The Cloister and the Hearth
Part 11 out of 18
the patriarch Jacob laid his head on, and I hold with them, by
reason our Lord never preached at Tyre. Going hence, they showed
me the state nursery for the children of those aphrodisian dames,
their favourites. Here in the outer wall was a broad niche, and if
they bring them so little as they can squeeze them through it
alive, the bairn falls into a net inside, and the state takes
charge of it, but if too big, their mothers must even take them
home again, with whom abiding 'tis like to be mali corvi mali
ovum. Coming out of the church we met them carrying in a corpse,
with the feet and face bare. This I then first learned is Venetian
custom, and sure no other town will ever rob them of it, nor of
this that follows. On a great porphyry slab in the piazza were
three ghastly heads rotting and tainting the air, and in their hot
summers like to take vengeance with breeding of a plague. These
were traitors to the state, and a heavy price - two thousand
ducats - being put on each head, their friends had slain them and
brought all three to the slab, and so sold blood of others and
their own faith. No state buys heads so many, nor pays half so
high a price for that sorry merchandise. But what I most admired
was to see over against the Duke's palace a fair gallows in
alabaster, reared express to bring him, and no other, for the
least treason to the state; and there it stands in his eye
whispering him memento mori. I pondered, and owned these signors
my masters, who will let no man, not even their sovereign, be
above the common weal. Hard by, on a wall, the workmen were just
finishing, by order of the seigniory, the stone effigy of a
tragical and enormous act enacted last year, yet on the wall looks
innocent. Here two gentle folks whisper together, and there other
twain, their swords by their side. Four brethren were they, which
did on either side conspire to poison the other two, and so halve
their land in lieu of quartering it; and at a mutual banquet these
twain drugged the wine, and those twain envenomed a marchpane, to
such good purpose that the same afternoon lay four 'brave men'
around one table grovelling in mortal agony, and cursing of one
another and themselves, and so concluded miserably, and the land,
for which they had lost their immortal souls, went into another
family. And why not? it could not go into a worse.
"But O, sovereign wisdom of bywords! how true they put the finger
on each nation's, or particular's, fault.
"Quand Italie sera sans poison
Et France sans trahison
Et l'Angleterre sans guerre,
Lors sera le monde sans terre."
Richart explained this to Catherine, then proceeded: "And after
this they took me to the quay, and presently I espied among the
masts one garlanded with amaranth flowers. 'Take me thither,' said
I, and I let my guide know the custom of our Dutch skippers to
hoist flowers to the masthead when they are courting a maid. Oft
had I scoffed at this saying, 'So then his wooing is the earth's
concern. But now, so far from the Rotter, that bunch at a masthead
made my heart leap with assurance of a countryman. They carried
me, and oh, Margaret! on the stern of that Dutch boy, was written
in muckle letters,
RICHART ELIASSOEN, AMSTERDAM.
'Put me down,' I said; 'for our Lady's sake put me down.' I sat on
the bank and looked, scarce believing my eyes, and looked, and
presently fell to crying, till I could see the words no more. Ah
me, how they went to my heart, those bare letters in a foreign
land. Dear Richart! good, kind brother Richart! often I have sat
on his knee and rid on his back. Kisses many he has given me,
unkind word from him had I never. And there was his name on his
own ship, and his face and all his grave, but good and gentle
ways, came back to me, and I sobbed vehemently, and cried aloud,
'Why, why is not brother Richart here, and not his name only?' I
spake in Dutch, for my heart was too full to hold their foreign
Eli. "Well, Richart, go on, lad, prithee go on. Is this a place to
Richart. "Father, with my duty to you, it is easy to say go on,
but think ye I am not flesh and blood? The poor boy's - simple
grief and brotherly love coming - so sudden-on me, they go through
my heart and - I cannot go on; sink me if I can even see the
words, 'tis writ so fine."
Denys. "Courage, good Master Richart! Take your time. Here are
more eyne wet than yours. Ah, little comrade! would God thou wert
here, and I at Venice for thee."
Richart. "Poor little curly-headed lad, what had he done that we
have driven him so far?"
"That is what I would fain know," said Catherine drily, then fell
to weeping and rocking herself, with her apron over her head.
"Kind dame, good friends," said Margaret trembling, "let me tell
you how the letter ends. The skipper hearing our Gerard speak his
grief in Dutch, accosted him, and spake comfortably to him; and
after a while our Gerard found breath to say he was worthy Master
Richart's brother. Thereat was the good skipper all agog to serve
Richart. "So! so! skipper! Master Richart aforesaid will be at thy
wedding and bring's purse to boot."
Margaret. "Sir, he told Gerard of his consort that was to sail
that very night for Rotterdam; and dear Gerard had to go home and
finish his letter and bring it to the ship. And the rest, it is
but his poor dear words of love to me, the which, an't please you,
I think shame to hear them read aloud, and ends with the lines I
sent to Mistress Kate, and they would sound so harsh now and
The pleading tone, as much as the words, prevailed, and Richart
said he would read no more aloud, but run his eye over it for his
own brotherly satisfaction. She blushed and looked uneasy, but
made no reply.
"Eli," said Catherine, still sobbing a little, "tell me, for our
Lady's sake, how our poor boy is to live at that nasty Rome. He is
gone there to write, but here he his own words to prove writing
avails nought: a had died o' hunger by the way but for paint-brush
and psaltery. Well a-day!"
"Well," said Eli, "he has got brush and music still. Besides, so
many men so many minds. Writing, though it had no sale in other
parts, may be merchandise at Rome."
"Father," said little Kate, "have I your good leave to put in my
word 'twixt mother and you?"
"And welcome, little heart."
"Then, seems to me, painting and music, close at hand, be stronger
than writing, but being distant, nought to compare; for see what
glamour written paper hath done here but now. Our Gerard, writing
at Venice, hath verily put his hand into this room at Rotterdam,
and turned all our hearts. Ay, dear dear Gerard, methinks thy
spirit hath rid hither on these thy paper wings; and oh! dear
father, why not do as we should do were he here in the body?"
"Kate," said Eli, "fear not; Richart and I will give him glamour
for glamour. We will write him a letter, and send it to Rome by a
sure hand with money, and bid him home on the instant."
Cornelis and Sybrandt exchanged a gloomy look.
"Ah, good father! And meantime?"
"Dear father, dear mother, what can we do to pleasure the absent,
but be kind to his poor lass; and her own trouble afore her?"
"'Tis well!" said Eli; "but I am older than thou." Then he turned
gravely to Margaret: "Wilt answer me a question, my pretty
"If I may, sir," faltered Margaret.
"What are these marriage lines Gerard speaks of in the letter?"
"Our marriage lines, sir. His and mine. Know you not that we are
"Ay, sure. My poor father and Martin Wittenhaagen."
"This is the first I ever heard of it. How came they in his hands?
They should be in yours."
"Alas, sir, the more is my grief; but I ne'er doubted him; and he
said it was a comfort to him to have them in his bosom."
"Y'are a very foolish lass."
"Indeed I was, sir. But trouble teaches the simple."
"'Tis a good answer. Well, foolish or no, y'are honest. I had
shown ye more respect at first, but I thought y'had been his
leman, and that is the truth."
"God forbid, sir! Denys, methinks 'tis time for us to go. Give me
my letter, sir!"
"Bide ye! bide ye! be not so hot for a word! Natheless, wife,
methinks her red cheek becomes her."
"Better than it did you to give it her, my man."
"Softly, wife, softly. I am not counted an unjust man though I be
Here Richard broke in. "Why, mistress, did ye shed your blood for
"Not I, sir. But maybe I would."
"Nay, nay. But he says you did. Speak sooth now!"
"Alas! I know not what ye mean. I rede ye believe not all that my
poor lad says of me. Love makes him blind."
"Traitress!" cried Denys. "Let not her throw dust in thine eyes,
Master Richart. Old Martin tells me ye need not make signals to
me, she-comrade; I am as blind as love - Martin tells me she cut
her arm, and let her blood flow, and smeared her heels when Gerard
was hunted by the bloodhounds, to turn the scent from her lad."
"Well, and if I did, 'twas my own, and spilled for the good of my
own,' said Margaret defiantly. But Catherine suddenly clasping
her, she began to cry at having found a bosom to cry on, of one
who would have also shed her blood for Gerard in danger.
Eli rose from his chair. "Wife," said he solemnly, "you will set
another chair at our table for every meal: also another plate and
knife. They will be for Margaret and Peter. She will come when she
likes, and stay away when she pleases. None may take her place at
my left hand. Such as can welcome her are welcome to me. Such as
cannot, I force them not to abide with me. The world is wide and
free. Within my walls I am master, and my son's betrothed is
Catherine bustled out to prepare supper. Eli and Richart sat down
and concocted a letter to bring Gerard home. Richart promised it
should go by sea to Rome that very week. Sybrandt and Cornelis
exchanged a gloomy wink, and stole out. Margaret, seeing Giles
deep in meditation, for the dwarf's intelligence had taken giant
strides, asked him to bring her the letter. "You have heard but
half, good master Giles," said she. "Shall I read you the rest
"I shall be much beholden to you," shouted the sonorous atom.
She gave him her stool: curiosity bowed his pride to sit on it;
and Margaret murmured the first part of the letter into his ear
very low, not to disturb Eli and Richart. And to do this, she
leaned forward and put her lovely face cheek by jowl with Giles's
hideous one: a strange contrast, and worth a painter's while to
try and represent. And in this attitude Catherine found her, and
all the mother warmed towards her, and she exchanged an eloquent
glance with little Kate.
The latter smiled, and sewed, with drooping lashes.
