From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Romola (1862–63) is a historical novel by George Eliot set in the fifteenth century, and is "a deep study of life in the city of Florence from an intellectual, artistic, religious, and social point of view". It first appeared in fourteen parts published in Cornhill Magazine from July 1862 (vol. 6, no. 31) to August 1863 (vol. 8, no. 44). The story takes place amidst actual historical events during the Italian Renaissance, and includes in its plot several notable figures from Florentine history.
Florence, 1492: Christopher Columbus has sailed towards the New World, and Florence has just mourned the death of its legendary leader, Lorenzo de' Medici. In this setting, a Florentine trader meets a shipwrecked stranger, who introduces himself as Tito Melema, a young Italianate-Greek scholar. Tito becomes acquainted with several other Florentines, including Nello the barber and a young girl named Tessa. He is also introduced to a blind scholar named Bardo de' Bardi, and his daughter Romola. As Tito becomes settled in Florence, assisting Bardo with classical studies, he falls in love with Romola. However, Tessa falls in love with Tito, and the two are "married" in a mock ceremony.
Tito learns from Fra Luca, a Dominican monk, that his adoptive father has been forced into slavery and is asking for assistance. Tito introspects, comparing filial duty to his new ambitions in Florence, and decides that it would be futile to attempt to rescue his adoptive father. This paves the way for Romola and Tito to marry. Fra Luca shortly thereafter falls ill and before his death he speaks to his estranged sister, Romola. Ignorant of Romola's plans, Fra Luca warns her of a vision foretelling a marriage between her and a mysterious stranger who will bring pain to her and her father. After Fra Luca's death, Tito dismisses the warning and advises Romola to trust him. Tito and Romola marry, but shortly thereafter Tito travels to Rome on business.
It is not until 1494 that Tito returns to Florence. In that time, the French-Italian Wars have seen Florence enter uneasy times. Piero de' Medici, successor to the lordship of Florence, has been exiled from the city for his ignominious surrender to the invading French king, Charles VIII. Girolamo Savonarola preaches to Florentines about ridding the Church and the city of scourge and corruption. In this setting, Tito returns to Florence to help negotiate a treaty with the French invaders. During this time, Tito encounters an escaped prisoner, who turns out to be his adopted father, Baldassare. Panicked and somewhat ashamed of his earlier inaction, Tito denies knowing the escaped prisoner and calls him a madman. Baldassare escapes into the Duomo, where he swears revenge on his unfilial adoptive son. Growing ever more fearful, Tito plans to leave Florence. To do this, he betrays his late father-in-law, Bardo (who died while Tito was in Rome), by selling the late scholar's library. This reveals to Romola the true nature of her husband's character. She secretly leaves Tito and Florence, but is persuaded by Savonarola to return to fulfil her obligations to her marriage and her fellow Florentines. Nevertheless, the love between Romola and Tito has gone.
Once more Tito travels to Rome, and does not return to Florence until 1496. In that time, Florence has endured political upheaval, warfare and famine. Religious fervour has swept through Florence under the leadership of Savonarola, culminating in the Bonfire of the Vanities. The League of Venice has declared war on the French king and his Italian ally, Florence. Starvation and disease run rampant through the city. Romola, now a supporter of Savonarola, helps the poor and sick where she can. Meanwhile, Tito is embroiled in a complex game of political manoeuvring and duplicitous allegiances in the new Florentine government. Mirroring this, he has escaped attempts by Baldassare to both kill and expose him, and maintains a secret marriage to Tessa, with whom he has fathered two children. Romola becomes defiant of Tito, and the two manoeuvre to thwart each other's plans. Romola meets an enfeebled Baldassare, who reveals Tito's past and leads her to Tessa.
Political turmoil erupts in Florence. Five supporters of the Medici family are sentenced to death, including Romola's godfather, Bernardo del Nero. She learns that Tito has played a role in their arrest. Romola pleads with Savonarola to intervene, but he refuses. Romola's faith in Savonarola and Florence is shaken, and once again she leaves the city. Meanwhile, Florence is under papal pressure to expel Savonarola. His arrest is effected by rioters, who then turn their attention to several of the city's political elite. Tito becomes a target of the rioters, but he escapes the mob by diving into the Arno River. However, upon leaving the river, Tito is killed by Baldassare.
Romola makes her way to the coast. Emulating Gostanza in Boccacio's The Decameron (V, 2), she drifts out to sea in a small boat to die. However, the boat takes her to a small village affected by the Plague, and she helps the survivors. Romola's experience gives her a new purpose in life and she returns to Florence. Savonarola is tried for heresy and burned at the stake, but for Romola his influence remains inspiring. Romola takes care of Tessa and her two children, with the help of her aunt. The story ends with Romola imparting advice to Tessa's son, based on her own experiences and the influences in her life.
Characters in Romola
- Romola de' Bardi – Daughter of classical scholar Bardo de' Bardi who lives in Florence. She has an insular, non-religious upbringing, immersed in classical studies. She falls in love with Tito Melema and marries him, but she begins to rebel after gradually realising his true character. Girolamo Savonarola later becomes a great influence in her life.
- Tito Melema – A handsome, young, Italianate-Greek scholar who arrives in Florence after being shipwrecked. He forsakes his adoptive father and makes a new life for himself in Florence. He marries Romola, and charms his way into the influential circles of Florence. He also "marries" Tessa in a mock ceremony. His sense of duty towards others is gradually replaced with ambition and self-preservation, earning the disdain of his wife and the vengeful anger of his adoptive father, Baldassare.
- Baldassare Calvo – Adoptive father of Tito Melema. Travelling at sea with Tito, his galley is attacked and Baldassare is sold into slavery in Antioch. He is eventually brought in chains to Florence, where he escapes. He encounters Tito, who denies him and calls him a madman. Baldassare, feeble yet fervent, becomes solely motivated by vengeance.
- Girolamo Savonarola – Charismatic Dominican preacher. He preaches to Florentines about religious piety and upcoming upheaval in Florence and the Church. Romola feels her life being guided by his influence, both direct and broad. Savonarola inspires the people of Florence at first, but the continuing hardship endured by the city leads to his persecution.
- Tessa – Young and naive Florentine girl. Her young life has been tragic up until she meets Tito Melema. She "marries" him in a mock wedding ceremony, but is treated as a secret, second wife. As Tito's relationship with Romola wanes, he increasingly seeks the company of the non-judgmental and ignorant Tessa, eventually preferring her to the virtuous and intelligent Romola.
- Bardo de' Bardi – Blind, classical scholar living in Florence. He has one estranged son, Dino, and a daughter, Romola. Bardo is a descendant of the once-powerful Bardi family, but is living in poverty with his daughter, who helps him with his classical studies. He is an ally of the Medici family. He maintains a classical library, and tries to preserve it beyond his own death.
- Nello the barber – Florentine barber, who fancies his establishment as a meeting place for the Florentine intelligentsia and a forum for political and philosophical discussion. He is a staunch supporter of Tito Melema.
- Piero di Cosimo – Eccentric artist living in Florence. He paints a betrothal picture for Tito and Romola, representing them as Bacchus and Ariadne (though not in the style of Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne). He distrusts Tito, particularly since many other Florentines (especially Nello the barber) take a quick liking to him. He remains a good friend to Romola.
- Dino de' Bardi (aka Fra Luca) – Estranged son of Bardo de' Bardi. His father had hoped that Dino would also study classical literature, but instead Dino became a Dominican monk, estranging him from his non-religious family. Just before his death, he warns Romola against a future marriage that will bring her peril.
- Bratti Ferravecchi – Trader and iron scrap dealer (hence the name). He encounters Tito Melema, who has just arrived in Florence. Various characters in the story often buy and sell various items through him.
- Niccolò Machiavelli – In this story, Machiavelli often talks with Tito and other Florentines (particularly in Nello's shop) about all matters political and philosophical in Florence. His observations add a commentary to the ongoing events in the city.
Literary scholars have drawn comparisons between the setting of the novel and George Eliot's contemporary Victorian England: "Philosophically confused, morally uncertain, and culturally uprooted, [Florence] was a prototype of the upheaval of nineteenth-century England". Both Renaissance Florence and Victorian England were times of philosophical, religious and social turbulence. Renaissance Florence was therefore a convenient setting for a historical novel that allowed exotic characters and events to be examined in Victorian fashion.
Romola is the female protagonist through whom the surrounding world is evaluated. Contemporary and modern critics have questioned the likelihood of the level of scholarship attributed to women such as Romola in Renaissance Italy, and have pointed to the possible role of the title character as a Victorian critique of the constrained lot of women in that period, as well as in Eliot's contemporary period. Felicia Bonaparte speculated about the title character as a "thoroughly contemporary figure, the Victorian intellectual struggling to resolve the dilemmas of the modern age". In a similar vein, the story also deals with the dilemma of where the duty of obedience for women ends and the duty of resistance begins.
The psychological and religious introspection seen in Eliot's other novels is also seen in Romola. Richard Hutton, writing in The Spectator, observed that "[t]he greatest artistic purpose of the story is to trace out the conflict between liberal culture and the more passionate form of the Christian faith in that strange era, which has so many points of resemblance with the present". The spiritual journey undertaken by the title character in some ways emulates Eliot’s own religious struggle. In Romola, the title character has a non-religious and scholarly, yet insular, upbringing. She is gradually exposed to the wider religious world, which impacts her life at fortuitous moments. Yet continued immersion in religious life highlights its incompatibility with her own virtues, and by the end of the story she has adopted a humanist, empathic middle-ground.
Literary significance & criticism
Romola is George Eliot's fourth published novel. Set in Renaissance Italy, it is isolated from her other novels, which were set in 19th-century England. Also for the first time, George Eliot published her story in serialised format and with a different publisher. Smith, Elder & Co. reportedly paid Eliot £7,000 for the novel, but was less than satisfied at the commercial outcome. Richard Hutton acknowledged that Romola would never be one of her most popular novels, and indeed it remains one of her most underrated works. Nevertheless, Hutton described the novel as "one of the greatest works of modern fiction … probably the author's greatest work".
George Eliot herself described her labour in writing the novel as one about which she could "swear by every sentence as having been written with my best blood, such as it is, and with the most ardent care for veracity of which my nature is capable". She reportedly spent eighteen months contemplating and researching the novel, including several excursions to Florence. The attention to detail exhibited in the novel was a focus of both praise and criticism. Anthony Trollope, having read the first instalment of Romola, expressed wonder at the toil Eliot must have "endured in getting up the work", but also cautioned her against excessive erudition, urging her not to "fire too much over the heads of her readers".
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- In 1924, the novel was adapted for a silent film starring Lillian Gish, William Powell, Ronald Colman and Dorothy Gish.
- Facsimile reprint of the New York: Harper & Brothers, 1863 edition (with illustrations by Sir Frederick Leighton) – Toronto, Ont.; Orchard Park, N.Y.: Broadview Press, 2005. ISBN 1551117576.
General View of Florence from San Miniato.
Photo-etching from a Photograph.
ROSEHILL LIMITED EDITION
HSTHS AND LAUR1AT
ROSEH'U LIMITED EDIT/ON.
Limited to One Thousand Copies.
No- .OS .1
TYPOGRAPHY. ELECTROTYPIXG. AXD PR/XT/XG BY JOHX H7/.SOX AXD SOX, L-XU'ERSITY PRESS. CAMBR/DGE. U.S.A.
Soofc III. (continued).
I. By a Street Lamp 1
IL Check 13
III. Counter-Check 18
IV. The Pyramid of Vanities 27
V. Tessa Abroad and at Home 36
VI. Monna Brigida's Conversion 51
VII. A Prophetess 59
Vin. On San Miniato 69
IX. The Evening and the Mornino .... 77
X. Waiting 82
XI. The Other Wipe 88
XII. Why Tito was Sape 105
XIII. A Final Understanding 114
XTV. Pleading 122
XV. The Scappold 135
XVI. Drifting Away • 144
XVII. The Benediction 151
XV1H. Ripening Schemes 158
XIX. The Prophet in his Cell 174
XX. Thi Trial bt Fibs 186
XXI. A Masque of the Furies 197
XXII. Waiting by the River 203
XXm. Romola's Waking 213
XXIV. Homeward 227
XXV. Meeting Again 232
XXVI. The Confession 239
XXVII. The Last Silence 249
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. volume in.
General View of Florence from San Miniato . . Frontispiece
Cloisters of the Convent of San Marco 3
Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria .... 29
Wrought Iron Lantern of the Palazzo Strozzi ... 51
San Miniato al Monte 71
Wrought Iron Standard Holder of the Palazzo Strozzi . 108
First Cloister of San Marco 125
Palazzo del Podesta, now the Bargello, or National
Court and Grand Staircase of the Bargello . . • . 141
Piazza and Church of San Marco 151
Fra Angelico, by Carlo Dolci 172
Cell of Savonarola, San Marco 175
At the Well 183
Fountain of Neptune and Equestrian Statue of Cosimo
I. de' Medici in the Piazza della Signoria . . . 186
Cellini's Statue of Perseus in the Loggia dei Lanzi . . 188
Ponte Santa Trinita 209
Statue of Giotto in a Portico of the Uffizi Palace . . 282 Execution of Savonarola and the two Dominican Monks in the Piazzi della Signoria. From a celebrated Painting in the Museum of San Marco, — artist
BOOK HI. (continued).
BY A 8TEEET 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 hus- band just issuing from the monastery of San Marco. Tito, who had gone out again shortly after his arri- val in the Via de' Bardi, and had seen little of Romola during the day, immediately proposed 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 obvi- ously demanded from him. Tito and Romola never jarred, never remonstrated with each other. They were too hopelessly alienated in their inner life ever to have that contest which is an effort towards agreement They talked of all affairs, public and private, with careful adherence to an adopted course. If Tito wanted a supper prepared in the old library,
VOL. Ill*— l
now pleasantly furnished as a banqueting-ioom. Romola assented, and saw that everything needful was done; and Tito, on his side, left her entirely uncontrolled in her daily habits, accepting the help she offered him in transcribing or making digests, and in return meeting her conjectured want of sup- plies 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 the first ardour of her self-conquest, after she had renounced her resolution of flight, Romola had made many timid efforts towards the return of a frank relation between them. But to her such a relation could only come by open speech about theiT differences, and the attempt to arrive at a moral understanding ; while Tito could only be saved from alienation from her by such a recovery of her effu- sive tenderness as would have presupposed oblivion of their differences. He cared for no explanation between them; he felt any thorough explanation impossible: he would have cared to have Romola fond again, and to her, fondness was impossible. She could be submissive and gentle, she could re* press any sign of repulsion ; but tenderness 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 action he sought to convince her that he considered the cause of the Medici hopeless; and that on that practical gTound, as well
BY A STREET LAMP. 3
as in theory, he heartily served the popular govern- ment, in which she had now a warm interest But impressions subtle as odours made her uneasy about his relations with San Marco. She was painfully divided between the dread of seeing any evidence to arouse her suspicions, and 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 Komola, and then I must fulfil 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 footsteps and confused voices.
" We shall not get home without a wetting, un- less we take shelter under this convenient loggia," Tito said hastily, hurrying Komola, with a slightly startled movement, up the step of the loggia.
M Surely it is useless to wait for this small driz- zling rain," said Komola, in surprise.
"No; I felt it becoming heavier. Let us wait a little." With that wakefulness to the faintest indi- cation 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 the world he would have chosen to meet at this hour with Komola by his
side. He had already during the day had one mo- mentous interview with Dolfo Spini, and the busi- ness he had spoken of to Romola as yet to be done was a second interview with that personage, a se- quence 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 stratagem, 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 favour of the Frate. The purport of the letters was to state that the Cardinal was on his progress from Pisa, and, unwilling for strong reasons to enter Florence, yet desirous of taking counsel with Savonarola at this difficult 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 Florence road, two hours after sunrise. The plot, of which these forged letters were the initial 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 Savonarola with the Dominican brother who would accompany him according to rule, and deliver him over to a small detachment of Milanese horse in readiness near San Casciano, by whom he was to be carried into the Roman territory.
There was a strong chance that the penetrating Frate would suspect a trap, $nd 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 necessary that he should be attended by an armed guard ; and here he was called on to
BY A STREET LAMP. 5
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 favour of his acting on the letters was that the eagerness with which his mind was set on the combining of interests within and with- out the Church towards the procuring of a General Council, and also the expectation of immediate ser- vice from the Cardinal 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 de- clined to put the letters into any hands but his, and with consummate art had admitted that incidentally, and by inference, he was able so far to conjecture their purport as to believe they referred to a rendez- vous outside the gates, in which case he urged that the Frate should seek an armed guard from the Signoria, and offered his services in carrying 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 considered, must turn to his advantage. Which- ever party came uppermost, he was secure of favour and money. That is an indecorously naked state- ment ; the fact, clothed as Tito habitually clothed it, was that his acute mind, discerning 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 dia- monds in question and papal patronage; if not, Tito's adroit agency had strengthened his position with Savonarola and with Spini, while any confi- dences 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 effect 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 always the possibility that on an evening encounter he would be suddenly blurting and affectionate. The delicate sign of cast- ing the becchetto over the left shoulder was under- stood 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 in- stant by the direct rays of the lamp, and Tito in his way was as strongly marked a personage as the cap- tain of the Compagnacci. Romola's black-shrouded figure had escaped notice, and she now stood behind her husband's shoulder in the corner of the 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
BY A STREET LAMP. 7
his hand grasped Tito's shoulder; "what did you run into hiding for ? You did n't know it was com- rades who were coming. It 's well I caught sight of you ; it saves time. What of the chase 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 white, but his excitement came from the pressing difficulty of choosing a safe device. If he attempted to hush Spini, that would only deepen Bomola'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 divination of motives. He adopted a third course, which proved that Bomola retained one sort of power over Mm, — the power of dread.
