(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Romola"

N 




RO MO LA. 



7/ 



BY 



GEORGE ELIOT 



Xnw EDITION—COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME. 






CHICAGO AND NEW YORK : 

BELFOED, CLAEKE & CO 

1884. 



PRINTED AND BOUND BY 

DONOHUE & IIENNEBERRY, 

CHICAGO. 



PR 

m 
\ 



CONTEJSTTS 



PAGE 

Proem 5 

BOOK I. 
Chap. 

I. The Shipwrecked Stranger 13 

II. A Breakfast for Love 26 

III. The Barber's Shop 81 

IV, First Impressions 42 

V. The Blind Scholar and his Daughter - - - 45 

VI. Dawning Hopes 59 

VII. A Learned Squabble 74 

VIII. A Face in the Crowd 80 

IX. A Man's Ransom 92 

X. Under the Plane-Tree 100 

XL Tito's Dilemma Ill 

XII. The Prize is Nearly Grasped - - - - 115 

XIII. The Shadow of Nemesis 127 

XIV. The Peasants' Fair 134 

XV. The Dying Message 148 

XVI. A Florentine Joke 157 

XVII. Under the Loggia - - 170 

XVm. The Portrait 176 

XIX. The Old Man's Hope 182 

XX. The Day of the Betrothal - - - - - 186 

BOOK 11. 

XXL Florence Expects a Guest 196 

XXII. The Prisoners - - 203 

XXIII. After-Thoughts 211 

XXIV. Inside the Duomo 214 

XXV. Outside the Duomo 220 

XXVI. The Garment of Fear 225 

XXVII. The Young Wife 230 

XXVIII. The Painted Record 240 

XXIX. A Moment of Triumph 245 

XXX. The Avenger's Secret - 253 

XXXL Fruit is Seed -261 

XXXII. A Revelation 266 

XXXIIL Baldassarre Makes an xicquaintance - - - 276 

3 



4 CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

XXXIV. No Place for Repentance 284 

XXXV. What Florence was Thinking of - - - - 295 

XXXVI. Ariadne Discrowns Herself - - - - 299 

XXXVII. The Tabernacle Unlocked 309 

XXXVIII. The Black Marks Become Magical - - - 313 

XXXIX. A Supper in the Rucellai Gardens - - - - 320 

XL. An Arresting Voice 336 

XLI. Coming Back 344 

BOOK III. 

XLII. Romola in her Place - 348 

XLIII. The Unseen Madonna 355 

XLIV. The Visible Madonna 361 

XLV. At the Barber's Shop 367 

XL VI. By a Street Lamp ...---- 376 

XLVII. Check 384 

XLVIII. Counter-Check 387 

XLIX. The Pyramid of Vanities 393 

L. Tessa Abroad and at Home 399 

LI. Monna Brigida's Conversion . - - - 409 

LII. A Prophetess 414 

LIII. On San Miniato 420 

LIV. The Evening and the Morning - - - - 425 

LV. Waiting 429 

LVI. The Other Wife 432 

LVIL Why Tito was Safe 435 

LVIIL A Final Understanding 449 

LIX. Pleading 455 

LX. The Scaffold 464 

LXI. Drifting Away 470 

LXII. The Benediction 475 

LXIII. Ripening Schemes 479 

LXIV. The Prophet in his Cell - 490 

LXV. The Trial by Fire 498 

LXVI. A Mask of the Furies 506 

LXVII. Waiting by the River 510 

LXVIII. Romola's Waking 516 

LXIX. Homeward 526 

LXX. Meeting Again 529 

LXXI. The Confession 534 

LXXII. The Last Silence 540 

Epilogue 543 



ROMOLA. 



PROEM. 

More than three centuries and a half ago, in the mid 
spring-time of 1492, we are sure that the angel of the 
dawn, as he traveled with broad slow wing from the Levant 
to the Pillars of Hercules, and from the summits of the 
Caucasus across all the snowy Alpine ridges to the dark 
nakedness of the Western isles, saw nearly the same out- 
line of firm land and unstable sea — saw the same great 
mountain shadows on the same valleys as he has seen 
to-day — saw olive mounts, and pine forests, and the broad 
plains green with young corn or rain-freshened grass — saw 
the domes and spires of cities rising by the river-sides or 

L mingled with the sedge-like masts on the many-curved 
sea-coast, in the same spots where they rise to-day. And 
as the faint light of his course pierced into the dwellings 
of men, it fell, as now, on the rosy warmth of nestling 
children; on the haggard waking of sorrow and sickness; 
on the hasty uprising of the hard-handed laborer; and on 
the late sleep of the night-student, who had been ques- 
tioning the stars or the sages, or his own soul, for that 
hidden knowledge which would break through the barrier 
of man's brief life, and show its dark path, that seemed 
to bend no whither, to be an arc in an immeasurable cir cle 
of light and glory. The great river-courses which have 
shaped the lives of men have hardly changed; and those 
other streams, the life-currents that ebb and flow in human 
.hearts, pulsate to the same great needs, the same great 
/l^ves and terrors. As our thought follows close in tlie 
slow wake of the dawn, we are impressed with the broad 
sameness of the human lot^ which never alters in the main 
headings of its history — hunger and labor, seed-time and 
harvest, love and death. 

Even if, instead of following the dim daybreak, our 
imagination pauses on a certain historical spot and awaits 

5 



6 ROMOLA. 

the fuller morning, we may see a world-famous city, which 
has hardly changed its outline since the days of Columbus, 
seeming to stand as an almost unviolated symbol, amidst 
the flux of human things, to remind us that we still 
resemble the men of the past more than we differ from 
them, as the great mechanical principles on which those 
domes and towers were raised must make a likeness in 
human building that will be broader and deeper than all 
possible change. And doubtless, if the spirit of a Floren- 
tine citizen, whose eyes were closed for the last time while 
Columbus was still waiting and arguing for the three poor 
vessels with which he was to set sail from the port of 
Palos, could return from the shades and pause where our 
thought is pausing, he would believe that there must 
still be fellowshiji and understanding for him among the 
inheritors of his birthplace. 

Let us suppose that such a Shade has been permitted to 
revisit the glimpses of the golden morning, and is standing 
once more on the famous hill of San Miniato, which over- 
looks Florence from the south. 

The Spirit is clothed in his habit as he lived: the folds 
of his well-lined black silk garment or lucco hang in grave 
unbroken lines from neck to ankle; his plain cloth cap, 
with its becchetto, or long hanging strip of drapery^ to serve 
as a scarf in case of need, surmounts a penetrating face, 
not, perhaps, verj handsome, but with a firm, well-cut 
mouth, kept distinctly human by a close-shaven lip and 
chin. It is a face charged with memories of a keen and 
various life passed below there on the banks of the gleam- 
ing river; and as he looks at the scene before him. the 
sense of familiarity is so much stronger than the percep- 
tion of change, that he thinks it might be possible to 
descend once more amongst the streets, and take up that 
busy life Avhere he left it. For it is not only the moun- 
tains and the westward-bending river that he recognizes; 
not only the dark sides of Mount Morello opposite to him, 
and the long valley of the Arno that seems to stretch its 
gray low-tufted luxuriance to the far-off ridges of Carrara; 
and the steep height of Fiesole, with its crown of monastic 
walls and cypresses; and all the green and gray slopes 
sprinkled with villas which he can name as he looks at 
them. He sees other familiar objects much closer to his 
daily walks. For though he misses the seventy or more 
towers that once surmounted the walls, and encircled the 
city as with a regal diadem, his eyes will not dwell on that 



PROEM. 7 

blank; they are drawn irresistibly to the unique tower 
springing, like a tall flower-stem drawn toward the sun, 
from the square turreted mass of the Old Palace in the 
very heart of the city — the tower that looks none the 
worse for the four centuries that have passed since he used 
to walk under it. The great dome too, greatest in the 
world, which, in his early boyhood, had been only a 
daring thought in the mind of a small, quick-eyed man 
— there it raises its large curves still, eclipsing the hills. 
And the well-known bell-towers — Giotto's, with its dis- 
tant hint of rich color, and the graceful-spired Badia, 
and the rest — he looked at them all from the shoulder 
of his nurse. 

'^Surely," he thinks, '^ Florence can still ring her bells 
with the solemn hammer-sound that used to beat on the 
hearts of her citizens and strike out the fire there. And 
here, on the right, stands the long dark mass of Santa 
Croce, where we buried our famous dead, laying the laurel 
on their cold brows and fanning them with the breath of 
praise and of banners. But Santa Croce had no spire 
then: we Florentines were too full of great building proj- 
ects to carry them all out in stone and marble; we had 
our frescoes and our shrines to pay for, not to speak of 
rapacious condottieri, bribed royalty, and purchased ter- 
ritories, and our fa9ades and spires must needs wait. But 
what architect can the Frati Minori* have employed to 
build that spire for them ? If it had been built in my 
day, Filippo Brunelleschi or Michelozzo would have 
devised something of another fashion than that — some- 
thing worthy to crown the church of Arnolfo.^' — ^ 

At this the Spirit, with a sigh, lets his eyes travel onto the \ 
city walls, and now he dwells on the change there with 
wonder at these modern times. Why have five out of the 
eleven convenient gates been closed? And why, above all, 
should the towers have been leveled that were once a glory 
and defense? Is the world become so peaceful, then, and 
do Florentines dwell in such harmony, that there are no 
longer conspiracies to bring ambitious exiles home again 
with armed bands at their back? These are difficult ques- 
tions: it is easier and pleasanter to recognize the old than 
]_to account for the new. And there flows Arno, with its 
bridges just where they used to be — the Ponte Vecchio, 
least like other bridges in the world, laden with the same 
quaint shops where our Spirit remembers lingering a little 

♦The Franciscans. 



8 ROMOLA. 

on his way perhaps to look at the progress of that great 
palace which Messer Luca Pitti had set a building with 
huge stones got from the Hill of Bogoli * close behind, or 
perhaps to transact a little business with the cloth-dressers 
in Oltrarno. The exorbitant line of the Pitti roof is hidden 
from San Miniato; but the yearning of the old Florentine 
is not to see Messer Luca's too ambitious palace which he 
built unto himself; it is to be down among those narrow 
streets and busy humming Piazze where he inherited the 
eager life of his fathers. Is not the anxious voting with 
black and white beans still going on down there? Who 
are the Priori in these months, eating soberly-regulated 
official dinners in the Palazzo Vecchio, with removes of 
tripe and boiled partridges, seasoned by practical jokes 
against the ill-fated butt among those potent signers? Are 
not the significant banners still hung from the windows — 
still distributed with decent pomp under Orcagna's Loggia 
every two months? 

Life had its zest for the old Florentine when he, too, trod 
the marble steps and shared in those dignities. His poli- 
tics had an area as wide as his trade, which stretched from 
Syria to Britain, but they had also the passionate intensity, 
and the detailed practical interest, which could belong 
only to a narrow scene of corporate action; only to the 
members of a community shut in close by the hills and by 
w^alls of six miles' circuit, where men knew each other as 
they passed in the street, set their eyes every day on the 
memorials of their commonwealth, and were conscious of 
having not simply the right to vote, but the chance of 
being voted for. He loved his honors and his gains, the 
business of his counting-house, of his guild, of the public 
council-chamber; he loved his enmities too, and fingered 
the w^hite bean which was to keep a hated name out of the 
horsa with more complacency than if it had been a golden 
florin. He loved to strengthen his family by a good 
alliance, and went home with a triumjihant light in his eyes 
after concluding a satisfactory marriage for his son or 
daughter under his favorite loggia in the evening cool; he 
loved his game at chess under that same loggia, and his 
biting jest, and even his coarse joke, as not beneath the 
dignity of a man eligible for the highest magistracy. He 
had gained an insight into all sorts of affairs at home 
and abroad: he had been of the ''Ten'' who managed the 
war department, of the ''Eight" who attended to home 

*No\v Boboli. 



I 



1»R0EM. 



discipline, of the Priori or Signori who were the heacis of 
the executive government; he had even risen to the 
supreme office of Gonfaloniere; he had made one in embas- 
sies to the Pope and to the Venetians; and he had been 
commissary to the hired army of the Ropnblic, dircting 
the inglorious bloodless battles in which no man died of 
brave breast wounds — virtuosi colpi — but only of casual 
falls and tramplings. And in this way he had learned to 
distrust men without bitterness; looking on life mainly 
as a game of skill, but not dead to traditions of heroism 
and clean-handed honor. For the human soul is hospi- 
table, and will entertain conflicting sentiments and contra- 
dictory opinions with much impartiality. It was his pride 
besides, that he was duly tinctured with the learning of 
his age, and judged not altogether with the vulgar, but in 
harmony with the ancients: he, too, in his prime, had 
been eager for the most correct manuscripts, and had paid 
many florins for antique vases and for disinterred busts of 
the ancient immortals — some, perhaps, truncis narihus, 
wanting as to the nose, but not the less authentic; and in 
his old age he had made haste to look at the first sheets 
of that fine Homer which was among the early glories of 
the Florentine press. But he had not, for all that, neg- 
lected to hang up a waxen image or double of himself 
under the protection of the Madonna Annunziata, or to do 
penance for his sins in large gifts to the shrines of saints 
whose lives had not been modeled on the study of the 
classics; he had not even neglected making liberal bequests 
toward buildings for the Frati, against whom he had 
leveled many a jest. 

For the Unseen Powers were mighty. Who knew — who 
was sure — that there was any name given to them behind 
which there was no angry force to be appeased, no inter- 
cessory pity to be won? Were not gems medicinal, though 
they only pressed the finger? Were not all things charged 
with occult virtues? Lucretius might be right — he was 
an ancient, and a great poet; Luigi Pulci, too, who was 
suspected of not believing anything from the roof upward 
{dal tetto in sit), had very much the air of being right over 
the supper-table, when the wine and jests were circulating 
fast, though he was only a poet in the vulgar tongue. 
There were even learned personages who maintained that 
Aristotle, wisest of men (unless, indeed, Plato were wiser?) 
was a thoroughly irreligious philosopher; and a liberal 
scholar must entertain all speculations. But the negatives 



10 ROMOLA. 

might, after all, prove false; nay, seemed manifestly false, 
as the circling hours swept past him, and turned round 
with graver faces. For had not the world become Christ- 
ian? Had he not been baptized in San Giovanni, where 
the dome is awful with the symbols of coming judgment, 
and where the altar bears a crucified Image disturbing to 
perfect complacency in one^s self and the world? Our 
resuscitated Spirit was not a pagan philosopher, nor a 
philosophizing pagan poet, but a man of the fifteenth 
century, inheriting its strange web of belief and unbelief; 
of Epicurean levity and fetichistic dread ; of pedantic 
impossible ethics uttered by rote, and crude passions acted 
out with childish impulsiveness; of inclination toward a 
self-indulgent paganism, and inevitable subjection to that 
human conscience which, in the unrest of a new growth, 
was filling the air with strange prophecies and presenti- 
ments. 

He had smiled, perhaps, and shaken his head dubiously, 
as he heard simple folk talk of a Pope Angelico, who was 
to come by-and-by and bring in a new order of things, to 
purify the Church fro^n simony, and the lives of the 
clergy from scandal — a state of affairs too different from 
what existed under Innocent VIII. for a shrewd merchant 
and politician to regard the prospect as worthy of enter- 
ing into his calculations. But he felt the evils of the 
time, nevertheless; for he was a man of public spirit, and 
public spirit can never be wholly immoral, since its essence 
IS care for a common good. That very Quaresima or LentH 
of 1492 in which he died, still in his erect old age, he had/ 
listened in San Lorenzo, not without a mixture of satis- 
faction, to the preaching of a Dominican Friar, named 
Girolamo Savonaxola. who denounced with a rare boldness 
the worldliness and vicious habits of the clergy, and 
insisted on the duty of Christian men not to live for their 
own ease when wrong was triumphing in high places, and 
not to spend their wealth in outward pomp even in the 
churches, when their fellow-citizens were suffering from 
want and sickness. The Frate carried his doctrine rather 
too far for elderly ears; yet it was a memorable thing to 
see a preacher move his audience to such a pitch that the 

^ women even took off their ornaments, and delivered them 

[up to be sold for the benefit of the needy. 

] ** He was a noteworthy man, that Prior of San Marco," 

S thinks our Spirit; *' somewhat arrogant and extreme, per- 
haps, especially in his denunciations of speedy vengeance. 



I 



PROEM. 11 



Ah, Idclio non paga il Sabafo* — the wages of men's sins 
often linger in their payment, and I myself saw much 
established wickedness of long-standing prosperity. But 
a Frate Predicatore who wg^nted to move the people — how 
could he be moderate? He might haye been a little less . 
defiant and curt, though, to Lorenzo de Medici, whose 1 

family had been the very makers of San Marco: was that | 

quarrel ever made up? And our Lorenzo himself, with 
the dim outward eyes and the subtle inward vision, did he 
get over that illness at Careggi? It was but a sad, uneasy- 
looking face that he would carry out of the world which 
had given him so much, and there were strong suspicions 
that his handsome son would play the part of Rehoboam. 
How has it all turned out? Which party is likely to be 
banished and have its houses sacked just now? Is there 
any successor of the incomparable Lorenzo, to whom the 
great Turk is so gracious as to send over presents of rare 
animals, rare relics, rare manuscripts, or fugitive enemies, 
suited to the tastes of a Christian Magnifico who is at once 
lettered and devout — and also slightly vindictive? And 
what famous scholar is dictating the Latin letters of the 
Republic — what fiery philosopher is lecturing on Dante in 
the Duomo, and going home to write bitter invectives 
against the father and mother of the bad critic who may 
have found fault with his classical spelling? Are our 
wiser heads leaning toward alliance with the Pope and 
the Regno, f or are they rather inclining their ears to the 
orators of France and of Milan? 

'' There is knowledge of these things to be had in the 
streets below, on the beloved marmi in front of the 
churches and under the sheltering Loggie, where surely 
our citizens have still their gossip and debates, their bitter 
and merry jests as of old. For are not the well-remem- 
bered buildings all there? The changes have not been so" 
great in those uncounted years. I will go down and hear — 
I will tread the familiar pavement, and hear once again 
the^ speech of Florentines.^' 

"*Go not doAvn, good Spirit! for the changes are great and 
the speech of Florentines would sound as a riddle in youi 
ears. Or, if you go, mingle with no politicians on the 
marmi, or elsewhere; ask no questions about trade in the 
Calimara; confuse yourself with no inquiries into scholar- 
ship, official or monastic. Only look at the sunlight and 

*" God does not pay on a Saturday." 

+The name given to Naples by way of distinction among the Italian states. 



12 ROMOLA 

shadows on the grand walls that were built solidly, and 
have endured in their grandeur; look at the faces of the 
little children, making another sunlight amid the shadows 
of age; look, if you will, into the churches, and hear the 
same chants, see the same images as of old — the images of 
willing anguish for a great end, of beneficent love and 
ascending glory; see upturned living faces and lips moving 
to the old prayers for help. These things have not changed. 
The sunlight and shadows bring their old beauty and 
waken the old heart-strains at morning, noon, and even- 
tide; the little children are still the symbol of the eternal 
marriage between love and duty; and men still yearn for 
the reign of peace and righteousness — still own that life to 

i, be the highest which is a conscious voluntary sacrifice. 

1 For the Pope Angelico is not come yet. 



BOOK L 



CHAPTEE I. 

THE SHIPWRECKED STRANGER. 

The Log gia de Cerchi stood in the heart of old Florence, 
within aTlabyrinthof narrow streets behind the Badia, now 
rarely threaded by the stranger, unless in a dubious search 
for a certain severely simple doorplace, bearing this inscrip- 
tion : 

QUI NACQUE IL DIVINO POETA. 

To the ear of Dante, the same streets rang with the shout 
and clash of fierce battle between rival families; but in the 
fifteenth century, they were only noisy with the unhistor- 
ical quarrels and broad jests of wool-carders in the cloth- 
producing quarters of San Martino and Garbo. 

Under this loggia, in the early morning of the ninth of 
April, 1492, two men had their eyes fixed on each other: 
one was stooping slightly, and looking downward with the 
scrutiny of curiosity; the other, lying on the pavement, 
was looking upward with the startled gaze of a suddenly- 
awakened dreamer. 

The standing figure was the first to speak. He was a 
gray-haired, broad-shouldered man, of the type which, in 
Tuscan phrase, is moulded with the fist and polished with 
the pickaxe; but the self-important gravity which had 
written itself out in the deep lines about his brow and 
mouth seemed intended to correct any contemptuous 
inferences from the hasty workmanship which Nature had 
bestowed on his exterior. He had deposited a large well- 
filled bag, made of skins, on the pavement, and before him 
hung a peddlar's basket, garnished partly with small 
woman^s-ware, such as thread and pins, and partly with 
fragments of glass, which had probably been taken in 
exchange for those commodities. 

*^' Young man,^' he said, pointiag to a ring on the finger 
of the reclining figure, '* when your chin has got a stilfer 
crop on it, you^ll know better than to take your nap in 

13 



14 ROMOLA. 

street corners with a ring like that on your forefinger. By 
the holy Vangels! if it had been anybody but me standing 

over you two minutes ago but Bratti Ferravecchi is not 

the man to steal. The cat couldn't eat her mouse if she 
didn't catch it alive, and Bratti couldn't relish gain if it 
had no taste of a bargain. Why, young man, one San 
Giovanni, three years ago, the Saint sent a dead body in 
my way — a blind beggar, with his cap well lined v>ith 
pieces- but, if you'll believe me, my stomach turned 
against the money I'd never bargained for, till it came into 
my head that San Giovanni owed me the pieces for what I 
spend yearly at the Festa; besides, I buried the body and 
paid for a mass — and so I saw it was a fair bargain. But 
how comes a young man like you, with the face of Messer 
San Michele, to be sleeping on a stone bed with the^wmcT 
for a curtain?" 

The deep guttural sounds of the speaker were scarcely 
intelligible to the newly-waked, bewildered listener, but 
he understood the action of pointing to his ring: he 
looked down at it, and, with a half-automatic obedience 
to the warning, took it off and thrust it within his doub- 
let, rising at the same time and stretching himself. 

"Your tunic and hose match ill with that jewel, young 
man," said Bratti, deliberately. "Anybody might say 
the saints had sent you a dead body; but if you took the 
jewels, I hope you buried him — and you can afford a 
mass or two for him into the bargain." 

Something like a painful thrill appeared to dart through 
the frame of the listener, and arrest the careless stretch- 
ing of his arms and chest. For an instant he turned on 
Bratti with a sharp frown; but he immediately recovered 
an air of indifference, took off the red Levantine cap 
which hung like a great purse over his left ear, pushed 
back his long dark -brown curls, and glancing at his dress, 
said, smilingly — 

"You speak truth, friend: my garments are as weather- 
stained as an old sail, and they are not old, either, only, 
like an old sail, they have had a sprinkling of the sea as 
well as the rain. The fact is, I'm a stranger in Florence, 
and when I came in footsore last night I preferred fling- 
ing myself in a corner of this hospitable porch to huntiiig 
any longer for a chance hostelry, which might turn out to 
be a nest of blood-suckers of more sorts than one." 

"A stranger, in good sooth," said Bratti, "for the 
words come all melting out of your throat, so that a 



THE SHIPWBECKED STEANGER. 15 

Christian and a Florentine can't tell a hook from a hanger. 
But you're not from Genoa? More likely from Venice, 
by the cut of your clothes." 

*'At this present moment/' said the stranger, smiling, 
*^it is of less importance where I come from than where 
I can go to for a mouthful of breakfast. This city of 
yours turns a grim look on me just here: can you show 
me the way to a more lively quarter, where I can get a 
meal and a lodging?" 

''That I can," said Bratti, ''and it is your good 
fortune, young man, that I have hap]iened to be walking 
m from Eovezzano this morning, and turned out of mj 
way to Mercato Vecchio to say an Ave at the Badia. 
That, I say, is your good fortune. But it remains to be 
seen what is my profit in the matter. Nothing for 
nothing, young man. If I show you the way to Mercato 
Vecchio, you'll swear by your patron saint to let me have 
the bidding for that stained suit of yours, when you set 
up a better — as doubtless you will." 

"Agreed, by San Ni ccolo ," said the other, laughing. 
"But now let us^et off to this said Mercato, for I feel 
the want of a better lining to this doublet of mine which 
you are coveting." 

"Coveting? Nay," said Bratti, heaving his bag on his 
back and setting out. But he broke off in his reply, and 
burst out in loud, harsh tones, not unlike the creaking 
and grating of a cartwheel: "Chi ahbaratta — baratta — 
bWatta — chi abbaratta cenci e vetri — bWatta ferri vec- 

" It's worth but little," he said presently, relapsing into 
his conversational tone. "Hose and altogether, your 
clothes are worth butlittle. Still, if you've a mind to set 
yourself up with a lute worth more than any new one, or 
with a sword that's been worn by a Eidolfi, or with a pater- 
noster of the best mode, / could let yon have a great bar- 
gain, by making an allowance for the clothes; for simple 
as I stand here, I've got the best-furnished shop in the 
Ferravecchi, and it's close by the Mercato. The Virgin be 
praised! it's not a pumpkin I carry on my shoulders. But 
I don't stay caged in my shop all day: I've got a wife and 
a raven to stay at home and mind the stock. Chi abba- 
ratta — baratta — Vratta 9 * * * And now, young man, 
where do you come from, and what's your business in 
Florence?" 

♦ " Who wants to exchange rags, broken glass, or old iron ? " 



16 ROMOLA. 

" I thought you liked nothing that came to you without 
a bargain," said the stranger. ^' You've offered me nothing 
yet in exchange for that information." 

^' Well, well; a Florentine doesn't mind bidding a fair 
price for news: it stays the stomach a little, though he may 
win no hose by it. If I take you to the prettiest damsel 
in the Mercato to get a cup of milk — that will be a fair 
bargain." 

** Nay; I can find her myself, if she be really in the Mer- 
cato; for pretty heads are apt to look forth of doors and 
windows. No, no. Besides a sharp trader, like you, ought 
to know that he who bids for nuts and news, may chance 
to find them hollow." 

"Ah! young man,' said Bratti, with a sideway glance 
of some admiration, "You were not born of a Sunday — 
the salt-shops were open when you came into the world. 
You're not a Hebrew, eh? — come from Spain or Naples, 
eh? Let me tell you the Frati Minori are trying to make 
Florence as hot as Spain for those dogs of hell that want 
to get all the profit of usury to themselves and leave none 
for Christians; and when you walk the Calimara with a 
piece of yellow cloth in your cap, it will spoil your beauty 
more than a sword-cut across that smooth olive cheek of 
yours. — Abharatta, baratta — chi abbaratta? — I tell 3^ou, 
young man, gray cloth is against yellow cloth; and there's 
as much gray cloth in Florence as would make a gown and 
cowl for the^Duomo, and there's not so much yellow cloth 
as would make hose for Saint Christopher — blessed be his 
name, and send me a sight of him this day! — Abbaratta, 
baratta, baratta — chi abbaratta 9 " 

"All that is very amusing information you are parting 
with for nothing," said the stranger, rather scornfully; but 
it happens not to concern me. I am no Hebrew." 

"See, now!" said Bratti, triumphantly; I've made a 
good bargain with mere words. I've made you tell me 
something, young man, though you're as hard to hold as 
a lamprey. San Giovanni be praised! a blind Florentine 
is a match for two one-eyed men. But here we are in the 
Mercato." 

They had now emerged from the narrow streets into a 

3road piazza, known to the elder Florentine writers as the 

mercato Vecchio, or the old Market. This piazza, though 

it had been the scene of a provision-market from time 

immemorial, and may, perhaps, says fond imagination, be 

the very spot to which the Fesulean ancestors of the Flor- 



THE SHIPWRECKED STRANGER. 17 

entiues descended from their high fastness to traffic with 
the rustic population of the valley, had not been shunned 
as a place of residence by Florentine wealty In the early 
decades of the fifteenth century, which was now near its 
end, the - Medici and other powerful families of the popo- 
lani grassi, or commercial nobility, had their houses 
there, not perhaps finding their ears much olfended by the 
loud roar of mingled dialects, or their eyes much shocked 
by the butchers' stalls, which the old poet Antonio Pucci 
accounts a chief glory, or dignita, of a market that, in 
]iis esteem, eclipsed the markets of all the earth besides. 
But the glory of mutton and veal (well attested to be the 
flesh of the right animals; for were not the skins, with 
the heads attached duly displayed, according to the decree 
of the Signoria?) was just now wanting to the Mercato, 
the time of Lent not being yet over. The proud corpora- 
tion, or '^^ Art," of butchers was in abeyance, and it was 
the great harvest-time of the market-gardeners, the 
cheesemongers, the venders of macaroni, corn, eggs, milk, 
and dried fruits: a change which was apt to make the 
women's voices predominant in the chorus. But in all 
seasons there was the experimental ringing of pots and 
pans, the clinking of the money-changers, the tempting 
offers of cheapness at the old-clothes stalls, the challenges 
of the dicers, the vaunting of new linens and woolens, 
of excellent wooden- ware, kettles, and frying-pans; there 
was the choking of the narrow inlets with mules and 
carts together with much uncomplimentary remonstrance 
in terms remarkably identical with the insults in use by 
the gentler sex of the present day, under the same 
imbrowning and heating circumstances. Ladies and gen- 
tlemen, who came to market, looked on at a larger amount 
of amateur fighting than could easily be seen in these 
later times, and beheld more revolting rags, beggary, and 
rascaldom, than modern householders could well picture 
to themselves. As the day wore on, the hideous drama of 
the gaming-house might be seen here by any chance open- 
air spectator — the quivering eagerness, the blank despair, 
the sobs, the blasphemy, and the blows: — 

" E vedesi chi perde con gran soffi, 
E bestemmiar coUa mano alia mascella, 
E ricever e dar di molti ingoffl." 

But still there was the relief of prettier sights: there 
were brood-rabbits, not less innocent and astonished than 
those of our own period; there were doves and singing- 



18 ROMOLA. 

birds to be bought as presents for the children; there 
were even kittens for sale, and here and there a handsome 
gattuccio, or *' Tom/' with the highest character for mous- 
ing; and, better than all; there were young, softly-rounded 
cheeks and bright eyes, freshened by the start from the 
far-off castello* at daybreak, not to speak of older faces 
with the unfading charm of honest goodwill in them, such 
as are never quite wanting in scenes of human industry. 
vAnd high on a pillar in the center of the place — a venera- 
ble pillar, fetched from tlie church of San Giovanni — 
stood Ponatello's stone stat ue of Plenty, witli""irfCitnTtiiin 
near it7 where, says old Fucci, the good wives of the mar- 
ket freshened their utensils, and their throats also; not 
because they were unable to buy wine, but because they 
wished to save the money for their liusban^ 

But on this particular morning a sudden change seemed 
to have come over the face of the market. The deschi, or 
stalls, were indeed partly dressed with their various com- 
modities, and already there were purchasers assembled, on 
the alert to secure the finest, freshest vegetables and the 
most unexceptionable butter. But when Bratti and his 
companion entered the piazza, it appeared that some com- 
mon preoccupation had for the moment distracted the 
attention both of buyers and sellers from their proper 
business. Most of the traders had turned their backs on 
their goods, and had joined the knots of talkers who were 
concentrating themselves at different points in the piazza. 
A vendor of old clothes, in the act of hanging out a pair 
of long hose, had distractedly hung them round his neck 
in his eagerness to join the nearest group; an oratorical 
cheesemonger, with a piece of cheese in one hand and a 
knife in the other, was incautiously making notes of his 
emphatic pauses on that excelleht specimen of marzolino; 
and elderly market-women, with their egg-baskets in a 
dangerously oblique position, contributed a wailing fugue 
invocation. 

In this general distraction, the Florentine boys, who 
were never wanting in any street scene, and were of an 
especially mischievous sort — as who should say, very sour 
crabs indeed — saw a great opportunity. Some made a rush 
at the nuts and dried figs, others preferred the farinaceous 
delicacies at the cooked provision stalls — delicacies to which 
certain four-footed dogs also, who had learned to take 
kindly to Lenten fare, applied a discriminating nostril, 

♦ WaUed viUage. 



THE SHIPWRECKED STKANGER. 19 

and then disappeared with much rapidity under the nearest 
shelter; while the mules, not without some kicking and 
plunging among impeding baskets, were stretching their 
muzzles toward the aromatic green-meat. 

^^Diavolo!" said Bratti, as he and his companion cam.e, 
quite unnoticed upon the noisy scene; ^'^the Mercato is 
gone as mad as if the most Holy Father had excommuni- 
cated us again. I must knoAv what this is. But never 
fear: it seems a thousand years to you till you see the 
pretty Tessa, and get your cup of milk; but keep hold of 
me, and Pll hold to my bargain. Remember, Fm to have 
the first bid for your suit, specially for the hose, which, 
with all their stains, are the best panno cli garbo — as good 
as ruined, though, with mud and weather stains." 

*^01a, MonnaTrecca," Bratti proceeded, turning toward 
an old woman on the outside of the nearest group, who 
for the moment had suspended her wail to listen, and 
shouting close in her ear: "Here are the mules upsetting 
all your bunches of parsley: is the world coming to an end, 
then?" 

*^Monna Trecca" (equivalent to "Dame Greengrocer") 
turned round at this unexpected trumpeting in her right 
ear, with a half-fierce, half-bewildered look, first at the 
speaker, then at her disarranged commodities, and then at 
the speaker again. 

"A bad Easter and a bad year to you, and may you die 
by the sword!" she burst out, rushing toward her stall, 
but directing this first volley of her wrath against Bratti, 
who, without heeding the malediction, quietly slipped into 
her place, within hearing of the narrative which had been 
absorbing her attention; making a sign at the same time to 
the young stranger to keep near him. 

"I tell you I saw it myself," said a fat man, with a 
bunch of newly-purchased leeks in his hand. "I was in 
Sant a Maria Novella , and saw it myself. The woman 
started up ana threw out her arms, and cried out and said 
she saw a hj^Jrn]! with ^f^^j hor^'L coming down on the 
church to crush it. I saw it myself.^' 

"Saw what, Goro?" said a man of slim figure, whose 
eye twinkled rather roguishly. He wore a close jerkin, a 
skull-cap lodged carelessly over his left ear as if it had 
fallen there by chance, a delicate linen apron tucked up on 
one side, and a razor stuck in his belt. "Saw the bull, or 
only the woman?" 

^' Why, the woman, to bo sure; but it's all one,, 7ni pare: 



20 ROMOLA. 

it doesn't alter the meaning — va ! " answered the fat man, 
with some contempt. 

*^ Meaning? no, no; that's clear enough," said several 
voices at once, and then followed a confusion of tongues, 
in which ^'Lights shooting over San Loi^enzo fpr^ tliree 
nights altogether^^'^^^ ^Thunder in £He~~cIear starlight " — 
^^ Lantern of th e Duomo struck wjtli Jhe sword of St. 
Michael "— '^ /^rtlZe"''*—*^ Si" smashed "— ^^Tlons leamig 
eaclTTother to pieces" — "Ah! and they might well" — 
*' Botof cadiito in Santissima Nunziata!" — "Died like 
the best of Christians" — "God will have pardoned him" 
— were often-repeated phrases, which shot across each other 
like storm-driven hailstones, each speaker feeling rather 
the necessity of utterance than of finding a listener. Per- 
haps the only silent members of the group were Bratti, 
who, as a new-comer, was busy in mentally piecing together 
the flying fragments of information; the man of the razor; 
and a thin-lipped, eager-looking personage in spectacles, 
wearing a pen-and-ink case at his belt. 

" Ebbene, Nello," said Bratti, skirting the group till he 
was within hearing of the barber. "It appears the Mag- 
nifico is dead — rest his soul! — and the price of wax will 
rise?" 

"Even as you say," answered Nello; and then added, 
with an air of extra gravity, but with marvelous rapidity, 
"and his waxen image in the Nunziata fell at the same 
moment, they say; or at some other time, whenever it 
pleases the Frati Serviti, who know best. And several 
cows and women have had still-born calves this Quaresima; 
and for the bad eggs that have been broken since the 
Carnival, nobody has counted tliem. AhJ a great man — a 
^rea^politicianr-^L^i'ejater poet than Dante. And yef the 
cupola didn't fall, only the lantern. Che miracolof" 

A sharp and lengthened "Pst!" was suddenly heard 
darting across the pelting storm of gutturals. It came 
from the pale man in spectacles, and had the effect he 
intended; for the noise ceased, and all eyes in the group 
were fixed on him with a look of expectation. 

"'Tis well said you Florentines are blind," he began, in 
an incisive high voice. " It appears to me, you need noth- 
ing but a diet of hay to make cattle of you. What! do 
you thin k th_e__ death of Lorenzo is the scourge God has 

* Arms of the Medici. 

+ A votive imag-e of Lorenzo, in wax, hung up in the church of the 
Annunziata, supposed to have fallen at the time of his death. Boto is popu- 
Vtr Tuscan for Voto, 



THE SHIPWRECKED STRANGER. 21 

pre pared for Florence ? Go! yon are sparrows chattering 
praise over the dead hawk. What! a man who was trying 
to slip a noose over every neck in the Republic that he 
might tighten at his pleasure! You like that; you like to 

have the pWfmyi ^f j n^ y magLsifrqtftft , iurnpfl inio f>TnRfthl 
work . an3r no man to usp thp nVh t s nf ^ nifi^f^n nnlftss he 
is a medicean . That is what is meant by qualification 
now: netto di specchio* no longer means that a man pays 
his dues to the Eepublic: it means that he'll wink at rob- 
bery of the people's money — at robbery of their daughters' 
dowries; that he'll play the chamberer and the philosopher 
by turns — listen to bawdy songs at the Carnival and cry 
*Bellissimi!' — and listen to sacred lauds and cry again 
' Bellissimi!' But this is what you love: you grumble and 
raise a riot over your quattrini to7ic/ii"( white farthings); 
''but ypji tak e no notice when the pub ljp. frPflfinry Iims gnf. 
a hole in the bottom for the gold to run into Lorenzo's 
draiiia^ You like to pay for footmen to walk before and 
behind one of your citizens, that he may be affable and 
condescending to you. ' See what a tall Pisan we keep,' 
say you, * to march before him with the drawn sword flash- 
ing in our eyes! — and yet Lorenzo smiles at us. What 
goodness! ' And you think the death of a man, who would 
soon have saddled and bridled you as the Sforza saddled 
and bridled Milan — you think his death is the scourge God 
is warning you of by portents. I tell you there is another 
sort of scourge in the ^jy. " — uo o-sr- v .^ ^ ..♦ 

''Nay, nay, Ser Cioni, keep astride your*^ politics, and 
never mount your prophecy; politics is the better horse," 
said Nello. "But if you talk of portents, what portent 
can be greater than a pious notary? Balaam's ass was 
nothing to it." 

"Ay, but a notary out of work, with his inkbottle dry," 
said another bystander, very much out at elbows. " Better 
don a cowl at once, Ser Cioni; everybody will believe in 
your fasting." 

The notary turned and left the group with a look of 
indignant contempt, disclosing, as he did so, the sallow^ 
but mild face of a short man who had been standing behind 
him, and whose bent shoulders told of some sedentary 
occupation. 

"By San Giovanni, though," said the fat purchaser of 
ks, with the air of a person rather shaken in his theories. 

The phrase used to express the absence of disqualification— i.e., the not 

'hi 



If 



g entered as a deb'tor in the public book {iqiecchio). 



S2 ROMOLA. 

''' I am not sure there isn't some truth in what Ser Cioni 
says. For I know I have good reason to find fault with 
the quattrini hianchi myself. Grumble, did he say? Suf- 
focation! I should think we do grumble; and let anybody 
say the word, Fll turn out into the piazza with the readiest, 
sooner than have our money altered in our hands as if the 
magistracy were so many necromancers. And it's true 
Lorenzo might have hindered such Avork if he would — and 
for the bull with the flaming horns, why, as Ser Cioni says, 
there may be many meanings to it, for the matter of that; 
it may have more to do with the taxes than we think. For 
when God above sends a sign^ JJi.'.&jj0t_tQ..ba.j&l^)pQ§ed Jie^ 
_hajfi- onlyLQue meaning. " 

*^ Spoken like an oracle, Goro ! " said the barber. '^ Why, 
when we poor mortals can pack two or three meanings 
into one sentence, it were mere blasjihemy not to believe 
that your miraculous bull means everything that any man 
in Florence likes it to mean." 

'*Thou art pleased to scoff, Nello," said the sallow, 

y^ round-shouldered man, no longer eclipsed by the notary, 

^v^ **but it is not the less true that every revelation, whether 

\^ (yf^ by visions, dreams, portents, or the. written word,.Xas 

^<^.': many meanings, whicn it is given to the illuminated only 

^^^' to unfold." 

C" **^ Assuredly," answered Nello. "Haven't I been to 

hear the Frate in San Lorenzo? But then, Fve been to 

hear Fra Menico in the Duomo, too; and according to 

J^^him, your Fra Girolama, with his visions and interpxeta- 

.^txX^® tions, is running after tlie wind of ^longibello, and those 
who follow him are like to have the fate of certain swine 
that ran headlong into the sea — or some hotter place. 
With San Domenico roaring e vero in one ear, and San 
Francisco screaming e falso in the other, what is a poor 
barber to do — unless he were illuminated? But it's plain 
our Goro here is beginning to be illuminated, for he already 
sees that the bull with the flaming horns means first him- 
self, and secondly all the other aggrieved taxpayers of 
Florence, who are determined to gore the magistracy on 
the first opportunity." 

'■^ Goro is a fool!" said a bass voice, with a note that 
dropped like the sound of a great bell in the midst of much 
tinkling. '^ Let him carry home his leeks and shake his 
flanks over his wool-beating. He'll mend matters more 
that way than by showing his tun-shaped body in the 
piazza, as if everybody might measure his grievances by the 



THE SHlPWHECKEt) STRAKCER. 23 

size of his pauncli. The biii-dciis that harm him most are 
his heavy carcass and his idleness." 

The speaker had joined the group only in time to hear 
the conclusion of Nello^s speech, but he was one of those 
figures for whom all the world instinctively makes Way, a^s 
it would for a batteriiig-ram. He was not much_aboyjg, 
ih6^„i?LiMlG-_hGiS^^^j but the Jmpressmn oj[ enormo^^^^ ^, 

which was conveyed by his capacious chest and brawtiiy 4^^^ 
arms bared to the shoulder, was deepened by the keen CLWir, 
sense and quiet resolution expressed in his glance and ill 
every furrow of his cheek and brow. He had often been 
an unconscious model to Domenico Ghirlandajo , when that 
great painter was making the walls of the churches reflect 
the life of Florence, and translating pale aerial traditions 
mto iheUeep color and strong lines of the faces he knew. 
The naturally dark tint of his skin was additionally 
bronzed by the same powdery deposit that gave a polished 
black surface to his leathern apron: a deposit which habit 
had probably made a necessary condition of perfect ease, 
for it was not washed off with punctilious regularity. 

Goro turned his fat cheek and glassy eye on the frank 
speaker with a look of deprecation rather than of resent- 
ment. 

"Why, Niccol6," he said, in an injured tone, 'Tve 
heard you sing to another tune than that, often enough, 
when youVe been laying down the law at San Gallo on a 
festa. I've heard you say yourself, that a man wasn^t a 
mill-wheel, to be on the grind, grind, as long as he was 
driven, and then stick in his place without stirring when 
the water was low. And you're as fond of your vote as 
any man in Florence — ay, and I've heard you say, if Lo- 
renzo " 

"Yes, yes," said Niccolo. "Don't you be bringing up 
my speeches again after you've swallowed them, and hand- 
ing them about as if they w^ere none the worse. I vote 
and I speak when there's any use in it: if there's hot metal 
on the anvil, I lose no time before I strike; but I_d.on/t_. 
spend good hours in tinkling on cold iron, or in standing 
on the pavement as thou dost, Goro, witJi snout upward, 
like a pig under an oak-tree. And as for Lorenzo — dead 
and gone before this time — he was a man who had an eye 
for curious iron-work; and if anybody says he wanted to 
make himself a tyrant, I say, ' Siaj I'll not deny which 
way the wind blows when every man can see the weather- 
cock.' But that only means that Lorenzo was a crested 



24 noMOL-V. 

hawk, and there are plenty of hawks without crests whose 
claws and beaks are as good for tearing. Though if there 
was any chance of a real reform, so that Marzocco* might 
shake his name and roar again, instead of dipping his 
head to lick the feet of anybody that will mount and ride 
him, I^d strike a good blow for it." 

"And that reform is not far off, Niccolo," said the sal- 
low, mild-faced man, seizing his opportunity like a mis- 
sionary among the too light-minded heathens; " for a time 
_Qf-Jtxib-ulatipn is coming^ and the scourge is at hand. And 
C^ wjien the church, is purged of cardinals and prelafes who 
^^ traffic in her inheritance tliat their liands may hv full iu 
pay tlie price of blood and satisfy then' own Imstjs,. tlic 
State will be purged too — and Florence will be purged of 
men who love to see avarice and lechery under the red hat 
and the mitre because it gives them the screen of a more 
hellish vice than their own." 

*' Ay, as Goro's broad body would be a screen for my 
narrow person in case of missiles," said Nello; *'but if 
that excellent screen happened to fall, I were stifled under 
it, surely enough. That is no bad image of thine, Nanni — 
or, rather, of the Frate's: for I fancy there is no room in 
the small cup of thy understanding for any other liquor 
than what he pours into it." 

"And it were w^ell for thee, Nello," replied Nanni, "if 
thou couldst empty thyself of thy scoffs and thy jests, 
and take in that liquor too. The warning is ringing in 
the ears of all men: and it's no new story; for the Abbot 
Joachim prophesied of the coming time three hundred 
years ago, and now Fra Girolamo has got the message 
afresh. He has seen it in a vision, even as the prophets 
of old: he has seen the sword- hanging from the sky." 

"Ay, and thou wilt see it thyself, Xanni, if thou wilt 

stare upward long enough," said Niccolo; "for that piti- 

I able tailor's work of thine makes thy noddle so overhang 

thy legs that thy eyeballs can see naught above the stitch- 

ing-board but the roof of thy own skull." 

The honest tailor bore the jest without bitterness, bent 
on convincing his hearers of his doctrine rather than of 
his dignity. But Niccolo gave him no opportunity for 
replying; for he turned away to the pursuit of his market 
business, probably considering further dialogue as a tink- 
ling on cold iron. 

^'Ehhene" said the man with the hose around his neck, 

* The stone Lion, emblem of the Kepublic. 



THE SIIIPWKECKED STRANGER. *25 

who had lately migrated from another knot of talkers, 
"they are safest who cross themselves and jest at nobody. 
Do you know that the Magnifico sent for the Frate at the 
last, and couldn't die without his blessing?" 

*' Was it so — in truth?" said several voices. '' Yes, yes — 
God will have pardoned him." ^'He died like the best of 
Christians." "J^ever took his eyes from the holy crucifix." , 

*''And the Frate will have given him his blessing?" ' 

"AVell, I know no more," said he of the hosen; *^only , 
Guccio there met a footman going back to Careggi, and 
he told him the Frate had been sent for yesternight, after 
the Magnifico had confessed and had the holy sacraments." J 

" It's likely enough the Frate will tell the people some- 
thing about it in his sermon this morning; is it not true, 
^'^anni ? " said Goro. '' What do you think ? " 

But Nanni had already turned his back on Goro, and 
the group was rapidly thinning; some being stirred by the 
impulse to go and hear *^new things" from the Frate 
(" new things" were the nectar of Florentines); others by 
the sense that it was time to attend to their private busi- 
ness. In this general movement, Bratti got close to the 
barber, and said — 

*^Nello, youVe a ready tongue of your own, and are 
used to worming secrets out of people when j^ou've once 
got them well lathered. I picked up a stranger this morn- 
ing as I was coming in from Rovezzano, and I can spell 
him out no better than I can the letters on that scarf I 
bought from the French Cavalier. It isn't my wits are at 
fault, — I want no man to help me tell peas from paternos- 
ters, — but when you come to foreign fashions, a fool may 
happen to know more than a wise man." 

"Ay, thou hast the wisdom of Midas, who coula turn 
rags and rusty nails into gold, even as thou dost," said 
Nello, " and he had something of the ass about him. But 
where is thy bird of strange plumage?" 

Bratti was looking round, with an air of disappointment. 

"Diavolo!" he said, with some vexation. "The bird's 
flown. It's true he was hungry, and I forgot him. But 
we shall find him in the Mercato, within scent of bread and 
savors, I'll answer for him." 

" Let us make the round of the Mercato then," said 
Nello. 

"It isn't his feathers that puzzle me," continued Bratti, 
as they pushed their way together. " There isn't much in 



26 ROMOLA. 

the way of cut and cloth on this side the Holy Sepulchre 
that can puzzle a Florentine." 

"Or frighten him, either/' said Nello, ^' after he has 
seen an Englander or a German." 

"No, no," said Bratti, cordially; "one may never lose 
sight of the Cupola and yet know the world, I hope. 
Besides, this stranger's clothes are good Italian merchan- 
dise, and the hose he wears were dyed in Ognissanti before 
ever they were dyed with salt water, as he says. But the 
riddle about him is " 

Here Bratti's explanation was interrupted by some 
jostling as they reached one of the entrances of the piazza, 
and before he could resume it they had caught sight of the 
enigmatical object they were in search of. 



CHAPTER II. 

BREAKFAST FOR LOYE. 



After Bratti had joined the knot of talkers, the young 
stranger, hopeless of learning what was the cause of the 
general agitation, and not much caring to know what was 
probably of little interest to any but born Florentines, soon 
became tired of waiting for Bratti's escort; and chose to 
stroll round the piazza, looking out for some vender of 
eatables who might happen to have less than the average 
curiosity about public news. But as if at the suggestion 
of a sudden thought, he thrust his hand into a purse or 
wallet that hung at his waist, and explored it again and 
again with a look of frustration. 

" Xot an obolus, by Jupiter!" he murmured, in a lan- 
guage which was not Tuscan or even Italian. "I thought 
I had one poor piece left. I must get my breakfast for 
love, then!" 

He had not gone many steps farther before it seemed 
likely that he had found a quarter of the market where 
that medium of exchange might not be rejected. 

In a corner, away from any group of talkers, two mules 
were standing, well adorned with red tassels and collars. 
One of them carried wooden milk vessels, the other a pair 
of panniers filled with herbs and salads. Resting her 
elbow on the neck of the mule that carried milk, there 



BREAKFAST FOR LOVE. 27 

leaned a young girl, apparently not more than sixteen, 
with a red hood surrounding her face, which was all the 
more baby-like in its prettiness from the entire conceal- 
ment of her hair. The poor child, perhaps, was weary 
after her labor in the morning twilight in preparation for 
her walk to market from some castello three or four miles 
off, for she seemed to have gone to sleep in that half- 
standing, half-leaning posture. Nevertheless, our stranger 
had no compunction in awaking her; but the means he 
chose were so gentle, that it seemed to the damsel in her 
dream as if a little sprig of thyme had touched her lips 
while she was stooping to gather the herbs. The dream 
was broken, however, for she opened her blue baby-eyes, 
nnd started up with astonishment and confusion to see the 
^ oung stranger standing close before her. She heard him 
speaking to her in a voice which seemed so strange and soft, 
that even if she had been more collected she would have 
taken it for granted that he said something hopelessly unin- 
telligible to her, and her first movement was to turn her 
head a little away, and lift up a corner of her green serge 
mantle as a screen. He repeated his words — 

<' Forgive me, pretty one, for awaking you. I^m dying 
with hunger, and the scent of milk makes breakfast seem 
more desirable than ever.^' 

He had chosen the words ^'muoio di fame/' because he 
knew they would be familiar to her ears; and he had 
uttered them playfully, with the intonation of a mendi- 
cant. This time he was understood; the corner of the 
mantle was dropped, and in a few moments a large cup of 
fragrant milk was held out to him. He paid no further 
compliments before raising it to his lips, and while he was 
drinking the little maiden found courage to look up at the 
long dark curls of this singular-voiced stranger, who had 
asked for food in the tones of a beggar, but who, though 
his clothes were much damaged, was unlike any beggar she 
had ever seen. 

While this process of survey was going on, tjiere was 
another current of feeling that carried her hand into a bag 
which hung by the side of the mule, and when the stranger 
set down his cup he saw a large piece of bread held out 
toward him, and caught a glance of the blue e3''es that 
seemed intended as an encouragement to him to take this 
additional gift. 

'' But perhaps that is your own breakfast,'' he said. '' No, 



^8 ROMOLA. 

I have had enough without payment. A thousand thanks, 
my gentle one." 

There was no rejoinder in words; but the piece of bread 
was pushed a little nearer to him, as if in impatience at his 
refusal; and as the long dark eyes of the stranger rested on 
the baby-face, it seemed to be gathering more and more 
courage to look up and meet them. 

"Ah, then, if I must take the bread," he said, laying 
his hand on it, "I shall get bolder still, and beg for 
another kiss to make the bread sweeter." 

His speech was getting wonderfully intelligible in spite 
of the strange voice, which had at first almost seemed a 
thing to make her cross herself. She blushed deeply, and 
lifted up a corner of her mantle to her mouth again. But 
just as the too presumptuous stranger was leaning forward, 
and had his fingers on the arm that held up the screening 
mantle, he was startled by a harsh voice close upon his 
ear. 

" Who are you — with a murrain to you ? No honest 
buyer, I'll warrant, but a hanger-on of the dicers — or 
something worse. Go! dance off, and find fitter com- 
pany, or I'll give you a tune to a little quicker time 
ihan you'll like." 

The young stranger drew back and looked at the speaker 
with a glance provokingly free from alarm and depreca- 
tion, and his slight expression of saucy amusement broke 
into a broad beaming smile as he surveyed the figure of his 
threatener. She was a stout but brawny woman, with a 
man's jerkin slipped over her green serge gamurra or 
gown, and the peaked hood of some departed mantle fast- 
ened round her sun-burnt face, which, under all its coarse- 
ness and premature wrinkles, showed a half-sad, half- 
ludicrous maternal resemblance to the tender baby-face 
of the little maiden — the sort of resemblance whicl^often 
seems a more croaking, shudder-creating prophecy than 
that of the death's-head. 

There was something irresistibly propitiating in that 
bright young smile, but Monna Ghita was not a woman to 
betray any weakness, and she went on speaking, apparently 
with heightened exasperation. 

" Yes, yes, you can grin as well as other monkeys in cap 
and jerkin. You're a minstrel or a mountebank, I'll be 
sworn; you look for all the world as silly as a tumbler when 
he's been upside down and has got on his heels again. 
And what fool's tricks hast thou been after, Tessa?" she 



BREAKFAST FOR LOVE. 29 

added, turning to her daughter, whose frightened face was 
more inviting to abuse. ^' Giving away the milk and 
victuals, it seems; ay, ay, thouMst carry water in thy ears 
for any idle vagabond that didn't like to stoop for it, thou 
silly staring rabbit! Turn thy back, and lift the herbs out 
of the panniers, else Til make thee say a few Aves without 
counting. '' 

*'Nay, Madonna," said the stranger, with a pleading 
smile, '' don't be angry with your pretty Tessa for taking 
pity on a hungry traveler, who found himself unex- 
pectedly without a quattrino. Your handsome face looks 
so well when it frowns, that I long to see it illuminated by 
a smile." 

" Va, via! I know what paste you are made of. You 
may tickle me with that straw a good long while before 1 
shall laugh, I can tell you. Get along, with a bad Easter! 
else ril make a beauty-spot or two on that face of j^ours 
that shall spoil your kissing on this side Advent." 

As Monna Ghita lifted her formidable talons by way of 
complying with the first and last requisite of eloquence, 
Bratti, who had come up a minute or two before, had been 
saying to his companion, " What think you of this pretty 
parrot, Nello? Doesn't his tongue smack of Venice?" 

"Nay, Bratti," said the barber in an undertone, *^thy 
wisdom has much of the ass in it, as I told thee just now; 
especially about the ears. This stranger is a Greek, else 
Fm not the barber who has had the sole and exclusive 
shaving of the excellent Demetrio, and drawn more than 
one sorry tooth from his learned jaw. And this youth 
might be taken to have come straight from Olympus — at 
least when he has had a touch of my razor." 

'^ Orsil! Monna Ghita!" continued Nello, not sorry to 
see some sport; **what has happened to cause such a 
thunderstorm? Has this young stranger been misbehaving 
himself?" 

"By San Giovanni!" said the cautious Bratti, who had 
not shaken off his original suspicions concerning the 
shabbily-clad possessor of jewels, "he did right to run 
away from mey if he meant to get into mischief. I can 
swear that I found him under the Loggia de Cerchi, with 
a ring on his finger such as I've seen worn by Bernardo 
RufifllaL himself . Not another rusty nail's wortlirdo"! 
^now about him." 

" The fact is," said Nello, eyeing the stranger good- 
humoredly, "this hello giovane has been a little too pre^ 



30 KOMOLA. 

sumptuous in admiring the charms of Monna Ghita, and 
has attempted to kiss her while her daughter's back is turned; 
for I observe that the pretty Tessa is too busy to lookthi^ 
way at present. Was it not so, Messer?" Nello conchided 
in a tone of courtesy. 

*^ You have divined the offense like a soothsayer," said 
the stranger, laughingly. '^ Only that I had not the good 
fortune to find Monna Ghita here at first. I begged a cup 
of milk from her daughter, and had accepted this gift of 
bread, for which I was making a humble offering of grati- 
tude, before I had the higher pleasure of being face to face 
with these riper charms which I was perhaps too bold in 
admiring." 

" Va, va! be off, every one of you, and stay in purga- 
tory till I pay to get you out, will you?'* said Monna Ghita, 
fiercely, elbowing Nello, and leading forward her mule so 
as to compel the stranger to jump aside. '^ Tessa, thou 
simpleton, bring forward thy mule a bit: the cart will be 
upon us." 

As Tessa turned to take the mule's bridle, she cast one 
timid ^glance at the stranger, who was now moving with 
Nello out of the way of an approaching market-cart; and 
the glance was just long enough to seize the beckoning 
movement of his hand, which indicated that he had been 
watching for this opportunity of an adieu. 

" EbbenGy" said Bratti, raising his voice to speak across 
the cart; '^1 leave you with Xello, young man, for there's 
no pushing my bag and basket any farther, and I have 
business at home. But you'll remember our bargain, 
because if you found Tessa without me, it was not my 
fault. Nello will show you my shop in the Ferravecchi, 
and I'll not turn my back on you." 

'*A thousand thanks, friend!" said the stranger, laugh- 
ing, and then turned away with Nello up the narrow street 
which led most directly to the Piazza del Duomo. 



THE barber's shop. 81 

CHAPTER III. 

THE barber's shop. 

''To tell you the truth/' said the young stranger to 
Nello, as they got a little clearer of the entangled vehicles 
and mules, ''I am not sorry to be handed over by that 
patron of mine to one who has a less barbarous accent, 
and a less enigmatical business. Is it a common thing 
among you Florentines for an itinerant trafficker in 
broken glass and rags to talk of a sliop where he sells 
lutes and swords?" 

"Common? No: our Bratti is not a common man. 
He has a theory, and lives up to it, which is more than I 
can say for any philosopher I have the honor of shaving," 
answered Nello, whose loquacity, like an over-full bottle, 
could never pour forth a small dose. ''Bratti means to 
extract the utmost possible amount of pleasure, that is to 
say, of hard bargaining, out of this life; winding it up 
with a bargain for the easiest possible passage through 
purgatory, by giving Holy Church his winnings when 
the game is over. He has had his will made to that effect 
on the cheapest terms a notary could be got for. But I 
have often said to him, 'Bratti, thy bargain is a limping 
one, and thou art on the lame side of it. Does it not 
make thee a little sad to look at the pictures of the 
Paradise? Thou wilt never be able there to chaffer for 
rags and rusty nails: the saints and angels want neither 
pins nor tinder; and except with San Bartolommeo. who 
carries his skin about in an inconvenient manner, I see 
no chance of thy making a bargain for second-hand cloth- 
ing.' But God pardon me," added ISTello, changing his 
tone, and crossing himself, "this light talk ill beseems a 
morning when Lorenzo lies dead, and the Muses are 
tearing their hair — always a painful thought to a barber; 
and you yourself, Messere, are probably under a cloud, 
for when a man of your speech and presence takes up 
with so sorry a night's lodging, it argues some misfortune 
to have befallen him." 

"What Lorenzo is that whose death you speak of?" 
said the stranger, appearing to have dwelt with too 
anxious an interest on this point to have noticed thQ indi- 
rect inquiry that followed it, 



32 UOMOLA. 

What Lorenzo? There is out one Lorenzo, I imagine, 
whose death could throw the Mercato into an uproar, set 
the hintern of the Duomo leaping in desperation, and 
cause the lions of the Eepublic to feel under an immediate 
necessity to devour one another. I mean Loreiiz(L.de_ 
JIedy^i^Jthe_^eiicLes^of_^^ I may make such 

a comparison in the ear of a Greek." 

*'Why not?" said the other, laughingly; *^for I doubt 
whether Athens, even in the days of Pericles, could have 
produced so learned a barber." 

'^ Yes, yes; I thought I could not be mistaken," said the 
rapid Nello, '^else I. have shaved the venerable Demetrio 
Calcondila to little purpose; but pardon me, I am lost in 
wonder: your Italian is better than his, though he has 
been in Italy forty years — better even than that of the 
accomplished Marullo, who may be said to have married 
the Italic Muse in more senses than one, since he has 
married our learned and lovely Alessandra Scala." 

''It will lighten your wonder to know that I come of a 
Greek stock planted in Italian soil much longer than the 
mulberry-trees which have taken so kindly to it. I was 
born at Bari, and my — I mean, I was brought up by an 
Italian — and, in fact, I am a Greek, very much as your 
peaches arc Persian. The Greek dye was subdued in me, 
I suppose, till I have been dipped over again by long abode 
and much travel in the land of gods and heroes. And, to 
confess something of my private affairs to you, this same 
Greek dye, Avith a few ancient gems I have about me, is 
the only fortune shipwreck has left me. But — when the 
towers fall, you know it is an ill business for the small 
nest-builders — the death of your Pericles makes me wish 
I had rather turned my steps toward Rome, as I should 
have done but for a fallacious Minerva in the shape of an 
Augustiuian monk. 'x\t Rome,' he said, 'you will be 
lost in a crowd of hungry scholars; but at Fkixenc e, every 

corner jsjjenstotMJjXt^^ 

Florence is the best marlEetlii Italy for sucE i;:uiaimo Hities 

asyoiixs.^" 

" Gnaffe, and so it will remain, I hope," said Nello. 
" Lorenzo was not the only patron and judge of learning 
in our city — heaven forbid! Because lie was a large melon 
every other Florentine is not a pumpkin, I suppose. Have 
we not B ernardo Rucellai and Alamanno Rinuccini, and 
plenty more?~And if you want to be informed on such 
m^-tters, I, Nello, am your man. It seems to me a; thousanc^ 



THE baeber's shop. 33 

years till T can be of service to a hel erudito like yourself. 
And, first of all, m the matter of your hair. That beard, 
my fine young man, must be parted with, were it as dear 
to you as the nymph of your dreams. Here at FlorenQe, 
we love not to see a man with his nose projecting over a 
cascade of hair. But, remember, you will have passed the 
rubicon, when once you have been shaven: if you repent, 
and let your beard grow after it has acquired stoutness 
by a struggle with the razor, your mouth will by-and-by 
show no longer what Messer Angelo calls the divine pre- 
rogative of lips, but will appear like a dark cavern fringed 
with horrent brambles. ^^ 

*^That is a terrible prophecy,^' said the Greek, '^espe- 
cially if your Florentine maidens are many of them as 
pretty as the little Tessa I stole a kiss from this morning." 

"Tessa? she is a rough-handed contadina: you will 
rise into the favor of dames who bring no scent of the 
mule-stables with them. But to that end, you must not 
have the air of a sgherro, or a man of evil repute: you 
must look like a courtier, and a scholar of the more 
polished sort, such as our Pietro Crinito, like one who sins 
among well-bred, well-fecTpeople, and not one who sucks 
down vile vino di sotto in a chance tavern." 

"With all my heart," said the stranger. "If the 
Florentine Graces demand it, I am willing to give up 
this small matter of my beard, but " 

"Yes, yes," interrupted Nello. "I know what you 
would say. It is the hella zazzera — the hyacinthine locks, 
you do not choose to part with; and there is no need. 
Just a little pruning — ecco! — and you will look not unlike 
the illustrious prince Pico di Mirandola in his prime. 
And here we are in good time in the Piazza San Giovanni, 
and at the door of my shop. But you are pausing, I see: 
naturally, you want to look at our wonder of the world, 
our Duomo, our Santa ^laria del Fiore. Well, well, a 
mere glance; but I beseech you to leave a closer survey 
till you have been shaved: I am quivering with the inspi- 
ration of my art even to the very edge of my razor. Ah, 
then, come round this way." 

The mercurial barber seized the arm of the stranger, 
and led him to a point, on the south side of the piazza, 
from which he could see at once the huge dark shell of the 
cupola, the slender soaring grace of Gjotto^s campanile, 
and the quaint^ octagon of San Gio\[anm_in front of them, 
showing its unique gates^oTstorTed bronze, which still bore 
3 



34 ROMOLA. 

the somewhat dimmed glory of their original gilding. The 
inlaid marbles were then fresher in their pink, and white, 
and purple, than they are now, when the winters of four 
centuries have turned their white to the rich ochre of well- 
mellowed meerschaum; the facade of the cathedral did not 
stand ignominious in faded stucco, but had upon it the 
magnificent promise of the half-completed marble inlaying 
and statued riches, which Giotto had devised a hundred 
and fifty years before; and as the campanile in all its 
harmonious variety of color and from led the eyes upward, 
high into the clear air of this April morning, it seemed a 
prophetic symbol, telling that human life must somehow 
and some time shape itself into accord with that pure" 
a^iring beauty. 

But this was not the impression it appeared to produce 
on the Greek. His eyes were irresistibly led upward, but 
as he stood with his arms folded and his curls falling back- 
ward, there was a slight touch of scorn on his lips, and 
when his eyes fell again they glanced round with a scanning 
coolness which was rather piquing to Nello's Florentine 
spirit. 

j**Well, my fine young man," he said, with some impa- 
tience, '*you seem to make as little of our Cathedral as if 
^ you were the Angel Gabriel come straight from Paradise. 
^f^ "^ I should like to know if you have ever seen finer work 
, than our Giotto's tower, or any cupola that would not look 
.j^V^a mere mushroom by the side of Brunelleschi's there, or 
^ any marbles finer or more cunningly wrought than these 

^ that our Signoria got from far-off quarries, at a price that 
would buy a dukedom. Come, now, have you ever seen 
\ anything to equal them?'^ 

1 *'If you asked me that question with a scimiter at my 

throat, after the Turkish fashion, or even your own 

. razor," said the young Greek, smiling gaily, and moving 

\k' on toward the gates of the Baptistery, '* I dare say you 

might get a confession of the true faith from me. But 

^^ with my throat free from peril, I venture to tell you that 

p^ your buildings smack too much of Christian barharism for 

'^^ my taste. ^I have a shuddering sense of what there is 

inside — hideous smoked Madonnas; fleshless saints in 

mosaic, staring down idiotic astonishment and rebuke 

from the apse; skin-clad skeletons hanging on crosses, or 

stuck all over with arrows, or stretched on gridirons; 

women and monks with heads aside in perpetual lamenta 

tion. I have seen enough of those wry-necked favorites 



THE barber's shop. 35 

of heaven at ConsfcantinopleJ) But what is this bronze 
door rough with imagery? Hiese women^s figures seem 
mould ed in a different spirit from those starved and star- cz\^y. 
ing"samts 1 spoke~of: theselieads in high rel ief speak of, a [~L^' 
human mind within them, instead of loo^iiig like an ^ 
index to perpetual spasms and colic." T ' 

"Yes, yes," said Nello, with some triumph. "1 think 
we shall show you by-and-by that our Flore ntine art is not 
in a state of barbari^. These gates, niyline young man, 
\vere moulded half a century ago, by our Lorenzo Ghibertj, 
when he counted hardly so many years as you do." 

'^Ah, I remember," said the stranger, turning away, 
like one whose appetite for contemplation was soon satis- 
fied. "'^ I have _h card that your Tuscan sculptors and 
pai nt ej;s Jiave_been studjing_ t he antique Jairttle. B ii t 
with moii ks for models, and the legends of mad hermits 
and~m{irtyrs f or suB Jects , tlie vision of Olympus itself 
would ¥e of .smali use to. them. " 

"I understand," said Nello, with a significant shrug, as 
they walked along. "You are of the same mind as 
Michele Marullo, ay, and as Angelo Poliziano himself, in 
spite of his canonicate, when he relaxes Himself a little 
in my shop after his lectures, and talks of the gods awak- 
ing^ from their long sleep ami malting the woods and 
streams vitaLoJUSja-jnora. But he rails against the Roman 
scholars who want to make us all talk Latin again: 
'Myears,Mie says, 'are sufficiently flayed by the barbar- 
isms of the learned, and if the vulgar are talk Latin I 
would as soon have been in Florence the day they took to 
beating all the kettles in the city because the bells were 
not enough to stay the wrath of the saints.' Ah, Messer 
Greco, if you want to know the flavor of our scholarship, 
you must frequent my shop: it is the focus of Florentine 
intellect, and in that sense the naval of the earth — as my 
great predecessor, Burohiello, said of his shop, on the 
more frivolous pretension that his street of the Calimara 
was the centre of our city. And here we are at the sign 
of 'Apollo and the Razor.' Apollo, you see, is bestowing 
the razor on the Triptolemus of our craft, the first reaper 
of beards, the sublime Anonimo, whose mysterious iden- 
tity is indicated by a shadowy hand." 

"I see thou hast had custom already, Sandro," con- 
tinued Nello, addressing a solemn-looking dark-eyed 
youth, who made way for them on the threshold. "And 
now make all clear for this signer to sit down. And pre- 



B6 EOMOLA. 

pare the finest-scented lather, for he has a learned and 
handsome chin." 

"You have a pleasant little jLlytuni there, I see," said 
the stranger, looking through a latticed screen which 
divided the shop from a room of about equal size, opening 
into a still smaller walled enclosure, w^here a few bays and 
laurels surrounded a stone Hermes. ''I suppose your con- 
clave of encditi meets there?" 

*^ There, and not less in my shop," said Nello, leading 
the way into the inner room, in which were some benches, 
'a table, with one book in manuscript and one printed in 
capitals lying open upon it, a lute, a few oil-sketches, and 
a model or two of hands and ancient masks. "For my 
shop is a no less fitting haunt of the Muses, as you will 
acknowledge when you feel the sudden illumination of 
understanding and the serene vigor of inspiration that will 
come to you with a clear chin. Ah! you can make that 
lute discourse, I perceive. I, too, have some skill that 
way, though the serenata is useless when daylight discloses 
a visage like mine, looking no fresher than an apple that 
has stood the winter. But look at that sketch: it is a 
fancy of Piero de Cosimo's, a strange freakish painter, 
who says he saw it by long looking at a mouldy wall." 

The sketch Nello pointed to represented three masks — 
one a drunken laughing Satyr, another a sorrowing Mag- 
dalen, and the third, which lay between them, the rigid, 
cold face of a Stoic: the masks rested obliquely on the lap 
of a little child, whose cherub features rose above them 
with something of the supernal promise in the gaze which 
painters had by that time learned to give to the Divine 
Infant. 

"A symbolical picture, I see," said the young Greek, 

touching The TiiTe""wTine"he spoke, so as to bring out a 

(slight musical murmur. "The child, perhaps, is the 

) Golden Age, wanting neither worship nor philoso])hy. 

^ Ajnd the Gfolden Age can always come back as long as rnen 

/ are- born in the form of babies, and don^t come into tlie 

\ world in cassock or furred mantle. Or, the child may 

mean the wise philosophy of Epicurus, removed alike from 

the gross, the sad, and the severe." 

"Ah! everybody has his own interpretation for that 
picture," said Nello; "and if you ask Piero himself what 
he meant by it, he says his pictures are an. appendix which 
Messer Domeneddio has been pleased to make to the 
universe, and if any man is in doubt what they mean, he 



THE barber's shop. 37 

had better inquire of Holy Church. He has been asked j jj^ 
to paint a picture after the sketch, but he puts his fingers ^ . 
to his ears and shakes his head at that; the fancy is past, ' ^^ 
he says — a strange animal, our Piero. ^ut now all is 
ready for your initiation into the mysteries of the razor/' 
'' 'Mysteries they may well be called," continued the 
barber^ with rising spirits at the prospect of a loug mono- 
logue, as he imprisoned the young Greek in the shroud^ 
like shaving-cloth ; '^ mysteries of Minerva and the 
Graces. I get the flower of men's thoughts, because, 
I seize them in the first moment after shaving. (Ah! 
you wince a little at the lather : it tends to the out- 
lying limits of the nose, I admit. ) And that is what makes 
the peculiar fitness of a barber's shop to become a resort 
of wit and learning. For, look now at a druggist's shop: 
there is a dull conclave at the sign of " The Moor," that 
pretends to rival mine; but what sort of inspiration, I 
iDeseech you, can be got from the scent of nauseous vege- 
table decoctions? — to say nothing of the fact that you no 
sooner pass the threshold than you see a doctor of physic, 
like a gigantic spider disguised in fur and scarlet, waiting 
for his prey; or even see him blocking up the doorway 
seated on a bony hack, inspecting saliva. (Your chin a 
little elevated, if it please you: comtemplate that angel 
who is blowing the trumpet at you from the ceiling. I 
had it painted expressly for tlie regulation of my clients' 
chins. ) Besides, your druggist, who herborises and decocts, 
is a man of prejudices: he has poisoned people according 
to a system, and is obliged to stand up for his system in 
order to justify the consequences. Now a barber can be 
dispassionate; the only thing he necessarily stands by is 
the razor, always providing he is not an author. That was 
the flaw in my great predecessor Burchiello: he was a poet, 
and had consequently a prejudice about his own poetry. 
I have escaped that; I saw very early that authorship is a 
narrowing business, in conflict with the liiberal art of the 
razor, which demands an impartial affection for all men's 
chins. Ecco, Messerl the outline of your chin and lip is 
is clear as a maiden's; and now fix your mind on a knotty 
question — ask yourself whether you are bound to spell Virgil 
with an i or an e, and say if you do not feel an unwonted 
clearness on the point. Only, if you decide for the i, keep 
it to yourself til! your fortune is made, for the e hath the 
stronger following in Florence. Ah ! I think T see a gleam 
of still quicker wit in your eye. 1 have it on the authority 



38 ROMOLA. 

of our young Niccolo Macchiavellij himself keen enough 
to discern il pelo neW novo, as we saj, and a great lover of 
delicate shaving, though his beard is hardly of two years' 
date, that no sooner do the hairs begin to push themselves, 
than he perceives a certain grossness of* apprehension 
creeping over him/' 

" Suppose you let me look at myself," said the stranger, 
laughing. ^' The happy effect on my intellect is perhaps 
obstructed by a little doubt as to the effect on my appear- 
ance/' 

"Behold yourself in this mirror, then: it is a Venetian 
mirror from Murano, the true nosce teipsvm, as I have 
named it, compared with which the finest mirror of steel 
or silver is mere darkness. See now, how by diligent 
shaving, the nether region of your face may preserve its 
human outline, instead of presenting no distinction from 
the physiognomy of a bearded owl or a Barbary ajie. I 
have seen men whose beards have so invaded their cheeks, 
that one might have pitied them as the victims of a sad, 
brutalizing chastisement befitting our Dante's Inferno, if 
they had not seemed to strut with a strange triumph in 
their extravagant hairiness." 

"It seems to me," said the Greek, still looking into the 
mirror, "that you have taken away some of my capital 
with your razor — I mean a year or two of ;ige, which might 
have won me more ready credit for my learning. Uufler 
the inspection of a patron whose vision has grown some- 
what dim, I shall have a perilous resemblance to a maiden 
of eighteen in the disguise of hose and jerkin." 

"Not .at all," said Nello, proceeding to clip the too 
extravagant curls; "your proportions are not those of a 
maiden. And for your age, I myself remember seeing 
Angelo Poliziano begin his lectures on the Latin language 
when he had a younger beard than yours: and between 
ourselves, his juvenile ugliness was not less signal than his 
precocious scholarship. Whereas you — no, no, your age 
is not against you; but between ourselves, let me hint to 
you that your being a Greek, though it be only an Apulian 
Greek, is not in your favor. Certain of our scholars hold 
that your Greek learning is but a wayside, degenerate 
plant until it has been transplanted into Italian brains, 
and that now there is such a plentiful crop of the superior 
quality, your native teachers are mere propagators of 
degeneracy. Ecco! your curls are now of the right pro- 
portion to neck and shoulders; rise, Messer, and 1 will free 



THE barber's shop. 39 

you from the encumbrance of this cloth. Gnaffe! I 
almost advise you to retain the faded Jerkin and Hose a 
little longer; they give you the air of a fallen jDrince/' 

''But the question is/' said the young Greek, leaning 
against the high back of a chair, and returning Nello's 
contemplative admiration with a look of inquiring anxiety; 
^' the question is, in what quarter I am to carry my princely 
air, so as to rise from the said fallen condition. If your 
Florentine patrons of learning share this scholarly hostility 
to the Greeks, I see not how your city can be a hospitable 
refuge for me, as you seemed to say just now.'' 

''Plan piano — not so fast," said Nello, sticking his 
thumbs into his belt and nodding to Sandro to restore 
order. '' I will not conceal from you that there is a preju- 
dice against Greeks among us; and though, as a barber 
unsnared by authorship, (I share no prejudices, I must 
admit that the Greeks are not always such pretty young- 
sters as yourself: their erudition is often of an uncombed, 
unmannerly aspect, and encrusted with a barbarous utter- 
ance of Italian, that makes their converse hardly more 
euphonious than that of a Tedesco in a state of vinous 
loquacity. And then, again, excuse me — we Florentines 
have liberal ideas about speech, and consider that an 
instrument which can flatter and promise so cleverly as 
the tongue, must have been partly made for those pur- ^ 
poses; and that truth is a riddle for eyes and wit to dis- 
cover, which it were a mere spoiling of sport for the tongue 
to betray. Still we have our limits, beyond which we call 
dissimulation treachery. But it is said of the Greeks that 
their honesty begins at what is the hanging point with us, 
and that since the old Furies went to sleep, your Chris- 
tian Greek is of so easy a conscience that he would make a 
stepping-stone of his father's corpse.^ 

The flush on the stranger's face indicated what seemed 
so natural a movement of resentment, that the good- 
natured Nello hastened to atone for his want of reticence. 

'*Be not offended, hel giovane; I am but repeating what 
I hear in my shop; as you may perceive, my eloquence is 
simply the cream which I skim off my clients' talk. 
Heaven forbid I should fetter my impartiality by enter- 
taining an opinion. And for that same scholarly objection 
to the Greeks," added Nello, in a more mocking tone, and 
with a significant grimace, '' the fact is, you are heretics, 
Messer; jealousy has nothing to do with it: if you would 
just change your opinion about leaven, and alter your 



40 ROMOLA. 

Doxology a little, our Italian scholars would think it a 
thousand years till they could give up their chairs to you. 
Yes, yes; it is chiefly religious scruple, and partly also the 
authority of a great classic — Juvenal, is it not? He, I 
gather, had his bile as much stirred by the swarm of 
Greeks as our Messer Angelo, who is fond of quoting some 
passage about their incorrigible impudence — audacia 
perdita." 

*'Pooh! the passage is a compliment," said the Greek, 
who had recovered himself, and seemed wise enough to take 
the matter gaily — 

" ' Ingenium velox, audacia perdita, sermo 
Promptus, et Isseo tor rentier.' 

A rapid intellect and ready eloquence may carry off a little 
impudence/' 

**^ Assuredly,'' said Nello. ''And since, as I see, you 

know Latin literature as well as Greek, you will not fall 

into the mistake of Giovanni Argiropulo, who ran full tilt 

^ against Cicero, and pronounced him all but a pumpkin- 

^ head. For, let me give you one bit of advice, young man; 

. trust a barber who has shaved the best chins, and kept his 

J\i> eyes and ears open for twenty years: oil your tongue well 

^ >^ when you talk of the ancient Latin writers, and give it an 

(<) extra dip when you talk of the modern. A wise Greek 

^ may win favor among us; witness our excellent Demetrio, 

who is loved by many, and not hated immoderately even by 

the most renowned scholars." 

*' I discern the wisdom of your advice so clearly," said 
the Greek, with the bright smile which was continually 
lighting up the fine form and color of his young face, 
''that I will ask you for a little more. Who now, for 
example, would be the most liKely patron for me? Is 
there a son of Lorenzo who inherits his tastes? Or is there 
any other wealthy Florentine especially addicted to pur- 
chasing antique gems? I have a fine Cleopatra cut 
in sardonyx, and one or two other intaglios and cameos, 
both curious and beautiful, worthy of being added to the 
cabinet of a priuce. Happily, I had taken the precaution 
of fastening them within the lining of my doublet before I 
set out on my voyage. Moreover, I should like to raise a 
small sum for my present need on this ring of mine" 
(here he took out the ring and replaced it on his finger), 
"if you could recommend me to any honest trafficker." 
"Let us see, let us see," said Nello, perusing the floor. 



THE BARBER^S SHOP. 41 \^ 

and walking up and down the length of his shop. ^^This 
is no time to appl y to Piero de Medici, though he has the 

wilj^ to make such purchases itV .ha.jCQJQl4.^^1w^^s_£P^i'e 

j he money; but I t hink Jt is another_ jpr£i^OS[iQpa^Bpir- w>'^^^ 

that he covets mosJT ~Yes, yes, 1 Eaveit. What you*-^ >>-'' 

want is a man oT' wealth, and influence, and scholarly low^ W' 
tastes — not. one of your learned porcupines, bristling all 
over with critical tests, but one whose Greek and Latin 
are of a comfortable laxity. And that man is Bartolom- 
;gie o Scala , the secretary of our republic. He came to 
Florence as a poor adventurer himself — a miller's son — a 
* branny monster,' as he has been nicknamed by oar honey- 
lipped Poliziano, who agrees with him as well as my teeth 
agree with lemon- juice. And, by the by, that may be a 
reason why the secretary may be the more ready to do a 
good turn to a strange scholar. For, between you and 
me, hel giovane — trust a barber who has shaved the best 
scholars — friendliness is much such a steed as Ser Benghi's: 
it will hardly show much alacrity unless it has got the 
thistle of hatred under its tail. However, the secretary 
is a man who'll keep his Avord to you, even to the halving 
of a fennel-seed; and he is not unlikely to buy some of 
your gems." 

^^But how am I to get at this great man?" said the 
Greek, rather impatiently. 

"I was coming to that," said Nello. 'Must now every- 
body of any public importance will be full of Lorenzo's 
death, and a stranger may find it difficult to get any notice. 
But in the meantime, I could take you to a man who, if 
he has a mind, can help you to a chance of a favorable 
interview with Scala sooner than anybody else in Flor- 
ence — worth seeing for his own sake too, to say nothing of 
his collections, or of his daughter Eomola, who is as fair 
as the Florentine lily before it got quarrelsome and turned 
red." 

*'But if this father of the beautiful Romola makes col- 
lections, why should he not like to buy some of my gems 
himself?" 

Nello shrugged his shoulders. '' For two good reasons — 
want of sight to look at the gems, and want of money to 
pay for them. Our old Bardo de Bardi is so blind that he 
can see no more of his daughter than, as he says, a glim- 
mering of something bright when she comes very near 
him: doubtless her golden hair, which, as Messer Luigi 
Pulci says of his Meridiana's, ^ raggia come stella per 



42 KOMOLA. 

sereno/ Ah! here come some clients of mine, and I 
shouldn^t wonder if one of them could serve your turn 
about that ring." 



CHAPTEK IV. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 



" Good-day, Messer Domenico," said Nello to the fore- 
most of the two visitors who entered the shop, while he 
nodded silently to the other. "You come as opportunely 
as cheese or macaroni. Ah! you are in haste — wish to be 
shaved without delay — ecco! And this is a morning when 
every one has grave matter on his mind. Florence 
orphaned — the very pivot of Italy snatched away — heaven 
itself at a loss what to do next. Oimel Well, well; the sun 
is nevertheless traveling on toward dinner-time again; 
and, as I was saying, you come like cheese ready grated. 
For this young stranger was wishing for an honorable 
trader who would advance him a sum on a certain ring of 
value, and if I had counted every goldsmith and money- 
lender in Florence on my fingers, I couldn^t have found a 
better name than Menico Cennini. Besides, he hath other 
ware in which you deal — Greek learning, and young eyes — 
a double implement which you printers are always in need 
of." 

The grave elderly man, son of that Bernardo Cennini, 
who, twenty years before, having heard of the new process 
of printing carried on by Germans, had cast his own types 
in Florence, remained necessarily in lathered silence and 
passivity while Nello showered this talk in his ears, but 
turned a slow sideway gaze on the stranger. 

" This fine young man has unlimited Greek, Latin, or 
Italian at your service," continued Xello, fond of interpret- 
ing by very ample j^araphrase. " He is as great a wonder 
of juvenile learning as Francesco Filelfo or our own incom- 
parable Poliziano. A second Guarino, too, for he has had 
the misfortune to be shipwrecked, and has doubtless lost a 
store of precious manuscripts that might have contributed 
some correctness even to your correct editions, Domenico. 
Fortunately, he has rescued a few gems of rare value. His 
Xi^me is — you said your name, Messer, was ? " 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 43 



a 



Tito Melema/' said the stranger, slipping the ring 
from his finger, and presenting it to Cennini, whom Nello, 
not less rapid with his razor than with his tongue, had 
now released from the shaving-cloth. 

Meanwliile the man who had entered the shop in com- 
pany Avith the goldsmith — a tall figure, about fifty, with a 
short trimmed beard, wearing an old felt hat and a thread- 
bare mantle — had kept his eye fixed on the Greek, and 
now said abruptly — 

^^ Young man, I am painting a picture of Sinon deceiv- 
ing old Priam, and I should be glad of your face for my 
Sinon, if you'd give me a sitting." 

Tito Melema started and looked round with a pale aston- 
ishment in his face as if at a sudden accusation; but Nello 
left him no time to feel at a loss for an answer: " Piero,'^ 
said the barber, ^'thou art the most extraordinary com- 
pound of humors and fancies ever packed into a human 
skin. What trick wilt thou play witli the fine visage of 
this young scholar to make it suit thy traitor? Ask him 
rather to turn his eyes upward, and thou mayst make a 
Saint Sebastian of him that will draw troops of devout 
women, or, if thou art in a classical vein, put myrtle 
about his curls and make him a young Bacchus, or say 
rather a Phoebus Apollo, for his face is as warm and bright 
as a summer morning; it made me his friend in the space 
of a ^ credo." " 

*^Ay, Nello,"' said the painter, speaking with abrupt) 
pauses; "and if thy tongue can leave off its everlasting/ 
chirping long enough for thy understanding to consider \ 
the matter, thou mayst see that thou has just shown the \ 
reason why the face of Messere will suit my traitor. A }' 
perfect traitor should have a face which vice can write no \ 
marks on — lips that will lie with a dimpled smile — eyes of \ 
such agatelike brightness and depth that no infamy can i 
dull them — cheeks that will rise from a murder and not 
look haggard. I say not this young man is a traitor: I j 
mean, he has a face that would make him the more perfect / 
traitor if he had the heart of one, which is saying neither 
more nor less than that he has a beautiful face, informed 
with rich young blood, that will be nourished enough by 
food, and keep its color without much help of virtue. He 
may have the heart of a hero along with it; I aver nothing 
to the contrary. Ask Domenico there if the lapidaries can 
always tell a gem by the sight alone. And now Pm going 
to put the tow in my ears, for thy chatter and the bells 



44 ROMOLA. 

together are more than I can endure: so say no more to 
me, but trim my beard." 

With these last words Piero (called **di Cosimo," from 
his master, Cosimo Eosselli) drew out two bits of tow, 
stuffed them in his ears, and placed himself in the chair 
before Nello, who shrugged his shoulders and cast a gri- 
macing look of intelligence at the Greek, as much as to 
say, " A whimsical fellow, you perceive! Everybody holds 
his speeches as mere jokes." 

Tito, who had stood transfixed, with his long dark eyes 
resting on the unknown man who had addressed him so 
equivocally, seemed recalled to his self-command by Piero's 
change of position and apparently satisfied with his expla- 
nation, was again giving his attention to Cennini, who 
presently said — 

*'This is a curious and valuable ring, young man. This 
intaglio of the fish with the crested serpent above it, in 
the black stratum of the onyx, or rather nicolo, is well 
shoAvn by the surrounding blue of the upper stratum. The 
ring has, doubtless, a history?" added Cennini, looking up 
keenly at the young stranger. 

*^ Yes, indeed," said Tito, meeting the scrutiny very 
frankly. *'The ring was found in Sicily, and I have 
understood from those who busy themselves with gems 
and sigils, that both the stone and intaglio arc of virtue to 
make the wearer fortunate, especially at sea, and also to 
restore to him whatever he may have lost. But," he con- 
tinued, smiling, '^though I have worn it constantly since 
I quitted Greece, it has not made me altogether fortunate 
at sea, you perceive, unless I am to count escape from 
drowning as a sufficient proof of its virtue. It remains to 
be seen whether my lost chests will come to light; but to 
lose no chance of such a result, Messer^ I will pray you 
only to hold the ring for a short space as pledge for a small 
sum far beneath its value, and I will redeem it as soon as 1 
can dispose of certain other gems which are secured within 
my doublet, or indeed as soon as I can earn something by 
any scholarly employment, if I may be so fortunate as to 
meet M'itli such." 

'' That may be seen, young man, if you will come with 
me," said Cennini. ''My brother Pietro, who is a better 
judge of scholarship than I, will perhaps \)q able to supply 
you with a task that may test your capabilities. Mean- 
while, take back your ring until I cnn hand you tlie neces- 
sary florins, and, if it please you, come along with me." 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 45 

''Yes, yes," said Nello, ''go with Messer Domenico, yon 
cannot go in better company; he was born under the con- 
stellation that gives a man skill, riches, and integrity, 
whatever that constellation may be, which is of the less 
consequence because babies can't choose their own horo- 
scopes, and, indeed, if they could, there might be an 
inconvenient rush of babies at particular epochs. Besides, 
our Phoenix, the incomparable Pico, has shoAvn that your 
horoscopes are all a nonsensical dream — which is the less 
troublesome opinion. Aclilio! hel giovane! don't forget to 
come back to me." 

"No fear of that," said Tito, beckoning a farewell, as 
he turned round his bright face at the door. "You are 
to do me a great service: — that is the most positive security 
for your seeing me again." 

" Say what thou wilt, Piero," said N^ello, as the young 
stranger disappeared, "I shall never look at such an out- 
side as that without taking it as a sign of a lovable nature. 
Why, thou wilt say next that Lionardo, whom thou art 
always raving about, ought to have made his Judas as 
beautiful as St. John! But thou art deaf as the top of 
Mount Morello with that accursed tow in thy ears. Well, 
well: 1^11 get a little more of this young man's history 
from him before I take him to Bardo Bardi." 



CHAPTER V. 

THE BLIND SCHOLAR AKD HIS DAUGHTER. 

The Via de Bardi, a street noted in the history of 
Florence, lies in Oltrarno, or that portion of the city 
which clothes the southern ' k of the river. It extend^ 
from the Ponte Vecchio to the Plaza de Mozzi at the head 
of the Ponte alle Grazie; its right-hand line of houses and 
walls being backed by the rather steep ascent which in the 
fifteenth century was known as the hill of Bogoli, the 
famous stone-quarry whence the city got its pavement — of 
dangerously unstable consistence when penetrated 1 y rains; 
its left-hand buildings flanking the river an/i making on 
their northern side a length of quaint, irveguhirly-pierced 
facade, of which the waters gave a softened loymg reflec- 
tion as the sun begins to decline towaivl the western 



46 KOMOLA. 

heights. But quaint as these buildings are, some of them 
seem to the historical memory a too modern substitute for 
the famous houses of the Bardi family, destroyed by pop- 
ular rage in the middle of the fourteenth century. 

•They were a proud and energetic stock, these Bardi; 
conspicuous among those who clutched the sword in the 
earliest world-famous quarrels of Florentines with Flor- 
entines, when the narrow streets were darkened with the 
high towers of the nobles, and wlien the old tutelar 
god Mars, as he saw the gutters reddened with neigh- 
bors' blood, might well have smiled at the centuries of 
lip-service paid to his rival, the Baptist. But the Bardi 
hands were of the sort that not only clutch the sword-hilt 
with vigor, but love the more delicate pleasure of fingering 
minted metal: they were matched, too, with true Floren- 
tine eyes, capable of discerning that power was to be won 
by other means than by rending and riving, and by the 
middle of tlie fourteenth century we find them risen from 
their original condition of popolani to be possessors, by 
purchase, of lands and strongholds, and the feudal dignity 
of Counts of Vernio, disturbing to the jealousy of their 
republican fellow-citizens. These lordly purchases are 
explained by our seeing the Bardi disastrously signalized 
only a few years later as standing in the very front of 
European commerce — the Christian Eothschilds of that 
time — undertaking to furnish specie for the wars of our 
Edward III., and having revenues *^in kind "made over 
to them; especially in wool, most precious of freights for 
Florentine galleys. Their august debtor left them with 
an august deficit, and alarmed Sicilian creditors made a 
too sudden demand for the payment of deposits, causing a 
ruinous shock to the credit of the Bardi and of associated 
houses, which was felt as a commercial calamity along all 
the coasts of the Mediterranean. But, like the more mod- 
ern bankrupts, they did not, for all that, hide their heads 
in humiliation; on the contrary, they seemed to have held 
them higher than ever, and to have been among the most 
arrogant of those grandees, who under certain noteworthy 
circumstances, open to all Avho will read the honest pages 
of Giovanni Villani, drew upon themselves the exaspera- 
tion of ,<^the armed people in 1343. The Bardi, who had 
made "themselves fast in their street between the two 
bridges, keptrthese narrow inlets, like panthers at bay, 
against the oncoming gonfalons of tne people, and were 
only made to give way by an assault from the hill behind 



THE BLIND SCHOLAR. 47 

them. Their houses by the river, to the number of twenty- 
two {palagi e case grancli), were sacked and burned,, and 
many among the chief of those w^ho bore ihe Bardi name 
were driven from the city. But an old Florentine family 
was many-rooted, and we find the Bardi maintaining" 
importance and rising again and again to the surface of 
Florentine affairs in a more or less creditable manner, 
implying an untold family history that would have included 
even more vicissitudes and contrasts of dignity and dis- 
grace, of wealth and poverty, than are usually seen on 
the background of wide kinship.* But the Bardi never 
resumed their proprietorship in the old street on the 
banks of the river, which in 1492 had long been associated 
with other names of mark, and especially with the Neri, 
who possessed a considerable range of houses on the site 
toward the hill. 

In one of these Neri houses their lived, however, a 
descendent of the Bardi, and of that very branch which a 
century and a half before had become Counts of Vernio; 
a descendant who had inherited the old family pride and 
energy, the old love of pre-eminence, the old desire to leave 
a lasting track of his footsteps on the fast-whirling earth. 
But the family passions lived on in him under altered con- 
ditions: this descendant of the Bardi was not a man swift- 
in street warfare, or one who loved to play the signer, for- 
tifying strongholds and asserting the right to hang vassals, 
or a merchant and usurer of keen daring, who delighted 
in the generalship of wide commercial schemes: he was a 
man with a deep-veined hand, cramped by much copying 
of manuscripts, who ate sparing dinners and wore thread- 
bare clothes, at first from choice and at last from necessity; 
who sat among his books and his marble fragments of the 
past, and saw them only by the light of those far-off 
younger days which still shone in his memory: he was a 
moneyless, blind old scholar — the Bardo de Bardi to whom 
Nello, the barber, had promised to introduce the young 
Greek, Tito Melema. 

The house in which Bardo lived was situated on the side 
of the street nearest the hill, and was one of those large 

* A sign that such contrasts were peculiarly frequent in Florence, is the 
fact that Saint Antonine, Prior of San Marco and aftei'ward archbishop, in 
the first half of this fifteenth centurj-, founded the society of Buonuomini 
ai San Martino (Good Men of St. Martin) with the main object of succoring 
the poveri vergognosi — in other words, paupers of good family. In the 
recoi-ds of the famous Panciatichi family we find a certain Girolamo in this 
century who was reduced to such a state of poverty that he was obliged to 
seek charitv for the mere means of sustaining life, though other members 
of his family were enormously wealthy. 



48 EOMOLA. 

sombre masses of stone building jnerced by comparatively 
small windows, and surmounted by what may be called a 
roofed terrace or loggia, of which there are many examples 
still to be seen in the venerable city. Grim doors, with 
conspicuous scrolled hinges, having high up on each side 
of them a small window defended by iron bars, opened on 
a groined entrance court, empty of everything but a mas- 
sive lamp-iron suspended from the centre of the groin. A 
smaller grim door on the left hand admitted to the stone 
staircase, and the rooms on the ground floor. These last 
were used as a warehouse by the proprietor; so was the first 
floor; and both were filled with precious stores, destined 
to be carried, some perhaps to the banks of the Scheldt, 
some to the shores of Africa, some to the isles of the Egean, 
or to the banks of the Euxine. Maso, the old serving- 
man, when he returned from the Mercato with the stock of 
cheap vegetables, had to make his slow way up to the 
second story before he reached the door of his master, 
Bardo, through which we are about to enter only a few 
mornings after Nello's conversation with the Greek. 

We follow Maso across the antechamber to the door on 
the left hand, through which we pass as he opens it. He 
merely looks in and nods, while a clear young voice says, 
''Ah, you are come back, Maso. It is well. We have 
wanted nothing.^' 

The voice came from the farther end of a long, spacious 
room, surrounded with shelves, on which books and antiq- 
rJties were arranged in scrupulous order. Here and there, 
on separate stands in front of the shelves, were placed a 
beautiful feminine torso; a headless statue, with an uplifted 
muscular arm wielding a bladeless sword; rounded, dim- 
pled, infantine limbs severed from the trunk, inviting the 
lips to kiss the cold marble; some well-preserved Koman 
busts; and two or three vases from Magna Grecia. A large 
table in the centre was covered with antique bronze lamps 
and small vessels in dark pottery. The color of these objects 
was chiefly pale or sombre: the vellum bindings, with their 
deep-ridged backs, gave little relief to the marble, livid 
with long burial; the once splendid patch of carpet at the 
farther end of the room had long been worn to dimness; 
the dark bronzes wanted sunlight upon them to bring out 
their tinge of green, and the sun was not yet high enough 
to send gleams of brightness through the narrow windows 
that looked on the Via de Bardi. 

The only spot of bright color in the room was made by 



THE BLIN^D SCHOLAR. 49 

the hair of a tall maiden of seventeen or eighteen, who was 
standing before a carved leggio, or reading-desk, such as is 
often seen in the choirs of Italian churches. The hair 
was of a reddish gold color, enriched by an unbroken small 
ripple, such as may be seen in the sunset clouds on grandest 
autumnal evenings. It was confined by a black fillet above 
lier small ears, from which it rippled forward again, and 
made a natural veil for her neck above her square-cut gown 
of black rascia, or serge. Her eyes were bent on a large 
volume placed before her: one long white hand rested on 
the reading-desk, and the other clasped the back of her 
father's chair. 

The blind father sat with head uplifted and turned a 
little aside toward his daughter, as if he were looking at 
her. His delicate paleness, set off by the black velvet cap 
which surmounted his drooping white hair, made all the 
more perceptible the likeness between his aged features 
and those of the young maiden, whose cheeks were also 
without any tinge of the rose. There was the same refine- 
ment of brow and nostril in both, counterbalanced by a r^^^^s 
full though firm mouth and powerful chin, which gave an \ oS^ 
expression of proud tenacity and late at impetuousness: f ^<yt 
an expression carried out in the backward poise of the £x, 
girl's head, and the grand line of her neck and shoulders. "^^ 
It was a type of face of which one could not venture to say 
whether it would inspire love or only that unwilling admi- 
ration which is mixed with dread: the question must be 
decided by the eyes, which often seem charged with a 
more direct message from the soul. But the eyes of the 
father had long been silent, and the eyes of the daughter 
were bent on the Latin pages of Politian's ** Miscellanea, '' 
from which she was reading aloud at the eightieth chapter, 
to the following effect: — 

" There was a certain nymph of Thebes named Chariclo, 
especially dear to Pallas; and this nymph was the mother 
of Teiresias. But once when in the heat of summer, Pallas, 
in company with Chariclo, was bathing her disrobed limbs 
in the Heliconian Hippocrene, it happened that Teiresias 
coming as a hunter to quench his thirst at the same foun- 
tain, inadvertently beheld Minerva unveiled, and immedi- 
ately became blind. For it is declared in the Saturnian 
laws, that he who beholds the gods against their will, 

atone for it by a heavy penalty. When Teiresias had 

fallen into this calamity, Pallas, moved by the tears of 
Chariclo, endowed him with prophecy and length of days, 
4 



50 ROMOLA. 

and even caused his prudence and wisdom to continue 
after he had entered among the shades, so that an oracle 
spake from his tomb: and she gave him a staff, where- 
with, as by a guide, he might walk without stumbling. 

And hence, Nonnus, in the fifth book of the ' Dionysiaca,' 
introduces Actseon exclaiming that he calls Teiresias happy, 
since, without dying, and with the loss of his eyesight 
merely, he had beheld Minerva unveiled, and thus, though 
blind, could forevermore carry her image in his soul." 

At this point in the reading, the daughter's hand slipped 
from the back of the chair and met her father's, which he 
had that moment uplifted; but she had not looked round, 
and was going on, though with a voice a little altered by 
some suppressed feeling, to read the Greek quotation from 
Nonnus, when the old man said — 

"Stay, Romola; reach me my own copy of Nonnus. 
It is a more correct copy than any in Poliziano's hands, 
for I made emendations in it which have not yet been 
communicated to any man. I finished it in 1477, when 
my sight was fast failing me.'' 

Romola walked to the farther end of the room, with the 
queenly step which was the simple action of her tall, finely- 
wrought frame, without the slightest conscious adjustment 
of herself. 

''Is it in the right place, Romola?" asked Bardo, who 
was perpetually seeking the assurance that the outward 
fact continued to correspond with the image which lived 
to the minutest detail in his mind. 

''Yes, father; at the west end of the room, on the 
third shelf from the bottom, behind the bust of Hadrian, 
above Apollonius Rhodius and Callimachus, and below 
Lucan and Silicus Italicus." 

As Romola said this, a fine ear would have detected in 
her clear voice and distinct utterance, a faint suggestion 
of weariness struggling with habitual patience. But as 
she approached her father and saw his arms stretched out 
a little with nervous excitement to seize tlie volume, her 
hazel eyes filled with pity; she hastened to lay the book 
on his lap, and kneeled down by him, looking up at him 
as if she believed that the love in her face must surely 
make its way through the dark obstruction that shut out 
everything else. * At that moment the doubtful attractive- 
ness of Romola's face, in which pride and passion seemed 
to be quivering in the balance with native refinement and 
intelligence, was transfigured to the most lovable woman- 



THE BLIND SCHOLAR. 51 

liness by mingled pity and affection : it was evident that 
the deepest fount of feeling within her had not yet 
wrought its way to the less changeful features, and only 
found its outlet through her eyes. 

But the father, unconscious of that soft radiance, looked 
flushed and agitated as his hand explored the edges and 
back of the large book. 

^^The vellum is yellowed in these thirteen years, 
Romola.^' 

"Yes, father,*^ said Romola, gently; "but your letters 
at the back are dark and plain still — fine Roman letters; 
and the Greek character," she continued, laying the book 
open on her father's knee, "is more beautiful than that 
of any of your bought manuscripts. '' 

"Assuredly, child," said Bardo, passing his finger 
across the page, as if he hoped to discriminate line and 
margin. " What hired amanuensis can be equal to the 
scribe who loves the words that grow under his hand, and 
to whom an error or indistinctness in the text is more 
painful than a sudden darkness or obstacle across his path? 
And even these mechanical printers who threaten to make 
learning a base and vulgar thing — even they must depend 
on the manuscript over which we scholars have bent with 
tluit insight into the poet's meaning which is closely akin 
to the mens divinior of the poet himself; unless they 
would flood the world with grammatical falsities and 
inexplicable anomalies that would turn the very fountain 
of Parnassus into a deluge of poisonous mud. But find 
the passage in the fifth book, to which Poliziano refers — 
I know it very well." 

Seating herself on a low stool, close to her father's 
knee, Romola took the book on her lap and read the four 
verses containing the exclamation of Actaeon. 

"It is true, Romola," said Bardo, when she had fin- 
ished; "It IS a true conception of the poet; for what is 
that grosser, narrower light by which men behold merely 
the petty scene around them, compared with that far- 
stretching, lasting light which spreads over centuries of 
thought, and over the life of nations, and makes clear to 
us the minds of the immortals who have reaped the great 
harvest and left us to glean in their furrows? For me, 
Romola, even wlien T con Id see , it was with thp grpat dp^d 
that I lived; while the living often seemed to me mere 
spec^s^^^j[ mclows~clispossessed~of t r ue feeli ng and intftl- 
iigence;' arKTmilike those Lamiae, to~whom PoRziano, with 



52 ROMOLA. 

that superficial ingenuity which I do not deny to him, 
compares our inquisitive Florentines, because they put on 
their eyes when they went abroad, and took them off when 
they got home again, I have returned from the converse 
of the streets as from a forgotten dream, and have sat 
down among my books, saying with Petrarca, the modern 
who is least unworthy to be named after the ancients, 
*Libri medullitus delectant, colloquuntur, consulunt, et 
viva quadam nobis atque arguta familiaritate junguntur.' " 

" And in one thing you are happier than your favorite 
Petrarca, father,'^ said Romola, affectionataly humoring 
the old man's disposition to dilate in this way; **for he 
used to look at his copy of Homer and think sadly that the 
Greek was a dead letter to him: so far, he had the inward 
blindness that you feel is worse than your outward 
blindness." 

^' True, child, for I carry within me the fruits of that 
fervid study which I gave to the Greek tongue under the 
teaching of the younger Crisolora, and Filelfo, and Argi- 
ropulo; though that great work in which I had desired to 
gather, as into a firm web, all the threads that my research 
had laboriously disentangled, and which would have been 
the vintage of my life, was cut off by the failure of my 
sight and my want of a fitting coadjutor. For the sus- 
tained zeal and unconquerable patience demanded from 
those who would tread the unbeaten paths of knowledge 
are still less reconcilable with the wandering, vagrant pro- 
pensity of the feminine mind than with the feeble powers 
of the feminine body." 

*^ Father," said Romola, with a sudden flush and in an 
injured tone, ** I read anything you wish me to read; and 
I will look out any passages fo/you, and make whatever 
notes you want." 

'' Bardo shook his head, and smiled with a bitter sort of 
pity. '^ As well try to be a pentathlos and perform all the 
five feats of the palaestra with the limbs of a nymph. 
Have I forgotten thy fainting in the mere search for the 
references I needed to explain a single passage of Calli- 
machus?" 

'^But, father, it was the weight of the books, and Maso 
can help me; it was not want of attention and patience.' 

Bardo shook his head again. '' It is not mere bodily 
organs that I want: it is the sharp edge of a young mind 
to pierce the way for my somewhat blunted faculties. For 
blindness acts like a dam, sending the streams of thought 



cdkt^t 



THE BLIISTD SCHOLAR. 53 

backward along the already-traveled channels and hinder- 
ing the course onward. If my son had not forsaken me, >dj»= 
deluded by debasing fanatical dreams, worthy, only of an(^^^f* 
energumen whose dwelling is among tombs, I might have 
gone on and seen my path broadening to the end of my 
life; for he was a youth of great promise. But it has closed / 
in now,^^ the old man continued, after a short pause; 
*^it has closed in now — all but the narrow track he has left 
me to tread — alone in my blindness." 

Komola started from her seat, and carried away the large 
volume to its place again, stung too acutely by her father's 
last words to remain motionless as well as silent; and 
when she turned away from the shelf again, she remained 
standing at some distance from him, stretching her arms 
downward and clasping her fingers tightly as she looked 
with a sad dreariness in her young face at the lifeless 
objects around her — the parchment backs, the unchanging 
mutilated marble, the bits of obsolete bronze and clay. 

Bardo, though usually susceptible to Romola's move- 
ments and eager to trace them, was now too entirely 
preoccupied by the pain of rankling memories to notice 
her departure from his side. 

" Yes," he went on, " with my son to aid me, I might 
have had my due share in the triumphs of this century: 
the names of the Bardi, father and son, might have been 
held reverently on the lips of scholors in the ages to come; 
not on account of frivolous verses or philosophical treatises, 
which are superfluous and presumptuous attempts to imi- 
tate the inimitable, such as allure vain men like Panhormita 
and from which even the admirable Poggio did not keep 
himself sufficiently free; but because we should have given 
a lamp whereby men might have studied the supreme 
productions of the past. For why is a young man like 
Poliziano (who was not yet born when I was already held 
worthy to maintain a discussion with Thomas of Sarzana) to ^^j^x-w 
have a glorious memory as a commentator on the Pandects ^^ ff 
— why is Ficino, whose Latin is an ott'ense to me, and who ^^i^^ 
wanders purblind among the superstitious fancies that V^»*y 
marked the decline at once of art, literature and philoso- ^c^' 
phy, to descend to posterity as the very high priest of 
Platonism, while I, who am more than their equal, have 
not effected anything but scattered work, which will be 
appropriated by other men. Why? but because my son, 
whom I had brought up to replenish my ripe learning 
with young enterprise, left me and all liberal pursuits that 



54 ROMOLA. 

he might lash himself and howl at midnight witli besotted 
friars — that he might go wandering on pilgrimages befit- 
ting men who know of no past older than the missal and 
the crucifix? — left me when the night was already be- 
ginning to fall on me." 

In these last words the old man's voice, which had risen 
high in indignant protest, fell into a tone of reproach so 
tremulous and plaintive that Romola, turning her eyes 
again toward the blind aged face, felt her heart swell 
with forgiving pity. She seated herself by her father 
again, and placed her hand on his knee — too proud to 
obtrude consolation in words that might seem like a vindi- 
cation of her own value, yet wishing to comfort him by 
some sign of her presence. 

"'Yes, Eomola,'' said Bardo, automatically letting his 
left hand, with its massive propliyhictic rings, fall a little 
too heavily on the delicate blue-veined back of the girl's 
right, so that she bit her lip to prevent herself from start- 
ing. '*If even Florence only is to remember me, it can 
but be on the same ground that it will remember Niccolo 
Niccoli — because I forsook the vulgar pursuit of wealth in 
commerce that I might devote myself to collecting the 
precious remains of ancient art and wisdom; and leave 
them, after the example of the munificent Romans, for an 
everlasting possession to my fellow-citizens. But why do 
I say Florence only? If Florence remembers me, will not 

the world, too, remember me? and yet," added Bardo, 

after a short pause, his voice falling again into a saddened 
key, ** Lorenzo's untimely death has raised a new difficulty. 
I had his promise — I should have had his bond — that my 
collection should always bear my name and should never 
be sold, though thn harpies might clutch everything else; 
but there is enough for them — there is more than enough — 
and for thee, too, Romola, there will be enough. Be- 
sides, thou wilt marry; Bernardo reproaches me that I do 
not seek a fitting joarentado for thee, and we will delay no 
longer, w^e will think about it." 

''No, no, father; what could you do? besides, it is 
useless: wait till some one seeks me," said Romola, hastily. 

''Nay, my child, that is not the paternal duty. It was 
not so held by the ancients, and in this respect Florentines 
have not degenerated from their ancestral customs." 

" But I will study diligently," said Romola, her eyes 
dilating with anxiety. "I will become as learned as Cas- 
sandra Fedcle: I will try and be as useful to you as if I 



THE BLIN'D SCHOLAR. 55 

had been ii boy, and then perhaps some great scholar will 
want to marry me, and will not mind about a dowry; and 
he will like to come and live with you, and he will be to 
you in place of my brother; and you will not be sorry that 
I was a daughter/" 

There was a rising sob in Romola's voice as she said the 
last words, which touched the fatherly fiber in Bardo. He 
stretched his hand upward a little in search of her golden 
hair, and as she placed her head under his hand, he gently 
stroked it, leaning toward her as if his eyes discerned some 
glimmer there. 

'•^Nay, Romola mia, I said not so; if I have pronounced 
an anathema on a degenerate and ungrateful son, I said 
not that I could wish thee other than the sweet daughter 
thou hast been to me. For what son could have tended 
me so gently in the frequent sickness I have had of late? 
And even in learning thou art not, according to thy meas- 
ure, contemptible. Something, perhaps, were to be wished 
in thy capacity of attention and memory, not incompatible 
even with the feminine mind. But as Calcondila bore 
testimony, when he aided me to teach thee, thou hast a 
ready apprehension, and even a wide-glancing intelligence. 
And'^thou hast a man's nobility of soul: thou hast never 
fretted me with thy petty desires as thy mother did. It is 
true, I have been careful to keep thee aloof from the 
debasing influence of thy own sex, with their sparrow-like 
frivolity and their enslaving superstition, except, indeed, 
from that of our cousin Brigida, who may well serve as a 
scarecrow and a warning. And though — since I agree with 
the divine Petrarca, when he declares, quoting the *^Aulu- 
laria ' of Plautus, who again was indebted for the truth to 
the supreme Greek intellect, ^ Optimam f ceminam nullam 
esse, alia licet alia pejor sit ' — I cannot boast that thou art 
entirely lifted out of that lower category to which Nature 
assigned thee, nor even that in erudition thou art on a 
par with the more learned women of this age; thou art, 
nevertheless — yes, Romola mia,"" said the old man, his 
pedantry again melting into tenderness, '* thou art my 
sweet daughter, and thy voice is as the lower notes of the 
flute, ^ dulcis, durabilis, clara, pura, secans aera et auribus 
sedens," according to the choice words of Quintilian; and 
Bernardo tells me thou art fair, and thy hair is like the 
brightness of the morning, and indeed it seems to me that 
I discern some radiance from thee. Ah! I know how all 
else looks in this room, but thy form I only guess at. Thou 



66 ROMOLA. 

art no longer the little woman six years old, that faded for 
me into darkness; thy art tall, and thy arm is but little 
below mine. Let us walk together." 

