartially an illuminated psalter or a painting for a 
bagnio, a Roman canticle or a hymn to the Paphian 
Venus ; sobbed in the soft throbbings of a lute, and went 
sobbing to witness a captive's torturing ; conceived him- 
self an enlightened patron of the arts, and, in a mad 
caprice, ordered his craftsmen, under penalty of instant 
death, to paint and hang with portraits of the ducal 
family in a single night a hall of the castello. He groped 
and grovelled in bestiality ; founded a library and peopled 
a university with erudition ; encouraged profligacy and 
printing ; was covetous and lavish, and splendid as the 
clusters of diamonds on a Jewess's unclean fingers. 
His palaces swarmed with cutthroats and physicians, 
philosophers and empirics, pimps and theologians, heaven- 
commissioned artists and pope-commissioned agents for 
indulgences, who would sell one absolution beforehand 
for the foulest excesses in lust or violence. His crowded 
halls were the very stage of the ante-renaissance, where 
the priest, the poisoner, the romantic hero and the sordid 
villain, the flaunting doxy and the white dove of innocence, 
rubbed shoulders with the scene-painter and conductor 
in a disordered rehearsal of the melodrama to come. 
And so we alight on him in this Rocca, sinister and 
lonely, the protagonist of the piece to which he was in a 
little to supply the most tragic denouement 

He lay sunk back in pillows on a couch set in an 
alcove high and apart. One long, jewelled hand caressed 
the head of a boarhound. Judged by the swift code of 
his times, he was already mature, a sage of thirty-one. 
His eyes were small and deep-seated under gloomy 
thatches, his forehead narrow and receding, his cheeks 
ravenous, his nose was hooked. But in contrast with 
this pinched hunger of feature were the bagging chin 


and sensual neck, as well as the grossness of the body» 
which attenuated into feeble legs. One could not look 
on him and gather from crown to foot the assurance of 
a single generous youthful impulse. The curse of an 
inherited despotism had wrinkled him from his birth. 

An effeminate luxury, which was presently to make 
Milan a b3nvord among the austerer principalities, spoke 
in his dress. His short-skirted tunic, puff-shouldered, 
and pinched and pleated at the waist within a gem- 
encrusted girdle, was of Damascene silk, rose-coloured 
and lined with costliest fur. His hose were of white 
satin; his slippers, of crimson velvet, sparkled with 
rosettes of diamonds and rubies. On his head he wore 
a cap of maintenance, also of red velvet, and sewn with 
pearls ; and a short jewelled dagger hung at his waist. 

By his side, a very foil to his magnificence, stood one 
in a sad-coloured cloak. This was Lascaris, a Greek 
professor, whom he had invited to Milan for his learning, 
and used, like Pharaoh, to expound him his dreams. 
For he was subject to evil dreams, was this Galeazzo — 
hauntings and visions which wrought in him that state 
that he would become a very madman if so little as the 
shadow of an opposition crossed his imagination. And 
even now such a mood was working in him, as he lounged 
darkly conning the life of the hall from his eyrie. 

That was a deep, semi-domed alcove, approached from 
the main chamber by a short** avenue of square-sided 
pillars, and roofed with a mosaic of ultramarine and gold, 
into which were wrought the arms of the Sforzas and 
Viscontis, the lilies of France and the red cross of Savoy. 
Entablatures of white marble carved into bas-reliefs filled 
the inter-columniations of this approach ; while the pillars 
themselves, of dark green panels inlaid on white, were 
sprayed and flowered with exquisite mouldings in gold. 
The capitals, blossoming crowns of gilt foliage and marble 


faces, supported a white cornice, which at the alcove's 
mouth ran down into twin fluted shafts, between which 
rose a shaUow flight of steps to a sort of dais or shrine 
within. And thence, from a carved marble bench, 
Galeazzo looked down on the soft surging motley of 
the throng in the hall below. 

Every sound there was instinctively subdued to the 
occasion : the laughter of girls, the thrum of lutes, the 
ring of steel and rustle of silk. Not so much as a mis- 
directed glance, even, would venture to appropriate to 
the company's cynic merriment the figure of a solitary 
captive, who stood bound and guarded at the foot of the 
dais. Yet it was plain that this captive felt the enforced 
forbearance, and mocked it with a bitterer cynicism than 
its own. 

He was a small, ill-formed, harsh-featured man, very 
soberly dressed, and with a cropped head — a feature suffi- 
ciently disdainful of the bushed and elaborately waved 
locks of those by whom he was surrounded. Lean- 
throated and short-sighted, his face was a face to scorn 
falsehood without loving truth, a face the mouthpiece of 
dead languages for dead languages' sake, a face the 
contemner of the present just because it was the present 
and alive. As he stood, loweringly phlegmatic as any 
caged hate, his peering eyes and snarling lip would 
occasionally lift themselves together, not towards the 
glittering lord of destinies on the dais, but towards his 
henchman, the Greek, who would answer the challenge 
with a stare of serene and opulent contempt And so a 
long interval of silence held them opposed. 

Suddenly the Duke stirred from his black reverie, his 
lips sputtering little inarticulate blasphemies. His knee 
peevishly dismissing the hound, he gripped an arm of 
the bench, and turning gloomily on Lascaris, uttered 
the one impatient word, * Well ? ' 


The Greek, temporising for the moment, inclined his 
smooth^ black-bearded face, so that the oily essence on 
his hair, which was foppishly crimped and snooded, was 
wafted to the Sforza nostrils, offending their delicacy. 
Galeazzo, momentarily repelled, rallied to a harsher 
frown, and demanded : * The fruit, man, the fruit of all 
this meditation? Jesu! it should be rotten-ripe by 
its smell I ' 

Lascaris expanded his chest, unofTended, and, caress- 
ing his beard, answered impassively : — 

'Thou questionest of this vision, Theosutos? I 
answer, How many changes can be rung on a carillon 
of eight bells? By such measure shalt thou imagine, 
an thou canst, the changes possible to the myriad of 
particles that go to the composition of a single human 
eye. Now, in the unthinkable dispersements and re- 
adjustments of Infinity, shall it not sometimes happen 
that two particles, or two thousand particles, or two 
billion particles, out of the sum of particles which were 
that eye, shall chance together again, and recover, 
because of that meeting, some very ancient, very remote 
impression which they once absorbed in common? 
These, Theosutos, be the ghosts, haphazard, indefinable, 
visible to one and unseen of all the rest, which make 
the solitary seer ; these be the lonely hauntings of the 
ages — dust blown over desolate places, to commingle 
a moment at some cross roads, and weave a phantom 
wreath of memory, and so again be cast and scattered 
among the cycles. Thy vision is but a shadow of old 
dead years/ 

An ill-repressed stutter of laughter from the prisoner 
at the foot of the steps greeted the finish of this 
exegesis. Lascaris flushed scarcely perceptibly. The 
Duke took no more notice of man or sound than he 
would have of a whimpering dog. Once or twice he 


stammered an oath, gnawing his finger, and frowning 
up> and down, and up again at the Greek. Finally he 
broke out, in a fury : — 

* Now, by the Host, thou consolest me — now, by the 
Host! To reconcile to this spectre by arguing it 
perpetual ! To ' 

Grinding his teeth, he clipped his long fingers on the 
bench arm, as if he were about to spring. Lascaris 
forestalled him with a placid word : — 

'Not perpetual. The mood invokes these shadows, 
as the mood shall lay them.' 

Galeazzo snarled. 

' The mood I What mood, fool ? You shift and shift. 
God ! it will be the mood of the mood next. Hast thou 
no master-key to all ? Go to, then ! ' 

He sank back into his cushions, glooming and panting. 
The sleek olive mask of the face near him yielded no 
sign of perturbation. 

Gradually a very deadly expression came to usurp in 
the Duke's eyes that blinder madness of desperation. 
An indolent smile relaxed his features. He yawned. 
It was because, the soul horror being temporarily with- 
drawn, the incontinent devil was supplanting in him 
the tempestuous one. He rolled lazily about, addressing 
his creature once more : — 

* You doctors — all the same ! Big words to little cures. 
Treat a State's constitution or a man's — 'tis the word 's the 
thing. Ye woo not the truth, but her raiment. Hear'st 
me? I had a tutor once, a crabbed fellow called Montano.' 

He yawned again. The prisoner below (Cola Montano 
himself) gasped slightly, and shot one stealthy glance 
his way. Lascaris sniggered. 

' Surely, lord,' he said, ' we need no reminding while 
the man himself keeps his tongue.' 

A half-suppressed snarl broke from the prisoner. 


Galeazzo, hunched on his cushions, stared vacantly 
before him. 

'Ah I' he said, 'he could talk. I remember him, a 
midwife to the wind — as ye all be — as ye all be. What 
of the fellow?' 

Lascaris wondered. 

' Little, in truth, Magnificence, save in so far as your 
Magnificence was pleased to introduce his name.' 

'Did I? I had foi^ot. What was the connection? 
Empty words, was it not, and vainglory and pre- 
sumption ? ' 

'And discontent. Add it thereto. Illustrious.' 

' Discontent ? Of what ? The man prospers, I under- 
stand, on his school of all the virtues. Discontent? 
Why, hath he not risen to that independence of power 
that he dares lampoon his prince ? Discontent ? ' 

' Like Alexander, thou standest in his light, Theosutos.' 

' Discontent ? ' 

' Ay, that he should be twitted with having schooled 
a despot' 

' Why, true ; he taught me how to score a lesson with 
a scourge. My shoulders could tell.' 

' Gods ! did he dare ? ' 

' He dared. 'Twas a fellow of Roman mettle.' 

' He would dare more now.' 


' A republic, so they say.' 

' Ah ! he should be the man for visions — a seer, an 

' Short-sighted for a seer, Illustrious. The man 
cannot see the length of his own nose.' 

' Yet may he see far. I would he were here.' 

The prisoner, wrought at last beyond self-control, 
turned on the Greek and squirted a little shriek of 
venom — 



'Yet through and through thee, thou loathsome, 
envious pimp ! ' 

Then he whipped upon the other — 

'And why not a republic, Galeazso? Thy father 
Francesco was a republican at heart, else had he never 
given his son's leading-strings into my hands. There 
was a confederacy dreamed of in his day — Genoa-, Milan, 
and Venice; Florence, Sienna, and Bologna. One 
rampart to the rolling Alps, one wall on which barbarian 
hordes might burst and waste themselves in foam. 
Northwards, a baffled sea ; south, all Italy a tranquil 
haven, a watered garden, where knowledge with all its 
flowers should find space, and breathing-space to grow. 
Dost thou love Italy? Then why not a republic, 
Galeazzo ? ' 

The Duke, as utterly impassive as if he were deaf, 
turned musingly to Lascaris. 

' I heard one talk once,' said he, ' of a confederacy of 
republics, as who should say. An army all serfs. Words ! 
The tails must obey the heads. Every ox knows it' 

'Saving the frog-ox,' giggled the Greek, *who bursts 
himself in emulation.' 

' Ah ! ' murmured the Duke, * the frog-ox : see us tickle 
his self-puffery.' 

He feigned to catch sight all at once of Montano. 
His eyes opened wide in astonishment : he held out his 

* What ! ' he cried, * the man of visions ! the very man ! 
Come hither, old friend. I was but now speaking of thee.' 

His guards permitting him, Montano sullenly mounted 
the steps, and stood facing the tyrant His arms hung 
very plainly fettered before him ; but the other never 
took his languid, smiling eyes from his face. 

' Galeazzo,' said the scholar, harsh and quick, * I did 
not write the epigrams ; but no matter. You seek to 
make an example ; 1 submit myself. It is the despot's 


part to lay hands on order and sobriety. Despatch, 
then. Thou wilt serve my ends better than thine own. 
Every blow to freedom is a link gone from thy mail/ 

The Duke listened to him as if in bland wonder. 

' Epigrams I An example t ' he exclaimed. ' O, surely 
there is some mistake here.' 

The thick brows of the prisoner contracted over his 
leaden eyes. He set his teeth, breathing between them. 
Galeazzo appealed to Lascaris : — 

' Know'st aught of this ? ' 

The Greek shook his head ineffably, licking his lips. 

' No/ said Galeazzo, * nor is it conceivable that my 
old friend and reprover should condescend to that 
meaner scourge. Jesul for one of his learning and 
condition to incur the fate of the common lampooner. 
Why, I mind me how one was invited to a ragout minced 
of his own tongue.' 

* Yes, Illustrious.' 

* And another to having his couplets scored in steel 
on the soles of his feet.' 

•Yes, Illustrious.' 

' And yet another to boiling eggs under his arm-pits, 
since he was clever at hatching those winged epigrams ' — 
he turned smoothly again to the tutor — ' but not clever, 
as thou art, at reforming constitutions.' 

He fell back, with a sleek and hateful smile ; then, 
sighing suddenly, advanced his body again. 

' I am troubled, Montano, I am troubled, and, since 
you chance to be here ' 

He yielded the explanation to Lascaris. 

*I weary of relating. Tell him of my symptoms, 
thou ' — and he sunk once more into his cushions. 

The Greek diagnosed, his shifty eyes refusing to 
encounter the hard inquisition of the other's : — 

* His Magnificence is of late ever conscious of a face 
behind him, mournful and threatening. And still, if 


he turns to challenge it, it is behind him ; and still 
behind, maddening him with a thought of something he 
can never overtake.* 

Galeazzo fixed his burning eyes on the prisoner, as 
if, through all his mockery, the hunger of a hopeless 
hope betrayed his soul. 

'Canst thou strike it away,' he whispered hoarsely, 
' or at least tell me what it is ? ' 

Montano growled : — 

* Ghosts, and dead years, and eye ^particles I This 
trash of pseudo-science — a saltimbanco braying in a 
doctor's skin ! Less licence, Galeazzo, and more exercise 
— 'tis all contained in that. This vision is but a swim- 
ming blot of bile.' 

He was really half- deceived, half- convinced. The 
Duke seemed to listen reassured, then slowly rose, 
and, with an ingratiatory smile, patted his erst tutor's 

*01d honest friend,' he said, *and ever true to the 
Roman in thee ! Thou hast spoken as one might expect.^ 
Bile, is it — bile? and little wonder in this upset of con- 
stitutions. Ebbene ! we will take instant means to throw 
it off.' 

He made a sign to the chief of the guard below. 

* Andrea ! ' 

Lascaris slunk back with a little gloating smile. The 
officer brought up his men about Montano. The Duke 
murmured softly : — 

* Take good Messer Cola, and — ' he paused a little, 
gazing winningly into his captive's surprised, splenetic 
face — *and have him soundly flogged before the gate- 
house — to the bone, Andrea, tell Messer Jacopo.' 

Before the luring treachery of this stroke the prisoner 
stood for one moment shocked, aghast. The next, as 
the guard seized him, he broke into a storm of vitupera- 
tions and blasphemies, calling upon all the gods of Rome 


to protect him from a monster. Andrea crushed his 
mailed hand down on his writhing lips ; he was dragged 
away struggling and screaming. As he disappeared 
Galeazzo descended mincingly to the hall, bent on pur- 
suing the show. A cloud of courtiers, male and female, 
flocked, like rooks following a plough, in his wake. As 
he left the citadel and was crossing the outer ward, two 
ladies — one a young woman in her late twenties ; the 
other a slim, pale girl of thirteen — broke from a group 
of attendants, and came, wreathed in one embrace, to 
accost him. The elder, looking in his face with a certain 
questioning anxiety, spoke him with a propitiatory smile 
and sigh :— 

'Galeazino, O thou little sweetest burden on my 
heart ! ' 

The endearment was really an inquiry, a warning ; for 
there was a foreboding madness in his eyes. He made 
as if he would have struck her from his path. Her child 
companion caught his wrist with a merry cry : — 

' My little father, whither sportest thou without thy 
women ? ' 

He changed the direction of his hand and flipped the 
younger's cheek. 

' Come, then, chuck,' said he. ' There is a frolic toward 
that will speed an idle hour.' 

She caught up her skirts and followed him, as did the 
other, but less closely. 

The gatehouse commanded from its battlements an 
open panorama of the town as far as the piazza of the 
duomo. Immediately to its front, in a bare extended 
space, stood the whipping-post, a stout beam set on end 
on a stage and furnished with hooks and chains. Already 
on the ground beside this (by preconcerted arrangement 
indeed) was a certain functionary, much respected of 
Milan. This was Messer Jacopo, the high court execu- 
tioner — one, by virtue of his dealings in blood, almost on 


an equality with the master herald himself. Immobile 
and voiceless, he stood there like a model in an armoury. 
A short shirt of mail, and over it a scarlet jerkin with a 
plain dagger at the waist ; hose of sober grey ; a bonnet 
and shoes of black velvet, the first adorned with a red 
quill, the second with red rosettes; gorget and steel 
gauntlets — ^such was the whole of Messer Jacopo, save 
for the wooden, inessential detail of his face and its fixed 
eyes of glass. There was something painfully human, 
by contrast, in his understrappers, two or three of whom 
stood at hand in leathern aprons — men of a rich, moist 
physique and greasy palms, and jocund, slaughter-house 
expression. These were on bantering terms with the 
mob, with all that loose raff of the neighbourhood, which 
had come streaming and pushing and chattering to 
witness the sport. It was not often that the rats of the 
quarter Giovia had a master of philosophy to desert. 

They had not long to wait. Almost simultaneously a 
little surging group appeared at the gates, and a throng 
of gay heads above the ramparts. The jostle and 
delighted whisper went among the crowd. What pro- 
portion would the scourging of a prince's tutor bear to 
the punishment it avenged? It surely would not be 
allowed to lose by procrastination. They craned their 
necks to catch an early sight of the victim. One of the 
assistants whipped experimentally through his fingers a 
thick, cruel thong of bullock-hide. It clacked a dry 

*Be quiet, thirsty pne,' he cried boisterously. *In a 
moment thou shalt drink thyself to a sop.' 

Up on the ramparts the ladies, with bright, inquisitive 
eyes, stood by their lord. The girl Catherine, petted 
love-child of her father, hugged confidingly to his arm. 

* Padre mio,' she said, * how sweet the world looks from 
here! I could fancy we were all Lazaruses, laughing 
down on that wicked Dives ! ' 


MESSER LANTI and his party entered Milan, in 
a very subdued mood, by the Gate of Saint Mark. 
It had been with an emotion beyond words that Bembo 
had found himself approaching the walls of this fair city 
of his dreams. The prosperous contado^ watered in every 
direction by broad dykes ; the clustering vines and saintly- 
hued olive gardens ; the busy peasantry ; the richness of 
the very wayside shrines, had all appeared to speak a 
content and holiness with which the perverse passions of 
men were at such bitter variance. The discrepancy con- 
founded, as it was presently upon a fuller experience to 
inspire, him. Here in one land, incessantly jostling and 
reacting on one another, were a devotional and a sensuous 
fervour, both exhibiting a lust of beauty at fever-heat ; 
were a gross superstition and an excellent reason ; 
were a powerful priestcraft and a jeering scepticism — 
all drawing from the forehead of a Papacy, which, 
latterly pledged to the most unscrupulous temporal 
self-aggrandisement, was reverenced for the vicarship 
of a poor and celibate Christ. Issuing, equipped with 
an artless conventual purpose, from the cool groves of 
his cloister, he found a land dyed in blood and the 
blue of heaven, festering under God's sun, and rejoicing 
in the colour schemes of its sores. On what principle 
could he study to sweeten this paradox of a constitution, 
where health was enamoured of disease ? ' Deus meus, in 
te confidOy he prayed, with hands clasped fervently upon 


his breast; ^ Nan erubescam^ neque irrideant me inimici 
met! O Lord, give me the vision to find and show to 
others a path through this beautiful wilderness ! ' 

As the long walls of the town, broken at intervals into 
turrets, broadened before him, violet against a deep, 
cloudless sky, his ecstasy but increased — ^he held out his 

*0 thou,' he murmured, 'that I have hungered for, 
looking down on thee from the mountain of myrrh! 
Until the day break and the shadows flee away ! ' 

A little later, in a deep angle of the enceinte, they 
came upon a gruesome sight. This was no less than the 
Montmartre of Milan — a great stone gallows with dang- 
ling chains, and tenanted — faugh! A cloud of winged 
creatures rose as they approached, and scattered, drop- 
ping fragments. It was the common repast, stuff of 
rogues and pilferers— nothing especial. The ground 
was trodden underneath, and Bembo shrieked to see two 
white, stiff feet sticking from it. Lanti followed the 
direction of his hand, and exclaimed with a moody 
shrug : — 

*An assassin. Saint — nothing more. We plant them 
like that, head down.' 


* O, of course ! ' 

Bembo cried out : * These are not sons of God, but of 
Belial ! ' and passed on, with his head drooping. Carlo 
turned to Beatrice, where she rode behind, and, without 
a word, pointed significantly to the horrible vision. She 
laughed, and went by unmoved. 

In a little after they had all entered by the gate, and 
the city was before them. Bembo, kindled against his 
will, rose in his saddle and uttered an exclamation of 
delight. Before his eyes was spread a white town with 
blue water and upstanding cypresses — wedges of mid- 



night in midday. There were terraces and broad 
flagged walks, and palaces and spacious lo|^as — fair 
glooms of marble shaken in the spray of fountains. 
From its cold, shadowless bridges to the heaped drift 
of the duomo in its midst, there seemed no slur, but 
those dark cypresses, on all its candid purity. It looked 
like a city flushed under a veil of hoar frost, the glare of 
its streets and markets and gardens subdued to one 
softest harmony of opal. 

Yet in quick contrast with this chill, sweet austerity, 
glowed the burning life of it. In the distance, like 
travelling sparks in wood ashes ; nearer, flashing from 
roof or balcony in harlequin spots of light ; nearest of 
all, a very baggage-rout of figures, fantastic, chame- 
leonic, an endless mutation and interflowing of blues, 
and crimsons, and purples — tirelessly that life circulated, 
the hot arterial blood which gave their tender hue to 
those encompassing veins of marble. 

It was on this drift of souls going by him, gay and 
light, it seemed, as blown petals, that Bernardo gazed 
with the most loving fondness. He pictured them all, 
eager, passionate, ardent, moving about the business of 
the Nature-God, propagating His Gospel of sweetness, 
adapting to imperishable works the endlessly varying 
arabesques of woods, and starry meadows, and running 
clouds and waters — epitomising His System. He ad- 
mired these works, their beauty, their stability, their 
triumphant achievement ; though, in truth, his soul of 
souls could conceive no achievement for man so ideal as 
a world of glorious gardens and little abodes. But the 
sun was once more in his heart, and heaven in his eyes. 

The swallows stooped in the streets to welcome him : 
* Hail, little priest of the cloistered hills ! ' The scent of 
flowers offered itself the incense to his ritual ; the foun- 
tains leapt more merrily for his coming. ' Love ! love I ' 


sang the birds under the great eaves ; * He will woo this 
cruel world to harmlessness. Where men shall lead 
with charity, all animals shall follow. The good fruits 
ripen to be eaten ; it is their love, their lust to be con- 
sumed in joy. What lamb ever gave its throat to the 
knife? The violet flowers the thicker the more its 
blossoms are ravished. What new limb ever budded on 
a maimed beast ? ' 

* Ah ! the secret/ sang Bembo's soul — * the secret, or the 
secret grievance, of the cosmos will yield itself only to 
love. Useless to try to wrench forth its confession by 
torture. Let retaliation spell love, for once and for ever, 
and to the infinite sorrows of life will appear at last their 
returned Redeemer.' 

His heart was full as they rode by the narrow streets. 
His eyes and ears were tranced with colour, the murmur 
of happy voices, the clash of melodious bells. He could 
not think of that late vision of horror but as a dream. 
These blithe souls, in all their moods and worships such 
true apostles of his gay, sweet God ! They could not 
love or practise harshness but as a deterrent from things 
unnameable. The very absence of sightseers from that 
pit of scowling death proved it. 

And then, in a moment, they had debouched upon an 
open place overlooked by a massive fortress, and in its 
midst, the cynosure of hundreds of gloating eyes, was a 
human thing under the flail — a voice moaning from the 
midst of a red jelly. 

His heart sunk under a very avalanche. He uttered 
a cry so loud as to attract the attention of the spectators 

* Who is it ? What hath he done ? ' he roared of one. 
* Trampled on the Host ? Defiled a virgin of the mother ? 
Murdered a priest ? ' 

The face puckered and grinned. 


' Worse, Mcsser Cavalier. He once whipped the Duke 
when his tutor/ 

Bembo's whole little body braced itself to the spring. 
' Tutor ! ' he cried : ' is that, then, Cola Montano ? ' 
The gross eye winked — 

* What is left of it' 

He was answered with a leap and rush. The mob at 
that point staggered, and bellowed, and fell away from 
the hoofs of a furious assailant Carlo, pre-admonished, 
was already on the boy's flank. 'Stop, little lunatic T 
he shouted, sweating and spurring to intervene. He had 
no concern for the feet he trampled or the ribs he bruised. 
He stooped and snatched at the struggling horse's bridle. 
' It is the Duke's vengeance i ' he panted. ' See him there 
above I Art mad ? ' 

A face, flushed as the face of Him who scourged the 
hucksters from the temple, was turned upon him. 

'Art thou? Strike for retaliation by love, or get 
behind 1 ' 

'Know'st nothing of his deserts,' cried Carlo. 'Be 
advised 1 ' 

* By love,' cried the boy. * He is worthy of it — a good 
man — I carry a letter to him from my fathei:. Fall back, 
I say.' 

He drove in his heels, and the horse plunged and 
started, tearing the rein from Lanti's grasp. It was true 
that Bembo bore this letter, among others, in his pouch. 
The Abbot of San Zeno was so long out of the world 
as to have miscalculated the durations of court favour. 
Cola had been an influence in his time. 

'Devil take him!' growled Carlo; but he followed, 
scowling and slashing, in his wake. The mob, authorised 
of its worst humour, took his truculence ill. That 
reduced him to a very devilish sobriety. He began to 
strike with an eye to details, 'blazing' his passage 


through the throng. The method justified itself in the 
opening out of a human lane, at the end of which he saw 
Bembo spring upon the stage. 

The executioner was cutting deliberately, monoto- 
nously on, and as monotonously the voice went moaning. 
Messer Jacopo, standing at iron ease beside, took no 
thought, it seemed, of anything — least of all of inter- 
ference with the Duke's will. It must have been, 
therefore, no less than an amazing shock to that 
functionary to find himself all in an instant stung and 
staggered by a bolt from the blue. He may have been, 
like some phlegmatic serpent, conscious of a hornet 
winging his way ; but that the insect should have had it 
in its mind to pounce on him ! 

He found himself and his voice in one metallic 
clang : — 

* Seize him, men ! * 

Carlo panted up, and Jacopo recognised him on the 

'Messer Lanti! Death of the Cross! Is this the 
Duke's order?' 

* Christ's, old fool ! ' gasped the cavalier. * Touch him, 
I say, and die. I neither know nor care.' 

His great chest was heaving ; he whipped out his 
sword, and stood glaring and at bay. Bembo had thrown 
himself between the upraised thong and its quivering 
victim. He,' too, faced the stricken mob. 

* Christ is coming ! Christ is coming ! ' he shrieked. 
* Prepare ye all to answer to Him for this ! ' 

A dead silence fell. Some turned their faces in terror. 
Here and there a woman cried out. In the midst, Messer 
Jacopo raised his eyes to the battlements, and saw a 
white hand lifted against the blue. He shrugged round 
grumpily on his fellows. 

' Unbind him,' he said ; and the whip was lowered. 


The poor body sunk beside the post Bembo knelt, 
with a sob of pity, to whisper to it — 

* Courage, sad heart ! He comes indeed' 

The livid and suffering face was twisted to view its 

' Escape, then,' the blue lips muttered, * while there is 

Bembo cried out : ' O, thou mistakest who I mean t ' 

The face dropped again. 

' Never. Christ or Galeazzo— it is all one.' 

A hand was laid on the boy's shoulder. He looked up 
to find himself captive to one of the Duke's guard. A 
grim little troop, steel-bonneted and armed with hal- 
berts, surrounded the stage. Messer Lanti, dismounted, 
had already committed himself to the inevitable. He 
addressed himself, with a laugh, to his friend : — 

* Very well acquitted, little Saint,' said he — * of all but 
the reckoning.' 

Bembo lingered a moment, pointing down to the 
bleeding and shattered body. 

*"And there passed by a certain priest,"' he cried, 
' " and likewise a Levite ; but a Samaritan had compas- 
sion on him," ' and he bowed his head, and went down with 
the soldiers. 

Now, because of his beauty, or of the fear or of the 
pity he had wrought in some of his hearers, for whatever 
reason a woman or two of the people was emboldened to 
come and ask the healing of that wounded thing ; and 
they took it away, undeterred of the executioners, and 
carried it to their quarters. And in the meanwhile, 
Bembo and his comrade were brought before the Duke. 

Galeazzo had descended from the battlements, and sat 
in a little room of the gatehouse, with only a few, 
including his wife and child, to attend him. And his 
brow was wrinkled, and the lust of fury, beyond dis- 


sembling, in his veins. He took no notice of Lanti — 
though generally well enough disposed to the bully — but 
glared, even with some amazement in his rage, on the boy. 

* Who art thou ? * he thundered at length. 

* Bernardo Bembo.' 

The clear voice was like the call of a bird's through 

* Whence comest thou ? ' 

* From San Zeno in the hills.' 
' What seek'st thou here ? ' 

* Thy cure.' 

The Duke started, and seemed actually to crouch for a 
moment. Then, while all held their breath in fear, of 
a sudden he fell back, and gripped a hand to his heart, 
and muttered, staring : * The face ! ' 

He closed his eyes, and passed a tremulous hand 
across his brow before he looked again ; and lo ! when 
he did so, the madness was past. 

* Child,' he said hoarsely, almost whispered, 'what 
said'st thou ? Come nearer : let me look at thee.' 

He rose himself, with the word, stiffly, like an old man, 
and stood before the boy, and gazing hungrily for a little 
into the solemn eyes, dropped his own as if abashed — 
half-blinded. In the background, Bona, his wife, and the 
child Catherine clung together in a silence of fear and 

*Ah, I am haunted!' shuddered the tyrant. *Who 
told thee that? It is a face, child, a face — there — in the 
dead watches of the night — behind me — and by day, 
always the same, a damned clinging bur on my soul — not 
to be shaken off— -always behind me ! ' 

He gave a little jerk and motion of repugnance, as if 
he were trying to throw something oflF. Carlo struck in : 
* Lord, let him sing to thee ! I say no more.' 

The deep, gloomy eyes of the Duke were lifted one 
instant to the strange seraph-gaze fixed silently upon 


him ; then, making an acquiescent motion with his hand, 
he turned, and sat himself down again as if exhausted, 
and hid his brow under his palm. 

Now the boy, never looking away, slung forward his 
lute, and like one that charms a serpent, began softly to 
finger the strings. And Galeazzo's head, in very truth 
like an adder's, swung to the rhythm ; and as the chords 
rose piercing, he clutched his brow, and as they melted 
and sobbed away, so did he sink and moan. And then, 
suddenly, into that wild symphony drew the voice, as a 
spray of sweetbriar is drawn into a wheel ; and all around 
caught their breath to listen : — 

' Two children, a boy and girl, were playing between wood and 

They pledged their faith, each to the other, with rosy lips on lips. 
He to protect, she to trust — always together for ever and ever. 
A storm rose : the dragon of the thunder roared and hissed. 
Probing the earth with its keen tongue. 
How she cowered, the pretty, fearful thing ! 
Yet adored her little love to see him dare 
That tree-cleaving monster with his sword of lath. 
And in the end, because she trusted in her love, her love prevailed. 
And drove the roaring terror from the woods. 
She never felt such faith, nor he such pride of virtue in his strength. 
Then shone out the rainbow. 

And he bethought him of the jewelled cup hid at its foot. 
" Stay here," quoth he, new boldened by his triumph, 
"And I'll fetch it ye." 

But she cried to him : " Nay, lovelingptake me too ! 
We were to be aye together : O leave me not behind t " 
But he was already on his way. 
And still, as he pursued, the rainbow fled before. 
And the voice of his playmate, faint and fainter, followed in his wake : 
" O leave me not behind ! " 
Then grew he wild and desperate, clutching at that mirage, the 

The lustrous cup that was to bring him happiness in its possession. 
And the voice blew ghostly in his wake, mingling with rain and the 

whirl of dead leaves : 
" Leave me not behind ! " 


But now the fire of unfulfilment seared his brain, 
And often he staggered in the slough, 
Or fell and cut himself on rocks. 
And so, pushing on half-blindly. 

Knew not at last from the dead rainbow the ignis fcUuus^ 
The false witch-light that danced upon his path, 
Leading him to destruction. Until, lo I 
With a flash and laugh it was not, 
And he awoke to a mid-horror of darkness — 
Night in the infernal swamps — 
Blind, crawling, desolate ; and for ever in his heart 
The weeping shadow of a voice, " O leave me not behind ! " 
Then at that, like one amazed, he turned. 
And cried in agony : " Innocenza, my lost Innocence, 
Where art thou ? O, little playmate, follow to my call ! " 
And there answered him only from the gates of the sunset a 
heart-broken sigh.' 

He ended to a deep silence, and, while all stood 
stricken between tears and expectancy, moved to within 
a pace of the Duke. 

* O prince ! ' he cried, ' haunted of that Innocence ! 
Turn back, turn back, and find in thy lost playmate's 
face the ghost that now eludes thee ! ' 

Carlo gave a little gasp, and his hand shivered down to 
his sword-hilt. He must die for his Saint, if provoked 
to that martyrdom ; but he would take a desperate 
pledge or two of the sacrifice with him. One of the 
women, the younger, watching him, knew what was in 
his mind, and breathed a little scornfully. The other's 
eyes were set in a sort of rapture upon the singer's face. 
A minute may have passed, holding them all thus sus- 
pended, when suddenly Galeazzo rose, and, throwing 
himself at Bembo's feet, broke into a passion of sobs 
and moans. 

'Margherita, my little playmate, that liest under the 
daisies. ' O, I will be good, sweet — I will be good again 
for thy sake.' 



MANY a head in the palace, though accustomed 
witness of strange things, tossed on its pillow 
that night in sleepless review of a scene which had been 
as amazing in its singularity as it was potential in its 
promise. What were to be the first-fruits of that cata- 
clysmic revulsion of feeling in a nature so habitually 
frozen from all tenderness? If no more than a shy 
snowdrop or two of reason, mercy, justice, pushing their 
way up through a savage soil, the result would be marvel 
enough. Yet there seemed somehow in the atmosphere 
an earnest of that and better. The hearts of all trod on 
tiptoe, fearful of waking their souls to disenchantment — 
agitated, exultant ; wooing them to convalescence from 
an ancient sickness. The spring of a joyous hope was 
rising voiceless somewhere in the thick of those drear 
corridors. The foetid air, wafted through a healing 
spray, came charged with an unwonted sweetness. 
Whence had he risen, the lovely singing-boy, spirit of 
change, harbinger of a new humanity ? Whither had he 
gone ? To the Duke's quarters — that was all they knew. 
They had seen him carried off, persuaded, fondled, 
revered by that very despot whom he had dared divinely 
to rebuke, and the doors had clanged and the dream 
passed. To what phase of its development, confirming 
or disillusioning, would they reopen? The answer to 
them was at least a respite ; and that was an answer 



sufficient and satisfying to lives that obtained on a suc«< 
cession of respites. Alas t as there is no logic in tyranny, 
so can there be none in those who endure it 

The earliest ratification of the promise was to witness 
in the figure of the Duke coming radiant from his rooms 
in company with the stranger himself, his left arm fondly 
passed about the boy's neck, his eyes full of admiration 
and flattery. He felt no more discomfort, it appeared, 
than had Madam Beatrice on a certain occasion, in the 
thought of his late self-exposure before his creatures. 
Such shamelessness is the final condition of autocracy. 
He had slept well, untormented of his vision. As is the 
case with neurotics, a confident diagnosis of his disease 
had proved the shortest means to its cure. Clever the 
doctor, too, who could make such a patient's treatment 
jump with his caprices ; and with an inspired intuition 
Bernardo had so manoeuvred to reconcile the two. A 
whim much indulged may become a habit, and he was 
determined to encourage to the top of its bent this whim 
of reformation in the Duke. No ungrateful physicking 
of a soured bile for him ; no uncomfortable philosophy 
of organic atoms recombined. He just restored to him 
that long-lost toy of innocence, trusting that the imagina- 
tion of the man would find ever novel resources for play 
in that of which the invention of the child had soon 
tired. So for the present, and until virtue in his patient 
should have become a second nature, was he resolved 
wisely to eschew all reference to the intermediate state, 
and only by example and analogy to win him to con- 
sciousness and repentance of the enormities by which it 
had been stained. A very profound little missionary, to 
be sure. 

The Duke, leaning on his arm as he strolled, had a 
smile and a word for many. The only visible token of 
his familiar self which he revealed was the arbitrariness 


with which he exacted from all a fitting deference 
towards his prot6g& This, however, none, not the 
greatest, was inclined to withhold, especially on such a 
morning. Soft-footed cardinals, princes of the blood, 
nobles and jingling captains, vied with one another in 
obsequious attentions to our little neophyte of love. The 
reasons, apart from superstitious reverence, were plentiful : 
his sweetness, his beauty, his gifts of song— ^1 warm 
recommendations to a sensuous sociality ; the whispered 
romance of his origin, no less a patent in its eyes because 
it turned on a title doubly bastard; finally, and most 
cogently, no doubt, his political potentialities as a 
favourite in posse. 

This last reason above any other may have accounted 
for the extraordinary complaisance shown him by Messer 
Ludovico, the Duke's third younger brother, at present 
at court, who was otherwise of a rather inward and with- 
drawing nature. He, this brother, had come from Pavia, 
riding the final stage that morning, and though he had 
only gathered by report the story of the last twelve 
hours, thought it worth his while to go and ingratiate 
himself with the stranger. He found him in the great 
hall of the castello, awaiting the trial of certain causes, 
which, as coming immediately under the ducal jurisdic- 
tion, it was Galeazzo's sport often to preside over in 
person. Here he saw the boy, standing at his brother's 
shoulder by the judgment-seat — the comeliest figure, 
between Cupid and angel, he had ever beheld; frank, 
sweet, child-eyed — in every feature and quality, it would 
seem, the antithesis of himself. Messer Ludovico came 
up arm in arm, very condescendingly, with his excel- 
lency the Ser Simonetta, Secretary of State, a gentleman 
whom he was always at pains to flatter, since he intended 
by and by to destroy him. Not that he had any personal 
spite against this minister, however much he might 


suspect him of misrepresenting his motives and character 
to the Duchess Bona, his sister-in-law, to whom he, 
Ludovico, was in reality, he assured himself, quite 
attached. His policy, on the contrary, was always a 
passionless one ; and the point here was simply that the 
man, in his humble opinion, affected too much reason and 
temperance for a despotic government. 

As he approached the tribune he uncapped, a thought 
on the near side of self-abasement, to his brother, whose 
cavalier acknowledgment of the salute halted him, how- 
ever, affable and smiling, on the lowest step of the dais. 
He was studious, while there, to inform with the right 
touch of pleasant condescension (at least while Galeazzo's 
regard was fixed on him) his attitude towards Simonetta, 
lest the ever-suspicious mind of the tyrant should discover 
in it some sign of a corruptive intimacy. With heirs- 
possibly-presumptive in Milan, sufficient for the day's 
life must be the sleepless diplomacy thereof; and better 
than any man Ludovico knew on what small juggleries 
of the moment the continuance of his depended. His 
complexion being of a swarthiness to have earned him 
the surname of The Moor, he had acquired a habit of 
drooping his lids in company, lest the contrastive effect 
of white eyeballs moving in a dark, motionless face 
should betray him to the subjects of those covert side- 
long glances by which he was wont to observe unobserved. 
Even to his shoulders, which were slightly rounded by 
nature, he managed, when in his brother's presence, to 
give the suggestion of a self-deprecatory hump, as though 
the slight burden of State which they already endured 
were too much for them. His voice was low-toned ; his 
expression generally of a soft and . rather apologetic 
benignity. His manner towards all was calculated on a 
graduated scale of propitiation. Paying every disputant 
the compliment of deferring outwardly to his opinions, 


he would not whip so little as a swineherd without apolo- 
gising for the inconvenience to which he was putting 
him. His dress was rich, but while always conceived on 
the subdominant note, so to speak, as implying the higher 
ducal standard, was in excellent taste, a quality which he 
could afford to indulge with impunity, since it excited no 
suspicion but of his simplicity in Galeazzo's crude mind. 
In point of fact Messer Ludovicowas a born connoisseur, 
and, equally in his choice of men, methods, and tools, a 
first exemplar of the faculty of selection. 

Presently, seeing the Duke's gaze withdrawn from him, 
he spoke to Messer Simonetta more intimately, but still 
out of the twisted comer of his mouth, while his eyes 
remained slewed under their lids towards the throne : — 

* Indeed, my lord, indeed yes ; 'tis a veritable Casta- 
lidis, fresh from Parnassus and the spring. Tell me, 
now — 'tis no uncommon choice of my brother to favour a 
fair boy — what differentiates this case from many ? ' 

The secretary, long caged in office, and worn and 
toothless from friction on its bars, had yet his ideals of 
Government, personal as well as political. 

'Your Highness,' said he, in his hoarse, thin voice, 
* what differentiates sacramental wine from Malvasia ? ' 

* Why,' answered Ludovico, ' perhaps a degree or two 
of headiness.' 

* Nay,' said the secretary, ' is it not rather a degree or 
two of holiness ? ' 

' Ebbene 1 ' said the other, ' I stand excellently cor- 
rected. (Your servant, Messer Tassino,' he said, in 
parenthesis, to a pert and confident young exquisite, who 
held himself arrogantly forward of the group of spec- 
tators. The jay responded to the attention with a con- 
descending nod. Ludovico readdressed himself to the 
secretary.) ' How neatly you put things I It is a degree 
or two, as you say — between the intoxication of the spirit 


and the intoxication of the senses. And is this pretty 
stranger sacramental wine, and hath Heaven vouchsafed 
us the Grael without the Quest? It is a sign of its high 
favour, Messer Simonetta, of which I hope and trust we 
shall prove ourselves worthy/ 

* And I hope so, Highness,' said the grave secretary. 
' Hush ! ' whispered Ludovico. * The court opens/ 
There was a little stir and buzz among the spectators 

who, thronging the hall, left a semi-circle of clear space 
about the dais ; and into this, at the moment, a fellow in 
a ragged gabardine was haled by a guard of city officers. 
The Duke, seated above, stroked his chin with a glance 
at the prisoner of sinister relish, which, on the thought, 
he smoothed, with a little apologetic cough, into an 
expression of mild benignancy. Messer Lanti, planted 
near at hand amid a very parterre of nobles, envoys, 
ecclesiastics, bedizened chires amies and great officers of 
the court who supported their lord on the dais, sniggered 
under his breath till his huge shoulders shook. 

The Jew was charged with a very heinous offence — 
sweating coins, no less. He was voluble and nasal over 
his innocence, until one of the officers flicked him 
bloodily on the mouth with his mailed hand. 

* Nay,* said Bembo, shrinking ; * that is to give the poor 
man a dumb advocate, methinks.' 

The Duke applauded — eliciting some louder applause 
from Ludovico — and forbade the fellow sternly to strike 
again without orders. A sudden sigh and movement 
seemed to ripple the congregated faces and to subside. 
The prisoner, however, was convicted, on sound enough 
evidence, and stood sullen and desperate to hear his sen- 
tence. Galeazzo eyed him covetously a moment ; then 
turning to a clerk of the court who knelt beside him 
with his tablets ready, bade that obsequious functionary- 
proclaim the penalty which by statute obtained against 


all coiners or defacers of the ducal image. It was bad 
enough — breaking on the wheel — ^to pass without deadlier 
revision ; yet to such, and to the high will or caprice of 
his lord, Master Scrivener humbly submitted it 

Then, to the dumfoundering of all, did his Magnifi- 
cence appeal, with a smile, to the little Parablist at his 
shoulder : — 
' Mi' amico; thou hearest ? What say'st ? ' 
'Lord,' answered Bernardo, in the soft, clear young 
voice that all might hear like a bird's song in the still- 
ness after rain, 'this wretch hath defaced thy graven 

• It is true.' 

' What if, in a more impious mood, he had dared to 
raise his hand against thyself? ' 

' Ha ! He would be made to die — ^not pleasantly.' 

' Is to be broken on the wheel pleasant ? ' 

' Well, the dog shall hang.' 

' Still for so little ? Why, were he Cain he could pay 
no higher. Valuest thy life, then, at a pinch of gold 
dust ? This is to put a premium on regicide.' 

The Duke bit his lip, and frowned, and laughed 

* How now, Bernardino ? ' 

' Lord, I am young — a child, and without comparative 
experience. I pray thee put this rogue aside, while we 

Galeazzo waved his hand, and the Jew, staring and 
stumbling, was removed. Another, a creature gaunt and 
wolfish, took his place. What had he done? He had 
trodden on a hare in her form, and, half-killing, had 
despatched her. Why ? asked Bembo. To still her tell- 
tale cries, intimated the wretched creature. Galeazzo's 
eyes gleamed ; but still he called upon Heaven to sen- 
tence. In such a case? Men glanced at one another 


half terrified. Any portent, even of good, is fearful in 
its rising. Bembo turned to the kneeling clerk. 

'Come, Master Scrivener! A little offence, in any 
case, and with humanity to condone it' 

The frightened servant shook his head, with a glance 
at his master. He murmured the worst he dared — ^that 
the law exacted the extremest penalty from the un- 
authorised killer of game. Bembo stared a moment 
incredulous, then pounced in mock fury at the prisoner : — 

' Wretch I what didst thou with this hare ? ' 

The hind had to be goaded to an answer. 

* Master, I ate it.' 

' What ! ' cried the other — * a monster, to devour thy 
prince's flesh ! ' 

* God knows I did not ! ' 

' Nay, God is nothing to the law, which says you did. 
Else why should it draw no distinction between the 
crimes of harecide and regicide ? Thou hast eaten of thy 

' Well, if I have I have.' 

' Thou art anthropophagous.' 

* Mercy ! ' 

*No shame to thee — a lover of thy kind' (the Saint 
chuckled). 'And no cannibal neither, since we have 
made game of thy prince.' He chuckled again, and 
turned merrily on the Duke. * Is the hare to be prince, 
or the prince hare ? And yet, in either case, O Galeazzo, 
I see no way for thee out of this thy loving subject's 
belly ! ' 

The tyrant, half captivated, half furious, started 

•Give him,' he roared — and stopped. *Give him,' he 
repeated, 'a kick on his breach and send him flying. 
Nay!' he snarled, 'even that were too much honour. 
Give him a scudo with which to buy an emetic' 


Bembo smiled and sighed : ' I begin to see daylight ' ; 
and Ludovico, after laughing enjoy ingly over his 
brother's pleasantry, exclaimed audibly to Simonetta: 
* This is the very wedding of human wit and divine. I 
seem to see the air full of laughing cherubs having my 
brother's features.' 

Now there brake into the arena one clad like an arti- 
ficer in a leathern apron ; a sinewy figure, but eloquent, 
in his groping hands and bandaged face, of some sudden 
blight of ruin seizing prime And he cried out in a 
great voice : — 

'A boon, lord Duke, a boonl I am one Lupo, an 
armourer, and thou seest me I ' 

* Certes,' said the Duke. ' Art big enough.' 

'O lordr cried the shattered thing, 'let me see 
justice as plain with these blinded eyes.' 

' Well, on whom ? ' 

' Lord, on him that took me sleeping, and struck me 
for ever from the rolls of daylight, sith I had cursed him 
for the ruin of my daughter.' 

Graleazzo shrugged his shoulders. 

' This thine assailant — is he noble ? ' 

' Master, as titles go.' 

' Wert a fool, then, to presume. He were like else to 
have made it good to thee. Now, an eye for — ' but he 
checked himself in the midst of the enormous blasphemy. 

* Judge thou, my guardian angel,' he murmured meekly. 
'What!' answered the boy, with a burning face, 

' needs tkis revision by Heaven ? ' And he cried terribly : 
' Master armourer, summon thy transgressor I ' 

For a moment the man seemed to shrink. 

'Nay,' cried the Saint, 'thou need'st not. I see the 
hand of God come forth and write upon a forehead.' 
His eyes sparkled, as if in actual inspiration. ' Tassino ! ' 
he cried, in a ringing voice. 


(' He heard me address him/ thought Ludovico, curious 
and watchful.) 

At the utterance of that name, the whole nerve of the 
audience seemed to leap and fall like a candle-flame. 
Galeazzo himself started, and his lids lifted, and his 
mouth creased a moment to a little malevolent grin. 
For why ? This Tassino, while too indifferent a skipjack 
for his jealousy, was yet the squire amoroso, the lover 
comme ilfaut to his own correct Duchess, Madam Bona. 

A minute's ticking silence was ended by the stir and 
pert laugh of the challenged himself, as he left the ring 
of spectators and sauntered into the arena. It was a 
little showy upstart, to be sure, as ebulliently curled and 
groomed as her Grace's lap-dog, and sharing, indeed, 
with Messer Tinopino the whole present caprice of their 
mistress's spoiling. His own base origin and inherent 
vulgarity, moreover, seeming to associate him with the 
ducal brutishness (an assumption which Galeazzo rather 
favoured than resented), confirmed in him a self-con- 
fidence which had early come to see no bounds to its 
own viciousness or effrontery. 

Now he cocked one arm akimbo, and stared with 
insufferable insolence on the pronouncer of his name. 

* Know'st me. Prophet ? ' bawled he. ' Not more than 
I thee, methinks. Wert well coached in this same 

* Well, indeed,' answered Bembo. 'Thou hast said it. 
It was God spake in mine ear.' 

Tassino laughed scornfully. It was a study to see 
these young wits opposed, the one such plated goods, the 
other so silver pure. 

' In the name of this lying carle,' he cried, * what 
spake He ? ' 

* He said,' said Bembo quietly, * " Let the false swearer 
remember Ananias I " ' 


Then in a moment he was all ruffled and combative, 
like a young eagle. 

' Answer I ' he roared. ' Didst thou this thing ? ' 

Now, a woman-petted, cake-fed belswagger is too 
much of an anomaly for the test of nerves. Tassino, 
shouted at, gave an hysteric jump which brought him to 
the very brink of tears. He was really an ill-bred little 
coward, made arrogant by spoiling. He had the greatest 
pity and tenderness for himself, and to any sense of his 
being lost would always respond with a lump in his 
throat. Now he suddenly realised his position, alone 
and baited before all — no petticoat to fly to, no sym- 
pathy to expect from a converted tyrant, none from a 
mob which, habitually the butt to his viciousness, would 
rejoice in his discomfiture. Actually the little beast 
began to whimper. 

'Darest thou I ' he cried, stamping. 

'Didst thou this thing?' repeated Bernardo. 

' It is no business of thine.' 

* Didst thou this thing ? ' 

* An oafs word against ' 

* Didst thou this thing ? ' 

' Lord Duke I ' appealed Tassino. 

' Didst thou this thing ? ' ' 

The victim fairly burst into tears. 

' If I say no ' 

' Die, Ananias I ' shouted the Duke. His eyes gleamed 
maniacally. He half rose in his chair. He seemed as if 
furious to foreclose on a denouement his superstition had 
already anticipated. Tassino fell upon his knees. 

' I did it r he screamed. 

The Duke sank back, his lips twitching and grinning. 
Then he glanced covertly at Bembo, and rubbed his 
hands together, with a motion part gloating, part depre- 
catory. The Ser Ludovico's eyes, shaded under his 


palm, were very busy, to and fro. Bembo stood like 
frowning marble. 

' The law. Master Scrivener ? ' said he quietly. 

The kneeling clerk murmured from a dry throat — 

'Holy sir, it takes no cognisance of these accidents. 
The condescensions of the great compensate them.' 

The Parablist, his lips pressed together, nodded gravely 
twice or thrice. 

' I see,' he said ; ' a condescension which ruins two lives.' 

He addressed himself, with a deadly sweetness, to the 

' I prithee, who standest for God's vicegerent, call up 
the Jew to sentence.' 

Jehoshaphat was produced, and placed beside the 
blubbered, resentful young popinjay. The Saint ad- 
dressed him : — 

* Wretch, thou art convicted of the crime of defacing 
the Duke's image ; and he at thine elbow of defacing 
God's image. Shall man dare the awful impiety to 
pronounce the greater guilt thine? Yet, if it merits 
death and mutilation, what for this other ? ' 

He paused, and a stir went through the dead stillness 
of the hall. Then Bembo addressed one of the tipstaves 
with ineffable civility : — 

' Good officer, this rogue hath sweated coins, say'st ? ' 

' Ay, your worship,' answered the man ; ' a hundred 
gold ducats, if a lire. Shook 'em in a leathern bag, a' did, 
like so much rusted harness.' 

Bembo nodded. 

' They are forfeit, by the token ; and he shall labour to 
provide other hundred, with cost of metal and stamping.' 