He pressed her hand, as if intending a hint to her, and said in a good-humoured tone of comrade- ship, —
" Yes, my Dolf 0, 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. What! he swallowed the bait whole? The pro- phetic nose did n'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 all as easily as you swallow a cup of Trebbiano. Ha! I see torches: there must be a dead body coming. The pestilence has been spread- ing, 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 suggestion of the dead body and the pestilence was Tito's device for getting rid of Spini without telling him to go. The moment he had moved away, Tito turned to Eomola, and said quietly, —
" Do not be alarmed by anything that bestia 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.
" I 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 predominance.
The torches passed, with the Vicario dell' Arci- vescovo, 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
BY A 8TBEET LAMP. 9
years seemed to be nullified : she felt nothing but that they were divided.
They were nearly in darkness again, and could only see each other's faces dimly.
" Tell me the truth, Tito, — this time tell me the truth," said Romola, 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 Rome. But as I serve the popular government, and think the Frate's presence here is a necessary means of maintaining 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 unimpas- sioned beings was hardening within him.
"If the Frate leaves the city, — if any harm happens to him," said Romola, 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 ; " I will be disgraced with you. If we are united, I am that part of you that will save you from crime. Others shall not be betrayed."
"lam quite aware of what you would be likely to do, anima inia" 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," Eomola 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. Tou shall 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. Eomola was too conscious of being mas- tered 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 towards leading her from the loggia.
They walked on in silence for some time, under
BY A STREET LAMP. n
the small drizzling rain. The first rush of indigna- tion and alarm in Bomola had begun to give way to more complicated feelings, which rendered speech and action difficult In that simpler state of vehe- mence, 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, mem- ories of impulse subdued, and that proud reserve which all discipline had left unmodified, began to emerge from the flood of passion. The grasp of her wrists, which asserted her husband's physical pre- dominance, instead of arousing a new fierceness in her, as it might have done if her impetuosity had been of a more vulgar kind, had given her amomen- tary shuddering horror at this form of contest with him. It was the first time they had been in de- clared 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; what- ever had been his original intention, he must be de- termined 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 possible — yes, she must cling to that possi- bility 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 re-
cover 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 pres- ent mood persuasive deprecation would be lost upon her.
"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 that man's comrade ? "
" 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.
Tito's clever arrangements had been unpleasantly frustrated by trivial incidents which could not en- ter into a clever man's calculations. It was very seldom that he walked with Komola in the evening, yet he had happened to be walking with her pre- cisely on this evening when her presence was su- premely inconvenient. Life was so complicated a game that the devices of skill were liable to be de- feated at every turn by air-blown chances, incalcu- lable 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 posi- tion in Florence: suspicion roused in Dolfo Spini might be as disagreeable in its effects as the hatred of a fierce dog not to be chained.
If Tito went forthwith to the monastery to warn Savonarola before the monks went to rest, his warn- ing would follow so closely on his delivery of the forged letters that he could not escape unfavourable surmises. He could not warn Spini at once with- out telling him the true reason, since he could not immediately allege the discovery that Savonarola
had changed his purpose ; and he knew Spini well enough to know that his understanding would dis- cern nothing but that Tito had "turned round " and frustrated the plot. On the other hand, by deferring his warning to Savonarola until the morn- ing, he would be almost sure to lose the opportunity of warning Spini that the Frate had changed his mind; and the band of Compagnacci 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 was due only to the Frate's caution.
Tito was annoyed. If he had had to smile, it would have been an unusual effort to him. He was determined not to encounter Romola 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 safeguard 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 her- self 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 fulfil 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, con- jured up possible schemes by which, after all, Tito would have eluded her threat; and towards day- break 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 any- thing 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 towards betrayal
If she went to her godfather, might she not in- duce him, without any specific revelation, to take measures for preventing Fra Girolamo from passing the gates? But that might be too late. Eomola 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 at a swift pace along the Via de' Bardi towards 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 possi- bility to which she still clung, might satisfy her of the Frate's safety, and leave no need for her to go
to San Marco. When she arrived in front of the Palazzo 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 worshippers passing up and down the marble steps, there were men pausing for chat, and there were market-people carrying their burdens. 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 Eomola 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 con- vulsed her with indignation : 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 Eomola."
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 this 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 Bomola ; and she turned up the steps, to take refuge in the Duomo till she could recover from her agitation.
Tito never had a feeling so near hatred as that with which his eyes followed Bomola 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 gener- ous. He was a traitor without charm. It followed that he was not fond of Tito Melema.
VOL. III. — 2
It was late in the afternoon when Tito returned home. Eomola, seated opposite the cabinet in her narrow room, copying documents, was about to de- sist 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 something new to Bomola 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 cabi- net, and stood directly in front of her.
Bomola, fully assured during the day of the Frate's safety, was feeling the reaction of some penitence for the access of distrust and indignation which had impelled her to 'address her husband publicly on a matter that she knew he wished to be private. She told herself that she had probably been wrong. The scheming duplicity which she had heard even her godfather allude to as insepar- able from party tactics might be sufficient to ac- count for the connection with Spini, without 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 other frank words breaking the two years' silence of their hearts. The silence had been so complete that Tito was ignorant of her having fled from him and come back again ; they had never approached an avowal of that past which, both in its young love and in the shock that shattered 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-re- proof ; but the subtle change in his face and manner arrested her speech. For a few moments they re- mained silent, looking at each other.
Tito himself felt that a crisis was come in his married life. The husband's determination to mas- tery, which lay deep below all blandness and be- seechingness, 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 stamping out the life from something feeble, yet dangerous.
" Eomola," he began, in the cool liquid tone that made her shiver, " it is time that we should under- stand 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." Eomola
spoke these words in a fuller and firmer tone ; Tito, she hoped, would look less hard when she had ex- pressed her regret, and then she could say other things.
" I wish you once for all to understand/' he said, without any change of voice, " that such collisions are incompatible 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 Eomola, taking fire slightly. It was not at all what she had thought of saying, but we see a very little way be- fore us in mutual speech.
" You would say, I suppose," answered Tito, u that nothing is to occur in future which can excite your unreasonable 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 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 am saying ? "
He paused for a reply.
" Yes," said Eomola, flushing in irrepressible re- sentment 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 sim- ply 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, in- cluding 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 deliver- ance ; you might as well try to turn locks with fine words as apply such notions to the politics of Florence. The question 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, among intricate affairs of which you know nothing."
Eomola felt as if her mind were held in a vice by Tito's : the possibilities he had indicated were rising before her with terrible clearness.
" I am too rash," she said. " I will try not to be rash."
" Eemember," said Tito, with unsparing insistence, " that your act of distrust towards me this morning might, for aught you knew, have had more fatal effects than that sacrifice of your husband which you have learned to contemplate without flinching/
"Tito, it is not so," Eomola 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 willingly 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 you than to anything else on earth. But it is useless. You
shut me out from your mind. You affect to think of me as a being too unreasonable to share in the knowledge 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 towards him with dilated eyes, and laid her hand upon his arm. But Romola's touch and glance no longer stirred any fibre of ten- derness in her husband. The good-humoured, tol- erant Tito, incapable of hatred, incapable almost of impatience, disposed always to be gentle towards the rest of the world, felt himself becoming strangely hard towards this wife whose presence had once been the strongest influence he had known. With all his 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 Eomola 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 Eomola, when certain conditions are ascer- tained, we must make up our minds to them. No 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 constituted 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
towards me ; it has followed that I have changed towards you. It is useless to take any retrospect We have simply to adapt ourselves to altered con- ditions."
" Tito, it would not be useless for us to speak openly," said Bomola, with the 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 towards me the night you first wore that chain-armour. 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, " if you would once tell me everything, let it be what it may — I would not mind pain — that there might be no wall be- tween 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 Eo- mola'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 ' K I know nothing about his accusation," sai(
Romola ; " but I know he is the man whom I sav
i with the rope round his neck in the Duomo, — th
man whose portrait Piero di Cosimo painted, grasp ing your arm as he saw him grasp it the day th<
j , French entered, the day you first wore the armour.
■"' "And where is he now, pray?" said Tito, stil
pale, but governing himself.
"He was lying lifeless in the street from starva tion," said Romola. " I revived him with bread an< wine. I brought him to our door, but he refused t come in. Then I gave him some money, and h went away without telling me anything. But h had found out that I was your wife. Who is he ? '
j " A man, half mad, half imbecile, who was ono
< my father's servant in Greece, and who has a rancor
ous hatred towards me because I got him dismisses for theft. Now you have the whole mystery, and thi further satisfaction of knowing that I am again ii danger of assassination. The fact of my wearing the armour, about which you seem to have though so much, must have led you to infer that I was iz danger from this man. Was that the reason yot chose to cultivate his acquaintance and invite hin [ \ into the house ? "
Romola was mute. To speak was only like rush
I ing with bare breast against a shield.
i' Tito moved from his leaning posture, slowly tool
off his cap and mantle, and pushed back his hair He was collecting himself for some final words And Romola stood upright, looking at him as sh( might have looked at some on-coming deadly force to be met only by silent endurance.
" We need not refer to these matters again, Ro mola," he said, precisely in the same tone as that ii
which he had spoken at first " It is enough if yon will remember that the next time your generous ardour 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 yet a sufficiently ardent Piagnone to believe that Messer Bernardo del Nero is the prince of darkness, and Messer Francesco Valori the arch- angel 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 turtied round with despair in her face, and sank into her seat. " God, I have tried — I can- not 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 be- come a high enough stepping-stone to a life else- where, perhaps at Eome or Milan, there was now for the first time associated a desire to be free from Eomola, 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 Genuineness 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 Eomola 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 ineffectual soaking with rain and long waiting in ambush; and that scene between Eomola 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 he 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 image of consequences; he had ar- rested 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- armour.
THE PYRAMID OF VANITIES.
The wintry days passed for Eomola 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. Tito's 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 threat- ening German Emperor was gone again; and, in other ways besides, the position of Florence was alleviated ; but so much distress remained that Eo- mola'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 Valori, hot-tempered chieftain of the Piagnoni, had been elected Gonfalo- niere 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 protection to Savonarola ; but Romola was now alive to every suggestion likely to deepen her fore- boding 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 themselves to procure the election of Bernardo del Nero as the new Gonfaloniere.
On the last day of the Carnival, between ten and eleven in the morning, Somola walked out, accord- ing to promise, towards the Corso degli Albizzi, to fetch her cousin Brigida, 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.
Bomola set out in that languid state of mind with which every one enters on a long day of sight-see- ing purely for the sake of gratifying a child or some dear childish friend. The day was certainly an epoch in carnival-keeping ; but this phase of reform had not touched her enthusiasm : 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 the great piazza that she might take a first survey of the unparalleled sight
THE PYRAMID OF VANITIES. 29
there while she was still alone. Entering it from the south, she saw something monstrous and many- coloured in the shape of a pyramid, or, rather, like a huge fir-tree, sixty feet high, with shelves on the branches, widening and widening towards 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 pyra- midal tree, carrying baskets full of bright-coloured 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 retreat- ing to various points in the distance to survey the wondrous whole ; while a considerable group, among whom Romola recognized Piero di Cosimo, standing on the marble steps of Oigagna's Loggia, seemed to be keeping aloof in discontent and scorn.
Approaching nearer, she paused to look at the multifarious objects ranged in gradation from the base to the summit of the pyramid. There were tapestries and brocades of immodest design, pictures and sculptures held too likely to incite to vice; there were boards and tables 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 musical instruments in all the pretty varieties of lute, drum, cymbal, and trumpet; there were masks and masquerading-dresses used in the old Carnival shows; there were handsome copies of Ovid, Boccaccio, Petrarca, Pulci, and other books of a vain 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 unflattering effigy of a probably mythical Venetian merchant, who was understood to have offered a heavy sum for this collection of marketable abominations, and, soaring above him in surpassing ugliness, the symbolic figure of the old debauched Carnival.
This was the preparation for a new sort of bonfire — the Burning of Vanities. Hidden in the interior of the pyramid 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 organ- ization 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 towards street mischief and crude disso- luteness. Under the training of Fra Domenico, a sort of 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
THE PYRAMID OF VANITIES. 31
in the regenerated merriment of the new Carnival, which was a sort of sacred parody of the old. Had there been bonfires 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, but the symbols were to be white robes and red crosses and olive wreaths, — emblems of peace and innocent gladness, — and the banners and images held aloft were to tell the triumphs of goodness. Had there been dancing in a ring under the open sky of the piazza, to the sound of choral voices chanting loose songs ? There was to be dancing in a ring now, but dancing of monks and laity in fraternal love and divine joy, and the music was to be the music of hymns. As for the collections from street passengers, they were to be greater than ever, — not for gross and super- fluous suppers, but for the benefit of the hungry and needy ; and, besides, there was the collecting of the Anathema, or the Vanities to be laid on the great pyramidal bonfire.
Troops of young inquisitors went from house to house on this exciting business of asking that the Anathema should be given up to them. Perhaps, after the more avowed vanities had been surren- dered, 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 publicly renounce the Anathema which hid the respectable signs of age under a ghastly
mockery of youth. And, in reward, she would hear fresh young voices pronounce a blessing on her and her house.
The beardless inquisitors, organized into little regiments, doubtless took to their work very wil- lingly. To coerce people by shame, or other spiri- tual pelting, into the giving up of things it will probably vex them to part with, is a form of piety to which the boyish mind is most readily con- verted; and if some obstinately wicked men got enraged and threatened the whip or the cudgel, this also was exciting. Savonarola himself evi- dently felt about the training of these boys the difficulty weighing on all minds with noble yearn- ings towards 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 un- mixed blessing when they were got to shout, " Viva Gesil ! " But Savonarola was forced at last to say from the pulpit, " There is a little too much shout- ing of ' Viva Gesii ! * This constant utterance of sacred words brings them into contempt Let me have no more of that shouting till the next Festa."
Nevertheless, as the long stream of white-robed youth fulness, with its little red crosses and olive wreaths, had gone to the Duomo at dawn this morning to receive the communion from the hands of Savonarola, it was a sight of beauty ; and, doubt- less, many of those young souls were laying up memories of hope and awe that might save them from ever resting in a merely vulgar view of their work as men and citizens. There is no kind of conscious obedience that is not an advance on law-
THE PYRAMID OF VANITIES. 33
lessness, and these boys became the generation of men who fought greatly and endured greatly in the last struggle of their Republic. Now, in the intermediate hours between the early communion and dinner-time, they were making their last per- ambulations to collect alms and vanities, and this was why Romola saw the slim white figures moving to and fro about the base of the great pyramid.
"What think you of this folly, Madonna Ro- mola?" said a brusque voice close to her ear. "Your Ragnoni will make Vinftmo 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 colour 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 burnt 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 I the most holy Virgin herself has always been dressed well ; that *s the doctrine of the Church : — talk of heresy, indeed I And I should like to know what the excellent Messer Bardo would have said to the burning of the divine poets by these Frati, who are no better an imitation of men than if they were onions with the bulbs
VOL. IIL — 8
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 you mean to say, Madonna Komola, — you who are fit to be a model for a 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 Bomola. " 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."
"Ebbenet" said Piero, in a fiercely challenging tone.
" There are some things in them I do not want ever to forget," said Bomola ; " but you must con- fess, Piero, that a great many of those stories are only about low deceit for the lowest ends. Men do not want books to make them think lightly of vice, as if life were a vulgar joke. And I cannot blame Fra Oirolamo for teaching that we owe our time to something better."
" Yes, yes, it 's very well to say so now you 've read them," said Piero, bitterly, turning on his heel and walking away from her.
Bomola, too, walked on, smiling at Piero's innu- endo, with a sort of tenderness towards the old painter's anger, because she knew that her father would have felt something like it For herself, she was conscious of no inward collision with the strict and sombre view of pleasure which tended to re- press poetry in the attempt to repress vice. Sorrow and joy have each their peculiar narrowness ; and a religious enthusiasm like Savonarola's which ulti-
THE PYRAMID OF VANITIE8. 35
mately blesses mankind by giving the soul a strong propulsion towards sympathy with pain, indignation against wrong, and the subjugation of sensual de- sire, must always incur the reproach of a great negation. Eomola's life had given her an affinity for sadness which inevitably made her unjust to- wards 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 among scenes of suffering, and carrying woman's heaviest disappointment in her heart, the severity which allied itself with self-renouncing beneficent strength had no dissonance for her.
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 happened 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 swelling her heart and throat until she saw him in a state of radiant ease, with one arm round 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.
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 37
And certainly the charm of that bright, gentle- humored 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 re- turned 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 towards Tessa: she was too ignorant and too innocent to suspect him of anything. 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 leaf and the blossom, — pure, and breathing purity, whatever soil it may grow in. Poor Eomola, 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 kept open the fountains of kindness.
"Ninna is very good without me now," began Tessa, feeling her request rising very high in her throat, and letting Ninna seat herself on the floor. " I can leave her with Monna Lisa any time ; and if she is in the cradle 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 forth-
with to attest his intelligence 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.
" Is n'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, might n'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 could n'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 madre 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 '8 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 want to go and see the procession by day- light There will be a procession, — is it not true?"
" Yes, after a sort," said Tito, "as lively as a flight
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 39
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' Signori for the bonfire. You may like to see that But come home early, and look like a grave little old woman ; and if you see any men with feathers and swords, keep out of their way : they are very fierce, and like to cut old women's heads oft"
M Santa Madonna! where do they come from? Ah! you 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 Iillo with me ! He is very sensible."