The old man rose, and Eomola, soothed by these beams 
of tenderness, looked happy again as she drew his arm 
within hers, and placed in his right hand the stick which 
rested at the side of his chair. While Bardo had been 
sitting, he had seemed hardly more than sixty: his face, 
though pale, had that refined texture in which wrinkles 
and lines are never deep; but now that he began to walk, 
he looked as old as he really was — rather more than 
seventy; for his tall, spare frame had the student's stoop 
of the shoulders, and he stepped with the undecided gait 
of the blind. 

''No, Romola,'' he said, pausing against the bust of 
Hadrian, and passing his stick from the right to tlie left 
that he might explore the familiar outline with a '' seeing 
hand." *' There will be nothing else to preserve my 
memory and carry down my name as a member of the 
great republic of letters — nothing but my library and my 
collection of antiquities. And they are choice," continued 
Bardo, pressing the bust and speaking in a tone of insist- 
ence. The collections of Niccolo I know were larger; but 
take any collection which is the work of a single man — 
that of the great Boccaccio even — mine will surpass it. 
That of Poggio was contemptible compared wuth mine. It 
will be a great gift to unborn scholars. And there is 
nothing else. For even if I were to yield to the wish of 
Aldo Manuzio, when he sets up his press at Venice, and 
give him the aid of my annotated manuscripts, I know 
well what would be the result: some other scholar's name 
would stand on the title-page of the edition — some scholar 
who would have fed on my honey, and then declared in 
his preface that he had gathered it all himself fresh from 
Hymettus. Else, why have I refused the loan of many an 
annotated codex? why have I refused to make public any 
of my translations? why? but because scholarship is a 
system of licensed robbery, and your man in scarlet and 
furred robe who sits in judgment on thieves, is himself a 
thief of the thoughts and the fame that belong to his 
fellows. But against that robbery Bardo de Bardi shall 
struggle — though blind and forsaken he shall struggle. I 
too h»ve a right to be remembered — as great a right as 
Pontanus or Merula, whose names will be foremost on the 
lips of posterity, because they sought patronage and found 



I 



THE BLIKD SCHOLAR. ' 57 



it; because they had tongues that could flatter, and blood 
that was used to be nourished from the client's basket. I 
have a right to be remembered.'' 

The old man's voice had become at once loud and trem- 
ulous, and a pink flush overspread his proud, delicately-cut 
features, while the habitually raised attitude of his head 
gave the idea that behind the curtain of his blindness he 
saw some imaginary high tribunal to which he was appeal- 
ing against the injustice of Fame. 

TKomola was moved with sympathetic indignation, for -in .^^ 
her nature too there lay the same large claims, and the !r^^ 
same spirit of struggle against their denial. She tried to n l- 
calm her father by a still prouder word than his. ^"^ 

^^ Nevertlieless, father, it is a great gift of the gods to be 
born with a hatred and contempt of all injustice and mean- 
ness. Yours is a higher lot, never to have lied and truck- 
led, than to have shared honors won by dishonor. There 
is strength in scorn, as there was ir the martial fury by 
which men became insensible to wounds/^ 

^' It is well said, Eomola. It is a Promethean word thou 
hast uttered," answered Bardo, after a little interval in 
which he had begun to lean on his stick again, and to 
walk on. ^^And I indeed am not to be pierced by the 
shafts of Fortune. My armor is the ces triplex of a clear 
conscience, and a mind nourished by the precepts of philos- 
ophy. ' For men,' says Epictetus, ' are disturbed not by 
things themselves, but by their opinions or thoughts con- 
cerning those things.' And again, ^ whosoever will be free, 
let him not desire or dread that which it is in the power of 
others either to deny or inflict: otherwise, he is a slave.' 
And of all such gifts as are dependent on the caprice of 
fortune or of men, I have long ago learned to say, with 
Horace — who, however, is too wavering in his philosophy, 
vacillating between the precepts of Zeno and the less 
worthy maxims of Epicurus, and attempting, as we say, 
' duabus sellis sedere ' — concerning such accidents, I say, 
with the pregnant brevity of the poet — 

' Sunt qui non habeant, est qui non curat habere.' 

He is referring to gems, and purple, and other insignia of 
wealth; but I may apply his words not less justly to the 
tributes men pay us with their lips and their pens, which 
are also matters of purchase, and often with base coin. 
Yes, ' inanis' — hollow, empty — is the epithet justly 
bestowed on Fame." 



58 ROMOLA. 

They made the tour of the room in silence after this; 
but Bardo's lip-born maxims were as powerless over the 
passion which had been moving him, as if they had been 
written on parchment and hung round his neck in a sealed 
bag; and he broke forth again in a new tone of insistence. 

'^hianisf" yes, if it is a lying fame; but not if it is the 
j ust meed of labor and a great purpose. I claim my right : it 
is not fair that the work of my brain and my hands should 
not be a monument to me — it is not just that my labor 
should bear the name of another man. It is but little to 
ask," the old man went on bitterly, " that my name 
should be over the door — that men should own themselves 
debtors to the Bardi Library in Florence. They will 
speak coldly of me, perhaps: *a diligent collector and 
transcriber,^ they will say, ^and also of some critical ingen- 
uity, but one who could hardly be conspicuous in an age 
so fruitful in illustrious scholars. Yet he merits our pity, 
for in the latter years of his life he was blind, and his 
only son, to whose education he had devoted his best 

years ^ Nevertheless, my name will be remembered, 

and men will honor me: not with the breath of flattery, 
purchased by mean bribes, but because I have labored, and 
because my labors will remain. Debts! I know there are 
debts; and there is thy dowry, Romola, to be paid. But 
there must be enough — or, at least, there can lack but a 
small sum, such as the Signoria might well provide. And 
if Lorenzo had not died, all would "have been secured and 
settled. But now " 

At this moment Maso opened the door, and advancing 
to his master, announced that Nello, the barber, had 
desired him to say, that he was come with the Greek 
scholar whom he had asked leave to introduce. 

" It is well," said the old man. ** Bring them in." 

Bardo, conscious that he looked more dependent when 
he was walking, liked alway to be seated in the presence 
of strangers, and Romola, without needing to be told, 
conducted him to his chair. She was standing by him at 
her full height, in quiet majestic self-possession, when the 
visitors entered; and the most penetrating observer would 
hardly have divined that this proud pale pace, at the 
slightest touch on the fibres of affection or pity, could 
become passionate with tenderness, or that this woman, 
who imposed a certain awe on those who approached her, 
was in a state of girlish simplicity and ignorance concern- 
ing the world outside her father's books. 



DAWNING HOPES. 69 

CHAPTEE VI. 

DAWNING HOPES. 

When Maso opened the door again, and ushered in the 
two visitors, Nello, first making a deep reverence to Eomola, 
gently pushed Tito before him, and advanced with him 
toward her father. 

" Messer Bardo," he said, in a more measured and respect- 
ful tone than was usual with him, ^'I have the honor of 
presenting to you the Greek scholar, who has been eager 
to have spetjch of you, not less from the report I have 
made to him of your learning and your priceless collections, 
than because of the furtherance your patronage may give 
him under the transient need to which he has been reduced 
by shipwreck. His name is Tito Melema, at your service.^' 

Romola^'s astonishment could hardly have been greater 
if the stranger had worn a panther-skin and carried a 
thyrsus; for the cunning barber had said nothing of the 
Greek's age or appearance; and among her father's scholarly 
visitors, she had hardly ever seen any but middle-aged or 
gray-haired men. There was only one masculine face, at 
once youthful and beautiful, the image of which remained 
deeply impressed on her mind: it was that of her brother, 
who long years ago had taken her on his knee, kissed her, 
and never come back again: a fair face, with sunny hair, 
like her own. But the habitual attitude of her mind 
toward strangers — a proud self-dependence and deter- 
mination to ask for nothing even by a smile — confirmed 
in her by her father's complaints against the world's 
injustice, was like a snowy embankment hemming in the 
rush of admiring surprise. Tito's bright face showed its 
rich-tinted beauty without any rivalry of color above his 
black sajo or tunic reaching to the knees. It seemed like 
a wreath of spriug, dropped suddenly in Romola's young 
but wintry life, which had inlteritecl nothing but memo- 
ries — memories of a dead mother, of a lost brother, of a 
blind father's happier time — memories of far-oif light, 
love, and beauty, that lay embedded in dark mines of 
books, and could hardly give out their brightness again 
until they were kindled for her by the torch of some 
known joy. Nevertheless, she returned Tito's bow, made 
to her on entering, with the same pale proud face as ever; 
but, as he approached, the snow melted, and when he 



60 ROMOLA. 

ventured to look toward her again, while Nello was speak- 
ing, a pink flush overspread her face, to vanish again 
almost immediately, as if her imperious will had recalled 
it. Tito's glance, on the contrary, had that gentle, beseech- 
ing admiration in it which is the most propitiating of 
appeals to a proud, shy woman, and is perhaps the only 
atonement a man can make for being too handsome. The 
finished fascination of his air came chiefly from the absence 
of demand and assumption. It was that of a fleet, soft- 
coated, dark-eyed animal that delights you by not bound- 
ing away in indifference from you, and unexpectedly pillows 
its chin on your palm, and looks up at you desiring to be 
stroked — as if it loved you. 

" Messere, I give you welcome," said Bardo, with some 
condescension; ''misfortune Avedded to learning, and espe- 
cially to Greek learning, is a letter of credit that should win 
the ear of every instructed Florentine; for, as you are 
doubtless aware, since the period when your countryman, 
Manuelo Crisolora, diffused the light of his teaching in 
the chief cities of Italy, now nearly a century ago, no 
man is held -worthy of the name of scholar who has 
acquired merely the transplanted and derivative literature 
of the Latins; rather, such inert students are stigmatized 
as opici or barbarians according to the phrase of the 
Eomans themselves, who frankly replenished their urns at 
the fountain-head. I am, as you perceive, and as Nello 
has doubtless forewarned you, totally blind: a calamity to 
which we Florentines are held especially liable, whether 
owing to the cold winds which rush upon us in spring 
from the passes of the Apennines, or to that sudden trans- 
ition from the cool gloom of our houses to the dazzling 
brightness of our summer sun, by which the lippi are said 
to have been made so numerous among the ancient 
Romans; or, in fine, to some occult cause which eludes 
our superficial surmises. But I pray you be seated: Nello, 
my friend, be seated." 

Bardo paused until his fine ear had assured him that the 
visitors were seating themselves, and that Romola was 
taking her usual chair at his right hand. Then he said — 

''From what part of Greece do you come, Mersere? I 
had thought that your unhappy country had been almost 
exhausted of those sons who could cherish in their minds 
any image of her original glory, though indeed the barbar- 
ous Sultans have of late shown themselves not indisposed 
to engraft on their wild stock the precious vine which 



DAWNING HOPES. 61 

their own fierce bands have hewn down and trampled 
under foot. From what part of Greece do you come?" 

*' I sailed last from Nauplia/' said Tito; ''but I have 
resided both at Constantinople and Thessalonica, and have 
traveled in various parts little visited by Western Chris- 
tians since the triumph of the Turkish arms. I should 
tell you, however, Messere, that I was not born in Greece, 
but at Bari. I spent the first sixteen years of my life in 
Southern Italy and Sicily." 

While Tito was speaking, some emotion passed, like a 
breath on the waters, across Bardo^'s delicate features; he 
leaned forward, put out his right hand toward Romola, 
and turned his head as if about to speak to her; but then, 
correcting himself, turned away again, and said, in a sub- 
dued voice — 

''Excuse me; is it not true — you are young?" 

" I am three-and-twenty," said Tito. 

"Ah," said Bardo, still in a tone of subdued excite- 
ment, "and you had, doubtless, a father who cared for 
your early instruction — who, perhaps, was himself a 
scholar?" 

There was a slight pause before Titers answer came to 
the ear of Bardo: but for Romola and Nello it began 
with a slight shock that seemed to pass through him, and 
cause a momentary quivering of the lip; doubtless at the 
revival of a supremely painful remembrance. 

" Yes," he replied, " at least a father by adoption. He 
was a Neapolitan, and of accomplished scholarship, both 
Latin and Greek. But," added Tito, after another slight, 
pause, "he is lost to me — was lost on a voyage he too 
rashly undertook to Delos." 

Bardo sank back again, too delicate to ask another 
question that might probe a sorrow which he divined to be 
recent. Romola, who knew well what were the fibres that 
Tito^s voice had stirred in her father, felt that this new 
acquaintance had with wonderful suddenness got within the 
barrier that lay between them and the alien world. Nello, 
thinking that the evident check given to the conversation 
offered a graceful opportunity for relieving himself from 
silence, said — 

" In truth, it is as clear as Venetian glass that this fine 
young man has had the best of training; for the two 
Cennini have set him to work at their Greek sheet already, 
and it seems to me they are not men to begin cutting 
before they have felt the edge of their tools; they tested 



62 ROMOLA. 

him well beforehand, we may be sure, and if there are two 
things not to be hidden — love and a cough — I say there is a 
third, and that is ignorance, when once a man is obliged 
to do something besides wagging his head. The to7isor 
inequ all's is inevitably betrayed when he takes the shears 
in his hand; is it not true, Messer Bardo? I speak after 
the fashion of a barber, but, as Luigi Pulci says — 

' PerdonimI s'io fallo: clii m'ascolta 
Intenda il mio volgar col suo latino.' " 

'' Nay, my good Nello,^' said Bardo, with an air of 
friendly severity, '' you are not altogether illiterate, and 
might doubtless have made a more respectable progress in 
learning if you had abstained somewhat from the c'icalata 
and gossip of the street corner, to which our Florentines 
are excessively addicted; but still more if you had not 
clogged your memory with those frivolous productions of 
which Luigi Pulci has furnished the most ])eccant exemp- 
lar — a com23endium of extravagances and incongruities the 
farthest removed from the models of a pure age, and 
resembling rather the grylli or conceits of a period when 
mystic meaning was held a warrant for monstrosity of 
form; with this difference, that while the monstrosity is 
retained, the mystic meaning is absent; in contemptible 
contrast with the great poem of Virgil, who, as I long held 
with Filelfo, before Landino had taken upon him to 
expound the same opinion, embodied the deepest lessons 
of philosophy in a graceful and well-knit fable. And I 
cannot but regard the multiplication of these babbling, 
lawless productions, albeit countenanced by the patronage, 
and in some degree the example, of Dorenzo himself, 
otherwise a friend to true learning, as a sign that the 
glorious hopes of this century are to be quenched in 
gloom; nay, that they have been the delusive prologue to 
an age worse than that of iron — the age of tinsel and 
gossamer, in which no thought has substance enough to be 
moulded into consistent and lasting form." 

**Once more, pardon," said Nello, opening his palms 
outward, and shrugging his shoulders, ** I find myself 
knowing so many things in good Tuscan before I have 
time to think of the Latin for them; and Messer Luigi's 
rhymes are always slipping off the lips of my customers: — 
that is what corrupts me. And, indeed, talking of cus- 
tomers, I have left my shop and my reputation too long in 
the custody of my slow Sandro, who does not deserve even 



i 



DAWNING HOPES. 63 

to be called a to7isor inequalis, but rather to be pro- 
nounced simply a bungler in the vulgar tongue. So with 
your permission Messer Bardo, I will take my leave — well 
understood that I am at your service whenever Maso calls 
upon me. It seems a tliousand years till I dress and per- 
fume the damigella^s hair, which deserves to shine in the 
heavens as a constellation, though indeed it were a pity for 
it ever to go so far out of reach." 

Three voices made a fugue of friendly farewells to 
Nello, as he retreated with a bow to Romola and a beck to 
Tito. The acute barber saw that the pretty youngster, 
who had crept into his liking by some strong magic, was 
well launched in Bardo's favorable regard; and satisfied 
that his introduction had not miscarried so far, he felt the 
propriety of retiring. 

The little burst of wrath, called forth by Nello^s 
unlucky quotation, had diverted Bardo's mind from the 
feelings which had just before been hemming in further 
speech, and he now addressed Tito again with his ordinary 
calmness. 

*^Ah, young man, you are happy in having been able to 
unite the advantages of travel with those of study, and 
you will be welcome among us as a bringer of fresh tidings 
from a land which has become sadly strange to us, except 
through the agents of a now restricted commerce and the 
reports of hasty pilgrims. For those days are in the far 
distance which I myself witnessed, when men like Aurispa 
and Guarino went out to Greece as to a storehouse, and 
came back laden with manuscripts which every scholar 
was eager to borrow — and, be it owned with shame, not 
always willing to restore; nay, even the days when erudite 
Greeks flocked to our shores for a refuge, seem far off 
now — farther off than the on-coming of my blindness. 
But doubtless, young man, research after the treasures 
of antiquity was not alien to the purpose of your travels?" 

"Assuredly not," said Tito. "On the contrary, my 
companion — my father — was willing to risk his life in his 
zeal for the discovery of inscriptions and other traces of 
ancient civilization. 

"And I trust there is a record of his researches and 
their results," said Bardo, eagerly, "since they must be 
even more precious than those of Ciriaco, which I have 
diligently availed myself of, though they are not always 
"'luminated by adequate learning." 

There was such a record," said Tito, " but it was lost. 



64 ROMOLA. 

like everything else, in the sliipwreck 1 suffered below 
Ancona. The only record left is such as remains in our — 
in my memory." 

'* You must lose no time in committing it>io paper, 
young man," said Bardo, with growing interest. "Doubt- 
less you remember much, if you aided in transcription; 
for when I was your age, words wrought themselves into 
my mind as if they had been fixed by the tool of the graver: 
wherefore I constantly marvel at the capriciousness of my 
daughter's memory, which grasps certain objects with 
tenacity, and lets fall all those minutiae whereon depends 
accuracy, the very soul of scholarship. But I apprehend 
no such danger with you, young man, if your will has 
seconded the advantages of your training." 

When Bardo made this reference to his daughter, Tito 
ventured to turn his eyes toward her, and at the accusation 
against her memory his face broke into its brightest smile, 
which was reflected as inevitably as sudden sunbeams in 
Romola's. Conceive the soothing delight of that smile to 
her! Romola had never dreamed that there was a scholar 
in the world who would smile at the deficiency for which 
she was constantly made to feel herself a culprit. It was 
like the dawn of a new sense to her — the sense of comrade- 
ship. They did not look away from each other immedi- 
ately, as if the smile had been a stolen one; they looked and 
smiled with frank enjoyment. 

'' She is not really so cold and proud," thought Tito. 

" Does he forget too, I wonder? " thought Romola. " Yet 
I hope not, else he will vex my father." 

But Tito was obliged to turn away, and answer Bardo's 
question. 

''I have had much practice in transcription," he said; 
*^* but in the case of inscriptions copied in memorable 
scenes, rendered doubly impressive by the sense of risk and 
adventure, it may have happened that my retention of 
written characters has been weakened. On the plain of 
Eurotas, or among the gigantic stones of Mycenae and 
Tyrins — especially when the fear of the Turk hovers over 
one like a vulture — the mind wanders, even though the 
hand writes faithfully what the eye dictates. But some- 
thing doubtless I have retained," added Tito with a mod- 
esty which was not false, though he was conscious that it 
was not politic, " something that might be of service if 
illustrated and corrected by a wider learning than my own." 

*^ That is well spoken, young man," said Bardo, delighted. 



DAWNIKG HOPES. 65 

''And I will not withhold from you such aid as I can givC;, 
if you like to communicate with me concerning your rec- 
ollections. I foresee a work which will be a useful sup- 
plement to the * Isolario ' of Christoforo Buondelmonte, 
and which may take rank with the ' Itineraria ^ of Ciriaco 
and the admirable Ambrogio Traversari. But we must 
prepare ourselves for calumny, young man/' Bardo went 
on with energy, as if the work were already growing so fast 
that the time of trial was near; ''if your book contains 
novelties you will be charged with forgery; if my elucida- 
tions should clash with any principles of interpretation 
adopted by another scholar, our personal characters will be 
attacked, we shall be impeached with foul actions; you 
must prepare yourself to be told that your mouther was a 
fish-woman, and that your father was a renegade priest or 
a hanged malefactor. I myself, for having shown error in 
a single preposition, had an invective written against me 
wherein I was charged with treachery, fraud, indecency, 
and even hideous crimes. Such, my young friend — such 
are the flowers with which the glorious path of scholarship 
is strewed! But tell me, then: I have learned much con- 
cerning Byzantium and Thessalonica long ago from Deme- 
trio Calcondila, who has but lately departed from Florence; 
but you, it seems, have visited less familiar scenes?" 

"Yes; we made what I may call a pilgrimage full of 
danger, for the sake of visiting places which have almost 
died out of the memory of the West, for they lie away from 
the track of pilgrims; and my father used to say that 
scholars themselves hardly imagine them to have any exist- 
ence out of books. He was of opinion that a new and more 
glorious era would open for learning when men should 
begin to look for their commentaries on the ancient writers 
in the remains of cities and temples, nay, in the paths of 
the rivers, and on the face of the valleys and the moun- 
tains." 

"Ah!" said Bardo, fervidly, "your father, then, was 
not a common man. Was he fortunate, may I ask? Had 
he many friends?" These last words were uttered in a 
tone charged with meaning. 

"No; he made enemies — chiefly, I believe, by a certain 
impetuous candor; and they hindered his advancement, so 
that he lived in obscurity. And he would never stoop to 
conciliate: he could never forget an injury." 

"Ah!" said Bardo again, with a long, deep intonation. 
g. "Among our hazardous expeditions," continued Tito, 
K 5 



(j6 romola. 

willing to prevent further questions on a point so personal, 
'' I remember with particular vividness a hastily snatched 
visit to Athens. Our hurry, and the double danger of 
being seized as prisoners by the Turks, and of our galley 
raising anchor before we could return, made it seem like a 
fevered vision of the night — the wide plain, the girdling 
mountains, the ruined porticoes and columns, either stand- 
ing far aloof, as if receding from our hurried footsteps, or 
else jammed in confusedly among the dwellings of Chris- 
tians degraded into servitude, or among the forts and 
turrets of their Moslem conquerors, who have their strong- 
hold on the Acropolis/' 

'*You fill me with surprise," said Bardo. "Athens, 
then, is not utterly destroyed and swept away, as I had 
imagined ? " 

" No wonder you should be under that mistake, for few 
even of the Greeks themselves, who live beyond the moun- 
tain boundary of Attica, know anything about the present 
condition of Athens, or Setine, as the sailors call it. I 
remember, as we were rounding the promontory of Sunium, 
the Greek pilot we had on board our Venetian galley pointed 
to the mighty columns that stand on the summit of the 
rock — the remains, as you know well, of the great temple 
erected to the goddess Athena, who looked down from 
that high shrine with triumph at her conquered rival 
Poseidon; — well, our Greek pilot, pointing to those col- 
umns, said, ^ That was the school of the great philosopher 
Aristotle.' And at Athens itself, the monk who acted as 
our guide in the hasty view we snatched, insisted most on 
showing us the spot where St. Philip baptized the Ethio- 
pian eunuch, or some such legend.'' 

"Talk not of monks and their legends, young man!" 
said Bardo, interrupting Tito impetuously. " It is enough 
to overlay human hope and enterprise with an eternal 
frost to think that the ground which was trodden by phi- 
losophers and poets is crawled over by those insect-swarms 
of besotted fanatics or howling hypocrites." 

'* Perdio, I have no affection for them," said Tito, with 
a shrug; " servitude agrees well with a religion like theirs, 
which lies in the renunciation of all that makes life 
precious to other men. And they carry the yoke that befits 
them; their matin chant is drowned by the voice of the 
muezzin, who, from the gallery of the high tower on the 
Acropolis, calls every Mussulman to his prayers. That 
tower springs from the Parthenon itself; and every time 



DAWKI^TG HOPES. 67 

we paused and directed our eyes toward it, our guide set 
up a wail, that a temple which had ouce been won from 
the diabolical uses of the pagans to become the temple of 
another virgin than Pallas— the Virgin-Mother of God — 
was now again perverted to the accursed ends of the Mos- 
lem. It was the sight of those walls of the Acropolis, 
which disclosed themselves in the distance as we leaned 
over the side of our galley when it was forced by contrary 
winds to anchor in the Piraeus, that fired my father^s mind 
with the determination to see Athens at all risks, and in 
spite of the sailors' warnings that if we lingered till a 
change of wind, they would depart without us: but, after 
all, it was impossible for us to venture near the Acropolis, 
for the sight of men eager in examining ^ old stones ' raised 
the suspicion that we Avere Venetian spies, and we had to 
hurry back to the harbor. '^ 

'^ We will talk more of these things, '^ said Bardo, eagerly. 
*' You must recall everything, to the minutest trace left in 
your memory. - You will win the gratitude of after-times 
by leaving a record of the aspect Greece bore while yet the 
barbarians had not swept away every trace of the structures 
that Pausanias and Pliny described: you will take those 
great writers as your models; and such contribution of 
criticism and suggestion as my riper mind can supply shall 
not be wanting to you. There will be much to tell; for 
you have traveled, you said, in the Peloponnesus?" 

'^Yes; and in Boeotiaalso: I have rested in the groves of 
Helicon, and tasted of the fountain Hippocrene. But on 
every memorable spot in Greece conquest after conquest 
has set its seal, till there is a confusion of ownership even 
in ruins, that only close study and comparison could un- 
ravel. High over every fastness, from the plains of Lace- 
daemon to the straits of Thermopylae, there towers some 
luige Prankish fortress, once inhabited by a French or 
Italian marquis, now either abandoned or held by Turkish 
bands.'' 

"Stay!" cried Bardo, whose mind was now too thor- 
oughly preoccupied by the idea of the future book to 
attend to Tito's further narration. "Do you think of 
writing in Latin or Greek? Doubtless Greek is the more 
ready clothing for your thoughts, and it is the nobler lan- 
guage. But, on the other hand, Latin is the tongue in 
which we shall measure ourselves with the larger and more 
famous number of modern rivals. And if you are less at 

se in it, I will aid you — yes, I will spend on you that long- 



68 ROMOLA. 

{iccumulated study wliich was to have been thrown into the 
channel of another work — a v.ork in which I myself was 
to have had a helpmate." 

Bardo paused a moment, and then added — 

'' But who knows whether that work may not be executed 
yet? For you, too, young man, have been brought up by 
a father who poured into your mind all the long-gathered 
stream of his knowledge and experience. Our aid might 
be mutual.'^ 

Romola, who had watched her father's growing excite- 
ment, and divined well the invisible currents of feeling 
that determined every question and remark, felt herself in 
a gloAV of strauge anxiety: she turned her eyes on Tito 
continually, to watch the impression her father's words 
made on him, afraid lest he should be inclined to dispel 
these visions of co-operation which were lighting up her 
father's face with a new hope. But no! He looked so 
bright and gentle: he must feel, as she did, that in this 
eagerness of blind age there was piteousness enough to call 
forth inexhaustible patience. How much more strongly 
he would feel this if he knew about her brother! A girl 
of eighteen imagines the feelings behind the face that has 
moved her with its sympathetic youth, as easily as primi- 
tive people imagined the humors of the gods in fair 
weather: what is she to believe in, if not in this vision 
woven from within? 

And Tito was really very far from feeling impatient. 
He delighted in sitting there with the sense that Romola's 
attention was fixed ou him, and that he could occasionally 
look at her. He was pleased that Bardo should take an 
interest in him: and he did not dwell with enough serious- 
ness on the prospect of the work in which he was to be 
aided, to feel moved by it to anything else than that easy, 
good-humored acquiescence which was natural to him. 

'^I shall be jDroud and happy," he said, in answer to 
Bardo's last words, ''if my services can be held a meet 
offering to the matured scholarship of Messere. But doubt- 
less" — here he looked toward Romola — ''the lovely dami- 
gella, your daughter, makes all other aid superfluous: for 
I have learned from Nello that she has been nourished on 
the highest studies from her earliest years." 

"You arc mistaken," said Romola; "I am by no means 
sufficient to my father: I have not the gifts that are neces- 
sary for scholarship." 



DAWNING HOPES. 69 

Eomola did not make this self -depreciatory statement in 
a tone of anxious humility, but with a proud gravity. 

^^Nay, my Romola/'' said her father, not willing that 
the stranger should have too low a conception of his 
daughter's powers; '^thou art not destitute of gifts; 
rather, thou art endowed beyond the measure of women; 
but thou hast withal the woman's delicate frame, which 
ever craves repose and variety, and so begets a wandering 
imagination. My daughter'' — turning to Tito — ^Mias 
been very precious to me, filling up to the best of her 
power the place of a son. For I had once a son " 

Bardo checked himself: he did not wish to assume an 
attitude of complaint in the presence of a stranger, and he 
remembered that this young man, in whom he had unex- 
pectedly become so much interested, was still a stranger, 
toward whom it became him rather to keep the position of 
a patron. His pride was roused to double activity by the 
fear that he had forgotten his dignity. 

*' But," he resumed, in his original tone of condescen- 
sion, ^^we are departing from what I believe is to you the 
most important business. Nello informed me that you 
had certain gems which you would fain dispose of, and 
that you desired a passport to some man of wealth and 
taste who would be likely to become a purchaser." 

^^Itis true; for, though I have obtained employment, 
as a corrector with the Cennini, my payment leaves little 
margin beyond the provision of necessaries, and would 
ieaye less "but that my good friend Nello insists on my 
hiiing a lodging from him, and saying nothing about the 
rent till better days." 

'' IS'ello is a good-hearted prodigal," said Bardo; '''and 
though, with that ready ear and ready tongue of his, he is 
too much like the ill-famed Margites — knowing many 
things and knowing them all badly, as I hinted to him 
but now — he is nevertheless 'abnormis sapiens,' after the 
manner of our born Florentines. But have you the gems 
with you? I would willingly know what they are — yet it 
is useless: no, it might only deepen regret. 1 cannot add 
to my store." 

*'l have one or two intaglios of much beauty," said 
Tito, proceeding to draw from his wallet a small case. 

But Eomola no sooner saw the movement than she 
looked at him with significant gravity, and placed her 
finger on her lips, 

^K " Con viso che tacendo dicea, Taci, 



70 ROMOLA. 

If Bardo were made aware that the gems were within 
reach, she knew well he would want a minute description 
of them, and it would become pain to him that they should 
go away from him, even if he did not insist on some device 
for purchasing them m spite of poverty. But she had no 
sooner made this sign than she felt rather guilty and 
ashamed at having virtually confessed a weakness of her 
father's to a stranger. It seemed that she was destined 
to a sudden confidence and familiarity with this young 
Greek, strangely at variance with her deep-seated pride 
and reserve; and this consciousness again brought the 
unwonted color to her cheeks. 

Tito understood her look and sign, and immediately 
withdrew his hand from the case, saying, in a careless tone, 
so as to make it appear that he was merely following up his 
last words, " But they are usually in the keeping of Messer 
Domenico Cennini. who has strong and safe places for 
lihese things. He "estimates them as worth at least five 
hundred ducats." 

''Ah, then, they are fine intagli," said Bardo. ''Five 
hundred ducats! Ah, more than a man's ransom!" 

Tito gave a slight, almost imperceptible itart, and 
opened his long dark eyes with questioning surprise at 
Bardo's blind face, as if his words — a mere phrase of com- 
mon parlance, at a time when men were often being ran- 
somed from slavery or imprisonment — had had some special 
meaning for him. But the next moment he looked 
toward Romola, as if her eyes must be her father's inter- 
preters. She, intensely preoccupied with what related to 
her father, imagined that Tito was looking to her again 
for some guidance, and immediately spoke. 

'' Alfissandm i^cnhi , delights in gems, you know, father; 
she calls them her winter flowers; and the Segi-etario would 
be almost sure to buy any gems that shelvisTIed for. 
Besides, he himself sets great store by rings and sigils, 
which he wears as a defense against pains in the joints." 
>v c " It is true," said Bardo. " Bartolommeo has overmuch 
"*^,\>C^ confidence in the efficacy of gems — a confidence wider than 
\N C what is sanctioned by Pliny, who clearly shows that he 
^ /regards many beliefs of that sort as idle superstitions; 
L } though not to the utter denial of medicinal virtues in 
^ / gems. Wherefore, I myself, as you observe, young man, 
(wear certain rings, which the discreet Camillo Leonardi 
prescribed to me by letter wlien two years ago I had a cer- 
tain infirmity of sudden numbness. But thou hast spoken 



DAWNING HOPES. 71 

well, Romola. I will dictate a letter to Bartolommeo, 
which Maso shall carry. But it were well that Messere 
should notify to thee what the gems are, together with the 
intagli they bear, as a warrant to Bartolommeo that they 
will be worthy of his attention." 

*'Nay, father," vsaid Eomola, whose dread lest a par- 
oxysm of the collector's mania should seize her father, gave 
her the courage to resist his proposal. '^ Your word will 
be sufficient that Messere is a scholar and has traveled 
much. The Segretario will need no farther inducement 
to receive him." 

^^True, child," said Bardo, touched on a chord that was 
sure to respond. ^' I have no need to add proofs and 
arguments in confirmation of my word to Bartolommeo. 
And I doubt not that this young man's presence is in 
accord with the tones of his voice, so that, the door being 
once opened, he will be his own best advocate." 

Bardo paused a few moments, but his silence was evi- 
dently charged with some idea that he was hesitating to 
express, for he once leaned forward a little as if he were 
going to speak, then turned his head aside toward Romola 
and sank backward again. At last, as if he had made up hia 
mind, he said in a tone which might have become a prince, 
giving the courteous signal of dismissal — 

^*I am somewhat fatigued this morning, and shall prefei- 
seeing you again to-morrow, when I shall be able to give 
you the secretary's answer, authorizing you to present 
yourself to him at some given time. But before you go " — 
here the old man, in spite of himself, fell into a more 
faltering tone — *'you will perhaps permit me to touch 
your hand? It is long since I touched the hand of a 
young man." 

Bardo had stretched out his aged white hand, and Tito 
immediately placed his dark but delicate and supple fingers 
within it. Bardo's cramped fingers closed over them, and 
he held them for a few minutes in silence. Then he said — 

'^ Romola, has this young man the same complexion as 
thy brother — fair and pale ? " 

" No, father," Romola answered, with determined com- 
posure, though her heart began to beat violently with 
mingled emotions. , ^* The hair of Messere is dark — hia 
complexion is dark." Inwardly she said, ^' V/ill he mind 
it? will it be disagreeable? No, he lookfe so gentle and 
good -u at u red." Then nlond n^r^'r — 



72 ROMOLA. 

\Vould Messere permit my father to toucli his hair and 
face?" 

Her eyes inevitably made a timid entreating appeal 
while she asked this, and Tito's met them with soft bright- 
ness as he said, '^ Assuredly," and, leaning forward, raised 
Bardo's hand to his curls, with a readiness of assent, which 
, '( was the greater relief to her, because it was unaccompanied 
^ by any sign of embarrassment. 

^ Bardo passed his hand again and again over the long 

\ curls and grasped them a little, as if their spiral resistance 

Y' ) made his inward vision clearer; then he passed his hand 

I over the brow and cheek, tracing the profile with the edge 

[ of his palm and fourth finger, and letting the breadth of 

his hand repose on the rich oval of the cheek. 

*^Ah," he said, as his hand glided from the face and 
rested on the young man's shoulder, '* he must be very 
unlike thy brother, Romola: and it is the better. You 
see no visions, I trust, my young friend?" 

At this moment the door opened, and there entered, 
unannounced, a tall elderly man in a handsome black silk 
lucco, who, unwinding his becchetto from his neck and 
taking off his cap, disclosed a head as white as Bardo's. 
He cast a keen glance of surprise at the group before him — 
the young stranger leaning in that filial attitude, while 
Bardo's hand rested on his shoulder, and Romola sitting 
near with eyes dilated by anxiety and agitation. But 
there was an instantaneous change: Bardo let fall his 
hand, Tito raised himself from his stooping posture, and 
Romola rose to meet the visitor with an alacrity which 
implied all the greater intimacy, because it was unaccom- 
panied by any smile. 

" Well, god-daughter," said the stately man, as he 
touched Romola's slioulder; *^Maso said you had a visitor, 
but I came in nevertheless." 

^' It is thou, Bernardo," said Bardo. " Thou art come 
at a fortunate moment. This young man^" he continued, 
while Tito rose and bowed, ^' is one of ^ the chief citizens 
of Florence, Messer Barnardo del Nero, my oldest, I had 
almost said my only friend — whose good opinion, if you 
can win it, may carry you far. He is but three-and- 
twenty, Bernardo, yet he can doubtless tell thee much 
which thou wilt care to hear; for though a scholar, he has 
already traveled far, and looked on other things besides 
the manuscripts for which thou hast too light an esteem." 

*'Ah, a Greek, as I augur," said Bernardo, returning 



II DAWNING HOPES. 73 

fito's reverence but slightly, and surveying him with that 
ort of glance which seems almost to cut like fine steel. 
"Newly arrived in Florence, it appears. The name of 
Messere — or part of it, for it is doubtless a long one ? " 

" On the contrar}^^' said Tito, with perfect good-humor, 
"it is most modestly free from polysyllabic pomp. My 
name is Tito Melema." 

"Truly?" said Bernardo, rather scornfully, as he took 
a seat; "I had expected it to be at least as long as the 
names of a city, a river, a province, and an empire all put 
together. We Florentines mostly use names as we do 
prawns, and strip them of all flourishes before we trust 
them to our throats." 

"Well, Bardo," he continued, as if the stranger were 
not worth further notice, and changing his tone of sar- 
castic suspicion for one of sadness, "we have buried him." 

"Ah!" replied Bardo, with corresponding sadness, N^e* 
" and a new epoch has come for Florence — a dark one, I '^^ 
fearIl -_Lorenzo h as Joft behind him an m heritance that is' 3^ 
biLLJikfi_ihe alchemist^s laboratory wlJeiT'the wisdomT'of 
th.e_jJchemist_is^^one." ■— — 

"Not altogether 's^o7^ said Bernardo. "Ei m'o de Medic i ^/j^gj 
has abundant intelligence; his faults are only the faults of 
hot blood. I love the lad — lad he will always be to me, 
as I have always been * little father' to him." 

"Yet all who want a new order of things are likely to 
conceive new hopes," said Bardo. "We shall have the 
old strife of parties, I fear." 

"If we could have a -new order of things that was 
something else than knocking down one coat of arms to 
put up another," said Bernardo, "I should be ready to 
say, 'I belong to no party: I am a Florentine.' But as A(2-- 
long as parties are in question, I am a Medicean. and will ^--^ 
be a Mcdicean till I die. I am of the same mind as 
Far inata degli U berti: if any man asks me what is meant 
by sicling with^a'party, I say, as he did, ' To wish ill or 
well, for the sake of past wrongs or kindnesses.' " 

During this short dialogue, Tito had been standing, 
and now took his leave. 

"But come again at the same hour to-morrow," said 
Bardo, graciously, before Tito left the room, "that I may 
give you Bartolommeo's answer." 

"From what quarter of the sky has this pretty Greek 
youngster alighted so close to thy chair, Bardo?" said 
Bernardo del Nero, as the door closed. He spoke with 



74 EOMOLA. 

dry emphasis, evidently intended to convey something 
more to Bardo than was implied by the mere words. 

''He is a scholar who has been shipwrecked and has 
saved a few gems, for which he wants to find a purchaser. 
I am gomg to send him to Bartolommeo Scala, for thou 
knowest it were more prudent in me to abstain from 
further purchases.'^ 

Bernardo shrugged his shoulders and said, '' Romola, 
wilt thou see if my servant is without? I ordered him to 
wait for me here." Then, when Romola was at a sufficient 
distance, he leaned forward and said to Bardo in a low, 
emphatic tone — 

'' Remember, Bardo, thou hast a rare gem of thy own; 
take care no one gets it who is not likely to pay a worthy 
price. That pretty Greek has a lithe sleekness about him 
that seems marvelously fitted for slipping easily into any 
nest be fixes his mind on.^' 

Bardo was startled: the association of Tito with the 
image of his lost son had excluded instead of suggesting 
the thought of Romola. But almost immediately there 
seemed to be a reaction which made him grasp the warning 
as if it had been a hope. 

''But why not, Bernardo? If the young man approved 
himself worthy — he is a scholar — and — and there would 
be no difficulty about the dowry, which always makes thee 
gloomy." 



CHAPTER VII. 



A LEARNED SQUABBLE. 



Bartolommeo Sca la, secretary of the Florentine Re- 
public, on whom" Tito' Melema had been thus led to anchor 
his hopes, lived in a handsome palace close to the Porta 
Pinti, now known as the Casa Gherardesca. His arms — 
an azure ladder transverse on a golden field, with the motto 
Gradatwi placed over the entrance — told all comers that 
the miller's son held his ascent to honors by his own efforts, 
a fact to be proclaimed without wincing. The secretary 
was a vain and pompous man, but he was also an honest 
one: he was sincerely convinced of his own merit, and 
could see no reason for feigning. The topmost round of 
his azure ladder had been reached by this time: he hacj 



A LEARNED SQUABBLE. 75 

held his secretaryship these twenty years — had long since 
made his orations on the ringliiera, or platform of the Old 
Palace, as the custom was, in the presence of princely 
visitors, while Marzocco, the republican lion, wore his gold 
crown on the occasion, and all the people cried, " Viva 
Messer Bartolommeo! ^^ — had been on an embassy to Rome, 
and had there been made titular Senator, Apostolical Sec- 
retary, Knight of the Golden Spur; and had, eight years 
ago, been Gonfaloniere — last goal of the Florentine 
citizen^'s ambition. Meantime he had got richer and 
richer, and more and more gouty, after the manner of 
successful mortality; and the Knight of the Golden Spur 
had often to sit with helpless cushioned heel under the 
handsome loggia he had built for himself, overlooking the 
spacious gardens and lawn at the back of his palace. 

He was in this position on the day when he had granted 
the desired interview to Tito Melema. The May after- 
noon sun was on the flowers and the grass beyond the 
pleasant shade of the loggia; the too stately silk lucco was 
cast aside, and the light loose mantle was thrown over his 
tunic; his beautiful daughter Alessandra and her husband, 
the Greek soldier-poet Marullo, were seated on one side of 
him: on the other, two friends not oppressively illustrious, 
and therefore the better listeners. Yet, to say nothing of 
the gout, Messer Bartolommeo^s felicity was far from 
perfect : it was embittered by the contents of certain 
papers that lay before him, consisting chiefly of a co.rre-_^ 
spondence between himself and Politian. It was a human7 
foible at that period (incredible as it may seem) to recite \ 
quarrels, and favor scholarly visitors with the communica- \ 
tion of an entire and lengthy correspondence; and this was 
neither the first nor the second time that Scala had asked 
the. candid opinion of his friends as to the balance of 
right and wrong in some half -score Latin letters between 
himself and Politian, all springing out of certain epigrams 
written in the most playful tone in the world. It was the 
story of a very typical and pretty quarrel, in which we are 
interested, because it supplied precisely that thistle of 
hatred necessary, according to Nello, as a stimulus to the 
sluggish paces of the cautious steed. Friendship. 

Politian, having been a rejected pretender to the love 
and the hand of Scala's daughter, kept a very sharp and 
learned tooth in readiness against the too prosperous and 
presumptuous secretary, who had declined the greatest 
scholar of the aeje for a son-in-law. Scala was a meri- 



76 ROMOLA. 

torious public servant, and, moreover, a lucky man — 
naturally exasperating to an offended scholar; but then — 
beautiful balance of things I — he had an itch for author- 
ship, and was a bad writer — one_^f those excellent people 
who, sitting in gouty slippers, r^penned poetical trifles'' 
entirely for their own amusement, without any view to an 
audience, and, consequently, sent them to their friends in 
letters, which were the literary periodicals of the fifteenth 
century J[ Now Scala had abundance of friends who were 
ready to praise his writings: friends like Ficino and Lan- 
dino— amiable browsers in the Medicean park along with 
himself — who found his Latin prose style elegant and mas- 
culine ; and the terrible Joseph Scaliger, who was ttf 
pronounce him totally ignorant of Latinity, was at a com- 
fortable distance in the next century. But when was the 
fatal coquetry inherent in superfluous authorship ever 
quite contented with the ready praise of friends? That 
critical supercilious Politian — a fellow-browser, who was 
far from amiable — must be made aware that the solid sec- 
retary showed, in his leisure hours, a pleasant fertility in 
verses, which indicated pretty clearly how much he might 
do in that way if he were not a man of affairs. 

Ineffable moment! when the man you secretly hate 
sends you a Latin epigram with a false gender — hendeca- 
syllables with a questionable elision, at least a toe too 
much — atteuipts at poetic figures which are manifest 
solecisms. That moment had come to Politian: the secre- 
tary had put forth his soft head from the official shell, and 
the terrible lurking crab was down upon him. Politian had 
used the freedom of a friend, and pleasantly, in the form of 
a Latin epigram corrected the mistake of Scala in making 
the culex (an insect too well known on the banks of 
the Arno) of the inferior or feminine gender. Scala re- 
plied by a bad joke, in suitable Latin verses, referring to 
Politian's unsuccessful suit. Bettor and better. Politian 
found the verses very pretty and highly facetious: the 
more was the pity that they were seriously incorrect, and 
inasmuch as Scala had alleged that he had written them in 
imitation of a Greek epigram, Politian, being on such 
friendly terms, would enclose a Greek epigram of his own, 
on the same interesting insect — not, we may presume, out 
of any wish to humble Scala, but rather to instruct him; 
said epigram containing a lively conceit about Venus, 
Cupid, and the cnlex, of a kind much tasted at that 
period, founded partly on the zoological fact that the 



I^g( 



BALDASSARRE MAKES AN ACQUAI^-TANCE. £^77 

looking like a truncated tower roofed in with fluted tiles, 
and close by was a small outhouse, apparently built up 
against a piece of ruined stone wall. Under a large half- 
dead mulberry-tree that was now sending its last fluttering 
leaves in at the open doorways, a shriveled, hardy old 
woman was untying a goat with two kids, and Baldassarre 
could see that part of the outbuilding was occupied by live 
stock; but the door of the other part was open, and it was 
empty of everything but some tools and straw. It was just 
the sort of place he wanted. He spoke to the old woman; 
but it was not till he got close to her and shouted in her ear, 
that he succeeded in making her understand his want of a 
lodging, and his readiness to pay for it. At first he could get 
no answer beyond shakes of the head and the words, '^ No — 
no lodging, '"^ uttered in the muffled tone of the deaf. But, 
by dint of persistence, he made clear to her that he was a 
poor stranger from a long way over seas, and could not 
afford to go to hostelries; that he only wanted to lie on 
the straw in the outhouse, and would pay her a quattrino 
or two a week for that shelter. She still looked at him 
dubiously, shaking her head and talking low to herself; 
but presently, as if a new thought occurred to her, she 
fetched a hatchet from the house, and, showing him a 
chump that lay half covered with litter in a corner, asked 
him if he would chop that up for her: if he would, he 
might lie in the outhouse for one nisht. He agreed, and 
Monna Lisa stood with her arms akimbo to Avatch him, 
with a smile of gratified cunning, saying low to herself — 

^'It's lain there ever since my old man died. What 
then? I might as well have put a stone on the fire. He 
chops very well, though he does speak with a foreign 
tongue, and looks odd. I couldn't have got it done 
cheaper. And if he only wants a bit of straw to lie on, I 
might make him do an errand or two up and down the 
hill. Who need know? And sin that's hidden's half 
forgiven.* He's a stranger: he'll take no notice of lier. 
And I'll tell her to keep her tongue still." 

The antecedent to these feminine pronouns had a pair 
of blue eyes, which at that moment were applied to a large 
round hole in the shutter of the upper window. The shutter 
was closed, not for any penal reasons, but because only the 
opposite window had the luxury of glass in it; the weather 
was not warm, and a round hole four inches in diameter 
erved all the purposes of observation. The hole was, 

* " Peccato celato h mezzo perdonato." 



78 ROMOLA. 

ment on that head — which furnished a Greek quotation to 
serve as powder to his bullet. 

The quarrel could not end there. The logic could 
hardly get worse, but the secretary got more pompously 
self-asserting, and the scholarly poet^s temper more and 
more venomous. Politian had been generously willing to 
hold up a mirror, by which the too-inflated secretary, 
beholding his own likeness, might be induced to cease 
setting up his ignorant defenses of bad Latin against 
ancient authorities whom the consent of centuries had 
placed beyond question, — unless, indeed, he had designed 
to sink in literature in proportion as he rose in honors, 
that by a sort of compensation men of letters might feel 
themselves his equals. In return, Politian was begged to 
examine Scala's writings: nowhere would he find a more 
devout admiration of antiquity. The secretary was 
ashamed of the age in which he lived, and blushed for it. 
Some^ indeed, there were who wanted to have their own 
works praised and exalted to a level with the divine monu- 
ments of antiquity; but he, Scala, could not oblige them. 
And as to the honors which were offensive to the envious, 
they had been well earned: witness his whole life since he 
came in penury to Florence. The elegant scholar, in 
reply, was not surprised that Scala found the age dis- 
tasteful to him, since he himself was so distateful to the 
age; nay, it was with perfect accuracy that he, the elegant 
scholar, had called Scala a branny monster, inasmuch as 
he was formed from the offscourings of monsters, born 
amidst the refuse of a mill, and eminently worthy the 
long-eared office of turning the paternal millstones (in 
pistrini sordibus natns ef quidem pistrino dignissimns) ! 

It was not without reference to Tito's appointed visit 
that the papers containing this correspondence were 
^ brought out to-day. Here was a new Greek scholar whose 
tj accomplishments were to be tested, and on nothing did 
Scala more desire a dispassionate opinion from persons of 
superior knowledge than on that Greek epigram of Poli- 
tian^s. After sufficient introductory talk concerning 
Tito's travels after a survey and discussion of the gems, 
and an easy passage from the mention of the lamented 
Lorenzo's eagerness in collecting such specimens of 
ancient art to the subject of classical tastes and studies 
in general and their present condition in Florence, 
it was inevitable to mention Politian, a man of emi- 
nent ability indeed, but a little too arrogant — assum- 



i 



A LEARNED SQUABBLE. 79 

ing to be a Hercules, whose office it was to destroy 
all the literary monstrosities of the age, and writing 
letters to his elders without signing them, as if they 
were miraculous revelations that could only have one 
source. And after all, were not his own criticisms often 
questionable and his tastes perverse? He was fond of 
saying pungent things about the men who thought they 
wrote like Cicero because they ended every sentence with 
'^esse vid^ur": but while he was boasting of his freedom 
from serV?le imitation, did he not fall into the other 
extreme, running after strange words and affected phrases? 
Even in his much belauded ' Miscellanea ' was every point 
tenable? And Tito, who had just been looking into the 
* Miscellanea,^ found so much to say that was agreeable to 
the secretary — he would have done so from the mere dis- 
position to please, without further motive — that he showed 
himself quite worthy to be made a judge in the notable 
correspondence concerning the culex. Here was the Greek 
epigram which Politian had doubtless thought the finest 
in the world, though he had pretended to believe that the 
"transmarini," the Greeks themselves, would make light 
of it: had he not been unintentionally speaking the truth 
in his false modesty? 

Tito was ready, and sacrified the epigram to Scala's 
content. wise young judge! He could doubtless appreci- 
ate satire even in the vulgar tongue, and Scala — who, excel- 
lent man, not seeking publicity through the booksellers, 
was never unprovided with ''hasty uncorrected trifles," 
as a sort of sherbet for a visitor on a hot day, or, if the 
weather were cold, why then as a cordial — had a few little 
matters in the shape of Sonnets, turning on well-known 
foibles of Politians, which he would not like to go any 
farther, but which would perhaps, amuse the company. 

Enough: Tito took his leave under an urgent invitation 
to come again. His gems were interesting; especially the 
agate, with the lusus naturce in it — a most wonderful sem- 
blance of Cupid riding on the lion; and the " Jew^s stone,'' 
with the lion-headed serpent enchased in it; both of which 
the secretary agreed to buy — the latter as^ reinforcement 
of his preventives against the gout, which gave him such 
severe twinges that it was plain enough how intolerable it 
would be if he were not well supplied with rings of rare 
virtue, and with an amulet worn close under the right 
breast. But Tito was assured that he himself was more 
interesting than his gems. He had won his way to the 



80 ROMOLA. 

Scala Palace by the recommendation of Bardo de' Bardi, 
who, to be sure, was Scala's old acquaintance and a worthy 
scholar, in spite of his overvaluing himself a little (a fre- 
quent foible in the secretary's friends); but he must come 
again on the ground of his own manifest accomplishments. 
The interview could hardly have ended more auspi- 
ciously for Tito, and as he walked out at the Porta Pinti 
that he might laugh a little at his ease over the affair of 
the culex, he felt that fortune could hardly mean to turn 
her back on him again at present, since she had taken him 
by the hand in this decided way. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



...§ -^ 



^ FACE 11^^ THE CROWD. 



!^ ^ It is easy to northern people to rise early on Midsummer 
morning, to see the dew on the grassy edge of the dusty 

^ pathway, to notice the fresh shoots among the darker green 
of the oak and fir in the coppice, and to look over the gate 
at the shorn meadow, without recollecting that it is the 
Nativity of St. John the Baptist. 

Not so to the Florentine — still less to the Florentine of 
the fifteenth century: to him, on that particular morning, 
the brightness of the eastern sun on the Arno had some- 
thing special in it; the ringing of the bells was articulate, 
and declared it to be the great summer festival of Florence, 
the dav of San Giovanni. 

San Giovanni had been the patron saint of Florence for 
at least eiglit hundred years — ever since the time when the 
Lombard Queen Theodolinda had commanded her sub- 
jects to do him peculiar honor; nay, says old Villani, to 
the best of his knowledge, ever since the days of Conitan- 
tinc the Great and Pope Sylvester, when the Florentines 
deposed their idol Mars, whom they were nevertheless care- 
ful not to treat with contumely; for while they consecrated 
their beautiful and noble temple to the honor of God and 
of the " Beato Messere Santo Giovanni," they placed old 
Mars respectfully on a high tower near the River Arno, 
finding in certain ancient memorials that he had been 
elected as their tutelar deity under such astral influences 
that, if he were broken, or otherwise treated with indig- 



A FACE Ti\ THE CROWD. 81 

nity, the city would suffer great damage and mutation. 
But, in the fifteenth century, that discreet regard to the 
feelings of the Man-destroyer had long vanished: the god 
of the spear and shield had ceased to frown by the side of 
the Arno, and the defenses of the Republic were held to 
lie in its craft and its coffers. For spear and shield could 
be hired by gold florins, and on the gold florins there had 
always been the image of San Giovanni. 

Much good had come to Florence since the dim time of 
struggle between the old patron and the new : some quar- 
reling and bloodshed, doubtless, between Guelf and Ghib- 
elline, between Black and White, between orthodox sons 
of the Church and heretic Paterini; some floods, famine, 
and pestilence; but still much wealth and glory. Florence 
had achieved conquests over walled cities once mightier 
than itself, and especially over hated Pisa, whose marble 
buildings were too high and beautiful, whose masts were 
too much honored on Greek and Italian coasts. The name 
of Florence had been growing prouder and prouder in all 
the courts of Europe, nay, in Africa itself, on the strength 
of purest gold coinage, finest dyes and textures, pre-emi- 
nent scholarship and poetic genius, and wits of the most 
serviceable sort for statesmanship and banking: it was a 
name so omnipresent that a Pope with a turn for epigram 
had called Florentines ^^ the fifth element. ^^ And for this 
high destiny, though it might partly depend on the stars 
and Madonna dell Impruneta, and certainly depended on 
other higher powers less often named, the praise was greatly 
due to San Giovanni, whose image was on the fair gold 
florins. 

Therefore it was fitting that the day of San Giovanni — 
that ancient Church festival already venerable in the days 
of St. Augustine — should be a day of peculiar rejoicing 
to Florence, and should be ushered in by a vigil duly kept 
in strict old Florentine fashion, with much dancing, with 
much street jesting, and perhaps with not a little stone- 
throwing and window-breaking, but emphatically with 
certain street sights such as could only be provided by a 
city which held in its service a clever Cecca, engineer and 
architect, valuable alike in sieges and in shows. By the 
help of Cecca, the very saints, surrounded with their 
almond-shaped glory, and floating on clouds with their 
joyous companionship of winged cherubs, even as they may 
be seen to this day in the pictures of Perugino, seemed, on 
the eve of San Giovanni, to have brought their piece of 
K 6 



82 ROMOLA. 

the heavens down into the narrow streets, and to pass 
slowly through them; and, more wonderful still, saints of 
gigantic size, with attendant angels, might be seen, not 
seated, but moving in a slow, mysterious manner along 
, the streets, like a procession of colossal figures come down 
;^ from the high domes and tribunes of the churches. The 
^■^ clouds were made of good woven stuff, the saints and 
' cherubs were unglorified mortals supported by firm bars, 
l^^, and those mysterious giants were really men of very steady 
/>|/ brain, balancing themselves on stilts, and enlarged, like 
' ^m:' Greek tragedians, by huge masks and stuffed shoulders; 
/^^.:'' but he was a miserably unimaginative Florentine who 
v"^ |f!'thought only of that — nay, somewhat impious, for in the 
^k)^*"' images of sacred things was there not some of the virtue of 
^ sacred things themselves? And if, after that, there came 

a company of merry black demons well armed with claws 
and thongs, and other implements of sjiort, ready to per- 
form impromptu farces of bastinadoing and clothes-tearing, 
why, that was the demons' way of keeping a vigil, and 
they, too, might have descended from the domes and the 
tribunes. The Tuscan mind slipped from the devout to 
the burlesque, as readily as water round an angle; and the 
saints had already had their turn, had gone their way, and 
made their due pause before the gates of San Giovanni, to 
do him honor on the eve of his festa. And on the morrow, 
the great day thus ushered in, it was fitting tliat the tribu- 
tary symbols paid to Florence by all its dependent cities, 
districts, and villages, whether conquered, protected, or of 
immemorial possession, should be offered at the shrine of 
San Giovanni in the old octagonal church, once the cathe- 
dral and now the baptistery, where every Florentine had 
had the sign of the Cross made with the anointing chrism 
on his brow; that all the city, from the white-haired man 
to the stripling, and from the matron to the lisping child, 
should be clothed in its best to do honor to the great day, 
and see the great sight; and that again, when the sun was 
sloping and the streets were cool, there should be the 
glorious race of Corso, when the unsaddled horses, clothed 
in rich trappings, should run right across the city, from 
the Porta al Prato on the northwest, through the Mercato 
Vecchio, to the Porta Santa Croce on the southeast, where 
the richest of FaUi, or velvet and brocade banners with 
silk linings and fringe of gold, such as became a city that 
half clothed the well-dressed world, were mounted on a 
triumphal car awaiting the winner or winner's owner. 



-ofM 



A FACE IN THE CROWD. 83 

And thereafter followed more dancing; nay, through 
the whole day, says an old chronicler at the beginning of 
that century, there were weddings and the grandest gath- 
erings, with so much piping, music and song, with balls 
and feasts and gladness and ornament, that this earth 
might have been mistaken for Paradise! 

In this year of 1492, it was, perhaps, a little less easy to 
make that mistake. Lorenzo the magnificent and subtle 
was dead, and an arrogant, incautious Piero was come in 
his room, an evil change for Florence, unless, indeed, the 
Avise horse prefers the bad rider, as more easily thrown 
from the saddle; andralready the regrets for Lorenzo were 
getting less predominant over the murmured desire for 
government on a broader basis, in which corruption might 
be arrested, and there might be that free play for every- ^j^^ 
body's jealousy and ambition, which made the ideal liberty *r ^ 
of the good old quarrelsome, struggling times, when Flor- ^'^ 
ence raised her great buildings, reared her own so*ldiers, .As)^ 
drove out would-be tyrants at the sword's point, and was 
proud to keep faith at her own loss. Lorenzo was dead. 
Pope Innocent was dying, and a troublesome Neapolitan 
succession, with an intriguing, ambitious Milan, might set 
Italy by the ears before long: the times were likely to be 
difficult. Still, tliere was all the more reason that the 
Republic should keep its religious festivals, j 

And Midsummer morning, in this year, 1492, was not 
less bright than usual. It was betimes in the morning 
that the symbolic offerings to be carried in grand proces- 
sion were all assembled at their starting-point m the 
Piazza della Signoria — that famous piazza, where stood 
then, and stand now, the massive turreted Palace of the 
People, called the Palazzo Vecchio, and the spacious 
Loggia, buiH by Orcagna — the scene of all grand State 
ceremonial. TThe sky made the fairest blue tent, and under 
it the bells swung so vigorously that every evil spirit with 
sense enough to be formidable, must long since have taken 
his flight; windows and terraced roofs were alive with 
human faces; sombre stone houses were bright with hang- 
mg draperies; the boldly soaring palace tower, the yet 
older square tower of the Bargello, and tlie spire of the 
neighboring Badia seemed to keep watch above; and below, 
on the broad polygonal flags of the piazza, was the glorious 
show of banners, and horses with rich trappings, and 
gigantic ceri or tapers, that were fitly called towers — 
iiangely aggrandized descendants of those torches by 



JIJ 



84 ROMOLA.* 

whose faiut light the Cliurch worshipped in the Cata- 
combs. Betimes in the morning all processions had need 
to move under the Midsummer sky of Florence, where the 
shelter of the narrow streets must every now and then be 
exchanged for the glare of Avide spaces; and the sun would 
be high up in the heavens before the long pomp had ended 
its pilgrimage in the Piazza di San Giovanni. 

But here, where the procession was to pause, the mag- 
nificent city, with its ingenious Cecca, had provided 
another tent than the sky; for the whole of the Piazza 
del Duomo, from the octagonal baptistery in the centre to 
the fagade of the cathedral and the walls of the houses on 
the other sides of the quadrangle, was covered, at the 
height of forty feet or more, w^ith blue drapery, adorned 
with well-stitched yellow lilies and the familiar coats of 
arms, while sheaves of many-colored banners drooped at fit 
angles under this superincumbent blue — a gorgeous rain- 
bow 1ft shelter to the waiting spectators who leaned from 
the windows, and made a narrow border on the pavement, 
and wished for the coming of the show. 

One of these spectators was Tito Melema. Bright, in 
the midst of brightness, he sat at the window of the 
room above Kello's shop, his right elbow resting on the 
red drapery hanging from the window-sill, and his head 
supported in a backward position by the right hand, which 
pressed the curls against his ear. His face wore that bland 
liveliness, as far removed from excitability as from heavi- 
ness or gloom, which marks the companion popular alike 
amongst men and women — the companion who is never 
obtrusive or noisy from uneasy vanity or excessive animal 
spirits, and whose brow is never contracted by resentment 
or indignation. He showed no other change from the two 
months and more that had passed since his first appear- 
ance in the weather-stained tunic and hose, tlian that 
added radiance of good fortune, which is like the just per- 
ceptible perfecting of a flower after it has drunk a morn- 
ing's sunbeams. Close behind him, ensconced in the nar- 
row angle between his chair and the window-frame, stood 
the slim figure of Nello in holiday suit, and at his left the 
younger Cennini — Pietro, the erudite corrector of proof- 
sheets, not Domenico the practical. Tito was looking 
alternately (fown on the scene below, and upward at the 
varied knot of gazers and talkers immediately around him, 
some of Avhom had come in after witnessing the commence- 
ment of the procession in the Piazza della Signoria. Pieri 



1 



A FACE IN THE CROWD. 85 

di Cosimo Avas raising a laugh among them by his grimaces 
and anathemas at the noise of the bells, against which no 
kind of ear-stuffing was a sufficient barricade, since the 
more he stuffed his ears the more he felt the vibration of 
his skull; and declaring that he would bury himself in the 
most solitary spot of the Valdarno on a festa, if he were 
not condemned, as a painter, to lie in wait for the secrets - 
of color that were sometimes to be caught from the float- 
ing of banners and the chance grouping of the multitude. 

Tito had just turned his laughing face away from the 
whimsical painter to look down at the small drama going 
on among the checkered border of spectators, when at the 
angle of the marble steps in front of the Duomo, nearly 
opposite Nello's shop, he saw a man's face upturned 
toward him, and fixing on him a gaze that seemed to have 
more meaning in it than the ordinary passing observation 
of a stranger. It was a face with tonsured head, that ^ 

rose above the black mantle and white tunic of a Domini- 
can friar — a very common sight in Florence; but the 
glance had something peculiar in it for Tito. There was 
a faint suggestion in it, certainly not of an unpleasant 
kind. Yet what pleasant association had he ever had 
with monks? None. The glance and the suggestion 
hardly took longer than a flash of lightning. 

"Nello!'' said Tito, hastily, but immediately added, in 
a tone of disappointment, ^'^Ah, he has turned round. It 
was that tall, thin friar who is going up the steps. I 
wanted you to tell me if you knew aught of him?" 

^'One of the Frati Predicatori,'' said Nello, carelessly; 
"you don't expect me to know the private history of the 
crows." 

"I seem to remember something about his face," said 
Tito. "It is an uncommon face." 

"What? you thought it might be our Fra Girolamo? 
Too tall; and he never shows himself in that chance way." 

"Besides, that loud-barking 'hound of the Lord' * is 
not in Florence just now," said Francesco Oei, the 
popular poet; "he has taken Piero de Medici's hint, to 
carry his railing prophecies on a journey for a while." 
P^' The Frate neither rails nor prophesies against any O^-a^j 
man," salaa middle-aged personage seated at the other 
corner of the window; "he only p rophes ies against vice. 

*A play on the name of the Dominicans (Domini Canes) which was 
accepted by themselves, and which is pictorially represented in a fresco 
painted for them by Simone Memmi. 



86 ROMOLA. 

If you think that an attack on your poems, Francesco, it 
is not the Frate's fault/' 

''Ah, he's gone into the Duomo, now,^' said Tito, who 
had watch-ed the figure eagerly. *'No, I was not under 
that mistake, Nello. Your Fra Girolamo has a high nose 
and a large under-lip. I saw him once — he is not 
handsome; but this man " 

''Truce to your descriptions!" said Cennini. "Hark! 

see! Here come the horsemen and the banners. That 

standard," he continued, laying his hand familiarly on 

Tito's shoulder — "that carried on the horse with white 

trappings — that with the red eagle holding the green 

dragon between his talons, and the red lily over the 

eagle — is the Gonfalon of the Guelf party, and those 

)V cavaliers close round it are the chief officers of the Guelf 

y party. That is one of our proudest banners, grumble as 

'^^ we may; it means the triumph of the Guelf s, which means 

f'KT the triumph of Florentine will, which means the triumph 

^ of the popolani." 

c,^ "Nay, go on, Cennini," said the middle-aged man, 

seated at the window, " which means triumph of the fat 
popolani over the lean, which again means triumph of the 
fattest popolani over those who are less fat." 

" Cronaca, you are becoming sententious," said the 
printer; "Fra Girolamo's preaching will spoil you, and 
make you take life by the wrong handle. Trust me, your 
cornices will lose half their beauty if you begin to mingle 
.bitterness with them; that is the maniera I'edesca \\\\\g\\ 
you used to declaim against when you came from Rome. 
The next palace you build we shall see you trying to put 
the Frate's doctrine into stone." 

" That is a goodly show of cavaliers," said Tito, who had 
learned by this time the best way to please Florentines; 
"but are there not strangers among them? I see foreign 
costumes." 

"Assuredly," said Cennini; "you see there the Orators 
from France, Milan, and Venice, and behind them are 
English and German nobles; for it is customary that all 
foreign visitors of distinction pay their tribute to San 
Giovanni in the train of that gonfalon. For my part, I 
think our Florentine cavaliers sit their horses as well as any 
of those cut-and-thrust northerners, whose wits lie in their 
heels and saddles; and for yon Venetian, I fancy he would 
feel himself more at ease on the back of a dolphin. We 
ought to know something of horsemanship, for we excel all 



A FACE IN THE CROWD. 87 

Italy in the sports of the Giostra, and the money we spend 
on them. But you will see a finer show of our chief men 
by-and-by, Melema; my brother himself will be among the 
officers of the Zecca." 

^' The banners are the better sight/' said Piero di Cos- 
imo, forgetting the noise in his delight at the winding 
stream of color as the tributary standards advanced round 
the piazza. " The Florentine men are so-so; they make 
but a sorry show at this distance with their patch of sallow 
flesh-tint above the black garments; br^^. those banners with 
their velvet, and satin, and minever, and brocade, and 
their endless play of delicate light and shadow! — F«/ your 
human talk and doings are a tame jest; the only passionate 
life is in form and color.'' 

" Ay, Piero, if Satanasso could paint, thou wouldst sell 
thy soul to learn his secrets," said Nello. '' But there is 
little likelihood of it, seeing the blessed angels themselves 
are such poor hands at chiaroscuro, if one may judge from 
their cajjo-d' opera, the Madonna Nunziata." 

'' There go the banners of Pisa and Arezzo," said Cen- 
nini. ^'Ay, Messer Pisano, it is no use for you to look 
sullen; you may as well carry your banner to our San 
Giovanni with a good grace. 'Pisans false, Florentines 
blind ' — the second half of that proverb will hold no longer. 
There come the ensigns of our subject towns and signories, 
Melema; they will all be suspended in San Giovanni until 
this day next year, when they will give place to new ones." 

''They are a fair sight," said Tito; ''and San Giovanni 
will surely be as well satisfied with that produce of Italian 
looms as Minerva with her peplos, especially as he contents 
himself with so little drapery. But my eyes are less 
delighted with those whirling towers, which would soon 
make me fall from the window in sympathetic vertigo." 

The "towers" of which Tito spoke were a f)art of the 
procession esteemed very glorious by the Florentine popu- 
lace; and being perhaps chiefly a kind of hyperbole for the 
all-efficacious wax taper, were also called ceri. But inas- 
much as hyperbole is impracticable in a real and literal 
fashion, these gigantic ceri, some of them so large as to be 
of necessity carried on wheels, were not solid but hollow, 
and had their surface made not solely of wax, but of wood 
and pasteboard, gilded, carved, and painted, as real sacred 
tapers often are, with successive circles of figures — warriors 
on horseback, foot-soldiers with lance and shield, dancing 
maidens, animals^ trees and fruits, and in fine, says the old 



I> 



88 ROMOLA, 

chronicler, ''all things that could delight the eye and the 
heart"; the hollo wness having the further advantage that 
men could stand inside these hyperbolic tapers and whirl 
them continually, so as to produce a phantasmagoric effect, 
which, considering the towers were numerous, must have 
been calculated to produce dizziness on a truly magnificent 
scale. 

^^ Pestilenza!'^ said Piero di Cosimo, moving from the 
window, ''those whirling circles one above the other are 
worse than the jangling of all the bells. Let me know 
when the last taper has passed/' 

"Nay, you will surely like to be called when the con- 
tadini come carrying their torches,^' said Nello; "you 
would not miss the country-folk of the Mugello and the 
Casentino, of whom your favorite Lionardo would make a 
hundred grotesque sketches. ''' 

" No," said Piero, resolutely, "I will see nothing till the 
car of the Zecca comes. I have seen clowns enough hold- 
ing tapers aslant, both with and without cowls, to last me 
for my life.'' 

"Here it comes, then, Piero — the car of the Zecca," 
called out Nello, after an interval during which towers 
and tapers in a descending scale of size had been making 
their slow transit. 

'^ Fediddio ! " exclaimed Francesco Cei, "that is a well- 
tanned San Giovanni! some sturdy Romagnole beggar-man, 
I'll warrant. Our Signoria plays the host to all the Jewish 
and Christian scum that every other city shuts its gates 
against, and lets them fatten on us like St. Anthony's 
swine." 

The car of the Zecca or Mint, which had just rolled into 
sight, was originally an immense wooden tower or cero 
adorned after the same fashion as the other tributary ceri, 
mounted on a splendid car, and drawn by two mouse- 
colored oxen, whose mild heads looked out from rich trap- 
pings bearing the arms of the Zecca. But the latter half of 
the century was getting rather ashamed of the towers 
with their circular or spiral paintings, which had delighted 
the eyes and the hearts of the other half, so that they had 
become a contemptuous proverb, and any ill-painted figure 
looking, as will sometimes happen to figures in the best 
ages of art, as if it had been boned for a pie, was called a 
fantoccio da cero, a tower-puppet; consequently improved 
taste, with Cecca to help it, had devised for the magnifi- 
cent Zecca a triumphal car like a pyramidal catafalque. 



A FACE IN THE CROWD. • 89 

with ingenious wheels warranted to turn all corners easily. 
Round the base weie living figures of saints and angels 
arrayed in sculpturesque fashion; and on the summit, at 
the height of thirty feet, well bound to an iron rod and 
holding an iron cross also firmly infixed, stood a living 
representative of St. John the Baptist, with arms and legs 
bare, a garment of tiger-skins about his body, and a golden 
nimbus fastened on his head — as the Precursor was wont 
to appear in the cloisters and churches, not having yet 
revealed himself to painters as the brown and sturdy boy 
who made one of the Holy Family. For where could the 
image of the patron saint be more fitly placed than on the 
symbol of the Zecca? Was not the royal prerogative of 
coining money the surest token that a city had won its 
independence? and by the blessing of San Giovanni this 
^^ beautiful sheepfold" of his had shown that token earliest 
among the Italian cities. Nevertheless, the annual function 
of representing the patron saint was not among the high 
prizes of public life; it was paid for with something like ten 
shillings, a cake weighing fourteen pounds, two bottles of 
wine, and a handsome supply of light eatables; the money 
being furnished by tlie magnificent Zecca, and the payment 
in kind being by peculiar ^*^ privilege"^ presented in a basket 
suspended on a pole from an upper window of a private 
house, whereupon the eidolon of the austere saint at once 
invigorated himself with a reasonable share of the sweets 
and wine, threw the remnants to the crowd, and embraced 
the mighty cake securely with his right arm through the 
remainder of his passage. This was the attitude in which 
the mimic San Giovanni presented himself as the tall car 
jerked and vibrated on its slow way round the piazza to 
the northern gate of the Baptistery. 

" There go the Masters of the Zecca, and there is my 
brother — you see him, Melema?'^ cried Oennini, with an 
agreeable stirring of pride at showing a stranger what was 
too familiar to be remarkable to fellow-citizens. ^^ Behind 
come the members of the Corporation of Calimara,* the 
dealers in foreign cloth, to which we have given our 
Florentine finish; men of ripe years, you see, who were 
matriculated before you were born; and then comes the 
famous Art of Money-changers.^' 
^K ^'Many of them matriculated also to the noble art of 
^Kury before you were born," interrupted Francesco Cei, 

^^B*" Arte di Calimara," "aile" being, in this use of it, equivalent to cor- 
^^nration. 



90 ROMOLA. 

''as you may discern by a certain fitful glare of the eye 
and sharp curve of the nose which manifest their descent 
from the ancient Harpies, whose portraits you saw sup- 
porting the arms of the Zecca. Shaking off old prejudices 
now, such a procession as that of some four hundred pass- 
ably ugly men carrying their tapers in open daylight, 
Diogenes-fashion, as if they were looking for a lost quat- 
trino, would make a merry spectacle for the Feast of Fools." 

''Blaspheme not against the usages of our city," said 
Pietro Cennini, much offended. ^' There are new wits 
who think they see things more truly because they stand 
on their heads to look at them, like tumblers and mounte- 
banks instead of keeping the attitude of rational men. 
Doubtless it makes little difference to Maestro Vaiano's 
monkeys w^hether they see our Donatello's statue of 
Judith with their heads or their tails uppermost." 

''Your solemnity will allow some quarter to playful 
fancy, I hope," said Cei, with a shrug, "else what becomes 
of the ancients, whose example you scholars are bound to 
revere, Messer Pietro? Life was never anything but a 
perpetual see-saw between gravity and jest." 

f" Keep your jest then till your end of the pole is upper- 
most," said Cennini, still angry, "and that is not when 
w the great bond of our Republic is expressing itself in 
y^ ancient symbols, witliout which the vulgar would be con- 
,'^^cious of nothing beyond their own petty wants of back 
and stomach, and never rise to the sense of community in 
religion and law. There has been no great people without 
processions, and the man who thinks himself too wise to 
be moved by them to anything but contempt, is like the 
puddle that was proud of standing alone while the river 
rushed by.^ 

No one said anything after this indignant burst of 
Cennini's till he himself spoke again. 

"Hark! the trumpets of the Signoria: now comes the 
last stage of the show, Melema. That is our Gonfaloniere 
in the middle, in the starred mantle, w4th the sword 
carried before him. Twenty years ago we used to see our 
foreign Podesta, who was our judge in civil causes, walk- 
ing on his right hand; but our Republic has been over- 
doctored by clever Medici. That is the Proposto* of the 
Priori on the left; then come the other seven Priori; then 
all the other magistracies and officials of our Republic. 
You see your patron the Segretario?" 

* Spokesman or Moderator. 




I 



A FACE IN THE CUOWD. 91 

'^ There is Messer Bernardo del Nero also/' said Tito; 
^Hiis viage is a fine and venerable one, though it has worn 
rather a petrifying look toward me." 

*^ Ah/' said Nello, '^he is the dragon that guards the 
remnant of old Bardo's gold, which, I fancy, is chiefly 
that virgin gold that falls about the fair Romola's head 
and shoulders; eh, my Apollino?" he added, patting 
Tito's head. 

Tito had the youthful grace of blushing, but he had 
also the adroit and ready speech that prevents a blush 
from looking like embarrassment. He replied at once — 

''And a very Pactolus it is — a stream with golden 
ripples. If I were an alchemist — '^ 

He was saved from the need for further speech by the 
sudden fortissimo of drums and trumpets and fifes, burst- 
ing into the breadth of the piazza in a grand storm of 
sound — a roar, a blast, and a whistling, well befitting a 
city famous for its musical instruments, and reducing the 
members of the closest group to a state of deaf isolation. 

During this interval Nello observed Tito's fingers mov- 
ing in recognition of some one in the crowd below, but not 
seeing the direction of his glance he failed to detect the 
object of this greeting — the sweet round blue-eyed face 
under a white hood — immediately lost in the narrow border 
of heads, where thei'e was a continual eclipse of round 
contadina cheeks by the harsh-lined features or bent shoul- 
ders of an old spadesman, and where profiles turned as 
sharply from north to south as weather-cocks under a 
shifting wind. 

But when it was felt that the show was ended — when 
the twelve prisoners released in honor of the day, and the 
very barheri or race-horses, with the arms of their owners 
embroidered on their cloths, had followed up the Signoria, 
and been duly consecrated to San Giovanni, and every one 
was moving from the window — Nello, whose Florentine 
curiosity was of that lively, canine sort which thinks no 
trifle too despicable for investigation, put his hand on 
Tito's shoulder and said — 

" What acquaintance was that you were making signals 
to, eh, giovane mioV^ 

'' Some little contadina who probably mistook me for an 
acquaintance, for she had honored me with a greeting.^' 

''Or who wished to begin an acquaintance,'' said Nello. 
" But you are bound for the Via de Bardi and the feast of 
the Muses: there is no counting on you for a frolic, else we 



92 ROMOLA. 

might liave gone in searcli of adventures together in the 
crowd, and had some pleasant fooling in honor of San 
Giovanni. But your high fortune has come on you too 
soon: I don't mean the professor's mantle — that is roomy 

enough to hide a few stolen chickens, but Messer 

Endymion minded his manners after that singular good 
fortune of his; and what says our Luigi Pulci? 

' Da quel giorno in qud ch'araor m'accese 
Per lei son fatto e gentile e cortese.' " 

"Nello, amico mio, thou hast an intolerable trick of 
making life stale by forestalling it with thy talk," said 
Tito, shrugging his shoulders, with the look of patient 
resignation, which was his nearest approach to anger: 
*^not to mention that such ill founded babbling w^ould be 
held a great offense by that same goddess whose humble 
worshipper you are always professing yourself." 

" I will be mute," said Nello, laying his finger on his 
lips, with a responding shrug. '^^ But it is only under our 
four eyes that I talk any folly about her." 

'^Pardon! you were on the verge of it just now in the 
hearing of others. If you want to ruin me in the minds 
of Bardo and his daughter " 

'' Enough, enough!" said Nello. ''I am an absurd old 
barber. It all comes from that abstinence of mine, in not 
making bad verses in my youth: for want of letting my 
folly run out that way when I was eighteen, it runs out at 
my tongue's end now I am at the unseemly age of fifty. 
But Nello has not got his head muffled for all that; he can 
see a buffalo in the snow. Addio, giovane mio," 



CHAPTER IX. 



Tito was soon down among the crowd, and, notwith- 
standing his indifferent rejily to Nello's question about his 
chance acquaintance, he was not without a passing wish, 
as he made his way round the piazza to the Corso degli 
Adimari, that he might encounter the pair of blue eyes 
which had looked up toward him from under the square 
bit of wliite linen drapery that formed the ordinary hood 



A MAN^S RANSOM. 93 

of the contadiha at festa time. He "was perfectly well 
aware that that face was Tessa's; but he had not chosen to 
say so. What had Nelloto do with the matter? Tito had 
an innate love of reticence — let us say a talent for it — 
which acted as other impulses do, without any conscious 
motive, and, like all people to whom concealment is easy, 
he would now and then conceal something which had as 
little the nature of a secret as the fact that he had seen a 
flight of crows. 

But the passing wish about pretty Tessa was almost 
immediately eclipsed by the recurrent recollection of that 
friar whose face had some irrecoverable association for him. 
Why should a sickly fanatic, worn with fasting, have looked 
at htm in particular, and where in all his travels could he 
remember encountering that face before? Folly! such 
vague memories hang about the mind like cobwebs, with 
tickling importunity — best to sweep them away with a 
dash: and Tito had preasanter occupation for his thoughts. 
By the time he was turning out of the Corso degli Adimari 
into a side-street he was caring only that the sun was high, 
and that the procession had kept him longer than he had 
intended from his visit to that room in the Via de Bardi, 
where his coming, he knew, was anxiously awaited. He 
felt the scene of his entrance beforehand: the joy beaming 
diffiusedly in the blind face like the light in a semi-trans- 
parent lamp; the transient pink flush on Eomola's face 
and neck, which subtracted nothing from her majesty, but 
only gave it the exquisite charm of womanly sensitiveness, 
heightened still more by what seemed the paradoxical boy- 
like frankness of her look and smile. They were the best 
comrades in the world during the hours they passed 
together round the blind man's chair: she was constantly 
appealing to Tito, and he was informing her, yet he felt 
himself strangely in subjection to Romola with that sim- 
plicity of hers: he felt for the first time, without defining it 
to himself, that loving awe in the presence of noble woman- 
hood, which is perhaps something like the worship paid of "^ 
old to a great nature-goddess, who was not all-knowing, q , 
but whose life and power were something deeper and more rC\^ 
primordial than knowledge. They had never been alone ^^ . 
together, and he could frame to himself no probable image A^ 
of love-scenes between them: he could only fancy and wish -v <o< 
wildly — what he knew was impossible — that Romola would ^^ 
some day tell him that she loved him. One day in Greece, 
as he was leaning over a wall in the sunshine, a little black- 



94 ROMOLA. 

eyed peasant girl, who had rested her water-pot on the 
wall, crept gradually nearer and nearer to him, and at last 
shyly asked him to kiss her, putting up her round olive 
cheek very innocently. Tito was used to love that came 
in this unsought fashion. But Romola^s love would never 
come in tliat way: would it ever come at all? — and yet it was 
that topmost apple on which he had set his mind. He was 
in his fresh youth — not passionate, but impressible: it was 
as inevitable that he should feel lovingly toward Romola 
as that the white irises should be reflected in the clear 
sunlit stream; but he had no coxcombry, and he had an 
intimate sense that Eomola was something very much 
above him. Many men have felt the same before a large- 
eyed, simple child. 

Nevertheless, Tito had had the rapid success which 
would have made some men presuming, or would have 
warranted him in thinking that there would be no great 
presumption in entertaining an agreeable confidence that 
he might one day be the husband of Romola — nay, that 
her father himself was not without a vision of such a 
future for him. His first auspicious interview with Bar- 
tolommeo Scala had proved the commencement of a 
growing favor on the secretary's part, and had led to an 
issue which would have been enough to make Tito decide 
on Florence as the place in which to establish himself, even 
if it had held no other magnet. Politian was professor of 
Greek as well as Latin at Florence, professorial chairs 
being maintained there, although the university had been 
removed to Pisa; but for a long time Demetrio Calcondila, 
one of the most eminent and respectable among the emi- 
grant Greeks, had also held a Greek chair, simultaneously 
with the too predominant Italian. Calcondila was now 
gone to Milan, and there was no counterpoise or rival to 
Politian such as was desired for him by the friends who 
wished him to be taught a little propriety and humility. 
Scala was far from being the only friend of this class, and 
he found several who, if they were not among those 
thirsty admirers of mediocrity that were glad to be 
refreshed with his verses in hot weather, were yet quite 
willing to join him in doing that moral service to Politian. 
It was finally agreed that Tito should be supported in a 
Greek chair, as Demetrio Calcondila had been by Lorenzo 
himself, who, being at the same time the affectionate 
patron of Politian, had shown by precedent that there was 
nothing invidious in such a measure, but only a zeal for 



A MAN*S KANSOM. 95 

true learning and for the instruction of the Florentine 
youth. 

Tito was thus sailing under the fairest breeze, and 
besides convincing fair judges that his talents squared 
with his good fortane, he wore that fortune so easily and 
unpretentiously that no one had yet been offended by it. 
He was not unlikely to get into the best Florentine soci- 
ety: society where there was much more plate than the 
circle of enameled silver in the centre of the brass dishes, 
and where it was not forbidden by the Signory to wear the 
richest brocade. For where could a handsome young 
scholar not be welcome when he could touch the lute and 
troll a gay song? That bright face, that easy smile, that 
liquid voice, seemed to give life a holiday aspect; just as 
a strain of gay music and the hoisting of colors make the 
work-wojn and the sad rather ashamed of showing them- 
selves. THere was a professor likely to render the Greek < 
classics amiable to the sons of great housesjl 

And that was not the whole of Tito's good fortune; for 
he had sold all his jewels, except the ring he did not 
choose to part with, and he was master of full five hundred 
gold florins. 

Yet the moment when he first had this sum in his pos- 
session was the crisis of the first serious struggle his 
facile, good-humored nature had known. An importunate 
thought, of which he had till now refused to see more than 
the shadow as it dogged his footsteps, at last rushed upon 
him and grasped him: he was obliged to pause and decide 
whether he would surrender and obey, or whether he 
would give the refusal that must carry irrevocable conse- 
quences. It was in the room above Nello's shop, which 
Tito had now hired as a lodging, that the elder Cennini 
handed him the last quota of the sum on behalf of Ber- 
nardo Rucellai, the purchaser of the two most valuable 
gems. 

" JScco, giova)ie miof" said the respectable printer and 
goldsmith, "you have now a pretty little fortune; and if 
you will take my advice, you will let me place your florins 
in a safe quarter, where they may increase and multiply, 
instead of slipping through your fingers for banquets and 
other follies which are rife among our Florentine youth. 
And it has been too much the fashion of scholars, especially 
when, like our Pietro Crinito, they think their scholar- 
ship needs to be scented and broidered, to squander with 
one hand till they have been fain to beg with the other. 



96 ROMOLA. 

1 have brought you the money, and yon are free to make a 
wise choice or an unwise: I shall see on which side the 
balance dips. We Florentines hold no man a member of 
an art till he has shown his skill and been matriculated; 
and no man is matriculated to the art of life till he has 
been well tempted. If you make up your mind to put 
your florins out to usury, you can let me know to-morrow. 
A scholar may marry, and should have something in readi- 
ness for the morgan-cap.^ Addio." 

As Cennini closed the door behind him, Tito turned 
round with the smile dying out of his face, and fixed his 
eyes on the table where the florins lay. He made no other 
movement, but stood with his thumbs in his belt, looking 
down, in that transfixed state which accompanies the con- 
centration of consciousness on some inward image. 

"A man's ransom !'' — who was it that had said five 
hundred florins was more than a man's ransom? If now, 
under this midday sun, on some hot coast far away, a man 
somewhat stricken in years — a man not without high 
thoughts and with the most passionate heart — a man who 
long years ago had rescued a little boy from a life of beg- 
gary, filth, and cruel wrong, liad reared him tenderly, and 
been to him as a father — if that man were now under this 
summer sun toiling as a slave, hewing wood and drawing 
water, perhaps being smitten and buffeted because he was 
not deft and active? If he were saying to himself, *'Tito 
will find me: he had but to carry our manuscripts and gems 
to Venice; he will have raised money, and will never rest till 
he finds me out"? If that were certain, could he, Tito, 
see the price of the gems lying before him, and say, ''I will 
stay at Florence, where I am fanned by soft airs of prom- 
ised love and prosperity; I will not risk myself for his 
sake"? No, surely not, if it ivere certain. But nothing 
could be farther from certainty. The galley had been 
taken by a Turkish vessel on its way to Delos: that was 
known by the report of the companion galley, which had 
escaped. But there had been resistance, and probable 
bloodshed; a man had been seen falling overboard: who 
were the survivors, and what had befallen them amongst 
all the multitude of possibilities? Had not he, Tito, suf- 
fered shipwreck, and narrowly escaped drowning? He had 
good cause for feeling the omnipresence of casualties that 
threatened all projects with futility. The rumor that 

* A sum given by the bridegroom to the bride the day after the marriage 
{Morgengdbe). 



A man's ransom. 97 

there were pirates who had a settlement in Delos was not 
to be depended on, or mi^ht be nothing to the purpose. 
What, probably enough, would be the result if he were to 
quit Florence and go to Venice; get authoritative letters — 
yes, he knew that might be done — and set out for the 
Archipelago? Why, that he should be himself seized, and 
spend all his florins on preliminaries, and be again a desti- 
tute wanderer — with no more gems to sell. 

Tito had a clearer vision of that result than of the possi- 
ble mement when he might find his father again, and carry 
him deliverance. It would surely be an unfairness that 
he, in his full ripe youth, to whom life had hitherto had 
some of the stint and subjection of a school, should turn 
his back on promised love and distinction, and perhaps 
never be visited by that promise again. '^And yet," he 
said to himself, ''if I were certain that Baldassarre Calvo 
was alive, and that I could free him, by whatever exertions 
or perils, I would go now — now I have the money: it was 
useless to debate the matter before. I would go now to 
Bardo and Bartolommeo Scala, and tell them the whole 
truth." Tito did not say to himself so distinctly that if 
those two men had known the whole truth he was aware 
there would have been no alternative for him but to go in 
search of his benefactor, who, if alive, was the rightful 
owner of the gems, and whom he had always equivocally 
spoken of as ''lost"; he did not say to himself — what he 
was not ignorant of — that Greeks of distinction had made 
sacrifices, taken voyages again and again, and sought help 
from crowned and mitred heads for the sake of freeing 
relatives from slavery to the Turks. Public opinion did 
not regard this as exceptional virtue. 

This was his first real colloquy with himself: he had gone 
on following the impulses of the moment, and one of those 
impulses had been to conceal half the fact; he had never 
considered this part of his conduct long enough to face 
the consciousness of his motives for the concealment. 
What was the use of telling the whole? It was true, the 
tlioiight had crossed his mind several times since he had 
quitted Nauplia that, after all, it was a great relief to be 
quit of Baldassarre, and he would have liked to know zvJio 
it was that had fallen overboard. But such thoughts spring 
inevitably out of a relation that is irksome. Baldassarre 
was exacting, and had got stranger as he got older: he 
was constantly scrutinizing Tito's mind to see whether it 
answered to his own exaggerated expectations; and age — 



98 EOMOLA. 

the age of a thick-set, heavy-browed, bald man beyond 
sixty, whose intensity and eagerness in the grasp of ideas 
have long taken the character of monotony and repetition, 
may be looked at from many points of view without being 
found attractive. Such a man, stranded among new 
acquaintances unless he had the philosopher's stone, would 
hardly find rank, youth and beauty at his feet. The feel- 
ings that gather fervor from novelty will be of little help 
toward making the world a home for dimmed and faded 
human beings; and if there is any love of which they are 
not widowed, it must be the love that is rooted in memo- 
ries and distils perpetually the sweet balms of fidelity and 
forbearing tenderness. 

But surely such memories were not absent from Tito's 
mind? Far in the backward vista of his remembered life, 
when he was only seven years old, Baldassarre had rescued 
him from blows,- had taken him to a home that seemed like 
opened paradise, where there was sweet food and soothing 
caresses, all had on Baldassarre's knee; and from that time 
till the hour they had parted, Tito had been the one centre 
of Baldassarre's fatherly cares. 

And he had been docile, pliable, quick of apprehension, 
ready to acquire: a very bright lovely boy, a youth of even 
splendid grace, who seemed quite without vices, as if that 
beautiful form represented a vitality so exquisitely poised 
and balanced that it could know no uneasy desires, no 
unrest — a radiant presence for a lonely man to have won 
for himself. If he were silent when his father expected 
some response, still he did not look moody; if he declined 
some labor — why, he flung himself down with such a charm- 
ing, half-smiling, half-pleading air, that the pleasure of 
looking at him made amends to one who had watched his 
growth with a seuvse of claim and possession; the curves of 
Tito's mouth had ineffable good-humor in them. And 
then, the quick talent to which everything- came readily, 
from philosophical systems to the rhymes of a street ballad 
caught up at a hearing! Would any one have said that 
Tito had not made a rich return to his benefactor, or that 
his gratitude and affection would fail on any great demand? 

He did not admit that his gratitude had failed; but it 
was not certain that Baldassarre was in slavery, not certain 
that he was living. 

**Do I not owe something to myself?" said Tito, 
inwardly, wdth a slight movement of his shoulders, the 
first he had made since he had turned to look down at the 



A man's ransom. 99 

florins. ** Before I quit everything, and incur again all 
the risks of which I am even now weary, I must at least 
have a reasonable hope. Am I to spend my life in a wan- 
dering search? / believe he is dead. Cennini was right 
about my florins: I will place them in his hands to-morrow." 

When, the next morning, Tito put this determination 
into act he had chosen his color in the game, and had 
given an inevitable bent to his wishes. He had made it 
impossible that he should not from henceforth desire it to 
be the truth that his father was dead; impossible that he 
should not be tempted to baseness rather than that the 
precise facts of his conduct should not remain forever 
concealed. 

Under every guilty secret there is hidden a brood of 
guilty wishes, whose unwholesome infecting life is cher- 
ished by the darkness. The contaminating effect of deeds 
often lies less in the commission than in the consequent 
adjustment of our desires — the enlistment of our self- 
interest on the side of falsity; as, on the other hand, the 
purifying influence of public confession springs from the 
fact, that by it the hope in lies is forever swept away, and 
the soul recovers the noble attitude of simplicity. 

Besides, in this first distinct colloquy with himself the 
ideas which had previously been scattered and interrupted 
had now concentrated themselves; the little rills of selfish- 
ness had united and made a channel, so that they could 
never again meet with the same resistance. Hitherto Titc 
had left in vague indecision the question wli ether, with-^rf ^ 
the means in his power, he would not return, and ascertain . 

his father^s fate; he had now made a definite excuse to ''^^^^ 
himself for not taking that course; he had avowed to him- ^ 
self a choice which he would have been ashamed to avow to 
others, and which would have made him ashamed in the 
resurgent presence of his father. But the inward shame 
the reflex of that outward law which the great heart of 
mankind makes for every individual man, a reflex w^hich 
will exist even in the absence of the sympathetic impulses 
that need no law, but rush to the deed of fidelity and pity 
as inevitably as the brute mother shields her young from 
the attack of the hereditary enemy — that inward shame 
was showing its blushes in Tito's determined assertion to 
himself that his father was dead, or that at least search 
was hopeless. 



II 



too ROMOLA. 

CHAPTEIl X. 

UKDER THE PLANE-TEEE. 

Ox the day of San Giovanni, it was already three weeks 
ago that Tito had handed his florins to Cennini, and we 
have seen that as he set out toward the Via de Bardi he 
showed all the outward signs of a mind at ease. How 
should it be otherwise? He never jarred with what was 
immediately around him, and his nature was too joyous, 
too unapprehensive, for the hidden and tlie distant to 
grasp him in the shape of a dread. As he turned out of 
the hot sunshine into the shelter of a narrow street, took 
off the black cloth berretta, or simple cap with upturned 
lappet, which just crowned his brown curls, pushing his 
hair and tossing his head backward to court the cooler 
air, there was no brand of duplicity on his brow; neither 
Avas there any stamp of candor: it was simply a finely- 
formed, square, smooth young brow. And the slow 
absent glance he cast around at the upper windows of the 
houses had neither more dissimulation in it, nor more 
ingenuousness, than belongs to a youthful ^'ell-opened 
eyelid with its unwearied breadth of gaze; to perfectly pel- 
lucid lenses; to the undimmed dark of a rich brown iris; 
and to a pure cerulean -tin ted angle of whiteness streaked 
with the delicate shadows of long eyelashes. Was it that 
Tito's face attracted or repelled according to the mental 
attitude of the observer? Was it a cipher with more than 
one key? The strong, unmistakable expression in his 
whole air and person was a negative one, and it was per- 
fectly veracious; it declared the absence of any uneasy 
claim, any restless vanity, and it made the admiration 
that followed him as he passed among the troop of holiday- 
makers a thoroughly willing tribute. 

For by this time the stir of the Festa was felt even in 
the narrowest side-streets; the throng which had at one 
time been concentrated in the lines through which the 
procession had to pass, was now streaming out in all 
directions in pursuit of a new object. Such intervals of 
a Festa are precisely the moments when the vaguely active 
animal spirits of a crowd are likely to be the most petu- 
lant and most ready to sacrifice a stray individual to the 
greater happiness of the greater number. As Tito entered 



li 



UJ^DER THE PLAICE-TREE. 101 

the neighborhood of San Martin o, he found the throng 
rather denser; and near the hostelry of the Berkicce, or 
Baboons, there was evidently some object which w^as arrest- 
ing the passengers and forming them into a knot. It 
needed nothing of great interest to draw aside passengers 
unfreighted with a purpose, and Tito was preparing to 
turn aside into an adjoining, when, amidst the loud 
laughter, his ear discerned a distressed childish voice 
crying, '^ Loose me! Holy Virgin help me!^' which at once 
determined him to push his way into the knot of gazers. 
He had just had time to perceive that the distressed 
voice came from a young contadina, whose white hood 
had fallen off in the struggle to get her hands free from 
the grasp of a man in the parti -colored dress of a cerre- 
tano, or conjuror, who was making laughing attempts to 
soothe and cajole her, evidently carrying with him the 
amused sympathy of the spectators. These, by a persuasive 
variety of words signifying simpleton, for which the 
Florentine dialect is rich in equivalents, seemed to be 
arguing with the contadina against her obstinacy. At 
the first moment the girPs face was turned away, and ho 
saw only her light-brown hair plaited and fastened with a 
long silver pin; but in the next the struggle brought her 
face opposite Titer's, and he saw the baby features of 
Tessa, her blue eyes filled with tears, and her under-lip 
quivering. Tessa, too, saw Mm, and through the mist of 
her swelling tears there beamed a sudden hope, like that 
in the face of a little child, when, held by a stranger 
against its will, it sees a familiar hand stretched out. 

In an instant Tito had pushed his way through the 
barrier of bystanders, whose curiosity made them ready to 
turn aside at the sudden interference of tliis handsome 
young signor, had grasped Tessa's waist, and had said, 
** Loose this child! What right have you to hold her 
against her will?'' 

The conjuror — a man with one of those faces in which 
the angles of the eyes and eyebrows, of the nostrils, mouth, 
and sharply defined jaw, all tend upward — showed his 
small regular teeth in an impish but not ill-natured grin, 
as he let go Tessa's hands, and stretched out his own 
backward, shrugging his shoulders, and bending them for- 
ard a little in a half-apologetic, half-protesting manner. 

*'I mean the ragazza no evil in the world, Messere: ask 

is respectable company. I was only going to show them 
a fo)^ samples of my skilly in which this little damsel 



102 ROMOLA. 

might have helped me the better because of her kitten 
face, whicli would have assured them of open dealing: and 
I had promised her a lapful of confetti as a reward. But 
what then? Messer has doubtless better confetti at hand, 
and she knows it." 

A general laugh among the bystanders accompanied 
these last words of the conjuror, raised, probably by the 
look of relief and confidence with which Tessa clang to 
Tito's arm, as he drew it from her waist, and placed her 
hand within it. She only cared about the laugh as she 
might have cared about the roar of wild beasts from which 
she was escaping, not attaching any meaning to it; but 
Tito, who had no sooner got her on his arm than he fore- 
saw some embarrassment in the situation, hastened to get 
clear of observers who, having been desi)oiled of an expected 
amusement, were sure to re-establish the balance by jests. 

'SSee, see, little one! here is your hood," said the con- 
juror, throwing the bit of white drapery over Tessa's head. 
"OrsiCy bear me no malice; come back to me when Messere 
can spare you." 

''Ah! Maestro Vaiano, she'll come back presently, as 
the toad said to the harrow," called out one of the specta- 
tors, seeing how Tessa started and shrank at the action of 
the conjuror. 

Tito pushed his way vigorously toward the corner of a 
side street, a little vexed at this delay in his progress to 
the Via de Bardi, and intending to get rid of the poor 
little contadina as soon as possible. The next street, too, 
had its passengers inclined to make holiday remarks on so 
unusual a pair; but they bad no sooner entered it than he 
said, in a kind but hurried manner, ''Now, little one. 
where were you going? Are you come by yourself to the 
Festa?" 

"Ah, no!" said Tessa, looking frightened and distressed 
again; "I have lost my mother in the crowd — her and 
my father-in-law. They will be angry — he will beat me. 
It was in the crowd in San Pulinari — somebody pushed 
me along and I couldn't stop myself, so I got away from 
them. Oh, I don't know where they're gone! Please, 
don't leave me!" 

Her eyes had been swelling with tears again, and she 
ended with a sob. 

Tito hurried along again: the Church of the Badia was 
not far off. They could enter it by the cloister that 
opened at the back, and in the church he could talk to 



I 



UNDER THE PLANE-TREE. 105 






essa — perhaps leave her. No! it was an hour at whi(3irt 
the church was not open; but they paused under the V 
shelter of the cloister, and he said, ^' Have you no cousin ^ 
or friend in Florence, my little Tessa, whose house you \xSt 
could find; or are you afraid of walking by yourself since 
you have been frightened by the conjuror? I am in a r/^ 
hurry to get to Oltrarno, but if I could take you anywhere ^ 
near ■' Aa\ 

*'0h, I am frightened: he was the devil — I know he /ry 
was. And I don't know where to go. I have nobody: -j^ 
and my mother meant to have her dinner somewhere, k u[^ 
and I don't know where. Holy Madonna! I shall be \ ^ 
beaten." f 

The corners of the pouting mouth went down piteously, 
nd the poor little bosom with the beads on it above the 
green serge gown heaved so, that there was no longer any 
help for it: a loud sob tvould come, and the big tears fell 
as if they were making up for lost time. Here was a situ- 
ation! It would have been brutal to leave her, and Tito's 
nature was all gentleness. He wished at that moment that 
he had not been expected in the Via de Bardi. As he saw 
her lifting up her holiday apron to catch the hurrying 
tears, he laid his hand, too, on the apron, and rubbed one 
of the cheeks and kissed the baby-like roundness. 

*' My poor little Tessa! leave off crying. Let us see what 
can be done. AYhere is your home? — where do you live?" 

There was no answer, but the sobs began to subside a 
little and the drops to fall less quickly. 

*'Come! FU take you a little way, if you'll tell me 
where you want to go." 

The apron fell, and Tessa's face began to look as con- 
tented as a cherub's budding from a cloud. The diabolical 
conjuror, the anger and the beating, seemed a long 
way off. 

'^ I think I'll go home, if you'll take me," she said, 
in a half whisper, looking up at Tito with wide blue eyes, 
and with something sweeter than a smile — with a childlike 
calm. 

'* Come, then, little one," said Tito, in a caressing tone, 
putting her arm within his again. '* Which way is it? " 
i^ i( Beyond Peretola — where the large pear-tree is." < 

^^L *^ Peretola? Out at which gate, pazzarella? I am a 
^■tranger, you must remember." 
^K *' Out at the For del Prato," said Tessa, moving along 



104 EOMOLA. 

He did not know all the turnings well enough to venture 

on an attempt at choosing the quietest streets; and besides, 

it occurred to him that where the passengers were most 

numerous there was, perhaps, the most chance of meeting 

with Monua Ghita and finding an end to his knight- 

errantship. So he made straight for Porta Rossa, and 

on to Ognissanti, showing his usual bright propitiatory 

face to the mixed observers who threw their jests at him 

and his little heavy-shod maiden with much liberality. 

Mingled w'th the more decent holiday-makers there were 

fro'icsome apprentices, rather envious of his good fortune; 

bold-eyed women with the badge of the yellow veil; 

beggars who thrust forward their caps for alms, in derision 

at Tito^s evident haste; dicers, sharpers, and loungers of 

the worst sort; boys whose tongues were used to wag in 

concert at the most brutal street games; for the streets of 

Florence v/ere not always a moral spectacle in those times, 

and Tessa's terror at being lost in the crowd was not 

wholly unreasonable. 

k/ When they reached the Piazza d'Ognissanti Tito slackened 

^a/^ his pace: they were both heated with their hurried walk, 

. and here was a wider space where they could take breath. 

^ )an They sat down on one of the stone benches which were 

JP frequent against the walls of old Florentine houses. 

>^' *' Holy Virgin!" said Tessa; ''lam glad we have got 

'^ away from those women and boys; but I was not frightened, 

f. because you could take care of me.'' 

[f '' Pretty little Tessa! " said Tito, smiling at her. '' What 



f 

)tlfj^ makes you feel so safe with me?" 

A^' '^ Because you are so beautiful — like the people going 

'^ -' into Paradise; they are all good." 



% 



It is a long while since you had your breakfast, Tessa," 
said Tito, seeing some stalls near, with fruit and sweet- 
meats upon them. " Are you hungry?" 

''Yes, I think I am — if you will have some too." 

Tito bought some apricots, and cakes, and comfits, and 
put them into her apron. 

"Come," he said, "let us walk on to the Prato, and 
then, perhaps, you will not be afraid to go the rest of the 
way alone." 

"But you will have some of the apricots and things," 
said Tessa, rising obediently and gathering up her apron 
as a bag for her store. 

"We will see," said Tito aloud; and to himself he said, 
" Here is a little contadina who might inspire a better idyl 



UNDER THE PLANE-TREE. 105 

than Lorenzo de Medici's 'Nencia da Barbarino/ that 
Nello's friends rave about; if I were only a Theocritus, or 
had time to cultivate the necessary experience by unseason- 
able walks of this sort! However, the mischief is done 
now: I am so late already that another half hour will make 
no difference. Pretty little pigeon!'' 

" We have a garden and plenty of pears/' said Tessa, 
"and two cows, besides the mules; and I'm very fond of 
them. But my father-in-law is a cross man: I wish my 
mother had not married him. I think he is wicked; he is 

Iyery ugly." 
t "And does your mother let him beat you, poverina? 
tou said you were afraid of being beaten." 
r "Ah, my mother herself scolds me: she loves my young 
lister better, and thinks I don't do work enough. Nobody 
Bpeaks kindly to me, only the Pievano (parish priest)'when 
I go to confession. And the men in the Mercato laugh 
at me and make fun of me. Nobody ever kissed me and 
spoke to me as you do; just as I talk to my little black- 
faced kid, because I'm very fond of it." 

It seemed not to have entered Tessa's mind that there 
was any change in Tito's appearance since the morning he_^^^ 
begged the milk from her, and that he looked now like a ^^ 
personage for whom she must summon her little stock of irf 
reverent words and signs. He had impressed her too dif- L^ 
ferently from any human being who had ever come near i/2 
her before, for her to make any comparison of details; she^^Cii 
took no note of his dress; he was simply a voice and a face * 
to her, something come from Paradise into a world where 
most things seemed hard and angry; and she prattled with 
as little restraint as if he had been an imaginary compan- 
ion born of her own lovingness and the sunshine. 

They had now reached the Prato, which at that time 
was a large open space within the walls, where the Floren- 
tine youtli played at their favorite Cakio — a peculiar kind 
of football — and otherwise exercised themselves. At this 
midda}/ time it was forsaken and quiet to the very gates, 
where a tent had been erected in preparation for the race. 

n the border of this wide meadow, Tito paused and 

id— 

"Now, Tessa, you will not be frightened if I leave you 
walk the rest of the way by yourself. Addio! Shall I 
come and buy a cup of milk from you in the Mercato 
to-morrow morning, to see that you are quite safe?" 

He added this question in a soothing tone, as he saw her 



wl 

E 



106 ROMOLA. 

eyes widening sorrowfully, and the comers of her mouth 
falling. She said nothing at first; she only opened her 
apron and looked down at her apricots and sweetmeats. 
Then she looked up at him again and said complainingly — 

"I thought you would have some, and we could sit 
down under a tree outside the gate, and eat them 
together." 

*' Tessa, Tessa, you little siren, j^ou would ruin me,'* 
said Tito, laughing, and kissing both her cheeks. "I 
ought to have been in the Via de Baixli long ago. No! I 
must go back now; you are in no danger. There — I'll 
take an apricot. Addio!" 

He had already stepped two yards from her when he 
said the last word. Tessa could not have spoken; she was 
pale, and a great sob was rising; but she turned round as 
if she felt there was no hope for her, and stepped on, 
holding her apron so forgetfully that the apricots began to 
roll out on the grass. 

Tito could not help looking after her, and seeing |her 
shoulders rise to the bursting sob, and the apricots fall — 
could not help going after her and picking them up. It 
was very hard upon him: he was a long way off the Via de 
Bardi, and very near to Tessa. 

'^ See, my silly one," he said, picking up the apricots. 
' ' Come, leave off crying, I will go with you, and we'll sit 
down under the tree. Come, I don't like to see you cry; 
but you know I must go back some time." 

So it came to pass that they found a great plane-tree not 
far outside the gates, and they sat down under it, and all 
the feast was spread out on Tessa's lap, she leaning with 
her back against the trunk of the tree, and he stretched 
opposite to her, resting his elbows on the rough green 
growth cherished by the shade, while the sunlight stole 
through the boughs and played about them like a winged 
thing. Tessa's face was all contentment again, and the 
taste of the apricots and sweetmeats seemed very good. 

*^ You pretty bird!" said Tito, looking at her as she sat 
eyeing the remains of the feast with an evident mental 
debate about saving them, since he had said he would not 
have any more. "To think of any one scolding you! 
What sins do you tell of at confession, Tessa?" 

''Oh, a great many. I am often naughty. I don't like 
work, and I can't help being idle, though I know I shall 
be beaten and scolded; and I give the mules the best 
fodder when nobody sees me, and then when the Madre is 



I 



UNDER THE PLANE-TREE. 107 



angry I say I didn't do it, and that makes me frightened 
at the devil. I think the conjuror was the devil. I am 
not so frightened after Tve been to confession. And see, 
I've got a Breve here that a good father, who came to 
Prato preaching this Easter, blessed and gave us all.". 
Here Tessa drew from her bosom a tiny bag carefully 
fastened up. '''And I think the holy Madonna will take 
care of me; she looks as if she would; and perhaps if I 
wasn^t idle, she wouldn't let me be beaten." 

*' If they are so cruel to you, Tessa, shouldn't you like 
to leave them, and go and live with a beautiful lady who 
would be kind to you, if she would have you to wait upon 
er?" 

Tessa seemed to hold her breath for a moment or two. 

hen she said doubtfully, *'I don't know." 

*'Then should you like to be my little servant, and live 

ith me?" said Tito, smiling. He meant no more than 

see what sort of pretty look and answer she would give. 

There was a flush of joy immediately. "Will you take 
me with you now? Ah! I shouldn't go home and be beaten 
then." She paused a little while, and then added more 
doubtfully, ''But I should like to fetch my black-faced 
kid." 

''Yes, you must go back to your kid, my Tessa," said 
Tito, rising, "and I must go the other way." 

"By Jupiter!" he added, as he went from under the 
shade of the tree, " it is not a pleasant time of day to walk 
from here to the Via de Bardi; I am more inclined to lie 
down and sleep in this shade." , 

It ended so. Tito had an unconquerable aversion to 
anything unpleasant, even when an object very much loved 
and desired was on the other side of it. He had risen 
early; had waited; had seen sights, and had been already 
walking in the sun: he was inclined for a siesta, and 
jnclined all the more because little Tessa was there, and 

emed to make the air softer. He lay down on the grass 
gain, putting his cap under his head on a green tuft 
by the side of Tessa. That was not quite comfortable; so 
he moved again, and asked Tessa to let him rest his head 
against her lap; and in that way he soon fell asleep. Tessa 

(at quiet as a dove on its nest, just venturing, when he 
i^as fast asleep, to touch the wonderful dark curls that fell 
►ackward from his ear. She was too happy to go to sleep — 
00 happy to think that Tito would wake up, and that 
then he would leave her, and she must go home. It takes 






108 ROMOLA. 

very little water to make a perfect pool for a tiny fish, 
where it Avill find its world and paradise all in one, and 
never have a presentiment of the dry bank. The fretted 
summer shade and stillness, and the gentle breathing 
of some loved life near — it would be a paradise to us all, if 
eager thought, the strong angel with the implacable brow, 
had not long since closed the gates. 