Jehoshaphat, secure of his limbs, shrieked derisive — 

'God of Ishril! O, yes! O, to be sure I I can 
bleed moneys ! ' 

' Nay,' said the Saint, ' but sweat them. Go 1 ' 


The coiner was dragged away blaspheming. He would 
have preferred a moderate dose of the rack; hot the 
standard set by his sentence elicited a murmur of popular 
approval. From all, that is to say, but Tassino, who saw 
his own fate looming big by comparison. He rose and 
looked about him desperately, as if he contemplated 
bolting. The spectators edged together. He whinnied. 
Suddenly the stranger's voice swooped upon him like a 
hawk : — 

* Man's image shall be restored ; restore thou God's.' 
The little wretch screamed in a sudden access of pas- 
sion : — 

M don't know what you mean! Leave me alone. 
It was his own fault, I say. Why did he insult me ? ' 

' Restore thou this image of God his sight,' said Bembo 

* You know I cannot ! ' 

* Thou canst not ? Then an eye for an eye, as it was 
spoken. Take ye this wicked thing, good officers, and 
blind him even as he blinded the poor armourer.' 

A vibrant sound went up from the spectators, and 
died. Messer Ludovico veiled his sight, and, it might 
be said, his laughter. Tassino was seen struggling and 
crying in the half-fearful clutch of his gaolers. 

* Thou darest not ! Dogs 1 Let me go, I say. What ! 
would ye brave Madonna? Lord Duke, lord Duke, 
help me I ' 

'To repentance, my poor Tassino,' cried Galeazzo, 
leaning lustfully forward. ' I trow thy part on earth is 

The little monster could not believe it. This instant 
fall from the heights ! He was flaccid with terror as he 
fell screeching on his knees. 

' Mercy, good stranger ! Mercy, dear lord saint ! The 
terror I the torture! I could not suffer th6m and live. 


O, let me live, I pray thee ! — anywhere, anyhow, and I 
will do all ; make whatever restitution you impose.' 

As he prayed and wept and grovelled, the Saint looked 
down with icy pity on his abasement. 

' Restitution, Tassino ! ' he cried, * for that murthered 
vision, for that ruined virtue? Wouldst thou even in 
thine impiousness arrogate to thyself such divine pre- 
rogatives? Yet, in respect of that reason with which 
true justice doth hedge her reprisals, the Duke's mercy 
shall still allot thee an alternative. Sith thou canst not 
restore his honour or his eyes to poor Lupo, thou shalt 
take his shame to wife, and in her seek to renew that 
image of God which thou hast defaced. Do this, and 
only doing it, know thyself spared.' 

A silence of stupefaction fell upon the court. What 
would Bona say to this arbitrary disposal of her pet, 
made husband to a common gipsy he had debauched? 
True, the sentence, by virtue of its ethical completeness, 
seemed an inspiration. But it was a disappointment too. 
None doubted but that the popinjay would subscribe to 
the present letter in order to evade the practice of it by 
and by. Already the paltry soul of the creature was 
struggling from its submersion, gasping, and blinking 
wickedly to see how it could retort upon its judge and 
deliverer. It had been better to have trodden it under 
for once and for good — ^better for the moral of the lesson, 
as for all who foresaw some hope for themselves in the 
crushing of an insufferable petty tyranny. Galeazzo 
himself frowned and bit his nails. He would have lusted 
to see heaven pluck off this vulgar burr for him. Only 
his brother, sleek and smiling, applauded the verdict. 
He had a far-seeing vision, had Ludovico, and perhaps 
already it was alotting a more telling rdle to the little 
aristocrat of San Zeno than had ever been played by the 
cockney\parvenu down in the arena. 




Suddenly the Duke was on his feet, fierce and glaring. 

* Answer, dog ! ' he roared ; * acceptest thou the con- 

Tassino started and sobbed. 
' Yes, yes. I accept. I will marry her.' 
The Duke took a costly chain from his own neck, and 
hung it about the shoulders of the Parablist 

' Wear this/ he said, * in earnest of our love and duty/ 
Then he turned upon the mob. 

* These judgments stand, and all that shall be spoken 
hereafter by our dear monitor and proctor. It is our 
will. Make way, gentlemen.' 

He took Bernardo's arm and descended the steps. A 
cloud of courtiers hovered near, acclaiming the boy Saint 
and Daniel. Messer Ludovico saluted him with fervour. 
He foresaw the millennium in this association of piety 
with greatness. Galeazzo sneered. 

' Remember that three spoils company, brother/ said 
he. 'keep thou thine own confessor, and leave me 

It was then only that Bernardo learned the rank of his 

* Alas t sweet lord,' said he, ' is piety such a stranger 
here that ye must entertain him like a king ? ' 

The Duke laughed loudly and drew him on. He 
was extravagant in his attentions to him — eager, voluble, 
feverish. He would point out to him the lavish decora- 
tions of his house — marbles, sculptures, paintings, the 
rising fabric of a new era — and ask his opinion on all. A 
word from the child at that period would have floored a 
cardinal or a scaffolding, have clothed Aphrodite in a 
cassock, have made a /^U chatnpitre of all Milan, or 
darkened its walls with mourning. Messer Lanti, follow- 
ing in their wake, was amazed, and dubious, and savage 
in turns. Earlier in the day the Duke had had from him 


the whole story of his connection with the Parablist, 
up to the moment of their interference in Montano's 

*Meschtno met* he had said, greatly laughing over 
that episode ; ' yet I cannot but be glad that the old code 
beat itself out on his back. 'Twas a reptile well served 
— a venomous, ungrateful beast. A mercy if it has 
broken his fang.' 

That remained to be seen; and in the meantime 
Carlo, the old auxiliary in debauch, was taken again 
into full favour. He accepted the condescension with 
reserve. The oddest new attachment had come to 
supplant in him some ancient devotions that were the 
furthest from devout. He found himself in a very 
queer mood, between irritable and gentle. He had 
never before felt this inclination to hit hard for virtue, 
and it bewildered his honest head. But it made him a 
dangerous watchdog. 

By and by the Duke carried his ptotigi into the 
Duchess's privy garden. There was a necessary economy 
of ornamental ground about the castello, though, the 
most was made of what could be spared. In a nest 
of green alleys, and falling terraces, and rose-wreathed 
arches, they came upon the two ladies whom Bembo had 
already seen, themselves as pretty, graceful flowers as 
any in the borders. The young Catherine sat upon a 
fountain edge, fanning herself with a great leaf, and 
talking to a flushed, down-looking page, who, it seemed 
likely, had brought news from the court of a recent 
scandal and its sequel. Her shrewd, pretty face took 
curious stock of the new comers. She was a pale slip of 
a girl, lithe, bosomless, the green plum of womanhood. 
Her thin, plain dress was green, fitting her like a sheath 
its blade of corn, and she wore on her sleek fair head a 
cap of green velvet banded with a scroll of beaten gold. 



A child she was, yet already for two years betrothed to 
a Pope's nephew. His presents on the occasion had 
included a camora of green velvet, sewn with pearls as 
thick as daisies in grass. It seemed natural to associate 
her with spring verdure, so sweet and fair she was ; yet 
never, surely, worked a more politic little brain under its 
cap of innocence. 

Hard by, on one of the walks, a woman and a child of 
seven played at ball. These were Bona, and her little 
son Gian-Galeazzo. As the other was spring, so was she 
summer, ripe in figure and mellowed in the passion of 
motherhood. Her eyes burned with the caress and 
entreaty of it — appealed in loveliness to the fathers of 
her desires. Her beauty, her stateliness, the very milk 
of her were all sweet lures to increase. She loved 
babies, not men — ^saw them most lusty, perhaps, in the 
glossy eyes of fools, the breeding-grounds of Cupids. She 
was always a mother before a wife. 

The Duke led Bernardo to her side. Pale as ivory, 
she bent and embraced her boy, and dismissed him to 
the fountain ; then rose to face the ordeaL 

' Hail, judgments of Solomon I ' she said, with a smile 
that quivered a little. * O believe me, sir, thy fame has 
run before I ' 

'Which was the reason thou dismissedst Gian,' said 
Galeazzo, ' in fears that Solomon would propose to halve 

He did not doubt her, or wing his shaft with anything 
but brutality. It was his coward way, and, having 
asserted it, he strolled off, grinning and whistling, to the 

Bona shivered and drew herself up. Her robe was all 
of daffodil, with a writhed golden hem to it that looked 
like a long flicker of flame. On her forehead, between 
wings of auburn hair, burned a great emerald. She 



seemed to Bernardo the loveliest, most gracious thing, a 
vision personified of fruitfulness, the golden angel of 
maternity, warm, fragrant, kind-bosomed. He met the 
gaze of her eyes with wonderment, but no fear. 

'Sweet Madonna,' he said, 'hail me nothing, I pray 
thee, but the clear herald of our Christ — His mouthpiece 
and recorder. We may all be played upon for truth, so 
we be pure of heart.' 

' And that art thou ? No guile ? No duplicity ? No 
self-interest ? ' 

He marvelled. She looked at him earnestly. 

' Bernardo, didst know this Tassino was my servant ? ' 

' Nay, I knew it not' 

' Wouldst have spared him hadst thou known ? ' 

' How could I spare him the truth ? ' 

' But its shame, its punishment ? ' 

* Greater shame could no man have than to debauch 
innocence. His punishment was his redemption.' 

' Ah I I defend him not. Yet, bethink thee, ske may 
have been the temptress ? ' 

* He should have loathed, not loved her, then.' 

' Madreperla, mother-of-pearl,' cried Catherine, with a 
little shriek of laughter, from the fountain ; * come and 
help me i I have caught a butterfly in my hand, and my 
father wishes to take it from me and kill it ! ' 



BERNARDO wrote to the Abbot of San 2:eno :— 
'Most dear and honoured Father,— Many 
words from me would but dilute the wonder of my 
narrative. Also thou lovest brevity in all things but 
God's praise. Know, then, how I have surpassed ex- 
pectation in the early propagation of our creed, which is 
by Love to banish Law, that old engine of necessarianism. 
[Here foUows a brief recapitulation of the events which had 
landed him^ a little sweet oracle of lights in the dark old 
castello of Milan.] Man ' (he goes on) ' is of all creatures 
the most susceptible to his environments. Thou shalt 
induce him but to feed on the olive branches of Peace in 
order that he may take their colour. O sorrow, then, on 
the false appetites which' have warped his nature 1 on the 
beastly doctrines which, Satan-engendered, have led him 
half to believe there is no wrong or right, but only 
necessity 1 Is there no such thing as discord in music, at 
which even a dog will howl? Harmony is God — so 
plain. Yet there is a learned doctor here, one Lascaris, 
who disputeth this. My father, I do not think that 
learned doctors seek so much the intrinsic truth of things 
as to impress their followers with their perspicacity in 
the pursuit. John led James over- the- way by a '* short 
cut" of three miles, and James thought John a very 
clever fellow. Fray for me 1 . . . 
* I will speak first of the Duchess, to whom I delivered 



your letter. She is a most sweet lady, with eyes, so kind 
and loving were they, they made me think of those soft 
stars which light the flocks to fold. She asked me did I 
remember my mother? ''That is a strange question," 
quoth I, '' to a foundling." '' Ah I " said she, '' poor child I 
I had forgot how thou fell'st, a star, into Mary's lap. I 
would have taken care, for my part, not so to tumble out 
of heaven." " Nay," I said, " but if thou, a mother there, 
hadst let slip thy baby first ? " " What," she said, looking 
at me so strange and wistful, '' did she follow, then ? " 
My father, thou know'st my fancies. '' I cannot tell," I 
said. " Sometimes, in a dream, the dim, sad shadow of a 
woman's face seems to hang over me lying on that 
altar." She held out her arms to me, then withdrew 
them, and she was weeping. '' We are all wicked," she 
cried ; " there is no heart, nor faith, nor virtue, in any of 
us ! " and she ran away lamenting. Now, was not that 
strange ? for she is in truth a lady of great virtue, a pure 
wife and mother, and to me most sweet-forgiving for an 
ill-favour I was forced to do her upon one of her servants. 
But not women nor men know their own hearts. They 
wear the devil's livery for fashion's sake, when he intro- 
duces it on a pretty sister or young gentleman, and so 
believe themselves boui;id to his service. But it is as 
easy as talking to make virtue the mode. Thou shalt 

* Does not the beautiful Duomo itself stand in their 
midst, the fairest earnest of their true piety? Could 
intrinsic baseness conceive this ethereal fabric, or, year 
by year, graft it with sprigs of new loveliness ? There is 
that in them yet like a little child that stretches out its 
arms to the sky. 

'I have, besides the greatest, two converts, or half- 
converts, already, my dear Carlo and his Fool. The 
former is a great bull gallant, whom a spark will set 


roaring and a kiss allay. I love him greatly, and he 
bellows and prances, and swearing " I will not '' follows 
to the pipe of peace. Alas I if I could woo him from a 
great wrong 1 It will happen, when men see honour 
whole, and not partisanly. In the meantime I have 
every reason to be charitable to that lady Beatrice, sith 
she holds herself my mortal enemy. And indeed I 
excuse her for myself, but not for the honest soul she 
keeps in thrall. My father, is it not a strange paradox, 
that holding the senses such a rich possession and life so 
cheap ? Here is one would prolong the body's pleasure 
to eternity, yet at any moment will risk its destruction 
for a spite. Nathless she is warm, loamy soil for the 
bearing of our right lily of love, and some day shall be 
fruitful in cleanliness. 

' Now the Fool — ^poor Fool i I have won to temperance, 
and so Carlo growleth, '* A murrain on thee, spoil-sport 1 
What want I with a sober Fool ? Take him, thou, to be 
valet to thy temperance 1" by which gibe he seeks to 
cover a gracious act. And, lo 1 1 have a Fool for servant, 
a most notable Fool and auxiliary, who, having sworn 
himself to abstinence, would unplug and sink to the 
bottomless abyss every floating hc^head. In sooth the 
good soul is my shadow, and so they call him. ** Well," 
says^he,)''so be it. But what sort of fool art thou, to 
cast a fool for shadow?" "Why, look,* says I, for it 
was sunset on the grass — ** at least not so great a fool as 
thou." " That may well be," says he, " for you do not 
serve Messer Bembo." So caustic is he — a biting love ; 
yet, as is proper between a man and his shadow, equal 
attached to me as I to him. And so, talking of his 
gift to me, brings me to the greater gifts of the Duke. 

^O my father! How can I speak my gratitude to 
heaven and thy teaching, which brought me so swiftly, 
so wonderfully, to prevail with that dread man I I think 


evil is like the false opal, which needs but the first touch 
of pure light to shatter it. I have come with no weapon 
but my little lamp of sunshine ; and behold ! in its flash 
the base is discredited and the truth acknowledged. It 
is all so easy, Christ guard me I There is a Providence 
in what men call chance. Only, my father, pray that 
thy child be not misled by flattery to usurp its preroga- 
tives. Men, in this dim world, are all too prone to 
worship the visible symbols of Immortality — to accept 
the prophet for the Master. I am already fitted and 
caressed as if I were a god. The Duke hath impro- 
priated to me an income of a thousand ducatos, with 
free residence in the castello, and a retinue to befit a 
prince. At all this I cavil not, sith it aflbrds me the 
sinews to a crusade. But what shall I say to his delegat- 
ing me to the chief magistracy of Milan during his forth- 
coming absence ? for he is on the eve of an expedition 
into Piedmont, touching the lordship of Vercelli, which 
he claims through his wife Bona of Savoy. Carlo, it is 
true, warns me against this perilous exaltation. '' Seek'st 
thou," says he, "to depose the devil? Well, the devil, 
on his return, will treat thee like any other palace 
revolutionist." " Nay," says I, " the devil was never the 
devil from choice. Restore him to a converted duke- 
dom, and he will aspire to be the saint of all." " Yes," 
he said, "I can imagine Galeazzo endowing a hospital 
for Magdalenes and washing the poor's feet. But I will 
stick to thee." A dear worldling he is, and only less 
uncertain than his master in these first infant steps 
towards godliness. For vice is very childlike in its 
self-plumings upon a little knowledge. Desiring beauty, 
it tears the rose-bush or clutches the moth, and so sickens 
on disillusionment. Forbearance is the wisdom of the 
'The more destructive is a man, the simpler is he. 


Now, my father, this destroying Duke covets nothing 
so much as the applause of the world for gifts with 
which, in truth, he is ill-endowed He cannot sing, or 
rhyme, or improvise but with the worst, yet, thinks he, 
they shall call me poet and musician, or bum. Well, 
he might fiddle over the holocaust, like Nero, and still 
be first cousin to a peacock. I told him so, but in 
gentler words, when he asked me to teach him my 
method. "To every soul its capacities," says I, ''and 
mine are not in ruling a great duchy greatly/' ** So we 
are neither of us omnipotent," says he, with a smile. 
** Well, I will take the lesson to heart** Now, could so 
simple a creature be all corrupt ? 

' Of more complicated fibre is his brother, the Signior 
Ludovico. Very politic and abiding, he rushes at nothing ; 
yet in the end, I think, most things come to him. He 
is gracious to thy child, as indeed are all ; yet, God for- 
give me, I find something more inhuman in his gentle- 
ness than in Galeazzo's passion. These inexplicable 
antipathies are s^jrely the weapons of Satan ; whereby 
it behoves us to overcome them. That same Lascaris 
attributes them to an accidental re-fusion of particles, 
opposed to other chance re-combinations, in a present 
body, of particles similarly antipathetic to us in a 
former existence — a long "short cut" over the way 

* Now, as for my days in this poignant city — ^where 
even the benches and clothes-chests, not to speak of 
most walls and ceilings, yea, and the very stair-posts 
themselves, are painted with crowded devices of scrolls 
and figures in loveliest gold and azure and vermilion — 
thou mayest believe they are strange to me. Amidst 
this wealth I, thy simple acolyte, am glorified, I say, 
and courted beyond measure. Yet fear nothing for 
me. I appraise this distinction at its right market 

«t *gHg_ »a' 


value. The higher the Duke's favour, the greater my 
presumptive influence. Believe me, dear, my urbanity 
towards his attentions is an investment for my Master. 
I am an honest factor. 

* In a week the Duke sets out. In the meantime, like 
an ambassador that must suffer present festival for the 
sake of future credit, I sit at feasts and plays; or, 
perchance, rise to denounce the latter for no better than 
whores' saturnalia. (O my father I to see fair ladies, 
the Duchess herself, smile on such shameless bawdry !) 
Whereon the Duke thunders all to stop, with threats 
of fury on the actors to mend their ways, making the 
poor fools gasp bewildered. For how had th^ presumed 
upon custom? Bad habit is like the moth in fur, so 
easily shaken out when first detected ; so hardly when 
established. Once, more to my liking, we have a 
mummers' dance, with clowns in rams' heads butting; 
and again a harvest ballet, with all the seasons pictured 
very pretty. Another day comes a Mantuan who plays 
on three lutes at once, more curious than tuneful ; and 
after him one who walks on a rope in the court, a steel 
cuirass about his body. Now happens their festival of 
the BauhidcB^ a pagan survival, but certes sweet and 
graceful, with its songs and vines and dances. Maybe 
for my sake they purge it of some licence. Well, Heaven 
witness to them what loss or gain thereby to beauty. 

'Often the court goes hunting the wolf or deer — I 
care not ; or a-picnicking by the river, which I like, and 
where we catch trouts and lampreys to cook and eat on 
the green; then run we races, perchance, or play at 
ball. So merry and light-hearted — how can wickedness 
be other than an accident with these children of good- 
nature ? To mark the jokes they play on one another — 
misel^ievous sometimes — suggests to one a romping 
nurserj^ which yet I know not. Father, who was my 


mother? I trow we romped somewhere in heaven. 
Once some gallants of them, being in collusion with 
the watch, enter, in the guise of robbers, Messer Secretary 
Simonetta's house at midnight, and bind and blindfold 
that great man, and placing him on an ass in his night- 
gear (which is an excuse for nothing), carry him through 
the streets as if to their quarters. Which, having gained, 
they unbind ; and lo ! he is in the inner ward of the 
castello, the Duke and a great company about him and 
shouts of laughter ; in which I could not help but join, 
though it was shameful. Next day the Duchess herself 
does not disdain a wrestling match with the lady 
Catherine, her adoptive daughter; when the lithe little 
serpent, enwreathing that stately Queen, doth pull her 
sitting on her lap, whereby she conquers. For all 
improvising and stories they have as great a passion 
as ingenuity ; and therein, my gifts by Christ's ensample 
lying, comes my opportunity. Dear Father, am I 
presumptuous in my feeble might, like|;the boy Phaeton 
when he coaxed the Sun's reins from Phoebus, and 
scorched the wry road since called the Milky Way? 
That is such an old tale as we tell by moonlight under 
trees — such as Christ Himself, the child-God, hath 
recounted to us, sitting shoulder-deep in meadow-grass, 
or by the pretty falling streams. Is He that exacting, 
that exotic Deity, lusting only for adoration, eternally 
gluttonous of praise and never surfeited, whom squeamish 
indoor men, making Him the fetish of their closets, 
have reared for heaven's type? O, find Him in the 
blown trees and running water ; in the carol of sweet 
birds ; in the mines from whose entrails are drawn our 
ploughshares ; yea, in the pursuit of maid by man I So, 
in these long walks and rests of life, shall He be no 
less our Prince because He is our joyous comrade. For 
this I know: Not to a pastor, a lord, a parent himself. 


doth the soul of the youth go out as to the companion 
of his own age and freedom. 

'Christ comes again as He journeyed with His 
Apostles, the bright wise comrade, fitting earth to 
heaven in the puzzle of the spheres. We know Him 
Human, my father, feeling the joy of weariness for 
repose' sake; not disdaining the cool inn's sanctuary; 
expounding love by forbearance. He beareth Beauty 
redeemed on His brow. Before the clear gaze of His 
eyes all heaped sophistries melt away like April snow. 
He calleth us to the woods and meadows. Quasimodo 
geniti infantes rationabile sine dolo leu: concupiscete, O, 
mine eyelids droop I We are seldom at rest here before 
two o' the morning. The beds have trellised gratings 
by day, to keep the dogs from smirching their coverlets. 


THE castle at the Porta Giovia had its glooms as 
well as its pleasances. Indeed, it may be ques- 
tioned if the latter were not rather in proportion to the 
former as a tiger's gay hide is to the strength and ferocity 
it clothes. Built originally for a great keep, or, as it 
were, breakwater, to stem the rush of barbarian seas 
which were wont to come storming down from the north- 
west, its constructors had aimed at nothing less than its 
everlastingness. So thick were its bastioned walls, so 
thick the curtains which divided its inner and outer 
wards, a whole warren of human ' runs ' could honeycomb 
without appreciably weakening them. Hidden within its 
screens and massy towers, like the gnawings of a foul 
and intricate cancer, ran dark passages which discharged 
themselves here and there into dreadful dungeons, or 
secret-places not guessed at in the common tally of its 
rooms. These oubliettes were hideous with blotched and 
spotted memories; rotten with the dew of suffering; 
eloquent in their terror and corruption and darkness, of 
that same self-sick, self-blinded tyranny which, in place 
of Love and Justice, the trusty bodyguards, must turn 
always to cruelty and thick walls for its security. The 
hiss and purr of subterranean fire, the grinding of low- 
down grated jaws, the flop and echo of stagnant water, 
oozed from a stagnant moat into vermin - swarming, 
human-haunted cellars, — ^these were sounds that spoke 
even less of grief to others than of the hellish ferment 



in the soul of him who had raised them for his soul's 
pacifying. Himself is for ever the last and maddest 
victim of a despot's oppression. 

There had been stories to tell, could the coulter of 
Time once have cut into those far-down vaults, and his 
share laid open. Now this was so far from promising, 
that their history and mystery were in process of being 
still further overlaid and stifled under accumulations of 
superstructure. Francesco, the great Condottiere, the 
present Duke's father, had been the first to realise dimly 
how a tyrant, by converting his self-prison into a shrine 
for his aestheticism, might enjoy a certain amelioration 
of his condition. It was he who, yielding an older palace 
and its grounds to the builders of the cathedral, had 
transferred the ducal quarters to the great fortress, which 
henceforth was to be the main seat of the Sforzas. Here 
the first additions and rebuildings had been his, the first 
decorations and beautifyings — tentative at the best, for 
he was always more a soldier than a connoisseur. The 
real movement was inaugurated by his successor, and 
continued, as cultivation was impressed on him, on a 
scale of magnificence which was presently to make the 
splendour of Milan a proverb. Galeazzo, an indifferent 
warrior, to whose rule but a tithe of the territory once 
gathered to the Visconti owned allegiance, contented his 
ambitions by rallying an army of painters and sculptors 
and decorators to the glorification of his houses at 
Milan, Cremona, and his ancestral petted Pavia, — after 
all a worthier r61e than the conqueror's for a good man ; 
but then, this man was so bad that he blighted every- 
thing he touched. It is true that the disuse of secret 
torture would have been considered, and by men more 
enlightened than he, so little expedient a part of any 
ethical or aesthetical 'improvement' of an existing house, 
as that a premium would be put thereby on assassina- 


tion. Yet Galeazzo's death-pits were never so much a 
politic necessity as a resource for cruelty in idleness. He 
would descend into them with as much relish as he 
would reclimb from, to his halls above, swelling and 
bourgeoning with growth of loveliness. The scream of 
torture was as grateful to his ears as was the love-throb 
of a viol ; the scum bubbling from his living graves as 
poignant to his nostrils as was the scent of floating 
lilies. He continued to make his house beautiful, yet 
never once dreamt, as a first principle of its reclamation 
to sweetness, of cutting out of its foundations those old 
cesspools of disease and death. 

One night he sat in his closet of the Rocca, a little 
four-square room dug out of the armourer's tower, and 
having a small oratory adjoining. This eyrie was so 
high up as to give a comfortable sense of security 
against surprise. There was but one window to it — 
just a deep wedge in the wall, piercing to the sheer flank 
of the tower. Sweet rushes carpeted the floor ; the arras 
was pictured with dim, sacred subjects — Ambrosius in 
his cradle, with the swarm of bees settling on his honeyed 
lips ; Ambrosius elected Bishop of Milan by the people ; 
Ambrosius imposing penance on Theodosius for his 
massacre of the Thessalonicans — and the drowsy odours 
of a pastile, burning in the little purple shrine-lamp, 
robbed the air of its last freshness. 

Another lamp shone on a table, at which the Duke 
was seated somewhat preoccupied with a lute, and his 
tablets propped before him ; while, motionless in the 
shadows opposite, stood the figure of the provost marshal, 
its fixed, unregarding eyes glinting in the flame. 

Intermittently Galeazzo strummed and murmured, 
self-communing, or addressing himself, between playful- 
ness and abstraction, to the ear of Messer Jacopo : — 

' The lowliest of all Franciscans was St Francis^ meek 


mate of beasts and birds ^ boasting himself no peer of belted 
stars. ... Ha! a good line, Jacopo, a full significant 
line ; I dare say it, our Parablist despite. Listen.' (He 
chaunted the words in a harsh, uncertain voice, to an 
accompaniment as sorry.) 'Hear'st? Belted stars — 
those moon-ringed spheres the aristocracy of the night. 
Could Messer Bembo himself have better improvised? 
What think'st ? Be frank.' 

' I think of improvising by book,' said Jacopo, short 
and gruff. 

Galeazzo said ' Ha ! ' again, like a snarl, and his brow 

* Why, thou unconscionable old surly dog 1 ' he said — 

Jacopo pointed to the tablets. 

' Your saint asks no notes to kis piping. A' sings like 
the birds.' 

* Now,* answered his master, in a deep, offended tone, 
' I 'm in a mind to make thee sing on a grill, — ay, and 
dance too. What, dolt! are not first thoughts first 
thoughts, however they may be pricked down ? . Look at 
this, I say ; flatten thy bull nose on it. Is it not clean, 
untouched, unrevised? Spotless as when issued from 
Helicon? Beast! thou shalt call me, too, an impro- 

The statue was silent. Galeazzo sat glaring and 
gnawing his fingers. 

' Answer ! ' he screeched suddenly. 

' I will call thee one,' said Jacopo obstinately, ' but not 
the best.' 

The Duke fell back in his chair, then presently was 
muttering and strumming with his disengaged fingers on 
the table. 

* No— not the best, not the best — not to rival heaven ! 
Yet, perhaps, it should be the Duke's privilege.' 



The executioner laughed a little. 

' The Duke should know how to take it' 

Galeazzo stopped short, quite vacant, staring at him. 

' I 've heard tell/ said Jacopo, ' how one Nero, a fiddling 
emperor, came to be acknowledged first fiddle of all.' 

He paused, then answered, it seemed, an unspoken 
invitation : ' He just silenced the better ones.' 

Galeazzo got hurriedly to his feet. 

'Blasphemer! thou shalt die for the word. Whatl 
this Lord's anointed 1 A natural songster! no art, no 
culture in his voice — sweet and wild, above human under- 
standing. I said nothing. Be damned, and damned 
alone ! Go hang thyself like Judas I ' 

* Well, name my successor first,' said Jacopo. 

The Duke leapt, and with one furious blow shattered 
his lute to splinters on the other's steel headpiece, then 
stamped upon the fragments, his arms flapping like wing 
stumps, his teeth sputtering a foam of inarticulate words. 
Jacopo, erect under the avalanche, stood perfectly silent 
and impassive. Then, as suddefily as it had burst, the 
storm ended. Galeazzo sank back on his seat, panting 
and nerveless. 

* Well, I am no poet — curse thy block head, and mine 
for trusting to it — the Muses shall decide — Apollo or 
Marsyas — ^the Christian Muses and a Christian penance — 
flaying only for heretics. I am no poet nor musician, 
sa/st? Calf! what know'st thou about such things?' 
He roared again: 'What brings thee here, with thy 
damned butcher's face, scaring my pretty lambs of song?' 

* Thine order.' 

' This astrologer monk, this Fra Capello, was it not ? 
I neither know nor care.' 
< Dost thou not ? A faithful dog ! ' 
' Faithful enough.' 


* O ! art thou ? By what token ? ' 

' By the token of the quarry run to earth.' 

* To earth ? Thou hast him ? Good Jacopo 1 ' 

* This three days past Had I not told thee so already? 
Let thine improvising damn thyself, not me.' 

'The villain 1 to call himself a Franciscan, a lowly 
Franciscan, and pretend to read the stars ! How about 
his prophecy now ? ' 

* Why, he holds to it' 

* What I that I have but eleven years in all to reigfn — 
less than one to live ? ' 

' Just that — no more.' 

' Now, is it not a wicked schism from the plain humility 
of his founder? A curse on their spirituals and con- 
ventuals 1 This fellow to claim kinship with the stars — 
ptofess to be in their confidence, to share heaven's 
secrets ? Dear Jacopo, sweet Jacopo ! is it not well to 
cleanse this earth of such lying prophets, that truth may 
have standing-room ? ' 

' Ask truth, not me.' " 

'Nay, not to grieve truth's heart — the onus shall be 
ours. This same Franciscan — this soothsaying monk — 
where hast lodged him ? ' 

' In the " Hermit's Cell."' 

' Ah, old jester I He shall prove his asceticism thereby. 
Let practised abstinence save him in such pass. He shall 
eat his words — ^an everlasting banquet A fat astrologer, 
by the token, as I hear.' 

* He went in, fat' 

'Wretch! wouldst thou starve him? Remember the 
worms, thy cousins. Hath he foretold his end ? ' 

* Ay, by starvation.' 

' He lies, then. Thou shalt take him in extremis, and, 
with thy knife in his throat, give him the lie. An impostor 
proved. What sort of night is it ? ' 


' Why, it tains and thunders.' 

* Hush I Why should we fear rain and thunder? God 
put His bow in the sky. Jacopo, it is a sweet and fearful 
thing to be chosen minister of one of His purifications — 
Noah, and Lot, and now thy prince.' 

' Purification ? ' said the executioner : ' by what ? ' 

' By love, thou fool ! ' whispered Galeazzo, half ecstatic, 
half furious, with a nervous glance about him. ' There 
were the purifications by water one, one by fire, and a 
third by blood, to the last of which His servants yet 
testify in the spirit of their Redeemer. Blood, Jacopo, 
thou little monster — blood flowing, streams of it, the 
visible token of the sacrifice. That was our task till 
yesterday. Now in the end comes Love, and calleth for 
a cleansed and fruitful soil. Let u&otiasten with the last 
tares — to cut them down, and let their blood consummate 
the fertilising. Quick : we have no time to lose.' 

He flung himself from the statue, and tiptoed, in a sort 
of gloating rapture, to the door. 

' Show me this care, I say.' 

He went down the tower a few paces, with assured 
steps, then, bethinking himself, beckoned the other to 
lead. The flight conducted them to a private postern, 
well secured and guarded inside and out. As they issued 
from this, the howl of blown rain met and staggered them. 
Looking up at the blackened sky from the depths of that 
well of masonry, it seemed to crack and split in a rush of 
fusing stars. The mad soul of the tyrant leapt to speed 
the chase. He wras one with this mighty demonstration — 
as like a chosen instrument of the divine retribution. 
His brain dancedt and flickered with exquisite visions of 
power. He was an angel, a destroying angel, commis- 
sioned to purge /the world of lies. ' Bring me to this 
monk ! ' he screatped through the thunder. 

Deep in the foi^dations of the north-eastern tower the 



miserable creature was embedded, in a stone chamber as 
utterly void and empty as despair. The walls, the floor, 
the roof, were all chiselled as smooth as glass. There was 
not anywhere foothold for a cat — nor door, nor trap, nor 
egress, nor window of any kind, save where, just under 
the ceiling, the grated opening by which he had been 
lowered let in by day a haggard ghost of light. And 
even that wretched solace was withdrawn as night fell — 
became a phantom, a diluted whisp of memory, sank like 
water into the blackness, and left the fancy suddenly naked 
in self-consciousness of hell. Then Capello screamed, and 
threw himself towards the last flitting of that spectre. He 
fell and bruised his limbs horribly : the very pain was a 
saving occupations ^ He struck his skull, and revelled in 
the agonise^cl dance tKJights the blow procured him. But 
one by one they blew out>.and in a moment dead negation 
had him by the throat agaTiV 'tolling him over and over, 
choking him under enormous'^labs of darkness. Now, 
gasping, he cursed his improvidence in not having glued 
his vision to the place of the light's goirtg. It would have 
been something gained from madness t^ hold and gloat 
upon it, to watch hour by hour for itiJ. feeble re-dawn. 
Among all the spawning monstrosities Ipf that pit, with 
only the assured prospect of a lingering death before him, 
the prodigy of eternal darkness quite Overcrowed that 
other of thirst and famine. 

Yet the dawn broke, it would seem, 'before its due. 
Had he annihilated time, and was this dleath ? He rose 
rapturously to his feet, and stood stariri»g at the grating, 
the tears gushing down his fallen cheeks*. The bars were 
withdrawn ; and in their place was a lal^^nip intruded, and 
a face looked down. 

' Capello, dost thou hunger and thirst" ? ' 

The voice awoke him to life, and fi^o the knowledge 
of who out of all the world could be- thus addressing 


him. He answered, quaveringly : ' I hunger and thirst, 

' It is a beatitude, monk/ said the voice. * Thou shalt 
have thy fill of justice.' 

* Alas !' cried the prisoner: 'justice is with thee, I fear, 
an empty phrase.' 

' Comfort thyself,' said the other : ' I shall make a full 
measure of it. It shall bubble and sparkle to the brim 
like a great goblet of Malmsey. Dost know the wine 
Malmsey, monk? — a cool, heady, fragrant liquid, that 
gurgles down the arid throat, making one o' hot days 
think of gushing weirs, and the green of grass under 
naked feet.' 

The monk fell on his knees, stretching out his arms. 

' I ask no mercy of thee, but to end me without torture. 

' Torture, quotha ! ' cried the fiend above — ' what 
torture in the vision of a wine-cup crushed, or, for the 
matter of that, a feast on white tables under trees. 
Picture it, Capello : the quails in cold jelly ; the melting 
pasties; the salmon-trout tucked under blankets of 
whipped cream ; the luscious peaches, and apricots like 
maiden's cheeks. Why, art not a Conventual, man, and 
rich in such experiences of the belly ? And to call 'em 
torture — fie ! ' 

* Mercy 1 ' gasped the monk. His swollen throat could 
hardly shape the word. Galeazzo laughed, and bent over. 

'Answer, then : how long am I to live?' 

* By justice, for ever.' 

' What 1 live for ever on an empty phrase ? Then art 
thou, too, provisioned for eternity.' 

He held out his hand : — 

'Art humbled at last, monk, or monkey? How much 
for a nut ? ' 

Leaping at the mad thought of some relenting in the 
voice and question, the prisoner ran under the out- 


stretched hand, and held up his own, abjectly, ful- 


* Master, give it me — one — one only, to dull this living 

agony 1 ' 

* A sop to thee, then,' cried Galeazzo, and dropped a 
chestnut. The monk caught it, and, cracking it between 
his teeth, roared out and fell spitting and sputtering. He 
had crunched upon nothing more savoury than a shell 
filled up with river slime. The Duke screamed and 
hopped with laughter. 

'Is not that richer than quail, more refreshing than 

The monk fell on his knees : — 

' Now hear me, God 1 ' he gabbled awry : * Let not this 
man ever again know surcease from torment, in bed, at 
board, in his body, or in his mind. Let his lust con- 
summate in frostbite ; let the worm burrow in his entrails, 
and the maggot in his brain. May his drink be salt, and 
his meat bitter as aloes. May his short lease of wicked 
life be cancelled, and death seize him, and damnation 
wither in the moment of his supreme impenitence. 
Darken his vision, so that for evermore it shall see 
despair and the mockery of fruitless hope. Let him walk 
a self-conscious leper in the sunshine, and strive vainly to 
propitiate the loathing in eyes in which he sees himself 
reflected an abhorred and filthy ape. May the curse of 
Assisi ' 

Galeazzo screamed him down : — 

* Quote him not — beast — vile apostate from his teach- 

For a moment the two battled in a war of screeching 
blasphemy : the next, the grate was fluhg into place, the 
light whisked and vanished, a door slammed, and the 
blackness of the cell closed once more upon the moaning 
heap in its midst 


Quaking and ashen, babbling oaths and prayers, 
Galeazzo flung back to his closet. 

' Bring wine ! ' he shook out between his teeth to Jacopo. 

When it came, he tasted, and flung it from him. 

' Salt 1 ' he shrieked. His fancy quite overcrowed his 
reason. ' O God, I am poisoned I ' 

He rose, staggering, and entered his oratory, and cast 
himself on his knees before the little shrine. 

'Not from this man,' he protested, whimpering and 
writhing ; * Lord, not from this man — I know him better 
than Thou — a recusant, a sorcerer 1 Be not deceived 
because of his calling. To curse Thine anointed 1 kill 
him. Lord — kill the blasphemer — I hold him ready to 
Thy handl Good sweet St. Francis, I but weed thy 
pastures — ^a wicked false brother, tainting the fold. How 
shall love prevail, this poison at its root ? — ^Poison ! O 
my God, to be stricken for evermore I life's fruit to change 
to choking ashes in my mouth ! It cannot be — I, Galeazzo 
the Duke — ^yet I taunted him with visions : what if I have 
caught the infection of mine own imagination — ^too fear- 
ful, spare me this once. Lord God, consider — as I put it 
to Thee — now — like this — listen. To starve with him 
should be but a fast enlarged. What then ? Some, honest 
ascetics, no Conventuals, so push abstinence to ecstasy as 
that they may cross the lines of death in a dream, and 
wake without a pang to heaven gained. If he does not, 
should he sufier, he is properly condemned for a gross 
pampered brother, false to his vows, unworthy Thine 
advocacy. Now, call the test a fair one. Chain back this 
dog that ravens to tear me. How, so stricken, made 
corrupt, could I work Thy will but through corruption ? 
Hushl Thou mean'st it not — only as a jest? Give me 
some sign, then. Ah I Thou laugh'st — ^very quietly, but 
I hear Thee. Canst not deceive Galeazzo— ha-ha I 
between me and You, Lord, between me and You! 


Silence, thou dog monk! What dost thou here? 
Escaped ! by God, get back — the first word was mine — 
thou art too late. What ! damnation seize thee ! Lord ! 
he scorns Thy judgment — catch him, hold him — he is there 
by the door ! ' 

He sprang to his feet, glaring and gesticulating. 

* Galeazzo ! ' exclaimed Bembo. The boy had mounted 
to the closet unheard. It was his privilege to come un- 
announced. He stood a moment regarding the madman 
in amazement and pity, then hurried softly to his side. 

' What is it ? The face again ? ' 

His tone, his entreaty, dispelled the other's delirium. 
The tyrant gazed at him a minute, slow recognition 
dawning in his eyes; then, of a sudden, broke into a 
thick fast flurry of sobs, and cast himself upon his 

*My saint,' he wept adoringly — ^*my Conscience, my 
little angel 1 and I had thought thee — nay, but the sign 
for which I prayed art thou given.' 

His emotion gushed inwardly, filling all his channels 
to gasping. Presently he looked up, with a passionate 
murmur and caress. 

* Love, with thy red lips like a girl's ! Would that my 
own were worthy to marry with them.' 

Bembo withdrew a little : — 

* What wild words are these ? Yet, peradventure, the 
giddy babble of a conqueror. O Galeazzo ! hast 
triumphed o'er thyself indeed — casting that old familiar ? 
chasing him hereout? Why, then, I whom thou hast 
appointed to be thy conscience, interpreting thy rule 
through truth and love, am the more emboldened to 
beseech the favour for which I came.' 

*Ask it only, sweet.' His chest still heaved spas- 
modically to the catching of his breath. 
<It is,' said the boy steadily, ' that thou wouldst give 


me, thy conscience's delegate, a last justification by the 

The Duke smiled faintly, and nodded, and murmured : 
' I will confess ere midnight, and, fasting, receive the 
Holy Communion before I go to-morrow. Does it please 
thee? Come, then.* 

He re-entered his cabinet, reeling a little, and sat him- 
self down, as if exhausted, by the table. 

' Bernardo,' he said weakly, half apologetically, ' I am 
overwrought : there is wine in that jug : I prithee give it. 
me to drink.' 

The boy, unhesitating, handed him the flagon. 

* It is the symbol of joy redeemed,' he said. * Put thy 
lips to the chalice, Galeazzo, and take what thy soul 
needest — no more.' 

The Duke lifted the cup shakily, stumbled at its brim, 
steadied himself, and sipped. His eyes dilated and grew 
wolfish — ' I am vindicated,' he stuttered : * O sweet little 
saint ! ' — and he drank greedily, ecstatically, and, smack- 
ing his lips, put down the vessel. 

He was himself again from that draught. 

' Bernardo,' he said, in a reassured, half-maudlin con- 
fidence, ' canst thou read the stars ? ' 

* Nay,' said the other gravely, * they are the Sibyls' 

* True. Yet some essay.' 

' Ay : then flies a comet, cancelling all their sums.' 

* An impious vanity, is it not?' 

* Truly, I think so.' 

' And deserving of the last chastisement' 

* Poor fools, they make their own,' 

* Why, taking colds instead of rest — cramps, chills, and 
agues — immense pains, and all for nothing; the dead 
moon for the living sun ; nursing all day that they may 



starve by night. God gave us level eyes. The star's 
best resting place for them is on a hill. We need no 
more knowledge than to read beauty through the wise 
lens Nature hath proportioned us. Not God Himself 
can foretell a future.' 
'Not God?' 

*No, for there is no Future, nor ever will be. The 
Past but eternally prolongs itself to the Present. Heaven 
or hell is the road we tread, and must retrace when we 
come to the brink of the abyss where Time drops sheer 
into nothingness. Joy or woe, then, to him the returning 
wanderer, according as he hath provisioned his way. So 
shall he starve, or travel in content, or meet with weary 
retributions. O, in providence, hold thy hand, thinking 
on this, whenever thy hand is tempted ! ' 

Galeazzo was amazed, discomfited. This unorthodoxy 
was the last to accommodate itself to his principles of 
conduct. The Future to him was always an unmort- 
gaged reversion, sufficient to pay off all debts to con- 
science and leave a handsome residue for income. He 
could only exclaim, again, like one aghast: *No Future?* 
'Nay,' said Bembo, smiling, 'what is the heresy to 
reason or religion ? To foresee the issues of to-day were, 
for Omniscience, to suppress all strains but the angels'. 
What irony to accept worship from the foredoomed! 
What insensate folly wantonly to multiply the devil's 
recruits! O Galeazzo, there is no Future for God or 
Men? Hope shudders at the inexorable word: Evil 
presumes on it : it is the lodestone to all dogmatism ; 
the bogey, the weapon of the unversed Churchman ; the 
very bait to acquisition and self-greed. Be what, return- 
ing, ye would find yourselves — no lovelier ambition. 
See, we walk with Christ, the human God and comrade. 
I have but this hour left him bathing his tired feet in the 
brook. He will follow anon ; and all the pretty birds 


and insects and wildflowers he watched while resting 
will have suggested to him a thousand tales and reflec- 
tions gathered of an ancient lore. He can be full of 
wonder too, but wiser by many moons than we. There 
is no Future. God possesses the Past' 

The Duke sprang to his feet, and went up and down 
once or twice. This view of a self-retaliatory entity — of 
a returning body condemned by natural laws to retra- 
verse every point of its upward flight— disturbed him 
horribly. He desired no responsibility in things done 
and gone. Eternity, timely propitiated, was his golden 
<;:hance. He stopped and looked at Bembo, at once 
ii[iexpressibly cringing and crafty. 

, ' Bernardino,' murmured he : ' I can never get it out of 
ni||y head that whenever thou sayest God thou meanest 
gods. The gods possess the fasti — why, one would fancy 
somehow it ran glibber than the other.' 
Bembo sighed. 

^'Well, why not? Nature, and Love, and the Holy 
Glliost — Tria juncta in Una — ^why not gods ? ' 

'The Duke pressed his hand to his forehead ; then ran 
anjd clasped the boy about the shoulders. 

I' Adorable little wisdom,' he cried : ' take my conscience, 
anid record on it what thou wilt 1 ' 

' To-morrow,' said Bembo, with a happy smile : ' when 
it$ tablets are sponged and clean.' 

Galeazzo fawned, showing his teeth. There was some- 
tiling in him infinitely suggestive of the cat that, in 
alternate spasms of animalism, licks and bites the hand 
that caresses it This strange new heresy of a limited 
omniscience oddly affected him. Could it be possible, 
after all, that the soul's responsibility was to itself alone ? 
In any case so pure a spirit as this could represent him 
only to his advantage. Still, at the same time, if God 
were no more than relatively wiser and stronger than 


himself — why, it was not his theory — let the Parablist 
answer for it — on Messer Bembo's saintly head fall the 
onus, if any, of leaving Capello where he was. For his 
own part, he told himself, the God of Moses remaining 
in his old place in the heavens, he, Galeazzo, would have 
been inclined to consider the virtuous policy of releasing 
the Monk. 

And so he prepared himself to confess and com- 


THE Duke of Milan, confessed, absolved, and his 
conscience pawned to a saint, had, on the virtue 
of that pledge, started in a humour of unbridled self- 
righteousness for the territory of Vercelli. With him 
went some four thousand troops, horse and footmen, a 
drain of bristling splendour from the city ; yet the roar- 
ing hum of that city's life, and the flash and sting thereof, 
were not appreciably lessened in the flying of its hornet 
swarm. Rather waxed they poignant in the general sense 
of a periodic emancipation from a hideous thralldom. 
The tyrant was gone, and for a time the intolerable 
incubus of him was lifted. 

But, for the moment, there was something more — a 
consciousness, within the precincts of the palace and 
beyond them, of a substituted atmosphere, in which the 
spirit experienced a strange self-expansion — other than 
mere relief from strain — which was foreign to its know- 
ledge. Men felt it, and pondered, or laughed, or were 
sceptical according as their temperaments induced them. 
So, in droughty days, the little errant winds that blow 
from nowhere, rising and falling on a thought, affect us 
with a sense of the unaccountable. There was such a 
sweet odd zephyr abroad in Milan. The queer question 
was. Was the little gale a little mountebank gale, tumbling 
ephemerally for its living, or did it represent a permanent 
atmospheric change ? 



A few days before Galeazzo's departure, Bernardo-— by 
special appointment custos canscientiae duccdis — had, while 
walking in the outer ward of the Castello with Cicada, 
happened upon the vision of a Franciscan monk, plump 
and rosy, but with inflammatory eyes, entering with 
Messer Jacopo through a private postern in the walls. 
He had saluted the jocund figure reverentially, as one 
necessarily sacred through its calling, and was standing 
aside with doffed bonnet, when the other, halting with an 
expression of good-humoured curiosity on his face, had 
greeted him, puffed and asthmatic, in his turn : — 

' Peace to thee, my son ! Can this be he of whom it 
might be said, " Puer natus est nobis : et vocabitur namen 
ejus, Magni Cansilii Angelus ** ? ' 

The Franciscan had rumbled the query at Jacopo, who 
had shrugged, and answered shortly : ' Well ; 'tis Messer 

' So ? ' had responded the monk, gratified ; ' the David 
of our later generation ? ' and instantly and ingratiatory 
he had waddled up, and, putting a prosperous hand on 
Bernardo's shoulder, had bent to whisper hoarsely, and 
quite audibly to Cicada, into the boy's ear : — 

' Child — I know — I am to thank thee for this summons.' 
Then, before Bembo, wondering, could respond : * Ay, 
ay; Saul's ears are opened to the truth. The stars 
cannot lie. You sent for me, yourself their sainted 
emissary, to confirm the verdict. What 1 I might have 
failed to answer else. We know the Duke, eh ? But, 

And with these enigmatic words, and a roguish wink 
and squeeze, he had hurried away again, following the 
impatient summons of Jacopo, who was beckoning him 
towards a flight of open stairs niched in the north 
curtain, up which the two had thereon gone, and so 
disappeared among the battlements. 


Then had Bernardo turned, humour battling with 
reverence in his sensorium, and ' Cicca i ' had exclaimed, 
with a little click of laughter. 

The Fool's answer had been prompt and emphatic. 

' Cracked ! ' he had snapped, like a dog at a fly. 

' Who was he ? ' 

'Nay, curtail not his short lease. He is yet, and, 
being, is the Fra Capello — may I die else.' 

* Well, if he is, wkaf is he?' 

' Why, a short-of-breath monk ; yet soon destined, if I 
read him aright, to be a breathless monk.' 

' Nay, thou wilt only new-knot a riddle. I will follow 
and ask the Provost- Marshal, though I love him not' 

'Nor he thee, methinks. Hold back. The butcher 
looks askance at the pet lamb. Well, what wouldst 
thou ? Of this same monkish rotundity, this hemisphere 
of fat, this moon-paunch, this great blob of star-jelly, 
this planet-counterfeiting frog, this astronomic globe 
stuffed out with pasties and ortolans? Well, 'tis Fra 
Capello, I tell thee, an astrologer, a diviner by the stars 
— do I not aver it, though I have never set eyes on the 
man before ? ' 

* How know'st, then ? ' 

' Why, true, my perspicacity is only this and that, a 
poor matter of inferences. As, for example, the inference 
of the fingers, that when I bum them, fire is near ; or the 
inference of the nose, that when I smell cooking fish, it is 
a fast day ; or the inference of the palate, that when I 
drink water, I am a fool.' 

* A dear wise fool.* 

'Ay, a wise fool, to know what one and one make. 
Dost thou ? ' 

' Two, to be sure.' 

* Well, God fit thy perspicacity with twins, when thy 
time comes. One out of one and one is enough for me.' 


' Peace ! How knov/st this holy father is an astrologer?' 

'Inference, sir — merely inference. As, for example 
again, the inference of the ears, that when I mark the 
substance of his whisper to thee, I seem to remember 
talk of a certain Franciscan, who, having predicted by 
the stars short shrift for Galeazzo, and been invited to 
come and discuss his reasons, did prove unaccountably 
coy, though certainly seer to his own nativity. Imprimis, 
the astrologer was reported a Conventual and fat; 
whereby comes in the inference of the eye. Now, " Ho- 
ho ! " thinks I, " this same swag-bellied monk who babbles 
of stars ! Surely it is our Fra Capello? And hooked at 
last ? By what killing bait ? " ' 

Here he had touched the boy's shoulder swiftly, and 
as swiftly had withdrawn his hand, an ineffable expres- 
sion, shrewd and caustic, puckering his face. Bembo 
had looked serious. 

' Cicca ! I do believe thou art madder than any as- 
trologer—unless * 

' No ! ' had cried the Fool ; * I am sober ; wrong me 

Then Bembo had repented lovingly : — 

* Pardon^ dear Cicca. But, indeed, I understand thee 

'Why,' I said, 'what killing bait had tempted the 
monk's shyness at length ? ' 

' What, then ? ' 

' Thyself.' 


'Art thou not a star-child and Galeazzo's prot^6? 
' O, pretty, sweet decoy, to draw the astrologer from his 
cloister ! ' 

' Dost mean that the Duke would use me to question 
the truth of these predictions? Alas! not I, nor any 
man, can interpret nothingness into a text' 





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^^-'■\ '/ 



strolling, again with Cicada his shadow, on the ramparts. 
It had become something his habit to take the air, after 
hearing the morning causes, on these outer walls, whence 
the tired vision could stretch itself luxuriantly on leagues 
of peaceful plain. He liked then to be left alone, or at 
the most to the sole company of his dogged henchman, 
the erst Fool. Cicada's gruff but jealous sympathy was 
an emollient to lacerated sensibilities; his wit was a 
tonic ; his tact the fruit of long necessity. No one would 
have guessed, not gentle Bernardo himself, how the little, 
ugly, caustic creature was, when most wilful or eccentric 
in seeming, watching over and medicining his moods of 
inevitable weariness or depression. 