"But who will thump Monna Lisa then, if she does n't hear ? " said Tito, finding it difficult not to laugh, but thinking it necessary to look serious. a 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 that 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 attention 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
abundance. * I shall not mind going without UlUo so much* if I bring him something."
So Tessa set oat in the morning towards the great pram where the bonfire was to be. She did not think the February breexe cold enough to demand farther covering than her green woollen dress. A mantle wvwld hare been oppressive, for it would fear* hadiea a new necklace and a new clasp, VKW&oed winh fairer, the only ornamental presents I&to k*i ever n&feie her. Tessa did not think at all e£ sJb^w&Bac her figure* for no one had ever told her it w*$ yirestnr; bat she mas quite sure that her neck- l*r* Jo?i dbsp were «tf the prettiest sort ever worn Vy tube radfoast cc©tadina> and she arranged her white JfcVvS ^tw hsr lbs*! $*> that the front of her necklace &*%&? V we£E jfep layed. These ornaments, she con- s&Jtawdl ttH&st inspire respect for her as the wife of $***** eae who could afford to bur them.
Sfo* tripped along very cheerily in the February suushine* thinking much of the purchases for the tittle ones with which she was to fill her small basket* and not thinking at all of any one who m^ht 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 pexsou 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 Tita 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 ven- geance alive ; and he had come out of his way this morning, as he had often done before, that he might pass by the house to which he had followed Tito in the evening. His long imprisonment had so inten-
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 41
sified his timid suspicion and his belief in some diabolic fortune favouring 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 dragged away; his weapon would be taken from him, and he should be cast helpless into a prison-cell. His fierce pur- pose had become as stealthy as a serpents, which de- pends 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 vengeance in the Duomo ; he had been there again and again, but that voice, too, had apparently been stifled by cunning strong-armed wickedness. For a long while Baldassarre's ruling thought was to ascertain whether Tito still wore the armour, for now at last his fainting hope would have been contented with a successful stab on this side the grave ; but he would never risk his precious knife again. It was a weary time he had had to wait for the chance of answering this question by touching Tito's back in the press of the street. Since then, the knowledge that the sharp steel was useless, and that he had no hope 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 con- tinually, and continually slid away. The wife who had lived on the 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 certain 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 colours, 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 disposition 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 remarkable objects, her eyes fell on a man with a pedler's basket before him, who seemed to be selling nothing but little red crosses to all the passengers. A little red cross would be pretty to hang up over her bed ; it would also help to keep off harm, and would perhaps make Ninna stronger. Tessa went to the other side of the street, that she might ask the pedler the price of the crosses, fearing that they would cost a little too much for her to spare from her purchase of sweets. The pedler's back had been turned towards 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 practised in looking out at the corner after possible customers, for her movement to have escaped him, and she was pres- ently 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. Santa Madonna! Four
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 43
white quattrini is a small price to pay for your soul, — prices rise in purgatory, let me tell you."
"Oh, I should like one," said Tessa, hastily, "but I could n't spare four white quattrini."
Bratti had at first regarded Tessa too abstractedly as a mere customer to look at her with any scru- tiny, but when she began to speak he exclaimed : " By the head of San 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 with crutches is dangerous; he can reach across the house and beat a woman as he sits."
" I 'm married," said Tessa, rather demurely, re- membering Naldo's command that she should be- have with gravity ; " and my husband takes great care of me."
"Ah, then you've 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 is n 't often Bratti 's in the wrong. Well, and so you've got a husband and plenty of money ? Then you '11 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, I've 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 get blessing and all for four quattrini It is n't for the profit ; I hardly
get a danaro by the whole 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 home. And nice coloured 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 heroically renouncing them, " since you 're an old acquaintance, you shall have it for two quat- trini. It 's making you a present of the cross, to say nothing of the blessing."
Tessa was reaching out her two quattrini with trembling hesitation, when Bratti said abruptly, " Stop a bit ! Where do you live ? "
" Oh, a long way off," she answered, almost auto- matically, 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 1 11 let you have the cross on trust, and call for the money. So you live inside the gates ? Well, well, I shall be passing."
"No, no!" said Tessa, frightened lest Naldo should be angry at this revival of an old acquaint- ance. " I can spare the money. Take it now."
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 45
" No," said Bratti, resolutely ; "I'm not a bard- hearted pedler. I '11 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 acci- dent, 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 Carni- val 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 expression of childlike 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 expectation. 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 looked as beautiful as the angels on the clouds ; and
to Tessa's mind they, too, had a background of cloud, like everything else that came to her in life. How and whence did they come? She did not mind much about knowing. But one thing sur- prised 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 her aston- ishment, they wheeled aside and came straight up to her. She trembled as she would have done if Saint Michael in the picture had shaken his head at her, and was conscious of nothing but terrified won- der till she saw close to her a round boyish face, lower than her own, and heard a treble voice say- ing, "Sister, you carry the Anathema about you. Yield it up to the blessed Gesti, and He will adorn you with the gems of His grace."
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 down at it
u No, sister," said a taller youth, pointing to her necklace and the clasp of her belt, " it is those van- ities that are the Anathema. Take off that neck- lace and unclasp that belt, that they may be burned in the holy Bonfire of Vanities, and save you from burning."
" It is the truth, my sister," said a still taller youth, evidently the archangel of this band. " Lis- ten to these voices speaking the divine message. You already carry a red cross : let that be your 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
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 47
render up her beloved necklace and clasp. Her pouting lips were quivering, the tears rushed to her eyes, and a great drop fell For a moment she ceased to see anything ; she felt nothing but con- fused 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 circumstances might have had awe- struck thoughts about her; but now everything else was overcome by the sense that loving protec- tion 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 neck- lace, said sobbiugly, —
"I can't give them to be burnt. My husband
— he 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, speak- ing to the white-robed boys in a tone of mild au- thority. "It answers no good end for people to give up such things 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 agitated ; " 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 herself taken care of by this lady, so lovely and powerful and gentle. She let Romola 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 the light parcels in the basket, and placed the ornaments below them.
"Those are your children?" said Eomola, smil- ing. "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 Eo- mola, not waiting for an answer. " Towards which gate do you go ? "
" Towards Por* Santa Croce."
"Come, then," said Romola, taking her by the hand and leading her 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
TESSA ABROAD AND AT HOME. 49
I must leave you now, because some one else ex- pects me. Yon will not be frightened Tour pretty things are quite safe now. Addio."
" Addio, Madonna," said Tessa, almost in a whis- per, not knowing what else it 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 project- ing 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 mo- ment of her parting with Eomola ; then he went away with his bundle of yarn. It seemed to him that he had discerned a clew which might guide him if he could only grasp the necessary details firmly enough. He had seen the two wives to- gether, and the sight had brought to his concep- tions that vividness which had been wanting before. His power of imagining facts needed to be rein- forced continually 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 husband 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 mind dwelt on with keen long- ing, as if it would be the strength of another Will added to his own, the strength of another mind to form devices.
VOL. III. — 4
Both these wives had been kind to Baldassarre, and their acts towards 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 w*ne noble, where could the utmost gladness lie for them ? Where it lay for him, — in unconquerable hatred and triumphant vengeance. But he must Ut cautious: he must watch this wife in the Via d* % RudLand learn more of her; for even here frustration was possible. There was no power for him now but in patience.
imagination to keep her spirits buoyant And Monna Brigida had begun to have frequent strug- gles 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 dissim- ulated by any simpering of the lips, — when she parted her gray hair, and let it lie in simple Piag- none fashion round her face, her courage failed. Monna Berta would certainly burst out laughing at her, and call her an old hag ; and as Monna Berta was roally 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 the rouge and the braids and the embroidered berretta went on again, and Monna Brigida was satisfied with the accus- tomed 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 Bomola 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 towards Tessa ; and the
MONNA BRIGIDA'S CONVERSION. 53
willingness with which Tessa was given up was, perhaps, slightly due to the fact that part of the troop had already accosted a personage 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 cherubic cheeks and wide brown eyes, his imagination really possessed with a hovering awe at existence as something in which great con- sequences impended on being good or bad, his long- ings 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, "the blessed Jesus commands you to give up the Anathema which you carry upon you. That cap embroidered with pearls, those jewels that 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 you adorn yourself with the hunger of the poor, and be proud to carry God's curse upon your head ? "
"In truth you are old, buona niadre," said the cherubic boy, in 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. Tour 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 towards 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 wreaths, and red crosses, and dreadful candour had some- thing awful in their unusualness. Her Franciscan confessor, Fra Cristoforo, of Santa Croce, was not at hand to reinforce her distrust of Dominican teach- ing, and she was helplessly possessed and shaken by a vague sense that a supreme warning was come to her. Un visited 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 putting his hand to one of the jewelled 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 headgear forward. It was a new reason for not hesitating: she put up her hands hastily, undid the other fastenings, and
MONNA BRIGIDA'S CONVERSION. 55
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 embonpoint
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 Monna Brigida's mind. There was nothing possible for her but to 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 she could see but dimly a large rough hand holding a red cross, which was suddenly thrust before her over the shoulders of the boys, while a strong guttural voice 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;
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MONNA BRIGIDA'S CONVERSION. 57
Monna Brigida : for Bratti was not to be abashed by Bomola's presence into renouncing a probable cus- tomer, 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 poor."
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 Bomola's remonstrance, 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, Bomola," cried Monna Brigida, patheti- cally, as Bratti left them, " if I 'm to be a Piagnone, it 's no matter how I look ! "
" Dear cousin," said Romola, smiling at her affec- tionately, "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. Ask our Piero or any other painter if he would not rather paint your portrait now 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 Bomola,"
si Bo&Al. n*bgszag a Esrie ; *bci I'm only fifty- i^. jcnc Moxrna Ben*, «*2 ^renrbaJT — But it 's a* hk : I irEH be gmi. Hk* tcql Ycto mother, if jfttf ■"£. baer airr*; would hive been as old as I am ;
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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 fluctuating resignation to age and gray hairs ; but they introduced a Lenten time in which she was kept at a high pitch of mental ex- citement and active effort
Bernardo del Nero had been elected Gonfaloniere. By great exertions the Medicean party had so far triumphed, and that triumph had deepened Romola's presentiment of some secretly prepared scheme likely to ripen either into success or betrayal during these two months of her godfather's authority. Every morning the dim daybreak as it peered into her room seemed to be that haunting fear coming back to her. Every morning the fear went with her as she passed through the streets on her way to the early sermon in the Duomo ; but there she grad- ually 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 pas- sionate conflict which had wider relations than any enclosed within the walls of Florence. For Savona- rola was preaching, — preaching the last course of Lenten sermons he was ever allowed to finish in the Duomo: he knew that excommunication was
imminent, and he had reached the point of defying it He held up the condition of the 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 heightening confidence the advent of renovation, — of a moment when there would be a general revolt against cor- ruption. As to his own destiny, he seemed to have a double and alternating prevision : sometimes he •aw himself taking a glorious part in that revolt, sanding 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 Laza- rus trembled when the Divine voice pierced the sepulchre ; sometimes he saw no prospect for him- self but persecution and martyrdom, — this life for him was only a vigil, and only after death would tome the dawn.
The position was one which must have had its impressiveness for all minds that were not of the dullest order, even if they were inclined, as Mac- chiavelli was, to interpret the Frate's character by a key that presupposed no loftiness. To Romola, whose kindred ardour gave her a firm belief in Sa- vonarola's genuine greatness of purpose, the crisis was as stirring as if it had been part of her personal lot It blent itself as an exalting memory with all her daily labours ; and those labours were 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 get- ting harder to bear; disease was spreading in the crowded city, and the Plague was expected. As Romola walked, often in weariness, among the sick, the hungry, and the murmuring, she felt it good to
A PROPHETESS. 61
be inspired by something more than her pity, — by the belief in a heroism straggling for sublime ends, towards which the daily action of her pity could only tend feebly, as the dews that freshen the weedy ground to-day tend to prepare an unseen harvest in the years to come.
But that mighty music which 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 de- liverer, had preached peace, charity, and oblivion of political differences, there had been a marked change of conditions : political intrigue had been too obstinate to allow of the desired oblivion ; the be- lief 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 Prophet with new weapons and new determination.
It followed that the spirit of contention and self- vindication pierced more and more conspicuously in his sermons ; that he was urged to meet the popular demands not only by increased insistence and detail concerning visions and private revela- tions, but by a tone of defiant confidence against objectors; and from having denounced the desire for the miraculous, and declared that miracles had no relation to true faith, he had come to assert that at the right moment the Divine power would attest the truth of his prophetic preaching by a miracle. And continually, in the rapid transitions of excited feeling, as the vision of triumphant good receded behind the actual predominance of evil, the threats of coming vengeance against vicious tyrants and
corrupt priests gathered some impetus from per- sonal 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 con- flict 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 Eomola, 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 deal Baldassarre had found out that the wonder- ful 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 circumstances, but his own vary- ing 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. She 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 subordinate fear now: it referred, she thought, only to the past, and her anxiety was almost absorbed by the present
Yet the stirring Lent passed by ; April, the sec- ond and final month of her godfather's supreme authority, was near its close; and nothing had occurred to fulfil her presentiment In the public mind, too, there had been fears, and rumours had
A PROPHETESS. • 63
spread from Borne 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, whdh on the 27th, 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 repulsion from the shrill volubility of those illuminated women, and had just now a special repugnance towards Camilla because of a report that she had announced revelations hostile to Bernardo del Nero, was at first inclined to send back a flat refusal. Camilla's message might refer to public affairs,' and Komola'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 impul- sive choice, and to obey passively the guidance of outward claims, that, reproving herself for allowing her presentiments to make her cowardly 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 con- vent 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 difficult for her to keep her seat
Camilla had a vision to communicate, — a vision in which it had been revealed to her by Komola's Angel, that Romola knew certain secrets concerning her godfather, Bernardo del Nero, which, if disclosed,
save the Republic from periL Camilla's rose louder and higher as she narrated her to&ob, and ended by exhorting Eomola to obey the eoumand of her Angel, and separate herself from the enemy of God.
Bomola'8 impetuosity was that of a massive na- ture, tad, except in moments when she was deeply stirred, her manner was calm and self-controlled. She had a constitutional disgust for the shallow excitability of women like Camilla, whose faculties teemed all wrought up into fantasies, leaving noth- ing for emotion and thought The exhortation was not yet ended when she started up and attempted to wrench her arm from Camilla's tightening grasp. It was of no use. The prophetess kept her hold like a crab, and, only incited to more eager exhorta- tion by Bomola's resistance, was carried beyond her own intention into a shrill statement of other visions which were to corroborate this. Christ him- self had appeared to her and ordered her to send bis commands to certain citizens in office that they ahould throw Bernardo del Nero from the window el 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 towards Bomola'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."
M Let me go ! " said Bomola, in a deep voice of anger. " God grant you are mad ! else you are de- testably wicked ! "
The violence of her effort to be free was too strong for Camilla now. She wrenched away her arm and
A PROPHETESS. 65
rushed out of the room, not pausing till she had hurriedly gone far along the street, and found her- self close to the church of the Badia. She had but to pass behind the curtain under the old stone arch, and she would find a sanctuary shut in from the noise and hurry of the street, where all objects and all uses suggested the thought of an eternal peace subsisting in the midst of turmoil
She turned in, and sinking down on the step of the altar in front of Filippino Lippi's serene Virgin appearing to Saint Bernard, she waited in hope that the inward tumult which agitated her would by and by subside.
The thought which pressed on her the most acutely was that Camilla could allege Savonarola's countenance of her wicked folly. Bomola 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 there was falsehood or mistake in that allegation. Savonarola had become more and more severe in his views of resistance to malcontents ; but the ideas of strict law and order were fundamental to all his political teaching. Still, since he knew the possibly fatal effects of visions like Camilla's, since he had a marked distrust of such spirit-seeing women, and kept aloof from them as much as possible, why, with his readiness to denounce wrong from the pulpit, did he not publicly denounce these pretended reve- lations which brought new darkness instead of light across the conception of a Supreme Will? 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
VOL. III. — 6
outwardly by the foreseen consequence of raising a cry against himself even among members of his own party, as one who would suppress all Divine inspi- ration of which he himself was not the vehicle, — he or his confidential and supplementary seer of visions, Fra Salvestro.
Bomola, kneeling with buried face on the altar- step, was enduring one of those sickening moments, when the enthusiasm 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 wilful eye-shutting. Her mind rushed back with a new attraction towards the strong worldly sense, the dignified prudence, the un theoretic virtues of her godfather, who was to be treated as a sort of Agag because he held that 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 understanding irre- vocably with him. But at this moment the assent of her understanding went alone ; it was given un- willingly. Her heart was recoiling from a right allied to so much narrowness ; a right apparently entailing that hard systematic judgment of men which measures them by assents and denials quite superficial to the manhood within them. Her affec- tion and respect were clinging with new tenacity to her godfather, and with him to those memories of
A PROPHETESS. 67
her father which were in the same opposition to the division of men into sheep and goats by the easy mark of some political or religious symbol.
After all has been said that can be said abont the widening 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 affections, seek- ing a justification for love and hope.
If Bomola'8 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 simply felt that his mind had suggested deeper and more effica- cious truth to her than any other, and the large breathing-room she found in his grand view of hu- man duties had made her patient towards that part of his teaching which she could not absorb, so long as its practical effect came into collision 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 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 en- dure, 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, which her judgment told her would not be unfairly called crime. And still surmounting every other thought was the dread inspired by Tito's hints, lest that pre- sentiment 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 pic- ture where the saint, writing in t^e rocky solitude, was being visited by faces with celestial peace in them. Bomola 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 im- mediate 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 man was Baldassarre.
ON SAN MINIATO.
"I would speak with you," said Baldassarre, as Eomola 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 Baldas- sarre, turning and glancing behind him timidly. "Out — in the air, — away from the streets."