"Get him home on the instant," roared Giles. "I'll make a man of
"Hear the boy!" said Catherine, half comically, half proudly.
"We hear him," said Richart; "a mostly makes himself heard when a
Sybrandt. "Which will get to him first?"
Cornelis (gloomily). "Who can tell?"
About two months before this scene in Eli's home, the natives of a
little' maritime place between Naples and Rome might be seen
flocking to the sea beach, with eyes cast seaward at a ship, that
laboured against a stiff gale blowing dead on the shore.
At times she seemed likely to weather the danger, and then the
spectators congratulated her aloud: at others the wind and sea
drove her visibly nearer, and the lookers-on were not without a
secret satisfaction they would not have owned even to themselves.
Non quia vexari quemquam est jucunda voluptas
Sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave est.
And the poor ship, though not scientifically built for sailing,
was admirably constructed for going ashore, with her extravagant
poop that caught the wind, and her lines like a cocked hat
reversed. To those on the beach that battered labouring frame of
wood seemed alive, and struggling against death with a panting
heart. But could they have been transferred to her deck they would
have seen she had not one beating heart but many, and not one
nature but a score were coming out clear in that fearful hour.
The mariners stumbled wildly about the deck, handling the ropes as
each thought fit, and cursing and praying alternately.
The passengers were huddled together round the mast, some sitting,
some kneeling, some lying prostrate, and grasping the bulwarks as
the vessel rolled and pitched in the mighty waves. One comely
young man, whose ashy cheek, but compressed lips, showed how hard
terror was battling in him with self-respect, stood a little
apart, holding tight by a shroud, and wincing at each sea. It was
the ill-fated Gerard. Meantime prayers and vows rose from the
trembling throng amid-ships, and to hear them, it seemed there
were almost as many gods about as men and women. The sailors,
indeed, relied on a single goddess. They varied her titles only,
calling on her as "Queen of Heaven," "Star of the Sea," "Mistress
of the World," "Haven of Safety." But among the landsmen
Polytheism raged. Even those who by some strange chance hit on the
same divinity did not hit on the same edition of that divinity. An
English merchant vowed a heap of gold to our lady of Walsingham.
But a Genoese merchant vowed a silver collar of four pounds to our
lady of Loretto; and a Tuscan noble promised ten pounds of wax
lights to our lady of Ravenna; and with a similar rage for
diversity they pledged themselves, not on the true Cross, but on
the true Cross in this, that, or the other modern city.
Suddenly a more powerful gust than usual catching the sail at a
disadvantage, the rotten shrouds gave way, and the sail was torn
out with a loud crack, and went down the wind smaller and smaller,
blacker and blacker, and fluttered into the sea, half a mile off,
like a sheet of paper, and ere the helmsman could put the ship's
head before the wind, a wave caught her on the quarter and
drenched the poor wretches to the bone, and gave them a foretaste
of chill death. Then one vowed aloud to turn Carthusian monk, if
St. Thomas would save him. Another would go a pilgrim to
Compostella, bareheaded, barefooted, with nothing but a coat of
mail on his naked skin, if St. James would save him. Others
invoked Thomas, Dominic, Denys, and above all, Catherine of
Two petty Neapolitan traders stood shivering.
One shouted at the top of his voice, "I vow to St. Christopher at
Paris a waxen image of his own weight, if I win safe to land."
On this the other nudged him, and said, "Brother, brother, take
heed what you vow. Why, if you sell all you have in the world by
public auction, 'twill not buy his weight in wax."
"Hold your tongue, you fool," said the vociferator. Then in a
"Think ye I am in earnest? Let me but win safe to land, I'll not
give him a rush dip."
Others lay flat and prayed to the sea.
"Oh, most merciful sea! oh, sea most generous! oh! bountiful sea!
oh, beautiful sea! be gentle, be kind, preserve us in this hour of
And others wailed and moaned in mere animal terror each time the
ill-fated ship rolled or pitched more terribly than usual; and she
was now a mere plaything in the arms of the tremendous waves.
A Roman woman of the humbler class sat with her child at her
half-bared breast, silent amid that wailing throng: her cheek ashy
pale; her eye calm; and her lips moved at times in silent prayer,
but she neither wept, nor lamented, nor bargained with the gods.
Whenever the ship seemed really gone under their feet, and bearded
men squeaked, she kissed her child; but that was all. And so she
sat patient, and suckled him in death's jaws; for why should he
lose any joy she could give him; moribundo? Ay, there I do
believe, sat Antiquity among those mediaevals. Sixteen hundred
years had not tainted the old Roman blood in her veins; and the
instinct of a race she had perhaps scarce heard of taught her to
die with decent dignity.
A gigantic friar stood on the poop with feet apart, like the
Colossus of Rhodes, not so much defying, as ignoring, the peril
that surrounded him. He recited verses from the Canticles with a
loud unwavering voice; and invited the passengers to confess to
him. Some did so on their knees, and he heard them and laid his
hands on them, and absolved them as if he had been in a snug
sacristy, instead of a perishing ship. Gerard got nearer and
nearer to him, by the instinct that takes the wavering to the side
of the impregnable. And in truth, the courage of heroes facing
fleshly odds might have paled by the side of that gigantic friar,
and his still more gigantic composure. Thus, even here, two were
found who maintained the dignity of our race: a woman, tender, yet
heroic, and a monk steeled by religion against mortal fears.
And now, the sail being gone, the sailors cut down the useless
mast a foot above the board, and it fell with its remaining hamper
over the ship's side. This seemed to relieve her a little.
But now the hull, no longer impelled by canvas, could not keep
ahead of the sea. It struck her again and again on the poop, and
the tremendous blows seemed given by a rocky mountain, not by a
The captain left the helm and came amidships pale as death.
"Lighten her," he cried. "Fling all overboard, or we shall founder
ere we strike, and lose the one little chance we have of life."
While the sailors were executing this order, the captain, pale
himself, and surrounded by pale faces that demanded to know their
fate, was talking as unlike an English skipper in like peril as
can well be imagined. "Friends," said he, "last night when all was
fair, too fair, alas! there came a globe of fire close to the
ship. When a pair of them come it is good luck, and nought can
drown her that voyage. We mariners call these fiery globes Castor
and Pollux. But if Castor come without Pollux, or Pollux without
Castor, she is doomed. Therefore, like good Christians, prepare to
These words were received with a loud wail.
To a trembling inquiry how long they had to prepare, the captain
replied, "She may, or may not, last half an hour; over that,
impossible; she leaks like a sieve; bustle, men, lighten her."
The poor passengers seized on everything that was on deck and
flung it overboard. Presently they laid hold of a heavy sack; an
old man was lying on it, sea sick. They lugged it from under him.
It rattled. Two of them drew it to the side; up started the owner,
and with an unearthly shriek, pounced on it. "Holy Moses! what
would you do? 'Tis my all; 'tis the whole fruits of my journey;
silver candlesticks, silver plates, brooches, hanaps - "
"Let go, thou hoary villain," cried the others; "shall all our
lives be lost for thy ill-gotten gear?" "Fling him in with it,"
cried one; "'tis this Ebrew we Christian men are drowned for."
Numbers soon wrenched it from him, and heaved it over the side. It
splashed into the waves. Then its owner uttered one cry of
anguish, and stood glaring, his white hair streaming in the wind,
and was going to leap after it, and would, had it floated. But it
sank, and was gone for ever; and he staggered to and fro, tearing
his hair, and cursed them and the ship, and the sea, and all the
powers of heaven and hell alike.
And now the captain cried out: "See, there is a church in sight.
Steer for that church, mate, and you, friends, pray to the saint,
whoe'er he be."
So they steered for the church and prayed to the unknown god it
was named after. A tremendous sea pooped them, broke the rudder,
and jammed it immovable, and flooded the deck.
Then wild with superstitious terror some of them came round
Gerard. "Here is the cause of all," they cried. "He has never
invoked a single saint. He is a heathen; here is a pagan aboard."
"Alas, good friends, say not so," said Gerard, his teeth
chattering with cold and fear. "Rather call these heathens, that
lie a praying to the sea. Friends, I do honour the saints - but I
dare not pray to them now - there is no time - (oh!) what avail me
Dominic, and Thomas, and Catherine? Nearer God's throne than these
St. Peter sitteth; and if I pray to him, it's odd, but I shall be
drowned ere he has time to plead my cause with God. Oh! oh! oh! I
must need go straight to Him that made the sea, and the saints,
and me. Our Father which art in heaven, save these poor souls and
me that cry for the bare life! Oh, sweet Jesus, pitiful Jesus,
that didst walk Genezaret when Peter sank, and wept for Lazarus
dead when the apostles' eyes were dry, oh, save poor Gerard - for
dear Margaret's sake!"
At this moment the sailors were seen preparing to desert the
sinking ship in the little boat, which even at that epoch every
ship carried; then there was a rush of egotists; and thirty souls
crowded into it. Remained behind three who were bewildered, and
two who were paralyzed, with terror. The paralyzed sat like heaps
of wet rags, the bewildered ones ran to and fro, and saw the
thirty egotists put off, but made no attempt to join them: only
kept running to and fro, and wringing their hands. Besides these
there was one on his knees, praying over the wooden statue of the
Virgin Mary, as large as life, which the sailors had reverently
detached from the mast. It washed about the deck, as the water
came slushing in from the sea, and pouring out at the scuppers;
and this poor soul kept following it on his knees, with his hands
clasped at it, and the water playing with it. And there was the
Jew palsied, but not by fear. He was no longer capable of so petty
a passion. He sat cross-legged, bemoaning his bag, and whenever
the spray lashed him, shook his fist at where it came from, and
cursed the Nazarenes, and their gods, and their devils, and their
ships, and their waters, to all eternity.