It really was a long while before the waking came — 
before the long dark eyes opened at Tessa, first with 
a little surprise, and then with a smile, which was soon 
quenched by some preoccupying thought. Tito^s deeper 
sleep had broken into a doze, in which he felt himself 
in the Via de Bardi, explaining his failure to appear 
at the appointed time. The clear images of that doze 
urged him to start up at once to a sitting posture, and as he 
stretched his arms and shook his cap, he said — 

** Tessa, little one, you have let me sleep too long. My 
hunger and the shadoAvs together tell me that the sun has 
done much travel since 1 fell asleep. I must lose no more 
time. Addio," he ended; patting her cheek with one 
hand and settling his cap with the other. 

She said nothing, but there were signs in her face which 
made him speak again in as serious and as chiding a tone 
as he could command — 

'^ Now, Tessa, you must not cry. I shall be angry; I 
shall not love you if you cr3\ You must go home to your 
black-faced kid, or if you like you may go back to the 
gate and see the horses start. But I can stay with you no 
longer, and if you cry I shall think you are troublesome 
to me.^' 

The rising tears were checked by terror at this change 
in Tito's voice. Tessa turned very pale, and sat in trem- 
bling silence, with her blue eyes widened by arrested tears. 

^'Look now," Tito went on soothingly, opening the 
wallet that hung at his belt, '* here is a pretty charm that 
I have had a long while — ever since I was in Sicily, 
a country a long way off." 

His wallet had many little matters in it mingled with 
small coins, and he had the usual difficulty in laying his 
finger on the right thing. He unhooked his wallet, and 
turned out the contents on Tessa's lap. Among them was 
his onyx ring. 

^^ Ah, my ring! " he exclaimed, slipping it on the fore- 
finger of his right hand. " I forgot to put it on again this 
Strange, 1 never mistsed it! See, Test;a," he 



I 



u:n^der the plane-teee. 109 



m 



added, as lie spread oat the smaller articles, and selected 

the one' he was in search of. *^See this pretty little 

pointed bit of red coral — like your goat^s horn, is it not? — 

ad here is a hole in it, so you can put it on the cord round 

'our neck along with your Breve, and then the evil spirits 

an't hurt you: if you ever see them coming in the shadow 

round the corner, point this little coral horn at them, and 

they will run away. It is a 'buona fortuna,' and will keep 

you from harm when I am not with jou. Come, undo 

' e cord." 

Tessa obeyed, with a tranquilising sense that life was 
going to be something quite new, and that Tito would be 
with her often. All who remember their childhood 
remember the strange, vague sense, when some new experi- 
ence came, that everything else was going to be changed, 
and that there would be no lapse into the old monotony. 
So the bit of coral was hung beside the tiny bag with the 
scrap of scrawled parchment in it, and Tessa felt braver. 
"And now you will give me a kiss," said Tito, econo- 
ising time by speaking, while he swept in the contents 
of the wallet and hung it at his waist again, " and look 

happy, like a good girl, and then " 

But Tessa had obediently put forward her lips in a 
moment, and kissed his cheek as he hung down his head. 
'^ Oh, you pretty pigeon!" cried Tito, laughing, press- 
ing her round cheeks with his hands and crushing her feat- 
ures together so as to give them a general impartial kiss. 

Then he started up and walked away, not looking round 
till he was ten yards from lier, when he just turned and 
gave a parting beck. Tessa was looking after him, but he 
could see that she was making no signs of distress. It was 
enough for Tito if she did not cry while he was present. 
^The softness of his nature required that all sorrow should 
^Hb hidden away from him. 

^B^''I wonder when Romola will kiss my cheek in that 

^Bay?'' thought Tito, as he walked along. It seemed a 

^^resome distance now, and he almost wished he had not 

been so soft-hearted, or so tempted to linger in the shade. 

^""o other excuse was needed to Bardo and Eomola than 

saying simply that he had been unexpectedly hindered; he 

felt confident their proud delicacy would inquire no farther. 

He lost no time in getting to Ognissanti, and hastily 

taking some food there, he crossed the Arno by the Ponte 

^^la Carraja, and made his way as directly as possible 

^•ward the Via de Bardi. 



110 ROMOLA. 

But it was the hour when all the world who meant to be 
in particularly good time to see the Corso were returning 
from the Borghi, or villages just outside the gates, where 
they had dined and reposed themselves; and the thorough- 
fares leading to the bridges were of course the issues 
toward which the stream of sightseers tended. Just as 
Tito reached the Ponte Vecchio and the entrance of the 
Via de Bardi, he was suddenly urged back toward the 
angle of the intersecting streets. A company on horse- 
back, coming from the Via Guicciardini. and turning up 
the Via de Bardi, had compelled the foot-passengers to 
recede hurriedly. Tito had been walking, as his manner 
was, with the thumb of his right hand resting in his belt; 
and as he was thus forced to pause, and was looking care- 
lessly at the passing cavaliers, he felt a very thin, cold 
hand laid on his. He started round, and saw the Domini- 
can friar whose upturned face had so struck him in the 
morning. Seen closer, the face looked more evidently 
worn by sickness and not by age; and again it brought 
some strong but indefinite reminiscences to Tito. 

'^ Pardon me, but — from your face and your ring," — 
said the friar, in a faint voice, " is not your name Tito 
Melema?" 

*' Yes," said Tito, also speaking faintly, doubly jarred 
by the cold touch and'the mystery. He was not apprehen- 
sive or timid through his imagination, but tlw-ough his sen- 
sations and perceptions he could easily be made to shrink 
and turn pale like a maiden. 

"Then I shall fulfill my cd^mission." 

The friar put his hand under his scapulary, and draw- 
ing out a small linen bag which hung round his neck, took 
from it a bit of parchment, doubled and stuck firmly 
together with some black adhesive substance, and placed 
it in Tito's hand. On the outside was written in Italian, 
in a small but distinct character — 

" Tito Melema, aged tiventy-three, ivitli a dark, heautiful 
face, long dark curls, the hrightest smile, and a large onyx 
ring on his right forefinger.'' 

Tito did not look at the friar, but tremblingly broke 
open the bit of parchment. Inside, the words were — 

"/ am sold for a slave: I think they are going to take 
me to Antioch. The gems alone will serve to ransom me,'* 

Tito looked round at the friar, but could only ask a 
question with his eyes. 

" I had it at Corinth," the friar said, speaking with 



I 



Tito's dilemma. Ill 



difficulty, like one whose small strength had been over- 
^^xed — ^'1 had it from a man who was dying." 
^fc"He is dead, then?'' said Tito, with a bounding of the 
^Heart. 

^B '* JSTot the writer. The man who gave it to me was a pil- 
^^rim, like myself, to whom the writer had intrusted it, 
because he was journeying to Italy." 
^* You know the contents?" 

"I do not know them, but I conjecture them. Your 
friend is in slavery: you will go and release him. But I 
am unable to talk now." The friar, whose voice had 
become feebler and feebler, sank dow^n on the stone bench 
against the wall from which he had risen to touch Tito's 
hand, adding — 

I am at San Marco; my name is FraLuca/' 



CHAPTER XL 

TITO'S DILEMMA. 



When Fra Luca had ceased to speak, Tito still stood by 
him in irresolution, and it was not till, the pressure of the 
passengers being removed, the friar rose and walked slowly 
into the churgh of Santa Felicita, that Tito also went on 
his way along the Via de Bardi. 

^' If this monk is a Florentine," said he to himself ; ^' if 
he is going to remain at Florence, everything must be dis- 
closed." He felt that a new crisis had come, but he was 
not, for all that, too evidently agitated to pay his visit 
to Bardo, and apologize for his previous non-appearance. 
Tito's talent for concealment was being fast developed into 
something less neutral. It was still possible — perhaps it 
might be inevitable — for him to accept frankly the altered 
conditions, and avow Baldassarre's existence; but hardly 
without casting an unpleasant light backward on his orig- 
inal reticence as studied equivocation in order to avoid the 
fulfillment of a secretly recognized claim, to say nothiug 
of his quiet settlement of himself and investment of his 
^florins, when, it would be clear, his benefactor's fate had 
^Kot been certified. It was at least provisionally wise to act 
^Hb if nothing had happened, and for the present he would 
^Bispend decisive thought; there was all the night for med- 



112 ROMOLA. 

itation, and no one would knoAv the precise moment at 
which he had received the letter. 

So he entered the room on the second story — where 
Eomola and her father sat among the parchment and 
marble, aloof from the life of the streets on holidays as 
well as on common days — with a face only a little less 
bi'ight than usual, from regret at appearing so late: a regret 
which wanted no testimony, since he had given up the 
sight of the Corso in order to express it ; and then set 
himself to throw extra animation into the evening, though 
all the while his consciousness was at work like a machine 
with complex action, leaving deposits quite distinct from 
the line of talk; and by the time he descended the stone 
stairs and issued from the grim door in the starlight, his 
mind had really reached a new stage in its formation of a 
purpose. 

And when, the next day, after he was free from his pro- 
fessional work, he turned up the Via del Cocomero toward 
tlie convent of San Marco, his purpose was fully shaped. 
He was going to ascertain from Fra Luca precisely how 
much he conjectured of the truth, and on what grounds 
he conjectured it; and, further, how long he was to remain 
at San Marco. And on that fuller knowledge he lioped to 
mould a statement which would in any case save him 
from the necessity of quitting Florence. Tito had never 
had occasion to fabricate an ingenious lie before: the 
occasion was come now — the occasion which circumstance 
never fails to beget on tacit falsity; and his ingenuity was 
ready. For he had convinced himself that he was not 
bound to go in search of Baldassarre. He had once said 
that on a fair assurance of his father's existence and 
whereabouts, he would unhesitatingly go after him. But, 
after all, ivliy was he bound to go? What, looked at closely, 
was the end of all life, but to extract the utmost sum of 
pleasure? And was not his own blooming life a promise of 
incomparably more pleasure, not for himself only, but for 
others, than the withered wintry life of a man who was 
past the time of keen enjoyment, and whose ideas had 
stiffened into barren rigidity? Those ideas had all been 
sown in the fresh soil of Tito's mind, and were lively 
germs there: that was the proper order of things — the 
order of nature, which treats all maturity as a mere nidus 
for youth. Baldassarre had done his work, had had his 
draught of life: Tito said it was Ms turn now. 

And the prospect was so vague: — "1 think they are 



I 



Tito's dilemma. 113 



going to take me to Antioch:" here was a vista! After a 
long voyage, to spend months, perhaps years, in a search 
for which even now there was no guarantee that it would 
not prove vain: and to leave behind at starting a life of 
distinction and love: and to find, if he found anything, 
the old exacting companionship which was known by rote 
beforehand. Certainly the gems and therefore the florins 
were, in a sense, Baldassarre's: in the narrow sense by 
which the right of possession is determined in ordinary 
affairs; but in that large and more radically natural view 
by which the world belongs to youth and strength, they 
were rather his who could extract the most pleasure out of 
them. That, he was conscious, was not the sentiment 
which the complicated play of human feelings had engen- 
dered in society. The men around him would expect that 
he should immediately apply those florins to his benefac- 
tor's rescue. But what was the sentiment of society? — a 
mere tangle of anomalous traditions and opinions, which 
no wise man would take as a guide, except so far as his 
own comfort was concerned. Not that he cared for the 
florins save perhaps for Romola's sake: he would give up 
the florins readily enough. It was the joy that was due to 
him and wfs close to his lips, which he felt he was not 
bound to thrust away from him and so travel on, thirsting. 
Any maxims that required a man to fling away the good 
that was needed to make existence sweet, were only the 
lining of human selfishness turned outward: they were 
made by men who wanted others to sacrifice themselves for 
their sake. ^He would rather that Baldassarre should not 
suffer: he liked no one to suffer; but could any philosophy 
prove to him that he was bound to care for another's suf- 
,fering more than for his ow^n? To do so he must have 
loved Baldassarre devotedly, and he did not love him: was 
that his own fault? Gratitude! seen closely, it made* no 
valid claim: his father's life w^ould have been dreary with- 
out him: are we convicted of a debt to men for the pleas- 
ures they give themselves? 

Having once begun to explain away Baldassarre's claim, 
Tito's thought showed itself as active as a virulent acid, 
eating its rapid way through all the tissues of sentiment. 
His mind was destitute of that dread which has been erro- 
neously decried as if it were nothing higher than a man's 
animal care for hisow^n skin: that awe of the Divine Nem- 
esis which was felt by religious pagans, and, though it took 
a more positive form under Christianity, is still felt by the 



114 KOMOLA. 

mass of mankind simply as a vague fear at anything which 
is called wrong doing. Such terror of the unseen is so far 
above mere sensual cowardice that it will annihilate that 
cowardice: it is the initial recognition of a moral law 
restraining desire, and checks the hard bold scrutiny of 
imperfect thought into obligations which can never be 
proved to have any sanctity in the absence of feeling. " It 
is good," sing the old Eumenides, in ^schylus, ''that fear 
should sit as the guardian of the soul, forcing it into wis- 
dom — good that men should carry a threatening shadow in 
their hearts under the full sunshine; else, how should they 
learn to revere the right?" That guardianship may 
become needless; but only when all outward law has 
became needless — only when duty and love have united in 
one stream and made a common force. 

As Tito entered the outer cloister of San Marco, and 
inquired for Fra Luca, there was no shadowy presentiment 
in his mind : he felt himself too cultured and sceptical for 
that: he had been nurtured in contempt for the tales of 
priests whose impudent lives were a proverb, and in erudite 
familiarity with disputes concerning the Chief Good, which 
had after all, he considered, left it a matter of taste. Yet 
fear was a strong element in Tito's nature — the fear of 
what he believed or saw was likely to rob him of pleasure: 
and he had a definite fear that Fra Luca might be the 
means of driving him from Florence. 

''Fra Luca? ah, he is gone to Fiesole — to the Domini- 
can monastery there. He was taken on a litter in the cool 
of the morning. The poor brother is very ill. Could you 
leave a message for him?" 

This answer was given by a/r« converso, or lay brother, 
whose accent told plainly that he was a raw contadino, and 
whose dull glance implied no curiosity. 

"Thanks; my business can wait." 

Tito turned away with a sense of relief. "This friar is 
not likely to live," he said to himself. "I saw he was 
worn to a shadow. And at Fiesole there will be nothing 
to recall me to his mind. Besides, if he should come back, 
my explanation will serve as well then as now. But I wish 
I knew what it was that his face recalled to me." 



THE PRIZE IS NEARLY GRASPED. 115 

CHAPTER XXL 

THE PRIZE IS KEARLY GRASPED. 

^ITO walked along with a light step, for the immediate 
fear had vanished; the usual joyousness of his disposition 
reassumed its predominance, and he was going to see 
Eomola. Yet Romola^s life seemed an image of that 
loving, pitying devotedness, that patient endurance of irk- 
some tasks, from which he had shrunk and excused him- 
self. But he was not out of love with goodness, or pre- 
pared to plunge into vice: he was in his fresh youth, with 
soft pulses for all charm and loveliness; he had still a 
healthy appetite for ordinary human joys, and the poison 
could only work by degrees. He had sold himself to evil, 
hut at present life seemed so nearly the same to him 
that he was not conscious of the bond. He meant all 
things to go on as they had done before, both within and 
without him: he meant to win golden opinions by meri- 
torious exertion, by ingenious learning, by amiable com- 
pliance: he was not going to do anything that would 
throw liim out of liarmony with the beings he cared for. 
And he cared supremely for Romola; he wished to have 
her for his beautiful and loving wife. There might be a 
wealthier alliance within the ultimate reach of successful 
accomplishments like his, but there was no woman in all 
Florence like Romola. When she was near him, and 
looked at him with her sincere hazel eyes, he was subdued 
by a delicious influence as strong and inevitable as those 
musical vibrations which take possession of us with a 
rhythmic empire that no sooner ceases than we desire it to 
begin again. . 

As he trod the stone stairs, when he was still outside the 
door, with no one but Maso near him, the influence seemed 
to liave begun its work by the mere nearness of anticipation. 

''Welcome, Tito mio," said the old man^s voice, before 
Tito had spoken. There was a new vigor in the voice, a 
new cheerfulness in the blind face, since that first inter- 
view more than two months ago. ''You have brought 
fresh manuscript, doubtless; but since we were talking last 
night I have had new ideas: we must take a wider scope — 
we must go back upon our footsteps." 

Tito, paying his homage to Romola as he advanced. 



N-^ 




116 KOMOLA. 

went, as his custom was, straight to Bardo's chair, and put 
his hand in the palm that was held to receive it, placing 
himself on the cross-legged leather seat with scrolled ends, 
close to Bardo^s elbow. 

^' Yes," he said, in his gentle way; ''^I have brought the 
new manuscript, but that can wait your pleasure. I have 
young limbs, you know, and can walk back up the hill 
without any difficulty." 

He did not look at Komola as he said this, but he knew 
quite well that her eyes were fixed on him with delight. 

" That is well said, my son." Bardo had already 
addressed Tito in this way once or twice of late. *'And I 
perceive with gladness that you do not shrink from labor, 
without which, the poet has wisely said, life has given 
nothing to mortals. It is too often the ' palma sine pul- 
vere,' the prize of glory without the dust of the race, that 
attracts young ambition. But what says the Greek? 'In 
the morning of life, work; in the mid-day, give counsel; 
in the evening, pray.' It is true, I might be thought to 
have reached that helpless evening; but not so, while I 
have counsel within me which is yet unspoken. For my 
mind, as I have often said, was shut up as by a dam; the 
plenteous waters lay dark and motionless; but you, my 
Tito, have opened a duct for them, and they rush forward 
with a force that surprises myself. And now, what I 
want is, that we should go over our preliminary ground 
again, with a wider scheme of comment and illustration: 
otherwise I may lose opportunities which I now see retro- 
spectively, and which may never occur again. You mark 
what I am saying, Tito?" 

He had just stooped to reach his manuscript, which had 
rolled down, and Bardo's jealous ear was alive to the slight 
movement. 

Tito might have been excused for shrugging his shoul- 
ders at the prospect before him, but he was not naturally 
impatient; moreover, he had been bred up in that labor- 
^ious erudition, at once minute and copious, which was the 
chief intellectual task of the age; and with Romola near, 
he was floated along by weaves of agreeable sensation that 
made everything seem easy. 
^* ^'Assuredly," he said, '* you wish to enlarge your com- 
^ ments on certain passages we have cited. 

"Not only so; I wish to introduce an occasional excursus, 
where we have noticed an author to whom I have given 
special study; for I may die too soon to achieve any sepa- 



THE PRIZE IS NEARLY GRASPED. 117 

rate work. And this is not a time for scholarly integrity 
and well-sifted learning to lie idle, when it is not only 
rash ignorance that we have to fear, but when there are 
men like Calderino, who, as Poliziano has well shown, 
have recourse to imprudent falsities of citation to serve 
the ends of their vanity and secure a triumph to their own 
mistakes, \yherefore, my Tito, I think it not well that 
we should let slip the occasion that lies under our hands. 
And now we will turn back to the point where we have 
cited the passage from Thucydides, and I wish you, by 
way of preliminary, to go with me through all my notes 
on the Latin translation made by Lorenzo Yalla, for which 
the incomparable Pope Nicholas, V. — with whose personal 
notice I was hongi'Mwhile I was yet young, and when he 
was still Thomas of Sarzana — paid him (I say not unduly) 
the sum of five hundred gold scudi. But inasmuch as 
Valla, though otherwise of dubious fame, is held in 
high honor for his severe scholarship, whence the epigram- 
matist has jocosely said of him that since he went among 
the shades, Pluto himself has not dared to speak in the 
ancient languages, it is the more needful that his name 
should not be as a stamp, warranting false wares; and 
therefore I would introduce an excursus on Thucydides, 
wherein my castigations of Valla^s text may find a fitting 
place. My Romola, thou wilt reach the needful vol- 
umes — thou knowest them — on the fifth shelf of the 
cabinet." 

Tito rose at the same moment with Komola, saying, "I 
will reach them, if you will point them out out," and fol- 
lowed her hastily into the adjoining small room, where the 
walls were also covered with ranges of books in perfect 
order. 

J*' There they are," said Eomola, pointing upward; 

ery book is just where it was when my father ceased to 

see them." 

Tito stood by her without hastening to reach the books; 
They had never been in this room together before. 

*'I hope," she continued, turning her eyes full on Tito, 
with a look of grave confidence — ^'I hope he will not 
weary you; this work makes him so happy." 

**And me too, Romola — if. you ^vill only let me say, I 
love you — if you will only think me worth loving a little." 

His speech was the softest murmur, and the dark beau- 
tiful face, nearer to hers than than it had ever been before, 
)j"as looking at her with beseeching tenderness. 



118 llOMOLA. 

*'I do love you/^ murmured Eomola; she looked at him 
with the same simple majesty as ever, but her voice had 
never in her life before sunk to that murmur. It seemed 
to them both that they were looking at each other a long 
while before her lips moved again; yet it was but a moment 
till she said, *^I know now what it is to be happy." 

The faces just met, and the dark curls mingled for an 
instant with the rippling gold. Quick as lightning after 
that Tito set his foot on a projecting ledge of the book- 
shelves, and reached down the needful volumes. They 
were both contented to be silent and separate, for that first 
blissful experience of mutual consciousness was ail the 
more exquisite for being unperturbed by immediate sen- 
sation. 

It had all been as rapid as the irreversible mingling of 
waters, for even the eager and jealous Bardo had not 
become impatient. 

"You have the volumes, my Romola?" the old man 
said, as they came near him again. "And now you will 
get your pen ready; for, as Tito marks off the scholia we 
determine on extracting, it will be well for you to copy 
them without delay — numbering them carefully, mind, to 
correspond with the numbers in the text which he will 
write." 

Romola always had some task which gave her a share in 
this joint work. Tito took his stand at the leggio, where 
he both wrote and read, and she placed herself at a table 
just in front of him, where she was ready to give into her 
father's hands anything that he might happen to want, or 
relieve him of a volume that he had done with. They had 
always been in that position since the work began, yet on 
this day it seemed new; it was so different now for them 
to be opposite each other; so different for Tito to take a 
book from her, as she lifted it from her father's knee. Yet 
there was no finesse to secure an additional look or 
touch. {"Each woman creates in her own likeness the love- 
tokens that are offered to her; and Romola's deep calm 
happiness encompassed Tito like the rich but quiet evening 
light which dissipates all unrest^ 

They had been two hours at their work, and were just 
desisting because of the fading light, when the door opened 
and there entered a figure strangely incongruous with the 
current of their thoughts and with the suggestions of 
every object around them. It was the figure of a short 
fclui.t black-eyed wom.aa, about fifty, wearing a black 



I 



THE PRIZE IS NEARLY GRASPED. 119 



velvet berretta, or close cap, embroidered with pearls, 
under which surprisingly massive black braids surmounted 
the little bulging forehead, and fell in rich plaited curves 
over the ears, while an equally surprising carmine tint on 
the upper region of the fat cheeks contrasted with the sur- 
rounding sallowness. Three rows of pearls and a lower 
necklace of gold reposed on the horizontal cushion of 
her neck; the embroidered border of her trailing black- 
velvet gown and her embroidered long-drooping sleeves 
of rose-colored damask, were slightly faded, but they 
conveyed to the initiated eye the satisfactory assurance 
that they were the splendid result of six months^ labor 
by a skilled workman: and the rose-colored petticoat, 
with its dimmed white fringe and seed-pearl arabesques, 
was duly exhibited in order to suggest a similar pleasing 
reflection. A handsome coral rosary hung from one side 
of an inferential belt, which emerged into certainty with a 
large clasp of silver wrought in niello; and, on the other 
side, where the belt again became inferential, hung a 
scarsella, or large purse, of crimson velvet, stitched with 
pearls. Her little fat right hand, which looked as if it had 
been made of paste, and had risen out of shape under 
partial baking, held a small book of devotions, also splendid 
with velvet, pearls, and silver. 

The figure was already too familiar to Tito to be start- 
ling, for Monna Brigida was a frequent visitor at Bardo's, 
being excepted from the sentence of banishment passed on 
feminine triviality, on the ground of her cousinship to his 
dead wife and her early care for Romola, who now looked 
round at her with an affectionate smile, and rose to draw 
the leather seat to a due distance from her father's chair, 
that the coming gush of talk might not be too near his 
ear. 

" La cugina?" said Bardo, interrogatively, detecting the 
short steps and the sweeping drapery. 

''Yes, it is your cousin,'^ said Monna Brigida, in an 
alert voice, raising her fingers smilingly at Tito, and then 
lifting up her face to be kissed by Romola. ''Always the 
troublesome cousin breaking in on your wisdom,"*' she went 
on, seating herself and beginning to fan herself with the 
white veil hanging over her arm. "Well, well; if I didn't 
bring you some news of the world now and then, I do 
belie ve you'd forget there was anythin g in lifeb ut tHese 
mouTdy ancients, who w ant sp rin kling with holL^MjI^J^ ^^ 
I hear about^tKem"is~triier" JN ot b u t w loaT the wprWls^BacT 



v/if j/mA'-A^ 



i<5 



120 ROMOLA. 

enough nowadays, for the scandals that turn up under one's 
nose at every corner — / don't want to hear and see such 
things, but one can't go about with one's head in a bag; 
and it was only yesterday — well, well, you needn't burst 
out at me, Bardo, I'm not going to tell anything; if I'm 
not as wise as the three kings, I know how many legs go 
into one boot. But, nevertheless, Florence is a wicked 
city — is it not true, Messer Tito? for you go into the 
world. Not but what one must sin a little — Messer Domen- 
eddio expects that of us, else what are the blessed sacra- 
ments for? And what I say is, we've got to reverence the 
saints, and not to set ourselves up as if we could be like 
them, else life would be unbearable; as it will be if things 
go on after this new fashion. For what do you think? I've 
been at the wedding to-day — Dianora Acciajoli's with the 
young Albizzi that there has been so much talk of — and 
everybody wondered at its being to-day instead of yester- 
day; but, cieli ! such a wedding as it was might have -been 
put off till the next Quaresima for a penance. I'or there 
was the bride looking like a white nun — not so much as a 
pearl about her — and the bridegroom as solemn as San 
Giuseppe. It's true! And half the people invited were 
Piagnoni — they call them Piag7ioni* now, these new 
saints of Fra Girolamo's making. And to think of two 
X families like the Albizzi and the Acciajoli taking up such 
j^'l notions, when they could afford to wear the best I Well, 
■P^\\) ^^^^> *^^^y invited me — but they could do no other, seeing 
^r my husband was Luca Antonio's uncle by the mother's 
<r^ I side — and a pretty time I had of it while we waited under 
the canopy in front of the house, before they let us in. I 
\ couldn't stand in my clothes, it seemed, without giving 
offense; for there was Monna Berta, who has had worse 
secrets in her time than any I could tell of myself, looking 
askance at me from under her hood like a pinzochera \ and 
telling me to re adthe Frate's book about widows , from 
which she had j oundTgreat guidance ! Holy Madonna ! it 
seems as if widows haa nothing to do now but to buy their 
coffins, and think it a thousand years until they get into 
them, instead of enjoying themselves a little when they've 
got their hands free for the first time. And what do you 
think was the music we had, to make our dinner lively? A 
long discourse from Fra Domenico of San Marco, about 
the doctrines of their blessed Fra Girolamo — the t^^i-ee 
doctrines we are all to get by heart; aii(? he kept marking 

* Funeral moumere : properly^ paid mourners. 






I 



THE PEIZE IS NEARLY GRASPED. 121 



them off on his fingers till he made my flesh creep: and 
the first is, Florence, or the Church — I don't know which, 
for first he said one and then the other — shall be scourged; 
but if he means the pestilence, the Signory ought to put 
a stop to such preaching, for it's enough to raise the swell- 
ing under one's arms with fright: but then, after that, he 
says Florence is to be regenerated ; but what will be the 
good of that when we're all dead of the plague, or some- 
thing else ? And then, the third thing, and what he said 
oftenest, is, that it's all to be in our days: and he marked 
that off on his thumb, till he made me tremble like the 
very jelly before me. They had jellies, to be sure, with 
the" arms of the Albizzi and the Acciajoli raised on them 
in all colors; theyVe not turned the world quite upside 
down yet. But all their talk is, t hat we are to go back to 
the old ways : for up starts Frfl^n^g sru7^?iTorT . that I've 
danced with in the Via Laiga*^^vhen he was a bachelor and 
as fond of the Medici as anybody, and he makes a speech 
about the old times, before the Florentines had left off 
crying ^Popolo' and begun to cry 'Palle' — as if that had 
anything to do with a wedding! — and how we ought to 
keep to the rules the Signory laid down heaven knows when, 
that we were not to wear this and that, and not to eat this 
and that — and how our mannm;s jvere corru^ted^ and we 
read bad books; " though lie*can't saytliaFoFwe '' 

^' Stop, cousin!"' said Bardo, in his imperious tone, for 
he had a remark to make, and only desperate measures 
could arrest the rattling lengthiness of Monna Brigida's 
discourse. But now she gave a little start, pursed up her 
mouth, and looked at him with round eyes. 

"Francesco Valori is not altogether wrong," Bardo went 
on. " Bernardo, indeed, rates him not highly, and is 
rather of opinion that he christians private grudges by the 
name of public zeal; though I must admit that my good 
Bernardo is too slow of "belief in that unalloyed patriotism 
which was found in all its lustre amongst the ancients. 
But it is true, Tito, that our manners have degenerated 
somewhat from that noble frugality which, as has been well 
seen in the public acts of our citizens, as the parent of true 
magnificence. For men, as I hear, will now spend on the 
transient show of a Giostra, sums which would suffice to 
found a library, and confer a lasting possession on man- 
kind. Still, I conceive, it remains true of us Florentines 
t we luive more of that magnanimous sobriety which 

A Sister of the ThiiU Order ui" St. rraucis: an uncloistered nuu. 



■ 



122 ROMOLA. 

abhors a trivial lavishness that it may be grandly open- 
handed on grand occasions, than can be found in any other 
city of Italy; for I understand that the Neapolitan and 
Milanese courtiers laugh at the scarcity of our plate, and 
think scorn of our great families for borrowing from each 
other that furniture of the table at their entertainments. 
But in the vain laughter of folly wisdom hears half its 
applause." 

^* Laughter, indeed!" burst forth Monna Brigida again, 
the moment Bardo paused. " If anybody wanted to hear 
laughter at the wedding to-day they were disappointed, for 
when young Niccolo Macchiavelli tried to make a joke, 
and told stories out of Franco Sacchetti's book, how it was 
no use for the Signoria to make rules for us women, 
because we were cleverer than all the painters, and archi- 
tects, and doctors of logic in the world, for we could make 
black look white, and yellow look pink, and crooked look 
straight, and, if anything was forbidden, we could find a 
new name for it — Holy Virgin! the Pagnoni looked more 
dismal than before, and somebody said Sacchetti's book 
was wicked. Well, I don't read it — they can't accuse 7?ie 
of reading anything. Save me from going to a wedding 
again, if that's to be the fashion; for all of us who were 
not Piagnoni were as comfortable as wet chickens. I was 
never caught in a worse trap but once before, and tliat was 
when I went to hear their precious Frate last Quaresima in 
San Lorenzo. Perhaps I never told you about it, Messer 
Tito? — it almost freezes my blood when I think of it. 
How he rated us poor women! and the men, too, to tell 
the truth, but I didn't mind that so much. JTr p?^l1firj ; ^s^ 
cows, and lumps of flesh, and wqnt^^Tia^ a.n(\ miscliief- 
makers — and 1 could just bear that, for there were plenty" 
others more fleshy and spiteful than I was, though every 
now and then his voice shook the very bench under me like 
a trumpet; but then he came to the false hair, and 0, mis- 
ericordia! he made a picture — I see it now — of a young 
woman lying a pale corpse, and us light-minded widows — of 
course he meant me as well as the rest, for I had my plaits 
on, for if one is getting old, one doesn't want to look ugly 
as the befana, * — us widows rushing up to the corpse, like 
bare-pated vultures as we were, and cutting off its young 
dead hair to deck our old heads with. Oh, the dreams I 
had after that! And then he cried, and wrung fiis hands 

♦ The name given to the jyrotesque black-faced figures, supposed to repre- 
sent the Magi, carried atout or placed in the windows on Twelfth Night : a 
corruption of Epifania. 



I 



THE PRIZE IS NEARLY CIRASPED. 123 



at US, and I cried too. And to go home, and to take off 
my jewels, this very clasp, and everything, and to make 
them into a packet, fh tutt'uno; and I was within a hair 
of sending them to the Good Men of St. Martin to give 
to the poor, but, by heaven^s mercy, I bethought me of 
going first to my confessor, Fra Cristoforo, at Santa Croce, 
a nd he told me how it was ^ all the ^YQxk of the devilj this, 
pTpnnhingr <^ ^ prophe sying of iheir JFra Girolamo ^and the 
Pominicans were try in g to turn t he world iiJ2side down, and 
I w^as nev er to go and begy him again^ else I must do pen- 
anp.ft ff>r"Tl; fnrf.h ft great pre anhnrs Fra Mnrimin and Fra 
Menicoliad shown how Fra Girolamo.prcaclied 1 ics — an3 
that was" trueTfor I Tieard tKem both in the Duomo — and 
how the Pope^s dream of San Francesco propping up the 
Church with his arms were being fulfilled still, and the 
Dominicans were beginning to pull it down. Well and 
good, I went away con Dio, and made myself easy. I am 
not going to be frightened by a Frate Predicatore again. 
And all I say is, 1 wish it hadn^t been the Dominicans that 
poor Dino joined years ago, for then I should have been 
Qjlad when I heard them say he was come back ^* 

^' Silenzio!'^ said Bardo, in a loud agitated voice, while 
Eomola half started from her chair, clasped her hands, and 
looked round at Tito, as if now she might appeal to him. 
Monna Brigida gave a little scream, and bit her lip. 

^' Donna!" said Bardo, again, *^hear once more my will. 
Bring no reports about that name to this house; and thou, 
Romola, I forbid thee to ask. My son is dead.^' 

Bardo's whole frame seemed vibrating with passion, and 
no one dared to break silence again. Monna Brigida lifted 
her shoulders and her hands in mute dismay; then she 
rose as quietly as possible, gave many significant nods to 
Tito and Romola, motioning to them that they were not 
to move, and stole out of the room like a culpable fat 
spaniel who had barked unseasonably. 

Meanwhile, Titers quick mind had been combining 
ideas with lightning-like rapidity. Bardo's son was not 
really dead, then, as he had supposed: he was a monk; 
he was ^'come back:" and Fra Luca — yes! it was the 
likeness to Bardo and Romola that had made the face 
seem half-known to him. If he were only dead at 
Fiesole at that moment! This importunate selfish wish 
inevitably thrust itself before every other thought. It was 
true that Bardo's rigid will was a sufficient safeguard 
against any intercourse between Romola and her brother; 



124 ROMOLA. 

Lut not against the betrayal of what he knew to others, 
especially w^hen the subject was suggested by the coupling 
of Komola^s name with that of the very Tito Melema whose 
description he had carried round his neck as an index. 
No! nothing but Fra Luca^s death could remove all 
danger; but his death was highly probable, and after the 
momentary shock of the discovery, Tito let his mind fall 
back in repose on that confident hope. 

They had sat in silence, and in a deepening twilight for 
many minutes, when Eomola ventured to say — 

^^ Shall I light the lamp, father, and shall we go on?" 
"No, my Romola, we will work no more to-night. 
Tito, come and sit by me here.^^ 

Tito moved from the reading-desk, and seated himself 
on the other side of Bardo, close to his left elbow. 

'^ Come nearer to me, figliuola mia," said Bardo again, 

after a moment's pause. And Romola seated herself on a 

low stool and let her arm rest on her father's right knee, 

' • that he might lay his hand on her hair, as he was fond of 

r> doing. 

»y r *'Tito, I never told you that I had once a son,'' said 

^^^l Bardo, forgetting what had fallen from him in the emotion 

f *^ \ raised by their first interview. The old man had been 

4^ ydeeply shaken, and was forced to pour out his feelings in 

j^y spite of pride. **But he left me — he is dead to me. 

S\ I have disowned him forever. He was a ready scholar as 

i \ you are, but more fervid and impatient, and yet sometimes 

] rapt and self-absorbed, like a flame fed by some fitful 

^ / source; showing a disposition from the very first to turn 

I away his eyes from the clear lights of reason and philoso- 

I phy, and to prostrate himself under the influences of^ 

\ dim mysticism w hich eludes all rules of human auty as It 

V 'eludes an argument. And so it ended. We will speak no 

more of him: he is dead to me. I wish his face could be 

blotted from that world of memory in which the distant 

seems to grow clearer and the near to fade." 

Bardo paused, but neither Romola nor Tito dared to 
speak — his voice was too tremulous, the poise of his feel- 
ings too doubtful. But he presently raised his hand and 
found Tito's shoulder to rest it on, while he went on speak- 
ing, with an effort to be calmer. 

''But yo'U have come to me, Tito — not quite too late. 
I will lose no time in vain regret. When you are working 
hy my side I seem to have found a son again." 

The old man, preoccupied with the governing interes 



i 



I 



THE PRIZ15 IS NEARLY GRASPED. 1^5 



of his life, was only thinking of the much-meditated book 
which had quite thrust into the background the suggestion, 
raised by Bernardo del Nero^s warning, of a possible mar- 
riage between Tito and Romola. But Tito could not allow 
the moment to pass unused. 

'^Will you let me be always and altogether your son? 
Will you let me take care of Romola — be her husband? 
I think she will not deny me: She has said she loves me. 
I know I am not equal to her in birth — in anything; but I 
am no longer a destitute stranger." 

^^Is it true, my Romola?" said Bardo, in a lower tone^ 
an evident vibration passing through him and dissipating 
the sudden aspect of his features. 

'^Yes, father," said Romola, firmly. '^ I love Tito — I 
wish to marry him, that we may both be your children 
and never part." 

Tito^s hand met hers in a strong clasp for the first time, 
while she was speaking, but their eyes were fixed anxiously 
on her father. 

^^Why should it not be so?" said Bardo, as if arguing 
against any opposition to his assent, rather than assenting. 
*'It would be a happiness to me; and thou, too, Romola, 
wouldst be the happier for it." 

He stroked her long hair gently and bent toward her. 

"Ah, I have been apt to forget that thou needest some 
other love than mine. And thou wilt be a noble wife. 
Bernardo thinks I shall hardly find a husband fitting for 
thee. And he is perhaps right. ForjtJiou jrt ni)Liike_the 
heni.of__th y sex: thou art such a wom an a^ t^e immortal 
poets ha(r V~vi^n of-Avhen thfty ""s^.ngT!lg^ilg^O^ ^-^^ 
heroes — tender b ut strongs like thy;^ v^ice^3^Ei^ .Las-ltaeu 
tp me instead oTtlieliglit in the years oF'my blindness 

nd so thou lovest him?" 



Be 

«am 



_ He sat upright again for a minute, and then said, in the 

ame tone as before, '^ Why should it not be? I will think 

of it; I will take with Bernardo." 

Tito felt a disagreeable chill at this answer, for Bernardo 

del Zero's eyes had retained their keen suspicion whenever 

they looked at him, and the uneasy remembrance of Fra 

Luca converted all uncertainty into fear. 

Speak for me, Romola," he said, pleadingly. " Messer 
ernardo is sure to be against me." 

"No, Tito," said Romola, "my godfather will not 
pose what my father firmly wills. And it is your will 

that I should marry Tito — is it not true, father? Nothing 



< 



126 ROMOLA. 

has ever come to me before that I have wished for strongly : 
I did not think it possible that I could care so much for 
anything tbat could happen to myself." 

It was a brief and simple plea; but it was the condensed 
story of Romola's self-repressing colorless young life, 
which had thrown all its passion into sympathy with aged 
sorrows, aged ambition, aged pride and indignation. It 
had never occurred to Romola that she should not speak 
as directly and emphatically of her love for Tito as of any 
other subject. 

*^ Romola mia!" said her father fondly, pausing on the 
words, "it is true thou hast never urged on me any wishes 
of thy own. And I have no will to resist thine; rather, 
my heart met Tito's entreaty at its very first utterance. 
Nevertheless, \ must talk with Bernardo about the meas- 
ures needful to be observed. For we must not act in 
haste, or do anything unbeseeming my name. I am poor, 
and held of little account by the wealthy of our family — 
nay, I may consider myself a lonely man — but I must never- 
theless remember that generous birth has its obligations. 
And I would not be reproached by my fellow-citizens for 
rash haste in bestowing my daughter. Bartolommeo Scala 
gave his Alessandra to the Greek Marullo, but Marullo's 
lineage was well known, and Scala himself is of no extrac- 
tion. I know Bernardo will hold that we must take 
time: he will, perhaps, reproach me with a want of due 
forethought. Be patient my children: you are very young." 

No more could be said, and Romola's heart was perfectly 
satisfied. Not so Tito's. If the subtle mixture of good 
and evil prepares suffering for human truth and purity, 
there is also suffering prepared for the wrong-doer by the 
same mingled conditions. As Tito kissed Romola on their 
parting that evening, the very strength of the thrill that 
moved his whole being at the sense that this woman, whose 
beauty it was hardly possible to think of as anything but 
the necessary consequence of her noble nature, loved him 
with all the tenderness that spoke in her clear eyes, brought 
a strong reaction of regret that he not kept himself free 
from that first deceit which had dragged him into the 
danger of being disgraced before her. There was a spring 
of bitterness mingling with that fountain of sweets. 
Would the death of Fra Luca arrest it? He hoped it 
would. 



THE SHADOW OF NEMESIS. 127 

CHAPTER XIII. 

THE SHADOW OF KEMESI8. 

It was the lazy afternoon time on the seventh of Sep- 
tember, more than two months after the day on which 
Romola and Tito had confessed their love to each other. 

Tito, just descended into Nello's shop, had found the 
barber stretched on the bench with his cap over his eyes; 
one leg was drawn up, and the other had slipped toward 
the ground, having apparently carried with it a manuscript 
volume of verse, which lay with its leaves crushed. In a 
corner sat Sandro, playing a game at mora by himself, and 
watching the slow reply of his left fingers to the arithmet- 
ical demands of his right with solemn-eyed interest. 

Treading with the gentlest step, Tito snatched up the 
lute, and bending over the barber, touched the strings 
lightly while he sang. — 

" Quant' h bella giovinezza, X 
/ Che si f ug-ge tuttavia! \ 

Chi vuol esser lieto sia, ] 

Di doman non c'e certezza."* J 

Nello was as easily^wak^d a^ a i>ifd. The cap was off 
his eyes in an instant, and he started up. 

*^Ah, my Apollino! I am somewhat late with my siesta 
on this hot day, it seems. That comes of not going to 
sleep in the natural way, but taking a potion of potent 
poesy. Hear you, how I ^m beginning to match my words 
by the initial letter, like a Trovatore? That is one of my 
bad symptoms: I am sorely afraid that the good wine of 
my understanding is going to run off at the spigot of 
authorship, and I shall be left an empty cask with an odor 
of dregs, like many another incomparable genius of my 
acquaintance. What is it, my Orpheus?^' here Nello 
stretched out his arms to their full length, and then 
brought them round till his hands grasped Titers curls, and 
drew them out playfully. '* What is it you want of your 
well-tamed Nello? For I perceive a coaxing sound in that 
soft strain of yours. Let me see the very needle's eye of 
your desire, as the sublime poet says, that I may thread it." 



I 



Beauteous is life in blossom! 
And it fleeteth— fleeteth ever; 
Whoso would be joyful— let him! 
There's no surety for the morrow." 



rety 

-Co 



'arnival Song by Lorenzo de Medici. 



128 ROMOLA, ^ 

*' That is but a tailor's image of your sublime poet's/' 
said Tito, still letting his fingers fall in a light dropping 
way on the strings. ''But you have divined the reason of 
my affectionate impatience to see your eyes open. I want 
you to give me an extra touch of your art — not on my chin, 
no; but on the zazzera, which is as tangled as your Floren- 
tine politics. You have an adroit way of inserting your 
comb, which flatters the skin, and stirs the animal spirits 
agreeably in that region; and a little of your most delicate 
orange-sce nt would not be amiss, for I am bound to the 
Scala palace, and am to present myself in radiant company. 
The young Cardinal Giovanni de Medici is to be there, and 
he brings with him a certain young Bernardo Dovizi of 
Bibbiena, whose wit is so rapid that I see no way of outri- 
valing it save by the scent of orange-bjossq^is." 

Nello had already seized and flourislied his comb, and 
pushed Tito gently backward into the chair, wrapping the 
cloth round him. 

''Never talk of rivalry, bel giovane mio: Bernardo 
Dovizi is a keen youngster, who will never carry a net out 
to catch the wind; but he has something of the same 
sharp-muzzled look as his brother Ser Piero, the weasel 
that Pierode Medici keeps at his beck to slip through small 
holes for him. No! you distance all rivals, and may soon 
touch thesky with your forefingor. They tell me you 
have even carried enough honey with you to sweeten the 
sour Messer Angelo; for he has pronounced you less of an 
ass than might have been expected, considering there is 
such a goodunderstanding between you and the Secretary." 

"And between ourselves, Nellb mio, that Messer Angela 
has more genius and erudition than I can find in all thi 
other Florentine scholars put together. It may answer 
very well for them to cry me up now, when Poliziano is 
beaten down with grief, or illness, or something else; I 
can try a flight with such a sparrow-hawk as Pietro Crinito, 
but for Poliziano, he is a large-beaked eap[le who would 
swallow me , feathers and all, and noFTeel a ny (iiferenceT ^ 

'^T will Ti6t coiitradlet y6ur modesty there, it you will 
have it so; but you don't expect us clever Florentines to 
keep saying the same things over again every day of our 
lives, as we must do if we always told the truth. We cry 
down Dante, and we cry up Francesco Cei, just for the 
sake of variety; and if we cry you up as a new Poliziano, 
heaven has taken care that it shall not be quite so great a 
lie as it might have been. And are you not a pattern of 



THE SHADOW OF NEMESIS. 129 

virtue in this wicked city? with your ears double-waxed 
against all siren invitations that would lure you from 
the Via de Bardi, and the g reat work which is t o astonish^ 

posterity?^^ " ~ " ~~ ^"""""^ 

"^^■^l^osterity in good truth, whom it will probably astonish 
as the universe does, by the impossibility of seeing what 
was the plan of it." 

'*Yes, something like that was being prophesied here 
the other day. Cristoforo Landino said that the excellent 
Bardo was one of those scholars who lie overthrown in 
their learning, like cavaliers in heavy armor, and then 
get angry because they are over-ridden — which pithy 
remark, it seems to me, was not an herb out of his own 
garden; for of all men, for feeding one with an empty 
spoon and gagging one with vain expectation by long dis- 
course, Messer Christoforo is the pearl. Ecco! you are 
perfect now." Here Nello drew away the cloth. *'* Impos- 
sible to add a grace more! But love is not alwa3^s to be 
fed on learning, eh? I shall have to dress the zazzera for 
the betrothal before long — is it not true?" 

"Perhaps," said Tito, smiling, "unless Messer Ber- 
nardo should next recommend Bardo to require that I 
should yoke a lion and a wild boar to the car of the 
Zecca before I can win my Alcestis. But I confess he is 
right in holding me unworthy of Romola; she is a Pleiad 
that may grow dim by marrying any mortal." 

^'Gnaffe, your modesty is in the right place there. Yet 
fate seems to have measured and chiseled you for the 
niche that was left empty by the old man's son, who, by 
the way, Cronaca was telling me, is now at San Marco. 
Did you know?"' 

A slight electric shock passed through Tito as he rose 
from the chair, but it was not outwardly perceptible, for 
he immediately stooped to pick up the fallen book, and 
busied his fingers with flattening the leaves, while he 
said — 

"No; he was at Fiesole, I thought. Are you sure he 
is come back to San Marco?" 

"Cronaca is my authority," said Nello, with a shrug. 
"I don't frequent that sanctuary, but he does. Ah," he 
added, taking the book from Tito's hands, "my poor 
Nencia da Barberinol It jars your scholarly feelings to 
see the pages dog's-eared. I was lulled to sleep by the 
well-rhymed charms of that rustic maiden — 'prettier 
than the turnip-flower,' 'with a cheek more savory than 



f 



130 ROMOLA. 

cheese/ But to get such a well-scented notion of the 
contadina, one must lie on velvet cushions in the Via 
Larga — not go to look at the Fierucoloni stumping into 
the Piazza della Nunziata this evening after sundown." 

"And pray who are the Fierucoloni?'' said Tito, indif- 
ferently, settling his cap. 

p^The contadine who came from the mountains of 
Pistoia, and the Casentino, and heaven knows where, to 
keep their vigil in the church of the Nunziata, and sell 
their yarn and dried mushrooms at the Fierucola,* as we 
) call it. They make a queer show, with their paper 

^vf. lanterns, howling their hymns to the Virgin on this eve^ 
of her nativity — if you had the leisure to see thenyfj 
N, No? — well, I have had enough of it myself, for there is 
wild work in the Piazza. One may happen to get a stone 
or two about one's ears or shins without asking for it, and 
I was never fond of that pressing attention. Addio." 

Tito carried a little uneasiness with him on his visit, 
which ended earlier than he had expected, the boy- 
cardinal (Tioy^inni i\c^ 1\[pf1ipi youngest of red-hatted 
fathers, who has since presented his broad dark cheek 
very conspicuously to posterity as Pope Leo the Tenth, 
having been detained at his favorite pastime of the chg-se, 
and having failed to appear. It still wanted half an hour 
of sunset as he left the door of the Scala palace, witli the 
intention of proceeding forthwith to the Via de Bardi; 
but he had not gone far when, to his astonishment, he 
saw Romola advancing toward him along the Borgo Pinti. 
She wore a thick black veil and black mantle, but it 
was impossible to mistake her figure and her walk; and 
by her side was a short stout form, which he recognized as 
that of Monna Brigida, in spite of the unusual plainness 
of her attire. Romola had not been bred up to devotional 
observances, and the occasions on which she took the air 
elsewhere than under the loggia on the roof of the house, 
were so rare and so much dwelt on beforehand, because of 
Bardo's dislike to be left witliout her, that Tito felt sure 
there must have been some sudden and urgent ground for 
an absence of which he had heard nothing the day before. 
She saw him through her veil and hastened her steps. 

"Romola, has anything happened?" said Tito, turning 
to walk by her side. 

She did not answer at the first moment, and Monna 
Brigida broke in. 

♦The Uttle Fair. 



THE SHADOW OF NEMESIS. 131 



I ..,.,.,..„..,...„...„... 

^^re in haste. And is it not a misfortune? — we are obliged 
to go round by the walls and turn up the Via del Maglio, 
because of the fair; for the contadine coming in block up 
the way by the JSTunziata, which would have taken us to 
San Marco in half the time." 

Tito's heart gave a great bound, and began to beat 
violently. 

'^^Romola/' he said, in a lower tone, ^'are you going to 
San Marco?'' 

They w^ere now out of the Borgo Pinti and were under 
the city walls, where they had wide gardens on their left 
hand, and all was quiet. Romola put aside her veil for 
the sake of breathing the air, and he could see the subdued 
agitation m her face. 

^^Yes, Tito mio,'' she said, looking directly at him with 
sad eyes. "For the first time I am doing something 
unknown to my father. It comforts me that I have met 
you, for at least I can tell you. But if you are going to 
him, it will be well for you not to say that you met me. 
He thinks I am only gone to my cousin, because she 
sent for me. I left my godfather with him: he knows 
where I am going, and why. You remember that evening 
, when my brother's name was mentioned and my father 
spoke of him to you?" 

" Yes;" said Ti'to, in a low tone. There was a strange 
complication in his mental state. His heart sank at the 
probability that a great change was coming over his pros- 
pects, while at the same time his thoughts were darting 
over a hundred details of the course he would take when 
the change had come; and yet he returned Eomola's gaze 
with a hungry sense that it might be the last time she 
would ever bend it on him with full unquestioning confi- 
dence. 
i^^ ^^ The cugina had heard that he was come back, and the 
l^^ening before — the evening of San Giovanni — as I after- 
wards found, he had been seen by our good Maso near the 
door of our house; but when Maso went to inquire at San 
Marco, Dino, that is, my brother — he was christened 
Bernardino, after our godfather, but now he calls himself 
Fra Luca — had been taken to the monastery at Fiesole, 
because he was ill. But this morning a message came to 
Maso, saying that he was" come back to San Marco, and 
Maso went to him there. He is very ill, and he has 
adjured me to go and see him. I cannot refuse it, though 



133 ROMOLA. 

I hold him guilty; I still remember how I loved him when 
I was a little girl, before I knew that he would forsake my 
father. And perhaps he has sotiie word of penitence to 
send by me. It cost me a struggle to act in opposition to 
my father's feeling, which I have always held to be just. 
I am almost sure you will think I have chosen rightly, 
Tito, because I have noticed that your nature is less rigid 
than mine, and nothing makes you angry: it would cost 
you less to be forgiving; though, if you had seen your 
father forsaken by one to whom he had given his chief 
love — by one in whom he had planted his labor and his 
hopes — forsaken when his need was becoming greatest — 
even you, Tito, would find it hard to forgive.'' 

What could he say? He was not equal to the hypocrisy 
of telling Romola that such offences ought not to be par- 
doned; and he had not the courage to utter any words of 
dissuasion. 

*'You are right, my Romola; you are always right, 
except in thinking too well of me.'' 

There was really some genuinness in those last words, 
and Tito looked very beautiful as he uttered them, with 
an unusual pallor in his face, and a slight quivering of 
his lip. Romola, interpreting all things largely, like a 
mind prepossessed with high beliefs, had a tearful bright- 
ness in her eyes as she looked at him, touched with keen 
joy that he felt so strongly whatever she felt. But with- 
out pausing in her walk, she said — 

'* And now, Tito, I wish you to leave me, for the cugina 
and I shall be less noticed if we enter the piazza alone." 

^* Yes, it were better you should leave us," said Monna 
Brigida; "for to say the truth, Messer Tito, all eyes 
follow you, and let Romola muffle herself as she will, every 
one wants to see what there is under her veil, for she has 
that way of walking like a procession. JSTot that I find 
fault with her for it, only it doesn't suit my steps. And, 
indeed, I would rather not have us seen going to San 
Marco, and that's why I am dressed as if I were one of the 
Piagononi themselves, and as old as Sant Anna; for if it 
had been anybody but poor Dino, who ought to be for- 
given if he's dying, for what's the use of having a grudge 
against dead people? — make them feel while they live, say 

No one made a scruple of interrupting Monna Brigida, 
and Tito, having just raised Romola's hand to his lips, and 
said, "I understand, I obey you," now turned away, lift- 



I 



THE SHADOW OF KEMESIS. 133 



ing his cap — a sign of reverence rarely made at that time 
by native Florentines, and which excited Bernardo del 
Nero's contempt for Tito as a fawning Greek, while to 
Romola, who loved homage, it gave him an exceptional 
grace. 

He was half glad of the dismissal, half disposed to cling 
to Romola to the last moment in which she would love 
him without suspicion. For it seemed to him certain that 
this brother would before all things want to know, and 
that Romola would before all things confide to him, what 
was her father's position and her own after the years which 
must have brought so much change. She would tell him 
that she was soon to be publicly betrothed to a young 
scholar, who was to fill up the place left vacant long ago 
by a wandering son. He foresaw the impulse that would 
prompt Romola to dwell on that prospect, and what would 
follow on the mention of the future husband's name. Fra 
Luca would tell all he knew and conjectured, and Tito 
saw no possible falsity by which he could now ward off the 
worst consequences of his former dissimulation. It was 
all over with his prospects in Florence. There was Messer 
Bernardo del Nero, who would be delighted at seeing con- 
firmed the wisdom of his advice about deferring the 
betrothal until Tito's character and position had been 
established by a longer residence; and the history of the 
young Greek professor, whose benefactor was in slavery, 
would be the talk under every loggia. For the first time 
in his life he felt too fevered and agitated to trust his 
power of self-command; he gave up his intended visit to 
Bardo, and walked up and down under the walls until the 
yellow light in the west had quite faded, when, without 
any distinct purpose, he took the first turning, which hap- 
})ened to be the Via San Sebastiano, leading him directly 
toward the Piazza del' Annunziata. 

He was at one of those lawless moments which come to 
us all if we have no guide but desire, and if the pathway 
where desire leads us seems suddenly closed; he was ready 
to follow any beckoning that offered him an immediate 
purpose. 



134 ROMOLA. 

CHAPTER XIV. 

THE peasants' fair. 

The moving crowd and the strange mixture of noises 
that burst on him at the entrance of the piazza, reminded 
Tito of what Nello had said to him about the Fierucoloni, 
and he pushed his way into the crowd with a sort of 
pleasure in the hooting and elbowing, which filled the 
empty moments, and dulled that calculation of the future 
which had so new a dreariness for him, as he foresaw him- 
self wandering away solitary in pursuit of some unknown 
fortune, that his thoughts had even glanced toward going 
in search of Baldassarre after all. 

At each of the opposite inlets he saw people struggling 
into the piazza, while above them paper lanterns, held 
aloft on sticks, were waving uncertainly to and fro. A 
rude monotonous chant made a distinctly traceable strand 
of noise, across which screams, whistles, gibing chants in 
piping boyish voices, the beating of drums, and the ringing 
of little bells, met each other in confused din. Every now 
and then one of the dim floating lights disappeared with a 
smash from a stone launched more or less vaguely in pur- 
suit of mischief, followed by a scream and renewed shouts. 
But on the outskirts of the whirling tumult there were 
groups who were keeping this vigil of the Nativity of tlie 
Virgin in a more methodiclrfTTiTrmTeT'thaTr'tyy"fitfuTlTt>ne- 
throwing and gibing. Certain ragged men, darting a hard 
sharp glance around them, while their tongues rattled 
merrily, were inviting country people to game with them 
on fair and open-lianded terms; two masquerading figures 
on stilts, who had snatched lanterns from the crowd, were 
swaying the lights to and fro in meteoric fashion, as they 
strode hither and thither; a sage trader was doing a profit- 
able business at a small covered stall, in hot herlingozzi, a 
favorite farinaceous delicacy; one man standing on a barrel, 
with his back firmly planted against a pillar of the loggia 
in front of the j\)undling^ Hospital (Spedale degl" Inno- 
centi), was selling efficacious pills, nivented by a doctor of 
Lalerno, warranted to prevent toothache and death by 
drowning; and not far off, against another pillar, a tumbler 
was showing off his tricks on a small platform; while a 
handful of ^prentices, despising the slack entertainment of 
guerilla stone-throwing, were having a private concentrated 



THE PEASAIS^TS' FAIK. 135 

match of that favorite Florentine sport at the narrow 
entrance of the Via de Febbrai. 

Tito, obliged to make his way through chance openings 
in the crowd, found himself at one moment close to the 
trotting procession of barefooted, hardheeled contadine, 
and could see their sun-dried, bronzed faces, and their 
strange, fragmentary garb, dim with hereditary dirt, and 
of obsolete stuffs and fashions, that made them look, in 
the eyes of the city people, like a way-worn ancestry 
returning from a pilgrimage on which they had set out 
a century ago. Just then it was the hardy, scant-feeding 
peasant-women from the mountains of Pistoia, who were 
entering with a year's labor in a moderate bundle of yarn 
on their backs, and in their hearts that meagre hope of 
good and that wide dim fear of harm, which were some- 
how to be cared for by the Blessed Virgin, whose miracu- 
lous image, painted by the angels, was to have the curtain 
drawn away from it on this Eve of her Nativity, that its 
potency might stream forth without obstruction. 

At another moment he was forced away towards the 
boundary of the piazza, where the more stationary candi- 
dates for attention and small coin had judiciously placed 
themselves, in order to be safe in their rear. Among these 
Tito recognised his acquaintance Bratti, who stood with his 
back against a pillar and his mouth pursed up in disdainful 
silence, eyeing every one who approached him with a cold 
glance of superiority, and keeping his hand fast on a 
serge covering which concealed the contents of the basket 
slung before him. Eather surprised at a deportment so 
unusual in an anxious trader, Tito went nearer and saw 
two women go up to Bratti^s basket with a look of curi- 
osity, whereupon the pedlar drew the covering tighter, 
and looked another way. It was quite too provoking, and 
one of the women was fain to ask what there was in his 
basket ? 

^^ Before I answer that, Monna, I must know whether 
you mean to buy. I can't show such wares as mine in 
this fair for every fly to settle on and pay nothing. My 
goods are a little too choice for that. Besides, I've only 
two left, and Fve no mind to sell them; for with the 
chances of the pestilence that wise men talk of, there is 
likelihood of their being worth their weight in gold. No, 
no: andate con Dio" 

The two women looked at each other. 

"And what may be the price?'' said the second. 



136 ROMOLA. 

"Not within what you are likely to have in yonr purse, 
buona donna/' said Bratti in a compassionately super- 
cilious tone. " I recommend you to trust in Messer 
Domeneddio and the saints: poor people can do no better 
for themselves." 

*' Not so poorI"said the second woman, indignantly, 
drawing out her money-bag. *' Come, now! " what do you 
say to a grosso ? " 

"I say you may get twenty-one quattrini for it," said 
Bratti, coolly; ^*but not of me, for I haven't got that 
small change." 

**Come; two, then?" said the woman, getting exasper- 
ated, while her companion looked at her with some envy. 
" It will hardly be above two, I think." ^ 

After further bidding, and further mercantile coquetry, 
Bratti put on an air of concession. 

** Since you've set your mind on it," he said, slowly rising 
the cover, " I should be loth to do you a mischief; for 
Maestro Gabbadeo used to say, when a woman sets her 
mind on a thing and doesn't get it, she's in worse danger 
of the pestilence than before. Ecco! I have but two left; 
and let me tell you, the fellow to them is on the finger of 
Maestro Gabbadeo, who is gone to Bologna — as wise a 
doctor as sits at any door." 

The precious objects were two clumsy iron rings, beaten 
into the fashion of old Roman rings, such as were some- 
times disinterred. The rust on them, and the entirely 
hidden character of their potency were so satisfactory that 
the grossi were paid without grumbling, and the first 
woman, destitute of those handsome coins, succeeded, after 
much show of reluctance on Bratti's part, in driving a 
bargain with some of her yarn, and carried off the remain- 
ing ring in triumph. Bratti covered up his basket, which 
was now filled with miscellanies, probably obtained under 
the same sort of circumstances as the yarn, and, moving 
from the pillar, came suddenly upon Tito, who, if he had 
time, would have chosen to avoid recognition. 

"By the head of San Giovanni, now," said Bratti, draw- 
ing Tito back to the pillar, " this is a piece of luck. For 
I wa? talking of you this morning, Messer Greco; but, I 
said, he is mounted up among the signori now — and I'm 
glad of it, for I was at the bottom of his fortune — but I 
can rarely get speech of him, for he's not to be caught 
lying on the stones now — not he! But it's your luck, not 



I 



THE PEASANTS* FAIR. 13V 



mine, Messer Greco, save and except some small trifle to 
satisfy me for my trouble in the transaction/' 

" Yon speak in riddles, Bratti," said Tito. "^ Eemember, 
I don't sharpen my wits, as you do, by driving hard bar- 
gains for iron rings: you must be plain/' 

^^By the Holy 'Vangels! it was an easy bargain I gave 
them. If a Hebrew gets thirty-two per cent, I hope a 
Christian may get a little more. If I had not borne a 
conscience, I should have got twice tlie money and twice 
the money and twice the yarn. But, talking of rings, it 
is your ring — that very ring you've got on your finger — 
that I could get you a purchaser for; aye, and a purchaser 
with a deep money-bag." 

'^ Truly?" said Tito, looking at his ring and listening. 

^'A Genoese who is going straight away into Hungary, 
as I understand. He came and looked all over my shop 
to see if I had any old things I didn't know the price of; 
I warrant you, he thought I had a pumpkin on my 
shoulders. He had been rummaging all the shops in 
Florence. And he had a ring on — not like yours, but 
something of the same fashion; and as he was talking of 
rings, I said I knew a fine young man, a particular 
acquaintance of mine, who had a ring of that sort. And 
he said, * Who is he, pray? Tell him I'll give him his 
price for it.' And I thought of going after you to Nello's 
to-morrow; for it's my opinion of you, Messer Greco, that 
you're not one who'd see the Arno run broth, and stand 
by without dipping your finger." 

Tito had lost no word of what Bratti had said, yet his 
mind had been very busy all the while. Why should he 
keep the ring? It had been a mere sentiment, a mere 
fancy, that had prevented him from selling it with the 
other gems; if he had been wiser and had sold it, he 
might perhaps have escaped that identification by Fra Luca. 
It was true that it had been taken from Baldassarre's 
finger and put on his owm as soon as his young hand had 
grown to the needful size; but there was really no valid 
good to anybody in those superstitious scruples about 
inanimate objects. The ring had helped toward the 
recognition of him. Tito had begun to dislike recogni- 
tion, which was a claim from the past. This foreigner's 
offer, if he would really give a good price, was an oppor- 
tunity for getting rid of the ring without the trouble of 
seeking a purchaser. 

*' You speak with your usual wisdom, Bratti," said Tito. 



138 ROMOLA. 

"I have no objection to hear what your Genoese will offer. 
But when and where shall I have speech of him?^' 

'^ To-morrow, at three hours after sunrise, he will be at 
my shop, and if your wits are of that sharpness I have 
always taken them to be, Messer Greco, you will ask him 
a heavy price; for he minds not money. It's my belief 
he's buying for somebody else, and not for himself — per- 
haps for some great signer." 

*'It is well, said Tito. *'I will be at your shop, if 
nothing hinders.'' 

''And you will doubtless deal nobly by me for old 
acquaintance' sake, Messer Greco, so I will not stay to fix 
the small sum you will give me in token of my service in 
the matter. It seems to me a thousand years now till I 
get out of the piazza, for a fair is a dull, not to say a 
wicked thing, when one has no more goods to sell." 

Tito made a hasty sign of assent and adieu, and moving 
away from the pillar, again found himself pushed toward 
the middle of the piazza and back again, without the 
power of determiuing his own course. In this zigzag way 
he was carried along to the end of the piazza opposite the 
church, where, in a deep recess formed by an irregularity 
in the line of houses, an entertainment was going forward 
which seemed to be especially attractive to the crowd. 
Loud bursts of laughter interrupted a monologue which 
was sometimes slow and oratorical, at others rattling and 
buffoonish. Here a girl was being pushed forward into the 
inner circle with apparent reluctance, and there a loud 
laughing minx was finding a way with her own elbows. It 
was a strange light that was spread over the piazza. There 
were the pale stars breaking out above, and the dim waving 
lanterns below, leaving all objects indistinct except when 
they were seen close under the fitfully moving lights; but 
in this recess there was a stronger light, against which the 
heads of the encircling spectators stood in dark relief as 
Tito was gradually pushed toward them, while above them 
rose the head of a man wearing a white mitre with yellow 
cabalistic figures upon it. 

'* Behold, my children!" Tito heard him saying, '' behold 
your opportunity! neglect not the holy sacrament of mat- 
rimony when it can be had for the small sum of a white 
quattrino — the cheapest matrimony ever offered, and dis- 
solved by special bull beforehand at every man's own will 
and pleasure. Behold the bull!" Here the speaker held 
up a piece of parchmeut with huge seals attached to it. 



I 



THE PEASANTS^ FAIR. 139 



''Behold the indulgence granted by his Holiness Alexan- -n 
der the Sixth, who, being newly elected Pope for his pecu- / ^Ahy 
liar piety, intends to reform and purify the Church, and i ^• 
wisely begins by abolishing that priestly abuse which keeps / ^f- 
too large a share of this privileged matrimony to the \ -^^^^jj^ 
clergy and stints the laity. Spit once, my sons, and pay / ' 
a white quattrino! This is the whole and sole price of the . 
indulgence. The quattrino is the only difference the Holy | 
Father allows to be put any longer between us and the 
clergy — who spit and pay nothing. ^^ 

Tito thought he knew the voice, which had a peculiarly 
sharp ring, but the face was too much in shadow from the 
lights behind for him to be sure of the features. Stepping 
at near as he could, he saw within the circle behind tlie 
speaker an altar-like table raised on a small platform, and 
covered with a red drapery stitched all over with yellow 
cabalistical figures. Half-a-dozen thin tapers burned at 
the back of this table, which had a conjuring apparatus 
scattered over it, a large open book in the centre, and at 
one of the front angles a monkey fastened by a cord to a 
small ring and holding a small taper, which in his incessant 
fidgety movements fell more or less aslant, whilst an impish 
boy in a white surplice occupied himself chiefly in cuffing 
the monkey, and adjusting the taper. , The man in the /./ 
mitre also wore a surplice, and over it a chasuble on whichy^ 
the signs of the zodiac were rudely marked in black upon 
a yellow ground. Tito was sure now that he recognized 
the sharp upward-tending angles of the face under the 
mitre: it was that of Maestro Vaiano, the mountebank, 
from whom he had rescued Tessa! Pretty little Tessa! 
Perhaps she too had come in among the troops of contadine. 

^^Come, my maidens! This is the time for the pretty 
who can have many chances, and for the ill-favored who 
have few. Matrimony to be had — hot, eaten, and done 
with as easily as herlingozzi! And see!" here the conjurer 
help up a cluster of tiny bags. "To every bride I give a 
Breve with a secret in it — the secret alone worth the 

money you pay for the matrimony. The secret how to 

no, no, I will not tell you what the secret is about, and 
that makes it a double secret. Hang it round your neck 
if you like, and never look at it; I don't say that will not 
be the best, for then you will see many things you don't 
expect: though if you open it you may break your leg, 
h vero, but you will know a secret! Something nobody 
toows but me I And mark — I give you the Breve, I don't 



140 ROMOLA. 

sell it, as many another holy man would: the quattrino is 
for the matrimon}^, and the Breve you get for nothing. 
Orsii, giovanetti, come like dutiful sons of the Church and 
buy the Indulgence of his Holiness Alexander the Sixth." 

This buffoonery just fitted the taste of the audience; 
the iierucola was but a small occasion, so the townsmen 
might be contented with jokes that were rather less inde- 
cent than those they were accustomed to hear at every car- 
nival, put into easy rhyme by the Magnifico and his poetic 
satellites; while the women, over and above any relish of 
the fun, really began to have an itch for the Brevi. Sev- 
eral couples had already gone through the ceremony, in 
which the conjurer's solemn gibberish and grimaces over 
the open book, the antics of the m.onkey, and even the 
preliminary spitting, had called forth peals of laughter; 
and now a well-looking, merry-eyed youth of seventeen, 
in a loose tunic and red cap, pushed forward, holding by 
the hand a plum brunette, whose scanty ragged dress dis- 
played her round arms and legs very picturesquely. 

'*^ Fetter us without delay. Maestro!" said the youth, 
"for I have got to take my bride home and paint her 
under the light of a lantern." 

"Ha! Mariotto, my son, I commend your pious observ- 
ance " The conjurer was going on, when a loud chat- 
tering behind warned him that an unpleasant crisis had 
arisen with his monkey. 

The temper of tliat imperfect acolyth was a little tried 
by the over-active discipline of his colleague in the sur- 
plice, and a sudden cuff* administered as his taper fell to a 
horizontal position, caused him to leap back with a vio- 
lence that proved too much for the slackened knot by 
which his cord was fastened. His first leap was to the 
other end of the table, from which position his remon- 
strances were so threatening that the imp in the surplice 
took up a wand by way of an equivalent threat, whereupon 
the monkey leaped on to the head of a tall woman in the 
foreground, dropping his taper by tlie way, and chattering 
with increased emphasis from that eminence. Great was 
the screaming and confusion, not a few of the spectators 
having a vague dread of the Maestro's monkey, as capable 
of more hidden mischief than mere teeth and claws could 
inflict; and the conjurer himself was in some alarm lest 
any harm should happen to his familiar. In the scuffle to 
seize the monkey^s string, Tito got out of the circle, and, 
not caring to contend for his place again, he allowed him- 



I 



THE PEASANTS^ FAIR. 141 



self to be gradually pushed toward the church of the Kun- 
ziata, and to enter among the worshipers. 

THe brilliant illumination within seemed to press upon 
his eyes with palpable force after the pale shattered lights 
and broad shadows of the piazza, and for the first minute 
or two he could see nothing distinctly. That yellow 
splendor was in itself something supernatural and heavenly 
to many of the peasant-women, for whom half the sky was 
hidden by mountains, and who went to bed in the twilight; 
and the uninterrupted chant from the choir was repose to 
the ear after the hellish hubbub of the crowd outside. 
Gradually the scene became clearer, though still there was 
a thin yellow haze from incense mingling with the breath 
of the multitude. In a chapel on the left hand of the nave, 
wreathed with silver lamps, was seen unveiled the miracu- 
lous jfresco^f_yieA^nu^^ which, in Tito's oblique 
view"oFTE Irom the rigtit-nand side of the nave, seemed 
dark with the excess of light around it. The whole area of 
the great church was filled with peasant-women, some 
kneeling, some standing; the coarse, bronze skins, and 
the dingy clothing of the rougher dwellers on the mount- 
ains, contrasting with the softer-lined faces and white or 
red head-drapery of the well-to-do dwellers in the valley, 
who were scattered in irregular groups. And spreading 
high and far over the walls and ceiling there was another 
multitude, also pressing close against each other, that they 
might be nearer the potent Virgin. It was the crowd 
of v otive waxen images, the^effig ieg^-iif g;reat per^.Q,ji- 
agesT clothed m their habit" as they lived: Florentines 
^fnigh name in their black silk lucco, as when they 
sat in council; popes, emperors, kings, cardinals, and 
famous condottieri with plumed morion seated on their 
chargers; all notable strangers who passed through Florence 
or had aught to do with its affairs — Mohammedans, even, 
in well-tolerated companionship with Christian cavaliers; 
some of them with faces blackened and robes tattered by 
the corroding breath of centuries, others fresh and bright 
in new red mantle or steel corselet, the exact doubles of 
the living. And wedged in with all these were detached 
arms, legs, and other members, with only here and there a 
gap where some image had been removed for public dis- 
grace, or had fallen ominously, as Lorenzo's had done six 
months before. It was a perfect resurrection swarm of 
remote mortals and fragments of mortals, reflecting, in 



142 EOMOLA. 

their varying degrees of freshness, the sombre dinginess 
tind sprinkled brightness of the crowd below. 

Tito's glance wandered over the wild multitude in search 
of something. He had already thought of Tessa, and the 
white hoods suggested the possibility that he might detect 
her face under one of them. It was at least a thought to 
be courted, rather than the vision of Romola looking at 
him with changed eyes. But he searched in vain; and he 
was leaving the church, weary of a scene which had_no 
variety, when, just against the doorway, he caught sight of 
Tessa, only two yards off him. She was kneeling with her 
back against the wall, behind a group of peasant-women, 
who were standing and looking for a spot nearer to the 
sacred image. Her head hung a little aside with a look of 
weariness, and her blue eyes were directed rather absently 
toward an altar-piece where the Archangel Michael stood 
in his armor, with young face and floating hair, amongst 
bearded and tonsured saints. Her right hand, holding a 
bunch of cocoons, fell by her side listlessly, and her round 
cheek was paled, either by the light or by the weariness 
that was expressed in her attitude: -her lips were pressed 
poutingly together, and every now and then her eyelids 
half fell. She was a large image of a sweet, sleepy child. Tito 
felt an irresistible desire to go up to her and get her pretty 
trusting looks and prattle: this creature who was without 
moral judgment that could condemn him, whose little 
loving ignorant soul made a world apart, where he might 
feel in freedom from suspicions and exacting demands, 
had a new attraction for him now. She seemed a refuge 
from the threatened isolation that would come with dis- 
grace. He glanced cautiously round, to assure himself 
that Monna Ghita was not near, and then, slipping quietly 
to her side, kneeled on one knee, and said, in the softest 
voice, ^^ Tessa!" 

She hardly started, any more than she w^ould have 
started at a soft breeze that fanned her gently when she 
was needing it. She turned her head and saw Tito's face 
close to her: it was very much more beautiful than the 
Archangel Michael's, who was so mighty and so good that 
he lived with the Madonna and all the saints and was 
prayed to along with them. She smiled in happy silence, 
for that nearness of Tito quite filled her mind. 

"My little Tessa! you look very tired. How long have 
you been kneeling here?" 



I 



THE peasants' fair. 143 



She seemed to i^e collecting her thoughts for a minute 
or two, and at last she said — 
L ^'Vm. very hungry/' 
f ''Come, then; come with me/' 

He lifted her from her knees, and led her out under 
the cloisters surrounding the atrium, which were then 
open, and not yet adorned with the frescos of Andrea del 
Sarto. 

''How is it you are all by yourself, and so hungry, 
Tessa?" 

"The Madre is ill; she has very bad pains in her legs, 
and sent me to bring these cocoons to the Santissima 
Nunziata, because they're so wonderful; see!" — she held 
up the bunch of cocoons, which were arranged with fortu- 
itous regularity on a stem, — "and she had kept them to 
bring them herself, but she couldn't, so she sent me, 
because she thinks the Holy Madonna may take away her 
pains; and somebody took my bag with the bread and 
chestnuts in it, and the people pushed me back, and I was 
so frightened coming in the crowd, and I couldn't get 
anywhere near the Holy Madonna, to give the cocoons to 
the Padre, but I must — oh, I must." 

"Yes, my little Tessa, you shall take them; but first 
come and let me give you some berlingozzi. There are 
some to be had not far off." 

"Where did you come from?" said Tessa, a little bewil- 
dered. "I tliought you would never come to me again, 
because you never came to the Mercato for milk any more. 
I set myself Aves to sa}^, to see if they would bring you 
back, but I left off, because they didn't." 

"You see I come when you want some one to take care 
of you, Tessa. Perhaps the Aves fetched me, only it took 
them a long while. But what shall you do if you are here 
all alone? Where shall you go?" 

"Oh, I shall stay and sleep in the church — a great many 
of them do — in the church and all about here — I did once 
when I came with my mother; and the pair ig no is coming 
with the mules in the morning." 

They were out in the piazza now, where the crowd was 
rather less riotous than before, and the lights ^vere fewer, 
the stream of pilgrims having ceased. Tessa clang fast to 
Tito's arm in satisned~giicnce, while he led her toward the 
stall where he remembered seeing the eatables. Their 
way was the easier because there was just now a great rush 
toward the middle of the piazza, where the masqued 



144 ROMOLA. 

figures on stilts had found space to execute a -dance. It 
was very pretty to see the guileless thing giving her cocoons 
into Tito's hand, and then eating her berlingozzi with the 
relish of a hungry child. Tito had really come to take 
care of her, as he did before, and that wonderful happiness 
of being with him had begun again for her. Her hunger 
was soon appeased, all the sooner for the new stimulus of 
happiness that had roused her from her languor, and, as 
they turned away from the stall, she said nothing about 
going into the church again, but looked round as if the 
sights m the piazza were not without attraction to her now 
she was safe under Tito's arm. 

"How can they do that?'' she exclaimed, looking up at 
the dancers on stilts. Then, after a minute's silence, ** Do 
you think Saint Christopher helps them?" 

"Perhaps. What do you think about it, Tessa?" said 
Tito, slipping his right arm round her, and looking down 
at her fondly. 

"Because Saint Christopher is so very tall; and he is 
very good : if anybody looks at him he takes care of them 
all day. He is on the wall of the church — too tall to stand 
up there — but I saw him walking through the streets one 
San Giovanni carrying the little Gesii." 

" You pretty pigeon! Do you think anybody could help 
taking care of you, if you looked at them?" 

"Shall you always come and take care of me?" said 
Tessa, turning her face up to him, as he crushed her cheek 
with his left hand. " And shall you always be a long while 
first?" 

Tito was conscious that some bystanders were laughing 
at them, and though the license of street fun, among 
artists and young men of the wealthier sort as well as 
among the populace, made few adventures exceptional, 
still less disreputable, he chose to move away toward the end 
of the piazza. 

" Perhaps I shall come again to you very soon, Tessa," 
lie answered, rather dreamily, when they had moved away. 
He was thinking that when all the rest had turned their 
backs upon him, it would be pleasant to have this little 
creature adoring him and nestling against him. The absence 
of presumptuous self-conceit in Tito made him feel all 
the more defenceless under prospective obloquy: he needed 
soft looks and caresses too much ever to be impudent. 

" In the Mercato?" said Tessa. " Not to-morrow morn- 
ing, because the patrigno will be there, and he is so cross. 



I 



THE peasants' FAIR. 145 



Oh! but you have money, and he will not be cross if you 
buy some salad. And there are some chestnuts. Do you 
like chestnuts? ^^ 

He said nothing, but continued to look down at her with 
a dreamy gentleness, and Tessa felt herself in a state of 
delicious wonder; everything seemed as new as if she were 
being carried on a chariot of clouds. 

^' Holy Virgin ! " she exclaimed again presently. " There 
is a holy father like the Bishop I saw at Prato.^^ 

Tito looked up too, and saw that he had unconsciously 
advanced to within a few yards of the conjuror. Maestro 
Vaiano, who for the moment was forsaken by the crowd. 
His face was turned away from them, and he was occupied 
with the apparatus on his altar or table, preparing a new 
diversion by the time the interest in the dancing should 
be exhausted. The monkey was imprisoned under the red 
cloth, out of reach of mischief, and the youngster in the 
white surplice was holding a sort of dish or salver, from 
which his master was taking some ingredient. The altar- 
like table, with its gorgeous cloth, the row of tapers, the 
sham episcopal costume, the surpliced attendant, and even 
the movements of the mitred figure, as he alternately bent 
his head and then raised something before the lights, were 
a sufficiently near parody of sacred things to rouse poor 
little Tessa^s veneration; and there was some additional 
awe produced by the mystery of their apparition in this 
spot, for when she had seen an altar in the street before, it 
had been on Corpus Christi Day, and there had been a 
procession to account for it. She crossed herself and 
looked up at Tito, but then, as if she had had time for 
reflection, said, '^It is because of the Nativita.^' 

Meanwhile Vaiano had turned round, raising his hands 
to his mitre with the intention of changing his dress, 
when his quick eye recognised Tito and Tessa, who were 
both looking at him, their faces being shone upon by the 
light of his tapers, while his own was in shadow. 

'*Ha! my children !'' he said, instantly, stretching out 
his hands in a benedictory attitude, '^you are come to be 
married. I commend your penitence — the blessing of 
Holy Church can never come too late." 

Bat whilst he was speaking, he taken in the whole 
meaning of Tessa^s attitude and expression, and he dis- 
cerned an opportunity for a new kind of joke which 
required him to be cautious and solemn. 

*' Should you like to be married to me, Tessa?" said 
10 



146 ROMOLA. 

Tito, softly, half enjoying the comedy, as he saw the 
pretty childish seriousness on her face, half prompted by 
hazy previsions which belonged to the intoxication of 
despair. 

JEe felt her vibrating before she looked up at him and 
said, timidly, ^MVill you let me?" 

He answered only by a smile, and by leading her forward 
in front of the cerretano, who, seeing an excellent jest in 
Tessa's evident delusion, assumed a surpassing sacredotal 
solemnity, and went through the mimic ceremony with a 
liberal expenditure of lingua furhesca or thieves' Latin. 
But some symptoms of a new movement in the crowd 
urged him to bring it to a speedy conclusion and dismiss 
them with hands outstretched in a benedictory attitude 
over their kneeling figures. Tito, disposed always to cul- 
tivate goodwill, though it might be the least select, put a 
piece of four grossi into his hand as he moved away, and 
was thanked by a look which the conjurer felt sure, con- 
veyed a perfect understanding of the whole affair. 

But Tito himself was very far from that understanding, 
and did not, in fact, know whether, the next moment, he 
should tell Tessa of the joke and laugh at her for a little 
goose, or whether he should let her delusion last, and see 
wliat would come of it — see what she would say and do 
next. 

" Then you will not go away from me again,'' said Tessa, 
after they had walked a few steps, ^'and you will take me 
to where you live." She spoke meditatively, and not in a 
questioning tone. But presently she added, *'I must go 
back at once to the Madre though, to tell her I brought 
the cocoons, and that I am married, and shall not go back 
again. " 

Tito felt the necessity of speaking now; and in the 
rapid thought prompted by that necessity, he saw that by 
undeceiving Tessa he should be robbing himself of some 
at least of that pretty trustfulness which might, by-and-by, 
be his only haven from contempt. It would spoil Tessa to 
make her the least particle wiser or more suspicious. 

**Yes, my little Tessa," he said caressingly, "you must 
go back to the Madre; but you must not tell her you are 
married — you must keep that a secret from everybody: else 
some very great harm would happen to me, and you would 
never see me again." 

She looked up at him with fear in her face. 

*' You must go back and feed your goats and mules, and 



■ 



THE peasants' faie. 147 



m 



do just as you have always done before, and say no word 

any one about me." 

The corners of her mouth fell a little. 

''And then, perhaps, I shall come and take care of you 
again when you want me, as I did before. But you must 
do just what I tell you, else you will not see me again." 

" Yes, I will, I will," she said, in a loud whisper, 
frightened at that blank prospect. 

They were silent a little while; and then Tessa, looking 
at her hand, said — 

"The Madre wears a betrothal ring. She went to 
church and had it put on, and then after that, another 
day, she was married. And so did the cousin Nannina. 
But then s7ie married Gollo," added the poor little thing, 
entangled in the difficult comparison between her own case 
and others within her experience. 

"But you must not wear a betrothal ring, my Tessa, 
because no one must know you are married," said Tito, 
feeling some insistance necessary. "And the huona 
fortuna that I gave you did just as well for betrothal. 
Some people are betrothed with rings and some are not." 

"Yes, it is true, they would see the ring," said Tessa, 
trying to convince herself that a thing she would like very 
much was really not good for her. 

They were now near the entrance of the church again, 
and she remembered her cocoons w^hich were still in Tito's 
hand. 

"Ah, you must give me the ^o/fo," she said; "and we 
must go in, and I must take it to the Padre, and I must 
tell the rest of my beads, because I was too tired before." 

"Yes, you must go in, Tessa; but I will not go in. 
I must leave you now," said Tito, too feverish and weary 
to re-enter that stifling heat, and feeling that this was the 
least difficult way of parting with her. 

"And not come back? Oh, where do you go?" Tessa's 
mind had never formed an image of his whereabout or his 
doings when she did not see him: he had vanished, and 
her thought, instead of following him, had stayed in the 
same spot where he was with her. 

"I shall come back some time, Tessa," said Tito, taking 
her under the cloisters to the door of the church. " You 
must not cry — you must go to sleep, when you have said 
your beads. And here is money to buy your breakfast. 
Kow kiss me, and look happy, else I shall not come again." 

She made a great effort over herself as she put up her 



148 ROMOLA. 

lips io kiss Ijim, and submitted to be gently turned round, 
with her face toward the door of the church. Tito saw 
her enter; and then with a shrug at his own resolution, 
leaned against a pillar, took off his cap, rubbed his hair 
backward, and wondered where Eomola was now, and 
what she was thinking of him. Poor little Tessa had 
disappeared behind the curtain among the crowd of peas- 
ants; but the love which formed one web with all his 
worldly hopes, with the ambitions and pleasures that must 
make the solid part of his days — the love that Avas identi- 
fied with his larger self — was not to be banished from his 
consciousness. Even to the man who presents the most 
elastic resistance to whatever is unpleasant, there will 
come moments when the pressure from without is too 
strong for him, and he must feel the smart and tlie bruise 
in spite of himself. Such a moment had come to Tito. 
There was no possible attitude of mind, no scheme of 
action by which the uprooting of all his newly-planted 
hopes could be made otherwise than painful. 



CHAPTEE XV. 

THE DYING MESSAGE. 



When Romola arrived at the entrance of San Marco she 
found one of the Frati waiting there in expectation of her 
arrival. Monua Brigida retired into the adjoining church, 
and Romola was conducted to the door of the chapter- 
house in the outer cloister, whither the invalid had been 
conveyed; no woman being allowed admission beyond this 
precinct. 

When the door opened, the subdued external light 
blending with that of two tapers placed behind a truckle- 
bed, showed the emaciated face of Era Luca, with the ton- 
sured crown of golden hair above it, and with deep-sunken 
hazel eyes fixed on a small crucifix which he held before 
him. He was propped up into nearly a sitting posture; 
and Romola was just conscious, as she threw aside her 
veil, that there was another monk standing by the bed, 
with the black cowl drawn over his head, and that he 
moved toward the door as she entered; just conscious that 
in the background there was a crucified form rising high 



, THE DYING MESSAGE. 149 

find pale ou the frescoed wall, and pale faces of sorrow 
lookinpf out from it below. 

The next moment her eyes met Fra Luca's as they looked 
up at her from the crucifix, and she was absorbed in that 
pang of recognition which identified this monkish emaci- 
ated form with the image of her fair young brother. 

*^DinoI"she said, in a voice like a low cry of pain. 
But she did not bend toward him; she held herself erect, 
and paused at two yards^ distance from him. There was 
an unconquerable repulsion for her in that monkish aspect; 
it seemed to her the brand of the dastardly undutifulness 
which had left her father desolate — of the groveling 
superstition which could give such undutifulness the 
name of piety. Her father, whose proud sincerity and 
simplicity of life had made him one of the few frank 
pagans of his time, had brought her up with a silent ignor- 
ing of any claims the Church could have to regulate the 
belief and action of beings with a cultivated reason. The 
Church, in her mind, belonged to that actual life of the 
mixed multitude from which they had always lived apart^ 
and she had no ideas that could render her brother^'s 
course an object of any other feeling than incurious, indig- 
nant contempt. Yet the lovingness of Romola^s soul had 
clung to that image in the past, and while she stood 
rigidly aloof, there was a yearning search in her eyes for 
something too faintly discernible. 

But there was no corresponding emotion in the face of 
the monk. He looked at the little sister returned to him 
in her full womanly beauty, with the far-off gaze of a 
revisiting spirit. 

'^My sister!^' he said, with a feeble and interrupted but 
yet distinct utterance, 'Mt is well thou hast not longer 
delayed to come, for I have a message to deliver to thee, 
a ad my time is short. ^' 

Romola took a step nearer: the message, she thought, 
would be one of affectionate penitence to her father, and 
ber heart began to open. Nothing could wipe out the 
long years of desertion; but the culprit, looking back ou 
those years with the sense of irremediable wrong com- 
mitted, would call forth pity. Now, at the last, there 
would be understanding and forgiveness. Dino would 
pour out some natural filial feeling; he would ask ques- 
tions about his father's blindness — how rapidly it had 
come on? how the long dark days had been filled? what 
the life was now in the home where he himself had been 



150 ROM OLA. ^ 

nourislied? — and the last message from the d3dng li2)s 
would be one of tenderness and regret. 

"RomoVd/' Fra Luca began, ^'I have had a vision 
concerning thee. Thrice I have had it in the last two 
months: each time it has been clearer. Therefore I came 
from Fiesole, deeming it a message from heaven that I 
was bound to deliver. And I gather a promise of mercy 
to thee inthis, that my breath is preserved in order to — " 

The difficult breathing which continually interrupted 
him would not let him finish the sentence. 

Romola had felt her heart chilling again. It was a 
vision, then, this message — one of those visions she had 
so often heard her father allude to with bitterness. Her 
indignation rushed to her lips. 

^'Dino, I thought you had some words to send to my 
father. You forsook him when his sight was failing; you 
made his life very desolate. Have jon never cared about 
that? never repented? What is this religion of yours, 
that places visions before natural duties?" 

The deep-sunken hazel eyes turned slowly toward her, 
and rested upon her in silence for some moments, as if he 
were meditating whether he should answer her. 

**No," he said at last; speaking, as before, in a low, 
passionless tone, as of some spirit not human, speaking 
through dymg human organs. "No; I have never re- 
TDcnted fleeing from the stifling poison-breath of sin that 
was hot and thick around me, and threatened to steal 
over my senses like besotting wine. My father could not 
hear the voice that called me night and day; he knew 
nothing of the demon-tempters that tried to drag me 
back from following it. My father has lived amidst 
human sin and misery without believing in them: he has 
been like one busy picking shining stones in a mine, while 

/there was a world dying of plague above him. I spoke, 
but he listened with scorn. CT told him the studies he 
wished me to live for were either childish trifling — dead 
^ toys — or else they must be made warm and living by 
^ pulses that beat to worldly ambitions and fleshly lusts, for 
,^ worldly ambitions and fleshly lusts made all the substance 
Vj-^ of the poetry and history he wanted me to bend my eyes 
^ on continually." | 

^ "Has not my father led a pure and noble life, then?" 

^ Romola burst forth, unable to hear in silence this implied 

^ accusation against her father. "He has sought no 

^ worldly honors; he has been truthful; he has denied him- 



^f THE DYIJ^^G MESSAGE. 151 

self all luxuries; he has lived like one of the ancient 
sages. He never wished you to live for worldly ambitions 
and fleshly lusts; hejwished you to live^as he himself has 
done j acc ording to^Jbhe purest maxims of phiTosophy, in 
whigb-ha-biouglit you lap. ^^ ~ ' ■ '" 

Eomola spoke* partly by rote, as all ardent and sympa- 
thetic young creatures do; but she spoke with intense 
belief. The pink flush was in her face, and she quivered 
from head to foot. Her brother was again slow to answer; 
looking at her passionate face with strange passionless 
eyes. 

"What were the maxims of philosophy to me? They 
told me to be strong when I felt myself weak; when I was 
ready, like the blessed Saint Benedict, to roll myself 
among thorns, and court smarting wounds as a deliverance 
from temptation. For the Divine love had sought me, 
and penetrated me, and created a great need in me; like a 
seed that wants room to grow. I had been brought up in 
carelessness of the true faith; I had not studied the doc- 
trines of our religion; but it seemed to take possession of 
me like a rising flood. I felt that there was a life of per- 
fect love and purity for the soul; in which there would be 
no uneasy hunger after pleasure, no tormenting questions, 
no fear of suffering. Before I knew the history of the 
-saints, I had a foreshadowing of their ecstacy. For the 
same truth had penetrated even into pagan philosophy: 
that it is a bliss within the reach of man to die to mortal 
needs, and live in the life of God as the unseen perfect- 
ness. But to attain that I must forsake the world: I must 
have no affection, no hope, wedding me to that which 
passeth away: I must live with my fellow-beings only as 
human souls related to the eternal unseen life. That need 
was urging me continually: it came over me in visions 
when my mind fell away weary from the vain words which 
record the passions of dead men: it came over me after I 
had been tempted into sin and had turned away with 
loathing from the scent of the emptied cup. And in 
visions I saw the meaning of the Crucifix." 

He paused, breathing hard for a minute or two: but 
Romola was not prompted to speak again. It was useless 
for her mind to attempt any contact with the mind of this 
unearthly brother: as useless as for her hand to try and 
grasp a shadow. When he spoke again his heaving chest 
was quieter. 

" I felt whom I must follow: but I saw that even ani9ng 



153 ROMOLA. 

the servants of the Cross who professed to have renounced 
the world, my soul would be stifled with the fumes of 
hypocrisy, and lust, and pride. God had not chosen me, 
as he chose Saint Dominic and Saint Francis, to wrestle 
with evil in the Church and in the world. He called upon 
me to flee: I took the sacred vows and I fled — fled to lands 
where danger and scorn and want bore me continually, 
like angels to repose on the bosom of God. I have lived 
the life of a hermit, I have ministered to pilgrims; but my 
task has been short: the veil has worn very thin that 
divides me from my everlasting rest. I came back to 
Florence that — " 

*' Dino, you did want to know if my father was alive,^' 
interrupted Romola, the picture of that suffering life 
touching her again with the desire for union and forgive- 
ness. 

*^ that before I died I might urge others of our 

brethren to study the Eastern tongues, as I had not done, 
and go out to greater ends than I did; and I find them 
already bent on the work. And since I came, Romola, I 
have felt that I was sent partly to thee — not to renew the 
bonds of earthly affection, but to deliver the heavenly 
warning conveyed in a vision. For I have had that vision 
thrice. And through all the years since first the Divine 
voice called me, while I was yet in the world, I have been 
taught and guided by visions. For in the painful linking 
together of our waking thoughts we can never be sure that 
we have not mingled our own error with the light we have 
prayed for; but in visjoiig .and rlrPftms ^^ -^re p-'^s.jive, a^^ 
our souls are as an lURtrument in thfi Diviue l ^f^r^d. There- 
fore listen, and speak not again — for the time is short." 

Romola^s mind recoiled strongly from listening to this 
vision. Her indignation had subsided, but it was only 
because she had felt the distance between her brother and 
herself widening. But while Fra Luca was speaking, the 
figure of another monk had entered, and again stood on 
the other side of the bed, with the cowl drawn over his 
head. 

" Kneel, my daughter, for the Angel of Death is present, 
and waits while the message of heaven is delivered: bend 
thy pride before it is bent for thee by a yoke of iron," 
said a strong rich voice, startingly in contrast with Fra 
Luca's. 

The tone was not that of imperious command, but of 
quiet self-possession and assurance of the riglit, blended 



I 



THE DYIKG MESSAGE. 153 



with benignity. Romola, vibrating to the sound, looked 
round at the figure on the opposite side of the bed. His 
face was hardly discernible under the shadow of the cowl, 
and her eyes fell at once on his hands, which were folded 
across his breast and lay in relief on the edge of his black 
mantle. They had a marked physiognomy which enforced 
the influence of the voice: they were very beautiful and 
almost of transparent delicacy. Komola^s disposition to 
rebel against command, doubly active in the presence of 
monks, whom she had been taught to despise, would have 
fixed itself on any repulsive detail as a point of support. 
But the face was hidden, and the hands seemed to have an 
appeal in them against all hardness. The next moment 
the right hand took the crucifix to relieve the fatigued 
grasp of Fra Luca, and the left touched his lips with a wet 
sponge which lay near. In the act of bending, the cowl 
was pushed back, and the features of the monk had the 
full light of the tapers on them. They were very marked 
features, such as lend themselves to popular description. 
There was the high arched nose, the prominent under lip, 
the coronet of thick dark hair above the brow, all seem- 
ing to tell of energy and passion; there were the blue-gray 
eyes, shining mildly under auburn eyelashes, seeming, like 
the hands, to tell of acute sensitiveness. Romola felt 
certain they were the features of Fr a_Girolama S avonarola, 
the prior of San Marco, whom she had chiefly thought of 
as more offensive than other monks, because he was more 
noisy. Her rebellion was rising against the first impres- 
sion, which had almost forced her to bend her knees. 

" Kneel, my daughter, "" the penetrating voice said again, 
'^the pride of the body is a barrier against the gifts that 
purify the soul." 

He w^as looking at her with mild fixedness while he 
spoke, and again she felt that subtle mysterious influence \'' 

of personality by which it has been given to some rare men h' ^ 
to move their fellows. ^ ^^ 

Slowly Romola fell on her knees, and in the very act a '^J'Ql 
tremor came over lier; in the renunciation of her proud \^ 
erectness, her mental attitude seemed changed, and she 
found herself in a new state of passiveness. Her brother ^JJ^ 
began to speak again — 

"Romola, in the deep night, as I lay awake, I saw my 
father's room — the library — with all the books and the 
marbles and the leggio, where I used to stand and read; 
and I saw you — you were revealed to me as I see you now, 



154 ROMOLA. 

with fair long hair, sitting before my father's chair. And 
at the leggio stood a man whose face I could not see. I 
looked, and looked, and it was a blank to me, even as a 
painting effaced; and I saw him move and take thee, 
Komola, by the hand; and then I saw thee take my father 
by the hand; and you all three went down the stone steps 
into the streets, the man whose face was a blank to me 
leading the way. And you stood at the altar in Santa 
Croce, and the priest who married you had the face of 
death; and the graves opened, and the dead in their 
shrouds rose and followed you like a bridal train. And 
you passed on through the streets and the gates into the 
valley, and it seemed to me that he who led you hurried 
you more than you could bear, and the dead were weary of 
following you, and turned back to their graves. And at 
last you came to a stony place where there was no water, 
and no trees or herbage; but instead of water, I saw writ- 
ten parchment unrolling itself everywhere, and instead of 
trees and herbage I saw men of bronze and marble spring- 
ing up and crowding round you. And my father was faint 
for want of water and fell to the ground; and the man 
whose face was a blank loosed thy hand and departed : and 
as he went I could see his face; and it was the face of the 
Great Tempter. And thou, Romola, didst wring thy hands 
and seek for water, and there was none. And tlie bronze 
and marble figures seemed to mock thee and liold out cups 
of water, and when thou didst grasp them and put them 
to my father's lips, they turned to parchment. And the 
bronze and marble figures seemed to turn into demons and 
snatch my father's body from thee, and the parchments 
shrivelled up; and blood ran everywhere instead of them, 
and fire upon the blood, till they all vanished, and the plain 
was bare and stony again, and thou wast alone in tlie 
midst of it. And then it seemed that the night fell and I 
saw no more. Thrice I have had that vision, Romola. I 
believe it is a revelation meant for thee: to warn thee 
against marriage as a temptation of the enemy; it calls 
upon thee to dedicate thyself " 

His pauses had gradually become longer and more fre- 
quent, and he was now compelled to cease by a severe fit 
of gasping, in which his eyes were turned on the crucifix 
as on a light that was vanishing. Presently he found 
strength to speak again, but in a feebler, scarcely audible 
tone. 

" To r^nounoe the vain philosophy and corrupt thoughts 



THE DYING MESSAGE. 155 

of tne heathens: for in the hour of sorrow and death 
their pride will turn to mockery, and the unclean gods 
will—" 

The words died away. 

In spite of the thought that was at work in Eomola, 
telling her that this vision was no more than a dream, fed 
by youthful memories and ideal convictions, a strange awe 
had come over her. Her mind was not apt to be assailed 
by sickly fancies; she had the vivid intellect and the healthy 
human passion, which are too keenly alive to the constant 
relations of things to have any morbid craving after the 
exceptional. Still the images of the vision she despised 
jarred and distressed her like painful and cruel cries. And 
it was the first time she had witnessed the struggle with 
approaching death: her young life had been sombre, but 
she had known nothing of the utmost human needs; no 
acute suffering — no heart-cutting sorrow; and this brother, 
come back to her in his hour of supreme agony, was like a 
sudden awful apparition from an invisible world. The 
pale faces of sorrow in the fresco on the opposite wall 
seemed to have come nearer, and to make one company 
with the pale face on the bed. 

"Frate," said the dying voice. 

Era Girolamo leaned down. But no other words came 
for some moments. 

^^Romola," it said next. 

She leaned forward too: but again there was silence. 
The words were struggling in vain. 

^' Fra Girolamo, give her " 

•''The crucifix," said the voice of Fra Girolamo. 
No other sound came from the dying lips. 

'^Dino!" said Romola, with a low but piercing cry, as 
the certainty came upon her that the silence of misunder- 
standing could never be broken. 

'''Take the crucifix, my daughter," said Fra Girolamo, 
after a few minutes. ^'His eyes behold it no more." 

Romola stretched out her hand to the crucifix, and this 
act appeared to relieve the tension of her mind. A great 
sob burst from lier. She bowed her head by the side of 
her dead brother, and wept aloud. 

It seemed to her as if this first vision of death must alter 
the daylight for her for evermore. 

Fra Girolamo moved toward the door, and called in a 
lay Brother who was w^aiting outside. Then he went up 
to Romola and said in a tone of gentle command^ " Rise 



156 ROMOLA. 



1 



my daughter, and be comforted. Our brother is with the 
blessed. He has left you the crucifix, in remembrance of 
the heavenly warning — that it may be a beacon to you in 
the darkness."*^ 

She rose from her knees, trembling, folded her veil over 
her head, and hid the crucifix under her mantle. Fra 
Girolamo then lead the way out into the cloistered court, 
lit now only by the stars and by a lantern, which was held 
by some one near the entrance. Several other figures in 
the dress of the dignified laity were grouped about the 
same spot. They were some of the numerous frequenters 
of San Marco, who had come to visit the Prior, and 
having heard that he was in attendance on the dying 
Brother in the chapter-house, had awaited him here. 

Romola was dimly conscious of footsteps and rustling 
forms moving aside: she heard the voice of Fra Girolamo 
saying, in a low tone, '^ Our brother is departed; " she felt 
a hand laid on her arm. The next moment the door was 
opened, and she was out in the wide piazza of San Marco, 
with no one but Monna Brigida, and the servant carrying 
the lantern. 

The fresh sense of space revived her, and helped her to 
recover her self-mastery. The scene which had just closed 
upon her was terribly distinct and vivid, but it began to 
narrow under the returning impressions of the life that lay 
outside it. She hastened her steps, with nervous anxiety 
to be again with her father — and with Tito — for were 
they not together in her absence? The images of that vis- 
ion, while they clung about her like a hideous dream, not 
yet to be shaken off, made her yearn all the more for the 
beloved faces and voices that would assure her of her 
waking life. 

Tito, we know, was not with Bardo; his destiny was 
being shaped by a guilty consciousness, urging on him the 
despairing belief that by this time Romola possessed the 
knowledge which would lead to their final separation. 

And the lips that could have conveyed that knowledge 
were forever closed. The prevision that Fra Luca^s words 
had imparted to Romola had been such as comes from the 
shadowy region where human souls seek wisdom apart from 
the human sympathies which are the very life and sub- 
stance of our wisdom; the revelation that might have 
come from the simple questions of filial and brotherly 
affection had been carried into irrevocable silence. 



A FLORENTINE JOKE. 15*^ 

CHAPTEK XVI. 

A TLOKENTINE JOKE. 

Early the next morning Tito was returning from 
Bratti's shop in the narrow thoroughfare of the Ferravec- 
chi. The Genoese stranger had carried away the onyx 
ring, and Tito was carrying away fifty florins. It did 
just cross his mind that if, after all. Fortune, by one of 
her able devices, saved him from the necessity of quitting 
Florence, it would be better for him not to have parted 
with his ring, since he had been understood to wear it for 
the sake of peculiar memories and predilections; still, it 
was a slight matter, not worth dwelling on with any 
emphasis, and in those moments he had lost his confidence 
in fortune. The feverish excitement of the first alarm 
which had impelled his mind to travel into the future had 
given place to a dull, regretful lassitude. He cared so 
much for the pleasures that could only come to him 
through the good opinion of his fellow-men, that he 
wished now he had never risked ignominy by shrinking 
from what his fellow-men called obligations. 

But our deeds are like children that are born to us; 
they live and act apart from our own will. Nay, children 
may be strangled, but deeds never: they have an inde- 
structible life both in and out of our consciousness; and 
that dreadful vitality of deeds was pressing hard on Tito 
for the first time. 

He was going back to his lodgings in the Piazza di San 
Giovanni, but he avoided passing through the Mercato 
Vecchio, which was his nearest way, lest he should see 
Tessa. He was not in the humor to seek anything; he 
could only await the first sign of his altering lot. 

The piazza with its sights of beauty was lit up by that 
warm morning sunlight under which the autumn dew still 
lingers, and which invites to an idlesse undulled by 
fatigue. It was a festival morning, too, when the soft 
warmth seems to steal over one with a special invitation 
to lounge and gaze. Here, too, the signs of the fair were 
present; in the spaces round the octagonal baptistery, 
stalls were being spread with fruits and flowers, and here 
and there laden mules were standing quietly absorbed in 
their nose bags, while their drivers were perhaps gone 
ti:rough the hospitable sacred doors to kneel before the 



158 ROMOLA. 

blessed Virgin on this morning of her Nativity. On the 
broad marble steps of the Duomo there were scattered 
groups of beggars and gossiping talkers: here an old crone 
with white hair and hard sunburnt face encouraging a 
round-capped baby to try its tiny bare feet on the warmed 
marble, while a dog sitting near snuffed at the perform- 
ance suspiciously; there a couple of shaggy-headed boys 
leaning to watch a small pale cripple who was cutting 
a face on a cherr3^-stone; and above tlicm on the wide 
platform men were making changing knots in laughing 
desultory chat, or else were standing in close couples gestic- 
ulating eagerly. 

But the largest and most important company of loungers 
was that toward which Tito had to -direct his steps. It 
was the busiest time of the day with Nello, and in this 
warm season and at an hour when clients were numerous, 
most men preferred being shaved under the pretty red and 
white awning in front of the shop rather than within 
narrow walls. It is not a sublime attitude for a man, to 
sit with lathered chin thrown backward, and have his nose 
made a handle of; but to be shaved was a fashion of Floren- 
tine respectability, and it is astonishing how gravely men 
look at each other when they are all in the fashion. It 
was the hour of the day, too, when yesterday^s crop of 
gossip was freshest, and the barber's tongue was always in 
its glory when his razor was busy; the deft activity of those 
two instruments seemed to be set going by a common 
spring. Tito foresaw that it would be impossible for him 
to escape being drawn into the circle; he must smile and 
retort, and look perfectly at his ease. Well! it was but the 
ordeal of swallowing bread and cheese pills after all. The 
man who let the mere anticipation of discovery choke him 
was simply a man of weak nerves. 

But just at that time Tito felt a hand laid on his shoulder, 
and no amount of previous resolution could prevent the 
very unpleasant sensation with which that sudden touch 
jarred him. His face, as he turned it round, betrayed the 
inward shock; but the owner of the hand that seemed to 
have such evil magic in it broke into a light laugh. He 
was a young man about Tito's own age, with keen features, 
small close-clipped head, and close-shaven lip and chin, 
giving the idea of a mind as little encumbered as possible 
with material that was not nervous. The keen eyes were 
bright with hope and friendliness, as so many other young 
eyes have been that have afterward closed on the world in 



AFLOREKTIN-E JOKE. 159 

bitterness and disappointment; for at that time there were 
none but pleasant predictions about Niccolo Macchiavelli^ 
as a young man of promise, who was^expecte^. to mend 
the broken fortunes of his ancient family. 

"Why, Melema, what evil dream did you have last 
night, that you took my light grasp for that of a shirr o or 
something worse ?^^ 

'^Ah, Xlesser JSTiccolo!'' said Tito, recovering himself 
immediately; "it must have been an extra amount of dull- 
ness in my veins this morning that shuddered at the 
approach of your wit. But the fact is, I have had a bad 
night.'' 

"That is unlucky, because you will be expected to shine 
without any obstructing fog to-day in the Rucellai Gardens. 
I take it for granted you are to be there.'' 

"Messer Bernardo did me the honor to invite me," said 
Tito; "but I shall be engaged elsewhere." 

"Ah! I remember, you are in love," said Macchiavelli, 
with a shrug, "else you would never have such incon- 
venient engagements. Why we are to eat a peacock and 
ortolans under the loggia among Bernardo R^cel1a^^q rare 
trees; there are to be the choicest spirits in Florence and 
the choicest wines. Only, as Pi ^ro de Medici is to be 
there, the choice spirits may happen to be swamped in the 
capping of impromptu verses. I hate that game; it is a 
device for the triumph of small wits, who are always 
inspired the most by the smallest occasions." 

" W^hat is that you are saying about Piero de Medici and 
small wits, Messer Niccolo?" said Nello, whose light figure 
was at that moment predominating over the Herculean 
frame of Niccolo Caparra. 

That famous worker in iron, whom we saw last with 
bared muscular arms and leathern apron in the Mercato 
Vecchio, was this morning dressed in holiday suit, and as he 
sat submissively while Nello skipped round him, lathered 
him, seized him by the nose, and scraped him with magical 
quickness, he looked much as a lion might if it had donned 
linen and tunic and was preparing to go into society. 

"A private secretary will never rise in the world if he 
couples great and small in that way," continued Nello. 
" When great men are not allowed to marry their sons and 
daughters as they like, small men must not expect to 
marry their words as they like. Have you heard the news 
Domenico Cennini, here, has been telling us? — that faga- 
lant onio Soderi ni has given Ser Piero da Bibbiena a box on 



IGO ROMOLA. 

the ear for jsettiug on Piero de Medici to interfere with the 
marriage be ween young Tommaso Soderini and Fiammetta 
Sfcrozzi, and is to be sent ambassador to Venice as a punish- 
ment ?'' 

^'I don^t know which I envy him most," said Macchia- 
velli, '^ the offence or the punishment. The offence will 
make him the most popular man in all Florence, and the 
punishment will take him among the only people in Italy 
who have known how to manage their own affairs." 

'* Yes, if Soderini stays long enough at Venice," said 
Cennini, '* he may chance to learn the Venetian fashion, 
and bring it home with him. The Soderini have been fast 
friends of the Medici, but what has happened is likely to 
open Pagolantonio's eyes to the good of our old Florentine 
trick of choosing a new harness when the old one galls us; 
if we have not quite lost the trick in these last fifty years." 

*' Not we," said Niccolo Caparra, who was rejoicing in the 
free use of his lips again. ^' Eat eggs in Lent and the snow 
will melt. That^s what I say to our people when they get 
noisy over their cups at San Gallo, and talk of raising a 
romor (insurrection): I say, never do you plan a romor; 
you may as well try to fill Arno with buckets. When 
there^s water enough Arno will be full, and that will not 
be till the torrent is ready." 

** Caparra, that oracular speech of yours is due to my 
excellent shaving," said Nello. "You could never have, 
made it with that dark rust on your chin. Ecco, Messer 
Domenico, I am ready for you now. By the way, my bel 
erudito," continued Nello, as he saw Tito moving toward 
the door, "here has been old Maso seeking for you, but 
your nest was empty. He will come again presently. The 
old man looked mournful, and seemed in haste. I hope 
there is nothing wrong in the Via de Bardi." 