"I sometimes go to San Miniato at this hour," said Bomola. " 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 Romola set out. To some women it might have seemed an alarming risk to go to a comparatively solitary spot with a man who had some of the outward signs of that madness which Tito attributed to him. But Eomola 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 Bal- dassarre. 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 vigour 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 Eomola, with compas- sionate 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 she 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 Komola'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 revelation 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 ex- perience 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.
ON SAN MINIATO. 71
He went on with gathering eagerness and firmness, laying his hand on her aim
"You are a woman of proud blood, — is it not true ? You go to hear the preacher ; you hate base- ness, — baseness that smiles and triumphs. You hate your husband?"
"Oh, Gdd! were you really his father?" said Bomola, in a low voice, too entirely possessed by the images of the past to take any note of Baldas- sarre'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. " Oh, it is piteous ! Tell me, — you were a great scholar ; you 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 they 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 her again, and said with renewed eagerness, —
" But you are not against me. He made you love him, and Tie 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 when he was little, and I watched him as he grew, and gave him all my knowledge, and everything 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 Komola, faintly. "Surely he must have be- lieved it then. Oh ! he could not have been so base then!"
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 child thinks of poison in flowers. The yearning regret that lay in that 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 Baldassarre, 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 towards 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
ON SAN MINIATO. 73
" 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 some- thing, — 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, resting his head between his hands: and again Bomola'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, and 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. . . . Wicked- ness is strong ; and he wears armour."
The fierceness had flamed up again. He spoke with his former intensity, and again he grasped Bomola's arm.
" But you will help me ? He has been false to you too. He has another wife, and she has chil-
dren. He makes her 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 Bomola was visibly one of anger. The woman's sense of indig- nity was inevitably foremost Baldassarre instinc- tively felt her in sympathy 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."
Bomola 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 " v said Baldassarre, pres- ently, 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 ven- geance ; you will help justice. But you will think for me. My mind goes — everything goes some- times — all but the fire. The fire is God : it is jus- tice ; it will not die. You believe that, — is it not true ? If they will not hang him for robbing me, you will take away his armour, — you will make him go without it, and I will 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 Bomola as if every fresh hour of her life were to become more difficult than the last. Her judgment 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
ON SAN M1NIATO. 75
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 her before he married me."
" I cannot tell/' said Baldassarre, pausing in that action of feeling the knife, and looking bewildered. " I can remember no mora I only know where she lives. You shall see her. I will take you ; but not now," he added hurriedly, " he may be there. The night is coming on."
" It is true," said Bomola, starting up with a sud- den 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 towards mid-day. Can you remember ? "
" Mid-day," said Baldassarre, — " only mid-day. The same place, and mid-day. 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 Eomola, making a first, timid effort to dispel his illusion about her. "I fear you are in want; you have to labour, 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. M I will have nothing else. Help me to wring one drop of vengeance on this side of the grave. I have nothing bat my knife. It is sharp ; bat 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 sit- ting posture. Eomola felt helpless : she must defer all intentions till the morrow.
" Mid-day, then/ 9 she said, in a distinct voice.
" Yes/ 9 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
THE EVENING AND THE MOBNING.
Romola had a purpose in her mind as she was has- tening away, — a purpose which had been growing through the afternoon hours like a side-stream, rising higher and higher along with the main cur- rent It was less a resolve than a necessity of her feeling. Heedless of the darkening 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 en- counter her husband there. No matter. She could not weigh probabilities; 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 carry- ing his white head erect above his silk lucco.
" Romola, 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 towards him without speaking. He laid his hand on her shoulder, and held her a little way from him that
he might see her better. Her face was haggard from fatigue and long agitation, her hair had rolled down in disorder ; bnt there was an excitement 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 Eomola, 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.*'
" Have you worked yourself up into this agitation, my poor child," he said, raising his hand to her head and patting 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 Bomola, pressing her clasped hands painfully together, as if that action would help her to suppress what inust not be told. "They are fresh things that I know, but cannbt 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 working on your side ? Is it too late to say, ' Go to your villa and keep away in the country when these three more days of office are over ' ? Oh, God ! per- haps 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 invol- untarily: a long-stifled feeling had found spas-
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING. 79
modic utterance. But she herself was startled and arrested.
" I mean," she added hesitatingly, " I know noth- ing positive. I only know what fills me with fears."
M 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 his eyes from her with an air of abstraction, till, with a slow shrug, he added, —
" As for warnings, they are of no use to me, child. I enter into no plots, but I never forsake my col- ours. If I march abreast with obstinate men, who will rush on guns and pikes, I must share the conse- quences. Let us say no more about that. I 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 god- father'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 appealing 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 Eomola 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.
When she awoke, it was to the sound of guns. Piero de* Medici, with thirteen hundred men at his back, was before the gate that looks towards Borne.
So much Romola learned from Maso, with many circumstantial additions of dubious quality. A countryman had 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, haying been summoned to the Palazzo long ago. She sent out the 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 whether Piero got in or not, and some said the Signoria 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 external experiences standing markedly
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING. 81
out above the tumultuous waves of retrospect and anticipation. She knew that she had really walked to the Badia by the appointed time in spite of street alarms ; she knew that she had waited there in vain. And the scene she had witnessed when she came out of the church, and stood watching on the steps while the doors were being closed behind her for the afternoon 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 down 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 Sig- noria does its duty, we shall soon know who they are."
The words darted through Bomola 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.
VOL. III. — 6
Thi lengthening sunny days went on without bringing either what Eomola moet desired or what she moet dreaded. They brought no sign from Baldassarre, and, in spite of special watch on the part of the government, no revelation of the sus- pected conspiracy. 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 Plague and the Excommunication of Savonarola.
Both these events tended to arrest her incipient alienation 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 Eomola could not carry from day to day into the abodes of pestilence and misery the sublime excite- ment 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 Girolama She could not witness the silencing and excommuni- cation of a man whose distinction from the great mass of the clergy lay, not in any heretical belief, not in his superstitions, but in the energy with which he sought to make the Christian life a real-
ity, without feeling herself drawn strongly to his side.
Far on in the hot days of June the Excommuni- cation, for some weeks arrived from Eome, was solemnly published in the Duomo. Eomola went to witness the scene, that the resistance it inspired might invigorate that sympathy with Savonarola which was one source of her strength. It was in memorable contrast with the scene she had been accustomed to witness there.
Instead of upturned citizen-faces filling the vast area under the morning light, the youngest rising amphitheatre-wise towards the walls, and making a garland of hope around the memories of age, — instead of the mighty voice thrilling all hearts with the sense of great things, visible and invisible, to be struggled for, — there were the bare walls at evening made more sombre by the glimmer of tapers; there was the black and gray flock of monks and secular clergy with bent, unexpectant faces; there was the occasional tinkling of little bells in the pauses of a monotonous voice reading a sentence which had already been long hanging up in the churches ; and at last there was the extinc- tion of the tapers, and the slow, shuffling tread of monkish feet departing in the dim silence.
Eomola's ardour on the side of the Frate was doubly strengthened by the gleeful triumph she saw in hard and coarse faces, and by the fear- stricken confusion in the faces and speech of many among his strongly attached friends. The question where the duty of obedience ends, and the duty of resistance begins, could in no case be an easy one ; but it was made overwhelmingly difficult by the belief that the Church was — not a compromise of
parties to secure a more or less approximate justice in the appropriation of funds, but — a living organ- ism, instinct with Divine power to bless and to curse. To most of the pious Florentines, who had hitherto felt no doubt in their adherence to the Frate, that belief in the Divine potency of the Church was not an embraced opinion, it was an inalienable impression, like the concavity of the blue firmament; and the boldness of Savonarola's written arguments that the Excommunication was unjust, and that, being unjust, it was not valid, only made them tremble the more, as a defiance cast at a mystic image, against whose subtle im- measurable power there was neither weapon nor defence.
But Romola, whose mind had not been allowed to draw its early nourishment from the traditional associations of the Christian community in which her father had lived a life apart, felt her relation to the Church only through Savonarola; his moral force had been the only authority to which she had bowed ; and in his excommunication she only saw the menace of hostile vice : on one side she saw a man whose life was devoted to the ends of public virtue and spiritual purity, and on the other the assault of alarmed selfishness, headed by a lustful, greedy, lying, and murderous old man, once called Eodrigo Borgia, and now lifted to the pinnacle of infamy as Pope Alexander the Sixth. The finer shades of fact which soften the edge of such anti- theses are not apt to be seen except by neutrals, who are not distressed to discern some folly in martyrs and some judiciousness in the men who burnt them.
But Romola required a strength that neutrality
could not give ; and this Excommunication, which simplified and ennobled the resistant position of Savonarola by bringing into prominence its wider relations, seemed to come to her like a rescue from the threatening isolation of criticism and doubt The Frate was now withdrawn from that smaller antagonism against Florentine enemies into which he continually fell in the unchecked excitement of the pulpit, and presented himself simply as appeal- ing to the Christian world against a vicious exercise of ecclesiastical power. He was a standard-bearer leaping into the breach. life never seems so clear and easy as when the heart is beating faster at the sight of some generous self-risking deed. We feel no doubt then what is the highest prize the soul can win ; we almost believe in our own power to attain it By a new current of such enthusiasm Bomola was helped through these difficult summer days. She had ventured on no words to Tito that would apprise him of her late interview with Bal- dassarre, and the revelation he had made to her. What would such agitating, difficult words win from him ? No admission of the truth ; nothing, probably, but a cool sarcasm about her sympathy with his assassin. Baldassarre was evidently help- less : the thing to be feared was, not that he should injure Tito, but that Tito, coming upon his traces, should carry out some new scheme for ridding him- self of the injured man who was a haunting dread to him. Bomola felt that she could do nothing decisive until she had seen Baldassarre again, and learned the full truth about that " other wife," — learned whether she were the wife to whom Tito was first bound.
The possibilities about that other wife, which
involved the worst wound to her hereditary pridg, mingled themselves as a newly embittering suspi- cion with the earliest memories of her illusory love, eating away the lingering associations of tenderness with the past image of her husband ; and her irre- sistible belief in the rest of Baldassarre's revelation made her shrink from Tito with a horror which would perhaps have urged some passionate speech in spite of herself if he had not been more than usually absent from home. Like many of the wealthier citizens in that time of pestilence, he spent the intervals of business chiefly in the coun- try: the agreeable Melema was welcome at many villas, and since Romola had refused to leave the city, he had no need to provide a country residence of his own.
But at last, in the later days of July, the allevia- tion of those public troubles which had absorbed her activity and much of her thought, left Romola to a less counteracted sense of her personal lot The Plague had almost disappeared, and the posi- tion of Savonarola was made more hopeful by a favourable magistracy, who were writing urgent vin- dicatory letters to Rome on his behalf, entreating the withdrawal of the Excommunication.
Romola's healthy and vigorous frame was un- dergoing the reaction of languor inevitable after continuous excitement and over-exertion; but her mental restlessness would not allow her to remain at home without peremptory occupation, except during the sultry hours. In the cool of the morn- ing and evening she walked out constantly, varying her direction as much as possible, with the vague hope that if Baldassarre were still alive she might encounter him. Perhaps some illness had brought
a new paralysis of memory, and he had forgotten where she lived, — forgotten even her existence. That was her most sanguine explanation of his non- appearance. The explanation she felt to be most probable was, that he had died of the Plague.
THE OTHER WIFE.
The morning warmth was already beginning to be rather oppressive to Romola, when, after a walk along by the walls on her way from San Marco, she turned towards the intersecting streets again at the gate of Santa Groce.
The Borgo La Croce was so still that she listened to her own footsteps on the pavement in the sunny silence, until, on approaching a bend in the street, she saw, a few yards before her, a little child not more than three years old, with no other clothing than his white shirt, pause from a waddling run and look around him. In the first moment of com- ing nearer she could only see his back, — a boy's back, square and sturdy, with a cloud of reddish- brown curls above it; but in the next he turned towards her, and she could see his dark eyes wide with tears, and his lower lip pushed up and trem- bling, while his fat brown fists clutched his shirt helplessly. The glimpse of a tall black figure send- ing a shadow over him brought his bewildered fear to a climax, and a loud crying sob sent the big tears rolling.
Eomola, with the ready maternal instinct which was one hidden source of her passionate tenderness, instantly uncovered her head, and, stooping down on the pavement, put her arms round him, and her
THE OTHER WIFE. 89
cheeks against his, while she spoke to him in caress- ing tones. At first his sobs were only the louder, but he made no effort to get away, and presently the outburst ceased with that strange abruptness which belongs to childish joys and griefs : his face lost its distortion, and was fixed in an open- mouthed gaze at Bomola.
"You have lost yourself, little one," she said, kissing him. " Never mind ! we will find the house again. Perhaps mamma will meet us."
She divined that he had made his escape at a moment when the mother's eyes were turned away from him, and thought it likely that he would soon be followed.
" Oh, what a heavy, heavy boy ! " she said, trying to lift him. " I cannot carry you. Come, then, you must toddle back by my side."
The parted lips remained motionless in awed si- lence, and one brown fist still clutched the shirt with as much tenacity as ever; but the other yielded itself quite willingly to the wonderful white hand, strong but soft.
" You have a mamma ? " said Bomola, as they set out, looking down at the boy with a certain yearn- ing. But he was mute. A girl under those cir- cumstances might perhaps have chirped abundantly ; not so this square-shouldered little man with the big cloud of curls.
He was awake to the first sign of his whereabout, however. At the turning by the front of San Am- brogio he dragged Bomola towards it, looking up at her.
" Ah, that is the way home, is it ? " she said, smil- ing at him. He only thrust his head forward and pulled, as an admonition that they should go faster.
There was still another turning that he had a decided opinion about, and then Romola found her- self in a short street leading to open garden ground. It was in front of a house at the end of this street that the little fellow paused, pulling her towards some stone stairs. He had evidently no wish for her to loose his hand, and she would not have been willing to leave him without being sure that she was delivering him to his friends. They mounted the stairs, seeing but dimly in that sudden with- drawal from the sunlight, till, at the final landing- place, an extra stream of light came from an open doorway. Passing through a small lobby, they came to another open door, and there Romola paused. Her approach had not been heard.
On a low chair at the farther end of the room, opposite the light, sat Tessa, with one hand on the edge of the cradle, and her head hanging a little on one side, fast asleep. Near one of the windows, with her back turned towards the door, sat Monna Lisa at her work of preparing salad, in deaf un- consciousness. There was only an instant for Ro- mola's eyes to take in that still scene; for Lillo snatched his hand away from her and ran up to his mother's side, not making any direct effort to wake her, but only leaning his head back against her arm, and surveying Romola seriously from that distance.
As Lillo pushed against her, Tessa opened her eyes, and looked up in bewilderment; but her glance had no sooner rested on the figure at the opposite doorway than she started up, blushed deeply, and began to tremble a little, neither speak- ing nor moving forward.
" Ah ! we have seen each other before," said Romola, smiling, and coming forward. " I am glad
THE OTHER WIPE. 91
it was your little boy. He was crying in the street ; I suppose he had run away. So we walked to- gether a little way, and then he knew where he was, and brought me here. But you had not missed him ? That is well, else you would have been frightened."
The shock of finding that Iillo had run away overcame every other feeling in Tessa for the mo- ment Her colour went again, and, seizing Lillo's arm, she ran with him to Monna Lisa, saying, with a half sob, loud in the old woman's ear, —
" Oh, Lisa, you are wicked ! Why will you stand with your back to the door ? Lillo ran away ever so far into the street"
" Holy Mother ! " said Monna Lisa, in her meek, thick tone, letting the spoon fall from her hands. " Where were you, then ? I thought you were there, and had your eye on him."
" But you know I go to sleep when I am rocking," said Tessa, in pettish remonstrance.
" Well, well, we must keep the outer door shut, or else tie him up," said Monna Lisa, " for he '11 be as cunning as Satan before long, and that 's the holy truth. But how came he back, then ?"
This question recalled Tessa to the consciousness of Romola's presence. Without answering, she turned towards her, blushing and timid again, and Monna Lisa's eyes followed her movement The old woman made a low reverence, and said, —
"Doubtless the most noble lady brought him back." Then, advancing a little nearer to Komola, she added : " It 's my shame for him to have been found with only his shirt on ; but he kicked, and would n't have his other clothes on this morning, and the mother, poor thing, will never hear of his
being beaten. But what 's an old woman to do without a stick when the lad's legs get so strong ? Let your nobleness look at his legs."
Lillo, conscious that his legs were in question, pulled his shirt up a little higher, and looked down at their olive roundness with a dispassionate and curious air. Romola laughed, and stooped to give him a caressing shake and a kiss, and this action helped the reassurance that Tessa had already gath- ered from Monna Lisa's address to Romola. For when Naldo had been told about the adventure at the Carnival, and Tessa had asked him who the heavenly lady that had come just when she was wanted, and had vanished so soon, was likely to be, — whether she could be the Holy Madonna her- self ? — he had answered, "Not exactly, my Tessa ; only one of the saints," and had not chosen to say more. So that in the dreamlike combination of small experience which made up Tessa's thought, Romola had remained confusedly associated with the pictures in the churches, and when she reappeared, the grateful remembrance of her protection was slightly tinctured with religious awe, — not deeply, for Tessa's dread was chiefly of ugly and evil be- ings. It seemed unlikely that good beings would be angry and punish her, as it was the nature of Nofri and the devil to do. And now that Monna Lisa had spoken freely about Lillo's legs and Ro- mola had laughed, Tessa was more at her ease.
" Ninna 's in the cradle," she said. " She 's pretty too."