And the gigantic Dominican, having shriven the whole ship, stood
calmly communing with his own spirit. And the Roman woman sat pale
and patient, only drawing her child closer to her bosom as death
Gerard saw this, and it awakened his manhood.
"See! see!" he said, "they have ta'en the boat and left the poor
woman and her child to perish."
His heart soon set his wit working.
"Wife, I'll save thee yet, please God." And he ran to find a cask
or a plank to float her. There was none.
Then his eye fell on the wooden image of the Virgin. He caught it
up in his arms, and heedless of a wail that issued from its
worshipper like a child robbed of its toy, ran aft with it. "Come,
wife," he cried. "I'll lash thee and the child to this. 'Tis sore
worm eaten, but 'twill serve."
She turned her great dark eye on him and said a single word:
But with wonderful magnanimity and tenderness.
"I am a man, and have no child to take care of."
"Ah!" said she, and his words seemed to animate her face with a
desire to live. He lashed the image to her side. Then with the
hope of life she lost something of her heroic calm; not much: her
body trembled a little, but not her eye.
The ship was now so low in the water that by using an oar as a
lever he could slide her into the waves.
"Come," said he, "while yet there is time."
She turned her great Roman eyes, wet now, upon him. "Poor youth! -
God forgive me! - My child!" And he launched her on the surge, and
with his oar kept her from being battered against the ship.
A heavy hand fell on him; a deep sonorous voice sounded in his
ear: "'Tis well. Now come with me."
It was the gigantic friar.
Gerard turned, and the friar took two strides, and laid hold of
the broken mast. Gerard did the same, obeying him instinctively.
Between them, after a prodigious effort, they hoisted up the
remainder of the mast, and carried it off. "Fling it in," said the
friar, "and follow it." They flung it in; but one of the
bewildered passengers had run after them, and jumped first and got
on one end. Gerard seized the other, the friar the middle.
It was a terrible situation. The mast rose and plunged with each
wave like a kicking horse, and the spray flogged their faces
mercilessly, and blinded them: to help knock them off.
Presently was heard a long grating noise ahead. The ship had
struck, and soon after, she being stationary now, they were hurled
against her with tremendous force. Their companion's head struck
against the upper part of the broken rudder with a horrible crack,
and was smashed like a cocoa-nut by a sledge-hammer. He sunk
directly, leaving no trace but a red stain on the water, and a
white clot on the jagged rudder, and a death cry ringing in their
ears, as they drifted clear under the lee of the black hull. The
friar uttered a short Latin prayer for the safety of his soul, and
took his place composedly. They rolled along; one moment they saw
nothing, and seemed down in a mere basin of watery hills: the next
they caught glimpses of the shore speckled bright with people, who
kept throwing up their arms with wild Italian gestures to
encourage them, and the black boat driving bottom upwards, and
between it and them the woman rising and falling like themselves.
She had come across a paddle, and was holding her child tight with
her left arm, and paddling gallantly with her right.
When they had tumbled along thus a long time, suddenly the friar
said quietly -
"I touched the ground."
"Impossible, father," said Gerard; "we are more than a hundred
yards from shore. Prithee, prithee, leave not our faithful mast."
"My son," said the friar, "you speak prudently. But know that I
have business of Holy Church on hand, and may not waste time
floating when I can walk, in her service. There I felt it with my
toes again; see the benefit of wearing sandals, and not shoon.
Again; and sandy. Thy stature is less than mine: keep to the mast!
I walk." He left the mast accordingly and extending his powerful
arms, rushed through the water. Gerard soon followed him. At each
overpowering wave the monk stood like a tower, and closing his
mouth, threw his head back to encounter it, and was entirely lost
under it awhile: then emerged and ploughed lustily on. At last
they came close to the shore; but the suction outward baffled all
their attempts to land. Then the natives sent stout fishermen into
the sea, holding by long spears in a triple chain; and so dragged
The friar shook himself, bestowed a short paternal benediction on
the natives, and went on to Rome, with eyes bent on earth
according to his rule, and without pausing. He did not even cast a
glance back upon that sea, which had so nearly engulfed him, but
had no power to harm him, without his Master's leave.
While he stalks on alone to Rome without looking back, I who am
not in the service of Holy Church, stop a moment to say that the
reader and I were within six inches of this giant once before; but
we escaped him that time. Now I fear we are in for him. Gerard
grasped every hand upon the beach. They brought him to an enormous
fire, and with a delicacy he would hardly have encountered in the
north, left him to dry himself alone: on this he took out of his
bosom a parchment, and a paper, and dried them carefully. When
this was done to his mind, and not till then, he consented to put
on a fisherman's dress and leave his own by the fire, and went
down to the beach. What he saw may be briefly related.
The captain stuck by the ship, not so much from gallantry, as from
a conviction that it was idle to resist Castor or Pollux,
whichever it was that had come for him in a ball of fire.
Nevertheless the sea broke up the ship and swept the poop, captain
and all, clear of the rest, and took him safe ashore. Gerard had a
principal hand in pulling him out of the water. The disconsolate
Hebrew landed on another fragment, and on touching earth, offered
a reward for his bag, which excited little sympathy, but some
amusement. Two more were saved on pieces of the wreck. The thirty
egotists came ashore, but one at a time, and dead; one breathed
still. Him the natives, with excellent intentions, took to a hot
fire. So then he too retired from this shifting scene.
As Gerard stood by the sea, watching, with horror and curiosity
mixed, his late companions washed ashore, a hand was laid lightly
on his shoulder. He turned. It was the Roman matron, burning with
womanly gratitude. She took his hand gently, and raising it slowly
to her lips, kissed it; but so nobly, she seemed to be conferring
an honour on one deserving hand. Then with face all beaming and
moist eyes, she held her child up and made him kiss his preserver.
Gerard kissed the child more than once. He was fond of children.
But he said nothing. He was much moved; for she did not speak at
all, except with her eyes, and glowing cheeks, and noble antique
gesture, so large and stately. Perhaps she was right. Gratitude is
not a thing of words. It was an ancient Roman matron thanking a
modern from her heart of hearts.
Next day towards afternoon, Gerard - twice as old as last year,
thrice as learned in human ways, a boy no more, but a man who had
shed blood in self-defence, and grazed the grave by land and sea -
reached the Eternal City; post tot naufragia tutus.
Gerard took a modest lodging on the west bank of the Tiber, and
every day went forth in search of work, taking a specimen round to
every shop he could hear of that executed such commissions.
They received him coldly. "We make our letter somewhat thinner
than this," said one. "How dark your ink is," said another. But
the main cry was, "What avails this? Scant is the Latin writ here
now. Can ye not write Greek?"
"Ay, but not nigh so well as Latin."
"Then you shall never make your bread at Rome."
Gerard borrowed a beautiful Greek manuscript at a high price, and
went home with a sad hole in his purse, but none in his courage.
In a fortnight he had made vast progress with the Greek character;
so then, to lose no time, he used to work at it till noon, and
hunt customers the rest of the day.
When he carried round a better Greek specimen than any they
possessed, the traders informed him that Greek and Latin were
alike unsaleable; the city was thronged with works from all
Europe. He should have come last year.
Gerard bought a psaltery. His landlady, pleased with his looks and
manners, used often to speak a kind word in passing. One day she
made him dine with her, and somewhat to his surprise asked him
what had dashed his spirits. He told her. She gave him her reading
of the matter. "Those sly traders," she would be bound, "had
writers in their pay, for whose work they received a noble price,
and paid a sorry one. So no wonder they blow cold on you. Methinks
you write too well. How know I that? say you. Marry - marry,
because you lock not your door, like the churl Pietro, and women
will be curious. Ay, ay, you write too well for them."
Gerard asked an explanation.
"Why," said she, "your good work might put out the eyes of that
they are selling.
Gerard sighed. "Alas! dame, you read folk on the ill side, and you
so kind and frank yourself."
"My dear little heart, these Romans are a subtle race. Me? I am a
Siennese, thanks to the Virgin."
"My mistake was leaving Augsburg," said Gerard.
"Augsburg?" said she haughtily: "is that a place to even to Rome?
I never heard of it, for my part."
She then assured him that he should make his fortune in spite of
the booksellers. "Seeing thee a stranger, they lie to thee without
sense or discretion. Why, all the world knows that our great folk
are bitten with the writing spider this many years, and pour out
their money like water, and turn good land and houses into writ
sheepskins, to keep in a chest or a cupboard. God help them, and
send them safe through this fury, as He hath through a heap of
others; and in sooth hath been somewhat less cutting and stabbing
among rival factions, and vindictive eating of their opposites'
livers, minced and fried, since Scribbling came in. Why, I can
tell you two. There is his eminence Cardinal Bassarion, and his
holiness the Pope himself. There be a pair could keep a score such
as thee a writing night and day. But I'll speak to Teresa; she
hears the gossip of the court."
The next day she told him she had seen Teresa, and had heard of
five more signors who were bitten with the writing spider. Gerard
took down their names, and bought parchment, and busied himself
for some days in preparing specimens. He left one, with his name
and address, at each of these signors' doors, and hopefully
awaited the result.
There was none.
Day after day passed and left him heartsick.
And strange to say this was just the time when Margaret was
fighting so hard against odds to feed her male dependents at
Rotterdam, and arrested for curing without a licence instead of
killing with one.
Gerard saw ruin staring him in the face.
He spent the afternoons picking up canzonets and mastering them.
He laid in playing cards to colour, and struck off a meal per day.
This last stroke of genius got him into fresh trouble.