Perhaps he was in such a mood now — induced by that 
passion of the irremediable which occasionally must 
overtake every just judge — ^as he leaned upon the battle- 
ments, his cheek propped on his palm, and gazed out 
dreamily over the shining campagna. 

' Cicca,' he said suddenly, ' what made thee a Fool ? ' 

* Circumstance,' answered the other promptly. 

' Ah ! ' sighed Bembo — * that blind brute force of 
Nature, wavering out of chaos. No agent of God — His 
foe, rather, to be anticipated and circumvented. Provi- 
dence is the true wise name for our Master. He provideth^ 
of the immensity of His love, for and against. He can 
do no further, nor foretell but by analogy the blundering 
spites of Circumstance. But always He persuades the 
monster of his interest lying more and more in sweet 
order — dreams of him sleeping caged, a lazy, satiated 
chimera, in the mid-gardens of love.' 

' Che allegria 1 ' said Cicada ; ' I will go then, and poke 
him in the ribs, and ask him why he made a Fool of me.' 

Bembo smiled and sighed. 

' There is a proof of his blindness. What, in truth, 
was thy origin, dear Cicca ? ' 


The Fool came and leaned beside him. 

' Canst look on me and ask ? I was bom in this dark 
age of tyranny, and of it ; I shall die in it and of it. I 
have never known liberty. Sobriety and reason are 
empty terms to me. Ask of me no fruit but the fruit of 
mine inheritance. A drunken woman in labour will 
bring forth a drunken child. I am Cicada the Fool, 
lower than a slave, curst pimp to Folly.' 

Soft as a butterfly, Bernardo's hand fluttered to his 
shoulder and rested there. The creature's dim eyes were 
fixed upon the crawling plain; his face worked with 

'There was a time,' he said, 'I understand, when 
governments were loyal at once to the individual and the 
state — when they wrought for the common weal. In 
those days, it would seem certain, riches — anything above 
a specified income — must have disqualified a man for 
office. It is the ideal constitution. Corruption will 
enter else. Wealth, and the emulation of wealth, are the 
moth in stor^ states. That was the age of the republics 
and all the virtues. I am born, alack, after my time. I 
have held Esau the first saint in the calendar. I am not 
sure I do not do so now, Messer Bembo despite.' 

* And I, too, love Esau,' said Bernardo quietly. 

Cicada, amazed, whipped upon him; then suddenly 
seized him in his arms. 

' Thou dearest, most loving of babes I ' he cried rap- 
turously ; ' sweet saint of all to me I What ! did I twit 
thcBy mine emancipator, with my curse to thralldom ? 
Loves Esau, quotha I No cant his creed. Child, thou 
art asphodel to that cactus. Put thy foot on this mouth 
that could so slander thee ! ' 

' Poor Cicca ! ' said Bembo, gently disengaging himself. 
' Thou rebukest sweetly my Idle curiosity.' 

'Curiosity!' cried the other. 'Would the angels 



always showed as much! Thou art welcome to all 
of me I can tell : — as, for example, that my mother — 
exttus acta probat — ^was a fool, a sweet, pretty, vicious 
fool ; and yet, after all, not such a fool as, having borne, 
to acknowledge me.' 

' Poor wretch ! Why not ? ' 

* Why not ? Why, for the reason Pasiphae concealed 
her share in the Minotaur. Motley is the labyrinth of 
Milan. My father was a bull.' 

* Well, I am answered.' 

* Ah ! thou think'st I jest. Relatively — relatively only, 
sir, I assure thee. Hast ever heard speak of Filippo 
Maria, the last of the Visconti ? ' 

' Little, alas I to his credit' 

' I will answer in my person to that. He was uglier 
than any bull — a monster so hideous as to be attractive 
to a certain order of frailty. I inclined his way. Per- 
haps that was my salvation. The child most interests 
the parent whose features it reflects. It is bad-luck to 
break a mirror ; and so I was spared — ^for the labyrinth.' 

' O infamous ! He made thee his jester ? ' 

' And fed me. Let that be remembered to him. 
When the reckoning comes, the bull, not Pasiphae, shall 
have my voice.' 

* Hideous I Thy mother ? ' 

' Let it pass on that. I need say no more, if a word 
can damn.' 
' Cicca ! ' 
' He was meat and drink to me, I say.' 

* Drink, alas ! ' 

'He meant it kindly. When I sparkled, 'twas his 
own wit he felt himself applauding. That was my 
easy time. He died in '47, and my majesty's Fooldom 
was appropriated incontinent to the titillation of these 
peasants of Cotignola their hairy ears.' 


* Hush, and thou wilt be wise i ' 

' In my grave, not sooner. Francesco, our Magnificent's 
father, was so-so for humour — a good, blunt soldier, 
who 'd take his cue of laughter from some quicker wit, 
then roar it out despotically. No sniggerer, like his son, 
who qualifies all praise with envy. Shall I tell thee 
how I lost Galeazzo's favour? He wrote a sonnet 
'Twas an achievement. A Roman triumph has been 
ceded to less — hardly to worse. Lord, sir! there was 
that applause and hand -clapping at Court! But 
Wisdom looked sour. "What, fool!" demanded the 
Duke: "dost question its merit?" "Nay," quoth 
Wisdom ; " but only the sincerity of the praise. Sign 
thy next with my name, and mark its fate." He did — 
actually. Poor Wisdom ! as if it had been truth the 
sonneteer desired ! Never was poor doxy of a Muse 
worse treated. This was exalted like the other; but 
in a pillory. It made a day's sport for the mob, at 
my expense. Was not that pain and humiliation enough ? 
But Galeazzo must visit upon me the rage of his 
mortification. Well, when he was done with me, 
Messer Lanti, high in favour, begged the remnant of 
my folly, and it was thrown to him. The story leaked 
out ; I had had so many holes cut in me. It had been 
wiser to seal my lips with kindness. But the Duke, as 
you may suppose, loves me to this day.* 

As he spoke, they turned an angle of the battlements, 
and saw advancing towards them, smiling and in- 
sinuative, the figure of Tassino. Bernardo started, in 
some wonder. He had not set eyes on this dandiprat 
since his public condemnation of him, and, if he thought 
of him at all, had believed him gone to make the restitu- 
tion ordered. Now he gazed at him with an expression 
in which pity and an instinctive abhorrence fought for 


The young man was brilliantly, even what a later 
generation would have called Moudly/ dressed. He 
had emerged from his temporary pupation a very tiger- 
moth ; but the soul of the ignoble larva yet obtained 
between the gorgeous wings. Truckling, insinuative, 
and wicked throughout, he accosted his judge with a 
servile bow, as be stood cringing before him. Bembo 
mastered his antipathy. 

'What! Messer cavalier,' he said, struggling to be 
gay. ' Art returned ? ' — for he guessed nothing of the 
truth. Then a kind thought struck him. 'Perchance 
thou comest as a bridegroom, bene nuritus.^ 

Tassino glanced up an instant, and lowered his eyes. 
How he coveted the frank audacity of the Patrician 
swashbuckler, with which he had been made acquainted, 
but which he found impossible to the craven meanness 
of his nature. To dare by instinct — how splendid ! No 
doubt there is that fox of self-conscious pusillanimity 
gnawing at the ribs of many a seeming-brazen upstart. 
He twined and untwined his fingers, and shook his head, 
and sobbed out a sigh, with craft and hatred at his heart. 
Bernardo looked grave. 

'Alas, Messer Tassino!' said he: 'think how every 
minute of a delayed atonement is a peril to thy soul.' 

This sufficed the other for cue. 

' Atone ? ' he whined : ' wretch that I am ! How could 
a hunted creature do aught but hide and shake ? ' 

' Hunted ! ' 

' O Messer Bembo ! 'twas so simple for you to let loose 
the mad dog, and blink the consequences for others.' 

'Mad dog!' 

' Now don't, for pity's sake, go quoting my rash simile. 
Hast not ruined me enough already ? ' 

'Alas, good sir! What worth was thine estate so 
pledged ? I had no thought but to save thee for heaven.' 


' And so let loose the Duke, that Cerberus ? O, I am 
well saved, indeed, but not for heaven! Had it not 
been for the good Jacopo taking me in and hiding me, 
I had been roasting unhousel'd by now.' 

'Tassino, thou dost the Duke a wrong. Twas thy 
fear distorted thy peril. He is a changed man, and most 
inclined to charity and justice.' 

Tassino let his jaw drop, affecting astonishment. 

* Since when ? ' 

' Since the day of thy disgrace/ 

The other shook his head, with a smile of growing 

' Why, look you, Messer Bembo,' he said : * you repre- 
sent his conscience, they tell me, and should know. Yet 
may not a man and his conscience, like ilKmated con- 
sorts, be on something less than speaking terms ? ' 

He laughed, half insolent, half nervous, as Bernardo 
regarded him in silence with earnest eyes. 

' Supposing,' said he, * you were to represent, of your 
holy innocence and credulity, a little more and a little 
sweeter than the truth? Think'st thou I should 
have dared reissue from my hiding, were Galeazzo still 
here to represent his own ? If I had ever thought to, 
there was that buried a week ago in the walls yonder 
would have stopped me effectively.' 

' Buried— in the walls I What ? ' 

* Dost not know ? Then 'tis patent he is not all-con- 
fiding in his conscience. And yet thou shouldst know. 
'Tis said thou lead'st him by the nose, as St. Mark the 
lion. Well, I am a sinner, properly persecuted ; yet, 
to my erring perceptives, 'tis hard to reconcile thy 
saintship with thy subscribing to his sentence on a poor 
Franciscan monk, a crazy dreamer, who came to him 
with some story of the stars.' 



* O, I cry you mercy ! I quote Messer Jacopo, who 
was present. "Deserving of the last chastisement" — 
were not those thy words ? And Omniscience de- 
throned — a bewildered mortal like ourselves? Any- 
how, he held thy saintship to justify his sentence on 
the monk.' 

* What sentence ? ' 

* Wilt thou come and see? I have my host's pass.' 

' He staggered under the shock of a sudden leap and 
clutch. Young strenuous hands mauled his pretty 
doublet ; sweet glaring eyes devoured his soul. 

' I see it in thy face ! O, inhuman dogs are ye all ! 
Show me, take me to him ! ' 

Tassino struggled feebly, and whimpered. 

' Let go : I will take thee : I am not to blame.' 

Shaking, but exultant in his evil little heart, he broke 
loose and led the way to a remote angle of the battle- 
ments, where the trunk of a great tower, like the drum 
of a hinge, connected the northern and eastern curtains. 
This was that same massy pile in whose bowels was 
situate the dreadful oubliette known as the ' Hermit's 
Cell': a grim, ironic title signifying deadness to the 
world, living entombment, utter abandonment and self- 
obliteration. It was delved fathoms deep ; quarried out 
of the bed-rock ; walled in further by a mountain of 
masonry. Tyranny sees an Enceladus in the least of 
its victims. On so exaggerated a scale of fear must the 
sum of its deeds be calculated. 

Here the Provost- Marshal had his impregnable 
quarters. Looking down, one might see the huge blank 
bulge of the tower enter the pavement below unpierced 
but by an occasional loop or eyelet hole. Its only 
entrance, indeed, was from the rampart-walk ; its direct 
approach by way of the flying stair-way, up which 
Bembo had seen the monk disappear. His heart burned 


in his breast as he thought of him. There was a fury 
in his blood, a sickness in his throat. 

A sentry, lounging by the door, offered, as if by 
preconcert with Tassino, no bar to his entrance. But, 
when Cicada would have followed, he stayed him. 

^ Back, Fool 1 ' he said shortly, opposing his halberd. 

Cicada struggled a moment, and desisted. 

'A murrain on thy tongue,' snapped he, 'that calls 
me one ! ' 

The sentry laughed, and, having gained his point, 
produced a flask leisurely from his belt. 

' What ! art thou not a fool ? ' said he, unstoppering it, 
and preparing to drink. 

' Understand, I have forsworn all liquor,' said Cicada, 
with a wry twinkle. 

* So art thou certainly a fool,' said the sentry, eye and 
body guarding the doorway, as he raised the horn. 

' Hist I ' whispered Cicada, staying him : ' this remote- 
ness — that damning gui^le — come I a ducat for a mouth- 
ful ! Be quick, before he returns ! ' 

The soldier, between cupidity and good-nature, 
laughed and handed over the flask. ' Done on that ! ' 
said he. But on the instant he roared out, as the other 
snatched and bolted with his property. 

* How, thou bloody filcher I Give me back my wine ! ' 
Cicada crowed and capered, dangling his spoil. 
'Judas! for a dirty piece of silver to betray 

temperance ! ' 

The sentry, with a furious oath, made at him. He 
dodged ; eluded ; finally, under the very hands of his 
pursuer, threw the flask into a corner, and, as the other 
dived for it, slipped by and disappeared into the tower. 
The soldier, cursing and panting in his wake, ran into 
the arms of an impassive figure — staggered, fell back, 
and saluted. 


Messer Jacopo eyed the delinquent a long minute 
without a word. He had been silent witness, within the 
guard-room, of all the little scene, and was considering 
the penalty meet to such a breach of orders and 

There had been something of pre-arrangement in this 
matter between him and Messer Tassino. The two were 
in a common accord as to the loss and inconvenience to 
be entailed upon themselves by any reform of existing 
institutions — comprehensively, as to the menace this 
stranger was to their interests. It would be well to 
demonstrate to him the unreality of his influence with 
Galeazzo. Let him see the starving monk, in evidence 
of his power's short limits. It was possible the sight 
might kill his presumption for ever: return him dis- 
illusioned to obscurity. 

So his presence here had been procured, with orders 
to the sentry to debar the Fool. Jacopo wanted no 
shrewd cricket at the boy's side, to leaven the horror 
for him with his song of cheer. The full impressiveness 
of the awful scene must be allowed to overbear his 
soul in silence. This sentry had erred rather foolishly. 

It abated nothing of the terror of the man that no 
sign of' passion ever crossed his face, nor word his lips. 
He turned away, not having uttered a sound ; and left 
the delinquent collapsed as under a heat-stroke. 

* Now, let it be no worse than the strappado I ' prayed 
the poor wretch to himself. 

In the meanwhile. Cicada, swift, quivering, alert, was 
descending, like a gulped Jonah, into the bowels of the 
tower. He had no need to pick his path: the well- 
stairway, like a screw pinning the upper to the under- 
world, transmitted to him every whisper and shuffle of 
the footsteps he was pursuing. Sometimes, so deceptive 
were the echoes in that winding shaft, he fancied himself 


treading close upon the heels of the chase; yet each 
little loop-lighted landing found him, as he reached it, 
audibly no nearer. His mocking mouth was set grim ; 
he dreaded, not for himself but for his darling, some 
nameless entrapping wickedness. ' If they design it,' he 
thought — ' if they design it ! Hell shall not hide thehi 
from me/ 

Suddenly the sounds below died away and ceased. 
He listened an instant ; then went down again, turning 
and turning in a nightmare of blind horror. The walls 
grew dank and viscous to his palm. A stumble, and 
all might end for him hideously. Then, at the same 
moment, weak light and a weaker cry greeted him. He 
descended, still without pause — and shot into the glow- 
ing mouth of a tiny tunnel, where were the figures he 

They stood at a low grating in the wall, which was 
pierced into a subterranean chamber. The bars were 
thrown open, and through the aperture Tassino directed 
the light of a flaring torch he held upon a figure lying 
prostrate on the stones below. Cicada crept, and peered 
over his master's shoulder. - The thing on the floor 
was grotesque, unnatural — a human skeleton emitting 
noises, heaving in its midst. That great bulk had 
become in its shrinkage a monstrous travesty of life. 
But existence still preyed upon its indissoluble vest- 
ments of flesh. 

' He clings to life, for a monk,* whispered the Fool. 

With the sound of his voice, Bernardo was sprung into 
a Fury. He lashed upon Cicada, tooth and claw : — 

' Thou knew'st, and hid it from me in parables ! ' 

* Inference, inference ! * cried the Fool. * I would have 
spared thee.' 

* Spared me ? Thus ? ' 

'Ah! thy shame through wicked sophistries! He 


was foredoomed. Had I interfered, I had been lying 
myself there now, and you a loving servant the less.' 

Bembo flung his arms abroad, as if sweeping all away 
from him. 

'Love! Let passl' he shrieked: 'Fiends are ye all, 
with whom to breathe is poison I ' and he broke by them, 
and went flying and crying up into the daylight. He ran, 
without pause, by the walls, down the notched stairway, 
across the ward, and came with flaming colour into the 

' Give me wine and bread ! ' he screamed of the steward 
there ; and the man, in a flurry of wonder, obeyed him. 
Then away he raced again, his hands full, and never 
stopped until the sentry, a new one, at the tower door 
barred his progress. The way was private, quoth the 
man. He could let none past but by order. 

* Of whom ? ' panted Bembo. 
' Why, the Provost-Marshal.* 
Then the boy tried wheedling. 

' Dear soldier : thou art well cared for. There is one 
within perishes for a little bread.' 
But the man was adamant. 

* Where, then, is the Provost-Marshal ? ' cried the other 
in desperation. 

Within or without — the sentry professed not to know. 
In any case, it was death to him to leave his post. 

Bernardo put down his load on the battlements, and, 
turning, fled away again. 



BONA sat amongst her maidens. They were all 
busy as spiders upon a loom of tapestry, spinning 
a symbolic web. The subject was as edifying as 
their talk over it was free. Their lips and fingers were 
perpetually at odds, weaving reputations and pulling 
them to pieces. Bona herself said little ; but abstrac- 
tion gave some indulgence to the smile with which she 
listened, or seemed to. 

* Whither do her thoughts travel ? ' whispered one girl 
of another. 

' Hush ! ' was the answer. ' Along the Piedmont Road 
with her lord, of course. What else would you ? ' 

The first giggled. 

' Nothing, indeed, if it left a chance for poor little me. 
But, alack ! I fear her charity stops nearer home.' 

' What then, insignificance ? Would your presumption 
fly at an angel ? ' 

' Yes, indeed, though it got a peck for its pains. (Mark 
the Caprona's ear pricked our way I She knows we are 
on the eternal subject.) Heigho ! it will be something to 
share in this promised commonwealth of love, at least' 

She spoke loud enough for the little Catherine Sforza, 
sitting by her adopted mother, to hear her. 

* Ehi, Carlina,' cried that pert youngster : * What share 
do you expect for your small part ? ' 

'I thought of Messer Bembo, Madonna,' answered 
Carlina demurely. 



They crowed her down with enormous laughter. 

' Nay, child/ said Catherine : * there is to be no talk of 
exclusiveness in this Commonwealth. We are all to take 
alike — Mamma, and I, and the Countess of Casa Caprona, 
and whoever else subscribes to the Purification. For my 
part I shall be content with becoming very good ; and I 
have hopes of myself. See the reformation in our dear 
Countess ; and she was in his company but a day or two.' 

' Peace, thou naughtiness!' cried Bona ; while Beatrice's 
eyes burned dull fire ; and a girl, one who worked near 
her, a soft and endearing little piety, looked up and 
choked in a panic, ' O Madonna ! ' 

Catherine mimicked her : — 

'O Biasial Is the subject too tender for thy con- 
science? Alas, dear! but if thy only hope is in this 
Commonwealth ? Angels are not monogamous.' 

Biasia blushed like a poppy ; yet mans^ed to stammer 
amidst the laughter : ' It is only that he, — that the sub- 
ject, seems to me too sacred. He preaches heavenly love 
— ^the brotherhood of souls — in all else, one man one maid.' 

Catherine very gravely got upon a stool, and para- 
phrased Messer Bembo, voice and manner : — 

' I kiss thee, kind Madonna, for thine exposition. A 
man must put a fence about his desires, would he be 
happy. A sweet mate, a cot, beehives and a garden — 
he shall find all love's epitome in these. None can 
possess the world but in the abstract — a plea for uni- 
versal brotherhood. What doth it profit me to own a 
palace, and live for all my needs' content in one room of 
it? Go to and join, and leave superfluous woman to the 

Some tittered, some applauded ; Biasia hung her head, 
and would say no more. Bona cried, ' Come down, thou 
wickedness ! ' but indulgently, as if she half-dreaded 
attracting to herself the flicker of the little forked tongue. 


* O r cried Catherine, * I grant you that, with an 
angel, the manner spices the lesson. I will tell you, 
girls, how he rebuked me yesterday on this same legend 
of reciprocity. " How could you take sport," says he, 
''of witnessing that poor Montano's punishment?" 
" Why, very well," says I, ** seeing he was a man, and 
therefore my natural enemy." " How is man so ? " says 
he. *' He makes me bear his children for him," says I. 
'* But I suppose he will be made to suffer Ais share of the 
toil in this new Commonwealth of love." " You talk like 
a child," he says. ''Then," says I, "I will sing like a 
woman," and I extemporised — very clever, you will admit.' 

She pinched up her skirts, and put out a little foot, 

and chirruped, in no voice at all, but with a sauce of 

impudence : — 

* " Love is give and take," 

says he, 
" Every gander knows — 
Wear the prickle for my sake ; 
For thine, 1 11 wear the rose." 

'* GrcueUf kind and true," 

says I, 
*' For that noble dower- 
Only, between me and you, 
/should like the flower." 

" And hast thou not it ? " cries St. Bernardo, interrupt- 
ing me ; and, would you believe it, swinging round his 
lute, his lips and his finger-tips join issue in the prettiest 
nonsense ever conceived for a poor wife's fooling. Wait, 
and I will recall it' 

She had the quickest wit and memory, and in a 
moment was chaunting : — 

*** Whence did our bird-soft baby come? 
How learned to prattle of this for home ? 

Some sleepy nurse-angel let her stray, 
And she found herself in the world one day. 


She heard nurse calling, and further fled : 
She hid herself in our cabbage bed. 

There we came on her fast asleep, 
What could we do but take and keep. 

Carry her in and up the stair ? 

She would have died of cold out there. 

She woke at once in a little fright ; 
But Love beckoned her from the light. 

Lure we had lit, for dear love fain ; 

She had seen it shine through the window pane. 

Lure we had kindled of flame and bliss, 
To catch such a little ghost-moth as this. 

Ah, me 1 it shrivelled her pretty wing. 

Here she must stay, poor thing, poor thing ! " ' 

She ended: 'Faith, St. Charming's lips make that 
daintiest setting to his fancies, that I could have kissed 
'em while he improved his song with a homily' (she 
mimicked again the boy's manner, comically emphasised). 
< "Why," saith he, "would you grudge yourself that poign- 
ant privilege of your sex ? would ye share the agony and 
halve the gain ? What gift so careless in all the world 
makes such sweet possession ? Furs, gowns, and trinkets 
pall ; perishable things grow less by use ; the diamond 
suffers by its larger peer. Only the gift of love, the wee 
babe, takes new delight of time ; renews woman's best 
through herself; is a perpetual novelty, spring all the 
year round, flowers fresh burgeoning through faded 
blooms. To be sole warden of the quickening soul ye 
bore — ^you, you ! to see the lamb-like heaven of its 
eyes cuddling to your bosom's fold — all thine, save the 
spent heat that cast it ! O, rather be the mould than 
the turbulent metal it shapes I Go to, and thank God 
for labours yielding such reward. Go to, and be the 


mother of saints." Whereat I curtsied, and '^ Thank you, 
sir/' says I, 'Tor the offer, but my bed's already laid 

for me in Rome," and then ' 

What more she might have quoted or invented none 
might say, for at the moment a wild figure burst into 
the chamber, and ran to its mistress, and entreated her 
with lips and hands. 

* Give me thy gage — quick ! There is one starves in 
the ** Hermit's Cell," and they will not let me pass to him 
without. Thou art the Duke, thou art the Duke now. 
Give it me, in mercy, and avert God's vengeance from 
this wicked house ! ' 

Bona had arisen, pale as death, pity and anguish 
pleading in her eyes. 

* Alas ! What say'st thou ? Thou, not I, art the 

* Give it me,' demanded Bembo feverishly. * Nay, 
quibble not, while he gasps out his s^ony — a monk — 
hear'st thou ? A monk ! ' 

She temporised a moment in her pain. 
'There are black sheep in those flocks.' 

* God forgive thee ! ' 

' Alas I tAau wilt not. Indeed I have no talisman will 
open doors that my lord has shut' 

Beatrice, intent, with veiled eyes, from her place, be- 
stirred herself with an indolent smile. 

' Madonna forgets. Love laughs at locksmiths.' 

The two women faced one another a minute. Some 
subtle emotion of antagonism, already born, waxed into 
a larger consciousness between them. 

* How, Countess ? ' said Bona quietly. 

'Madonna wears her bethrothal ring — a very passe- 
partout. It is the talisman will serve her with monks 
and saints alike.' 

A little flush mantled to the Duchess's brow. Stand- 


ing erect a moment she slipped the ring from her finger, 
and held it out to Bernardo. 

* It should be the pledge through love of Charity. 
Take it, in my lord's good name, whose jealous repre- 
sentative I remain. And when thou retum'st it, may it 
be sanctified of new justice, child, against the prick of 
envy and slander and the spite of venomous tongues/ 

She turned away stately and resumed her needle as 
Bernardo, with a cry of thanks, ran from the room. A 
minute or two later he appeared before the sentry on the 
ramparts and flourished his token. To his surprise the 
man hardly glanced at it as he stepped aside to let him 
pass. He thought on this with some shapeless forebod- 
ing, as he leapt like a chamois down the steeps of the 
tower, the food, which he had snatched up, in his hands. 
God pity him and his awakening! There are emotions 
too sacred for minuting. Let it suffice that Jacopo had 
proved too faithful a prophylactic to superstition. The 
wretched monk had not been allowed to justify his own 
prediction by dying of starvation. In that last interval, 
between the Parablist's going and coming, his throat 
had been cut. 

A minute later Bernardo leapt like a madman from 
the tower. His face was ashy, his hands trembling. At 
the foot of the curtain he stumbled over a poor patch, 
prostrate and moaning. 

* / am thy Fool, and I shall never make thee smile again! 
All quivering and unstrung, he threw himself on his 

knees by Cicada's side. 

< Up ! ' he screamed, ' up ! Get you out of this Sodom 
ere the Lord destroy it ! ' 

The Fool bestirred himself, raising eyes full of a 
sombre, eager questioning. 

' I am forgiven ? ' he gasped ; but Bernardo only cried 
frenziedly, * Up ! up ! ' 


THERE was consternation in the castello, for its 
angel visitant had disappeared. The evening 
following upon the episode of the ring saw his quarters 
void of him, his household retinue troubled and anxious 
and some others in the palace at least as perturbed. It 
was not alone that the individual sense of stewardship 
towards so rare a possession filled each and all with 
forebodings as to the penalty likely to be exacted should 
Galeazzo return to a knowledge of his loss; the loss 
itself of so sweet and cleansing a personality was blight- 
ing. Now, for the first time, perhaps, people recognised 
the real political significance of that creed which they 
had been inclined hitherto merely to pet and humour as 
the whimsey of a very engaging little propagandist. 
How sweet and expansive it was ! how progressive by 
the right blossoming road of freedom I Where was their 
silver-tongued guide? And they flew and buzzed, agitated 
like a bee-swarm that has lost its queen. 

But, while they scurried aimless, a rumour of the truth 
rose like a foul emanation, and, circulating among them, 
darkened men's brows and drove women to a whispering 
gossip of terror. So yet another of the Duke's inhumani- 
ties was at the root of this secession ! By degrees the 
secret leaked out — of that living entombment, of the 
boy's interference, of his bloody forestalling by the 
executioner, of his flight, accompanied by his Fool, from 
the gates. And now he was gone, whither none knew ; 


but of a certainty leaving the curse of his outraged suit 
on the house he had tried to woo from wickedness. 

The story gained nothing in relief as it grew. Whispers 
of that free feminine bandying with their Parablist's 
name, of Catherine's childish mockery of a sacred senti- 
ment, deepened the common gloom. It mattered nothing 
to the general opinion that this little vivacious Sforza 
had but echoed its own bantering mood. Every popular 
joke that spells disaster must have its scapegoat. And 
she was not liked. In the absence of her father there were 
even venturings of frowning looks her way, which, when 
she observed, the shrewd elfin creature did not forget. 

And Bernardo returned not that night, nor during all 
the following day was he heard of. Inquiries were set 
on foot, scouts unleashed, the sbirri warned : he remained 

Messer Carlo Lanti went about his business with a 
brow of thunder. Once, on the second day, traversing, 
dark in cogitation, a lonely corner of the castle enceinte, 
he came upon a figure which, as it were some apparition 
of his thoughts suddenly materialised, shocked him to a 
stand. The walls in this place met in a sunless, abysmal 
wedge ; and, gathered into the hollow between, the waters 
of the canal, welling through subterranean conduits, made 
a deep head for the moat. And here, gazing down at her 
reflection, it seemed, in that black stone-framed mirror, 
stood Beatrice. 

She was plainly conscious, for all her deep abstraction 
of the moment before, of his approach, yet neither spoke 
nor so much as turned her head as he came and stood 
beside her. It must have been some startle more than 
human that had found her nerves responsive to its shock. 
Her languor and indolence seemed impregnable, insensate, 
revealing no token of th^. passion within. Like the warm, 
rich pastures which sleep over swelling fires, the placid 
glow of her cheek and bosom appeared never so fruitful 


in desire as when most threatening an outburst. Carlo, 
for all his rage of suspicion, could not but be conscious of 
that appeal to his senses. He frowned, and shifted, and 
grunted, while she stood tranquilly facing him and fanning 
herself without a word. At length he broke silence : — 

*I had wished to see thee alone' — he stared fixedly 
and significantly at the water, struggling to bully himself 
into brutality — ' Nay, by God and St. Ambrose,' he burst 
out, ' I believe we are well met in this place ! ' 

Not a tremor shook her. 

'Alone?' she murmured sleepily. 'Why not? there 
was not used to be this ceremony between us.' 

* I have done with all that,* he cried fiercely. * I see 
thee now — myself, at least, in the true light. Harlot! 
wouldst have turned my hand against the angel that 
revealed thee! Where is he? Hast struck surer the 
second time ? I know thee — and if ' 

He seized her wrist and turned her to the water. She 
did not resist or cry out, though her cheek flushed in the 
pain of his cruel clutch. 

'Know me!' she said. 'Didst thou ever know me? 
Only as the bull knows the soft heifer — the nearest to his 
needs. Thou hast done with me — thou ! I tell thee, if 
Fate had made a sacrament of thy passion, yielding the 
visible sign, I had brought hither the monstrous pledge 
and drowned it like a dog. Do we so treat what we 
love ? I am not guilty of Bernardo's death, if that is 
what you mean.' 

He let her go, and retreated a step, glaring at her. 
Her blood ebbed and flowed as tranquilly as her low 
voice had stabbed. 

' This — to my face ! ' he gasped. Then he broke into 
furious laughter. ' Art well requited, if it is the truth. 
Love him ! But, dead or alive, he will not love thee — 
that saint — a wife dishonoured.' 

' O noble bull — thou king of beasts ! ' she murmured. 


'Why should I be generous?' he snarled. 'Have I 
reason to spare thee ? Yet I will be generous, an thou 
art guiltless of this, Beatrice. I have loved thee, after my 

'Thou hast. Ah! If I might sponge away that 
memory I ' 

' Well, I would fain do the same for his sake.' 


• What ! ' 

'Barest thou talk of love? — thou, who hast rolled me 
in thine arms, and waked from sated ecstasy to call me 
murderess ! ' 

' Had I not provocation, then ? Faith, you bewilder 

' Poor, stupid brute ! ' 

' Stupid I may be, yet not so blind as woman's folly. 
Hast borne me once, Beatrice. Well, it is past: I ask 
nothing of it but thy trust.' 

'My trust r 

'Ay, when I warn thee. This saint is not for thee. 
O, I am wide awake ! Stupid ? like enough ; but when a 
wife, the queenliest, parts with her betrothal ring ' 

She made a quick, involuntary gesture, stepping for- 
ward ; then as suddenly checked herself, with a soft, 
mocking laugh. 

' O this bull ! * she cried huskily — ' this precisian of the 
new cult ! Not for me, quotha, but for another — a saint 
to all but the highest bidder ! ' 

' Not for you nor any one,' he said savagely. 

' What ! not Bona either ? ' she said. ' Be warned by 
me, rather. Yours is no wit for this encounter. Love is 
a coil, dear chuck ; no battering-ram. Not for me nor 
any? Maybe; but the game is in the strife. Go, find 
your saint : I know nothing of him/ 

' No, nor shall. Be warned, I say.' 

' Well, you have said Jt, and more than once.' 


He hesitated, ground his teeth, clapped his hands 
together, and turning, left her. 

Glooming and mumbling, he went back to the palace. 
A page met him with the message that the Duchess of 
Milan desired his attendance. He frowned, and went, as 
directed, to her private closet. He found Bona alone, 
busy, or affecting to be busy, over a strip of embroidery. 
She greeted him chilly ; but it was evident that nervous- 
ness rather than hauteur kept her seated. He saluted 
her coldly and silently, awaiting her pleasure. She 
glanced once or twice at the closed portiere ; then braced 
herself to the ordeal with a rather quivering smile. 

' This is a sad coil, Messer Carlo.' 

He answered gruffly : — 

' If I understand your Grace.' 

She put the quibble by. 

'We, you and I, are in a manner his guardians — 
accountable to the Duke.' 

'I can understand your Grace's anxiety,' he said 

'Nevertheless, it was not I introduced him to the 
court,' she said. 

' But only to some of its secrets,' he responded. 

' I do not understand you.' 

' It is very plain, Madonna. You gave him the key to 
that discovery.' 

She rose at once, breathing quickly, her cheeks white. 

' Ah, Messer ! in heaven's name procure me the return 
of my ring ! ' 

Her voice was quite pitiful, entreating. He looked at 
her gloomily, gnawing his upper lip, 

' Madonna commands ? . I will do my best to find and 
take it from him, alive or dead.' 

She fell back with a little crying gasp. 

' Find him — yes.' 

'No more?' he demanded grimly. 


' I thought you loved him ? ' she gulped. 

* Too well/ he answered, * to be your go-between.* 

She uttered a fierce exclamation, and clenched her 

'Go, sir!' she said. 

He turned at once. She came after him, fawning. 

* Good Messer Carlo, dear lord/ she breathed weepingly; 
* nay, thou art a loyal and honest friend. Forgive me. 
We are all in need of forgiveness.' 

He faced about again. 

' Penitence is blasphemy without reform/ he said. 
' Ah me ! it is. How well thou hast caught the sweet 
preacher's style. Hast thou reformed ? ' 

* Ay, in the worst.' 

*Thou hast made an enemy of thy mistress? Poor 
Bembo, poor child ! He will need a mother.' 
' Wouldst thou be that to him ? ' 

* What else ? Get me my ring.' 

* Beatrice hates him ' 

' She would, the wretch, for his parting you and her.' 

* Or loves him — I don't know which.' 
' Wanton ! how dare she ? ' 

' Well, if you will play the mother to him ' 

*Is he not a child to adore? Ah me! to be foster- 
parent to that boon-comrade of the Christ ! ' 

Carlo looked at her with some satisfaction darkling out 
of gloom. His honest hot brain was no Machiavellian 
possession ; his temper was the travail of a warm heart. 
He believed this woman meant honestly; and so, no 
doubt, she did in her loss, not considering, or choosing 
not to consider, the emotionalism of regain. 

*Ay, Madonna/ said he, kindling, *'tis the most 
covetable relation. Who but a Potiphar's wife would 
associate what we call love with this Joseph ? God ! a 
look of him will make me blush as I were a brat caught 
stealing sugar. There is that in him^ we blurt out the 



truth in the very act of hiding it. A child to adore? Is 
he not, now, the dear put ? and to hearken to and imitate 
what we can. Ay, and more — ^to shield with this arm — 
let men beware. Only the women harass me, this way 
and that Their loves and hates be like twin babes. 
None but their dam can tell each from the other. There- 
fore, would ye mother him — ' 

* Yes—' 

' And cherish and protect — ' 

* Yes—' 

* And of your woman's wisdom keep skirts atadistance — ' 
' I will promise that most.' 

*Why, I will bring him back to thee, ring and all, 
though I turn Milan upside down first.' 

He bowed and was going ; but she detained him, with 
sycophant velvet eyes. 

' Dear lord, so kind and loyal. Tell him that without 
him we find ourselves astray.' 


' Tell him that from this moment his Duchess will aid 
and abet him in all his reforms.' 

' I will tell him.' 

* Ask him — ' she hesitated, and turned away her sweet 
head — ' doth he seek to retaliate on his mistress's innocent 
confidence, that, by absenting himself, he would turn it to 
her undoing ? ' 

Carlo grunted. 

' By your Grace's leave, an I find him, 1 will put it my 

She acquiesced with a meek, lovely smile, and the 
words of the Mass : * lU, missa est I ' 

And when he was gone, she sighed, and looked in a 
mirror and murmured to herself in a semi-comedy of 
grief: * Alas I too weak to be Messalina! I must be 
good if he asks me.' 

And, being weak, she let her thoughts drift. 


IN a street of the quarter Giovia the armourer Lupo 
had his smithy. He had been a notable artisan in 
a town famous for its steel and niello work ; but in his 
age, as in any, a plethora of fine production must cheapen 
the value of the individual producer. Therefore when a 
vengeful caprice blinded him, and his door remained shut 
and his chimney ceased to smoke, patronage transferred 
its custom to the next- house or street without a qualm ; 
and his achievements in his particular business were for* 
gotten, or confounded with those of fellow-craftsmen, 
deriving, perhaps, in their art from him. It was a 
sample of that banal heartlessness of society, which in a 
moral age breeds collectivists, and desperadoes in an age 
of lawlessness. And of the two one may pronounce the 
latter the more logical. 

In Milan men came quickly to maturity, whether in 
the art of forging a blade or using it. Life flamed up 
and out on swift ideals of passion. Parental love, high 
education, the intricate cults of beauty and chivalry, were 
all gambling investments in a speculative market. The 
odds were always in favour of that old broker Death. 
Yet the knowledge abated nothing of the zeal. It was 
strange to be so fastidious of the terms of so hazardous a 
lease. One might be saving, just, virtuous — one's life- 
tenancy was not made thereby a whit securer. The 
ten commandments lay at the mercy of a dagger-point ; 




wherefore men hurried to realise themselves timely, 
and to cram the stores of years into a rich banquet or 

Master Lupo, a sincere workman and a conscientious, 
was flicked in one moment off his green leaf into the 
dust. There, maimed and helpless, the tears for ever 
welling in his empty sockets, he cogitated tremulously, 
fiercely, the one sentiment left to him, revenge — revenge 
not so primarily on the instrument of his ruin, as on 
Tassino through the system which had made such a 
creature possible. He lent his darkened abode to be the 
nest to one of those conspiracies, which are never far to 
gather in despotic governments, and which opportunity 
in his case showed him actually at hand. 

Cola Montano, it has been said, had been borne away 
after his scourging by some women of the people. Grace, 
or pity, or fear was in their hearts, and they nursed him. 
Scarcely for his own sake; for, democracy being im- 
personal, he was at no trouble to be a grateful patient. 
He took their ministries as conceded to a principle, and 
individually was as surly and impatient with them as any 
ill-conditioned cur. 

Recovering betimes (the dog had a tough hide), he 
learned of neighbour Lupo's condition, and walked in- 
continently into that wretched artificer's existence. He 
found a blind and hopeless wreck, shelves of rusting 
armour, a forge of dead embers, and, brooding sullen 
beside it, a girl too plainly witnessing to her own dis- 
honour. He heard the rain on the roof; he saw the set 
grey mother creeping about her work ; and he sat himself 
down by the sightless armourer, and peered hungrily into 
his swathed face. 

' Dost know me, Lupo ? I am Montano.* 

The miserable man groaned. 

' Master Collegian ? Stands yet thy school of philo- 


sophy ? A' God's name, lay something of that on this 
hot bandage I ' 

' The school stands in its old place, armourer ; but its 
doors, like thine, are shut What then ? Its principles 
remain open to all.' 

The poor wretch put out a hand, feeling. 

• Where art thou ? Have thy wounds healed so quickly ? 
Mine are incurable.' 

'What!' croaked Montano jeeringly, 'with such a 
salve to allay them t I heard of it — logic meet to an 
angel — to renew thine image through her yonder. 
Marry, sir! conception runs before the law. Hast 
chased thy likeness down and taken it to church? 
Mistress Lucia there would seem a sullen bride. Hath 
her popinjay come and gone again ? Well, you must be 
content with the legitimising.' 

The armourer writhed in answering. 

' What think you? There has been none. Mock not 
our misery. Is it the concern of angels to see their 
sentences enforced ? ' 

•No, but to be called angels. Heaven is not easy 
surfeited with adulation.' 

• He was glorified in his judgment ; and there, for us, 
the matter ended,' 

' Not quite.' 

The pedagogue bent his evil head to look again into 
that woful face. 

• Lupo, my school is closed ; alumnus loiters in the 
streets. Shall he come in here ? ' 

There was something so significant in his tone that 
the broken man he addressed started, as if a hand had 
been laid on his eyes. 

• For what ? Who is he ? ' he muttered. 

' I will tell you anon,* answered Montano. • No pre- 
lector but hath his favourite pupils. He, alumnus, is in 

■r" I 


this case threefold — three dear homeless scholars of mine, 
Lupo, needing a rallying-place in which to meet and 
mature some long-discussed theory of social cure. I 
have heard from them since — since my illness. They 
chafe to resume their ^ studies and their mentor — 
honest, good fellows, confessing, perhaps, to a heresy 
or so.' 

' Master,' muttered the armourer, ' you will do no harm 
to be explicit' 

* Shall I not ? Well, if you will, and by grace of an 
example, such a heresy, say, as that, when the devil rules 
by divine right, the God who nominated him is best 

* Yes, yes, to be sure. That is blasphemy as well as 
heresy. But I think of Messer Bembo, who is still His 
minister, and I believe your pupils go too far.' 

* Why, what hath this minister done for you ? ' 

* Very much, in intention.' 

' Well, I thought that was said to pave the other place ; 
but, in truth, the issues of all things are confounded, since 
we have an angel for the Lord's minister and a devil for 
His vicegerent.' 

* Pity of God I are they not ? And ye would resolve 
them by deposing the Christ — by knocking out the very 
keystone of hope ? ' 

* Nay, by substituting a rock for a crumbling brick.' 
' What rock ? ' 

* The people.' 

' Might they not, too, elect a tyrant to be their repre- 
sentative ? ' 

* How could tyranny represent a commonwealth ? ' 

< A commonwealth 1 It is out, then 1 It is not God 
ye would depose, but Galeazzo. Commonwealth ! Is 
that a name for keeping all men under a certain height ? 
But the giant will dictate the standard, and any one may 


reach to him who can. Messer Montano, I seem to have 
heard of a republican called Caesar.' 

' Then you must have heard of another called Brutus ? ' 

' Ay, to be sure ; and of a third called Octavian.' 

' Those were distracted times, my friend.' 

' And what are these ? Have you ever heard of the 
times when a man's interest was one with bis neighbour's ? 
Besides, the flame of art burns never so sprightly as under 
a despot. It finds no fuel in uniformity — each man equal 
to his neighbour/ He put out groping hands pitifully. 
* I loved my art,' he quavered. * They might have spared 
me to it ! ' 

Montano bit his lip scornfully. It was on his tongue to 
spurn this spiritless creature. But he suppressed himself. 

'What would you, then?' he demanded; 'you, the 
wretched victim of the system you commend ? ' 

'Ah!' sighed Lupo, 'ideally, Messer, an autocracy, 
with an angel at its head.' 

The philosopher laughed harshly. 

' Why,' he sneered, ' there is your ideal come to hand. 
Be plain. Shall we depose a tyrant, and. elect in his place 
this new-arrived, this divine boy, as ye all title him ? ' 

• Why not ? ' 

Montano started and stared at the speaker. There 
was suggestion here— -of a standard for innovation ; of a 
rallying-point for reform. A republic, like a despotism, 
might find its telling battle-cry in a saint. The boy, as 
representing the liberty of conscience, was already a 
subject of popular adoration. Why should they not use 
him as a fulcrum to the lever of revolution, and, having 
done with, return him to the cloisters from which he 
drew? There was suggestion here. 

He mused a little, then broke out suddenly : — 

' Brutus is none the less indispensable.' 

' I do not gainsay it, master.' 


' What I you do not ? Then there, at least, we are 
agreed. Wilt have him come here ? ' 

' Who is he, this Brutus ? I grope in the dark — O my 
God, in the dark ! ' 

During all this time the two women had remained 
passive and apparently apathetic listeners. Now, sud- 
denly, the girl rose from her place by the chimney and 
came heavily forward, her eyes glaring, her hands clenched 
in woe, like some incarnated, fallen pythoness. 

' Tell mey she said hoarsely. ' I haven't his patience 
for my wrongs, nor caution neither. What 's gained by 
caution when one stands on an earthquake? Let me 
make sure of him^ my fine lover, and the world may fall 
in, for all I care.' 

The pale mother hurried to her husband's side. He 
put out helpless, irresolute hands, with a groan. Montano 
stooping, elbow on knee, and rubbing his bristly chin, 
conned the speaker with sinister approval. 

' Spoken like a Roman,' said he. ' Thou art the better 
vessel. If all were as you I Tyranny is hatched of the 
gross corpse of manliness — a beastly fly. Wilt tell thee 
my Brutus's name, girl, if thou wilt answer for these.' 
He pointed peremptorily at her parents. 
• Ay, will I,' she answered scornfully ; * though I have 
to wrench out their tongues first' 

He applauded shrilly, with a triumphant, contemptuous 
glance at the cowering couple. 

' That is the right way with cowards. I commit my 
Brutus to thee. 'Tis a threefold dog, as I have said — 
a fanged Cerberus. Noble, too — ^as Roman as thou ; and, 
in one part at least, like wounded. He, this third part, 
this Carlo Visconti, had a sister. Well, she was a flower 
which Galeazzo plucked; and, not content therewith, 
threw into the common road. Another head is Lam- 
pugnani, beggared by the Sforzas; and Girolamo 


Olgiati is my third, a dear beardless boy, and insti- 
gated only by the noblest love of liberty.* 
The girl nodded. 

* And are these all ? ' 

* All, save a fellow called Narcisso— a mere instrument 
to use and break — no principles but hate and gain. 
Was servant to that bully Lanti and dismissed — ^hum t 
for excess of loyalty. Fear him not.' 

* Alas ! ' broke in the armourer : * why should we fear 
him or anybody ? There is no harm in this letting my 
shop to be thy school's succedaneum.' 

Lucia laughed like a fury. 

* No harm at all,* sniggered Montano, * save in these 
heresies I spoke of. And what are they ? — to reorganise 
society on a basis of political and social freedom. No 
harm in these young Catalines discussing their drastic 
remedies, perhaps in the vanity of a hope that some 
Sallust may be found to record them.' 

* Nay, have done with all this,' cried the girl wither- 
ingly. ' I know nothing of your Catalines and Sallusts. 
Ye meet to kill — own it, or ye meet elsewhere.' 

Her mother cried out : * O Lucia I per pieta.' 
She made no answer, only fixing Montano with her 
glittering eyes. He rose from his stool stiffly, with a 
snarl for his aching wounds. But his face brightened 
towards her like a spark of wintry sun. 

* We meet to kill, Madonna,' he said, 'ruined, crippled, 
debauched — the victims of a monster and his system. 
And thou shalt have thy share, never fear, when the 
feast comes to follow the sacrifice.' 

Bembo had fled, like one distracted, from the walls, 
his faithful shadow jumping in his wake. The two, 
running and following, never slackened in tLeir pace 
until a half-mile separated them from the city ; and 



then, in a gloomy thicket, under a falling sky, the boy 
threw himself down on the grass, and buried his face 
from heaven. Pitiful and distraught, the Fool stood 
over, silently regarding him. At length he spoke, 
panting and reproachful. 

' Nay, in pity, master, wert thou not advised ? ' 

The boy writhed. 

' So lying, so wicked cunning, to make me his decoy 
and seeming abettor ! O, I am punished for my faith I 
Is Christ dead ? ' 

The Fool sighed. 

' By thy showing. He lingers behind in the wood.' 

* Tell Him I have gone on to my father.' 
' Thou wilt ? ' 

Bernardo sat up, a towzled angel. In the interval 
the tears had come fast, and his face was wet 

* God help you all ! ' he sobbed. * You, even you, pre- 
varicated to me. Whither shall I turn? I see every- 
where a death-dealing wilderness, lies and lust and 

* I prevaricated,' said Cicada mournfully. ' I admit 
it. You once claimed my wit and experience to your 
tutoring. Well, do I not know the tyrant — the persistent 
devil in him? He had his teeth in that monk. Not 
Christ Himself would have loosened them.' 

< Ah I what shall I do ? ' 

* What, but go forward steadfast. This is but a jog by 
the way. Judge life on the broad lines of action, the 
ruts which mark the progress of the wheels. 'Tis a 
morbid sentiment that wastes itself on the quarrel 
between the wheels and the road.' 

' Ah, me ! if I could but foresee the end of that bloody 
mire — the sweet, crisp path again I I can advance no 
further. My weak heart fails. I will go back to the 


* Then back, a' Grod's name, so I come too/ 
Bernardo rose and seized the Fool's hand, the tears 

streaming down his cheeks. 

* This dreadful race — monsters all I ' he cried. ' Is there 
one kind deed recorded to its credit — one, one only, one 
little deed ? Tell me, and if there is, by its memory I 
will persevere.' 

'Humph! Should I wish thee to? Think again of 
that wood.' 

* Tell me, kind, good Cicca, my nurse and friend.' 

' Go to ! Shalt not put a bone in my throat. Well, 
they are monsters, but made by that same brute 
Circumstance thou decriest. " Wavering out of chaos," 
says you? Very like, sir; but, after all. Circumstance 
is our head artist in a tuneless world. What a dull sing- 
song 'twould be without him — league-long choirs of 
saints praising God — a universe of chirping crickets ! 
With respect, sir, I, though his Fool, would not have 
him caged in my time.' 

'Alas, dear, for thine understanding! Love, that I 
would have depose him, is ten thousand times his 
superior in art — ay, and in humour. But go on.' 

' I doubt the humour. However, as things are, I owe 
to him, as do you, and Galeazzo — ^the Fool, the Saint, and 
the Monster. Could love conceive such a trio? But 
to the point. Hast ever heard speak of our Duke's 
grand-dad ? ' 

* Muzio ? ' 

' So he called himself, or was called, pretending to trace 
his descent from Mutius Scaevola the Roman. Flattery, 
you see, will make a braying ass of honesty. He was 
Giacommuzzo— just that ; one of a family of fighting 
yeomen. But he had points. Hast been told how he 
began ? ' 




'Why, he was digging turnips by the evening star in 
his father's farm at Cotignola, when the sound of pipes 
and drums disturbed him. Twas some band of Boldrino 
of Panicale come to recruit from the fields ; and they 
halted by the big man. " Be a soldier of fortune like us," 
says they ; and he tossed his dusty hair from his eyes, 
and saw the glint of gold in baldricks. He looked at 
the evening star, and 'twas pale beside. Borrowers glean 
the real heaven of credit in this topsy-turvy world. Look 
at any pool of water: what a glittering prospectus it 
makes of the moon I Muzzo flung his spade into an 
oak hard by, leaving the decision to Circumstance. If 
it fell, he would resume it ; if it stayed, a soldier he would 
be. It stuck in the branches.' 

' Cicca ! ' 

'Peace! I will tell thee. He fought up and down, 
but never back to Cotignola. He put his ploughing 
shoulder to his work, and dug a furrow to fame. Popes 
and kings engaged for and against this Condottieri. He 
took them all to market like his beans. He knew the 
values of fear and money and discipline — bought over 
honour ; wrenched treason by the joints ; flogged slack- 
ness for a rusty hinge in its armour ; made warriors of 
his rabble. Sought letters, too, to spur them on by 

* All this is nothing.' 

* He went to Mass every day ' 


' Cast his true plain wife, and took to bed the widow of 

Naples ' 

' Alas ! Alas ! ' 

* And lost his life at Pescara, trying to save another.' 

* Ah ! How was that ? ' 

' He had crossed the river on a blown tide, when he 
saw his page a-drowning in the stream. "Poor lad," 



quoth he, " will none help thee ? " And he dashed back, 
was overwhelmed himself, and sank. They saw his 
mailed hands twice rise and clutch the air. A' was 
never seen again. The waters were his tomb.' 

Bernardo was silent. 

' Was not that a creditable deed ? ' quoth the Fool. 

The boy, pressing the tangled hair from his eyes, 
feverishly seized his comrade's hands in his own. 

* God forgive me ! ' he cried ; * am I one to judge him, 
who have let my father's friend go under, and never 
reached a hand ? ' 

The Fool looked frankly amazed. 

* Montano,' cried Bembo, * whom, in my pride of place, 
I have forgotten! I will go down among the people 
where he lies, and seek to heal his wounds, and sing 
Christ's parables to simple hearts. Love lies not in 
palaces. I will seek Montano.' 

* Come, then,* said Cicada. 

* Nay, in a little,' said the boy. * Let the kind night 
find us first. I will flaunt my creed no longer in 
the sun.' 