Romola went to look at the sleeping Ninna ; and Monna Lisa, one of the exceptionally meek deaf, who never expect to be spoken to, returned to her salad.
THE OTHER WIFE. 93
"Ah! she is waking: she has opened her blue eyes," said Romola. " You must take her up, and I will sit down in this chair — may I ? — and nurse Lillo. Come, Lillo ! "
She sat down in Tito's chair, and put out her arms towards the lad, whose eyes had followed her. He hesitated ; and, pointing his small fingers at her with a half -puzzled, half -angry feeling, said, " That 's Babbo's chair," not seeing his way out of the diffi- culty if Babbo came and found Romola in his place.
"But Babbo is not here, and I shall go soon. Come, let me nurse you as he does," said Romola, wondering to herself for the first time what sort of Babbo he was whose wife was dressed in contadina fashion, but had a certain daintiness about her person that indicated idleness and plenty. Lillo consented to be lifted up, and, finding the lap ex- ceedingly comfortable, began to explore her dress and hands, to see if there were any ornaments be- side the rosary.
Tessa, who had hitherto been occupied in coaxing Ninna out of her waking peevishness, now sat down in her low chair, near Romola' s knee, arranging Ninna's tiny person to advantage, jealous that the strange lady, too, seemed to notice the boy most, as Naldo did.
" Lillo was going to be angry with me, because I sat in Babbo's chair," said Romola, as she bent for- ward to kiss Ninna's little foot "Will he come soon and want it ? "
" Ah, no ! " said Tessa, " you can sit in it a long while. I shall be sorry when you go. When you first came to take care of me at the Carnival, I thought it was wonderful; you came and went away again so fast And Naldo said, perhaps you
were a saint, and that made me tremble a little though the saints are very good, I know ; and you were good to me, and now you have taken care of Iilkk Perhaps you will always come and take care of me* That was how Naldo did a long while ago ; he came and took care of me when I was fright- ened, one San Giovanni. I could n't think where he came from, — ho was so beautiful and good. And ao aw you," ended Tessa, looking up at Eomola with devout admiration.
- Naldo is your husband. His eyes are like
tilloV ***& Romola, looking at the boy's darkly pencilled eyebrows, unusual at his age. She did not apeak interrogatively, but with a quiet certainty of inference which was necessarily mysterious to Tessa.
- Ah! you know him ! M she said, pausing a little
in wonder. w Perhaps you know Nofri and Pere- tol*> and our house on the hill, and everything. Yea* like Mllo'a ; but not his hair. His hair is dark and long," she wont on, getting rather ex- cited. * Ah 1 if you know it, ecco ! "
$h* had put her hand to a thin red silk cord that hung H>nud hor neck, and drew from her bosom the tiny old parchment breve, the horn of red coral, and a long dark ourl carefully tied at one end and attiipended with thoao mystic treasures. She held th*m toward* Komola, away from Ninna's snatch- ing hand.
«tt I* * ttw\\ ono. I cut it lately. See how bright it <* 1 " *ho mud, laying it against the white taiHcground of ltotnoWa fingers. "They get dim, and Own In* let* mo out another when his hair is gwwn ; and I put it with the brtrt, because some- tinw ho <* away ft long while, and then I think it \ w \\* u\ tako oaro of mo.*
THE OTHER WIPE. 95
A slight shiver passed through Eomola as the curl was laid across her fingers. At Tessa's first mention of her husband as having come mysteri- ously she knew not whence, a possibility had risen before Bomola that made her heart beat faster ; for to one who is anxiously in search of a certain ob- ject the faintest suggestions have a peculiar signifi- cance. And when the curl was held towards her, it seemed for an instant like a mocking fantasm of the lock she herself had cut to wind with one of her own five years ago. But she preserved her outward calmness, bent not only on knowing the truth, but also on coming to that knowledge in a way that would not pain this poor, trusting, igno- rant thing, with the child's mind in the woman's body. " Foolish and helpless : " yes ; so far she corresponded to Baldassarre's account
" It is a beautiful curl," she said, resisting the im- pulse to withdraw her hand. " lillo's curls will be like it, perhaps, for his cheek, too, is dark. And you never know where your husband goes to when he leaves you ? "
" No," said Tessa, putting back her treasures out of the children's way. "But I know Messer San Michele takes care of him, for he gave him a beau- tiful coat, all made of little chains ; and if he puts that on, nobody can kill him. And perhaps, if — " Tessa hesitated a little, under a recurrence of that original dreamy wonder about Bomola which had been expelled by chatting contact — " if you were a saint, you would take care of him, too, because you have taken care of me and Lillo."
An agitated flush came over Bomola's face in the first moment of certainty, but she had bent her cheek against Lillo's head. The feeling that leaped
out in that flush was something like exultation at the thought that the wife's burden might be about to slip from her overladen shoulders; that this little ignorant creature might prove to be Tito's lawful wife. A strange exultation for a proud and high-born woman to have been brought to! But it seemed to Bomola as if that were the only issue that would make duty anything else for her than an insoluble problem. Yet she was not deaf to Tessa's last appealing words ; she raised her head, and said in her clearest tones, —
- I will always take care of you if I see you need
me. But that beautiful coat? your husband did not wear it when you were first married ? Perhaps he used not to be so long away from you then?"
"Ah, yes! he was. Much — much longer. So long, I thought he would never come back. I used to cry. Oh me ! I was beaten then ; a long, long while ago at Peretola, where we had the goats and mules."
"And how long had you been married before your husband had that chain coat ? " said Bomola, her heart beating faster and faster.
Tessa looked meditative, and began to count on her fingers, and Bomola watched the fingers as if they would tell the secret of her destiny.
"The chestnuts were ripe when we were mar- ried," said Tessa, marking off her thumb and fingers again as she spoke; "and then again they were ripe at Peretola before he came back, and then again, after that, on the hill. And soon the sol- diers came, and we heard the trumpets, and then Naldo had the coat"
"You had been married more than two years. In which church were you married ? " said Bomola,
THE OTHER WIFE. 97
too entirely absorbed by one thought* to put any question that was less direct. Perhaps before the next morning she might go to her godfather and say that she was not Tito Melema's lawful wife, — that the vows which had bound her to strive after an impossible union had been made void beforehand.
Tessa gave a slight start at Romola's new tone of inquiry, and looked up at her with a hesitating expression. Hitherto she had prattled on without consciousness that she was making revelations, any more than when she said old things over and over again to Monna Lisa.
" Naldo said I was never to tell about that," she said doubtfully. " Do you think he would not be angry if I told you ? "
"It is right that you should tell me. TeU me everything," said Bomola, looking at her with mild authority.
If the impression from Naldo's command had been much more recent than it was, the constrain- ing effect of Romola's mysterious authority would have overcome it. But the sense that she was teU- ing what she had never told before made her begin with a lowered voice.
" It was not in a church, — it was at the Nativitk, when there was a fair, and all the people went over- night to see the Madonna in the Nunziata, and my mother was ill and could n't go, and I took the bunch of cocoons for her; and then he came to me in the church, and I heard him say, ' Tessa ! ' I knew him because he had taken care of me at the San Gio- vanni, and then we went into the piazza where the fair was, and I had some berlingozzi, for I was hungry and he was very good to me ; and at the
VOL. III. — 7
end of the piazza there was a holy father, and an altar like what they have at the processions out- side the churches. So he married us, and then Naldo took me back into the church and left me ; and I went home, and my mother died, and Nofri began to beat me more, and Naldo never came back. And I used to cry, and once at the Carnival I saw him and followed him, and he was angry, and said he would come some time, I must wait. So I went and waited ; but oh ! it was a long while before he came; but he would have come if he could, for he was good ; and then he took me away, because I cried and said I could not bear to stay with NofrL And, oh ! I was so glad, and since then I have been always happy, for I don't mind about the goats and mules, because I have Lillo and Ninna now; and Naldo is never angry, only I think he doesn't love Ninna so well as Lttlo, and she is pretty."
Quite forgetting that she had thought her speech rather momentous at the beginning, Tessa fell to devouring Ninna with kisses, while Eomola sat in ailoneo with absent eyes. It was inevitable that in this moment she should think of the three beings before her chiefly in their relation to her own lot, and she was feeling the chill of disappointment that her difficulties were not to be solved by ex- ternal law. She had relaxed her hold of Lillo, and was leaning her cheek against her hand, seeing nothing of the scene around her. Lillo was quick in perceiving a change that was not agreeable to him; ho had not yet made any return to her eareaaes, but he objected to their withdrawal, and putting up both his brown arms to pull her head toward* him, he said, w Play with me again ! "
THE OTHER WIFE. 99
Romola, roused from her self-absorption, clasped the lad anew, and looked from him to Tessa, who had now paused from her shower of kisses, and seemed to have returned to the more placid delight of contemplating the heavenly lady's face. That face was undergoing a subtle change, like the gradual oncoming of a warmer, softer light Pres- ently Romola took her scissors from her scarsella, and cut off one of her long wavy locks, while the three pair of wide eyes followed her movements with kitten-like observation.
" I must go away from you now," she said, " but I will leave this lock of hair that it may remind you of me, because if you are ever in trouble you can think that perhaps God will send me to take care of you again. I cannot tell you where to find me, but if I ever know that you want me, I will come to you. Addio ! "
She had set down Lillo hurriedly, and held out her hand to Tessa, who kissed it with a mixture of awe and sorrow at this parting. Romola's mind was oppressed with thoughts; she needed to be alone as soon as possible, but with her habitual care for the least fortunate, she turned aside to put her hand in a friendly way on Monna Lisa's shoul- der and make her a farewell sign. Before the old woman had finished her deep reverence, Romola had disappeared.
Monna Lisa and Tessa moved towards each other by simultaneous impulses, while the two children stood clinging to their mother's skirts as if they, too, felt the atmosphere of awe.
" Do you think she was a saint ? " said Tessa, in Lisa's ear, showing her the lock.
Lisa rejected that notion very decidedly by a
backward movement of her fingers, and then strok- ing the rippled gold, said, —
"She 's a great and noble lady. I saw such in my youth."
Bomola went home and sat alone through the sultry hours of that day with the heavy certainty that her lot was unchanged. She was thrown back again on the conflict between the demands of an outward law, which she recognized as a widely ramifying obligation, and the demands of inner moral facts which were becoming more and more peremptory. She had drunk in deeply the spirit of that teaching by which Savonarola had urged tar to return to her place. She felt that the sanc- tity attached to all close relations, and, therefore, preeminently to the closest, was but the expression in outward law of that result towards which all human goodness and nobleness must spontaneously tend ; that the light abandonment of ties, whether inherited or voluntary, because they had ceased to be pleasant, was the uprooting of social and per- sonal virtue. What else had Tito's crime towards Baldassarie been but that abandonment working* itself out to the most hideous extreme of falsity and ingratitude?
And the inspiring consciousness breathed into her by Savonarola's influence that her lot was vitally united with the general lot had exalted even the minor details of obligation into religion. She was marohing with a great army ; she was feeling the stress of a common life. If victims were needed, and it was uncertain on whom the lot might fall, she would stand ready to answer to her name. She had stood long ; she had striven hard to fulfil the bond, but she had seen all the conditions which
THE OTHER WIFE. 101
made the fulfilment possible gradually forsaking her. The one effect of her marriage-tie seemed to be the stifling predominance over her of a nature that she despised. All her efforts at union had only made its impossibility more palpable, and the relation had become for her simply a degrad- ing servitude. The law was sacred. Yes, but rebellion might be sacred too. It flashed upon her mind that the problem before her was essen- tially the same as that which had lain before Sa- vonarola, — the problem where the sacredness of obedience ended, and where the sacredness of re- bellion began. To her, as to him, there had come one of those moments in life when the soul must dare to act on its own warrant, not only without external law to appeal to, but in the face of a law which is not unarmed with Divine lightnings, — lightnings that may yet fall if the warrant has been false.
Before the sun had gone down she had adopted a resolve. She would ask no counsel of her god- father or of Savonarola until she had made one determined effort to speak freely with Tito and obtain his consent that she should live apart from him. She desired not to leave him clandestinely again, or to forsake Florence. She would tell him that if he ever felt a real need of her, she would come back to him. Was not that the utmost faith- fulness to her bond that could be required of her? A shuddering anticipation came over her that he would clothe a refusal in a sneering suggestion that she should enter a convent as the only mode of quitting him that would not be scandalous. He knew well that her mind revolted from that means of escape, not only because of her own repugnance
to a narrow rule, but because all the cherished memories of her father forbade that she should adopt a mode of life which was associated with his deepest griefs and his bitterest dislike.
Tito had announced his intention of coming home this evening. She would wait for him, and say what she had to say at once, for it was difficult to get his ear during the day. If he had the slightest suspicion that personal words were coming, he slipped away with an appearance of unpremeditated ease. When she sent for Maso to tell him that she would wait for his master, she observed that the old man looked at her and lingered with a mixture of hesitation and wondering anxiety ; but finding that she asked him no question, he slowly turned away. Why should she ask questions ? Perhaps Maso only knew or guessed something of what she knew already.
It was late before Tito came. Roraola had been pacing up and down the long room which had once been the library, with the windows open, and a loose white linen robe on instead of her usual black garment. She was glad of that change after the long hours of heat and motionless meditation ; but the coolness and eiercise made her more intensely wakeful, and as she went with the lamp in her hand to open the door for Tito, he might well have been startled by the vividness of her eyes and the expression of painful resolution, which was in con- trast with her usual self-restrained quiescence be- fore him. But it seemed that this excitement was just what he expected.
"Ah I it is you, Eomola. Maso is gone to bed," he said, in a grave, quiet tone, interposing to close the door for her. Then, turning round, he said, looking
THE OTHER WIPE. 103
at her more fully than he was wont, "You have heard it all, I see."
Eomola quivered. He then was inclined to take the initiative. He had been to Tessa. She led the way through the nearest door, set down her lamp, and turned towards him again.
"You must not think despairingly of the con- sequences," said Tito, in a tone of soothing encour- agement, at which Romola stood wondering, until he added, " The accused have too many family ties with all parties not to escape ; and Messer Bernardo del Nero has other things in his favour besides his age."
Eomola started, and gave a cry as if she had been suddenly stricken by a sharp weapon.
" What ! you did not know it ? " said Tito, putting his hand under her arm that he might lead her to a seat ; but she seemed to be unaware of his touch.
" Tell me," she said hastily, — " tell me what it is."
" A man, whose name you may forget, — Lamberto dell* Antella, — who was banished, has been seized within the territory: a letter has been found on him of very dangerous import to the chief Medi- ceans ; and the scoundrel, who was once a favourite hound of Piero de' Medici, is ready now to swear what any one pleases against him or his friends. Some have made their escape, but five are now in prison."
" My godfather ? " said Romola, scarcely above a whisper, as Tito made a slight pause.
" Yes ; I grieve to say it. But along with him there are three, at least, whose names have a com- manding interest even among the popular party, — Niccol6 Ridolfi, Lorenzo Tornabuoni, and Giannozzo Pucci."
The tide of Bomola's feelings had been violently turned into a new channel In the tumult of that moment there could be no check to the words which came as the impulsive utterance of her long- accumulating horror. When Tito had named the men of whom she felt certain he was the confeder- ate, she said, with a recoiling gesture and low-toned bitterness, —
" And you — you are safe ? "
"You are certainly an amiable wife, my Komola," said Tito, with the coldest irony. " Yes ; I am safe."
They turned away from each other in silence.
WHY TITO WAS SAFE.
Trro had good reasons for saying that he was safe. In the last three months, during which he had fore- seen the discovery of the Medicean conspirators as a probable event, he had had plenty of time to pro- vide himself with resources. He had been strength- ening his influence at Eome and at Milan, by being the medium of secret information and indirect measures against the Frate and the popular party ; he had cultivated more assiduously than ever the regard of this party, by showing subtle evidence that his political convictions were entirely on their side ; and all the while, instead of withdrawing his agency from the Mediceans, he had sought to be more actively employed and exclusively trusted by them. It was easy to him to keep up this triple game. The principle of duplicity admitted by the Mediceans on their own behalf deprived them of any standard by which they could measure the trustworthiness of a colleague who had not, like themselves, hereditary interests, alliances, and pre- judices which were intensely Medicean. In their minds, to deceive the opposite party was fair strata- gem ; to deceive their own party was a baseness to which they felt no temptation ; and in using Tito's facile ability, they were not keenly awake to the fact that the absence of traditional attachments
which made him a convenient agent was also the absence of what among themselves was the chief guarantee of mutual honour. Again, the Soman and Milanese friends of the aristocratic party, or Arrabbiati, who were the bitterest enemies of Savona- rola, carried on a system of underhand correspond- ence and espionage, in which the deepest hypocrisy was the best service, and demanded the heaviest pay ; so that to suspect an agent because he played a part strongly would have been an absurd want of logic. On the other hand, the Piagnoni of the popular party, who had the directness that belongs to energetic conviction, were the more inclined to credit Tito with sincerity in his political adhesion to them, because he affected no religious sympathies.
By virtue of these conditions, the last three months had been a time of flattering success to Tito. The result he most cared for was the securing of a future position for himself at Borne or at Milan; for he had a growing determination, when the fa- vourable moment should come, to quit Florence for one of those great capitals where life was easier, and the rewards of talent and learning were more splen- did. At present, the scale dipped in favour of Milan ; and if within the year he could render cer- tain services to Duke Ludovico Sforza, he had the prospect of a place at the Milanese court which out- weighed the advantages of Rome.