In these "camere locande" the landlady dressed all the meals,
though the lodgers bought the provisions. So Gerard's hostess
speedily detected him, and asked him if he was not ashamed
himself: by which brusque opening, having made him blush and look
scared, she pacified herself all in a moment, and appealed to his
good sense whether Adversity was a thing to be overcome on an
"Patienza, my lad! times will mend; meantime I will feed you for
the love of heaven." (Italian for "gratis.")
"Nay, hostess," said Gerard, "my purse is not yet quite void, and
it would add to my trouble an if true folk should lose their due
"Why, you are as mad as your neighbour Pietro, with his one bad
"Why, how know you 'tis a bad picture?"
"Because nobody will buy it. There is one that hath no gift. He
will have to don casque and glaive, and carry his panel for a
Gerard pricked up his ears at this: so she told him more. Pietro
had come from Florence with money in his purse, and an unfinished
picture; had taken her one unfurnished room, opposite Gerard's,
and furnished it neatly. When his picture was finished, he
received visitors and had offers for it: though in her opinion
liberal ones, he had refused so disdainfully as to make enemies of
his customers. Since then he had often taken it out with him to
try and sell, but had always brought it back; and the last month,
she had seen one movable after another go out of his room, and now
he wore but one suit, and lay at night on a great chest. She had
found this out only by peeping through the keyhole, for he locked
the door most vigilantly whenever he went out. "Is he afraid we
shall steal his chest, or his picture, that no soul in all Rome is
weak enough to buy?"
"Nay, sweet hostess; see you not 'tis his poverty he would screen
"And the more fool he! Are all our hearts as ill as his? A might
give us a trial first, anyway."
"How you speak of him. Why, his case is mine; and your countryman
"Oh, we Siennese love strangers. His case yours? Nay, 'tis just
the contrary. You are the comeliest youth ever lodged in this
house; hair like gold: he is a dark, sour-visaged loon. Besides,
you know how to take a woman on her better side; but not he.
Natheless, I wish he would not starve to death in my house, to get
me a bad name. Anyway, one starveling is enough in any house. You
are far from home, and it is for me, which am the mistress here,
to number your meals - for me and the Dutch wife, your mother,
that is far away: we two women shall settle that matter. Mind thou
thine own business, being a man, and leave cooking and the like to
us, that are in the world for little else that I see but to roast
fowls, and suckle men at starting, and sweep their grownup
"Dear kind dame, in sooth you do often put me in mind of my mother
that is far away."
"All the better; I'll put you more in mind of her before I have
done with you." And the honest soul beamed with pleasure.
Gerard not being an egotist, nor blinded by female partialities,
saw his own grief in poor proud Pietro; and the more he thought of
it the more he resolved to share his humble means with that
unlucky artist; Pietro's sympathy would repay him. He tried to
waylay him; but without success.
One day he heard a groaning in the room. He knocked at the door,
but received no answer. He knocked again. A surly voice bade him
He obeyed somewhat timidly, and entered a garret furnished with a
chair, a picture, face to wall, an iron basin, an easel, and a
long chest, on which was coiled a haggard young man with a
wonderfully bright eye. Anything more like a coiled cobra ripe for
striking the first comer was never seen.
"Good Signor Pietro," said Gerard, "forgive me that, weary of my
own solitude, I intrude on yours; but I am your nighest neighbour
in this house, and methinks your brother in fortune. I am an
"You are a painter? Welcome, signer. Sit down on my bed."
And Pietro jumped off and waved him into the vacant throne with a
magnificent demonstration of courtesy.
Gerard bowed, and smiled; but hesitated a little. "I may not call
myself a painter. I am a writer, a caligraph. I copy Greek and
Latin manuscripts, when I can get them to copy."
"And you call that an artist?"
"Without offence to your superior merit, Signor Pietro."
"No offence, stranger, none. Only, meseemeth an artist is one who
thinks, and paints his thought. Now a caligraph but draws in black
and white the thoughts of another."
"'Tis well distinguished, signor. But then, a writer can write the
thoughts of the great ancients, and matters of pure reason, such
as no man may paint: ay, and the thoughts of God, which angels
could not paint. But let that pass. I am a painter as well; but a
"The better thy luck. 'They will buy thy work in Rome."
"But seeking to commend myself to one of thy eminence, I thought
it well rather to call myself a capable writer, than a scurvy
At this moment a step was heard on the stair. "Ah! 'tis the good
dame," cried Gerard. "What oh! hostess, I am here in conversation
with Signor Pietro. I dare say he will let me have my humble
The Italian bowed gravely.
The landlady brought in Gerard's dinner smoking and savoury. She
put the dish down on the bed with a face divested of all
expression, and went.
Gerard fell to. But ere he had eaten many mouthfuls, he stopped,
and said: "I am an ill-mannered churl, Signor Pietro. I ne'er eat
to my mind when I eat alone. For our Lady's sake put a spoon into
this ragout with me; 'tis not unsavoury, I promise you."
Pietro fixed his glittering eye on him.
"What, good youth, thou a stranger, and offerest me thy dinner?"
"Why, see, there is more than one can eat."
"Well, I accept," said Pietro; and took the dish with some
appearance of calmness, and flung the contents out of window.
Then he turned, trembling with mortification and ire, and said:
"Let that teach thee to offer alms to an artist thou knowest not,
Gerard's face flushed with anger, and it cost him a bitter
struggle not to box this high-souled creature's ears. And then to
go and destroy good food! His mother's milk curdled in his veins
with horror at such impiety. Finally, pity at Pietro's petulance
and egotism, and a touch of respect for poverty-struck pride,
However, he said coldly, "Likely what thou hast done might pass in
a novel of thy countryman, Signor Boccaccio; but 'twas not
"Make that good!" said the painter sullenly.
"I offered thee half my dinner; no more. But thou hast ta'en it
all. Hadst a right to throw away thy share, but not mine. Pride is
well, but justice is better."
Pietro stared, then reflected.
"'Tis well. I took thee for a fool, so transparent was thine
artifice. Forgive me! And prithee leave me! Thou seest how 'tis
with me. The world hath soured me. I hate mankind. I was not
always so. Once more excuse that my discourtesy, and fare thee
Gerard sighed, and made for the door.
But suddenly a thought struck him. "Signor Pietro," said he, "we
Dutchmen are hard bargainers. We are the lads 'een eij scheeren,'
that is, 'to shave an egg.' Therefore, I, for my lost dinner, do
claim to feast mine eyes on your picture, whose face is toward the
"Nay, nay," said the painter hastily, "ask me not that; I have
already misconducted myself enough towards thee. I would not shed
"Saints forbid! My blood?"
"Stranger," said Pietro sullenly, "irritated by repeated insults
to my picture, which is my child, my heart, I did in a moment of
rage make a solemn vow to drive my dagger into the next one that
should flout it, and the labour and love that I have given to it."
"What, are all to be slain that will not praise this picture?" and
he looked at its back with curiosity.
"Nay, nay; if you would but look at it, and hold your parrot
tongues. But you will be talking. So I have turned it to the wall
for ever. Would I were dead, and buried in it for my coffin!"
"I accept the condition. Show me the picture! I can but hold my
Pietro went and turned its face, and put it in the best light the
room afforded, and coiled himself again on his chest, with his
eye, and stiletto, glittering.
The picture represented the Virgin and Christ, flying through the
air in a sort of cloud of shadowy cherubic faces; underneath was a
landscape, forty or fifty miles in extent, and a purple sky above.
Gerard stood and looked at it in silence. Then he stepped close,
and looked. Then he retired as far off as he could, and looked;
but said not a word.
When he had been at this game half an hour, Pietro cried out
querulously and somewhat inconsistently: "well, have you not a
word to say about it?"
Gerard started. "I cry your mercy; I forgot there were three of us
here. Ay, I have much to say." And he drew his sword.
"Alas! alas!" cried Pietro, jumping in terror from his lair. "What
"Marry, defend myself against thy bodkin, signor; and at due odds,
being, as aforesaid, a Dutchman. Therefore, hold aloof, while I
deliver judgment, or I will pin thee to the wall like a
"Oh! is that all?" said Pietro, greatly relieved. "I feared you
were going to stab my poor picture with your sword, stabbed
already by so many foul tongues."
Gerard "pursued criticism under difficulties." Put himself in a
position of defence, with his sword's point covering Pietro, and
one eye glancing aside at the picture. "First, signor, I would
have you know that, in the mixing of certain colours, and in the
preparation of your oil, you Italians are far behind us Flemings.
But let that flea stick. For as small as I am, I can show you
certain secrets of the Van Eycks, that you will put to marvellous
profit in your next picture. Meantime I see in this one the great
qualities of your nation. Verily, ye are solis filii. If we have
colour, you have imagination. Mother of Heaven! an he hath not
flung his immortal soul upon the panel. One thing I go by is this;
it makes other pictures I once admired seem drossy, earth-born
things. The drapery here is somewhat short and stiff. why not let
it float freely, the figures being in air and motion?
"I will! I will!" cried Pietro eagerly. "I will do anything for
those who will but see what I have done."
"Humph! This landscape it enlightens me. Henceforth I scorn those
little huddled landscapes that did erst content me. Here is
nature's very face: a spacious plain, each distance marked, and
every tree, house, figure, field, and river smaller and less
plain, by exquisite gradation, till vision itself melts into
distance. O, beautiful! And the cunning rogue hath hung his
celestial figure in air out of the way of his little world below.