"Doubtless Messer Tito knows that Bardo's son is dead," 
said Cronaca, who had just come up. 

Tito's heart gave a leap — had the death happened before 
Eomola saw him? 

"No, I had not heard it," he said, with no more discom- 
posure than the occasion seemed to warrant, turning and 
leaning against the doorpost, as if he had given up his 
intention of going away. "I knew that his sister had 
gone to see him. Did he die before she arrived?" 

"No," said Cronaca; "I was in San Marco at the time, 
and saw her come out from the chapter-house with Era 
Girolamo, who told us that the dying man's breath had 



A FLORENTINE JOKE. 161 

been preserved as by a miracle, that he might make a dis- 
closure to his sister." 

Tito felt that his fate was decided. Again his mind 
rushed over all the circumstances of his departure from 
Florence, and he conceived a plan of getting back his 
money from Cennini before the disclosure had become pub- 
lic. If he once had his money he need not stay long in 
endurance of scorching looks and biting words. He would 
wait now, and go away with Cennini and get the money 
from him at once. With that project in his mind he stood 
motionless — his hands in his belt, his eyes fixed absently 
on the ground. Nello, glancing at him, felt sure that he 
was absorbed in anxiety about Eomola, and thought him 
such a pretty image of self-forgetful sadness, that he just 
perceptibly pointed his razor at him, and gave a challeng- 
ing look at Piero di Cosimo, whom he had never forgiven 
for his refusal to see any prognostics of character in his 
favorite's handsome face. Piero, who was leaning against 
the other doorpost, close to Tito, shrugged his shoulders: 
the frequent recurrence of such challenges from Nello had 
changed the painter's first declaration of neutrality into a 
positive inclination to believe ill of the much-praised 
Greek. 

'' So you have got your Fra Girolamo back again, Cro- 
naca? I suppose we shall have him preaching again this 
next Advent,'' said Nello. 

" And not before there is need," said Cronaca, gravely. 
'* We have had the best testimony to his words since the 
last Quaresima; for even to the wicked wickedness has 
become a plague; and the ripeness of vice is turning to 
rottenness in the nostrils of the vicious. There has not 
been a chance since the Quaresima, either in Kome or at 
Florence, but has put a new seal on the Frate's words — 
that the harvest of sin is ripe, and that God will reap it 
with a sword." 

^*I hope he has had a new vision, however," said Fran- 
cesco Cei, sneer ingly. '^ The old ones are somewhat stale. 
Can't your Frate get a poet to help out his imagination for 
him?'' 

''He has no lack of poets about him," said Cronaca, 
with quiet contempt, ''but they are great poets and not 
little ones; so they are contented to be taught by him, and 
no more think the truth stale which God has given him to 
utter, than they think the light of the moon is stale. But 
perhaps certain high prelates and princes who dislike the 



162 ROMOLA. 

Frate's denunciations might be pleased to hear that, thougli 
" Giovanni Pico, and Poliziano, and MarsiJ[io P^ino^ and 
■/^ most other men of mark in Florence, reverence Fra Giro- 
[ yf«;'lamo, Messer Francesco Cei despises him." 
1^ ''Paliziano?" said Cei, with a scornful laugh. "Yes, 

^^yU^^^^^^^®^^ ^^® believes in your new Jonah; witness the fine 
^i(y orations he wrote for the envoys of Sienna, to tell Alexan- 
der the Sixth that the world and the Church were never 
so well off as since he became Pope." 

" Nay, Francesco," said Macchiavelli, smiling, "a various 
scholar must have various opinions. And as for the Frate, 
whatever we may think of his saintliness, you judge his 
preaching too narrowly. The secret of oratory lies, not in 
saying new things, but in saying things with a certain 
/power that moves the hearers — without which, as old 
f I'ilelfo has said, your speaker deserves to be called, ^non 
oratorl^m, sed «ratorem. ' And, according to that test, Fra 

Giro]amn ia g ,tyrmt ^^'^j^^I " ' 

" That is true, JNiccolo," said Cennini, speaking from 
the shaving chair, '*but part of the secret lies in the 
prophetic visions. Our people — no offense to you, Cronaco 
— will run after anything in the shape of a prophet, 
especially if he prophesfes terrors and tribulations." 

*'Eather say, Cennini," answered Cronaca, "that the 
chief secret lies in the Frate's pure life and strong faith, 
which stamp him as a messenger of God." 

"I admit it — I admit it," said Cennini, opening his 
palms, as he rose from the chair. "His life is spotless: 
no man has impeached it." 
V""IIe is satisfied with the pleasant lust of arrogance," 
Cei burst out, bitterly. "I can see it in that proud lip 
and satisfied eye of his. He hears the air filled with his 
own name — Fra Girolamo Savonarola, of Ferrara; the 
prophet, the saint, the mighty preacher, who frightens thn 
very babies of Florence into laying dowm their wicked 
baubles.^^ 

"Come, come, Francesco, you are out of humor with 
waiting," said the conciliatory Nello. "Let me stop your 
mouth with a little lather. I must not have my friend 
Cronaca made angry: I have a regard for his chin; and 
his chin is in no respect altered since he became a Piag- 
none. And for my own part, I confess, when the Frate 
was preaching in the Duomo last Advent, I got into such 
a trick of slipping in to listen to him that I might have 
turned Piagnone too, if I had not been hindered by the 



I 



A PLORENTI5iri3 JOKE. 163 



liberal nature of my art; and also by the length of the ser- 
mons, which are sometimes a good whil^ before they get 
to the moving point. But, as Messer Niccolo here says, 
the Frate lays hold of the people by some power over and 
above his prophetic visions. Monks and nuns who prophesy 
are not of that rareness. For what says Luigi Pulci? 
' Dombruno's sharp-cutting scimitar had the fame of being 
enchanted; but,' says Luigi, ^I am rather of opinion that 
it cut sharp because it was of strongly -tempered steel.' 
Yes, yes; Paternosters may shave clean, but they must be 
^^id over a good razor.'' 

^B"See, Nello!"said Macchiavelli, "what doctor is this 
^fevancing on his Bucephalus? I thought your piazza was 
free from those furred and scarlet-robed lackeys of death. 
This man looks as if he had had some such night adven- 
ture as Boccaccio's Maestro Simone, and had his bonnet 
and mantle pickled a little in the gutter; though he him- 
self is as sleek as a miller's rat." 

"A-ah!" said Nello, with a long-drawn intonation, as 
he looked up toward the advancing figure — a round-headed, 
round-bodied personage, seated on a raw young horse, 
which held its nose out with an air of threatening obsti- 
nacy, and by a constant effort to back and go off in an 
oblique line showed free views about authority very much 
in advance of the age. 

"And I have a few more adventures in pickle for him," 
continued Nello, in an undertone, " which I hope will 
drive his inquiring nostrils to another quarter of the city. 
He's a doctor from Padua; they say he has been at Prato 
for three months, and now he's come to Florence to see 
what he can net. But his great trick is making rounds 
among the contadini. And do you note those great saddle- 
bags he carries? They are to hold the fat capons and eggs 
and meal he levies on silly clowns with whom coin is scarce. 
lie vends his own secret medicines, so he keeps away from 
the doors of the druggists; and for this last week he has 
taken to sitting in my piazza for two or three liours every 
day, and making it a resort for asthmas and squalling 
bambini. It stirs my gall to see the toad-faced quack 
fingering the greasy quattrini, or bagging a pigeon in 
exchange for his pills and powders. But I'll put a few 
thorns in his saddle, else I'm no Florentine. Laudamus! 
he is coming to be shaved; that's what I've waited for. 
Messer Domenicio, go not away: wait; you shall see a rare 



164 ROMOLA. 

bit of fooling, whicli I devised two days ago. Here, 
Sandro!" 

Nello whispered in the ear cf Sandro, who rolled his 
solemn eyes, nodded, and, following up these signs of 
understanding with a slow smile, took to his heels with 
sur})rising rapidity. 

"How is it with you, Maestro Tacco?" said Nello, as 
the doctor, with difficulty, brought his horse^s head round 
toward the barber's shop. '^ That is a fine young horse of 
yours, but something raw in the mouth, eh?" 

'^He is an accursed beast, the vei^mocane seize him!" 
said Maestro Tacco, with a burst of irritation, descending 
from his saddle and fastening the old bridle, mended with 
string, to an iron staple in the wall. "Nevertheless," he 
added, recollecting himself, "a sound beast and a valuable, 
for one who wanted to purchase, and get a profit by train- 
ing him. I had him cheap." 

"Rather too hard riding for a man who carries your 
weight of learning: eh, Maestro?" said Nello. "You 
seem hot." 

"Truly, I am likely to be hot," said the doctor, taking 
off his bonnet, and giving to full view a bald low head and 
flat broad face, with high ears, wide lipless mouth, round 
eyes, and deep arched lines above the projecting eyebrows, 
which altogether made Nello's epithet "toad-faced" 
dubiously complimentary to the blameless, batrachian. 
"Riding from Peretola, when the sun is high, is not the 
same thing as kicking your heels on a bench in the shade, 
like your Florence doctors. Moreover, I have had not a 
little pulling to get through the carts and mules into the 
Mercato, to find out the husband of a certain Monna 
Ghita, who had had a fatal seizure before I was called in; 
and if it had not been that I had to demand my fees " 

"Monna Ghita!" said Nello, as the perspiring doctor 
interrupted himself to rub his head and face, "reace be 
with her angry soul! The Mercato will want a whip the 
more if her tongue is laid to rest." 

Tito, who had roused himself from his abstraction, and 
was listening to the dialogue, felt a new rush of the 
vague half-formed ideas about Tessa, which had passed 
through his mind the evening before: if Monna Ghita 
were really taken out of the way, it would be easier for 
him to see Tessa again — whenever he wanted to see her. 

"Gnaffe, Maestro," Nello went on, in a sympathising 
tone, "you are the slave of rude mortals, who, but for 



A FLORENTINE JOKE. 165 

you, would die like brutes, without help of pill or powder. 
It is pitiful to see your learned lymph oozing from your 
pores as if it were mere vulgar moisture. You think my 
shaving will cool and disencumber you? One moment 
and I have done with Messer Francesco here. It seems 
to, me a thousand years till I wait upon a man who carries 
all the science of Arabia in his head and saddle-bags. 
Ecco!" 

Nello held up the shaving-cloth with an air of invita- 
tion, and Maestro Tacco advanced and seated himself 
under a preoccupation with his heat and his self-import- 
ance, which made him quite deaf to the irony conveyed 
in Nello's officiously polite speech. 

^^It is but fitting that a great medicus like you,^^ said 
Nello, adjusting the cloth, '^should be shaved by the 
same razor that has shaved the illustrious Antonio 
Benevieni, the greatest master of the chirurgic art.^' 

*^The chirurgic art!'^ interrupted the doctor, with an 
air of contemptuous disgust. **Is it your Florentine 
fashion to put the masters of the science of medicine on 
a level with men who do carpentry on broken limbs, and 
sew up wounds like tailors, and carve away excrescences 
as a butcher trims meat? Via! A manual art, such as 
any artificer might learn, and which has been practised by 
simple barbers like yourself — on a level with the noble 
science of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna, which pene- 
trates into the occult influences of the stars and plants 
and gems! — a science locked up from the vulgar !^^ 

*'i^o, in truth. Maestro," said Nello, using his lather 
very deliberately, as if he wanted to prolong the operation 
to the utmost, ^^1 never thought of placing them on a 
level: I knoAV your science comes next to the miracles of 
Holy Church for mystery. But there, you see, is the pity 
of it" — here Nello fell into a tone of regretful sympa- 
thy — ''your high science is sealed from the profane and 
the vulgar, and so you become an object of envy and 
slander. I grieve to say it, but there are low fellows in 
this city — mere sglierri, who go about in nightcaps and 
long beards, and make it their business to sprinkle gall in 
every man's broth who is prospering. Let me tell you — 
for you are a stranger — this is a city where every man 
had need carry a large nail ready to fasten on the wheel of 
Fortune when his side happens to be uppermost. Already 
there are stories — mere fables, doubtless, — beginning to 
be buzzed about concerning you, that make me wish I . 



166 KOMOLAo 

could hear of your being well on your way to Arezzo. I 
would not have a man of your metal stoned, for though 
San Stefano was stoned, he was not great in medicine like 
San Cosmo and San Damiano." 

''What stories? what fables? '^ stammered Maestro 
Tacco. '^MYhat do you mean?" 

^' Lasso! I fear me you are come into the trap for your 
cheese, Maestro. The fact is, there is a company of evil 
youths who go prowling about the houses of our citizens 
carrying sharp tools in their pockets; — no sort of door, or 
window, or shutter, but they will pierce it. They are pos- 
sessed with a diabolical patience to watch the doings of 
people who fancy themselves private. It must be they 
who have done it — it must be they who have spread the 
stories about you and your medicines. Have you by 
chance detected any small aperture in your door, or 
window-shutter? No? Well, I advise you to look; for it 
is now commonly talked of that you have been seen in 
your dwelling at the Canto di Paglia, making your secret 
specifics by night: pounding dried toads in a mortar, com- 
pounding a salve out of mashed worms, and making your 
pills from the dried livers of rats which you mix with 
saliva emitted during the utterance of a blasphemous 
incantation — which indeed these witnesses profess to 
repeat." 

''It is a pack of lies!" exclaimed the doctor, strug- 
gling to get utterance, and then desisting in alarm at the 
approaching razor. 

"It is not to me, or any of this respectable company, 
that you need say that, doctor. We are not the heads to 
plant such carrots as those in. But what of that? What 
are a handful of reasonable men against a crowd with 
stones in their hands? There are those among us who 
think Cecco d'Ascoli was an innocent sage — and we all 
know how he was burnt alive for being wiser than his 
fellows. Ah, doctor, it is not by living at Padua that you 
can learn to know Florentines. My belief is, they would 
stone the Holy Father himself, if they could find a good 
excuse for it; and they are persuaded that you are a 
necromancer, who is trying to raise the pestilence by sell- 
ing secret medicines — and I am told your specifics have 
in truth an evil smell." 

"It is false!" burst out the doctor, as Nello moved away 
his razor; "it is false! I will show the pills and the 
powders to these honorable signori — and the salve — i^ has 



A FLORENTINE JOKE. 167 

an excellent odor — an odor of — of salve/^ He started up 
with the lather on his chin, and the cloth round his neck, 
to search in his saddle-bag for the belied medicines, and 
Nello in an instant adroitly shifted the shaving-chair till 
it was in the close vicinity of the horse's head, while 
Sandro, who had now returned, at a sign from his master 
placed himself near the bridle. 

'* Behold, Wesseri ! " said the doctor, bringing a small 
box of medicines and opening it before them. *^ Let any 
signer apply this box to his nostrils and he will find an 
honest odor of medicaments — not indeed of pounded gems 
or rare vegetables from the East, or stones found in the 
bodies of birds; for I practice on the diseases of the vulgar, 
for whom heaven has provided cheaper and less powerful 
remedies according to their degree : and there are even 
remedies known to our science which are entirely free of 
cost — as the new tussis may be counteracted in the poor, 
who can pay for no specifics, by a resolute holding of the 
breath. And here is a paste which is even of savory 
odor, and is infallible against melancholia, being concocted 
under the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus; and I have 
seen it allay spasms.^' 

" Stay, Maestro,'^ said Nello, while the doctor had his 
lathered face turned towards the group near the door, 
eagerly holding out his box, and lifting out one specific 
after another, ^' here comes a crying contadina with her 
baby. Doubtless she is in search of you; it is perhaps an 
opportunity for you to show this honorable company a 
proof of your skill. Here, buonna donna! here is the 
famous doctor. Why, what is the matter with the sweet 
Mmhor' 

This question was addressed to a sturdy -looking, broad- 
shouldered contadina, with her head-drapery folded about 
her face, so that little was to be seen but a bronzed nose 
and a pair of dark eyes and eyebrows. She carried her 
child packed up in the stiff mummy-shaped case in which 
Italian babies have been from time immemorial introduced 
into society, turning its face a little toward her bosom, 
and making those sorrowful grimaces which women are in 
the habit of using as a sort of pulleys to draw down reluct- 
ant tears. 

''Oh, for the love of the Holy Madonna!" said the 
woman, in a wailing voice, ''will you look at my poor 
bimbo? I know I can't pay for it, but I Look it into the 
Nunziata last night, and it^'s turned a worse color than 



168 ROMOLA. 

before; it^s the convulsions. But when I was holding it 
before the Santissima Nunziata, I remembered they said 
there was a new doctor come who cured everything; and 
so I thought it might be the will of the Holy Madonna 
that I should bring it to you/^ 

'^ Sit down, Maestro, sit down," said Nello. '' Here is 
an opportunity for you; here are honorable witnesses who 
will declare before the Magnificent Eight that they have 
seen you practising honestly and relieving a poor woman's 
child. And then if your life is in danger, the Magnificent 
Eight will put you in prison a little while just to insure 
your safety, and after that their sbirri will conduct you 
out of Florence by night, as they did the zealous Frate 
Minore, who preached against the Jews. AVhat! our people 
are given to stone-throwing; but we have magistrates." 

The doctor, unable to refuse, seated himself in the 
shaving-chair, trembling, half with fear and half with 
rage, and by this time quite unconscious of the lather 
which Nello had laid on with such profuseness. He 
deposited his medicine-case on his knees, took out his 
precious spectacles (wondrous Florentine device!) from his 
wallet, lodged them carefully above his flat nose and high 
ears, and lifting up his brows, turned toward the ap- 
plicant. 

^'0 Santiddio! look at him," said the woman, with a 
more piteous wail than ever, as she held out the small 
mummy, which had its head completely concealed by dingy 
drapery wound round the head of the portable cradle, but 
seemed to be struggling and crying in a demoniacal fashion 
under this imprisonment. '* The fit is on him! Ohime! 
I know what color he is; it's the exiLs^ oh!" 

The doctor, anxiously holding his knees together to 
support his box, bent his spectacles toward the baby, and 
said cautiously, ^'^It may be a new disease; unwind these 
rags, Monna!" 

The contadina, with sudden energy, snatched off the 
encircling linen, when out struggled — scratching, grinning, 
and screaming — what the doctor in his fright fully believed 
to be a demon, but what Tito recognized as Vaiano's 
monkey, made more formidable by an artificial blackness, 
such as might have come from a hasty rubbing up the 
chimney. 

Up started the unfortunate doctor, letting his medicine- 
box fall, and away jumped the no less terrified and indig- 
nant monkey, finding the first resting-place for his claws 



I 



A FLORENTIN'E JOKE. 169 



on the horse's mane^ which he used as a sort of rope-ladder 
till he had fairly found his equilibrium, when he continued 
to clutch it as a bridle. The horse wanted no spur under 
such a rider, and, the already loosened bridle offering no 
resistance, darted off across the piazza, with the monkey, 
clutching, grinning, and blinking, on his neck. 

'^11 cavallo! 11 Diavolo!" was now shouted on all sides 
by the idle rascals who gathered from all quarters of the 
piazza, and was echoed in tones of alarm by the stall- 
keepers, whose vested interests seemed in some danger; 
while the doctor, out of his wits with confused terror at 
the Devil, the possible stoning, and the escape of the horse, 
took to his heels with spectacles on nose, lathered face, 
and the shaving-cloth about his neck, crying — ^^Stop him! 
stop him ! for a powder — a florin — stop him for a florin ! " 
while the lads, outstripping him, clapped their hands and 
shouted encouragement to the runaway. 

The cerretano, who had not bargained for the flight of 
his monkey along with the horse, had caught up his petti- 
coats with much celerity, and showed a pair of parti-colored 
hose above his contadina's shoes, far in advance of the 
doctor. And away went the grotesque race up the Corso 
degli Adimari — the horse with the singular jockey, the 
contadina with the remarkable hose, and the doctor in 
lather and spectacles, with furred mantle flying. 

It was a scene such as Forentines loved, from the potent 
and reverend signer going to council in his lucco, down to 
the grinning youngster, who felt himself master of all sit- 
uations when his bag was filled with smooth stones from 
the convenient dry bed of the torrent. The grey-headed 
Domenico Cennini laughed no less heartily than the 
younger men, and Nello was triumphantly secure of the 
general admiration. 

^^Aha!^^ he exclaimed, snapping his fingers when the 
first burst of laughter was subsiding. '^I have cleared 
my piazza of that unsavory fly-trap, mi pare. Maestro 
Tacco will no more come here again to sit for patients than 
he will take to licking marble for his dinner.^' 

*^ You are going toward the Piazza della Signoria, Mes- 
ser Domenico," said Macchiavelli. '^I will go with you, 
and we shall perhaps see who has deserved ihQ palio among 
these racers. Come, Melema, will you go too?" 

It had been precisely Titer's intention to accompany 
Cennini, but before he had gone many steps, he was called 
back by Nello, who saw Maso approaching. 



170 EOMOLA. 

Maso's message was from Eomola. She wished Tito to 
go to the Via de Bardi as soon as possible. She would see 
him under the loggia, at the top of the house, as she 
wished to speak to him alone. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

UNDER THE LOGGIA. 



The loggia at the top of Bardo's house rose above the 
buildings on each side of it, and formed a gallery round 
quadrangular walls. On the side toward the street the 
roof was supported Ly columns; but on the remaining 
sides, by a wall i)ierced with arched openings, so that at 
the back, looking over a crowd of irregular, poorly-built 
dwellings toward the hill of Bogoli, Eomola could at all 
times have a walk sheltered from observation. ISear one 
of tliosG arched openings, close to the door by which he 
had entered the loggia, Tito awaited her, with a sickening 
sense of the sunlight that slanted before him and mingled 
itself with the ruin of his hopes. He had never for a 
moment relied on Romola's passion for him as likely to be 
too strong for the repulsion created by the discovery of 
his secret; he had not the presumptions vanity which 
might have hindered him from feeling that her love had 
tiie same root with her belief in him. But as he imag- 
ined her coming toward him in her radiant beauty, made 
so loveably mortal by her soft hazel eyes, he fell into wish- 
ing that she had been something lower, if it were only 
that she might let him clasp her and kiss her before they 
parted. He had had no real caress from her — nothing but 
now and then a long glance, a kiss, a pressure of the hand; 
and he had so often longed that they should be alone 
together. They were going to be alone now; but he saw 
her standing inexorably aloof from him. His heart gave 
a great throb as he saw the door move: Eomola was there. 
It was all like a flash of lightning: he felt, rather than 
saw, the glory about her head, the tearful appealing eyes; 
he felt, rather than heard, the cry of love with which she 
said, ^^Tito!'' 

And in the same moment she was in his arms, and sob- 
bing with her face against his, 



I 



UN-DER THE LOGGIA. 171 



How poor Romola had yearned through the watches of 
the night to see that bright face I The new image of 
death; the strange bewildering doubt infused into her by 
the story of a life removed from her understanding and 
sympathy; the haunting vision, which she seemed not 
only to hear uttered by the low gasping voice, but to live 
through, as if it had been her own dream, had made her 
more conscious than ever that it was Tito who had first 
brought the warm stream of hope and gladness into her 
life, and who had first turned away the keen edge of pain 
in the remembrance of her brother. She would tell Tito 
everything; there was no one else to whom she could tell 
it. She had been restraining herself in the i:)resence of 
her father all the morning; but now, that long-pent-up 
sob might come forth. Proud and self-controlled to all 
the world beside, Romola waa as simple and unreserved as 
a child in her love for Tito. She had been quite contented 
with the days when they had only looked at each other; 
but now, when she felt the need of clinging to him, there 
was no thought that hindered her. 

"My Romola! my goddess!" Tito murmured with 
passionate fondness, as he clas^Dcd her gently, and kissed 
the thick golden ripples on her neck. He was in paradise: 
disgrace, shame, parting — there was no fear of them 
any longer. This happiness was too strong to be marred 
by the sense that Romola was deceived in him; nay, he 
could only rejoice in her delusion; for, after all, conceal- 
ment had been wisdom. The only thing he could regret 
was his needless dread; if, indeed, the dread had not been 
worth suffering for the sake of this sudden rapture. 

The sob had satisfied itself, and Romola raised her head. 
Neither of them spoke; they stood looking at each other's 
faces with that sweet wonder which belongs to young 
love — she with her long white hands on the dark-brown 
curls, and he with his dark fingers bathed in the stream- 
ing gold. Each was so beautiful to the other; each was 
experiencing that undisturbed mutual consciousness for 
the first time. The cold pressure of a new sadness on 
Romola's heart made her linger the more in that silent 
soothing sense of nearness and love; and Tito could not 
even seek to press his lips to hers, because that would be 
change. 

" Tito,'' she said at last, ''it has been altogether painful, 
but I must tell you everything. Your strength will help 



172 ROMOLA. 



me to resist the impressions that will not be shaken off b] 
reason." 

''I know, Komola — I know he is dead," said Tito; and 
the long lustrous eyes told nothing of the many wishes that 
would have brought about that death long ago if there had 
been such potency in mere wishes. Romola only read her 
own pure thoughts in their dark depths, as we read letters 
in happy dreams. 

'* So changed, Tito! It pierced me to think that it was 
Dino. And so strangely hard: not a word to my father; 
nothing but a vision that he wanted to tell me. And yet 
it was so j)iteous — the struggling breath, and the eyes that 
seemed to look toward the crucifix, and yet not to see it. 
I shall never forget it; it seems as if it would come between 
me and everything I shall look at." 

Romola's heart swelled again, so that she was forced to 
break off. But tlie need she felt to disburden her mind to 
Tito urged her to repress the rising anguish. When she 
began to speak again, her thoughts had traveled a little. 

^' It was strange, Tito. The vision was about our mar- 
riage, and yet he knew nothing of you." 

*'What was it, my Romola? Sit down and tell me," 
said Tito, leading her to the bench that stood near. A fear 
had come across him lest the vision should somehow or 
other relate to Baldassarre; and this sudden change of 
feeling prompted him to seek a change of position. 

Romola told him all tliat had passed, from her entrance 
into San Marco, hardly leaving out one of her brother's 
words, which had burned themselves into her memory as 
they were spoken. But when she was at the end of the 
vision, she paused; the rest came too vividly before her to 
be uttered, and she sat looking at the distance, almost 
unconscious for the moment that Tito was near her. His 
mind was at ease now; that vague vision had passed over 
him like white mist, and left no mark. But he was silent, 
expecting her to speak again. 

'*I took it," she went on, as if Tito had been reading 
her thoughts; "I took the crucifix; it is down below in my 
bedroom." 

''And now, my Romola," said Tito, entreatingly, ''you 
will banish these ghastly thoughts. The vision was an 
ordinary monkish vision, bred of fasting and fanatical 
ideas. It surely has no weight with you." 

"No, Tito, no. But poor Di^^o, he believed It was a 
divine mt^ssage. It is strange," she went on, meditatively. 



I 



UKDER THE LOGGIA. 173 

" this life of men possessed with fervid beliefs that scorn 
like madness to their fellow-beings. Dino was not a vulgar 
fanatic; and that Fra Girolamo — his very voice seems to 
have penetrated me with a sense that there is some truth in 
what moves them: some truth of which I know nothing/' 

'^ It was only because your feelings were higlily wrought, 
my Romola. Your brother's state of mind was no more 
than a form of that theosophy which has been the common 
disease of excitable, dreamy minds in all ages; the same 
ideas that your father's old antagonist, Marsiljo Ficino, 
pores over in the New Platonists: only your ~brotHe?s 
passionate nature drovehimtoact out what other men 
write and talk about. And for Fra Girolamo, he is simply 
a narrow-minded monk, with a gift of preaching and infus- 
ing terror into the multitude. Any words or any voice 
would have shaken you at that moment. When your mind 
has had a little repose, you will judge of such things as 
you have always done before." 

"Not about poor Dino," said Romola. "I was angry 
with him; my heart seemed to close against him while he 
was speaking; but since then I have thought less of what 
was in my own mind and more of what was in his. Oh, 
Tito! it was very piteous to see his. young life coming to 
an end in that way. That yearning look at the crucifix 
when he was gasping for breath — I can never forget it. 
Last night I looked at the crucifix a long while, and tried 
to see that it would help him, until at last it seemed to me 
by the lamplight as if the suffering face shed pity." 

'' My Romola, promise me to resist such thoughts; they 
are fit for sickly nuns, not for my golden-tressed Aurora, 
who looks made to scatter all such twilight fantasies. 
Try not to think of them now; we shall not long be alone 
ether." 

I'he last words were uttered in a tone of tender beseech- 
ing, and he turned her face toward him with a gentle 
touch of his right hand. 

Romola had had her eyes fixed absently on the arched open- 
ing, but she had not seen the distant hill; she had all the 
while been in the chapter-house, looking at the pale 
images of sorrow and death. 

Tito's touch and beseeching voice recalled her; and now 
in the warm sunlight she saw that rich dark beauty which 
seemed to gather round it all images of joy — purple vines 
festooned between the elms, the strong corn perfecting 
itself under the vibrating heat, bright-winged creatures 



174 EOMOLA. 

hurrying and resting among the flowers, round limbs beat- 
ing the earth in gladness with cymbals held aloft, light 
melodies chanted to the thrilling rhythm of strings — all 
objects and all sounds that tell of Nature reveling in her 
force. Strange, bewildering transition from those pale 
images of sorrow and death to this bright youthfulness, as 
of a sun-god who knew nothing of night! What thought 
could reconcile that worn anguish in her brother's face — 
that sti'aining after something invisible — witli this satisfied 
strength and beauty, and make it intelligible that they 
belonged to the same world? Or was there never any 
reconciling of them, but only a blind worship of clashing 
deities, first in mad joy and then in wailing? Romola for 
the first time felt this questioning need like a sudden un- 
easy dizziness and want of something to grasp; it was an 
experience hardly longer than a sigh, for the eager theoris- 
ing of ages is compressed, as in a seed, in the momentary 
want of a single mind. But tliere was no answer to meet 
the need, and it vanished before the returning rush of 
young sympathy with the glad, loving beauty that beamed 
upon her in new radiance, like the dawn after we have 
looked away from it to the gray west. 

"Your mind lingers apart from our love, my Romola," 
Tito said, with a soft, reproachful murmur. *'It seems a 
forgotten thing to you." 

She looked at the beseeching eyes in silence, till the 
sadness all melted out of her own. ^ 

^' My joy! '' she said, in her full, clear voice. 

"Do you really care for me enough, then, to banish 
those chill fancies, or shall you always be suspecting me as 
the Great Tempter ?'' said Tito, with his bright smile. 

" How should I not care for you more than for every- 
thing else? Everything I had felt before in all my life — 
about my father, and about my loneliness — was a prepara- 
tion to love you. You would laugh at me, Tito, if you 
knew what sort of man I used to think I should marry — 
some scholar with deep lines in his face, like Alamanno 
Einuccini, and with rather gray hair, who would agree 
with my father in taking the side of the Aristotelians, and 
be willing to live with him. I used to think tibout the 
love I read of in the poets, but I never dreamed that any- 
thing like that could happen to me here in Florence in our 
old library. And then you came, Tito, and were so much 
to my father, and I began to believe that life could be 
happy for me too.'' 



I 



UNDER THE LOGGIA. 175 



My goddess! is there any woman like you?" said Tito, 
with a mixture of fondness and wondering admiration at 
the blended majesty and simplicity in her. 

'^^But, dearest/' he went on, rather timidly, "if you 
minded more about our marriage, you would persuade 
your father and Messer Bernardo not to think of any more 
delays. But you seem not to mind about it." 

" Yes, Tito, I will, I do mind. But I am sure my 
godfather will urge more delay now, because of Dino's 
death. He has never agreed with my father about disown- 
ing Dino, and you know he has, always said that we ought 
to wait until you have been at least a year in Florence. Do 
not think hardly of my godfather. I know he is preju- 
diced and narrow, but yet he is very noble. He has often 
said that it is folly in my father to want to keep his library 
apart, that it may bear his name; yet he would try to get 
my father's wish carried out. That seems to me very great 
and noble — that power of respecting a feeling which he 
does not share or understand." 

" I have no rancor against Messer Bernardo for think- 
ing you too precious for me, my Eomola," said Tito: and 
that was true. " But your father, then, knows of his son's 
death?" 

"Yes, I told him — I could not help it. I told him 
where I had been, and that I had seen Dino die; but noth- 
ing else: and he has commanded me not to speak of it 
again. But he has been very silent this morning, and has 
had those restless movements which always go to my heart; 
they look as if he were trying to get outside the prison of 
his blindness. Let us go to him now. I had persuaded 
him to try to sleep, because he slept little in the night. 
Your voice will soothe him, Tito: it always does." 

"And not one kiss? I have not had one," said Tito, 
in his gentle reproachful tone, which gave him an air of 
dependence very charming in a creature with those rare 
gifts that seem to excuse presumption. 

The sweet pink blush spread itself with the quickness 
of light over Romola's face and neck as she bent toward 
him. It seemed impossible that their kisses could ever 
become common things. 

"Let us walk once round the loggia," said Eomola, 
"before we go down." 

^* Th ere is something g ri^^ a.nd gra ve to m e always^ 
abouTFlorence^^^^ said Tito, as tfi^ypaused m thelron^ of 
tFe house,"wliere they could see over the opposite roofs to 



176 ROlfOLA. 

the other side of the river," and even in its merriment 
there_ is something shrill and hard— biting rathex_than 
^gaj^ I wTsTi we lived^nTSouIherii Italy, where thought is 
broken, not by weariness, but by delicious languors such 
as never seem to come over the ^ ingenia acerrima Floren- 
tina/ I should like to see you under that southern sun, 
lying among the flowers, subdued into mere enjoyment, 
while I bent over you and touched the lute and sang to 
you some little unconscious strain that seemed all one 
with the light and the warmth. You have never known 
that happiness of the nymphs, my Romola." 

*'No; but I have dreamed of it often since you came. 
I am very thirsty for a deep draught of joy — for a life all 
bright like you. But we will not think of it now, Tito; 
it seems to me as if there would always be pale sad faces 
among the flowers, and eyes that look in vain. Let us 
go." 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE PORTRAIT. 



When Tito left the Via de' Bardi that day in exnltai 
satisfaction at finding himself thoroughly free from th< 
threatened peril, his thoughts, no longer claimed by th^ 
immediate presence of Romola and her father, recurred 
those futile hours of dread in which he was conscious 
having not only felt but acted as he would not have done 
if he had had a truer foresight. He would not have 
l)arted with his ring; for Romola, and others to whom it 
was a familiar object, would be a little struck with the 
apparent sordidness of parting with a gem he had profess- 
edly cherished, unless he feigned as a reason the desire to 
make some sjoecial gift with the purchase-money ; and 
Tito had at that moment a nauseating weariness of simu- 
lation. He was well out of the possible consequences that 
might have fallen on him from that initial deception, and 
it was no longer a load on liis mind ; kind fortune had 
brought him immunity, and he thought it was only fair 
that she should. Who was hurt by it ? The results to 
Bald assarre were too problematical to be taken into account. 
But he wanted now to be free from any hidden shackles 
that would gall him, though ever so little, under his ties 



THE PORTRAIT. 177 

to Romola. He was not aware that every delight in im- 
munit}' which prompted resohitions not to entangle him- 
self again, was deadening the sensibilities which alone 
could save him from entanglement. 

But, after all, the sale of the ring was a slight matter. 
AVas it also a slight matter that little Tessa was under a 
delusion which would doubtless fill her small head with 
expectations doomed to disappointment? Should he try- 
to see the little thing alone again and undeceive her at 
once, or should he leave the disclosure to time and chance? 
Happy dreams are pleasant, and they easily come to an end 
with daylight and the stir of life. The sweet, pouting 
innocent, round thing! It was impossible not to think of 
her. Tito thought he should like some time to take her a 
present that would please her, and just learn if her step- 
father treated her more cruelly now her mother was dead. 
Or, should he at once undeceive Tessa, and then tell Romola 
about her, so that they might find some happier lot for the 
poor thing? No: that unfortunate little incident of the 
cerretano and the marriage, and his allowing Tessa to part 
from him in delusion, must never be known to Romola, 
and since no enlightenment could expel it from Tessa's 
mind, there would always be a risk of betrayal; besides, 
even little Tessa might have some gall in her when she 
found herself disappointed in her love — yes, she must be 
a little in love with him, and that might make it well that 
he should not see her again. Yet it was a trifling adven- 
ture, such as a country girl would perhaps ponder on till 
some ruddy contadino made acceptable love to her, when 
she would break her resolution of secrecy and get at the 
truth that sh6 was free. Dunque — good-bye, Tessa! kind- 
est wishes! Tito had made up his mind that the silly little 
affair of the cerretano should have no further consequences 
for himself; people are apt to think that resolutions taken 
on their own behalf will be firm. As for the fifty-five 
florins, the purchase-money of the ring, Tito had made up 
his mind what to do with some of them; he would carry 
out a pretty ingenious thought, which would set him more 
at ease i n accounting for the absence of his ring to Rom- 
ola, and would also serve him as a means of guarding her 
mind from the recurrence of those monkish fancies which 
were especially repugnant to him; and with this thought 
in his mind, he went to the Via Gualfonda to find Piero di 
Cosimo, the artist who at that time was pre-eminent in the 
fantastic mythological design which Tito's purpose required. 



178 ROMOLA. 

Entering the court on which Piero's dwelling opened, 
Tito found the heavy iron knocker on the door thickly 
bound round with wool, and ingeniously fastened with 
cords. Remembering tlie painter's practice of stuffing his 
ears against obtrusive noises, Tito was not much surprised 
at this mode of defense against visitors' thunder, and 
betook himself first to taj^ping modestly with his knuckles, 
and then to a more important attempt to shake the door. 
In vain! Tito was moving away, blaming himself for 
wasting his time on this visit, instead of waiting till he 
saw the painter again at Nello's, when a little girl entered 
the court with a basket of eggs on hor arm, went up to the 
door, and standing on tiptoe, pushed up a small iron plate 
that ran in grooves, and putting her mouth to the aperture 
thus disclosed, called out in a piping voice, ** Messer Piero!'' 

In a few moments Tito heard the sound of bolts, the 
door opened, and Piero presented himself in a red night- 
cap and a loose brown serge tunic, Avith sleeves rolled up 
to the shoulder. He darted a look of surprise at Tito, but 
without further notice of him stretched out his hand to 
take the basket from the child, re-entered the house, and 
presently returning with the empty basket, said, ''How 
much to pay?" 

" Two grossoni, Messer Piero; they are all ready boiled, 
my mother says." 

Piero took the coin out of the leathern scarsella at his 
belt, and the little maiden trotted away, not without a few 
upward glances of awed admiration at the surprising young 
signer. 

Piero's glance was much less complimentary as he said — 
What do you want at my door, Messer Greco? I saw 
ou this morning at Nello's; if you had asked me then, 

could have told you that I see no man in this house 
without knowing his business aud agreeing with him 
beforehand." 

''Pardon, Messer Piero," said Tito with his imperturb- 
able good-humor; "I acted without sufficient reflection. 
I remembered nothing but your admirable skill in invent- 
ing pretty caprices, when a sudden desire for something of 
that sort prompted me to come to you." 

The painter's manners were too notoriously odd to all 
the world for this reception to be held a special affront: 
but even if Tito had suspected any offensive intention, the 
impulse to resentment would have been less strong in him 
than the desire to conquer goodwill. 



r 



I 



THE PORTRAIT. 179 



Piero made a grimace which was habitual with him when 
he was spoken to with flattering suavity. He grinned, 
stretched out the corners of his mouth, and pressed down 
his brows, so as to defy any divination of his feelings under 
that kind of stroking. 

''And what may that need be?" he said, after a moment's 
pause. In his heart he was tempted by the hinted oppor- 
tunity of applying his invention. 

'' I want very delicate miniature device taken from cer- 
tain fables of the poets, which you will know how to com- 
bine for me. It must be painted on a wooden case — I will 
show you the size — in the form of a triptych. The inside 
may be simple gilding: it is on the outside I want the 
device. It is a fajvori te subject with y^u Flo rentines — the 
triumph of Bacchus and Ariadn e; but I wanTit Treated in 
a new way. TTstory m Uvid will give you the necessary 
hints. The young Bacchus must be seated in a ship, his 
head bound with clusters of grapes, and a spear entwined 
with vine-leaves in his hand: dark-berried ivy must wind 
about the masts and sails, the oars must be thyrsi, and 
flowers must wreathe themselves about the poop; leopards 
and tigers must be crouching before him, and dolphins 
must be sporting round. But I want to have the fair- 
haired Ariadne with him, made immortal with her golden 
crown — that is not in Ovid^s story, but no matter, you 
will conceive it all — and above there must be young Loves, 
such as you know how to paint, shooting with roses at the 
points of their arrows " 

" Say no more! ''' said Piero. '* I have Ovid in the vulgar 
tongue. Find me the passage. I love not to be choked 
with other men's thoughts. You may come in." 

Piero led the way through the first room, where a basket 
of eggs was deposited on the open hearth, near a heap of 
broken egg-shells and a bank of ashes. In strange keep- 
ing with that sordid litter, there was a low bedstead of 
carved ebony, covered carelessly with a piece of rich oriental 
carpet, that looked as if it had served to cover the steps to 
a Madonna's throne; and a carved cassone, or large chest, 
with painted devices on its sides and lid. There was hardly 
any other furniture in the large room, except casts, wooden 
steps, easels and rough boxes, all festooned with cobwebs. 

The next room was still larger, but it was also much 
more crowded. Apparently Piero was keeping the Festa, 
for the double door underneath the window which admitted 
the painter's light from above, was thrown open, and 



180 ROMOLA. 

showed a garueu, or rather thicket, in which fig-trees and 
vines grew in tangled trailing wildness among nettles and 
hemlocks, and a tall cypress lifted its dark head from a 
stifling mass of yellowish mulberry-leaves. It seemed as 
if that dank luxuriance had begun to penetrate even within 
the walls of the wide and lofty room; for in one corner, 
amidst a confused heap of carved marble fragments and 
rusty armor, tufts of long grass and dark feathery fennel 
had made their way, and a large stone vase, tilted on one 
side, seemed to be pouring out the ivy that streamed around. 
All about the walls hung pen and oil sketches of fantastic 
sea-monsters; dances of satyrs and maenads; Saint Mar- 
garet's resurrection out of the devouring dragon; Madon- 
nas with the supernal light upon them; studies of plants 
and grotesque heads; and on iiTcgular rough shelves a few 
books were scattered among great drooping bunches of corn, 
bullocks' horns, pieces of dried honeycomb, stones with 
patches of rare-colored lichen, skulls and bones, peacocks' 
feathers, and large birds' wings. Rising from amongst 
the dirty litter of the floor were lay figures: one in the 
frock of a Vallombrosan monk, strangely surmounted by a 
helmet with barred visor, another smothered with brocade 
and skins hastily tossed over it. Amongst this hetero- 
geneous still life, several speckled and white pigeons were 
perched or strutting, too tame to fly at the entrance of 
men; three corpulent toads were crawling in an intimate 
friendly way near the door-stone; and a white rabbit, 
apparently the model for that which was frightening Cupid 
in the picture of Mars and Venus placed on the central 
easel, was twitching its nose with much content on a box 
full of bran. 

*'And now, Messer Greco," said Piero, making a sign to 
Tito that he might sit down on a low stool near the door, 
and then standing over him with folded arms, "don't be 
trying to see everything at once, like Messer Domeneddio, 
but let me know how large you would have this same 
triptych." 

Tito indicated the required dimensions, and Piero 
marked them on a piece of paper. 

*^And now for the book," said Piero, reaching down a 
manuscript volume. 

" There's nothing about the Ariadne there," said Tito, 
giving him the passage; "but you will remember I want 
the crowned Ariadne by the side of the young Bacchus: 
she must have golden hair." 



I 



THE PORTRAIT. 181 



Ila!'^ said Piero, abruptly, pushing up his lips again. 
'^And you want them to be likenesses, eh?" he added, 
looking down into Tito's face. 

Tito laughed and blushed. ^' I know you are great at 
portraits, Messer Piero; but I could not ask Ariadne to sit ^ 
for you, because the painting is a secret." / *^C^ 

^^ There it is! I want her to sit to me. Giovanni Ves-( -£1 S: 
pucci wants me to paint him a picture of (Edipus and \ Zf 
Antigone at Oolonos, as he has expounded it to me: I have 
a fancy for the subject, and I want Bardo and his daughter 
to sit for it. Now, you ask them; and then I'll put the 
likeness into Ariadne." 

* ^Agreed, if I can prevail with them. And your price 
for the Bacchus and Ariadne?" 

^'Baie! If you get them to let me paint them, that will 
pay me. I'd rather not have your money: you may pay 
for the case." 

*^And when shall I sit for yon?" said Tito; ^'for if we 
have one likeness, we must have two." 

'^I don't want your likenes«; I've got it already," said 
Piero, ^' only I've made you look frightened. I must take 
the fright out of it for Bacchus." 

As he was speaking, Piero laid down the book and went 
to look among some paintings, propped with their faces 
against the wall. He returned with an oil-sketch in his 
hand. 

'' I call this as good a bit of portrait as I ever did," he 
said, looking at it as he advanced. '' Your's is a face 
that expresses fear well, because it's naturally a bright 
one. I noticed it the first time I saw you. The rest of 
the picture is hardly sketched; but I've painted you in 
thoroughly." 

Piero turned the sketch and held it toward Tito's eyes. 
He saw himself with his right hand uplifted, holding a 
wine-cup, in the attitude of triumphant joy, but with his 
face turned away from the cup with an expression of such 
intense fear in the dilated eyes and pallid lips, that he felt 
a cold stream through his veins, as if he were being thrown 
into sympathy with his imaged self. 

"You are beginning to look like it already," said Piero, 
with a short laugh, moving the picture away again. ''He's 
seeing a ghost — that fine young man. I shall finish it 
some day, when I've settled what sort of ghost is the most 
terrible — whether it should look solid, like a dead man 
come to life, or half t;^ransparent, like a mist." 



182 BOMOLA. 



Tito rather ashamed of himself for a sudden sensitive- 
ness strangely opposed to his usual easy self-command, said 
carelessly — 

"That is a subject after your own heart, Messer Piero 
— a revel interrupted by a ghost. You seem to love the 
blending of the terrible with the gay. I suppose that is 
the reason your shelves are so well furnished with death's- 
heads, while you are painting those roguish Loves who are 
running away with the armor of Mars. I begin to think 
you are a Cynic philosopher in the pleasant disguise of a 
cunning painter." 

"Not I, Messer Greco; a philosopher is the last sort of 
animal I should choose to resemble. Ljind it enough^to 
live, idthout _spii]^ning lies to accou nt foFTife'^ Fowls 
cackle, asses bray, women chatter, and" philosophers spin 
false reasons — that's the effect the sight of the world brings 
out of them. Well, I am an animal that paints instead of 
cackling, or braying, or spinning lies. And now, I think, 
our business is "^done; you'll keep to your side of the bar- 
gain about the CEdipus and Antigone"? " 

"I will do my best," said Tito — on this strong hint, 
immediately moving toward the door. 

" And you'll let me know at Nello's. No need to come 
here again." 

"I understand," said Tito, laughingly, lifting his hand 
in sign of friendly parting. 



I 



CHAPTER XIX, 

THE OLD man's HOPE. 



Messer Bern'ardo del Nero was as inexorable as 
Romola had expected in his advice that the marriage 
should be deferred till Easter, and in this matter Bardo 
was entirely under the ascendancy of his sagacious and 
practical friend. Nevertheless, Bernardo himself, though 
he was as far as ever from any susceptibility to the 
personal fascination in Tito which was felt by others, 
could not altogether resist that argument of success which 
is always powerful with men of the world. Tito was 
mnking his way rapidly in high quarters. He was 
especially growing in favor with the young Cardinal 



I THE OLD man's HOPE. 183 

vauni de' Medic i, wlio had even spoken of Tito's 
ning part ot ms le arned retinue on an approaching ^ 
-p«rns£js.jiQine7and'the brlgETyoung GTreek wEThad ^ 
a'^ongue that " was always ready without ever being ^,(5^ 
quarrelsome, was more and more wished for at gay J" 
suppers in the Via Larga, and at Florentine games inC\o-^s> 
which he had no pretension to excel, and could admire the 
incomparable skill of Piero de' Medici in the most graceful 
manner in the world. By an unfailing sequence, Tito's 
reputation as an agreeable companion in *' magnificent '' 
society made his learning and talent appear more lustrous: 
and he was really accomplished enough to prevent an exag- 
gerated estimate from being hazardous to him. ^ Messer 
Bernardo had old prejudices and attachments which now 
besan to argue down the newer and feebler prejudice 
against the young Greek stranger who was rather too sup- 
ple. To the old Florentine it was impossible to despise 
the recommendation of standing well with the best Floren- 
tine families, and since Tito began to be thoroughly 
received into that circle whose views were the unquestioned 
standard of social value, it seemed irrational not to admit 
that there was no longer any check to satisfaction in the 
prospect of such a son-in-law for Bardo, and such a husband 
for Komola. It was undeniable that Tito's coming had 
been the dawn of a new life for both father and daughter, 
and the first promise had even been surpassed. The blind 
old scholar— whose proud truthfulness would never enter 
into that commerce of feigned and preposterous admira- 
tion which, varied by a corresponding measurelessness in 
vituperation, made the woof of all learned intercourse- 
had fallen into neglect even among his fellow-citizens, and 
when he was alluded to at all, it had long been usual to say 
that, though his blindness and the loss of his son were 
pitiable misfortunes, he was tiresome in contending for the 
value of his own labors; and that his discontent was a 
little inconsistent in a man who had been openly regardless 
of religious rites, and who in days past had refused offers 
made to him from various quarters, on the slight condition 
that he would take orders, without which it was not ea^ 
for patrons to provide for every scholar. But since Tito's 
coming, there was no longer the same monotony in the 
thought that Bardo's name suggested; the old man, it was 
understood, had left off his plaints, and the fair daughter 
was no longer to be shut up in dowerless pride, waiting for 
Kparentado. The winning manners and growing favor of 



184 ROMOLA. 

the handsome Greek who was expected to enter into the 
double relation of son and husband helped to make the 
new interest a thoroughly friendly one, and it was no 
longer a rare occurrence when a visitor enlivened the quiet 
library. Elderly men came from that indefinite prompting 
to renew former intercourse which arises when an old 
acquaintance begins to be newly talked about; and young 
men whom Tito had asked leave to bring once, found it 
easy to go again when they overtook him on his way to 
the Via de Bardi, and resting their hands on his shoulder, 
fell into easy chat with him. For it was pleasant to look 
at Romola's beauty; to see her, like old Firenzuola's type 
of womanly majesty, '^sitting with a certain grandeur, 
speaking with gravity, smiling with modesty, and casting 
around, as it were, an odor of queenliness;"* and she 
seemed to unfold like a strong white lily under this genial 
breath of admiration and homage; it was all one to her 
with her new bright life in Tito^s love. 

Tito had even been the means of strengthening the hope 
in Bardo's mind that he might before his death receive the 
longed-for security concerning his library: that it should 
not be merged in another collection; that it should not be 
transferred to a body of monks, and be called by the name 
of a monastery; but that it should remain forever the 
Bardi Library, for the use of Florentines. For the old 
habit of trusting in the Medici could not die out while 
their influence was still the strongest lever in the State; 
and Tito, once possessing the car of the Cardinal Giovanni 
de' Medici, might do more even than Messer Bernardo 
toward winning the desired interest, for he could demon- 
strate to a learned audience the peculiar value of Bardies 
collection. Tito himself talked sanguinely of such a 
result, willing to cheer the old man, and conscious that 
Romola repaid those gentle words to her father with a sort 
of adoration that no direct tribute to herself could have 
won from her. 

This question of the library was the subject of more 
than one discussion with Bernardo del Nero when Christ- 
mas was turned and the prospect of the marriage was 
becoming near — but always out of Bardo's hearing. For 
Bardo nursed a vague belief, which they dared not disturb, 
that his property, apart from the library, was adequate to 

* "Quando una donna ^[grande, ben formata, porta ben sua persona, 
siede con una certa grandezza^parla con gravitd, ride con modestia, e flnal- 
niente getta ounsi un odor di Regina; allora noi diciano quella donna pare 
una maesta, ella ha una maesta."— FiUEJizuoiiA: D(Ala Bdlczza dcUe Daniie. 



I 



THE OLD MAi^'S HOPE. 185 



meet all demands. He would not even, except under a 
momentary pressure of angry despondency, admit to him- 
self that the will by which he had disinherited Dino would 
leave Romola the heir of nothing but debts; or that he 
needed anything from patronage beyond the security that 
a separate locality should be assigned to his library, in 
return for a deed of gift by which he made it over to the 
Florentine Republic. 

^' My opinion is,^^ said Bernardo to Romola, in a consul- 
tation they had under the loggia, "that since you are to 
be married, and Messer Tito will have a competent income, 
we should begin to wind up the affairs, and ascertain 
exactly the sum that would be necessary to save the library 
from being touched, instead of letting the debts accumu- 
late any longer. Your father needs nothing but his shred 
of mutton and his macaroni every day, and I think Messer 
Tito may engage to supply that for the years that remain; 
he can let it be in pla9e of the morgen-cap." 

" Tito has always known that my life is bound up with 
my faiher's,^^ said Romola; "and he is better to my father 
than I am: he delights in making him happy. ^^ 

"Ah, he's not made of the same clay as other men, is 
he? '^ said Bernardo, smiling. "Thy father has thought 
of shutting woman's folly out of thee by cramming thee 
with Greek and Latin; but thou hast been as ready to 
believe in the first pair of bright eyes and the first soft 
words that have come within reach of thee, as if thou 
couldst say nothing by heart but Paternosters, like other 
Christian men's daughters.'^ 

"Now, Godfather," said Romola, shaking her head 
playfully, "as if it were only bright eyes and soft words 
that made me love Tito! You know better. You know I 
love my father and you because you are both good, and 
I love Tito too because he is so good. I see it, I feel it, 
in everything he says and does. And if he is handsome, 
too, why should I not love him the better for that? It 
seems to mj^jjg^aity-is ^lail . of .the. finished language . by 
which goodnesss^e^iks. You know you must have been 
a very 'Raii'd^ome youth, godfather" — she looked up with 
one of her happy, loving smiles at the stately old man — 
"you were about as tall as Tito, and you had very fine 
eyes; only you looked a little sterner and prouder, 
and " 

"And Romola likes to have all the pride to herself?" 
said Beruanio; not inaccessible to this pretty coaxing. 



186 ROMOLA. 

*' However, it is well that in one way Tito's demands are 
more modest than those of any Florentine husband of 
fitting rank that we should have been likely to find for 
you; he wants no dowry." 

So it was settled in that way between Messer Bernardo 
del Nero, Eomola, and Tito. Bardo assented with a wave 
of the hand when Bernardo told him that he thought it 
would be well now to begin to sell property and clear off 
debts; being accustomed to think of debts and property 
as a sort of thick wood that his imagination never even 
penetrated, still less got beyond. And Tito set about 
winning Messer Bernardo's respect by inquiring, with his 
ready faculty, into Florentine money-matters, the secrets 
of the Monti or public funds, the values of real property, 
and the profits of banking. 

'^You will soon forget that Tito is not a Florentine, 
godfather, '' said Romola. '*See how he is learning every- 
thing about Florence." 

*^It seems to me he is one of the demoni, who are of no 
particular country, child," said Bernardo, smiling. ''His 
mind is a little too nimble to be weighted with all the 
stuff we men carry about in our hearts." 

Komola smiled too in happy confidence. 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE DAY OF THE BETKOTHA.L. 

It was the last week of the Carnival, and the streets of 
Florence were at their fullest and noisiest: there were the 
masked processions, chanting songs, indispensible now they 
had once been introduced by Lorenzo the Magnificent; there 
was the favorite rigoletto, or round dance, footed ''in 
piazza" under the blue frosty sky; there were practical 
jokes of all sorts, from throwing comfits to throwing 
stones — especially stones. For the boys and striplings, 
always a strong element in Florentine crowds, became at 
tlie height of Carnival time as loud and unmanageable as 
tree-crickets, and it was their immemorial privilege to bar 
the way with poles to all passengers, until a tribute had 
been paid toward furnishiug those lovers of strong sensa- 
tions with suppers and bonfires: to conclude with the 



THE DAY OF THE BETROTHAL. 187 

standing entertainment of stone-throwing, which was not 
entirely monotonous, sinc^ the consequent maiming was 
various, and it was not always a single person who was killed. 
So that the pleasures of the Carnival were of a checkered 
kind, and if a painter were called upon to represent them 
truly, he would have to make a picture in which there 
would be so much grossness and barbarity that it must be 
turned with its face to the wall, except when it was taken 
down for the grave historical purpose of justifying a 
reforming zeal which, in ignorance of the facts, might be 
unfairly condemned for its narrowness. Still there was 
much of that more innocent picturesque merriment which 
is never wanting among a people with quick animal spirits 
and sensitive organs: there was not the heavy sottishness 
which belongs to the thicker northern blood, nor the steal- 
thy fierceness which, in the more southern regions of the 
peninsula^ makes the brawl lead to the dagger-thrust. 

It was the high morning, but the merry spirits of the 
Carnival were still inclined to lounge and recapitulate the 
last night^s jests, when Tito Melema was walking at a brisk 
pace on the way to the Via de Bardi. Young Bernardo 
Doviz, who now looks at us out of Raphael's portrait as '^'*^' 
the keen-eyed Cardinal da Bibbiena, was with him; and, U'^i^ 
as they went, they held animated talk about some subject o'Q- 
that had evidently no relation to the sights and sounds<!o'vOC4 
through which they were pushing their way along the Por .. p^ 
Santa Maria. Nevertheless, as tliey discussed, smiled, and f 
gesticulated, they both, from time to time, cast quick 
glances around them, and at the turning toward the Lung 
Arno, leading to the Ponte Rubaconte, Tito had become 
aware, in one of these rapid surveys, that there was some 
one not far oif him by whom he very much desired not to be 
recognized at that moment. His time and thoughts were 
thoroughly preoccupied, for he was looking forward to a 
unique occasion in his life: he was preparing for his 
betrothal, which was to take place on the evening of this 
very day. The ceremony had been resolved upon rather 
suddenly; for although preparations toward the marriage 
had been going forward for some time — chiefly in the 
application of Titers florins to the fitting up of rooms in 
Bardo^s dwelling, which, the library excepted, had always 
been scantily furnished — it had been intended to defer 
both the betrothal and the marriage until after Easter, 
when Tito's j^ear of probation, insisted on by Bernardo del 
iS'^ero, would have been complete. But when an express 



188 EOMOLA. 

proposition had come;, that Tito should follow the Car- 
dinal Giovanni to Eome to help Bernardo Dovizi with his 
superior knowledge of Greek in arranging a library, and 
there was no possibility of declining what lay so plainly on 
the road to advancement, he had become urgent in his 
entreaties that the betrothal might take place before his 
departure: there would be the less delay before the mar- 
riage on his return, and it would be less painful to part if 
he and Eomola were outwardly as well as inwardly pledged 
to each other — if he had a claim which defied Messer Ber- 
nardo or any one else to nullify it. For the betrothal, at 
which rings were exchanged and mutual contracts were 
signed, made more than half the legality of the marriage, 
to be completed on a separate occasion by the nuptial bene- 
diction. Romola^s feelings had met Titers in this wish, 
and the consent of the elders had been won. 

And now Tito was hastening, amidst arrangements for 
his departure the next day, to snatch a morning visit to 
Romola, to say and hear any last words that are needful to 
be said before their meeting for the betrothal in the even- 
ing. It was not a time when any recognition could be 
pleasant that was at all likely to detain him; still less a 
recognition by Tessa. And it was unmistakably Tessa 
whom he had caught sight of, moving along with a timid 
and forlorn look, toward that very turn of the Lung 
Arno which he was just rounding. As he continued his 
talk with the young Dovizi, he had an uncomfortable 
undercurrent of consciousness which told him that Tessa 
had seen him and would certainly follow him: there was 
no escaping her along this direct road by the Arno, and 
over the Pontc Rubaconte. But she would not dare to 
speak to him or approach him while he was not alone, and 
he would continue to keep Dovizi with him till they reached 
Bardo's door. He quickened his pace, and took up new 
threads of talk, but all the while the sense that Tessa was 
behind him, though he had no physical evidencp of the 
fact, grew stronger and stronger; it was very irritating — . 
perhaps all the more so because a certain tenderness and 
pity for the poor little thing made the determination to 
escape without any visible notice of her, a not altogether 
agreeable resource. Yet Tito persevered and carried his 
companion to the door, cleverly managing his '^addio" 
without turning his face in the direction where it was pos- 
sible for him to see an importunate pair of blue eyes; and 
as he went up the stone steps, he tried to get rid of 



THE DAY OF THE BETROTHAL. 189 

unpleasant thoughts by saying to himself that after all 
Tessa might not have seen him, or, if she had, might not 
haye followed him. 

But — perhaps because that possibility could not be relied 
on strongly — when the visit was over, he came out of the 
doorway with a quick step and an air of unconsciousness 
as to anything that might be on his right hand or his left. 
Our eyes are so constructed, however, that they take in a 
wide angle without asking any leave of our will; and Tito 
knew that there was a little figure in a white hood standing 
near the doorway — knew it quite well, before he felt a 
hand laid on his arm. It was a real grasp, and not a light, 
timid touch; for poor Tessa, seeing his rapid step, had 
started forward with a desperate effort. But when he 
stopped and turned toward her, her face wore a frightened 
look, as if she dreaded the effect of her boldness. 

*' Tessa!" said Tito, with more sharpness in his voice 
than she had ever heard in it before. " Why are you here? 
You must not follow me — you must not stand about door- 
places waiting for me." 

Her blue eyes widened with tears, and she said nothing. 
Tito was afraid of something worse than ridicule, if he 
were seen in the Via de Bardi with a girlish contadina 
looking pathetically at him. It was a street of high, 
silent-looking dwellings, not of traffic; but Bernardo del 
Nero, or some one almost as dangerous, might come up at any 
moment. Even if it had not been the day of his betrothal, 
the incident would have been awkward and annoying. Yet 
it would be brutal — it was impossible to drive Tessa away 
with harsh w^ords. That accursed folly of his with the 
cerretcmo — that it should have lain buried in a quiet way 
for months, and now start up before him as this unseason- 
able crop of vexation! He could not speak harshly, but he 
spoke hurriedly. 

"Tessa, I cannot — must not talk to you here. I will 
go on to the bridge and wait for you there. Follow me 
slowly." 

He turned and walked fast to the Ponte Rubaconte, and 
there leaned against the wall of one of the quaint little 
houses that rise at even distances on the bridge, looking 
toward the way by which Tessa would come. It would 
have softened a much harder heart than Tito's to see the 
little thing advancing with her round face much paled and 
saddened since he had parted from it at the door of the 
"Nunziata." Happily it was the least frequented of the 



100 EOMOLA. 

bridges, and there were scarcely any passengers on it at 
this moment. He lost no time in speaking as soon as she 
came near him. 

'^Now, Tessa, I have very little time. You must not 
cry. Why did you follow me this morning? You must 
not do so again." 

"I thought," said Tessa, speaking in a whisper, and 
struggling against a sob that would rise immediately at 
this new voice of Tito's — I thought you wouldn't be so 
long before you came to take care of me again. And the 
pat rig no beats me, and I can't bear it any longer. And 
always when I come for a holiday I walk about to find you, 
and I can't. Oh, please don't send me away from you 
again ! It has been so long, and I cry so now, because you 
never come to me. I can't help it, for the days are so 
long, and I don't mind about the goats and kids, or any- 
thing — and I can't " 

The sobs came fast now, and the great tears. Tito felt 
that he could not do otherwise than comfort her. Send 
her away — yes; that he nuist do, at once. But it was all 
the more impossible to tell her anything that would leave 
her in a state of hopeless grief. He saw new trouble in 
the background, but the difficulty of the moment was too 
pressing for him to weigh distant consequences. 

" Tessa, my little one," he said, in his old caressing 
tones, " you must not cry. Bear with the cross patrigno a 
little longer. I will come back to you. But I'm going 
now to liome — a long, long way off. I shall come back in 
a few weeks, and then I promise you to come and see you. 
Promise me to be good and wait for me." 

It was the well-remembered voice again, and the mere 
sound was half enough to soothe Tessa. She looked up at 
him with trusting eyes, tnat still glittered with tears, sob- 
bing all the while, in spite of her utmost efforts to obey 
him. Again he said in a gentle voice — 

'' Promise me, my Tessa." 

''Yes," she whispered. " But you won't be long?" 

''No, not long. But I must go now. And remember 
what I told you, Tessa. Nobody must know that you 
ever see me, else you will lose me forever. And now, 
when I have left you, go straight home, and never follow 
me again. Wait till I come to you. Good-bye, my little 
Tessa: I ivill come." 

There was no help for it; he must turn and leave her 
without looking behind him to see how she bore it, for 



he had 



THE DAY OF THE BETROTHAL. 191 



.iHTad no time to spare. When he did look around he 
was in the Via de Benci, where there was no seeing wdiat 
was happening on the bridge; but Tessa w^as too trusting 
and obedient not to do just what he had told her. 

Yes, the difficulty Avas at an end for that day; yet this 
return of Tessa to him, at a moment when it was impossi- 
ble for him to put an end to all difficulty with her by 
undeceiving her, was an unpleasant incident to carry in 
his memory. But Tito's mind was just now thoroughly 
penetrated with a hopeful first love, associated with all 
happy prospects flattering to his ambition; and that future 
necessity of grieving Tessa could be scarcely more to him 
than the far-off cry of some little suffering animal buried 
in the thicket, to a merry cavalcade in the sunny plain. 
When, for the second time that day, Tito was hastening 
across the J^onte Rubaconte, the thought of Tessa caused 
no perceptible diminution of his happiness. He was well 
muffled in his mantle, less, perhaps to protect him from 
the cold than from the additional notice that would have 
been drawn upon him by his dainty apparel. He leaped 
up the stone steps by two at a time, and said hurriedly to 
Maso, who met him — 

'^ Where is the damigella?^^ 

'•^In the library; she is quite ready, and Monna Brigada 
and Messer Bernardo are already there with Ser Braccio, 
but none of the rest of the company." 

*'Ask her to give me a few minutes alone; I will await 
her in the salotto." 

Tito entered a room which had been fitted up in the 
utmost contrast with the half-pallid, half-sombre tints 
of the library. The walls were brightly frescoed with 
*^ caprices'' of nymphs and loves sporting under the blue 
among flowers and birds. The only furniture besides the 
red leather seats and the central table were two tall white 
vases, and a young faun playing the flute, modelled by a 
j)romising youth named Michela ngelo Biiona rotti. It was 
a room that gave a sense''on3emg in the sunny open air. 

Tito kept his mantle round him, and looked toward the 
door. It was not long before Eomola entered, all white 
in gold, more than ever like a tall lily. Her white silk 
garment was bound by a golden girdle, which fell with 
large tassels; and above that was the rippling gold of her 
hair, surmounted by the white mist of her long veil, which 
was fastened on her brow by a band of pearls, the gift of 



192 ROMOLA. 

Bernardo del Nero, and was now parted off her face so 
that it all floated backward. 

''Regina mial" said Tito, as he took her hand and 
kissed it, still keeping his mantle round him. He could 
not help going backward to look at her again, while she 
stood in calm delight, with that exquisite self -conscious- 
ness which rises under the gaze of admiring love. 

''Romola, will you show me the next room now?^' said 
Tito, checking himself with the remembrance that the 
time might be short. '^ You said I should see it when you 
had arranged everything." 

Without speaking, she led the w^ay into a long narrow 
room, painted brightly like the other, but only with birds 
and flowers. The furniture in it was all old; there w^ere 
old faded objects for feminine use or ornament, arranged 
in an open cabinet between the two narrow windows; 
above the cabinet was the portrait of Romola's mother; 
and below this, on the top of the cabinet, stood the cruciflx 
which Romola had brought from San Marco. 

'^I have brought something under my mantle," said 
Tito, smiling; and throwing off the large loose garment, 
he showed the little tabernacle which had been painted by 
Piero di Cosimo. The painter had carried out Tito's 
intention charmingly, and so far had atoned for his long 
delay. "Do you know what this is for, my Romola?" 
added Tito, taking her by the hand, and leading her 
toward the cabinet. "It is a little shrine, which is to 
hide away from you forever that remembrancer of sad- 
ness. You have done with sadness now; and we will bury 
all images of it — bury tliem in a tomb of joy. See!" 

A slight quiver passed across Romola's face as Tito took 
hold of the crucifix. But she had no wish to prevent his 
purpose; on the contrary, she herself wished to subdue 
certain importunate memories and questionings which 
still flitted like unexplained shadows across her happier 
thought. 

He opened the triptych and placed the crucifix within 
the central space; then closing it again, taking out the 
key, and" setting the little tabernacle in the spot where the 
crucifix had stood, said — 

"Now, Romola, look and see if you are satisfied with 
the portraits old Piero has made of us. Is it not a dainty 
device? and the credit of choosing it is mine." 

"Ah! it is you — it is perfect!" said Romola, looking 
with moist joyful eyes at the miniature Bacchus, wz'^ his 



THE DAY OF THE BETROTHAL. 193 

purple clusters. "And I am Ariadne, and you are crown- 
ing me! Yes. it is true, Tito; you have crowned my poor 
life." 

They held each other^s hands while she spoke, and both 
looked at their imaged selves. But the reality was far 
more beautiful; she all lily-white and golden, and he with 
his dark glowing beauty above the purple red-bordered 
tunic. 

''And it was our good strange Piero who painted it?^^ 
said Romola. ''Did you put it into his head to paint me 
as Antigone, that he might have my likeness for this?'' 

"No, it was he who made my getting leave for him to 
paint you and your father, a condition of his doing this 
for me." 

"Ah! I see now what it was you gave up your precious 
ring for. I perceived you had some cunning plan to give 
me pleasure." 

Tito did not blench. Eomola's little illusions about 
himself had long ceased to cause him anything but satis- 
faction. He only smiled and said — 

"I might have spared my ring; Piero will accept no 
money from me; he thinks himself paid by painting you. 
And now, while 1 am away,^ou will look every day at 
those pretty symbols of our life together — the ship on the 
calm sea, and the ivy that never withers, and those Loves 
that liave left off wounding us and shower soft petals that 
are like our kisses; and the leopards and tigers, they are 
the troubles of your life that are all quelled now; and the 
strange sea-monsters, with their merry eyes — let us see — 
they are the dull passages in the heavy books, which have 
begun to be amusing since we have sat by each other."). 

"Tito mio!" said Romola, in a half-laughing voice of 
love; "but you will give me the key?" she added, holding 
out her hand for it. 

"Not at all!" said Tito, with playful decision, opening 
bis scarsella and dropping in the little key. "I shall 
drown it in the Arno." 

"But if I ever wanted to look at the crucifix again?" 

"Ah! for that very reason it is hidden — hidden by these 
images of youth and joy." 

He pressed a light kiss on her brow, and she said no 
more, ready to submit, like all strong souls, when she felt 
no valid reason for j*esistance. 

And then they joined tlie waiting company, which made 
a dignified little procession as it passed along the Ponte 
i^ 18 



194 ROMOLA. 

Riibaconte toward Santa Crdce. Slowly it passed, for 
Bardo, unaccustomed for years to leave his own house, 
walked with a more timid step than usual; and that slow 
pace suited well with the gouty dignity of Messer Barto- 
lommeo Scala, who graced the occasion by his presence, 
along with his daughter Alessandra. It was customary to 
have very long troops of kindred and friends at the 
sposalzio, or betrothal, and it had even been found neces- 
sary in time past to limit the number by law to no more 
than four hundred — two hundred on each side; for since 
the guests were all feasted after this initial ceremony, as 
well as after the nozze, or marriage, the very first stage of 
matrimony had become a ruinous expense, as that scholarly 
Benedict, Leonardo Bruno, complained in his own case. 
But Bardo, who in his poverty had kept himself prou"dly 
free from any appearance of claiming the advantages 
attached to a powerful family name, would have no invi- 
tations given on the strength of mere friendship; and the 
modest proccsssion of twenty that followed the sposi were, 
with three ot four exceptions, friends of Bardo's and Tito's 
selected on personal grounds. 

Bernardo del ]^fero walked as a vanguard before Bardo, 
who was led on the right by Tito, while Romola held her 
father's other hand. Bardo had himself been married at 
Santa Croce, and had insisted on Romola's being be- 
troTITed and' married there, rather than in the little church 
of Santa Lucia close by their house, because he had a 
complete mental vision of the grand church where he 
hoped that a burial miglit hp> £[rn_utpr] hirg among the 
Floniitiiie,-^ wlio liad deserved well.^ Happily tFe way was 
short and direct, and lay aloof from the loudest riot of 
the Carnival, if only they could return before any dances 
or shows began in the great piazza of Santa Croce. The 
west was red as they passed the bridge, and shed a mellow 
light on the pretty procession, which had a touch of 
solemnity in the presence of the blind father. But when 
the ceremony was over, and Tito and Romola came out on 
to the broad steps of the church, with the golden links of 
destiny on their fingers, the evening had deepened into 
struggling starlight, and the servants had their torches lit. 

While they came out, a strange dreary chant, as of a 
Miserere, met their ears, and they saw that at the extreme 
end of the piazza there seemed to be. a stream of people 
impelled by something approaching from the Borgo de 
Greci. 



THE DAY OF THE BETROTHAL. 195 

'^It is one of their masked processions, I suppose/' 
said Tito, who was now alone with Eomola, wliile Ber- 
nardo took charge of Bardo. 

And as he spoke there came slowly into view, at a height 
far above the heads of the on-lookers, a huge and ghastly 
image of Winged Time with his scythe and hour-glass, 
surrounded by his winged children, the Hours. He was 
mounted on a high car completely covered with black, and 
the bullocks that drew the car were also covered with 
black, their horns alone standing out white above the 
gloom; so that in the sombre shadow of the houses it 
seemed to those at a distance as if Time and his children 
were apparitions floating through the air. And behind 
them came what looked like a troop of the sheeted dead 
gliding above blackness. And as they glided slowly, they 
chanted in a wailing strain. 

A cold horror seized on Eomola, for at the first moment 
it seemed as if her brother's vision, which could never be 
effaced from her mind, was being half-fulfilled. She 
clung to Tito, who, divining what was in her thoughts, 
said — 

^^ What dismal fooling sometimes pleases your Floren- 
tines! Doubtless this is an invention of Piero di Cosimo, 
who loves such grim merriment." 

" Tito, I wish it had not happened. It will deepen the 
images of that vision which I would fain be rid of." 

''Nay, Eomola, you will look only at the images of our 
happiness now. I have locked all sadness away from you." 

''But it is still there — it is only hidden," said Eomola, 
in a low tone, hardly conscious that she spoke. r 

"See, they are all gone now!" said Tito. "You will 
forget this ghastly mummery when we are in the light, 
and can see each other's eyes. My Ariadne must never 
look backward now — only forward to Easter, when she will 
triumph with her Care-dlspeller." 



^ ;,<A^^ 






W^ 



/^ CHAPTER. XXI. HM 

FLOREIsrCE EXPECTS A GUEST. ^ 

It was the seventeenth of November 1494: more than 
eighteen months since Tito and Romohi had been finally 
united in the joyous Easter time, and had had a rainbow- 
tinted shower of comfits thrown over them, after the 
ancient Greek fashion, in token that the heavens would i 
shower sweets on them through all their double life. 

Since that Easter a great change had come over the 
prospects of Florence; and as in the tree that bears a 
myriad of blossoms, each single bud with its fruit is 
dependent on the primary circulation of the sap, so the 
fortunes of Tito and Romola were dependent on certain 
grand political and social conditions which made an epoch 
in the history of Italy. 

In this very November, little more than a week ago, the ' 
spirit of the old centuries seemed to have re-entered the 
breasts of Florentines. The great bell in the palace tower 
had rung out the hammer-sound of alarm, and the people , 
had mustered with their rusty arms, their tools and ( 
impromptu cudgels, to ijj;i^;^_5)u^ ^hft Mp^^^^' The gate i 
of San Gallo had been fairly shut on the arrogant, exas- 
perating Piero. f;allot)ing awflv tnw nird Rnlngna with his ^' 
hired horsemen frightened behind him, and shut on his 
keener young brother, the cardinal, escaping in the disguise 
of a Franciscan monk: « prif^P hf^fi v>nn|^ Rf^/^l^ l^^l^^^-tib^"' 
heads.^ After that, there had been some sackmg of houses, 
according to old precedent; the ignominious images, painted 
on the public buildings, of men who had conspired against 
the Medici in days gone by, were effaced; the exiled enemies 
of the Medici were invited home. The half -fledged tyrants 
were fairly out of their splendid nest in the Via Larga, 
and the Republic had recovered the use of its will again. 

But now, a week later, the great palace in the Via Larga -■ 
had been prepared for the reception of another tenant; 
and if drapery roofing the streets with unwonted color, if 

196 



I 



FLORENCE EXPECTS A GUEST. 197 



banners and hangings poured out of the windows, if carpets 
and tapestry stretched over all steps and pavement on 
which exceptional feet might tread, were an unquestion- 
able proof of joy, Florence was joyful in the expectation 
of its new guest. The stream of color flowed from the 
palace in the Via Larga round by the Cathedral, then by 
the great Piazza della Signoria, and across the Ponte Yec- 
chio to the Porta San Frediano — the gate that looks toward 
Pisa. There, near the gate, a platform and canopy had 
been erected for the Signoria; and Messer Luca Corsini, 
doctor of law, felt his heart palpitating a little with the 
sense that he had a Latin oration to read; and every chief 
elder in Florence had to make himself ready, with smooth 
chin and well-lined silk lucco, to walk in procession; and 
the well-born youths were looking at their rich new tunics 
after the French mode which was to impress the stranger 
as having a peculiar grace when worn by Florentines; and 

large body of the clergy, from the archbishop in his 
effulgence to the train of monks, black, white, and gray, 
were consulting betimes in the morning how they should 
marshal themselves, with their burden of relics and sacred 
banners and consecrated jewels, that their movements 
might be adjusted to the expected arrival of the illustrious 
visitor, at three o^clock in the afternoon. 

An unexampled visitor ! For he had come through the 
passes of the Alps with such an army as Italy had not seen 
before ; with thousands of terrible Swiss, well used to fight 
for love and hatred as well as for hire ; with a host of 
gallant cavaliers proud of a name ; with an unprecedented 
infantry, in which every man in an hundred carried an 
arquebus; nay, with cannon of bronze, shooting not stones 
but iron balls, drawn not by bullocks but by horses, and 
capable of firing a second time before a city could mend 
the breach made by the first ball. Some compared the 
new-comer to Charlemagne, reputed rebuilder of Florence, 
welcome conquorer of degenerate kings, regulator and 
benefactor of the Church ; some preferred the comparison 
to Cyrus, liberator of the chosen people, restorer of the 
Temple. For he had come across the Alps with the most 
glorious projects ; he was to march through Italy amidst 
the jubilees of a grateful and admiring people ; he was to 
satisfy all conflicting complaints at Rome ; he was to take 
possession, by virtue of hereditary right and a little fight- 
ing, of the kingdom of Naples ; and from that convenient 
starting-point he was to set out on the conquest of the 



198 ROMOLA. 

Turks, who were partly to be cut to pieces and partly conj 
verted to the faith of Christ. It was a scheme that seemed 
to befit the Most Christian King, head of a nation which, 
thanks to the devices of a subtile Louis the Eleventh who 
had died in much fright as to his personal prospects ten 
years before, had become the strongest of Christians mon- 
archies ; and this antitype of Cyrus and Charlemagne was. 
no other than the son of that subtle Louis — the young 
Charles the Eighth of France . 

Surely, on a general statement, hardly anything could 
seem more grandiose, or fitter to revive in the breasts of 
men the memory of great dispensations by which new 
strata had been laid in the history of mankind. And 
there was a very widely spread conviction that the advent 
of the French king and his army into Italy was one of 
those events at which marble statues might well be believed 
to perspire, phantasmal fiery warriors to fight in the air, 
and quadrupeds to bring forth monstrous births — that it 
did not belong to the usual order of Providence, but was 
in a i)eculiar sense the work of God. It was a conviction 
that rested less on the necessarily momentous character of 
a powerful foreign invasion than on certain moral emotions 
to which the aspect of the times gave the form of pre- 
sentiments: emotions which had found a very remarkable 
utterance in the voice of a single man. 

That man was Fra Girolamo Savonarola, Prior of the 
Dominican con v en'Toi San Aiarco, Ih Florence . On a Sep- 
^mber morning, when men's eai'fe were ringing with the 
news that the French army had entered Italy, he hiul 
preached in the Cathedral of Florence from the text, 
''Behold I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the 
earth. '^ He believed it was by sapreme guidance that he 
had reached just so far in his exposition of Genesis the 
previous Lent; and he believed the "flood of water" — 
emblem at once of avenging wrath and j)U2ifyiiig-mei.cy — 
to be the divinely-indicated symT5bT"oT the French army. 
His audience, some of whom were held to be among the 
choicest spirits of the age — the most cultivated men in the 
most cultivated of Italian cities — believed it too, and 
listened wich shuddering awe. FoiLi]iis_ man had a powef 
rarely paralleled of imjiressing his beliefTo n othersTand of_ 
swaying very various minds. AnT'as long as four years^ 
ago Heliad "proclaimed froni the chief pulpit of Florence 
that a scourge was about to de scend on It al v, ani l that hy 
this scourge the Church was to be purifie3.\( Savonarola 



I^_ FLORENCE EXPECTS A GUEST. 199 

W 

appeared to believe, and his hearers more or less waver- 
ingly believed, that he had a mission like that of the 
Hebrew prophets, and that the Florentines amongst whom 
his message was delivered, were in some sense a second 
chosen peopl^ The idea of prophetic gifts was not a 
remote one in that age: seers of visions, circumstantial 
heralds of things to be were far from uncommon, either 
outside or inside the cloister; but this very fact made 
Savonarola stand out the more conspicuously as a grand 
exception. While in others the gift of prophecy was very 
much like a farthing candle illuminating small corners of 
human destiny with proplietic gossip, in Savonarola it was 
like a mighty beacon shining far out for the warning and 
guidance of men. And to some of the soberest minds the 
supernatural character of his insight into the future 
gathered a strong attestation from the peculiar conditions . 
of the age. 

At the close of 1492, the year in which Lorenzo de \ 
Medici died and Tito Melema came as a wanderer to 
Florence, Italy was enjoying a peace and prosperity un- 
threatened by any near and definite danger. There was 
no fear of famine, for the seasons had been plenteous in 
corn, and wine, and oil; new palaces had been rising in 
all fair cities, new villas on pleasant slopes and summits; 
and the men who had more than their share of these good I 
things were in no fear of the large number who had less, f 
For the citizens' armor was getting rusty, and populations 
seemed to have become tame, licking the hands of masters 
who paid for a ready-made army when they wanted it, as 
they paid for goods at Smyrna. Even the fear of the 
Turk had ceased to be active, and the Pope found it more 
immediately profitable to accept bribes from him for a j 
little prospective poisoning than to form plans either for 
conquering or for converting him. \ 

Altogether this world, with its partitioned empire and 
its roomy universal Church, seemed to be a handsome 
establishment for the few who were lucky or wise enough 
to reap the advantages of ku4«an folly : a world in which 
lust and obscenity, lying and treachery, oppression and 
murder, were pleasant, useful, and, when properly man- 
aged, not dangerous. And_asji sort of fringe or adorn- 1/ 
ment to th e su bstantial delights of tyranny^~avarice^3^i/ 
lasciviousness, tliere^wamie palti^onage of polTFe learning*' 
and tbp ^^Tn"TTrts; so'thai^a^tTV could always be.. bar] liLffie 
"cEoTcest Xjaim -" ^^ commanded at that time, and sublime 



(^^^V(^^\Vfi \v' 



MNA/. 



200 ROMOLA. 

artists were at hand to paint the holy and the iirujlean with 
impartiarEMll. The Church, it was said, had never been 
so disgraced in its head, liad never shown so few signs of 
renovating, vital belief in its lower members; nevertheless 
it was much more prosperous than in some past da3'S. The 
heavens were fair and smiling above; and below there were 
no signs of earthquake. 

Yet at that time, as we have seen, there was a man in 
Florence who for two years and more had been preaching 
that a scourge was at hand ; that the world was certainly 
I ii'ot framed tor the lasting convenience of hypocrites, liber- 
tines, and oppressors. From the midst of those smiling 
heavens he had seen a sword hanging — the sword of God's 
justice — which wa s speedily to descend with purifying 
paaishm ent oii the Church and the w6Y[(\. In brilliant 
Ferrara, seventeen years betore, iKe^^contraOiction between 
men's Jxi£sand their professed beli efs' had^pressed upon 
him w Ttk a ^orce t hat had been e nough to (lestrdy ^Tfay 
appetite for the world, aiul at tlie'age ot twenty ^jjjififiJiaS. 
driven him into the cloisu r. He believed that God had 
committed to the Church the sacred lamj) of truth for the 
guidance and salvation of men, and he saw that the 
I Church, in its comi ptionj^ had become a sepulchre to hide 
the lamp. As the^years went on scandals increased and . 
multiplied, and liypocrisy seemed to have given place to 
impudence. Had the world, then, ceased to liave a right- 
eous Ruler? Was the Church finally forsaken? l^o, 
assuredly: in the Sacred Book there was a record of the 
past in which migh't be seen as in a glass what would be in 
the days to come, and the book showed that when the 
wickedness of tlie chosen people, type of the Christian 
Church, had become crying, the judgments of God had 
descended on them. Nay, reason itself declared that ven- 
geance was imni'nent, for what else would suffice to turn 
men from thei ...^stinacy in evil? And unless the Church 
were reclaimed)* now could the promises be fulfilled, that 
the heathens should be converted and the whole world 
become subject to the one true law? He had seen hi:5 
belief re:Gl££ted i n vi sions — a mode of seeing which had 
been frequenWith him from his youth up. 

But the real force of demonstration for Girolamo Savon- 
arola lay in his own burning indignation at tl ie _sight of 
w rong; Jjl_1u s feryeiTt belief in an~Unsee^Justice thaL 
wojijid Qmt an^n3' to the wrong, and in an Unseen Furijry 
to which lying and uncleanness were an abomination, 'i'o 



FLOEEJS'CE EXPECTS A GUEST. 201 

f 

his ardent, power-loving soul, believing in great ends, and 
longing to achieve those ends by the exertion of its own 
strong will, the faith in a supreme and righteous Ruler * 
became one with the faith in a speedy divine interposition! 
that would punish and reclaim. 

Meanwhile, under that splendid masquerade of digni- 
ties sacred and secular which seemed to make the life of 
lucky Churchmen and princely families so luxurious and 
amusing, there were certain conditions at work which slowly 
tended to disturb the general festivity. Ludoy ico Sforza — 
copious in gallantry, splendid patron of an incomparable 
Leon?irflo (In, Virx^i — holding the ducal crown of Milan in 
ETs~grasp, and wanting to put it on his own head rather 
than let it rest on that of a feeble nephew who would take 
very little to poison him, was much afraid of the Spanish- 
born old King Ferdinand and the Crown Prince Alfonso 
of Naples, who, not liking cruelty and treachery which 
were useless to themselves, objected to the poisoning of a 
near relative for the advantage of a Lombard usurper; the 
royalties of Naples again were afraid of their suzerain. 
Pope Alexander Borgia; all three were anxiously watching 
Florence, lest with its midway territory it should deter- 
mine the game by underhand backing; and all four, with 
every small state in Italy, were afraid of Venice — Venice 
the cautious, the stable, and the strong, that wanted to 
stretch its arms not only along both sides of the Adriatic 
but across to the ports of the western coast. 

Lorenzo de Medici, it was thought, did much to prevent 
the fatal outbreak of such jealousies, keeping up the old 
Florentine alliance with Naples and the Pope, and yet per- 
suading Milan that the alliance was for the general advan- 
tage. But young Piero de Medici's rash vanity had quickly 
nullified the effect of his father's wary policy, and Ludoyico, 
SfoTza^-JXLased^tg^iispicinn of^.a4oag-tve agaiii&t.iiim,"f£ought 
■ ofjjiiLOi£_55diich would checkmate his,adversaries: he deter- 
mined to invite the French king to march into Italy^ and, 
as heir of the house of Anjou, take possession, of Naples. 
Ambassadors — ^''orators," as they were called in those har- 
anguing times — went and came; a recusant cardinal, deter- 
mined not to acknowledge a Pope elected by bribery (and 
his own particular enemy), went and came also, and sec- 
onded the invitation with hot rhetoric; and the young 
king seemed to lend a willing ear. So that in 1493 the 
rumor spread and became louder and louder that King 
Charles VIIX. of France was about to cross the Alps with a 



202 ROMOLA. 

mighty army; andlthe Italian populations, accustomed, 
since Italy had ceased to be the heart of the Roman empire, 
to look for an arbitrator from alar, began vaguely to 
regard his coming as a means of avengiiig their wrongs 
and redressing their grievance s. ^ 

And in that rumor SavonaroTTTnad heard the assurance 
that his prophecy was being verified. What was it that 
filled the ears of the prophets of old but the distant tread 
of foreign armies, coming to do the work of justice? He 
no longer looked vaguely to the horizon for the coming 
storm: he pointed to the rising cloud. The French army 
was that new deluge which was to purify the earth from 
iniquity; the French king, Charles VIII., was the instru- 
ment elected by God, as Cyrus had been of old, and all 
men who desired good rather than evil were to rejoice in 
his coming. For the scourge would fall destructively on 
the impenitent alone. Let any city of Italy, let Florence 
above all — Florence beloved of God, since to its ear the 
warning voice had been specially sent — repent and turn 
from its ways, like Kineveh of old, and the storm-cloud 
would roll over it and leave only refreshing raindrops. 

Fra Girolamo's word was powerful; yet now that the 
new Cyrus had already been three months in Italy, and 
was not far from the gates of Florence, his presence was 
exjiected there with mixed feelings, in which fear and dis- 
trust certainly predominated. At present it was not 
understood that he had redressed any grievances; and the 
Florentines clearly had nothing to thank him for. He 
held their strong frontier fortresses, which Piero de Med- 
ici had given up to him without securing any honorable 
terms in return; he had done nothing to quell the alarm- 
ing revolt at Pisa, which had been encouraged by his 
presence to throw o£E the Florentine yoke; and *' orators," 
even with a prophet at their head, could win no assurance 
from him, except that he would settle everything when he 
was once within the walls of Florence. Still, there was 
the satisfaction of knowing that the exasperating Piero de 
Medici had been fairly pelted out for the ignominious sur- 
render of the fortresses, and in that act of energy the 
spirit of the Eepublic had recovered some of its old fire. 

The preparations for the equivocal guest were not 
entirely those of a city resigned to submission. Behind 
the bright drapery and banners symbolical of joy, there 
were preparations of another sort made with common 
accord by government and people. Well hidden within 



THE PEISONERS. 203 

walls' there were hired soldiers of the Eepublic, hastily 
called in from the surrounding districts; there were old 
arms duly furbished, and sharp tools and heavy cudgels 
laid carefully at hand, to be snatched up on short notice; 
there were excellent boards and stakes to form barricades 
upon occasion, and a good supply of stones to make a sur- 
prising hail from the upper windows. Above all, there were 
people very strongly in the humor for fighting any person- 
age who might be supposed to have designs of hectoring 
over tliem, they having lately tasted that new pleasure 
with much relish. This humor was not diminished by the 
sight of occasional parties of Frenchmen, coming before- 
hand to choose their quarters, with a hawk, perhaps, on 
their left wrist, and, metaphorically speaking, a piece of 
chalk in their right hand to mark" Italian doors withal; 
especially as creditable historians imply that many sons of 
France were at that time characterized by something 
approachiiig to a swagger, which must have whetted the 
Florentine appetite for a little stone-throwing. 

And this was the temper of Florence on the morning of 
the seventeenth of November, 1494. 



S 



CHAPTER XXIL 



THE PRISOKEKS. 



The sky was gray, but that made little difference in the 
Piazza del Duomo, which was covered with its holiday sky 
of blue drapery, and its constellations of yellow lilies and 
coats of arms. The sheaves of banners were unfurled at 
the angles of the Baptistery, but there was no carpet yet 
on the steps of the Duomo, for the marble was being trod- 
den by numerous feet that were not at all exceptional. It 
was the hour of the Advent sermons, and the very same 
reasons which had flushed the streets with holiday color 
were reasons why the preaching in the Duomo could least 
of all be dispensed with. 

But not all the feet in the Piazza were hastening toward 
the steps. People of high and low degree were moving to 
and fro with the brisk pace of men who had errands before 
them; groups of talkers were thickly scattered, some will- 



204 ROMOLA. 

ing to be late for the sermon, and others content not to 
hear it at all. 

The expression on the faces of these apparent loungers 
was not that of men who are enjoying the pleasant laziness 
of an opening holiday. Some were in close and eager dis- 
cussion; others were listening with keen interest to a single 
spokesman, and yet from time to time turned round with 
a scanning glance at any new passer-by. At the corner., 
looking toward the Via de Cerretani — just where the arti- 
ficial rainbow light of tlie Piazza ceased, and the gray 
morning fell on the sombre stone houses — there was a 
remarkable cluster of the working people, most of'^-hem 
bearing on their dress or persons the signs of their daily 
labor, and almost all of them carrying some weapon, or 
some tool whicli might serve as a weapon upon occasion. 
Standing in tlie^gray light of the street, with bare brawny 
arms and soiled garments, they made all the more striking 
the transition from the brightness of tlie Piazza. They 
were listening to the thin notary, Ser Cioni, who had just 
paused on his way to the Duomo. His biting words could 
get only a contemptuous reception two years and a half 
before in the Mcrcato, but now he spoke with the more 
complacent humor of a man whose party is uppermost, and 
who is conscious of some influence with the people. 

'' Never talk to me, " he was saying, in his incisive voice, 
^^ never talk to me of bloodthirsty Swiss or fierce French 
infantry: they might as well be in the narrow passes of the 
mountains as in our streets; and peasants have destroyed 
the finest armies of our condottieri in time past, when 
they had once got them between steep precipices. I tell 
you, Florentines need be afraid of no army in their own 
streets. '' 

''That^s true, Ser Cioni," said a man whose arms and 
hands were discolored by a crimson dye, which looked like 
blood-stains, and who had a small hatchet stuck in his 
belt; '^and those French cavaliers, who came in squaring 
themselves in their smart doublets the other day, saw a 
sample of the dinner we could serve up for them. I wai 
carrying my cloth in Ognissanti, when I saw my fine 
Messeri going by, looking round as if they thought the 
houses of the Vespucci and the Agli a poor pick of lodg- 
ings for them, and eyeing us Florentines, like top-knotted 
cocks as they are, as if they pitied us because we didn't 
know how to strut. *Yes, my fine GaJIi/ says I, 'stick 
out your stomachs; I've got a meat-axe in my belt that 



THE TRISONERS. 205 



3t<^ 



l..,„.„,..„....^ 

^ftow lowed,* and I knew something had happened — no 
^Blatter what. So I threw my cloth in at the first door- 
^Hray, and took hold of my meat-axe and ran after my fine 
^Ravaliers toward the Vigna Nuova. And, *What is it, 
Giiccio?^ said I, when he came up with me. ^I think it's 
the Medici coming back,' said Guccio. Bembef I expected 
so! And up we reared a barricade, and the Frenchmen 
looked behind and saw themselves in a trap; and up comes 
good swarm of our Ciom2n,\ and one of them with a big 
icythe he had in his hand mowed off one of the fine 
cavalier's feathers: — its true! And the lasses peppered a 
few stones down to frighten them. However, Piero d e . 
Medici wasn't come after all; and it was a pity; for we'd <(^ 
liave~left him neither legs nor wings to go away with ^^^ 
again." -3^ 

'^Well spoken, Oddo," said a youn^ butcher, with his ^-^ 
knife at his belt; and it's my belief riero will be a good \^^ 
while before he wants to come back, for he looked as fright- 
ened as a hunted chicken, when Ave hustled and pelted 
him in the piazza. He's a coward, else he might have 
made a better stand when he'd got his horsemen. But 
we'll swallow no Medici any more, whatever else the French 
king wants to make us swallow." 

'*But I like not those French cannon they talR of," said 
Goro, none the less fat for two years' additional griev- 
ances. ^' San Giovanni defend us! If Messer Domeneddio 
means so well by us as your Frate says he does, Ser Cioni, 
why shouldn't he have sent the French another way to 
Naples?" 

*'Ay, Goro," said the dyer; ^^ that's a question worth 
putting. Thou art not such a pumpkin-head as I took 
thee for. Why, they might have gone to Naples by 
Bologna, eh, Ser Cioni? or if they'd gone to Arezzo — we 
wouldn't have minded their going to Arezzo." 

^* Fools! It will be for the good and glory of Florence," 
Ser Cioni began. But he was interrupted by the exclam- 
ation, ^'' Look there!" which burst from several voices at 
once, while the faces were all turned to a party who were 
advancing along the Via de Cerretani. 

^' It's T/)vp-n'/r> Tnynnhmini and ouc of thc Freucli uoblc- 
men who are in his house," said Ser Cioni, in some con- 

* "!/« vacca muglia " was the phrase for the sounding of the great bell in 
the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio. 

+ The poorer artisans connected with the wool trade — wool-beaters, 
carders, washers, etc. 



206 ROMOLA. 



I 



tempt at this interruption. "He pretends to look well 
satisfied — that deep Tornabuoni — but he^s a Medicean in 
his heart: mind that/' 

The advancing party was rather a brilliant one, for there 
was not only the distinguished presence of Lorenzo Torna- 
buoni, and the splendid costume of the Frenchman with 
his elaborately displayed white linen and gorgeous embroid- 
ery; there were two other Florentines of high birth in 
handsome dresses donned for the coming procession, and 
on the left hand of the Frenchman was a figure that was 
not to be eclipsed by any amount of intention or brocade — 
a figure we have often seen before. He wore nothing but 
black, for he was in mourning; but the black was presently 
to be covered by a red mantle, for he too was to walk in 
procession as Latin Secretary to the Ten. Tito Melema 
had become conspicuously servicable in the intercourse 
with the French guests, from his familiarity with South- 
ern Italy, and his readiness in the French tongue, which 
he had spoken in his early youth; and he had paid 
more than one visit to the French camp at Signa. Tlie 
lustre of good fortune was upon him; he was smiling, 
listening, and explaining, with his usual graceful unpreten- 
tious ease, and only a very keen eye bent on studying him 
could have marked a certain amount of change in him 
which was not to be accounted for by the lapse of eighteen 
months. It was that change which comes from the final 
departure of moral youthfulness — from the distinct self- 
'conscious adoption of a part in life. The lines of the face 
were as soft as ever, the eyes as pellucid; but something 
was gone — something as indefinable as the changes in the 
morning twilight. 

The Frenchman was gathering instructions concerning 
ceremonial before riding back to Signa, and now he was 
going to have a final survey of the Piazza del Duom.o, 
where the royal procession was to pause for religious pur- 
poses. The distinguished party attracted the notice of all 
eyes as it entered the piazza, but the gaze was not entirely 
cordial and admiring; there were remarks not altogether 
allusive and mysterious to the Frenchman's hoof-shaped 
slices — delicate flattery of royal superfluity in toes; and 
there was no care that certain snarlings at "Mediceans" 
should be strictly inaudible. But Lorenzo Tornabuoni 
possessed that power of dissembling annoyance which is 
demanded in a man who courts popularity, and Tito, 
besides his natural disposition to overcome ill-will by good- 



I 



THE PRIS0KER8. ^07 



humor, had the unimpassioned feeling of the alien toward 
names and details that move the deepest passions of the 
native. 

Arrived where they conld get a good oblique view of the 
Duomo, the party paused. The festoons and devices placed 
over the central doorway excited some demur, and Torna- 
buoni beckoned to Piero di Cosimo, who, as was usual with 
him at this hour, was lounging in front of Nello^s shop. 
There was soon an animated discussion, and it became 
highly amusing from the Frenchman's astonishment at 
Piero's odd pungency of statement, which Tito translated 
literally. Even snarling onlookers became curious, and 
their faces began to wear the half-smiling, half-humiliated 
expression of people who are not within hearing of the 
joke which is producing infectious laughter. It was a 
delightful moment for Tito, for he was the only one of the 
party who could have made so amusing an interpreter, and 
without any disposition to triumphant self-gratulation he 
revelled in the sense that he was an object of liking — he 
basked in approving glances. The rainbow light fell 
about the laughing group, and the grave church-goers had 
all disappeared within the walls. It seemed as if the 
piazza had been decorated for a real Florentine holiday. 

Meanwhile in the gray light of the unadorned streets 
there were on-comers who made no show of linen and 
brocade, and whose humor Avas far from merry. Here, 
too, the French dress and hoofed shoes were conspicuous, 
but they were being pressed upon by a larger and larger 
number of non-admiring Florentines. In the van of the 
crowd were three men in scanty clothing; each had his 
hands bound together by a cord, and a rope was fastened 
round his neck and body, in such a way that he who held 
the extremity of the rope might easily check any rebellious 
movement by the threat of throttling. The men who 
held the ropes were French soldiers, and by broken Italian 
phrases and strokes from the knotted end of the rope, 
they from time to time stimulated their prisoners to beg. 
Two of them were obedient, and to every Florentine they 
had encountered had held out their bound hands and said 
in piteous tones — 

*^For the love of God and the Holy Madonna, give us 
something toward our ransom! We are Tuscans: we were 
made prisoners in Lunigiana." 

But the third man remained obstinately silent under all 
the strokes of the knotted cord. He was very different in 



208 ROMOLA, 



« 



aspect from his two fellow-prisoners. They were young 
and hardy, and, in the scant clothing which the avarice of 
their captors had left them, looked like vulgar, sturdy 
mendicants. But he had passed the boundary of old age, 
and could hardly be less than four or five and sixty. His 
beard, which had grown long in neglect, and the hair 
which fell thick and straight round his baldness, were 
nearly white. His thickset figure was still firm and 
upright, though emaciated, and seemed to express energy 
in spite of age — an expression that was partly carried out 
in the dark eyes and strong dark eyebrows, which had a 
strangely isolated intensity of color in the midst of his 
yellow, bloodless, deep-wrinkled face with its lank gray 
hairs. And yet there was something fitful in the eyes 
which contradicted the occasional flash of energy: after 
looking round with quick fierceness at windows and faces, 
they fell again with a lost and wandering look. But his 
lips were motionless, and he held his hands resolutely 
down. He would not beg. 

This sight had been witnessed by the Florentines with 
growing exasperation. Many standing at their doors or 
passing quietly along had at once given money — some in 
half-automatic response to an appeal in the name of God, 
others in tliat unquestioning awe of the French soldiery 
wliich had been created by the reports of their cruel war- 
fare, and on which the French themselves counted as a 
guarantee of immunity in their acts of insolence. But 
as the group had proceeded farther into the heart of the 
city, that compliance had gradually disappeared, and the 
soldiers found themselves escorted by a gathering troop 
of men and boys, who kept up a chorus of exclamations, 
sufficiently intelligible to foreign ears without any inter- 
preter. The soldiers themselves began to dislike their 
position, for, with a strong inclination to use their weap- 
ons, they were checked by the necessity for keeping a 
secure hold on their prisoners, and they were now hurrying 
along in the hope of finding shelter in a hostelry. 

'^French dogs!'' '^ Bullock-feet!" ^^ Snatch their pikes 
from them!" ^'Cut the cords and make them run for 
their prisoners. They'll run as fast as geese — don't you 
see they're web-footed?" These were the cries which the 
soldiers vaguely understood to be jeers, and probably 
threats. But every one seemed disposed to give invita- 
tions of this spirited kind rather than to act upon them. 

" Santiddio! here's a sight!" said the dyer, as soon as he 



THE PRISONERS. 209 

had divined the meaning of the advancing tumult, ''and 
the fools do nothing but hoot. Come along!'' he added, 
snatching liis axe from his belt, and running to join the 
<3rowd, followed by the butcher and all the rest of his 
Bompanions, except Goro, who hastily retreated up a narrow 
passage. 

The sight of the dyer, running forward with blood-red 
arms and axe uplifted, and with his cluster of rough com- 
panions behind him, had a stimulating effect on the crowd. 
Not that he did anything else than pass beyond the soldiers 
and thrust himself well among his fellow-citizens, flourish- 
ing his axe; but he served as a stirring symbol of street 
figliting, like the waving of a well-known gonfalon. And 
the first sign that fire was ready to burst out was something 
as rapid as a little leaping tongue of flame: it was an act of 
the conjuror's impish lad, Lollo, who was dancing and 
jeering in front of the ingenuous boys that made the 
majority of the crowd. Lollo had no great compassion for 
the prisoners, but being conscious of an excellent knife 
which was his unfailing companion, it had seemed to him 
from the first that to jump forward, cut a rope, and leap 
back again before the soldier who held it could use his 
weapon, would be an amusing and dexterous piece of mis- 
chief. And now, when the people began to hoot and jostle 
more vigorously, Lollo felt that his moment was come — he 
was close to the eldest prisoner: in an instant he had cut 
the cord. 

^' Run, old one!" he piped in the prisoner's ear as soon 
as the cord was in two; and himself set the example of 
running as if he were helped along with wings, like a 
scared fowl. 

The prisoner's sensations were not too slow for him to 
seize the opportunity: the idea of escape had been contin- 
ually present with him, and he had gathered fresh hope 
from the temper of the crowd. He ran at once; but his 
speed would hardly have sufficed for him if the Florentines 
had not instantaneously rushed between him and his 
captor. He ran on into the piazza, but he quickly heard 
the tramp of feet behind him, for the other two prisoners 
had been released, and the soldiers were struggling and 
fighting their way after them, in such tardigrade fashion 
as their hoof-shaped shoes would allow — impeded, but not 
very resolutely attacked, by the people. One of the two 
younger prisoners turned up the Borgo di San Lorenzo, 
and thus made a partial diversion of the hubbub; but tho 
^m. 14 



210 EOMOLA. 

main struggle was still toward the piazza, where all eyes 
were turned on it with alarmed curiosity. The cause could 
not be precisely guessed, for the French dress was screened 
by the impeding crowd. 

"An escape of prisoners/' said Lorenzo Tornabuoni, as 
he and his party turned round just against the steps of the 
Duomo, and saw a prisoner rushing by them. *' The 
people are not content with having emptied the Bargello 
the other day. If there is no other authority in sight 
they must fall on the sbirri and secure freedom to thieves. 
Ah! there is a French soldier: that is more serious. '' 

The soldier he saw was struggling along on the north 
side of the piazza, but the object of his pursuit had taken 
the other direction. That object was the eldest prisoner, 
who had wheeled round the Baptistery and was running 
toward the Duomo, determined to take refuge in that 
sanctuary rather than trust to his speed. But in mount- 
ing the steps, his foot received a shock; he was precipi- 
tated toward the group of signori, whose backs were 
turned to him, and was only able to recover his balance as 
he clutched one of them by the arm. 

It was Tito Melema who felt that clutch. He turned 
his head, and saw the face of his adopted father, Baldas- 
sarre Calvo, close to his own. 

The two men looked at each other, silent as death: 
Baldassarre, with dark fierceness and a tightening grip of 
the soiled worn hands on the velvet-clad arm; Tito, with 
cheeks and lips all bloodless, fascinated by terror. It 
seemed a long while to them — it was but a moment. 

The first sound Tito heard was the short laugh of Piero 
di Cosimo, who stood close by him and was the only person 
that could see his face. 

"Ha, ha! I know what a ghost should be now." 

"This is another escaped prisoner," said Lorenzo 
Tornabuoni. "Who is he, I wonder?" 

*' Some madmaiiy surely y^' said Tito. 

He hardly knew how the words had come to his lips: 
there are moments when our passions speak and decide for 
us, and we seem to stand by and wonder. They carry in 
them an inspiration of crime, that in one instant does the 
work of long premeditation. 

The two men had not taken their eyes off each other, 
and it seemed to Tito, when he had spoken, that some 
magical poison had darted from Baldassarre's eyes, and 



AFTER-THOUGHTS. ' 211 

that he felt it rushing through his veins. But the next 
instant the grasp on his arm had relaxed, and Baldassarre 
had disappeared within the church. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

AFTER-THOUGHTS. 



You are easily frightened, though/^ said Piero, with 
another scornful laugh. '' My portrait is not as good as 
the original. But the old fellow had a tiger look: I must 
go into the Duomo and see him again." 

'^ It is not pleasant to be laid hold of by a madman, if 
madman he be," said Lorenzo Tornabuoni, in polite excuse 
of Tito, '^ but perhaps he is only a ruffian. We shall hear. 
I think we must see if we have authority enough to stop 
this disturbance between our people and your country- 
men," he added, addressing the Frenchman. 

They advanced toward the crowd with their swords 
drawn, all the quiet spectators making an escort for them. 
Tito went too: it was necessary that he should know what 
i others knew about Baldassarre, and the first palsy of terror 
was being succeeded by the rapid devices to which mortal 
danger will stimulate the timid. 

The rabble of men and boys, more inclined to hoot at 
the soldier and torment him than to receive or inflict any 
serious wounds, gave way at the approach of signori with 
drawn swords, and the French soldier was interrogated. 
He and his companions had simply brought their prisoners 
into the city that they might beg money for their ransom: 
two of the prisoners were Tuscan soldiers taken in Luni- 
^iana; the other, an elderly man, was with a party of 
Genoese, with whom the French foragers had come to 
blows near Fivizzano. He might be mad, but he was 
harmless. The soldier knew no more, being unable to 
understand a word the old man said. Tito heard so far, 
but he was deaf to everything else till he was specially 
addressed. It was Tornabuoni who spoke. 

^^Will you go back with us, Melema? Or, since Messere 
is going off to Signa now, will you wisely follow the fashion 
of the times and go to hear the Frate. who will be like the 
torrent at its height this morning? It's what we must all 



212 * ROMOLA. 

do, you know, if we ar e to save our Med icean skins. / 
BhoTtM-gorrf-I-imd the leisure." " 

Tito's face had recovered its color now, and he could 
make an effort to speak with gaiety. 

'^ Of course I am among the admirers of the inspired 
orator/Mie said, smilingly; but, unfortunately, I shall be 
occupied with the Segretario till the time of the proces- 
sion." 

^'I am going into the Duomo to look at that savage old 
man again," said Piero. 

'^ Then have the charity to show him to one of the 
hospital's for travellers, Piero mio," said Tornabuoni. 
''The monks may find out whether he wants putting into 
a cage." 

The party separated, and Tito took his way to the 
Palazzo Vecchio, where he was to find Bartolommeo Scala. 
It was not a long walk, but, for Tito, it was stretched out 
like the minutes of our morning dreams: the short spaces 
of street and piazza held memories, and previsions, and 
torturing fears, that might have made the history of 
months. He felt as if a serpent had begun to coil round 
his limbs. Baldassarre living, and in Florence, was a 
living revenge, which would no more rest than a winding 
serpent would rest until it had crushed its prey. It wa^ 
not in the nature of that man to let an injury pass un- 
avenged : his love and his hatred were of that passionate 
fervor which subjugates all the rest of the being, and 
makes a man sacrifice himself to his passion as if it were a 
deity to be worshipped with self-destruction. Baldassarre^ 
had relaxed his hold, and had disappeared. Tito knew 
well how to interpret that: it meant that the vengeance 
was to be studied that it might be sure. If he had not 
uttered those decisive words — " He is a madman" — if he 
could have summoned uj) the state of mind, the courage, 
necessary for avowing his recognition of Baldassarre, would 
not the risk have been less? lie might have dicolared him- 
self to have had what he believed to be positive evidence 
of Baldassare's death; and the only persons who could ever 
have had positive knowledge to contradict him were Fra 
Luca, who was dead, and the crew of the companion 
galley, who had brought him the news of the encounter 
with the pirates. The chances were infinite against Bald- 
assarre's having met again with any one of that crew, and 
Tito thought with bitterness that a timely, well-devised 
falsehood might have saved him from any fatal conse- 



I 



AFTER-THOUGHTS. 213 



qiiences. But to have told that falsehood would have 
required perfect self-command in the moment of a con- 
i vulsive shock: he seemed to have spoken without any pre- 
conception: the words had leaped forth like a sudden birth 
that had been begotten and nourished in the darkness. 
jTito was experiencing that inexorable law of human 
souls, that we prepare ourselves for sudden deeds by the 
reiterated cIiQkiQ, of_ffood or evil which gradually determines 
characterj 

There was but one chance for him now; the chance of 
Baldassarre^s failure in finding his revenge. And — Tito 
; grasped at a thought more actively cruel than any he had 
, ever encouraged before: might not his own unpremeditated 
I words have some truth in them? Enough truth, at least, 
; to bear him out in his denial of any declaration Baldassare 
might make about him? The old man looked strange and 
j wild; with his eager heart and brain, suffering was likely 
I enough to have produced madness. If it were so, the 
! vengeance that strove to inflict disgrace might be baffled. 
But there was another form of vengeance not to be 
baffled by ingenious lying. Baldassarre belonged to a race 
to whom the thrust of the dagger seems almost as natural 
j an impulse as the outleap of the tiger's talons. Tito 
shrank with shuddering dread from disgrace; but he had 
I also that physical dread which is inseparable from a soft, 
' pleasure-loving nature, and which prevents a man from 
meeting wounds and death as a welcome relief from dis- 
grace. His thoughts flew at once to some hidden defensive 
armor that might save him from a vengeance which no 
I subtlety could parry. 