The revelation of the Medicean conspiracy, then, had been a subject of forethought to Tito ; but he had not been able to foresee the mode in which it would be brought about. The arrest of Lamberto dell' Antella with p tell-tale letter on his person, and a bitter rancour against the Medici in his heart, was an incalculable event It was not possible, in
WHY TITO WAS SAFE. 107
spite of the careful pretexts with which his agency had been guarded, that Tito should escape implica- tion : he had never expected this in case of any wide discovery concerning the Medicean plots. But his quick mind had soon traced out the course that would secure his own safety with the fewest un- pleasant concomitants. It is agreeable to keep a whole skin ; but the skin still remains an organ sensitive to the atmosphere.
His reckoning had not deceived him. That night, before he returned home, he had secured the three results for which he most cared : he was to be freed from all proceedings against him on account of com- plicity with the Mediceans; he was to retain his secretaryship for another year, unless he previously resigned it ; and, lastly, the price by which he had obtained these guarantees was to be kept as a State secret The price would have been thought heavy by most men ; and Tito himself would rather not have paid it.
He had applied himself first to win the mind of Francesco Valori, who was not only one of the Ten under whom he immediately held his secretaryship, but one of the special council appointed to investi- gate the evidence of the plot. Francesco Valori, as we have seen, was the head of the Piagnoni, a man with certain fine qualities that were not incompati- ble with violent partisanship, with an arrogant temper that alienated his friends, nor with bitter personal animosities, — one of the bitterest being directed against Bernardo del Nero. To him, in a brief private interview, after obtaining a pledge of secrecy, Tito avowed his own agency for the Medi- ceans, — an agency induced by motives about which he was very frank, declaring at the same time that
he had always believed their efforts futile, and that he sincerely preferred the maintenance of the popu- lar government ; affected to confide to Valori, as a secret, his own personal dislike for Bernardo del Nero ; and, after this preparation, came to the im- portant statement that there was another Medicean plot, of which, if he obtained certain conditions from the government, he could, by a journey to Siena and into Bomagna, where Piero de' Medici was again trying to gather forces, obtain documen- tary evidence to lay before the council To this end it was essential that his character as a Medi- cean agent should be unshaken for all Mediceans, and hence the fact that he had been a source of in- formation to the authorities must be wrapped in profound secrecy. Still, some odour of the facts might escape in spite of precaution, and before Tito could incur the unpleasant consequences of acting against his friends, he must be assured of immu- nity from any prosecution as a Medicean, and from deprivation of office for a year to come.
These propositions did not sound in the ear of Francesco Valori precisely as they sound to us. Valori' s mind was not intensely bent on the esti- mation of Tito's conduct ; and it was intensely bent on procuring an extreme sentence against the five prisoners. There were sure to be immense efforts to save them ; and it was to be wished (on public grounds) that the evidence against them should be of the strongest, so as to alarm all well-affected men at the dangers of clemency. The character of legal proceedings at that time implied that evidence was one of those desirable things which could only be come at by foul means. To catch a few people and torture them into confessing everybody's guilt was
WHY TITO WAS SAFE- 109
one step towards justice; and it was not always easy to see the next, unless a traitor turned up. Lamberto dell* Antella had been tortured in aid of his previous willingness to tell more than he knew ; nevertheless, additional and stronger facts were de- • sirable, especially against Bernardo del Nero, who, so far as appeared hitherto, had simply refrained from betraying the late plot after having tried in vain to discourage it; for the welfare of Florence demanded that the guilt of Bernardo del Nero should be put in the strongest light. So Francesco Valori zealously believed ; and perhaps he was not himself aware that the strength of his zeal was determined by his hatred. He decided that Tito's proposition ought to be accepted, laid it before his colleagues without disclosing Tito's name, and won them over to his opinion. Late in the day, Tito was admitted to an audience of the Special Council, and produced a deep sensation among them by revealing another plot for insuring the mastery of Florence to Piero de* Medici, which was to have been carried into exe- cution in the middle of this very month of August. Documentary evidence on this subject would do more than anything else to make the right course clear. He received a commission to start for Siena by break of day ; and, besides this, he carried away with him from the council chamber a written guarantee of his immunity and of his retention of office.
Among the twenty Florentines who bent their grave eyes on Tito, as he stood gracefully before them, speaking of startling things with easy peri- phrasis, and with that apparently unaffected admis- sion of being actuated by motives short of the highest, which is often the intensest affectation,
there were several whose minds were not too en- tirely preoccupied to pass a new judgment on him in these new circumstances ; they silently concluded that this ingenious and serviceable Greek was in future rather to be used for public needs than for private intimacy. Unprincipled men were useful, enabling those who had more scruples to keep their hands tolerably clean in a world where there was much dirty work to be done. Indeed, it was not clear to respectable Florentine brains, unless they held the Frate's extravagant belief in a possible purity and loftiness to be striven for on this earth, how life was to be carried on in any department without human instruments whom it would not be unbecoming to kick or to spit upon in the act of handing them their wages. Some of these very men who passed a tacit judgment on Tito were shortly to be engaged in a memorable transaction that could by no means have been carried through without the use of an unscrupulousness as decided as his ; but as their own bright poet Pulci had said for them, it is one thing to love the fruits of treach- ery, and another thing to love traitors, —
" II trad i men to a molti piace assai, Ma il trad i tore a gnun non piacque mal."
The same society has had a gibbet for the murderer and a gibbet for the martyr, an execrating hiss for a dastardly act, and as loud a hiss for many a word of generous truthfulness or just insight: a mixed condition of things which is the sign, not of hope- less confusion, but of struggling order.
For Tito himself, he was not unaware that he had sunk a little in the estimate of the men who had accepted his services. He had that degree of self-
WHY TITO WAS SAFE. in
contemplation which necessarily accompanies the habit of acting on well-considered reasons, of what- ever quality ; and if he could have chosen, he would have declined to see himself disapproved by men of the world. He had never meant to be disapproved ; he had meant always to conduct himself so ably that if he acted in opposition to the standard of other men they should not be aware of it ; and the barrier between himself and Bomola had been raised by the impossibility of such concealment with her. He shrank from condemnatory judgments as from a climate to which he could not adapt himself. But things were not so plastic in the hands of clev- erness as could be wished, and events had turned out inconveniently. He had really no rancour against Messer Bernardo del Nero ; he had a personal liking for Lorenzo Tornabuoni and Giannozzo Pucci He had served them very ably, and in such a way that if their party had been winners he would have merited high reward ; but was he to relinquish all the agreeable fruits of life because their party had failed? His proffer of a little additional proof against them would probably have no influence on their fate; in fact, he felt convinced they would escape any extreme consequences; but if he had not given it, his own fortunes, which made a promis- ing fabric, would have been utterly ruined. And what motive could any man really have, except his own interest? Florentines whose passions were engaged in their petty and precarious political schemes might have no self-interest separable from family pride and tenacity in old hatreds and attach- ments ; a modern simpleton who swallowed whole one of the old systems of philosophy, and took the indigestion it occasioned for the signs of a divine
afflux or the voice of an inward monitor, might see his interest in a form of self-conceit which he called self-rewarding virtue ; fanatics who believed in the coming Scourge and Eenovation might see their own interest in a future palm-branch and white robe: but no man of clear intellect allowed his course to be determined by such puerile impulses or questionable inward fumes. Did not Pontanus, poot and philosopher of unrivalled Latinity, make the finest possible oration at Naples to welcome the French king, who had come to dethrone the learned orator's royal friend and patron ? and still Pontanus held up his head and prospered. Men did not really care about these things, except when their personal spleen was touched. It was weakness only that was despised ; power of any sort carried its immunity; and no man, unless by very rare good fortune, could mount high in the world with- out incurring a few unpleasant necessities which laid him opou to enmity, and perhaps to a little hissing, when enmity wanted a pretext
It was a faint prognostic of that hissing, gathered by Tito from certain indications when he was before the council, which gave his present conduct the character of an epoch to him, and made him dwell on it with argumentative vindication. It was not that ho was taking a deeper step in wrong-doing, for it was not possible that he should feel any tie to the Mediecans to be stronger than the tie to his father; but his conduct to his father had been hiddnu by successful lying: his present act did not admit of total concealment, — in its very nature it was a revelation. And Tito winced under his new liability to diHcstoom.
Well ! a little patience, and in another year, or
WHY TITO WAS SATE. 113
perhaps in half a year, he might turn his back on these hard, eager Florentines, with their futile quar- rels and sinking fortunes. His brilliant success at Florence had had some ugly flaws in it : he had fallen in love with the wrong woman, and Baldassarre had come back under incalculable circumstances. But as Tito galloped with a loose rein towards Siena, he saw a future before him in which he would no longer be haunted by those mistakes. He had much money safe out of Florence already ; he was in the fresh ripeness of eight-and-twenty ; he was conscious of well-tried skill. Could he not strip himself of the past, as of rehearsal clothing, and throw away the old bundle, to robe himself for the real scene ?
It did not enter into Tito's meditations on the future, that, on issuing from the council chamber and descending the stairs, he had brushed against a man whose face he had not stayed to recognize in the lamplight. The man was Ser Ceccone, — also willing to serve the State by giving information against unsuccessful employers.
VOL. in.— 8
A FINAL UNDEBSTANDING.
Tito soon returned from Siena, but almost immedi- ately set out on another journey, from which he did not return till the 17th of August Nearly a fort- night had passed since the arrest of the accused, and still they were in prison, still their fate was uncer- tain. Romola had felt during this interval as if all cares were suspended for her, other than watching the fluctuating probabilities concerning that fate. Sometimes they seemed strongly in favour of the prisoners; for the chances of effective interest on their behalf were heightened by delay, and an in- definite prospect of delay was opened by the reluc- tance of all persons in authority to incur the odium attendant on any decision. On the one side there was a loud cry that the Republic was in danger, and that lenity to the prisoners would be the signal of attack for all its enemies; on the other, there was a certainty that a sentence of death and confiscation of property passed on five citizens of distinguished name, would entail the rancorous hatred of their relatives on all who were conspicuously instrumen- tal to such a sentence.
The final judgment properly lay with the Eight, who presided over the administration of criminal justice ; and the sentence depended on a majority of six votes. But the Eight shrank from their onerous
A FINAL UNDERSTANDING. 115
responsibility, and asked in this exceptional case to have it shared by the Signoria (or the Gonfaloniere and the eight Priors). The Signoria in its turn shrugged its shoulders, and proposed the appeal to the Great Council. For, according to a law passed by the earnest persuasion of Savonarola nearly three years before, whenever a citizen was condemned to death by the fatal six votes (called the sei/ave or six beans, beans being in more senses than one the politi- cal pulse of Florence), he had the right of appealing from that sentence to the Great Council
But in this stage of the business, the friends of the accused resisted the appeal, determined chiefly by the wish to gain delay; and, in fact, strict legal- ity required that sentence should have been passed prior to the appeal. Their resistance prevailed, and a middle course was taken; the sentence was re- ferred to a large assembly convened on the 17th, consisting of all the higher magistracies, the smaller council or Senate of Eighty, and a select number of citizens.
On this day Romola, with anxiety heightened by the possibility that before its close her godfather's fate might be decided, had obtained leave to see him for the second time, but only in the presence of witnesses. She had returned to the Via de 1 Bardi in company with her cousin Brigida, still ignorant whether the council had come to any decisive issue; and Monna Brigida had gone out again to await the momentous news at the house of a friend belonging to one of the magistracies, that she might bring back authentic tidings as soon as they were to be had.
Bomola had sunk on the first seat in the bright saloon, too much agitated, too sick at heart, to care about her place, or be conscious of discordance in
if 6 EOMOLA.
the objects that surrounded her. She sat with her back to the door, resting her head on her hands. It seemed a long while since Monna Brigida had gone, and Romola was expecting her return. But when the door opened she knew it was not Monna Brigida who entered.
Since she had parted from Tito on that memora- ble night, she had had no external proof to warrant her belief that he had won his safety by treachery ; on the contrary, she had had evidence that he was still trusted by the Mediceans, and was believed by them to be accomplishing certain errands of theirs in Romagna, under cover of fulfilling a commission of the government. For the obscurity in which the evidence concerning the conspirators was shrouded allowed it to be understood that Tito had escaped any implication.
But Bomola's suspicion was not to be dissipated : her horror of his conduct towards Baldassarre pro- jected itself over every conception of his acts; it was as if she had seen him committing a murder, and had had a diseased impression ever after that his hands were covered with fresh blood.
As she heard his step on the stone floor, a chill shudder passed through her; she could not turn round, she could not rise to give any greeting. He did not speak, but after an instant's pause took a seat on the other side of the table just opposite to her. Then she raised her eyes and looked at him ; but she was mute. He did not show any irritation, but said coolly, —
"This meeting corresponds with our parting. Romola. But I understand that it is a moment of terrible suspense. I am come, however, if you will listen to me, to bring you the relief of hope."
A FINAL UNDERSTANDING. 117
She started, and altered her position, but looked at him dubiously.
"It will not be unwelcome to you to hear — even though it is I who tell it — that the council is pro- rogued till the 21st The Eight have been fright- ened at last into passing a sentence of condemnation, but the demand has now been made on behalf of the condemned for the Appeal to the Great Council."
Romola's face lost its dubious expression; she asked eagerly, —
"And when is it to be made ? "
"It has not yet been granted; but it may be granted. The Special Council is to meet again on the 21st to deliberate whether the Appeal shall be allowed or not In the mean time there is an in- terval of three days, in which chances may occur in favour of the prisoners, — in which interest may be used on their behalf."
Bomola started from her seat. The colour had risen to her face like a visible thought, and her hands trembled. In that moment her feeling towards Tito was forgotten.
" Possibly," said Tito, also rising, " your own in- tention may have anticipated what I was going to say. You are thinking of the Frate."
" I am," said Romola, looking at him with surprise. "Has he done anything? Is there anything to tell me?"
"Only this. It was Messer Francesco Valori's bitterness and violence which chiefly determined the course of things in the council to-day. Half the men who gave in their opinion against the prisoners were frightened into it, and there are numerous friends of Fra Girolamo both in this Special Council and out of it who are strongly
opposed to the sentence of death, — Piero Guicciar- diTii, for example, who is one member of the Signoria that made the stoutest resistance; and there is Giovan Battista Ridolfi, who, Piagnone as he is, will not lightly forgive the death of his brother Niccolo."
"But how can the Appeal be denied," said Romola, indignantly, "when it is the law, — when it was one of the chief glories of the popular government to have passed the law?"
" They call this an exceptional case. Of course there are ingenious arguments, but there is much more of loud bluster about the danger of the Republic. But, you see, no opposition could pre- vent the assembly from being prorogued, and a certain powerful influence rightly applied during the next three days might determine the wavering courage of those who desire that the Appeal should be granted, and might even give a check to the headlong enmity of Francesco ValorL It happens to have come to my knowledge that the Frate has so far interfered as to send a message to him in favour of Lorenzo TornabuonL I know you can sometimes have access to the Frate : it might at all events be worth while to use your privilege
" It is true," said Romola, with an air of abstrac- tion. " I cannot believe that the Frate would ap- prove denying the AppeaL"
" I heard it said by more than one person in the court of the Palazzo, before I came away, that it would be to the everlasting discredit of Fra Giro- lamo if he allowed a government which is almost entirely made up of his party, to deny the Appeal, without entering his protest, when he has been
A FINAL UNDERSTANDING. 119
boasting in his books and sermons that it was he who got the law passed 1 But between ourselves, with all respect for your Frate's ability, my Bomola, he has got into the practice of preaching that form of human sacrifices called killing tyrants and wicked malcontents, which some of his followers are likely to think inconsistent with lenity in the present case."
" I know, I know," said Bomola, with a look and tone of pain. " But he is driven into those excesses of speech. It used to be different. I will ask for an interview. I cannot rest without it. I trust in the greatness of his heart"
She was not looking at Tito ; her eyes were bent with a vague gaze towards the ground, and she had no distinct consciousness that the words she heard came from her husband.
" Better lose no time, then" said Tito, with un- mixed suavity, moving his cap round in his hands as if he were about to put it on and depart " And now, Bomola, you will perhaps be able to see, in spite of prejudice, that my wishes go with yours in this matter. You will not regard the misfortune of my safety as an offence."
Something like an electric shock passed through
1 The most recent, and in some respects the best, biographer of Savonarola, Signor Villari, endeavours to show that the Law of Appeal ultimately enacted, being wider than the law originally contemplated by Savonarola, was a source of bitter annoyance to him, as a contrivance of the aristocratic party for attaching to the measures of the popular government the injurious results of license. But in taking this view the estimable biographer lost sight of the fact that, not only in his sermons, but in a deliberately prepared book (the Compendium Revelationum) written long after the Appeal had become law, Savonarola enumerates among the benefits secured to Florence, " the Appeal from the Six Votes, advocated 6jr me, for the greater security of the citizens"
Romola : it was the full consciousness of her hus- band's presence returning to her. She looked at him without speaking.
" At least/' he added, in a slightly harder tone, " you will endeavour to base our intercourse on some other reasonings than that because an evil deed is possible, I have done it. Am I alone to be beyond the pale of your extensive charity ? "
The feeling which had been driven back from Bomola's lips a fortnight before rose again with the gathered force of a tidal wave. She spoke with a decision which told him that she was careless of consequences.
" It is too late, Tito. There is no killing the sus- picion that deceit has once begotten. And now I know everything. I know who that old man was : he was your father, to whom you owe everything, — to whom you owe more than if you had been his own child. By the side of that, it is a small thing that you broke my trust and my father's. As long as you deny the truth about that old man, there is a horror rising between us: the law that should make us one can never be obeyed. I too am a hu- man being. I have a soul of my own that abhors your actions. Our union is a pretence, — as if a perpetual lie could be a sacred marriage."
Tito did not answer immediately. When he did speak it was with a calculated caution that was stimulated by alarm.