Here, floating saints beneath heaven's purple canopy. There, far
down, earth and her busy hives. And they let you take this painted
poetry, this blooming hymn, through the streets of Rome and bring
it home unsold. But I tell thee in Ghent or Bruges, or even in
Rotterdam, they would tear it out of thy hands. But it is a common
saying that a stranger's eye sees clearest. Courage, Pietro
Vanucci! I reverence thee and though myself a scurvy painter, do
forgive thee for being a great one. Forgive thee? I thank God for
thee and such rare men as thou art; and bow the knee to thee in
just homage. Thy picture is immortal, and thou, that hast but a
chest to sit on, art a king in thy most royal art. Viva, il
At this unexpected burst the painter, with all the abandon of his
nation, flung himself on Gerard's neck. "They said it was a
maniac's dream," he sobbed.
"Maniacs themselves! no, idiots!" shouted Gerard.
"Generous stranger! I will hate men no more since the world hath
such as thee. I was a viper to fling thy poor dinner away; a
wretch, a monster."
"Well, monster, wilt be gentle now, and sup with me?"
"Ah! that I will. Whither goest thou?"
"To order supper on the instant. We will have the picture for
"I will invite it whiles thou art gone. My poor picture, child of
"Ah, master, 'twill look on many a supper after the worms have
eaten you and me."
"I hope so," said Pietro.
About a week after this the two friends sat working together. but
not in the same spirit. Pietro dashed fitfully at his, and did
wonders in a few minutes, and then did nothing, except abuse it;
then presently resumed it in a fury, to lay it down with a groan.
Through all which kept calmly working, calmly smiling, the canny
To be plain, Gerard, who never had a friend he did not master, had
put his Onagra in harness. The friends were painting playing cards
to boil the pot.
When done, the indignant master took up his picture to make his
daily tour in search of a customer.
Gerard begged him to take the cards as well, and try and sell
them. He looked all the rattle-snake, but eventually embraced
Gerard in the Italian fashion, and took them, after first drying
the last-finished ones in the sun, which was now powerful in that
Gerard, left alone, executed a Greek letter or two, and then
mended a little rent in his hose. His landlady found him thus
employed, and inquired ironically whether there were no women in
"When you have done that," said she "come and talk to Teresa, my
friend I spoke to thee of, that hath a husband not good for much,
which brags his acquaintance with the great."
Gerard went down, and who should Teresa be but the Roman matron.
"Ah, madama," said he, "is it you? The good dame told me not that.
And the little fair-haired boy, is he well is he none the worse
for his voyage in that strange boat?"
"He is well," said the matron.
"Why, what are you two talking about?" said the landlady, staring
at them both in turn; "and why tremble you so, Teresa mia?"
"He saved my child's life," said Teresa, making an effort to
"What! my lodger? and he never told me a word of that. Art not
ashamed to look me in the face?"
"Alas! speak not harshly to him," said the matron. She then turned
to her friend and poured out a glowing description of Gerard's
conduct, during which Gerard stood blushing like a girl, and
scarce recognizing his own performance, gratitude painted it so
"And to think thou shouldst ask me to serve thy lodger, of whom I
knew nought but that he had thy good word, oh, Fiammina; and that
was enough for me. Dear youth, in serving thee I serve myself."
Then ensued an eager description, by the two women, of what had
been done, and what should be done, to penetrate the thick wall of
fees, commissions, and chicanery, which stood between the patrons
of art and an unknown artist in the Eternal City.
Teresa smiled sadly at Gerard's simplicity in leaving specimens of
his skill at the doors of the great.
"What!" said she, "without promising the servants a share -
without even feeing them, to let the signors see thy merchandise!
As well have flung it into Tiber."
"Well-a-day!" sighed Gerard. "Then how is an artist to find a
patron? for artists are poor, not rich."
"By going to some city nobler and not so greedy as this," said
Teresa. "La corte Romana non vuol' pecora senza lana."
She fell into thought, and said she would come again to-morrow.
The landlady felicitated Gerard. "Teresa has got something in her
head," said she.
Teresa was scarce gone when Pietro returned with his picture,
looking black as thunder. Gerard exchanged a glance with the
landlady, and followed him upstairs to console him.
"What, have they let thee bring home thy masterpiece?"
"More fools they, then."
"That is not the worse."
"Why, what is the matter?"
"They have bought the cards," yelled Pietro, and hammered the air
furiously right and left.
"All the better," said Gerard cheerfully.
"They flew at me for them. They were enraptured with them. They
tried to conceal their longing for them, but could not. I saw, I
feigned, I pillaged; curse the boobies."
And he flung down a dozen small silver coins on the floor and
jumped on them, and danced on them with basilisk eyes, and then
kicked them assiduously, and sent them spinning and flying, and
running all abroad. Down went Gerard on his knees, and followed
the maltreated innocents directly, and transferred them tenderly
to his purse.
"Shouldst rather smile at their ignorance, and put it to profit,"
"And so I will," said Pietro, with concentrated indignation. "The
brutes! We will paint a pack a day; we will set the whole city
gambling and ruining itself, while we live like princes on its
vices and stupidity. There was one of the queens, though, I had
fain have kept back. 'Twas you limned her, brother. She had lovely
red-brown hair and sapphire eyes, and above all, soul."
"Pietro," said Gerard softly, "I painted that one from my heart."
The quick-witted Italian nodded, and his eyes twinkled.
"You love her so well, yet leave her."
"Pietro, it is because I love her so dear that I have wandered all
this weary road."
This interesting colloquy was interrupted by the landlady crying
from below, "Come down, you are wanted." He went down, and there
was Teresa again.
"Come with me, Ser Gerard."
Gerard walked silently beside Teresa, wondering in his own mind,
after the manner of artists, what she was going to do with him;
instead of asking her. So at last she told him of her own accord.
A friend had informed her of a working goldsmith's wife who wanted
a writer. "Her shop is hard by; you will not have far to go."
Accordingly they soon arrived at the goldsmith's wife.
"Madama," said Teresa, "Leonora tells me you want a writer: I have
brought you a beautiful one; he saved my child at sea. Prithee
look on him with favour.
The goldsmith's wife complied in one sense. She fixed her eyes on
Gerard's comely face, and could hardly take them off again. But
her reply was unsatisfactory. "Nay, I have no use for a writer.
Ah! I mind now, it is my gossip, Claelia, the sausage-maker, wants
one; she told me, and I told Leonora."
Teresa made a courteous speech and withdrew.
Claelia lived at some distance, and when they reached her house
she was out. Teresa said calmly, "I will await her return," and
sat so still, and dignified, and statuesque, that Gerard was
beginning furtively to draw her, when Claelia returned.
"Madama, I hear from the goldsmith's wife, the excellent Olympia,
that you need a writer" (here she took Gerard by the hand and led
him forward); "I have brought you a beautiful one; he saved my
child from the cruel waves. For our Lady's sake look with favour
"My good dame, my fair Ser," said Claelia, "I have no use for a
writer; but now you remind me, it was my friend Appia Claudia
asked me for one but the other day. She is a tailor, lives in the
Teresa retired calmly.
"Madama," said Gerard, "this is likely to be a tedious business
Teresa opened her eyes.
"What was ever done without a little patience?" She added mildly,
"We will knock at every door at Rome but you shall have justice."
"But, madama, I think we are dogged. I noticed a man that follows
us, sometimes afar, sometimes close."
"I have seen it," said Teresa coldly; but her cheek coloured
faintly. "It is my poor Lodovico."
She stopped and turned, and beckoned with her finger.
A figure approached them somewhat unwillingly.
When he came up, she gazed him full in the face, and he looked
"Lodovico mio," said she, "know this young Ser, of whom I have so
often spoken to thee. Know him and love him, for he it was who
saved thy wife and child."
At these last words Lodovico, who had been bowing and grinning
artificially, suddenly changed to an expression of heartfelt
gratitude, and embraced Gerard warmly.
Yet somehow there was something in the man's original manner, and
his having followed his wife by stealth, that made Gerard
uncomfortable under this caress. However, he said, "We shall have
your company, Ser Lodovico?"
"No, signor," replied Lodovico, "I go not on that side Tiber."
"Addio, then," said Teresa significantly.
"When shall you return home, Teresa mia?"
"When I have done mine errand, Lodovico."
They pursued their way in silence. Teresa now wore a sad and
almost gloomy air.
To be brief, Appia Claudia was merciful, and did not send them
over Tiber again, but only a hundred yards down the street to
Lucretia, who kept the glove shop; she it was wanted a writer; but
what for, Appia Claudia could not conceive. Lucretia was a merry
little dame, who received them heartily enough, and told them she
wanted no writer, kept all her accounts in her head. "It was for
my confessor, Father Colonna; he is mad after them."
"I have heard of his excellency," said Teresa.
"Who has not?"
"But, good dame, he is a friar; he has made vow of poverty. I
cannot let the young man write and not be paid. He saved my child
"Did he now?" And Lucretia cast an approving look on Gerard.
"Well, make your mind easy; a Colonna never wants for money. The
good father has only to say the word, and the princes of his race
will pour a thousand crowns into his lap. And such a confessor,
dame! the best in Rome. His head is leagues and leagues away all
the while; he never heeds what you are saying. Why, I think no
more of confessing my sins to him than of telling them to that
wall. Once, to try him, I confessed, along with the rest, as how I
had killed my lodger's little girl and baked her in a pie. Well,
when my voice left off confessing, he started out of his dream,
and says he, a mustering up a gloom, 'My erring sister, say three
Paternosters and three Ave Marias kneeling, and eat no butter nor
eggs next Wednesday, and pax vobiscum!' and off a went with his
hands behind him, looking as if there was no such thing as me in
Teresa waited patiently, then calmly brought this discursive lady
back to the point: "Would she be so kind as go with this good
youth to the friar and speak for him?"