1 He wondered at the power of the passionate fear that 
possessed him. It was as if he had been smitten with a 
blighting disease that had suddenly turned the joyous sense 
of young life into pain. 

There was still one resource open to Tito. He might 
have turned back, sought Baldassarre again, confessed 
everything to him — to Romola — to all the Avorld. But he 
never thought of that. The repentance which cuts off all 
moorings to evil, demands sometliing more than selfislk 
fear. He had no sense that there was strength and safety 
iiilruth; the only strength he trusted to lay in his inge- 
nuity and his dissimilation. Now that the first shock, 
which had called up the traitorous signs of fear, was well 
past, he hoped to be prepared for all emergencies by cool 
deceit — and defensive armor. 



214 ROMOLA. 

It was a characteristic fact in Tito^s experience at this 
crisis, that no direct measure for ridding himself of Bal- 
dassarre ever occurred to him. All other possibilities 
passed through his mind, e^en to his own flight from ; 
Florence; but he never thought of any scheme for remov- ■ 
ing his enemy. His dread generated no active malignity, | 
and he would still have been glad not to give pain to any i 
mortal. He had simply chosen to make life easy to him- i 
self — to carry his human lot, if possible, in such a way that 
it should pinch him nowhere; and the choice had, at various i 
times, landed him in unexpected positions. The question 
now was, not whether he should divide the common pres- 
sure of destiny witli his suffering fellow-men; it was whether 
all the resources of lying would save him from being crushed 
by the consequences of that habitual choice. 



cjO 



\^ CHAPTER XXIV. 



^ i^ INSIDE THE DUOMO. 



Whek Baldassarre, with his hands bound together, and 
the rope round his neck and body, pushed his way behind | 
the curtain, and saw the interior of the Duomo before i 
/ him, he gave a start of astonishment, and stood still | 
against the doorway. He had expected to see a vast nave | 
empty of everything but lifeless emblems — side altars! 
with candles unlit, dim pictures, pale and rigid statues — j 
with perhaps a few worshippers in the distant choir follow- < 
ing a monotonous chant. That was the ordinary aspect of j 
churches to a man who never went into them with any 
religious purpose. 
. And he saw, instead, a vast multitude of warm, living 
j faces, upturned in breathless silence toward the pulpit, 
' at the angle between the nave and the choir. The multi- 
tude was of all ranks, from magistrates and dames of 
gentle nurture to coarsely-clad artisans and country people. 
In the pulpit was a Dominican friar, with strong features 
and dark hair, preaching with the crucifix in his hand. 

For the first few minutes Baldassarre noted nothing of 
his preaching; Silent as his entrance had been, some eyes 
near the doorway had been turned on him with surprise 
and suspicion. The rope indicated ])lainly enough that he 



V 



IXSII'E THE DUOMO. S15 



P 

I was an escaped prisoner, but in that case the church was a 
sanctuary which he had a right to claim; his advanced 
years and look of wild misery were fitted to excite pity 
rather than alarm; and as he stood motionless, with eyes 
that soon wandered absently from the wide scene before 
him to the pavement at his feet, those who had observed 
his entrance presently ceased to regard him, and became 
absorbed again in the stronger interest of listening to the 
sermon. 

Among the eyes that had been turned toward him were 
Romola's: she had entered late through one of the side 
doors and was so placed that she had a full view of the 
main entrance. She had looked long and attentively at 
Baldassarre, for grey hairs made a peculiar appeal to her, 
and the stamp of some unwonted suffering in the face, 
confirmed by the cord round his neck, stirred in her those 
sensibilities toward the sorrows of age, which her whole 
life had tended to develop. She fancied that his eyes had 
met hers in their first wandering gaze; but Baldassarre 
had not, in reality, noted her; he had only had a startled 
consciousness of the general scene, and the conscioueness 
was a mere flash that made no perceptible break in the 
fierce tumult of emotion which the encounter with Tito 
had created. Images from the past kept urging them- 
selves upon him like delirious visions strangly blended with 
thirst and anguish. No distinct thought for the future 
could shape itself in the midst of that fiery passion: the 
nearest approach to such thought was the bitter sense of 
enfeebled powers, and a vague determination to universal 
distrust and suspicion. Suddenly he felt himself vibrating 
to loud tones, which seemed like the thundering echo of 
his own passion. A voice that penetrated his very marrow 
with its accent of triumphant certitude was saying — ^^The 
da y of vengeance isathand! ^' 

Baldassarre ()[lTiV6i'6d and"looked up. He was too distant 
to see more than the general aspect of the preacher stand- 
ing*, with his right arm outstretched, lifting up the cruci- 
fix; but he panted for the threatening voice again as if it 
had been a promise of bliss. There was a pause before 
the preacher spoke again. He gradually lowered his arm. 
He deposited the crucifix on the edge of the pulpit, and 
crossed his arms over his breast, looking round at the mul- 
titude as if he would meet the glance of every individual 
face. 
n*~All ye in Florence are my witnesses, for I spoke not in 



216 ROMOLA. 

a corner. Ye are my witnesses, that four years ago, when 
there were yet no signs of war and tribulation, I preached 
the coming of the scourge. I lifted up my voice as a trum- 
pet to the prelates and princes and people of Italy and 
said, the cup of your iniquity is full. Behold, the thun- 
der of the Lord is gathering, and it shall fall and break 
the cup, and your iniquity, which seems to you as pleas- 
ant wine, shall be poured out upon you, and shall be as 
molten lead. And you, priests, who say. Ha, ha! there 
is no Presence in the sanctuary — the Shechinah is nought — 
the Mercy-seat is bare: we may sin behind the veil, and 
v/ho shall punish us? To you, I said, the presence of God 
shall be revealed in his temple as a consuming fire, and 
your sacred garments shall become a winding-sheet of 
flame, and for sweet music there shall be shrieks and his- 
sing, and for soft couches there shall be thorns, and for 
the breath of wantons shall come the pestilence. Trust 
not in your gold or silver, trust not in your high fortresses; 
for, though the walls were of iron, and the fortresses of 
adamant, the Most High shall put terror into your hearts 
and weakness into your councils, so that you shall be con- 
founded and flee like women. He shall break in pieces 
mighty men without number, and put others in their stead. 
For God will no longer endure thfi-iiQllution of his sanc- 



LC will thoroughly purg^e his Church^ 
*'Ana lorasmucli as it is written that cioa will do noth- 
ing but he revealeth it to his servants the prophets, he has 
chosennie, his unworthy ser\^nt. and made his purpose 
preseiino my soul in the living word of the Scriptures, 
and in the deeds of his providence; and by the ministry of 
angels he has revealed it to me in visions. And his word 
possesses me so that I am but as the branch of the forest 
when the wind of heaven penetrates it, and it is not in me 
to keep silence, even though I may be a derision to the 
scorner. And for four years I have preached in obedience 
to the Divine will: in the face of scoffing I have preached 
three things, which the Lord has delivered to me: that in 
these tjjn esjrod will yqpvtf 'rate his Church, and that before 
the regeneration must nmnp f Ihp. smoir gp. nver air Italy ^ andT 
that these fTn rn/siuill come Qid xMi^ 

''^Biit hypocrites who cloak their hatred of the truth 
with a show of love have said to me, ' Come now, Frate, 
leave your prophesyings: it is enough to teach virtue.' 
To these I answer: ^ Yes, you say in your hearts, God lives 
afar off, and his word is as a parchment written by dead 



INSIDE THE DUOMO. 217 

men, and he deals not as in the days of old, rebuking the 
nations, and punishing the oppressors, and smiting the 
unholy priests as he smote the sons of Eli. But I cry 
again in your ears: God is near and not afar off; his judg- 
ments change not. He is the God of armies; the strong 
men who go up to battle are his ministers, even as the 
storm, and fire, and pestilence. He drives them by the 
breath of his angels, and they come upon the chosen land 
which has forsaken the covenant. And thou, Italy, art 
the chosen land; has not God placed his sanctuary within 
thee, and thou hast polluted it? Behold, the ministers of 
his wrath are upon thee — they are at thy very doors !^^' 

Savonarola^s voice had been rising in impassioned force 
up to this point, when he became suddenly silent, let his 
hands fall and clasped them quietly before him. His 
silence, instead of being__the__aignal.iia£-Small movemenii' 
amongsFIua ^audienc e, seeined-JQ-itfi-^s sjtji)iig:.Ji,in^ell to, 
theni a^ s his voice ^ Through the vast area of the cathedral 
men^ anH" women sat with faces upturned, like breathing 
statues, till the voice was heard again in clear low tones. 

^^ Yet there is a pause — even as in the days when Jeru- 
salem was destroyed there was a pause that the children of 
God might flee from it. There is a stillness before the 
storm: lo, there is blackness above , but not a leaf quakes: 
the winds axe stayed, that the Yoice of God's warning 
might be heard. Hear it now, Florence, chosen city in 
the chosen land! Eepen t and forsake evil: do justice : 
love mercy: put away alT mide;nmest^ from aMong you, 

tHatTlie .^ pirjt nf f.fnf>> mirt Tiolinp.ss may fH VfV^lJ snnj^ 

a nd breathe th rQUidi Jill yonr streets and hab itations, and 
flien^The pestilence sha^H npt enter, an d tEe sword shalF 

" For the sword is hanging from the sky; it is quivering; 
it is about to fall! The siuord of God iipon the eartli, 
sivift and sudden! Did I not tell you, years ago, that I 
had beheld the vision and heard the voice? And behold, 
it is fulfilled! Is there not a king with his army at your 
gates? Does not the earth shake with the tread of horses 
and the wheels of swift cannon? Is there not a fierce 
multitude that can lay bare the land with a sharp razor? * 
I tell you the French king with his army is the minister of [/ 
God: God shall guide him as the hand guides a sharp 
sickle, and the joints of the wicked shall melt before him, 
and they shall be mown down as stubble: he that fleeth of 
them shall not flee avvay, and he that escapeth of them 



218 ROMOLA. 

shall not be delivered. And the tyrants who have made 
to themselves a throne out of the vices of the multitude, 
and the unbelieving priests who traffic in the souls of men 
and fill the very sanctuary with fornication, shall be hurled 
from their soft couches into burning hell; and the pagans 
and they who sinned under the old covenant shall stand 
aloof and say: 'Lo, these men have brought the stench 
of a new wickedness into the everlasting fire/ 

*'But thou, Florence, take the offered mercy. See! 
the Cross is held out to you: come and be healed. Which 
among the nations of Italy has had a token like unto 
yours? The tyrant is driven out from among you: the 
men who held a bribe in their left hand and a rod in the 
right are gone forth, and no blood has been spilled. And 
now put away every other abomination from among you, 
and you shall be strong in the strength of the living God. 
Wash yourselves from the black pitch of your vices, which 
have made you even as the heathens: put away the envy 
and hatred that have made your city as a nest of wolves. 
And there shall no harm happen to you: and the passage 
of armies shall be to you as a flight of birds, and rebellious 
Pisa shall be given to you again, and famine and pestilence 
shall be far from your gates, and you shall be as a beacon 
among the nations. But, mark! while you suffer the 
accursed thing to lie in the camp you shall be afflicted and 
v ' tormented, even though a remnant among you may be 
V saved." 
^ These admonitions and promises had been spoken in an 

' ^ incisive tone of authority; but in the next sentence the 
^ ^ preacher's voice melted into a strain of entreaty. 

^ r- ** Listen, people, over whom my heart yearns, as the 

V^ ' heart of a mother over the children she has travailed for! 

^ V God is my witness that but for your sakes I would willingly 
**-^' ^ live as a turtle in the depths of the forest, singing low to 

^ ' my Beloved, who is mine and I am his. For you I toil, 
for you I languish, for you my nights are spent i n wSt ch^ 
ing, and my soul melteth awa-fforvery'I reafiiies s. Lord,^ 
thou knowest I am willing — 1 anf read}\ 'Take me, stretch 
me on thy cross: let the wicked who delight in blood, and 
rob the poor, and defile the temple of their bodies, and 
harden themselves against thy mercy — let them wag their 
heads and shoot out the lip at me: let the thorns press 
upon my brow, and let my sweat be anguish — I desire to 
be made like Thee in thy great love. Butlet^jne seajhe^ 
fruit of my travail — let this people^besavedl Let me see 



INSIDE THE DUOXO. 219 

them clothed in purity: let me hear their voices rise in 
concord as the voices of angels: let them see no wisdom 
hut in thy eternal law, no beauty but in holiness. Then 
they shalllead the way before the nations, and the people 
from the four winds shall follow them, and be gathered 
into the fold of the blessed. For it is thy will, God, 
that the earth shall be converted unto thy law: it is thy 
will that wickedness shall cease and love shall reign. Come, 
blessed promise; and beholH, I am willing — lay me on 
the altar: let my blood flow and the fire consume me; but 
let my witness be remembered among men, that iniquity 
shall not prosper forever.^' *\ 

During the last appeal, Savonarola had stretched out his 
arms and lifted up his eyes to heaven; his strong voice had 
alternately trembled with emotion and risen again in 
renewed energy; but the passion with which he offered 
himself as a victim became at last too strong to allow of 
further speech, and he ended in a sob. Every changing 
tone, vibrating through the audience, shook them into 
answering emotion. There were plenty among them wha 
had very moderate faith in th(} Fratc's prophetic mission, 
anJ' who iimTeir cooler moments loved him little; never- 
Jiheloss, they too were carried along by the great wave of 
feeling which gathered its force.from sympathies that .lay 
feeper than all theory. A loud responding sob rose at once 
ftom the wide multitude, while Savonarola had fallen on 
his knees and buried his face in his mantle. He felt in that 
moment the rapture and glory of martyrdom without its 
agony. 

In that great sob of the multitude Baldassarre's had 
mingled. Among all the human beings present, there was 
perhaps not one whose frame vibrated more strongly than 
his to the tones and words of the preacher; but it had 
vibrated like a harp of which all the strings had been 
wrenched away except one. That threat of a fiery inexor- 
able vengeance — of a future into which the hated sinner 
might be pursued and held by the avenger in an eternal 
grapple, had come to him like the promise of an unquench- 
able fountain to unquenchable thirst. The doctrine s., nf. 
the sa_g es, the old contempt for priestly supers.titions, had 
failen^Lwa y from liis soul like a forg(^tten language: if he 
could have remembered them, what answer could they 
have given to his great need like the answer given by this 

* The sermon here given is not a translation, hnt a free representation of 
Fra Girolaino''s preaching in its more impassioned moments. 



220 ROMOLA. 

voice of energetic conviction? The thunder of denuncia- 
tion fell on his passion-wrought nerves with all the force 
of self-evidence. His thought never went beyond it into 
questions — he was possessed by it as the war-horse is pos- 
sessed by the clash of sounds. No word that was not a 
threat touched his consciousness; he had no fibre to be 
thrilled by it. But the fierce exultant delight to which he 
was moved by the idea of perpetual vengeance found at 
once a climax and a relieving outburst in the preacher's 
words" of self-sacrifice. To Baldassarre those words only 
brought the vague triumphant sense that he, too, was 
devoting himself — signing with his own blood the deed by 
which he gave himself over to an unending fire, that 
would seem but coolness to his burning hatred. 

'^ I rescued him — I cherished him — if I might clutch 
his heart-strings forever! Come, blessed promise! Let 
my blood flow; let the fire consume me!" 

The one chord vibrated to its utmost. Baldassarre 
clutched his own palms, driving his long nails into them, 
and burst into a sob with the rest. 






CHAPTER XXV. 

OUTSIDE THE DUOMO. 



While Baldassarre was possessed by the voice of Savon- 
arola, he had not noticed that another man had entered 
through the doorway behind him, and stood not far off 
observing him. It was Piero di Cosimo, who took no heed 
of the preaching, having come solely to look at the escaped 
prisoner. During the pause, in which the preacher and 
his audience had given themselves up to inarticulate emo- 
tion, the new-comer advanced and touched Baldassarre on 
the arm. He looked round with the tears still slowly 
rolling down his face, but with a vigorous sigh, as if he 
had done with that outburst. The painter spoke to him 
in a low tone — 

" Shall I cut your cords for you? I have heard how you 
were made prisoner." 

Baldassarre did not reply immediately; he glanced sus- 
piciously at thp officious stranger. At last he said, ''If 
you will." 



OUTSIDE THE DUOMO. 221 

** Better come outside/' said Piero. 

Ij^ Baldassarre again looked at him suspiciously; and Piero 
^partly guessing his thought, smiled, took out a knife and 
^^nt the cords. He began to think that the idea of the 
prisoner's madness was not improbable, there was some- 
thing so peculiar in the expression of his face. '' Well,''' 
he thought, ''if he does any mischief, he'll soon get tied 
up again. The poor devil shall have a chance, at least." 
'" You are afraid of me," he said again, in an undertone; 
''you don't want to tell me anything about yourself." 

"Baldassarre was folding his arms in enjoyment of the 
long-absent muscular sensation. He answered Piero with 
a less suspicious look and tone which had some quiet deci- 
sion in it. 
1^^ "No, I have nothing to tell." 
^P "As you please," said Piero, "but perhaps you want 
shelter, and may not know how hospitable we Florentines 
are to visitors with torn doublets and empty stomachs. 
There's an hospital for poor travelers outside all our gates, 
and, if you liked, I could put you in the way to one. 
There's no danger from your French soldier. He has been 
sent oif." 

Baldassarre nodded, and turned in silent acceptance of 
the offer, and he and Piero left the church together. 

" You wouldn't like to sit to me for your portrait, should 
you?" said Piero, as they Avent along the Via dell Oriuolo, 
on the way to the gate of Santa Croce. " I am a painter: 
I would give you money to get your portrait." 

The suspicion returned into Baldassarre's glance, as he 
looked at Piero, and said decidedly, "No." 

" Ah! " said the painter, curtly. " Well, go straight on, 
and you'll find the Porta Santa Croce, and outside it 
there's an hospital for travelers. So you'll not accept any 
service from me?" 

"I give yoa thanks for what you have done already. I 
need no more." 

" It is well," said Piero, with a shrug, and they turned 
away from each other. 

"A mysterious old tiger!" thought the artist, "well 
worth painting. Ugly — with deep lines — looking as if the 
plough and harrow had gone over his heart. A fine con- 
trast to my bland and smiling Messer Greco — my Bacco 
trionfante, who has married the fair Antigone in contra- 
diction to all history and fitness. Aha! his scholar's blood 
curdled uncomfortably at the old fellow's clutch!" 



222 ROMOLA. 

When Piero re-entered the Piazza del Duomo the multi- 
tude who had been listening to Fra Girolamo were pouring 
out from all the doors, and the haste they made to go on 
their several ways was a proof how important they held the 
preaching which had detained them from the other occu- 
pations of the day. The artist leaned against an angle of 
the Baptistery and watched the departing crowd, delight- 
ing in the variety of the garb and of the keen characteristic 
;faces — faces such as Masaccio had painted more than fifty 

>->.years before: such ns nomenico Qbirl^ri^_q|o had not yet 
jP quite left off painting. 

' j^ [This morning was a peculiar occasion, and the Prate's 
t>* audience, always multifarious, had represented even more 
f^V^ completely than usual the various classes and political 
^ parties of Florence. Tliere were men of high birth, accus- 
^ tomed to public charges at home and abroad, who had 
become newly conspicuous not only as enemies of the 
^ Medici and friends of popular government, but as thor- 

^fc ^ ojughJPia^noni, espousing to the utmost the doctrines 
(^\J'' ana "practical teaching of the Frate, and frequenting 
,H^ San Marco as the seat of anotlier Samuel: some of 
/?* them men of autlioritaiiye^andJiaMsa^^ presfinca, like 
^ Francesco Valori, aiicfperliaps also of a hot and arrogant 



\ 



temper, very much gratified by an immediate divine 
authority for bringing about freedom in their own way; 
others, like Soderini, with less of, the ardent Piagnoniv 
and more of the wise politician. There were men, 'also of 
family, like Piero Capponi, simply brave undoctrinal 
lovers of_a^ sobe r republican liberty, who preferr'ed "lighting 
to arguing, an3~had no particular reasons for thinking 
any ideas false that kept out the Medici and made room 
for public spirit. At their elbows were doctors of law 
whose studies of Accursius and his brethren~liadniot so 
entirely consumed their ardor as to prevent them from 
becoming enthu siastic Piagnonii , Messer Luca Corsini 
himself, for example, who on a memorable occasion yet 
to come was to raise his learned arms in street stone- 
throwing for the cause of religion, freedom, and the 
Frate. And among the_dignities who carried their black 
lucco or furred mantle with an air of habitual authority, 
there was an abundant sprinkling of men with more 
contemplative and sensitive faces: s chojars inheriting , 
such _h]^i__names as ._SirozzL_^ .A^ciajoli, who were 
already minded to take the cowl ahJjoin the com- 
munity of San Marco; artists wrought to a new and 



^ir^^ * OUTSIDE THE DUOMO. 223 



bighey ambitioii by the teachin g of Savonarola, like that 
young^amter wITo had lately, si; rpii-^^ed liimself in his _ 
jfeaCjQ-o^ the^2LlziixajQ]liId--Qn.-the "^^'^lil of the Frato^s bare^ 
cfilLr- unconscious yet that he would one day himself wear 
the tonsure and the cowl, and be called Frn, JR^Yt^ol omj];^ pq- 
There was the mystic poet Girplamo Benevieni hastening, 
perhaps, to carry tidings of the beloved Prater's speedy 
coming to his friend Pico della Mirandola, who was never 
to see the light of another morning. There were welL^ 
b oim women attired with such scrupulous plainness that 
their more refined grace was the chief distinction between 
them and their less aristocratic sisters. There was a pre- 
dominant proportion of the gen uine po polan i or middle 
class, belonging both to the Major and Minor A rts, con- 
scious of purses threatened by' war-taxes^ And more"strik- 
ing and various, perhaps, than all the other classes of the 
Frate^s disciples, there was the long stream of poorer 
tradesmen and artisan s, whose faith and hope m his" 
01vme message varied from the rude and undiscriminatjng 
trust in him as the friend of the poor and the enemy of 
the luxurious oppressive rich, to that eager tasting of all 
the subleties of biblical interpretation which takes pecul- 
iarly strong hold on the sedentary artisan, illuminating the 
long dim spaces beyond the board where he stitches, with 
a pale flame that seems to him the light of Divine science. 
But among these various disciples of the Frate were 
scattered many who were not in the least his disciples. 
Some were Mediceans who had already, from motives of ^t 
fear and policy, begun to show the presiding spiri t ot the '^^j^ 
popular party a feigned cletej^en ce. utners wer^ IJitK^feye 
advocates of a free government, but regarded Savonarola 
simply as an ambitious monk — half sagacious, half fanat- ^ ^^o 
ical — who had made himself a powerful instrument with " 
the people, and must be accepted as an important social 
fact. There were even some of his bitter enemies: mem- 
bers of the old aristocratic anti-Medicean party — determ- 
ined to try and get the reins once- more tight in the hands 
of certain chief families; or else licentious young men, 
who detested him as the kill-joy of Florenca. For the 
sermons in the Duomo had already become politijcaLiiici^ 
denia, attracting the ears of curiosity and malice, as well 
as of faith. The men of ideas, like young Niccolo Mac- 
chiavelli. went to observe and write reports to friends away 
in country villas; the men of appetites, like Dolfo Spini, 
bent on hunting down the Frate, as a public nuisance who 



224 ROMOLA. 

made game scarce, Avent to feed tlieir hatred and lie in 
wait for grounds of accusation. 

Perhaps, while no preacher ever had a more massive 
influence than Savonarola, no preacher ever had more 
heterogeneous materials to work upon. And one secret 
of the massive influence lay in the highly mixed character 
of his preaching. Baldassarre, wrought into an ecstasy of 
self-martyring revenge, was only an extreme case among 
the partial and narrow sympathies of that audience. In 
Savonarola's preaching there were strains that appealed 
to the very finest susceptibilities of men's natures, and 
there were elements that gratified low egoism, tickled 
gossiping curiosity, and fascinated timorous supersti- 
tion. His need of personal predominance, his labyrin- 
thine allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures, his 
enigmatic visions, and his false certitude about the Divine 
intentions, never ceased, in^his own large soul, to be 
ennobled by that fervid piety, that passionate sense of the 
infinite, that active sympathy, that clear-sighted demand 
for the subjection of selfish interests to the general good, 
which he had in common with the greatest of mankind. 
But for the mass of his audience all the pregnancy of his 
preaching lay in his strong assertion of supernatural claims, 
in his denunciatory visions, in the false certitude which 
gave his sermons the interest of a political bulletin; and 
having once held that audience in his mastery, it was 
necessary to his nature — it was necessary for their welfare — 
that he should keep the mastery. The effect was inevitable. 
No man ever struggled to retain power over a mixed mul- 
titude without suffering vitiation; his standard must be 
their lower needs and not his own best insight. 

The mysteries of human character have seldom been 
presented in a way more fitted to check the judgments of 
facile knowingness than in Girolamo Savonarola; but we 
can give him a reverence that needs no shutting of the 
eyes to fact, if we regard his life as a drama in which there 
were great inward modifications accompanying the out- 
ward changes. And up to this period, when his more 
direct action on political affairs had only just begun, it is 
probable that his imperious need of ascendancy had burned 
undiscernibly in the strong flame of his zeal for God and 
nmii. 

(Tit was a fashion of old, when an ox was led out for 
sacrifice to Jupiter, to chalk the dark spots, and give the 
offering a false show of unblemished whiteness. Let us 



THE GARMEKT OF FEAR. 225 

fling away the chalk, and boldly say — the victim is spotted, 
but it is not therefore in vain that his mighty heart is laid 
on the altar of men's highest hopes^ i^h^-CX^sUsMMC^O^ 

CHAPTER XXVI. ^""""^^^^^^ ^ 

THE GARMENT OF FEAR. V> "fVcJK^AV^ \ IVJ^OS-I 

At six o'clock that evening most people in Florence 
were glad the entrance of the new Charlemagne was fairly 
over. Doubtless when the roll of drums, the blast of 
trumpets, and the tramp of horses along the Pisan road 
began to mingle with the pealing of the excited bells, it 
was a grand moment for those who were stationed on tur- 
ruted roofs, and could see the long-winding terrible pomp 
on the background of the green hills and valley. There 
was no sunshine to light up the splendor of banners, and 
spears, and plumes, and silken surcoats, but there was no 
thick cloud of dust to hide it, and as the picked troops 
advanced into close view, they could be seen all the more 
distinctly for the absence of dancing glitter. Tall and 
tough Scotch archers, Swiss halberdiers fierce and ponder- 
ous, nimble Gascons ready to wheel and climb, cavalry in 
which each man looked like a knight-errant with his 
indomitable spear and charger — it was satisfactory to be 
assured that they would injure nobody but the enemies of 
God! With that confidence at heart it was a less dubious 
pleasure to look at the array of strength and splendor in 
nobles and knights, and youthful pages of choice line- 
age — at the bossed and jeweled sword-hilts, at the satin 
scarfs embroidered with strange symbolical devices of 
pious or gallant meaning, at the gold chains and jeweled 
aigrettes, at the gorgeous horse-trappings and brocaded 
mantles, and at the transcendent canopy carried by select 
youths above the head of the Most Christian King. To 
sum up with an old diarist, whose spelling and diction 
halted a little behind the wonders of this royal visit, — 
"fic gran magiiificenza.'' 

But for the Signoria, who had been waiting on their 

platform against the gates, and had to march out at the 

right moment, with their orator in front of them, to meet 

ji^he mighty guest, the grandeur of the scene had been 

I^B 15 



226 ROMOLA. 

somewhat screened by unpleasant sensations. If Messer 
Luca Corsini could liave had a brief Latin welcome de- 
pending from his mouth in legible characters, it would 
have been less confusing when the rain came on, and 
created an impatience in men and horses that broke off 
the delivery of his well-stuaied periods, and reduced the 
representatives of the scholarly city to offer a makeshift 
welcome in impromptu French. But that sudden confu- 
sion had created a great opportunity for Tito. As one of 
the secretaries he was among the officials who were sta- 
tioned behind the Signoria, and with whom these highest 
dignities were promiscuously thrown when pressed upon 
by the horses. 

'^ Somebody step forward and say a few words in 
French," said Soderini. But no one of high importance 
chose to risk a second failure. '* You, Francesco Gaddi — 
you can speak." But Gaddi, distrusting his own prompt- 
ness, hung back, and pushing Tito, said, "You, Melema." 

Tito stepped forward in an instant, and, with the air of 
profound deference that came as naturally to him as walk- 
ing, said the few needful words in the name of the Sig- 
noria; then gave way gracefully, and let the king pass on. 
His presence of mind, which had failed him in the terrible 
crisis of the morning, had been a ready instrument this 
time. It was an excellent livery servant that never forsook 
him when danger was not visible. But when he was com- 
plimented on his opportune service, he laughed it off as a 
thing of no moment, and to those who had not witnessed 
it, let Gaddi have the credit of the improvised welcome. 
No wonder Tito was popular: the touchstone by which 
men try us is most often their own vanity. 

Other things besides the oratorical welcome had turned 
out rather worse than had been expected. If everything 
had happened according to ingenious preconceptions, the 
Florentine procession of clergy and laity would not have 
found their way choked up and been obliged to take a 
make-shift couise through the back streets, so as to meet 
the king at the Cathedral only. Also, if the young mon- 
arch under the canopy, seated on his charger with his 
lance upon his thigh, had looked more like a Charlemagne 
and less like a hastily modeled grotesque, the imagination 
of his admirers would have been much assisted, ft might 
have been wished that the scourge of Italian wickedness 
and ** Champion of the honor of women" had had a less 
miserable leg, and only the normal sum of toes; that his 



I 



THE GARMENT OF FEAR. 227 



month had been of a less reptilian width of slit, his nose 
and head of a less exorbitant outline. But the thin leg 
rested on cloth of gold and pearls, and the face was only 
an interruption of a few square inches in the midst of 
black velvet and gold, and the blaze of rnbies, and the 
brilliant tints of the embroidered and bepearled canopy, — 
''fU gran magnificenza." 

And the people had cried Francia, Francia! with an 
enthusiasm proportioned to the splendor of the canopy 
which they had torn to pieces as their spoil, according to 
immemorial custom; royal lips had duly kissed the altar; 
and after all mischances the royal person and retinue were 
lodged in the Palace of the Via Larga, the rest of the 
nobles and gentry were dispersed among the great houses 
of Florence, and the terrible soldiery were encamped in the 
Prato and other open quarters. The business of the day 
was ended. 

But the streets still presented a surprising aspect, such 
as Florentines had not seen before under the November 
stars. Instead of a gloom unbroken except by a lamp 
burning feebly here and there before a saintly image at the 
street corners, or by a stream of redder light from an open 
doorway, there were lamps suspended at the windows of all 
houses, so that men could walk along no less securely and 
commodiously than by day, — ^^fu gran magnificenza." 

Along these illuminated streets Tito Melema was walk- 
ing at about eight o'clock in the evening, on his way 
homeward. He had been exerting himself throughout the 
day under the pressure of hidden anxieties, and had at 
last made his escape unnoticed from the midst of after- 
supper gaiety. Once at leisure thoroughly to face and 
consider his circumstances, he hoped that he could so 
adjust himself to them and to all probabilities as to get rid 
of his childish fear. If he had only not been wanting in 
the presence of mind necessary to recognize Baldassarre 
ander that surprise! — it would have been happier for him 
Dii all accounts; for he still winced under the sense that 
lie was deliberately inflicting suffering on his father: he 
would very much have preferred that Baldassarre should 
be prosperous and happy. But he had left himself no 
second path now: there could be no conflict any longer: 
the only thing he had to do was to take care of himself. 

While these thoughts were in his mind he was advancing 
from the Piazza di Santa Croce along the Via dei Benci, 

' as he neared the angle turning into the Borgo Santa 



228 EOMOLA. 

Croce his ear was struck by a music wliicli was not that of 
evening revehy, but of vigorous labor — the music of the 
anvil. Tito gave a slight start and quickened his pace, 
for the sounds had suggested a welcome thought. He 
knew that they came from the workshop of Niccolc 
Caparra, famous resort of all Florentines who cared foi 
curious and beautiful iron-work. 

*' What makes the giant at work so late?" thought Tito. 
" But so much the better for me. I can do that little bii 
of business to-night instead of to-morrow morning." 

Preoccupied as he was, he could not help pausing i 
moment in admiratioa as he came in front of the work 
shop. The wide doorway, standing at the truncated angh 
of a great block or " isle " of houses, was surmounted by { 
loggia roofed with fluted tiles, and supported by ston< 
columns with roughly carved capitals. Against the red ligh 
framed in by the outline of the fluted tiles and column; 
stood in black relief the grand figure of Niccclo. with hi 
huge arms in rhythmic rise and fall, first hiding and thei 
disclosing the profile of his firm mouth and powerful brow 
Two slighter el3ony figures, one at the anvil, the other a 
the bellows, served to set off his sujiersor massiveness. 

Tito darkened the doorway with a very different outline 
standing in silence, since it was useless to speak unti 
Niccolo should deign to pause and notice him. That wa 
not until the smith had beaten the head of an ax to th 
due sharpness of edge and dismissed it from his anvil. Bu i 
in the meantime Tito had satisfied himself by a glanc 
round the shop that the object of which he was in searcl 
had not disappeared. 

Niccolo gave an unceremonious but good-humored no< 
as he turned from the anvil and rested his hammer o: 
his hip. 

'' What is it, Messer Tito? Business? " 

"Assuredly, Niccolo; else I should not have venture- 
to interrupt you when you are working out of hours, sine 
I take that as a sign that your work is pressing." 

**I've been at the same work all day — making axes an^ 
spear-heads. And every fool that has passed my shop ha 
put his pumpkin-head in to say, ' Niccolo, wilt thou no 
come and see the King of France and his soldiers?^ an 
Tve answered, 'No; I don't want to see their faces — 
want to see their backs.'" 

**Are you making arms for the citizens, then, Niccol^ 



I 

tSat 



THE GARMENT OF FEAR. 229 



at they may have something better than rusty scythes 
and spits in case of an uproar?" 

" We shall see. Arms are good, and Florence is likely 
to want them. The Frate tells us we shall get Pisa again, 
and I hold with' the J^'rate; but i snouia be glad to know 
how the promise is to be fulfilled, if we donU get plenty of 
good weapons forged? The Frate sees a long way before 
him; that I believe. But he doesn't see birds caught with 
winking at them, as some of our people try to make out. 
He sees sense, and not nonsense. But you're a bit of a 
Medicean, Messer Tito Melema, Ebbene! so I've been 
myself in my time, before the cask began to run sour. 
What's your business ? " 

'* Simply to know the price of that fine coat of mail I 
saw hanging up here the other day. I want to buy it for 
a certain personage who needs a protection of that sort 
under his doublet." 

" Let him come and buy it himself, then," said Niccold, 
bluntly. ^^I'm rather nice about what I sell, and whom I 
sell to. I like to know who's my customer." 

'^1 know your scruples, Niccolo. But that is only 
defensive armor; it can hurt nobody." 

^^True; but it may make the man who wears it feel 
himself all the safer if he should want to hurt somebody. 
iSTo, no; it's not my own work; but it's fine work of 
Maso of Brescia; I should be loth for it to cover the heart 
of a scoundrel. I must know who is to wear it." 

'' Well, then, to be plain with you, Niccolo mio, I want . 
it myself," said Tito, knowing it was useless to try per- \ bubW^ 
suasion. ^' The fact is, I am likely to^ have a journey to (,jj^^r>^ 
take — and you know what journeying is in these times. \^ 
You don't suspect me of treason against the Eepublic?" e«^^ 

"'No, I know no harm of you," said Niccolo, in his ,^^,^Jt 
blunt way again. ^^But have you the money to pay for j^^^j, 
the coat? For you've passed my shop often enough to ^^'^^^^'^ 
know my sign: you've seen the burning account-books. I ^V2f^ 
trust nobody. The price is twenty florins, an(f that's ^^.wytc 
because it's second-hand. You're not likely to have so ^ 
much money with you. Let it be till to-morrow." 

" I happen to have the money," said Tito, who had been 
winning at play the day before, and had not emptied his 
purse. ^' I'll carry the armor home with me." 

Niccolo reached down the finely- wrought coat, which 
fell together into little more than two handfuls. 

" There, then," he ssJ^^ when the florins had been told 



(M< 



230 ROMOLA. 

down on his palm. " Take the coat. It^s made to cheat 
sword, or poniard, or arrow. But, for my part, I would 
never put such a thing on. It^s like carrying fear about 
with one.^' 

Niccolo's words had an unpleasant intensity of meaning 
for Tito. But he smiled and said — 

"Ah, Niccolo, we scholars are all cowards. Handling 
the pen doesn't thicken the arm as your hammer-wielding 
does. Addio!'' 

He folded the armor under his mantle, and hastened 
across the Ponte Rubaconte. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE YOUKG WIFE. 



While Tito was hastening across the bridge with the 
new-bought armor under his mantle, Romola was pacing 
up and down the old library, thinking of him and longing 
for his return. 

It was but a few fair faces that had not looked forth 
from windows that day to see the entrance of the French 
king and his nobles. One of the few was Romola's. She 
had been present at no festivities since her father had 
died — died quite suddenly in his chair three months before. 

'' Is not Tito coming to write? " he had said, when the 
bell had long ago sounded the usual hour in the evening. 
He had not asked before, from dread of a negative; but 
Romola had seen by his listening face and restless move- 
ments that nothing else was in his mind. 

'' No, father, he had to go to a supper at the cardinal's: 
vou know he is wanted so much by everyone," she answered, 
in a tone of gentle excuse. 

'^Ah! then perhaps he will bring some positive word 
about the library; the cardinal promised last week," said 
Bardo, apparently pacified by this hope. 

He was silent a little while; then, suddenly flushing, he 
said — 

'^ I must go on without him, Romola. Get the pen. 
He has brought me no new text to comment on; but I must 
say what I want to say about the New Platonists. I shall 
die and nothing will have been done, Make haste^ my 
I^omola," 



THE YOUNG WIFE. 231 



1^1 am ready, father/^ she said, the next minute, holding 
the pen in her hand. 

But there was silence. Eomola took no note of this for 
a little while, accustomed to pauses in dictation; and when 
at last she looked round inquiringly, there was no change 
of attitude. 

"'I am quite ready, father!^* 

Still Bardo was silent, and his silence was never again 
broken. 

Romola looked back on that hour with some indignation 
against herself, because even with the fii;st outburst of her 
sorrow there had mingled the irrepressible thought, '^Per- 
haps my life with Tito will be more perfect now."" 

For the dream of a triple life with an undivided sum of 
happiness had not been quite fulfilled. The rainbow- 
tinted shower of sweets, to have been perfectly typical, 
should have had some invisible seeds of bitterness mingled 
with them; the crowned Ariadne, under the snowing 
roses, had felt more and more the presence of unexpected 
thorns. It was not Tito's fault, Romola had continually 
assured herself. He was still all gentleness to her, and to 
her father also. But it was in the nature of tilings — she 
saw it clearly now — it was in the nature of things that no 
one but herself could go on month after month, and year 
after year, fulfilling patiently all her father's monotonous 
exacting demands. Even she, whose sympathy with her 
father had made all the passion and religion of her young 
years, had not always been patient, had been inwardly 
very rebellious. It was true that before their marriage, 
and even for some time after, Tito had seemed more 
unwearying than herself; but then, of course, the effort 
had the ease of novelty. We assume a load with confi- 
dent readiness, and up to a certain point the growing 
irksomeness of pressure is tolerable: but at last the desire 
for relief can no longer be resisted. Romola said to her- 
self that she had been very foolish and ignorant in her 
girlish time: she was wiser now, and would make no 
unfair demands on the man to whom she had given her 
best woman's love and worship. The breath of sadness 
that still cleaved to her lot while she saw her father month 
after month sink from elation into new disappointment as 
Tito gave him less and less of his time, and made bland 
excuses for not continuing his own share of the joint 
work — that sadness was no fault of Tito's, she said, but 
rather of their inevitable destiny. If he stayed less and 



232 KOMOLA. 

less with her, why, that was because they could hardly 
ever be alone. His caresses were no less tender: if she 
pleaded timidly on any one evening that he should stay 
with her father instead of going to another engagement 
which was not peremptory, he excused himself with such 
charming gaiety, he seemed to linger about her with such 
fond playfulness before he could quit her, that she could 
only feel a little heartache in the midst of her love, and 
then go to her father and try to soften his vexation and dis- 
appointment. But all the while inwardly her imagination 
was busy trying to see how Tito could be as good as she 
had thought he was, and yet find it impossible to sacrifice 
those pleasures of society which were necessarily more 
vivid to a bright creature like him than to the common 
run of men. She herself would have liked more gaiety, 
more admiration: it was true, she gave it up willingly for 
her father's sake — she would have given up much more 
than that for the sake even of a slight wish on Tito's part. 
It was clear that there natures differed widely; but per- 
haps it was no more than the inherent difference between 
man and woman, that made her affections more absorbing. 
If there were any other difference she tried to persuade 
herself tliat the inferiority was all on her side. Tito was 
really kinder than she was, better tempered, less proud 
and resentful; he had no angry retorts, he met all com- 
plaints with perfect sweetness; he only escaped as quietly 
as he could from things that were unpleasant. 

It belongs to every large nature, wlien it is not under 
the immediate power of some strong unquestioning emo- 
tion, to suspect itself, and doubt the truth of its own 
impressions, conscious of possibilities beyond its own 
horizon. And Eomola was urged to doubt herself the 
more by the necessity of interpreting her disappointment 
in her "^life Avitli Tito so as to satisfy at once her love and 
her pride. Disappointed? Yes, there was no other milder 
word that would tell the truth. Perhaps all women had 
to suffer the disappointment of ignorant hopes, if she 
only knew their experience. Still, there had been some- 
thing peculiar in her lot: her relation to her father had 
claimed unusual sacrifices from her husband. Tito had 
once thought that his love would make those sacrifices 
easy; his love had not been great enough for that. She 
was not justified in resenting a self-delusion. No! resent- 
ment must not rise: all endurance seemed easy to Eomola 
rather than a state of mind in which she would admit to 



I 



THE YOUNG WIFE. 233 



herself that Tito acted unworthily. If she had felt a new 
heartache in the solitary hours with her father through 
the last months of his life, it had been by no inexcusa- 
ble fault of her husband's; and now — it was a hope that 
would make its presence felt even in the first moments 
when her father's place was empty — there was no longer 
any importunate claim to divide her from Tito; their 
young lives would flow in one current, and their true 
marriage would begin. 

But the sense of something like guilt toward her father 
in a hope that grew out of his death, gave all the more 
force to the anxiety with which she dwelt on the means of 
fulfilling his supreme wish. That piety toward his mem- 
ory was all the atonement she could made now for a 
thought that seemed akin to joy at his loss. The laborious 
simple life, pure from vulgar corrupting ambitions, embit- 
tered by the frustration of the dearest hopes, imprisoned 
at last in total darkness — a long seed-time without a har- 
vest — was at an end now, and all that remained of it 
beside the tablet in Sante Croce and the unfinished com- 
mentary on Tito's text, was the collection of manuscripts 
and antiquities, the fruit of half a century's toil and 
frugality. The fulfillment of her father's life-long ambi- 
tion about this library was a sacramental obligation for 
Romola. 

The precious relic was safe from creditors, for when the 
deficit toward tlieir payment had been ascertained, Ber- 
nardo del Nero, though he was far from being among the 
wealthiest Florentines, had advanced the necessary sum of 
about a thousand florins — a large sum in those days — 
accepting a lien on the collection as a security. 

''The State will repay me," he had said to Romola, 
making light of the service, which had really cost him 
some inconvenience. ''If the cardinal finds a building, 
as he seems to say he will, our Signoria may consent to do 
the rest. I have no children, I can afford the risk." 

But within the last ten days all hopes in the Medici had 
come to an end: and the famous Medicean collections in 
the Via Larga were themselves in danger of dispersion. 
French agents had already begun to see that such very fine 
antique gems as Lorenzo had collected belonged by right 
to the first nation in Europe; and the Florentine State, 
which had got possession of the Medicean library, was 
likely to be glad of a customer for it. With a war to 
recover Pisa hanging over it, and with the certainty of 



234 ROMOLA. 

"havinff to pay large subsidies to the French king, the State 
was likely to prefer money to manuscripts. 

To Romola these grave political changes had gathered 
their chief interest from their bearing on the fullihnent of 
her f;i therms wish. She had been brought up in learned 
seclusion from the interests of actual life, and had been 
accustomed to think of heroic deeds and great principles 
as something antithetic to the vulgar present, of the Pynx 
and the Forum as something more worthy of attention 
than the councils of living Florentine men. And now the 
expulsion of the Medici meant little more for her than 
the extinction of her best hope about her father's library. 
The times, she knew, were unpleasant for friends of the 
Medici, like her godfather and Tito: superstitious shop- 
keepers and the stupid rabble were full of suspicions; but 
her new keen interest in public events, in the outbreak of 
war, in the issue of the French king's visit, in the changes 
that were likely to happen in the State, was kindled solely 
by the sense of love and duty to her father's memory. All 
Romola's ardor had been concentrated in her affections. 
Her share in her father's learned pursuits had been for her 
•ittle more than a toil which was borne for his sake; and 
Tito's airy brilliant faculty had no attraction for her that 
(vas not merged in the deeper sympathies that belong to 
young love and trust. Romola had had contact with no 
mind that could stir the larger possibilities of her nature; 
Uiey lay folded and crushed like embryonic wings, making 
lio element in her consciousness beyond an occasional 
rague uneasiness. 

But this new personal interest of hers in public affairs 
had made her care at least to understand precisely what 
in flu_ence Fra Girolamo's preaching was likely to have on, 
the turn of events, Changes in the form of the State 
were talked of, and all she could learn from Tito, whose 
secretaryship and serviceable talents carried him into the 
heart of public business, made her only the more eager to 
fill out her lonely day by going to hear for herself what it 
was that was just now leading all Florence by the ears. 
This morning, for the first time, she had been to hear one 
of the Advent sermons i n the Duom o. When Tito had 
left her, she hadTormed a sudden resolution, and after vis- 
iting the spot where her father was buried in Santa Croce, 
had walked on to the Duomo. The ^lemory of that last 
scene with Dino was still vivid withm her whenever she 
recalled it, but it had receded behind the experience and 



THE YOUNG WIFE. 235 

anxieties of her married life. The new sensibilities and 
questions which it had half awakened in her were quieted 
again by that subjection to her husband's mind which is 
felt by every wife who loves, her husband with passionate 
devotednees and full reliance. She remembered the effect 
of Fra Girolamo's voice and presence on her as a ground 
for expecting that his sermon might move her in spite of 
his being a narrow-minded monk. But the sermon did 
no more than slightly deepen her previous impression, that 
this fanatical preacher of tribulations was after all a man 
toward whom it might be possible for her to feel personal 
regard and reverence. The denunciations and exhorta- 
tions simply arrested her attention. She felt no terror, no 
pangs of conscience: it was the roll of distant thunder, 
that seemed grand, but could not shake her. But when 
she heard Savonarola invoke martyrdom, she sobbed with 
the rest: she felt herself penetrated with a new sensation — 
a strange sympathy with something apart from all the 
definable interests of her life. It was not altogether unlike 
the thrill which had accompanied certain rare heroic 
touches in history and poetry; but the resemblance was as 
that between the memory of music, and the sense of being 
possessed by actual vibrating harmonies. 

But that transient emotion, strong as it was, seemed to 
lie quite outside the inner chamber and sanctuary of her 
life. She was not thinking of Fra Girolamo now; she was 
listening anxiously for the step of her husband. During 
these three months of their double solitude she had 
thought of each day as an epoch in which their union 
might begin to be more perfect. She was conscious of 
being sometimes a little too sad or too urgent about what 
concerned her father's memory — a Ittle too critical or y 
coldly silent when Tito narrated the things that were said X 
and done in the world he frequented — a little too hasty in\ ^ 
suggesting that by living quite simply as her father had ) l(_^ 
done, they might become rich enough to pay Bernardo del/ / 
Nero, and reduce the difficulties about the library. It wasj TC^ ^ 
not possible that Tito could feel so strongly on this last point ; r^^^^f 
as she did, and it was asking a great deal from him to give upl 
luxuries for which he really labored. The next time Titov 
came home she would be careful to suppress all those 
promptings that seemed to isolate her from him. Komola 
was laboring, as a loving woman must, to subdue her nature 
to her husband's. The great need of her heart compelled 
h^r to strangle, with desperate resolution, every rising 



236 ROMOLA. 

impulse of suspicion, pride, and resentment; she felt equal 
to any self-infliction that would save her from ceasing to 
love. That would have been like the hideous nightmare 
in which the world had seemed to break away all round 
her, and leave her feet overhanging the darkness. Eomola 
had never distinctly imagined such a future for herself; 
she was only beginning to feel the presence of effort in 
that clinging trust which had once been mere repose. 

She waited and listened long, for Tito had not come 
straight liome after leaving Niccolo Caparra, and it was 
more than two hours after the time when he was crossing 
the Ponte Eubaconte that Romola heard the great door of 
the court turning on its hinges, and hastened to the head of 
the stone steps. There was a lamp hanging over the stairs, 
and they could see each other distinctly as he ascended. 
The eighteen months had produced a more definable change 
in Romola^s face than in Titers; the expression was more 
subdued, less cold, and more beseeching, and, as the pink 
flush overspread her face now, in her joy that the long wait- 
ing was at an end, she was much lovelier than on the day 
when Tito had first seen her. On that day, any on-looker 
would have said that Romola^s nature was made to com- 
mand, and Tito's to bend; yet now Romola's mouth was 
quivering a little, and there was some timidity in her glance. 

He made an effort to smile, as she said — 

"My Tito, you are tired; it has been a fatiguing day: is 
it not true?'' 

Maso was there, and no more was said until they had 
crossed the ante-chamber and closed the door of the library 
behind them. The wood was burning brightly on the great 
dogs; that was one welcome for Tito, late as he was, and 
Romola's gentle voice was another. 

He just turned and kissed her when she took off his 
mantle; then he went toward a high-backed chair placed 
for him near the fire, threw himself into it, and flung 
away his cap, saying, not peevishly, but in a fatigued tone 
of remonstrance, as he gave a slight shudder — 

*^ Romola, I wish you would give up sitting in this 
library. Surely our own rooms are pleasanter in this chill 
weather." 

Romola felt hurt. She had never seen Tito so indifferent 
in his manner; he was usually full of lively solicitous 
attention. And she had thought so much of his return to 
her after the long clay's absence! He must be very weary. 

"I wonder you have forgotten, Tito," she answered. 



I 



THE YOUNG WIFE. 237 



looking at him anxiously, as if she wanted to read an 

Ixcuse for him in the signs of bodily fatigue. '^You 
:now I am making the catalogue on the new plan that my 
ather wished for; you have not time to help me, so I must 
mrk at it closely." 

Tito, instead of meeting Romola^s glance, closed his eyes 

and rubbed his hands over his face and hair. He felt he 

was behaving unlike himself, but he would make amends 

to-morrow. The terrible resurrection of secret fears, 

which, if Romola had known them, would have alienated 

her from him forever, caused him to feel an alienation 

already begun between them — caused him to feel a certain 

repulsion toward a woman from whose mind he was in 

danger. The feeling had taken hold of him unawares, and 

he was vexed with himself for behaving in this new cold 

^^^ay to her. He could not suddenly command any affec- 

^Kionate looks or words; he could only exert himself to say 

^^rhat might serve as an excuse. 

** I am not well, Romola; you must not be surprised if I 
am peevish." 

^•Ah, you have had so much to tire you to-day," said 
Romola, kneeling down close to him, and laying her arm 
on his chest while she put his hair back caressingly. 

Suddenly she drew her arm away with a start, and a gaze 
of alarmed inquiry. 

''What have you got under your tunic, Tito? Some- 
thing as hard as iron." 

" It is iron — it is chain armor," he said at once. He 
was prepared for the surprise and the question, and he 
spoke quietly, as of something that he was not hurried to 
explain. 

"There was some unexpected danger to-day, then?" 
said Romola, in a tone of conjecture. " You had it lent 
to you for the procession." 

"No; it is my own. I shall be obliged to wear it 
constantly, for some time." 

" What is it that threatens you, my Tito?" said Romola, 
looking terrified, and clinging to him again. 

"Every one is threatened in these times, who is not a 
rabid enemy of the Medici. Don't look distressed, my 
Romola — this armor will make me safe against covert 
attacks." 

Tito put his hand on her neck and smiled. This little 
dialogue about the armor had broken through the new 
crust, and made a channel for the sweet habit of kindness. 



238 ROMOLi.. 

*^But my godfather, then/^ said Romola, ^'is not he, 
too, in danger? And he takes no precautions — ought he 
not? since he must surely be in more danger than you, 
who have so little influence compared with him." 

^* It is just because I am less important that I am in 
more danger,^' said Tito, readily. '* I am suspected con- 
stantly of being an envoy. And men like Messer Bernardo 
are protected by their position and their extensive family 
connections, which spread among all parties, while I am a 
Greek that nobody would avenge." 

^' But, Tito, is it a fear of some particular person, or 
only a vague sense of danger, that has made you think of 
wearing this? " Romola was unable to repel the idea of a 
degrading fear in Tito, which mingled itself with her 
anxiety. 

*'l have had special threats," said Tito, "^^but I must 
beg you to be silent on the subject, my Romola. I shall 
consider that you have broken my confidence, if you 
mention it to your godfather." 

^'^ Assuredly I will not mention it," said Romola, blush- 
ing, " if you wish it to be a secret. But, dearest Tito," 
she added, after a moment's pause, in a tone of loving 
anxiety, '*it will make you very wretched." 

" What will make me wretched? " he said, with a scarcely 
perceptible movement across his face, as from some darting 
sensation. 

^' This fear — this heavy armor. I can't help shuddering 
as I feel it under my arm. I could fancy it a story of 
enchantment — that some malignant fiend had changed your 
sensitive human skin into a hard shell. It seems so unlike 
my bright, light-hearted Tito!" 

*^Then you would rather have your husband exposed to 
danger, when he leaves you?" said Tito, smiling. *'If 
you don't mind my being poniarded or shot, why need I 
mind? I will give up the armor — shall I?" 

'^No, Tito, no. I am fanciful. Do not heed what I 
have said. But such crimes are surely not common in 
Florence? I have always heard my father and godfather 
say so. Have they become frequent lately? " 

" It is not unlikely that they will become frequent, with 
the bitter hatreds that are being bred continually." 

Romola was silent for a few moments. She shrank from 
insisting further on the subject of the armor. She tri^ 
to shake it off. 



THE YOUNG WIFE. S39 

™'*Tell me what has happened today/' she said, in a 
cheerful tone. *^Has all gone off well?''' 

^'Excellently well. First of all, the rain came and put 
an end to Luca Corsini's oration, which nobody wanted to 
hear, and a ready- tongued personage — some say it was 
Gaddi, some say it was Melema, but really it was done so 
quickly no one knows who it was — had the honor of giving 
the Christianissimo the briefest possible welcome in bad 
French.'^ 

''Tito, it was you, I know," said Eomola, smiling 
brightly, and kissing him. "How is it you never care 
about claiming anything? And after that?'' 

"Oh! after that, there was a shower of armor and 
jewels, and trappings, such as you saw at the last Floren- 
tine giostra, only a great deal more of them. There was 
strutting, and prancing, and confusion, and scrambling, 
and the people shouted, and the Cristianissimo smiled 
from ear to ear. And after that there was a great deal of 
flattery, and eating, and play. I was at Tornabuoni's. I 
will tell you about it to-morrow." 

"Yes, dearest, never mind now. But is there any more 
hope that things will end peaceably for Florence, that the 
Kepublic will not get into fresh troubles?" 

Tito gave a shrug. "Florence will have no peace but 
what it pays well for; that is clear." 

Eomola's face saddened, but she checked herself, and said, 
cheerfully, " You would not guess where I went to-day, 
Tito. I went to the Duomo, to hear Fra Girolamo." 

Tito looked startled; he had immediately thought of 
Baldassarre's entrance into the Duomo; but Eomola gave 
his look another meaning. 

"You are surprised, are you not? It was a sudden 
thought. I want to know all about the public affairs now, 
and I determined to hear for myself what the Frate 
promised the people about this French invasion." 

"Well, and what did you think of the prophet?" 

"He certainly has a very mysterious power, that man. 
A great deal of his sermon was what I expected; but once 
I was strangely moved — I sobbed with the rest." 

"Take care, Eomola," said Tito, playfully, feeling re- 
lived that she had said nothing about Baldassarre; "you 
have a touch of fanaticism in you. I shall have you 
seeing visions, like your brother." 

"No; it was the same with every one else. He carried 
them all with him; unless it were that gross Dolfo Spini, 



240 ROMOLA. 

whom I saw there making grimaces. There was even a 
wretched-looking man, with a rope round his neck — an 
escaped prisoner, I should think, who had run in for 
shelter — a very wild-eyed old man: I saw him with great 
tears rolling down his cheeks, as he looked and listened 
quite eagerly/^ 

There was a slight pause before Tito spoke. 

^'I saw the man,'^ he said, — "the prisoner. I was 
outside the Duomo with Lorenzo Tornabuoni when he ran 
in. He had escaped from a French soldier. Did you see 
him when you came out?^^ 

'^^No, he went out with our good old Piero di Cosimo, 
I saw Piero come in and cut off his rope, and take him 
out of the church. But you want rest, Tito? You feel 
ill?" ^ ^ 

"Yes," said Tito, rising. The horrible sense that he 
must live in continual dread of what Baldassarre had said 
or done pressed upon him like a cold weight. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

THE PAINTED RECORD. 



Four days later, Romola was on her way to the house of 
Piero di Cosimo, in the Via Golfonda. Some of the streets 
through which she had to pass were lined with Frenchmen 
Avho were gazing at Florence, and with Florentines who 
were gazing at the French, and the gaze was not on either 
side entirely friendly and admiring. The fist nation in 
Europe, of necessity finding itself, when out of its own 
country, in the presence of general inferiority, naturally 
assumed an air of conscious pre-eminence; and the Flor- 
entines, who had taken such pains to play the host amia- 
bly, were getting into the worst humor with their too 
superior guests. 

For after the first smiling compliments and festivities 
were over — after wondrous mysteries with unrivaled ma- 
chinery of floating clouds and angels had been presented 
in churches — after the royal guest had honored Florentine 
dames with much of his Most Christian ogling at balls and 
suppers, and business had begun to be talked of — it ap- 
peared that the new Charlemagne regarded Florence as a 



I 



THE PAINTED RECORD. 241 



conquered city, inasmuch as he had entered it with his 
lance at rest, talked of leaving his viceroy behind him, and 
had thoughts of bringing back the Medici. Singular logic 
this appeared to be, on the part of an elect instrument of 
God I since the policy of Piero de Medici, disowned by the 
people, had been the only offense of Florence against the 
majesty of France. And Florence was determined not to 
submit. The determination was being expressed very 
strongly in consultations of citizens inside the Old Palace, 
and it was beginning to show itself on the broad flags of 
the streets and piazza wherever there was an opportunity 
of flouting an insolent Frenchman. Under these circum- 
stances the streets were not altogether a pleasant prom- 
enade for well-born women; but fiomola, shrouded in her 
black veil and mantle, and with old Maso by her side, felt 
secure enough from impertinent observation. 

And she was impatient to visit Piero di Cosimo. A copy 
of her father's portrait as CEdipus, which he had long ago 
undertaken to make for her, was not yet finished; and 
Piero was so uncertain in his work — sometimes, when the 
demand was not peremptory, laying aside a picture for 
months; sometimes thrusting it into a corner or coffer, 
where it was likely to be utterly forgotten — that she felt it 
necessary to watch over his progress. She was a favorite 
with the painter, and he was inclined to fulfil any wish of 
hers, but no general inclination could be trusted as a safe- 
guard against his sudden whims. He had told her the 
week before that the picture would perhaps be finished by 
this time; and Eomola was nervously anxious to have in 
her possession a copy of the only portrait existing of her 
father in the days- of his blindness, lest his image should 
grow dim in her mind. The sense of defect in her devo- 
tedness to him made her cling with all the force of com- 
punction as well as affection to the duties of memory. Love 
does not aim simply at the conscious good of the beloved 
object: it is not satisfied without perfect loyalty of heart; 
it aims at its own completeness. 

Romola, by special favor, was allowed to intrude upon 
the painter without previous notice. She lifted the iron 
slide and called Piero in a flute-like tone, as the little 
maiden with the eggs had done in Tito's presence. Piero 
was quick in answering, but when he opened the door he 
accounted for his quickness in a manner that was not 
complimentary, 
^ 16 



242 EOMOLA. 

"Ah, Madonna Romola, is it you? I thought my eggs 
were come; I wanted them." 

"I have brought you something better than hard eggs, 
Piero. Maso has got a little basket full of cakes and 
confetti for you," said Romola, smiling, as she put back 
her veil. She took the basket from Maso, and stepping 
into the house said — 

"I know you like these things when you can have them 
without trouble. Confess you do." 

" Yes, when they come to me as easily as the light does," 
said Piero, folding his arms and looking down at the sweet- 
meats as Romola uncovered them and glanced at him 
archly. "And they are come along with the light now,'" 
he added, lifting his eyes to her face and hair with 
painter's admiration, as her hood, dragged by the weigh. 
of her veil, fell backward. 

>' But I know what the sweetmeats are for," he went 
on; "they are to stop my mouth while you scold me. 
Well, go on into the next room, and you will see I\e done 
something to the picture since you saw it, though it's not 
finished yet. But I didn't promise, you know: I take care 
not to promise: 

'Chi promette e non mantiene 
L'anima sua non va mai bene.' " 

The door opening on the wild garden was closed now, 
and the painter was at work. Not at Romola's picture, 
however. That was standing on the floor, propped against 
the wall, and Piero stooped to lift it, that he might carry 
it into the proper light. But in lifting away this picture, 
he had disclosed another — the oil-sketch of Tito, to which 
he had made an important addition within the last few 
days. It was so much smaller than the other picture, 
that it stood far within it, and Piero, apt to forget where 
he had placed anything, was not aware of what he had 
revealed, as, peering at some detail in the painting which 
he held in his hands, he went to place it on an easel. But 
Romola exclaimed, flushing with astonishment — 

"That is Tito!" 

Piero looked round, and gave a silent shrug. He was 
vexed at his own forgetfulness. 

She was still looking at the sketch in astonishment; but 
presently she turned toward the painter, and said with 
puzzled alarm — 

"What a strange picture! When did you paint it? 
What does it mean?" 



THE PAINTED RECORD. 243 

'* A mere fancy of mine/' said Piero, lifting off his skull- 
cap, scratching his head, and making the usual grimace by 
which he avoided the betrayal of any feeling. **I wanted 
a handsome young face for it, and your husband's was just 
the thing.'' 

He went forward, stooped down to the picture, and lift- 
ing it away with its back to Romola, pretended to be giv- 
ing it a passing examination, before putting it aside as a 
thing not good enough to show. 

But Romola, who had the fact of the armor in her 
mind, and was penetrated by this strange coincidence of 
things which associated Tito with the idea of fear, went to 
his elbow and said — 

'^ Don't pat it away; let me look again. That man with 
the rope round his neck — I saw him — I saw you come to 
him in the Duomo. What was it that made you put him 
into a picture with Tito?" 

Piero saw no better resource than to tell part of the 
truth. 

" It was a mere accident. The man was running avay — 
running up the steps, and caught hold of your husband; 
I suppose he had stumbled. I happened to be there, and 
saw it, and I thought the savage-looking old fellow was a 
good subject. But it's worth nothing — it's only a freakish 
daub of mine." Piero ended contemptuously, moving the 
sketcli away with an air of decision, and putting it on a 
high-shelf. '' Come and look at the (Edipus." 

He had shown a little too much anxiety in putting the 
sketch out of her sight, and had produced the very impression 
he had sought to prevent — that there was really something 
unpleasant, something disadvantageous to Tito, in the cir- 
cumstances out of which the picture arose. But this 
impression silenced her: her pride and delicacy shrank 
from questioning further, where questions might seem to 
imply that she could entertain even a slight suspicion 
against her husband. She merely said, in as quiet a tone 
as she could — 

'' He was a strange piteous-looking man, that prisoner. 
Do you know anything more of him?" 

*'No more: I showed him the way to the hospital, that's 
all. See, now, the face of (Edipus is pretty nearly fin- 
ished: tell me what you think of it." 

Romola now gave her whole attention to her father's 
portrait, standing in long silence before it. 
■I' Ah," she said at last, "you have done what I wanted. 



.244 ROMOLA. 

You have given it more of the listening look. My good 
Piero " — she turned toward him with bright moist eyes — 
*^I am very grateful to you." 

"Now that's what I can't bear in you women/' said 
Piero, turning impatiently, and kicking aside the objects 
that littered the floor — "you are always pouring out feel- 
ings where there's no call for them. Why should you be 
grateful to me for a picture you pay me for, especially 
when I make you wait for it? And if I paint a picture, I 
suppose it's for my own pleasure and credit to paint it well, 
eh? Are you to thank a man for not being a rogue or a 
noodle? It's enough if he himself thanks Messer Dome- 
neddio, who has made him neither the one nor the other. 
But women think walls are held together w^ith honey." 

"You crusty Piero! I forgot how snappish you are. 
Here, put this nice sweetmeat in your mouth," said 
Eomola, smiling through her tears, and taking something 
very crisp and sweet from the little basket. 

Piero accepted it very much as that proverbial bear 
that dreams of pears might accept an exceedingly mellow 
"swan-egg" — really liking the gift, but accustomed to 
have his pleasures and pains concealed under a shaggy 
coat. 

"It's good. Madonna Antigone," said Piero, putting 
his fingers in the basket for another. He had eaten 
nothing but hard eggs for a fortnight. Eomola stood 
opposite him, feeling her new anxiety suspended for a 
little while by the sight of this 7iaive enjoyment. 

"Good-bye, Piero," she said, presently, setting down 
the basket. "I promise not to thank you if you finish 
the portrait soon and well. I will tell you, you were 
bound to do it for your own credit." 

"Good," said Piero, curtly, helping her with much 
deftness to fold her mantle and veil round her. 

"I'm glad she asked no more questions about that 
sketch," he thought, wlien he had closed the door behind 
her. "I should be sorry for her to guess that I thought 
her fine husband a good model for a coward. But I made 
light of it; she'll not think of it again." 

Piero was too sanguine, as open-hearted men are apt to 
be when they attempt a little clever simulation. The 
thought of the picture pressed more and more on Romola 
as she walked homeward. She could not help putting 
together the two facts of the chain-armor and the en- 
counter mentioned by Piero between her husband and the 



A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH. 245 

prisoner, which had happened on the morning of the day 
when the armor was adopted. That look ot terror which 
the painter had given Tito, had he seen it? What could 
it all mean? 

^^It means nothing," she tried to assure herself. *^^It 
was a mere coincidence. Shall I ask Tito about it?" 
Her mind said at last, '^No: I will not question him 
about anything he did not tell me spontaneously. It is 
an offence against the trust I owe him." Her heart said, 
"I dare not ask him." 

There was a terrible flaw in the trust: she was afraid of 
any hasty movement, as men are who hold something 
precious and want to believe that it is not broken. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH. 



*'The old fellow has vanished; went on toward Arezzo 
the next morning ; not liking the smell of the French, I 
suppose, after being their prisoner. I went td the hospital 
to inquire after him ; I wanted to know if those broth- 
making monks had found out whether he was in his right 
mind or not. However, they said he showed no signs of 
madness — only took no notice of questions, and seemed 
to be planting a vine twenty miles off. He was a myste- 
rious old tiger. I should have liked to know something 
more about him." 

It was in Nello's shop that Piero di Cosimo was speaking, 
on the twenty-fourth of November, just a week after the 
entrance of the French. There was a party of six or seven 
assembled at the rather unusual hour of three in the after- 
noon; for it was a day on which all Florence was excited 
by the prospect of some decisive political event. Every 
lounging-place was full, and every shopkeeper who had no 
wife or deputy to leave in charge, stood at his door with 
his thumbs in his belt; while the streets were constantly 
sprinkled with artisans pausing or passing lazily like 
floating splinters, ready to rush forward impetuously if 
any object attracted them. 

Nello had been thrumming the lute as he half sat on 
the board against the shop-window, and kept an outlook 
toward the piazza. 



346 ROMOLA. 

'^ All/' he said, laying down the lute, with emphasis, ''I 
would not for a gold florin have missed that sight of the 
French soldiers waddling in their broad shoes after their 
runaway prisoners! That comes of leaving my shop to 
shave magnificent chins. It is always so: if ever I quit 
this navel of the earth something takes the opportunity of 
happening in my piazza/' 

^' Yes, you ought to have been there, said Piero, in his 
biting way, ^'just to see your favorite Greek look as 
frightened as if Satanasso had laid hold of him. I like 
to see your ready-smiling Messeri caught in a sudden wind 
and obliged to show their lining in spite of themselves. 
What color do you think a man's liver is, who looks like 
a bleached deer as soon as a chance stranger lays hold of 
him suddenly?" 

"Piero, keep that vinegar of thine as sauce to thine 
own eggs! What is it against my hel erndito that he looked 
startled when he felt a pair of claws upon him and saw an 
unchained madman at his elbow? Your scholar is not 
like those beastly Swiss and Germans, whose heads are 
only fit for battering-rams, and who have such large appe- 
tites that they think nothing of taking a cannon-ball 
before break fest. We Florentines count some other quali- 
ties in a man besides that vulgar stuff called bravery, 
which is to be got by hiring dunderheads at so much per 
dozen. I tell you, as soon as men found out that they 
had more brains than oxen, they set the oxen to draw for 
them; and when we Florentines found out that we had 
more brains than other men we set them to fight for us." 

"Treason, iSTello!" a voice called out from the inner 
sanctum; "that is not the doctrine of the State. Florence 
is grinding its weapons; and the last well-authenticated 
vision announced by the Frate was Mars standing on the 
Palazzo Vecchio with his arm on the shoulder of San Gio- 
vanni Battista, who was offering him a piece of honey- 
comb." 

"It is well, Francesco," said Nello. "Florence has a 
few thicker skulls than may do to Bombard Pisa with; 
there will still be the finer spirits left at home to do the 
thinking and the shaving. And as for our Piero, here, if 
he makes such a point of valor, let him carry his biggest 
brush for a weaj)on and his palette for a shield, and chal- 
lenge the widest-mouthed Swiss he can see in the Prato to 
a Fingle combat." 

" Fflf, Nello," growled Piero, "thy tongue runs on as 



A MOMEXT OF TRIUMPH. 247 



f HRual, like a mill when the Arno^s full — whether there^s 
'' grist or not." 

'* Excellent grist, I tell thee. For it would be as reason- 
able to expect a grizzled painter like thee to be fond of 
getting a javelin inside thee as to expect a man whose wits 
ave been sharpened on the classics to like having his 
handsome face clawed by a wild beast." 

" There you go, supposing you will get people to put 
their legs into a sack because you call it a pair of hosen," 
said Piero. '' Who said anything about a wild beast, or 
about an unarmed man rushing on battle? Fighting is a 
trade, and it's not my trade. I should be a fool to run 
after danger, but I could face it if it came to me." 

^^How is it you're so afraid of the thunder, then, my 
Piero?" said Nello, determined to chase down the accuser. 
^*^You ought to be able to understand why one man is 
shaken by a thing that seems a trifle to others — you who 
hide yourself with the rats as soon as a storm comes on." 

" that is because I have a particular sensibility to loud 
sounds; it has nothing to do with my courage or my con- 
science." 

^' Well, and Tito Melema may have a peculiar sensibility 
to being laid hold of unexpectedly by prisoners who have 
run away from French soldiers. Men are born with antip- 
athies; I myself can't abide the smell of mint. Tito was 
born with an antipathy to old prisoners who stumble and 
clutch. Ecco!" 

There was a general laugh at Nello's defence, and it was 
clear that Piero's disinclination toward Tito was not shared 
by the company. The painter, with his undecipherable 
grimace, took the tow from his scarsella and stuffed his 
ears in indignant contempt, while Nello went on triumph- 
antly — 

**Xo, my Piero, I can't afford to have my lei erudito 
decried; and Florence can't afford it either, with her schol- 
ars moulting off her at the early age of forty. Our Phoe- 
nix Pico, just gone straight to Paradise, as the Frate has 
informed us; and the incomparable Polizian o, not two -^>^ 

months since, gone to well, well, let us hope he is not ^^ 

gone to the eminent scholars in the Malebolge." 

'^By the way," said Francesco Cei, "have you heard 
that Camilla Rucillai has outdone the Frate in her proph- 
ecies? She prophesied two years ago that Pico would die 
in the time of lilies. He has died in November. ' Not at 
all the time of lilies,' said the scorners. * Go to!' says 



248 ROMOLA. 

Camilla; ' it is the lilies of France I meant, and it seems 
to me they are close enough under your nostrils/ I say, 
'Euge, Camilla! ' If the Frate can prove that any one of 
his visions has been as well fulfilled, I'll declare myself a 
Piagnone to-morrow/' 

*' You are something too flippant about the Frate, Fran- 
cesco," said Pietro Cennini, the scholarly. '^We are all 
indebted to him in these weeks for preaching peace and 
quietness, and the laying aside of party quarrels. They 
are men of small discernment who would be glad to see the 
people slipping the Frate's leash just now. And if the 
Most Christian King is obstinate about the treaty to-day, 
and will not sign what is fair and honorable to Florence, 
Fra Girolamo is the man we must trust in to bring him to 
reason." 

'^You speak truth, Messer Pietro," said Nello: "the 
Frate is one of the firmest nails Florence has to hang on — 
at least, that is the opinion of the most respectable chins 
I have the honor of shaving. But young Messer Mccolo 
was saying here the other morning — and doubtless Fran- 
cesco means the same thing — there is as wonderful a power 
of stretching in the meaning of visions as in Dido's bull's 
hide. It seems to me a dream may mean whatever comes 
after it. As our Franco Sacchetti says, a woman dreams 
over night of a serpent biting her, breaks a drinking-cup 
the next day, and cries out, ' Look you, I thought some- 
thing would happen — it's plain now what the serpent 
meant.' " 

"But the Prate's visions are not of that sort," said 
Cronaca. "He not only says what will happen — that the 
Church will be scourged and renovated, and the heathens 
converted — he says it shall happen quickly. He is no 
slippery pretender who provides loop-holes for himself, 
he is " 

"What is this? what is this? exclaimed Nello, jumping 
off the board, and putting his head out at the door. " Here 
are people streaming into the piazza, and shouting. Some- 
thing must have happened in the Via Larga. Aha!" he 
burst forth, with delighted astonishment, stepping out 
laughing and waving his cap. 

All the rest of the company hastened to the door. News 
from the Via Larga was just what they had been waiting 
for. But if the news had come into the piazza, they were 
not a little surprised at the form of its advent. Carried 
above the shoulders of the people, on a bench apparently 



A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH. 249 

snatched up in the street, sat Tito Melema, in smiling 
amusement at the compulsion he was under. His cap had 
slipped oif his head, and hung by the becchetto which was 
wound loosely round his neck; and as he saw the group at 
Kello^s door, he lifted up his fingers in beckoning recogni- 
tion. The next minute he had leaped from the bench on 
to a cart filled with bales, that stood in the broad space 
between the Baptistery and the steps of the Duomo, while 
the people swarmed round him with the noisy eagerness of 
poultry expecting to be fed. But there was silence when 
he began to speak in his clear mellow voice — 

'^ Citizens of Florence! I have no warrant to tell the 
news except your will. But the news is good, and will 
harm no man in the telling. The Most Christian King is 
signing a treaty that is honorable to Florence. But you 
owe it to one of your citizens, who spoke a word worthy of 
the ancient Romans — you owe it to Piero Capponi!" 

Immediately there was a roar of voices. 

^^Capponi! Capponi! What said our Piero?" ^'Ah! he 
wouldn't stand being sent from Herod to Pilate !'* ^'We 
knew Piero!'' " Orsu! Tell us, what did he say?" 

When the roar of insistance had subsided a little, Tito 
began again — 

fpThe Most Christian King demanded a little too 
much — was obstinate — said at last, *^I shall order my 
trumpets to sound.' Then, Florentine citizens! your Piero 
Capponi, speaking with the voice of a free city, said, ' If 
you sound your trumpets, we will ring our bells!' He 
snatched the copy of the dishonoring conditions from the 
hands of the secretary, tore it in pieces, and turned to 
leave the royal presence. 'Jj 

Again there were loud shouts — and again impatient 
demands for more. 

^•^Then, Florentines, the high majesty of France felt , 
p erhnps for the i i r ^.Jame,-^lL-thfi.^3iiaJ4^aijr.,-Ql^^ 
And the Most Christian King himself hastened from his 
place to call Piero Capponi back. The great spirit of 
your Florentine city did its work by a great word, without 
need of the great actions that lay ready behind it. And ^^i c-wa i 
the King has consented to sign the trea ts, whicjl-piessrvsa. 3 p 
thft honor^ q.s wpII p.g tha gg.ffty. pf F1nrft'j-|f'P, The banner , ^\^ 
of France will float over every Florentine galley in sign of ^<^^^^^ 
amity and common privilege, but above that banner will 
be written the word 'Liberty!'" 

^' That is all the news I have to tell; is it not enough? — . 



250 ROMOLA. 

since it is for the glory of everj one of yon, citizens oi 
Florence, that you have a fellow-oitizen who knows how to 
speak your will/' 

As the shouts rose again, Tito looked round with inward 
amusement at the various crowd, each of whom was dated 
with the notion that Piero Caj^yponi had somehow repre- 
sented him — that he was the mind of which Capponi was 
the mouthpiece. He enjoyed the humor ot the incident, 
which had suddenly transformed him, an alien, and a 
friend of the Medici, into an orator wno tickled the ears 
of the people blatant for some tiUKnown good which they 
called liberty. He felt quite giad that he had been laid 
hold of and hurried along by the crowd as he was coming 
out of the palace in the Via Larga with a commission to 
the -Signoria. It was very easy, very pleasant, this exercise 
of speaking to the general satisfaction: a man who knew 
how to persuade need never be in danger from any party; 
he could convince each that he was feigning with all the 
others. The gestures and faces of weavers and dyers were 
certainly amusing when looked at from above in this way. 

Tito was beginning to get easier in his armor, and at this 
moment was quite unconscious of it. He stood with oui^ 
hand holding his recovered cap, and with the other at his 
belt, the light of a complacent smile in his long liistrou- 
eyes, as he made a parting reverence to his audience, before 
springing down from the bales — when suddenly his glanc( 
met that of a man who had not at all the amusing aspect 
of the exulting weavers, dyers, and Avool-carders. The 
face of this man was clean-shaven, his hair close-clipped, 
and he wore a decent felt hat. A single glance would 
hardly have sufficed to assure any one but Tito that this 
was the face of the escaped prisoner, who had laid hold 
of him on the steps. But to Tito it came not simply as 
the face of the escaped prisoner, but as a face with which 
he had been familiar long years before. 

It seemed all compressed into a second — the sight of 
Baldassarre looking at him, the sensation shooting througli 
him like a fiery arrow, and the act of leaping from tTie 
cart. He would have leaped down in the same instant, 
whether he had seen Baldassarre or not, for he was in a 
hurry to be gone to the Palazzo Vecchio: this time he had 
not betrayed himself by look or movement, and he said 
inwardly that he could not be taken by surprise again; he 
should be prepared to see this face rise up continually like 
the intermittent blotch that comes in diseased vision. But 



A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH. 251 

this reappearance of Baldassarre so much more in his own 
likeness tightened the pressure of dread: the idea of his 
madness lost its likelihood now he was shaven and clad 
like a decent though poor citizen. Certainly there was a 
great change in his face; but how could it be otherwise? 
and yet, if he were perfectly sane — in possession of all his 
powers and all his learning, why was he lingering in this 
way before making known his identity It must be for 
the sake of making his scheme of vengence lYiore complete. 
But he did linger: that at least gave an opportunity for 
flight. And Tito began to think that flight was his only 
resource. 

But while he, with his back turned on the Piazza del 
Duomo, had lost the recollection of the new part he had 
been playing, and was no longer thinking of the many 
things which a ready brain and tongue made easy, but of 
a few things which destiny had somehow made very diffi- 
cult, the enthusiasm which he had fed contemptuously 
was creating a scene in that piazza in grand contrast with 
the inward drama of self-centred fear which he had carried 
away from it. 

The crowd, on Tito's disappearance, had begun to turn 
their faces toward the outlets of the piazza in the direction 
of the Via Larga, when the sight of mazzieri, or mace-. 
bearers, entering from the Via de Martelli, announced the 
approach of dignitaries. They must be the syndics, or com- 
missioners charged with the affecting of the treaty; the 
treaty must be already signed, and they had come away from 
the royal presence. Piero Capponi was coming — the brave 
heart that had known how to speak for Florence. The 
effect on the crowd was remarkable; they parted with soft- 
ening, dropping voices, subsiding into silence, — and the 
silence became so perfect that the tread of the syndics on 
the broad pavement, -and the rustle of their black silk, 
garments, could be heard, like rain in the night. There 
were four of them; but it was not the two learned doctors 
of law, Messer Guidantonio Vespucci and Messer Domen- 
ico Bonsi, that the crowd waited for; it was not Francesco 
Valori, popular as he had become in these late days. The 
.moment belonged to another man, of firm presence, as 
Uttle inclined to humor the people as to humor any other 
unreasonable claimants — loving order, like one who by 
force of fortune had been made a merchant, and by force 
nature had become a soldier. It was not till he was 
D at the entrance of the piazza that the silence was 



I 



252 ROMOLA. 

broken, and then one loud shout of *'Capponi, Copponil 
Well done, Caponni ! " rang through the piazza. 

The simple, resolute man looked round him with grave 
joy. His fellow-citizens gave him a great funeral two 
years later, when he had died in fight; there were 
torches carried by all the magistracy, and torches again, 
and trains of banners. But it was not known that he felt 
any joy in the oration that was delivered in his praise, as 
the banners waved over his bier. Let us be glad that he 
got some thanks and praise while he lived. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

THE avenger's secret. 



It was the first time that Baldassarre had been in the 
Piazza del Duomo since his escape. He had a strong 
desire to hear the remarkable monk preach again, but he 
had shrunk from reappearing in the same spot where he 
had been seen half naked, with neglected hair, with a rope 
round his neck — in the same spot where he had been called 
a madman. The feeling, in its freshness, was too strong 
to be overcome by any trust he had in the change he ha<] 
made in his appearance; for when the words, " some mad- 
man surely," had fallen from Tito's lips, it was not their 
baseness and cruelty only that had made their viper 
sting — it was Baldassarre's instantaneous bitter conscious- 
ness that he might be unable to prove the words false. 
Along with the passionate desire for vengeance which 
possessed him had arisen the keen sense that his power of 
achieving the vengeance was doubtful. It was as if Tito 
had been helped by some diabolical prompter, who had 
whispered Baldassarre's saddest secret in the traitor's ear. 
He was not mad; for he carried within him that piteous 
stamp of sanity, the clear consciousness of sliattered 
faculties; he measured his own feebleness. With the first 
movement of vindictive rage awoke a vague caution, like 
that of a wild beast tnat is fier(5e but feeble — or like that 
of an insect whose little fragment of earth has given way, 
and made it pause in a palsy of distrust. It was this dis- 
trust, this determination to take no step which might 
betray anything concerning himself, that harl made Baldas- 
sarre reject Piero di Cosimo's friendly advances. 



THE avenger's SECRET. 253 

^KHe had been equally cautious at the hospital, only tell 
iffig, in answer to the questions of the brethren there, thai 
he had been made a prisoner by the French on his way 
from Genoa. But his age, and the indications in his 
speech and manner that he was of a different class from 
the ordinary mendicants and poor travellers who were 
entertained in the hospital, had induced the monks to 
offer him extra charity: a coarse woolen tunic to protect 
him from the cold, a pair of peasant's shoes, and a few 
danari, smallest of Florentine coins, to help him on 
his way. He had gone on the road to Arezzo early in the 
morning; but he had paused at the first little town, and 
had used a couple of his danari to get himself shaved, and 
to have his circle of hair clipped short, in his former 
'fashion. The barber there had a little hand-mirror of 
bright steel: it was a long while, it was years, since Bal- 
dassarre had looked at himself, and now, as his eyes fell 
on that hand-mirror, a new thought shot through his 
mind. ''Was he so changed that Tito really did not know 
him?" The thought was such a sudden arrest of impet- 
uous currents, that it was a painful shock to him ; his hands 
shook like a leaf, as he put away the barber's arm and asked 
for the mirror. He wished to see himself before he was 
shaved. The barber, noticing his tremulousness, held the 
mirror for him. 

No, he was not so changed as that. He himself had 
known the wrinkles as they had been three years ago; they 
were only deeper now: there was the same rough, clumsy 
skin, making little superficial bosses on the brow, like so 
many cipher-marks; the skin was only yellower, only 
looked more like a lifeless rind. That shaggy white 
beard — it was no disguise to eyes that had looked closely at 
him for sixteen years — to eyes that ought to have searched 
for him with the expectation of finding him changed, as 
men search for the beloved among the bodies cast up by 
the waters. There was something different in his glance, 
but it was a difference that should only have made the 
recognition of him the more startling; for is not a known 
voice all the more thrilling when it is heard as a cry? 
But the doubt was folly: he had felt that Tito knew him. 
He put out his hand and pushed the mirror away. The 
strong currents were rushing on again, and the energies of 
ha) red and vengeance were active once more. 

He went back on the way toward Florence again, but he 
di^l not wish to enter the city till dusk; so he turned aside 



254 ROMOLA. 

from the highroad, and sat down by a little pool shadowed 
on one side by alder-bushes still spnnkled with yellow 
leaves. It was a calm November day, and he no sooner 
saw the pool than he thought its still surface might be a 
mirror for him. He wanted to contemplate himself slowly, 
as he had not dared to do in the presence of the barber. 
He sat down on the edge of the pool, and bent forward to 
look earnestly at the image of himself. 

AVas there something wandering and imbecile in his 
face — something like what he felt in his mind? 

Not now; not when he was examining himself with a 
look of eager inquiry: on the contrary, there was an 
intense purpose in his eyes. But at other times? Yes, it 
must be so: in the long hours when he had the vague 
aching of an unremembered past in him — when he seemed 
to sit in dark loneliness, visited by whispers which died out 
mockingly as he stramed his ear after them, and by forms 
that seemed to approach him and float away as lie thrust 
out his hand to grasp them — in those hours, doubtless, 
there must be continual frustration and amazement in his 
glance. And more horrible still, when the thick cloud 
parted for a moment, and, as he sprang forward with hope, 
rolled together again, and left him helpless as before; 
doubtless, there was then a blank confusion in his face, as 
of a man suddenly smitten with blindness. 

Could he prove anything? Could he even begin to allege 
anything, with the confidence that the links of thought 
would not break away? Would any believe that he had 
ever had a mind filled with rare knowledge, busy with 
close thoughts, ready with various speechl* It had all 
slipped away from him — that laboriously-gathered store. 
Was it utterly and forever gone from him, like the waters 
from an urn lost in the wide ocean? Or, was it still within 
him, imprisoned by some obstruction that might one day 
break asunder? 

It might be so; he tried to keep his grasp on that hope. 
For, since the day when he had first walked feebly from 
his couch of straw, and had felt a new darkness within him 
under the sunlight, his mind had undergone changes, 
partly gradual and persistent, partly sudden and fleeting. 
As he had recovered his strength of body, he had recovered 
his self-command and the energy of his will; he had recov- 
ered the memory of all that part of his life which was 
closely enwrought with his emotions; and he had felt more 
and more constantly and painfully the uneasy sense of lost 



H[ THE AVENGER^S SECRET. 255 

knowledge. But more than that — once or twice, when he 
liad been strongly excited, he had seemed momentarily to 
be in entire possession of his past self, as old men doze for 
an instant and get back the consciousness of their youth. 
He seemed again to see Greek pages and understand them, 
again to feel his mind moving unbenumbed among familiar 
ideas. It had been but a flash, and the darkness closing 
in again seemed the more horrible; but might not the same 
thing happen again for longer periods? If it would only 
come and stay long enough for him to achieve a revenge — 
devise an exquisite suffering, such as a mere right arm 
could never inflict' 

He raised himself from his stooping attitude, and, fold- 
ing his arms, attempted to concentrate all his mental force 
on the plan he must immediately pursue. He had to wait 
for knowledge and opportunity, and while he waited he 
must have the means of living without beggary. What he 
dreaded of all things now was, that any one should think 
him a foolish, helpless old man. No one must know that 
half his memory was gone; the lost strength might come 
again; and if it were only for a little while, that might be 
enough. 

He knew how to begin to get the information he wanted 
about Tito. He repeated the words ^'Bratti Ferravecchi" 
so constantly after they had been uttered to him, that they 
never slipped from him for long together. A man at 
Genoa, on whose finger he had seen Tito^s ring, had told 
him that he bought that ring at Florence, of a young 
Greek, well dressed, and with a handsome dark face, in the 
shop of a rigattiere called Bratti Ferravecchi, in the street 
also called Ferravecchi. This discovery had cause a violent 
agitation in Baldassarre. Until then he had clung with 
all the tenacity of his fervent nature to his faith in Tito, 
and had not for a moment believed himself to be wilfully 
forsaken. At first he had said, ^^ My bit of parchment 
has never reached him; that is why I am still toiling at 
Antioch. But he is searching; he knows where I was lost: 
he will trace me out, and find me at last.'^ Then, when 
he was taken to Corinth, he induced his owners, by the 
assurance that he should be sought out and ransomed, to 
provide securely against the failure of any inquiries that 
might be made about him at Antioch; and at Corinth he 
thought joyfully, ^^Here, at last, he must find me. Here 
he is sure to touch, whichever way he goes.'^ But before 
another year had passed, the illness had come from which 



256 nOMOLA. 

he had risen with body and mind so shattered that he was 
worse than worthless to his owners, except for the sake of 
the ransom that did not come. Then, as he sat helpless 
in the morning sunlight, he began to think, *^Tito has 
been drowned, or they had made hiyn a prisoner too. I 
shall see him no more. He set out after me, but mis- 
fortune overtook him. I shall see his face no more." 
Sitting in his new feebleness and despair, supporting his 
head between his hands, with blank eyes and lips that 
moved uncertainly, he looked so much like a hopelessly 
imbecile old man, that his owners were contented to be rid 
of him, and allowed a Genoese merchant, who had com- 
passion on him as an Italian, to take him on board his 
galley. In a voyage of many months in the Archipelago 
and along the seaboard of Asia Mmor, Baldassarre had 
recovered his bodily strength, but on landing at Genoa 
he had so weary a sense of his desolateness that he almost 
wished he had died of that illness at Corinth. There was 
just one possibility that hindered the wish from being 
decided: it was that Tito might not be dead, but living in 
a state of imprisonment or destitution; and if he lived, 
there was still a hope for Baldassarre — faint, perhaps, and 
likely to be long deferred, but still a hope, that he might 
find his child, his cherished son again; might yet again 
clasp hands and meet face to face with the one being who 
remembered him as he had been before his mind was broken. 

In this state of feeling he had chanced to meet the 
stranger who wore Tito's onyx ring, and though Baldassarre 
would have been unable to describe the ring beforehand, 
the sight of it stirred the dorment fibres, and he recog- 
nized it. That Tito nearly a year after his father had 
been parted from him should have been living in apparent 
prosperity at Florence, selling the gem which he ought not 
to have sold till the last exteemity, was a fact that Bald- 
assarre shrank from trying to account for: he was glad to 
be stunned and be^vildered by it, rather than to have any 
distinct thought; he tried to feel nothing but joy that he 
should behold Tito again. Perhaps Tito had thought that 
his father was dead; somehow the mystery would be 
explained. "But at least I shall meet eyes that will 
remember me. I am not alone in the world." 

And now again Baldassarre said, "I am not alone in 
the world; I shall never be alone, for my revenge is with 
me." 

It was as the instrument of that revenge, as something 



I 



THE AVEITGEK^S SECEET. 257 



merely external and subservient to his true life, that he 
bent down again to examine liimself with hard curiosity — 
not, he thought, because he had any care for a withered, 
forsaken old man, whom nobody loved, whose soul was 
like a deserted home, where the ashes were cold upon the 
hearth, and the walls were bare of all but the marks of 
what had been. It is in the nature of all human passion, 
the lowest as well as the highest, that there is a point 
where it ceases to be properly egoistic, and is like a fire 
kindled within our being to which everything else in us is 
mere fuel. 

He looked at the pale, black-browed image in the water 
till he identified it with that self from which his revenge 
seemed to be a thing apart; and he felt as if the image, 
too, heard the silent language of his thought. 

'* I was a loving fool — I worshipped a woman once, and 
believed she could care for me; and then I took a helpless 
child and fostered him; and I watched him as he grew, to 
see if he would care for me only a little — care for me over 
and above the good he got from me. I would have torn 
open my breast to warm him with my life-blood if I could 
only have seen him care a little for the pain of my wound. 
I have labored, I have strained to crush out of this hard 
life one drop of unselfish love. Fool ! men love their own 
delights; there is no delight to be had in me. And yet I 
watched till I believed I saw what I watched for. When 
he was a child he lifted soft eyes toward me, and held my 
hand willingly: I thought, this boy will surely love me a 
little: because I give my life to him and strive that he 
shall know no sorrow, he will care a little when I am 
thirsty — the drop he lays on my parched lips will be a joy 
to him. * * * Curses on him! I wish I may see him 
lie with those red lips white and dry as ashes, and when he 
looks for pity I wish he may see my face rejoicing in his 
pain. It is all a lie — this world is a lie — there is no good- 
ness but in hate. Fool ! not one drop of love came with 
all your striving: life has not given you one drop. But 
there are deep draughts in this world for hatred and 
revenge. I have memory left for that, and there is strength 
in my arm — there is strength in my will — and if I can do 
nothing but kill him '' 

But Baldassarre's mind rejected the thought of that 

brief punishment. His whole soul had been thrilled into 

immediate unreasoning belief in that eternity of vengeance 

where he, an undyinsf hate, mia:ht clutch forever an 

^ 17 



258 ROMOLA. 

undying traitor, and hear that fair smiling hardness cry 
and moan with anguish. But the primary need and hope < 
was to see a slow revenge under the same sky and on the 
same earth where he himself had been forsaken and had i 
fainted with despair. And as soon as he tried to concen- 
trate his mind on the means of attaining his end, the 
sense of his weakness pressed upon him like a frosty ache. 
This despised body, which was to be the instrument of a 
sublime vengeance, must be nourished and decently clad. 
If he had to wait he must labor, and his labor must 
be of a humble sort, for he had no skill. He wondered 
whether the sight of written characters would so stimulate 
his faculties that he might venture to try and find work 
as a copyist; that might win him some credence for his 
past scholarship. But no! he dared trust neither hand nor * 
brain. He must be content to do the work that was most 
like that of a beast of burden: in this mercantile city 
many porters must be wanted, and he could at least carry 
weights. Thanks to the Justice that struggled in this 
confused world in behalf of vengeance, his limbs had got 
back some of their old sturdiness. He was stripped of all 
else that men could give coin for. 

But the new urgency of this habitual thought brought 
a new suggestson. There was something hanging by a 
cord round his bare neck; something apparently so paltry 
that the piety of Turks and Frenchmen had spared it — a 
tiny parchment bag blackened with age. It had hung' 
round his neck as a precious charm when he was a boy, ,^ 
and he had kept it carefully on his breast, not believing^ 
that it COT 'ained anything but a tiny scroll of parchment, 
rolled up ha d. He might long ago have thrown it away as a. 
relic of his dead mother's superstition; but he had thought! 
of it as a relic of her love, and had kept it. It was parti 
of the piety associated with such brevi, that they should ; , 
never be opened, and at any precious moment in his life 
Baldassarre would have said that no sort of thirst would 
prevail upon him to open this little bag for the chance of 
finding that it contained, not parchment, but an engraved 
amulet which would be worth money. But now a thirst 
had come like that which makes men open their own veins 
to satisfy it, and the thought of the possible amulet no ^ 
sooner crossed Baldassarre's mind than with nervous fingers 
he snatched the breve from his neck. It all rushed through 
his mind — the long years he had worn it, the far-off sunny 
balcony at Naples looking toward the blue waters, where 



I 



THE AVEN"GER*S SECRET. 259 



he had leaned against his mother's knee; but it made no 
moment of hesitation: all piety now was transmuted into a 
just revenge. He bit and tore till the doubles of parchment 
were laid open, and then — it was a sight that made him pant 
— there icas an amulet. It was very small, but it was as blue 
as those far-off waters; it was an engraved sapphire, which 
must be worth some gold ducats. Baldassarre no sooner 
saw those possible ducats than he saw some of them ex- 
changed for a poniard. He did not want to use the 
poniard yet, but he longed to possess it. If he could 
grasp its handle and try its edge, that blank in his mind — 
that past which fell away continually — would not make 
him feel so cruelly helpless: the sharp steel that despised 
talents and eluded strength would be at his side, as the 
unfailing friend of feeble justice. There was a sparkling 
triumph under Baldassarre's black eyebrows as he replaced 
the little sapphire inside the bits of parchment and wound 
the string tightly round them. 

It was nearly dusk now, and he rose to walk back toward 
Florence. With his danari to buy him some bread, he 
felt rich: he could lie out in the open air, as he found 
plenty more doing in all corners of Florence. And in 
the next few days he had sold his sapphire, had added to 
his clothing, had bought a bright dagger, and had still a 
pair of gold florins left. But he meant to hoard that 
treasure carefully: his lodging was an outhouse with a 
heap of straw in it, in a thinly-inhabited part of Oltrarno, 
and he thought of looking about for work as a porter. 

He had bought his dagger at Bratti's. Paying his 
meditated visit there one evening at dusk, he had found 
that singular rag-merchant just returned from one of his 
rounds, emptying out his basketful of broken glass and 
old iron amongst his handsome show of miscellaneous 
second-hand goods. As Baldassarre entered the shop, and 
looked toward the smart pieces of apparel, the musical 
instruments, and weapons, which were displayed in the 
broadest light of the window, his eye at once singled out 
a dagger hanging up high against a red scarf. By buying 
the dagger- he could not only satisfy a strong desire, ho 
could open his original errand in a more indirect manner 
than by speaking of the onyx ring. In the course of 
bargaining for the weapon, he let drop, with cautious 
carelessness, that he came from Genoa, and had been 
directed to Bratti's shop by an acquaintance in that city 



260 ROMOLA. 

who had bought a very valuable ring here. Had the 
respectable trader any more siirli rings? 

Whereupon Bratti had much io say as to the unlikeli- 
hood of such rings being within reach of many people, 
with much vaunting of his own rare connections, due to 
his known wisdom and honesty. It might be true that he 
was a peddler — he chose to be a peddler; though he was 
rich enough to kick his heels in his shop all day. But 
those who thought they had said all there was to be said 
about Bratti when they had called him a peddler, were a 
good deal further off the truth than the other side of 
Pisa. How was it that he could put that ring in a 
stranger^s way? It was, because he had a very particular 
knowledge of a handsome young signer, who did not look 
quite so fine a feathered bird when Bratti first set eyes on 
him as he did at the present time. And by a question or 
two Baldassarre extracted, without any trouble, such a 
rough and rambling account of Titers life as the peddler 
could give, since the time when he had found him sleep- 
ing under the Loggia de Cerchi. It never occurred to 
Bratti that the decent man ( who was rather deaf, appar- 
ently, asking him to say many things twice over ) had any 
curiosity about Tito; the curiosity was doubtless about 
himself, as a truly remarkable peddler. 

And Baldassarre left Bratti's shop, not only with the 
dagger at his side, but also with a general knowledge of 
Titers conduct and position — of his early sale of the 
jewels, his immediate quiet settlement of himself at Flor- 
ence, his marriage, and his great prosperity. 

*^ What story had he told about his previous life — about 
his father ?'' 

It would be difficult for Baldassarre to discover the answer 
to that question. Meanwhile, he wanted to learn all he 
could about Florence. But he found, to his acute distress, 
that of the new details he learned he could only retain a 
few, and those only by continual repetition; and he began to 
be afraid of listening to any new discourse, lest it should 
obliterate what he was already striving to remember. 

The day he was discerned by Tito in the Piazza del 
Duomo he had the fresh anguish of this consciousness in 
his mind, and Tito's ready speech fell upon him like the 
mockery of a glib, defying demon. 

As he went home to his heap of straw, and passed by 
the booksellers' shops in the Via del Garbo, he paused to 
look at the volumes spread open. Could he by long 



I 



FRUIT IS SEED. 261 



gazing at one of those books lay hold of the slippery 
threads of memory? Could he, by striving, get a firm 
grasp somewhere, and lift himself above these waters that 
flowed over him? 

He was tempted, and bought the cheapest Greek book 
he could see. He carried it home and sat on his heap of 
straw, looking at the characters by the light of the small 
window; but no inward light arose on them. Soon the 
evening darkness came ; but it made little difference to 
Baldassarre. His strained eyes seemed still to see the 
white pages with the unintelligible black marks upon 
them. 



CHAPTEK XXXI. 

FRUIT IS SEED. 



I 

IHfMT Romola,'' said Tito, the second morning after he 
"had made his speech in the Piazza del Duomo, *^I am to 
receive grand visitors to-day; the Milanese Count is coming 
again, and the Seneschal de Beaucaire, the great favorite 
of the Cristianissimo. I know you don't care to go through 
smiling ceremonies with these rustling magnates, whom 
we are not likely to see again; and as they will want to 
look at the antiquities and the library, perhaps you had 
better give up your work to-day, and go to see your cousin 
Brigida." 

Romola discerned a wish in this intimation, and immedi- 
ately assented. But presently, coming back in her hood 
and mantle, she said, *' Oh, what a long breath Florence 
will take when the gates are flung upen, and the last 
Frenchman is walking out of them! Even you are getting 
tired, with all your patience, my Tito; confess it. Ah, 
your head is hot." 

He was leaning over his desk, WTiting, and~she had laid 
her hand on his head, meaning to give a parting caress. 
The attitude had been a frequent one, and Tito was accus- 
tomed, when he felt her hand there, to raise his head, 
throw himself a little backward, and look up at her. But 
he felt now as unable to raise his head as if her hand had 
been a leaden cowl. He spoke instead, in a light tone, as 
^ pen still ran along. 



262 EOMOLA. 

'*The French are as ready to go from Florence as the 
wasps to leave a ripe pear when they have just fastened 
on it." 

Komola, keenly sensitive to the absence of the usual 
response, took away her hand and said, "I am going, 
Tito." 

^' Farewell, my sweet one. I must wait at home. Take 
Maso with you." 

Still Tito did not look up, and Eomola went out without 
saying any more. Very slight things make epochs in 
married life, and this morning for the first time she 
admitted to herself not only that Tito had changed, but 
that he had changed toward her. Did the reason lie in 
herself ? She might perhaps have thought so, if there had 
not been the facts of the armor and the picture to suggest 
some external event which was an entire mystery to her. 

But Tito no sooner believed that Eomola was out of the 
house than he laid down his pen and looked up, in delight- 
ful security from seeing anything else than parchment and 
broken marble. He was rather disgusted with himself that 
he had not been able to look u]) at Eomola and behave to her 
just as usual. He would have chosen, if he could, to be 
even more than usually kind; but he could not, on a sud- 
den, master an involuntary shrinking from her, which by a 
subtle relation, depended on those very characteristics in 
him that made him desire not to fail in his marks of affec- 
tion. He was about to take a step which he knew would 
arouse her deep indignation; he would have to encounter 
much that was unpleasant before he could win her forgive- 
ness. And Tito could never find it easy to face displeasure 
and anger; his nature was one of those most remote from 
defiance or impudence, and all his inclinations leaned 
toward preserving Eomola's tenderness. He was not tor- 
mented by sentimental scruples which, as he had demon- 
strated to himself by a very rapid course of argument, had 
no relation to solid utility; but his freedom from scruples 
did not release him from the dread of what was disagree- 
able. Unscrupulousness gets rid of much, but not of 
toothache, or wounded vanity, or the sense of loneliness, 
against Avhich, as the world at present stands, there is no 
security but a thoroughly liealthy jaw, and a just, loving 
soul. And Tito was feeling intensely at this moment that 
no devices could save him from pain in the impending col- 
lision with Eomola; no persuasive blandness could cushion 
him against the shock toward which he was being driven 



I 



FEUIT IS SEED. 263 



like a timid animal urged to a desperate leap by the terror 
of the tooth and the claws that are close behind it. 

The secret feeling that he had previously had that the 
tenacious adherence to Bardo's wishes about the library 
had become under existing difficulties a piece of senti- 
mental folly, which deprived himself and Romola of sub- 
stantial advantages, might perhaps never have wrought 
itself into action but for the events of the past week, which 
had brought at once the pressure of a new motive and the 
outlet of a rare opportunity. Nay, it was not till his dread 
had been aggravated by the sight of Baldassarre looking 
more like his sane self, not until he had begun to feel that 
he might be couipelled to flee from Florence, that he had 
brought himself to resolve on his legal right to sell the 
library before the great opportunity offered by French and 
Milanese bidders slipped through his fingers. For if he 
had to leave Florence he did not want to leave it as a 
destitute wanderer. He had been used to an agreeable ex- 
istence, and he wished to carry with him all the means at 
hand for retaining the same agreeable conditions. He 
wished among other things to carry Romola with him, and 
not, if possible, to carry any infamy. Success had given 
him a growing appetite for all the pleasures that depend 
on an advantageous social position, and at no moment 
could it look like a temi^tation to him, but only like a 
hideous alternative, to decamp under dishonor, even with 
a bag of diamonds, and incur the life of an adventurer. 
It was not possible for him to make himself independent 
even of those Florentines who only greeted him with regard; 
still less w-as it possible for him to make himself inde- 
pendent of Romola. She was the wife of his first love — he 
loved her still; she belonged to that furniture of life which 
he shrank from parting with. He winced under her judg- 
ment, he felt uncertain how far the revulsion of her feeling 
toward him might go; and all that sense of power over a wife 
which makes a husband risk betrayals that a lover never 
ventures on, would not suffice to counteract '^^ito's uneasi- 
ness. This was the leaden weight which hr. . been too 
strong for his will, and kept him from raising his head to 
meet her eyes. Their pure light brought too near him the 
prospect of a coming struggle. But it was not to be 
helped; if they had to leave Florence, they must have 
money; indeed, Tito could not arrange life at all to his 
mind without a considerable sum of money. And that 
problem of arranging life to his mind had been the source 



264 ROMOLA. 

of all his misdoing. He would have been equal to any 
sacrifice that was not unpleasant. 

The rustling magnets came and went, the bargains had 
been concluded, and Eomola returned home; but nothing 
grave was said that night. Tito was only gay and chatty, 
pouring forth to her, as he had not done before, stories 
and descriptions of what he had witnessed during the 
French visit. Romola thought she discerned an effort in 
his liveliness, and attributing it to the consciousness in him 
that she had been wounded in the morning, accepted the 
effort as an act of penitence, inwardly aching a little at 
that sign of growing distance between them — that there 
was an offence about which jieither of them dared to speak. 

The next day Tito remained away from home until late 
at night. It was a marked day to Romola, for Piero di 
Cosimo, stimulated to greater industry on her behalf by 
the fear that he might have been the cause of pain to her 
in the past week, had sent home her fathers portrait. She 
had propped it against the back of his old chair, and had 
been looking at it for some time, when the door opened 
behind her, and Bernardo del Nero came in. 

'^It is you, godfather! How I wished you had come 
sooner! it is getting a little dusk," said Romola, going 
toward him. 

**I have just looked in to tell you the good news, for I 
know Tito has not come yet," said Bernardo. ''Tlie 
'French king moves off to-morrow: not before it is high 
time. There has been another tussle between our people 
and his soldiers this morning. But there's a chance now 
of the city getting into order once more and trade going 
on." 

**That is joyful," said Romola. "But it is sudden, is 
it not? Tito seemed to think yesterday that there was 
little prospect of the king's goiug soon." 

'*He has been well barked at. that's the reason," said 
Bernardo, smiling. " His own generals opened their 
throats pretty well, and at last our Signoria sent the mas- 
tiff of the city, Fra Girolamo. The Cristianissimo was 
frightened at that thunder, and has given the order to 
move. I'm afraid there'll be small agreement among us 
when he's gone, but, at any rate, all parties are agreed in 
being glad not to have Florence stifled with soldiery any 
longer, and the Frate has barked this time to some pur- 
pose. Ah, what is this?" he added, as Romola, clasping 



I 

him by the arm, led him in front of the picture. '' Let us 
see." 

He began to unwind his long scarf while she placed a 
seat for him. 

^^ Don't you v/ant your spectacles, godfather?'^ said 
Komola, in anxiety that he should see just what she saw. 

''No, child, no,"' said Bernardo, uncovering his gray 
head, as he seated himself with firm erectness. '^ For see- 
ing at this distance, my old eyes are perhaps better than 
your young ones. Old men's eyes are like old men's mem- 
ories, they are strongest for things a long way off." 

"It is better than having no portrait," said Eomola, 
apologetically, after Bernardo had been silent a little 
while. ''It is less like him now than the image I have in 
my mind, but then that might fade with the years." She 
rested her arm on the old man's shoulder as she spoke, 
drawn toward him strongly by their common interest in 
the dead. 

"I don't know," said Bernardo. '' I almost think I see 
Bardo as he was when he was young, better than that pic- 
ture shows him to me as he was when he was old. Your 
father had a great deal of fire in his eyes when he was 
young. It was what I could never understand, that he, 
with his fiery spirit, which seemed much more impatient 
than mine, could hang over the books and live with shad- 
ows all his life. However, he had put his heart into that." 

Bernardo gave a slight shrug as he spoke the last words, 
but Romola discerned in his voice a feeling that accorded 
with her own. 

"And he was disappointed to the last," she said, invol- 
untarily. But immediately fearing lest her words should 
be taken to imply an accusation against Tito, she went on 
almost hurriedly, "If we could only see his longest, 
dearest wish fulfilled just to his mind!" 

"Well, so we may," said Bernardo, kindly, rising and 
putting on his cap. " The times are cloudy now, but fish 
are caught by waiting. Who knows? When the wheel 
has turned often enough, I may be Gonfaloniere yet before 
I die; and no creditor can touch these things." He 
looked round as he spoke. Then, turning to her, and 
patting her cheek, said, "And you need not be afraid of 
my dying; my ghost will claim nothing. I've taken care 
of that in my will." 

Romola seized the hand that was against her cheek, and 
put it to her lips in silence. 



266 EOMOLA. 

"Haven't you been scolding your "husband for keeping 
away from home so much lately? I see him everywhere 
but here,'^ said Bernardo, willing to change the subject. 

She felt the flush spread over her neck and face as she 
said, ^'He has been very much wanted; you know he 
speaks so well. I am glad to know that his value is 
understood." 

"You are contented, then. Madonna Orgogliosa?'' said 
Bernardo, smiling, as he moved to the door. 

"Assuredly." 

Poor Eomola! There was one thing that would have 
made the pang of disappointment in her husband harder 
to bear; it was, that any one should know he gave her 
cause for disappointment. This might be a woman's 
weakness, but it is closely allied to a woman's nobieness. 
She who willingly lifts up the veil of her married life has 
profaned it from a sanctuary into a vulgar place. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

A REVELATION". 



The next day Romola, like every other Florentine, was 
excited about the departure of the French. Besides her 
other reasons for gladness, she had a dim hope, which she 
was conscious was half superstitious, that those new anxi- 
eties about Tito, having come with the burdensome guests, 
might perhaps vanish with them. The French had been 
in Florence hardly eleven days, but in that space she had 
felt more acute unhappiness than she had known in her 
life before. Tito had adopted the hateful armor on the 
day of their arrival, and though she could frame no dis- 
tinct notion why their departure should remove the cause 
of his fear — though, when she thought of that cause, the 
image of the prisoner grasping him, as she had seen it in 
Piero's sketch, urged itself before her and excluded every 
other — still, when the French were gone, she would be rid 
of something that was strongly associated with her pain. 

Wrapped in her mantle she waited under the loggia at 
the top of the house, and watched for the glimpses of the 
troops and royal retinue passing the bridges on their way 
to the Porta San Piero, that looks toward Siena and Rome. 



I 



A REVELATIOlf. 267 



She even returned to her station when the gates had been 
closed, that she might feel herself vibrating with the great 
peal of the bells. It was dusk then, and when at last she 
descended into the library, she lit her lamp with the reso- 
lution that she would overcome the agitation Avhich had 
made her idle all day, and sit down to work at her copying 
of the catalogue. Tito had left home early in the morn- 
ing, and she did not expect him yet. Before he came she 
intended to leave the library and sit in the pretty saloon, 
with the dancing nymphs and the birds. She had done so 
every evening ^since he had objected to the library as chill 
and gloomy. 

To her great surprise, she had not been at work long 
before Tito entered. Her first thought was, how cheerless 
he would feel in the wide darkness of this great room, with 
one little oil-lamp burning at the further end, and the fire 
nearly out. She almost ran toward him. 

''Tito, dearest, I did not know you would come so soon,^' 
she said, nervously, putting up her white arms to unwind 
his becchetto. 

"I am not welcome then?" he said, with one of his 
brightest smiles, clasping her, but playfully holding hia 
head back from her. 