11 And you mean to carry out that independence by quitting me, I presume?"
" I desire to quit you," said Romola, impetuously.
"And supposing I do not submit to part with what the law gives me some security for retaining ? You will then, of course, proclaim your reasons in
A FINAL UNDERSTANDING. 121
the ear of all Florence. You will bring forward your mad assassin, who is doubtless ready to obey your call, and you will tell the world that you be- lieve his testimony because he is so rational as to desire to assassinate me.- You will first inform the Signoria that I am a Medicean conspirator, and then you will inform the Mediceans that I have betrayed them, and in both cases you will offer the excellent proof that you believe me capable in general of everything bad. It will certainly be a striking position for a wife to adopt. And if, on such evi- dence, you succeed in holding me up to infamy, you will have surpassed all the heroines of the Greek drama."
He paused a moment, but she stood mute. He went on with the sense of mastery.
"I believe you have no other grievance against me, — except that I have failed in fulfilling some lofty indefinite conditions on which you gave me your wifely affection, so that, by withdrawing it, you have gradually reduced me to the careful sup- ply of your wants as a fair Piagnone of high condi- tion and liberal charities. I think your success in gibbeting me is not certain. But doubtless you would begin by winning the ear of Messer Bernardo del Nero ? "
" Why do I speak of anything ? n cried Romola, in anguish, sinking on her chair again. " It is hateful in me to be thinking of myself."
She did not notice when Tito left the room, or know how long it was before the door opened to admit Monna Brigida. But in that instant she started up and said, —
"Cousin, we must go to San Marco directly. I must see my confessor, Fra Salvestro ."
The morning was in its early brightness when Ro- mola was again on her way to San Marco, having obtained through Fra Salvestro, the evening before, the promise of an interview with Fra Girolamo in the chapter-house of the convent. The rigidity with which Savonarola guarded his life from all the pretexts of calumny made such interviews very rare, and whenever they were granted, they were kept free from any appearance of mystery. For this reason the hour chosen was one at which there were likely to be other visitors in the outer cloisters of San Marco.
She chose to pass through the heart of the city, that she might notice the signs of public feeling. Every loggia, every convenient corner of the piazza, every shop that made a rendezvous for gossips, was astir with the excitement of gratuitous debate ; a languishing trade tending to make political discus- sion all the more vigorous. It was clear that the parties for and against the death of the conspirators were bent on making the fullest use of the three days' interval in order to determine the popular mood. Already handbills were in circulation ; some presenting, in large print, the alternative of justice on the conspirators or ruin to the Republic ; others in equally large print urging the observance of the
law and the granting of the Appeal. Bound these jutting islets of black capitals there were lakes of smaller characters setting forth arguments less necessary to be read: for it was an opinion enter- tained at that time (in the first flush of triumph at the discovery of printing), that there was no argu- ment more widely convincing than question-begging phrases in large type.
Bomola, however, cared especially to become ac- quainted with the arguments in smaller type, and, though obliged to hasten forward, she looked round anxiously as she went that she might miss no oppor- tunity of securing copies. For a long way she saw none but such as were in the hands of eager readers, or else fixed on the walls from which in some places the sbirri were tearing them down. But at last, passing behind San Giovanni with a quickened pace that she might avoid the many acquaintances who frequented the piazza, she saw Bratti with a stock of handbills which he appeared to be exchanging for small coin with the passers-by. She was too familiar with the humble life of Florence for Bratti to be any stranger to her, and turning towards him she said, " Have you two sorts of handbills, Bratti ? Let me have them quickly."
"Two sorts," said Bratti, separating the wet sheets with a slowness that tried Romola's patience. " There *s ' Law/ and there 's ' Justice.' "
" Which sort do you sell most of ? "
" ' Justice ' — ' Justice ' goes the quickest, — so I raised the price, and made it two danari. But then I bethought me the ' Law ' was good ware, too, and had as good a right to be charged for as ' Justice ; ' for people set no store by cheap things, and if I sold the ' Law ' at one danaro, I should be doing it a wrong.
And I'm* fair trader. 'Law/ or 'Justice/ it 'sail one to me : they "re good wares. I got 'em both for nothing, and I sell em at a fair profit. But you 11 want more than one of a sort ? *
- Xo> no ; here s a white quattrino for the two,"
said Eomola, folding up the bills and hurrying
She was soon in the outer cloisters of San Marco, where Fra Salvestro was awaiting her under the cloister, but did not notice the approach of her light step. He was chatting, according to his habit, with lav visitors; for under the auspices of a govern- ment friendlv to the Frate, the timiditv about fre- quenting San Marco, which had followed on the first shock of the Excommunication, had been grad- ually giving way. In one of these lay visitors she recognized a well-known satellite of Francesco Va- lori, named Andrea Cambini, who was narrating or expounding with emphatic gesticulation, while Fra Salvestro was listening with that air of trivial curiosity which tells that the listener cares very much about news and very little about its quality. This characteristic of her confessor, which was al- ways repulsive to Romola, was made exasperating to her at this moment by the certainty she gath- ered, from the disjointed words which reached her ear, that Cambini was narrating something relative to the fate of the conspirators. She chose not to approach the group, but as soon as she saw that she had arrested Fra Salvestro's attention, she turned towards the door of the chapter-house, while he, making a sign of approval, disappeared within the inner cloister. A lay Brother stood ready to open the door of the chapter-house for her, and closed it behind her as she entered.
Once more looked at by those sad frescoed figures which had seemed to be mourning with her at the death of her brother Dino, it was inevitable that something of that scene should come back to her ; but the intense occupation of her mind with the present made the remembrance less a retrospect than an indistinct recurrence of impressions which blended themselves with her agitating fears, as if her actual anxiety were a revival of the strong yearning she had once before brought to this spot — to be repelled by marble rigidity. She gave no space for the remembrance to become more definite, for she at once opened the handbills, thinking she should perhaps be able to read them in the interval before Fra Girolamo appeared. But by the time she had read to the end of the one that recom- mended the observance of the law, the door was opening, and doubling up the papers she stood expectant
When the Frate had entered she knelt, according to the usual practice of those who saw him in pri- vate ; but as soon as he had uttered a benedictory greeting, she rose and stood opposite to him at a few yards' distance. Owing to his seclusion since he had been excommunicated, it had been an un- usually long while since she had seen him, and the late months had visibly deepened in his face the marks of overtaxed mental activity and bodily severities ; and yet Roraola was not so conscious of this change as of another, which was less definable. Was it that the expression of serene elevation and pure human fellowship which had once moved her was no longer present in the same force, or was it that the sense of his being divided from her in her feeling about her godfather roused the slumbering
sources of alienation, and marred her own vision ? Perhaps both causes were at work. Our relations with our fellow-men are most often determined by coincident currents of that sort; the inexcusable word or deed seldom comes until after affection or reverence has been already enfeebled by the strain of repeated excuses.
It was true that Savonarola's glance at Romola had some of that hardness which is caused by an egotistic prepossession. He divined that the inter- view she had sought was to turn on the fate of the con- spirators, a subject on which he had already had to quell inner voices that might become loud again when encouraged from without Seated in his cell, correcting the sheets of his " Triumph of the Cross," it was easier to repose on a resolution of neutrality.
" It is a question of moment, doubtless, on which you wished to see me, my daughter," he began, in a tone which was gentle rather from self-control than from immediate inclination. " I know you are not wont to lay stress on small matters."
" Father, you know what it is before I tell you," said Romola, forgetting everything else as soon as she began to pour forth her plea. " You know what I am caring for, — it is for the life of the old man I love best in the world. The thought of him has gone together with the thought of my father as long as I remember the daylight That is my warrant for coming to you, even if my coming should have been needless. Perhaps it is: perhaps you have already determined that your power over the hearts of men shall be used to prevent them from denying to Florentines a right which you yourself helped to earn for them."
M I meddle not with the functions of the State,
my daughter," said Fra Girolamo, strongly disin- clined to reopen externally a debate which he had already gone through inwardly. " I have preached and laboured that Florence should have a good government, for a good government is needful to the perfecting of the Christian life ; but I keep away my hands from particular affairs which it is the office of experienced citizens to administer."
" Surely, father — " Romola broke off She had uttered this first word almost impetuously, but she was checked by the counter-agitation of feeling her- self in an attitude of remonstrance towards the man who had been the source of guidance and strength to her. In the act of rebelling she was bruising her own reverence.
Savonarola was too keen not to divine something of the conflict that was arresting her, — too noble deliberately to assume in calm speech that self- justifying evasiveness into which he was often hurried in public by the crowding impulses of the orator.
" Say what is in your heart ; speak on, my daugh- ter," he said, standing with his arms laid one upon the other, and looking at her with quiet expectation.
" I was going to say, father, that this matter is surely of higher moment than many about which I have heard you preach and exhort fervidly. If it belonged to you to urge that men condemned for offences against the State should have the right to appeal to the Great Council — if — " Romola was getting eager again — " if you count it a glory to have won that right for them, can it less belong to you to declare yourself against the right being de- nied to almost the first men who need it ? Surely that touches the Christian life more closely than
whether you knew beforehand that the Dauphin would die, or whether Pisa will be conquered."
There was a subtle movement, like a subdued sign of pain, in Savonarola's strong lips, before he began to speak.
"My daughter, I speak as it is given me to speak, — I am not master of the times when I may become the vehicle of knowledge beyond the com- mon lights of men. In this case I have no illumi- nation beyond what wisdom may give to those who are charged with the safety of the State. As to the law of Appeal against the Six Votes, I laboured to have it passed, in order that no Florentine should be subject to loss of life and goods through the private hatred of a few who might happen to be in power ; but these five men, who have desired to overthrow a free government and restore a corrupt tyrant, have been condemned with the assent of a large assembly of their fellow-citizens. They refused at first to have their cause brought before the Great Council. They have lost the right to the appeal."
"How can they have lost it?" said Romola. "It is the right to appeal against condemnation, and they have never been condemned till now; and, forgive me, father, it is private hatred that would deny them the appeal ; it is the violence of the few that frightens others; else why was the assembly divided again directly after it had seemed to agree ? And if anything weighs against the ob- servance of the law, let this weigh for it, — this, that you used to preach more earnestly than all else, that there should be no place given to hatred and bloodshed because of these party strifes, so that private ill-will should not find its opportunities in public acts. Father, you know that there is
private hatred concerned here: will it not dis- honour you not to have interposed on the side of mercy, when there are many who hold that it is also the side of law and justice ? "
" My daughter," said Fra Girolamo, with more visible emotion than before, "there is a mercy which is weakness, and even treason against the common good. The safety of Florence, which means even more than the welfare of Florentines, now demands severity, as it once demanded mercy. It is not only for a past plot that these men are condemned, but also for a plot which has not yet been executed; and the devices that were leading to its execution are not put an end to : the tyrant is still gathering his forces in Bomagna, and the enemies of Florence, who sit in the highest places of Italy, are ready to hurl any stone that will crush her."
" What plot ? " said Romola, reddening, and trem- bling with alarmed surprise.
" You carry papers in your hand, I see," said Fra Girolamo, pointing to the handbills. " One of them will, perhaps, tell you that the government has had new information."
Romola hastily opened the handbill she had not yet read, and saw that the government had now positive evidence of a second plot, which was to have been carried out in this August time. To her mind it was like reading a confirmation that Tito had won his safety by foul means ; his pretence of wishing that the Frate should exert himself on be- half of the condemned only helped the wretched conviction. She crushed up the paper in her hand, and, turning to Savonarola, she said, with new passion, "Father, what safety can there be for
VOL. III.— 9
Florence when the worst man can always escape ? And/' she went on, a sudden flash of remembrance coming from the thought about her husband, " have not you yourself encouraged this deception which corrupts the life of Florence, by wanting more favour to be shown to Lorenzo Tornabuoni, who has worn two faces, and flattered you with a show of affection, when my godfather has always been honest ? Ask all Florence who of those five men has the truest heart, and there will not be many who will name any other name than Bernardo del Nero. You did interpose with Francesco Valori for the sake of one prisoner: you have not then been neutral; and you know that your word will be powerful."
"I do not desire the death of Bernardo," said Savonarola, colouring deeply. " It would be enough if he were sent out of the city."
" Then why do you not speak to save an old man of seventy-five from dying a death of ignominy, — to give him at least the fair chances of the law ? " burst out Romola, the impetuosity of her nature so roused that she forgot everything but her indigna- tion. " It is not that you feel bound to be neutral ; else why did you speak for Lorenzo Tornabuoni ? You spoke for him because he is more friendly to San Marco ; my godfather feigns no friendship. It is not, then, as a Medicean that my godfather is to die ; it is as a man you have no love for ! "
When Romola paused, with cheeks glowing and with quivering lips, there was dead silence. As she saw Fra Girolamo standing motionless before her, she seemed to herself to be hearing her own words over again, — words that in this echo of con- sciousness were in strange, painful dissonance with
the memories that made part of his presence to her. The moments of silence were expanded by gather- ing compunction and self-doubt. She had com- mitted sacrilege in her passion. And even the sense that she could retract nothing of her plea, that her mind could not submit itself to Savonarola's negative, made it the more needful to her to satisfy those reverential memories. With a sudden move- ment towards him she said, —
"Forgive me, father; it is pain to me to have spoken those words, — yet I cannot help speaking. I am little and feeble compared with you; you brought me light and strength. But I submitted because I felt the proffered strength, — because I saw the light. Now I cannot see it Father, you yourself declare that there comes a moment when the soul must have no guide but the voice within it, to tell whether the consecrated thing has sacred virtue. And therefore I must speak."
Savonarola had that readily roused resentment towards opposition, hardly separable from a power- loving and powerful nature, accustomed to seek great ends that cast a reflected grandeur on the means by which they are sought. His sermons have much of that red flame in them. And if he had been a meaner man, his susceptibility might have shown itself in irritation at Romola's accusa- tory freedom, which was in strong contrast with the deference he habitually received from his dis- ciples. But at this moment such feelings were nullified by that hard struggle which made half the tragedy of his life, — the struggle of a mind pos- sessed by a never-silent hunger after purity and simplicity, yet caught in a tangle of egoistic de- mands, false ideas, and difficult outward conditions,
that made simplicity impossible. Keenly alive to all the suggestions of Bomola's remonstrating words, he was rapidly surveying, as he had done before, the courses of action that were open to him, and their probable results. But it was a question on which arguments could seem decisive only in pro- portion as they were charged with feeling, and he had received no impulse that could alter his bias. He looked at Bomola and said, —
"You have full pardon for your frankness, my daughter. You speak, I know, out of the fulness of your family affections. But these affections must give way to the needs of the Bepublic. If those men who have a close acquaintance with the affairs of the State believe, as I understand they do, that the public safety requires the extreme punishment of the law to fall on the five conspirators, I cannot control their opinion, seeing that I stand aloof from such affairs."
"Then you desire that they should die? You desire that the Appeal should be denied them?" said Komola, feeling anew repelled by a vindication which seemed to her to have the nature of a subterfuge.
" I have said that I do not desire their death."
" Then," said Bomola, her indignation rising again, "you can be indifferent that Florentines should inflict death which you do not desire, when you might have protested against it, — when you might have helped to hinder it, by urging the observance of a law which you held it good to get passed. Father, you used not to stand aloof : you used not to shrink from protesting. Do not say you cannot protest where the lives of men are concerned ; say rather, you desire their death. Say rather, you
hold it good for Florence that there shall be more blood and more hatred. Will the death of five Mediceans put an end to parties in Florence ? Will the death of a noble old man like Bernardo del Nero save a city that holds such men as Dolfo Spini ? "
" My daughter, it is enough. The cause of free- dom, which is the cause of God's kingdom upon earth, is often most injured by the enemies who carry within them the power of certain human virtues. The wickedest man is often not the most insurmountable obstacle to the triumph of good."
"Then why do you say again, that you do not desire my godfather's death?" said Eomola, in mingled anger and despair. " Rather, you hold it the more needful he should die because he is the better man. I cannot unravel your thoughts, father ; I cannot hear the real voice of your judg- ment and conscience."
There was a moment's pause. Then Savonarola said, with keener emotion than he had yet shown, —
"Be thankful, my daughter, if your own soul has been spared perplexity ; and judge not those to whom a harder lot has been given. You see one ground of action in this matter. I see many. I have to choose that which will further the work intrusted to me. The end I seek is one to which minor respects must be sacrificed. The death of five men — were they less guilty than these — is a light matter weighed against the withstanding of the vicious tyrannies which stifle the life of Italy, and foster the corruption of the Church; a light matter weighed against the furthering of God's kingdom upon earth, the end for which I live and am willing myself to die."
Under any other circumstances, Romola would have been sensitive to the appeal at the beginning of Savonarola's speech ; but at this moment she was so utterly in antagonism with him, that what he called perplexity seemed to her sophistry and double- ness ; and as he went on, his words only fed that flame of indignation which now again, more fully than ever before, lit up the memory of all his mis- takes, and made her trust in him seem to have been a purblind delusion. She spoke almost with bitterness.
- Do you, then, know so well what will further
the coming of God's kingdom, father, that you will dare to despise the plea of mercy, — of justice, — of faithfulness to your own teaching ? Has the French king, then, brought renovation to Italy ? Take care, father, lest your enemies have some reason when they say that in your visions of what will further God's kingdom you see only what will strengthen your own party."
" And that is true ! " said Savonarola, with flash- ing eyes. Romola's voice had seemed to him in that moment the voice of his enemies. " The cause of my party is the cause of God's kingdom."
"I do not believe it!" said Romola, her whole frame shaken with passionate repugnance. " God's kingdom is something wider, — else, let me stand outside it with the beings that I love."
The two faces were lit up, each with an opposite emotion, each with an opposite certitude. Further words were impossible. Eomola hastily covered her head and went out in silence.