"Alack! how can I leave my shop? And what need? His door is aye
open to writers, and painters, and scholars, and all such cattle.
Why, one day he would not receive the Duke d'Urbino, because a
learned Greek was closeted with him, and the friar's head and his
so close together over a dusty parchment just come in from Greece,
as you could put one cowl over the pair. His wench Onesta told me.
She mostly looks in here for a chat when she goes an errand."
"This is the man for thee, my friend," said Teresa.
"All you have to do," continued Lucretia, "is to go to his
lodgings (my boy shall show them you), and tell Onesta you come
from me, and you are a writer, and she will take you up to him. If
you put a piece of silver in the wench's hand, 'twill do you no
harm: that stands to reason."
"I have silver," said Teresa warmly.
"But stay," said Lucretia, "mind one thing. What the young man
saith he can do, that he must be able to do, or let him shun the
good friar like poison. He is a very wild beast against all
bunglers. Why, 'twas but t'other day, one brought him an
ill-carved crucifix. Says he, 'Is this how you present "Salvator
Mundi?" who died for you in mortal agony; and you go and grudge
him careful work. This slovenly gimcrack, a crucifix? But that it
is a crucifix of some sort, and I am a holy man, I'd dust your
jacket with your crucifix,' says he. Onesta heard every word
through the key-hole; so mind.'
"Have no fears, madama," said Teresa loftily. "I will answer for
his ability; he saved my child."
Gerard was not subtle enough to appreciate this conclusion; and
was so far from sharing Teresa's confidence that he begged a
respite. He would rather not go to the friar to-day: would not
to-morrow do as well?
"Here is a coward for ye," said Lucretia.
"No, he is not a coward," said Teresa, firing up; "he is modest."
"I am afraid of this high-born, fastidious friar," said Gerard,
"Consider he has seen the handiwork of all the writers in Italy,
dear dame Teresa; if you would but let me prepare a better piece
of work than yet I have done, and then to-morrow I will face him
"I consent," said Teresa.
They walked home together.
Not far from his own lodging was a shop that sold vellum. there
was a beautiful white skin in the window. Gerard looked at it
wistfully; but he knew he could not pay for it; so he went on
rather hastily. However, he soon made up his mind where to get
vellum, and parting with Teresa at his own door, ran hastily
upstairs, and took the bond he had brought all the way from
Sevenbergen, and laid it with a sigh on the table. He then
prepared with his chemicals to erase the old writing; but as this
was his last chance of reading it, he now overcame his deadly
repugnance to bad writing, and proceeded to decipher the deed in
spite of its detestable contractions. It appeared by this deed
that Ghysbrecht Van Swieten was to advance some money to Floris
Brandt on a piece of land, and was to repay himself out of the
On this Gerard felt it would be imprudent and improper to destroy
the deed. On the contrary, he vowed to decipher every word, at his
leisure. He went downstairs, determined to buy a small piece of
vellum with his half of the card-money.
At the bottom of the stairs he found the landlady and Teresa
talking. At sight of him the former cried, "Here he is. You are
caught, donna mia. See what she has bought you?" And whipped out
from under her apron the very skin of vellum Gerard had longed
"Why, dame! why, donna Teresa!" And he was speechless with
pleasure and astonishment.
"Dear donna Teresa, there is not a skin in all Rome like it.
However came you to hit on this one? 'Tis glamour."
"Alas, dear boy,did not thine eye rest on it with desire? and
didst thou not sigh in turning away from it? And was it for Teresa
to let thee want the thing after that?"
"What sagacity! what goodness, madama! Oh, dame, I never thought I
should possess this. What did you pay for it?"
"I forget. Addio, Fiammina. Addio, Ser Gerard. Be happy, be
prosperous, as you are good." And the Roman matron glided away
while Gerard was hesitating, and thinking how to offer to pay so
stately a creature for her purchase.
The next day in the afternoon he went to Lucretia, and her boy
took him to Fra Colonna's lodgings. He announced his business, and
feed Onesta, and she took him up to the friar. Gerard entered with
a beating heart. The room, a large one, was strewed and heaped
with objects of art, antiquity, and learning, lying about in rich
profusion, and confusion. Manuscripts, pictures, carvings in wood
and ivory, musical instruments; and in this glorious chaos sat the
friar, poring intently over an Arabian manuscript.
He looked up a little peevishly at the interruption. Onesta
whispered in his ear.
"Very well," said he. "Let him be seated. Stay; young man, show me
how you write?" And he threw Gerard a piece of paper, and pointed
to an inkhorn.
"So please you, reverend father," said Gerard, "my hand it
trembleth too much at this moment; but last night I wrote a vellum
page of Greek, and the Latin version by its side, to show the
"Show it me?"
Gerard brought the work to him in fear and trembling; then stood
heart-sick, awaiting his verdict.
When it came it staggered him. For the verdict was, a Dominican
falling on his neck.
The next day an event took place in Holland, the effect of which
on Gerard's destiny, no mortal at the time, nor even my
intelligent reader now, could, I think, foresee.
Marched up to Eli's door a pageant brave to the eye of sense, and
to the vulgar judgment noble, but to the philosophic, pitiable
more or less.
It looked one animal, a centaur; but on severe analysis proved
two. The human half were sadly bedizened with those two metals, to
clothe his carcass with which and line his pouch, man has now and
then disposed of his soul: still the horse was the vainer brute of
the two; he was far worse beflounced, bebonneted, and bemantled,
than any fair lady regnante crinolina. For the man, under the
colour of a warming-pan, retained Nature's outline. But it was
subaudi equum! Scarce a pennyweight of honest horse-flesh to be
seen. Our crinoline spares the noble parts of women, and makes but
the baser parts gigantic (why this preference?); but this poor
animal from stem to stern was swamped in finery. His ears were hid
in great sheaths of white linen tipped with silver and blue. His
body swaddled in stiff gorgeous cloths descending to the ground,
except just in front, where they left him room to mince. His tail,
though dear to memory, no doubt, was lost to sight, being tucked
in heaven knows how. Only his eyes shone out like goggles, through
two holes pierced in the wall of haberdashery, and his little
front hoofs peeped in and out like rats.
Yet did this compound, gorgeous and irrational, represent power;
absolute power: it came straight from a tournament at the Duke's
court, which being on a progress, lay last night at a neighbouring
town - to execute the behests of royalty.
"What ho!" cried the upper half, and on Eli emerging, with his
wife behind him, saluted them. "Peace be with you, good people.
Rejoice! I am come for your dwarf."
Eli looked amazed, and said nothing. But Catherine screamed over
his shoulder, "You have mistook your road, good man; here abides
"Nay, wife, he means our Giles, who is somewhat small of stature:
why gainsay what gainsayed may not be?"
"Ay!" cried the pageant, "that is he, and discourseth like the big
"His breast is sound for that matter," said Catherine sharply.
"And prompt with his fists though at long odds."
"Else how would the poor thing keep his head in such a world as
"'Tis well said, dame. Art as ready with thy weapon as he; art his
mother, likely. So bring him forth, and that presently. See, they
lead a stunted mule for him. The Duke hath need of him, sore need;
we are clean out o' dwarven, and tiger-cats, which may not be,
whiles earth them yieldeth. Our last hop o' my thumb tumbled down
the well t'other day."
"And think you I'll let my darling go to such an ill-guided house
as you, where the reckless trollops of servants close not the well
mouth, but leave it open to trap innocents, like wolven?"
The representative of autocracy lost patience at this unwonted
opposition, and with stern look and voice bade her bethink her
whether it was the better of the two; "to have your abortion at
court fed like a bishop and put on like a prince, or to have all
your heads stricken off and borne on poles, with the bellman
crying, 'Behold the heads of hardy rebels, which having by good
luck a misbegotten son, did traitorously grudge him to the Duke,
who is the true father of all his folk, little or mickle?'
"Nay," said Eli sadly, "miscall us not. We be true folk, and
neither rebels nor traitors. But 'tis sudden, and the poor lad is
our true flesh and blood, and hath of late given proof of more
sense than heretofore."
"Avails not threatening our lives," whimpered Catherine; "we
grudge him not to the Duke; but in sooth he cannot go; his linen
is all in holes. So there is an end."
But the male mind resisted this crusher.
"Think you the Duke will not find linen, and cloth of gold to
boot? None so brave, none so affected, at court, as our monsters,
big or wee."
How long the dispute might have lasted, before the iron arguments
of despotism achieved the inevitable victory, I know not; but it
was cut short by a party whom neither disputant had deigned to
The bone of contention walked out of the house, and sided with
"If my folk are mad, I am not," he roared. "I'll go with you and
on the instant."
At this Catherine set up a piteous cry. She saw another of her
brood escaping from under her wing into some unknown element.
Giles was not quite insensible to her distress, so simple yet so
eloquent. He said, "Nay, take not on, mother! Why, 'tis a godsend.
And I am sick of this, ever since Gerard left it."
"Ah, cruel Giles! Should ye not rather say she is bereaved of
Gerard: the more need of you to stay aside her and comfort her."
"Oh! I am not going to Rome. Not such a fool. I shall never be
farther than Rotterdam; and I'll often come and see you; and if I
like not the place, who shall keep me there? Not all the dukes in
"Good sense lies in little bulk," said the emissary approvingly.
"Therefore, Master Giles, buss the old folk, and thank them for
misbegetting of thee; and ho! you - bring hither his mule."
One of his retinue brought up the dwarf mule. Giles refused it
with scorn. And on being asked the reason, said it was not just.
"What! would ye throw all into one scale! Put muckle to muckle,
and little to wee! Besides, I hate and scorn small things. I'll go
on the highest horse here, or not at all."