"Tito!" She uttered the word in a tone of pretty, 
loving reproach, and then he kissed her fondly, stroked 
her hair, as his manner was, and seemed not to mind 
about taking off his mantle yet. Romola quivered w^ith 
delight. All the emotions of the day had been preparing 
in her a keener sensitiveness to the return of this habitual 
manner. "It will come back," she was saying to herself, 
" the old happiness will perhaps come back. He is like 
himself again." 

Tito was taking great pains to be like himself; his heart 
was palpitating with anxiety. 

" If I had expected you so soon," said Romola, as she at 
last helped him to take off his wrappings, " I would have 
had a little festival prepared to this joyful ringing of the 
bells. I did not mean to be here in the library when you 
came home." 

"Never mind, sweet," he said carelessly. "Do not 
think about the fire. Come — come and sit "down." 

There was a low stool against Tito^s chair, and that was 
Romola^s habitual seat when they were talking together. 
She rested her arm on his knee, as she used to do on her 
father's, and looked up at him while he spoke. He had 



268 ROMOLA. 

never yet noticed the presence of the portrait, and she had 
not mentioned it — thinking of it all the more. 

*^I have been enjoying the clang of the bells for the first 
time, Tito,'^ she began. " I liked being shaken and deaf- 
ened by them: I fancied I was something like a Bacchante 
possessed by a divine rage. Are not the people looking 
very joyful to-night?" 

"Joyful after a sour and pious. fashion," said Tito, with 
a shrug. "But, in truth, those who are left behind in 
Florence have little cause to be joyful: it seems to me, the 
most reasonable ground of gladness would be to have got 
out of Florence." 

Tito had sounded the desired keynote without any 
trouble, or appearance of premeditation. He spoke with 
no emphasis, but he looked grave enough to make Komola 
ask rather anxiously — 

" Why, Tito? Are there fresh troubles? " 

"No need of fresh ones, my Romola. There are three 

strong parties in the city, all ready to fly at each other's 

AjK- throats. And if the Frate's party is strong enough to 

A?''^^ frighten the other two into silence, as seems most likely, 

V life will be as pleasant and amusing as a funeral. They 

r^^ have the plan of a Great Council simmering already; and 

rL ^if they get it, the man who sings sacred Lauds the loudest 

rA Jt-will be the most eligible for office. And besides that, the 

\/l^ city will be so drained by the payment of this great subsidy 

to the French king, and by the war to got back Pisa, that 

the prospect would be dismal enough without the rule of 

fanatics. On the whole, Florence will be a delightful 

place for those worthies who entertain themselves in the 

evening by going into crypts and lashing themselves; but 

for everything else, the exiles have the best of it. For my 

own part, I have beeiithmking seriously fhat we should be 

wise to quit Florence, my "Romola." 

She started. "Tito, how could we leave Florence? 
Surely you do not think I could leave it — at least, not 
yet — not for a long while." She had turned cold and 
trembling, and did not find it quite easy to speak. Tito 
must know the reasons she had in her mind. 

" That is all a fabric of your own imagination, my sweet 
one. Your secluded life has made you lay such false stress 
on a few things. You know I used to tell you, before wo 
were married, that I wished we were somewhere else than 
in Florence. If you had seen more ])laoes and more people, 
you would know what I mean when I say there is some- 



'^ 



A REVELATIOK. 289 

thing in the Florentines that reminds me of their cutting 
spring winds. I like people who take life less eagerly; 
and it would be good for my Eomola, too, to see a new 
life. I should like to dip her a little in the soft waters of 
forgetfulness.^' 

He leaned forward and kissed her brow, and laid his 
hand on her fair hair again; but she felt his caress no more 
than if he had kissed a mask. She was too much agitated 
by the sense of the distance between their minds to be con- 
scious that his lips touched her. 

^'^Tito, it is not because I suppose Florence is the pleas- 
antest place in the world that I desire not to quit it. It is 
because I — because we have to see my father^s wish ful- 
filled. My godfather is old; he is seventy-one; we could 
not leave it to him. " 

'^It is precisely those superstitions which hang about 
your mind like bedimming clouds, my Eomola, that make 
one great reason Avhy I could wish we were two hundred 
leagues from Florence. I am obliged to take care of you 
in opposition to your own will: if those dear eyes, that look 
so tender, see falsely, I must see for them, and save my 
wife from wasting her life in disappointing herself by 
impracticable dreams." 

Romola sat silent and motionless: she could not blind 
herself to the direction in which Titers words pointed: he 
wanted to persuade her that they might get the library 
deposited in some monastery, or take some other means to 
rid themselves of a task, and of a tie to Florence; and she 
was determined never to submit her mind to his judgment 
on this question of duty to her father; she Avas inwardly 
prepared to encounter any sort of pain in resistance. But 
the determination was kept latent in these first moments 
by the heart-crushing sense that now at last she and Tito 
must be confessedly divided in their w^ishes. He was glad 
of her silence; for, much as he had feared the strength of 
her feeling, it was impossible for him, shut up in the nar- 
rowness that hedges in all merely clever, unimpassioned 
men, not to overestimate the persuasiveness of his own 
arguments. His conduct did not look ugly to himself, 
and his imagination did not suffice to show him exactly 
how it would look to Romola. He went on in the same 
gentle, remonstrating tone. 

** You know, dearest — your own clear judgment always 
showed you — that the notion of isolating a collection of 
books and antiquities, and attaching a single name to 



.270 KOMOLA. 

them forever, was one that had no valid, substantial good 
for its object: and yet more, one that was liable to be 
defeated in a thousand ways. See what has become of 
the Medici collections! And, for my part, I consider it 
even blame-worthy to entertain those petty views of appro- 
priation: why should any one be reasonably glad that 
Florence should possess the benefits of learned research and 
taste more than any other city? I understand your feeling 
about the wishes of the dead; but wisdom puts a limit to 
these sentiments, else lives might be continually wasted in 
that sort of futile devotion — like praising deaf gods forever. 
You gave your life to your father while he lived; why 
should you demand more of yourself?" 

*^ Because it was a trust," said Romola in a low but 
distinct voice. '* He trusted me, he trusted you, Tito. I 
did not expect you to feel anything else about it — to feel 
as I do — but I did expect you to feel that." 

*^'Yes, dearest, of course I should feel it on a point 
where your father^s real welfare or happiness was con- 
cerned; but there is no question of that now. If we believe 
in purgatory, I should be as anxious as you to have masses 
said; and if I believed it could now pain your father to see 
his library preserved and used in a rather different way 
from what he had set his mind on, I should share the 
strictness of your views. But a little philosophy should 
teach us to rid ourselves of those air-woven fetters that 
mortals hang round themselves, spending their lives in 
misery under the mere imagination of Weight. Your 
mind, which seizes ideas so readily, my Romola, is able to 
discriminate between substantial good and these brain- 
wrought fantasies. Ask yourself, dearest, what possible 
good can these books and antiquities do, stowed together 
under your father's name in Florence, more than they 
would do if they were divided or carried elsewhere? Nay, 
is not the very dispersion of such things in hands that 
know how to value them, one means of extending their 
usefulness? This rivalry of Italian cities is very petty and 
illiberal. The loss of Constantinople was the gain of the 
whole civilized world." 

Romola was still too thoroughly under the painful pres- 
sure of the new revelation Tito was making of himself, for 
her resistance to find any strong vent. As that fluent talk 
fell on her ears there was a rising contempt within her, 
which only made her more conscious of her bruised, des- 
pairing love, her love for the Tito she had married and 



I 



A REVELATION. 271 



believed in. Her nature, possessed with the energies of 
strong emotion, recoiled from this hopelessly shallow read- 
iness which professed to appropriate the widest sympathies 
and had no pulse for the nearest. She still spoke like one 
who was restrained from showing all she felt. She had 
only drawn away her arm from his knee, and sat with her 
hands clasped before her, cold and motionless as locked 
waters. 

"You talk of substantial good, Tito! Are faithfulness, 
and love, and sweet grateful memories, no good? Is it no 
good that we should keep our silent promises on which 
others build because they believe in our love and truth? 
Is it no good that a just life should be justly honored? 
Or, is it good that we should harden onr hearts against all 
the wants and hopes of those who have depended on us? 
What good can belong to men who have such souls? To 
talk cleverly, perhaps, and find soft couches for themselves, 
and live and die with their base selves as their best com- 
panions." 

Her voice had gradually risen till there was a ring of 
scorn in the last words; she made a slight pause, but he 
saw there were other words quivering on her lips, and he 
chose to let them come. 

" I know of no good for cities or the world if they are 
to be made up of such beings. But I am not thinking of 
other Italian cities and the whole civilized world — I am 
thinking of my father, and of my love and sorrow for 
him, and of his just claims on us. I would give up any- 
thing else, Tito, — I would leave Florence, — what else did 
I live for but for him and you? But I will not give up 
that duty. What have I to do with your arguments? It 
was a yearning of Ms heart, and therefore it is a yearning 
of mine." 

Her voice, from having been tremulous, had become 
full and firm. She felt that she had been urged on to say 
all that it was needful for her to say. She thought, poor 
thing, there was nothing harder to come than this struggle 
against Tito^s suggestions as against the meaner part of 
herself. 

He had begun to see clearly that he could not persuade 
her into assent: he must take another course, and show 
her that the time for resistance was past. That, at least, 
would put an end to further struggle ; and if the dis- 
closure were not made by himself to-night, to-morrow it 
must be made in another way. This necessity nerved his 



272 ROMOLA. 

courage; and his experience of her affectionateness and 
uDexpected submissiveness, ever since their marriage until 
now, encouraged him to hope, that, at last, she would 
accommodate herself to what had been his will. 

'^ I am sorry to hear you speak in that spirit of blind 
persistence, my Romola,^^ he said quietly, ^^ because it 
obliges me to give you pain. But I partly foresaw your 
opposition, and as a prompt decision was necessary, I 
avoided that obstacle, and decided without consulting you. 
The very care of a husband for his wife's interest compels 
him to that separate action sometimes — even when he has 
such a wife as you, my Romola.'' 

She turned her ej^es on him in breathless inquiry. 

"I mean, '^ he said, answering her look, ''that I have 
arranged for the transfer, both of the books and of the 
antiquities, where they will find the highest use and value. 
The books have been bought for the Duke of Milan, the 
marbles and bronzes and the rest are going to France: and 
both will be protected by the stability of a great Power, 
instead of remaining in a city which is exposed to ruin.'' 

Before he had finished speaking Romola had started 
from her seat and stood up looking doAvn at him, with tight- 
ened hands falling before her, and, for the first time in 
her life, with a flash of fierceness in lier scorn and anger. 

''You have sold them?" she asked, as if she distrusted 
her ears. 

"I have," said Tito, quailing a little. The scene was 
unpleasant — the descending scorn already scorched him. 

"You are a treacherous man!" she said, with something 
grating in her voice, as she looked down at him. 

She was silent for a minute, and he sat still, feeling that 
ingenuity was powerless just now. Suddenly she turned 
away, and said, in an agitated tone, " It maybe hindered — 
I am going to my godfather." 

In an instant Tito started up, went to the door, locked 
it, and took out the key. It was time for all the mascu- 
line predominance that was latent in him to show itself. 
But he was not angry; he only felt that the moment was 
eminently unpleasant, and that when this scene was at an 
end he should be glad to keep away from Romola for a 
little wliile. But it was absolutely necessary first that she 
should be reduced to passiveness. 

"Try to calm yourself a little, Romola," he said, leaning 
in the easiest attitude possible against a pedestal under the 
bust of a grim old Roman. Not that he was inwardly 



A REVELATION". 273 

easy: his heart palpitated with a moral dread, against 
which no chain armor could be found. He had locked 
in his wife's anger and scorn, but he had been obliged to 
lock himself in with it; and his blood did not rise with 
contest — his olive cheek was perceptibly paled. 

Romola had paused and turned her eyes on him as she 
saw him take his stand and lodge the key in his scarsella. 
Her eyes were flashing, and her whole frame seemed to be 
possessed by impetuous force that wanted to leap out in 
some deed. All the crushing pain of disappointment in 
her husband, which had made the strongest part of her 
consciousness a few minutes before, was annihilated by the 
vehemence of her indignation. She could not care in this 
moment that the man she was despising as he leaned there 
in his loathsome beauty — she could not care that he was 
her husband; she could only feel that she despised him. 
The pride and fierceness of the old Bardo blood had been 
thoroughly awaked in her for the first time. 

''Try at least to understand the fact," said Tito, "and 
do not seek to take futile steps which may be fatal. It is 
of no use for you to go to your godfather. Messer Ber- 
nardo cannot reverse what I have done. Only sit down. 
You would hardly wish, if you were quite yourself, to 
make known to any third person what passes between us 
in private." 

Tito knew that he had touched the right fibre there. 
But she did not sit down; she was too unconscious of her 
body voluntarily to change her attitude. 

" Why can it not be reversed?" she said, after a pause. 
" Nothing is moved yet." 

" Simply because the sale has been concluded by written 
agreement; the purchasers have left Florence, and I hold 
the bonds for the purchase-money." 

"If my father had suspected you of being a faithless 
man," said Eomola, in a tone of bitter scorn, which in- 
sisted on darting out before she could say anything else, 
"he would have placed the library safely out of your 
power. But death overtook him too soon, and when you 
were sure his ear was deaf, and his hand stiff, you robbed 
him." She paused an instant, and then said, with gathered 
passion, " Have you robbed somebody else, who is not 
dead? Is that the reason you wear armor? " 

Romola had been driven to utter the words as men are 
driven to use the lash of the horsewhip. At first, Tito 
felt horribly cowed; it seemed to him that the disgrace he 
■ 18 



274 ROMOLA. 

had been dreading would be worse than he had imagined 
it. But soon there was a reaction: such power of dislike 
and resistance as there was within him was beginning to 
rise against a wife whose voice seemed like the herald of a 
retributive fate. Her, at least, his quick mind told him 
that he might master. 

*'lt is useless/' he said coolly, '*to answer the words of 
madness, Romola. Your peculiar feeling about your father 
has made you mad at this moment. Any rational person 
looking at the case from a due distance will see that I have 
taken the wisest course. Apart from the influence of your 
exaggerated feelings on him, I am convinced that Messer 
Bernardo would be of that opinion." 

" He would not! " said Romola. *' He lives in the hope 
of seeing my father's wish exactly fulfilled. We spoke of 
it together only yesterday. He will help me yet. Who 
are these men to whom you have sold my father's property?" 

" There is no reason why you should not be told, except 
that it signifies little. The Count di San Seversno and 
the Seneschal de Beaucaire are now on their way with th^ 
king to Siena." 

*' They maybe overtaken and persuaded to give up then 
purchase," said Romola, eagerly, her anger beginning to 
be surmounted by anxious thought. 

'' No, they may not," said Tito, with cool decision. 

''Why?" 

*' Because I do not choose that they should." 

*' But if you were paid the money? — we will pay you 
the money," said Romola. 

No words could have disclosed more fully her sense of 
alienation from Tito; but they were spoken with less of 
bitterness than of anxious pleading. And he felt stronger, 
for lie saw that the first impulse of fury was past. 

" No, my Romola. Understand that such thoughts as 
these are impracticable. You would not, in a reasonable 
moment, ask your godfather to bury three thousand florins 
in addition to what he has already paid on the library. I 
think your pride and delicacy would shrink from that." 

She began to tremble and turn cold again with discour- 
agement, and sank down on the carved chest near which 
she was standing. He went on in a clear voice, under 
which she shuddered, as if it had been a narrow cold 
stream coursing over a hot cheek. ^ 

''Moreover, it is not my will that Messer Bernardo 
should advance the money, even if the project were not an 



I 



A REVELATION-. 275 



utterly wild one. And I beg you to consider, before you 
take any step or utter any word on the subject, what will 
be the consequences of your placing yourself in opposition 
to me, and trying to exhibit your husband in the odious 
light which your own distemptered feelings cast over him. 
What object will you serve by injuring me with Messer 
Bernardo? The event is irrevocable, the library is sold, 
and you are my wife.^^ 

Every word was spoken for the sake of a calculated 
effect, for his intellect was urged into the utmost activity 
by the danger of the crisis. He knew that Romola's mind 
would take in rapidly enough all the wide meaning of his 
speech. He waited and watched her in silence. 

She had turned her eyes from him, and was looking on 
the ground, and in that way she sat for several minutes. 
When she spoke, her voice was quite altered, — it was quiet 
and cold. 



|H[^I have one thincf to ask. 



'Ask anything that I can do without injuring us both, 
Komola.''^ 

" That you will give me that portion of the money which 
belongs to my godfather, and let me pay him.^' 

^^I must have some assurance from you first, of the atti- 
tude you intend to take toward me.'' 

"Do you believe in assurances, Tito?'' she said, with a 
tinge of returning bitterness. 

"From you, I do." 

"I will do you no harm. I shall disclose nothing. 
I will say nothing to pain him or you. You say truly, 
the event is irrevocable." 

"Then I will do what you desire to-morrow morning." 

"To-night, if possible," said Romola, "that we may not 
speak of it again." 

"It is possible," he said, moving toward the lamp, 
while she sat still, looking away from him with absent 
eyes. 

Presently he came and bent down over her, to put a 
piece of paper into her hand. "You will receive some- 
thing in return, you are aware, my Romola?" he said, 
gently, not minding so much what had passed, now he was 
secure; and feeling able to try and propitiate her. 

"Yes," she said, taking the paper, without looking at 
him, "I understand." 

"And you will forgive me, my Romola, when you have 
had time to reflect." He just touched her brow" with his 



276 ROMOLA. 

lips, but she took no notice, and seemed really unconscious 
of the act. 

She was aware that he unlocked the door and went out. 
She moved her head and listened. The great door of the 
court opened and shut again. She started up as if some 
sudden freedom had come, and going to her father's chair 
where his picture was propped, fell on her knees before it. 
and burst into sobs. 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

A.LDASSAERE MAKES AN ACQUAINTAITCE. 

When" Baldassarre was wandering about Florence in 
search of a spare outhouse where he might have the cheap- 
est of sheltered beds, his steps had been attracted toward 
that sole portion of ground within the walls of the city 
which is not perfectly level, and where the spectator, lifted 
above the roofs of the houses, can see beyond the city to 
the protecting hills and far stretching valley, otherwise 
shut out from his view except along the welcome opening 
made by the course of the Arno. Part of that ground 
has been already seen by us as the hill of Bogoli, at that 
time a great stone-quarry; but the side toward which Bal- 
dassarre directed his steps was the one that sloped down 
behind the Via de Bardi, and was most commonly called 
the hill of San Giorgio. Bratti had told him that Tito's 
dwelling was in the Via de Bardi; and, after surveying 
that street, he turned up the slope of the hill which he 
had observed as he was crossing the bridge. If he could 
find a sheltering outhouse on that hill, he would be glad: 
he had now for some years been accustomed to live with a 
broad sky about him; and, moreover, the narrow passes of 
the streets, with tlieir strip of sky above, and the unknown 
labyrinth around them, seemed to intensify his sense oi 
loneliness and feeble memory. 

The hill was sparsely inhabited, and covered chiefly hy 
gardens; but in one spot was a piece of rough ground 
jagged with great stones, which had never been cultivated 
since a landslip had ruined some houses there toward the 
end of the thirteenth century. Just above the edge oi 
this broken ground stood a* queer little square building, 



I 



77 



A LEAEN^ED SQUABBLE. 



gnat, like Venus, was born from the waters. Scala, in 
reply, begged to say that his verses were never intended 
for a scholar with such delicate olfactories as Politian, 
nearest of all living men to the perfection of the ancients, 
and of a taste so fastidious that sturgeon itself must seem 
insipid to him; defended his own verses, nevertheless, 
though indeed they were written hastily, without cor- 
rection, and intended as an agreeable distraction during 
the summer heat to himself and such friends as were 
satisfied with mediocrity, he, Scala, not being like some 
other people, who courted publicity through the book- 
sellers. For the rest, he had barely enough Greek to make- 
out the sense of the epigram so graciously sent him, to say 
nothing of tasting its elegances; but — the epigram was 
Politian^s: what more need be said? Still, by way of post- 
script, he feared that his incomparable friend^s comparison 
of the gnat to Venus, on account of its origin from the 
waters, was in many ways ticklish. On the one hand, 
Venus might be otf ended; and on the other, unless the 
poet intended an allusion to the doctrine of Thales, that 
cold and damp origin seemed doubtful to Scala in the case 
of a creature so fond of warmth; a fish were perhaps the 
better comparison, or, when the power of flying was in 
c[uestion, an eagle, or indeed, when the darkness was taken 
into consideration, a bat or an owl were a less obscure and 
more apposite parallel, etc., etc. Here was a great oppor- 
tunity for Politian. He was not aware, he wrote, that 
when he had Scala^s verses placed before him, there was 
any question of sturgeon, but rather of frogs and gudgeons: 
made short work with Scala^s defense of his own Latin, 
and mangled him terribly on the score of the stupid 
criticisms he had ventured on the Greek epigram kindly 
forwarded to him as a model. Wretched cavils, indeed! 
for as to the damp origin of the gnat, there was the 
authority of Virgil himself, who had called it the ''alumyius 
of the waters "; and as to what his dear dull friend had to 
say about the fish, the eagle, and the rest, it was ''^ nihil 
ad rem"; for because the eagle could fly higher, it by 
no means followed that the gnat could not fly at all, 
etc., etc. He was ashamed, however, to dwell on such 
trivialities, and thus to swell a gnat into an elephant; but, 
for his own part, would only add that he had nothing deceit- 
ful or double about him, neither was he to be caught when 
present by the false blandishments of those who slandered 
nim ill his absence, agreeing rather with a Homeric senti- 



278 ROMOLA. 

unfortunately, a little too liigli, and obliged the small 
observer to stand on a low stool of a rickety character; 
but Tessa would have stood a long while in a much more 
inconvenient position for the sake of seeing a little variety 
in her life. She had been drawn to the opening at the 
first loud tones of the strange voice speaking to Monna 
Lisa; and darting gently across her room every now and 
then to peep at something, she continued to stand there 
until the wood had been chopped, and she saw Baldassarre 
enter the outhouse, as the dusk was gathering, and seat 
himself on the straw. 

A great temptation had laid hold of Tessa's mind; she 
would go and take that old man part of her supper, and 
talk to him a little. He was not deaf like Monna Lisa, 
and besides she could say a great many things to him that 
it was no use to shout at Slonna Lisa, who knew them 
already. And he was a stranger — strangers came from a 
long way off and went away again, and lived nowhere in 
particular. It was naughty, she knew, for obedience made 
the largest part in Tessa's idea of duty; but it would be 
something to confess to the Padre next Pasqua, and there 
was nothing else to confess except going to sleep some- 
times over her beads, and being a little cross with Monna 
Lisa because she was so deaf; for she had as mucli idleness 
as she liked now, and was never frightened into telling 
white lies. She turned away from her shutter with rather 
an excited expression in her childish face, which was as 
pretty and pouting as ever. Her garb was still that of a 
simple contadina, but of a contadina prepared for a festa: 
her gown of dark-green serge, with its red girdle, was 
very clean and neat; she had the string of red glass beads 
round her neck; and her brown hair, rough from curli- 
ness, was duly knotted up, and fastened with thfe silver 
pin. She had but one new ornament, and she was very 
proud of it, for it was a fine gold ring. 

Tessa sat on the low stool, nursing her knees, for a 
minute or two, with her little soul poised in fluttering 
excitement on the edge of this pleasant transgression. It 
was quite irresistible. She had been commanded to make 
no acquaintances, and warned that if she did, all her new 
happy lot would vanish away, and be like a hidden treasure 
that turned to lead as soon as it was brought to the day- 
light; and she had been so obedient that when she had to 
go to church she had kept her face shaded by her hood and 
had pursed up her lips quite tightly. It was true her 



BALDASSARRE MAKES AN ACQUAIKTANCE. 279 

jdience had been a little helped by her own dread lest the 
•ming stepfather Nofri should turn up even in this 
Lrter, so far from the Por del Prato, and beat her at 
it, if he did not drag her back to work It "^ im. But 
la old man was not an acquaintance; he was a poor 
mger going to sleep in the outhouse, and he probably 
)w nothing of stepfather Nofri; and, besides, if she took 
some supper, he would like her, and not want to tell 
^thing about her. Monna Lisa would say she must not 
and talk to him, therefore Monna Lisa must not be 
isulted. It did not signify what she found out after it 
' been done. 

lupper was being prepared, she knew — a mountain of 
macaroni flavored with cheese, fragrant enough to tame 
any stranger. So she tripped down-stairs with a mind full 
of deep designs, and first asking with an innocent look 
what that noise of talking had been, without waiting for 
an answer, knit her brow with a peremptory air, something 
hke a kitten trying to be formidable^ and sent the old 
woman up-stairs, saying she would chose to eat her supper 
down below. In three minutes Tessa with her lantern in 
one hand and a wooden bowl of macaroni in the other, was 
kicking gently at the door of the outhouse; and Bal- 
dassarre, roused from sad reverie, doubted in the first 
moment whether he were awake as he opened the door and 
saw this surprising little handmaid, with delight in her 
wide eyes, breaking in on his dismal loneliness, 

''Vyq brouglit you some supper,^' she said, lifting her 
mouth toward his ear and shouting, as if he had been deaf 
like Monna Lisa. ^' Sit down and eat it, while I stay 
with you." 

Surprise and distrust surmounted every other feeling in 
Baldassarre, but though he had no smile or word of grati- 
tude ready, there could not be any impulse to push away 
this visitant, and he sank down passively on his straw 
again, while Tessa placed herself close to him, put the 
wooden bowl on his lap, and set down the lantern in front 
of them, crossing her hands before her, and nodding at the 
bowl with a significant smile, as much as to say, '*^Yes, 
you may really eat it." For, in the excitement of carrying 
out her deed, she had forgotten her previous thought that 
the stranger would not be deaf, and had fallen into her 
habitual alternative of dumb show and shouting. 

The invitation was not a disagreeable one, for he had 
been gnawing a remnant of dry bread, which had left 



280 ROMOLA. 

plenty of appetite for anything warm and relishing. Tessa 
watched the disappearance of two or three mouthfuls 
without speaking, for she had thought his eyes rather fierce 
at first; but now she ventured to put her mouth to his ear 
again and cry — 

"I like my supper, don't you?" 

It was not a smile, but rather the milder look of a dog 
touched by kindness, but unable to smile, that Baldassarre 
turned on this round*blue-eyed thing that was caring about 
him. 

*' Yes," he said; '''but I can hear well — Fm not deaf." 

"It is true; I forgot," said Tessa, lifting her hands and 
clasping them. *' But Monna Lisa is deaf, and I live with 
her. She's a kind old woman, and I'm not frightened 
at her. And we live very well: we have plenty of nice 
things. I can have nuts if I like. And I'm not obliged 
to work now. I used to have to work, and I didn't like it; 
but I liked feeding the mules, and I should like to see poor 
Giannetta, the little mule again. We've only got a goat 
and two kids, and I used to talk to the goat a good deal, 
because there was nobody else but Monna Lisa. But now 
I've got something else — can you guess what it is?" 

She drew her head back, and looked with a challenging 
smile at Baldassarre, as if she had proposed a difficult 
riddle to him. 

''No," said he, putting aside his bowl, and looking at 
her dreamily. It seemed as if this young prattling thing 
were some memory come back out of his own youth. 

"You like me to talk to you, don't you?" said Tessa, 
"but you must not tell anybody. Shall I fetch you a bit 
of cold sausage?" 

He shook his head, but he looked so mild now that 
Tessa felt quite at her ease. 

" Well, then, I've got a little baby. Such a pretty bam- 
binetto, with little fingers and nails! Not old yet; it was 
born at the Nativita, Monna Lisa says. I was married 
one Nativity, a long, long while ago, and nobody knew. 
Santa Madonna! I didn't mean to tell you that! " 

Tessa set up her shoulders and bit her lip, looking at 
Baldassarre as if this betrayal of secrets must have an 
exciting effect on him too. But he seemed not to care 
much; and perhaps that was the nature of strangers. 

"Yes," she said, carrying on her thought aloud, "you 
are a stranger, you don^t live anywhere or know anybody, 
do you?" 



BALDASSAKRE MAKES AK ACQUAIKTANCE. 281 



1'^ No/' said Baldassarre, also thinking aloud, rather than 
nsciously answering, '^ I only know one man/' 
*^His name is not Nofri, is it?'' said Tessa, anxiously. 

^'No," said Baldassarre, noticing her look of fear. ^*Is 
that your husband's name?" 

That mistaken supposition was very amusing to Tessa. 
She laughed and clapped her hands as she said — 

"No, indeed! But I must not tell you anything about 
my husband. You would never think what he is — not at 
all like Norfri!" 

She laughed again at the delightful incongruity between 
the name of Nofri — which was not at all separable from 
the idea of the cross-grained stepfather — and the idea of 
her husband. 

" But I don't see him very often," she went on, more 
gravely. '' And sometimes I pray to the Holy Madonna 
to send him oftener, and once she did. But I must go 
back to my bimbo now. I'll bring it to show you to-mor- 
row. You would like to see it. Sometimes it cries and 
makes a face, but only when it's hungry, Monna Lisa says. 
You wouldn't think it, but Monna Lisa had babies once, 
and they are all dead old men. My husband says she will 
never die now, because she's so well dried. I'm glad of 
that, for I'm fond of her. You would like to stay here 
to-morrow, shouldn't you?" 

"I should like to have this place to come and rest in, 
that's all," said Baldassarre. "I would pay for it, and 
harm nobody." 

"No, indeed; I think you are not a bad old man. But 
you look sorry about something. Tell me, is there any- 
thing you shall cry about when I leave you by yourself? / 
used to cry once." 

"No, child; I think I shall cry no more." 

"That's right; and I'll bring you some breakfast, and 
show you the bimbo. Good-night." 

Tessa took up her bowl and lantern, and closed the door 
behind her. The pretty loving apparition had been no 
more to Baldassarre than a faint rainbow on the blackness 
to the man who is wrestling in deep waters. He hardly 
thought of her again till his dreamy waking passed into 
the more vivid images of disturbed sleep. 

But Tessa thought much of him. She had no sooner 
entered the house than she told Monna Lisa what she had 
done, and insisted that the stranger should be allowed to 
come and rest in the outhouse when he liked. The old 



282 • ROMOLA. 

woman, who had had her notions of making him a useful 
tenant, made a great show of rehictance, shook her head, 
and urged that Messer Naldo would be angry if she let any 
one come about the house. Tessa did not believe that. 
Kaldo had said nothing against strangers who lived 
nowhere; and this old man knew nobody except one person, 
who was not Nofri. 

"Well," conceded Monna Lisa, at last, ''if I let him 
stay for a while and carry things up the hill for me, thou 
must keep thy counsel and tell nobody." 

"No," said Tessa, "I'll only tell the bimbo." 

"And then," Monna Lista went on, in her thick under- 
tone, "God may love us well enough not to let Messer 
Naldo find out anything about it. For he never comes 
here but at dark; and as he was here two days ago, it's 
likely he'll never come at all till the old man's gone away 
again." 

"Oh me! Monna," said Tessa, clasping her hands, "I 
wish Naldo had not to go such a long, long way sometimes 
before he comes back again." 

" Ah, child! the world's big, they say. There are places 
behind the mountains, and if people go night and day, 
night and day, they get to Kome, and see the Holy 
Father." 

Tessa looked submissive in the presence of this mystery, 
and began to rock her baby, and sing syllables of vague 
loving meaning, in tones that imitated a triple chime. 

The next morning she was unusually industrious in the 
prospect of more dialogue, and of the pleasure she should 
give the poor old stranger by showing him her baby. But 
before she could get ready to take Baldassarre his break- 
fast, she found that Monna Lisa had been employing him 
as a drawer of water. She deferred her i)aternosters, and 
hurried down to insist that Baldassarre should sit on his 
straw, so that she might come and sit by him again while 
he ate his breakfast. That attitude made the new com- 
panionship all the more delightful to Tessa, for she had 
been used to sitting on straw in old days along with her 
goats and mules. 

"I will not let Monna Lisa give you too much work to 
do," she said, bringing him some steaming broth and soft 
bread. " I don't like much work, and I daresay you 
don't. I like sitting in the sunshine and feeding things. 
Monna Lisa says work is good, but she does it all herself, 
so I don't mind. She's not a cross old woman; you needn't 



BALDASSARRE MAKES AN ACQUAINTANCE. 283 

be afraid of her being cross. And now, you eat that, and 
I'll go and fetch my baby and show it you." 

Presently she came back with the small mummy-case in 
her arms. The mummy looked very lively, having un- 
usually large dark eyes, though no more than the usual 
indication of a future nose. 

" This is my baby," said Tessa, seating herself close to 
Baldassarre. *^You didn't think it was so pretty, did 
you? It IS like the little Gesii, and I should think the 
Santa Madonna would be kinder to me now, is it not true? 
But I have not much to ask for, because I have everything 
now — only that I should see my husband oftener. You 
may hold the bambino a little, if you like, but I think you 
must not kiss him, because you might hurt him." 

She spoke this prohibition in a tone of soothing 
excuse, and Baldassarre could not refuse to hold the small 
package. .^^ Poor thing! poor thing!" he said, in a deep 
voice which had something strangely threatening in its 
apparent pity. It did not seem to him as if this guileless 
loving little woman could reconcile him to the world at 
all, but rather that she was with him against the world, 
*hat she was a creature who would need to be avenged. 

" Oh, don't you be sorry for me," she said; "for though 
I don't see him often, he is more beautiful and good than 
anybody else in the world. I say prayers to him when 
he's away. You couldn't think what he is! " 

She looked at Baldassarre with a wide glance of mys- 
terious meaning, taking the baby from him again, and 
almost wishing he would question her as if he wanted very 
much to know more. 

I^—'^ Yes, I could," said Baldassarre, rather bitterly. 
^ft'No, I'm sure you never could," said Tessa, earnestly, 
^^^ou thought he might be Nofri," she added, with a 
triumphant air of conclusiveness. But never mind; you 
couldn't know. What is your name?" 

He rubbed his hand over his knitted brow, then looked 
at her blankly and said, ''Ah, child, what is it?" 

It was not that he did not often remember his name 
well enough; and if he had had presence of mind now to 
remember it, he would have chosen not to tell it. But a 
sudden question appealing to his memory, had a paralyzing 
effect, and in that moment he was conscious of nothing 
but helplessness. 

Ignorant as Tessa was, the pity stirred in her by his 
blank look taught her to say — 



284 bomolA. 

''Never mind: you are a stranger, it is no matter aoout 
your having a name. Good-bye now, because I want my 
breakfast. You will come here and rest when you like; 
Monna Lisa says you may. And don't you be unhappy, 
for we'll be good to you." 

''Poor thing!" said Baldassarre again. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

NO PLACE FOR REPENTAl^CE. 

Messer Naldo came again sooner than was expected: 
he came on the evening of the twenty-eighth of November, 
only eleven days after his previous visit, proving that he 
had not gone far beyond the mountains; and a scene which 
we have witnessed as it took place that evening in the Via 
de Bardi may help to explain the impulse which turned 
his steps toward the hill of San Giorgio. 

When Tito had first found this home for Tessa, on his 
return from Rome, more than a year and a half ago, he 
had acted, he persuaded himself, simply under the con- 
straint imposed on him by his own kindliness after the 
unlucky incident which had made foolish little Tessa 
imagine him to be her husband. It was true that the 
kindness was manifested toward a pretty trusting thing 
whom it was impossible to be near without feeling 
inclined to caress and pet her; but it was not less true 
that Tito had movements of kindness toward her apart 
from any contemplated gain to himself. Otherwise, 
charming as her prettiness and prattle were in a lazy mo- 
ment, he might have preferred to be free from her; for he 
was not in love with Tessa — he was in love for the first 
time in his life with an entirely different woman, whom he 
was not simply inclined to shower caresses upon, but whose 
presence possessed him so that the simple sweep of her 
long tresses across his cheek seemed to vibrate through the 
hours. All the young, ideal passion he had in him had 
been stirred by Romola, and his fibre was too fine, his 
intellect too bright for him to be tempted into the habits 
of a gross pleasure-seeker. But he had spun a web about 
himself and Tessa, which he felt incapable of breaking: in 
the first moments after the mimic marriage he had been 



KO 1>LACE FOR REPENTANCE. 285 

prompted to leave her under an illusion by a distinct calcu- 
lation of his own possible need, but since that critical 
moment it seemed to him that the web had gone on spin- 
ning itself in spite of him, like a growth over which he 
had no power. The elements of kindness and self-indul- 
gence are hard to distinguish in a soft nature like Tito^'s; 
and the annoyance he had felt under Tessa's pursuit of 
him on the day of his betrothal, the thorough intention of 
revealing the truth to her with which he set out to fulfil 
his promise of seeing her again, were a sufficiently strong 
argument to him that in ultimately leaving Tessa under 
her illusion and providing a home for her, he had been 
overcome by his own kindness. And in these days of his 
first devotion to Eomola he needed a self-justifying argu- 
ment. He had learned to be glad that she was deceived 
about some things. But every strong feeling makes to 
itself a conscience of its own — has its own piety; just as 
much as the feeling ci the son toward the mother, which 
will sometimes survive amid the worst fumes of deprav- 
ation; and Tito could not yet be easy in committing a 
secret offense against his wedded love. 

But he was all the more careful in taking precautions to 
preserve the secrecy of the offense. Monna Lisa, who, 
like many of her class, never left her habitation except to 
go to one or two particular shops, and to confession once a 
year, knew nothing of his real name or whereabout: she 
only knew that he paid her so as to make her very comfort- 
able, and minded little about the rest, save that she got 
fond of Tessa, and found pleasure in the cares for which 
she was paid. There was some mystery behind, clearly, 
since Tessa was a contadina, and Messer Naldo was a sig- 
ner; but, for aught Monna Lisa knew, he might be a real 
husband. For Tito had thoroughly frightened Tessa into 
silence about the circumstances of their marriage, by 
telling her that if she broke that silence she would never 
see him again; and Monna Lisa's deafness, which made it 
impossible. to say anything to her without some premedita- 
tion, had saved Tessa from any incautious revelation to her, 
such as had run off her tongue in talking with Baldassarre. 
For a long while Tito's visits were so rare, that it seemed 
likely enough he took journeys between them. They 
were prompted chiefly by the desire to see that all 
things were goin^ on well with Tessa; and though 
he always found his visit pleasanter than the prospect of 
it — always felt anew the charm of that pretty ignorant 



286 ttOMOLA. 

loviugness and trust — he had not yet any real need of it. 
But he was determined, if possible, to preserve the sim- 
plicity on which the charm depended: to keep Tessa a 
genuine contadina, and not place the small field-flower 
among conditions that would rob it of its grace. He 
would have been shocked to see her in the dress of any 
other nink than her own; the piquancy of her talk would 
be all gone, if things began to have new relations for her, 
if her world became wider, her pleasures less childish; 
and the squirrel-like enjoyment of nuts at discretion 
marked the standard of the luxuries he had provided for 
her. By this means, Tito saved Tessa's charm from being 
sullied; and he also, by a convenient coincidence, saved 
himself from aggravating expenses that were already 
rather importunate to a man whose money was all required 
for his avowed habits of life. 

This, in brief, had been the history of Tito's relation to 
Tessa up to a very recent date. It is true that once or 
twice before Bardo's death, the sense that there was Tessa 
up the hill, with whom it was possible to pass an hour 
agreeably, had been an inducement to him to escape from 
a little weariness of the old man, when, for lack of any 
positive engagement, he might otherwise have borne the 
weariness patiently and shared Romola's burden. But 
the moment when he had first felt a real hunger for 
Tessa's ignorant lovingness and belief in him had not 
come till quite lately, and it was distinctly marked out by 
circumstances as little to be forgotten as the oncoming of 
a malady that has permanently vitiated the sight and 
hearing. It was the day when he had first seen Bal- 
dassarre, and had bought the armor. Returning across 
the bridge that night, with the coat of mail in his hands, 
he had felt an unconquerable shrinking from an immediate 
encounter with Romola. She, too, knew little of the 
actual world; she, too, trusted him; but he had an uneasy 
consciousness that behind her frank eyes there was a 
nature that could judge him, and that any ill-founded 
trust of hers sprang not from pretty brute-like incapacity, 
but from a nobleness which might prove an alarming 
touchstone. He wanted a little ease, a little repose from 
self-control, after the agitation and exertions of the day; 
he wanted to be where he could adjust his mind to the 
morrow, without caring how he behaved at the present 
moment. And there was a sweet adoring creature within 
reach whose presence was as safe and unconstraining as 



I 



KO PLACE FOR EEPENTANCE. 287 



that of her own kids — who would believe any fable, and 
remained quite unimpressed by public opinion. And so 
on that evening, when Eomola was waiting and listening 
for him, he turned his steps up the hill. 

No wonder, then, that the steps took the same course 
on this evening, eleven days later, when he had had to 
recoil under Romola's first outburst of scorn. He could 
not wish Tessa in his wife's place, or refrain from wishing 
that his wife should be thoroughly reconciled to him; for 
it was Romola, and not Tessa, that belonged to the world 
where all the larger desires of a man who had ambition 
and effective faculties must necessarily lie. But he wanted 
a refuge from a standard disagreeably rigorous, of which 
he could not make himself independent simply by think- 
ing it folly; and Tessa's little soul was that inviting 
refuge. 

It was not much more than eight o'clock when he went 
up the stone steps to the door of Tessa^s room. Usually 
she heard his entrance into the house, and ran to meet him, 
but not to-night; and when he opened the door he saw 
the reason. A single dim light was burning above the 
dying fire, and showed Tessa in a kneeling attitude by the 
head of the bed where the baby lay. Her head had fallen 
aside on the pillow, and her brown rosary, which usually 
hung above the pillow over the picture of the Madonna 
and the golden palm-branches, lay in the loose grasp of her 
right hand. She had gone fast asleep over her beads. 
Tito stepped lightly across the little room, and sat down 
close to her. She had probably heard the opening of the 
door as part of her dream, for he had not been looking at 
her two moments before she opened her eyes. She opened 
them without any start, and remained quite motionless 
looking at him, as if the sense that he was there smiling 
at her shut out any impulse which could disturb that happy 
passiveness. But when he put his hand under her chin, 
and stooped to kiss her, she said — 

"I dreamed it, and then I said it was dreaming — and 
then I woke, and it was true." 

'^Little sinner!" said Tito, pinching her chin, '^you 
have not said half your prayers. I will punish you by not 
looking at your baby; it is ugly." 

Tessa did not like those words, even though Tito was 
smiling. She had some pouting distress in her face, as 
she said, bending anxiously over the baby — 

"Ah, it is not true! He is prettier than anything. 



S88 ROMOLA, 

You do not think he is ugly. You will look at him. He 
is even prettier than when you saw him before — only he's 
asleep, and you can't see his eyes or his tongue, and I can't 
show you his hair — and it grows — isn't it wonderful? 
Look at him! It's true his face is very much all alike 
when he's asleep, there is not so much to see as when he's 
awake. If you kiss him very gently, he won't wake: you 
want to kiss him, is it not true?" 

He satisfied her by giving the small mummy a butterfly 
kiss, and then putting his hand on her shoulder and turn- 
ing her face toward him, said, '' You like looking at the 
baby better than looking at your husband, you false one!" 

She was still kneeling, and now rested her hands on his 
knee, looking up at him like one of Fra Lippo Lippi's 
round-cheeked adoring angels. 

'*No," she said, shaking her head; "I love you always 
best, only I want you to look at the bambino and love him; 
I used only to want you to love me." 

'* And did you expect me to come again so soon?" said 
Tito, inclined to make her prattle. He still felt the effects 
of the agitation he had undergone — still felt like a man 
who has been violently jarred; and this was the easiesi; 
relief from silence and solitude. 

'^Ah, no," said Tessa, ''I have counted the days — 
to-day I began at my right thumb again — since you put 
on the beautiful chain-coat, that Messer San Michele gave 
you to take care of you on your journey. And 3^ou have 
got it on now," she said, peeping through the opening in 
the breast of his tunic. " Perhaps it made you come back 
sooner." 

" Perhaps it did, Tessa," he said. *' But don't mind the 
coat now. Tell me what has happened since I was here. 
Did you see the tents in the Prato, and the soldiers and 
horsemen when they passed the bridges — did you hear 
the drums and trumpets?" 

" Yes, and I was rather frightened, because I thought 
the soldiers might come up here. And Monna Lisa was a 
little afraid too, for she said they might carry our kids off; 
she said it was their business to do mischief. But the 
Holy Madonna took care of us, for we never saw one of 
them up here. But something has happened, only I 
hardly dare tell you, and that is what I was saying more 
Aves for." 

"AVhat do you mean, Tessa?" said Tito, rather 
anxiously. *'Make haste and tell me." 



IfO PLACE FOR REPEK'iJwN'CB. 289 

"Yes, bnt will you let me sit on your knee? Because 
then I think I shall not be so frightened/' 

He took her on his knee, and put his arm round her, 
but looked grave: it seemed that something unpleasant 
must pursue him even here, 

"At first I didn't mean to tell you,'^ said Tessa, speak- 
ing almost in a whisper, as if that would mitigate the 
offense; "because we thought the old man would be gone 
away before you came again, and it would be as if it had 
not been. But now ho is there, and you are come, and I 
never did anything you told me not to do before. And I 
want to tell you, and then you will perhaps forgive me, 
for it is a long while before I go to confession." 

"Yes, tell me everything, my Tessa.'' He began te 
hope it was after all a trivial matter. 

"Oh, you will be sorry for him: I'm afraid he cries 
about something when I don't see him. But that was not 
the reason 1 went to him first; it was because I wanted to 
talk to him and show him my baby, and he was a stranger 
that lived nowhere, and I thought you wouldn't care so 
much about my talking to him. And I think he is not a 
bad old man, and he wanted to come and sleep on the 
straw next to the goats, and I made Monna Lisa say, ' Yes, 
he might,' and he's away all the day almost, but when he 
comes back I talk to him, and take him something to eat." 

"Some beggar, I suppose. It was naughty of you, 
Tessa, and I am angry with Monna Lisa. I must have 
him sent away." 

"No, I think he is not a beggar, for he wanted to pay 
Monna Lisa, only she asked him to work for her instead. 
And he gets himself shaved, and his clothes are tidy: 
Monna Lisajsays he is a decent man. But sometimes I think 
he is not in his right mind: Lupo, at Peretola, was not in 
his right mind, and he looks a little like Lupo sometimes, 
as if he didn't know where he was." 

"What sort of face has he?" said Tico, his heart begin- 
ning to beat strangely. He was so haunted by the thought 
of Baldassarre, that it was already he whom he saw in 
imagination sitting on the straw not mciny yards from him. 
" Fetch your stool, my Tessa, and sit on it." 

"Shall you not forgive me?" she s^iid, timidly, moving 
from his knee. 

" Yes, I will not be angry — only k^it down, and tell me 
what sort of old man this is." 
^^J*I can't think how to tell you: he is not like my step- 



290 ROMOLA. 

father Nofri, or anybody. His face is yellow, and he has 
deep marks in it; and nis hair is white, but there is none 
on the top of his head: and his eye-brows are black, and 
he looks from under them at me, and says, 'Poor tiling!^ 
to me, as if he thought I was beaten as I used to be; and 
that seems as if he couldn^t be in his right mind, doesn^t 
it? And I asked him his name once, but he couldn't tell 
me: yet everybody has a name — is it not true? And he 
has a book now, and keeps looking at it ever so long, as if 
he were a Padre. But I think he is not saying prayers, 
for his lips never move; — ah, you are angry with me, or is 
it because you are sorry for the old man?" 

Tito's eyes were still fixed on Tessa; but he had ceased 
to see her, and was only seeing the objects her words 
suggested. It was this absent glance which frightened 
her, and she could not help going to neel at his side again. 
But he did not heed her, and she dared not touch him, or 
speak to him: she knelt, trembling and wondering; and 
this state of mind suggested her beads to her, she took 
them from the floor and began to tell them again, her 
pretty lips moving silently, and her blue eyes wide with 
anxiety and struggling tears. 

Tito was quite unconscious of her movements — uncon- 
scious of his own attitude: he was in that wrapt state in 
which a man will grasp painful roughness, and press and 
press it closer, and never feel it. A new possibility had 
risen before him, which might dissolve at once the wretched 
conditions of fear and suppression that were marring his 
life. Destiny had brought within his reach an opportunity 
of retrieving that moment on the steps of the Duomo, 
when the past had grasped him with living quivering 
hands, and he had disowned it. A few steps, and he might 
be face to face with his father, with no witness by; he 
might seek forgiveness and reconciliation; and there was 
money now, from the sale of the library, to enable them to 
leave Florence without disclosure and go into Southern Italy, 
where under the probable French rule, he had already laid 
a foundation for patronage. Romola need never know the 
whole truth, for she could have no certain means of iden- 
tifying that prisoner in the Duomo with Baldassarre, or of 
learning what had taken place on the steps, except from 
Baldassarre himself; and if his father forgave, he would 
also consent to bury that offense. 

But with this possibility of relief, by an easy spring, 
from present evil, there rose the other possibility, that the 



KO PLACE FOR REPEKTAKCE. 291 

fierce-hearted man might refuse to be propitiated. Well — 
and if he did, things would only be as they had been 
before; for there would be no witness hy. It was not 
repentance with a white sheet round it and taper in hand, 
confessing its hated sin in the eyes of men, that Tito was 
j)reparing for: it was a repentance that would make all 
things pleasant again, and keep all past unpleasant things 
secret. And Titers soft-heartedness, his indisposition to 
feel himself in harsh relations with any creature, was in 
strong activity toward his father, now his father was 
brought near to him. It would be a state of ease that his 
nature could not but desire, if the poisonous hatred in 
Baldassarre's glance could be replaced by something of the 
old affection and complacency. 

Tito longed to have his world once again completely 
cushioned with goodwill, and longed for it the more 
eagerly because of what he had just suffered from the col- 
lision with Romola. It was not difficult to him to smile 
pleadingly on those whom he had injured, and offer to do 
them much kindness: and no quickness of intellect could 
tell him exactly the taste of that honey on the lips of the 
injured. The opportunity was there, and it raised an 
inclination which hemmed in the calculating activity of 
his thought. He started up, and stepped toward the door; 
but Tessa's cry, as she dropped her beads, roused him from 
his absorption. He turned and said — 

"My Tessa, get me a lantern; and don^t cry, little 
pigeon, I am not angry.'' 

They went down the stairs, and Tessa was going to 
shout the need of the lantern in Monna Lisa's ear, when 
Tito, who had opened the door, said, '^Stay, Tessa — no, 
I want no lantern: go up-stairs again, and keep quiet, and 
say nothing to Monna Lisa." 

In half a minute he stood before the closed door of the 
outhouse, where the moon was shining white on the old 
paintless wood. 

In this last decisive moment, Tito felt a tremor upon 
him — a sudden instinctive shrinking from a possible tiger- 
glance, possible tiger-leap. Yet why should he, a young 
man, be afraid of an old one? a young man Avith armor 
on, of an old man without a weapon? It was but a 
moment's hesitation, and Tito laid his hand on the door. 
Was his father asleep? Was there nothing else but the 
door that screened him from the voice and the glance 
which no magic could turn into ease? 



292 ro:mola. 

Baldassarre was not asleep. There was a square opening 
high in the wall of the hovei. il rou^h which the moon- 
beams sent in a stream of pak- light; and if Tito could 
have looked thronirh the opening, he would have seen his 
fatlier seated on tlie straw, with something that shone like 
a white star in his hand. Baldassarre was feeling the edge 
of his poinard, taking refuge in that sensation from a 
hopeless blank of thought that seemed to lie like a great 
gulf between his passion and its aim. 

He was in one of his most wretched moments of con- 
scious helplessness: he had been poring, while it was light, 
over the book that lay open beside him; then he had been 
trying to recall the names of his jewels, and the symbols 
engraved on them; and though at certain other times he 
had recovered some of those names and symbols, to-night 
they were all gone into darkness. And this effort at 
inward seeing had seemed to end in utter paralysis of 
memory. He was reduced to a sort of mad consciousness 
that he was a solitary pulse of just rage in a world filled 
with defiant baseness. He had clutched and unsheathed 
his dagger, and for a long while had been feeling its edge, 
his mind narrowed to one image, and the dream of one 
sensation — the sensation of plunging that dagger into a 
base heart, which he was unable to pierce in any other way. 

Tito had his hand on the door and was pulling it; it 
dragged against the ground as such old doors often do, and 
Baldassarre, startled out of his dream-like state, rose from 
his sitting posture in vague amazement, not knowing where 
he was. He had not yet risen to his feet, and was still 
kneeling on one knee, when the door came wide open and 
he saw, dark against the moonlight, with the rays falling 
on one bright mass of curls and one rounded olive cheek, 
the image of his reverie — not shadowy — close and real like 
water at the lips after the thirsty dream of it. No thought 
could come athwart that eager thirst. In one moment, 
before Tito could start back, the old man, with the pre- 
ternatural force of rage in his limbs, had sprung forward, 
and tlie dagger had flashed out. In the next moment the 
dagger had snapped in two, and Baldassarre, under the 
parrying force of Tito's arm, had fallen back on the straw, 
cluching the hilt with its bit of broken blade. The 
pointed end lay shinning against Tito's feet. 

Tito had felt one great heart-leap of terror as he had 
staggered under the weight of the thrust; he felt now the 
triumph of deliverance and safety. His armor had been 



NO PLACE FOR EEPENTANCE. 293 

proved, and vengeance lay helpless before him. But the 
triumph raised no devilish impulse; on the contrary, the 
sight of his father close to him and unable to injure him, 
made the eifort at reconciliation easier. He was free from 
fear, but he had only the more unmixed and- direct want 
to be free from the sense that he was hated. After they 
had looked at each other a little while, Baldassarre lying 
motionless in despairing rage, Tito said in his soft tones, 
just as they had sounded before the last parting on the 
shores of Greece — 

" Padre miof " There was a pause after those words, 
but no movement or sound till he said — 

'^ I came to ask your forgiveness!^' 

Again he paused, that the healing balm of those words 
might have time to work. But there was no sign of change 
in Baldassarre; he lay as he had fallen, leaning on one 
arm: he was trembling, but it was from the shock that had 
thrown him down. 

*^ I was taken by surprise that morning. I wish now to 
be a son to you again. I wish to make the rest of your 
life happy, that you may forget what you have suffered.'' 

He paused again. He had used the clearest and strong- 
est words he could think of. It was useless to say more, 
until he had some sign that Baldassarre understood him. 
Perhaps his mind was too distemptered or too imbecile 
even for that; perhaps the shock of his fall and his disap- 
pointed rage might have quite suspended the use of his 
faculties. 

Presently Baldassarre began to move. He threw away 
the broken dagger, and slowly and gradually, still trem- 
bling, began to raise himself from the ground. Tito put 
oift his hand to help him, and so strangely quick are men's 
souls that in this moment, when he began to feel his 
atonement was accepted, he had a darting thought of the 
irksome efforts it entailed. Baldassarre clutched the hand 
that was held out, raised himself and clutched it still, 
going close up to Tito till their faces were not a foot off 
each other. Then he began to speak, in a deep trembling 
voice- ■ . 

'^I saved you — I nurtured you — I loved you. You 
forsook me — you robbed me — you denied me. What can 
you give me? You have made the world bitterness to me; 
but there is one draught of sweetness left — that you shall 
know agony." 
m He let fall Tito's hand, and going backwards a little, 



294 ROMOLA. 

first rested his arm on a projecting stone in the wall, and 
then sank again in a sitting posture on the straw. The 
oiitleap of fury in the dagger - thrust had evidently 
exhausted him. 

Tito stood silent. If it had been a deep yearning emo- 
tion which had brought him to ask his father's forgive- 
ness, the denial of it might have caused him a pang, wbich 
would bave excluded the rushing train of thought that 
followed those decisive words. As it was, though the sen- 
tence of unchangeable hatred grated on him and jarred 
him terribly, his mind glanced round with a self -preserving 
instinct to see how far those words could have the force oi 
a substantial threat. When he had come down to speak 
to Baldassarre, he had said to himself that if his effort 
at reconciliation failed, things would only be as they had 
been before. The first glance of his mind was backward 
to that thought again, but the future possibilities of danger 
that were conjured up along with it brought the percep- 
tion that things were not as they had been before, and the 
perception came as a triumphant relief. There was not 
only the broken dagger, there was the certainty, from 
what Tessa had told him, that Baldassarre's mind was 
broken too, and had no edge that could reach him. Tito 
felt he had no choice now: he must defy Baldassarre as a 
mad, imbecile old man; and the chances were so strongly 
on his side that there was hardly room for fear. No ; 
except the fear of having to do many unpleasant things 
in order to save himself from what was yet more unpleas- 
ant. And one of those unpleasant things must be done 
immediately: it was very difficult. 

** Do you mean to stay here?" he said. 

'*No," said Baldassarre, bitterly, *'you mean to turn 
me out.'' 

**Not so," said Tito; ^ a only ask." 

*'I tell you, you have turned me out. If it is your 
straw, you turned me off it three years ago." 

*''Then you mean to leave this place?" said Tito, more 
anxious about this certainty than the ground of it. 

'"I have spoken," said Baldassarre. • 

Tito turned and re-entered the house. Monna Lisa was 
nodding; he Avent up to Tessa, and found her crying by 
the side of her baby. 

" Tessa," he said, sitting down and taking her head 
between his hands; "leave off crying, little goose and 
listen to me," 



WHAT FLOKENCE WAS THIKKIKG OF. 295 

He lifted her chin upward, that she might look at him, 
while he spoke very distinctly and emphatically. 

** You must never speak to that old man again. He is 
a mad old man, and he wants to kill me. Never speak to 
him or listen to him again." 

Tessa^s tears had ceased, and her lips were pale with 
fright. 

'^Is he gone away?" she whispered. 

»'* He will go away. Kemember what I have said to you." 
"Yes; I will never speak to a stranger any more," said 
Tessa, with a sense of guilt. 

He told her, to comfort her, that he would come again 
to-morrow; and then went down to Monna Lisa to rebuke 
her severely for letting a dangerous man come about the 
house. 

Tito felt that these were odious tasks; they were very 
evil-tasted morsels but they were forced upon him. He 
heard Monna Lisa fasten the door behind him, and turned 
away, without looking toward the open door of the hovel. 
He felt secure that Baldassarre would go, and he could 
not wait to see him go. Even his young frame and elastic 
spirit were sliattered by the agitations that had been 
crowded into this single evening. 

Baldassarre was still sitting on the straw when the 
shadow of Tito passed by. Before him lay the fragments 
of the broken dagger; beside him lay the open book, over 
which he had pored in vain. They looked like mocking 
symbols of his utter helplessness; and his body was still 
too trembling for him to rise and walk aw^ay. 

But the next morning very early, when Tessa peeped 
anxiously through the hole in her shutter, the door of the 
hovel was open, and the strange old ^lan was gone. 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

WHAT FLOREITCE WAS THIKKIl^G OF. 

For several days Tito saw little of Romola. He told 
her gently, the next morning, that it would be better for 
her to remove any small articles of her own from the 
library, as there would be ageuts coming to pack up the 
antiquities. Then, leaning to kiss her on the brow, he 



296 ROMOLA. 

suggested that she should keep in her own room where the 
little painted tabernacle was, and where she was then sit- 
ting, so that she might be away from the noise of strange 
footsteps. Romola assented quietly, making no sign of emo- 
tion: the night had been one long waking to her, and, in spite 
of her healthy frame, sensation had become a dull contin- 
uous pain, as if she had been stunned and bruised. Tito 
divined that she felt ill, but he dared say no more; he only 
dared, perceiving that her hand and brow were stone cold, 
to fetch a furred mantle and throw it lightly round her. 
And in every brief interval that he returned to her, the 
scene was nearly the same: he tried to propitiate her by 
some unobtrusive act or word of tenderness, and she 
seemed to have lost the power of speaking to him, or of 
looking at him. "Patience! " he said to himself. '^She 
will recover it, and forgive at last. The tie to me must still 
remain the strongest." When the stricken person is slow 
to recover and looks as if nothing had happened, the 
striker easily glides into the position of the aggrieved 
party; he feels no bruise himself, and is strongly conscious 
of his own amiable behavior since he inflicted the blow. 
But Tito was not naturally disposed to feel himself ag- 
grieved; the constant bent of his mind was toward propi- 
tiation, and he would have submitted to much for the sake 
of feeling Romola's hand resting on his head again, as it 
did that morning when he first shrank from looking at her. 
But he found it the less difficult to wait patiently for the 
return of his home happiness, because his life out of door.s 
was more and more interesting to him. A course of action 
which is in strictness a slowly-prepared outgrowth of tho 
entire character, is yet almost always traceable to a single 
impression as its point of apparent origin; and since that 
moment in the Piazza del Duomo, when Tito, mounted on 
the bales, had tasted a keen pleasure in the consciousne- 
of his ability to tickle the ears of men with any phrasi 
that pleased them, his imagination had glanced continu- 
ally toward a sort of political activity which the troubled 
public life of Florence was likely enough to find occasion 
for. But the fresh dread of Baldassarre, waked in the 
same moment, had lain like an immovable rocky obstruc- 
tion across that path, and had urged him into the sale of 
the library, as a preparation for the possible necessity of 
leaving Florence, at the very time when he was beginning 
to feel that it had a new attraction for him. That dread 
was nearly removed now: he must wear his armor still: he 



WHAT FLOREKCE WAS THINKIKG OF. 297 

must prepare himself for possible demands on his coolness 
and ingenuity, but he did not feel obliged to take the 
inconvenient step of leaving Florence and seeking new 
fortunes. His father had refused the offered atonement — . 
had forced him into defiance; and an old man in a strange 
place, with his memory gone, was weak enough to be 
defied. 

Tito's implicit desires were working themselves out now 
in very explicit thoughts. As the freshness of young 
passion faded, life was taking more and more decidedly 
for him the aspect of a game in which there was an agree- 
able mingling of skill and chance. 

And the game that might be played in Florence promised 
to be rapid and exciting; it was a game of revolutionary 
and party struggle, sure to include plenty of that unavowed 
action in which brilliant ingenuity, able to get rid of all 
inconvenient beliefs, except that *' ginger is hot in the 
mouth," is apt to see the path of superior wisdom. 

No sooner were the French guests gone than Florence ^ 
was as agitated as a colony of ants when an alarming j 
shadow has been removed, and the camp has to be repaired. / 
'^ How are we to raise the money for the French king? / 
How are we to manage the war with those obstinate Pisan 
rebels? Above all, how are we to mend our plan of gov- \ 
ernment, so as to hit on the best way of getting our \ 
magistrates chosen and our laws voted?'' Till those ques- ' 
tions were well answered, trade was in danger of standing 
still, and that large body of the working men w^ho were 
not counted as citizens and had not so much as a vote to 
serve as an anodyne to their stomachs were likely to get 
impatient. Something must be done. 

And first the great bell was sounded to call the citizens 
to a parliament in the Piazza de Signori; and when the 
crowd was wedged close, and hemmed in by armed men 
at all the outlets, the Signoria (or Gonfaloiere and eight 
Priors for the time being) came out and stood by the stone 
lion on the platform in front of the Old Palace, and pro- 
posed that twenty chief men of the city should have 
dictatorial authority given them, by force of which they 
should for one year choose all magistrates, and set the 
frame of government in order. And the people shouted 
their assent, and felt themselves the electors of the Twenty. 
This kind of *^ parliament" was a very old Florentine 
fashion, by which the will of the few was made to seem the 
choice of the many. 



298 ROMOLA. 

The shouting in the Piazza was soon at an end, but not 
so the debating inside the palace: was Florence to have 
a Great Council after the Venetian mode, where all the 
officers of government might be elected, and all laws votod 
by a wide number of citizens of a certain age and of ascer- 
tained qualifications, without question of rank or part}-? 
or, was it to be governed on a narrower and less pop 
ular scheme, in which the hereditary influence of gO( 
families would be less adulterated with the votes of sho|i- 
keepers. Doctors of law disputed day after day, and far 
on into the night. Messer Pagolantonio Soderini allcgi ' 
excellent reasons on the side of the popular scheni» 
Messer Guidantonia Vespucci alleged reasons equally 
excellent on the side of a more aristocratic form. It was 
a question of boiled or roast, which had been prejudged 
by the palates of the disputants, and the excellent arguing 
might have been protracted a long while without any other 
result than that of deferring the cooking. The majority 
of the men inside the palace, having power already in their 
hands, agreed with Vespucci, and thought change shouL^ 
be moderate; the majority outside the palace, consciou 
of little power and many grievances, were less afraid oi 
change. 

And there was a force outside the palace which was 
gradually tending to give the vague desires of the majority 
the character of a determinate will. That , force was tlie 
preaching of Savonarola . I mpelled partly bythe spiritual 
ne cessity that w as laid u po n ^iim to guide"~t1ie peuplo, &n(l 
pETtTyHby tTiTTTruiJiplin^ ufpubliu ini'ii who cotild get ri6 
'TncA<nro> carried witliniu liis nid, lie wms rapidlj" passing 
in lii.s daily ,'^i'riiions from the general to the specfn:t-^=froni 
tel]iii<; liis hearers lliat they must postpone theiFprivat 
passions and i>,i,.r,..i. fo the public gnodTTo'telhiligthr]' 
prei'i.-cly w ha; :<)\ (>rnnieii I lhc\- iinist \\n\c in ord' 

to promote thai ^^,,,1 — from " Choose wliatevei' is l)est fur 
aTl" to ''('huose llie (ireat Counell/' and "the GreaT 
JDomicil is. tlie will oi GoxL;''' 

{To Savonarola these were as good as identical proposi- 
tions. The Great Council was the onlv practicable plan 
for giving an expression to the public will large enough to 
counteract the vitiating influence of party interests: it was 
a plan that would make honest impartial public action at 
least possible. And the purer the government of Florence 
would become — the more secure from the designs of men 
who saw their own advantage in the moral debasement of 



I 



ARIADNE DISCROWNS HERSELF. 299 



their fellows — the nearer would the Florentine people 
approach the character of a pure community, worthy to 
lead the way in the renovation of the Church and the 
worl(lJ And Fra Girolamo's mind never stopped short of 
that sublimest end: the objects toward which he felt 
himself working had always the same moral magnificence. 
He had no private malice — he sought no petty gratifica- 
tion. Even in the last terrible days, when ignominy, 
torture, and the fear of torture, had laid bare every hidden 
weakness of his soul, he could say to his importunate 
judges: ^'Do not wonder if it seems to you that I have 
told but few things; for my purposes were few and great/^* 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

ARIADNE DISCROWNS HERSELF. 

It was more than three weeks before the contents of the 
library were all packed and carried away. And Eomola, 
instead of shutting her eyes and ears, had watched the 
process. The exhaustion consequent on violent emotion 
is apt to bring a dreamy disbelief in the reality of its 
cause; and in the evening, when the workmen were gone, 
Eomola took her hand-lamp and walked slowly round 
amongst the confusion of straw and wooden cases, pausing 
at every vacant pedestal, every well-known object laid 
prostrate, with a sort of bitter desire to assure herself that 
there was a sufficient reason why her love was gone and 
the world was barren for her. And still, as the evenings 
came, she went and went again; no longer to assure her- 
self, but because this vivifying of pain and despair about 
her father^s memory was the strongest life left to her affec- 
tions. On the twenty-third of December, she knew that 
the last packages were going. She ran to the loggia at the 
top of the house that she might not lose the last pang of 
seeing the slow wheels move across the bridge. 

It was a cloudy day, and nearing dusk. Arno ran dark 
and shivering; the hills were mournful; and Florence with 
its girdling stone towers had that silent, tomb-like look, 
which unbroken shadow gives to a city seen from above. 

* '' Se vi pare che io abbia detto poche cose, non ve ne maravigliate, 
perche le mie cose erano poche e grandi," 



300 ROMOLA. 

Santa Croce, where her father lay, was dark amidst tb 
darkness, and slowly crawling over the bridge, and slowb 
vanishing up the narrow street, was the white load, like \ 
cruel, deliberate Fate carrying her father's lifelong hope t( 
bury it in an unmarked grave. Romola felt less that slu 
was seeing this herself than that her father was consciou: 
of it as he lay helpless under the imprisoning stones 
where her hand could not reach his to tell him that he ^v 
not alone. 

She stood still even after the load had disappeared 
heedless of the cold, and soothed by the gloom whicl 
seemed to cover her like a mourning garment and shut oni 
.ihe discord of joy. When suddenly the great bell in tl 
palace-tower rang out a mighty peal: not the hamni' 
sound of alarm, but an agitated peal of triumph; and oii* 
after another every other bell in every other tower seeme( 
to catch the vibration and join the chorus. And, as the 
chorus swelled and swelled till the air seemed made o1 
pound — little flames, vibrating too, as if the sound h; 
caught fire, burst out between the turrets of the palace iv. 
on the girdling towers. 

That sudden clang, that leaping li^ht, fell on RonK 
like sharp wounds. They were the triumph of demons ai 
the success of her husband's treachery, and the desolatir,' 
of her life. Little more than three weeks ago she li 
been intoxicated with the sound of those very bells; a 
in the gladness of Florence, she had heard a ])rophec} 
her own gladness. But now the general joy seemed en 
to her: she stood aloof from that common life — that Fl 
ence which was flinging out its loud exultation to stun tht 
ears of sorrow and loneliness. She could never join hand-' 
with gladness again, but only with those whom it was iv 
the hard nature of gladness to forget. And in her bitter 
ness she felt that all rejoicing was mockery. Men shout 
pasans with their souls full of heaviness, and then loolv 
in their neighbors* faces to see if tliere was really sucli ; 
thing as joy. Romola had lost her belief in the happin< 
she had once thirsted for: it was a hateful, smiling, S( 
handed thing, with a narrow, selfish heart. 

She ran down from the loggia, with her hands pressed 
against her ears, and was hurrying across the antechamber, 
when she was startled by unexpectedly meeting her hus- 
band, who was coming to seek her. 

His stop was elastic, and there was a radiance of satis- 
faction about him i^t quite usual. 



ARIADNE DISCROWNS HERSELF. 301 

^^Wliat! the noise was a little too much for you?" he 
aid; for Eomola, as she started at the sight of him, had 
)ressed her hands all the closer against her ears. He took 
ler gently by the wrist, and drew her arm within his, 
eading her into the saloon surrounded with the dancing 
lymphs and fauns, and then went on speaking: '' Florence 

j_g ^r>pft qin'tft mn(\ nt o-nttin nr \i-a araai nmmr.il, wVnr>h ig fn 
nvhj).n find to a11 t]m pyjlp nndpr thft snn; a^pft^^hrny the 
-u ^ of mArrjr|]^] ]r,. You may well look stunned, my 
lomola, and you are cold. You must not stay so late 
imder that windy loggia without wrappings. I was coming 
jo tell you that I am suddenly called to Eome about some 
earned business for Bernardo Eucellai. I am going 
iway immediately, for I am to join my party at San Gag- 
,qo to-night, that we may start early in the morning. I 
leed give you no trouble; I have had my packages made 
ilready. It will not be very long before I am back again.'* 

He knew he had nothing to expect from her but quiet 
'ndurance of what he said and did. He could not even 
'enture to kiss her brow this evening, but iust pressed her 
land to his lips, and left her. Tito felt that Romola was 
\i more unforgiving woman than he had imagined; her love 
vas not that sweet clinging instinct, stronger than all judg- 
nents, which he began to see now, made the great charm 
)f a wife. Still this petrified coldness was better than a 
)assionate, futile opposition. Her pride and caj^ability of 
seeing where resistance was useless had their convenience. 

But when the door had closed on Tito, Romola lost the 
ook of cold immobility which came over her like an inevi- 
table frost whenever he approached her. Inwardly she 
vas very far from being in a state of quiet endurance, and 
he days that had passed since the scene v/hich had divided 
ler from Tito, had been days of active planning and prep- 
iratioii for the fulfillment of a purpose. 

The first tiling she did now was to call old Maso to her. 

**Maso,'^she said, in a decided tone, ''we take our 
journey to-morrow morning. ^Ye shall be able now to 
)vertake that first convoy of cloth, while they are waiting 
it San Piero. See about the two mules to-night, and be 
:'eady to set off with them at break of day, and wait for 
me at Trespiano." 

She meant to take Maso with her as far as Bologna, and 
then send him back with letters to her godfather and Tito, 
telling them that she was gone and never meant to return. 
She had planned her departure so that its secrecy might 



303 ROMOLA. 

be perfect, and her broken love and life be hidden away 
unscanned by vulgar eyes. Bernardo del Nero had been 
absent at his villa, willing to escape from political sus- 
picions to his favorite occupation of attending to his land, 
and she had paid him the debt without a personal inter- 
view. He did not even know that the library was sold, 
and was left to conjecture that some sudden piece of good 
fortune had enabled Tito to raise this sum of money. 
Maso had been taken into her confidence only so far that 
he knew her intended journey was a secret; and to do just 
what she told him was the thing he cared most for in his 
withered wintry age. 

Romola did not mean to go to bed that night. When 
she had fastened the door she took her taper to the carved 
and painted chest which contained her wedding clothes. 
The white silk and gold lay there, the long white veil and the 
circlet of pearls. A great sob rose as she looked at them: 
they seemed the shroud of her dead happiness. In a tiny 
gold loop of the circlet a sugar-plum had lodged — a pink 
hailstone from the shower of sweets; Tito had detected it 
first, and had said that it should always remain there. At 
certain moments — and this was one of them — Romola was 
carried, by a sudden wave of memory, back again into the 
time of perfect trust, and felt again the presence of the 
husband whose love made the world as fresh and wonder- 
ful to her as to a little child that sits in stillness among the 
sunn^f flowers: heard the gentle tones and saw the soft 
eyes without any lie in them, and breathed again that 
large freedom of the soul which comes from the faith that 
the being who is nearest to us is greater than ourselves. 
And in those brief moments the tears always rose: the 
woman's lovingness felt something akin to what the 
bereaved mother feels when the tiny fingers seem to lie 
warm on her bosom, and yet are marble to her lips as she 
bends over the silent bed. 

But tliere was something else lying in the chest besides 
the wedding clotlies: it was something dark and coarse, 
rolled up in a close bundle. She turned away her eyes 
from the white and gold to the dark bundle, and as her 
hands touched the serge, her tears began to be checked. 
That coarse roughness recalled her fully to the present, 
from which love and delight. were gone. She unfastened 
the thick white cord and spread the bundle out on the 
table. It was the gray serge dress of a sister belonging to 
the third order of St. Francis, living in the world but 



AKIADKE DISCKOWi?S HERSELF. 303 

especially devoted to deeds of piety — a personage whom 
the Florentines were accustomed to call a Pinzochera. 
Komola was going to put on this dress as a disguise, and 
she determined to put it on at once, so that, if she needed 
sleep before the morning, she might wake up in perfect 
readiness to be gone. She put off her black garment, 
and as she thrust her soft white arms into the harsh 
sleeves of the serge mantle and felt the hard girdle of rope 
hurt her fingers as she tied it, she courted those rude sen- 
sations: they were in keeping with her new scorn of that 
thing called pleasure which made men base — that dexter- 
ous contrivance for selfish ease, that shrinking from 
endurance and strain, when others were bowing beneath 
burdens too heavy for them, which now made one image 
with her husband. 

Then she gathered her long hair together, drew it away 
tight from her face, bound it in a great hard knot at the 
back of her head, and taking a square piece of black silk, 
tied it in the fashion of a kerchief close across her head 
and under her chin; and over that she drew the cowl. She 
lifted the candle to the mirror. Surely her disguise would 
be complete to any one who had not lived very near to her. 
To herself she looked strangely like her brother Dino: the 
full oval of the cheek had only to be wasted; the eyes, 
already sad, had only to become a little sunken. Was she 
getting more like him in anything else? Only in this, 
that she understood now how men could be prompted to 
rush away forever from earthly delights, how they could 
be prompted to dwell on images of sorrow rather than of 
beauty and joy. 

But she did not linger at the mirror: she set about 
collecting and packing all the relics of her father and 
mother that were too large to be carried in her small 
traveling-wallet. They were all to be put into the chest 
along with her wedding-clothes, and the chest was to be 
committed to her godfather when she was safely gone. 
First she laid in the portraits; then one by one every little 
thing that had a sacred memory clinging to it was put into 
her wallet or into the chest. 

She paused. There was still something else to be stripped 
away from her, belonging to that past on which she was 
going to turn her back forever. She put her thumb and 
her forefinger to her betrothal ring; but they rested there, 
without drawing it oif. Eomola's mind had been rushing 
with an impetuous current toward this act, for whicli she 



304 ROMOLA. 

was preparing: tlie act of quitting a husband who had 
disappointed all her trust, the act of breaking an outward 
tie that no longer represented the inward bond of love. 
But that force of outward symbols by which our active life 
is knit together so as to make an inexorable external 
identity for us, not to be shaken by our wavering conscious- 
ness, gave a strange effect to this simple movement toward 
taking off her ring — a movement which was but a small 
sequence of her energetic resolution. It brought a vagiu 
but arresting sense that she w^as somehow violently rend- 
ing her life in two: a presentiment that the strong impulse 
which had seemed to exclude doubt and make .her path 
clear might after all be blindness, and that there was some- 
thing in human bonds which must prevent them from 
being broken with the breaking of illusions. 

If that beloved Tito who had placed the betrothal ring 
on her finger was not in any valid sense the same Tito 
whom she had ceased to love, why should she return to 
him the sign of their union, and not rather retain it as a 
memorial? And this act, which came as a palpable demon- 
stration of her own and his identity, had a power unex- 
plained to herself, of shaking Romola. I t is the way with 
half the truth amidst w h i chwe live ^ that it only haunts, 
us and makes_jdiiII„DiIliaHo^ns that a ^ never boi B into 
sound . But there was a passionat^ToTce speakingwithin 
her that presently nullified all such muffled murmurs. 

*' It cannot be! I cannot be subject to him. He is false. 
I shrink from him. I despise him!*^ 

She snatched the ring from her finger and laid it on the 
table against the pen with which she meant to write. 
Again she felt that there could be no law for her but the 
law of her affections. That tenderness and keen fellow- 
feeling for the near and the loved which are the main out- 
growth of the affections, had made the religion of her life: 
they had made her patient in spite of natural impetuosity; 
they would have sufficed to make her heroic. But now all 
that strength was gone, or, rather, it was converted into 
the strength of repulsion. She had recoiled from Tito in 
proportion to the energy of that young belief and love 
which he had disappointed, of that life-long devotion to 
her father against which he had committed an irredeema- 
ble offense. And it seemed as if all motive had slipped 
away from her, except the indignation and scorn that made 
her tear herself asunder from him. 

She was not acting after any precedent, or obeying any 



ARIADNE DISCROWNS HERSELF. 306 

adopted maxims. The grand severity of the stoical phi- 
losophy in which her father had taken care to instruct her, 
was familiar enough to her ears and lips, and its lofty 
spirit had raised certain echoes within her; but she had 
never used it, never needed it as a rule of life. She had 
endured and forborne because she loved: maxims which 
told her to feel less, and not to cling close lest the onward 
course of great nature should jar her, had been as power- 
less on her tenderness as they had been on her father's 
yearning for just fame. She had appropriated no theories: 
she had simply felt strong in the strength of affection, and 
life without that energy came to her as an entirely new 
problem. 

She was going to solve the problem in a way that seemed 
to her very simple. Her mind had never yet bowed to any 
obligation apart from personal love and reverence; she had 
no keen sense of any other human relations, and all she 
had to obey now was the instinct to sever herself from the 
man she loved no longer. 

Yet the unswerving resolution was accompanied with 
continually varying phases of anguish. And now that the 
active preparation for her departure was almost finished, 
she lingered: she deferred writing the irrevocable words 
of parting from all her little world. The emotions 
of the past weeks seemed to rush in again with cruel 
hurry, and take possession even of her limbs. She was 
going to write, and her hand fell. Bitter tears came now 
at the delusion which had blighted her young years: 
tears very different from the sob of remembered happiness 
with which she had looked at the circlet of pearls and the 
pink hailstone. And now she felt a tingling of shame at 
the words of ignominy she had cast at Tito — "''Have you 
robbed some one else who is 7iot dead?'' To have had 
such words wrung from her — to have uttered them to her 
husband seemed a degradation of her whole life. Hard 
speech between those who have loved is hideous in the 
memory, like the sight of greatness and beauty sunk into 
vice and rags. 

The heart-cutting comparison of the present with the 
past urged itself upon Romola till it even transformed 
itself into wretched sensations: she seemed benumbed to 
everything but inward throbbings, and began to feel the 
need of some hard contact. She drew her hands tight 
along the harsh, knotted cord that hung from her waist. 
She started to her feet and seized the rough lid of the 
20 



306 ROMOLA. 

chest: there was nothing else to go in? No. She closed 
the lid, pressing her hand upon the rough carving, and 
locked it. 

Then she remembered that she had still to complete her 
equipment as a Pinzochera. The large leather purse or 
scarsella; with small coin in it, had to be hung on the cord 
at her waist (her florins and small jewels, presents from 
her godfather and cousin Brigida, were safely fastened 
within her serge mantle), and on the other side must hang 
the rosary. 

It did not occur to Romola, as she hung that rosary by 
her side, that something else besides the mere garb would 
perhaps be necessary to enable her to pass as a Pinzochera, 
and that Iier whole air and expression were as little as 
possible like those of a sister whose e3^elids were used to be 
bent, and whose lips were used to move in silent iteration. 
Her inexperience prevented her from picturing distant 
details, and it helped her proud courage in shutting out 
any foreboding of danger and insult. She did not know 
that any Florentine woman had ever done exactly what she 
was going to do: unhai)py wives often took refuge with 
their friends, or in the cloister, slie knew, but both those 
courses were impossible to her; she had invented a lot for 
herself — to go to the most learned woman in the world, 
Cassandra Fedele, at Venice, and ask her how an instructed 
woman could support herself in a lonely life there. 

She was not daunted by the practical difficulties in the 
way or the dark uncertainty at the end. Her life could 
never be happy any more, but it must not, could not, be 
ignoble. Ana by a pathetic mixture of childish romance 
with her woman's trials, the philosophy which had nothing 
to do with this great decisive deed of hers had its place in 
her imagination of the future: so far as she conceived her 
solitary, loveless life at all, she saw it animated by a proud, 
stoical heroism, and by an indistinct but strong purpose 
of labor, that she might be wise enough to write something 
which would rescue her father's name from oblivion. 
After all, she was only a young girl — this poor Romola, 
who had found herself at the end of her joys. 

There were other things yet to be done. There was a 
small key in a casket on the table — but now Romola per- 
ceived that her taper was dying out, and she had forgotten 
to provide herself with any other light. In a few mo- 
ments the room was in total darkness. Feeling her way 
to the nearest chair, she sat down to wait for the morning. 



ARIADNE DISCKOWKS HEltSELF. 307 

Her purpose in seeking the key had called up certain 
memories which had come back upon her during the past 
week with the new yividness that remembered words 
always have for us when w^e have learned to give them a 
new meaning. Since the shock of the revelation which 
had seemed to divide her forever from Tito, that last inter- 
view with Dino had never been for many hours together 
out of her mind. And it solicited her all the more, 
because while its remembered images pressed upon her 
almost with the imperious force of sensations, they raised 
struggling thoughts which resisted their influence. She 
could not prevent herself from hearing inwardly the dying 
prophetic voice saying again and again — *^The man whose 
face was a blank loosed thy hand and departed ; and as he 
went, I could see his face, and it was the face of the 

great Tempter . And thou, Eomola, didst wring thy 

hands and seek for water, and there was none and 

the plain was bare and stony again, and thou wast alone in 
the midst of it. And tlien it seemed that the night fell, 
and I saw no more.^' She could not prevent herself from 
dwelling with a sort of agonized fascination on the wasted 
face; on the straining gaze at the crucifix; on the awe 
which had compelled her to kneel; on the last broken 
words and then tlie unbroken silence — on all the details 
of the death-scene, which had seemed like a sudden 
opening into a world apart from that of her life-long 
knowledge. 

But her mind was roused to resistance of impressions 
that, from being obvious phantoms, seemed to be getting 
solid in the daylight. As a strong body struggles against 
fumes with the more violence when they begin to be 
stifling, a strong soul struggles against phantasies with all 
the more alarmed energy when they threaten to govern in 
the place of thought. 

What had the words of that vision to do with her real 
sorrows? That fitting of certain words was a mere 
chance; the rest was all vague — nay, those words them- 
selves were vague; they were determined by nothing but 
her brother^s memories and beliefs. He believed there 
was something fatal in pagan learning; he believed that 
celibacy was more holy than marriage; he remembered 
their home, and all the objects in the library; and of 
these threads the vision w^as woven. What reasonable 
warrant could she have had for believing in such a vision 
and acting on it? None. True as the voice of foreboding 



308 ROMOLA. 

liad proved, Eomola saw with unshaken conviction that to 
have renounced Tito in obedience to a warning like that, 
would have been meagre-hearted folly. Her trust had been 
delusive, but she would have chosen over again to have 
acted on it rather than be a creature led by phantoms and 
disjointed whispers in a world where there was the large 
music of reasonable speech, and the warm grasp of living 
hands. 

But the persistent presence of these memories, linking 
themselves in her imagination with her actual lot, gave her 
a glimpse of understanding into the lives which had before 
lain utterly aloof from her sympathy — the lives of the men 
and women who w^ere led by such inward images and voices. 

^^If they were only a little stronger in me," she said to 
herself, ** I should lose the sense of what that vision really 
was, and take it for a prophetic light. I might in time 
get to be a seer of visions myself, like the Siiora Madda- 
lena, and Camilla Rucellai, and the rest." 

Romola shuddered at the possibility. All the instruction, 
all the main influences of her life had gone to fortify her 
scorn of that sickly superstition which led men and women, 
with eyes too weak for the daylight, to sit in dark swamps 
and try to read human destiny by the chance flame of 
wandering vapors. 

And yet she was conscious of something deeper than 
that coincidence of words which made tlie parting contact 
^with her dying brother live anew in her mind, and gave a 
'jiew sisterhood to the wasted face. If there were much 
lore of such experience as his in the world, she would 
like to understand it — would even like to learn the thoughts 
of men who sank in ecstacy before the pictured agonies of 
martyrdom. Tliere seemed to be something more than 
madness in the supreme fellowship with suffering. The 
springs were all dried up around her; she wondered what 
other waters there were at which men drank and found 
strength in the desert. And those moments in the Duomo 
when she had sobbed with a mysterious mingling of rapture 
and pain, while Fra Girolamo offered himself a willing 
sacrifice for the people, came back to her as if they had 
been a transient taste of some such far-off fountain. But 
again she shrank from impressions that were alluring her 
within the sphere of visions and narrow fears which com- 
pelled men to outrage natural affections as Dino had done. 

This was the tangled web that Romola had in her mind 
as she sat weary in the darkness. Xo radiant angel came 



I 



THE TABERNACLE UNLOCKED. 309 



ross the gloom with a clear message for her. In those 
times, as now, there were human beings who never saw 
angels or heard perfectly clear messages. Such truth as 
came to them was brought confusedly in the voices and 
deeds of men not at all like the seraphs of unfailing wing 
and piercing vision — men who believed falsities as well as 
truths, and did the wrong as Avell as the right. The help- 
ing hands stretched out to them were the hands of men 
who stumbled and often saw dimly, so that these beings 
unvisited by angels had no other choice than to grasp that 
stumbling guidance along the path of reliance and action 
which is the path of life, or else to pause in loneliness and 
disbelief, which is no path, but the arrest of inaction and 
death. 

And so Romola, seeing no ray across the darkness, and 
heavy with conflict that changed nothing, sank at last to 
sleep. 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

THE TABERNACLE UNLOCKED. 

Romola was w^aked by a tap at the door. The cold 
light of early morning was in the room, and Maso was 
come for the traveling v/allet. The old man could not 
help starting w^hen she opened the door, and showed him, 
instead of the graceful outline he had been used to, 
crowned with the brightness of her hair, the thick folds 
of the gray mantle and the pale face shadowed by the 
dark cowl. 

" It is well, Maso,'* said Romola, trying to speak in the 
calmest voice, and make the old man easy. '* Here is the 
wallet quite ready. You will go on quietly, and I shall 
not be far behind you. When you get out of the gates 
you may go more slowly, for I shall perhaps join you 
before you get to Trespiano." 

She closed the door behind him, and then put her hand 
on the key which she had taken from the casket the last 
thing in the night. It was the original key of the little 
painted tabernacle: Tito had forgotten to drown it in the 
Arno, and it had lodged, as such small things will, in the 
corner of the embroidered scarsella which he wore with 
the purple tunic. One day, long after their marriage, 



310 ROMOLA. 

Eomola had found it there, and had put it by, without 
using it, but with a sense of satisfaction that the key was 
within reach. The cabinet on which the tabernacle stood 
had been moved to the side of the room, close to one of 
the windows, where the pale morning light fell upon it so 
as to make the painted forms discernible enough to Romola, 
who knew them well, — the triumphant Bacchus, with his 
clusters and his yine-clad spear, clasping the crowned 
Ariadne; the Loves showering roses, the wreathed vessel, 
the cunning-eyed dolphins, and the rippled sea: all encir- 
cled by a flowery border, like a bower of paradise. Romola 
looked at the familiar images with new bitterness and 
repulsion: they seemed a more pitiable mockery than ever 
on this chill morning, when she had waked up to wander 
in loneliness. They had been no tomb of sorrow, but a 
lying screen. Foolish Ariadne! with her gaze of love, as 
if that bright face, with its hyacinthe curls like tendrils 
among the vines, held the deep secret of her life! 

"Ariadne is wonderfully transformed," thought Romola. 
"She would look strange among the vines and the roses 
now." 

She took up the mirror, and looked at herself once 
more. But the sight was so startling in this morning 
light that she laid it down again, with a sense of shrink- , 
ing almost as strong as that with which she had turned 
from the joyous Ariadne. The recognition of her own 
face, with the cowl about it, brought back the dread lest 
she should be drawn at last into fellowship with some 
wretched superstition — into the company of the howling 
fanatics and weeping nuns who had been her contempt 
from childhood till now. She thrust the key into the 
tabernacle hurriedly: hurriedly she opened it, and took 
out the crucifix, Avithout looking at it; then, with trem- 
bling fingers, she passed a cord through the little ring, 
hung the crucifix round her neck, and hid it in the bosom 
of her mantle. "For Dino^s sake," she said to herself. 

Still there were the letters to be written which Maso was 
to carry back from Bologna. They were very brief. The 
first said — 

"Tito, my love for you is dead; and therefore, so far as 
I was yours, I too am dead. Do not try to put in force 
any laws for the sake of fetching me back: that would 
bring you no happiness. The Romola you married can 
never return. I need explain nothing to you after the 
W)rds I uttered to you the last time we spoke long together. 



THE TABERN-ACLB Ui^LOCKED. 311 

If you supposed them to be words of transient anger, you 
will know now that they were the sign of an irreversible 
change. 

" I think you will fulfill my wish that my bridal chest 
should be sent to my godfather, who gave it me. It con- 
tains my wedding-clothes and the portraits and other relics 
of my father and mother." 

She folded the ring inside this letter, and wrote Tito's 
name outside. The next letter was to Bernardo del 
Nero: — 

Dearest Godfather, — If I could have been any good to your life 
by staying I would not have gone away to a distance. But now I am 
gone. Do not ask the reason; and if you love my father, try to pre- 
vent any one from seeking me. I could not bear my life at Florence. 
I cannot bear to tell any one why. Help to cover my lot in silence. 
I have asked that my bridal chest should be sent to you: when you 
open it, you will know the reason. Please to give all the things that 
were my mother's to my cousin Brigida, and ask her to forgive me 
for not saying any words of parting to her. 

Farewell, my second father. The best thing I have in life is still 
to remember your goodness and be grateful to you. Romola. 

Eomola put the letters, along with the crucifix, within 
the bosom of her mantle, and then felt that everything 
was done. She was ready now to depart. . , • 

No one was stirring in the house, and she TVcut almost 
as quietly as a gray phantom down the stairs and into the 
silent street. Her heart was palpitating violently, yet she 
enjoyed the sense of her firm tread on the broad flags — of 
the swift movement which was like a chained-up resolution 
set free at last. The anxiety to carry out her act, and the 
dread of any obstacle, averted sorrow; and as she reached 
the Ponte Rubaconte, she felt less that Santa Croce was in 
her sight than that the yellow streak of morning which 
parted the gray was getting broader and broader, and that, 
unless she hastened her steps, she should have to encounter 
faces. 

Her simplest road was to go right on to the Borgo Pinti, 
and then along by the walls to the Porta San Gallo, from 
which she must leave the city, and this road carried her 
by the Piazza di Santa Croce. But she walked as steadily 
and rapidly as ever through the piazza, not trusting her- 
self to look toward the church. The thought that any 
eyes might be turned on her with a look of curiosity and 
recognition, and that indifferent minds might be set 
speculating on her private sorrows, made Romola shrink 



312 ROMOLA. 

physically as from the imagination of torture. She felt 
degraded even by that act of her husband from which she 
was helplessly suffering. But there was no sign that any 
eyes looked forth from windows to notice this tall gray 
sister, with the firm step, and proud attitude of the 
cowled head. Her road lay aloof from the stir of early 
traffic, and when she reached the Porta San Gallo, it was 
easy to pass while a dispute was going forward about the 
toll for panniers of eggs and market produce which were 
just entering. 

Out! Once past the houses of the Borgo, she would hv 
beyond the last fringe of Florence, the sky would be broad 
above her, and she would have entered on her new life — 
a life of loneliness and endurance, but of freedom. She 
had been strong enough to snap asunder the bonds she 
had accepted in blind faith : whatever befell her, she 
would no more feel the breath of soft hated lips warm 
upon her cheek, no longer feel the breath of an odious 
mind stifling her own. The bare wintry morning, the 
chill air, were welcome in their severity: the leafless trees, 
the sombre hills, were not haunted by the gods of beauty 
and joy, whose worship she had forsaken forever. 

But presently the light burst forth with sudden strength, 
and shadows were thrown across the road. It seemed that 
the sun ^ao ^oing to chase away the grayness. The light 
is perhaps never felt more strongly as a divine presence 
stirring all those inarticulate sensibilities which are our 
deepest life, than in these moments when it instantaneously 
awakens the shadows. A certain awe which inevitably 
accompanied this most momentous act of her life became 
a more conscious element in Romola's feeling as she found 
herself in the sudden presence of the impalpable golden 
glory and the long shadow of herself that was not to be 
escaped. Hitherto she had met no one but an occasional 
contadino with mules, and the many turnings of the road 
on the level prevented her from seeing that Maso was not 
very far ahead of her. But when she had passed Pietra 
and was on rising ground, she lifted up the hanging roof 
of her cowl and looked eagerly before her. 

The cowl was dropped again immediately. She had 
seen, not Maso, but — two monks, who were approaching 
within a few yards of her. The edge of her cowl making 
a pent-house on her brow had shut out the objects above 
the level of her eyes, and for the last few moments she 
had been looking at nothing but the brightness on the 



K THE BLACK MAEKS BECOME MAGICAL. 313 

path and at her own shadow, tall and shrouded like a 
dread spectre. 

She wished now that she had not looked up. Her 
disguise made her especially dislike to encounter monks: 
they might expect some pious passwords of which she knew 
nothing, and she walked along with a careful appearance 
of unconsciousness till she had seen the skirts of the black 
mantles pass by her. The encounter had made her heart 
beat disagreeably, for Eomola had an uneasiness in her 
religious disguise, a shame at this studied concealment, 
which was made more distinct by a special effort to appear 
unconscious under actual glances. 

But the black skirts would be gone the faster because 
they were going down-hill; and seeing a great flat stone 
against a cypress that rose from a projecting green bank, 
she yielded to the desire which the slight shock had given 
her, to sit down and rest. 

She turned her back on Florence, not meaning to look 
at it till the monks were quite out of sight; and raising 
the edge of her cowl again when she had seated herself, she 
discerned Maso and the mules at a distance where it was 
not hopeless for her to overtake them, as the old man 
would probably linger in expectation of her. 

Meanwhile she might pause a little. She was free and 
alone. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

THE BLACK MARKS BECOME MAGICAL. 

That journey of Titers to Rome, which had removed 
many difficulties from Romola^s departure, had been re- 
solved on quite suddenly, at a supper, only the evening 
before. 

Tito had set out toward that supper with agreeable 
expectations. The meats were likely to be delicate, the 
wines choice, the company distinguished; for the place of 
entertainment was the Selva or Orto de Rucellai, or, as we 
should say, the Rucellai Gardens; and the host, Bernardo 
Rucellai, was quite a typical Florentine grandee. Even 
his family name has a significance which is prettily sym- 
bolic: properly understood, it may bring before us a little 
lichen, popularly named orcrlla or roccella, which grows on, 




j, 314 ROMOLA. 

the rocks of Greek isles and in the Canaries; and having 
drunk a great deal of light into its little stems and button- 
heads, will, under certain circumstances, give it out again 
as a reddish purple dye, very grateful to the eyes of men. 
By bringing the excellent secret of this dye, called oricello, 
from the Levant to Florence, a certain merchant, who 
lived nearly a hundred years before our Bernardo^s time, 
won for himself and his descendants much wealth, and the 
pleasantly-suggestive surname of Oricellari, or Eoccellari, 
which on Tuscan tongues speedily became Kucellai. 

And our Bernardo, who stands out more prominently 
than the rest on this piirple background, had added all 
sorts of distinction to the family name: he had married 
the sister of Lorenzo de Medici, and had had the most 
splendid wedding in the memory of Florentine upholstery; 
and for these and other virtues he had been sent on 
embassies to France and Venice, and had been cliosen 
Gonfaloniere; he had not only built himself a fine palace, 
but had finished putting the black and white marble facade 
to the church of Santa Maria Novella; he had planted a 
garden with rare trees, and had made it classic ground 
by receiving within it the meetings of the Platonic Acad- 
emy, orphaned by the death of Lorenzo; he had written an 
excellent, learned book, of a new topographical sort, about 
ancient Rome; he had collected antiquities; he had a pure 
Latinity. The simplest account of him, one sees, reads 
like a laudatory epitaph, at the end of which the Greek 
and Ausonian Muses miglit be confidently requested to 
tear their hair, and Nature to desist from any second 
attempt to comlDine so many virtues with one set of viscera. 

His invitation had been conveyed to Tito through 
Lorenzo Tornabuoni, with an emphasis which would have 
suggested that the object of the gathering was political, 
even if the public questions of the time had been less 
absorbing. As it was, Tito felt sure that some party pur- 
poses were to be furthered by the excellent flavors of stewed 
fish and old Greek wine; for Bernardo Rucellai was not 
simply an influential personage, he was one of the elect 
Twenty who for three weeks had held the reigns of Flor- 
ence. This assurance put Tito in the best spirits as he 
made his way to the Via della Scala, where the classic gar- 
den was to be found: without it, he might have had some 
uneasy speculation as to whether the high company he 
would have the honor of meeting was likely to be dull as 
well as distinguished; for he had had experience of various 



THE BLACK MARKS BECOME MAGICAL. 315 

dull suppers even in the Kucellai gardens, and especially 
of the dull philosophic sort, wherein he had not only been 
called upon to accept an entire scheme of the universe 
(which would have been easy to him), but to listen to an 
exposition of the same, from the origin of things to their 
complete ripeness in the tractate of the philosopher then 
speaking. 

It was a dark evening, and it was only when Tito 
crossed the occasional light of a lamp suspended before 
an image of the Virgin, that the outline of his figure was 
discernible enough for recognition. At such moments 
any one caring to watch his passage from one of these 
lights to another might have observed that the tall and 
graceful personage with the mantle folded round him was 
followed constantly by a very different form, thick-set 
and elderly, in a serge tunic and felt hat. The conjunc- 
tion might have been taken for mere chance, since 
there were many passengers along the streets at this hour. 
But when Tito stopped at the gate of the Eucellai gardens, 
the figure behind stopped too. The sportello, or smaller door 
of the gate was already being held open by the servant, who, 
in the distraction of attending to some question, had not 
yet closed it since the last arrival, and Tito turned in 
rapidly, giving his name to the servant, and passing on 
between the evergreen bushes that shone like metal m the 
torchlight. The follower turned in too. 

*' Your name?" said the servant. 

^^ Baldassarre Calvo," was the immediate answer. 

" You are not a guest; the guests have all passed.'^ 

"I belong to Tito Melema, who has just gone in. I am 
to wait in the gardens." 

The servant hesitated. ''I had orders to admit only 
guests. Are you a servant of Messer Tito?" 

" No, friend, I am not a servant; I am a scholar." 

There are men to whom you need only say, '^ I am a 
buffalo," in a certain tone of quiet confidence, and they 
will let you pass. The porter gave way at once, Bal- 
dassarre entered, and heard the door closed and chained 
behind him, as he too disappeared among the shining 
bushes. 

Those ready and firm answers argued a great change in 
Baldassarre since the last meeting face to face with Tito, 
when the dagger broke in two. The change had declared 
itself in a startling way. 

At the moment when the shadow of Tito passed in front 



316 ROMOLA. 

of the hovel as he departed homeward, Baldassarre was 
sitting in that state of after-tremor known to every one 
who is liable to great outbursts of passion: a state in which 
physical powerlessness is sometimes accompanied by an 
excei)tional lucidity of thought, as if that disengagement 
of excited passion had carried away a fire-mist and left 
clearness behind it. He felt unable to rise and walk away 

i'ust yet; his limbs seemed benumbed; he was cold, anj 
lis hands shook. But in that bodily helplessness he sat 
surrounded, not by the habitual dimness and vanishing 
shadows, but by the clear images of the past; he was living 
again in an unbroken course through that life which 
seemed a long preparation for the taste of bitterness. 

For some minutes he was too thoroughly absorbed by 
the images to reflect on the fact that he saw them, and 
note the fact as a change. But when that sudden clear- 
ness had traveled through the distance, and came at last 
to rest on the scene just gone by, he felt fully where he 
was: he remembered Monna Lisa and Tessa. Ah! he then 
was the mysterious husband; he who had another wife in 
the Via de Bardi. It was time to pick up the broken dag- 
ger and go — go and leave no trace of himself; for to hide 
his feebleness seemed the thing most like power that was 
left to him. He leaned to take up the fragments of the 
dagger; then he turned toward the book wliich lay open 
at his side. It was a fine large manuscript, an odd volume 
of Pausanias. The moonlight was upon it, and he could 
see the large letters at the head of the page: 

MESSHNIKA. KB'. 

In old days he had known Pausanias familiarly; yet an 
hour or two ago he had been looking hopelessly at that 
page, and it had suggested no more meaning to him than 
if the letters had been black weather-marks on a wall; but 
at this moment they were once more the magic signs that 
conjure up a world. That moonbeam falling on the letters 
had raised Messenia before him, and its struggle against 
the Spartan oppression. 

He snatched up the book, but the light was too pale for 
him to read further by. No matter: he knew that chap- 
ter; he read inwardly. He saw the stoning of the traitor 
Aristocrates — stoned by a whole people, who cast him out 
from their borders to lie unburied, and set up a pillar with 
verses upon it telling how Time had brought home justice 
to the unjust. The words arose within him, and stirred 



I 



THE BLACK MAJiKS BECOilE MAGICAL. 31 



innumerable vibrations of memory. He forgot that he 
was old: he could almost have shouted. The light was 
come again, mother of knowledge and joy! In that exul- 
tation his limbs recovered their strength: he started up 
with his broken dagger and book, and went out under 
the broad moonlight. 

It was a nipping frosty air, but Baldassarre could feel no 
chill — he only felt the glow of conscious power. He walked 
about and paused on all the open spots of that high ground, 
and looked down on the domed and towered city, sleeping 
darkly under its sleeping guardians, the mountains; on 
the pale gleam of the river; on the valley vanishing toward 
the peaks of snow; and felt himself master of them all. 

That sense of mental empire which belongs to us all in 
moments of exceptional clearness was intensified for him 
by the long days and nights in which memory had been 
little more than the consciousness of something gone. 
That city, which had been a weary labyrinth, was material 
that he could subdue to his purposes now: his mind 
glanced through its affairs with flashing conjecture; he 
was once more a man who knew cities, whose sense of 
vision was instructed with large experience, and who felt 
the keen delight of holding all things in the grasp of 
language. Names! Images! — his mind rushed through 
its wealth without pausing, like one who enters on a great 
inheritance. 

But amidst all that rushing eagerness there was one 
End presiding in Baldassarre's consciousness, — a dark 
deity in the inmost cell, who only seemed forgotten while his 
hecatomb was being prepared. And when the first triumph 
in the certainty of recovered power had had its way, 
his thoughts centered themselves on Tito. That fair slip- 
pery viper could not escape him now; thanks to struggling 
justice, the heart that never quivered with tenderness for 
another had its sensitive selfish fibres that could be reached 
by the sharp point of anguish. The soul that bowed to no 
right, bowed to the great lord of mortals. Pain. 

He could search into every secret of Tito^s life now: he 
knew some of the secrets already, and the failure of the 
broken dagger, which seemed like frustration, had been 
the beginning of achievement. Doubtless that sudden rage 
had shaken away the obstruction which stifled his soul. 
Twice before, when his memory had partially returned, it 
had been in consequence of sudden excitation: once when 



m 



Jiad to defend himself from an enraged dog: once when 



318 ROMOLA. 

he had been overtaken by the waves, and had had to 
scramble up a rock to save himself. 

Yes, but if this time, as then, the light were to die out, 
and the dreary conscious blank come back again! This 
time the light was stronger and steadier; but what security 
was there that before the morrow the dark fog would not 
be round him again? Even the fear seemed like the begin- 
ning of feebleness: he thought with alarm that he might 
sink the faster for this excited vigil of his on the hill, 
which was expending his force; and after seeking anxiously 
for a sheltered corner where he might lie down, he nestled 
at last against a heap of warm garden straw, and so fell 
asleep. 

When he opened his eyes again it was daylight. The 
first moments were filled with strange bewilderment: he 
was a man with a double identity: to which had he awaked? 
to the life of dim-sighted sensibilities like the sad heirship 
of some fallen greatness, or to the life of recovered power? 
Surely the last, for the events of the night all came back 
to him: the recognition of the page in Pausanias, the 
crowding resurgence of facts and names, the sudden wide 
prospect which had given him such a moment as that of 
the Maenad in the glorious amaze of her morning waking 
on the mountain top. 

He took up the book again, he read, he remembered 
without reading. lie saw a name, and the images of 
deeds rose with it: he saw the mention of a deed, and he 
linked it with a name. There were stories of inexpiable 
crimes, but stories also of guilt that seemed successful. 
There were sanctuaries for swift-footed miscreants: base- 
ness had its armor, and the weapons of justice sometimes 
broke against it. What then? If baseness triumphed 
everywhere else, if it could heap to itself all the goods of 
the world and even hold the keys of hell, it would never 
triumph over the hatred which it liad itself awakened. 
It could devise no torture that would seem greater than 
the torture of submitting to its smile. Baldassarre felt 
the indestructible independent force of a supreme emotion, 
which knows no terror, and asks for no motive, which is 
itself an ever-burning motive, consuming all other desire. 
And now in this morning light, when the assurance came 
again that the fine fibres of association were active still, 
and that his recovered self had not departed, all his glad- 
ness was but the hope of vengeance. 

From that time till the evening on which we have seen 



I 



THE BLACK MARKS BECOME MAGICAL. 319 



him enter the Rucellai gardens, he had been incessantly, 
but cautiously, inquiring into Tito's position and all his cir- 
cumstances, and there was hardly a day on which he did 
not contrive to follow his movements. But he wished not 
to arouse any alarm in Tito: he wished to secure a moment 
Avhen the hated favorite of blind fortune was at the sum- 
mit of confident ease, surrounded by chief men on whose 
favor he depended. It was not any retributive payment 
or recognition of himself for his own behoof, on which 
Baldassarre's whole soul was bent: it was to find the 
sharpest edge of disgrace and shame by which a selfish 
smiler could be pierced; it was to send through his mar- 
row the most sudden shock of dread. He was content to 
He hard, and live stintedly — he had spent the greater part 
of his remaining money in buying another poniard: his 
hunger and his thirst were after nothing exquisite but an 
exquisite vengeance. He had avoided addressing himself 
to any one whom he suspected of intimacy with Tito, lest 
an alarm raised in Titers mind should urge him either to 
flight or to some other counteracting measure which hard- 
pressed ingenuity might devise. For this reason he had 
never entered Nello's shop, which he observed that Tito 
frequented, and he had turned aside to avoid meeting 
Piero di Cosimo. 

The possibility of frustration gave added eagerness to 
his desire that the great opportunity he sought should not 
be deferred. The desire was eager in him on another 
ground; he trembled lest his memory should go again. 
Whether from the agitating presence of that fear, or from 
some other causes, he had twice felt a sort of mental dizzi- 
ness, in which the inward sense or imagination seemed to 
be losing the distinct forms of things. Once he had 
attempted to enter the Palazzo Vecchio and make his way 
into a council-chamber where Tito was, and had failed. 
But now, on this evening, he felt that his occasion was 
come. 





ROMOLA, 






^"^ 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

A SUPPER IJ^ THE RUCELLAI GARDENS. 

OiS" entering the handsome pavilion, Tito's quick glance 
soon discerned in the selection of the guests the confirma- 
tion of his conjecture that the object of the gathering was 
political, though, perhaps, nothing more distinct than that 
strengthening of party which comes from good-fellowship. 
Good dishes and good wine were at that time believed to 
heighten the consciousness of political preferences, and in 
the inspired ease of after-supper talk it was supposed that 
people ascertained their own opinions with a clearness quite 
inaccessible to uninvited stomachs. The Florentines were 
a sober and frugal people; but wherever men have gath- 
ered wealth. Madonna della Gozzoviglia and San Buonvino 
have had their worshipers; and the Rucellai were among 
the few Florentine families who kept a great table and 
lived splendidly. It was not probable that on this evening 
there would be any attempt to apply high philosophic the- 
ories; and there could be no objection to the bust of Plato 
looking on, or even to the modest presence of the cardinal 
virtues in fresco on the walls. 

That bust of Plato had been long used to look down on 
conviviality of a more transcendental sort, for it had been 
brought from Lorenzo's villa after his death, when the 
meetings of the Platonic Academy had been transferred 
to these gardens. Especially on every thirteenth of No- 
vember, reputed anniversary of Plato's death, it had looked 
down from under laurel leaves on a picked company of 
\scholars and philosophers, who met to eat and drink with 
jmoderution, and to cliscuss and admire, perhaps with less 
'moderation, the doctrines of the great master: — on Pico 
della Mirandola, once a Quixotic young genius with long 
curls, astonished at his own powers and astonishing Rome 
with heterodox theses; afterward a more humble student 
with a consuming passion for inward perfection, having 
come to find the universe more astonishing than his own 
cleverness: — on innocent, laborious Marsilio Ficino, picked 
out young to be reared as a Platonic philosopher, and fed 
on Platonism, in all its stages, till his mind was perhaps a 
little pulpy from that too exclusive diet: — on Angelo rol- 
iziano, chief literary genius of that age, a born poet, and 
a scholar without dullness, whose phrases had blood in 



A SUPPER IN THE KUCELLAI GARDENS. 321 

them and are alive still: — or, further back, on Leon Bat- 
tista Alberti, a reverend senior when those three were 
young, and of a much grander type than they, a robust, 
universal mind, at once practical and theoretic, artist, man 
of science, inventor, poet: — and on many more valiant 
workers, whose names are not registered where every day 
we turn the leaf to read them, but whose labors make a 
part, though an unrecognized part, of our inheritance, like 
the plowing and sowing of past generations. 

Bernardo Rucellai was a man to hold a distinguished 
place in that Academy even before he became its host and 
patron. He was still in the prime of life, not more than 
four and forty, with a somewhat haughty, cautiously dig- 
nified presence; conscious of an amazingly pure Latinity, 
but, says Erasmus, not to be caught speaking Latin — no 
word of Latin to be sheared off him by the sharpest of 
Teutons. He welcomed Tito with more marked favor than 
usual and gave him a place between Lorenzo Tornabuoni 
and Giannozzi Pucci, both of them accomplished young 
members of the Medicean party. 

Of course the talk was the lightest in the world while 
the brass bowl filled with scented water was passing round, 
that the company might wash their hands, and rings 
flashed on white fingers under the wax-lights, and there 
was the pleasant fragrance of fresh white damask newly 
come from France. The tone of remark was a very 
common one in those times. Some one asked what Dante's 
pattern old Florentine would think if the life could come 
into him again under his leathern belt and bone clasp, and 
he could see silver forks on the table? And it was agreed 
on all hands that the habits of posterity would be very 
^^prising to ancestors, if ancestors could only know them, 
^^^nd while the silver forks were just dallying with the 
^^fpetizing delicacies that introduced the more serious 
business of the supper — such as morsels of liver, cooked to 
that exquisite point that they would melt in the mouth — 
there was time to admire the designs on the enameled 
silver centres of the brass service, and to say something, as 
usual, about the silver dish or confetti, a masterpiece of 
Antonio Pollajuolo, whom patronizing Popes had seduced 
from his native Florence to more gorgeous Rome. 

''Ah, I remember," said Niccolo Ridolfi, a middle-a^ed 
man, with that negligent ease of manner which, seeming 
to claim nothing, is really based on the life-long conscious- 
ness of commanding rank — '' I remember our Antonio 



322 ROMOLA. 



»! 



getting bitter about his chiseling and enameling of these 
metal things, and taking in a fury to painting, because, 
said he, * the artist who puts his work into gold and silver 
puts his brains into the melting-pot.'^' 

''And that is not unlikely to be a true foreboding of 
Antonio^'' said Giannozzo Pucci. '' If this pretty war 
with Pisa goes on, and the revolt only spreads a little to 
our other towns, it is not only our silver dishes that are 
likely to go; I doubt whether Antonio's silver saints round 
the altar of San Giovanni will not some day vanish from 
the eyes of the faithful to be worshipj^ed more devoutly in 
tlm form of coin." 