From behind the barred door of Lupo's shop came 
the sound of muffled laughter. The tragic incongruity 
of it in that house of ruin was at least arresting enough 
to halt a pedestrian here and there on his passage along 
the dark, wet-blown street outside. The mirth broke 
gustily, with little snarls at intervals, bestial and worry- 
ing ; hearing which, the lingerer would perhaps hurry 
on his way with a shudder, crossing himself against, 
or spitting out like a bad odour, the^influence of the 
fiend who had evidently got hold ofc<ne master armourer. 
Libera nos d mala ! e 

The fiend, in fact, in pos^ssion was no other than 
Messer Montano's Cerbenis, and its orgy, had the 


listener known it, had more than justified his apprehen- 
sions. The mirth which terrified his heart was perhaps 
even a degree more deadly in its evocation than any- 
thing he could imagine. It was really laughter so 
dreadful that, had he guessed its import, he had rushed, 
in an agony of self-vindication, to summon the watch. 
But guessing nothing, unless it might be Lupo's madness 
under the shock of his misfortunes, he simply crossed 
himself and hurried away. 

Blood conspiracies are rarely successful. Perhaps a 
too scrupulous forethought against contingencies tends 
to clog the issues. If that is so, the recklessness of these 
men may, in a measure, have spelt their present security. 
A laugh, after all, is less open to suspicion than a whisper. 
Who could imagine a fatal thrust in a guffaw ? Never- 
theless, every chuckle uttered here punctuated a stab. 

In rehearsal only at present, it is true ; but practice, 
good practice, sirs. The victim of the attack was a 
dummy, contrived suggestively to represent Galeazzo. 
At least the habit made the man ; and hate and a sting- 
ing imagination supplied the rest. 

It stood in a dusky corner by the dead forge. Not so 
much light as would certainly guide a hand was allowed 
to fall upon it ; for deeds of darkness, to be successful, 
must be prepared against darkness. Its stuffed, daubed 
face, staring from out this gloom, was like nothing human. 
To catch sudden sight, within a vista of dim lamp-shine, 
of its motionless eyes and features warped with stabs, 
was to gasp and shrink, as if one had looked into a glass 
and seen Death reflected back. Its suggestion of reality 
(and it possessed it) was to seek rather in velvet and 
satin ; in a cunning, familiar disposition of its dress ; in 
the sombre but profuse sparkle of artificial gems with 
which it was looped and hung. Thence came a grotesque 
and wicked semblance to a doomed figure. For the rest, 


in the bloodless slashes, gaping, rag-exuding, which had 
taken it cunningly in weak places — through the neck, 
under the gorget, between joints of the mail with which 
Lupo's craft had fitted it — there was a suggestiveness 
almost more horrible than truth. 

It was in actual fact a sop to Cerberus, was this grisly- 
ludicrous doll, fruit of the decision (which had followed 
much discussion of ways and means) to postpone its 
prototype's murder to some occasion of public festivity, 
when the sympathies of the mob might be kindled and a 
revolution accomplished at a stroke. Politic Cerberus 
must nevertheless have something to stay the gnawing 
and craving of a delayed revenge which had otherwise 
corroded him. He took a ferociously boyish delight in 
fashioning this lay-figure, and, having made, in whetting 
his teeth on it ; in clothing it in purple and fine linen ; 
in addressing it wheedlingly, or ironically, or brutally, as 
the mood swayed him. And to-night his mood, stung 
by the tempest, perhaps, was unearthly in its wildness. 
It rose in fiendish laughter ; it mocked the anguish of 
the blast, a threefold litany, now blended, now a trifur- 
cating blasphemy. There were the roaring bass of 
Visconti, Lampugnani's smooth treble, the deadly con- 
sidered baritone of Olgiati. And, punctuating all, like 
the tap of a baton, flew the interjections of Messer Mon- 
tano, the conductor : — 

^ Su ! Gia-gia I Bravo, Carlo ! That was a Brutus 
stroke ! Uh-uh, Andrea ! hast bled him there for arrears 
of wages ! a scrap of gold-cloth, by Socrates I A brave 
sign, a bright token, Andrea ! ' 

He chuckled and hugged himself, involuntarily em- 
bracing in the action the long pendant which hung from 
his roundlet or turban, and half-pulling the cap from his 
skull-like forehead. 

' Death I ' he screeched in an ecstasy, and Lampugnani, 


glancing at him, went off into husky laughter, and sank 
back, breathed, upon a bench. 

'Cometh in a doctor's gown/ he panted. 'Nay, sir, 
bonnet ! bonnet I or the dummy will suspect you.' 

He might have, himself, and with a better advantage 
to his fortunes, could he have penetrated the vestments 
of that drear philosophic heart. There was a secret there 
would have astounded his self-assurance. Montano wore 
his doctor's robe, meetly as a master of rhetoric, not the 
least of whose contemplated flights was one timely away 
from that political arena, whose gladiators in the mean- 
while he was bent only on inflaming to a contest in which 
he had no intention of personally participating. He had 
a fixed idea, his back and his principles being still pain- 
fully at odds, that the cause would be best served by his 
absence, when once the long train to the explosion he 
was engineering had been fired at his hand. And so he 
hugged himself, and Lampugnani laughed. 

' Look at Master Lupo, with the sound of thy screech 
in his ears ! As if he thought we contemplated anything 
but to bring slashed Venetian doublets into vogue ! ' 

He was a large, fleshly creature, was this Lampugnani, 
needing some fastidious lust to stir him to action, and 
then suddenly violent. His face was big and vealy, with 
a mouth in its midst like a rabbit's, showing prominently 
a couple, no more, of sleek teeth. His eyes drooped 
under lids so languid as to give him an affectation of 
fatigue in lifting them. His voice was soft, but compel- 
ling: he never lent it to platitudes. An intellectual 
sybarite, a voluptuary by deliberation, he had tested God 
and Belial, and pronounced for the less Philistine lord- 
ship of the beast. Quite consistent with his principles, 
he not hated, but highly disapproved of Galeazzo, who, 
as consistently, had pardoned him some abominable 
crime which, under Francesco the father, had procured 


him the death sentence. But Messer Andrea had looked 
for a more sympathetic recognition of his merits at the 
hands of his deliverer than was Implied in an ill-paid 
lieutenancy of Guards ; and his exclusion from a share 
in the central flesh-pots was a conclusive proof to him of 
the aesthetic worthlessness of the master it was his 
humility to serve. 

The Visconti, at whom he breathed his little laugh, 
was a contrast to him in every way — a bluff, stout-built 
man, with fat red chaps flushing through a skin of red 
hair, a braggadocio manner, and small eyes red with 
daring. There was nothing of his house's emblematic 
adder about him, save a readiness with poisons ; and 
after all, that gave him no particular distinction. He 
took a great, stertorous pull at a flagon of wine, and 
smacked his lips bullyingly, before he answered with a 
roar : — 

'Wounds I scarlet scotched on a ground of flesh-tint — 
a fashion will please our saint.' 

Montano chuckled again, and more shrilly. 

*Good, good!' he cried: 'scarlet on flesh!' and he 
squinted roguishly at the blind smith, who sat beside 
him on a bench, nervously kneading together his wasted 

* Messers,' muttered the poor fellow ; * but will this holy 
boy approve the means to such a fashion ? For Love to 
exalt himself by blood ! ' 

He turned his sightless eyes instinctively towards 
Olgiati, where the boy stood, a dark, fatalistic young 
figure, breathing himself by the forge. He, he guessed, 
or perhaps knew, was alone of the company actuated by 
impersonal motives in this dread conspiracy. But he 
did not guess that, by so much as the young man was a . 
pure fanatic of liberty, his hand and purpose were the j 
most of all to be dreaded. \ 



Olgiati gave a melancholy smile, and, stirring a little, 
looked down. He was habited, as were his two com- 
panions, for the occasion — a recurrent dress-rehearsal — 
in a coat and hose of mail, and a jerkin of crimson satin. 
It was not the least significant part of his undertaking 
that he, like the others, was court-bred and court- 
employed. The fact, at its smallest, implied in them a 
certain anatomic-cum-sartorial acquaintance with their 
present business. 

* Offerimus tibiy Domine^ Calicem salutaris ! ' he quoted 
from the Mass, in his sweet, strong voice. ' Hast thou 
not a first example of that exaltation, Lupo, in the 
oblation of the chalice ? ' 

Revolution knows no blasphemy. 

* Bah ! ' grumbled Visconti. 

' He died for men : we worship the sacrifice of Him- 
self/ protested the armourer. 

'And shall not Messer Bembo sacrifice himself, his 
scruples and his reluctances, that love may be exalted 
over hate, mercy over tyranny ? ' asked Olgiati. 

* I know not, Messer,' muttered the suffering armourer. 
' I cannot trace the saint in these sophistries, that is all.' 

' True, he is a saint,' conceded Lampugnani, yawning 
as he lolled. ' Now, what is a saint, Lupo ? ' 
' O, Messer ! look on his mother's son, and ask ! ' 

* Why, that is the true squirrel's round. We are all 
born of women ' — he yawned again. 

*They bear us, and we endure them,' he murmured 
smilingly, the water in his eyes. * It is so we retaliate on 
their ofliciousness.' 

Montano tittered. 

'Lupo,' Lampugnani went on, lazily stirring himself, 
* you suggest to me two-thirds of a syllogism : / am my 
mother's son ; therefore I am a saint.' 

* Ho ! ho ! ' hooted Visconti. 


'Messer/ entreated the bewildered armourer, ^with 
respect, it turns upon the question of the mother.' 

'The mother? O dog, to question the repbte of mine ! ' 

* I did not — no, never.' 
' Well, who was his ? ' 

' None knows. A star, 'tis said.' 

* Venus, of course. And his father ? ' 
' Some son of God, perchance.' 

'Ay, Mars. He was that twain's by-blow, and fell 
upon an altar. I know now how saints are made. Yet 
shall we, coveting sanctity, wish our parents bawds? 
'Tis a confusing world ! ' 

He sank back as if exhausted, while Montano chirped, 
and Visconti roared with laughter. 

' Saints should be many in it, Andrea,' he applauded. 
' Knows how they are made, quotha I ' and he stamped 
about, holding his sides till, reeling near to the dummy, 
he paused, and made a savage lunge at it with his dagger. 
His mood changed on the instant. 

* Death ! ' he snarled, * I warrant here 's one hath pro- 
pagated some saints to his undoing!' and he went 
muttering a rosary of curses under his breath. 

Lampugnani, smilingly languid, continued : — 
'Well, Lupo, so Messer Bembo is the son of his 
mother? It seems like enough — what with his wheedling 
and his love-locks. He shall be Saint Cupid on promo- 
tion. I think he will regard scarlet or pink as no 
objectionable fashion, does it come to make a god of 

The armourer uttered an exclamation : — 
' Some think him that already. It is the question of 
his coming to be Duke that hips me. I can't see him 

' Nor I,' said Visconti, with a sarcastic laugh. 
Olgiati interposed quietly : — 

* Have comfort, Lupo. We are all good republicans. 


The exaltation of Messer Bembo is to be provisional 
only, preceding the consummation. He is to be lifted 
like the Host, to bring the people to their knees, and then 
lowered, and -' 

' Put away,' said Lampugnani blandly. 

The armourer started to his feet in agitation. . 

* Messers ! ' he cried, * he poured oil into my wounds ; I 
will consent to no such wickedness.' 

' You vronW roared Visconti; but Lampugnani soothed 
him down. 

'When I said "put away," I meant in a tabernacle, 
like that sacred bread. I assure you, Lupo, he is the 
rose of our adoration also ; he shall cultivate his thorn in 
peace ; he shall wax fat like Jeshurun, and kick.' 

* And in the meantime,' grumbled Visconti, * we are 
measuring our fish before we Ve hooked him.' 

Lampugnani's face took on a very odd expression. 

* What the devil 's behind that ? ' hectored the bully. 
'O, little!' purred the other. 'I fancy I feel him 

nibble, that's all. Perhaps you don't happen to know 
how he hath cut his connection with the palace ? ' 

'What! When?' 

They all jumped to stare at him. 

' This day,' he said, ' in offence of some carrion of 
Galeazzo's which he had nosed out. The poor boy is 
particular in his tastes, for a shambles — ran like a sheep 
from the slaughter-house door, taking his Patch with 
him, and a ring her Grace had loaned him for a safe- 
conduct. I heard it said she would have been ravished 
of anything rather — by him. 'Twas her lord's troth-gift. 
The castle is one fume of lamentation.' 

Montano, rubbing his lean hands between his knees, 
went into a rejoicing chatter : — 

* We have him, we have him ! Gods ! who 's here ? ' 
Their intentness had deafened them some minutes 

earlier to a more mouthing note in the thunder of the 


rain, as if the swell of the tempest had been opened 
an instant and shut. The moment, in fact, and a 
master-key, had let in a new comer. He had closed the 
latch behind him, and now, seeing himself observed, 
stood ducking and lowering in the blinking light. The 
philosopher heaved a tremulous sigh of relief. 

* Narcisso ! ' 

The hulking creature grinned, and stabbed a thumb 
over his shoulder. 

* Hist ! him you speak of 's out there, a-seeking your 

* Seeking me ? Messer Bembo ? ' 

* Why not ? A' met him at the town gate half-drowned, 
with his Patch to heel. The report of his running was 
got abroad, and, thinks I to myself, here 's luck !.to my 
masters. To take him on the hop of grievance like ' 

Montano seemed to sip the phrase : — 

* Exactly : on the hop of grievance. Well ? ' 

*Why, I spoke him fair: "Whither away, master?" 
A' spat a saintly word — ^'twere a curse in a sinner — and 
sprang back, a' did, glaring at me. But the great Fool 
pushed him by. " You 're the man," says he. " Despera- 
tion knows its fellows. Where 's Montano ? " " Why, 
what would you with him ? " says I, taken off my guard. 
" A salve for his wounds," he answered. And so I con- 
sidered a bit, and brought 'em on, and there they wait.' 

Visconti uttered a furious oath, but Lampugnani 
hushed him down. 

'Didst well, pretty innocence,' he said to Narcisso. 
* The hop of grievance ? — never a riper moment. Show 
in your friends.' 

He was serenely confident of his policy — waved all 
protest aside. 

* I see my way : the hook is baited : let him bite.' 

* Bite ? ' growled Visconti. * And what about our oc- 
cupation here ? ' 



' Why, 'tis testing mail, nothing more. Is a lay-figure 
in an armoury so strange ? ' 

* Ay, when 'tis a portrait-model.' 

' O glowing tribute to my art ! I designed the doll, 
true. You make me look down, sir, and simper and bite 
my finger. Yet my mind misgives me thou flatterest. 
A portrait-model, yes ; but will he recognise of whom ? ' 

* The knave may — the shrewder fool of the pair.' 

* The greater fool will testify to me ? O happy artist ! 
Well, if he do, I will still account him naught. He will 
take the bait also. The shadow swims and bites with 
the fish. Besides, should this befall, 'twill save mayhap 
a world of preliminaries. Remember that ''hop of 
grievance." He comes, it seems, in a mood to jump 
with ours. Let them in.' 

Like souls salvaged from a wreck they came — the Fool 
propping the Saint — staggering in by the door. Grief 
and storm and weariness had robbed the boy of specula- 
tion, almost of his senses. His drenched hair hung in 
ropes, his wild eyes stared beneath like a frightened 
doe's, his clothes slopped on his limbs. 

Narcisso struggled with the door and closed it. 

Suddenly Bernardo, lifting his dazed lids, caught sight 
of the shadowed lay-figure, recoiled, and shrieking out 
hoarsely : — * Galeazzo ! Thou ! O God, doomed soul ! ' 
tottered and slid through Cicada's limp arms upon the 
floor. Instantly Narcisso was down by his side, and 
fumbling with his hands. 

'A's in a swound,' he was beginning, when, with a 
rush and heave, the Fool sent him wallowing. 

' Darest thou, hog ! darest thou ! Go rub thjfTiithy 
hoofs in ambergris first!' and he squatted, janarling and 
showing his teeth. 

Narcisso rose, to a chorus of laughter, and stood 
grinning and rubbing his head. 

* Well, I never ! ' he said. 


THE Countess of Casa Caprona was a widow. The 
news was waiting to overwhelm, or transport, her 
upon her return to the castello after her interview with 
Lanti. On the one hand it committed her to dowagery, 
that last infirmity of imperious minds ; on the other to 
the freedom of a glorified spinsterhood. Though she 
recognised that, on the whole, the blow was destructive 
of the real zest of intrigue, she behaved very hand- 
somely by the memory of the deceased, who had died, 
like a soldier, in harness. She caused a solemn requiem 
mass to be sung for him in the Duomo; she commis- 
sioned a monody, extolling his marital virtues, from an 
expensive poet ; she distributed liberal alms to the poor 
of the city. There is no trollop so righteous in her 
matronhood as she made timely a widow. Besides, to 
this one, the zest of all zests for the moment was re- 
venge. She withdrew to mature it, and to lament 
orthodoxly her lord, to her dower-house in the Via 

It was a very pretty spot for melancholy and medi- 

-tation — cool, large, secluded, and its smooth, silent walks 
and"^tj^?bling fountains cloistered in foliage. From its 

.gardens oK had glimpses of the castello and of the 
candied, biscuU-Hke pinnacles of the cathedral. Cypresses 
and little marbl^fauns broke between them the flowering 
intervals, and peacocks on the gravel made wandering 

156 \ 


parterres of colour. Sometimes, musing in the shades, 
with a lock of her long hair between her lips, she would 
pet her frowning fancy with the figure of a youthful 
Adam, golden and glorious, approaching her down an 
avenue of this smiling paradise, making its mazes some- 
thing less than scentless ; and then, behold I a lizard, 
perhaps, would wink on the terrace, and she would snatch 
and crush the little palpitating life under her heel, cursing 
it for a symbol of the serpent desolating her Eden, and 
transforming it all into a mirage of warmth and passion. 
Not Adam he, that lusted-for, but the angel at the gate, 
menacing and awful. She must be more and worse than 
Eve to seek to corrupt an angel. 

Perhaps she was, in her most tortured, most animal 
moods. The sensuous, by training and heredity, had 
quite over-swollen and embedded in her beautiful trunk 
the small spike of conscience, which as a child had tor- 
mented, and which yet, at odd moments, would gall and 
tease her like an ancient wound. She might even have 
been stung by it into some devotional self-sacrifice in her 
present phase of passion, could she have been assured of, 
or believed in, its object's inaccessibility to a higher grace 
of solicitation. But jealousy kept her ravening. 

On a languorous noon of this week of losses she was 
lying, a conventionally social exile, having her hair 
combed and perfumed, in a little green pavilion pitched 
in her grounds, when a heavy step on the gravel outside 
aroused her from a dream of voluptuous rumination. 
The tread she recognised, yet, though moved by it 
to a little flutter of curiosity, would not so far alloy a 
drowsy ecstasy as to bid the visitor enter while it lasted. 
Hypnotised by the soft burrowing of the comb, she closed 
her eyes until the perfect moment was passed, when, with 
a sigh, she bade the intruder enter, and Narcisso came 
slouching in by the op^ening. 


Beatrice dismissed her attendants with a look. She 
never spoke to her servants where a gesture would servci 
and could draw hour-long silent enjoyment from the weary 
hands of tire-woman or slave, hairdresser or fannen 
without a sign of embarrassment, or indeed understanding. 
Now she lay back, restful, impassive — indifferent utterly 
to any impression her will for a solitary interview with 
this gross creature might make upon them. And, indeed, 
there was little need for such concern. Hired assassina- 
tion, a recognised institution, explained many otherwise 
strange conjunctions between the beauties and beasts 
of Milan. 

The beast, in the present instance, behaved as was 
habitual with him in the presence of this Circe. That is 
to say, he was awkward, deprecating, and, of stranger 
significance, devoted to truthfulness. He adored her, as 
Caliban Miranda, but more fearfully : was her slave, the 
genii of the lamp of her loveliness, with which to be on 
any familiar terms, even of debasement, was enough. 
What did it matter that she paid him with offence and 
disdain ? Her use of him was as her use of some necessary 
organic part of herself. And she might deprecate the 
necessity; but the secret of it was, nevertheless, their 
common property. Her beauty and his devotion were as 
near akin as blood and complexion. Perhaps some day, 
in the resurrection of the flesh, he would be able to 
substantiate that kinship. 

The thought may have been there in him, instinctive, 
unilluminated, as he stood fumbling with his cap, and 
raising and lowering his hang-dog eyes^ and waiting for 
her to open. Physically, at least, she showed no shame 
in implying his close right to her confidence. The noon 
was a noon of slumbering fires, anc]^ her mood a responsive 
one. A long white camisole, of the frailest tissue, rounded 
on her lower limbs, and, splitting at the waist, straddled 


her shoulders clingingly, leaving a warm breathing-space 
between. Round her full neck clung one loop of emeralds ; 
and to the picture her black falling hair made a tenderest 
frame, while the sun, penetrating the tilt above, finished 
all with a mist of green translucence. A Circe, indeed, to 
this coarse and animal rogue, and alive with awful and 
covetable lusts, to which, nevertheless, he was an admitted 
procurer. He had not ceased to be in her pay and con- 
fidence, cursed and repudiated though he had been by his 
master, her erst protector. He had not even resented 
that episode of his betrayal at her hands, though it had 
condemned him for a living to the rdle of the hired bravo. 
She might always do with him as she liked ; overbid with 
one imperious word his fast pledges to others ; convert 
his craft wheresoever she wished to her own profit. The 
more she condescended to him, the more was he claimed 
a necessary part of her passions' functions. She dis- 
charged through him her hates and desires, and he was 
beatified in the choice of himself as their medium. There 
was a suggestion of understanding, of a conscious partner- 
ship between them, in the very fulsomeness with which 
he abased himself before her. 

* Well,' she murmured at last, ' hast drunk thy senses 
to such surfeit that they drown in me ? ' 

* Ay,' he mumbled, ' I could die looking.' 

* A true Narcissus,' she scoffed ; ' but I could wish a 
sweeter. Stand away, fellow. Your clothes offend me.' 

He backed at once. 

* Now,' she said, * I can breathe. Deliver yourself ! ' 
He heaved up his chest, and looked above her, concen- 
trating his wits on an open loop of the tent, behind which 
a bird was flickering and chirping. 

* I come, by Madonna's secret instructions, from pri- 
vately informing Messer Lanti where Messer Bembo lies 
hidden,' he said, speaking as if by rote. 


She nodded imperiously. 

* What questions did he ask ? ' 

' How I knew ; and I answered, that I knew/ 

'Good. That least was enough. Art a right rogue. 

Now will he go seek him, and be drawn by his devotion 

into this net' 

Narcisso was silent. 

* Will he not ? ' she demanded sharply. 

The fellow dropped his eyes to her an instant 
'Madonna knows. He loves the Messer Saint No 
doubt a' will hold by him.' 
' What then, fool ? ' 

* They have not caught Messer Bembo yet, they at the 
foi^e — that is all/ 

' How ! ' she cried angrily, * when thou told'st me ' 

* With humility, Madonna,' he submitted, * I told thee 
naught but that he and this Moiitano were agreed on the 
State's disease.' 

* Well ? ' 

* But I never said on its cure.' 

She frowned, leaning forward and again biting a strand 
of her hair — a sullen trick with her in anger. 

' A doctor of rhetoric, and so feeble in persuasion ! ' 
she muttered scornfully. 

'A' starts at a shadow, this saint,' pleaded Narcisso. 
* A' must be coaxed, little by little, like a shy foal. We 
will have him in the halter anon. Yet a' be only one out 
of five, when all 's said.' 

* Dolt ! ' she hissed. * What are the other four, or their 
purpose, to me, save as a lever to my revenge ? I foresee 
it all. Why telled'st me not before I sent thee ? Now 
this gross lord, instead of himself tangling in the meshes, 
will persuade the other back to court and reason and 
forgiveness, and I shall be worse than damned. Dolt, I 
could kill thee ! ' 


She rose to her height, furious, and he shrunk cowering 
before her. 

'Listen, Madonna,' he said, trembling: 'Canst net 
them all yet at one swoop. Go tell Messer Ludovico, 
and certes a' will jump to destroy the nest and all in it, 
before a' inquires their degrees of guilt/ 

She stared-at him, still threatening. 


' Why, says Madonna ? Listen again, then. Does the 
Ser Simonetta trust Messer Ludovico, or Messer Ludovico 
love the Ser Simonetta? The secretary clings to the 
Duchess. If she falls, a' falls with her.' 

'Again, thou tedious rogue, why should the Saint's 
destruction bring Bona down ? ' 

' A' would have his mouth shut from explaining.' 

' Explaining what ? I lose patience.' 

' How a' came, a conspirator against the Duke, to be 
found wi' his wife's troth ring in his possession. Here it 
be. I 've filched it for thee at last.' 

She sprang to seize the token, glowing triumphant in a 
moment, and putting it on her own finger, pressed the 
clinched hand that enclosed it into her bosom. 

She laughed low and rejoicingly, shameless in the 
quick transition of her mood. 

'Good Narcissol It is the Key at last! Let Lanti 
persuade him back now — I am content I hold them, 
and Bona too, in the hollow of this hand.' 

She held it out, her right one, palm upwards, and, 
smiling, bade him kiss it. 

'Rogue,' she said, 'to tease and vex me, and all 
the time this talisman in thy sleeve. Ay, make the 
most of it: snufHe and root. My dog has deserved 
of me.' 

He wiped his lips with the back of his hand, as if he 
had drunk. 


* Now/ she said, ' how wert successful ? how won'st it, 
sweet put ? ' 

* Took it ftx)in him, that was all/ 

* When a' came tumbling in and staggered in a swound. 
Had heard Messer Andrea relating of how 'twas on him 
as I entered. Ho, ho ! thinks I, here 's that, maybe, will 
pay the filching! and I dropped and got it, all in a 
moment like/ 

* You never told me.* 

' You never asked till yesterday. Then I had it not 
with me. But to-day, thinks 1, 1 11 bring it up my sleeve 
for a win-favour — a good last card.' 

* No matter, since I have got it.' 

She held it out, and gloated on its device and sparkle. 
She knew it well: indeed it was a famous gem, the 
Sforza lion cut in cameo on a deep pure emerald, and 
known as the Lion ring. 

' Hath he not missed it ? ' she murmured. 

' Not by any sign a' gives. The sickness of that night 
still holds him half-amazed. A' thinks our fine doll, even, 
but a bug of it*-*fancies a! saw it in a dream like. They *d 
locked it away when he came to.' 

* Poor worldling ! Poor little new-born worldling ! He 
shall cut his pretty teeth anon. Well — for Messer Lanti ? 
Did he leap to the trail, or what ? ' 

' That same moment. Belike they are together now/ 
She stood musing a little : then heaved a sudden sigh. 

* Poor boy,' she murmured, ' poor boy ! is it I must 
seek to destroy thee 1 ' 

Her mood had veered ag^ain in a breath. Her eyes 
were full of a brooding love and pity. 

* Not for the first time/ muttered Narcisso. 

She seemed not to hear him — to have grown oblivious 
of his presence. 


* The song he sang to me ! ' she murmured : ' Ah, me, 
if that hour could be mine ! A saint in heaven 7 — not 
Bona's I she hath a lord — no saint, did he love her. He 
looked at me : it came from his heart If that hour could 
be mine ! Not then — 'twere a sin — ^but now ! That one 
hour — cherished — unspent — the seed of the unquickened 
pledge between us to all eternity. I could be content, 
knowing him a saint through that abstinence. My hour — 
mine — to passion to my breast — the shadow of the child 
that would not be born to me. He looked at me — no 
spectre of a dead lost love in his eyes — only a hopeless 
quest — bonds never to be riven. But now— Ah! I 
cannot kill him I ' 

She hid her eyes, shuddering. Narcisso, vaguely 
troubled, gloomed at her. 

' You will not go to Messer Ludovico ? ' he said. 

She returned to knowledge of him, as to a sense of pain 
out of oblivion. 

'Go,' she said coldly. 'Leave all to me. You have 
done well, and been paid your wages.' 

And he did not demur. It was not in her nature to 
gild her favours unnecessarily. Gold came less lavishly 
from her than kisses. Her pounds of flesh were her most 
profitable assets. She was a spendthrift in everything 
but money. 


• 0^» Messer Bembo/ said Montano, between medi- 
v^ tative and caustic, ' you do not agree that our poor 
Lupo's definition of a perfect government^ an autocracy 
wiUi an angel at its bead, is a practicable definition ? ' 

He was sitting, as often during the last few days, at 
talk with the boy, on subjects civic, political, and theo- 
logical. They had discussed at odd times the whole 
ethics of government, from the constitution of Lycurgus 
to the code of Thomas Aquinas : they had expounded, 
each in his way, a scheme or a dream of socialism : they 
had agreed, without prejudice, to liken the evolution of 
the simple Church of Peter into the complicated fabric of 
the fourth Sixtus to a woodland cottage, bought by some 
great princely family, and improved into a summer 
palace, which was grown out of harmony with its environ- 
ments. Somewhat to his amazement, Montano dis- 
covered that the boy was the opposite to a dogmatic 
Christian ; that his was a religion, which, while conform- 
ing or adapting itself to the orthodox, was in its essence 
a religion of mysticism. No doubt the traditions of 
his origin were, to some extent, to seek for this. A 
pledge, so to speak, of spontaneous generation, Bernardo 
accounted for himself on a theory of reincarnation from 
another sphere. He believed in the possibility of the 
resurrection of the body, which, though destroyed, and 
many times destroyed, could be, in its character of mere 



soul-envelope or soul expression, as regularly recon- 
structed at the will of its informing spirit. Death, he 
declared, was just the beginning of the return of that 
divested spirit to the spring of life — to the river welling 
in the central Eden from the loins of the Father, the 
spouse of Nature, the secret, the unspeakable God, of 
whom was Christ, his own dear brother and comrade. 

He would tell Messer Montano, with his sweet, frank 
eyes arraigning that crabbed philosopher's soul, how this 
unstained first-born of Nature, this sinless heir of love, 
this wise and pitying Christ, moved by an infinite com- 
passion to see the wounded souls of his brothers — those 
few who had not made their backward flight too difficult 
— come, soiled and earth-cloyed, to seek their reincarna- 
tion in the spring, had descended, himself, upon earth at 
last, sacrificing his birthright of divinity, that he might 
teach men how to live. And the men his brothers had 
slain him, in jealousy, even as Cain slew Abel ; yet had 
his spirit, imperishably great, continued to dwell in their 
midst, knowing that, did it once leave the earth, it must 
be for ever, and to mankind's eternal unregeneracy. For, 
so Bernardo insisted, there was an immutable law in 
Nature that no soul reincarnated could re-enter the 
sphere from which it was last returned, but must seek 
new fields of action. Wherefore all earth-loving spirits, 
which we call apparitions, were such as after death clung 
about the ways of men, in a yearning hopefulness to 
redeem them by touching their hearts with sympathy 
and their eyes with a mist of sorrow. And, of such 
gentle ghosts, Christ was but the first in faith and 

A wild, dim theory, peopling woods, and fields, and 
cities with a mystic company — phantoms, yet capable of 
revealing themselves in fitful glimpses' to the sinless and 
the sympathetic among men — ghosts, weaving impalpable 


ivebs of love across populous ways to catch men's souls 
in their meshes. Montano called it all transcendental 
fustian. It aroused his most virulent scorn. What had 
this cloud-moulding, moon-paring stuff to do with the 
practical issues of life, with freedom, and government by 
popular representation ? He even professed to prefer to 
it Lascaris, with his metaphysical jargon and apostolic 
succession of atoms. 

* He gives you at least something to take hold of/ he 
snarled. * Listen to this * — and he condescended to read 
an excerpt from a recent treatise by his hated rival : — 

^ '^ Life," ' he read, ' *^ is put out at compound interest. 
We represent, each in himself, a fraction of the principal, 
having a direct pedigree ab initio. As a spider will 
gather the hundred strands of his web into a little ball 
which he will swallow, so might we each absorb and 
claim the whole vast web of life. Rolled up to include 
each radiating thread, the web becomes I ; the spider 
is I ; I am the principal of life — not the principle : that 
is Prometheus' secret 

^ '' I am a fraction of life's compound interest. The 
sum of the mental impressions of all my thread of 
tendency (which gathers back, taking up cross threads 
by the way, to the central origin) is invested in my 
paltry being, and lieth there, together with mine own 
interest on the vast accumulation, in tail for my next of 
kin. What can I do in my tiny span but touch the sur- 
face of this huge estate : pluck here and there a flower of 
its fields, whose roots are in immemorial time? Imagina- 
tion founders in those fathomless depths. Tenuous, 
dim-forgotten ghosts rise from them. Who shall say 
that my dreams, however seeming mad and grotesque, are 
not faithful reflexes of states and conditions which were 
once realities ; memories of forms long extinct ; echoes 
of times when I flew, or spun, or was gaseous, or vast. 


or little; when I mingled intimate with shapes which 

are chimerical to my present understanding " * 

The reader broke off, with an impatient grunt 

' There 1 ' he said, * dreams mad and grotesque enough, 

in good sooth ; yet not so mad as thine.' 
'Well,' said Bernardo, 'well/ with perfect sweetness 

and good temper. 

* Christ in the world ? Fah 1 ' snarled the philosopher. 
'I know him. He sits at Rome under a triple tiara. 
Quit all this sugared dreaming, boy, and face the future 
like a man.' 

' Does the sun shine out of yesterday or to-morrow ? 
It is enough for the moment to take thought for itself. 
The future is not' 

'Pooh I a mere Jesuitry, justifying the moment's 

' Nay : for we shall have to retraverse our deeds, and 
carry back their burden to our first account — ^with most, 
a toilful journey.' 

* They would do better to stop with your Christ, then ; 
and, judged by the preponderance of evil spirits here, I 
think most do. No future, say'st ? But how about that 
heir of the compound interest ? Is there not one waiting 
to succeed to him? Where? Why, in the future, as 
surely and inevitably as this date, which I am going to 
swallow in a moment, will be blood and tissue in me 

He held the fruit up — ^with a swift movement Bernardo 
whipped it out of his hand and ate it himself. 

' How for your future now ? ' he chuckled, pinking all 

Cicada laughed loudly, and Montano swore. His 
philosophy was not proof against such practical jokes. 
But, seeing his fury, the boy put out all his sweetness to 
propitiate him. He was his father's friend ; he was a 


man of learning ; he had suffered grievous wrong. The 
dog was coaxed presently into opening again upon the 
angelic principles. It was by such virulent irony that he 
thought — so warped was his mental vision — to corrode 
the candour of this saint, and bend him to his own views 
and uses — a diseased vanity, even had he not reckoned, 
as will now appear, without the consideration of another 
possible factor. 

And ' So/ said he upon a later occasion, in the sentence 
which opens this chapter, * you do not agree with our poor 
Lupo's practicable definition of a perfect government ? ' 

The Saint's steadfast eyes canvassed the speaker's soul, 
as if in some shadowy suspicion of an integrity which 
they were being led, not for the first time, to probe. 

* Why, Messer,' said he, * practicable in so far as, by 
the dear Christ's influence, grace may come to make an 
angel even of our Duke.' 

Montano tried to return his steady gaze, but failed 

'With submission, Messer Bernardo,' he sniggered, 'I 
can only follow, in my mind's eye, one certain road to 
that great man's apotheosis.' 

Bembo was silent 

' 'Tis the road,' continued the other, ' taken before by 
the Emperor Nero.' 

' He stabbed himself, the most wretched pagan, in fear 
of a worser retribution than heaven's,' said Bembo. 
' Alas ! do you call that an apotheosis ? ' 

* There are gods and gods,' said Montano, — ' Hades and 
Olympus. Belike Nero was welcomed of his kind, as 
Galeazzo would be. I can scarce see in the Duke the 
raw material of your fashion of angel. There 's more of 
the harpy about him than the harp.' 

It was a heavenly day. Bernardo, still a little hectic 
and languid from his fever, sat in the embrasure of a 


window which gave upon the back court of the smithy. 
A muffled tinkling of armourers' hammers reached his 
ears pleasantly from the rear of neighbouring premises. 
There was a certain happy suggestiveness to him in the 
sound, evoked, as he hoped it might be, at his host Lupo's 
instigation. For his endearing optimism had so wrought 
upon that stricken artificer, during the week he had dwelt 
in hiding with him, as to persuade the poor man to quit 
his self-despairing, and hire out his skill — not practically ; 
that was no longer possible; but theoretically — to a 
deserving fellow-craftsman. Already the sense of touch 
was curiously refining in the sightless creature, and the 
glimmer of a new dawn of interest penetrating him. 
And he was at work again elsewhere. 

On the floor at Bembo's feet squatted Cicada, acrid, 
speaking little, and spending his long intervals of silence 
in staring at the girl Lucia, who, crouching at a distance 
away by the fireless forge, in the gloom of the shuttered 
smithy, seemed given over to an eternal reverie of hate. 
She, alone of the household, had remained impervious to 
all the sweet influences of sorrow and pity. Her wrong 
was such as no angel could remedy. 

Cicada spoke now, with a scowl of significance for 
Montano : — 

'Speak plain, master philosopher. Innuendo is the 
weapon of Fools, and wisdom shall prevail in candour. 
Thou canst not picture to thyself this evangelised 
Duke ? ' 

Montano shot a lowering glance at him. 

' No, I confess, master Patch,' said he — * unless,' he 
added grinning, * by Nero's road.' 

'Two whispers do not make one outspokenness,' 
answered the Fool. ' Hast hinted Nero once, and once 
again, and still we lack the application. Nero was driven 
to the road, quotha; well, by whom? — one Galba, an 


my learning's not a'rust What then ? Is Galba going 
to drive Galeazzo ? ' 

'Nay, Love, dear Cicca,' put in Bernardo, but half 
hearing and half understanding. 

• Love I ' cried the Fool. • Thou hast hit it. Hear 
wisdom from the mouths of babes. Love in the hands 
of rascals — a tool, a catspaw, to pull them their chestnuts 
from the fire, and then be cast burnt aside.' 

He addressed himself, with infinite irony, to Montano. 

' Good master philosopher,' said he, ' there is one fable 
for you : listen while I relate another. A certain n^ue 
was stripped and beaten by a greater, who going on his 
way, there came a stranger, a mere child, and marked 
the fellow groaning. "Poor soul!" quoth he in pity; 
and knelt and bound his hurts and gave him wine, and 
by kind arts restored him. When shortly the aggressor 
returning and whistling by that place, his erst-victim, 
stung to revenge, yet having no weapon left him, did 
leap and incontinent seize up by his heels the ministering 
angel, and using his body for flail, knock down his 
enemy with him, killing both together. Which having 
done, and picked their pockets, on his way goes he 
rejoicing, '* Now do I succeed to mine enemy's purse 
and roguery 1 " ' 

He ended. Montano, glancing stealthily at Bernardo, 
wriggled and tittered uneasily. 

' Patch hath spoken,' he said ; ' great is Patch ! ' 

* I have spoken,' quoth the Fool. * Dost gather the 
moral ? ' 

* Not I, indeed.' 

* Why, sir, 'tis of roguery making himself master of 
Love's estate ; and yet that is not the full moral neither. 
For I mind me of a correction ; how, before the blow 
was struck, Folly stepped between, and snatched Love 
from such a fate, and left the rogues to their conclusions.' 


' Well, Folly and Love were well mated. Have you 
done ? I am going to my books/ 

He yawned, and stretched himself, and rose. 

* I will show you to the door, says Folly,' chirped 
Cicada, and skipped about the other as he went, with 
a mincing affectation of ceremonial. But when they 
were got out of immediate sight and hearing of Bernardo 
into the front chamber, like a wolf the Fool snapped upon 
the philosopher, and pinned him into a corner. 

' Understood'st my fable well enough,' he grated, in a 
rapid whisper. < What ! I have waited this opportunity 
a day or two. Now the stopper is out, let us flow.' 

Montano, taken by surprise, was seized with a tremor 
of irresolution. He returned the Fool's gaze with a 
frown uncertain, sullen, eager all in one. 

* Flow, then,' he muttered, after a little. 

' I flow,' went on the other, ' oil and verjuice combined. 
Imprimis, think not that because I read I would betray 
thee. Ay, ay — no need to start, sir. Thou shalt not 
quit playing with thy doll for me ; nay, nor dressing and 
goring it, if thou wilt, with triangles of steel. O, I saw I 
— ^the face and the slashes in it, too. I have not since 
been so ill, like him there, as to read a phantasy out of 
fact What then ? Would ye silence me ? ' 

* Go on,' whispered Montano hoarsely. 

' Well, I flow,' returned the Fool. ' Did I not tell thee 
candour was the best part of wisdom ? Learn by it, 
then. I have marked thee of late ; O, trust me, I have 
marked thee, thy hints and insinuations. And hereby 
by folly I swear, could once I think my master wax to 
such impressions, I would kill him where he stands, and 
damn my soul to send his uncorrupt to heaven. You 
sneer? Sneer on. Why, I could have laughed just now 
to see you, tortuous, sound his sweet candid shallows, 
where every pebble 's plain. Do your own work, I '11 not 


speak or care. You shall not have him to it, that 's all. 
Sooner shall the heavens fall, than he be led by you to 
poison Galeazzo. Is that plain ? ' 

It was so plain, that the philosopher gasped vainly for 
a retort. 

< Who— who spoke of poison?' he stammered. 'Not 
I. Dear Messer Fool, you wrong me. This boy — ^the 
prot6g6 of della Grande — mine old friend — I would not 
so misuse him. Why, he succoured me — an ill requital. If 
I sounded him, 'twas in self-justification only. We seek 
the same end by different roads — ^the ancient Grods 
restored — the return to Nature. Is it not so? Christ or 
Hyperion — I will not quarrel with the terms. '' Know- 
ledge," saith he, « is the fool that left his Eden." Well, 
he harks back, and so do I.' 

' No further, thou, than to Rome and Regillus ; but he 
to Paradise. Halt him not, I say. He shall not be thy 
catspaw. On these terms only is my silence bought' 

'Then is it bought. Why, Fool, I could think thee 
a fool indeed. He hath forsworn the court : how could 
we think to employ him there ? ' 

'You know, as I know, sir, that this secession is a 
parenthesis, no more. He came to cure the State — not 
your way. A little repentance will win him back. The 
disease is in the head — ^he sees it ; not in these warped 
limbs that the brain governs. He will go back anon.' 

* And reign again by love ? * 

' I hope so, as first ministers reign.' 

' No more ? Well, we will back him there.' 

' Again, be warned ; not your way. Make him no 
text for the reform which builds on murder. I have 

'Well, we will not. Vale/* — and the philosopher, 
bowing his head, slunk out by the door which the other 
opened for him. 


A little later, creeping into a narrow court which was 
the ' run ' to his burrow, at the entrance he crossed the 
path of two cavaliers, whom, upon their exclaiming over 
the encounter, he drew under an archway. 

They were come from playing pall-mall on the ramparts, 
and carried over their shoulders the tools of their sport — 
thin boxwood mallets, painted with emblematic devices 
in scarlet and blue, and having handle-butts of chased 
silver. Each gentleman wore red full-hose ending in 
short-peaked shoes, a plain red biretta, and a little green 
bodice coat, tight at the waist and open at the bosom 
to leave the arms and shoulders free play. Montano 
squinted approval of their flushed faces and strong- 
breathed lungs. 

' Well exercised,' quoth he, in his high-pitched whisper ; 
' well exercised, and betimes belike.' 

' News ? ' drawled Lampugnani. ' O, construe thyself! ' 

* The Fool,' answered Montano, ' sees through us, that 
is all' 

* What ! ' Visconti's brows came down. 

' Hush I He hath warned me — not finally ; only he 

pledges his silence on the discontinuance of my practices 

on his cub.' 

' Well,' said Lampugnani serenely ; * discontinue.' 

' Messer, he looks, with certainty, to the boy being 

won back to court anon. How, then t shall we let him 


* No ! ' rapped out Visconti. 

* Yes,' said Lampugnani. * I trow his good way is after 
all our best. Let him go back, and make the State so 
fast in love with Love as to prove Galeazzo impossible. 
He will sanctify our holocaust for us.' 

* But the Fool, Messer— the Fool ! ' 

'Will never conspire against his adored master's 


' Exaltation ? Would ye let this saint, then, to become 
the people's idol ? ' 

'Ay, that we may discredit him presently for an 
adulterous idol. No saint so scorned as he whose 
sanctity trips on woman.' 

•What! You think ?' 

' Exactly — ^yes — the Duchess. Vale^ Messer Montano ! ' 
— and he lifted his cap mockingly, and moved off. 

In the meanwhile Cicada, having watched, through a 
slit of the unclosed door, the retreat and disappearance 
of the philosopher, was about to shut himself in again, 
with a muttered objurgation or two, when a rapid step 
sounded without, and on the instant the door was flung 
back against him, and Messer Lanti strode in. There 
was no opportunity given him to temporise : the great 
creature was there in a moment, and had recc^nised him 
with a ' pouf 1 ' of relief He just accepted the situation, 
and closed the door upon them both. 

' Well,' he said acridly, ' here you be, and whether for 
good or ill let the gods answer ! ' 

Lanti stretched his great chest 

' It is well. Fool ; and I am well if he is well Where 
is he?' 

Cicada pointed. The girl by the forge crouched and 
glared unwinkingly. The next moment Carlo was in 
his loved one's arms. 

* Why hast hidden thyself, boy ? — ah ! it is a long while, 
boy — good to see thee again — ^stand off — I cannot see 
thee after all — a curse on these blinking eyes I ' 

' Dear Carlo, I have been a little ill ; my joints ached.' 

He wept himself, and fondled and clung to his friend. 

'Thou great soft bully! For shame 1 Why, I love 
thee, dear. Wert thou so hurt ? O Carlo I I have been 
most ill in spirit' 

' Come back, and we will nurse thee.' 


' Alas I What nurses ! ' 

' The tenderest and most penitent — Bona, first of all' 

The arms slid from his neck. Sweet angel eyes 
glowered at him. 

' Bona to heal my spirit ? To pour fire into its wounds 
rather 1 O, I had thought her pure till yesterday i ' 

And, indeed, Montano, in the furtherance of his cor- 
roding policy, had spared him no evidences of court 

Carlo hung his bullet head. 

' Lucia 1 ' cried the boy suddenly and sternly. 

The girl, at the word, came slinking to him like a dog, 
setting her teeth by the way at the stranger. Bernardo 
put his hand on her lowered head. 

' Dost know who this is 7 ' he asked of Carlo. 

* Why, I can guess.' 

' Canst thou, and still talk of Bona's penitence ? Here 's 
proof of it — ^in this foul deed unexpiated. Was it ever 
meant it should be 7 ' 

He raised his arm denunciatory. 

' They have used me to justify their abominations ; 
they have made mine innocence a pander to their lusts. 
Beware! God's patience nears exhaustion. We wait 
for Tassino. Will he come 7 Not while lewd arms 
imprison and protect him. Talk to me of Bona I Go, 

The girl crept back to her former seat. Carlo burst 
out, low and urgent : — 

* Nay, boy, you do the Duchess wrong ; now, by Saint 
Ambrose, I swear you do! She hath not set eyes on 
Jackanapes since that day — believe it — nor knows, more 
than another, what 's become of him.' 

' I could enlighten her. Can she be so fickle 7 ' 

* What 1 Don't you want her fickle 7 You make my 
brain turn.' 


'O Carlo! What can such a woman see in such a 

' God ! You have me there. She 's just woman, con- 
forming to the fashions.' 

' Ah, me 1 the fashions ! ' 

* Woman's religion.' 

' She was taught a better. The fashions 1 Her wedding- 
gown should suffice her for all.' 

' What 1 Night and day 7 But, there, I don't defend 

' No, indeed. Art thyself a fashion.' 

* I don't defend her, I say. I 'm worn and cast aside 

* Poor fashion ! You '11 grace your mistress' tire-woman 
next; and after her a kitchen-maid ; and last some draggled 
scarecrow of the streets. O, for shame, for shame ! ' 

' Go on. Compare me to Tassino next.' 

' Indeed, I see no difference.' 

'A low-born Ferrarese! A greasy upstart! Was 
carver to the Duke, no better ; and oiled his fingers in 
the dish, and sleeked his hair 1 ' 

' Well, he was made first fashion. The Duchess sets 

*Now, by Saint Ambrose! First fashion! this veal- 
faced scullion, this fat turnspit promoted to a lap-dog ! 
His fashion was to nurse lusty babies in his eyes ! ' 

* What nursed thou in thine ? ' 

' Go to 1 I 'm a numskull, that I know ; but to see no 
more in me ! ' 
' I speak not for myself 

* Why, these women, true, whom we hold so delicate — 
coarser feeders than ourselves — their tastes a fable. 
There, you 're right ; I 've no right to talk.' 

* Not yet' 

* Then, you 're wrong. We 've parted, I and Beatrice.' 


* Carlo ! ' 

' Didst think I 'd risk a quarrel with my saint on so 
small a matter ? ' 
' Carlo ! ' 
He flew upon the great creature and hugged him. 

* My dear, my love ! O, I went on so ! Why did you 
let me ? O, you give me hope again ! ' 

' There/ growled the honest fellow, still a little sulkily. 
* 'Twas to please myself, not you/ 
'Not me!' 

* Well, if I did, please me by returning/ 
Bernardo shook his head. 

' And seem to acquiesce in this ? ' He signified the girl. 

' No seeming/ said Lanti. ' The Duchess promises to 
abet you in everything. I was to say so, an I could find 

* How did you find me ? ' 

' Let that pass. Will you come 7 ' 
' Will she hold Tassino to his bond ? ' 
' She '11 try to— I '11 answer for it' 

* Will she excuse the Countess of Casa Caprona from 
her duties to her — for your sake, dear ? ' 

* No need. The lady 's a widow, and already self- 
dismissed/ . 

'Alas, a widow! O Carlo, that heavy witness gone 
before ! ' 

* I must stand it. Will you come ? ' 

' Why is this sudden change ? I sore misdoubt it for 
a fashion.' 

' Not sudden. I have her word the court goes all 
astray without thee. She pines to mother thee/ 

' Mother ! — an adulteress for mother ! Alack, I am 
humbled ! ' 

' Not so low as she. That touches the last matter. 
She wants the ring back she lent thee.' 




* Ay, the ring/ 

He searched his clothes and hands in amaze. 
'My God! It's gone!' 

* Gone ? Look again.' 

* I had it on my finger. Till this moment I had forgot 
it clean — my brain so ached. Cicca ! ' 

He turned in trouble on his servant 

' I know nought of it/ growled the FooL ' If you had 
but chose to tell me. I am no gossip. Bona's ring was 
it» and leased to thee? Mayhap the rain that night 
washed it from thy finger/ 

' If it were so— so great a trust abused 1 O Carlo ! 
What shall I do ? ' 

' Come back and make thy peace with her/ 

Yet his brow gloomed, and he shook his head 

' O, O I ' choked Bernardo, noting him with anguish. 

'She sent a message — I can't help myself/ grunted 
Carlo. ' Did you seek to retaliate on her innocent con- 
fidence by ruining her ? She meant the ring — ^your with- 
holding it — 'twas her troth-token from the Duke. Well, 
this is like getting a woman into trouble.' 

Bernardo cast himself with a cry upon him. 

'I will go back! I have no longer choice. I must 
hold myself a hostage to that loss ! ' 

Carlo let out his satisfaction in a growl. But Cicada, 
squinting at the two, and rasping thoughtfully on his 
chin, pondered a speculation into a conviction. 

' Narcisso I ' he mused, ' was it he took it ? As sure as 
he is a villain, it was Narcisso took it ! ' 


THE astutest of all the six Sforza brothers was, 
without question, Messer Ludovico, at present 
sojourning in the castello of Milan. No higher than 
fourth in point of age, policy or premonition had never 
ceased to present him to himself for the first in succession. 
The uncertainty of life's tenure, unless ameliorated a 
little by qualities of tact and conciliation like his own, 
made him some excuse for this secret conviction. His 
eldest brother was a monster of the order which, 
in every age, invites tyrannicide ; the Lord of Bari, the 
second, an ease-loving, good-humoured monster of another 
kind (he was to die shortly, in fact, of his own obesity), he 
valued only as so much gross bulk of supineness to be 
surmounted ; Filippo, the third, was an imbecile, whose 
very existence was already slipping into the obscurity 
which was presently to spell obliteration. There remained 
only, junior to himself, Ascanio, a nonentity, and Ot- 
taviano, a headstrong, irresponsible boy, whose possible 
destiny concerned him as little as though he foresaw his 
drowning, within the year, in the Adda river. 

It was true that one other, more shrilly self-assertive, 
stood between himself and the light — the Duke's little 
son, Gian-Galeazzo. Here, most people would have 
thought, was his real insuperable barrier. 

He did not regard matters from these popular points 
of ^iew. He was very patient and far-seeing. At the 




outset of his career he had adopted for his device the 
mulberry-tree, because he had observed it to be cautious 
of putting forth its leaves until the last of winter was 
assured. He could picture the fatherless child as the 
most opportune of all steps to his exaltation. To climb 
presently those little shoulders to the regency 1 It would 
go hard with him but they sank gradually crushed under 
his weight. This was the wise policy, to get his seat as 
proxy, and through merciful and enlightened rule secure 
its permanency. There was infinite scope in the reaction 
he would make from a coarse and bloody despotism. 
His nature hated violence; his reason recognised the 
eternal insecurity of power built on it. Otherwise there 
was little doubt he might, in that first emergency, strike 
with good chance the straight usurper's stroke. His 
name, for graciousness and refinement, already shone 
like a star in the gross bog of Milan, revealing to it its 
foulness. Men, in the shame of their fulsome bondage to 
tyranny, looked up to him for hope and sympathy. He 
was even persona grata with the people. 