The pursuivant eyed him attentively a moment. He then adopted a
courteous manner. "I shall study your will in all things
reasonable. (Dismount, Eric, yours is the highest horse.) And if
you would halt in the town an hour or so, while you bid them
farewell, say but the word, and your pleasure shall be my
"Master," said he, "if we wait a month, 'twill be still the same:
my mother is a good soul, but her body is bigger than her spirit.
We shall not part without a tear or two, and the quicker 'tis done
the fewer; so bring yon horse to me."
Catherine threw her apron over her face and sobbed. The high horse
was brought, and Giles was for swarming up his tail, like a rope;
but one of the servants cried out hastily, "Forbear, for he
kicketh." "I'll kick him," said Giles. "Bring him close beneath
this window, and I'll learn you all how to mount a horse which
kicketh, and will not be clomb by the tail, the staircase of a
horse." And he dashed into the house, and almost immediately
reappeared at an upper window, with a rope in his hand. He
fastened an end somehow, and holding the other, descended as swift
and smooth as an oiled thunderbolt in a groove, and lighted
astride his high horse as unperceived by that animal as a fly
settling on him.
The official lifted his hands to heaven in mawkish admiration. "I
have gotten a pearl," thought he, "and wow but this will be a good
day's work for me."
"Come, father, come, mother, buss me, and bless me, and off I go."
Eli gave him his blessing, and bade him be honest and true, and a
credit to his folk. Catherine could not speak, but clung to him
with many sobs and embraces; and even through the mist of tears
her eye detected in a moment the little rent in his sleeve he had
made getting out of window, and she whipped out her needle and
mended it then and there, and her tears fell on his arm the while,
unheeded - except by those unfleshly eyes, with which they say the
very air is thronged.
And so the dwarf mounted the high horse, and rode away complacent
with the old hand laying the court butter on his back with a
Little recked Perpusillus of two poor silly females that sat by
the bereaved hearth, rocking themselves, and weeping, and
discussing all his virtues, and how his mind had opened lately,
and blind as two beetles to his faults, who rode away from them,
jocund and bold.
Ingentes animos angusto pectore versans.
Arrived at court he speedily became a great favourite.
One strange propensity of his electrified the palace; but on
account of his small size, and for variety's sake, and as a
monster, he was indulged on it. In a word, he was let speak the
It is an unpopular thing.
He made it an intolerable one.
Happy the man who has two chain-cables:Merit, and Women.
Oh, that I, like Gerard, had a 'chaine des dames' to pull up by.
I would be prose laureat, or professor of the spasmodic, or
something, in no time. En attendant, I will sketch the Fra
The true revivers of ancient learning and philosophy were two
writers of fiction - Petrarch and Boccaccio.
Their labours were not crowned with great, public, and immediate
success; but they sowed the good seed; and it never perished, but
quickened in the soil, awaiting sunshine.
From their day Italy was never without a native scholar or two,
versed in Greek; and each learned Greek who landed there was
received fraternally. The fourteenth century, ere its close, saw
the birth of Poggio, Valla, and the elder Guarino; and early in
the fifteenth Florence under Cosmo de Medici was a nest of
Platonists. These, headed by Gemistus Pletho, a born Greek, began
about A.D. 1440 to write down Aristotle. For few minds are big
enough to be just to great A without being unjust to capital B.
Theodore Gaza defended that great man with moderation; George of
Trebizond with acerbity, and retorted on Plato. Then Cardinal
Bessarion, another born Greek, resisted the said George, and his
idol, in a tract "Adversus calumniatorem Platonis."
Pugnacity, whether wise or not, is a form of vitality. Born
without controversial bile in so zealous an epoch, Francesco
Colonna, a young nobleman of Florence, lived for the arts. At
twenty he turned Dominican friar. His object was quiet study. He
retired from idle company, and faction fights, the humming and the
stinging of the human hive, to St. Dominic and the Nine Muses.
An eager student of languages, pictures, statues, chronology,
coins, and monumental inscriptions. These last loosened his faith
in popular histories.
He travelled many years in the East, and returned laden with
spoils; master of several choice MSS., and versed in Greek and
Latin, Hebrew and Syriac. He found his country had not stood
still. Other lettered princes besides Cosmo had sprung up. Alfonso
King of Naples, Nicolas d'Este, Lionel d'Este, etc. Above all, his
old friend Thomas of Sarzana had been made Pope, and had lent a
mighty impulse to letters; had accumulated 5000 MSS. in the
library of the Vatican, and had set Poggio to translate Diodorus
Siculus and Xenophon's Cyropaedia, Laurentius Valla to translate
Herodotus and Thucydides, Theodore Gaza, Theophrastus; George of
Trebizond, Eusebius, and certain treatises of Plato. etc. etc.
The monk found Plato and Aristotle under armistice, but Poggio and
Valla at loggerheads over verbs and nouns, and on fire with odium
philologicum. All this was heaven; and he settled down in his
native land, his life a rosy dream. None so happy as the
versatile, provided they have not their bread to make by it. And
Fra Colonna was Versatility. He knew seven or eight languages, and
a little mathematics; could write a bit, paint a bit, model a bit,
sing a bit, strum a bit; and could relish superior excellence in
all these branches. For this last trait he deserved to be as happy
as he was. For, gauge the intellects of your acquaintances, and
you will find but few whose minds arc neither deaf, nor blind, nor
dead to some great art or science -
"And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out."
And such of them as are conceited as well as stupid shall even
parade instead of blushing for the holes in their intellects.
A zealot in art, the friar was a sceptic in religion.
In every age there are a few men who hold the opinions of another
age, past or future. Being a lump of simplicity, his sceptism was
as naif as his enthusiasm. He affected to look on the religious
ceremonies of his day as his models, the heathen philosophers,
regarded the worship of gods and departed heroes: mummeries good
for the populace. But here his mind drew unconsciously a droll
distinction. Whatever Christian ceremony his learning taught him
was of purely pagan origin, that he respected, out of respect for
antiquity; though had he, with his turn of mind, been a pagan and
its contemporary, he would have scorned it from his philosophic
Fra Colonna was charmed with his new artist, and having the run of
half the palaces in Rome, sounded his praises so, that he was soon
called upon to resign him. He told Gerard what great princes
wanted him. "But I am so happy with you, father," objected Gerard.
"Fiddlestick about being happy with me," said Fra Colonna; "you
must not be happy; you must be a man of the world; the grand
lesson I impress on the young is, be a man of the world. Now these
Montesini can pay you three times as much as I can, and they shall
And the friar clapped a terrific price on Gerard's pen. It was
acceded to without a murmur. Much higher prices were going for
copying than authorship ever obtained for centuries under the
Gerard had three hundred crowns for Aristotle's treatise on
The great are mighty sweet upon all their pets, while the fancy
lasts; and in the rage for Greek MSS. the handsome writer soon
became a pet, and nobles of both sexes caressed him like a lap
It would have turned a vain fellow's head; but the canny Dutchman
saw the steel hand beneath the velvet glove, and did not presume.
Nevertheless it was a proud day for him when he found himself
seated with Fra Colonna at the table of his present employer,
Cardinal Bessarion. They were about a mile from the top of that
table; but never mind, there they were and Gerard had the
advantage of seeing roast pheasants dished up with all their
feathers as if they had just flown out of a coppice instead of off
the spit: also chickens cooked in bottles, and tender as peaches.
But the grand novelty was the napkins, surpassingly fine, and
folded into cocked hats, and birds' wings, and fans, etc., instead
of lying flat. This electrified Gerard; though my readers have
seen the dazzling phenomenon without tumbling backwards chair and
After dinner the tables were split in pieces, and carried away,
and lo, under each was another table spread with sweetmeats. The
signoras and signorinas fell upon them and gormandized; but the
signors eyed them with reasonable suspicion.
"But, dear father," objected Gerard, "I see not the bifurcal
daggers, with which men say his excellency armeth the left hand of
"Nay, 'tis the Cardinal Orsini which hath invented yon peevish
instrument for his guests to fumble their meat withal. One, being
in haste, did skewer his tongue to his palate with it, I hear; O
tempora, O mores! The ancients, reclining godlike at their feasts,
how had they spurned such pedantries."
As soon as the ladies had disported themselves among the
sugar-plums, the tables were suddenly removed, and the guests sat
in a row against the wall. Then came in, ducking and scraping, two
ecclesiastics with lutes, and kneeled at the cardinal's feet and
there sang the service of the day; then retired with a deep
obeisance: In answer to which the cardinal fingered his skull cap
as our late Iron Duke his hat: the company dispersed, and Gerard
had dined with a cardinal and one that had thrice just missed
But greater honour was in store.
One day the cardinal sent for him, and after praising the beauty
of his work took him in his coach to the Vatican; and up a private
stair to a luxurious little room, with a great oriel window. Here
were inkstands, sloping frames for writing on, and all the
instruments of art. The cardinal whispered a courtier, and
presently the Pope's private secretary appeared with a glorious
grimy old MS. of Plutarch's Lives. And soon Gerard was seated
alone copying it, awe-struck, yet half delighted at the thought
that his holiness would handle his work and read it.
The papal inkstands were all glorious externally; but within the
ink was vile. But Gerard carried ever good ink, home-made, in a
dirty little inkhorn: he prayed on his knees for a firm and
skilful hand, and set to work.
One side of his room was nearly occupied by a massive curtain
divided in the centre; but its ample folds overlapped. After a
while Gerard felt drawn to peep through that curtain. He resisted
the impulse. It returned. It overpowered him. He left Plutarch;
stole across the matted floor; took the folds of the curtain, and
gently gathered them up with his fingers, and putting his nose
through the chink ran it against a cold steel halbert. Two
soldiers, armed cap-a-pie, were holding their glittering weapons
crossed in a triangle. Gerard drew swiftly back; but in that
instant he heard the soft murmur of voices, and saw a group of
persons cringing before some hidden figure.