V' The Frate is preparing us for that already," said Tor- 
nabuoni. "He is telling the people that God will not 
have silver crucifixes and starving stomachs; and that the 
church is best adorned with the gems of holiness and the 
fine gold of brotherly love.'^ 

''A very useful doctrine of war-finance, as many a 
Condottiere has found," said Bernardo Rucellai, drily, 
'^ But politics come on after the confetti, Lorenzo, when 
we can drink wine enough to wash them down; they are 
too solid to be taken with roast and boiled." 

''Yes, indeed," said Niccolo Ridolfi. "Our Luigi Pulci 
would have said this delicate boiled kid must be eaten with 
an impartial mind. I remember one day at Careggi, wlien 
Luigi was in his rattling vein, he was maintaining that 
nothing perverted tlie palate like opinion. ' Opinion,' said 
he, 'corrupts the saliva — that's why men took to pepper. 
Skepticism is the only philosophy that doesn't bring a taste 
in the mouth.' ' Xay,' says j)Oor Lorenzo de Medici, 'you 
must be out there, Luigi. Here is this untainted skeptic, 
Matteo Franco, who wants hotter sauce than any of us.' 
' Because he has a strong opinion of himself ,' flashes out 
Luigi, 'which is the original Qgg of all other opinion. He 
a skeptic? He believes in the immortality of his own 
verses. He is such a logician as that preaching friar who 
described the pavement of the bottomless pit.' Poor 
Luigi! his mind was like sharpest steel that can touch 
nothing without cutting." 

"And yet a very gentle-hearted creature," said Gian- 
nozzo Pucci. "It seemed to me his talk was a mere 
blowing of soap-bubbles. What dithyrambs he went into 
about eating and drinking! and yet he was as temperate as 
a butterfly." 

The light talk and the solid eatables were not soon at an 



™d 



A SUPPER IN THE KUCELLAI GARDEXS. 323 



d, for after the roast and boiled meats came the indis- 
pensable capon and game, and, crowning glory of a well- 
spread table, a peacock cooked, according to the receipt of 
Apiciis for cooking partridges, namely, with the feathers 
on, hut not plucked afterward, as that great authority 
ordered concerning his partridges; on the contrary, so dis- 
posed on the dish that it might look as much as possible 
like a live peacock taking its unboiled repose. Great was 
the skill required in that confidential servant who was the 
official carver, respectfully to turn the classical though 
insipid bird on its back, and expose the plucked breast 
from which he was to dispense a delicate slice to each of 
the honorable company, unless any one should be of so 
independent a mind as to decline that expensive toughness 
and prefer the vulgar digestibility of capon. 

Hardly any one was so bold. Tito quoted Horace and 
dispersed his slice in small particles over his plate; Ber- 
nardo Eucellai made a learned observation about the 
ancient price of peacocks' eggs, but did not pretend to eat 
his slice; and Niccolo Eidolfi held a mouthful on his fork 
while he told a favorite story of Luigi Pulci's, about a man 
of Siena, who, wanting to give a splendid entertainment at 
moderate expense, bought a wild goose, cut off its beak and 
Avebbed feet, and boiled it in its feathers, to pass for a 
pea-hen. 

In fact, very little peacock was eaten; but there was the -{^^ 
satisfaction of sitting at a table where peacock was served ^ ^ ^ 
up in a remarkable manner, and of knowing that such ^'"" ' 
caprices were not within reach of any but those who supped 
with the very wealthiest men. And it would have been 
rashness to speak slightingly of peacock's flesh, or any 
other venerable institution, at a time when Era Girqlamo 
3^s teac]nngthe_distuxbin^ doctrine it w^-s not the 

duty of the rich to be luxurious for the sake of the poor. 

M^rTwhifej4nH:he~chill^6b'scirrity that surrounded this 
centre of warmth, and light, and savory odors, the lonely 
disowned man was walking in gradually narrowing cir- 
cuits. He paused among the trees, and looked in at the 
windows, which made brilliant pictures against the gloom. 
He could hear the laughter; he could see Tito gesticulat- 
ing with careless grace, and hear his voice, now alone, now 
mingling in the merry confusion of interlacing speeches. 
Baldassarre's mind was highly strung. He was preparing 
himself for the moment when he could win his entrance 
into this brilliant company; and he had a savage satisfac- 



324 RO-MOLA. 

tioii in the sight of Tito^s easy gaycty, which seemed to be 
preparing the unconscious victi:-; for ii^.ore effective torture. 
But the men seated among the branching tapers and the 
flashing cups could know nothing of the pale fierce face 
that watched them from without. The light can be a cur- 
tain as well as the darkness. 

And the talk went on witlujjiore eagerness as it became 
less disconnected and trivial.^The sense of citizenship was 
just then strongly forced even on the most indifferent 
minds. What the overmastermg^Fra Gi rolamo w as saying 
aiid prompting was really upperniost^iH^ka--Uiaughts_(3 
every one at table; and before the stewed fish was remove37 
and while the favorite sweets were yet to come, his name 
'rose to the surface of the conversation, and, in spite of 
Rucellai's previous prohibition, the talk again became 
political. At first, while the servants remained present, 
it was mere gossip: what had been done in the Palazzo on 
^^- .the first day's voting for the Great Council; how hot-tem- 
.^ft^^fO/pered and domineering Francesco Yalori was, as if he weri 
^•^ /to have everything his own way by right of his austere 
virtue; and how it was clear to everybody who heard Sode- 
rini's speeches in favor of the Great Council and also heard 
the Frate's sermons, that they were both kneaded in the 
same troughj 

''My opinion is," said Niccold Ridolfi, ''that the Frate 
' ^V has a longer head for public matters than Soderini or any 
'' Piagnone among them: you may depend on it that Sode- 

rini is his mouthpiece more than he is Soderini's." 

"No, Niccolo; there I differ from you," said Bernardo 
Eucellai: "the Frate has an acute mind, and readily sees 
what will serve his own ends; but it is not likely that 
Pagolantonio Soderini, who has had long experience of 
affairs, and has specially studied the Venetian Councd, 
should be much indebted to a monk for ideas on that sub- 
ject. No, no; Soderini loads the cannon; though, I grant 
you, Fra Girolamo brings the powder and lights the match. 
Hfi.ia.jnast er of the people, and the people are getting 

m asterof us. Ecco !" ~ "^ 

"Well," said Lorenzo Tornabuoni, presently, when the 
room was clear of servants, and nothing but wine was 
passins: round, ''whether Soderini is indebted or not, ice 
are indebted to the Frate for the general amnesty which 
has gone along with the scheme of the Council. We 
might have done without the fear of God and the reform 
of morals being passed by a majority of black beans; but 



I 



A SUPPER IN THE RUCELLAI GARDENS. . 325 ^ ^w, 

that excellent proposition, that our Medicean heads should t\fL^' 
he allowed to remain comfortably on our shoulders, and i?^^^ 
that we should not be obliged to hand over our property »ir^ 
in fines, has my warm approval, and it is my belief that \2^\ 
nothing but the Frate's predominance could have pro- C^J^ 
cured that for us. And you may rely on it that Fra ^^^ 
Girolamo is as firm as a rock on that point of promoting ?o^ 
peace. I have had an interview with liim." 

There was a murmur of surprise and curiosity at the 
farther end of the table; but Bernardo Eucellai simply 
nodded, as if he knew what Tornabuoni had to say, and 
wished him to go on. 

^^Yes," proceeded Tornabuoni, *^*I have been favored 
with an interview in the Frate's own cell, which, let me 
tell you, is not a common favor; for I have reason to 
believe that even Francesco Valori very seldom sees him in 
private. However, I think he saw me the more willingly 
because T_ was not a. rftflfly-mafle follower, but had to be 
converted. And, for my part, I see clearly enough that 

fTRe only snfe and \Y Jpf^ pnljny for na MArlippnng f.n p]irfinp ia 

We are not strong enough to make head on our own 
behalf; and if the Frate and the popular party were 
upset, every one who hears me knows perfectly well what 
other party would be uppermost just now: Nerli, Alberti, 
Pazzi, and the rest — Arrahhiati, as somebody christened 
them the other day — who, instead of giving us an 
amnesty, would be inclined to fly at our throats like mad 
dogs, and not be satisfied till they had banished half 
of us." 

There were strong interjections of assent to this last 
sentence of Tornabuoni^s, as he paused and looked round 
a moment. 

n^A wise dissimulation," he went on, **is the only course \ 
for moderate rational men in times of violent party y 
feeling. I need hardly tell this company what are my 
real political attachments: I am not the only man here 
who has strong personal ties to the banished family; but, 
apart from any such ties, I agree with my more expe- 
rienced friends, w^ho are allowing me to speak for them in 
their presence, that the only lasting and peaceful state of 
things for Florence is the predominance of some single 
family interest. This theory of the Frate's, that we are 
to have a popular government, in which every man is to 
strive only for the general good, and know no party. 




32G ROMOLA. 

names, is a theory that may do for some isle of Cristoforo 
Colombo's finding, but will never do for our fine old 
quarrelsome Florence. A change must come before long, 
and with patience and caution w^e have every chance of 
determining the change in our favor. Meanwhile, the 
best thing we can do will be to keep the Prate's flag flying, 
for if any other were to be hoisted just now it would be 
a black flag for us."^ 

'^It's true," said Niccolo Ridolfi, in a curt decisive way. 
'* What you say is true, Lorenzo. For my own part, I 
am too old for anybody to believe that I've changed my 
feathers. And there are certain of us — our old Bernard( 
del Nero for one — whom you would never persuade to 
borrow another man's shield. But we can lie still, like 
sleepy old dogs; and it's clear enough that barking would 
be of no use just now. As for this psalni-siiigmgjwtVj 
who vote for nothing but (lie uloi-y of nod^-iui d want to 

w 'V.inake believe we can all 1()\(' each otiicr, and talir~JIa 
^7 T^if vice can be swept out witli a ln_'>(iin liy t h e_ Mag niJicent 

zh ■ J^ight, their day will not be a l<nig (uie. After all tlie talk 
of scholars, there are but two sorts of government: one 
where men show their teeth at each other, and one where 
men show their tongues and lick tlie feet of the strongest. 
They'll get their Great Council finally voted to-morrow — 
that's certain enough — and they'll think they've found out 
a new plan of government; but as sure as there's a human 
skin under every lucco in the Council, th^ir tirw plj^n will^ 
PTujIJjk-P pvprynfbf.]^ iu Snarling or in licking. That's my 
view of things as a plain man. Not that I consider it 
becoming in men of family and following, who have got 
others depending on their constancy and on their sticking 
to their colors, to ^o a hunting with a fine net to catch 
reasons in the air, like doctors of law. I say frankly that, 
as the head of my family, I shall be true to my old alliances; 
and I have never yet seen any chalk-mark on political 
reasons to tell me which is true and which is false. My 
friend Bernardo Rucellai here is a man of reasons, I know, 
and I have no objection to anybody's finding fine-spun 
reasons for me, so that they don't interfere with my actions 
as a man of family who has faith to keep with his connec- 
tions. " 

*^If that is an appeal to me, Niccol6," said Bernardo 
Rucellai, with a formal dignity, in amusing contrast with 
Ridolfi's curt and pithy ease, '^ I may take this opportunity 
of saying, that while my wishes are partly determined by 



A SUPPER IK THE RUCELLAl GARDENS. 327 

lon^-standing personal relations, I cannot enter into any 
positive schemes with persons over whose actions I have 
no control. I myself might be content with a restoration 
of the old order of things; but with modifications — with 
important modifications. And the one point on which I 
wish to declare my concurrence with Lorenzo Tornabuoni 
is, that t jie best policy to be pursued by our friends is^ to 
^thro wjt hjg, weigh t of their interest into the scale of iEe 
popul ac-jaaj^ty. For myself, 1 condescend to no dissimula- 
tion; nor do I at present see the party or the scheme that 
commands my full assent. In all alike there is crudity 
and confusion of ideas, and of all the twenty men who are 
my colleagues in the present crisis, there is not one with 
whom I do not find myself in wide disagreement.^^ 

Niccolo Ridolfi shrugged his shoulders, and left it to 
some one else to take up the ball. As tlie wine went round 
the talk became more and more frank and lively, and the 
desire of several at once to be the chief speaker, as usual 
caused the company to break up into small knots of two 
and three. 

It was a result which had been foreseen by Lorenzo Tor-' 
nabuoni and Giannozzo Pucci, and they were among the 
first to turn aside from the highroad of general talk and 
enter into a special conversation with Tito, who sat 
between them; gradually pushing away their seats, and 
turning their backs on the table ^nd wine. 

^^In truth, Melema," Tornabuoni was saying at this 
stage, laying one hose-clad leg across the knee of the other, 
and caressing his ankle, "I know of no man in Florence 
who can serve our party better than you. You see what 
most of our friends are: men who can no more hide their 
prejudices than a dog can hide the natural tone of his 
bark, or else men whose political tics are so notorious, that 
they must always be objects of suspicion. Giannozzo here, 
and I, I flatter myself, are able to overcome that suspicion ; 
we have that power of concealment and finesse, without 
which a rational cultivated man, instead of having any 
prerogative, is really at a disadvantage compared with a wild 
bull or a savage. But, except yourself, I know of no one 
else on whom we could rely for the necessary discretion." 

''Yes," said Giannozzo Pucci, laying his hand on Tito's 
shoulder, "the fact is, Tito mio, you can help us better 
than if you were Ulysses himself, for I am convinced that 
Ulysses often made himself disagreeable. To manage men 
one ought to have a sharp mind in a velvet sheath. And 



328 ROMOLA. 

there is not a soul in Florence who could undertake a 
business like this journey to Eome, for example, with the 
same safety that you can. There is your scholarship, 
which may always be a pretext for such journeys; and 
what is better, there is your talent, which it would be 
harder to match than your scholarship. Niccolo Macchia- 
velli might have done for us if he had been on our side, 
but hardly so well. He is too much bitten with notions, 
and has not your power of fascination. All the worse for 
him. He has lost a great chance in life, and vou have 
got it.- "^ 

" Yes," said Tornabuoni, lowering his voice in a signifi- 
cant manner, '^you have only to play your game well, 
Melema, and the future belongs to you. For the Medici, 
you may rely upon it, will keep a foot in Rome as well as in 
Florence, and the time may not be far off when they will 
be able to make a finer career for their adherents even 
than they did in old days. Why shouldn't you take orders 
some day? There's a cardinal's hat at the end of that road, 
md you would not be the first Greek who has worn that 
ornament." 

Tito laughed gaily. He was too acute not to measure 
Tornabuoni 's exaggerated flattery, but still the flattery had 
a pleasant flavor. 

*^My joints are not so stiff yet," he said, ''that I can't 
be induced to run without such a high prize as that. I 
think the income of an abbey or two held ' in commendam,' 
without the trouble of getting my head shaved, would 
satisfy me at present." 

*' I was not joking," said Tornabuoni, with grave suavity; 
"I think a scholar would always be the better off for 
taking orders. But we'll talk of that another time. One 
of the objects to be first borne in mind, is that vou should 
win the confidence of the men who hang about San Marco; 
that is what Giannozzo and I shall do, but you may carry it 
farther than we can, because you are less observed. In 
that way you can get a thorough knowledge of their doings, 
and you will make a broader screen for your agency on 
our side. Nothing of course can be done before you start 
for Rome, because this bit of business between Piero de 
Medici and the French nobles must be effected at once. 
I mean when you come back, of course; I need say no 
more. I believe you could make yourself the pet votary 
of San Marco, if you liked; but you are wise enough to 
know that effective dissimulation is never immoderate. " 



A SUPPER IN THE RUCELLAI GARDENS. 329 

"If it were not that an adhesion to the popular side is 
necessary to your safety as an agent of our party, Tito 
mio/' said Giannozzo Pucci, who was more fraternal and 
less patronizing in his manner than Tornabuoni, ^'I could 
have wished your skill to have been employed in another 
way, for which it is still better fitted. But now we must 
look out for some other man among us who will manage 
to get into the confidence of our sworn enemies, the 
Arrabbiati; we need to know their movements more than 
those of the Frate's party, who are strong enough to play 
above-board. Still, it would have been a difficult thing 
for you, from your known relations with the Medici a 
little while back, and that sort of kinship your wife has 
with Bernardo del Nero. We must find a man who has 
no distinguished connections, and who has not yet taken 
any side." 

Tito was pushing his hair backv»^ard automatically, as 
his manner was, and looking straight at Pucci with a 
scarcely perceptible smile on his lip. 

"No need to look out for any one else," he said, 
promptly. ^'I can manage the whole business with perfect 
ease. I will engage to make myself the special confident 
of that thick-headed Dolfo Spini, and know his projects 
before he knows them himself." 

Tito seldom spoke so confidently of his own powers, 
but he was in a state of exultation at the sudden opening 
of a new path before him, where fortune seemed to have 
hung higher prizes than any he had thought of hitherto. 
Hitherto he had seen success only in the form of favor; 
it now flashed on him in the shape of power — of such 
power as is possible to talent without traditional ties, and 
without beliefs. Each party that thought of him as a 
tool might become dependent on him. His position as an 
alien, his indifferquce to the ideas or prejudices of the 
men amongst whom he moved, were suddenly transformed 
into advantages; he became newly conscious of his own 
adroitness in the presence of a game that he was called on 
to play. And all the motives which might have made 
Tito shrink from the triple deceit that came before him as 
a tempting game, had been slowly strangled in him by the 
successive falsities of his life. 

Our lives make a moral tradition for our individual 
selves, as the life of mankind at large makes a moral tra- 
dition for the race; and to have once acted nobly seems a 
reason why we should always be noble. But Tito was 



330 ROMOLA. 

feeling the effect of an opposite tradition: he had won no 
memories of self-conquest and perfect faithfulness from 
which he could have a sense of falling. 

The triple colloquy went on with growing spirit till it 
was interrupted b}^ a call from the table. Probably the 
movement came from the listeners in the party, Avho were 
afraid lest the talkers should tire themselves. At all 
events it was agreed that there had been enough of gravity, 
and Eucellai had just ordered new flasks of Montepulciano. 

^^How many minstrels are there among us?" he said, 
when there had been a general rallying round the table. 
" Melema, I think you are the chief : Matteo will give vou 
the lute." 

''Ah, yes!" said Giannozzo Pucci, '' lead the last chorus 
from Poliziano^s 'Orfeo,' that you have found such an 
excellent measure for, and we will all fall in: — 

* Ciascun segua, o Bacco, te : 
Bacco, Bacco, evo6, evo^ ! ' " 

The servant put the lute into Tito's hands, and then 
said something in an undertone to his master. A little 
subdued questioning and answering went on between them, 
while Tito touched the lute in a p-eluding way to the 
strain of the chorus, and tliere was a confusion of speech 
and musical humming all round the table. Bernardo 
Rucellai had said, ''Wait a moment, Melema," but the 
words had been unheard by Tito, who was leaning toward 
Pucci, and singing low to him the phrases of the Maenad- 
chorus. He noticed nothing until the buzz round the 
table suddenly ceased, and the notes of his own voice, 
with its soft low-toned triumph, "Evo^, evoe!" fell in 
startling isolation. 

It was a strange moment. Baldassarre had moved round 
the table till he was o])posite Tito, and as the hum ceased 
there might be seen for an instant Baldassarre's fierce dark 
eyes bent on Tito's bright smiling unconsciousness, while 
the low notes of triumph dropped from his lips into the 
silence. 

Tito looked up with a slight start, and his lips turned 
pale, but he seemed hardly more moved than Giannozzo 
Pucci, who had looked up at the same moment — or even 
than several others round the table; for that sallow deep- 
lined face with the hatred in its eyes seemed a terrible 
apparition across the wax-lit ease and gayety. And Tito 
quickly recovered some self-command, "A mad old man — 



I 



A SUPPER IN THE RUCELLAI GARDENS. 331 



he looks like 'it — he is mad!" was the instantaneous 
thought that brought some courage with it; for he could 
conjecture no inward change in Baldassarre since they had 
met before. He just let his eyes fall and laid the lute on 
the table with apparent ease; but his fingers pinched the 
neck of the lute hard while he governed his head and his 
glance sufficiently to look with an air of quiet appeal 
toward Bernardo Rucellai, who said at once — 

"Good man, what is your business? What is the impor- 
tant declaration that you have to make?" 

"Messer Bernardo Eucellai, I wish you and your honor- • 
able friends to know in what sort of company you are 
sitting. There is a traitor among you." 

There was a general movement of alarm. Every one 
present, except Tito, thought of political danger and not 
of private injury. 

Baldassarre began to speak as if he were thoroughly 
assured of what he had to say; but, in spite of his long 
preparation for this moment, there was the tremor of over- 
mastering excitement in his voice. His passion shook 
him. He went on, but he did not say what he had meant 
to say. As he fixed his eyes on Tito again the passionate 
words were like blows — they defied premeditation. 

" There is a man among you who is a scoundrel, a liar, 
a robber. I was a father to him. I took him from beg- 

fary when he was a child. I reared him, I cherished him, 
taught him, I made him a scholar. My head has lain 
hard that his might have a pillow. And he left me in 
slavery; he sold the gems that were mine, and when I came 
again he denied me." 

The last words had been uttered with almost convulsed 
agitation, and Baldassarre paused, trembling. All glances 
were turned on Tito, who was now looking straight at 
Baldassarre. It was a moment of desperation that anni- 
hilated all feeling in him, except the determination to risk 
anything for the chance of escape. And he gathered con- 
fidence from the agitation by which Baldassarre was 
evidently shaken. He had ceased to pinch the neck of the 
lute, and had thrust his thumbs into his belt, while his 
lips had begun to assume a slight curl. He had never yet 
done an act of murderous cruelty even to the smallest 
animal that could utter a cry, but at that moment he would 
have been capable of treading the breath from a smiling 
child for the sake of his own safety. 

*'What does this mean, Melema?" said Bernardo 



332 KOMOLA. 

Rucellai, in a tone of cautious surprise. 'He, as well as 
the rest of the company, felt relieved that the tenor of the 
accusation was not political. 

** Messer Bernardo," said Tito, ^^ I believe this man is 
mad. I did not recognize him the first time he encountered 
me in Florence, but I know now that he is the servant wlio 
years ago accompanied me and my adoptive father to 
Greece, and was dismissed on account of misdemeanors. 
Ilis name is Jacopo di Nola. Even at tliat time I believe 
his mind was unhinged, for, without any reason, he had 
conceived a strange hatred toward me; and now I am con- 
vinced that he is laboring under a mania which causes 
him to mistake his identity. He lias already attempted 
my life since he has been in Florence; and I am in con- 
stant danger from him. But he is an object of pity rather 
than of indignation. It is too certain that my father is 
dead. You have only my word for it; but I must leave it 
to your judgment how far it is probable that a man of 
intellect and learning would have been lurking about in 
dark corners for the last month with tlie purpose of assas- 
sinating me; or how far it is probable that, if this man 
were my second fatlier, I could have any motive for deny- 
ing him. That story about my being rescued from beggary 
is the vision of a diseased brain. But it will be a satisfac- 
tion to me at least if you will demand from him proofs of 
his identity, lest any malignant person should choose to 
make this mad impeachment a reproach to me." 

Tito had felt more and more confidence as he went on; 
the lie was not so difficult when it was once begun; and as 
the words fell easily from his lips, they gave him a sense 
of power such as men feel when they have be^un a muscu- 
lar feat successfully. In this way he acquired boldness 
enough to end with a challenge for proofs. 

Baldassarre, while lie had been walking in the gardens 
and afterward waiting in an outer room of the pavilion 
with the servants, had been making anew the digest of the 
evidence he would bring to prove his identity and Tito's 
baseness, recalling the description and history of his gems, 
and assuring himself by rapid mental glances that he could 
attest his learning and his travels. It might be partly 
owing to this nervous strain that the new shock of rage he 
felt as Tito's lie fell on his ears brought a strange bodily 
effect with it: a cold stream seemed to rush over him, and 
tlie last words of the speech seemed to be drowned by ring- 
ing chimes. Thought gave way to a dizzy horror, as if 



A SUPPER IK THE RUCELLAI GARDENS. '^So 

the earth were slipping away from under him. Every one 
in the room was looking at him as Tito ended, and saw 
that the eyes which had had, such fierce intensity only a 
few minutes before had now a vague fear in them. He 
clutched the back of a seat, and was silent. 

Hardly any evidence could have been more in favor of 
Tito's assertion. 

" Surely I have seen this man before, somewhere,"' said 
Tornabuoni. 

''^Certainly you have," said Tito, readil}^, in a low tone. 
''He is the escaped prisoner who clutched me on the steps 
of the Duomo. I did not recognize him then; he looks 
now more as he used to do, except that he has a more 
unmistakable air of mad imbecility.'" 

" I cast no doubt on your word, Melema,'' said Bernardo 
Rucellai, with cautious gravity, ^'but you are right to 
desire some positive test of the fact." Then turning to 
Baldassarre, he said, *'If you are the person you claim to 
be, you can doubtless give some description of the gems 
which were your property, I myself was the purchaser of 
more than one gem from Messer Tito — the chief rings, I 
believe in his collection. One of them is a fine sard, 
engraved with a subject from Homer. If, as you allege, you 
are a scholar, and the rightful owner of that ring, you can 
doubtless turn to the noted passage in Homer from which 
that subject is taken. Do you accept this test, Melema? 
or have you anything to allege against its validity? The 
Jacopo you speak of, was he a scholar?" 

It was a fearful crisis for Tito. If he said ''Yes," his 
quick mind told him that he would shake the credibility 
of his story: if he said "^o," he risked everything on the 
uncertain extent of Baldassarre's imbecility. But there 
was no noticeable pause before he said, "No, I accept the 
test." 

There was a dead silence while Rucellai moved toward 
the recess where the books were, and came back with the 
fine Florentine Homer in his hand. Baldassarre, when he 
was addressed, had turned his head toward the speaker, 
and Rucellai believed that he had understood him. But 
he chose to repeat what he had said, that there might be 
no mistake as to the test. 

*'The ring I possess," he said, "is a fine sard, engraved 
with a subject from Homer. There was no other at all 
resembling it in Messer Tito's collection. AYill you turn 
to the passage in Homer from which that subject is taken? 



334 ROMOLA. 

Seat yourself here/' he added, laying the book on the 
table, and pointing to his own seat while he stood beside it. 

Baldassarre had so far recovered from the first confused 
horror produced by the sensation of rushing coldness and 
chiming din in the ears as to be partly aware of what was 
said to him: he was aware that something was being 
demanded from him to prove his identity, but he formed no 
distinct idea of the details. The sight of the book recalled 
the habitual longing and faint hope that he could read and 
understand, and he moved toward the chair immediately. 

The book was open before him, and he bent his head a 
little toward it, while everybody watched him eagerly. He 
turned no leaf. His eyes wandered over the pages that lay 
before him, and then fixed on them a straining gaze. This 
lasted for two or three minutes in dead silence. Then he 
lifted his hands to each side of his head, and said, in a low 
tone of despair, "Lost, lost!" 

There was something so piteous in the wandering look 
and the low cry that while they confirmed tlie belief in his 
madness they raised compassion. Nay, so distinct some- 
times is the working of a double consciousness within us, 
that Tito himself, while he triumphed in the apparent 
verification of his lie, wished that he had never made the 
lie necessary to himself — wished he had recognized his 
father on the steps — wished he had gone to seek him — 
wished everything had been different. But he had bor- 
rowed from the terrible usurer Falsehood, and the loan had 
mounted and mounted with the years, till he belonged to 
the usurer, body and soul. 

The compassion excited in all the witnesses was not 
without its danger to Tito; for conjecture is constantly 
guided by feeling, and more than one person suddenly 
conceived that this man might have been a scholar and 
have lost his faculties. On the other hand, they had not 
present to their minds the motives which could have led 
Tito to the denial of his benefactor, and having no ill-will 
toward him, it would have been difficult to them to believe 
that he had been uttering the basest of lies. And the 
originally common type of Baldassarre's person, coarsened 
by years of hardship, told as a confirmation of Tito's lie. 
If Baldassarre, to begin with, could have uttered precisely 
the words he had premeditated, there might have been 
something in the form of his accusation which would have 
given it the stamp not only of true experience but of 
mental refinement. But there had been no such testimony 



I 



A SUPPER IN THE RUCELLAI GARDENS. 335 



in his Impulsive agitated words: and there seemed the very- 
opposite testimony in the rugged face and the coarse hands 
that trembled beside it, standing out in strong contrast in 
the midst of that velvet-clad, fair-handed company. 

His next movement, while he was being watched in 
silence, told against him too. He took his hands from his 
head, and felt for something under his tunic. Every one 
guessed what that movement meant — guessed that there 
was a weapon at his side. Glances were interchanged; 
and Bernardo Rucellai said, in a quiet tone, touching 
Baldassarre^s shoulder — 

'^ My friend, this is an important business of yours. You 
shall have all justice. Follow me into a private room.'' 

Baldassarre was still in that half -stunned state in which 
he was susceptible to any prompting, in the same way as 
an insect that forms no conception of what the prompting 
leads to. He rose from his seat, and followed Rucellai out 
of the room. 

In two or three minutes Rucellai came back again, and 
said — 

*^ He is safe under lock and key. Piero Pitti, you are one 
of the Magnificent Eight, what do you think of our send- 
ing Matteo to the palace for a couple of sbirri, who may 
escort him to the Stinche?* If there is any danger in him, 
as I think there is, he will be safe there; and we can 
inquire about him to-morrow. '^ 

Pitti assented, and the order was given. 

" He is certainly an ill-looking fellow, '^ said Tornabuoni. 
''And you say he has attempted your life already, Melema?" 

And the talk turned on the various forms of madness, 
and the fierceness of the southern blood. If the seeds of 
conjecture unfavorable to Tito had been planted in the 
mind of any one present, they were hardly strong enough 
to grow without the aid of much dayliglit and ill-will. Tli^ 
common-looking, wild-eyed old man, clad in serge, might 
have won belief without very strong evidence, if he had 
accused a man who was envied and disliked. As it was, 
the only congruous and probable view of the case seemed 
to be the one that sent the unpleasant accuser safely out of 
sight, and left the pleasant serviceable Tito just where he 
was before. 

The subject gradually floated away, and gave place to 
others, till a heavy tramp, and something like the strug- 
gling of a man who was being dragged away, were heard 

*The largest prison in Florence. 



33 G IIOMOLA. 

outside. The sounds soon died out, and the interruption 
seemed to make the last hour's conviviality more resolute 
and vigorous. Every one was willing to forget a disagree- 
able incident. 

Tito's heart w^as palpitating, and the wine tasted no 
better to him than if it had been blood. 

To-night he had paid a heavier price than ever to make 
himself safe. He did not like the price, and yet it was 
inevitable that he should be glad of the purchase. 

And after all he led the chorus. He was in a state 
of excitement in which oppressive sensations, and the 
wretch^ consciousness of something hateful but irrevoca- 
ble, were mingled with a feeling of triumph which seemed 
to assert itself as the feeling that would subsist and be 
master of the morrow. 

And it tvas master. For on the morrow, as we saw, 
when he was about to start on his mission to Rome, he had 
the air of a man well satisfied with the world. 



CHAPTER XL. 

AN ARRESTING VOICE. 



When Romola sat down on the stone under the cypres 
all things conspired to give her the sense of freedom ana 
solitude: her escape from the accustomed walls and streets; 
the widening distance from her liusband, who was by this 
time riding toward Siena, while every hour would take 
her farther on the opj^osite way; the morning stillness; the 
great dip of ground on the roadside making a gulf between 
ier and the sombre calm of the mountains. For the first 
time in her life she felt alone in the presence of the earth 
and sky, with no human presence interposing and making 
a law for her. 

Suddenly a voice close to her said — 

"You are Romola de Bardi, the wife of Tito Melema." 

She knew the voice: it had vibrated through her more 
than once before; and be^jsause she knew it, she did not 
turn round or look up. She sat shaken by awe, and yet 
inwardly rebelling against the awe. It was one of those 
black-skirted monks who was daring to speak to her, and 
interfere with her privacy : that was all. And yet she 



I 



AN ARRESTING VOICE. 337 



was shaken, as if that destiny which men thought of as a 
Bceptered deity had come to her, and grasped her with 
fingers of flesh. 

"You are fleeing from Florence in disguise. I have a 
command from God to stop you. You are not permitted 
to flee.'' 

Romola's anger at the intrusion mounted higher at 
these imperative words. She would not turn round to 
look at the speaker, whose examining gaze she resented. 
Sitting quite motionless, she said — 

"What right have you to speak to me, or to hinder 
me?" 

*' The right of a messenger. You have put on a religious 
garb, and you have no religious purpose. You have sought 
the garb as a disguise. But you were not suffered to pass 
me without being discerned. It was declared to me who 
you were : it is declared to me that you are seeking to 
escape from the lot God has laid upon you. You wish 
your true name and your true place in life to be hidden, 
that you may choose for yourself a new name and a new 
place, and have no rule but your own will. And I have 
a command to call you back. My daughter, you must 
return to your place." 

Romola's mind rose in stronger rebellion with every 
sentence. She was the more determined not to show any 
sign of submission, because the consciousness of being 
inwardly shaken made her dread lest she should fall into 
irresolution. She spoke w^ith more irritation than before. 

" I will not return. I acknowledge no right of priests 
and monks to interfere with my actions. You have no 
power over me." 

"I know — I know you have been brought up in scorn 
of obedience. But it is not the poor monk who claims 
to interfere with you: it is the truth that commands you. 
And you cannot escape it. Either you must obey it, and 
it will lead you; or you must disobey it, and it will hang 
on you with the weight of a chain which you will drag 
forever. But you will obey it, my daughter. Your old 
servant will return to you with the mules: my companion 
is gone to fetch him; and you will go back to Florence." 

She started up with anger in her eyes, and faced the 
speaker. It was Fra Girolamo: she knew that well enough 
before. She was nearly as tall as he was, and their faces 
were almost on a level. She had started up with defiant 
words ready to burst from her lips, but they fell back 
23 



338 ROMOLA. 

again without utterance. She had met Fra Girolamo's 
calm glance, and the impression from it was so new to her, 
that her anger sank ashamed as something irrelevant. 

There was nothing transcendent in Savonarola's face. 
It was not beautiful. It was strong-featured, and owed 
all its refinement to habits of mind and rigid discipline 
of the body. The source of the impression his glance 
produced on Romola was the sense it conveyed to her of 
interest in her and care for her apart from any personal 
feeling. It was the first time she had encountered a gaze 
in which simple human fellowship expressed itself as a 
strongly-felt bond. Such a glance is half the vocation of 
the priest or spiritual guide of men, and Romola felt it 
impossible again to question his authority to speak to her. 
She stood silent, looking at him. And he spoke again. 

"You assert your freedom proudly, my daughter. But 
who is so base as the debtor who thinks himself free?" 

There was a sting in those words, and Romola's counte- 
nance changed as if a subtle pale flash had gone over it. 

'^And you are flying from your debts: the debt of a 
Florentine woman; the debt of a wife. You are turning 
your back on the lot that has been appointed for you — 
you are going to choose another. But can man or woman 
choose duties? No more than they can choose their 
birthplace or their father and mother. My daughter, you 
are fleeing from the presence of God into the wilderness." 

As the anger melted from Romola's mind, it had given 
place to a new presentiment of the strength there might 
be in submission, if this man, at whom she was beginning 
to look with a vague reverence, had some valid law to 
show her. But no — it was impossible; he could not know 
what determined her. Yet she could not again simply 
refuse to be guided; she was constrained to plead; and in 
her new need to be reverent while she resisted, the title 
which she had never given him before came to her lips 
without forethought. 

''My father, you cannot know the reasons which compel 
me to go. None can know them but myself. None can 
judge for me. I have been driven by great sorrow. I am 
resolved to go." 

''I know enough, my daughter: my mind has been so 
far illuminated concerning you, that I know enough. You 
are not happy in your married life; but I am not a con- 
fessor, and I seek to know nothing that should be reserved 
for the seal of confession. I have a divine warrant to stop 



I 



AN^ AERESTING VCICE. 339 



you, which does not depend on such knowledge. You 
were warned by a message from heaven, delivered in my 
presence — you were warned before marriage, when you 
might still have lawfully chosen to be free from the mar- 
riage-bond. But you chose the bond; and in willfully 
breaking it — I speak to you as a pagan, if the holy mystery 
of matrimony is not sacred to you — you are breaking a 
pledge. Of what wrongs will you complain, my daughter, 
when you yourself are committing one of the greatest 
wrongs a woman and a citizen can be guilty of — withdraw- 
ing in secrecy and disguise from a pledge which you have 
given in the face of God and your fellow-men? Of what 
wrongs will you complain when you yourself are breaking the 
simplest law that lies at the foundation of the trust which 
binds man to man — faithfulness to the spoken word? 
This, then, is the wisdom you have gained by scorning the 
mysteries of the Church? — not to see the bare duty of 
integrity, where the Church would have taught you to see, 
not integrity only, but religion.''' 

The blood had rushed to Romola's face, and she shrank 
as if she had been stricken. ''I would not have put on a 
disguise/' she began; but she could not go on, — she was 
too much shaken by the suggestion in the Frate's words of 
a possible affinity between her own conduct and Tito's. 

'^'And to break that pledge you fly from Florence: 
Florence, where there are the only men and women in the 
world to whom you owe the debt of a fellow-citizen." 

'' I should never have quitted Florence," said Romola, 
tremulously, *^as long as there was any hope of my fulfill- 
ing a daty to my father there." 

^'And do you own no tie but that of a child to her father 
in the flesh? Your life has been spent in blindness, my 
daughter. You have lived with those who sit on a hill 
aloof and look down on the life of their fellow-men. I ^^ 
know their vain discourse. It is of what has been in the 
times which they fill with their own fancied wisdom, while 
they scorn God's work in the present. And doubtless you 
were taught how there were pagan women who felt what 
it was to live for the Republic; yet you have never felt 
that you, a Florentine woman, should live for Florence. 
If your own people are wearing a yoke, will you slip from 
under it, instead of struggling with them to lighten it? 
There is hunger and misery in our streets, yet you say, ^ I 
care not; I have my own sorrows; I will go away, if perad- 
ture I can ease them.' The servants of God are strug- 



340 ROMOLA, 

giiug after a law of justice, peace, and chanty, tnat the 
hundred thousand citizens among whom you were born 
may be governed righteously; but you think no more of 
this than if you were a bird, that may spread its 
wings and fly whither it will in search of food to its 
liking. And yet you have scorned the teaching of the 
Church, my daughter. As if you, a willful wanderer, fol- 
lowing your own blind choice, were not below the humblest 
Florentine woman who stretches forth her hands with her 
own people, and craves a blessing for them; and feels a 
close sisterhood with the neighbor who kneels beside her 
and is not of her own blood; and thinks of the mighty 
purpose that God has for Florence; and waits and endures 
because the promised work is great, and she feels herself 
little. '^ 

"I was not going away to ease and self-indulgence," 
said Eomola, raising her head again, with a prompting to 
vindicate herself. *'l was going away to hardship. I 
expect no joy: it is gone from my life." 

*' You are seeking your own will, my daughter. You 
are seeking some good other than the law you are bound 
to obey. But how will you find good? It is not a thing 
of choice: it is a river that flows from the foot of the 
Invisible Throne, and flows by the path of obedience. I 
say again, man cannot choose his duties. You may choose 
to forsake your duties, and choose not to have the sorrow 
they bring. But you will go forth; and what will you 
find, my daughter? Sorrow without duty — bitter herbs, 
and no bread with them." 

''But if you knew," said Romola, clasping her hands 
and pressing them tight, as she looked pleadingly at Fra 
Girolamo; '*if you knew what it was to me — how impossi- 
ble it seemed to me to bear it." 

"My daughter," he said, pointing to the cord round 
Romola's neck, ''you carry something within your mantle; 
draw it forth and look at it." 

Romola gave a slight start, but her impulse now was to 
do just what Savonarola told her. Her self-doubt was 
grappled by a stronger will and a stronger conviction than 
her own. She drew forth the crucifix. Still pointing 
toward it, he said — 

" There, mv daughter, is the image of a Supreme Offer- 
ing, made by Supreme Love, because the need of man was 
great." 

He pausf^'^ and she held the crucifix trembling — trem- 



I 



AN ARRESTING VOICE. 341 



bling under a sudden impression of the wide distance 
between her present and her past self. What a leiigth of 
road she had traveled through since she first took that 
crucifix from the Frate's hands! Had life as many secrets 
before her still as it had for her then, in her young blind- 
ness? It was a thought tliat helped all other subduing 
influences; and at the sound of Fra Girolamo's voice 
again, Komola, with a quick involuntary movement, 
pressed the crucifix against her mantle and looked at 
him with more submission than before. 

'^Conform your life to that image, my daughter; make 
your sorrow an offering: and when the fire of Divine char- 
ity burns within you, and you behold the need of your 
fellow-men by the light of that flame, you will not call 
your offering great. You have carried yourself proudly, 
as one who held herself not of common blood or of com- 
mon thoughts; but you have been as one unborn to the 
true life of man. What! you say your love for your father 
no longer tells 3^ou to stay in Florence? Then, since that tie 
is snapped, you are without a law, without religion: you 
are no better than a beast of the field when she is robbed 
of her young. If the yearning of a fleshly love is gone, 
you are without love, without obligation. See, then, my 
daughter, how you are below tlie life of the believer Avho 
worships the image of the Supreme Offering, and feels the 
glow of a common life with the lost multitude for whom 
that offering was made, and beholds the history of the 
world as a history of the great redemption in which he is 
himself a fellow- worker, in his own place and among his 
own people! If you held that faith, my beloved daughter, 
you would not be a wanderer flying from suffering, and 
blindly seeking the good of a freedom wliich is lawlessness. 
You would feel that Florence was the home of your soul 
as well as your birthplace, because you would see the work 
that was given you to do there. If you forsake your place, 
who will fill it? You ought to be in your place now, help- 
ing in the great work by which God will purify Florence, 
and raise it to be the guide of the nations. What! the 
earth is full of iniquity — full of groans — the light is still 
struggling with a mighty darkness, and you say, ' I cannot 
bear my bonds; I will burst them asunder; I will go where 
no man claims me'? My daughter, every bond of your 
life is a debt: the right lies in the payment of that debt; 
it can lie nowhere else. In vain will you wander over the 
earth; you will be wandering forever away from the right." 



r 



342 ROMOLA. 

Romola was inwardly struggling with strong forces; thai 
immense personal influence of Savonarola, which came 
from the energy of his emotions and beliefs; and her 
consciousness, surmounting all prejudice, that his words 
implied a higher law than any she had yet obeyed. But 
the resisting thoughts were not j'et overborne. 

'^^How, then, could Dino be right? He broke ties. He 
forsook his place." 

'' That Avas a special vocation. He was constrained to 
depart, else he could not have attained the higher life. It 
would have been stifled within him.'^ 

^^And I too,'' said Romola, raising her hands to her 
■brow, and speaking in a tone of anguish, as if she were 
being dragged to some tortured '* Father, you may be 
wrong." . 

'^Ask your conscience, my daughter. /You have no 
vocation such as your brother hadj You are a wife. You 
seek to break your ties in self-will and anger, not because 
the higher life calls upon you to renounce them. The 
higher life begins for us, my daughter, when we renounce 
our own will to bow before a Divine law. That seems hard 
to you. It is the portal of wisdom, and freedom, and 
blessedness. And the symbol of it hangs before you. 
That wisdom is the religion of the Cross. And you stand 
aloof from it: you are a pagan; you have been taught to 
say, 'I am as the wise men who lived before the time when 
the Jew x)f Nazareth was crucified.' And that is your wis- 
dom! To be as the dead whose eyes are closed, and whose 
ear is deaf to the work of God that has been since their 
time. What has your dead wisdom done for you, my 
daughter ? It has left you without a heart for the 
neighbors among whom you dwell, without care for the 
great work by which Florence is to be regenerated and the 
world made holy; it has left you without a share in the 
Divine life which quenches the sense of suffering Self in 
the ardors of an ever-growing love. And now, when 
the sword has pierced your soul, you say, 'I will go away; 
I cannot bear my sorrow.' And you think nothing of the 
sorrow and the wrong that are within the walls of the city 
where you dwell: you would leave your place empty, when 
it ought to be filled with your pity and 3^our labor. If 
there is wickedness in the streets, your steps should shine 
with the light of purity; if there is a cry of anguish, you, 
my daughter, because you know the meaning of the cry. 
should be there to still it. My beloved daughter, sorrov, 



i 



A]S" ARRESTIiq^G VOICE. 343 



has come to teach jou a new worship: the sign of it hangs 
before you." 

Komola^s mind was still torn by conflict. She foresaw 
that she should obey Savonarola and go back: his words 
had come to her as if they were an interpretation of that 
revulsion from self-satisfied ease, and of that new fellow- 
ship with suffering, which had already been awakened in 
her. His arresting voice had brought a new condition into 
her life, which made it seem impossible to her that she 
could go on her way as if she had not heard it; yet she 
shrank as one who sees the path she must take, but sees, 
too, that the hot lava lies there. And the instinctive 
shrinking from a return to her husband brought doubts. 
She turned away her eyes from Fra Girolamo; and stood 
for a minute or two with her hands hanging clasped 
before her, like a statue. At last she spoke, as if the 
words were being wrung from her, still looking on the 
ground. 

"My husband he is not my love is gone! " 

" My daughter, there is the bond of a higlier love. 
Marriage is not carnal only, made for selfish delight. See 
what that thought leads you to! It leads you to wander 
away in a false garb from all the obligations of your place 
and name. That would not have been, if you had learned 
that it is a sacramental vow, from which none but God 
can release you. My daughter, your life is not as a grain 
of sand, to be blown by the winds; it is a thing of 
flesh and blood that dies if it be sundered. Your husband 
is not a malefactor?" 

Romola started. "Heaven forbid! No; I accuse him 
of nothing." 

" I did not suppose he was a malefactor. I meant, that 
if he were a malefactor, your place would be in the prison 
beside him. My daughter, if the cross comes to you as a 
wife, you must carry it as a wife. You may say, ' I will 
forsake my husband,^ but you cannot cease to be a wife." 

" Yet if — oh, how could I bear " Romola had invol- 
untarily begun to say something which she sought to 
banish from her mind again. 

"Make your marriage-sorrows an offering too, my 
daughter: an offering to the great work by which sin 
and sorrow are being made to cease. The end is sure, and 
is already beginning. Here in Florence it is beginning, 
and the eyes of faith behold it. And it may be our bless- 
^ness to die for it: to die daily by the crucifixion of our 



344 ROMOLA. 

selfish will — to die at last by laying our bodies on the altar. 
My daughter, you a child of Florence; fulfill the duties of 
that great inheritance. Live for Florence — for your own 
people, whom God is preparing to bless the earth. Bear 
the anguish and the smart. The iron is sharp — I know, I 
know — it rends the tender flesh. The draught is bitter- 
ness on the lips. But there is rapture in the cup — there 
is the vision which makes all life below it dross forever. 
Come, my daughter, come back to your place! " 

While Savonarola spoke with growing intensity, his 
arms tightly folded before him still, as they had been from 
the first, but his face alight as from an inward flame, 
Romolafelt herself surrounded and possessed by the glow of 
his passionate faith. The chill doubts all melted away; 
she was subdued by the sense of something unspeakably 
great to which she was being called by a strong being wlio 
roused a new strength within herself. In a voice that wn- 
like a low, prayerful cry, she said — 

'* Father, I will be guided. Teach me! I will go back.'' 

Almost unconsciously she sank on her knees. Savonarola 

stretched out his hands over her; but feeling would no 

longer pass through the channel of speech, and he was 

silent. 



CHAPTER XLI. 

COMING BACK. 



" Rise, my daughter,^' said Fra Girolamo at last. " Your 
servant is waiting not far off with the mules. It is time 
that I should go onward to Florence." 

Romola arose from her knees. That silent attitude had 
been a sort of sacrament to her, confirming the state of 
yearning passivity on which she had newly entered. By 
the one act of renouncing her resolve to quit her husband, 
her will seemed so utterly bruised that she felt the need of 
direction even in small things. She lifted up the edge of 
her cowl, and saw Maso and the second Dominican stand- 
ing with their backs toward her on the edge of the hill 
about ten yards from her; but she looked at Savonarola 
again without speaking, as if the order to Maso to turn 
back must come from him and not from her. 



I 



COMIKG BACK. 345 



'^ I will go and call them/^ he said, answering lier glance 
of appeal, '' and I will recommend you, my daughter, to 
the Brother who is with me.> You desire to put yourself 
under guidance, and to learn that wisdom which has been 
hitherto as foolishness to you. A chief gate of that 
wisdom is the sacrament of confession. You will need a 
confessor, my daughter, and I desire to put you under the 
care of Fra Salvestro, one of the brethren of San Marco, in 
whom I most confide.^" 

'^I would rather have no guidance but yours, father," 
said Romola, looking anxious. 

^^My daughter, I do not act as a confessor. The voca- 
tion I have withdraws me from offices that would force me 
into frequent contact with the laity, and interfere with my 
special dutiQS." 

^'^Then shall I not be able to speak to you in private? 

if I waver, if " Romola broke off from rising agitation. 

She felt a sudden alarm lest her new strength in renuncia- 
tion should vanish if the immediate personal influence of 
Savonarola vanished. 

'^My daughter, if your soul has need of the word in 
private from my lips, you will let me know it through Fra 
Salvestro, and I will see you in the sacristy or in the choir 
of San Marco. And I will not cease to watch over you. 
I will instruct my brother concerning you, that he may 
guide you into that path of labor for the suffering and the 
hungry to which you are called as a daughter of Florence 
in these times of hard need. I desire to behold you 
among the feebler and more ignorant sisters as the apple- 
tree among the trees of the forest, so that your fairness 
and all natural gifts may be but as a lamp through which 
the Divine light shines the more purely. I will go now 
and call your servant.^' 

When Maso had been sent a little way in advance, Fra 
Salvestro came forward, and Savonarola led Romola 
toward him. She had beforehand felt an inward shrink- 
ing from a new guide who was a total stranger to her: but 
to have resisted Savonarola's advice would have been to 
assume an attitude of independence at a moment when all 
her strength must be drawn from the renunciation of inde- 
pendence. And the whole bent of her mind now was 
toward doing what was painful rather than what was easy. 
She bowed reverently to Fra Salvestro before looking 
directly at him; but when she raised her head and saw 
him fully, her reluctance became a palpitating doubt, 



S46 ROMOLA. 

There are men whose presence infuses trust and reverence; 
there are others to whom we have need to carry our trust 
and reverence ready-made; and that difference flashed on 
Romola as she ceased to have Savonarola before her, and 
saw in his stead Fra Salvestro Marufii. It was not that 
there was anything manifestly repulsive in Fra Salvestro's 
face and manner, any air of hypocrisy, any tinge of 
coarseness; his face was handsomer than Fra Girolamo^, 
his person a little taller. He was the long accepted 
confessor of many among the chief personages in Florence, 
and had therefore had large experience as a spiritual 
director. But his face had the vacillating expression 
of a mind unable to concentrate itself strongly in the 
channel of one great emotion or belief — an expression 
which is fatal to influence over an ardent, nature like 
Romola's. Such an expression is not the stamp of insin- 
cerity; it is the stamp simply of a shallow soul, which will 
often be found sincerely striving to fill a high vocation, 
sincerely composing its countenance to the utterance 
of sublime formulas, but finding the muscles twitch or 
relax in spite of belief, as prose insists on coming instead 
of poetry to the man who has not the divine frenzy. Fra 
Salvestro had a peculiar liability to visions, dependent 
apparently on a constitution given tt> somnambulism. 
Savonarola believed in the supernatural character of these 
visions, while Fra Salvestro himself had originally resisted 
such an interpretation of them, and had even* rebuked 
Savonarola for his prophetic preaching: another proof, if 
one were wanted, that the relative greatness of men is not 
to be gauged by their tendency to disbelieve the supersti- 
tions of their age. For of these two there can be no ques- 
tion which was the great man and which the small. 

The difference between them was measured very accu- 
rately by the change in Romola's feeling as Fra Salvestro 
began to address her in words of exhortation and encour- 
agement. After her first angry resistance of Savonarola 
had passed away, she had lost all remembrance of the old 
dread lest any influence should drag her within the circle 
of fanaticism and sour monkish piety. But now again, 
the chill breath of that dread stole over her. It could 
have no decisive effect against the impetus her mind had 
just received; it was only like the closing of the gray clouds 
over the sunrise, which made her returning path monoto- 
nous and sombre. 

And perhaps of all sombre paths that on which we go 



I 



COMrXG BACK. 347 



back after treading it with a strong resolution is the one 
that most severely tests the fervor of renunciation. As 
they re-entered the city gates the light snow-flakes fell 
about them; and as the gray sister walked hastily home- 
ward from the Piazza di San Marco, and trod the bridge 
again, and turned in at the large door in the Via de Bardi, 
her footsteps were marked darkly on the thin carpet of 
snow, and her cowl fell laden and damp about her face. 

She went up to her room> threw off her serge, destroyed 
the parting letters, replaced all her precious trifles, unbound 
her hair, and put on her usual black dress. Instead of 
taking a long exciting journey, she was to sit down in her 
usual place. The snow fell against the windows and she 
was alone. 

She felt the dreariness, yet her courage was high, like 
that of a seeker who has come on new signs of gold. She 
was going to thread life by a fresh clue. She had thrown 
all the energy of her will into renunciation. The empty 
tabernacle remained locked, and she placed Dino^s crucifix 
outside it. 

Nothing broke the outward monotony of her solitary 
home, till the night came like a white ghost at the win- 
dows. Yet it was the most memorable Christmas-eve in 
her life to Komola, this of 1494. 




BOOK III. 



*vi 



CHAPTER XLII. 

ROMOLA IX HER PLACE. 



It was the thirtieth of October, 1496. The sky that 
morning was clear enough, and there was a pleasant 
autumnal breeze. But the Florentines just then thought 
very little about the land breezes: they were thinking of 
the gales at sea, which seemed to be uniting with all other 
powers to disprove the Frate's declaration that Heaven 
took special caie of Florence. 

For those terrible gales had driven away from the coast 
of Leghorn certain ships from Marseilles, freighted with 
soldiery and corn; and Florence was in the direst need, 
first for food, and secondly of fighting men. Pale Famine 
was in her streets, and her territory was threatened on all 
its borders. 

For the French king, that new Charlemagne, who had 
entered Italy in anticipatory triumph, and had conquered 
Naples without the least trouble, had gone away again 
fifteen months ago, and was even, it was feared, in his 
grief for the loss of a new-born son, losing the languid 
intention of coming back again to redress grievances and 
set the church in order. A league had been formed against 
him — a Holy League, with Pope Borgia at its head — to 
" drive out the barbarians, '' who still garrisoned the for- 
tress of Naples. That had a patriotic sound; but, looked 
at more closely, the Holy League seemed very much like 
an agreement among certain wolves to drive away all other 
wolves, and then to see which among themselves could 
snatch the largest share of the prey. And there was a gen- 
eral disposition to regard Florence not as a fellow-wolf, 
but rather as a desirable carcass. Florence, therefore, of 
all the chief Italian States, had alone declined to join the 
League, adhering still to the French alliance. 

She had declined at her peril. At this moment Pisa, 
still fighting savagely for liberty, was being encouraged not 
only by strong forces from Venice and Milan, but by the 

348 



i 



1 



ROMOLA TN HER PLACE. H49 



presence of the German Emperor Maximilian, who had 
been invited by the League, and was joining the Pisans 
with such troops as he had in the attempt to get posses- 
sion of Leghorn, while the coast was invested by Venetian 
and Genoese ships. And if Leghorn should fall into the 
hands of the enemy, woe to Florence! For if that one 
outlet toward the sea were closed, hedged in as she was on 
the land by the bitter ill-will of the Pope and the jealousy 
of smaller States, how could succors reach her? 

The government of Florence had shown a great heart in 
this urgent need, meeting losses and defeats with vigorous 
effort, raising fresh money, raising fresh soldiers, but not 
neglecting the good old method of Italian defense — concil- 
iatory embassies. And while the scarcity of food was 
every day becoming greater, they had resolved, in opposi- 
tion to old precedent, not to shut out the starving country 
people, and the mendicants driven from the gates of other 
cities, who came flocking to Florence like birds from a 
land of snow. 

These acts of a government in which the disciples of 
Savonarola made the strongest element were not allowed 
to pass without criticism. The disaffected were plentiful, 
and they saw clearly that the government took the worst 
course for the public welfare. Florence ought to join the 
League and make common cause with the other great 
Italian States, instead of drawing down their hostility by 
a futile adherence to a foreign ally. Florence ought to 
take care of her own citizens, instead of opening her gafes 
to famine and pestilence in the shape of starving contadini 
and alien mendicants. 

Every day the distress became sharper: every day the 
murmurs became louder. And, to crown the difficulties 
of the government, for a month and more — in obedience 
to a mandate from Rome — Era Girolamo had ceased to 
preach. But on the arrival of the terrible news that the 
ships from Marseilles had been driven back, and that no 
corn was coming, the need for the voice that could infuse 
faith and patience into the people became too imperative 
to be resisted. In defiance of the Papal mandate the 
Signoria requested Savonarola to preach. And two days 
ago he had mounted again the pulpit of the Duomo, and 
had told the people only to wait and be steadfast and the 
divine help would certainly come. 

It was a bold sermon: he consented to have his frock 
stripped off him if, when Florence persevered in fulfilling 




350 ROMOLA. 

the duties of piety and citizeusliip, God did not come to 
her rescue. « 

Yet at present, on this morning of the thirtieth, there 
were no signs of rescue. Perhaps if the precious Taber- 
nacle of the Madonna dell Impruneta were brought into 
Florence and carried in devout procession to the Duomo, 
that Mother, rich in sorrows and therefore in mercy, ■ 
would plead for the suffering city? For a century and a 
half there were records how the Florentines, suffering ' 
from drought, or flood, or famine, or pestilence, or the 
threat of wars, had fetched the potent image within their 
walls, and had found deliverance. And grateful honor 
had been done to her and her ancient church of L'lmpru- 
neta; the high house of Buondelmonti, patrons of the 
church, had to guard her hidden image with bare sword; i 
wealth had been jioured out for prayers at her shrine, for 
chantings, and chapels, and ever-burning lights; and 
lands had been added, till there was much quarreling for 
the privilege of serving her. The Florentines were deeply 
convinced of her graciousness to them, so that the sight 
of her tabernacle within their walls was like the parting 
of the cloud, and the proverb ran, that the Florentines 
had a Madonna who would do what they pleased. 

When were they in more need of her pleading pity than 
now ? And already, the evening before, the tabernacle 
containing the miraculous hidden image had been brought 
with high and reverend escort from LTmpruneta, the 
privileged spot six miles beyond the gate of San Piero 
that looks toward Rome, and had been deposited in the ; 
church of San Gaggio, outside the gate, whence it was to ., 
be fetched in solemn procession by all the fraternities, i 
trades, and authorities of Florence. 

But the Pitying Mother had not yet entered within the 
walls, and the morning arose on unchanged misery and 
despondency. Pestilence was hovering in the track of 
famine. Not only the hospitals were full, but the court- 
yards of private houses had been turned into refuges and 
infirmaries ; and still there was unsheltered want. And 
early this morning, as usual, members of the various frater- 
nities who made it part of their duty to bury the unfriended 
dead, were bearing away the corpses that had sunk by the 
wayside. As usual, sweet womanly forms, with the refined 
air and carriage of the well-born, but in the plainest garb, 
were moving about the streets on their daily errands of 
tending the sick and relieving the hungry. 



/ 



ROMOLA IN HER PLACE. 361 



|)ne of these forms was easily distinguishable as Romola 
Bardi. Clad in the simplest garment of black serge, 
with a plain piece of black drapery drawn over her head, 
so as to hide all her hair, ex:cept the bands of gold that 
rippled apart on her brow, she was advancing from the 
Ponte Vecchio toward the Por' Santa Maria — the street 
in a direct line with the bridge — when she found her 
way obstructed by the pausing of a bier, which was being 
carried by members of the company of San Jacopo del 
Popolo, in search for the unburied dead. The brethren 
at the head of the bier were stooping to examine some- 
thing, while a group of idle workmen, with features paled 
and sharpened by hunger, were clustering around and all 
talking at once. 

*^He^sdead, I tell you! Messer Domeneddio has loved 
him well enough to take him.'' 

^*Ah, and it would be well for us all if we could have 
our legs stretched out and go with our heads two or three 
hracci foremost! It's ill standing upright with hunger to 
prop you." 

"Well, well, he's an old fellow. Death has got a poor 
bargain. Life's had the best of him." 

"And no Florentine, ten to one! A beggar turned out 
of Siena. San Giovanni defend us! They've no need of 
soldiers to fight us. They send us an army of starving 
men. " 

"No, no! This man is one of the prisoners turned out 
of the Stinche. I know by the gray patch where the 
prison badge was.' 

"Keep quiet! Lend a hand! Don't you see the brethren 
are going to lift him on the bier?" 

" It's likely he's alive enough if he could only look it. 
The soul may be inside him if it had only a drop of ver- 
naccia to warm it." 

*^In truth, I think he is not dead," said one of the 
brethren, when they had lifted him on the bier. " He has 
perhaps Only sunk down for want of food." 

"Let me try to give him some wine," said Romola, 
coming forward. She loosened the small flask which she 
carried at her belt, and, leaning toward the prostrate body, 
with a deft hand she applied a small ivory implement 
between the teeth, and poured into the mouth a few drops 
of wine. The stimulus acted: the wine was evidently 
swallowed. She poured more, till the head was moved a 
little toward her, and the eyes of the old man opened full 



35i2 ROMOLA. 

upon lier with the vague look of returning consciousness. 
Then for the first time a sense of complete recognition 
came over Romola. Those wild dark e3^es opening in the 
sallow deep-lined face, with the white beard, which was 
now long again, were like an unmistakable signature to a 
remembered handwriting. The light of tw^o summers had 
not made that image any fainter in Romola's memory: 
the image of the escaped prisoner, whom she had seen in 
the Duomo the day when Tito first w^ore the armor — at 
whose grasp Tito had paled with terror in the strange 
sketch she had seen in Piero's studio. A wretched tremor 
and palpitation seized her. Now at last, perhaps, she was 
going to know some secret w^hich might be more bitter than 
all that had gone before. She felt an impulse to dart away 
as from a sight of horror; and again, a more imperious 
need to keep close by the side of this old man whom, the 
divination of keen feeling told her, her husband had 
injured. In the very instant of this conflict she still 
leaned tow^ard him and kept her right hand ready to 
administer more wine, while her left was passed under his 
neck. Her hands trembled, but their habit of soothing 
helpfulness w^ould have served to guide them without the 
direction of her thought. 

Baldassarre was looking at her for the first time. The 
close seclusion in which Romola's trouble had kept her in 
the weeks preceding her flight and his arrest, had denied 
him the opportunity he had sought of seeing the Wife who 
lived in the Via de 6ardi: and at this moment the descrip- 
tions he had heard of the fair golden-haired woman were 
all gone, like j^esterday's waves. 

" Will it not be well to carry him to the steps of San 
Stefano?" said Romola. ^' We shall cease then to stop up 
the street, aud you can go on your way with your bier." 

They had only to move onward for about thirty yards 
before reaching the steps of San Stefano, and by this time 
Baldassarre was able himself to make some efforts toward 
getting off the bier, and propping himself on the steps 
against the church doorway. The charitable brethren 
passed on, but the group of interested spectators, who had 
nothing to do and much to say, had considerably increased. 
The feeling toward the old man was not so entirely friendl\ 
now it was quite certain that he was alive, but the respect 
inspired by Romola's presence caused the passing remarks 
to be made in a rather more subdued tone than before. 

'' Ah, they gave him his morsel every day in the Stinche — 



I 



ROMOLA IN HER PLACE. 353 



that^s why he can't do so well without it. You and I, 
Oecco, know better what is to go to bed fasting."^ 

^' Gnaffe! that's why the Magnificent Eight have turned 
out some of the prisoners, that they may shelter honest 
people instead. But if every thief is to be brought to 
life with good wine and wheaten bread, we Ciompi had 
better go and fill ourselves in Arno while the water^s plenty. '' 

Romola had seated herself on the steps by Baldassarre, 
and was saying, ^' Can you eat a little bread now? perhaps 
by-and-by you will be able, if I leave it with you. I must 
go on, because I have promised to be at the hospital. But 
I will come back if you will wait here, and then I will take 
you to some shelter. Do you understand? Will you wait? 
I will come back.'^ 

He looked dreamily at her, and repeated her words, 
''come back." It was no wonder that his mind was enfee- 
bled by his bodily exhaustion, but she hoped that he- 
apprehended her meaning. She opened her basket, which 
was filled with pieces of soft bread, and put one of the 
pieces into his hand. 

^'Do you keep your bread for those that can't swallow, 
madonna? " said a rough-looking fellow, in a red night-cap, 
who had elbowed his way into the inmost circle of specta- 
tors — a circle that was pressing rather closely on Romola. 

''If anybody isn't hungry," said another, "I say, let 
him alone. He's better off than people whoVe got craving 
stomachs and no breakfast." 

"Yes, indeed; if a man's a mind to die, it's a time to 
encourage him, instead of making him come back to life 
against his will. Dead men want no trencher.'^ 

"Oh, you don't understand the Frate's charity," said a 
young man in an excellent cloth tunic, whose face showed 
no signs of want. "The Frate has been preaching to the 
birds, like Saint Anthony, and he's been telling the hawks 
they were made to feed the sparrows, as every good Floren- 
tine citizen was made to feed six starving beggarmen from 
Arezzo or Bologna. Madonna, there, is a pious Piagnone: 
she's not going to throw away her good bread on honest 
citizens who've got all the Frate's prophecies to swallow." 

"Come, madonna," said he of the red cap, "the old 
thief doesn't eat the bread, you see: you'd better try us. 
We fast so much, we^re half saints already." 

The circle had narrowed till the coarse men — most of 
them gaunt from privation — had left hardly any margin 
round Romola. She had been taking from her basket a 
23 



354 ROMOLA. 

small liorn cup, into which she put the piece of bread and 
just moistened it with wine; and hitherto she had not 
appeared to heed them. But now she rose to her feet, and 
looked round at them. Instinctively the men who were 
nearest to her pushed backward a little, as if their rude 
nearness were the fault of those behind. Komola held out 
the basket of bread to the man in the night-cap, looking 
at him without any reproach in her glance, as she said — 

^^ Hunger is hard to bear, T know, and you have the 
power to take this bread if you will. It was saved for sick 
women and children. You are strong men; but if you do 
not choose to suffer because you are strong, you have the 
power to take everything from the weak. You can take 
the bread from this basket; but I shall watch by this old 
man; I shall resist your taking the bread from him." 

For a few moments there was perfect silence, while 
Romola looked at the faces before her, and held out the 
basket of bread. Her own pale face had the slightly 
pinched look and the deepening of the eye-socket which 
indicate unusual fasting in the habitually temperate, and 
the large direct gaze of her hazel eyes was all the more 
impressive. 

The man in the night-cap looked rather silly, and 
backed, thrusting his elbow into his neighbor's ribs with 
an air of moral rebuke. The backing was general, ever 
one wishing to imply that he had been pushed forwaiu 
against his will; and the young man in the fine cloth tuni<" 
had disappeared. 

But at this moment the armed servitors of the Signoria, 
who had begun to patrol the line of streets through whichi 
the procession was to pass, came up to disperse the group 
which was obstructing the narrow street. The man 
addressed as Cecco retreated from a threatening mace up 
the church steps, and said to Eomola, in a respectful 
tone — 

'* Madonna, if you want to go on your errands, I'll take 
care of the old man.'' 

Cecco was a wild-looking figure: a very ragged tunic, 
made shaggy and variegated by cloth-dust and clinging 
fragments of wool, gave relief to a pair of bare bony arms 
and a long sinewy neck; his square jaw shaded by a bristly 
black beard, his bridgeless nose and low forehead, made his 
face look as if it had been crushed down for purposes of 
packing, and a narrow piece of red rag tied over his ears 



I 



THE UNSEEJ^ MADONN'A. 355 



seemed to assist in the compression. Romola looked at 
him with some hesitation. 

^' Don^t distrust me, madonna," said Cecco, who under- 
stood her look perfectly. " I am not so pretty as you, but 
Fve got an old mother who eats my porridge for me. 
What! there's a heart inside me, and I've bought a candle 
for the most Holy Virgin before now. Besides, see there, 
the old fellow is eating his sop. He's hale enough: he'll 
be on his legs as well as the best of us, by-and-by.'^ 

'' Thank you for oifering to take care of him, friend,*' 
said Romola, rather penitent for her doubting glance. 
Then leaning to Baldassarre, she said, ^*^Pray wait for me 
till I come again." 

He assented with a slight movement of the head and 
hand, and Romola went on her way toward the hospital 
of San Matteo, in the Piazza di San Marco. 



CHAPTER XLIII. O^ ^^^^ 



^y^ 



THE UNSEEN" MADOi^IfA. 



^^^^ 



tx returning from the hospital, more than an hour later, 
Romola took a different road, making a wider circuit 
toward the river, which she reached at some distance from 
the Ponte Vecchio. She turned her steps toward that 
bridge, intending to hasten to San Stefano in search of 
Baldassarre. She dreaded to know more about him, yet 
she felt as if, in forsaking him, she would be forsaking 
some near claim upon her. 

But when she approached the meeting of the roads 
where the Por Santa Maria would be on her right hand 
and the Ponte Vecchio on her left, she found herself 
involved in a crowd who suddenly fell on their knees; and 
she immediately knelt with them. The Cross was pass- 
ing — the Great Cross of the Duomo — which lieaded the 
procession. Romola was later than she had expected to 
be, and now she must wait till the procession had passed. 
As she rose from her knees, when the Cross had disap- 
pered, the return to a standing posture, with nothing to 
do but gaze, made her more conscious of her fatigue than 
she had been while she had been walking and occupied. 
A shopkeeper by her side SLiiil, — 



356 ROMOLA. 

*' Madonna Romola, you will be weary of standing: 
Gian Fantoni will be glad to give you a seat in his house. 
Here is his door close at hand. Let me open it for you. 
What! he loves God and the Frate as we do. His house is 
yours. ^'' 

Romola was accustomed now to be addressed in this 
fraternal way by ordinary citizens, whose faces w^ere familiar 
to her from her having seen them constantly in the Duomo. 
The idea of home had come to be identified for her less 
with the house in the Via de Bardi, where she sat in 
frequent loneliness, than with the towered circuit of 
Florence, where there was hardly a turn of the streets at 
which she was not greeted with looks of appeal or of 
friendliness. She was glad enough to pass through the 
open door on her right hand and be led by the fraternal 
hose-vender to an upstairs-window, where a stout woman 
with three children, all in the plain garb of Piagnoni, made 
a place for her with much reverence above the bright 
hanging draperies. From this corner station she could see, 
not only the procession pouring in solemn slowness between 
the lines of houses on the Ponte Vecchio, but also the 
river and the Lung Arno on toward the bridge of the Santa 
Trinita. 

In sadness and in stillness came the slow procession. 
Not even a wailing chant broke the silent appeal for 
mercy: there was only the tramp of footsteps, and the 
faint sweep of w^oolen garments. They were young foot- 
steps that were passing when Romola first looked from the 
window — a long train of the Florentine youth, bearing 
high in the midst of them the white image of the youthful 
Jesus, with a golden glory above his head, standing by the 
tall cross where the thorns and nails lay ready. 

After that train of fresh beardless faces came the mys- 
terious-looking Companies of Discipline, bound by secret 
rules to self-chastisement, and devout praise, and special 
acts of piety; all wearing a garb which concealed the whole 
head and face except the eyes. Every one knew that these 
mysterious forms were Florentine citizens of various rank, 
who might be seen at ordinary times going about the busi- 
ness of the shop, the counting-house, or the State; but no 
member now was discernible as son, husband, or father. 
They had dropped their personality, and walked _as sym- 
bols of a common vow. Each company had its color and 
its badge, but the garb of all was a complete shroud, and 
left no expression but that of fellowship. 



I 



THE UNSEEK MADONNA. 357 



In comparison with them, the multitude of monks 
seemed to be strongly distinguished individuals, in spite of 
the common tonsure and the common frock. First came a 
white stream of reformed Benedictines; and then a much 
longer stream of the Frati Minori. or Franciscans, in that ag e 
all cl ad in gr a y, with the knotted cord round thftir w^ists ^^:^^ 
ting ^'some of them with the^ zonno74, or wooden sandals, c^ 
below their bare feet ; — perhaps the most numero us order 
in Florence, owning many zealous Inembers who lovM 
mankirid and hated the Dominicans. And after the gray 
came the black of the Augustinians of San Spirito, with 
more cultured human faces above it — men who had inher- 
ited the library of Boccaccio, and had made the most 
learned company in Florence when learning was rarer; 
then the white over dark of the Carmelites; and then 
again the unmixed black of the Servites, that famous 
Florentine order founded by seven merchants who forsook 
their gains to adore the Divine Mother. ' 

And now the hearts of all on-lookers^ began to beat a TV 
little fasjer, either witb bal^dr;iZJirIiIi "In.va^,fa^^ was nF* 

j^fifrppjjri r>f h\a.ak anrl \yh\i(^ pnmi'ng oVCr tlie bridge — of 

black mantles over white scapularies; and every one knew 
that the Dominicans were coming. Those of Fiesole 
passed first. One black mantle parted by white after 
another, one tonsured head after another, and still expec- 
tation was suspended. They were very coarse mantles, all 
of them, and many were thr eadbar cj iLimt r aggedy for_ the 
Priorof_San_Marcohadj:ei^ 

nlTe Jo ^TTft^striH^st poverty qpd disp.iplinp. But in the 
long line of black and white t jiere was at last singled out a f^fcT" 
maiitle oiily„ ,a little more woim ^ ihiui,--tJifi-^.X£^°^iffi a ^ 
tonsured head above it which might not have appeared 
supremely remarkable to a stranger who had not seen it on 
bronze medals, with the sword of God as its obverse; or 
surrounded by an armed guard on the way to the Duomo; 
or transfigured by the inward flame of the orator as it 
looked round on a rapt multitude. 

As the approach of Savonarola was discerned, none 
dared conspicuously to break the stillness by a sound which 
would rise above the solemn tramp of footsteps and the 
faint sweep of garments, nevertheless his ear, as well as 
other ears, caught a mingled sound of slow hissing that 
longed to be curses, and murmurs that longed to be bless- 
ings. Perhaps it was the sense that the hissing predomi- 
nated which made two or three of his disciples in the fore- 



358 ROMOLA. 

ground of tlie crowd, at the meeting of the roads, fall on 
their knees as if something divine were passing. The 
movement of silent homage spread: it went along th( 
sides of the streets like a subtle shock, leaving some 
unmoved, while it made the most bend the knee a nd bo w 
■^fv tJl^-lifiad. But the hatred, too, gathered a more intense 
^' expression; and as Savonarola passed up the Por' Santa 
Maria, Romola could see that some one at an upper win- 
dow spat upon him. 

Monks again — Frati Umiliati, or Humbled Brethren, 
from Ognissanti, with a glorious tradition of being tlie 
(earliest workers in the wool-trade; and again more monks — 
Yallombrosan and other varieties of Benedictines, remind- 
ing the instructed eye by niceties of form and color that 
in ages of abuse, long ago, reformers had arisen who had 
marked a change of spirit by a change of garb; till at last 
the shaven crowns were at an end, and there came the 
train of untonsured secular priests. 

Then followed the twenty-one incorporated Arts of Flor- 
ence in long array, with their banners floating above them 
in proud declaration that the bearers had their distinct 
functions, from the bakers of bread to the judges and 
notaries. And then all the secondary officers of State, 
beginning with the less and going on to the greater, till 
the line of secularities was broken by the Canons of the 
Duomo, carrying a sacred relic — the very head, enclosed 
in silver, of San Zenobio, immortal bishop of Florence, 
whose virtues were held to have saved the city perhaps a 
thousand years before. 

Here was the nucleus of the procession. Behind the 
relic came the archbishop in gorgeous cope, with canopy 
held above him; and after him the mysterious hidden 
image— hidden first by rich curtains of brocade enclosing 
an outer painted tabernacle, but within this, by the more 
ancient tabernacle which had never been opened in the 
memory of living men, or the fathers of living men. In 
that inner shrine was the image of the Pitying Mother, 
found ages ago in the soil of L'Impruncta, uttering a cry 
as the spade struck it. Hitherto the unseen image had 
hardly ever been carried to the Duomo witliout having rich 
gift^ borne before it. There was no reciting the list of 
precious offerings made by emulous men and communities, 
especially of veils and curtains and mantles. But the 
richest of all these, it was said, had been given by a poor 
abbess and her nuns, who, having no money to buy mate- 



I 



THE UXSEEN MADONNA. 359 



rials, wove a mantle of gold orocade with their prayers, 
embroidered it and adorned it with their prayers, and, 
finally, saw their work presented to the Blessed Virgin in 
the great Piazza by two beautiful youths who spread out 
white wings and vanished in the blue. 

But to-day there were no gifts carried before the taber- 
nacle: no donations were to be given to-day except to the 
poor. That had been the advice of Fra Gfirolamo, whose r^ jr 
preaching never insisted on gifts to the invisible poAvers, .^V^ 
but only on help to visible need; and altars had been raised ^ 
at various points in front of the churches, on which the 
oblations for the poor were deposited. Not even a torch 
was carried. Surely the hidden Mother cared less for 
torches and brocade than for the wail of the hungry people. 
Florence was in extremity: she had done her utmost, and 
could only wait for something divine that was not in her 
own power. 

The Frate in the torn mantle had said that help would 
certainly come, and many of the faint-hearted were cling- 
ing more to their faith in the Frate's word, than to their 
faith in the virtues of the unseen Image. But there were 
not a few of the fierce-hearted who thought with secret 
rejoicing that the Frate's word might be proved false. 

Slowly the tabernacle moved forward, and knees were 
bent. There was a profound stillness; for the train of 
priests and chaplains from LTmpruneta stirred no passion 
in the on-lookers. The procession was about to close with 
the Priors and the Gonfaloniere: the long train of com- 
panies and symbols, which have their silent music and stir 
the mind as a chorus stirs it, was passing out of sight, and 
now a faint yearning hope was all that struggled with the 
accustomed despondency. 

Romola, whose heart had been swelling, half with fore- 
boding, half with that enthusiasm of fellowship which the 
life of the last two years had made as habitual to her as 
the consciousness of costume to a vain and idle woman, 
gave a deep sigh, as at the end of some long mental 
tension, and remained on her knees for very languor; 
when suddenly there flashed from between the houses on 
to the distant bridge something bright-colored. In the 
instant, Romola started up and stretched out her arms, 
leaning from the window, while the black drapery fell 
from her head, and the golden gleam of her hair and the 
flush in her face seemed the effect of one illumination. A 
shout arose in the same instant; the last troops of the pro- 



360 ROMOLA. 

cession paused, and all faces were turned toward the 
distant bridge. 

But the bridge was passed now: the horseman was press- 
ing at full gallop along by the Arno; the sides of his bay 
horse, Just streaked with foam, looked all white from 
swiftness; his cap was flying loose by his red becchetto, 
and he waved an olive branch in his hand. It was a 
messenger — a messenger of good tidings I The blessedx 
olive branch spoke afar off. But the impatient people 
could not wait. They rushed to meet the on-comer, and 
siezed his horse^s rein, pushing and trampling. 

And now Romola could see that the horseman was her 
husband, who had been sent to Pisa, a few days before on 
a private embassy. The recognition brought no new flash 
of Joy into her eyes. She had checked her first impulsive 
attitude of expectation; but her governing anxiety was still 
to know what news of relief had come for Florence. 

'^Good news I" "^Best news!'' "Xews to be paid with 
hose {novelle da calze)\" were the vague answers with 
which Tito met the importunities of the crowd, until he 
had succeeded in pushing on his horse to the spot at the 
meeting of the ways where the Gonfaloniere and the 
Priors were awaiting him. There he paused, and, bowing 
low, said — 

*^ Magnificent Signori! I have to deliver to you the 
Joyful news that the galleys from France, laden with corn 
and men, have arrived safely in the port of Leghorn, by 
favor of a strong wind, which kept the enemy's fleet at a 
distance." 

The words had no sooner left Tito's lips than they 
seemed to vibrate up the streets. A great shout rang 
through the air, and rushed along the river; and then 
another, and another; and the shouts were heard spreading 
along the line of procession toward the Duomo; and then 
there were fainter answering shouts, like the intermediate 
plash of distant waves in a great lake whose waters obey 
one impulse. 

For some minutes there was no attempt to speak 
further: the Signori a themselves lifted up their caps, and 
stood bareheaded in the presence of a rescue which had 
come from outside the limit of their power — from that 
region of trust and resignation which has been in all ages 
called divine. 

At last, as the signal was given to move forward, Tito 
said, with a smile — 



I 



THE VISIBLE MADONNA. 361 



I ought to say, that any hose to be bestowed by the 

Magnificent Signoria in reward of these tidings are due, 
not to me, but to another man who had ridden hard to 
bring them, and would have been here in my place if his 
horse had not broken down just before he reached Signa. 
Meo di Sasso will doubtless be here in an hour or two, and 
may all the more justly claim the glory of the messenger, 
because he has had the chief labor and has lost the chief 
delight/' 

It was a graceful way of putting a necessary statement, 
and after a'word of reply from the PropostOy or spokesnian 
of the Signoria, this dignified extremity of the procession 
passed on, and Tito turned his horse's head to follow in 
its train, while the great bell of the Palazzo Vecchio was 
already beginning to swing, and give a louder voice to the 
people's joy. 

In that moment, when Tito's attention had ceased to be 
imperatively directed, it might have been expected that 
he would look round and recognize Romola; but he was 
apparently engaged with his cap, which, now the eager 
people were leading his horse, he was able to seize and 
place on his head, while his right hand was still encum- 
bered by the olive branch. He had a becoming air of 
lassitude after his exertions; and Romola, instead of 
making any effort to be recognized by him, threw her 
black drapery over her head again, and remained perfectly 
. quiet. Yet she felt almost sure that Tito had seen her; 
he had the power of seeing everything without seeming to 
see it. 



"T 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

THE VISIBLE MADONNA. 



HE crowd had no sooner passed onward than Romola 
descended to the street, and hastened to the steps of San 
Stefano. Cecco had been attracted with the rest toward 
the Piazza, and she found Baldassare standing alone against 
the church door, with the horn-cup in his hand, waiting 
for her. There was a striking change in him: the blank, 
dreamy glance of a half -returned consciousness had given 
place to a fierceness which, as she advanced and spoke to 



362 noMOLA. 

him, flashed upon her as if she had been its object. It wn 
the glance of caged fury that sees its prey passing sal. 
beyond the bars. 

Komola started as the glance was turned on her, but her 
immediate thought was that he had seen Tito. And as sin 
felt the look of hatred grating on her, something like ;i 
hope arose that this man might be the criminal, and that 
her husband might not have been guilty toward him. 1 
she could learn that now, by bringing Tito face to fa( 
with him, and have her mind set at rest! 

^^If you will come with me," she said, '^ I can give yon 
shelter and food until you are quite rested and stroiiL 
Will you come? 

"Yes,'' said Baldassarre, **I shall be glad to get iii 
strength. I want to get my strength," he repeated, as ii 
he were muttering to himself, rather than speaking to her, 

"Come!" she said, inviting him to walk by her side. 
and taking the way by the Arno toward the Ponte Ruba- 
conte as the more private road. 

"I think you are not a Florentine," she said, presently, 
as they turned on to the bridge. 

He looked round at her without speaking. His suspi- 
cious caution was more strongly upon him than usual, just 
now that the fog of confusion and oblivion was made 
denser by bodily feebleness. But she was looking at him 
too, and there was something in her gentle eyes which at 
last compelled him to answer her. But he answered 
cautiously — 

"No, I am no Florentine; I am a lonely man." 

She observed his reluctance to speak to her, and dared 
not question him further, lest he should desire to quit her. 
As she glanced at him from time to time, her mind wa 
busy with thoughts which quenched the faint hope tlia 
there was nothing painful to l3e revealed about her husband. 
If this old man had been in the wrong, where was the 
cause for dread and secrecy? 

They walked on in silence till they reached the entran( - 
into the Via de Bardi, and Romola noticed that he turned 
and looked at her with a sudden movement as if some 
shock had passed through him. A few moments after, 
she paused at the half-open door of the court and turned 
toward him. 

"Ah!" he said, not waiting for her to speak, "you are 
his wife." 

" Whose wife?" said Romola. 



I i:he visible madokka. 363 

y 

It would have been impossible for Baldassarre to recall 
any name at that moment. The very force with which 
the ima^e of Tito pressed upon him seemed to expel any 
verbal sign. He made no answer, but looked at her with 
strange fixedness. 

She opened the door wide and showed the court covered 
with straw, on which lay four or five sick people, while 
some little children crawled or sat on it at their ease — tiny 
pale creatures, biting straws and gargling. 

'^If you will come in,'' said Komola, tremulously, '^I 
will find you a comfortable place, and bring you some 
more food.'' 

''No, I will not come in," said Baldassarre. But he 

stood still, arrested by the burden of impressions under 

[ iwhich his mind was too confused to choose a course. 

[! "Can I do nothing for you?" said Romola. "Let me 

I jgive you some money that you may buy food. It will be 

more plentiful soon." 

She had put her hand into her scarsella as she spoke, 
and held out her palm with several gros^si in it. She pur- 
posely offered him more than she would have given to any 
other man in the same circumstances. He looked at the 
coins a little while, and then said — 

"Yes, I will take them." 

She poured the coins into his palm, and he grasped them 
tightly. 

"Tell me," said Romola, almost beseechingly. "What 

! shall you " 

I But Baldassarre had turned away from her, and was 
Iwalking again toward the bridge. Passing from it straight 
on up the Via del Fosso, he came upon the shop of Niccolo 
Caparra, and turned toward it without a pause, as if it had 
been the very object of his search. Niccolo was at that 
moment in procession with the armorers of Florence, and 
there was only one apprentice in the shop. But there 
were all sorts of weapons in abundance hanging there, and 
Baldassarre's eyes discerned what he was more hungry for 
than for bread. Niccolo himself would probably have 
refused to sell anything that might serve as a weapon to 
this man with signs of the prison on him; but the appren- 
tice, less observant and scrupulous, took three grossi 
for a sharp hunting-knife without any hesitation. It was 
a conveniently small weapon, which Baldassarre could 
easily thrust w^ithin the breast of his tunic, and he walked 
on, feeling stronger. That sharp edge might give deadli- 



364 ROMOLA. 

ness to the thrust of an aged arm: at least it was a com . 
panion, it was a power in league with him, even if it failed . 
It would break against armor, but was the armor sure t( { 
be always there? In those long months while vengeanc< 
had lain in prison, baseness had perhaps become forgetfn 
and secure. The knife had been bought with the traitor' 
own money. That was just. Before he took the money 
he had felt what he should do with it — buy a weapon { 
Yes, and, if possible, food too; food to nourish the am 
that would grasp the weapon, food to nourish the bod} 
which was the temple of vengeance. When he had hac 
enough bread, he should be able to think and act — tc 
think first how he could hide himself, lest Tito should 
have him dragged away again. 

With that idea of hiding in his mind, Baldassarre 
turned up the narrowest streets, bought himself some 
meat and bread, and sat down under the first loggia to 
eat. The bells that swung out louder and louder peals 
of joy, laying hold of him and making liim vibrate along 
with all the air, seemed to him simply part of that strong 
world which was against him. i 

Romola had watched Baldassarre until he had disap- : 
peared round the turning into the Piazza de Mozzi, lialf 
feeling tliat his departure was a relief, half reproacliing 
herself for not seeking with more decision to know the 
truth about him, for not assuring herself whetlier there 
were any guiltless misery in his lot which she was not , 
helpless to relieve. Yet what could she have done if the 
truth had proved to be the burden of some painful secret i 
about her husband, in addition to the anxieties that already 
weighed upon her? Surely a wife was permitted to desire 
ignorance of a liusband's wrong-doing, since she alone 
must not protest and warn men against him. But that 
thought stirred too many intricate fibres of feeling to be 
pursued now in her weariness. It was a time to rejoice, 
since help had come to Florence; and she turned into the 
court to tell the good news to her patients on their straw 
beds. 

She closed the door after her, lest the bells should drown 
her voice, and then throwing the black drapery from her 
head, that the women miglit see her better, she stood in 
the midst and told them that corn was coming, and that 
the bells were ringing for gladness at the news. They all 
sat up to listen, while the children trotted or crawled 
toward her, and pulled her black skirts, as if they were 



I 



THE VISIBLE MADOKNA. 365 



impatient at being all that long way off her face. She 
yielded to them, weary as she was, and sat down on the 
straw, while the little pale things peeped into her basket 
and pulled her hair doAvn, and the feeble voices around 
her said, " The Holy Virgin be praised!" '^^It was the pro- 
cession! '^ *^The Mother of God has had pity on us!"' 

At last Romola rose from the heap of straw, too tired to 
try and smile any longer, saying as she turned up the 
stone steps — 

*^I will come by-and-by, to bring you your dinner." 

'^ Bless you, madonna! bless you!" said the faint chorus, 
in much the same tone as that in which they had a few 
minutes before praised and thanked the unseen Madonna. 

Eomola cared a great deal for that music. She had no 
innate taste for tending the sick and clothing the ragged, 
like some women to whom the details of such work are wel- 
come in themselves, simply as an occupation. Her early 
training had kept her aloof from such womanly labors; and 
if she had not brought to them the inspiration of her deepest 
feelings, they would have been irksome to her. But they 
had come to be the one unshaken resting-place of her mind, 
the one narrow pathway on which the light fell clear. If 
the gulf between herself and Tito which only gathered a 
more perceptible wideness from her attempts to bridge it 
by submission, brought a doubt whether, after all, the 
bond to which she had labored to be true might not itself 
be false — if she came away from her confessor, Fra Salves- 
tro, or from some contact with the disciples of Savonarola 
amongst whom she worshipped, with a sickening sense that 
these people were miserably narrow, and with an almost 
impetuous reaction toward her old contempt for their 
superstition — she found herself recovering a firm footing 
in her works of womanly sympathy. Whatever else made 
her doubt, the help she gave to her fellow-citizens made 
her sure that Fra Girolamo had been right to call her back. 
According to his unforgotten words, her place had not been 
empty: it had been filled with her love and her labor. 
Florence had had need of her, and the more her own sor- 
row pressed upon her, the more gladness she felt in the 
memories, stretching through the two long years, of hours 
and moments in which she had lightened the burden of 
life to others. All that ardor of her nature which could 
no longer spend itself in the woman's tenderness for father 
and husband, had transformed itself into an enthusiasm of 
sympathy with the general life. She had ceased to think 



366 ROMOLA. 

that her own lot could be happy — had ceased to think of 
happiness at all: the one end of her life seemed to her to * 
be the diminishing of sorrow. 

Her enthusiasm was continually stirred to fresh vigor 
) by the influence of Savonarola. In spite of the weari- 
some visions and allegories from which she recoiled in 
disgust when they came as stale repetitions from other 
lips than his, her strong afl[inity for his passionate symim- \ 
thy and the splendor of his aims had lost none of its power. 
His burning indignation against the abuses and oppres- 
sion that made the daily story of the Church and of 
States had kindled the ready fire in her too. His special 
care for liberty and purity of government in Florence, 
with his constant reference of this immediate object to 
the wider end of a universal regeneration, had created in 
her a new consciousness of the great drama of human 
existence in which her life was a part; and through her 
daily helpful contact with the less fortunate of her fellow- 
\ citizens this new consciousness became something stronger 
\ than a vague sentiment; it grew into a more and more 
definite motive of self-denymg practice. She thought 
little about dogmas, and shrank from reflecting closely on 
the Frate's prophecies of the immediate scourge and closely- 
following regeneration. She had submitted her mind to 
his and had entered into communion with the Church, 
because in this way she had found an immediate satisfaction 
for moral needs which all the previous culture and experi- 
ence of her life had left hungering. Fra Girolamo's voice 
had waked in her mind a reason for living, apart from 
personal enjoyment and personal affection; but it was a 
reason that seemed to need feeding with greater forces 
than she possessed within herself, and lier submissive use 
of all offices of the Church was simply a watching and 
waiting if by any means fresh strength might come. The 
pressing problem for Eomola just then was not to settle 
questions of controversy, but to keep alive that flame of 
unselfish emotion by which a life of sadness might still be 
a life of active love. 

Her trust in Savonarola^s nature as greater than her own 
made a large part of the strength she had found. And 
the trust was not to be lightly shaken. It is not force of 
intellect which causes ready repulsion from the aberration 
and eccentricities of greatuess, any more than it is force of 
vision that causes the eye to explore the warts on a face 
bright with human expression; it is simply the negation of 



AT THE barber's SHOP. 367 

high sensibilities. Roraola was so deeply moved by the 
grand energies of Savonarola's natnre that she found her- 
self listening patiently to all dogmas and prophecies, when 
they came in the vehicle of his ardent faith and believing 
utterance. * 

No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for 
whom it can feel trust and reverence. Eomola's trust in 
Savonarola was something like a rope suspended securely 
by her path, making her step elastic while she grasped it; 
if it were suddenly removed, no firmness of the ground she 
trod could save her from staggering, or perhaps from falling. 



CHAPTER XLV. ^-^^-k"^ 



AT THE BARBER SHOP. 

After that welcome appearance as the messenger with 
the olive-branch, which was an unpromised favor of fort- 
une, Tito had other commissions to fulfill of a more 
premeditated character. He paused at the Palazzo Vec- 
chio, and awaited there the return of the Ten, who man- 
aged external and war affairs, that he might duly deliver 
to them the results of his private mission to Pisa, intended 
as a preliminary to an avowed embassy of which Bernardo 
Rucellai was to be the head, with the object of coming, if 
possible, to a pacific understanding with the Emperor 
Maximilian and the League. 

Tito's talents for diplomatic work had been well ascer- 
tained, and as he gave with fullness and precision the 
results of his inquiries and interviews, Bernardo del Nero, 
who was at that time one of the Ten, could not withhold 
his admiration. He would have withheld it if he could; 
for his original dislike of Tito had returned, and become 
stronger, since the sale of the library. Romola had never 
uttered a word to her godfather on the circumstances of 
the sale, and Bernardo had understood her silence as a 
prohibition to him to enter on the subject, but he felt sure 

* He himself had had occasion enough to note the efficacy of that veh i- 
clc. "If," he says, in th-e Compendium Uevekitionum, "you speak of such :is 
have not heard these things from me, I admit that they who disbelieve a)-o 
more than they who believe, because it is one thing to hear him who inwardly 
feels these things, and another to hear him who feels them jiot •: * * * and 
therefore it is well said by St. Jeroine, ' Habet nescio quid latentis energiiie 
vivas vocis actus, et in aures discipuli de auctoris ore transfusa fortis 
- It.'" 



368 ROMOLA. 

that the breach of her father's wish had been a blighting 
grief to her, and the old man's observant eyes discerned 
other indications that her married life was not happy. 

**Ah," he said inwardly, *^that doubtless is the reason 
she has taken to listening to Fra Girolamo, and going 
amongst the Piagnoni, which I never expected from her. 
These women, if they are not hapjiy, and have no children, 
must either take to folly or to some overstrained religion 
that makes them think they've got all heaven's work on 
their shoulders. And as for my poor child Romola, it is 
as I always said — the cramming with Latin and Greek has 
left her as much a woman as if she had done nothing all 
day but jirick her fingers with the needle. And this hus- 
band of hers, who gets employed everywhere, because he's 
a tool with a smooth handle, I wish Tornabuoni and the 
rest may not find their fingers cut. Well, well, solco, torto, 
sacco dritio — many a full sack comes from a crooked fur- 
row; and he who will be captain of none but honest men 
will have small hire to pay." 

With this long-established conviction that there could 
be no moral sifting of political agents, the old Florentine 
abstained from all interference in Tito's disfavor. Apart 
from what must be kept sacred and jirivate for Romola's sake, 
Bernardo had nothing direct to allege against the useful 
Greek, except that he was a Greek, and that he, Bernardo, 
did not like him; fo r the do ubleness of feigning attachment 
to the governmenE, while at heart a MediceaU j. was com- 
mbli to rit o^witli more th an half the Medice an party^ He 
ontyTeignecl with more slrrit^VaTi t1i(5~l'cst: tiiat was all. 
So Bernardo was simply cold to Tito, who returned the 
coldness with a scrupulous, distant respect. And it was 
still the notion in Florence that the old tie between Ber- 
nardo and Bardo made any service done to Romola's hus- 
band an acceiDtable homage to her godfather. 

After delivering himself of his charge at the Old Palace, 
Tito felt that the avowed official work of the day was done, 
lie was tired and adust with long riding; but he did not 
go home. There were certain things in his scarsella and 
on his mind, from which he wished to free himself as soon 
as possible, but the opportunities must be found so skill- 
fully that they must not seem to be sought. He walked 
from the Palazzo in a sauntering fashion toward the Piazza 
del Duomo. The procession was at an end now, but the 
bells were still ringing, and the people were moving about 
the streets restlessly, longing for some more definite vent 



AT THE barber's SHOP. 369 

to their joy. If the Frate could have stood up in the 
great Piazza and preached to them, they might have been 
satisfied, but now, in spite of the new discipline whicli 
declared Christ to be the special King of the Florentines 
and required all pleasures to be of a Christian sort, there 
was a secret longing in many of the youngsters who shouted 
" Viva Gesul " for a little vigorous stone-throwing in sign 
of thankfulness. 

Tito, as he passed along, could not escape being recog- 
nized by some as the welcome bearer of the olive-branch, and 
could only rid himself of an incomvenient ovation, chiefly 
in the form of eager questions, by telling those who pressed 
on him that Meo di Sasso, the true messenger from Leg- 
horn, must now be entering, and might certainly be met 
toward the Porta San Frediano. He could tell much more 
than Tito knew. 

Freeing himself from importunities in this adroit man- 
ner, he made his way to the Piazza del Duomo, casting his 
long eyes round the space with an air of the utmost care- 
lessness, but really seeking to detect some presence which 
might furnish him with one of his desired opportunities. 
The fact of the procession having terminated at the Duomo 
made it probable that there would be more than the usual 
concentration of loungers and talkers in the Piazza and 
round Nello^s shop. It was as he expected. There was a 
group leaning against the rails near the" north gates of the 
Baptistery, so exactly Avhat he sought, that he looked more 
indifferent than ever, and seemed to recognize the tallest 
member of the gioup entirely by chance as he had half 
passed him, just turning his head to give him a slight 
greeting, while he tossed the end of his lecclietto over his left 
shoulder. 

Yet the tall, broad-shouldered personage greeted in that 
slight way looked like one who had considerable claims. -J^o^ 
He wore a riclily-em broider cd tunjc. witha ^Teat show of. yy 
Hneiiy after t he newest.j Lr.miab mode, aiid at his belt there i lv\0 
hunga sword and poniard of fine workmanship. His hat, 
with a red plume in it, seemed a scornful protest against the 
gravity of Florentine costume, which had been exagger - 
ated to the utmos t under the influence of the Piagnoni. 
Certain undefinable indications of youth made the breadth 
of his face and the large diameter of his waist appear the 
more emphatically a stamp of coarseness, and his eyes 
had that rude desecrating stare at all men and things 
4tk 



370 ROMOLA. 



I 



/v. 



which to a refined mind is as intolerable as a bad odor or 
flaring light. 

He and his companions, also young men dressed expen- 
sively and wearing arms, were exchanging jokes with that 
sort of ostentatious laughter which implies a desire to 
prove that the laughter is not mortified though some 
people might suspect it. There were good reasons for 
such a suspicion; for this broad-shouldered man with a 
red feather was l^o\ f Q_S^inij_leadex of the Compagnacci*jji- 
Evil Companions — tliat is to say, of all the dissolute young 
m.^^n Imlonging to the jj^d aristocriitic party^ p7ipr^{]>f^ jj 
the-Mediceans, enemies of the pojmlargoy^rn m erit, hut 
§±ili jnare bitter ejicmics of 8;ivnn aLroIa. Dolfo Spini, 
heir of the great house with the loggia, over the bridge of 
the Santa Trinita, had organized these young men into an 
armed band, as sworn champions of extj;ayiigaiit_&iippers 
J and all the pleasant sins of the flesh, against reforming 

x^ pietists who tlireatened to make the world chasterand 
\T temperate to so intolerable a degree that there would -sooji 
Ji \ he no reason forjiviiig^ except the extreme unpleasantness 
^ M' of the alternative. Up to this very morning lie had been 
' X loudly declaring that Florence was given. up-to-famiue-aJuL, 
\ Zyi^ entirely through its blind, adheri'iicc to the advice, of 
^ the Prate, and that there could be no salvation for,Flor- 
r ^ eno^'but in Joining the League and driving the Frjjte.ont 
5(1 ,of the city — sending him to Rome, in fact, whither he 
D JV" pughfc to have gone long ago in obedience to the summons 
^ pi the Pope. It was suspected, therefore, that Messer 
'x Dolfo Spini's heart was not aglow with pure joy at the 

unexpected succors which had come in apparent fulfillment 
pf the Frate^s prediction, and the laughter, which was 
pinging put afresh as Tito joined the group at Nello's door, 
(did not serve to dissipate the suspicion. For leaning 
against the door-post in the centre of the group was a 
plose-shaven, keen-eyed personage, named Njpf^nln Mnf.. 
phiavefli, who, young as he was, had peuetraFed all the 
gmall secrets of egoism. 

^' Messer Dolfo's head," he was saying, **is more of a 
pumpkin than I thought. I measure mcn^s dullness by 
the devices they trust in for deceiving others. Your dull- 
est animal of all is he who grins and says he doesn't mind 
just after he has had his shins kicked. If I were a trifle 
duller now," he went on, smiling as the circle opened to 
admit Tito, *''I should pretend to be fond of this Melema, 
who has got a secretaryship that would exactly suit me — as 



AT THE barber's SHOP. 3?1 

if Latin ill-paid could love better Latin that's better paid! 
Melema, you are a pestiferously clever fellow, very much 
in my wa}^, and I'm sorry to hear you've had another piece 
of good-luck to-day." 

^'Questionable luck, Niccolo," said Tito, touching him 
on the shoulder in a friendly way; ^'I have got nothing 
by it yet but being laid hold of and breathed upon by 
wool-beaters, when I am as soiled and battered with riding 
as a tahellario (letter-carrier) from Bologna." 

''Ah! you want a touch of my art, Messer Oratore," 
said Nello, who had come forward at the sound of Tito's 
voice; "your chin, I perceive, has yesterday's crop upon 
it. Come, come — consign yourself to the priest of all 
the Muses. Sandro, quick with the lather!" 

"In truth, Nello, that is just what I most desire at 
this moment," said Tito, seating himself; "and that was 
why I turned my steps toward thy shop, instead of going 
home at once, when I had done my business at the 
Palazzo.' 

"Yes, indeed, it is not fitting that you should present 
yourself to Madonna Komola with a rusty chin and a 
tangled zazzera. Nothing that is not dainty ought to 
approach the Florentine lily; though I see her constantly 
going about like a sunbeam amongst the rags that line 
our corners — if indeed she is not more like a moonbeam 
now, for I thought yesterday, when I met her, that she 
looked as pale and worn as that fainting Madonna of Fra 
Giovanni's. You must see to it, my bel erudito: she keeps 
too many fasts and vigils in your absence." 

Tito gave a melancholy shrug. "It is too true, Nello. 
She has been depriving herself of half her proper food 
every day during this famine. But what can I do? Her 
mind has been set all aflame. A husband's influence is 
powerless against the Frate's." 

"As every other influence is likely to be, that of the 
Holy Father included," said Domenico Cennini, one of the 
group at the door, who had turned in with Tito. " I 
don't know whether you have gathered anything at Pisa 
about the way the wind sits at Rome, Melema?" 

" Secrets of the council chamber, Messer Domenico!" 
said Tito, smiling and opening his palms in a deprecatory 
manner. " An envoy must be as dumb as a father con- 
fessor." 

"Certainly, certainly," said Cennini. "I ask for no 
l^reach of that rule. Well, my belief is, ths-t it his Holi- 



373 ROMOLA. 

ness were to drive Fra Girolamo to extremity, the Frate 
would move heaven and earth to get a General Council of 
the Church — ay, and would get it too; and I, for one, 
should not be sorry, though I'm no Piagnone." 

'^ With leave of your greater experience, Messer 

/Domenico," said Macchiavelli, *' I must differ from you — 

f not in your wish to see a General Council, which might 

reform the Church, but in your belief that the Frate will 

\ checkmate his Holiness. The Frate's game is an impos- 
sible one. If he had contented himself with preaching 

■ against tlie vices of Rome, and with prophesying that in 

■ some way, not mentioned, Italy would be scourged, depend 
!' upon it Pope Alexander would have allowed him to spend 
/ his breath in that way as long as he could find hearers. 
I Such spiritual blasts as those knock no walls down. But 
i the Frate wants to be something more than a spiritual 
' trumpet: he wants to be a lever, and what is more, he is 

a lever. He wants to spread the doctrine of Christ by 
maintaining a popular government in Florence, and the 
Pope, as I know, on the best authority, has private views 
to the contrary." 

** Then Florence will stand by the Frate," Cennini broke 
in with some fervor. " I myself should prefer that he 
would let his prophesying alone, but if our freedom to choose 
our own government is to be attacked — I am an obedient 
son of the Church, but I would vote for resisting Pope 
Alexander the Sixth, as our forefathers resisted Pope 
Gregory the Eleventh." 

" But pardon me, Messer Domenico," said Macchiavelli, 
sticking his thumbs into his belt, and speaking with that 
cool enjoyment of exposition which surmounts every other 
force in discussion. *^Have you correctly seized the 
Frate's position? How is it that he has become a lever, 
and made himself worth attacking by an acute man like 
his Holiness? Because he has got the ear of the people: 
because he gives them threats and promises, which they 
believe come straight from God, not only about hell, ])ur- 
gatory, and paradise, but about Pisa and our Great 
Council. rBut let events go against him, so as to shake 
the people's faith, and the cause of his power will be the 
cause of his fall.J He is accumulating three sorts^ofjiatr^ 
on his head — tlie hatred of avei'age mankind- agamat^vfiry 
ojie wlio wants to lay on themA^strifit-^yake of-J^iriue; the 
hatred of the stronger powers in Italy who want to farm 
Florence for their own purposes; and the hatred of the 



I 



AT THE BARBEK's SHOP. 373 



people, to whom he has ventured to promise good in this 
world, instead of confining his promises to the next. If a 
prophet is to keep his power, he must be a prophet like 
Mahomet, with an army at his back, that when the 
people's faith is fainting it may be frightened into life 
again." 

''Rather sum up the three sorts of hatred in one,'' said 
Francesco Cei, impetuously, ^' and say he has won the 
liatred of all men who have sense and honesty, by invent- 
ing hypocritical lies. His proper place is among the false 
prophets in the Inferno, who walk with their heads turned 
hind foremost." 

''You are too angry, my Francesco," said Macchiavelli, 
smiling; "you poets are apt to cut the clouds in your 
wrath. I am no votary of the Frate's, and would not lay 
down my little finger for his veracity. But veracity is a 
plant of paradise, and the seeds have never flourished 
beyond the walls. You, yourself, my Francesco, tell 
poetical lies only; partly compelled by the poet's fervor, 
partly to please your audience; but you object to lies in 
prose. Well, the Frate differs from you as to the boundary 
of poetry, that's all. When he gets into the pulpit of the 
Duomo, he has the fervor within him, and without him he 
has the audience to please. Ecco!" 

"You are somewhat lax there, Niccolo," said Cennini, 
gravely. "I myself believe in the Frate's integrity, though 
I don't believe in his prophecies, and as long as his 
integrity is not disproved, we have a popular party strong 
enough to protect him and resist foreign interference." 

"A party that seems strong enough," said Macchiavelli, 
with a shrug, and an almost imperceptible glance toward 
Tito, who was abandoning himself with much enjoyment 
to ISTello's combing and scenting. "But how many 
Mediceans are there among you? How many who will 
not be turned round by a private grudge?" 

"As to the Mediceans," said Cennini, "I believe there 
is ver^jittl e_genuine feeling left on behalf of the MedicL 
Whowould risk much for fiero de Medici? A few old 
staunch friends, perhaps, like Bernardo del Nero; but 
even_som^__of_thos^jQaiijLj3^^ 

Hearty friends of the p_op ular government, and wouy 
exixl3'^li6m|eTves^^ was talking" to"'"GfTan- 

nozzo "Plicci only a^little while ago, and I am convinced 
there's nothing he would set his face against more than 
against any attempt to alter the new order of things." 



374 feOMOLA* 

*'You are nghi there, Messer Domenico," said Tito, 
with a laughing meaning in his eyes, as he rose from the 
shaving-chair; '*^and I fancy the tender passion came in 
aid of hard theory there. I am persuaded there was some 
jealousy at the bottom of Giannozzo^s alienation from 
Piero de Medici; else so amiable a creature as he would 
never feel the bitterness he sometimes allows to escape him 
in that quarter. He was in the procession with you, I 
suppose?'' 

^'No,'' said Cennini; '^he is at his villa — went there 
three days ago." 

Tito was settling his cap and glancing down at his 
splashed hose as if he hardly heeded the answer. In 
reality he had obtained a much-desired piece of informa- 
tion. He had at that moment in his scarsella a crushed 
fold ring which he had engaged to deliver to Giannozzo 
'ucci. He had received it from an envoy of Piero de 
Medici, whom he had ridden out of his way to meet at 
Certaldo on the Siena road. Since Pucci was not in the 
town, he would send the ring by Fra Michele, a Carthu- 
sian lay Brother in the service of the Mediceans, and the 
receipt of that sign would bring Pucci back to hear the 
verbal part of Tito's mission. 

^'Behold him!" said Nello, flourishing his comb and 
pointing it at Tito, *Hhe handsomest scholar in the world 
or in the wolds,* now he has passed through my hands! 
A trifle thinner in the face, though, than when lie came 
in his first bloom to Florence — eh? and, I vow, there are 
some lines just faintly hinting themselves about your 
mouth, Messer Oratore! Ah, mind is an enemy to beauty! 
I myself was thought beautiful by the women at one 
time — when I was in my swaddling-bands. But now — 
oime! I carry my unwritten poems in cipher on my face!" 

Tito, laughing with the rest as Nello looked at himself 
tragically in the hand-mirror, made a sign of farewell to 
the company generally, and took his departure. 

"I'm of our old Piero di Cosimo's mind," said Fran- 
cesco Cei. '*I don't half like Melema. That trick of 
smiling gets stronger than ever — no wonder he has lines 
about the mouth." 

*' He's too successful," said Macchiavelli, playfully, " I'm 
sure there's something wrong about him, else he wouldn't 
have that secretaryship." 

*^He's an able man," said Cennini, in a tone of judicial 

♦ " Del mondo o di raaremma." 



i 



I 



AT TIIE barber's SHOP. 375 



fairness. '^I and my brother have always found him use^ 
fill with our G-reek sheets, and he gives great satisfaction 
to the Ten. I like to see a young man work his way 
upward by merit. And the secretary Scala, who befriended 
him from the first, thinks highly of him still, I know.'\ 

" Doubtless,^' said a notary in the background. ^' He 
writes Scala^s official letters for him, or corrects themj 
and gets well paid for it too.^' 

** I wish Messer Bartolommeo would pay me to doctor his 
gouty Latin, '^ said Macchiavelli, with a shrug. ^' Did Im 
tell you about the pay> Ser Ceccone, or was it Melema 
himself? ^^ he added, looking at the notary with a face 
ironically innocent. 

''Melema? no, indeed,'' answered Ser Ceccone. ''He 
is as close as a nut. He never brags. That's why he's 
employed everywhere. They say he's getting rich with 
doing all sorts of underhand work." 

'' It is a little too bad," said Macchiavelli, " and so many 
able notaries out of employment ! " 

" Well, I must say I thought that was a nasty story a 
year or two ago about the man who said he had stolen jew- 
els," said Cei. " It got hushed up somehow: but I remem- 
ber Piero di Cosimo said, at the time, he believed there 
was something in it, for he saw Melema's face when the 
man laid hold of him, and he never saw a visage so 
'painted with fear,' as our sour old Dante says." 

" Come, spit no more of that venom, Francesco," said 
Nello, getting indignant, "else I shall consider it a public 
duty to cut your hair awry the next time I get you under 
my scissors. That story of the stolen jewels was a lie. 
Bernardo Kucellai and the Magnificent Eight knew all 
about it. The man was a dangerous madman, and he was 
very properly kept out of mischief in prison. As for our 
Piero di Cosimo, his wits are running after the wind of 
Mongibello: he has such an extravagant fancy that he 
would take a lizard for a crocodile. No: that story has 
been dead and buried too long — our noses object to it." 

"It is true," said Macchiavelli. "You forget the dan- 
ger of the precedent, Francesco. The next mad beggar- 
man may accuse you of stealing his verses, or me, God 
help me! of stealing his coppers. Ah!" he went on, 
turning toward the door, " Dolfo Spini has carried his red 
feather out of the Piazza. That captain of swaggerers 
would like the Republic to lose Pisa just for the chance 
of seeing the people tear the frock off the Frate's back. 