But he abhorred, and disbelieved in, violence. He 
would rule, if at all, in the popular recognition of great 
qualities : he would prevail through bounty and tolerance. 
Bona was his crux — Bona, and the secretary Simonetta, 
a fellow incorruptibly devoted to the reigning family. 
While these two lived in credit with the duchy, the 
regency was secure from him, and the State, he told 
himself, from progress. For what woman-regent had ever 
mothered an era of enlightenment? Good for Milan, 
good for Lombardy, could he once discredit and ruin 
Bona and Simonetta. They would fall together. The 
uses of Tassino as an instrument to this end had occurred 
to him — only to be rejected. How could he hope so to 
disgrace corruption in corruption's eyes ? Such puppyish 
intrigue was not worth even the Duke's interference. He 


rated that curly perfumed head in Bona's lap at exactly 
the value of a puppy's. 

But, with the advent of the stranger, the little pseudo- 
oracle, the child Tiresias, sweet and blind as Cupid, a 
sounder opportunity offered. To involve Bona in the 
defilement of this purity, in the violating of this holy 
trust, adored by the people and bequeathed to her by her 
lord — that was, in the vernacular, another pair of shoes. 
He had noted, with secret gratification, her first coquet- 
ting with the pretty toils. He had heard, with plenteous 
dismay, of the boy's untimely secession. But he pos- 
sessed, almost alone in his tumultuous time, the faculty of 
patience ; and he was well served by his well-paid spies 
and agents. Almost before he could order their reports, 
almost before he could gauge the significance of one 
especial piece of information they gave him, the boy, won 
to forgiveness, was back at court again. Thenceforth he 
saw his way smoothly, if any term so bland could be 
applied to such a devious course of policy. 

That was a matter of cross-roads, Jeading from, or to, 
himself, the mute signpost of direction. One, for instance, 
pointed to Bona's disgrace through Bembo ; another to 
Simonetta's disgrace through Bona's disgrace ; a third, to 
Bembo's downfall; a fourth, and last, to his nephew's 
orphaned minority. And the meeting-place, the nucleus, 
of all these tendencies was — where he himself stood, on a 
grave. For did they not bury suicides at cross-roads, and 
was not Galeazzo's policy suicidal? Of all these birds 
he might kill three, at least, with one stone ; and that 
stone, he believed, was already in his hand, or nearly. 

Let it not be supposed that Ludovico was a wicked 
man. He was destined to bear, one of the greatest of the 
renaissance reputations ; but that reputation was to draw 
no less from munificence than from magnificence, from 
tolerance than from power. He stood, at this time, on 


the forehead of an epoch, feeling the promise of his 
wings, poising and waiting only for their maturity. His 
sympathies were all with progress, with moral emancipa- 
tion. He was even now, in Milan (if it can be said without 
blasphemy), comparable to Christ in Hades. In a filthy 
age he was fastidious ; precise and delicate in his speech ; 
one of those men before whom the insolence of moral 
offences is instinctively silent. Guicciardini, a grudging 
Florentine, nevertheless pronounced him when he came 
to rule, ' milde and mercifuU ' ; Arluno credited him with 
a sublimity of justice and benevolence. Others, less 
interested, testified to his wisdom and sagacity, about 
which there was certainly no disputing. If at any period 
the wrong that is ready to perpetrate itself in order to 
procure good is justifiable, it was to be justified in these 
corrupt years, when conformity with usage spelt putre- 
faction. He could foresee no health for the State in 
patching its disease. He was the operator predestined by 
Providence to remove, stock and block, the cancer. 

Yet, though loving truth, he lied ; yet, though hating 
the sight of blood, he procured its shedding ; yet, though 
admiring virtue, he did not hesitate to prostitute it to his 
ends. There were crimes attributed to him of which he 
was no doubt innocent; there were lesser, or worse, 
unrecorded, of which he was no doubt guilty. Feeling 
himself, by temperament and intellect, the inevitable 
instrument of a vast emancipation, recognising his call to 
be as peremptory as it was unconsidered, he had no 
choice, in obeying it, but to cast scruples to the winds. 
With him, as with his contemporary the English Richard, 
a deep fervour of patriotism was at once the goad and 
the destruction. Judgment on the means both took to 
vindicate their commissions rests with the gods, who first 
inspired, then repudiated them. But there is no logic in 



Ludovico was sitting one evening in his private cabinet 
in the castello, when a lady was announced to him by 
the soft-voiced page. Every one instinctively subdued 
his speech in the presence of Messer Ludovico, even the 
rough venderaccios who occasionally came to make him 
their reports or receive his instructions. 

The lady came in, and stood silent as a statue by the 
heavy portiere, which, closed, cut off all eavesdropping as 
effectively as a mattress. Nevertheless Messer Ludovico 
waited for full assurance of the page's withdrawal before 
he rose, and courteously greeted his visitor. 

' Ave, Madonna Beatrice ! ' he said. * You are welcome 
as the moonlight in my poor apartment' 

It was so far from being that, as to make the compli- 
ment an extravagance. Yet the beauty of the woman in 
her long black robe and mantle, and little black silk cap 
dropping wings of muslin, sorted gravely enough with the 
slumberous gold of picture frames under the lamplight, 
and all the sombre sparkle of gems and glass and silver 
with which the chamber was strewed in a considered 

* You sent for me, Messer, and I have come,' she said. 
Her low, untroubled voice was quite in keeping with the 

' Fie, fie I ' he answered smoothly. ' I begged a privilege, 
I begged an honour — with diffidence, of one so lately 
stricken. Will you be seated while I stand ? ' 

As her subject, he meant to imply. She accepted the 
condescension for what it was worth. He bent his heavy 
eyebrows on her pleasantly. They were full and shaggy 
for so young a man. Presently she found the silence 

'You sent for me, Messer,' she repeated coldly. 'Will 
you say on account of which of your interests ? ' 

* See the dangerous intuition of your sex I ' he retorted 


smilingly — * a weapon wont to cut its wielder's hand. On 
account of your interest, purely.' 

She glanced up at him with insolent incredulity. 

' True/ he said. * I desired only to save you the con- 
sequences of an imprudence. That troth-ring, Madonna, 
our Duchess's : is it not rather a perilous toy to play 
with ? ' 

She was startled, for all her immobility — so startled, 
that he could see the breath jump in her bosom. But, 
in the very gasp of her fear, she caught herself to re- 
collection, and stiffened, silent, to the ordeal she felt was 

' How did I know it was in your possession ? ' he said, 
with a little whisper of a laugh. ' Your beauty is ever 
more speaking than your lips. Madonna; but I am an 
oracle: I can read the unspoken question. There is a 
creature, Narcisso his name, once fellow to a loved servant 
of our court. You know Messer Lanti ? an honest, bluff 
gentleman. He did well to part with such a dangerous 
rogue. Why, the times are complicate: we should be 
choice in our confidants. This Narcisso is very well to 
slit a throat ; but to negotiate a delicate theft— — ' 

He paused. ' Go on,' she whispered. 

* I will be frank as day,' he purred. * 'Twas seen on 
this rogue's finger, when making for your house. It was 
not there when he left.' 

*The gloating fool I' She stabbed out the words. 
* Seen ! By whom ? ' 

* By one,' he answered, ' whose business it was to look 
for it.' 

*Who, Isay?' 

* Most high lady, the very predestined man — no other. 
Would .you still ask who ? I had thought you more 
accomplished. Intrigue, like a statue, is not carved out 
with a single tool. The eyes, the ears, the lips, e^ch 


demand their separate instrument. Dost thou seek to 
shape all with one ? O, fie, fie ! ' 

He shook his finger gaily at her. She sat, frowning, 
with her hands clenched before her; but she gave no 

* Why, I am but a tyro,' said the prince ; ' yet could I 
teach thee, it seems, some first precepts in our craft — as 
thus : Use things most useful for their uses ; employ not 
your dagger as a shoe-horn, or it may chance to cut your 
heel ; an instrument hath its purpose and design ; think 
not one password will unlock all camps ; selection is the 
cream of policy — and so on.' 

She started to her feet, in an instant resolution. 

' I have the ring,' she said. 

He bowed suavely. She stared at him. 

* What then, Messer ? ' 

' Why,' he said, ' only that, do you not think, it were 
safer in my hands than in yours ? ' 

' Safer I ' she cried in a suppressed voice ; ' for 
whom ? ' 

* Yourself,' he answered serenely. 

' Ah ! ' she cried, ' you would threaten, if I refuse, to 
destroy me with it ? ' 

He made a deprecating motion with his hands. 

•Beware,' she said fiercely; *I can retort Where is 
Tassino ? ' 

He looked at her kindly. 

* Madonna, do you not know ? Nay, do I not know 
that you know ? He lies hidden in the burrow of this 
same Narcisso.' 

* At whose instigation ? Not yours, Messer — O no, of 
course, not yours 1 ' 

His lips never changed from their expression of smiling 

' Entirely at mine,' he said. 


She gave a little gasp. His subtlety was too chill a 
thing for her fire ; but she struggled against her quench- 
ing by it 

* Why do you not produce him, then ? Do you not 
know that he is cried for high and low ? that he is wanted 
to complete his contract with the armourer's drab ? It 
is an ill thing to cross, this present ecstasy of conversion. 
We are all Bemardines now — lunatics — flatter-day Cister- 
cians — raging neophytes of love.' 

* While the ecstasy lasts/ he murmured, unruffled. 

' Ah 1 V she cried violently, ' yet may it last your time. 
Fanaticism is no respecter of rank or service. Standest 
thou so well with Bona? She would have racked the 
racker himself in the first fury of her contrition — ^tom 
confession from Jacopo's sullen throat with iron hooks, 
had not her saint rebuked her. Tassino had been last 
seen by him in the man's company, but, when they went 
to look for him, he was gone. When or whither, the 
fellow swore he knew not. It was like enough, thou 
being the lure. Will you not produce him now, and save 
your peace ? ' 

Ludovico, regarding her vehemence from under half- 
closed lids, exhibited not the slightest tremor. 

'Madonna,' he said, 'thy mourning beauty becometh 
thee like Cassandra's. Hast thou, too, so angered Apollo 
with thy continence as to make him nullify in thee his 
own gift of prophecy ? Alas, that l|ps so moving must 
be so discounted in their warnings t ' 

She drew back, chilled and baffled. 

* Thou wilt not ? ' she muttered. ' Well, then, thou wilt 
not. Take thou thine own course ; I may not know thy 

For a moment the cold of him deepened to deadliness, 
and his voice to an iron hardness : — 

' Nor any like thee — self-seekers — dominated by some 


single lust. My purpose is a labyrinth of Cnossus. Be- 
ware, rash fools, who would seek to unravel it ! ' 

Her lips were a little parted; the fine wings of her 
nostrils quivered. For all her bravery she felt her heart 
constricting as in the frost of some terror which she 
could neither gauge nor compass. But, in the very instant 
of her fear, Ludovico was his own bland self s^[ain. 

' Tools, tools 1 ' he said smiling — ' for the eyes, the ears, 
the lips. I shall take up this one when I need it, not 
before. Meanwhile it lies ready to my hand.' 

' I do not doubt thy cunning,' she said faintly. 

' What then, Madonna ? ' he asked. 

She struggled with herself, swallowing with difficulty. 

' Its adequacy for its purpose — that is alL' 

* What purpose ? ' 

She looked up, and dared him : — 

* To destroy the Duchess.' 
He laughed out, tolerantly. 

' Intuition 1 Intuition 1 O thou self-wounding im- 
pulse I To destroy the Duchess ? Well I What is thy 
ring for? To destroy Monna Beatrice, belike. And 
Monna Beatrice had her instrument too, they will say 
afterwards — a blunt, coarse blade, but hers, hers only — 
as she thought Yet, it seems, one Ludovic used some- 
thing of him, this Narcisso, also — played him for his 
ends — marked him down, even, for landlord to a fribble 
called Tassino. What, Carissimal He hath not told 
thee so much 7 ' 

She shook her head dully. 

' No ? ' mocked the Prince. ' And ye such sworn allies ! 
O sweet, you shall learn policy betimes! You will 
not yield the ring ? Well, there is Tassino, as you say. 
Play him against it' 

She knew she dared not. The vague implication of 
forces and understandings behind all this banter quite 



cowed her. She had defied the serpent, and been struck 
and overcome. Hate was no match for this craft. But 
emotion remained. She dwelt a long minute on his 
smooth, impenetrable face ; then, all in an instant, yielded 
up her sex, and stole towards him, arms and moist eyes 

* I dared thee ; I was wrong. Only ' 

Her palms trembled on his shoulders; her bosom 
heaved against his hand. 

' I have suffered, what only a woman can. O, Messer, 
let me keep the ring I ' 

Her voice possessed him like an embrace; the soft 
pleading of it made any concession to his kindness 
possible. He was very sensitive to all emotions of loveli- 
ness, but with the rare gift of reasoning in temptation. 

He shook his head. 

'Ah!' she murmured, Met me. Thou shalt find 
jealousy a hot ally.' 

She pressed closer to him. He neither resisted nor 

* Most excellent sweetness,' he said gently. * I melt 
upon this confidence. Henceforth we '11 bury misunder- 
standing, and kiss upon his grave. But truth with sugar 
is still a drug. A jealous woman is bad in policy. Trust 
her always to destroy her betrayer, though through what- 
ever betrayal of her friends. Besides, forgive me, Messer 
Bembo may yet prove accommodating.' 

At that she dropped her hands and stepped back. 

*Is this to bury misunderstanding?' she cried low. 
• O, I would / were Duchess of Milan.' 

'More impossible things might happen,' he said 
thickly, for all his self-control. 

She stared at him fascinated a moment ; then swiftly 
advanced again. 

* Let me keep the ring,' she urged hoarsely. * I could 


set something against it — some knowledge-^ some in- 

He had mastered himself in the interval ; and now 
stood pondering upon her and fondling his chin. 

' Yes ? ' he murmured. ' But it must be something to 
be worth.' 

She hesitated ; then spoke out : — 

* A plot to kill the Duke — no more.' 

The two stared at one another. She could see a pulse 
moving in his throat ; but when at last he spoke, it was 
without emotion. 

'Indeed, Madonna? They are so many. When is 
this particular one to be ? ' 

'Do you not know?' she answered as derisively as 
she dared. ' I thought you had a tool for everything. 
Well, it is to be in Milan.' 

' In Milan — as before,' he repeated ironically. ' And 
the heads of this conspiracy. Madonna ? ' 

'Ah!' she cried, with a sigh of triumph; 'they are 
yours at the price of the ring.' 

He canvassed her a little, but profoundly. 

' After all,' he murmured, ' why should I seek to know?' 

'Why?' she said, with a laugh of recovering scorn, 
' why but to nip it in its bud, Messer ? ' 

He was quick to grasp this implied menace of retalia- 

' Tell me,' he said, ' why are you so hot to retain this 
same ring ? ' 

* For only a woman's reason,' she answered. ' Wouldst 
thou understand it ? Not though I spoke an hour by 
St. Ambrose' clock. I would deal the blow myself, in 
my own way — that is all.' 

' Thou wouldst ruin Bona ? ' 

' Ay, and her saint, who robbed me of my love.' 

'By her connivance? Marry, be honest, sweet lady. 


Was it not rather Messer Bembo who denied you Messer 
Bembo ? ' 

Will you have the names ? ' 

Hold a little. Here 's matter black enough, but un- 
supported. I must have some proof. Tell me who's 
your informant?' 

' And have you go and bleed him ? Nay, I am learn- 
ing my tools.' 

' Bravo I ' he said, and kissed his hand to her. ' Well, 
I see, we must call a truce awhile.' 

' And I will keep the ring;' she said. 

He beamed thoughtfully on her. No doubt he was 
considering the possibility of improving the interval by 
rooting out, on his own account, details of the secret she 
held from him. 

' Provisionally,' he said pleasantly — ' provisionally. 
Madonna ; so long as you undertake to make no use 
of it until you hear from me my decision.' 

* The longer that is delayed, the better for your purpose, 
Messer,' she dared to say. 

He smiled blankly at her a little ; then courteously 
advancing, and raising her hand, imprinted a fervent 
kiss on it. 

* Though I fail to gather your meaning,' he said, ' it 
is nevertheless certain that you would make a very 
imposing Duchess, Monna Beatrice.' 


• T;7 ATHER ABBOT, we thank you for your trust. 
X We were less than human to abuse it. O, it 
flew with white wings to shelter in our bosom ! Shall we 
be hawks to such a dove I Take comfort. It hath ruffled 
its feathers on our heart ; it hath settled itself thereon, 
and hatched out a winged love. Pure spirit of the Holy 
Ghost, whence came it ? From a star, they say, bom of 
some wedlock between earth and sky. I marvel you 
could part with it. I could never. . . . The pretty 
chuck 1 What angel heresies it dares I '' Marry," saith 
the dove, '' I have been discussing with Christ the subtle- 
ties of dogmatic definition, and I find he is no Christian." 
This for intolerance I He finds honesty in schism — speaks 
with assurance of our Saviour, his discourses with Him 
by the brook, in the garden, under the trees — but doubt- 
less you know. How can we refute such evidence, or 
need to? Alasl we are not on speaking terms with 
divinity. But we listen and observe; and we woo our 
winsome dove with pretty scarves and tabbards em- 
broidered by our fingers ; and some day we too hope to 
hear the voices. Not yet; the earth clings to us; but 
he dusts it off. '^ Make not beauty a passion, but passion 
a beauty," says he. ^ Learn that temperance is the true 
epicurism of life. The palate cloys on surfeit." O, we 
believe him, trust met and never his pretty head is 
turned by our adoring. . • . *' By love to make law un- 
necessary," — there runs his creed : the love of Nature's 



truths— continence, sobriety, mate bound to mate like 
birds. Only our season's life. He convinces us apace. 
Already Milan sweetens in the sun. We curb all licence, 
yield heat to reason, clean out many vanities ; have our 
choirs of pure maidens in place of the Bacchidx — thymus, 
too, meet to woo Pan to Christ, of which I could serve 
thee an example. . . . All in all, we prepare for a great 
Feast of the Purification which, at the New Year's begin- 
ning, is to symbolise our re-conversion to Nature's straight 
religion. Then will be a rare market in doves — ^let us 
pray there be at least — which all, conscious of the true 
virgin heart, are to bring. Doves ! Alack ! which of us 
would not wish to be worthy to carry one that we know ? ' 

So wrote the Duchess of Milan to the Abbot of San 
Zeno, and he answered : — 

'Cherish my lamb. The fold yearns for him. He 
would leave it, despite us all. My daughter, be gracious 
to our little dreamer, for of such is the Kingdom of 

For years after it was become the dimmest of odd 
memories, men and women would recall, between laughter 
and tears, the strange little moral fantasia which, during 
a month or two of that glowing autumn of 1476, all 
Milan had been tickled into dancing to the pipe of a 
small shepherd of a New Arcadia. The measure had 
certainly seemed inspiring enough at the time — potential, 
original, weaving an earnest purpose with joy, revealing 
novel raptures of sensation in the seemliness of postures, 
which claimed to interpret Nature out of the very centre 
of her spiritual heart David dancing before the ark 
must have exhibited just such an orderly abandonment 
as was displayed by these sober-rollicking Pantheists of 
the new cult. Crossness with them was sunk to an im- 
possible discount. There was no market for gallantry. 


ipanchifMnts^ or any billing and cooing whatever but of 
doves. Instead, there came into vogue intercourses 
between Dioneus and Flammetta of sweet unbashful 
reasonableness; high-junkettiogs on chestnut-meal and 
honey ; the most engaging attentions, in the matter of 
grapes and sweet biscuits and infinite bon-bons, towards 
the little furred and feathered innocents of the country- 
side That temperance really was, according to the 
angelic propagandist, the true epicurism, experience no 
less astonishing than agreeable came to prove. Then 
was the festival of beans and bacon instituted by some 
jaded palates. Charity and consideration rose on all 
sides in a night, like edible and nutritious funguses. 
From Hallowmas to Christmas there was scarce a sword 
whipped from its scabbard but reflection returned it. It 
was no longer, with Gregory and Balthazar, ' Sir, do you 
bite your thumb at me? Sir, the wall to you,' but 'Sir, 
I see your jostling of me was unavoidable ; Sir, your 
courtesy turns my asps to roses.' Nature and the natural 
decencies were on all tongues ; the licences of eye and 
ear and lip were rejected for abominations unpalatable to 
any taste more refined than yesterday's. Modesty ruled 
the fashions and made of Imola an Ippolita, and of 
Aurelio an Augustine. The women, as a present result, 
were all on the side of Nature. Impudicity with them 
is never a cause but a consequence. They found an 
amazing attractiveness in the pretty dogma which rather 
encouraged than denounced in them the graceful arts of 
self-adornment. 'Naked, like the birds/ attested their 
little priest, ' do we come to inherit our Kingdom. Shall 
we be more blamed than they for adapting to ourselves 
the plumages of that bright succession?' Only he 
pleaded for a perfect adaptation to conditions — to form, 
climate, environments, constitution. The lines of all true 
beauty, he declared, were such as both suggested and 



defended. Could monstrosities of head furniture, for 
instance, appeal to any but a monster ? Locks, thereat, 
were delivered from their fantastic convolutions, from 
their ropes of pearls, from their gold-dust and iris-powder, 
and were heaped or coiled di sua natura, as any girl, 
according to circumstances, might naturally dispose of 
them. There was a general holocaust of extravagances, 
with some talk of feeding the sacrifice with fuel of useless 
confessional boxes ; and, in the meanwhile, the church 
took snuff and smiled, and the devil hid his tail in a 
reasonable pair of breeches, and endured all the incon- 
veniences of sitting on it without a murmur. 

Alas ! * How quick bright things come to confusion ! ' 
But the moment while it held gathered the force of an 
epoch; and no doubt much moral amendment was to 
derive from it. Intellect in a sweet presence makes a 
positive of an abstract argument ; and when little Bembo 
asserted, in refutation of the agnostics, that man's dual 
personality was proved by the fact of his abhorring in 
others the viciousnesses which his flesh condoned in him- 
self, the statement was accepted for the dictum of an 
inspired saint. But his strength of the moment lay 
chiefly in his undeviating consistency with his own queer 
creed. He never swerved from his belief in the soul's 
responsibility to its past, or of its commitment to a 
retrogressive movement after death. * We drop, fainting, 
out of the ranks in a desolate place,' he said. * We come 
to, alone and abandoned. Shall we, poor mercenaries, 
repudiating a selfish cause, not turn our faces to the 
loved home, far back, from which false hopes beguiled 
us? Be, then, our way as we have made it, whether by 
forbearance or rapine.' Again he would say : * Take, so 
thy to-day be clean, no fearful thought for thy to-morrow, 
any more than for thy possible estrangement from thy 
friend. There is nothing to concern thee now (which is 


all that is) but thy reason, love, and justice of this 
moment. They are the faculty, devotion, and quality to 
which, blended, thy soul may trust itself for its fair 

There was a little song of his, very popular with the 
court gentlemen in these days of their regeneracy, which, 
as exemplifying the strengths and weaknesses of his 
propaganda, is here given : — 

* Here's a comrade blithe 
To the wild wood hieth — 

Follow and find ! 
Loving both least and best. 
His love takes still a zest 

From the song-time of the wind. 

The chuckling birds they greet him. 
The does run forth to meet him — 

Follow and find ! 
Strange visions shalt thou see ; 
Learn lessons new to thee 

In the song- time of the wind. 

Couldst, then, the dear bird kill 
That kiss'd thee with her bill ? 

Follow and find 
How great, having strength, to spare 
That trusting Soft-and-fair 

In the song-time of the wind. 

He is both God and Man ; 
He is both Christ and Pan — 

Follow and find 
How, in the lovely sense, 
All fiesh being grass, wakes thence 

The song-time of the wind.' 

It was, I say, popular with the Lotharios. The novelty 
of this sort of renunciation tickled their sensoriums 
famously. It suggested a quite new and captivating 
form of self-indulgence, in the rapture to be gathered 


from an indefinite postponement of consummations. The 
sense of gallantry lies most in contemplation. I do not 
think it amounted to much more. Teresa and Elisabetta 
enjoyed their part in the serio-comic sport immensely, 
and were the most cuddlesome lambs, frisking uncon- 
scious under the faltering knife of the butcher. Madonna 
Caterina laughed immoderately to see their great mercy- 
pleading eyes coquetting with the greatly-withheld blade. 
But then she had no bump of reverence. The little 
wretch disliked sanctity in any form ; loved aggressive- 
ness better than meekness; was always in her heart a 
little Amazonian terrier-bitch, full of fight and impudence. 
It might have gone crossly with Messer Bembo had she 
been in her adoptive mother's position of trustee for him. 

But luckily, or most unluckily for the boy, he was in 
more accommodating hands. This was the acute period 
of his proselytising. He had been persuaded back to 
court, and Bona had received him with moist eyes and 
open arms, and indeed a very yearning pathos of emo- 
tionalism, which had gathered a fataler influence from 
the contrition which in the first instance must be his. He 
had stood before her not so much rebuking as rebuked. 
Knowing her no longer saint, but only erring woman, it 
added a poignancy to his remorse that he had led her 
into further error by his abuse of her trust. She had 
answered his confession with a lovely absolution : — 

* What is lost is lost. Thou art the faithfullest warrant 
of my true observance of my lord's wishes. Only if thou 
abandon'st me am I betrayed.' 

Could he do aught after this but love her, accept her, 
her fervour and her penitence, for a first factor in the 
crusade he had made his own? And, while the soft 
enchantment held, no general could have wished a loyaler 
adjutant, or one more ready to first-example in herself 
the sacrifices he demanded. She abetted him, as she had 


promised, in all his tactics; lent the full force of an 
authority, which his sweetness and modesty could by no 
means arrogate to himself, to compel the reforms he 
sang. She gave, amongst other gifts, her whole present 
soul to the righting of the wrong done to the girl Lucia 
and her father ; and when all her efforts to discover the 
vanished Tassino had failed, and she, having sent on her 
own initiative a compensatory purse of gold to the blind 
armourer, had learned how Lucia had banged the gift 
and the door in the messenger's face, was readily mollified 
by Bernardo's tender remonstrance : 'Ah, sweet Madonna! 
what gold can give her father eyes, or her child a name ! ' 

' What ! it is born ? ' she murmured. 

' I saw it yesterday,' said Bembo. * It lay in her lap, 
like the billet that kills a woman's heart.' 

And, indeed, he had not, because of his re-exaltation, 
ceased to visit his friends, or to go to occasional discussion 
with the crabbed Montano ; whose moroseness, never- 
theless, was petrifying. Yet had he even sought to 
interest the Duchess there ; though, for once, without 
avail ; for she dared not seem to lend her countenance to 
that banned, if injured, misanthrope. 

So she led the chorus to his soloing, and helped and 
mothered him with an infatuation beyond a mother's. 
Like the Emperor's jewelled nightingale, he was the 
sweetest bird to pet while his tricks were new. His voice 
entranced the echoes of those sombre chambers and 
blood-stained corridors. The castello was reconsecrated 
in his breath, and the miasma from its fearful pits dis- 
pelled. His lute was his psalter and psaltery in one : it 
interpreted him to others, and himself to himself. Its 
sob was his sorrow, and its joy his jubilance. He could 
coax from it wings to expression inexpressible by speech 
alone. Here is one of his latest parables, or apologues, 
baldly running, as it appears, on the familiar theme, which. 


through that vehicle, he translated for his hearers into 
rapture : — 

' Down by a stream that muttered under ice — 
Winter's thin wasted voice, straining for air — 
Lo 1 Antique Pan, gnawing his grizzled beard. 

Chill was the earth, and all the sky one stone. 
The shrunk sedge shook with ague ; the wild duck, 
Squattering in snow, sent out a feeble cry. 
Like a stark root the black swan's twisted neck 
Writhed in the bank. The hawk shook by the finch ; 
The stoat and rabbit shivered in one hole ; 
And Nature, moaning on a bedded drift, 
Cried for delivery from her travail : — 

" O Pan 1 what dost thou ? Long the Spring's delayed ! 
O Pan 1 hope sickens. Son, where art thou gone?" 

Thereat he heaved his brows ; saw the starved fields. 

The waste and horror of a world's eclipse ; 

And all the wrong and all the pity of it 

Rushed from him in a roar : — 

^* I 'm passed, deposed : call on another Pan ! 

Call Christ — the Fates foretell him — he'll respond. 

I 'm old ; grown impotent ; a toothless dog. 

New times, new blood : the world forgets my voice. 

This Christ supplants me : call on him, I say. 

Whence comes he ? Whence, if not from off the streets ? 

Some coxcomb of the Schools, belike — some green. 

Anaemic, theoretic verderer. 

Shaping his wood-lore from the Herbary, 

And Nature from his brazen window-pots. 

The Fates these days have gone to live in town — 

Grown doctrinaires — forgot their rustic loves. 

Call on their latest nominee— call, call ! 

He '11 ease thee of thy produce, bear it home, 

And in alembics test and recompose it. 

Call, in thine agony — loud— call on Christ : 

He'll hear maybe, and maybe understand 1" 

" No Pan," she wailed : " No other Pan than thou ! " 

" What ! " roared he, mocking : " Christ not understand ? 
Your loves, your lores, your secrets— will he not? 


Not by his books be master of your heart? 

Gods ! I am old. I speak but by the woods ; 

And often nowadays to rebel ears. 

He '11 do you better : fold your fogs in bales ; 

Redeem your swamps ; sweep up your glowing leaves ; 

People his straight pastures with your broods ; 

Shape you for man, to be his plain helpmeet ; 

No toys, no tricks, no mysteries, no sports — 

But sense and science, scorning smiles and tears." 

Raging, he rose : A light broke on the snow : 
The ice upon the river cracked and spun : 
Long milky- ways of green and starry flowers 
Grew from the thaw : the trees nipped forth in bud : 
The falcon sleeked the wren ; the stoat the hare ; 
And Nature with a cry delivered was. 

Pan stared : A naked child stood there before him, 
Warming a frozen robin in his hands. 
Shameless the boy was, fearless, white as milk ; 
No guile or harm ; a sweet rogue in his eyes. 
And he looked up and smiled, and lisped a word : — 

" Brother, thou take and cure him, make him well. 
Or teach me of thy lore his present needs." 

^^ Brother I'^ choked Pan. "J/y father was a God. 
Who art thou ? " " Nature's baby," said the child. 
" Man was my father ; and my name is Christ." 

He slid his hand within the woodman's palm : — 

** Dear elder brother, guide me in my steps. 

I bring no gift but love, no tricks but love's — 

To make sweet flowers of frost — locked hearts unfold — 

The coney pledge the weasel in a kiss. 

Canst thou do these ?" " No, by my beard," said Pan. 

Gaily the child laughed : " Clever brother thou art ; 
Yet can I teach thee something." " All," said Pan. 

He groaned ; the child looked up ; flew to his arms : — 
" O, by the womb that bore us both, do love me ! " 

A minute sped : the river hushed its song : 
The linnet eyed the falcon on its branch : 
The bursting bud hung motionless — And Pan 


Gave out a cry : ^ New-rooted, not deposed ! 
Come, little Christ ! " So hand in hand they passed. 
Nature's two children reconciled at last' 

And what about Messer Lanti and the Fool Cicada 
during this period of their loved little saint's apotheosis ? 
Were (Aey more advocaii diaboli than Bona ? Alas ! tfaey 
were perhaps the only two, in all that volatile city, to 
accept him, with a steadfast and indomitable faith, at his 
true worth. There was no angelic attribute, which Carlo, 
the honest blaspheming neophyte, would not have claimed 
for him — ^with blows, by choice ; no rebuke, nor sugges- 
tion, nor ordinance issuing from his lips, which he would 
not accept and act upon, after the necessary little show 
of self-easing bluster. It was as comical as pathetic to 
observe the dear blunderhead's blushing assumptions of 
offence, when naughtiness claimed his intimacy ; his 
exaggerated relish of spring water ; his stout upholding, 
on an empty stomach, of the aesthetic values of abstinence. 
But he made a practical virtue of his conversion, and was 
become frequent in evidence, with his strong arm and 
voice and influence, as a Paladin on behalf of the 
oppressed. He and Cicada were the boy's bristling 
watch-dogs, mastiff and lurcher ; and were even drawn, 
by that mutual sympathy, into a sort of scolding partner- 
ship, defensive and aggressive, which had for its aim the 
vindication of their common love. There, at least, was 
some odd rough fruit of the reconciliation preached by 
little Bembo between the God-man and the man-Nature. 
Such a relationship had been impossible in the old days 
of taskmaster and clown. Now it was understood between 
them, without superfluous words, that each held the other 
responsible to him for his incorruptible fidelity to his 
trust, and himself for a sleepless attention to the duty 
tacitly and by implication assigned to be his. That is to 
say, Messer Carlo's strength and long sword, and the 

_ _ 'Tfcrf;*^ 


other's shrewd wit, were assumed, as it were, for the right 
and left bucklers to the little charioteer as he drove upon 
his foes. 

Carlo had a modest conception of his own abilities ; 
yet once he made the mistake of appropriating to himself 
a duty — or he thought it one — rather appertaining to his 
fellow buckler. They had been, the Fool and himself, 
somewhat savagely making merry on the subject of Bona's 
conversion — in the singleness of which, to be candid, 
they had not much faith — when his honest brain con- 
ceived the sudden necessity of bluntly warning the little 
Bernardino of the danger he was courting in playing with 
such fire. His charge, no sooner realised than acted upon, 
took the boy, so to speak, in the wind. Bembo gasped ; 
and then counter-buffed with angelic fury : — 

* Who sleeps with a taper in his bed invites his own 
destruction? Then wert thou sevenfold consumed, my 
Carlo. O, shame ! she is my mother ! ' 

' Nay, but by adoption,' stammered the other abashed. 

' Her assumption of the name should suffice to spare 
her. O, thou pagan irreclaimable — right offspring of 
Vesta and the incestuous Saturn ! Is this my ultimate 
profit of thee ? Go hide thy face from innocence.* 

Lanti, thus bullied, turned dogged. 

* I will hide nothing. Abuse my candour ; spit on my 
love if thou wilt, it will endure for its own sake,' and he 
flung away in a rage. 

But he had better have deputed the Fool to a task 
needing diplomacy. Cicada laughed over his grievance 
when it was exploded upon him. 

' Shouldst have warned Bona herself, rather,' he said. 

*How!' growled the other: 'and been cashiered, or 
worse, for my pains ? ' 

' Not while her lost ring stands against her ; and thou, 
her private agent for its recovery.' 


' True ; from the mud.' 

* Well, if thou think'st so.* 
' Dost thou not ? ' 

' Ay ; for as mud is mud, Narcisso is Narcisso.' 

* Narcisso ! ' 

He roared, and stared. 
'Has A^ got it?' 
' I do not say so.' 

* I will go carve the truth out of him.' 
' Or Monna Beatrice.' 


The great creature fairly gasped ; then muttered, in a 
strangled voice : * Why should she want it? What profit 
to her ? ' 

* What, indeed ? ' whined the Fool. * She fancies Messer 
Bembo too well to wish to injure him, or through him, 
Bona — does she not ? ' 

Carlo's brow slowly blackened. 

* I will go to her,' he said suddenly. The Fool leapt 
to bar his way. 

* You would do a foolish thing,' he said — * with defer- 
ence, always with deference, Messer. This is my part. 
Leave it to me.' 

Carlo choked, and stood breathing. 

* Why,' said the Fool, * these are the days of circum- 
spection. God, says Propriety, made out hands and 
faces, and whatever else that is no.t visible was the 
devil's work. You would be shown, by Monna Beatrice, 
for all her self-acknowledged parts, just clean hands and 
a smiling face. She conforms to fashion. For the rest, 
the devil will attend to his own secrets.' 

The other groaned : — 

' I would I could fathom thee. I would I had the ring.' 

* I would thou hadst,' answered Cicada. ' 'Twould be 
a good ring to set in our Duchess's little nose, to per- 
suade her from routling in consecrated ground : a juster 


weapon in thy hands than in some other's. Well, be 
patient ; I may obtain it for thee yet/ 

He meant, at least, to set his last wits to the task. 
Somehow, he was darkly and unshakably convinced, this 
same Lion ring was the pivot upon which all his darling's 
fortunes turned. That it was not really lost, but was 
being held concealed, by some jealous spirit or spirits, 
against the time most opportune for procuring the boy's, 
and perhaps others', destruction by its means, he felt 
sure. All Milan was not in one mind as to the disinter- 
ested motives of its Nathan. Tassino, Narcisso, the 
dowager of Casa Caprona, even the urbane Messer 
Ludovico himself, to name no others, could hardly be 
shown their personal profits in the movement. They 
might all, as the world's ambitions went, be excused from 
coveting the stranger's promotion. And there was no 
doubt that, at present, he was paramount in the eyes of 
the highest. That, in itself, was enough to make his sweet 
office the subject of much scepticism and blaspheming. 

Tough, wary work for the watch-dogs. Cicada pondered. 

That same evening he was walking in the streets, 
when a voice, Visconti's, muttered alongside him : — 

'Good Patch, hast been loyal so far to thy bargain. 
Hold to it for thy soul's sake. There are adders in 
Milan.' Then he bent closer, and whispered : * A word 
in thy ear : is the ring found yet ? ' 

The Fool's hard features did not twitch. He shook 
his head. 

* Marry, sir,' answered he, as low, * the mud is as close 
a confidant as I. I have not heard of its blabbing.' 

' So much the better,' murmured the other, and glided 
away. But he left Cicada thinking. 

* It was not for them, then, the conspirators, that Nar- 
cisso stole it. And yet he stole it — that I '11 be sworn. 
For whom? Why, for Monna Beatrice. For why? 
Why, for a purpose that I '11 circumvent — when I guess it' 


A passenger going by cursed him under his breath. 
The oath, profound and heartfelt, was really a psychologic 
note in the context of this history. Cicada heard it, and, 
looking round, saw, to his amazement, the form of the 
very monster of his present deliberations. 

Narcisso, the rancorous mongrel, having snarled his 
hatred of an old associate, who, he verily believed, had 
once betrayed him, slouched, with a heavier vindictive- 
ness, on his way. The Fool, inspired, skipped into cover, 
and peeped. He knew that the coward creature, once 
secure of his distance, would turn round to sputter and 
glower. He was not wrong there, nor in his surmise 
that, finding him vanished, Narcisso would continue his 
road in reassurance of his fancied security. He saw him 
actually turn and glare; distinguished, as plainly as 
though he heard it, the villainous oath with which the 
monster flounced again to his gait. And then, very 
cautiously, he came out of his hiding, and slunk in pursuit. 

It could serve, at least, no bad purpose, he thought, to 
track the beast to his lair ; and, with infinite circumspec- 
tion, he set himself to the task. 

It proved a simple one, after all — the more so as the 
animal, it appeared, was tenant in a very swarming 
warren, where concealment was easy. It was into a 
frowzy hole that, in the end, he saw him disappear — a 
tunnel, with a grating over it, like a sewer-trap. 

And so, satisfied and not satisfied » he was turning 
away, when he was conscious in a moment of a face 
looking from the grating. 

A minute later, threading his path along a by-alley, he 
emerged upon a sweeter province of the town, and stood 
to disburden himself of a mighty breath. 

* So ! ' he muttered : * He is there, is he ! Well, the 
plot grows complicate.' 


THERE was a quarter of Milan into which the new 
light penetrated with some odd uncalculated 
effects. It was called, picturesquely enough, * The Vine- 
yard,' and as such certainly produced a great quantity of 
full-blooded fruit. Vines that batten on carrion grow 
fat; and here was the mature product of a soil so 
enriched. There was no disputing its appetising quality. 
That derived from the procreant old days of paganism, 
before the germ of the first headache had flown out of 
Pandora's box into a bung-hole. 'The Vineyard's' 
body yet owed to tradition, if centuries of adulteration 
had demoralised its spirit. Still, altogether, it was faith- 
fuller of the soil, self-consciously nearer to the old 
Nature, than was ever the extrinsic Guelph or Ghibelline 
that had usurped its kingdom. Wherefore, it seemed, it 
had elected to construe this new reactionism, this 
redintegratio amoriSy this sudden much-acclaiming of 
Nature, into a special vindication of itself, its tastes, 
methods and appetites, as representing the fundamental 
truth of things ; and, ex consequent, to appropriate Messer 
Bembo for its own particular champion and apologist. 

Alas, poor Parablist ! There is always that awakening 
for an enlightened agitator in any democratic mission. 
Does he look for some comprehension by the Demos of 
the necessity of radical reform, his eyes will be painfully 
opened. The pruning, by its leave, shall never be among 



the suckers down by the root, but always among the 
lordly blossoms. Shall Spartacus once venture openly to 
stoop with his knife, he shall lose at a blow the popular 
suffrage. At a later date, Robespierre, who was not 
enlightened, had to subscribe to the misapplication of 
his own reforms, or be crushed by the demon he had 
raised. Here in Milan, * The Vineyard ' was the first to 
renounce its champion, when once it found itself to be 
intimately included in that champion's neo-Christianising 

Alas, poor Parablist ! Not Reason but Fanaticism is 
the convincing reformer! the bigot, not the saint, the 
effective drover of men. 

In the meanwhile ' The Vineyard ' swaggered and 
held itself a thought more brazenly than heretofore, on 
the strength of its visionary election. Always a clamor- 
ous rookery, one might have fancied at this time a certain 
increase in the boisterous obscenity of its note, as that 
might presage the fulfilment of some plan for its break- 
ing out, and planting itself in new black colonies all over 
the city. But as certainly, if this were so, its illusion- 
ment was a very may-fly's dance. 

Now as, on a noon of this late Autumn, we are brought 
to penetrate its intricacies, a certain symbolic fitness in 
its title may or may not occur to us. Supposing that it 
does, we will accept this Via Maladizione where we 
stand, this gorge of narrow high-flung tenements, looped 
between with festoons of glowing rags, for the supports 
and dead trailers of a gathered vintage. Below, the vats 
are full to brimming, and the merchants of life and death 
forgathered in the markets. Half-way down the street 
a little degraded church suddenly spouts a friar, who, 
punch-like, hammers out on the steps his rendering of 
the new nature, which is to remember its cash obligations 
to Christ, and so vanishes again in a clap of the door. 

; M. 


A barber, shaving a customer in the open street, gapes 
and misses his stroke, thereby adding a trickle to the 
sum of the red harvest. Mendicants pause and grin ; 
oaths rise and buzz on all sides, like dung-flies moment- 
arily disturbed. And predominant throughout, the vin- 
tagers, the true natives of the soil, swarm and lounge and 
discuss, under a rent canopy, the chances of the season 
and its likely profits. 

Ivory and nut-brown are they all, these vintagers, 
with cheeks like burning leaves, and hair blue-black as 
grape-clusters, and eloquent animal eyes, and, in the 
women, copious bosoms half-veiled in tatters, like gourds 
swelling under dead foliage. But the milk that plumps 
these gourds is still of the primeval quality. Tessa's 
passions are of the ancient dimensions, if her religion is 
of to-day. Her assault and surrender borrow nothing 
from convention. No billing and rhyming for her, with 
canzonarists and madrigalists under the lemon trees, in 
the days when the awnings are hung over to keep the 
young fruit from scorching; but rough pursuit, rather, 
and capture and fulfilment — all uncompromising. She 
is here to eat and drink and love, to enjoy and still pro- 
pagate the fruits of her natural appetites. She does not, 
like Rosamonda, brush her teeth with crushed pearls; 
she whets and whitens them on a bone. She does not 
powder her hair with gold dust ; the sun bronzes it for 
her to the scalp. No spikenard and ambergris make her 
rags, or perfumed water her body, fragrant for her 
master's mouthing. Yet is she desirable, and to know 
her is to taste something of the sweetness of the apple 
that wrought the first discord. She is still a child of 
Nature, though Messer Bembo's creed surpasses her best 
understanding. She loves burnt almonds and barley- 
sugar, and crunches them joyously whenever some public 
festival gives her the chance ; but the instincts of order 


and self-control are long vanished from the category of 
her qualities, and she survives as she is more by virtue of 
her enforced than her voluntary abstinences. For the 
resti civilisation — the civilisation that always encom- 
passes without touching, without even understanding her 
— ^has made her morals a terror, and the morals of most 
of her comrades, male or female, of ' The Vineyard.' 

It is, in fact, the sink of Milan, is this vineyard — a 
very low quarter indeed ; and, it is to be feared, other 
red juice than grapes' swells the profits from its vats. 
Here are to be found, and engaged, a rich selection of 
the tagliacant6ni, the hired bravos who kill on a sliding 
scale of absolution, with fancy terms for the murder 
which allows no time for an act of contrition. Here the 
soldier of fortune, who has gambled away, with his 
sword and body-armour, the chances of an engagement 
to cut throats honestly, festers for a midnight job, and 
countersigns with every vein he opens his own compact 
with the devil. Here the oligarchy of beggars has its 
headquarters, and composes its budgets of social taxa- 
tion ; and here, finally, in the particular den of one 
Narcisso, desperado and ladr6ne, hides and shivers 
Messer Tassino, once a Duchess's favourite. 

He does not know why he is hidden here, or for what 
purpose Messer Ludovico beguiled and threatened him 
from the more sympathetic custody of his friend Jacopo, 
to deposit him in this foul burrow. But he feels himself 
in the grip of unknown forces, and he fears and shivers 
greatly. He is always shivering and snuffling is Messer 
Tassino ; whining out, too, in rebellious moods, his pitiful 
resentments and hatreds. His little garish orbit is in 
its winter, and he cries vainly for the sun that had 
seemed once to claim him to her own warmth and 
greatness. He has heard of himself as renounced by 
her, condemned, and committed, on his detested rival's 


warrant, to judgment by default. Yet, though it be 
to save his mean skin, he cannot muster the moral 
courage to come forth and right the wrong he has done. 
That, he knows, would spell his last divorce from 
privilege ; and he has not yet learned to despair. He 
had been so petted and caressed, and — and there are 
no lusty babies to be gathered from Messer Bembo's 
eyes. At least, he believes and hopes not ; and, in the 
meanwhile, he will lie close, and await developments a 
little longer. 

Perhaps, after all, there is knowledge if little choice in 
his decision. He may be justified, of his experience, 
in being sceptical of the disinterestedness of spiritual 
emotionalism, or at least of the feminine capacity for 
accepting its appeal disinterestedly. But of this he 
is quite sure — that sanctity itself shall not propitiate, 
by mere virtue of its incorruptibility, the woman it 
has scorned; and, in that certainty, and by reason of 
that experience, he nurses the hope of still profiting by 
the revulsion of feeling which he foresees will occur 
in a certain high lady as a consequence of her rebuff. 

Still, however that may chance, he finds his present 
state intolerable. It is not so much its dull and filthy 
circumstance that appals him, though that is noxious 
enough to a boudoir exquisite; it is the shadow of 
Messer Ludovico's purpose, shapeless, indistinct, eter- 
nally conning him from the dark corners of his imagina- 
tion, which takes the knees out of his soul. Is he really 
his friend and patron, as he professes to be ? He recalls, 
with a sick shudder, how once, when in the full-flood 
of his arrogance, he had dared to keep that smooth and 
accommodating prince waiting in an ante-room while 
he had his hair dressed. He, Tassino, the fungus of a 
night, had ventured to do this! What a fool he had 
been ; yet how worse than his own folly is the dissimula- 


tion which can ignore for present profit so unforgettable 
an Insult I It is not forgotten ; it cannot be ; yet, to 
all appearances, Ludovico now visits him, on the rare 
occasions when he does so, with the sole object of In- 
forming him, sympathetically, of the progress of Bona's 
new Infatuation. Why ? He has not the wit to fathom. 
Only he has not so much faith in this disinterestedness 
as in the probability of its being a blind to some deadly 

How he hates them all — the Duchess, the Prince, the 
whole world of courtly rascals who have flattered him 
out of his obscurity only to play with and destroy him ! 
If he can once escape from this trap, he will show them 
he can bite their heels yet. But what hope is there of 
escaping while Ludovico holds the secret of the spring ? 
Day after day finds him gnawing the bars, and whimper- 
ing out his spite and impotence. 

He has not failed, of course, to question his landlord 
Narcisso, or to weep over the futile result. Even if the 
little wretch's tact and wit were less negligible quantities, 
there is that of crafty doggedness in his gaoler to baffle 
the shrewdest questioner. Deciding that the man is in 
the paid confidence of the ' forces,' Tassino soon desists 
feaOLatt empting t o draw him, and vents on him instead 
his wholTsoul of venge&land disappointed spite. 

Narcisso, for his part, oSeKshimself quite submissively 
to the comedy; waits on him wi!ft^ sniggering deference ; 
stands while he eats; brings wi^^r, none the most 
fragrant, for him to dip his fingers inV^erwards ; dresses 
his hair with a broken comb, and takes T*j? ^^n dressing 
for pulling it with a grinning impassi^olj^ ' lends, in 
short, his huge carcass in every way to be^-^^^ other's 
butt and footstool. This exercise in overbe3f2^^® ** 
a certain relief to the prisoner ; but, for all th^^^y^^*' 
his time hangs deadlily on his hands. There arekS? 



restrictions placed upon him. He is free to come and 
go — as he dares. His terror is held his sufficient gaoler, 
and it suffices. He never, in fact, puts his nose outside 
the door, but contents himself, like the waspish little 
eremite he has become, with criticising and cursing from 
his solitary grille the limbs and lungs and life of the 
foetid world in which his later fortunes seem cast. So 
much for Messer Tassino ! 

One particular night saw him cowering before the 
caldano, or little domestic brazier, which must serve his 
present need in lieu of hotter memories ; for the season 
was chilling rapidly, and what freshness had ever been 
in him was long since starved out. He was grown a 
little grimy and unkempt in these days, and his clothes 
were stale. The room in which he sat was, in its mean- 
ness and squalor, quite typically Vineyardish. Its 
furniture was of the least and rudest ; it had not so 
much as a solitary cupboard to hold a skeleton ; it was 
as naked to inspection as honesty. That was its 
owner's way. Narcisso was a very Dacoit in carrying 
all his simple harness on and about him. He cut his 
throats and his meat impartially with the same knife ; 
or toasted, as he was doing now, slices of Bologna 
sausage on its point. His abortive scrap of a face 
puckered humorously, as the other, drawing his cloak 
tighter about him, damned the pitiful dimensions of 
their hearth. 

* I would not curse the fire for its smallness, Messer,' 
he said. * Wilt need all thy breath some day for blowing 
out a furnace.' 

Tassino wriggled and snarled : — 

* May'st think so, beast ; but I know myself damned, 
as an unbaptized one, to no lower than the first circle 
of our Father Dante.' 

* Wert thou not baptized ? ' 


* Do I not say so ? And, therefore, lacking that grace, 

'What's that?' 

* Not responsible for my acts, pig/ 
'Who says so?' 

' Dante.' 

' Who 's he ? Has a' been there ? I would not believe 
him. What doth a' say o' me ? ' 

* You? That you shall choke for all eternity in a 
river of blood.' 

*Anan!' said Narcisso, and blew, scowling, on his 
sausage, which had become ignited. 'That's neither 
sense nor justice, master. I kill by the decalogue, I do. 
Did I ever put out a man's eyes for sport ? ' 

' It 's no matter,' answered Tassino. ' Thou wert 

' What will they do to thee ? ' 

' I shall be forbidden the Almighty's countenance, no 
more — punishment enough, of course, for a person of 
ta:ste ; but I must e'en make shift to do without' 

' It's not fair,' growled Narcisso. 'I had no hand in 
my own christening. Do without? Narry penalty in 
doing without what you 've never asked nor wanted.' 

A figure that had stolen noiselessly into the room as 
they spoke, and was standing watching, with its cloak 
caught to its face, sniggered, literally, in its sleeve. 

Tassino snapped rebelliously at the knife point, and 
began to eat without ceremony. 

' Punishment enough,' he whined, ' if it means such a 
life in death as this.' 

He sobbed and munched, quarrelling with his meat. 

' How canst thou understand ! The foul fiend betray 
him who condemned me to it! That saint; O, that 
saint! If I could only once trip kis soul by the 
heels 1 ' 





* No need, my poor Tassino/ murmured a sympathetic 
voice ; * indeed, I think, there is no need.' 

The prisoner staggered from his stool, and stood shak- 
ing and gulping. 

* Messer Ludovico ! * he gasped. * How ' 

* By the door, my child — plainly, by the door,' inter- 
rupted the Prince smoothly. And then he smiled : ' Alas ! 
thou hast no ante-room here for the scotching of undesir- 
able suitors.' 

The terrified creature had not a word to say. One 
could almost hear his fat heart thumping. 

Ludovico, lowering his cloak a little, made an acrid 
face. The room offended his particular nostrils: its 
atmosphere was nothing less than sticky. But, reflecting 
on the choice moral of it, he looked at the little tarnished 
clinquant before him, and was content to endure. He 
even aflfected a pleasant envy. 