He never repeated his attempt to pry through the guarded curtain;
but often eyed it. Every hour or so an ecclesiastic peeped in,
eyed him, chilled him, and exit. All this was gloomy, and
mechanical. But the next day a gentleman, richly armed, bounced
in, and glared at him. "What is toward here?" said he.
Gerard told him he was writing out Plutarch, with the help of the
saints. The spark said he did not know the signor in question.
Gerard explained the circumstances of time and space that had
deprived the Signor Plutarch of the advantage of the spark's
Oh! one of those old dead Greeks they keep such a coil about."
"Ay, signor, one of them, who, being dead, yet live."
"I understand you not, young man," said the noble, with all the
dignity of ignorance. "What did the old fellow write? Love
stories?" and his eyes sparkled: "merry tales, like Boccaccio."
"Nay, lives of heroes and sages."
"Soldiers and popes?"
"Soldiers and princes."
"Wilt read me of them some day?"
"And willingly, signor. But what would they say who employ me,
were I to break off work?"
"Oh, never heed that; know you not who I am? I am Jacques
Bonaventura, nephew to his holiness the Pope, and captain of his
guards. And I came here to look after my fellows. I trow they have
turned them out of their room for you." Signor Bonaventura then
hurried away. This lively companion, however, having acquired a
habit of running into that little room, and finding Gerard good
company, often looked in on him, and chattered ephemeralities
while Gerard wrote the immortal lives.
One day he came a changed and moody man, and threw himself into
chair, crying, "Ah, traitress! traitress!" Gerard inquired what
was his ill? "Traitress! traitress!" was the reply. Whereupon
Gerard wrote Plutarch. Then says Bonaventura, "I am melancholy;
and for our Lady's sake read me a story out of Ser Plutarcho, to
soothe my bile: in all that Greek is there nought about lovers
Gerard read him the life of Alexander. He got excited, marched
about the room, and embracing the reader, vowed to shun "soft
delights," that bed of nettles, and follow glory.
Who so happy now as Gerard? His art was honoured, and fabulous
prices paid for it; in a year or two he should return by sea to
Holland, with good store of money, and set up with his beloved
Margaret in Bruges, or Antwerp, or dear Augsburg, and end their
days in peace, and love, and healthy, happy labour. His heart
never strayed an instant from her.
In his prosperity he did not forget poor Pietro. He took the Fra
Colonna to see his picture. The friar inspected it severely and
closely, fell on the artist's neck, and carried the picture to one
of the Colonnas, who gave a noble price for it.
Pietro descended to the first floor; and lived like a gentleman.a
But Gerard remained in his garret. To increase his expenses would
have been to postpone his return to Margaret. Luxury had no charms
for the single-hearted one, when opposed to love.
Jacques Bonaventura made him acquainted with other gay young
fellows. They loved him, and sought to entice him into vice, and
other expenses. But he begged humbly to be excused. So he escaped
that temptation. But a greater was behind.
FRA COLONNA had the run of the Pope's library, and sometimes left
off work at the same hour and walked the city with Gerard, on
which occasions the happy artist saw all things en beau, and was
wrapped up in the grandeur of Rome and its churches, palaces, and
The friar granted the ruins, but threw cold water on the rest.
"This place Rome? It is but the tomb of mighty Rome." He showed
Gerard that twenty or thirty feet of the old triumphal arches were
underground, and that the modern streets ran over ancient palaces,
and over the tops of columns; and coupling this with the
comparatively narrow limits of the modern city, and the gigantic
vestiges of antiquity that peeped aboveground here and there, he
uttered a somewhat remarkable simile. "I tell thee this village
they call Rome is but as one of those swallows' nests ye shall see
built on the eaves of a decayed abbey."
"Old Rome must indeed have been fair then," said Gerard.
"Judge for yourself, my son; you see the great sewer, the work of
the Romans in their very childhood, and shall outlast Vesuvius.
You see the fragments of the Temple of Peace. How would you look
could you see also the Capitol with its five-and-twenty temples?
Do but note this Monte Savello; what is it, an it pleases you, but
the ruins of the ancient theatre of Marcellus? and as for
Testacio, one of the highest hills in modern Rome, it is but an
ancient dust heap; the women of old Rome flung their broken pots
and pans there, and lo - a mountain.
'Ex pede Herculem; ex ungue leonem.'"
Gerard listened respectfully, but when the holy friar proceeded by
analogy to imply that the moral superiority of the heathen Romans
was proportionally grand, he resisted stoutly. "Has then the world
lost by Christ His coming?" said he; but blushed, for he felt
himself reproaching his benefactor.
"Saints forbid!" said the friar. "'Twere heresy to say so." And
having made this direct concession, he proceeded gradually to
evade it by subtle circumlocution, and reached the forbidden door
by the spiral back staircase. In the midst of all which they came
to a church with a knot of persons in the porch. A demon was being
exorcised within. Now Fra Colonna had a way of uttering a curious
sort of little moan, when things Zeno or Epicurus would not have
swallowed were presented to him as facts. This moan conveyed to
such as had often heard it not only strong dissent, but pity for
human credulity, ignorance, and error, especially of course when
it blinded men to the merits of Pagandom.
The friar moaned, and said, "Then come away.
"Nay, father, prithee! prithee! I ne'er saw a divell cast out."
The friar accompanied Gerard into the church, but had a good shrug
first. There they found the demoniac forced down on his knees
before the altar with a scarf tied round his neck, by which the
officiating priest held him like a dog in a chain.
Not many persons were present, for fame had put forth that the
last demon cast out in that church went no farther than into one
of the company: "as a cony ferreted out of one burrow runs to the
When Gerard and the friar came up, the priest seemed to think
there were now spectators enough; and began.
He faced the demoniac, breviary in hand, and first set himself to
learn the individual's name with whom he had to deal.
"Come out, Ashtaroth. Oho! it is not you then. Come out, Belial.
Come out, Tatzi. Come out, Eza. No; he trembles not. Come out,
Azymoth. Come out, Feriander. Come out, Foletho. Come out, Astyma.
Come out, Nebul. Aha! what, have I found ye? 'tis thou, thou
reptile; at thine old tricks. Let us pray!
"Oh, Lord, we pray thee to drive the foul fiend Nebul out of this
thy creature: out of his hair, and his eyes, out of his nose, out
of his mouth, out of his ears, out of his gums, out of his teeth,
out of his shoulders, out of his arms, legs, loins, stomach,
bowels, thighs, knees, calves, feet, ankles, finger-nails,
toe-nails, and soul. Amen.
The priest then rose from his knees, and turning to the company,
said, with quiet geniality, "Gentles, we have here as obstinate a
divell as you may see in a summer day." Then, facing the patient,
he spoke to him with great rigour, sometimes addressing 'the man
and sometimes the fiend, and they answered him in turn through the
same mouth, now saying that they hated those holy names the priest
kept uttering, and now complaining they did feel so bad in their
It was the priest who first confounded the victim and the culprit
in idea, by pitching into the former, cuffing him soundly, kicking
him, and spitting repeatedly in his face. Then he took a candle
and lighted it, and turned it down, and burned it till it burned
his fingers; when he dropped it double quick. Then took the
custodial; and showed the patient the Corpus Domini within. Then
burned another candle as before, but more cautiously: then spoke
civilly to the demoniac in his human character, dismissed him, and
received the compliments of the company.
"Good father," said Gerard, "how you have their names by heart.
Our northern priests have no such exquisite knowledge of the
"Ay, young man, here we know all their names, and eke their ways,
the reptiles. This Nebul is a bitter hard one to hunt out."
He then told the company in the most affable way several of his
experiences; concluding with his feat of yesterday, when he drove
a great hulking fiend out of a woman by her mouth, leaving behind
him certain nails, and pins, and a tuft of his own hair, and cried
out in a voice of anguish, "'Tis not thou that conquers me. See
that stone on the window sill. Know that the angel Gabriel coming
down to earth once lighted on that stone: 'tis that has done my
The friar moaned. "And you believed him?"
"Certes! who but an infidel has discredited a revelation so
"What, believe the father of lies? That is pushing credulity
beyond the age."
"Oh, a liar does not always lie."
"Ay doth he whenever he tells an improbable story to begin, and
shows you a holy relic; arms you against the Satanic host. Fiends
(if any) be not so simple. Shouldst have answered him out of
'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.'
Some blackguard chopped his wife's head off on that stone, young
man; you take my word for it." And the friar hurried Gerard away.
"Alack, father, I fear you abashed the good priest."
"Ay, by Pollux," said the friar, with a chuckle; "I blistered him
with a single touch of 'Socratic interrogation.' What modern can
parry the weapons of antiquity."
One afternoon, when Gerard had finished his day's work, a fine
lackey came and demanded his attendance at the Palace Cesarini. He
went, and was ushered into a noble apartment; there was a girl
seated in it, working on a tapestry. She rose and left the room,
and said she would let her mistress know.
A good hour did Gerard cool his heels in that great room, and at
last he began to fret. "These nobles think nothing of a poor
fellow's time." However, just as he was making up his mind to slip
out, and go about his business, the door opened, and a superb
beauty entered the room, followed by two maids. It was the young
princess of the house of Cesarini. She came in talking rather
loudly and haughtily to her dependents, but at sight of Gerard
lowered her voice to a very feminine tone, and said, "Are you the
"I am, Signora.
She then seated herself; Gerard and her maids remained standing.
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