376 ROMOLA. 

With your pardon, Francesco — I know he is a friend of 
yours — there are few tilings I should like better than to 
see him play the part of Capo d'Oca, who went out to the 
tournament blowing his trumpets and returned with them 
in a bag." 



CHAPTER XLVI. 

BY A STREET LAMP. 



That evening, when it was dark and threatening rain, 
Romola, returning with Maso and the lantern by her side, 
from the hospital of San Matteo, which she had visited 
after vespers, encountered her husband just issuing from 
the monastery of San Marco. Tito, who had gone out 
again shortly after his arrival in the Via de Bardi, and had 
seen little of Romola during the day, immediately pro- 
posed to accompany her home, dismissing Maso, whose 
short steps annoyed him. It was only usual for him to 
pay her such an official attention when it was obviously 
demanded from him. Tito and Romola never jarred, 
never remonstrated with each other. They were too hope- 
lessly alienated in their inner life ever to have that contest 
which is an elfort toward agreement. They talked of all 
aifairs, public and private, with careful adherence to an 
adopted course. If Tito wanted a supper pre])ared in the 
old library, now pleasantly furnished as a banqueting- 
room, Romola assented, and saw that everything needful 
was done: and Tito, on his side, left her entirely uncon- 
trolled in her daily habits, accepting the help she offered 
him in transcribing or making digests, and in return meet- 
ing her conjectured want of supplies for her charities. 
Yet he constantly, as on this very morning, avoided 
exchanging glances with her; affected to believe that she 
was out of the house, in order to avoid seeking her in her 
own room; and playfully attributed to her a perpetual 
preference of solitude to his society. 

In t'he first ardor of her self-conquest, after she had 
renounced her resolution of flight, Romola had made many 
timid efforts toward the return of a frank relation between 
them. But to her such a relation could only come by 
open speech about their differences, and the attempt to 
arrive at a moral understanding; while Tito could only be 



I 



B\ A STREET LAMP. 37? 



saved from alienation from her by such a recovery of her 
effusive tenderness as would have presupposed oblivion of 
their differences. He cared for no explanation between 
them; he felt any thorough explanation impossible: he 
Avould have cared to have Komola fond again^, and to her, 
fondness w^as impossible. She could be submissive and 
gentle, she could repress any sign of repulsion; but tender- 
ness was not to be feigned. She was helplessly conscious 
of the result: her husband was alienated from her. 

It was an additional reason why she should be carefully"^ 
kept outside of secrets which he would in no case have / . 
chosen to communicate to her. With regard to his political^^-^ -fc 
action he sought to convince her that he considered the causeV -^rv 
of the Medici hopeless; and that on that practical ground, X^*^^ 
as well as in theory, he heartily served the popular govern- / 
ment, in which she had now a warm interest. But impres-/ 
sions subtle as odors made her uneasy about his relations 
with San Marco. She was painfully divided between the 
dread of seeing any evidence to aronse her suspicions, mi^^ 
the impulse to watch lest any harm should come that she 
might have arrested. 

As they walked together this evening, Tito said — '^The 
business of the day is not yet quite ended for me. I shall 
conduct you to our door, my Romola, and then I must 
fulfill another commission, which will take me an hour, 
perhaps, before I can return and rest, as I very much need 
to do.^' 

And then he talked amusingly of what he had seen at 
Pisa, until they were close upon a loggia, near which there 
hung a lamp before a picture of the Virgin. The street 
was a quiet one, and hitherto they had passed few people; 
but now there was a sound of many approaching footstej^s 
and confused voices. 

^' We shall not get home without a wetting, unless we 
take shelter under this convenient loggia,^^ Tito said, 
hastily, hurrying Romola, with a slightly startled move- 
ment, up the step of the loggia. 

*' Surely it is useless to wait for this small drizzling 
rain," said Romola, in surprise. 

''No: I felt it becoming heavier. Let us wait a little." 
With that wakefulness to the faintest indication which 
belongs to a mind habitually in a state of caution, Tito 
had detected by the glimmer of the lamp that the leader 
of the advancing group wore a red feather and a glittering 
sword-hilt— in fact, was almost the last person in tlie world 



378 ROilOLA, 

he would have chosen to meet at this hour with Homok 
by his side. He had ah-eady during the day had one 
momentous interview with Dolfo Spini, and the business 
he had spoken of to Romohi as yet to be done w^as a second 
interview with that personage, a sequence of the visit he 
had paid at San Marco. Tito, by a long-preconcerted plan, 
had been the bearer of letters to Savonarola — carefully- 
forged letters; one of them, by a strategem, bearing the 
very signature and seal of the Cardinal of Naples, who of 
all the Sacred College had most exerted his influence at 
Rome in favor of the Frate. The purport of the letters 
was to state that the Cardinal was on liis progress from 
Pisa, and, unwilling for strong reasons to enter Florence, 
yet desirous of taking counsel with Savonarola at this dif- 
ficult juncture, intended to pause this very day at San 
Casciano, about ten miles from the city, whence he would 
ride out the next morning in the plain garb of a priest, 
and meet Savonarola, as if casually, five miles on the Flor- 
ence road, two hours after sunrise. The plot, of which 
these forged letters were the ijiitial step, was that Dolfo 
Spini with a band of his Compagnacci was to be posted in 
ambush on the road, at a lonely spot about five miles from 
the gates; that he was to seize Savonaroli with the Domin- 
ican brother who would accompany him according to rule, 
and deliver him over to a small detachment of Milanese 
horse in readiness near San Gasciano, by whom he was to 
be carried into the Roman territory. 

There was a strong chance that the penetrating Frate 
would suspect a trap, and decline to incur the risk, which 
he had for some time avoided, of going beyond the city 
walls. Even when he preached, his friends held it neces- 
sary that he should be attended by an armed guard; and 
here he was called upon to commit himself to a solitary 
road, with no other attendant than a fellow-monk. On 
this ground the minimum of time had been given him for 
decision, and the chance in favor of his acting on the 
letters was, that the eagerness with which his mind was 
set on the combining of interests within and without the 
Church toward the procuring of a General Council, and 
also the expectation of immediate service from the Cardi- 
nal in the actual juncture of his contest with the Pope, 
would triumph over his shrewdness and caution in the 
brief space allowed for deliberation. 

Tito had had an audience of Savonarola, having declined 
to put the letters into any hands but his, and with con- 



I 



BY A STREET LAMP. 3'5'9 



snmmate art liad admitted that incidentally, and by infer- 
ence, he was able so far to conjecture their purport as to 
believe they referred to a rendezvous outside the gates, in 
which case he urged that the Frate should seek an armed 
guard from the Signoria, and offered his services in carry- 
ing the request with the utmost privacy. Savonarola had 
replied briefly that this was impossible: an armed guard 
was incompatible with privacy. He spoke with a flashing 
eye, and Tito felt convinced that he meant to incur the 
risk. 

Tito himself did not much care for the result. He 
managed his affairs so cleverly, that all results, he con- 
sidered, must turn to his advantage. Whichever party 
came uppermost, he was secure of favor and money. That 
is an indecorously naked statement; the fact, clothed as 
Tito habitually clothed it, was that his acute mind, dis- 
cerning the equal hollowness of all parties, took the only 
rational course in making them subservient to his own 
interest. 

If Savonarola fell into the snare, there were diamonds 
in question and papal patronage; if not. Titers adroit 
agency had strengthened his position with Savonarola and 
with Spini, while any confidences he obtained from them 
made him the more valuable as an agent of the Mediceans. 

But Spini was an inconvenient colleague. He had 
cunning enough to delight in plots, but not the ability or 
self-command necessary to so complex an effort as secrecy. 
He frequently got excited with drinking, for even sober 
Florence had its '' Beoni,"or topers, both lay and clerical, 
who became loud at taverns and private banquets; and in 
spite of the agreement between him and Tito, that their 
public recognition of each other should invariably be of 
the coolest sort, there was alwa5^s tlie possibility that on 
an evening encounter he would be suddenly blurting and 
affectionate. The delicate sign of casting the becchetto 
over the left shoulder was understood in the morning, but 
the strongest hint short of a threat might not suffice to 
keep off a fraternal grasp of the shoulder in the evening. 

Tito's chief hope now was that Dolfo Spini had not 
caught sight of him, and the hope would have been well 
founded if Spini had had no clearer view of him than he 
had caught of Spini. But, himself in shadow, he had seen 
Tito illuminated for an instant by the direct rays of the 
lamp, and Tito in his way was as strongly marked a per- 
sonage as the captain of the Compagnacci. Romola's 



380 EOMOLA. 

black-shrouded figure had escaped notice, and she now J 
stood behind her husband^s shoulder in the corner of the J 
loggia. Tito was not left to hope long. 

*^ Ha! my carrier-pigeon! " grated Spini^s harsh voice, in 
what he meant to be an undertone, while his hand grasped 
Tito's shoulder, '^ what did you run into hiding for? You 
didn't know it was comrades who were coming. It's well 
I caught sight of you; it saves time. What of the chase 5 
to-morrow morning? Will the bald-headed game rise? 
Are the falcons to be got ready? " 

If it had been in Tito's nature to feel an access of rage, 
he would have felt it against this bull-faced accomplice, 
unfit either for a leader or a tool. His lips turned wliite, 
but his excitement came from the pressing difficulty of ^ 
choosing a safe device. If he attempted to hush Spini, 
that would only deepen Romola's suspicion, and he knew 
her well enough to know that if some strong alarm 
were roused in her, she was neither to be silenced nor 
hoodwinked; on the other hand, if he repelled Spini 
angrily the wine-breathing Compagnaccio might become 
savage, being more ready at resentment than at the divina- ^ 
tion of motives. Ho adopted a third course, wliich proved 
that Romola retained one sort of power over him — the 
power of dread. 

He pressed her hand, as if intending to hint to her, and 
said in a good-humored tone ol comradeship — 

" Yes, my Dolfo, you may prepare in all security. But 
take no trumpets with you." 

" Don't be afraid," said Spini, a little piqued. *' No 
need to play Ser Saccente with me. I know where the 
devil keeps his tail as well as you do. AVhat! he swallowed 
the bait whole? The prophetic nose didn't scent the hook 
at all?" he went on, lowering his tone a little, with a 
blundering sense of secrecy. 

*' The brute will not be satisfied till he has emptied the 
bag," thought Tito; but aloud he said — '' Swallowed alias 
easily as you swallow a cup of Trebbiano. Ha! I see 
torches ; there must be a dead body coming. The pesti- 
lence has been spreading, I hear." 

"Santiddio! I hate the sight of those biers. Good 
night," said Spini, hastily moving off. 

The torches were really coming, but they preceded a 
church dignitary who was returning homeward; the sug- 
gestion of the dead body and the pestilence was Tito's 
device for getting rid of Spini without telling him to go. 



BY A STREET LAMP. 381 

The moment he had moved away, Tito turned to Eomola, 
and said, quietly — 

**^Do not be alarmed by anything that hestia has said, 
my Eomola. We will go on now: I think the rain has not 
increased." 

She was quivering with indignant resolution; it was of 
no use for Tito to speak in that unconcerned way. She 
distrusted every word he could utter. 

'*! will not go on," she said. '^I will not move nearer 
home until I have some security against this treachery 
being perpetrated." 

'^Wait, at least, until these torches have passed," said 
Tito, with perfect self-command, but with a new rising 
of dislike to a wife who this time, he foresaw, might have 
the power of thwarting him in spite of the husband's pre- 
dominance. 

The torches passed, with the Vicario dell Arcivescovo, 
and due reverence was done by Tito, but Eomola saw 
nothing outward. If for the defeat of this treachery, in 
which she believed with all the force of long presentiment, 
it had been necessary at that moment for her to spring on 
her husband and hurl herself with him down a precipice, 
she felt as if she could have done it. Union with this 
man! At that moment the self -quelling discipline of two 
years seemed to be nullified: she felt nothing but that they 
were divided. 

Tliey were nearly in darkness again, and could only see 
each other's faces dimly. 

^'Tell me the truth, Tito — this time tell liie the truth," 
said Eomola, in a low quivering voice. " It will be safer 
for you." 

"Why should I desire to tell you anything else, my 
angry saint?" said Tito, with a slight touch of contempt, 
which was the vent of his annoyance; "since the truth is 
precisely that over which you have most reason to rejoice — 
namely, that my knowing a plot of Spini's enables me to 
secure the Frate from falling a victim to it." 

"What is the plot?" 

"That I decline to tell," said Tito. "It is enough that 
the Frate's safety will be secured." 

"It is a plot for drawing him outside the gates that 
Spini may murder him." 

"There has been no intention of murder. It is simply 
a plot for compelling him to obey the Pope's summons to 
^ome. But as I serve the popular government, and think 



382 ROMOLA. 

the Frate^s presence here is a necessary means of main- 
taining it at present, I choose to prevent his departure. 
You may go to sleep with entire ease of mind to-night." 

For a moment Romola was silent. Then she said, in a 
voice of anguish, ^' Tito, it is of no use: I have no belief 
in you." 

She could just discern his action as he shrugged his 
shoulders, and spread out his palms in silence. That cold 
dislike which is the anger of unimpassioned beings was 
hardening within him. 

^' If the Frate leaves the city — if any harm happens to 
him," said Romoia, after a slight pause, in a new tone of 
indignant resolution, — '' I will declare what I have heard 
to the Signoria, and you will be disgraced. What if I am 
your wife?" she went on, impetuously; ^'1 will be dis- 
graced with you. If we are united, I am that part of you 
that will save you from crime. Others shall not be 
betrayed." 

^'1 am quite aware of what you would be likely to do, 
anima mia," said Tito, in the coolest of his liquid tones; 
*^ therefore if you have a small amount of reasoning at your 
disposal just now, consider that if you believe me in 
nothing else, you may believe me when I say I will take 
care of myself, and not put it in your power to ruin me." 

'* Then you assure me that the Frate is warned — he will 
not go beyond the gates?" 

''He shall not go beyond the gates." 

There was a moment's pause, but distrust was not to be 
expelled. 

*' I will go back to San Marco now and find out," Romola 
said, making a movement forward. 

''You shall not!" said Tito, in a bitter whisper, seizing 
her wrists with all his masculine force. "I am master of 
you. You sliall not set yourself in opposition to me." 

There were passers-by approaching. Tito had heard 
them, and that was why he spoke in a whisper. Romola 
was too conscious of being mastered to have struggled, even 
if she had remained unconscious that witnesses were at 
hand. But she was aware now of footsteps and voices, and 
her habitual sense of personal dignity made her at once 
yield to Tito's movement toward leading her from the 
loggia. 

They walked on in silence for some time, under the 
small drizzling rain. The first rush of indignation and 
alarm in Romola had begun to give way to more com 



I 



I 



BY A STREET LAMP. 383 



cated feelings,, which rendered speech and action difficult. 
In that simpler state of vehemence, open opposition to the 
husband from whom she felt her soul revolting had had 
the aspect of temptation for her; it seemed the easiest of 
all courses. But now, habits of self -questioning, memories 
of impulse subdued, and that jjroud reserve which all dis- 
cipline had left unmodified, began to emerge from tlie 
flood of passion. The grasp of her wrists, which asserted 
her husband^s physical predominance, instead of arousing 
fi new fierceness m her, as it might have done if her 
impetuosity had been of a more vulgar kind, had given her 
a momentary shuddering horror at this form of contest 
with him. It was the first time they had been in declared 
hostility to each other since her flight and return, and the 
check given to her ardent resolution then, retained the 
power to arrest her now. In this altered condition her 
mind began to dwell on the probabilities that would save 
her from any desperate course: Tito would not risk 
betrayal by her; whatever had been his original intention, 
he must be determined now by the fact that she knew of 
the plot. She was not bound now to do anything else 
than to hang over him that certainty, that if he deceived 
her, her lips would not be closed. And then, it was pos- 
sible — yes, she must cling to that possibility till it was 
disproved — that Tito had never meant to aid in the 
betrayal of the Frate. 

Tito, on his side, was busy with thoughts, and did not 
speak again till they were near home. Then he said — 

'* Well, Romola, have you now had time to recover 
calmness? If so, you can supply your want of belief in 
me by a little rational inference: you can see, I presume, 
that if I had had any intention of furthering Spini's plot, I 
should now be aware that the possession of a fair Piagnone 
for my wife, who knows the secret of the plot, would be a 
serious obstacle in my way." 

Tito assumed the tone which was just then the easiest 
to him, conjecturing that in Romola's present mood per- 
suasive deprecation would be lost upon ]ier. 

"Yes, Tito,^' she said, in a low voice, " I think you 
believe that I would guard the Republic from further 
treachery. You are right to believe it: if the Frate is 
betrayed, I will denounce you." She paused a moment, 
and then said with an effort, " But it was not so. I have 
perhaps spoken too hastily — you never meant it. Only, 
why will you seem to be tliat man's coqirade?" 



384 ROMOLA. 

**Such relations are inevitable to practical men, my 
Romola," said Tito, gratified by discerning the struggle 
within her. ^^ You fair creatures live in the clouds. Pray 
go to rest with an easy heart,'' he added, opening the door 
for her. 



CHAPTER XLVIL 

CHECK. 



Tito's clever arrangements had been unpleasantly frus- 
trated by trivial incidents which could not enter into a 
clever man's calculations. It was very seldom that he 
walked with Romola in the evening, yet he had happened 
to be walking with her precisely on this evening when her 
presence was supremely inconvenient. Life was so com- 
plicated a game that the devices of skill were liable to be 
defeated at every turn by air-blown chances, incalculable 
as the descent of thistle-down. 

It was not that he minded about the failure of Spini's 
plot, but he felt an awkward difficulty in so adjusting his 
warning to Savonarola on the one hand, and to Spini on 
the other, as not to incur suspicion. Suspicion roused in 
the popular party might be fatal to his reputation and 
ostensible position in Florence; suspicion roused in Dolfo 
Spini might be as disagreeable in its effects as the liatred 
of a fierce dog not to be cliained. 

If Tito went forthwith to the monastery to warn Sav- 
onarola before the monks went to rest, his warning would 
follow so closely on his delivery of the forged letters that 
he could not escape unfavorable surmises. He could not 
warn Spini at once without telling him the true reason, 
since he could not immediately allege the discovery that 
Savonarola had changed his purpose; and he knew Spiui 
well enough to know that his understanding would discern 
nothing but that Tito had '^turned round" and frustrated 
the plot. On the other hand, by deferring his warning to 
Savonarola until the morning, he would be almost sure to 
lose the opportunity of warning Spini that the Frate had 
changed his mind; and the band of Compagnac<^i would 
come back in all the rage of disappointment. This last, 
however, was the risk he chose, trusting to his power of 
soothing Spini by assuring him that the failure w».s due 
guly to the Frate's cautious 



II 



I 



CHECK. 385 



Tito was annoyed. If he had had to smile it would 
have been an unusual effort to him. He was determined 
not to encounter Eomola again, and he did not go home 
that night. 

She watched through the night, and never took off her 
clothes. She heard the rain become heavier and heavier. 
She liked to hear the rain: the stormy heavens seemed a safe- 
guard against men^s devices, compelling them to inaction. 
And Romola^'s mind was again assailed, not only by the 
utmost doubt of her husband, but by doubt as to her 
own conduct. What lie might he not have told her? 
What project might he not have, of which she was still 
ignorant? Every one who trusted Tito was in danger; it 
was useless to try and persuade herself of the contrary. 
And was not she selfishly listening to the promptings of 
her own pride, when she shrank from warning men against 
him? '^If her husband was a malefactor, her place was 
in the prison by his side^' — that might be; she was con- 
tented to f Lilfili that claim. But was she, a wife, to allow 
a husband to inflict the injuries that would make him a 
malefactor, when it might be in her power to prevent 
them? Prayer seemed impossible to her. The activity of 
her thought excluded a mental state of which the essence 
is expectant passivity. 

The excitement became stronger and stronger. Her 
imagination, in a state of morbid activity, conjured up 
possible schemes by which, after all, Tito would have 
eluded her threat; and toward daybreak the rain became 
less violent, till at last it ceased, the breeze rose again and 
dispersed the clouds, and the morning fell clear on all the 
objects around her. It made her uneasiness all the less 
endurable. She wrapped her mantle round her, and ran 
up to the loggia; as if there could be anything in the wide 
landscape that might determine her action; as if there 
could be anything but roofs hiding the line of street along 
which Savonarola might be walking toward betrayal. 

If she went to her godfather, might she not induce him, 
without any specific revelation, to take measures for pre- 
venting Fra Girolamo from passing the gates? But that 
might be too late. Romola thought, with new distress, 
that she had failed to learn any guiding details from Tito, 
and it was already long past seven. She must go to San 
Marco: there was nothing else to be done. 

She hurried down the stairs, she went out into the 
street without looking at her sick people, and walked 

m^ 25 



386 ROMOLA, 

at a swift pace along the Via de Bardi toward the Ponte 
Vecchio. She would go through the heart of the city; 
it was the most direct road, and, besides, in the great 
Piazza there was a chance of encountering her husband, 
who, by some possibility to which she still clung, might 
satisfy her of the Prate's safety, and leave no need for her 
to go to San Marco. When she arrived in front of the 
Palazza Vecchio, she looked eagerly into the pillared 
court; then her eyes swept the Piazza; but the well-known 
figure, once painted in her heart by young love, and now 
branded there by eating pain, was nowhere to be seen. 
She hurried straight on to the Piazza del Duomo. It was 
already full of movement: there were worshipers passing 
up and down the marble steps, there were men pausing 
for chat, and there were market-people carrying their bur- 
dens. Between those moving figures Romola caught a 
glimpse of her husband. On his way from San Marco he 
had turned into Nello's shop, and was now leaning against 
the door-post. As Romola approached she could see that 
he was standing and talking, with the easiest air in the 
world, holding his cap in his hand, and shaking back his 
freshly-combed hair. The contrast of this ease with the 
bitter anxieties he had created convulsed her with indig- 
nation: the new vision of his hardness heightened her 
dread. She recognized Cronaca and two other frequenters 
of San Marco standing near her husband. It flashed through 
her mind — ^'I will compel him to speak before those 
men." And her light step brought her close upon him 
before he had time to move, while Cronaca was saying* 
''Here comes Madonna Romola." 

A slight shock passed through Tito's frame as he felt 
himself face to face with his wife. She was haggard with 
her anxious watching, but there was a flash of something 
else than anxiety in her eyes as she said — 

"Is the Frate gone beyond the gates?" 

"No," said Tito, feeling completely helpless before tJiis 
woman, and needing all the self-command he possessed to 
preserve a countenance in which there should seem to be 
nothing stronger than surprise. 

"And you are certain that he is not going?'' she 
insisted. 

"I am certain that he is not going." 

"That is enough," said Romola, and she turned up the 
steps, to take refuge in the Duomo, till she could recover 
from her agitation. 



COUNTEIl-CHECK. 387 

Tito never had a feeling so near hatred as that with 
which his eyes followed Romola retreating up the steps. 

There were present not only genuine followers of the 
Frate, but Ser Ceccone, the notary, who at that time, like 
Tito himself, was secretly an agent of the Mediceans. 

Ser Francesco di Ser Barone, more briefly known to 
infamy as Ser Ceccone, was not learned, not handsome, 
not successful, and the reverse of generous. He was a 
traitor without a charm. It followed that he was not fond 
of Tito Melema. 



CHAPTER XLVIII. 

COUNTER-CHECK. 



It was late in the afternoon when Tito returned home. 
Romola, seated opposite the cabinet in her narrow room, 
copying documents, was about to desist from her work 
because the light was getting dim, when her husband 
entered. He had come straight to this room to seek her, 
with a thoroughly defined intention, and there was some- 
thing new to Romola in his manner and expression as he 
looked at her silently on entering, and, without taking off 
his cap and mantle, leaned one elbow on the cabinet, and 
stood directly in front of her. 

Romola, fully assured during the day of the Frate^s 
safety, was feeling the reaction of some penitence for the 
access of distrust and indignation whicli had impelled her 
to address her husband publicly on a matter that she knew 
he wished to be private. Slie told herself that she had 
probably been wrong. The scheming duplicity which sh« 
had heard even her godfather allude to as inseparable 
from party tactics might be sufficient to account for the 
connection with Spmi, v/ithout the supposition that Tito 
had ever meant to further the plot. She wanted to atone 
for her impetuosity by confessing that she had been too 
hasty, and for some hours her mind had been dwelling on 
the possibility that this confession of hers might lead to 
otlier frank words breaking the two years' silence of their 
hearts. The silence had been so complete, that Tito v/as 
ignorant of her having fled from him and come back 
again; they had never approached an avowal of that past 



388 ROMOLA. 



which, both in its young love and in the shock that shat 
tered the love, lay locked away from them like a banquet- 
room where death had once broken the feast. 

She looked up at him with that submission in her 
glance which belonged to her state of self-reproof; but 
the subtle change in his face and manner arrested her 
speech. For a few moments they remained silent, looking 
at eacli other. 

Tito himself felt that a crisis was come in his married 
life. The husband's determination to mastery, which lay 
deep below all blandness and beseechingness, had risen 
permanently to the surface now, and seemed to alter his 
face, as a face is altered by a hidden muscular tension 
with which a man is secretly throttling or stamjnng out 
the life from something feeble, 3"et dangerous. 

''Romola," he began, in the cool liquid tone that made 
her shiver, 'Mt is time that we should understand each 
other." He paused. 

**That is what I most desire, Tito," she said, faintly. 
Her sweet pale face, with all its anger gone and nothing 
but the timidity of self-doubt in it, seemed to give a 
marked predominance to her husband's dark strength. 

"You took a step this morning," Tito went on, '* which 
you must now yourself perceive to have been useless — 
which exposed you to remark and may involve me in 
serious practical difficulties." 

" I acknowledge that I was too hasty; I am sorry for 
any injustice I may have done you." Romola spoke these 
words in a fuller and firmer tone; Tito, she hoped, would 
look less hard when she had expressed her regret, and 
then she could say other things. 

"I wish you once for all to understand," he said, with- 
out any change of voice, "that such collisions are incom- 
patible with our position as husband and wife. I wish you 
to reflect on the mode in which you were led to that step, 
that the process may not be repeated." 

"That depends chiefly on you, Tito," said Romola, 
taking fire slightly. It was not at all what she had 
thought of saying, but we see a very little way before us 
in mutual speech. 

"You would say, I suppose," answered Tito, "that 
nothing is to occur in future which can excite your unrea- 
sonable suspicions. You were frank enough to say last 
night that you have no belief in me. I am not surprised 
at any exaggerated conclusion you may draw from slight 



1\ 



COUNTER-CHECK. 389 

premises, but I wish to point out to you what is likely to 
be the fruit of your making such exaggerated conclusions 
a ground for interfering in affairs of which you are 
ignorant. Your attention is thoroughly awake to what I 
a"m saying?" 

He paused for a reply. 

"Yes/' said Romola, flushing in irrepressible resent- 
ment at this cold tone of superiority. 

"Well, then, it may possibly not be very long before 
some other chance words or incidents set your imagination 
at work devising crimes for me, and you may perhaps rush 
to the Palazzo Vecchio to alarm the Signoria and set the 
city in an uproar. Shall I tell you what may be the 
result? Not simply the disgrace of your husband, to 
which you look forward with so much courage, but the 
arrest and ruin of many among the chief men in Florence, 
including Messer Bernardo del Nero." 

Tito had meditated a decisive move, and he had made it. 
The flush died out of Romola's face, and her very lips 
were pale — an unusual effect with her, for she was little 
subject to fear. Tito perceived his success. 

"You would perhaps flatter yourself," he went on, 
"that you were performing a heroic deed of deliverance; 
you might as well try to turn locks with fine words as 
apply such notions to the politics of Florence. The ques- 
tion now is, not whether you can have any belief in me, 
but whether, now you have been warned, you will dare to 
rush, like a blind man with a torch in his hand, amongst 
intricate affairs of which you know nothing." 

Romola felt as if her mind were held in a vice by Tito's: 
the possiljilities he had indicated were rising before her 
with terrible clearness. 

"I am too rash," she said. " I will try not to be rash." 

" Remember," said Tito, with unsparing insistence, 
"that your act of distrust toward me this morning might, 
for aught you knew, have had more fatal effects than that 
sacrifice of your husband which you have learned to con- 
template without flinching." 

" Tito, it is not so," Romola burst forth in a pleading 
tone, rising and going nearer to him, with a desperate 
resolution to speak out. "It is false that I would will- 
ingly sacrifice you. It has been the greatest effort of my 
life to cling to you. I went away in my anger two years 
ago, and I came back again because I was more bound to 

ou than to anything else on earth. But it is useless. 



ifi 



390 ROMOLA. 

You shut me out from your mind. You affect to think 
of me as a being too unreasonable to sbare in the knowl- 
edge of your affairs. You will be open with me about 
nothing." 

She looked like his good angel pleading with him, as 
she bent her face toward him with dilated eyes, and laid 
her hand upon his arm. But Romola^s touch and glance 
no longer stirred any fibre of tenderness in her husband. 
The good-humored, tolerant Tito, incapable of hatred, 
incapable almost of impatience, disposed always to be 
gentle toward the rest of the world, felt himself becoming 
strangely hard toward this wife, whose presence had once 
been the strongest influence he had known. AVith all hi? 
softness of disposition, he had a masculine effectiveness of 
intellect and purpose which, like sharpness of edge, is 
itself an energy, working its way without any strong 
momentum. Romola had an energy of her own which 
thwarted his, and no man, who is not exceptionally feeble, 
will endure being thwarted by his wife. Marriage must 
be a relation either of sympathy or of conquest. 

No emotion darted across his face as he heard Romola 
for the first time speak of having gone away from him. 
His lips only looked a little harder as he smiled slightly 
and said — 

'^My Romola, when certain conditions are ascertained, 
we must make up our minds to them. Ko amount of 
wishing will fill the Arno, as your people say, or turn a 
plum into an orange. I have not observed even that 
prayers have much efficacy that way. You are so con- 
stituted as to have certain strong impressions inaccessible 
to reason: I cannot share those impressions, and you have 
withdrawn all trust from me in consequence. You have 
changed toward me; it has followed that I have changed 
toward you. It is useless to take any retrospect. We 
have simply to adapt ourselves to altered conditions." 

" Tito, it would not be useless for us to speak openly," 
said Romola, with a sort of exasperation that comes from 
using living muscle against some lifeless insurmountable 
resistance. '' It was the sense of deception in you that 
changed me, and that has kept us apart. And it is not 
true that I changed first. You changed toward me the 
night you first wore that chain-armor. You had some 
secret from me — it was about that old man — and I saw 
him again yesterday. Tito/^ she went on, in a tone of 
agonized entreaty, "it you would once tell me everything, 



COU:^^TER-CHECK. 391 

let it be what it may — I would not mind pain — that there 
might be no wall between us! Is it not possible that we 
could begin a new life? " 

This time there was a flash of emotion across Tito's 
face. He stood perfectly still; but the flash seemed to 
have whitened him. He took no notice of Romola's 
appeal, but after a moment^s pause, said quietly — 

^^ Your impetuosity about trifles, Romola, has a freezing 
influence that would cool the baths of Nero." At these 
cutting words, Romola shrank and drew herself up into 
her usual self-sustained attitude. Tito went on. *^'If by 
^that old man' you mean the mad Jacopo di Nola who 
attempted my life and made a strange accusation against 
me, of which I told you nothing because it would have 
alarmed you to no purpose, he, poor wretch, has died in 
prison. I saw his name in the list of dead." 

'*I know nothing about his accusation,^' said Romola. 
^'But I know he is the man whom I saw with the rope 
round his neck in the Duomo — the man whose portrait 
Piero di Cosimo painted, grasping your arm as he saw 
him grasp it the day the French entered, the day you first 
wore the armor." 

"And where is he now, pray?" said Tito, still pale, but 
governing himself. 

"He was lying lifeless in the street from starvation," 
said Romola. "I revived him with bread and wine. I 
brought him to our door, but he refused to come in. 
Then I gave him some money, and he went away without 
telling me anything. But he had found out that I was 
your wife. Who is he?" 

"A man, half mad, half imbecile, who was once my 
father's servant in Greece, and who has a rancorous hatred 
toward me because I got him dismissed for theft. Now 
you have the whole mystery, and the further satisfaction 
of knowing that I am again in danger of assassination. 
The fact of my wearing the armor, about which you seem 
to have thought so much, must have led you to infer that 
I was in danger from this man. Was that the reason you 
chose to cultivate his acquaintance and invite him into 
the house?" 

Romola was mute. To speak was only like rushing with 
bare breast against a shield. 

Tito moved from his leaning posture, slowly took off 
his cap and mantle, and pushed back his hair. He was 
collecting himself for some final words. And Romola 



392 ROMOLA. 

stood upright looking at him as she might have looked at 
some on-coming deadly force, to be met only by silent 
endurance. 

"We need not refer to these matters again, Romola," 
he said, precisely in the same tone as that in which he had 
spoken at first. "It is enough if you will remember that 
the next time your generous ardor leads you to interfere 
in political affairs, you are likely, not to save any one from 
danger, but to be raising scaffolds and setting houses on 
fire. You are not 3-et a sufficiently ardent Piagnone to 
believe that Messer Bernardo del Nero is the prince of 
darkness, and Messer Francesco Valori the archangel 
Michael. I think I need demand no promise from you?*^ 

"I have understood you too well, Tito." 

"It is enough," he said, leaving the room. 

Romola turned round with despair in her face and sank 
into her seat. "0 God, I have tried — I cannot help it. 
We shall always be divided." Those words passed silently 
through her mind. "Unless," she said aloud, as if some 
sudden vision had startled her into speech — "unless 
misery should come and join us!" 

Tito, too, had a new thought in his mind after he had 
closed the door behind him. With the project of leaving 
Florence as soon as his life there had become a high 
enough stepping-stone to a life elsewliere, perhaps at Rome 
or Milan, there was now for the first time associated a 
desire to be free from Romola, and to leave her behind 
him. She had ceased to belong to the desirable furniture 
of his life: there was no possibility of an easy relation 
between them without genuineness on his part. Genuine- 
ness implied confession of the past, and confession involved 
a change of purpose. But Tito had as little bent that way 
as a leopard has to lap milk when its teeth are grown. 
From all relations that were not easy and agreeable, we 
know that Tito shrank: why should he cling to them? 

And Romola had made his relations difficult with others 
besides herself. He had had a troublesome interview with 
Dolfo Spini, who had come back in a rage after an ineffect- 
ual soaking with rain and long waiting in aml)ush, and 
that scene between Romola and himself at Nello's door, 
once reported in Spini's ear, might be a seed of something 
more unmanageable than suspicion. But now, at least, he 
believed that lie had mastered Romola by a terror which 
appealed to the strongest forces of her nature. He had 
alarmed her affection and her conscience by the shadowy 



p 



THE PYKAMID OF VANITIES. 393 



image of consequences; he had arrested her intellect by 
hanging before it the idea of a hopeless complexity in 
affairs which defied any moral judgment. 

Yet Tito was not at ease. The world was not yet quite 
cushioned with velvet, and, if it had been, he could not 
have abandoned himself to that softness with thorough 
enjoyment; for before he went out again this evening he 
put on his coat of chain-armor. 

CHAPTER XLIX. ^ 

THE PYEAMID OF VANITIES. 

The wintry days passed for Romola as the white ships 
pass one who is standing lonely on the shore — passing in 
silence and sameness, yet each bearing a hidden burden of 
coming change. Titers hint had mingled so much dread 
with her interest in the progress of public affairs that she 
had begun to court ignorance rather than knowledge. The 
threatening German Emperor was gone again; and, in 
other ways besides, the position of Florence was alleviated; 
but so much distress remained that Romola's active duties 
were hardly diminished, and in these, as usual, her mind 
found a refuge from its doubt. 

She dared not rejoice that the relief which had come in 
extremity and had appeared to justify the policy of the . 
Frate's party, was making that party so triumphant that 
Francesco A^alori, hot-tempered chieftain of the Piagnoni, 
had been elected Gonfaloniere at the beginning of the year, 
and was making haste to have as much of his own liberal 
way as possible during his two months of power. That 
seemed for the moment like a strengthening of the party 
most attached to freedom, and a reinforcement of protec- 
tion to Savonarola; but Romola was now alive to every 
suggestion likely to deepen her foreboding, that whatever 
the present might be, it was only an unconscious brooding 
over the mixed germs of Change, which might any day 
become tragic. And already by Carnival time, a little after 
mid-February, her presentiment was confirmed by the 
signs of a very decided change: the Mediceans had ceased to 
be passive, and were openly exerting tJiemselves to procure 
the election of Bernardo del Nero as the new Gonfaloniere. 



304 ROM OLA. 

On the last day of the Carnival, between ten and eleven 
in the morning, Romola walked out, according to promise, 
toward the Corso degli Albizzi, to fetch her cousin Brig- 
ida, that they might both be ready to start from the Via 
de Bardi early in the afternoon, and take their places at a 
window which Tito had had reserved for them in the 
Piazza della Signoria, where there was to be a scene of so 
new and striking a sort, that all Florentine eyes must 
desire to see it. For the Piagnoni were having their own 
way thoroughly about the mode of keeping the Carnival. 
In vain Dolfo Spini and his companions had struggled to 
get up the dear old masks and practical jokes, well spiced 
with indecency. Such things were not to be in a city where 
Christ had been declared king. 

Romola set out in that languid state of mind with which 
every one enters on a long day of sight-seeing, purely for 
the sake of gratifying a child, or some dear childish 
friend. Tlie day was certainly an epoch in carnival keep- 
ing; but this phase of reform had not touched her enthusi- 
asm: and she did not know that it was an epoch in her 
own life when another lot would begin to be no longer 
secretly but visibly entwined with her own. 

She chose to go through tlie great Piazza that she might 
take a first survey of the unparalleled sight there while 
she was still alone. Entering it from the south, she saw 
something monstrous and many-colored in the shape of a 
pyramid, or, rather, like a huge fir tree, sixty feet liigh, 
with shelves on the brandies, widening and widening 
toward the base till they reached a circumference of eighty 
yards. The Piazza was full of life: slight young figures, 
in white garments, with olive wreaths on their heads, were 
moving to and fro about the base of the pyramidal tree, 
carrying baskets full of bright colored things; and maturer 
forms, some in the monastic frock, some in the loose tunics 
and dark red caps of artists, were helping and examining 
or else retreating to various points in the distance to sur- 
vey the wondrous whole: while a considerable group, 
amongst whom Romola recognized Piero di Cosimo, stand- 
ing on the marble steps of Orgagna's Loggia, seemed to be 
keeping aloof in discontent and scorn. 

Approaching nearer, she paused to look at the multi- 
farious objects ranged in gradation from the base to the 
summit of the pyramid. There were tap^stlle s and brg - 
cades of -immodest rl^sjorn^ pipt,nrp_H nrTfT pp.n^ ptures lield 
too" likely to incite 'to" vice; tliere were boards and tables 



THE PYRAii'ID OF VANITIES. 305 

for all sorts of games, playing cards, along with the blocks 
for printing them, dice, and other apparatus for gambling; 
there were worldly music books, and ni'.nsical instruments 
in all the pretty varieties of lute, drum, cjmbal and trum- 
pet; there were masks and masquerading dress<?s used in the 
old Carnival shows; there were handsome copie.^ of Ovid, ^ 
Boccaccio, Petrarca, Pulci, and other books of a rain or *^ 
impure sort; there were all ^ the implements of feminine 
vanity — rouge-pots, false hair, mirrors, perfumes, powders^ 
and transparent veils intended to provoke inquisitive 
glances: lastly, at the very summit, there was the unflat- 
tering effigy of a probably mythical Venetiaii .ia£mhant, 
who was"uncrorstood to have offered a heavy sum for this 
collect ion of marketable abominations, and, soaring above 
liini in surpassing ugliness, the symbolic figure of the old 
debauched Carnival. 

This was the preparation for a new sort of bonfire — the 
Purning of Vanities.. Hidden in the interior of the pyra- 
mid was a plentiful store of dry fuel and gunpowder; and 
on this last day of the festival, at evening, the pile of 
vanities was to be set ablaze to the sound of trumpets, and 
the ugly old Carnival was to tumble into the flames amid 
the songs of reforming triumph. 

This crowning act of the new festivities could hardly 
have been prepared but for a peculiar organization which 
had been started by Savonarola two years before. The mass 
of the Florentine boyhood and youth was no longer left 
to its own genial promptings toward street mischief 
and crude dissoluteness. Under the training of Fra 
Domenico, a sort (ff lieutenant to Savonarola, lads and 
striplings, the hope of Florence, were to have none but 
pure words on their lips, were to have a zeal for Unseen 
Good that should put to shame the lukewarmness of their 
elders, and were to know no pleasures save of an angelic 
sort — singing divine praises and walking in white robes. 
It was for them that the ranges of seats had been raised 
high against the walls of the Duomo; and they had been 
used to hear Savonarola appeal to them as the future glory 
of a city specially appointed to do the work of God. 

These fresh-cheeked troops were the chief agents in the 
regenerated merriment of the new Carnival, which was 
a sort of sacred parody of the old. Had there been bon- 
fires in the old time? There was to be a bonfire now, 
consuming impurity from off the earth. Had there been 
symbolic processions? There were to be processions now, 



396 ROMOLk. 

but the symbols were to bye white robes and red crosses and 
olive wreaths — embleixis of peace and innocent gladness — 
and the banners ^aid images heid__ak)ft-jv^ra_JiO_Jt^^ 
triumphs 'o?~go-odness. Had there been dancing in a rin^ 
under the oi>*^n sky of the Piazza, to the sound of choral 
voices ch8;iiting loose songs? There was to be dancing in a 
ring no vv, but dancing of monks and laity in frglernaUaxf 
and uivine joy, and the music was to be the music o\' 
hymnir As lor the collections from street passengers, the\ 
were to be greater than ever — not for gross and superfluous 
suppers, but — for the benefit of the hungry and needy; 
and, besides, there was the collecting of th e Anathema, or 
the Vanities to be laid on tFe great pyram idal bonfire. 

Trooj^s of young inquisitors wentfromj iouse to liou se 
on this exciting business of asHiig "Hi anhe Anathelna 
should be ^iyen up to them. Perhaps, after the more 
avowed vanities had beeh'sTirrendered, Madonna, at the 
head of the household, had still certain little reddened 
balls brought from the Levant, intended to produce on a 
sallow cheek a sudden bloom of the most ingenuous falsity? 
If so, let her bring them down and cast them into the 
basket of doom. Or, perhaps, she had ringlets and coils of 
'^ dead hair"? — if so, let her bring them to the street-door, 
not on her head, but in her hands, and 4i]ihliclx_renaiiiice_ 
the Anatjienia^ which hid the respectable signs of age under 
a ghastly mockery of youth. And, in reward, she wouid 
hear fresh young voices pronounce a blessing on her and 
Ker house. 

The beardless inquisitors, organized into little regi- 
ments, doubtless tooK to their work Very willingly. To 
coerce peo ple by shame, or other spiritual pelting^ into 
The~givinglip oi things it will })]V)l)al)]y vex"Tticm,to part 
with, is a form of piety to wliicli the boyish mind is mosJL 
readily converted; and if some obstinately wicked men 
got enraged and threatened the whip or the cudgel, 
this also was exciting. Savonarola himself evidently 
felt about the training of these boys the difficulty weigh- 
ing on all minds with noble yearnings toward great 
ends, yet with that imperfect perception of means which 
forces a resort to some supernatural constraining influence 
as the only sure hope. The Florentine youth had had 
very evil habits and foul tongues: it seemed at first an 
/unmixed blessing when they were got to shout '^ Viva 
Gesu I But Savonarola was forced at last to say from the 
pulpit, *^ There is a little too much shouting of ' Viva 



THE PYKAMID OF VANITIES. 307 

Gesuf This constant utterance of sacred words brings 
them into contempt. Let me have no more of that shout- 
ing till the next Festa." 

Nevertheless, as the long^ strea m of white-robed youtJi- 
f Illness, with its little^red crosses and oIi\e wreaths, liad 
"go 11 o"Fo~TTie Dlfo m o " ai dawn this morning to receive the 
C()Diminiion from the hands of Savonarola, it was a sight of 
b_e.au ty; and, doubtless^ many of those young souls were 
laving 11}) ineiuories of hope and awe that might save '-=>_ 
fTietii from ever resting in a merely vulgar view of their v\ 
work as men and citizens. There is no kind of conscious 
obedience that is not an advance on lawlessness, and these 
boys became the generation of men who fought gi'eatlj 
and endured g^reatly in the last, stru^ggJe^QliEeiFlRepiTlilic. 
ITow7 in the intermediate hours between the early com- 
munion and dinner-time, they were making their last 
perambulations to collect alms and vanities, and this 
was why Komola saw the slim white figures moving to and 
fro about the base of the great pyramid. 

**What think you of this folly. Madonna Eomola?" 
said a brusque voice close to her ear. "Your Piagnoni 
will make Vi7if6rno a pleasant prospect to us, if they are 
to carry things their own way on earth. It^s enough to 
fetch a cudgel over the mountains to see painters, like 
Lorenzo di Credi and young Baccio there, helping to burn 
color out of life in this fashion." 

"My good Piero,"'' said Romola, looking up and smiling 
at the grim man, "even you must be glad to see some of 
these things burned. Look at those gewgaws and wigs and 
rouge-pots: I have heard you talk as indignantly against 
those things as Fra Girolamo himself." 

"What then?" said Piero, turning round on her sharply. 
"I never said a woman should make a black patch of 
herself against the background. Va! Madonna Antigone, 
it^s a shame for a woman with your hair and shoulders to 
run into such nonsense — leave it to women who are not 
worth painting. What! the most holy Virgin herself has -^ 
always ^eejQ^drfi^edjwell; that^s the doctrine of tjie church: / 
— talk of heresy, indeed! Aiid I sliouTd"ITlie to know }t 
what the excellent Messer Bardo would have said to the J, 
burning of the divine poets by these Frati, who are .no ) ^ 
better an imitation of men than if they were onions wi^h / 
the bulbs uppermost. Look at that Petrarca sticking up 
beside a rouge-pot: do the idiots pretend that the heavenly 
Laura was a painted harridan? And Boccaccio, now: do 



398 ROMOLA. 

you mean to say, Madonna Romola — you who are fit to be 
a model for wise Saint Catherine of Egypt — do you mean 
to say you have never read the stories of the immortal 
Messer Giovanni ?^^ 

*^'It is true I have read them, Piero," said Eomola. 
*'Some of them a great many times over, when I was a 
little girl. I used to get the book down when my father 
was asleep, so that I could read to myself." 

^' Ebbene?" said Piero, in a fiercely challenging tone. 

" There are some things in them I do not want ever to 

( forget," said Romola; ^*but you must confess, Piero, that 

^€y a great many of these stories are only about low deceit for 

^ ,. the lowest ends. Men do not want books to make them 

N ^^\ think lightly of vice, as if life were a vulgar joke. And I 

V (^ J cannot blame Fra Girolamo for teaching that we owe our 
"C^ ^ time to something better." 

X '^ Yes, yes, it's very well to say so now youVe read them,'' 

V said Piero, bitterly, turning on his heel and walking away 
* from her. 

Romola, too, walked on, smiling at Piero's innuendo, 
with a sort of tenderness toward the old painter's anger, 
because she knew that her father would have felt some- 
thing like it. For herself, she was conscious of no inward 
collision with the strict and sombre view of pleasure which 
^ "" tended to repress poetry in the attempt to repress vice. 
^ Sorrow and joy have each their peculiar narrowness; and 
r a religious enthusiasm like Savonarola's which ultimately 
^ blesses mankind by giving the soul a strong propulsion 
toward sympathy with pain, indignation against wrong, 
and the subjugation of sensual desire, must always incur 
the rein'oach of a great negation. Romola's life had given 
A ^ lier an affinity for sadness which inevitably made her unjust 
^ toward merriment. That subtle result of culture which 
we call taste was subdued by the need for deeper motive; 
just as the nicer demands of the palate are annihilated by 
urgent hunger. Moving habitually amongst scenes of suf- 
fering, and carrying woman's heaviest disappointment in 
her heart, the severity which allied itself with self -renounc- 
ing beneficent strength had no dissonance for her. 



TESSA AJJLOAi) AND AT HOME. 399 

CHAPTER L. 

TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 

Another figure easily recognized by us — a figure not 
clad in black, but in the old red, green, and white — was 
approaching the Piazza that morning to see the Carnival. 
She came from an opposite point, for Tessa no longer 
lived on the hill of San Giorgio. After what had hap- 
pened there with Baldassarre, Tito had thought it best 
for that and other reasons to find her a new home, but still 
in a quiet airy quarter, in a house bordering on the wide 
garden grounds north of the Porta Santa Croce. 

Tessa was not come out sight-seeing without special 
leave. Tito had been with her the evening before, and 
she had kept back the entreaty which she felt to be swell- 
ing her heart and throat until she saw him in a state of 
radiant ease, with one arm around the sturdy Lillo, and 
the other resting gently on her own shoulder as she tried 
to make the tiny Ninna steady on her legs. She was sure 
then that the weariness with which he had come in and 
flung himself into his chair had quite melted away from 
his brow and lips. Tessa had not been slow at learning a 
few small stratagems by which she might avoid vexing 
Naldo and yet have a little of her own way. She could read 
nothing else, but she had learned to read a good deal in 
her husband's face. 

And certainly the charm of that bright, gentle-hu- 
mored Tito who woke up under the Loggia de Cerchi on a 
Lenten morning five years before, not having yet given 
any hostages to deceit, never returned so nearly as in the 
person of Naldo, seated in that straight-backed, carved 
arm-chair which he had provided for his comfort when he 
came to see Tessa and the children. Tito himself was 
surprised at the growing sense of relief which he felt in 
these moments. No guile was needed toward Tessa: slie 
was too ignorant and too innocent to suspect him of any- 
thing. And the little voices calling him "Babbo''" were 
very sweet in his ears for the short while that he heard 
them. When he thought of leaving Florence, he never 
thought of leaving Tessa and the little ones behind. He 
was very fond of these round-cheeked, wide-eyed human 
things that clung about him and knew no evil of him. 
And wherever affection can spring, it is like the green 



400 EOMOLA. 

leaf and the blossom — pure, and breathing purity, what- 
ever soil it may grow in. Poor Romola, with all her 
self-sacrificing effort, was really helping to harden Tito^s 
nature by chilling it with a positive dislike which had 
beforehand seemed impossible in him: but Tessa kej)t 
open the fountains of kindness. 

" Ninna is very good without me now," began Tess; 
feeling her request rising very high in her tliroat, and 
letting Ninna seat herself on the floor. " I can leave her 
with Slonna Lisa any time, and if she is in the cradlQ and 
cries, Lillo is as sensible as can be — he goes and thumps 
Monna Lisa." 

Lillo, whose great dark eyes looked all the darker because 
his curls were of a light brown like his mother's, jumped 
off Babbo's knee, and went forthwith to attest his intelli- 
gence by thumping Monna Lisa, who was shaking her 
head slowly over her spinning at the other end of the 
room. 

*' A wonderful boy!" said Tito, laughing. 

** Isn't he?" said Tessa, eagerly, getting a little closer to 
him; "and I might go and see the Carnival to-morrow, 
just for an hour or two, mightn't I?" 

''Oh, you wicked pigeon!" said Tito, pinching her 
cheek; ''those are your longings, are they? What have 
you to do with carnivals now you are an old woman with 
two children ? " 

"But old women like to see things," said Tessa, her 
lower lip hanging a little. "Monna Lisa said she should 
like to go, only she's so deaf she can't hear what is behind 
her, and she thinks we couldn't take care of both the 
children." 

"No, indeed, Tessa," said Tito, looking rather grave, 
"you must not think of taking the children into the 
crowded streets, else I shall be angry." 

" But I have never been into the Piazza without leave," 
said Tessa, in a frightened, pleading tone, "since the Holy 
Saturday, and I think Nofri is dead, for you know the 
poor maclre died; and I shall never forget the Carnival I 
saw once; it was so pretty — all roses and a king and queen 
under them — and singing. I liked it better than the San 
Giovanni." 

"But there's nothing like that now, my Tessa. They 
are going to make a bonfire in the Piazza — that's all. But 
I cannot let you go out by yourself in the evening." 

" Oh, no, no! I don't want to go in the evening. I only 



TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 401 

want to go and see the procession by daylight. There ivill 
be a procession — is it not true?" 

*^' Yes, after a sort/' said Tito, '^as lively as a flight of 
cranes. You must not expect roses and glittering kings 
and queens, my Tessa. However I suppose any string of 
people to be called a procession will please your blue eyes. 
And there's a thing they have raised in the Piazza de Sig- 
nori for the bonfire. You may like to see that. But come 
home early, and look like a grave little old woman; and if 
3^ou see any men with feathers and swords, keep out of 
their way: they are very fierce, and like to cut old women's 
heads off." 

''Santa Madonna! where do they come from? Ah! 3^ou 
are laughing; it is not so bad. But I will keep away from 
them. Only," Tessa went on in a whisper, putting her 
lips near Naldo's ear, *'if I might take Lillo with me! 
He is very sensible." 

''But who will thump Monna Lisa then, if she doesn't 
hear?" said Tito, finding it diflftcult not to laugh, but 
thinking it necessary to look serious. "No, Tessa, you 
could not take care of Lillo if you got into a crowd, and 
he's too heavy for you to carry him." 

"It is true," said Tessa, rather sadly, "and he likes to 
run away. I forgot tliat. Then I will go alone. But now 
look at Ninna — you have not looked at her enough." 

Ninna was a blue-eyed thing, at the tottering, tumbling 
age — a fair solid, which, like a loaded die, found its base 
with a constancy that warranted prediction. Tessa went 
to snatch her up, and when Babbo was paying due atten- 
tion to the recent teeth and other marvels, she said, in a 
whisper, "And shall I buy some confetti for the children?" 

Tito drew some small coins from his scarsella, and 
poured them into her palm. < 

"That will buy no end," said Tessa, delighted at this 
abundance. " I shall not mind going without Lillo so 
much, if I bring him something." 

So Tessa set out in the morning toward the great Piazza 
where the bonfire was to be. She did not think the 
February breeze cold enough to demand further covering 
than her green woolen dress. A mantle would have been 
oppressive, for it would have hidden a new necklace and 
a hew clasp, mounted wdth silver, the only ornamental 
presents Tito had ever made her. Tessa did not think at 
all of showing her figure, for no one had ever told her it 
was pretty; but she was quite sure that her necklace and 
^6 



402 ROMOLA. 

clasp were of the prettiest sort ever worn by the richest 
contadina, and she arranged her wliite hood over her head 
so that the front of her necklace might be well displayed. 
These ornaments, she considered, must inspire respect for 
her as the wife of some one who could afford to buy them. 
She tripped along very cheerily in the February sunshine, 
thinking much of the purchases for the little ones, with 
which she was to fill her small basket, and not thinking at 
all of any one who might be observing her. Yet her 
descent from her upper story into the street had been 
watched, and she was being kept in sight as she walked by 
a person who had often waited in vain to see if it were not 
Tessa who lived in that house to which he had more than 
once dogged Tito. Baldassarre was carrying a package of 
yarn: he was constantly employed in that way, as a means 
of earning his scanty bread, and keeping the sacred fire of 
vengeance alive; and he had come out of his way tit' 
morning, as he had often done before, that he might p;; 
by the house to which he had followed Tito in the evening. 
His long imprisonment had so intensified his timid suspi- 
cion and his belief in some diabolic fortune favoring Tito, 
that he had not dared to pursue him, except under cover 
of a crowd or of the darkness; he felt, with instinctive 
horror, that if Tito's eyes fell upon him, he should again 
be held up to obloquy, again be drngged away; his weapon 
would be taken from him, and he should be cast helpless 
into a prison-cell. His fierce purpose had become as stealthy 
as a serpent's, which depends for its prey on one dart of 
the fang. Justice was weak and unfriended; and he could 
not hear again the voice that pealed the promise of ven- 
geance in the Duomo; he had been there again and again, 
but that voice, too, had apparently been stifled by cunnir 
• ^strong-armed wickedness. For a long while Baldassarn 
ruling thought was to ascertain wliether Tito still wore 
the armor, for now at last his fainting hope would 
have been contented with a successful stab on this si'' 
the grave; but he would never risk his precious knu. 
again. It was a weary time he had had to >vait for the 
chance of answering this question by touching Tito's back 
jn the press of the street. Since then, the knowledge that 
the sharp steel was useless, and that he had no ho])e but in 
some new device, had fallen with leaden weight on his 
enfeebled mind. A dim vision of winning one of those 
two wives to aid him came before him continually, and 
CORtjuiially slid away. The wife who had lived on the 



TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 403 

hill was no longer there. If he could find her again, he 
might grasp some thread of a project, and work his way to 
more clearness. 

And this morning he had succeeded. He was quite cer- 
tain now where this wife lived, and as he walked, bent a 
little under his burden of yarn, yet keeping the green and 
white figure in sight, his mind was dwelling upon her and 
her circumstances as feeble eyes dwell on lines and colors, 
trying to interpret them into consistent significance. 

Tessa had to pass through various long streets without 
seeing any other sign of the Carnival than unusual groups 
of the country people in their best garments, and that dis- 
position in everybody to chat and loiter which marks the 
early hours of a holiday, before the spectacle has begun. 
Presently, in her disappointed search for remarkabla 
objects, her eyes fell on a man with a peddler's basket 
before him, who seemed to be selling nothing but little 
red crosses to all the passengers. A little red cross ^ — 
would be prett y to hang up over her Bed: it would also" ^^^ 
HeTiTto keep on Harp? and would perhaps make Mnna' >*->^vT^ 
strongexr 'Tessa went to the other side of the street that ^^^ 
she might ask the peddler the price of the crosses, fearing 
that they would cost a little too much for her to spare 
from her purchase of sweets. The peddler's back had been 
turned toward her hitherto, but when she came near him 
she recognized an old acquaintance of the Mercato, Bratti 
Ferravecchi, and, accustomed to feel that she was to avoid 
old acquaintances, she turned away again and passed to 
the other side of the street. But Bratti's eye was too well 
practiced in looking out at the corner after possible cus- 
tomers, for her movement to have escaped him, and she 
was presently arrested by a tap on the arm from one of the 
red crosses. 

*^ Young woman,'' said Bratti, as she unwillingly turned 
her head, '^you come from some castello a good way off, 
it seems to me, else you'd never think of walking about ^ 
this blessed Carnival, without a red cross in your hand. J. 
Santa Madonna! "Fnrir whitpi qii?^ttriniJs_g^ .^ Pi'^H prinp, to N^ .. 
pa^£Q£..j[mjLi:_Sfl]J.^ r^ prices - rko-in pui:gatory^,-^let~ma_ML.. 
yaii," 

"Oh, I should like one/' said Tessa, hastily, "but I 
couldn't spare four white quattrini." 

Bratti had at first regarded Tessa too abstractedly as a 
mere customer to look at her with any scrutiny, but when 
she began to speak he exclaimed, '^By the head, of Saft 



V 



404 ROMOLA. 

Giovanni, it must be the little Tessa, and looking as fresh 
as a ripe apple! What! you've done none the worse, then, 
for running away from father Nofri? You were in the 
right of it, for he goes on crutches now, and a crabbed 
fellow witli crutches is dangerous; he can reach across the 
house and beat a woman as he sits." 

'* I'm married," said Tessa, rather demurely, remember- 
ing Naldo's command that she should beliave with gravity; 
*^and my husband takes great care of me." 

'•'Ah, then, you\e fallen on your feet! Nofri said you 
were good-for-nothing vermin; but what then? An ass 
may bray a good while before he shakes the stars down. I 
always said you did well to run away, and it isn't often 
Bratti's in the wrong. AVell, and so youVe got a husband 
and plenty of money? Then you'll never think much of 
giving four white quattrini for a red cross. I get no profit; 
but what with the famine and the new religion, all other 
merchandise is gone down. You live in the country where 
the chestnuts are plenty, eh? You've never wanted for 
polenta, I can see." 

**No, Fve never wanted anything," said Tessa, still on 
her guard. 

"Then you can afford to buy a cross. I got a Padre to 
bless them, and you_^^et_bl essi ng and all for foiir otLajt- 
trini. It isn't for the profitj 1 hardly get a daiiaro by the 
wIioTe lot. But then they're holy wares, and it's getting 
harder and harder work to see your way to Paradise; the 
very Carnival is like Holy Week, and the least you can do 
to keep the Devil from getting the upper hand is to buy a 
cross. God guard you ! think what the Devil's tooth is ! 
You've seen him biting the man in San Giovanni, I should 
hope?" 

Tessa felt much teased and frightened. *' Oh, Bratti," 
she said, with a discomposed face. "I want to buy a 
great many confetti: I've got little Lillo and Ninna at 
liome. And nice-colored sweet things cost a great deal. 
And they will not like the cross so well, though I know it 
would be good to have it." 

" Come, then," said Bratti, fond of laying up a store of 
merits by imagining possible extortions and then heroic- 
ally renouncing them, *'since you're an old acquaintance, 
you shall have it for two quattrini. It's making you a 
present of the cross, to say nothing of the blessing." 

Tessa was reaching out her two c^uattrini with trembling 



TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 405 

hesitation, when Bratti said abruptly, *' Stop a bit! Where 
do you live?" 

" Oh, a long way off,'' she answered, almost automatic- 
ally, being preoccupied with her quattrini; ''beyond San 
Ambrogio, in the Via Piccola, at the top of the house 
where the wood is stacked below." 

''Very good," said Bratti, in a patronizing tone; "then 
ril let you have the cross on trust, and call for the money. 
So you live inside the gates? Well, I shall be passing." 

"No, no!" said Tessa, frightened lest Naldo should be 
angry at this revival of an old acquaintance. " I can spare 
the money. Take it now." 

"No," said Bratti, resolutely; "Fm not a hard-hearted 
peddler. I'll call and see if you've got any rags, and you 
shall make a bargain. See, here's the cross: and there's 
Pippo's shop not far behind you: you can go and fill your 
basket, and I must go and get mine empty^ Addio, 
piccina. " 

Bratti went on his way, and Tessa, stimulated to change 
her money into confetti before further accident, went into 
Pippo's shop, a little fluttered by the thought that she had 
let Bratti know more about her than her husband would 
approve. There were certainly more dangers in coming to 
see the Carnival than in staying at home; and she would 
have felt this more strongly if she had known that the 
wicked old man, who had wanted to kill her husband on 
the hill, was still 'keeping her in sight. But she had not 
noticed the man with the burden on his back. 

The consciousness of having a small basketful of things 
to make the children glad, dispersed her anxiety, and as 
she entered the Via de Libraj her face had its usual expres- 
sion of child-like content. And now she thought there 
was really a procession coming, for she saw 'white robes and 
a banner, and her heart began to palpitate with expecta- 
tion. She stood a little aside, but in that narrow street 
there was the pleasure of being obliged to look very close. 
The banner was pretty: it was the Holy Mother with the 
Babe, whose love for her Tessa had believed in more and 
more since she had had her babies; and the figures in white 
had not only green wreaths on their heads, but little red 
crosses by their side, which caused her some satisfaction 
that she also had her red cross. Certainly, they iooked as 
beautiful as the angels on the clouds, and to Tessa's mind 
they tooliad a background of cloud, like everything else 
that came to her in life. How and whence did they come? 



406 ROMOLA. 

She did not mind much about knowing. But one thing 
surprised her as newer than wreaths and crosses; it was 
that some of the white figures carried baskets between 
them. What could the baskets be for? 

But now they were very near, and, to lier astonishment, 
they wheeled aside and came straight up to her. She 
trembled as she would have done if St. Michael in the pict- 
ure had shaken his head at her, and was conscious of noth- 
ing but terrified wonder till she saw close to her a round 
boyish face, lower than her own, and heard a treble voice 
saying, ^^?^isi-f.r, yon p.fl.rfy f.|iP ATin.fbPTTm nbout you. Yielf^ 

Tessa was only more frightened, understanding nothing. 
Her first conjecture settled on her basket of sweets. They 
wanted that, these alarming angels. Oh, dear, dear! She 
looked dojvn at it. 

*'No, sister," said a taller youth, pointing to her neck- 
lace and the clasp of her belt, *' it is those vanities tliat are 
the Anathema. Take off that necklace and unclasp that 
belt, that they may be burned in the holy Bonfire of Vani- 
ties, and save you from burning. " 

**It is "thetruth, my sister," said a still taller youth, 
evidently the archangel of this band. " Listen to these 
voices speaking the divine message. You already carry a 
red cross: let that be 3'our only adornment. Yield up 
your necklace and belt, and you shall obtain grace." 

This was too much. Tessa, overcome with awe, dared 
not say "no," but she was equally unable to render up her 
beloved necklace and cla&p. Her pouting lips were quiver- 
ing, the tears rushed to her eyes, and a great drop fell. 
For a moment she ceased to see anything; she felt notliing 
but confused terror and misery. Suddenly a gentle hand 
was laid on her arm, and a soft, wonderful voice, as if the 
Holy Madonna were speaking, said, "Do not be afraid; 
no one shall harm you." 

Tessa looked up and saw a lady in black, with a young, 
heavenly face and loving hazel eyes. She had never seen 
any one like this lady before, and under other circum- 
stances might have had awestruck thoughts about her; 
but now everything else was overcome by the sense that 
loving protection was near her. The tears only fell the 
faster, relieving her swelling heart, as she looked up at the 
heavenly face, and, putting her hand to her necklace, said 
sobbingly — 



TES3A ABROAD AKD At HOME. iO^ 



tc 



1 can't give them to be burned. My husband — h6 
bought them for me — and they are so pretty^and Ninna — 
oh, I wish I'd never come! '' 

'* Do not ask her for them/^ said Eomola, speaking tt) 
the white-robed boys in a tone of mild authority. " It 
answers no good end for people to give up such thingsf 
against their will. That is not what Fra Girolamo 
approves: he would have such things given up freely." 

Madonna Komola's word was not to be resisted, and the 
white train moved on. They even moved with haste, as if 
some new object had caught their eyes; and Tessa felt 
with bliss that they were gone, and that her necklace and 
clasp were still with her. 

'^ Oh, I will go back to the house," she said, still agi^ 
tated; ^^I will go nowhere else. But if I should meet 
them again, and you not be there?" she added, expecting 
everything from this heavenly lady. 

'' Stay a little," said Eomola. '^ Come with me under 
this doorway, and we will hide the necklace and clasp, and 
then you will be in no danger." 

She led Tessa under the archway, and said, ''Now, can 
we find room for your necklace and belt in your basket? 
Ah! your basket is full of crisp things that will break: let 
us be careful, and lay the heavy necklace under them." 

It was like a change in a dream to Tessa — the escape 
from nightmare into floating safety and joy — to find her- 
self taken care of by this lady, so lovely, and powerful, 
and gentle. She let Eomola unfasten her necklace and 
clasp, while she herself did nothing but look up at the face 
that bent over her. 

''They are sweets for Lillo and Ninna," she said, as 
Eomola carefully lifted up tlie light parcels in the basket, 
and placed the ornaments below them. 

"Those are your children?" said Epmola, smiling. 

"And you would rather go home to them than see 
any more of the Carnival? Else you have not far to go to 
the Piazza de Signori, and there you would see the pile for 
the great bonfire." 

"No, oh, no!" said Tessa, eagerly; "I shall never like 
bonfires again. I will go back." 

"You live at some castello, doubtless," said Eomola, 
not waiting for an answer. "Toward which gate do 
you go ? " 

"Toward For' Santa Croce." 

" Come, then," said Eomola, taking her by the hand 



408 R03I0LA. 

and leading lier to the corner of a street nearly opposite. 
" If you go down there/' she said, pausing, "you will soon 
be in a straight road. And I must leave you now, because 
some one else expects me. You will not be frightened. 
Your pretty things are quite safe now. Addio." 

*^Addio, Madonna," said Tessa, almost in a whisper, not 
knowing what else would be right to say; and in an instant 
the heavenly lady was gone. Tessa turned to catch a last 
glimpse, but she only saw the tall gliding figure vanish 
round the projecting stonework. So she went on her way 
in wonder, longing to be once more safely housed with 
Monna Lisa, undesirous of carnivals forevermore. 

Baldassarre had kept Tessa in sight till the moment of 
her parting with Romola: then he went away with his 
bundle of yarn. It seemed to him that he had discerned 
a clue which might guide him if he could only grasp the 
necessary details firmly enough. He had seen the two 
wives together, and the sight had brought to his concep- 
tions that vividness which had been wanting before. His 
power of imagining facts needed to be reinforced contin- 
luilly by the senses. The tall wife was the noble and 
rightful wife; she had the blood in her that would be 
readily kindled to resentment; she would know what 
scholarship was, and how it might lie locked in by the 
obstructions of the stricken body, like a treasure buried 
by earthquake. She could believe him: she would be 
inclined to believe him, if he proved to her that her hus- 
band was unfaithful. Women cared about that: they 
would take vengeance for that. If this wife of Tito's loved 
him, she would have a sense of injury which Baldassarre's 
mirtd dwelt on with keen longing, as if it would be the 
strength of another Will added to his own, the strength of 
another mind to form devices. 

Both these wives had been kind to Baldassarre, and their 
acts toward him, being bound up with the very image of 
them, had not vanished from his memory; yet the thought 
of their pain could not present itself to him as a check. 
To him it seemed that pain was the order of the world for 
all except the hard and base. If any were innocent, if any 
were noble, where could the utmost gladness lie for them? 
Where it lay for him — in unconquerable hatred and 
triumphant vengeance. But he must be cautious: he must 
watch this wife in the Via de Bardi, and learn more of 
her; for even here frustration was possible. There was no 
power for him now but in patience. 



MONK A BHIGIDa's CON VERSION. 409 

CHAPTEK LI. 

MONNA BRIGIDA's CONVERSION". 

When Komola said that some one else expected her, she 
meant her cousin Brigida, but she was far from suspecting 
how much that good kinswoman was in need of her. 
Eeturning together toward the Piazza, they had descried 
the company of youths coming to a stand before Tessa, 
and when Komola, having approached near enough to 
see the simple little contadina^'s distress, said, ''Wait for 
me a moment, cousin," Monna Brigida said hastily, '' Ah, 
I will not go on: come for me to Boni's shop — I shall go 
back there." 

The truth was, Monna Brigida had a consciousness on 
the one hand of certain *' vanities " carried on her person, 
and on the other of a growing alarm lest the Piagnoni 
should be n Vht in ho lding ihut ron^ft, a nd false hair, a nd 
pfifl.rl ftTf^rm'rlftry, f^nflumf^^^^ the soul. Their serious^^^j^^ 
view of things filled the air like an odor; nothing seemed -^rL 
t o have exactly the same flavor as it use3" to have : and 
fhere was the dear child Komola, in her youth and beauty, 
leading a life that was uncomfortably suggestive of rigor- 
ous demands on woman. A widow at fifty-five whose satis- 
faction had been largely drawn from what she thinks of 
her own person, and what she believes others think of it, 
requires a great fund of imagination to keep her spirits 
buoyant. And Monna Brigida had begun to have frequent 
struggles at her toilet. If her soul would prosper better 
without them, was it really worth while to put on the rouge 
and the braids? But when she lifted up the hand-mirror 
and saw a sallow face with baggy cheeks, and crows'- 
feet that were not to be dissimulated by any simpering 
of the lips — when she parted her gray hair, and let it 
lie in simple Piagnone fashion round her face, her cour- 
age failed. Monna Berta would certainly burst out laugh- 
ing at her, and call her an old hag, and as Monna Berta 
was really only fifty-two, she had a superiority which 
would make the observation cutting. Every woman who 
was not a Piagnone would give a shrug at the sight of 
her, and the *men would accost her as if she were their 
grandmother. Whereas, at fifty-five a woman was not 
so very old — she only required making up a little. So 



\ 



410 ROMOLA* 

the rouge and the hraids and the embroidered berrettii 
went on again, and Monna Brigida was satisfied with 
the accustomed effect; as for her neck, if she covered it 
up, people might suppose it was too old to show, and, on 
the contrary, with the necklaces round it, it looked 
better than Monna Berta's. This very day, when she 
was preparing for the Piagnone Carnival, such a struggle 
had occurred, and the conflicting fears and longings 
which caused the struggle, caused her to turn back and 
seek refuge in the druggist's shop rather than encounter 
the collectors of the Anathema when Eomola was not by 
her side. But Monna Brigida was not quite rapid enough 
in her retreat. She had been descried, even before she 
turned away, by the white-robed boys in the rear of those 
who wheeled round toward Tessa, and the willingness with 
which Tessa was given up was, perhajis, slightly due to the 
fact that part of the troop had already accosted a person- 
age carrying more markedly upon her the dangerous weight 
of the Anathema. It happened that several of this troop 
were at the youngest age taken into peculiar training; and 
a small fellow of ten, his olive wreath resting above cheru- 
bic chetiky silld Wide brown eyes, his imagination really 
possessed with a hovering awe at existence as something 
in which great consequences impended on being good or 
bad, his longings nevertheless running in the direction of 
mastery and mischief, was the first to reach Monna Brigida 
and place himself across her path. She felt angry, and 
looked for an open door, but there was not one at hand, 
and by attempting to escape now, she would only make 
things worse. But it was not the cherubic-faced young 
one who first addressed her; it was a youth of fifteen, who 
held one handle of a wide basket. 

"Venerable mother!" he began, ^^ th e blessed Jesus com-s. 
m^nds you to give up the Anathema wTuch you carry upon 
you. That cap embroidered with pearls, those jewels ilvdt 
fasten up your false hair — let them be given up and sold 
for the poor; and cast the hair itself away from you, as a 
lie that is only fit for burning. Doubtless, too, you have 
other jewels under your silk mantle." 

'*Yes, lady," said the youth at the other handle, who 
had many of Fra Girolamo's phrases by heart, ''they are 
too heavy for you: they are heavier than a millstone, and 
are weighting you for perdition. Will yo^i adorn your- 
self with the hunger of the poor, and be proud to carry 
God's curse upon your head?" 



MOKKA BRIGIDa's COKVEflStOK. 411 

*^In ti*utli you are old, buona madre/* said the cherubic 
boy, ill a sweet soprano. ^* You look very ugly with the 
red on your cheeks and that black glistening hair, and 
, those fine things. It is only Satan who can like to see 
you. Your Angel is sorry. He wants you to rub away 
the red." 

The little fellow snatched a soft silk scarf from the 
basket, and held it toward Monna Brigida, that she might 
use it as her guardian angel desired. Her anger and 
mortification were fast giving way to spiritual alarm. 
Monna Berta and that cloud of witnesses, highly-dressed 
society in general, were not looking at her, and she was 
surrounded by young monitors, whose white robes, and 
Avreaths, and red crosses, and dreadful cgn dor, had some- 
thi ng awful in their unusualness. Her 1^'ranciscan con- 
fessor7 HVa (^ngtoforo , of Snnta (Irocnj was not at hand to 
reinforce her distrust of Dominican teaching, and she was 
helplessly possessed and shaken by a vague sense that a 
.supreme warning was come to her. Ilnvisited by the least 
suggestion of any other course that was open to her, she 
took the scarf that was held out, and rubbed her cheeks, 
with trembling submissiveness. 

'^It is well, madonna," said the second youth. '' It is a 
holy beginning. And when you have taken those vanities 
from your head, the dew of heavenly grace will descend on 
it." The infusion of mischief was getting stronger, and put- 
ting his hand to one of the jeweled pins that fastened her 
braids to the berretta, he drew it out. The heavy black 
plait fell down over Monna Brigida^s face, and dragged the 
rest of the head-gear forward. It was a new reason for not 
hesitating: she put up her hands hastily, undid the other 
^fastenings, and flung down into the basket of doom her 
beloved crimson velvet berretta, with all its unsurpassed 
embroidery of seed-pearls, and stood an unrouged woman, 
with gray hair pushed backward from a face where certain 
deep lines of age had triumphed over emhonpoint. 

But the berretta was not allowed to lie in the basket. 
With impish zeal the youngsters lifted it, and held it up 
pitilessly, with the false hair dangling. 

^'^ See, venerable mother," said the taller youth, *^what 
ugly lies you have delivered yourself from! And now you 
look like the blessed Saint Anna, the mother of the Holy 
Virgin." 

Thoughts of going into a convent forthwith, and never 
showing herself in the world again, were rushing through 



41.2 EOMOLA. 

Monna Brigida's mind. Thprp wns potViirigr possihlft for 
hgr_biit_tQ ^ take care of her soul. Of course there were 
spectators laughing: she had no need to look round to 
assure herself of that. Well! it would, perhaps, be better 
to be forced to think more of Paradise. But at the 
thought that the dear accustomed world was no longer in 
her choice, there gathered some of those hard tears which 
just moisten elderly eyes, and then she could see but dimly 
a large rough hand holding a red cross, which was sud- 
denly thrust before her over the shoulders of the boys, 
while a strong guttural voic^ said — 

'' Only four quattrini, madonna, blessing and all ! Buy 
it. You^ll find a comfort in it now your wig's gone. Deh! 
what are we sinners doing all our lives? Making soup in 
a basket, and getting nothing but the scum for our 
stomachs. Better buy a blessing, madonna! Only four 
quattrini; the profit is not so much as the smell of a da- 
naro, and it goes to the poor." 

Monna. Brigida, in dim-eyed confusion, was proceeding 
to the further submission of reaching money from her 
embroidered scarsella, at present hidden by her silk mantle, 
when the group round her, which she had not yet enter- 
tained the idea of escaping, opened before a figure as 
welcome as an angel loosing prison bolts. 

^' Romola, look at me! " said Monna Brigida, in a piteous 
tone, putting out both her hands. 

The white troop was already moving away, with a slight 
consciousness that its zeal about the head-gear had been 
superabundant enough to afford a dispensation from any 
further demand for penitential offerings. 

" Dear cousin, don't be distressed," said Romola, smitten 
with pity, yet hardly able to help smiling at the sudden 
apparition of her kinswoman in a genuine, natural guise, 
strangely contrasted with all memories of her. She took 
the black drapery from her own head and threw it over 
Monna Brigida's. ^^ There," she went on soothingly, 
'^ no one will remark you now. We will turn down the 
Via del Palagio and go straight to our house." 

They hastened away, Monna Brigida grasping Romola's 
hand tightly, as if to get a stronger assurance of her being 
actually there. 

^'Ah, my Romola, my dear child!" said the short fat 
woman, hurrying with frequent steps to keep pace with 
the majestic young figure beside her; ^^what an old 
scarecrow I am! I must be good — I mean to be good!" 



I 



MONNA BRIGIDA'S CONVERSION". 413 



'^Yes, yBs; buy a cross! ^* said the guttural voice, while 
the rough hand was thrust once more before Monna 
Brigida: for Bratti was not to be abashed by Eomola^s 
presence into renouncing a probable customer, and had 
quietly followed up their retreat. '^'^ Only four quattrini, 
blessing and all — and if there was any profit, it would all 
go to the ipoor." 

Monna Brigida would have been compelled to pause, 
even if she had been in a less submissive mood. She put 
up one hand deprecatingly to arrest Eomola's remon- 
strance, and with the other reached out a grosso, worth 
many white quattrini, saying, in an entreating tone — 

'^Take it, good man, and begone." 

''You're in the right, madonna," said Bratti, taking 
the coin quickly, and thrusting the cross into her hand; 
'' I'll not offer you change, for I might as well rob you of 
a mass. What! we must all be scorched a little, but you'll 
come off the easier; better fall from the window than the 
roof. A good Easter and a good year to you ! " 

''Well, Romola," cried Monna Brigida, pathetically, as 
Bratti left them, "if Fmto be a Piagnone it's no matter 
how I look!" 

" Dear cousin," said Romola, smiling at her affectionately, 
" you don't know how much better you look than you ever 
did before. I see now how good-natured your face is, like 
yourself. That red and finery seemed to thrust themselves 
forward and hide expression. As k our Piero or any other ^^ 
painter if he would not rather^aint your portrait' now 'tfi^^ 
than before. I think all lines of the human face have ^ 
something either touching or grand, unless they seem to 
come from low passions. How fine old men are, like my 
godfather! Why should not old women look grand and 
simple?" 

" Yes, when one gets to be sixty, my Romola," said 
Brigida, relapsing a little;' "but I'm only fifty-five, and 
Monna Berta, and everybody — but it's no use: I will be 
good, like you. Your mother, if she'd been alive, would 
have been as old as I am; we were cousins together. One 
mtcst either die or get old. But it doesn't matter about 
being old if one's a Piagnone." 



414 EOMOLA. 



CHAPTER LIL 

A PROPHETESS. 




The incidents of that Carnival day seemed to Romola 
to carry no other personal consequences to her than the 
new care of supporting poor cousin Brigida in her fluctu- 
ating resignation to age and gray hairs; but they intro- 
v'\duced a Lenten time in which she was kept at a high 
pitch of mental excitement and active effort. 
, Bernardo del Nero had been elected Gonfaloniere. By 
great exertions the Medicean party had so far triumplied, 
and that triumph had deepened Romola's presentiment of 
Rome secretly-prepared scheme likely to ripen either into 
i^ . /success or betrayal during these two mouths of her god- ^ 
Jr jfather^s authority. Every morning the dim daybreak as 
^V^j /it peered into her room seemed to be that haunting fear 
rj^ / coming back to her. Every morning the fear went with 
^ / her as she passed through the streets on her way to the 
arly sermon in the Duomo: but there she gradually lost 
the sense of its chill presence, as men lose the dread of 
death in the clash of battle. 

In the Duomo she felt herself sharing in a passionate 
conflict which had wider relations than any enclosed 
within the walls of Florence. For Savonarola was 
Q- I ^preaching — preaching the last course of Lenten sermons 
^ he was ever allowed to finish in the Duomo: l ie knew that 
exco mmunication was imminent, and he had reached Hk' 
pom^ of defying it' He~IieTd up the condition of tin 
Church in the terrible mirror of his unflinching speech, 
which called things by their right names and dealt in no 
polite periphrases; he proclaimed with lieip;htening con fi- 
dnnnp, thn jirlv(;^nt of rencn^atioi^- - of a moment when tlTerc 
would be a general revolt against corruption. As to his 
own destiny, he seemed to have a double and alternating 
prevision: sometimes he saw himself taking a glorious 
part in that revolt, sending forth a voice that would be 
heard through all Christendom, and making the dead 
body of the Church tremble into new life, as the body of 
Lazarus trembled when the Divine voice pierced the sep- 
ulchre; sometimes he saw no prospect for himself but 
persecution and martyrdom: — this life for him was only ^ 
vigil, and only after death would come the dawn. 



^ 



I 



A PROPHETESS. 415 

The position was one which must have had its impres- 
siveness for all minds that were not of the dullest order, 
even if they were inclined, as Macchiavelli was, to inter- 
pret the Frate's character by a key that presupposed no 
loftiness. To Romola, whose kindred ardor gave her a 
firm belief in Savonarola's genuine greatness of purpose, 
the crisis was as stirring as if it had been part of her per- 
sonal lot. It blent itself as an exalting memory with all 
her daily labors; and those labors Avere calling not only for 
difficult perseverance, but for new courage. Famine had 
never yet taken its flight from Florence, and all distress, 
by its long continuance, was getting harder to bear; dis- 
ease was spreading in the crowded city, and the Plague was 
expected. As Eomola walked, often in weariness, among 
the sick, the hungry and the murmuring, she felt it good 
to be inspired by sometliing more than her pity — by the 
belief in a l^^oigrn afrn gg1n-|fy fpy gnK]i'mn oiifjj^^ toward 
which the daily action of her pity could only tend feebly, 

as the de^V^^Jhat J'reshen th ^ wppHj grnn-nr] fn-r1n.y f.Ai-irl fn 

prepa re an unseen harvest in tlip jrhvr to o.nmp.. 

But that mighty music Avhich stirred her in the Duomo 
was not without its jarring notes. Since those first days 
of glowing hope when the Frate, seeing the near triumph 
of good in the reform of the Republic and the coming of 
the French deliverer, had preadied peace, charity, and 
oblivion of political differences,[tTiere had been a marked 
change of conditions: political intrigue had been too obsti- 
nate to allow of the desired oblivion; the belief in the 
French deliverer, who had turned his back on his high 
mission, seemed to have wrought harm; and hostility, both 
on a petty and on a grand scale, was attacking the Propliet 
with new weapons and new determinatiorijj 

It followed that the spirit of contention and self-vindi- ^^ 

Catio npi ci-cecl more and piorf^ (^(^)n spip.nniisly iu-^his ,am:- ^ 

jQioiTs ; tliat he was urged to meet thepopularVlemands not (>y 
only by in crease d in~sistence ancL cle t,fl,i| nnnnftrjiLn p- visioiiL 
and privaf c r^y^lations/b'urljy^ a tone of detl ^tf Tf^^^^^l^'l^T 
ajyain st oblectors \ and iron^ hrWing ^Qr>r>nnoori fi^f> rip,'^^'^^^ 
fo r the miraculo ug, anrlHcclared th l^t ^i^i^a^^lf f ^^'-^A W ^'^^ft- 
tio rTto true f aith, lie had come to assort. .tJSqJuil. 



<4 fioment the Divine power v. oiiid niijis±. Mip. t i X^th 
propheUc Reaching by a niinicle. And continually, m the 
rapid traiisilToiis of excited feeling, as the vision of tri- 
umphant good receded behind the actual predominance of 
evil, the threats of cpming vepgeance against vicious 



416 ROMOLA. 

tyrants and corrupt priests gathered some impetus from 
personal exasperation, as well as from indignant zeal. 

In the career of a great public orator who yields himself 
to the inspiration of the moment, that conflict of selfish 
and unselfish emotion which in most men is hidden in the 
chamber of the soul, is brought into terrible evidence: the 
language of the inner voices is written out in letters of fire. 

But if the tones of exasperation jarred on Romola, there 
was often another member of Fra Girolamo's audience to 
whom they were the only thrilling tones, like the vibration 
of deep bass notes to the deaf. Baldassarre had found out 
that the wonderful Frate was preaching again, and as often 
as he could, he went to hear the Lenten sermon, that he 
might drink in the threats of a voice which seemed like a 
power on the side of justice. He went the more because 
he had seen that Romola went too; for he was waiting 
and watching for a time when not only outward circum- 
stances, but his own varying mental state, would mark 
the right moment for seeking an interview with her. 
Twice Romola had caught sight of his face in the Duomo — 
once when its dark glance was fixed on hers. Slie wished 
not to see it again, and yet she looked for it, as men look 
for the reappearance of a portent. But any revelation 
that might be yet to come about this old man was a subor- 
dinate fear now: it referred, she thouo^ht, only to the past, 
and her anxiety was almost absorbed by the present. 

Yet the stirring Lent passed by; April, the second and 
final month of her godfather's supreme authority, was 
near its close j and nothing had occurred to fullill her 
presentiment. In the public mind, too, there had been 
fears, and rumors had spread from Rome of a menacing 
activity on the part of Piero de Medici; but in a few days 
the suspected Bernardo would go out of power. 

Romola was trying to gather some courage from the 
review of her futile fears, when on the twenty-seventh, as 
she was walking out on her usual errands of mercy in the 
afternoon, she was met by a messenger from Camilla 
Rucellai, chief among the feminine seers of Florence, 
desiring her presence forthwith on matters of the highest 
moment. Romola, who shrank with unconquerable repul- 
sion from the shrill volubility of those illuminated women, 
and had just now a special repugnance toward Camilla 
because of a report that she had announced revelations 
hostile to Bernardo del Nero, was at first inclined to send 
ba^k ^ fla,t refusal, Camilla's message might refer to pub- 



A PROPHETESS. 417 

lie affairs, and Romola^s immediate prompting was to close 
her ears against knowledge that might only make her 
mental burden heavier. But it had become so thoroughly 
her habit to reject her impulsive choice, and to obey pas- 
sively the guidance of outward cUims, that, reproving 
herself for allowing her presentiments to make her cow- 
ardly and selfish, she ended by compliance, and went 
straight to Camilla. 

She found the nervous gray-haired woman in a chamber 
arranged as much as possible like a convent cell. The 
thin fingers clutching Romola as she sat, and the eager 
voice addressing her at first in a loud whisper caused her 
a physical shrinking that made it difilcult for her to keep 
her seat. 

Cam'illa had a vision to communicate — a vision in which 
it had been revealed to her by Romola's Angel, that 
Romola knew certain secrets concerning her godfather, 
Bernardo del Nero, which, if disclosed, might save the 
Republic from peril. Camilla's voice rose louder and 
higher as she narrated her vision, and ended by exhorting 
Romola to obey the command of her Angel, and separate 
herself from the enemy of God. 

Romola's impetuosity was that of a massive nature, and, 
excepting moments when she was deeply stirred, her man- 
ner was calm and self -controlled. She had a consti- 
tutional disgust for the shallow excitability of women 
like Camilla, whose faculties seemed all wrought up 
into fantasies, leaving nothing for emotion or thought. 
The exhortation was not yet ended when she started up 
and attempted to wrench her arm from Camilla's tighten- 
ing grasp. It was of no use. The prophetess kept her 
hold like a crab, and, only incited to more eager exhorta- 
tion by Romola's resistance, was carried beyond her own 
intention into a shrill statement of other visions which 
were to corroborate this. Christ himself had appeared to 
her and ordered her to send his commands to certain 
citizens in office that they should throw Bernardo del Nero 
from the window of the Palazzo Vecchio. Fra Girolamo 
himself knew of it, and had not dared this time to say 
that the vision was not of Divine authority. 

'* And since then," said Camilla, in her excited treble, 
straining upward with wild eyes toward Romola's face, 
'^the Blessed Infant has come to me and laid a wafer of 
sweetness on my tongue in token of his pleasure that I 
had done his will." 



418 ROMOLA. 

*' Let me go!" said Romola, in a deep voice of anger. 

'* God grant you are madl else you are detestably wicked!" 

The violence of her effort to be free was too strong for 

Camilla now. She wrenched away her arm and rushed 

out of the room, not pausing till she had hurriedly gone 

far along the street, and found herself close to the church 

of the Badia. She had b ut to pa ssJb^hind^K^ ciirtniu 

under the old ston e_ arch, and s he wouM£luLa_sajnitttai:^- 

. . r^ shut in from the noise and hurry~of The street, where all 

^ ^ objects and all uses suggested the thought of an eternal 

»^\\. u peace subsisting in the midst of turmoil. 

itX 1^ She turned in, and sinking down on the step of the altar 

r/^ in front of Filippino Lippi^s serene Virgin appearing to 

"^.^ St. Bernard, she waited in hope that the inward tumult 

* wv.'V'^hich agitated her would by-and-by subside. 

'^Sv The thought which pressed on her the most acutely was 

j^^ that Camilla could allege Savonarola's countenance of her 

wicked folly. Romola did not for a moment believe that 

he had sanctioned the throwing of Bernardo del Nero from 

the window as a Divine suggestion; she felt certain that 

\^^i7v there was falsehood or mistake in that allegation. Savon- 

Y ^ ' arola had become more and more severe in his views of 

resistance to malcontents; but the ideas jvP strict law and 



'/ 



order were fundamental to all his politica l teaching . Still, 
f -\ since He loieW the^ po^ssibly fatai effects' of visions like 



^ 



Camilla's, since he had a marked distrust of_such spirit; 
seeuig^. women, and kept aloof fi'om tliem as much as 
possible, why, with his readiness to denounce wrong from 
the pulpit, did he not publicly denounce these pretended 
revelations which brought new darkness instead of light 
across the conception of a Supreme ^\ ill? Why? The 
answer came with painful clearness: he was fettered 
inwardly by the consciousness that such revelations were 
not, in their basis, distinctly separable from his own 
visions. He was fettered outwardly by the foreseen co nse- 
quence of raising axry against himself evenjimon^membcrs^i 
of his own party, as one who would suppres8}iTT"T)i'vine ' 
inspiration of which he himself was not the vohide^he or^ 
his confidential and supplementary seer of visions, Era 
Salvestro. 

Romola, kneeling with buried face on the altar-step, was 
enduring one of those sickening moments, when the enthu- 
siasm which had come to her as the only energy strong 
enough to make life worthy, seemed to be inevitably bound 
up with vain dreams and willful eye-shutting. Her mind 



I 



A PROPHETESS. 419 



rushed back with a new attraction toward the strong 
worldly sense, the dignified prudence, the untheoretic x 
virtues of her godfather, who was to be treated as a sort ^ VI 
of Agag because he held tliat a more restricted form of ' "^^ 
government was better than the Great Council, and because 
he would not pretend to forget old ties to the banished 
family. 

But with this last thought rose the presentiment of some 
plot to restore the Medici; and then again she felt that the 
popular party was half justified in its fierce suspicion. 
Again she felt that to keep the Government of Florence 
pure, and to keep out a vicious rule, was a sacred cause: 
the Frate was right there, and had carried her understand- 
ing irrevocably with him. But at this moment the assent 
of her understanding went alone; it was given unwillingly. 
Her heart was recoiling from a right allied to so much 
narrowness; a right apparently entailing that hard system- 
atic judgment of men which measures them by assents and 
denials quite superficial to the manhood within them. 
Her affection and respect were clinging with new tenacity 
to her godfather, and with him to those memories of her 
father which were m the same np2->nsltinn to thp, division of 
men into sb^ftp nnrl goMta by the easy mark of some political 
or rpjiffi mis symboL 

After all has been said that can be said about the widen- 
ing influence of ideas, it remains true that they would hardly 
be such strong agents unless they were taken in a solvent 
of feeling. The great world -struggle of developing thought 
is continually foreshadowed in the struggle of the affec- 
tions, seeking a justification for love and hope. 

If Komola's intellect had been less capable of discerning 
the complexities in human things, all the early loving 
associations of her life would have forbidden her to accept 
implicitly the denunciatory exclusiveness of Savonarola. 
She had smiplj^ felt that his mind had suggested deeper 
aaJImore efficiicTous truth to^lieFfhaiTaiiy other, and the 
large breathing-room she found in his grand view of human 
Sutics had made her patient toward that part of his teacli- 
ing_which she could not absorb, so long as its practical 
^effec£came into collisibn'with no strong force in her. But 
now a sudden insurrection of feeling had brought about 
that collision. Her indignation, once roused by Camilla^s 
visions, could not pause there, but ran like an illuminating 
fire over all the kindred facts in Savonarola's teaching, 
and for the moment she felt what was true in the scornful 



420 ROMOLA. 

sarcasms she heard continually flung against him, more 
keenly than she felt what was false. 

But it was an illumination that made all life look ghastly 
to her. Where were the beings to whom she could cling, 
with whom she could work and endure, with the belief 
that she was working for the right? On the side from 
which moral energy came lay a fanaticism from which she 
was shrinking with newly-startled repulsion; on the side 
to which she was drawn by affection and memory, there was 
the presentiment of some secret plotting, whicn her judg- 
ment told her would not be unfairly called crime. And 
still surmounting every other thought was the dread 
inspired by Tita's hints, lest that presentiment should be 
converted into knowledge, in such a way that she would 
be torn by irreconcilable claims. 

Calmness would not come even on the altar-steps; it 
would not come from looking at the serene picture where 
the saint, writing in the rocky solitude, was being visited 
by faces with celestial peace in them. Romola was in the 
hard press of human difficulties, and that rocky solitude 
was too far off. She rose from her knees that she might 
hasten to her sick people in the courtyard, and by some 
immediate beneficent action, revive that sense of worth in 
life which at this moment was unfed by any wider faith. 
But when she turned round, she found herself face to face 
with a man who was standing only two yards off her. The 
lan was Baldassarre. 



CHAPTER LIII. 

ON SAN MINIATO, 



*'I WOULD speak with you," said Baldassarre, as Romola 
looked at him in silent expectation. It was plain that he 
had followed her, and had been waiting for her. She was 
going at last to know the secret about him. 

" Yes," she said, with the same sort of submission that 
she might have shown under an imposed penance. " But 
you wish to go where no one can hear us?" 

''Where he will not come upon us," said Baldassarre, 
turning and glancing behind him timidly. ^'^Out — in the 
air — away from the streets." 



OK SAN MIKIATO. 421 

'^ I sometimes go to San Miniato at this hour," said 
Romola. '^If you like, I will go now, and you can follow 
me. It is far, but we can be solitary there/' 

He nodded assent, and Eomola set out. To some women 
it might have seemed an alarming risk to go to a compara- 
tively solitary spot with a man who had some of the 
outward signs of that madness which Tito attributed to 
Jiim. But Romola was not given to personal fears, and 
she was glad of the distance that interposed some delay 
before another blow fell on her. The afternoon was far 
advanced, and the sun was already low in the west, when 
she paused on some rough ground in the shadow of the 
cypress-trunks, and looked round for Baldassarre. He was 
not far off, but when he reached her he was glad to sink 
down on an edge of stony earth. His thick-set frame had 
no longer the sturdy vigor which belonged to it when he 
first appeared with the rope round him in the Duomo; 
and under the transient tremor caused by the exertion of 
walking up the hill, his eyes seemed to have a more helpless 
vagueness. 

" The hill is steep," said Romola, with compassionate 
gentleness, seating herself by him. ^'And I fear you have 
been weakened by want." 

He turned his head and fixed his eyes on her in silence, 
unable, now the moment of speech was come, to seize the 
words that would convey the thought he wanted to utter; 
and slie remained as motionless as she could, lest he should 
suppose her impatient. He looked like nothing higher 
than a common-bred, neglected old man, but she was used 
now to be very near to such people, and to think a great 
deal about their troubles. Gradually his glance gathered 
a more definite expression, and at last he said with abrupt 
emphasis — 

^'Ah! you would have been my daughter!" 

The swift flush came in Romola's face and went back 
again as swiftly, leaving her with white lips a little apart, 
like a marble image of horror. For her mind, the revela- 
tion was made. She divined the facts that lay behind that 
single word, and in the first moment there could be no 
check to the impulsive belief which sprang from her keen 
experience of Tito's nature. The sensitive response of 
her face was a stimulus to Baldassarre; for the first time 
his words had wrought their right effect. He went on 
with gathering eagerness and firmness, laying his hand on 

r arm. 



if 



422 ROM OLA. 

*^You are a woman of proad blood — is it not true? 
You go to hear the preacher; you hate baseness — baseness 
that smiles and triumphs. You hate your husband?" 

'* Oh, God! were you really his father?" said Romola, in 
a low voice, too entirely possessed by the images of the 
past to take any note of Baldassarre's question. '* Or was 
it as he said? Did you take him when he was little?" 

'^Ah, you believe me — you know what he is!" said 
Baldassarre, exultingly, tightening the pressure on her 
arm, as if the contact gave him power. " You will help 
me?" 

*' Yes," said Romola, not interpreting the words as he 
meant them. She laid her palm gently on the rough 
hand that grasped her arm, and the tears came to her eyes 
as she looked at him. **0h, it is piteous! Tell me — you 
were a great scholar; yon taught him. How is it?" 

She broke off. Tito's allegation of this man's madness 
had come across her; and where were the signs even of 
past refinement? But she had the self-command not to 
move her hand. She sat perfectly still, waiting to listen 
with new caution. 

"It is gone ! — it is all gone !" said Baldassarre; " and 
they would not believe me, because he lied, and said I was 
mad; and tliey had me dragged to prison. And I am 
old — my mind will not come back. And the world is 
against me." 

He paused a moment, and his eyes sank as if he were 
under a wave of despondency. Then he looked up at hci- 
again, and said with renewed eagerness — 

"But yoti are not against me. He made you love him, 
and he has been false to you; and you hate him. Yes, he 
made me love him: he was beautiful and gentle, and I was 
a lonely man. I took him when they were beating him. 
He slept in my bosom wlien he was little, and I watched 
him as he grew, and gave him all my knowledge, and every- 
thing that was mine I meant to be his. I had many things: 
money, and books, and gems. He had my gems — he sold 
them; and he left me in slavery. He never came to seek 
me, and when I came back poor and in misery, he denied 
me. He said I was a madman." 

"He told us his father was dead — was drowned," said 
Romola, faintly. " Surely he must have believed it then. 
Oh! he could not have been so base the^i!" 

A vision had risen of what Tito was to her in those first 
days when she thought no more of wrong in him than a 



ON SAN MINIATO. 423 

child thinks of poison in flowers. The yearning regret that 
lay in tliat memory brought some relief from the tension 
of horror. With one great sob the tears rushed forth. 

*'Ah, you are young, and the tears come easily," said Bal- 
dassarre, with some impatience. ''^But tears are no good; 
they only put out the fire within, and it is the fire that 
works. Tears will hinder us. Listen to me."*' 

Romola turned toward him with a slight start. Again 
the possibility of his madness had darted through her 
mind, and checked the rush of belief. If, after all, this 
man were only a mad assassin? But her deep belief in this 
story still lay behind, and it was more in sympathy than in 
fear that she avoided the risk of paining him by any show 
of doubt. 

'' Tell me," she said, as gently as she could, "how did 
you lose your memory — your scholarship." 

"I was ill. I can't tell how long — it was a blank. *I 
remember nothing, only at last I was sitting in the sun 
among the stones, and everything else was darkness. And 
slowly, and by degrees, I felt something besides that: a 
longing for something — I did not know what — that never 
came. And when I was in the ship on the waters I began 
to know what I longed for; it was for the Boy to come 
back — it was to find all my thoughts again, for I was 
locked away outside them all. And I am outside now. I 
feel nothing but a wall and darkness." 

Baldassarre had become dreamy again, and sank into 
silence, restiag his head between his hands; and again 
Romola's belief in him had submerged all cautioning 
doubts. The pity with which she dwelt on his words 
seemed like the revival of an old pang. Had she not daily 
seen how her father missed Dino and the future he had 
dreamed of in that son? 

•'It all came back once," Baldassarre went on presently. 
"I was master of everything. I saw all the world again, 
iiud my gems, and my books; and I thought I had him in 
my power, and I went to expose him where — where the 
lights were and the trees; and he lied again, and said I was 

mad, and they dragged me away to prison Wickedness 

is strong; and he wears armor." 

The fierceness had flamed up again. He spoke with his 
former intensity, and again he grasped Romola's arm. 

''But you will help me? He has been false to you too. 
He has another wife, and she has children. He makes her 



424 ROMOLA. 



1 



believe he is her husband, and she is a foolish, helpless 
thing. I will show you where she lives." 

The first shock that passed through Romola was visibly 
one of anger. The woman^s sense of indignity was inevi- 
tably foremost. Baldassarre instinctively felt her in sym- 
pathy with him. 

" You hate him," he went on. "Is it not true? There 
is no love between you; I know that. I know women can 
hate; and you have proud blood. You hate falseness, 
and you can love revenge." 

Romola sat paralyzed by the shock of conflicting feelings. 
She was not conscious of the grasp that was bruising her 
tender arm. 

'^ You shall contrive it," said Baldassarre, presently, in 
an eager whisper, " I have learned by heart that you are 
his rightful wife. You are a noble woman. You go to 
hear the preacher of vengeance; you will help justice. 
But you will think for me. My mind goes — everything 
goes sometimes — all but the fire. The _fire is Qod: it ig 
'^ j ustice: it will not die. Y^ou believe that — is it not true? 
iT'they will not Tiang him for robbing me, you will take 
away his armor — you will make him go without it, and I 
wdll stab him. I have a knife, and my arm is still strong 
enough." 

He put his hand under his tunic, and reached out the 
hidden knife, feeling the edge abstractedly, as if he needed 
the sensation to keep alive his ideas. 

It seemed to Romola as if every fresh hour of her life 
were to become more difficult than the last. Hel* judg- 
ment was too vigorous and rapid for her to fall into the 
mistake of using futile deprecatory words to a man in 
Baldassarre's state of mind. She chose not to answer his 
last speech. She would win time for his excitement to 
allay itself by asking something else that she cared to 
know. She spoke rather tremulously — 

'* You say she is foolish and helpless — that other wife — 
and believes him to be her real husband. Perhaps he is: 
perhaps he married Iier before he married me." 

" I cannot tell," said Baldassarre, pausing in that action 
of feeling the knife, and looking bewildered. *'I can 
remember no more. I only know where slie lives. Y^'ou 
shall see lier. I will take you; but not now," he added 
hurriedly, ^^ he may be tliere. The night is coming on." 

*'It is true," said Romola, starting up with a sudden 



I 



I 



THE EVENIKG AND THE MORNING. 425 



consciousness that the sun had set and the hills were 
darkening; '^'but you will come and take me — when?" 

'' In the morning/' said Baldassarre, dreaming that she, 
too, wanted to hurry to her vengeance. 

^'Come to me, then, where you came to me to-day, in 
the church. I will be there at ten; and if you are not 
there, I will go again toward midday. Can you remem- 
ber?" 

'* Midday," said Baldassarre — ^' only midday. The 
same place, and midday. And, after that," he added, 
rising and grasping her arm again with his left hand, while 
he held the knife in his right; ''we will have our revenge. 
He shall feel the sharp edge of Justice. The world is 
against me, but you will help me." 

" I would help you in other ways," said Romola, making 
a first timid effort to dispel his illusion about her. ''I 
fear you are in want; you have to labor, and get little. I 
should like to bring you comforts and make you feel again 
that there is some one who cares for you." 

'' Talk no more about that," said Baldassarre, fiercely. 
''I will have nothing else. Help me to wring one drop of 
vengeance on this side of the grave. I have nothing but 
my knife. It is sharp; but there is a moment after the 
thrust when men see the face of death, — and it shall be my 
face that he will see." 

He loosed his hold, and sank down again in a sitting 
postnre. Romola felt helpless: she must defer all inten- 
tions till the morrow. 

'^ Midday, then," she said, in a distinct voice. 

''Yes," he answered, with an air of exhaustion. " Go; 
I will rest here." 

She hastened away. Turning at the last spot whence he 
was likely to be in sight, she saw him seated still. 



CHAPTER LIV. 

THE EVENING AND THE MORNING. 

Romola had a purpose in her mind as she was hastening 
away; a purpose which had been growing through the 
afternoon hours like a side-stream, rising higher and 
higher along with the main current. It was less a resolve 
than a necessity of her feeling. Heedless of the darkening 



4*26 - HOMOLA. 

streets, and not caring to call for Maso's slow escort, she 
hurried across the bridge where the river showed itself 
black before the distant dying red, and took the most 
direct way to the Old Palace. She might encounter her 
husband there. No matter. She could not weigh prob- 
abilities; she must discharge her heart. She did not know 
what she passed in the pillared court or up the wide stairs; 
she only knew that she asked an usher for the Gonfaloniere, 
giving her name, and begging to be shown into a private 
room. 

She was not left long alone with the frescoed figures and 
the newly-lit tapers. Soon the door opened, and Bernardo 
del Nero entered, still carrying his white head erect above 
his silk lucco. 

^'Eomola, my child, what is this?" he said, in a tone of 
anxious surprise, as he closed the door. 

She had uncovered her head and went toward him with- 
out speaking. He laid hi^iand on her shoulder, and held 
her a little way from him that he might see her better. 
Her face was haggtird from fatigue and long agitation, her 
hair had rolled down in disorder; but there was an excite- 
ment in her eyes that seemed to have triumphed over the 
bodily consciousness. 

"What has he done?" said Bernardo, abruptly. "Tell 
me everything, child; throw away pride. I am your 
father." 

"It is not about myself — nothing about myself," said 
Romola, hastily. " Dearest godfather, it is about you. I 
have heard things — some I cannot tell you. But you are 
in danger in the palace; you are in danger everywhere. 
There are fanatical men who would harm you, and — and 
there are traitors. Trust nobody. If you trust, you will 
be betrayed." 

Bernardo smiled. 

" Have you worked yourself up into this agitation, my 
poor child," he said, raising his hand to her head and pat- 
ting it gently, "to tell such old truth as that to an old 
man like me?" 

"Oh, no, no! they are not old truths that I mean," said 
Romola, pressing her clasped hands painfully together, as 
if that action would help her to suppress what must not 
be told. " They are fresh things that I know, but can- 
not tell. Dearest godfather, you know I am not foolish. 
I would not come to you without reason. Is it too late to 
warn you against any one, every one who seems to be 



I 



THE EVENING AND THE MORNING. 427 



working on your side? Is it too late to say, ' Go to your 
villa and keejo away in the country when these three more 
days of office are over?' Oh, God! perhaps it is too late! 
and if any harm comes to you, it will be as if I had done 
it!" 

The last words had burst from Romola involuntarily: 
a long-stifled feeling had found spasmodic utterance. But 
she herself was startled and arrested. 

''I mean,'' she added, hesitatingly, "I know nothing 
positive. I only know what fills me with fears." 

^^Poor child!" said Bernardo, looking at her with quiet 
penetration for a moment or two. Then he said: ^^Go, 
Romola — go home and rest. These fears may be only big 
ugly shadows of something very little and harmless. Even 
traitors must see their interest in betraying; the rats will 
run where they smell the cheese, and there is no knowing 
yet which way the scent will come." 

He paused, and turned away feis eyes from her with an 
air of abstraction, till, with a slow shrug, he added — 

' ^As for jv ai^ningSy they are of no use to me, child, JP \jy^ 
I enter ilito no plots, but I never forsake my colors, Tf T ^ ^-^^ 
march abreast wit b obstiu a-tf^ mf .n, who will rush on g ^uns (^^kOJMS 
§'^ldj2ikes^J must share the consequences. Let us say no ^^c 
more about l;liatr' T "have not many years left at the "^-"^ 
bottom of my sack for them to rob me of. Go, child; 
go home and rest." 

He put his hand on her head again caressingly, and she 
could not help clinging to his arm, and pressing her brow 
against his shoulder. Her godfather's caress seemed the 
last thing that was left to her out of that young filial life, 
which now looked so happy to her even in its troubles, for 
they were troubles untainted by anything hateful. 

**Is silence best, my Romola?" said the old man. 

" Yes, now; but I cannot tell whether it always will be," 
she answered, hesitatingly, raising her head with an appeal- 
ing look. 

"Well, you have a father's ear while I am above 
ground" — he lifted the black drapery and folded it round 
her head, adding — '^and a father's home; remember that." 
Then opening the door, he said: "There, hasten away. 
You are like a black ghost; you will be safe enough." 

When Romola fell asleep that night, she slept deep. 
Agitation had reached its limits; she must gather strength 
before she could suffer more; and, in spite of rigid habit, 
she slept on far beyond sunrise. 



428 ROMOLA. 

1/ When she awoke, it was to the sound of guns. Piero de 
*^ M.edki, with thirteen hundred men at his back, was betol^ 
the gate that looks toward Rome. 

So much Romola learned from Maso, with many circum- 
stantial additions of dubious quality. A country-man hud 
come in and alarmed the Signoria before it was light, else 
the city would have been taken by surprise. His master 
was not in the house, liaving been summoned to the Palazzo 
long ago. She sent out tlie old man again, that he might 
gather news, while she went up to the loggia from time to 
time to try and discern any signs of the dreaded entrance 
having been made, or of its having been effectively repelled. 
Maso brought her word that the great Piazza was full of 
armed men, and that many of the chief citizens suspected 
as friends of the Medici had been summoned to the palace 
and detained there. Some of the people seemed not to 
mind v/hether Piero got in or not, and some said tlie Sig- 
noria itself had invited him; but however that might be, 
they were giving him an ugly welcome; and the soldiers 
from Pisa were coming against him. 

In her memory of those morning hours, there were not 
many things that Romola could distinguish as actual exter- 
nal experiences standing markedly out above the tumultu- 
ous waves of retrospect and anticipation. She knew that 
she had really walked to the Badia by the appointed time 
in spite of street alarms; slie knew that slie had waited 
there in Tain. And the scene she had witnessed Avhcn she 
came out of the church, and stood watcliing on the steps 
while the doors were being closed behind her for the after- 
noon interval, always came back to her like a remembered 
waking. 

There was a change in the faces and tones of the people, 
armed and unarmed, who were pausing or hurrying along 
the streets. The guns were firing again, but the sound 
only provoked laughter. She soon knew the cause of the 
change. Piero de Medici and his horsemen had turned 
their backs on Florence, and were galloping as fast as they 
could along the Siena road. She learned this from a sub- 
stantial shopkeeping Piagnone, who had not yet laid doAvn 
his pike. 

*'It is true,^' he ended, with a certain bitterness in his 
emphasis. '^ Piero is gone, but there are those left behind 
who were in the secret of his coming — we all know that; 
and if the new Signoria does its duty we shall soon know 
wlio they are." 



I 



WAITING. ""429 



CHAPTEE LV. f 2^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

WAITING. CO^AJSWCX* 



The words darted through Romola like a sharp spasm; 
but the evil they foreshadowed was not yet close upon her, 
and as she entered her home again, her most pressing 
anxiety was the possibility that she had lost sight for a long 
while of Baldassarre. 

I ^,„ 

fl^ either what Romola most desired or what she 
most dreaded. They brought no sign from Baldassarre, 
and, in spite of special watch on the part of the Govern- 
ment, n o revelation of the susp ected conspirflcy. But 
they brought other things which touched her closely, and 
bridged the phantom-crowded space of anxiety with active 
sympathy in immediate trial. They brought the spreading 
Pla.pue and the Excomm um£^ticaL.ofr^LmmiJSla>^ ~ 
^Both these events tended to arrest her incipient aliena- 
tion from the Frate, and to rivet again her attachment 
to the man who had opened to her the new life of duty, 
and who seemed now to be worsted in the fight for 
principle against profligacy. For Romola could not carry 
from day to day into the abodes of pestilence and mis- 
ery the sublime excitement of a gladness that, since such 
anguish existed, she too existed to make some of the anguish . 
less bitter, without remembering that she owed this ^-^^^ 
transcendent moral life to Fra Girolamo. Shfi^iiauld.iiaLftyiy 
witness the silenc ing^ and ex