'This is worth all the glamour of courts,' he said, 
waving his hand comprehensively. 'To eat, or lie down; 
to go in or out as thou will'st. Never to know that sus- 
picion of thine own shadow on the wall. To waste no 
words in empty phrases, nor need the wealth to waste on 
empty show. What a rich atmosphere hath this un- 
troubled, irresponsible freedom ; it is a very meal of itself! 
I would I could say. For ever rest and grow fat thereon ; 
but, alas ! I bring discomforting news. My poor Tassino, 
I fear the fortress at last shows signs of yielding.' 

The little wretch opposite him whimpered as if at a 

' Is it so indeed? Then, Messer Ludovico, it is a foul 
shame of her. She hath betrayed me — may God requite 
her ! ' He snivelled like a grieved child ; then, on a 
sudden thought, looked up, with a child's cunning. * At 
least in that case I shall be forgotten. There can be no 
object in my hiding here longer.' 


The Prince lifted his eyebrows, with an inward-drawn 

'Object? Object?* he protested, acting amazement. 
• But more than ever, my poor simpleton. Thy case is 
double-damned thereby. Think you the other would 
rest on the thought of a rival, and such a rival, at large ? 
Thy very existence would be a menace to his guilty 
peace. I come, indeed, as a friend to warn thee. Lie 
close ; stir not out ; the very air hath knives. Be cautious, 
even of thy shadow on the wall, of thy hand in the dish.' 

He said it calmly and distinctly, looking towards 
Narcisso, who all this time had stood hunched in the 
background, his dull brain struggling bewildered in a 
maze. But the urgency of this innuendo penetrated even 
him ; the more so when he saw Tassino leap and fling 
himself on his knees at the Prince's feet. 

'What do you mean?' shrieked the young man. *Is 
he in their pay? O Messer, save me! don't let me be 

He pawed and grovelled, looking madly over his 
shoulder. Ludovico laughed gently, disregarding him. 

* Nay, I know not,' he cooed. * It is a dog that serves 
more masters than one.' 

Narcisso slouched forward, and ducked a sort of 
obeisance between sullen and deferential. 

* What 's to-do ? ' he growled. * I serve my patron, 
Messer Duke's son, like an honest man. What call, I 
say, to warn 'en of me ? Do I not earn my wages fairly ? ' 

* Scarcely, fellow,' murmured Ludovico — * unless to 
betray thine employer be fair.' 

Narcisso scowled and lowered. 

* Betray 1 ' he protested, but uneasily. ' That is a charge 
to be proved, Messer.' 

' Ludovico suddenly leapt to a blaze. 

*Dog! Wouldst bandy with me, dog? Beware, I 


say! Who blabbed my secrets to the lady of Casa 
Caprona ? * 

He was himself again with the cry. His faculty of 
instant self-control was a thing quite fearful. Narcisso 
cowered before him ; shrunk under the playful wagging 
of his finger. 

' Messer — in the Lord's name ! ' he could only stammer 
— * Messer ! ' 

' O thou fond knave ! ' complained the Prince, showing 
his teeth in a smile ; ' to think to play that double game, 
one patron against another, and stake thine empty wits 
against the reckoning ! Well, thou art confessed and 
damned.' He drew back a pace. ' But one word more,' 
he said, raising his voice. ' What hast thou to plead that 
I call not up those that will silence for ever thy false, 
treacherous tongue ? ' 

He stood by the door. It was a very reasonable 
inference that he had not ventured into such a quarter 
unattended. Narcisso stood gasping and intertwining 
his thick fingers, but he could find no words. 

' What ! ' smiled Ludovico ; ' no excuse, no explana- 
tion? No answer of any kind? Shall I call, then?' 
He seemed to hesitate. 'Yet perhaps one loop-hole, 
though undeserved, I '11 lease thee on condition.' He 
moved again forward a little, and spoke in a lower tone : 
'There's news wanted of a certain stolen ring. Dog! 
do I not know who thieved it, and for whom ? Now shalt 
thou undertake to go yet once again, and, robbing the 
receiver, bring the spoil to me — or be damned here and 
now for thy villainy.' 

He thought he had netted at last the quarry of his 
long, patient stalking ; but for once his confidence was at 
fault. Watching intently for the effect of his words, he 
grew conscious of some change transfiguring, out of 
terror and astonishment, the face of his victim. Foul, 


ignoble, animal beyond redemption as that was in all its 
features, its swinish eyes could yet extract and emit, it 
seemed, from the thin, dead ashes of some ancient fire, a 
stubborn spark of self-renunciation. He could read it in 
them unmistakably. The man stood straight before 
him, for the first and only time in his life, a hero. 

LAidovico gazed in silence. He found, to do him the 
right justice, this psychic revelation of acuter interest to 
him than his own defeat foreseen in the light of it. But 
Tassino's subdued whimpering jarred him out of his 

* Well, is it agreed ? ' he asked with a sigh. For the 
moment he almost shrunk in the apprehension of an 
affirmative reply. 

The rogue drew himself suddenly together. 

* Call, Messer,' he said, * That is my answer.' 

His chin dropped on his breast Tassino uttered a 
cry, and hid his face in his hands. Not a word or ap- 
parent movement followed ; but when, goaded by the 
fearful stillness, the two dared to look up once more, they 
found themselves alone« 

Then, at that, Tassino shrieked and sprang to the grille. 

* My God 1 ' he sobbed ; * he has gone, and left me to my 

He moved to escape by the door, but Narcisso caught 
and wrenched him back. 

' What ails the fool I ' he protested in his teeth. ' My 
orders be to keep, not kill thee, man ! ' 

Messer Ludovico, walking enveloped within a little 
cloud of his adherents, smiled to himself on his way back 
to the palace. 

' The fascination of the serpent,' mused he, shaking his 
head — ' the fascination of the serpent ! How could that 
crude organism be expected to resist the arts of our 


Lamia, when I myself could fall near swooning to them ? 
Hath he betrayed me to others ? I think not ; yet it 
were well to have him silenced betimes. The weakness 
was to threaten where I dared not yet perform. Yet it 
may chance, after all, he shall come to be prevailed on 
for the ring.' 

' The ring I ' he muttered, as he climbed presently to 
his chamber — * the ring I I think it comes to zone the 
world in my imagination ! ' 

As he was passing through the ante-room to his private 
closet, a draped and voiceless figUre moved suddenly out 
of the shadows to accost him. He gave the faintest 
start, then offered his hand, and, without a word, ushered 
this strange ghost into his sanctum. The portiere swung 
back, the door clanged upon them, and there on the 
threshold he dwelt, looking with a silent, smiling inquisi- 
tion into the eyes of his visitor. 

Hast thou ever seen the dead, leafy surface of a wood- 
land pool stir, scarce perceptibly, to the movement of 
some secret thing below ? So, as Beatrice stood like a 
statue before the Prince, did the soul of her reveal itself 
to him, writhing somewhere under the surface of that 
still mask. 

Then suddenly, swiftly, passionately, she thrust out a 

* There is the ring,' she said. * Do what you will with it.' 


THAT same evening had witnessed, in the dower 
Casa Caprona, the abortive finish to a venture 
long contemplated by its mistress, and at length, in a 
moment of desperation, dared. She had wrought herself, 
or been wrought at this last, into privately communi- 
cating to the little Saint Magistrate of Milan, how she 
had certain information where the ring lay, which if he 
would learn, he must follow the messenger to her house. 
She had claimed his utmost confidence and secrecy, and, 
on that understanding alone, had procured herself an 
interview. And Bernardo had come, and he had gone — 
how, her tumbled hair, her self-bruised bosom, her aban- 
donment to the utter shame and fury of her defeat, were 
eloquent witnesses. 

She had not been able to realise her own impotence to 
disarm an antagonist already half-demoralised, as she 
believed this one to be. For, before ever she had pre- 
cipitated this end, gossip had been busy whispering to 
her how the saint was beginning to melt in the sun of 
adulation, to confess the man in the angel, to inform with 
a more than filial devotion his attitude towards Bona. 
To have to cherish yet hate that thought had been her 
torture ; to anticipate its consummation her frenzy. She 
had known him first ; he was hers by right. Long 
wasting in the passion of her desire, she had conceived 
of its fruition a savour out of all proportion with her 



experiences. She must conquer him or die. He was hers, 
not Bona's. 

She had disciplined herself, in order to propitiate his 
prejudices, into the enduring of a decent period of retire- 
ment. It must end at last She never knew when 
Ludovico might exact from her that security, held by her 
conditionally only, against her ruin by him. For the 
present indeed she retained the ring, but any moment 
might see it claimed from her. Now, if she could only 
once lure, and overcome by its means, the object of her 
passion, the question of its restoration to, or use by 
another against, its owner, must necessarily cease of being 
an acute one with either her or Bernardo. 

With him, at least — with him, at least. And as for 

Turning where she lay, she had seen her own insolent 
smile reflected from a mirror. 

* He said,' she had whispered, pondering some words 
of Ludovico's, * More impossible things might happen! 

Then, taking the ring from her bosom, and apostro- 
phising its green sparkle softly : — 

* A little star — a little bribe, to win me both love and 
a throne ! ' she had said, and so had sunk back, closing 
her eyes, and murmuring : — 

* Let it only prove its power here, and it and the heads 
of that conspiracy shall be all Ludovico's. He will not 
claim the latter, I think, until their purpose is accom- 
plished. And then ' 

And then Messer Ludovico himself had been announced. 

He visited her not infrequently in these days, though 
never, it seemed, with any purpose of foreclosing on that 
little mortgage of the ring. He came in the fashion of 
a confidential gossip, to enlighten her as to the doings of 
the world outside. They were very pleasant and intimate 
together, with a hint, no more, of closer relations to 


come. The lion rolled in a silken net, and affected his 
subjugation, as the lady affected not to notice the stealthy 
claws of her capture. It was a pretty little comedy, 
which engaged the sympathies of both, each according to 
its temperament. But it ended in tragedy. 

Ludovico had, indeed, no interest in dissuading his 
beautiful gossip's mind from its tormenting suspicions as 
to the Messer Saint's gradual corruption by Bona; a 
scandal to which, no doubt — the wish in him being father 
to the thought — he himself gave ready credence. The 
report suited him in every way, both as to his policy and 
its instruments; and he only awaited its certain sub- 
stantiation to let fly the bolt which was to involve three 
fortunes in one ruin — under warrant of the ring, if 
possible, but timely in any event. 

And in the meanwhile it afforded him, whether from 
jealousy or pure love of mischief, some wicked gratifica- 
tion to nip and sting this already tormented lady in 
sensitive places, and to do it all under an affectation of 
the softest sympathy. 

Yet, while for his own purpose he hugged and fostered 
the slander, whose growth and justification he most 
desired, the slander itself, for some inexplicable reason, 
did not grow, but even began to exhibit signs, for a time 
almost imperceptible, of attenuating. Ludovico could 
not acknowledge this fact to himself, or even consider it. 
It is difficult, no doubt, while we are calculating our 
probable gains, to admit the possibility of a blight in the 
harvest of our hopes. A fervid prospect blinds us to the 
road between; and this prince, for all his far-seeing, 
because of it rather, may have been less open to immediate 
impressions than some others about him. 

Yet to souls less acute, there were the signs : the first 
little shadow of a smut on the ear — a hitch, just the 
faintest, in the ecstatic programme of Nature. Was it 


that Tassino, the mean worldling, was a true prophet of 
his parts, and that the reaction from a starved continence 
was already actually threatening ? Whispers there cer- 
tainly were of a growing impatience of restrictions in the 
castello; of schisms from the pure creed of its little 
priest ; of hankerings, even on the part of the highest, 
after the old fleshpots. They rose, and died down, and 
rose again. There was no melting a certain snow-child, 
it was said, into anything but ice water. The Duchess, 
who had somehow expected to gather flowers from frost, 
went about white and smiling, and chafing her hands as 
if they were numb. She had once stopped before a new 
young courtier, who bore some resemblance to a past 
favourite, and, while speaking to him kindly, had been 
seen to flush as though her cheeks had caught the sudden 
warmth of a distant fire. Madam Caterina, it was certain, 
waxing bold in impishness, had commisserated her motl^r 
on the bad cold she had caught 'Madre mia,' she had 
said, ' you have wandered too much in the chill woods, 
and would be the better for a hot brick to your bed.' 

For such tittle-tattle was this after season of the sowing 
responsible, when, against all expectations, tares began 
to appear amidst the crops. Messer Ludovico, for his 
part, would recognise no sinister note in the laughter. 
It was just the rocking and babbling of empty vessels. 
Its justification in fact would not have suited his book at 
all ; and so he continued in confidence to plant his little 
shafts in madam's raw places. 

Monna Cat'rina, he had told her on the occasion of this 
particular visit, had been very saucy to her mother the 
evening before, advising her, this cold weather, to make 
herself a coverlet of angel down; * Whereat,' said he, 
' Madam our Duchess slapped the chit's pink knuckles, 
answering, '' Shall I wish him, then, to die of cold for 
me ? " to which Catherine replied : " No ; for to die of 


love is not to die of cold " ' ; and the other had blushed 
and laughed, and turned away. 

And it had been this sting, thrust into the place of a 
long inflammation, which had finally goaded Beatrice into 
writing and sending her letter. 

Venus and Adonis 

The days were beginning to darken early. It was the 
season when exotic flowers of passion luxuriate under 
glass, in that close coverture which is the very opposite 
to the law's understanding of the term. 

Beatrice, like all tropical things, loved this time; 
basked in the glow of tapers ; hugged her own warm 
sweetness in the confidence of a sanctuary for ever 
besieged by, and for ever impervious to, the forces of 
cold and gloom. To fancy herself the desired of night, 
unattainable through all its storming, was a commanding 
ecstasy. She liked to hear the hail on the roof, trampling 
and threshing for an opening, and flinging away baffled. 
The muffled slam of the thunder was her lullaby ; while 
the candles shivered in it, she closed her eyes and dreamed. 
The thought of wrenched clouds, of crying human shapes, 
of torn beasts and birds sobbing and circling without the 
closed curtains of her shrine, served her imagination like 
a hymn. She measured her content against the strength 
of such hopeless appeals, like a very nun of incontinence, 
shut from the rigour of the world within the scented 
oratory of her own worship. She was Venus Anno 
Domini, the Paphian goddess yet undethroned, and yet 
justified of her influence over man and Nature. 

* About her carven palace walls a thousand blossoming lilies brake ; 
Within^ a thousand years of love had wrought^ for utter beauty^ s sake. 
Triumphs of art for her blue eyes, and for her feet rich stainkd floors j 
And ever in her ears sweet moan of music down dim corridors,^ 

Agapemone was her temple, and its inmost chamber 


her shrine. Here, under stained glass windows, ran 
a frieze in relievo of warm terra-cotta, thronged with 
little goat-faced satyrs pursuing nymphs through groves 
of pregnant vines. Here, supporting the frieze, were 
pilasters of blood-red porphyry, which burst high up into 
fronds of gold ; while, screening the interspaces on the 
walls, were panels of glowing tapestry relating the legend 
of Adonis, from his first budding on the enchanted tree 
to his final shrouding under the winter of love's grief. 
Here, also, the faces of dead Capronas, past lords of this 
House Beautiful, winked and gloated out of shadowy 
corners, whenever a log, toppling over on the hearth, sent 
up a shower of sparks. Prominent in one place was a 
tall massive clock, copper and brass, a chef-d'ceuvre of 
Dondi the horologist, which thudded the hours melo- 
diously, like a chime of distant bells, and made the 
swooning senses in love with time. Couches there were 
everywhere, soft and wooing to the soul of languor ; thick 
rugs and skins upon the marble floor ; tables with clawed 
legs, of chalcedony or jasper, on which were scattered in 
lovely wantonness a hundred toys of Elysium. Lutes, 
sweets, and goblets of rich repouss^ ; wine in green 
flasks, and delicate long-stemmed glasses ; an ivory and 
silver crucifix, half-hidden under a pile of raisins ; two 
love-birds in a gilded cage, and a golden salver contain- 
ing an aspic of larks' tongues, tilted upon a volume of 
some French Romaunt touching the knightly adventures 
of Messer Roland a troubadour — these and their like, 
varied or repeated, returned, in a thousandfold interest 
of colour and sparkle, the soft investment of the tapers — 
enough, but not too many — in their beauty. One velvet 
cloth had been swept from its place, spilling upon a rug, 
where it sprawled unregarded, its costly burden of a 
begemmed chalice, a pair of perfumed gloves, and an 
illuminated volume of sonnets in a jewelled cover, 


dedicated to the goddess herself, and celebrating, in 
letters of gold and silver on vellum, her incomparable 
seductions. She had pulled them over, no doubt, when 
she reached for the orange which now, untasted, filled 
her hand, soft and covetous as a child's* 

The warmth and drowsy stillness of the room pene- 
trated her as she lay holding it. Gradually her lids 
closed, her bare arm drooped from its sleeve, and the 
orange rolled on the floor. Her thoughts and expecta- 
tions had been already busy for an hour with, ' Will he 
come? Will he come? Will he come?' It had been 
like counting sheep trotting through a hedge— ^ne, two, 
three, four — up to a hundred — and now her drugged 
brain confused the tally, and s^ seemed to herself to 
swerve all in a moment into a luminous mist 

He entered like a pale scented flower into her dream — 
a soft and shapely thing, melting into its ecstasy, fulfill- 
ing its enchantment She held him, and whispered to 
him : * The hour, sweet love ! Is it mine at last ?' — and, 
so murmuring, stirred and opened her eyes. 

He was there, close by her, looking down upon her as 
she lay. How pale was his face, and how wistful. His 
walk through the icy dark had but just tinted it, as when 
November flaws blow the snow from the rose's dead 
cheek. He looked dispirited and tired. The childlike 
pathos of his eyes moved her heart-strings no less than 
did the red, combative swelling of his lips. She longed 
to master him in order to be mastered. Her hedonism's 
highest moral attainment was always in pleasing herself 
by surrendering herself to the pleasure of another ; and 
how, knowing herself, could she doubt the irresistible 
persuasiveness of her faith ? 

She did not speak for a little, the wine of slumber in 
her brain emboldening her in the meanwhile to dare this 
vision with her beauty, to seek her response in its eyes. 


Her cheeks, her half-closed lids, were, like a baby's, 
flushed with sleep. Suddenly she stirred, and, smiling 
and murmuring, held out white arms to it : — 

' The hour thou sang'st to me ! Bernardo, hast thou 
come to make that mine ? ' 

He stood as if stricken — white, dumfoundered. She 
stretched her shoulders a little, and, raising her hands, 
put their rosy knuckles to her eyes ; and so relaxed all, 
and drooped. 

' I was dreaming,' she murmured. ' I thought thou 
camest to me and said : "Beatrice, I will forego that heaven 
for thy sake. Give me the hour, to kiss and shame." 
She stole a glance at him, and dropped her clasped 
hands to her lap, and hung her head. ' And I answered,' 
she whispered, * " Take it, and make one woman happy." ' 

He gave a little cry. And then, suddenly, before he 
could move or speak, she had sat up swiftly, and whipped 
her arms about his neck, and pulled him to the couch 
beside her. 

' Listen,' she urged — * nay, thou shalt not go. I hold 
thy weakness in a vice. Struggle, and I will tighten it. 
Listen, child, while I tell thee a child's tale. It is about 
a huntsman that followed a voice ; and he pushed into a 
thicket, and lo ! enchantment seized him beyond. And 
he whispered amazed, "What is this?" and the voice 
answered, " Love — the end to aU thy hunting." O ! little 
huntsman of Nature, be content. Thou hast traced the 
voice of thy long longing to its home.' 

She repaid his struggles with kisses, his wild protests 
with honeyed words. He set his pretty teeth at her, and 
she pouted her mouth to them ; he hurled insult at her 
head, and she bore the sweet ache of it for the sake of 
the lips that bruised. When he desisted, exhausted, she 
would get in her soft pleas, rebuking him with a tearful 
meekness : — 


*Ay, scoui^e me, set thy teeth in me, only hate me 
not. Shalt find me but the tenderer, being whipped. 
Talk on of Nature. Is it not natural to want to be loved ; 
and, for a woman, in a woman's way ? ' 

' Forbear ! — O, wicked ! O, thou harlot I ' he panted, 
still fighting with her. 

'Lie still! So a sick infant quarrels with its food,' 
she answered. *0 love — dear love, will you not hear 
reason ? ' 

' Reason ! ' he stormed. ' O, thou siren ! to beguile me 
here on that lying pretext, and thus shame me for my 
trust ! ' 

' No lie,' she pleaded. ' Thou shalt have the ring 

' At thy price ? I will die first' 

* Bernardo ! ' 

' Thou to talk of natural love ! False to it ; false to 
thy lord ; false even to thy stained bed ! Unhand me ! 
Why, I loathe thee.' 

' Not yet' 

Her eyes were hot waters, all misted over with passion. 

' Thou canst not indeed, so pitiful to the worst I cry 
to thee in my need. I knew thee first. Bernardo ! will 
you forsake your friend ? * 

* Friend ! ' 

' Ay. Only tell me what you would do with the ring ? * 

* What but return it to her that trusted me with it' 

* And for what reward ? — Nay, strive not' 

' My conscience's peace — ^just that Unclasp thy hands.* 
'See there! Her gratitude would kill it in thee for 
ever. As would be hers to thee, so be thine to me. Art 
thou for a fall ? Fall soft, then, on my love. She will 
not let thee down so kindly, who hath a lord and duchy 
to consider.' 

He made a supreme effort — her robe tore in his hand — 


and, breaking from her, stood panting and disordered. 
She made no effort to recapture him, but, flinging herself 
to abandonment, sobbed and sighed. 

' O, I am undone I Wilt thou forsake me ? Kill me 
first ! Nay, I will not let thee go ! * 

She sprang to her feet He leapt away from her. 

* Beast I ' he cried, * that foulest our garden I I will 
have thee whipped out of Milan with a bow-string.' 

Scorn and hatred flashed into her face. She was no 
longer Venus, but Ashtoreth, the goddess of unclean 

*Thou wilt?' she hissed. *I thank thee for that 
warning. Go, sir, and claim thy doxy to thy vengeance. 
She will leap, I promise thee, to that chance. Only, 
wouldst thou view the sport' — she struck her naked 
bosom relentlessly — ' by this I advise thee — O, I advise 
thee like a lover! — hide well in her skirts — hide well. 
They will need to be thick and close to screen thee from 
a woman scorned. Wilt thou not go ? I have the ring, 
I tell thee — /, myself, no other. Let her know. She '11 
bid thee pay the price perchance — too late. A fatal ring 
to thee. Why art thou lingering ? I would not spare 
thee now, though thou knelt'st and prayed to me with 
tears of blood.' 

She stood up rigid, her hands clenched, as, without 
another word, Bernardo turned, and, stalking with high 
head and glittering eyes, passed out of the room. 

But, the moment the door had closed upon him, she 
flung herself face downwards on the couch, writhing and 
choking and clutching at her throat. 

' I must kill him,' she moaned ; * I must kill my love ! ' 


THE hitch in the progress of the harvest came ever 
a little and a little more into evidence : the smut 
darkened on the ear ; the whisper of a threatened blight 
grew from vague to articulate — grew clearer, grew bolder 
— until, lo ! — all in a moment it was a definite voice. 

This happened on the morning succeeding Bernardo's 
visit to the Casa Caprona — ^a visit of which, it would 
appear, the Duchess of Milan had been made somehow 

Bona, on this morning, came into the hall of council, 
her white hand laid, as she walked, upon the shoulder of 
Messer Cecco Simonetta, the State Secretary. That 
light, caressing touch was an arresting one to some eyes 
observing it — Ludovico's among the number. Its like, in 
that particular context of confidence and affection, had 
not been seen for many weeks — never, indeed, since the 
secretary had taken it upon himself to caution his mistress 
on the subject of a perilous fancy. He would have had 
no wish to balk any whim of hers that turned on self- 
indulgence. It was this whim of self-renunciation which 
had alarmed him. There was a mood which might con- 
ceivaUy vindicate itself in the sacrifice of a kingdom to a 
sentiment. Such things had happened ; and saints were 
men. He would put it to her with all humility. 

And she had listened and answered icily: 'I thank 
thee, Messer Secretary. But our faith is commensurate 



with our purpose, which is to sweep out our house, not 
pull it down. What then ? Dread'st thou to be included 
in the scourings ? Fear not. It is no part of our faith to 
forget our obligations.' 

Which was a cruel response ; but its hauteur silenced 
Mr. Secretary. And thenceforth he served in silence, 
watching, anxiously enough, the progress of his lady's 
infatuation, and feeling at last immensely relieved when, 
on this day, her warm palm settled on his shoulder, melt- 
ing the long frost between them. 

She looked rather wistfully into his worn eyes, and 
smiled a little tale without words of confidence restored. 
And he, for his part, spoke of no matters less common- 
place than the State's welfare. 

' The Duke will make Christmas with us. Madonna,' he 
said ; ^ I have advices from him.' 

* He will be most welcome,' she answered, and her face 
coloured with real pleasure. But the next moment it was 
like snow, and its vision hard crystals of frost. She had 
seen the Saint Magistrate advancing to accost her. 

There was a strange look in the boy's eyes as they 
gazed, unflinchingly nevertheless, into hers — a look 
mingled of pain and doubt and fortitude. She had said 
no unkind word to him; yet a frost can nip without 
wind ; and surely here was a plant very sensitive to the 
human atmosphere. He questioned her face a little ; 
then spoke out bold, though low — while Messer Ludo- 
vico, turning papers at the table, was very busy — 

' Madonna, wilt thou walk apart ? I am fain to crave 
thy private ear a moment.' 

She stood like ice. 

* Touching whose shortcomings now ? ' she asked aloud, 
and with a little cold laugh which disdained that implied 


He gazed at her steadily, though in trouble. 

* Nay, I spoke of none. It is of moment. Madonna, 
I entreat thee.' 

For an instant the milk of her sweetened to him. He 
was such a baby after all. And then she remembered 
whence he had lately come, and gall flooded her veins — 
gall not so much of jealousy, perhaps, as of contempt. 
Doubtless, she thought, he could have ventured himself 
into that hothouse in the Via Sforza with impunity, since, 
though spirit he might be, he was of that uninflammability 
that his virtue amounted to little better than the virtue of 
sexlessness. She felt almost glad, at last, to have this 
excuse for dissociating herself from a cause which had 
always chilled, and had ceased now for some time even 
to amuse her. 

Feel no surprise over the seeming suddenness of her 
revolt. Apart from her position, this Duchess of Milan 
was never anything but a typical woman, common-souled, 
lacking spiritual sensitiveness, leaning to her masculine 
peers. Breeding was her business, and motherhood her 
passion. She took no more jar of offence from the 
intimate custody of babies, than does a cat in licking 
open the eyes of its seven-days born. Her refinements 
were adventitious, an accident of her condition. She had 
felt it no outrage to her stately loveliness to yield it to 
Tassino's usings. She had that Madonna-like serenity of 
face which is the expression of an inviolable mindlessness ; 
and no impressions other than physical could long pervade 
her. Stupidity is the rarest beauty-preserver; and it is 
to be feared that Bona was stupid. 

Now, it is to be remembered that Bernardo had not 
mentioned shortcomings at all ; but her object being to 
snub rather than answer him, she chose to take refuge in 
her sex's prerogative of intuition. Dwelling a moment 
in a rising temper, she suddenly flounced on him. 


' If you will seek doubtful company, Messer, you must 
not cry out to have your fervour misread by it.' 

He was about to answer; but she stopped him 

'Women will be women, good or bad. We cannot 
promote a civil war in Milan to avenge some pin-prick to 
thy conscience. Indeed, sir, we weary a little of this 
precisianism. Is it come to be a sin to laugh, to warm 
our hands at a fire, to prefer a fried collop to a wafer ? 
You must forgive us, like the angel that you are. We 
are human, after all, and pledged to human policies. 
Our State's before the magistracy. There are things 
weightier to discuss than a mischiefs naughty word. We 
cannot hear you now.' 

She turned away, relenting but a little, though flushed 
and trembling. 

* Come, brother,' she said. ' Shall we not pass to the 
order of the day ? ' 

Ludovico responded with smooth and smiling alacrity. 
One could never have guessed by his face the consterna- 
tion which had seized his soul. Yet, so cleverly had he 
hoodwinked himself, this sudden leap of light was near 
staggering him. Merriment and warmth and fried coUops? 
The charge in its utter, its laughable irrelevancy, was, he 
thought, a little hard on the saint, seeing how the gist of 
the new creed lay all in a natural enjoyment of life's 
bounties. What powder had winged such a startling 
shot ? — weariness ? — disenchantment ? — remorseful hank- 
erings, perhaps, after a discarded suet pudding, which, 
after all, had been infinitely more native to this woman's 
taste than the ethereal soufH^, whose frothy prettiness 
had for the moment appealed to her meat-fed satiety ? 

The last, most probably. And, in that case 

His brain, through all the mazes of council, went 
tracing out a busy thread of self-policy. If this were 


really the end, he must hurry to foreclose on it ere the 
split widened into a gulf— before ever the first whisper 
of its opening reached Tassino's ears. The time for 
temporising was closed. 

^ It touches, your Grace/ he purred, ' upon the reception 
to be accorded the envoys of Ferrara and Mantua.' 

The wind of a fall, like the wind of an avalanche, runs 
before the body of it. Messer Bembo, passing out, 
amazed, from his rebuff, found in himself an illustration 
of this inevitable human truism. All the envies, spites, 
and jealousies which his sweetness, under favour, had 
kept at bay, seemed now gathered in his path to hustle 
and insult him. 

' Grood Master Nature,' mocked one, * hast ever a collop 
in thy pocket for a starved woodman ? ' 

'See how he stumbles, missing his leading-strings!' 
cackled another. 

A third knocked off his bonnet. 

' Prophesy, who is he that smote thee ! ' he cried, and 
ducking, came up elsewhere. 

' Ay, prophesy I ' thundered a fourth voice ; and a fist 
like a rammer crashed upon the assailant's face, spread- 
eagling it. The man went down in a welter. Bembo 
fled to Lanti's arms, feebly imprisoning them. 

' Thou thing of bloody passions I ' he shrieked. 
' Wouldst thou so vindicate me ? ' 

Carlo roared over his shoulder : — 

•Help his prophecy, ye vermin, when he's ears to 
hear ; and tell him I wait to carve them from his head.' 

He bore Bembo with him from the hall, as he might 
carry a moth fluttering on his sleeve. Murmurs rose in 
his wake, seething and furious ; but he heeded them not. 
In a deserted court beyond, he shook the pretty spoil 
from his arm, not roughly but with an air of madness, and 
stood breathing like a driven ox. 


* What now ? ' he groaned at last — * what now ? ' 

Then all in a moment the boy was sobbing before 

'O Carlo! dear Carlo 1 I would the Duke were 
returned ! ' 

His grief and helplessness moved the other to a frenzy. 
His chest heaved, he caught at his throat, struggling 
vainly for utterance of the fears which had of late been 
tormenting him without definite reason. Seeing his 
state, Bernardo sought to propitiate it with a smile that 
trembled out of tears. 

' Nay, mind me not — a child to cry at a shadow.' 

Lanti choked, and found voice at length. 

* The Duke ? Monstrous ! Call'st thou for him ? For- 
get'st Capello ? Art changed indeed.' 

* Alas ! ' cried the boy, ' no change in me. I think only 
of a more ruling tyranny than mine. Pitiless himself, 
he made pity sweet in others. I 've converted 'em from 
deeds to words, that 's all.' 

' The Duke ! ' 

* I begin to see. Thou warned'st me, I remember. 
The fashion of me passes, like thy shoe's long beaks. 
Yesterday they were a span ; to-day they 're shrunk by 
half; to-morrow, mayhap, ye '11 trim them from your 
feet and run on goat's hooves.' 

* Thou ravest. 'Tis for thee, being Duke-deputy, to 
trim us^ 

* Into what ? Cherubs or satyrs ? Be quick, lest the 
fashion change while you talk.' 

* Go to ! Thou art the Duke, I say.' 

'Well, a fine puppet, and great at righting wrongs. 
There 's Lucia to witness.' 

* She 's provided for.' 

* With bread. O, I am a very Mahomet. If I but nod 
my head, the city shall crack and crumble to it.' 

* God ! What ails thee, boy ? ' 


'Something mortal, I think. A breath withered me 
just now ! ' 

* A breath ? Whose breath ? ' 

* Whose ? O Carlo, forgive me ! What have I said or 
done? Look, I'm myself again. It just fell like a frost 
in June, killing my young olives. I had so hung upon it, 
too — ^its help and promise. The harvest seemed so 

* Ah ! She 's thrown you over ? ' 

' Dreams, dreams ! ' sighed poor little Nathan ; ' to live 
on dreams — a deaf man's voices, a blind man's vision. 
I have seen such things, built such kingdoms out of 
dreams. Carlo ! what have I done ? ' 

Lanti ground his teeth. 

* Done ? Proved woman's constancy a dream — that 's 

He clapped his chest, and looked earnestly at Bembo, 
and cried in a broken voice : — 

' Boy — before God — tell me — thou hast not learned to 
desire her ? ' 

The child looked up at him, with a pitiful mouth. 

' Ah ! I know not what you mean ; unless it be that 
pain with which I see her melt from out my dream when 
most possessing it' 

* Most ? She ? She to possess thy dream, thy pur- 
pose?' cried Lanti, and drew back in great emotion. 

* She is my purpose,' said the boy — * or was, alack ! ' 

* Is and was,' growled the other. * Well, 'tis true that 
for the purpose of thy purpose / remain ; but then I 
don't count What am / to thee ? ' 

' My love, beyond all women.' 

* I am ? That 's much. Now will we do without the 

' Alas ! ' 

' Shall we not ? ' 


'She hath so nursed my flock to pasture — the kind 
ewe-mother. The bell was about her neck. Now, it 
seems, she will have neither bell nor shepherd, and the 
flock must stray.' 

' Hath she in truth cast thee ? On what pretext ? ' 
' Nay, I know not It seemed the twin-brother of him 
that once she used for loving me.' 

* Ay, it is their way. But scorn, for your part, to show 
caloric as she cools.' 


* Trust me there. What had you said to chill her ? ' 

' Nothing that I know, but to crave her ear a moment.' 

' It is the sink of slander in a woman — a pink shell 
with a dead fish inside. Yet thy whisper might have 
sweetened it' 

' Stung it rather. Carlo, I know not what to do.' 

' Tell me.' 

' Shall I, indeed ? I fear thee. Wilt thou be gentle ? ' 

' As a lamb.' 

* Well, then, I '11 tell thee— I am so lost. Carlo, dear, 
I know where the ring is.* 

* You do ? Do you see how calm I am ? Where is it ? ' 

* Beatrice hath it — thy Beatrice.' 

* You know that ? ' 

* She sent to tell me — last night God help me. Carlo, 
for a credulous fool ! ' 

' You went to her ? Well ? ' 

*She would give it me, Carlo — O Carlo! on such a 

condition ! ' 

' Which if you refused ? ' 

' It shall be a fatal ring to me, she ended.' 

' Shall it ?— or to her ? Well, that 's said. And now, 

wilt thou go rest a little, sweetheart, while I think ? I 

cannot think in company.' 

* I will go, but not to rest' 


* Pooh 1 thy Fool shall drug thy folly with his greater.' 

* Alas ! he 's gone.' 

' He too. Nay, blaspheme not He had his reasons.' 

'For what?' 

' For leaving me awhile. ** My folly starves on thine 
ambrosia," he said. '* I would fain feed it a little on 
human flesh." ' 

' How long 's he gone ? ' 

* Some days.' 

* Let him keep out of my way when he returns.' 

* I '11 not love you if you hurt him.' 

* Then I '11 not hurt him. Thy love is mine, and thy 
confidence, look you. This ring — speak not a word on 
it, to Bona or another, till I bid you.' 

* Then I will not.' 

* That 's good. God rest you, sweetling.' 

He watched him go, with frowning eyes ; then, no 
message coming to him from the hall, strode off to his 
own quarters in the palace, and bided there all day. 

'These women,' was the burden of his fury — 'these 
women — soulless beasts! To aim at winning heaven 
by debauching its angel ! — there 's their morality in a 
nutshell! But I'll send him back there first. So 
Beatrice hath the ring! What will she do with it? 
What shall I with the knowledge ? God ! if my wits 
could run with my rage ! To forestall her, else ' 

His fingers worked, as he tramped, on the jewelled 
hilt of his poniard. 

It was Messer Lanti's misfortune that, in knocking 
down Bernardo's assailant, he had defaced, literally as 
well as symbolically, the escutcheon of a powerful 
family. The fact was brought to the Duchess's notice 
when, shortly after the event, she passed through the 


hall in company with her brother-in-law. Hoarse 
clamour of kinsmen and partisans greeted her, backed, 
by way of red evidence, by the condition of the victim 

Her wrath and emotion knew no bounds. She flushed, 
and stamped, and wept, and in the midst collapsed. It 
was outrageous that her authority should be so defied 
(though, indeed, it had not been) by the brute creature 
of a creature of her lord's. The Duke had never fore- 
seen or intended such an arrogation of his prerogatives 
by his deputy. She would teach this swashbuckler a 

Then she broke down and turned, tearful, almost 
wringing her hands, to her brother-in-law. Sure never 
woman was cursed in such a false position — impotent 
and responsible in one. What should she do? 

He took her aside. 

' These two,' he said, * are as yet persona grata with 
Galeazzo. At the same time thou canst not with decency 
or safety ignore the outrage. Seize and confine Messer 
Lanti out of harm's way until the Duke's return — just 
a formal and considerate detention, pending his decision. 
There *s thy wise compromise, sister.' 

And so indeed it seemed. But undoubtedly the 
best wisdom lay in his own adroit seizure of a fortuitous 
situation. He had wanted this Lanti out of the way ; 
had foreseen him, as it were, lurking in the thickets far 
ahead through which his policy sought a road. Here 
was the fine opportunity, and without risk to himself, to 
ambush the ambuscado, and have it laid by the heels. 

Bona sobbed and fretted, nursing her grievance. 

* Why did this angel come to vex us with his heaven ? 
The world, L think, would be very well but for its school- 
ing by saints and prophets. Children grow naughty 
under inquisition. There, have it as you will, brother ; 


use or abuse me — it is all one. It is my fate to be 
persecuted through my best intentions.' 

Ludovico put force on himself to linger a little and 
soothe her. His soul leapt with anxiety to be gone. 
To instruct Jacopo; to commission Tassino— to loose 
his long-straining bolt in fact — ^here was the moment 
sprung inevitable upon him. He had no choice but to 
seize it ; and then — 

' Your Grace must excuse me/ he said at length, smil- 
ing. * I have to go prepare against a journey.' 

' A journey ! ' she exclaimed, aghast. 

'Surely/ he answered mildly. *The matter is in- 
significant enough to have escaped your burdened 
memory ; but smaller souls must hold to their engage- 
ments. My brother Bari and I are to Christmas with 
the King of France in Tours. We sail from Genoa, 
whither, in a day or two, I must ride to join him. It is 
unfortunate, at this pass ; but ' 

* Go, sir,' she broke in — * go. I see I am to be the 
scapegoat of all your policies,' and she hurried from 
him, weeping. 


MORE and more drearily the burden of his long 
days pressed upon Tassino. He was not built 
for heroic endurance ; and to have to suffer Damocles' fate 
without the feast was a very death-in-life to him. Here, 
in this dingy cabin, was no solace of wine to string his 
nerves ; no charm of lights to scare away bogies ; no 
outlook but upon beastliness and squalor. He seemed 
stranded on a mud-bank amidst the ebbing life of the 
city, and he despaired that the tide would ever turn and 
release him. 

Listening at his grille, he would often curse to hear 
the name of his hated rival — * Bembo ! Bembe, 
Bambino ! ' sing out upon the swarming air. It was the 
rallying-cry of the new socialism, the popular catchword 
of the moment ; and he hugged himself in the thought of 
what it would spell to Galeazzo on his return, and by 
what racking and rending and stretching of necks he 
would mark his appreciation of its utterers' enthusiasm. 
If the Duke would only come back ! Here was the last 
of three who desired, it appeared, each for a very different 
reason, the re-installation of an ogre in his kingdom. 

But^ in the meanwhile, he cowered in an endless 
apprehension as to his own safety, which Ludovico's last 
visit had certainly done nothing to reassure. On the 
contrary, it had but served to intensify the gloom of 
mystery in which he dwelt. He had since made sundry 



feeble-artful attempts to discover from Narcisso what 
secret attached to the ring, which, it appeared, that 
amiable peculator was accused of having filched, and 
why Messer Ludovico was so set on possessing it. 
Needless to say, his efforts met with no success what- 
ever ; and the corrosion of a new suspicion was all that 
they added to his already palsied nerves. The sick 
flabbiness and demoralisation of him grew positively 
pitiful, as he stood day after day at his grille, watching 
and moping and snivelling, and sometimes wishing he 
were dead. 

Well, the thicker the mud, the more productive the 
tide when it comes ; but he was fairly sunk to his neck 
before it floated him out. 

One day, gazing down, his attention was attracted to 
a figure which had halted near below his coign of espial. 
As things went, there was nothing so remarkable in this 
figure, in its alien speech or apparel, as to make it arrest- 
ing otherwise than by reason of its contiguity to himself. 
It was simply that of a crinkled hag, swart, snake-locked, 
cowled, her dress jingling with sequins, her right hand 
clawed upon a crutch. She appeared, in fact, just an old 
Levantine hoodie-crow, of the breed which was familiar 
enough to Milan in these cataclysmic days, when all 
sorts of queer, tragic fowl were being driven northwards 
from overseas before a tidal wave of Islamism. For half 
Christendom was writhing at this time under the em- 
broidered slipper of the Turk, while other half was fight- 
ing and scratching and backing within its own ranks, in 
a sauve qui pent from Sultan Mahomet's ever nearer- 
resounding tread. 

From Bosnia and Servia and Hungary ; from Negro- 
pont and the islands of the Greek Archipelago ; from 
new Rome itself, whose desolated houses and markets 
weeping Amastris had been emptied to repeople ; from 



Trebizond and the Crimea, it came endlessly floating, 
this waste drift of palaces and temples and antique civil- 
isations, which had been wrecked and scattered by that 
ruthless hate. Ruined merchants and traders ; unfrocked 
satraps ; priests of outlandish garb ; girl derelicts blooded 
and defiled by janissaries ; childless mothers and mother- 
less children — scared immigrants all, they wailed and 
wandered in the towns, denouncing in their despair the 
creed whose jealousies and corruptions had delivered 
them to this pass. 

In the first of their coming, a certain indignant sym- 
pathy had helped to the practical amelioration of their 
bitter lot. Men scowled and muttered over the histories 
of their wrongs ; took warning for a possible overthrow 
of the entire Christian Church ; talked big of sinking all 
differences in a kingdom- wide crusade ; and, finally, fell 
to fisticuffs upon the question of a common commander 
for this problematic host. After which the immigrants, 
always flocking in thicker, and making civil difliculties, 
fell gradually subject to an indiflerence, not to say 
intolerance, which was at least half as great as that from 
which they had fled. Fashion, moreover, began to find 
in the Ser Mahomet a figure more and more attractive, 
in proportion as he approached it, issuing from the mists 
of the Orient It was ravished with, if it did not want to 
be ravished by, those adorable Spahis, with their tinkling 
jackets and sashes and melancholy, wicked faces. It 
adapted prettily to itself the caftan, and the curdee, and 
the turban ; re-read Messer Boccaccio's most Eastern 
fables; acted them, too, in drawers of rose-coloured 
damask, and little talpoes, which were tiny jewelled caps 
of velvet, cocked, and falling over one ear in a tassel. 
But by that time the cult of immigrancy was discredited 
du kaut en bos. 

Many of the unhappy wretches were drawn by natural 



process into such sinks as ' The Vineyard.' The poor are 
good to the poor, and pitiful — which is strange — towards 
any fall from prosperity. In the instance of this old 
woman, it was notable how she was humoured of the 
drifting populace. The very ladroni, who, outside their 
own rookery, might have tormented and soused her in 
the kennel, were content here to rally and banter her a 
little, showing their white teeth to one another in jokes 
whose bent she was none the worse for misapprehending. 
For she had not much Italian, it appeared ; though what 
was hers she was turning to the best possible advantage 
in the matter of fortune-telling. 

Tassino saw many brawny palms thrust out for her 
shrewd conning ; echoed from his eyrie many of the 
EccomiperdUtos and mk bedtos which greeted her broken 
sallies. She got a mite here and there, and buzzed and 
mumbled over it, clutching it to her lean bosom. Pre- 
sently some distraction, of rape or murder, carried her 
audience elsewhere, and she was left temporarily alone. 
Then Tassino, moved by a sudden impulse, reached 
down his arm through the grate and tapped her reverend 
crown. She started, and ducked, and peered up. He 
whispered out to her : — 

' Zitto, old mother ! Come up here, and tell me my 
fortune for money.' 

She seemed to hesitate ; he signified the way ; and lo I 
on a thought she came. He met her at the door, and 
dragged her in. 

* Tell me my fortune,' he said, and thrust out a dirty 

She pored over it, chuckling and pattering her little 

incomprehensible shibboleth. Presently she seemed to 

pounce triumphantly on a knot. She leered up, her 

hand still clutching his, her hair falling over her 


*Ah-yah!' she muttered. ^Ringa^ ringa!' and shook 
her head. 

He shrugged peevishly : — 

* What do you mean, old hag ? ' 

^ Ringa ! ' she repeated : ' no ringa, no fortuna.' 

He snatched his hand away. 

' What ring, thou cursed harridan ? ' 

She shook her head again. 

' No know. Ringa — I see it — green cat-stone — hold 
off Fortuna. Get, and she change.' 

He gnawed his lip, frowning and wondering. There 
was a ring in question, certainly. Could it be possible its 
possession was connected somehow with his personal for- 
tunes ? If that were so, here was a veritable Pythoness. 

Her eyes stared daemonic : she thrust out a finger, 
pointing : — 

* I see, there : green cat-stone : get, and Fortuna 

Superstition mastered him. He trembled before her, 
quavering : — 

* How can I ? O mother ! how can I ? ' 

A voice in the street startled him. He leapt to the 
window and back again. 

^ Narcisso ! ' he gasped, and ran to bundle out his visitor. 

* To-morrow — come again to-morrow — after dark,' he 
whispered hurriedly. *I shall be alone — I will pay 
you — ' and he drove her forth. Narcisso met her, issu- 
ing from the court below. He growled out a maledic- 
tion, and came growling into the room. 

* You keep nice company, Messer.' 

* That is not my fault, beast,' answered Tassino pertly, 
* When I choose my own, it is to amuse myself.' 

^ Well, I hope she amused you ? ' 

* Not so much as I expected. I saw her telling for- 
tunes down below, and called her up to read me mine. 


Acquaint me of the mystery of a certain ring I asked 
her ; but, oimi I she could enlighten me nothing.' 

Narcisso leered at him cunningly, and spat. 

' It was as well, perhaps. I see th' art set upon that 
impertinence ; and I '11 only say again, '' beware ! " ' 

' You may say what you like, old yard-dog,' answered 
the youth. ^ It 's your business, chained up here, to snarl' 

But his fat brain was busy all night with the weird 
Hecate and her necromancy. What did this same ring 
portend to him, and how was his fate involved in its 
possession ? There was a ring in question, doubtless ; but 
whose? Then, all in an amazed moment inspiration 
flashed upon him. A green cat-stone! Had he not 
often seen such a ring on Bona's finger? It might 
indeed be the Duchess's own troth-ring ! 

He shrunk and cowered at first in the thought of the 
issues involved in such a possibility. Was it credible 
that it had been stolen from her ? How could he tell, 
who had been imprisoned here so long ? Only, if it were 
true that it had been, and he, Tassino, could secure it 
from whatever ravisher, what a weapon indeed it might 
be made to prove in his hand ! 

He exulted in that dream of retribution ; had almost 
convinced himself by morning that its realisation lay 
within his near grasp. She, that old soothsayer, could 
surely show him the way to possess himself of what her 
art had so easily revealed to him for his fortune's talis- 
man. This Eastern magic was a strange and terrible 
thing. He would pay her all he had for the secret ! 
— make crawling love to her, if necessary. 

All day he was in a simmer of agitated expectancy ; 
and when dusk at last gathered and swelled he welcomed 
it as he had never done before. Fortunately Narcisso 
went out early, and need not be expected back betimes. 
He was engaged, the morrow being the feast of the Con- 


ception, to confess and prepare to communicate himself 
fasting from midnight ; and it was a matter of rehgion 
with him on such occasions to take in an especial cai^o 
against the ordeal. Before the streets were dark, Tassino 
was sitting alone ; and so he sat, shuddering and listening, 
for another hour. 

A step at last on the shallow stair! He held his 
breath. No, he was deceived. Sweating, on tiptoe, he 
stole to the door and peered out All was silent, and 
dark as pitch. Then suddenly, while he looked, there 
came a muffled tramp and shuffle in the street, and on 
the instant a figure rose from the well of blackness below, 
mounting swiftly towards his door. He had barely time 
to retreat into the unlighted room before he felt his 
visitor upon him. 

• My God ! * he quavered ; * who is it ? Keep away ! ' 
and he backed in ghastly fear to the wall. 

* Hush ! ' (Ludovico's voice.) * Are you alone ? ' 
The frightened wretch stole forward a step. 

' Messer ! I thought you ' 

'Never mind,' interrupted the other impatiently. 
'Answer me.' 

' Quite alone.' 

' Humph ! I thought you loved the dark less.' 

' I — I was about to light the tapers ; I swear I was. 
Wait only one moment, Messer.' 

'Stop. No need. The night's the better confidant. 
Come here.' 

Trembling all through, Tassino obeyed. A smooth 
hand groped, and fastening on his wrist, pressed a hard, 
round object into his palm. He had much ado not to 
shriek out. 

' What 's this ? ' he gasped. 

' Be silent. Have you got it ? Put it where it 's secure. 
Well ? ' 


* 'Tis in the scabbard of my knife, Messer — ' (the blade 
clicked home). 

* A good place ; keep it there. Now, listen. There 's 
no other here ? ' 

' On my oath, no.* 

' Nor on the stair ? ' 

' How can there be, between us and Messer's gentlemen?' 

* Hark well, then. Thy life depends on it. They Ve 
wind of thee, Tassino.' 

* O, O ! God pity me 1 ' 

* He helps those — you know the saw. 'Tis touch and 
go — come to this at last ; either they destroy you, or 
you — them/ 

*How? O, I shall die ! ' 

* Wilt thou, then ? Well, then, if thou wilt Yet not 
so much as thy ear-lobe's spark of nerve were needed to 
forestall and turn the tables on them. They are very 
fond together, Tassino.' 

' Curse them 1 If I could stab him in the back ! ' 

* Well, why not? Thy scabbard holds the means.' 

* My dagger ? ' 

* Better.' 

* What ? ' 

* The Duchess's troth-ring.' 

* Messer ! My God ! ' 

He leapt as if a trigger had clicked at him. Here 
was to have the gfipsy's prophecy, his own fulsome hope, 
realised at a flash ; but with what fearful significances for 
himself. So this had actually been the ring of contention, 
and secured at last — he might have known it would be — 
by Ludovico. 

He gave an absurd little shaky laugh, desperately 

' How am I to stab with a ring, Messer?' 

* Fool I answer for thyself.' 


He was crushed immediately. 

' By carrying it to the Duke ? ' he whispered fearfully. 

* It is thy suggestion/ said Ludovico — * not for me to 
traverse. Well ? ' 

' Ah ! help me, Messer, for the Lord's sake. I turn in 
a maze.' 

The Prince's thin mouth creased in the dark. 

' Nay, 'tis no affair of mine/ he said. ' I am but friend- 
ship's deputy.' 

Tassino almost whimpered, writhing about in helpless 

* He will thunder at me, " Whence reaches me this ? " ' 
' Likely.' 

* What shall I reply then ? ' 

* Do you put the case hypothetically ? I should answer 
broadly, on its merits, somehow as follows: ''By the 
right round of intrigue, O Duke, completing love's cycle." ' 

* O Messer ! How am I to understand you ? ' 

* Why, easily — (I speak as one disinterested). Call it 
the cycle of the ring, and thus it runs : From the husband 
to the wife; from the wife to her paramour; from the 
paramour to his doxy ; from the doxy back to the husband^ 

* His doxy? O beast ! Hath he a second ?' 

* Or had. I go by report, which says — but then I 'm 
no scandalmonger — that a certain lady, Caprona's widow, 
finds herself scorned of late.' 

'And it comes from her — to me? For what? To 
destroy them both ? ' 

' A shrewd suggestion. In that case your moods run 

' Monna Beatrice ! She sends it ? ' 

* Does she? Quote me not for it. It were ill so to 
requite my over-fond friendship. Thou hast the ring. 
I wish thee well with it. Dost mark ? ' 

* I mark, Messer.' 


* Why, so. Thou shouldst suflTer after-remorse, having 
dragged in my name ; and there is hellbane, so they tell 
me, in remorse.' 

' I will die before I mention thee in it' 

' Well, I can trust the grave. That 's to know a friend. 
So might I add something to thy credentials.' 

' If it please you, Messer.' 

*Why, look you, child, love may very well have its 
procurer — say a State Secretary, where love is of high 
standing. And thence may follow the subversion of a 
State. There 's a pretender in Milan, they tell me, some- 
thing an idol of the people — I know not Only this I 
ponder : What if there be, and he that same idol which 
the Duchess is reported to have raised ? Would Simon- 
etta, in such case, join in the hymn of praise? One 
might foresee, if he did, a trinity very strong in the 
public worship. His Grace, I can't help thinking, would 
find himself de trop here at present. You might put it 
to him — your own way. When will you set out ? ' 

' When ? ' 

' This moment, I 'd advise. To-morrow might mean 
never. The Duke 's at Vigevano — less than six leagues 
away. A good horse might carry thee there by morning. 
I 've such a one in my stables. He '11 honour thee for 
this service, trust me.' 

Tassino's little soul spirted into flame. 

' Viva il duca I ' he piped, and ran to the door. 

He drove it before him — it opened outwards — and, 
descending the dark stairs with his patron, passed into 
the night 

An hour later he was spurring for Vigevano, while the 
Prince was engaged in preparing against his own journey 
to Genoa on the morrow. 


CARLO kept his room all day, gnawing and tramping 
out his problem, and extracting nothing from it. 
Not till it was deep dark did he call for lights, and then 
he cursed his page, Ercole, who brought them, because 
they dazzled his brain from thinking. Swerving on his 
heel, he was in the act of bidding the boy let no one 
enter, unless it might be Messer Bembo, when, the door 
being ajar, there hurried into the chamber the figure of a 
fantastic hag, who, upon noting his company, stopped 
suddenly, and stood mumbling and sawing the air. 

* Begone ! ' he roared, astounded, and took a furious 
step towards her. 

She laughed harshly. His clenched fists dropped to 
his sides. There was no mistaking that bitter cackle. 
He flung his arm to the page, dismissing him. 

The moment the door was shut upon them, off went the 
cloak and sequins, off went the hood and snaky locks, 
and the Fool Cicada, clean and lithe in a tight suit of 
jarnsey, stood revealed. 

Carlo leapt upon him, mouthing. 

^ What mummery, beast, and at such a time ? Wait 
while I choke thee.' 

In the tumult of his fury he remembered his promise 
to Bernardo, and fell back, breathing. 

' Hast finished?' said Cicada, acrid and unmoved. ' I 
could retort upon a fool but for lacking time. Where's 
the boy ? ' 


* Renegade ! What concerns it thee to know ? ' 

* I say, where 's the boy ? ' 

' If I might trounce thee ! Safe, at present, no thanks 
to thee.' 

* Have I asked any ? You must take horse and ride 
after the ring.' 

* The ring ! ' 

' I warn thee, lose not a moment. It may be even now 
upon the road.' 

* The road ! ' 

* That echo's a scrivener. Say after me thus, word for 
word, so thy skull shall keep the record : TAe ring goes 
this moment to the Duke at VigevanOy in false witness 
against our Saint, Narcisso gave it to Beatrice, Beatrice 
to Ludovic, Ludovic to Tassino — and Tassino carries it, 
wrapped round with fifty damning lies. Can you fill in 
the rest ? ' 

' My Grod ! How know you this ? ' 

* I know. Why have I been mumming else ? ' 
' O, thou good Fool ! ' 

' So beatified in a moment? But stay not To horse, 
and after, or by luck in front of, this ill-omened popin- 
jay. He must be anticipated, overreached, despoiled, 
poniarded — anything. I 've had my ear to his door — 
it smarts yet — Ludovic was with him. I was before the 
Prince and heard him coming — " trapped ! " I thought. 
But the fool looked out — door opens to the stairs — and 
shut me into its angle against the wall. So again when 
they left together, and I slipped away behind their 
worships, and presently ran before. There you've the 
tale. And so, a' God's name mount and spur, for a 
minute's delay may kill all. But sith even now it be too 
late, why, run after to traverse that foul evidence, and 
the Lord speed thee. Remember — Tassino and the 
Vigevano road. 


Stunning, bewildering as was the nature of this blast, 
it served to clear Carlo's brain as a southerly wind clears 
stagnant water. It meant action, and in action lay his 
matter. Prompt and comprehensive instantly, now that 
the sum of things had been worked out for him, he dwelt 
but on the utterance of a single curse — so black and 
monstrous that the candle-flames seemed to duck to it — 
before he turned and strode heavily from the room. 

' Mercy I ' muttered Cicada, tingling where he stood ; 
' if Monna Beatrice isn't blinking smut out of her eyes 
at this very moment, there 's no virtue in Hell.' 

Ten minutes later, Carlo, booted, spurred, and cloaked, 
issued hurriedly from his quarters, and made for a 
postern in the north wall, on t' other side of which Er- 
cole, so he had sped his errand well, should be already 
in waiting with the cavalier's horse, * I'lnfemo,' saddled 
and bridled for the hunt. 

A thin muffle of snow lay on the pavements, choking 
echo ; a thin, still fog, wreathing upwards from it, made 
everything loom fantastic — curtains, towers, the high 
battlemented spectres of the sentries. 

He clapped his hand to his hip, in assurance of the 
firm hilt there, and was clearing his throat to answer the 
guard's challenge, when, on the moment, a whisk of 
sudden light seemed to overtake and pass him, and he 
whipped about, with a catch in his breath, to face an 
expected onset. 

Nothing was there. Only the ghosts of mist and snow 
peopled the ward he had traversed ; but, across it, licking 
and leaping from a high window in the Armourer's 
Tower, spat a tongue of flame. 

He dwelt a moment, fascinated. Faint cries and 
hurried warnings reached him. The flame shrunk, broke 
from its curb, and writhed out again. 

' Galeazzo's room 1 ' he muttered ; ' a red portent to 


greet him ! ' and, turning to pursue his way — ran into a 
vice of arms and was in a moment a prisoner. 

The shock was so stunning, that he found himself 
bound and helpless before he could realise its import. 
And then he roared out like a lassoed bull : — 

•Dogs! What's this?' 

The Provost Marshal answered him, waving aside his 
capturing sbirri. 

' Her Grace's warrant, Messer.* 

Lanterns seemed to have sprung like funguses from 
the ground, grossly multiplying the strong company 
which surrounded him. He stared about him bewildered ; 
then, all in an instant, drove forward like a battering- 
ram. There was a clash of pikes and mail ; an arquebus 
exploded, luckily without disaster ; and Carlo was down 
in a writhe of men, pounding with his heels. 

It brought him nothing but a full interest of bruises. 
Shortly he was on his feet again, torn and dishevelled ; 
but this time with a thong about his ankles. 

He found wisdom of his helplessness to temporise. 

'Save thee. Provost Marshal, I have an important 
errand toward. Spare me to it, and I '11 give my parole 
to deliver up my person to thee on my return.' 

The dummy wagged aside the appeal, woodenly. 

* I 've my orders.' 

Carlo lost his brief command of temper. 

* Swine ! To truss me like a thief? ' 

* To hold thy person secure, Messer.' 

* With ropes, dog ? ' 

' I '11 unbind them, on that same parole.' 

For all answer, Carlo dropped and rolled on the 
ground, bellowing curses and defiance. It was childish ; 
but then, what was the great creature but a child? 
Despair divorced from reason finds its last resource in 
kicking ; and strength of body was always this poor 


fellow's convincing argument The presumption that, 
by his own impulsive retort on Bernardo's assailant, he 
had brought this cowardly retaliation on himself, made 
not the least of his anguish. Why could his thick head 
never learn the craftier ways of diplomacy ? And here, 
in consequence, was he himself scotched, when most 
required for killing ! He bounded like a madman. 

It took a dozen of them, hauling and swaying and 
tottering, to convey him up, and into, and so down again 
within, the tower of the dungeons. Jacopo had no 
orders other than for his safe durance and considerate 
keep; but no doubt that 'swine' weighed a little on 
the human balance side of the incorruptible blockhead's 
decision. There was a cell — one adjoining the * Hermit's' 
— very profound and safe indeed, though far less deadly 
in its appointments (so to speak, for the other had none) 
than its neighbour. And into this cell, by the Provost 
Marshal's directions, they carried Master Carlo, still 
struggling and roaring; and, having despoiled him of 
his weapons, and — with some apprehension — uncorded 
him, there locked him in incontinent to the enjoyment 
of his own clamour, which, it may be said, he made the 
most of up to midnight. 

And then, quite suddenly, he broke into tears — a thing 
horrible in such a man ; and casting himself down by the 
wall, let the flood of despair pass over his head — literally, 
it almost seemed, in the near cluck and rustle of waters 
moving in the moat outside. 


IN the fortress of Vigevano the Duke of Milan sat at 
wine with his gentlemen, his dark face a core of 
gloom, blighting the revel. Flushed cheeks ; sparkling 
cups ; hot dyes of silk and velvet, and the starry splinter- 
ing of gems ; sconces of flaming tapers, and, between, 
banners of purple and crimson, like great moths, hanging 
on the walls above the heads of shining, motionless men- 
at-arms, whose staves and helmets trickled light — all this, 
the whole rich damasked picture, seemed, while the 
sullen eye commanded it, to poise upon its own fall and 
change, like the pieces in a kaleidoscope, — the Duke rose 
and passed out ; and already, with a leap and clatter, 
it had tumbled into a frolic of whirling colours. 

This company, in short, conscious of its deserts, had 
felt any cold-watering of its spirits at the present pass 
intolerable. There were captains in it, raw from the 
icy plains of Piedmont, whence they had come after 
rallying their troops into winter quarters, against a 
resumption of hostilities in the spring. Tried men of 
war, and seasoned toss-pots all, they claimed to spend 
after their mood the wages of valour, vindicated in many 
a hard-wrung victory. They had stood, Charles the 
Bold of Burgundy opposing, for the integrity of Savoy, 
and had trounced its invaders well over the border. The 
sense of triumph was in them, and, consequently, of 
grievance that it should be so discounted by a royal 



mumps, who till yesterday had been their strutting and 
crowing cock of conquest. What had happened in the 
interval, so to return him upon his old damned familiar 

Something beyond their rude guessing — something 
which, at a breath, had re-enveloped him in that cloud 
of constitutional gloom, which action and the rush of 
arms had for a little dispelled. The change had taken 
him earlier in the day, when, about the hour of Mass, 
a little white, cake-fed Milanese had come whipping 
into Vigevano on a foam-dropping jade, and, crying as 
he clattered over the drawbridge to the castle, ' Ho there, 
ho there ! Despatches for the Duke ! ' had been snapped 
up by the portcullis, and gulped and disposed of ; and 
was now, no doubt — since no man had set eyes on him 
since — in process of being digested. 

It may have been he that was disagreeing with their 
lord, and sending the black bile to his cheek ; or it may 
have been that second tale-bearer who, riding in about 
midday from the capital, had brought news of the fire 
which, the evening before, had gutted his Grace's private 
closet. Small matters in any case; and in any case, 
the death's-head having withdrawn itself from the feast, 
hail the bright reaction from that malign, oppressive 
gloom ! A fresh breeze blows through the hall ; the 
candle-ilames are jigging to the rafters; away with 
mumps and glumps ! Via-via f See the arras blossom 
into a garden; the sentries, leaning to it, relax into 
smiling Gabriels of Paradise ; the wine froth and sparkle 
at the cup rim ! * Way, way for the Duke's Grace ! ' 
the seneschal had cried at the door; and Galeazzo, 
clumsily ushered by Messer Castellan, that blunt old 
one-eyed Cyclops, had slouched heavily out, and the 
curtain had dropped and blotted him from the record. 

He turned sharply to the sound of its thud, and gave 


a quick little stoop and start, as if he were dodging 
something. The face — that haunting, indefinable ghost — 
was it behind him again, unlayed, in spite of all the hope 
and promise ? Why not, since its exorcist had proved 
himself a Judas ? 

He ground his teeth, and moved on, muttering and 
maddening. Only yesterday he had been flattering 
himself with the thought of returning to his capital 
wreathed in all the glamour of conquest. And now! 
False fire — false, damning fire. What victor was he, 
who could not command himself? What vicegerent of 
the All-seeing, who could nominate a traitor and 
hypocrite to be his proxy ? And he had so believed in 
the accursed boy ! 

The prophecy of the monk Capello stuck like a 
poisonous burr in his soul. He could not shake it off. 
Now, he remembered, was the near season for its matur- 
ing — a superstition aggravated tenfold by the thought 
that its ripening had been let to prosper in the sun of 
his own credulous trust And he could not temporise 
while the moment struck and passed, for his fate turned 
upon the moment. Moreover, Christmas was at hand, 
a time dear to the traditions of his house ; and, rightly 
or mistakenly, he believed that upon a maintenance of 
those traditions depended his house's prevalence. His 
acts must continue to compare royally, in seasonable 
largesse and bounty, with those of Francesco, its yet 
adored founder ; and he could not afford to ignore those 
obligations. He felt himself trapped, and turning, turn- 
ing, between the devil and the deep sea. 

But he was not without a sort of desperado courage ; 
and fury lent him nerve. 

'Lead on, lead on, Castellano,' he snarled, grinning 
like a wolf. ' The calf by now should be in train for his 


They found hhn stalled deep among the foundations 
of the fortress, in a stone chamber whose kiln-ltl% 
conformation shaped itself horribly to the needs and 
privacies of the 'question.' He might, this Tassfeto, 
have been a calf indeed, by the deadly pallor of his 
flesh. From the moment when, still in the glow of his 
send-off, he had dared, producmg his piiu de conviction 
before the Duke, to incriminate Bona on its evidence, 
and had been gripped by the neck for his pains, and 
flung, squealing like a rat, into thts sewer, it had never 
warmed by a degree from this livid hue. Sickened, 
rather, since here, dreadfully interned throughout the 
day, like a schoolboy locked in with an impossiUe 
imposition, he had been left to writhe and moan, in 
awful anticipation of the coming inquisition and its 
likely consequences to himself. They were prefigured 
for him, in order to the sharp^setting of his wits, in a 
score or so instruments, all slack and somnolent and 
unstrung for the time being, but suggestive of hideous 
potentialities in their tautening. The rack riveted to 
the floor; the pulley pendent from tfie ceiling; the 
stocks in the corner, with the chafing-dish, primed with 
knobs of charcoal, ready at its foot-holes ; the escalero 
or chevalet, which was a trough for strangling recal- 
citrant hogs in, limb by limb ; the iron dice for forcing 
into the heels, and the canes for twisting and breaking 
the fingers; the water-bag and the thumbscrew and 
the fanged pincers — such, and such in twenty variations 
of hook and stirrup and dangling monstrosities of block 
and steel, but all pointing a common moral of terrific 
human pain, where the inducements to a calmly thought- 
out self-exculpation which had been offered to Tassino's 
solitary consideration. No wonder that, when at last 
the key turned and the harsh door creaked to admit 
his inquisitors, he should have screamed out with the 


mortal scream of a creature that finds itself cut off from 
escape in a burning house. 

The Castellan struck him, judicially, across the mouth, 
and he was silent immediately, falling on his knees and 
softly chattering bloody teeth. Galeazzo, rubbing his 
chin, conned him at his smiling leisure ; while, motionless 
and apathetic in the opening of the door, stood a couple 
of dark, aproned figures, one a Nubian. 

* Ebb6ne, Messer Tassino,' purred the Duke at length ; 
* has reconsideration found your indictment open to some 
revision ? Rise, sir — rise.' 

He waved his hand loftily. The wretch, after a vain 
attempt or two, succeeded in getting to his feet, on which 
he stood like a man palsied. He essayed the while to 
answer ; but somehow his tongue was at odds with his 


The Duke, watching him, stealthily lifted his left hand, 
showing a green stone on one of its fingers. 

* Mark ye that ? ' said he, smiling. 

The other's lips moved inaudibly ; his glittering eyes 
were fixed upon the token. 

* Say again,' said Galeazzo, * who charged ye with it to 
this errand ? ' 

The poor animal mumbled. 

*Now hist, now hist, my lord's Grace,' put in the 
Castellan, the light in his solitary eye travelling like a 
spark in dead tinder : * there 's an emetic or so here would 
assist the creature's delivery.' 

Tassino gulped and found his voice — or a mockery of 


* My lord — spare me — 'twas Caprona's widow.' 

* And for what purpose ? ' 

The fool, lost in terror, garbled his lesson. 

* To destroy the Duchess, whom she hates. I know 
not : 'twas Messer Ludovic made himself her agent to me.' 


* Ho 1 ' cried the Duke, and the monosyllable rolled up 
and round under the roof, and was returned upon him. 
* Here 's addition, not subtraction. What more ? * 

Advancing, with set grinning lips, he thumbed the 
victim's arm, as he might be a market-wife testing a 

'Plump, plump,' he said, turning his head about. 
'Shall we not singe the fat capon, Messer Castellan, 
before trussing him for the spit ? ' 

At a sign, the two butchers at the door advanced and 
seized their victim. He struggled desperately in their 
grasp. Shriek upon shriek issued from his lips. Galeazzo 
thundered down his cries : — 

* Lay him out,' he roared, ' and bare his ribs.' 

In a moment Tassino was stretched in the rack, an 
operator, head and heel, gripping at the spokes of the 
drums. The Duke came and stood above, contemplative 
again now, and ingratiatory. 

* So ! ' he said ; ' we are in train, at last, for the truth. 
Tassino, my poor boy, who indeed sent you with this 
ring to me ? ' 

' O Messer ! before God ! It was your brother.' 
' And acting for whom ? ' 
' The lady, Beatrice.' 

* Who had been given it by ? ' 
' Messer Bembo,* 

' Ay : and he had received it from ? ' 

The poor wretch choked, and was silent. Galeazzo 
glanced aside : the winches creaked. 

* Mercy, in God's name ! Mercy ! ' shrieked the miser- 
able creature. 'I will swear that it was won from her 
Grace by fraud — that she never knowingly parted with it 
to— to ' 

' Ha ! ' struck in the Duke ; and drew himself up, and 
pondered awhile blackly. 


' My brother — my brother/ ran bis thought ' It may 
be ; it may well be. To niiii her ia mine eyea — yes : a 
fond fool. But a loyal fool. She'd not conspire — not 
she ; nor Simonetta, loyal too— who mistrusts lum> and 
whom he 'd drag down with hen What, Ludovic ! — ^too 
crafty, too overreaching. Yet, conspiracy there may be, 
and she its unconscious tool.' 

He looked down again, glooming, grating his chin. 

' Here 's some revision, then. Thou whelp, so to have 
bitten the hand that stroked thee ! Shall I not draw thy 
teeth for it ? ' 

' Pity, pity ! ' moaned Tassino. ' I spoke under com- 

* And so shall,' snarled the other. ' What ! To mend 
a slander on compulsion ! More physic may bring more 
cure. Perchance hast made this Countess too thy cafes- 

* My lord I No ! On my soul ! ' 

* She hates the Duchess ? ' 
' Yes, poisonously.' 

* My lord ! ' 
•Why, I say?' 

* Alas 1 she covets for herself what the Duchess claims 
to heaven.' 

* Riddles, swine^! Covets ! What or whom? ' 

* O, O ! Your Grace's false deputy, Messer Bembo.' 
' What ! false ? You '11 stick to it ? ' 

' How can I help? — O ! dread my lord, how can I help 
the truth, unless you 'd wrench from me a travesty of it ? ' 

His breast heaved and sobbed. The tyrant gloomed 
upon him. 

* Is it true, then, he 's a traitor ? ' 

* O, the blackest — the most subtle I There can I utter 
without prompting.' 



It was true that he believed he could. Remember how, 
mongrel though he was^ his mind had been fed on slander 
of our saint 

Galeazzo dropped into a moody reverie. A long 
quivering sigh thereat broke from his prostrate victim. 
Mean wits are cunning for themselves ; and, looking up 
into the dark eyes bent above him, Tassino thought he 
saw reflected there a first faint ghost of hope. O, to 
hold, to materialise it ! He must be infinitely cautious. 

He moaned, and wagged his head. The Duke broke 
out again : — 

* False ! is he false to me ? And yet my wife is true, 
thou sayest ? and yet this woman of Caprona 's jealous 
thou sayest ? Of whom ? — O, dog, beware ! ' 

* Master, of a shadow. She reads the woman's baseness 
in the man's,' 

* Ho I Not like thou : what, puppy ? ' 

* Before God, no. 'Tis Madonna's very innocence helps 
his designs.' 

' How ? ' 

*By trusting in, and exalting them for heaven's. 
She'll wake when it's too latfe, and weep and curse 
herself for having betrayed thee.' 

*She will? Betray? Too late? These be terms 
meeter to a rebellion than a schism.' 

' Yet must I speak them, weeping, though I die.' 

The despot gnawed his lip. 

*Hast venom in thee, and with reason, to sting the 

* Alas ! to warn thee rather from his fang.' 

' It will lie flat against his palate, till the time when 
with his subtle eyes he shall invite thy hand to stroke his 
head. No rebellion, lord ; no python rearing on his 
crushing folds! Yet may the little snake be deadlier.' 


He was gathering confidence hair by hair. There 
were glints of coming tempest, well known to him, 
blooding the comers of Galeazzo's eyes. He believed, 
by them, that he should presently ride this storm of his 
own evoking. 

' Ah I ' he moaned, ' I 'm sick. Mercy, lord ! Truth 's 
not itself unless upright.' 

The tyrant tossed his hand : — 

' Set the dog on his legs.' 

The dog so fiu* justified his title that, being released, 
he crawled abject on all fours to his master's feet, and 
crouched there ready to lick them. 

* Bah 1 ' cried the Duke, and spurned him. ' Get on 
thy hind legs, ape ! The rope 's but slackened from thy 
hanging ; the noose yet cuddles to thy neck. Stand'st 
there to justify thyself, or answer with a separate rack 
and screw for every lie thou 'st uttered.' 

He strode a pace or two like one demented ; turned, 
snarled out a sudden shocking laugh, and came close up 
again to the trembling, but still confident wretch. 

' See, we '11 be reasonable,' he said, mockingly insinua- 
tive ; ' a twin amity of dialecticians, ardent for the truth, 
cooing like love-birds. " Well, on my faith, he 's a traitor," 
says you ; and " your faith shall be mine on vindication, 
sweet brother," says I. Now, what proves him traitor ? 
I ask.' 

' He rules the palace.' 

* Why, I set him in my place.' 

* You did indeed ; but — ah ! dare I say what *s whis- 
pered ? ' 

' You 'd better.' 

* Why — O, mercy ! Bid me not' 
^ I '11 not ask again.' 

* You force me to it— that, being there, he designs to 


' He 11 be Duke ? ' 

' No, no.' 

' You shall wince with better reason. Dog, you dog my 
patience. I '11 turn. What then ? ' 

' Only that he sits for Christ. Let them depose him 
that are devils' men.' 

' My men ? ' 

'01 he 's subtle. No word against your Grace ; only 
the dumb pleas of love and pity courting comparison.' 

' With what ? ' 

* Your Grace's sharper methods.' 

' Beast 1 Did I not waive them for his sake ? Did I 
not leave my conscience in his keeping ? ' 

' Alas ! if thou didst, he 's used it, like a false friend, in 
damning evidence against thee.' 

* O Judas ! ' 

' Used it to point the moral of his own large tolerance. 
The people rise to him — cry him in the streets : " Down 
with Galeazzo ! Nature 's our God ! " ' 

*Ha! He's Nature?' 

* As they read him — lord of the slums.' 

* Lord of filthy swine. I '11 ring their snouts. Well, 
go on. God of the slums, is he ? ' 

* God of thy palace, too ; mends and amends thy laws 
— sugars them for sweet palates — gains the women — O, 
a prince of confectioners ! There 's the ring to prove.' 

' What ! ' 

' I can guess when he wheedled it' 

* Thou canst ? ' 

'The moment thy back was turned. So quick he 
sped to discredit thee — to reverse thy judgments. The 
monk thou'd left to starve, a dog well-served — he'd 
release him, a fine text to open on. But Jacopo was 
obdurate — would not let him pass, neither him nor 
Cicada ' 


• What ! the Fool ? ' 

' O, they 're in one conspiracy — inseparable. He 's to 
be Vizier some day.' 

' I 'II remember that' 

'So he ran off, and presently returned with a pass- 
token. I guessed not what at the time; now I guess. 
It was the ring he 'd coaxed from Madonna.' 

' And saved the monk thereby ? ' 

' Ah-ha 1 Jacopo had forestalled him ; the monk was 

< What did he then?' 

' Cursed thy lord's Grace, and ran ; ran and hid him- 
self away among the people, he and his Fool, and spat his 
poison in that sewer, to fester and bear fruit. 'Twas only 
presently the Duchess heard of him, and persuaded him on 
sweet promise of amendment back to the Court. He's 
made the most of that concession since, using it to ' 

He checked himself, and whimpered and sprang back. 
On the instant the storm which he had dreaded while 
provoking was burst upon him. Credulous and irra- 
tional like all tyrants, Galeazzo never thought to analyse 
interests and motives in any indictment whose pretext 
was devotion to himself and his safety. Wrapped in 
eternal unbelief in all men, no man was so easily arrested 
as he by the first hint of a plausible rogue professing to 
serve him, or so quick, being inoculated, to develop the 
very confluent scab of suspicion. It were well only for 
Autolycus to make the most of his fees during his little 
spell of favour, and to disappear on the earliest threat of 
himself falling victim to the disease he had promoted. 

Now, for this dumb-struck quartette of knaves and 
butchers, was enacted one of those little danses-dtabo- 
liques in which this fearful man was wont to vent his 
periodic frenzies. He shrieked and leapt and foamed, 
racing and twisting to and fro within the narrow confines 


of the dungeon. Ravings and blasphemies tore and 
sputtered from his lips ; mad destruction issued at his 
hands. He spurned whatever blocked his path, things 
living or inanimate ; nor seemed to feel or recognise how 
he bruised himself, but stumbled over, and snatched at, 
and hurled aside, all that crossed the red vi^on of his 
rage. Struggling for coherence, he could force his im- 
precations but by fits and snatches to rise articulate : — 

' Subtle ! — I '11 be subtler — devil unmasked — no Future ? 
— a specious dog — hell gapes in front — ^master of my own 
— to vindicate the monk ? — ^treason against his lord — ha, 
ha ! Jacopo ! good servant I good refuter of a sacrilegious 
hound ! ' 

Then all at once, quite suddenly as it had risen, the 
tempest passed. Slack, dribbling, hoarse, unashamed, he 
stopped beside his death-white informer and pawed and 
mouthed upon him : — 

'Why, Tassino! Why — my little honest carver o' 
joints ! Thou mean'st me well, I do believe.' 

* O my lord ! ' cried the trembling rogue, * if you would 
but trust me ! ' 

*Why, so I do, Tassino,' urged the Duke, nervously 
handling and stroking the young man's arm. ' So I do, 
little pretty varlet. I believe thy story — fie ! an impious 
tale. Deserv'st well of me for that boldness — good 
courage — the truth needs it. Wilt serve me yet? ' 

* My lord, to the death.' 

* Fie, fie I Not so far, I hope. Yet, listen ; 'twere 
meet this viper were not let to crawl himself within our 
laurels, and crown our triumph with a poisonous bite. 

' I understand your Grace.' 

' A hint 's enough, then. 'Tis no great matter ; but 
these worms will sting.' 
'I'll jog Jacopo.' 


« You will ? He 's true to me ? ' 


' No convert to the other ? ' 

' He hates him well.' 

' Does he ? A viper has no friends but his kind. This 
one — hark ! a word in your ear. He 'd loose Capello, who 
damned me, and was damned ? Were it not right then 
the false prophet should take the false prophet's place ? ' 

' Most right.' 

' The word 's with thee, little chuck. How about the 
Fool ? ' 

* As bad, or worse, my lord.' 

* Hush ! Two vipers, do you say ? * 
•My lord!' 

' Be circumspect, that 's all. 'Tis our will to give great 
largesse this Christmastide.' 

' The very sound will jingle out his memory — bury the 
golden calf under gold.' 

* Good, little rogue. We '11 linger on the Mount mean- 
while — ^just a day or so, to let the promise work. 'Twere 
a sleeveless triumph through a grudging city. Let these 
thorns be plucked first from our road.' 

* I '11 ride at once, saving your Grace.' 

* Do so, and tell Jacopo, " Quietly, mind — without fuss." ' 

* Trust me.' 

The Duke flicked his arm and turned, smiling, to the 

' You shall provide Messer Tassino,' said he smoothly, 
' with his liberty, and a swift horse.' 

A week later, Sforza the second of Milan set out for 
his Capital, in all the pomp and circumstance of state 
which befitted a mighty prince greatly homing after 
conquest. His path, by all the rules of glory, should 
have been a bright one ; yet his laurels might have been 


Death's own, from the gloom they cast upon his brow. 
Last night, looking from his chamber window, he had 
seen a misty comet cast athwart that track: to-day, 
scarce had he started, when three ravens, rising from the 
rice-swamps, had come flapping with hoarse crow to cross 
it. He had thundered for an arbalest — loosed the quarrel 
— shot wide — spun the weapon to the ground. An in- 
explicable horror had seized him. Thenceforth he rode 
with bent head and glassy eyes fixed upon the crupper. 
The road of death ran before ; behind sat the shadow of 
his fear, cutting him from retreat. So he reached the 
Porta Giovia, passed over the drawbridge, in silence 
dismounted, and for the first time looked up vaguely. 

' Black, black I ' he muttered to the page who held his 
horse. ' Let Mass be sung in it to-morrow, and for the 
chaunts be dirges. See to it.* 

Did he hope so to hoodwink heaven, by abasing him- 
self in the vestments of remorse? Likely enough. He 
had always been cunning to hold from it the worst of his 

But in the thick of the night a voice came to him, 
blown upon the wind of dreams : — 

* No Future, O, no Future ! Look to thy Past I ' 
And he started up in terror, quavering aloud : — 

* Who 's that that being dead yet speaketh ! ' 


IT is remarkable how quickly the brute genii will 
adapt himself to his pint bottle when once the cork 
is in. Elastic, it must be remembered, has the two 
properties of expansion and retraction, the latter being in 
corresponding proportion with the former. Wherefore, 
the greater its stretching capacity the more compact its 
compass unstretched. 

So it is with life, which is elastic, and mostly lived at a 
tension. Relax that tension, and behold the buoyant 
temperament finding roomier quarters in a straitened 
confinement than would ever a flaccid one in the same ; 
and this in defiance of Bonnivard, that fettered Nimrod 
of the mountains, whose heart broke early in captivity, 
and who, nevertheless, as a matter of fact, did not exist. 

The truth is, a pint pot is over^nough to contain the 
mind of many an honest vigorous fellow ; and it is the 
mind, rather than the body, which struggles for elbow- 
room. Carlo, in his prison, suffered little from that 
mere mental horror of circumscription which, to a more 
sensitive soul, had been the infinite worst of his doom. 
He champed, and stamped, and raged, sure enough ; 
cursed his fate, his impotence, his restrictions; but all 
from a cleaner standpoint than the nerves — from one (no 
credit to him for that) less constitutionally personal. 
That he should be shut from the possibility of helping in 
a sore pass the little friend of his love, of his faith, of his 
adoration — the pretty child who had needed, never so 


much as at this moment, the help and protection of his 
strong arm — here was the true madness of his condition. 
And he bore it hardly> while the fit possessed him, and 
until physical exhaustion made room for the little reserves 
of reason which all the time had been waiting on its 

Then, suddenly, he became very quiet ; an amenable, 
wicked, dangerous thing ; fed greedily ; nursed his 
muscles ; spake his gaolers softly when they visited 
him ; refrained from asking useless questions to elicit 
evasive answers; brooded by the hour together when 
alone. They treated him with every consideration ; 
answered practically his demands for books, paper, perns 
and ink, wine — for all bodily ameliorations of his lot 
which he chose to suggest, short of the means to escape 
It. There, only, was there no concession — ^no response to 
the request of an insulted cavalier to be returned the 
weapons of his honour of which he had been basely 
mulcted. His fingers must serve his mouth, he was told, 
and his teeth his meat — they were sharp enough. At 
which he would grin, and click those white knives 
together, and return to his brooding. 

But not, at last, for long* Very soon he was engaged 
in exploring his dungeon, a gloomy cellar, two-thirds of 
it below the level of the moat, and lit by a single window, 
deep-shafted under the massive ceiling. His search, at 
first, yielded him no returns but of impenetrable induracy 
— no variations, knock where he might, in the echoless 
irresponsiveness of dumb-thick walls. Only, with that 
incessant tap-tapping of his, the trouble in his brain fell 
into rhythm, chiming out eternally, monotonously, the 
inevitable answer tx> a fruitless question with which, from 
the outset, he had been tormenting himself, and from 
which, for all his sickness of its vanity, he could not 


' What hath Cicada done ? Concluded me safely sped ? 
Done nothing, therefore. What hath Cicada done? Con- 
cluded me safely sped ? Done nothing, therefore.' 

So, the villainy was working, and he in his dungeon 
powerless to counteract it 

He lived vividly through all these phases — of despair, 
of self-concentration, of resourceful hope — during the 
opening twenty-four hours of his confinement. And 
then, once upon a time, very suddenly, very softly, very 
remotely, there was borne in upon him the strange im- 
pression that he was not alone in his underworld. 

The first shadow of this conviction came to haunt him 
during the second night of his imprisonment, when, 
having fallen asleep, there presently stole into his brain, 
out of a deep sub-consciousness of consciousness, the 
knowledge that some voice, extraneous to himself, was 
moaning and throbbing into his ear. 

At the outset this voice appealed to him for nothing 
more than the emotional soft babble of a dream. It 
seemed to reach to him from a vast distance, breathing 
very faint, and thin, and sweet through aeons of pathetic 
memories. He could not identify or interpret it, save in 
so far as its burden always hinted of a wistful sadness. 
But, gradually, as the spell of it enwrapped and claimed 
him, out of its inarticulateness grew form, and out of that 
form recognition. 

It was Bernardo singing to his lute. How could he 
not have known it, when here was the boy actually 
walking by his side? They trod a smiling meadow, 
sweet with narcissus and musical with runnels. The 
voice made ecstasy of the Spring ; frisked in the blood 
of little goats ; unlocked the sap of trees, so that they 
leapt into a spangled spray of blossoms. 

A step— and the turf was dry beneath their feet. The 
sun smote down upon the plain ; the grasshopper shrieked 


like a jet of fire ; the fuU-uddered cattle lowed for evening 
and the shadowed stall. 

Again, a step— and the leaves of the forest blew abroad 
like flakes of burning paper ; the vines shed fruit like 
heavy drops of blood ; the sky grew dark in front, rolling 
towards them a dun wall of fog — the music wailed and 

He turned upon his comrade ; and saw the lute swung 
aside, the pale lips yet trembling with their song. He 
knew the truth at once. 

* We part here,* he murmured. ' Is it not ? So swiftly 
run thy seasons. And you return to Spring ; and I — O, 
I, go on ! Whither, sweet angel ? O, wilt thou not 
linger a little, that, reaching mine allotted end, I may 
hurry back to overtake thee ? ' 

Then, clasping his hands in agony, the tears running 
down his cheeks, he saw how the boy bent to whisper in 
his ear — words of divine solace — nay, not words, but 
music — music, music all, of an unutterable pathos. 

And he awoke, to hear the shrunk, inarticulate murmur 
of it still whispering to his heart. 

He sat up, panting, in the deep blackness. His hands 
trembled ; his face was actually wet. But the music had 
not ended with his dream. Grown very soft and far and 
remote, it yet went sounding on in fact — or was it only 
in fancy? 

His still-drugged brain surged back into slumber on 
the thought. Instantly the voice began to take shape 
and reality: he caught himself from the mist — as instantly 
it fell again into a phantom of itself. 

And thus it always happened. So surely as he listened 
wakeful, straining his hearing, the voice would reach him 
as a far plaintive murmur, a vague intolerable sweetness, 
without identity or suggestion save of some woful loss. 
So surely did his brain swerve and his aching eyes seal 


down, it would b^n to gather form, and words out of 
form, and expression out of words — expression, of a 
sorrow so wildly sad and moving, that his dreaming 
heart near broke beneath the burden of its grieC 

A strange experience ; yet none so strange but that we 
must all have known it, what time our errant soul has 
leapt back into our waking consciousness, carrying with 
it, on the wind of its return, some echo of the spirit world 
with which it had been consorting. Who has not known 
what it is to wake, in a dumb sleeping house, to the 
certain knowledge of a cry just uttered, a sentence just 
spoken, of a laugh or whisper stricken silent on the 
instant, nor felt the darkness of his room vibrate and 
settle into blankness as he Hstened, and, listening, lost 
the substance of that phantom utterance ? 

But at length for Carlo dream and reality were blended 
in one forgetfulness. 

Morning weakened, if it could not altogether dissipate, 
his superstitions. Though one be buried in a vault, 
there 's that in the mere texture of daylight, even if the 
thinnest and frowziest, to muffle the fine sense of hearing. 
If, in truth, those mystic harmonics still throbbed and 
sighed, his mind had ceased to be attuned to them. He 
lent it to the more practical business of resuming his 
examination of his prison. 

At midday, while he was sitting at his dinner, a 
visitor came and introduced himself to him, leaping, very 
bold and impudent, to the table itself, where he sat up, 
trimming his whiskers anticipatory. It was a monstrous 
brown rat ; and self-possessed — Lord ! Carlo dropped 
his fists on the cloth, and stared, and then fell to 

* O) you 've arrived , have you ! ' said he. * Your servant, 
Messcr Topo!' 

It was obviously the gentleman's name. At the sound 


of it, he lowered his fore-paws, flopped a step or two 
nearer, and sat up again. Carlo considered him delight- 
edly. He was one of those men between whom and 
animals is always a sympathetic confidence. 

' Is it, Messer Topo,' said he, * that you desire to honour 
me with the reversion of a former friendship ? What ! 
You flip your whiskers in protest? No friend, you 
imply, who could educate your palate to cooked meats, 
and then betray it, returning you to old husks ? Has he 
deserted you, then? Alas, Messer! We who frequent 
these cellars are not masters of our exits and our 
entrances. How passed he from your ken, that same 
unknown? Feet-first? Face-first? Tell me, and I'll 
answer for his faith or faithlessness.' 

The visitor showed some signs of impatience. 

* What ! ' cried Carlo. ' My grace is overlong ? Shall 
we fall to } Yet, soft. Fain would I know first the value 
of this proflered love, which, to my base mind, seems to 
smack a little of the cupboard.' 

His hand went into the dish. Messer Topo ceased 
from preening his moustache, and stiflened expectant, 
his paws erect. 

* Ha-ha ! ' cried Carlo. * You are there, are you ? O, 
Messer Topo, Messer Topo! Even prisoners, I find, 
possess their parasites,' 

He held out a morsel of meat. The big rat took it 
confidently in his paws ; tested, and approved it ; sat up 
for more. 

* What manners ! ' admired Carlo. ' Art the very pink 
of Topos. Come, then ; we '11 dine together.' 

Messer Topo acquitted himself with perfect correctness. 
When satisfied, he sat down and cleaned himself. Carlo 
ventured to scratch his head. He paused, to submit 
politely to the attention — which, though undesired, he 
accepted on its merits — then, the hand being withdrawn, 


waited a moment for courtesy's sake, and returned to his 
scouring. In the midst, the key grated in the door, and 
like a flash he was gone. 

' Ehi ! ' pondered Carlo ; ' it is very evident he has been 
trained to shy at authority/ 

It seemed so, indeed, and that authority knew nothing 
of him. Otherwise, probably, authority would have 
resented his interference with its theories of solitary con- 
finement to the extent of trapping and killing him. 

The prisoner saw no more of his little sedate visitor 
that evening ; but, with night and sleep, the voice again 
took up the tale of his haunting ; and this time, somehow, 
to his dreaming senses, Messer Topo seemed to be the 
medium of its piteous conveyance to him. Once more he 
woke, and slept, and woke again ; and always to hear the 
faint music gaining or losing body in opposite ratio with 
his consciousness. He was troubled and perplexed ; 
awake by dawn, and harking for confirmation of his 
dreams. But daylight plugged his hearing. 

He had expected Messer Topo to breakfast. He did 
not come. He called — and there he was. They exchanged 
confidences and discussed biscuits. The key grated, and 
Messer Topo was gone. 

This day Carlo set himself to solve the mystery of his 
visitor's lightning disappearances — Anglici^ to find a rat- 
hole. Fingering, in the gloom, along the joint of floor 
and wall, he presently discovered a jagged hole which he 
thought might explain. Without removing his hand, 
he called softly : * Topo ! Messer Topo ! ' Instantly a 
little sharp snout, tipped with a chilly nose, touched him 
and withdrew. He stood up, as the key turned in the 
lock once more. 

This time it was Messer Jacopo himself who entered, 
while his bulldogs watched at the door. He came to 
bring the prisoner a volume of Martial, which Carlo had 


once had recommended to him, and of which he had 
since bethought himself as a possible solace in his gloom. 
The Provost Marshal advanced, with the book in his 
hand, and seeing his captive's occupation, as he thought, 
paused, with a dry smile on his lips. Then, with his free 
palm, he caressed the wall thereabouts. 

* Strong masonry, Messer,' he said ; ' good four feet 
thick. And what beyond? A dungeon, deadlier than 
thine own.' 

Carlo laughed. 

' A heavy task for nails, old hold-fast, sith you have 
left me nothing else. Lasciate ogni speranza^ hey, and all 
the rest ? I know, I know. Yet, look you, there should 
have been coming and going here once, to judge by the 

He signified, with a sweep of his hand, a square patch 
on the stones, roughly suggestive of a blocked doorway, 
wherein the mortar certainly appeared of a date more 
recent than the rest. 

The other made a grim mouth. 

* Coming, Messer,' he said ; * but little going. Half- 
way he sticks who entered, waiting for the last trump. 
He '11 not move until.' 

Carlo recoiled. 

* There 's one immured there ? ' 

* Ay, these ten years ' 

And the wooden creature, laying the book on the table, 
stalked out like an automaton. 

He left the prisoner gulping and staring. Here, in 
sooth, was food for his fancy, luckily no great possession. 
But the horror bit him, nevertheless. Presently he took 
up the book — tried to forget himself in it. He found it 
certainly very funny, and laughed : found it very gross, 
and laughed — and then thought of Bernardo, and frowned, 
and threw the thing into a corner. Then he started to 


his feet and went up and down, nervously, with stealthy 
glances to the wall. Haunted! No wonder he was 
haunted. Did it sob and moan in there o' nights, beating 
with its poor blind hands on the stone ? Did it 

A thought stung him, and he stopped. The rat I Its 
run broke into that newer mortar, penetrated, perhaps, as 
far as the buried horror itself. Was there the secret of 
the music? Was it wont, that hapless spectre, putting 
its pallid lips to the hole, to sigh nightly through it its 
melodious tale of griefs ? 

He stood gnawing his thumb-nail. 

What might it be — man or woman ? There was that 
legend of a nun with child by — Nay, horrible! What 
might it be? Nothing at this last, surely — sexless — just 
a spongey chalk of bones, a soft rubble for rats to nest in. 
O, Messer Topo, Messer Topo ! on what dust of human 
tragedy did you make your bed ! Perhaps 

No ! perish the thought ! Messer Topo was a gentleman 
— descendant of a long line of gentlemen — no hereditary 
cannibal. He preferred meats cooked to raw. An heredi- 
tary guardian, rather, of that flagrant tomb. And yet 

He lay down to rest that night, lay rigid for a long 
while, battling with a monstrous soul-terror. A burst of 
perspiration relieved him at last, and he sank into oblivion. 

Then, lo ! swift and instant, it seemed, the unearthly 
music caught him in its spell. It was more poignant 
than he had known it yet — loud, piercing, leaping like 
the flame of a blown candle. He awoke, sweating and 
trembling. The vibration of that gale of sorrow seemed 
yet ringing in his ears — from the walls, from the ceiling, 
from the glass rim of his drinking- vessel on the table, 
which repeated it in a thousand tinkling chimes. But 
again the voice itself had attenuated to a ghost of sound 
— a mere i£olian thread of sweetness. 

But it was a voice. 


Carlo sat up on his litter. He was a man of obdurate 
will, of a conquering resolution ; and the moment, un- 
nerving as it seized him out of sleep, found him neverthe- 
less decided. A shaft of green moonlight struck down 
from the high grate into his dungeon, spreading like oil 
where it fell ; floating over floor and table ; leaving little 
dark objects stranded in its midst. Its upper part, reflect- 
ing the moving waters of the moat outside, seemed to boil 
and curdle in a frantic dance of atoms, as though the 
spirit music were rising thither in soundless bubbles. 

He listened a minute, scarce breathing ; then dropped 
softly to the floor, and stole across his chamber, and 
stooped and listened at the wall. 

The next moment he had risen and staggered back, 
panting, glaring with dilated eyes into the dark. There 
was no longer doubt. It was by way of Messer Topo's 
pierced channel that the music had come welling to him. 

But whence ? 

Commanding himself by a tense eflbrt, he bent once 
more, and listened. Long now — so long, that one might 
have heard the passion in his heart conceive, and writhe, 
and grow big, and at length deliver itself in a flerce and 
woful cry : * Bernardo ! my little, little brother ! ' 

With the words, he leapt up and away — tore hither 
and thither like a madman — mouthed broken impreca- 
tions, fought for articulate speech and self-control. The 
truth — all the wicked, damnable truth — had burst upon 
him in a flash. No ghostly voice was this of a ten years 
immured; but one, now recognised, sweet and human 
beyond compare, the piteous solution of all his hauntings. 
The run pierced further than to that middle tragedy — 
pierced to a tragedy more intimate and dreadful — pierced 
through into the adjoining cell, where lay his child, his 
little love, perishing of cold and hunger. He read it all 
in an instant — the disastrous consequences of his own dis- 


aster. And he conld not comfort or intervene while this, 
his pretty swan, was singing himself to death hard by. 

Pity him in that minute. I think, poor wretch, his 
state was near the worse — so strong, and yet so helpless. 
He shrieked, he struck himself, he blasphemed. M<»i- 
strons? it was monstrous beyond all human limits of 
malignity. So the ring had sped and wrought i What 
had this angel done, but been an angel? What had 
Cicada, so hide-bound in his own conceit of folly ? Curst 
watchd<^ both, to let themselves be fooled and chained 
away while the wolf was ravening their lamb I 

He sobbed, fighting for breath : — 

^Messer Topo, Messer Topo! Thou art the only 
gentleman ! I crave thy forgiveness, O, I crave thy for- 
giveness for that slander ! A rat ! I '11 love them always — 
a better gentleman, a better friend, bringing us together ! ' 

With the thought, he flung himself down on the floor, 
and put his ear to the hole. Still, very faint and remote, 
the music came leaking by it — a voice ; the throb of a 

He changed his ear for his lips : — 

^ Bernardo I ' he screamed ; * Bernardo ! Bernardo ! ' and 
listened anew. 

The music had ceased — ^that was certain. It was suc- 
ceeded by a confused, indistinguishable murmur, whiqh 
in its turn died away. 

' Bernardo I ' he screeched again, and lay hungering 
for an answer. 

It came to him, suddenly, in one rapturous soft cry : — 

* Carlo I ' 

No more. The sweet heart seemed to break, the 
broken spirit to wing on it. Thereafter was silence, 
awful and eternal. 

He called again and again — no response. He rose, 
and resumed his maddened race, to and fro, praying, 
weeping, clutching at his throat. At length worn out, he 


threw himself once more by the wall, his ear to the hole, 
and lying there, sank into a sort of swoon. 

Messer Topo, sniffing sympathetically at his face, 
awoke him. He sat up; remembered; stooped down; 
sought to cry the dear name again, and found his voice a 
mere whisper. That crowned his misery. But he could 
still listen. 

No sound, however, rewarded him. He spent the day 
in a dreadful tension between hope and despair — 
snarled over the periodic visits of his gaolers — snarled 
them from his presence — was for ever crouching and 
listening. They fancied his wits going, and nudged one 
another and grinned. He never thought to question 
them ; was always one of those strong souls who find, 
not ask, the way to their own ends. He knew they 
would lie to him, and was only impatient of their com- 
pany. Seeing his state, they were at the trouble to take 
some extra precautions, always posting a guard on the 
stairs before entering his cell. Messer Lanti, normal, was 
sufficiently formidable; possessed, there was no fore- 
telling his possibilities. 

But they might have reassured themselves. Escape, 
at the moment, was farthest from his thoughts or wishes. 
He would have stood for his dungeon against the world ; 
he clung to his wall, like- a frozen ragamuffin to the out- 
side of a baker's oven. 

Presently he bethought himself of an occupation, at 
once suggestive and time-killing. He had been wearing 
his spurs when captured — weapons, of a sort, overlooked 
in the removal of deadlier — and these, in view of vague 
contingencies, he had taken off and hidden in his bed. 
His precaution was justified ; he saw a certain use for 
them now ; and so, procuring them, set to work to 
enlarge with their rowels the opening of the rat hole. 
He wrought busily and energetically. Messer Topo sat 
by him a good deal, watching, with courteous and even 


curious forbearance, this really insolent desecration of 
his front door. They dined t(^[ether as usual ; and then 
Carlo returned to his work. His plan was to enlai^e the 
opening into a funnel-like mouth, meeter for receiving 
and conveying sounds. It had occurred to him that the 
point of the tiny passage's issue into the next cell might 
be difficult of localisation by one imprisoned there, especi- 
ally if the search — as he writhed to picture it — was to be 
made in a blinding gloom. If he could only have con- 
tinued to help by his voice — to cry 'Here! Here!' in 
this tragic game of hide-and-seek ! He wrought dumbly, 
savagely, nursing his lungs against that moment. But 
still by night it had not come to be his. 

Then, all in an instant, an inspiration came to him. 
He sat down, and wrote upon a slip of paper : ' From 
Carlo Lanti, prisoner and neighbour. Mark who brings 
thee this — whence he issues^ and whither returns. Speaks 
then, by that road—* and having summoned Messer Topo, 
fastened the billet by a thread about his neck, and, carry- 
ing him to his run, dismissed him into it. Wonder of 
wonders! the great little beast disappeared upon his 
errand. Henceforth kill them for vermin that called the 
rat by such a name ! 

Messer Topo did not return. What matter, if he had 
sped his mission ? Only, had he ? There was the torture. 
Hour after hour went by, and still no sign. 

Carlo fell asleep, with his ear to the funnel. That 
night the music did not visit him. He awoke — to day- 
light, and the knowledge of a sudden cry in his brain. 
Tremulous, he turned, and found his voice had come back 
to him, and cleared it, and quavered hoarsely into the hole, 
* Who speaks ? Who 's there ? ' 

He dwelt in agony on the answer — thin, exhausted, a 
croaking gasp, it reached him at length : — 

' Cicca — the Fool — near sped.* 

* The Fool I Thou — ^thou and none other ? ' His cry 


was like a wolfs at night ; ' none other ? Bernardo I ' he 

A pause— then : ' Dead, dead, dead I ' came wheezing and 
pouring from the hole. 


He fell back ; swayed in a mortal vertigo ; rallied. He 
was quite calm on the instant — calm ? — a rigid, bloodless 
devil. He set his mouth and spoke, picking his words : — 

*So? Is it so? All trapped together, then? When 
did he die ? ' 

' Quick I ' clucked the voice ; ' quick, and let me pass. 
When, say'st? Time's dead and rotten here. I know 
not. A' heard thee call — and roused — and shrieked thy 
name. His heart broke on it. A' spoke never again. 
All 's said and done. What more ? I could not find the 
hole — till thy rat came. Speak quick.' 

What more? What more to mend or mar? Nothing, now. 
^ Hope was as dead as Time — a poxed and filthy corpse. 
Love, Faith, and Charity — dead and putrid. Only two 
things remained — two things to hug and fondle: re- 
venge and Messer Topo. He bent and spoke again : — 

* Starved to death ? ' 

• Starved ' 

The queer, far little mutter seemed to reel and swerve 
into a tinkle — an echo — was gone. Carlo called, and 
called again — no answer. Then he set himself to ruminate 
— a cud of gall and poison. 

On the eighth morning of his confinement, Jacopo, in 
person and alone, suddenly showed himself at the door, 
which he threw wide open. 

' Free, Messer,' he said ; * and summoned under urgency 
to the palace.' 

Carlo nodded, and asked not a single question, receiving 
even his weapons back in silence. He had had a certain 
presentiment that this moment would arrive. He begged 


only that the Provost Marshal would leave him to himself 
a minute. He had some thanks to offer up, he said, with 
a smile, which had been better understood and dreaded 
by a gentler soul 

The master gaoler was a religious man, and acquiesced 
willingly, going forward a little up the stairway, that the 
other might be private. Carlo, thereupon, stepped across 
to the wall, and whispered for Messer Topo. 

The big rat responded at once, coming out and sitting 
up at attention. Carlo put his hands under his shoulders, 
and lifting him (the two were by now on the closest terms 
of intimacy), apostrophised him face to face : — 

* My true, mine only friend at last,' he said (his voice 
was thick and choking). ' I must go, leaving him to thee. 
Be reverent with him for my sake — ah I if I return not 
anon, to carry out and plant that sweet corse in the 
daisied grass he loved — not dust to dust, but flower to 
the dear flowers. Look to it. Shall I never see him 
more^— nor thee ? I know not. I Ve that to do first may 
part us to eternity — ^yet must I do it. Come, kiss me 
God-be-with-ye. Nay, that *s a false word. How can He, 
and this bloody ensign on my brow ? My brain in me 
doth knell already like a leper's bell. Canst hear it, red- 
eyes ? No God for me. Why should I need Him — tell 
me that ? Christ could not save His friend. I must go 
alone-— quite alone at last. Only remember I loved thee 
— always remember that. And so, thou fond and pretty 
thing, farewell.' 

He put his lips to the little furry head ; put the animal 
gently down ; longed to it a moment ; then, as it disap- 
peared into its run, turned with a wet and burdened sigh. 

But, even with the sound, a black and gripping frost 
seemed to fall upon him. He drew himself up, set his 
face to the door, and passed out and on to freedom and 
the woful deed he contemplated. - - 


A DESPOTISM (Mcsser Bembo invitus) is the only 
absolute expression of automatic government. 
The fly-wheel moves, and every detail of the machinery, 
saw, knife, or punch, however distant, responds instantly 
to its initiative. Galeazzo, for example, had but to make, 
in Vigevano, the tenth part of a revolution, and behold, 
in Milan I Messer Jacopo^saw, knife, and punch in one 
— had 'come down,' automatically, upon the objectives 
of that movement. Within a few minutes of Tassino's 
return, Bernardo and his Fool, seized quietly and without 
resistance as they were taking the air on the battlements, 
were being lowered with cords into the ' Hermit's Cell.' 
Sic itur ad astra. 

The Duke of Milan re-entered his capital on the 20th 
of December. His Duchess met him with happy smiles 
and tears, loving complaints over his long absence, a 
sweet tongue ready with vindication of her trust, should 
that be demanded of her. The last week had done much 
to reassure her, in the near return to familiar conditions 
which it had witnessed ; and she felt herself almost in a 
position to restore to her Bluebeard the key, un violated, 
of the forbidden chamber. If only he would accept that 
earnest of her loyalty without too close a questioning ! 

And, to her joy, he did ; inasmuch, you see, as he had 
his own reasons for a diplomatic silence. It would 



appear, indeed, that recent great events had altogether 
banished from his memory the pious circumstances of his 
departure to them. He had returned to find his duchy 
as to all moral intents he had left and could have wished 
to recover it The fashion of Nature had shed its petals 
with the summer brocades, and Milan was itself again. 

For the exquisite, who had set it, was vanished now 
some seven days gone ; and that is a long time for the 
straining out of a popular fashion. He had departed, 
carrying his Fool with him, none — save one or two in 
the secret — knew whither ; but surmise was plentiful, and 
for the most part rabid. That he had fallen out of home 
favour latterly was obvious and flagrant ; now, the report 
grew that this alienation had received its first impetus 
from Piedmont. That whisper in itself was Nature's 
very quietus. Eleven out of a dozen presumed upon 
it, and themselves, to propitiate tyranny with a very 
debauch of reactionism to old licence. Moreover, 
scandal, in mere self- justification, must run intolerable 
riot Nothing was too gross for it in its accounting for 
this secession. The pure love which had striven to 
redeem it, it tortured into a text for filthy slanders. 
The Countess of Caprona had her windows stoned in 
retaliation one day by a resentful crowd ; the wretched 
girl Lucia was dragged from her bed and suffocated in a 
muddy ditch. The logic of the mob. 

The most merciful of these tales represented Bembo as 
having run back to San Zeno, there to hide in terror and 
trembling his diminished head. It was the solution of 
things most comforting to Bona — one on which her con- 
science found repose. She wished the boy no evil ; had 
acted as she did merely in the interests of the State, she 
told herself. If, for a moment, her thoughts ever swerved 
to Tassino — now returned, as it was whispered, to his old 
quarters with the Provost Marshal, and abiding there a 


readjustment of affairs — she hid the treason under a 
lovely blush, and vowed herself for ever more true wife 
and incorruptible. 

So for the most part all was satisfactory again ; and 
there remained only to alienate the popular sympathy 
from its idol. And that the Church undertook to do. 
The moment the false prophet was exposed and deposed, 
it rose, shook the crumbs from its lap, and gave him his 
coup de grdce in the public estimation. 

' He but sought,' it thundered, * to turn ye over, clods ; 
to cleanse your gross soil for the fairer growing of his 
roses.' A parable: but so far comprehensible to the 
demos in that it implied its narrow escape from some 
cleaning process, a vindication of its prescriptive rights 
to go unwashed, and therefore convincing. Down sank 
the threatening swine -monster thereon ; and, being 
further played upon with comfits of a festal Christmas- 
tide, did yield up incontinent its last breath of revivalism, 
and kick in joyful reassurance of its sty. 

So the whole city absolved itself of redemption, and 
set to making enthusiastic provision for the devil's enter- 
tainment against the season of peace and goodwill. 

Si finis bonus est^ totum bonum erit: nor less Bona bona 
erit Only there was a rift within the happy wife's lute, 
which somehow put the whole orchestra out of tune. 
She saw, for all her sweet chastened sense of relief, that 
the Duke was darkly troubled. The oppression of his 
mood communicated itself to hers; and she began to 
dream — horrible visions of cloyed fingers, and clinging 
shrouds, and ropey cobwebs that would drop and lace 
her mouth and nostrils, the while she could not fight free 
a hand to clear them. 

Then, double-damned in his own depression, by reason 
of its reacting through his partner on himself, the Duke 
one day sent for the Provost Marshal. 


< The season claims its mercies,' gloomed he. * Take 
the boy out and send him home to his father/ 

' His father 1 ' jeered Jacopo brusquely, grunting in his 
beard. ' A 's been safe in his bosom these three days.' 
' What I ' gasped the tyrant 

*Dead|Me8ser, dead, that's all/ said the other impas- 
sively ; ' passed in a moment, like a summer shower.' 

There was nothing more to be said, then. As for poor 
Patch, he was too cheap a mend-conscience for the ducal 
mind even to consider. It took instead to brooding more 
and more on the drawn whiteness of its Duchess's face, 
hating and sickened by it, yet fascinated. The air seemed 
full of portents in its ghostly glimmer. His fingers were 
always itching to strike the hot blood into it. A loathly 
suspicion seized him that perhaps here, after all, was 
revealed the illusive face of his long haunting. Con- 
stantly he fancied he saw reflected in other faces about 
him some shadow of its menacing woe. Once he came 
near stabbing a lieutenant of his guards, one Lampugnani, 
for no better reason than that he had caught the fellow's 
eyes fixed upon him. 

So the jovial season sped, and Christmas day was 
come and gone, bringing with it and leaving, out of 
conviviality, some surcease of his self-torment. 

But, on that holy night, Madonna Bona was visited by 
a dream, more ugly and more definite than any that had 
terrified her hitherto. Groping in a vast cathedral gloom, 
she had come suddenly upon a murdered body prostrate 
on the stones. Dim, shadowy shapes were thronged 
around ; the organ thundered, and at its every peal the 
corpse from a hundred hideous wounds spouted jets of 
blood. She turned to run ; the gloating stream pursued 
her — rose to her hips, her lips — she awoke choking and 


That morning— it was St Stephen's Day — ^the Duke 


was to hear Mass in the private chapel of the castello. 
He rose to attend it, only to find that, by some mis- 
understanding, the court chaplain had already departed, 
with the sacred vessels, for the church dedicated to the 
Saint The Bishop of Como, summoned to take his 
place, declined on the score of illness. Galeazzo decided 
to follow his chaplain. 

Bona strove frantically to dissuade him from going. 
He read some confirmation of his shapeless suspicions in 
her urgency, and was the more determined. She per- 
sisted ; he came near striking her in his fury, and finally 
drove her from his presence, weeping and clamorous. 

She was in despair, turning hither and thither, trusting 
no one. At length she bethought herself of an honest 
fellow, always a loyal friend and soldier of her lord, of 
whom, in this distracting pass, she might make use. 
She had spoken nothing to the Duke of her disposal of 
his favourite, Messer Lanti, leaving the explanation of 
her conduct to an auspicious moment. Now, in her 
emergency, she sent a message for Carlo's instant release, 
bidding him repair without delay to the palace. She had 
no reason, nor logic, nor any particular morality. She 
was in need, and lusting for help — that was enough. 

The messenger sped, and returned, but so did not the 
prisoner with him. Bona, sobbing, feverish, at the wit's 
end of her resources, went from member to member of 
her lord's suite, imploring each to intervene. As well 
ask the jackalls to reprove the lion for his arrogance. 

At eleven the Duke set out. His valet and chronicler, 
Bernardino Corio, relates how, at this pass, his master's 
behaviour seemed fraught with indecision and melancholy ; 
how he put on, and then off, his coat of mail, because it 
made him look too stout; how he feared, yet was anxious 
to go, because ' some of his mistresses ' would be expect- 
ing him in the church (the true explanation of his un- 


harnessing, perhaps) ; how he halted before descending 
the stairs ; how he called for his children, and appeared 
hardly able to tear himself away from them; how Madonna 
Catherine rallied him with a kiss and a quip; how at 
length, reluctantly, he left the castle on foot, but, finding 
snow on the ground, decided upon mounting his horse. 

Viva! Viva! See the fine portly gentleman come 
forth — tall, handsome, they called him — in his petti-cote 
of crimson brocade, costly-furred and opened in front to 
reveal the doublet beneath, a blaze of gold-cloth torrid 
with rubies ; see the flash and glitter that break out all 
over him, surface coruscations, as it were, of an inner fire ; 
see his face, already chilling to ashes, livid beneath the 
sparkle of its jewelled berretino ! Is it that his glory 
consumes himself? Viva ! Viva ! — if much shouting can 
frighten away the shadow that lies in the hollow of his 
cheek. It is thrown by one, invisible, that mounted 
behind him when he mounted, and now sits between his 
greatness and the sun. Viva ! Viva ! So, with the roar 
of life in his ears, he passes on to the eternal silence. 

As he rides he whips his head hither and thither, each 
glance of his eyes a quick furtive stab, a veritable coup 
cCceiL He is gnawed and corroded with suspicion, 
mortally nervous — his manner lacks repose. It shall 
soon find it. He will make a stately recumbent figure on 
a tomb. 

The valet, after releasing his master's bridle, has run 
on by a short cut to the church, where, at the door, he 
comes across Messers Lampugnani and Olgiati lolling 
arm in arm. They wear coats and stockings of mail^ and 
short capes of red satin. Corio wonders to see them there, 
instead of in their right places among the Duke's escort. 
But it is no matter of his. There are some gentlemen 
will risk a good deal to assert their independence — or 


In the meanwhile, the motley crowd gathering, the 
Duke's progress is slow. All the better for discussing 
him and his accompanying magnificence. He rides 
between the envoys of Ferrara and Mantua, a gorgeous 
nucleus to a brilliant nebula. This, after all, is more 
'filling' than Nature. Some one likens him, audibly, to 
the head of a comet, trailing glory in his wake. He turns 
sharply, with a scowl. ' Uh ! Come sta duro ! ' mutters 
the delinquent. ' Like a thunderbolt, rather I ' 

At length he reaches the church door and dismounts. 
He throws his reins to a huge Moor, standing ready, and 
sets his lips. 

From within burst forth the strains of the choir — 

• Sic transit gloria tnundi? 
Bowing his head, he passes on to his doom. 


* That being dead yet speaketk ' 

THROUGH the chiming stars, the romp of wind in 
woods, the gush of spring freshets, the cheery 
drone of bees ; through all happy gales — of innocent 
frolic, of children's laughter, of sighing, unharmful passion, 
of joy and gaiety ungrudging ; through the associations 
of his gentle spirit with these, the things it had loved, 
whereby, by those who had listened and could not 
altogether forget, came gradually to be vindicated the 
truth of his kind religion, Bernardo's voice, though grown 
a phantom voice, spoke on and echoed down the ages. 
Sweet babble at the hill-head, it was yet the progenitor 
of the booming flood which came to take the world with 
knowledge — knowledge of its own second redemption 
through the humanity which is born of Nature. Already 
Art, life's nurse and tutor, was, unknown to itself, quicken- 
ing from the embrace of clouds and sunlight and tender 
foliage ; while, unconscious of the strange destinies in its 
womb, it was scorning and reviling the little priest who 
had brought about that union. 

And, alas ! it is always so. Nor profit nor credit are 
ever to the pioneer who opens out the countries which 
are to yield his followers both. 

He perished very soon. Its third night of darkness 
and starvation saw the passing of that fragile spirit, 
gentle, innocuous, uncomplaining as it had lived. Frail 



as a bird that dies of the shock of capture, he broke his 
heart upon a song. 

I would have no gloomy obsequies attend his fate. In 
tears, and strewing of flowers, and pretty plaintive dirges 
of the fields — in sighs and lutes of love, such as waited on 
the sweet Fidele, would I have ye honour him. Not 
because I would belittle that piercing tragedy, but because 
he would. It was none to him. He but turned his face 
for home, sorrowing only for his failure to win to his 
Christ, his comrade, a kingdom he should never have the 
chance to influence again. What had he else to fear? 
The star that had mothered, the road that had sped him ? 
All grass and flowers was the latter ; of the first, a fore- 
ray seemed already to have pierced the darkness of his 
cell, linking it to heaven. 

* " Let 's sing him to the ground." 
" I cannot sing ; I '11 weep, and word it with thee ; 
For notes of sorrow, out of tune, are worse 
Than priests and fanes that lie."' 

Bring hither, I say, no passion of a vengeful hate. It 
is the passing of a rose in winter. 

At near the end, lying in his Fool's arms, he panted 
faintly :-r- 

'My feet are weary for the turning. Pray ye, kind 
mother, that this road end soon.' 

'What! shall I hurry mine own damnation?' gurgled 
the other (his tongue by then was clacking in his mouth). 
' Trippingly, I warrant, shall ye take that path, unheeding 
of the poor wretch that lags a million miles behind, 
lashed by a storm of scorpions.' 

* Marry, sweet,' whispered the boy, smiling ; * I '11 wait 
thee, never fear, when once I see my way. How could 
I forego such witness as thou to my brave intentions ? 
We '11 jog the road together, while I shield thy back.' 


* Well, let be/ said Cicca. ' Better they stung that, than 
my heart through thine arm ' — ^whereat Bernardo nipped 
him feebly in an ecstasy of tears. 

In the first hours of their fearful doom he was more 
full of wonder than alarm — astounded, in the swooning 
sense. He had not come yet to realise the mortal nature 
of their punishment. How should he, innocent of harm ? 
Attributing, as he did, this sudden blow to Bona, he 
marvelled only how so kind a mother could chastise so 
sharply for a little offence— or none. Indeed he was 
conscious of none ; though conscious enough, latterly, 
poor child, of an atmosphere of grievance. Well, the 
provocation had been his, no doubt — somehow. He had 
learned enough of woman in these months to know that 
the measure of her resentment was not always the measure 
of the fault — how she would sometimes stab deeper for a 
disappointment than for a wrong. He had disappointed 
her in some way. No doubt, his favour being so high, 
he had presumed upon it. A useful rebuke, then. He 
would bear his imposition manly ; but he hoped, he did 
hope, that not too much of it would be held to have 
purged his misconduct. The Duke was returning shortly. 
Perhaps he would plead for him. 

So sweetly and so humbly he estimated his own in- 
significance. Could his foul slanderers have read his 
heart then, they had surely raved upon God, in their 
horror, to strike them, instant and for ever, from the rolls 
of self-conscious existence. 

Cicada listened to him, and gnawed his knotted 
knuckles in the gloom, and wondered when and how he 
should dare to curse him with the truth. He might at 
least have spared himself that agony. The truth, to one 
so true, could not long fail of revealing itself. And when 
it came, lo ! he welcomed it, as always, for a friend. 


Small birds, small flowers, small wants perish of a little 
neglect. His sun, his sustenance, were scarce withheld a 
few hours from this sensitive plant before he began to 
droop. And ever, with the fading of his mortal tissues, 
the glow of the intelligence within seemed to grow 
brighter, until verily the veins upon his temples appeared 
to stand out, like mystic writing on a lighted porcelain 

So it happened that, as he and his companion were 
sitting apart on the filthy stones late on the noon of the 
second day of their imprisonment, he ended a long 
silence by creeping suddenly to the Fool's knees, and, 
looking up into the Fool's face in the dim twilight, 
appealed to its despair with a tremulous smile. 

* Cicca,' he whispered, * my Cicca ; wilt thou listen, and 
not be frightened ? * 

* To what ? ' muttered the other 4ioarsely. 

' Hush, dear ! ' said the boy, fondling him, and whim- 
pering — not for himself. ' I have been warned — ^some one 
hath warned me — that it were well if we fed not our 
hearts with delusive hopes of release herefrom.' 

* Why not ? ' said the Fool. * It is the only food we are 
like to have.' 


He clung suddenly to his friend in a convulsion of 

* You have guessed ? It is true. Capello. We might 
have known, being here ; but — O Cicca ! are you sorry? 
We have an angel with us — he spoke to me just now.' 


* Yes, Christ, dearest' 

The Fool, smitten to intolerable anguish, put him 
away, and, scrambling to his feet, went up and down, 
raving and sobbing : — 

*The vengeance of God on this wicked race! May 


it fester in madness, living; and, dead, go down to 

torment so unspeakable, that ' 

The boy, sprung erect, white and quivering, struck in : — 

* Ah, no, no ! Think who it is that hears thee ! ' 
Cicada threw himself at his feet, pawing and 

lamenting : — 

* Thou angel ! O, woe is me ! that ever I were bom 
to see this thing I ' 

So they subsided in one grief, rocking and weeping 

* O, sweet ! ' gasped the boy — * that ever I were bom 
to bring this thing on thee ! ' 

Then, at that, the Fool wrapped him in his arms, 
adoring and fondling him, to a hurry of sighs and broken 

* On me ! — Child, that I am thought worthy ! — too 
great a joy — mightst have been alone — yet did I try to 
save thee — heaven's mercy that, failing, I am involved ! ' 

And so, easing himself for the first time, in an ecstasy 
of emotion he told all he knew about the fatal ring, and 
his efforts to recover it. 

Bernardo listened in wonder. 

' This ring I ' he whispered at the end. ' Right judg- 
ment on me for my wicked negligence. Why, I deserve to 
die. Yet — ' he clung a little closer — * Cicca,' he thrilled, 
* it is the Duke, then, hath committed us to this ? ' 

Cicada moaned, beating his forehead : — 

' Ay, ay ! it is the Duke. So I kill thy last hope ! ' 

* Nay, thou reviv'st it/ 

* How ? ' He stared, holding his breath. 

* O, my dear ! ' murmured the boy rapturously ; * since 
thou acquittest her of this unkindness.' 

* Her ? Whom ? Unkindness ! ' cried the Fool. * Ex- 
pect nothing of Bona but acquiescence in thy fate.' 

* Yet is she guiltless of designing it.' 


'Guiltless? Ay, guiltless as she who, raving, ''that 
my shame should bear this voice and none to silence it I " 
accepts the hired midwife's word that her womb hath 
dropped dead fruit ! O ! ' he mourned most bitterly, 
' I loved thee, and I love ; yet now, I swear I wish thee 

* Then, indeed, thou lovest me.* 

* Had it come to this, in truth ? ' 

'Alas! I know not what you mean. My mother is 
my mother still.' 

* Thy mother ! I am thy mother.' 

' Ah ! ' Laughing and weeping, he caught the gruflf 
creature in his arms : — ' Cicca, that sweet, fond comedy I ' 

The other put him away again, but very gently, and 
rose to his feet. 

'Comedy?' he muttered; 'ay, a comedy — true — a 
masque of clowns. Yet I 've played the woman for thy 

Bernardo stared at him, his face twitching. 

'Thou hast, dear — so tragically — and in that garb! 
I would I could have seen thee in it. O ! a churl to 
laugh, dear Cicca ; but ' 

' But what ? ' 

* TAou, a woman ! ' 

He fell into a little irresistible chuckle. Strange wafts 
of tears and laughter seemed to sing in the drowsy 
chambers of his brain. 

' TAou a woman ! ' he giggled hysterically. 

The Fool gave a sudden cry. 

' Why not ? Have I betrayed my child ? ' 

He turned, as if sore stricken, and went up and down, 
up and down, wringing his hands and moaning. 

Suddenly he came and threw himself on his knees 
before the boy, but away from him, and knelt there, 
rocking and protesting, his face in his hands. 


' Ah I let me be myself at last. That disguise — thou 
mockest — 'twas none. Worn like a fool — mayhap- 
unpractised — ^yet could I have kissed its skirted hem. 
I am a woman, though a Fool — ^what's odd in that? — 
a woman, dear, a woman, a woman 1 ' 

He bowed himself, lower, lower, as if his shame were 
crushing him. ' In the deep silence that followed, 
Bernardo, trembling all through, crept a foot nearer, and 

'Mother?' cried the Fool, still crouching, his head 
deeper abased; 'no name for me. Cry on— cry scorn, 
in thy hunger, on this lying dam ! No drop to cool thy 
drought in all her withered pastures.' 

He writhed, and struck his chest, in pain intolerable. 

* Mother ! ' thrilled the boy, loud and sudden. 

The Fool gave a quick gasp, and started, and shrunk 

'Not I. Keep off! I am as Filippo made me — after 
his own image. He was a God — could name me man 
or woman. 'Twas but a word ; and lo ! too hideous for 
my sex, I leapt, his male Fool. That, of all jests, was 
his first. He spared me for it. I had been strai^led 

' Mother ! ' 

Again that moving, rapturous cry. 

'No, no!' cried the Fool. 'Barren — barren — no 
woman, even! Still as God wrought me, and human 
taste condemned. Let be. Forget what I said. Let 
me go on and serve thee — sexless — only to myself 
confessing, not thou awarding. I ask no more, nor 
sweeter — O my babe, my babe ! ' 

' Mother ! ' 

' Hush ! break not my heart — not yet. This darkness? 
Speak it once more. Why, I might be beautiful. Will 
you think it — will you, letting me ply you with my 


conscious sweets? I could try. I've studied in the 
markets. Your starving rogue 's the best connoisseur of 
savours. I il not come near you — only sigh and soothe. 
1 11 tune myself to speak so soft — school myself out of 
your knowledge. Perchance, God helping, you shall 
think me fair.' 

' Mother ! ' 

Once more — ^and he was in her arms. 

Surely the loveliest miracle that could have blossomed 
in that grave — a breaking of roses from the pilgrim's 
dead staff! 

Henceforth Bernardo's path was rapture — a song of 
love and jubilance — his spirit flamed and trembled out 
in song. 

They had spared him his lute ; and his fingers, strong 
in their instinct to the last, were seldom long parted from 
its strings. He lay much in his Fool mother's lap ; and 
one had scarcely known when their converse melted into 
music, or out of music into speech, so melodious was 
their love, so rapt their soul-union, and so triumphant 
over pain and darkness, as to evoke of fell circumstance 
its own balm-breathing, illuminating spirits. What was 
this horror of bleak, black burial, when at a word, a struck 
chord, one could see it quiver and break into a garden 
of splendid fancies ! 

Once only was their dying exaltation recalled to 
earth — ^to consciousness of their near escape from all 
its hate and squalor. It happened in a moment ; and so 
shall suffer but a moment's record. 

There came a sudden laugh and flare — ^and there was 
Tassino, torch in hand, looking from the grate above. 

* Ehi, Messer Bembo ! ' yapped the cur ; * art there ? 
And I here ? What does omnipotence in this reverse ? 
Arise, and prove thyself Lucia's dead; the Duke's 


returned; Milan is itself again. The memory of thee 
rots in the gutter; and stinks — fahl I go to the 
Duchess soon. What message to her, bastard of an 
The boy raised his head. 

* The season's, Tassino/ he whispered, smiling. ' Peace 
and goodwill.' 

The filthy creature mouthed and snarled. 

*Ay. Most sweet. I'll wait thine a^ony, though, 
before I give it. She '11 cry, then ; and I shall be by ; 
and, look you, emotion is the mother of desire. I'll 
pillow her upon thy corpse, bastard, and quicken her 
with new lust of wickedness. She'll never have loved 
me more. God ! what a use for a saint ! ' 

Cicada crawled, and rose, from under her sweet burden. 

* Wait,' she hissed ; * the grate 's open. A strong leap, 
and I have him.' 

An idle threat ; but enough to make the whelp start, 
and clap to the bars, and fly screaming. 
The Fool returned, panting, to her charge. 
' Forget him,' she said. 

* I have forgotten him, my mother. But his lie ' 


'Was it a lie?' 

'About Bona? I am a woman now. I'll answer 
nothing for my sex.' 

* I '11 answer for her. About my father, I meant ? ' 

* As thou 'It answer for her, so will I for him.' 
Bernardo sighed, and lay a long while silent. Suddenly 

he moaned in her arms, like a child over-tired, and spoke 
the words already quoted : — * My feet are weary for the 

•Death is Love's seed — a sweet child quickened of 
ourselves. He comes to us, his pink hands full of flowers. 


" See, father, see, mother," says he, " the myrtles and the 
orange blooms which made fragrant your bridal bed. 
I am their fruit — the full maturity of Love's promise. 
Will you not kiss your little son, and come with him 
to the wise gardens where he ripened ? Tis cold in this 
dark room ! " ' 

So, in such rhapsodies, Mn love with tuneful death,' 
would he often murmur, or melt, through them, into song 
as strange. 

* Love and Forever would wed. 
Fearless in Heaven's sight. 
Life came to them and said, 
" Lease ye my house of light ! " 

He put them on earth to bed, 

All in the noonday bright : 
" Sooth,** to Forever Love said, 

" Here may we prosper right.** 

Sudden, day waned and fled : 

Truth saw Forever in night. 
"We are deceived,** he said ; 

"Who shall pity our plight?** 

Death, winging by o'erhead. 

Heard them moan in affright. 
" Hold by my hem,** he said ; 

" I go the way to light." * 

All the last day Cicada held him in her arms, so quiet, 
so motionless, that the gradual running down of his pulses 
was steadily perceptible to her. She felt Death stealing 
in, like a ghostly dawn — watched its growing glimmer 
with a fierce, hard-held agony. Once, before their scrap 
of daylight failed them, she stole her wrist to her mouth, 
and bit at it secretly, savagely, drawing a sluggish trickle 


of red. She had thought him sunk beyond notice of her ; 
and started, and hid away the wound, as he put up a 
gentle, exhausted arm, detaining hers. 

' Sting'st thyself, scorpion ? ' 

Cicada gave a thick crow — merciful God ! it was meant 
for a laugh — and began to screak and mumble some 
legend of a bird that, in difficult times, would bleed itself 
to feed its young — a most admirable lesson from Nature. 
The child laughed in his turn — poor little croupy mirth — 
and answered with a story : how the right and left hands 
once had a dispute as to which most loved and served the 
other, each asserting that he would cut himself off in proof 
of his devotion. Which being impracticable, it was 
decided that the right should sever the left, and the left 
the right ; whereof the latter stood the test first without 
a wince. But, lo ! when it came to the left's turn, there 
was no right hand to carve him. 

' Anan ? ' croaked Cicada sourly. 

• Why,' said Bernardo, * we will exchange the wine of 
our veins, if you like, to prove our mutual devotion ; but, 
if I suck all thine first, there will be no suck left in thy 
lips to return the compliment on me.' 

' Need'st not take all ; but enough to handicap thee, so 
that we start this backward journey on fair terms.' 

' Nay, it were so sweet, I 'd prove a glutton did I once 
begin. Cicca ? ' 

' My babe ? ' 

* Canst thou see Christ ? ' 

' Ay, in the white mirror of thy face.' 

' I see Him so plain. He stands behind thee now — a 
boy, mine own age. Nay, He puts His finger on His sweet 
lips, and smiles and goes. " Naughty," that means : "shall 
I stay to hear thee flatter me ? " He blushes, like a boy, 
to be praised. He 's gone no further than the wall. 
Cicca, thy disguise was deep. I never thought thee 


beautiful before. O, what an unkind mother, to hide her 
beauty from her boy ! ' 

' Am I beautiful ? ' 

'Dost not know it? As the moon that rises on the 
night It was night just now, and my soul was groping 
in the dark; and, lo! of a sudden thou wert looking 

* Let it be night, I say ! ' 

' What is that in thy voice ? I am so happy — always ; 
only not when I think of Carlo. My dear, dear Carlo I 
Alas! what have they done with him? He will often 
think of us, and wonder where we are, and frown and 
gnaw his lip. If I could but hear him speak once more — 
cry " Bernardo ! " in that voice that made one's eyeballs 
crack like glass, and tickle in their veins. O, my sweet 
Carlo ! Mother, have I foiled in everything ? ' 

*Let be! Thou 'It kill me with thy prattle. Thy 
Christ remains behind. He '11 see thy seed is honoured 
in its fruits.' 

' Well, wilt thou kiss me good-night ? I 'm sleepy.' 

He seemed to doze a good deal after that But, about 
midnight, it might be, he suddenly sat up, and was sing- 
ing strongly to his lute — a sweet, unearthly song, of home- 
returning and farewell. Cicada clung and held him, held 
to him, pierced all through with the awful rapture of that 

' Leave me not : wait for me ! ' she whispered, sobbing. 

Suddenly, in a vibrating pause, a faint far cry was 
wafted to their ears : — 

'Bernardo! Bernardo!' 

The fingers tumbled on the lute, plucking its music 
into a tangle of wild discords. A string snapped. 

' Carlo ! ' he screamed — ' it is Carlo ! ' 

The cry leapt, and fell, and eddied away in a long 
rosary of echoes. The Fool fumbled for his lips with hers 


But who might draw death from that sweet frozen 
spring 1 

She feared nothing now but that they would come and 
take him from her — snarled, holding him, when her one 
sick glint of day stole in to cross her vigil — was in love 
with utter solitude and blind night. Once, after a little 
or a long time — it was all one to her — she saw a thread 
of ghostly whiteness moving on the floor ; watched it with 
basilisk eyes ; thought, perhaps, it was his soul, lingering 
for hers according to its promise. The moving spot came 
on — ^stole into the wan, diffused streak of light cast from 
the grating; — and it was a great rat, with something 
bound about its neck. 

She understood on the instant. Long since, her in- 
stinctive wit had told her — though she had not cared or 
been concerned to listen to it — that that sudden voice in 
the darkness had signified that Carlo was imprisoned 
somewhere hard by. Well, he had found this means to 
communicate with her — near a miracle, it might be ; but 
miracles interested her no longer. No harm to let him 
know at last. He could not rob her of her dead. 

She coaxed the creature to her ; found him tame ; read 
the message; re-fastened on the paper, and, by its 
glimmer, marked the way of his return. 

Then she rose, and spoke, and, speaking, choked and 

In the dark all cats are grey, and all women beautiful. 
But I think the countenance of this one had no need to 
fear the dawn. 


AMONGST all her costly possessions in the Casa 
Caprona, there bad once been none so loved, so 
treasured, so often consulted by Beatrice as a certain 
portrait of the little Parablist of San Zeno, which she had 
bought straight from the studio of its limner, Messer 
Antonello da Messina, at that time temporarily sojourn- 
ing in Milan. This was the artist, pupil of Jan Van Eyck, 
who had been the first to introduce oil-painting into Italy ; 
and the portrait was executed in the new medium. It 
was a work perpetrated con amore — one of the many in 
which the exaltation of the moment had sought to express 
itself in pigments, or marble, or metal. For, indeed, 
during that short spring of his promise, Bernardo's flower- 
face had come to blossom in half the crafts of the town. 

Technically, perhaps, a little wan and flat, the head 
owed something, nevertheless, to inspiration. Through 
the mere physical beauty of its features, one might read 
the sorrow of a spiritual incarnation — the wistfulness of a 
Christ-converted Eros of the ancient cosmogonies. Here 
were the right faun's eyes, brooding pity out of laughter ; 
the rather square jaw, and girlish pointed chin ; the baby 
lips that seemed to have kissed themselves, shape and 
tint, out of spindle-berries ; the little strutting cap and 
quill even, so queerly contrasted with the staid sobriety 
of the brow beneath. It was the boy, and the s(^ul of the 
boy, so far as enthusiasm, working through a strange 
medium, could interpret it. 



Beatrice, having secured, had hung the picture in a dim 
alcove of her chamber ; and had further, to ensure its 
jealous privacy from all inquisition but her own, looped a 
curtain before. Here, then, a dozen times a day, when 
alone, had she been wont to pray and confess herself; 
lust with her finger-tips to charm the barren contours of 
the face into life ; lay her hot cheek to the painted flesh, 
and weep, and woo, and appeal to it ; seek to soften by 
a hundred passionate artifices the inflexible continence of 
its gaze. 

But that had been all before the shock and frenzy of 
her final repulse. Not once since had she looked on it, 
until . • • 

Came upon her, still crouching self-absorbed, that 
white morning of the Duke's tragedy ; and, on the vulture 
wings of it, Narcisso. 

The beast crept to her, fulsome, hoarse, shaken with a 
heart-ague. She conned him with a contemptuous 
curiosity, as he stood unnerved, trembling all through, 
before her. 

* Well ? ' she said at last. 

He grinned and gobbled, gulping for articulation. 

'It's come. Madonna.' 

She half rose on her couch, frowning and impatient. 

* What, thou sick fool ? ' 

'Sickr he echoed loudly; and then bis voice fell 
again. * Ay, sick to death, I think. The Duke ' 

'What of him?' 

' Rides to San Stefano.' 

'Does he?' 

' He'll not ride home again.' 

She stared at him in silence a moment ; then suddenly 
breathed out a little wintry laugh. 

'So?' she whispered — ^'So? Well, thou art not the 


He struggled to clear, and could not clear, his throat. 
His low forehead, for all the cold, was beaded with 

' All 's one for that,' he muttered thickly. * There *s no 
class in carrion.' 

She still conned him, with that frigid smile on her lips. 

* Dost mean they '11 seek to kill thee too ? ' 
He clawed at his head in a frenzy. 

' Ay, I mean it.' 

* Why ? quotha. Why, won't they have held me till 
this moment for one of themselves ? * 

* Till this moment ? ' she murmured. * Ah ! I see ; this 
Judas who hath not the courage to play out his part' 

*My part!' He almost screamed it at last. *Was 
death my part ? ' He writhed and snuffled. * I tell thee, 
I 've but now left them, on pretence of going before to 
the church. Shall I be there ? God's death I Let but 
this stroke win through and gain the people, and my life 's 
not worth a stinking sprat.' 

She sank back with a sigh. 

' Better, in that case, to have joined thy friends at San 

The rogue, staring at her a moment, uttered a mortal 
cry : — 

* Thou say'st it — thou ? — Judas ? — Who made me so? — 
Show me my thirty pieces — ^Judas ? Ay ; and what for 
wages ? — Thy tool and catspaw — I see it all at last — thine 
and Ludovic's — bled, and my carcass thrown to swine ! — 
Judas ? Why, I might have been Judas to some purpose 
with the Duke — a made man by now. And all for thee 
foregone ; and in the end by thee betrayed. I asked 
nothing — gave all for nothing — ass — goose — cried quack 
and quack, as told — decoy to these fine fowl, and, being 
used, my neck wrung with the rest. Now ' 



She put up a hand peremptorily. The fury simmered 
down on his lips. 

' You presume, fellow/ she said. ' / betray thee ? ' 

She raised her brows, amazed. Too stupendous an 
instance of condescension, indeed. 

He slunk down on his knees before her, cringing and 

' No, Madonna, no ! I spake out of my great madness.' 

'Answer me,' she said disdainfully, 'out of thy little 
reason. What wouldst thou of me ? ' 

He lifted his shaking hands. 

' Sanctuary, sanctuary. Let me hide here.' 

He crawled to her, pawing like a beaten dog. 

' Sanctuary,' he reiterated brokenly. * You owe it me — 
that at least I 've bided, bided — and ye made no sign — 
yielded all for guerdon of a sweet word, the whiles I 
thought thyself and Ludovic were stalking that con- 
spiracy to cut it off betimes. God's death! Not you. 
And now I know the reason. Now comes the reckoning, 
and I 'm left to face it as I will. God's death ! ' His 
panic mastered him again. * What of my substance have 
I changed for nothing 1 There was Bona's ring — I might 
have lived ten year on't. And I parted with it — for 
what ? O, you 're a serpent, mistress ! You worm j^ur 
way — and get it too. What! Bona may bide a little, 
and Simonetta ? They 're but the bleeding trunk. The 
head 's lopped while I talk.' 

His voice rose to a screech — broke — and he grovelled 
before her. 

' Mercy, Madonna 1 Spare me to be thy slave. All 
comes thy way — love, and revenge, and power. The 
boy 's dead — the Duke 's to die—' 

He had roused her at last, and in a flash. She sprang 
to her feet, white, hardly breathing. 

* The boy ? ' she hissed ; * what boy ? ' 


He whimpered, sprawling : — 

* God a' mercy ! Lady, lady ! the boy, the very boy 
you sped the ring to kill.' 

' Dead ! ' she whispered. 

* Ay,' he snivelled from the ground ; * what would you ? 
dead as last Childermas — starved to death, in the 
« Hermit's Cell " they call it, by the Duke's orders.' 

Her fingers battled softly with her throat. 

' Dead ! ' she said again. ' Narcisso, good Narcisso, who 
hath gulled thee with this lie ? ' 

' No lie,' he answered, squatting, reassured, on his hams. 
' 'Twas Messer Tassino, no less, that carried thy token to 
Vigevano. 'Twas no later than yesternight I met our 
fine cockerel louping from the stews. A' was drunk as 
father Noah — babbled and blabbed, a' did — perked up 
a's comb, and cursed me for presuming fellowship with a 
duke's minion. I plied him further, e'en to tears and 
confidence — ^had it all out of him ; how a'd carried the 
ring for Messer Ludovic, and brought back the deadly 
order. Jacopo nipped the Saint that noon. A's singing 
in paradise these days past.' 

Beatrice stood and listened. A dreadful smile was on 
her lips. But, when she spoke, it was with wooing 

* Good trust — always the faithful trust. Why, Narcisso, 
what should I do betraying thee ? We '11 work and end 
together, and take our wages. Dead, do you say ? Why, 
then, all's said. Now go, and tuck thyself within the 
roof till the storm pass. This lightning 's all below. Go, 
comrade, do you hear ? ' 

He dwelt a moment only to gasp and mumble out his 
thanks ; then turned and slouched away. 

For minutes she dwelt as he had left her, rigid, smiling, 
bloodless. Presently, still standing motionless, she moved 
her lips and was muttering : — 


*Dead? So swift? Made sure against all chances? 
Starved? He said starved. Not to that I betrayed 
him. Inhoman hound I Thou mightst have spared 
him bread! — left sorrow and cold durance to work their 
lingering end. What then? Why, Bona then — Bona 
made widow ; free to work her will. Should / be 
the better? — Dead? was he not always dead to me? 
Starved to death! O, hell heat Lampugnani's dagger 
scarlet, that it hiss and bubble in his flesh ! Galeazzo ! 
Galeazzo ! I '11 follow soon to nurse thy pains to 
ecstasy ! ' 

She fell silent ; presently began to sway ; then, with a 
sudden shriek, had leapt upon the picture, and torn aside 
its curtain. 

' Bernardo ! ' she moaned and sobbed — ' Bernardo, I 
loved thee ! O God ! he eats me with his eyes. Here, 
here ! fasten with thy starved lips. I '11 not speak or cry, 
though they burrow to my heart. All thine — hold on — 
I '11 smile and pet mine agony — Bernardo 1 ' 

In the tumult of her passion she heard a sound at the 
door ; caught her breath ; caught herself to knowledge 
of herself, and, instinctively closing the curtain, stood 
panting, dishevelled, its hem in her hand. 

Someone, something, had entered — a haggard, unshorn 
ghost of ancient days. It came very softly, closing the 
door behind ; then, set and silent, moved upon her. Her 
pulses seemed to sink and wither. 

* Carlo ! ' she shuddered softly. 

It was fearful that the thing never spoke as it came on. 
Nor did she speak again. Love that has once joined 
keeps understanding without words. What has it bred 
but death ? Here was the natural fruit of a sin matured 
— she saw it gleam suddenly in his clutch. 

She watched fascinated. As he drew near, without a 
word she slowly raised her hands, and rent from her bosom 


its already desecrated veil. Then at last she spoke — or 
whispered : — 

'I'm ready. Here's where you kissed and sighed. 
Bloody thy bed.' 

He took her to his remorseless grasp. She had often 
thrilled to know her helplessness therein — wondered 
what it would be to feel it closed in hate. Now she had 
her knowledge — ^and instantly, in an ecstasy of terror, 
succumbed to it. 

' No, no ! ' she gasped. ' Carlo, don't kill me ! ' 

Voiceless still, he raised his hand. She gave a fearful 

' I never meant it. I 'm innocent. Not without a word. 
Carlo ! Carlo !— I loved him ! ' 

Writhing in her agony, she tore herself free a moment, 
and sank at his feet, rending, as she fell, the curtain from 
its rings. His back was to the wall. In a mirror opposite 
he caught the sudden vision of his intent, and, looking 
down upon it, dim and spiritual, the sweet face of the 

The dagger dropped from his hand. 

The silence of a minute seemed to draw into an age. 

Suddenly he was groping and stumbling like a drunken 
man. Words came to him in a babble : — 

* Let be ! — I *11 go — spare her ? — Where 's thy Christ? 
He forgave too — I 'm coming — answer for me — here ! * 

And he drove a staggering course from the room. 

Tears began to gush from her as she lay prone. Then 
suddenly, in a quick impulse, she rose to her feet, and 
re-veiling the picture, turned with her back to it. 

' Ludovic remains,' she whispered. 

Reeling, dancing, to himself it seemed, Carlo passed 
down the streets. White was on the ground ; his brain 
was thick with whirling flakes ; the roar of coming waters 


tingled in his veins. Sometimes he would pause and look 
stupidly at his right hand, as if in puzzle of its emptiness. 
There should have been somethitig there — ^what was it ? 
— a knife — a stone for two birds — Beatrice — and dien 
Galeazza What had he omitted ? He must go back and 
pick up the thread from the beginning. 

The waters came on as he stood, not close yet, but 
portentous, with a threatening roar. A crj^ng shape, 
waving a bloody blade, sped towards and past him. 

' Arm, arm, for liberty I ' it yelled as it ran. ' Tyranny 
is dead I ' 

Carlo chuckled thickly to himself. 

'That was Olgiati. What does he with my dagger? 
I '11 go and take it from him.' 

He turned, swaying, and in the act was swept upon, 
enveloped, and washed over by the torrent It stranded 
him against a wall, where he stood blinking and giggling 
in the vortex of a multitudinous roar. 

' Murdered ! the Duke ! Murdered ! Close the gates ! ' 

It thundered on and away. He looked at his hand 
once more ; then turned for home. 


MURDERED? Ay; struck down in a moment 
on the threshold of God's house, lest his bloody 
footsteps entering should desecrate its pavement ; snatched 
away to perdition from under the very shadows of stone 
saints, the gleam of the golden doors fading out of the 
horror of his fading eyes. He had had but time for one 
cry — ' O Mother of God 1 ' — a soul-clutch as wild as when 
a drowning man grasps at a flowering reed. In vain ; he 
is under; the fair blossom whisks erect again, dashing 
the tears from her eyes; the white face far below is a 
stone among the stones. 

• Sopasstth the worltPs glory I ' 

The choir sang, the oi^an thundered on ; and still their 
blended fervour, while the dead body was relaxing and 
settling into the pool itself had made, rose poignant, 
sharper, more unearthly, piercing with tragic utterance 
its own burden, until at length, flood crashing upon 
flood, the roar of human passion below burst and over- 
whelmed it. 

What had happened ? 


As the Duke entered the church by the west door, a 
full-bodied gentleman, dressed all in mail, with a jaque of 
crimson satin, had stepped from the crowd to make a way 
for him ; which having affected to do, he had turned, and 
raising his velvet beret with his left hand, and dropping 



on one knee as if to crave some boon, had swiftly driven 
a dagger into Galeazzo's body, and again, as the Duke 
fell away from the stroke, freeing the blade, into his throat. 
Whereat, springing on the mortal cry that followed, flew 
other sparks of crimson from the body of the spectators, 
and pierced the doomed man with vicious stings, labour- 
ing out cries as they stabbed : — 

• For my sister ! ' 

• For liberty ! ' — until the hilts slipping in their fingers 
sent their aims wavering. 

It was all the red act of a moment — the lancing of a 
ripened abscess — the gush, the scream, the silence. 

And then, the sudden stun and stupefaction yielding 
to mad tumult. 

None might know the gross body of this terror ; only 
for the moment red coats and their partisans seemed 
paramount. But for the moment. The next, the scarlet 
clique seemed to break up and scatter, like a ball of red 
clay in a swirl of waters, and, flying on all sides, was 
caught and held in isolated particles among the throng. 
Whereat, for the first time, authority began to feel its 
paralysed wits, and to counter-shriek the desperate 
appeals of murder to rally and combine for liberty. A 
mighty equerry of the Duke, one da Ripa, fought, 
bellowing and struggling, to pull out his sword. Fran- 
cione, a fellow of Visconti's, stabbed him under the arm- 
pit, and he wobbled and dropped amid the screaming 
crush, grinning horribly. Lampugnani, smiling and 
insinuative, slipped into a wailing group of women, and 
urged his soft passage through it, making for the door. 
He was almost out when, catching his foot in a skirt 
plucked sickly from his passing, he stumbled and rolled ; 
and the spear of a giant Moor, who on the instant mounted 
the steps, passed through his throat. 

His body was first-fruits to the frenzied people without. 


They seized and bowled it through the streets, whacking 
it into shreds ; then returned, breathed and blooded, for 
more. They were in high feather, ripe for prey and 
plunder. Galeazzo was dead 1 Viv' Anarchia ! 

They pressed their way into the tumult; snatched 
gems and trinkets from the hair and bosoms of girls half 
mad with terror; took their brief toll of dainties, and 
only fell away, pushing and gabbling, before the onset of 
the ducal guard. 

Order followed presently ; and then the tally and 
reckoning. The last fell swift enough to crown an orgy 
of perfection: screams in the squares; dismembered 
limbs; mangled scarecrows tossing in file from the 
battlements. Only two principals, Olgiati and Visconti, 
escaping for the moment, were reserved for later torments. 

A conspiracy, like near all blood conspiracies, abortive; 
founded on the common error that slaves abhor their 
bonds. They do not, in this world of unequal gifts and 
taxes. Moreover, it is inconsistent to suppose one can 
inaugurate an era of tolerance with murder. 

Olgiati, the last of that dark band to suffer, was also its 
only martyr. He had struck for a principle, straight in 
itself, oblique in its fanatic workings. Cursed by his 
father, abandoned by his friends and relatives, committed 
to unspeakable tortures, his courage never blenched or 
wavered. He gloried in his deed to the last ; and, if a 
prayer escaped him, it was only that his executioners 
should vouchsafe him strength at the end to utter forth 
his soul in prayer. To Bona he sent a gentle message, 
deprecating his own instrumentality in the inevitable 
retributions of Providence. She answered, saintly ven- 
geance, with a priest, urging him to save his soul by 
penitence. He retorted that, by God's mercy, his final 
deed should serve his sins for all atonement ; and, so 
insisting, was carried to his mortal mangling. At the 


last moment a cry escaped him: 'Mors acerba: fama 
perpetua ! * and, with that, and the shriek of ' Courage, 
Girolamo I ' on his lips, he passed to his account. 

' The peace of Italy b dead I ' cried Pope Sixtus on the 
day when news of the crime was brought to him. His 
prophecy found its first justification in a fervent appeal 
from the Duchess of Milan that he would posthumously 
absolve of his sins the man whom * next to God she had 
loved above all else in the world/ 

And no doubt, being left to the present mercy of 
factions, she believed it. 


LONG after the body of that tragedy had been 
committed to its eternal sleep, silently and by 
night, under the pavement of the vast cathedral ; long 
after, in years so remote that the very bones of it, 
crumbling into ashes, might hardly be distinguished 
from the fibrous weeds of the golden shroud in which 
they had first been laid, fit moral to the deadly irony 
of human glory; long after, when the rise and fall of 
Ludovico Sforza, ripe achievement of his house and race, 
were already grown a tale for the wind to sob and 
whisper through lonely keyholes of a winter's night, 
there survived in Lombard legend the story of a mar- 
vellous boy, who, coming to earth and Milan once upon 
a time with some strange message of Christ in Arcady, 
had taken the winter in men's hearts with a brief St. 
Martin's summer of delight, and had so, in the bright 
morning of his promise, been snatched back to the 
heaven's nursery from which he had estrayed, leaving 
faint echoes of divinity in his wake. It whispered of a 
tomb, to which old tyranny had consigned this embodied 
angel, found emptied, like its sacred prototype's ; and of 
the awe thereat which had fallen on its searchers. A 
fable, scared away at first in the strenuous roar of Time 
struggling for the mastery of great events ; yet, in the 
later days of peace, still to be heard, very faint and far 
like a lark's song, dropping from the clouds. 

Sweet music, but a fable ; and therefore more potent 
than reality to move men's hearts. Beatitudes are pro- 
nounced on things less tangible. Had Bernardo preached 



a creed more orthodox, he had been at this day a 
calendared saint on the strength of it Bot he had only 
interpreted the homan Christ to a people his prince and 
comrade had wrought to redeem. 

There had been those who — unless crushed under the 
fall of the tyranny which had sustained them — might 
have nipped the legend at its sprouting ; telling how, on 
the night of that first dark and dire confusion, a cavalier, 
taking advantage of the brief anarchy that reigned, had 
appeared, with a force of his adherents, before the provost- 
marshal of that date, and had demanded of his hands 
the body of the martyred boy ; how, kissing and wrapping 
the poor Corpse in a costly cloak, this cavalier had lifted 
it with giant strength to his pommel, and, dismissing his 
silent followers, had ridden forth with his burden into the 
snowy darkness of the plains ; how, in the ghostly dawn 
of a winter's morning, there had broken tears and wailing 
from a spectral throng gathered about the portal of an 
abbey in the distant hills ; how, when presently the 
spring came with music of birds and gushing waters, 
there were no turves so green, no daisies so lush and 
fearless in all the monastic God's-acre, as those which the 
heart-stricken sorrow and tenderness of a newly received 
brother had brought to cover the grave of one, the 
youngest and most innocent of all the silent community 
gathered thereto. 

God rest thee, Carlo I Peace to thy faithful, passionate 

An imperishable love, whose fruits, descended from 
that ancient stock, we eat to-day. 

But the body of the Fool, flung into a pit, was the 
carrion which first enriched its roots. 

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General Literature 31 

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32 Messrs. Methuen's Catalogue 

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Fiction 33 


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34 Messrs. Methubn's Catalogue 

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Fiction 37 

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Fiction 39 

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Encouraged by the great and steady sale of their Sixpenny Novels, Messrs. Methuen havie 
determined to issue a new series of fiction at a low price under the title of ' Methujsn's Shilling 
Novels.' These books are well printed and well bound in ciothf and the excellence of their 
quality may be gauged from the names of those authors who contribute the early volumes of 
tne series. 

Messrs. Methuen would point out that the books are as good and as long as a sjx shilling 
novel, that they are bound in cloth and not in paper, and that their price is One Shilling net. 
They feel sure that the public will appreciate such good and cheap literature, and the books can 
be seen at all good booksellers. 
The first volumes are — 

Adeline Senreant. A GREAT lady. 

Richard Marsh, marvels and mysteries. 

Tom Gallon, rickerby's folly. 

H. B. Sforriott-Watson. the skirts of happy chance. 

Bullock (Shan P.). the barrys. 

the charmers. 

Gi8sing<(}eorge). the CROWN OF life. 

Frandl(M. E.). Miss erin. 

su^teiaud (Dachess of), one hour and the next. 

Burton (J. Bloundene). across the salt seas. 

OlipBant (Mrs.), the prodigals. 

BaSbnr (Andrew), vengeance is mine. 

Messrs. Methuen's Catalogue 

B«n(I«bMU.ADtl>orar'Tb<:CaunuuTcklii, ' 

Sii3itan(L(a4EnkeM). marv uamiltoi 



Cobbui.a. K.) THE KING OF ANDAMAN. -^ 
ClUtOrd(Mr». W. K.) A WOMAN ALONF.. 

Books for Boys axA Oirls 

Cruvn 8iw. 31. 6rf. 
The Gittinc Wbll of Dohothv. By Mrs. 
W. K. Clifford. IllustnilHl by Gordon- 


Oklv a G 


Dog. By Edilh E. 

Th» Doctob of thb JuuEr. By H»ny 
rLBT>ETEit. ByLucuMaleL StcoHJ 

Tho Novels of Alexandre Dumas 

Pfirr 6dL DuKilt yeliimt, it. 

k:,;k«.. Asi.. 

Id the .bo 

_^HK Cob 

iCAN Bbothe 

-^ Geobdh. 

-^Csor-EnsOD Jacquot ; 


^SS^^""* *'""' 



Thi Sno 

^''thh'wbdoiho Gowm 




1. Loui) de 





H. Th= Man 

m Ihe 1,0 

The Con 


/Turn Fencing 




Colour by Fnok Adams. 3 

I000 Turn Odtlaw. 

by Frapk Adams, g 

by A. M. M<Lellan. 


Illuslnled in 

ti. &/. 

BUT by Munro 

^i Black Tulif. Iltustnud in Cotoor by 

_fiEOBCE5. IIlmtral«l in Colour by Monro On. 

%viNTV Ybabs Aftbk. Illunraled in Colour 
/ by Frank Adams, ji. 
/maurt. Itlusnaled io Colour by Gordon 

"The Castle 

Ccdourby Si 

■Act4. lilus 

T by Go'rdon Brownt. 

F Eppstbin. llluswawd in 

,led in Colour by Gordon 

Illnslraud in Colour by Frai