Three days later the moon that was just surmount- ing the buildings of the piazza in front of the Old Palace within the hour of midnight, did not make the usual broad lights and shadows on the pave- ment Not a hand's-breadth of pavement was to be seen, but only the heads of an eager struggling mul- titude. And instead of that background of silence in which the pattering footsteps and buzzing voices, the lute-thrumming or rapid scampering of the many night-wanderers of Florence stood out in ob- trusive distinctness, there was the background of a roar from mingled shouts and imprecations, tram- plings and pushings, and accidental clashing of weapons, across which nothing was distinguishable but a darting shriek, or the heavy dropping toll of a bell.
Almost all who could call themselves the pubEc of Florence were awake at that hour, and either en- closed within the limits of that piazza or struggling to enter it Within the palace were still assembled in the council chamber all the chief magistracies, the eighty members of the senate, and the other select citizens who had been in hot debate through long hours of daylight and torchlight whether the Appeal should be granted or whether the sentence of death should be executed on the prisoners forth-
with, to forestall the dangerous chances of delay. And the debate had been so much like fierce quar- rel that the noise from the council chamber had reached the crowd outside. Only within the last hour had the question been decided : the Signoria had remained divided, four of them standing out resolutely for the Appeal in spite of the strong argu- ment that if they did not give way their houses should be sacked, until Francesco Valori, in brief And furious speech, made the determination of his party more ominously distinct by declaring that if the Signoria would not defend the liberties of the Florentine people by executing those five perfidious citizens, there would not be wanting others who would take that cause in hand to the peril of all who opposed it The Florentine Cato triumphed. When the votes were counted again, the four obsti- nate white beans no longer appeared; the whole nine were of the fatal affirmative black, deciding the death of the five prisoners without delay, — deciding also, only tacitly and with much more delay, the death of Francesco Valori.
And now, while the judicial Eight were gone to the Bargello to prepare for the execution, the five condemned men were being led barefoot and in irons through the midst of the council. It was their friends who had contrived this: would not Florentines be moved by the visible association of such cruel ignominy with two venerable men like Bernardo del Nero and Niccol6 Ridolfi, who had taken their bias long before the new order of things had come to make Mediceanism retrograde, — with two brilliant popular young men like Tornabuoni and Pucci, whose absence would be felt as a haunt- ing vacancy wherever there was a meeting of chief
THE SCAFFOLD. 137
Florentines ? It was useless : such pity as could be awakened now was of that hopeless sort which leads not to rescue, but to the tardier action of revenge.
While this scene was passing upstairs Romola stood below against one of the massive pillars in the court of the palace, expecting the moment when her godfather would appear, on his way to execu- tion. By the use of strong interest she had gained permission to visit him in the evening of this day, and remain with him until the result of the council should be determined. And now she was waiting with his confessor to follow the guard that would lead him to the Bargello. Her heart was bent on clinging to the presence of the childless old man to the last moment, as her father would have done ; and she had overpowered all remonstrances. Giovan Battista Ridolfi, a disciple of Savonarola, who was going in bitterness to behold the death of his elder brother Niccoli, had promised that she should be guarded, and now stood by her side.
Tito, too, was in the palace ; but Romola had not seen him. Since the evening of the 17th they had avoided each other, and Tito only knew by inference from the report of the Frate's neutrality that her pleading had failed. He was now surrounded with official and other personages, both Florentine and foreign, who had been awaiting the issue of the long- protracted council, maintaining, except when he was directly addressed, the subdued air and grave silence of a man whom actual events are placing in a pain- ful state of strife between public and private feeling. When an allusion was made to his wife in relation to those events, he implied that, owing to the vio- lent excitement of her mind, the mere fact of his continuing to hold office under a government con-
cerned in her godfather's condemnation, roused in her a diseased hostility towards him; so that for her sake he felt it best not to approach her.
"Ah, the old Bardi blood 1" said Cennini, with a shrug. "I shall not be surprised if this business shakes her loose from the Frate, as well as some others I could name."
"It is excusable in a woman, who is doubtless beautiful, since she is the wife of Messer Tito," said a young French envoy, smiling and bowing to Tffcot "to think that her affections must overrule the good of the State, and that nobody is to be beheaded who is anybody's cousin ; but such a view is not to be encouraged in the male population. It seems to me your Florentine polity is much weakened by it"
"That is true/' said Niccol6 Maoohia velli ; "but where personal ties are strong, the hostilities they raise must be taken due account of. Many of these half-way severities are mere hot-headed blundering. The only safe blows to be inflicted on men and par- ties are the blows that are too heavy to be avenged."
" Niccolo " said Cennini, " there is a clever wick- edness in thy talk sometimes that makes me mis- trust thy pleasant young face as if it were a mask of Satan."
" Not at all, my good Domenico," said Macchia- velli, smiling, and laying his hand on the elder's shoulder. "Satan was a blunderer, an introducer of novitd, who made a stupendous failure. If he had succeeded, we should all have been worship- ping him, and his portrait would have been more flattered."
" Well, well," said Cennini, " I say not thy doc- trine is not too clever for Satan: I only say it is wicked enough for him."
THE SCAFFOLD. 139
" I tell you," said Macchiavelli, " my doctrine is the doctrine of all men who seek an end a little farther off than their own noses. Ask our Frate, our prophet, how his universal renovation is to be brought about : he will tell you, first, by getting a free and pure government ; and since it appears that this cannot be done by making all Florentines love each other, it must be done by cutting off every head that happens to be obstinately in the way. Only if a man incurs odium by sanctioning a sever- ity that is not thorough enough to be final, he com- mits a blunder. And something like that blunder, I suspect, the Frate has committed. It was an occasion on which he might have won some lustre by exerting himself to maintain the Appeal ; instead of that, he has lost lustre, and has gained no strength."
Before any one else could speak, there came the expected announcement that the prisoners were about to leave the council chamber ; and the ma- jority of those who were present hurried towards the door, intent on securing the freest passage to the Bargello in the rear of the prisoners' guard; for the scene of the execution was one that drew alike those who were moved by the deepest passions and those who were moved by the coldest curiosity.
Tito was one of those who remained behind. He had a native repugnance to sights of death and pain, and five days ago whenever he had thought of this execution as a possibility he had hoped that it would not take place, and that the utmost sentence would be exile : his own safety demanded no more. But now he felt that it would be a welcome guaran- tee of his security when he had learned that Ber- nardo del Nero's head was off the shoulders. The
new knowledge and new attitude towards bim die- closed by Bomola on the day of his return, had given him a new dread of the power she possessed to make his position insecure. If any act of hers only succeeded in making him an object of suspicion and odium, he foresaw not only frustration, but frustration under unpleasant circumstances. Her belief in Baldassarre had clearly determined her wavering feelings against further submission, and if her godfather lived she would win him to share her belief without much trouble. Romola seemed more than ever an unmanageable fact in his destiny. But if Bernardo del Nero were dead, the difficulties that would beset her in placing herself in opposition to her husband would probably be insurmountable to her shrinking pride. Therefore Tito had felt easier when he knew that the Eight had gone to the Bargello to order the instant erection of the scaffold. Four other men — his intimates and confederates — were to die, besides Bernardo del Nero. But a man's own Bafety is a god that sometimes makes very grim demands. Tito felt them to be grim: even in the pursuit of what was agreeable, this paradoxical life forced upon him the desire for what was disagreeable. But he had had other experience of this sort, and as he heard through the open door- way the shuffle of many feet and the clanking of metal on the stairs, he was able to answer the ques- tions of the young French envoy without showing signs of any other feeling than that of sad resigna- tion to State necessities.
Those Bounds fell on Komola as if her power of hearing had been exalted along with every other sensibility of her nature. She needed no arm to Bupport her ; she shed no tears. She felt that in-
THE SCAFFOLD. 141
tensity of life which seems to transcend both grief and joy, — in which the mind seems to itself akin to elder forces that wrought out existence before the birth of pleasure and pain. Since her godfather's fate had been decided, the previous struggle of feel- ing in her had given way to an identification of her- self with him in these supreme moments : she was inwardly asserting for him that if he suffered the punishment of treason, he did not deserve the name of traitor : he was the victim to a collision between two kinds of faithfulness. It was not given him to die for the noblest cause, and yet he died because of his nobleness. He might have been a meaner man and found it easier not to incur this guilt. Eomola was feeling the full force of that sympathy with the individual lot that is continually opposing itself to the formulae by which actions and parties are judged. She was treading the way with her second father to the scaffold, and nerving herself to defy ignominy by the consciousness that it was not deserved.
The way was fenced in by three hundred armed men, who had been placed as a guard by the orders of Francesco Valori; for among the apparent contra- dictions that belonged to this event, not the least striking was the alleged alarm on the one hand at the popular rage against the conspirators, and the alleged alarm on the other lest there should be an attempt to rescue them in the midst of a hostile crowd. When they had arrived within the court of the Bargello, Eomola was allowed to approach Bernardo with his confessor for a moment of fare- well Many eyes were bent on them even in that struggle of an agitated throng, as the aged man, for- getting that his hands were bound with irons, lifted them towards the golden head that was bent to-
wards him, and then, checking that movement, leaned to kiss her. She seized the fettered hands that were hung down again, and kissed them as if they had been sacred things.
" My poor Komola," said Bernardo, in a low voice, " I have only to die, but thou hast to live — and I shall not be there to help thee."
"Yes," said Eomola, hurriedly, "you will help me — always — because I shall remember you."
She was taken away and conducted up the flight of steps that led to the loggia surrounding the grand old court. She took her place there, determined to look till the moment when her godfather laid his head on the block. Now while the prisoners were allowed a brief interval with their confessor, the spectators were pressing into court until the crowd became dense around the black scaffold, and the torches fixed in iron rings against the pillars threw a varying startling light at one moment on passion- less stone carvings, at another on some pale face agitated with suppressed rage or suppressed grief, — the face of one among the many near relatives of the condemned, who were presently to receive their dead and carry them home.
Eomola's face looked like a marble image against the dark arch as she stood watching for the mo- ment when her godfather would appear at the foot of the scaffold. He was to suffer first; andBattista Ridolfi, who was by her side, had promised to take her away through a door behind them when she would have seen the last look of the man who alone in all the world had shared her pitying love for her father. And still, in the background of her thought, there was the possibility striving to be a hope, that some rescue might yet come, something that would keep that scaffold unstained by blood.
THE SCAFFOLD. 143
For a long while there was constant movement, lights flickering, heads swaying to and fro, confused voices within the court, rushing waves of sound through the entrance from without. It seemed to Romola as if she were in the midst of a storm- troubled sea, caring nothing about the storm, caring only to hold out a signal till the eyes that looked for it could seek it no more.
Suddenly there was stillness, and the very tapers seemed to tremble into quiet. The executioner was ready on the scaffold, and Bernardo del Nero was seen ascending it with a slow firm step. Eomola made no visible movement, uttered not even a sup- pressed sound: she stood more firmly, caring for his firmness. She saw him pause, saw the white head kept erect, while he said in a voice distinctly audible, —
" It is but a short space of life that my fellow- citizens have taken from me."
She perceived that he was gazing slowly round him as he spoke. She felt that his eyes were rest- ing on her, and that she was stretching out her arms towards him. Then she saw no more till — a long while after, as it seemed — a voice said, " My daughter, all is peace now. I can conduct you to your house."
She uncovered her head and saw her godfather's confessor standing by her, in a room where there were other grave men talking in subdued tones.
"I am ready," she said, starting up. "Let us lose no time."
She thought all clinging was at an end for her : all her strength now should be given to escape from a grasp under which she shuddered.
On the eighth day from that memorable night Ro- mola was standing on the brink of the Mediterra- nean, watching the gentle summer pulse of the sea just above what was then the little fishing-village of Viareggio.
Again she had fled from Florence, and this time no arresting voice had called her back. Again she wore the gray religious dress ; and this time, in her heart-sickness, she did not care that it was a dis- guise. A new rebellion had risen within her, a new despair. Why should she care about wearing one badge more than another, or about being called by her own name ? She despaired of finding any con- sistent duty belonging to that name. What force was there to create for her that supremely hallowed motive which men call duty, but which can have no inward constraining existence save through some form of believing love ?
The bonds of all strong affection were snapped. In her marriage, the highest bond of all, she had ceased to see the mystic union which is its own guarantee of indissolubleness, had ceased even to see the obligation of a voluntary pledge : had she not proved that the things to which she had pledged herself were impossible ? The impulse to set her- self free had risen again with overmastering force ;
DRIFTING AWAY. 145
yet the freedom could only be an exchange of calamity. There is no compensation for the woman who feels that the chief relation of her life has been no more than a mistake. She has lost her crown. The deepest secret of human blessedness has half whispered itself to her, and then forever passed her by.
And now Romola's best support under that su- preme woman's sorrow had slipped away from her. The vision of any great purpose, any end of exist- ence which could ennoble endurance and exalt the common deeds of a dusty life with divine ardours, was utterly eclipsed for her now by the sense of a confusion in human things which made all effort a mere dragging at tangled threads; all fellowship, either for resistance or advocacy, mere unfairness and exclusiveness. What, after all, was the man who had represented for her the highest heroism, — the heroism not of hard, self-contained endurance, but of willing, self-offering love ? What was the cause he was struggling for ? Eomola had lost her trust in Savonarola, had lost that fervour of admi- ration which had made her unmindful of his aber- rations, and attentive only to the grand curve of his orbit. And now that her keen feeling for her god- father had thrown her into antagonism with the Frate, she saw all the repulsive and inconsistent details in his teaching with a painful lucidity which exaggerated their proportions. In the bitter- ness of her disappointment she said that his striv- ing after the renovation of the Church and the world was a striving after a mere name which told no more than the title of a book : a name that had come to mean practically the measures that would strengthen his own position in Florence ; nay, often
VOL. III. — 10
questionable deeds and words, for thtf sake of ear- ing his influence from suffering by Us own am And that political reform which had once made a new interest in her life Boomed now to reduce itadf to narrow devices lor the safety of Florence, in con- temptible contradiction with the alternating prolao- sions of blind trust in the Divine care.
U was inevitable that she should judge the Frate unfairly on a question of individual suffering, at which aft* looked with the eyes of personal ten- derness, and h$ with the eyes of theoretic oonvio- tion. In that declaration of his, that the cause of his party was the cause of God's kingdom, she heard only the ring of egoism. Perhaps such words have rarely been uttered without that meaner ring in them; yet they are the implicit formula of all ener- getic belief. And if such energetic belief 9 pursuing a grand and remote end, is often in danger of be- coming a demon-worship, in which the votary lets his son and daughter pass through the fire with a readiness that hardly looks like sacrifice; tender fellow-feeling for the nearest has its danger too, and is apt to be timid and sceptical towards the larger aims without which life cannot rise into religion. In this way poor Eomola was being blinded by her tears.
No one who has ever known what it is thus to lose faith in a fellow-man whom he has profoundly loved and reverenced, will lightly say that the shock can leave the faith in the Invisible Goodness unshaken. With the sinking of high human trust, the dignity of life sinks too ; we cease to believe in our own better self, since that also is part of the common nature which is degraded in our thought ; and all the finer impulses of the soul are dulled*
DRIFTING AWAY. 147
Somola felt even the springs of her once active pity drying up, and leaving her to barren egoistic com- plaining. Had not she had her sorrows too ? And few had cared for her, while she had cared for many. She had done enough ; she had striven after the impossible, and was weary of this stifling crowded life. She longed for that repose in mere sensation which she had sometimes dreamed of in the sultry afternoons of her early girlhood, when she had fancied herself floating naiad-likd in the waters.
The clear waves seemed to invite her : she wished she could lie down to sleep on them and pass from sleep into death. But Eomola could not directly seek death ; the fulness of young life in her forbade that She could only wish that death would come.
At the spot where she had paused there was a deep bend in the shore, and a small boat with a sail was moored there. In her longing to glide over the waters that were getting golden with the level sun-rays, she thought of a story which had been one of the things she had loved to dwell on in Boc- caccio, when her father fell asleep and she glided from her stool to sit on the floor and read the " De- camerone." It was the story of that fair Gostanza who in her lovelornness desired to live no longer, but not having the courage to attack her young life, had put herself into a boat and pushed off to sea ; then, lying down in the boat, had wrapped her mantle round her head, hoping to be wrecked, so that her fear would be helpless to flee from death. The memory had remained a mere thought in Bo- mola's mind, without budding into any distinct wish ; but now, as she paused again in her walking to and fro, she saw gliding black against the red
gold another boat with one man in it, making towards the bend where the first and smaller boat Wai moored. Walking on again, she at length saw the man land, pull his boat ashore and begin to un- lade something from it. He was perhaps the owner Of the smaller boat also i he would be going away Soon, and her opportunity would be gone with him, — her opportunity of buying that smaller boat. She had sot yet admitted to herself that she meant tones it, but she felt a sudden eagerness to secure the possibility of using it, which disclosed the half- anoonsciont growth of a thought into a desire.
"Is that little boat yours also?" she said to the fisherman, who had looked up, a little startled by the tall gray figure, and had made a reverence to this holy Sister wandering thus mysteriously in the evening solituda
It tutu his boat; an old one, hardly seaworthy, yet worth repairing to any man who would buy it By the blessing of San Antonio, whose chapel was in the village yonder, his fishing had prospered, and he had now a better boat, wliich had once been Gianni's who died. But he had not yet sold the old one. Romola asked him how much it was worth, and then, while he was busy, thrust the price into a little satchel lying on the ground and containing the remnant of his dinner. After that, she watched him furling his sail and asked him how he should set it if he wanted to go out to sea, and then pacing up and down again, waited to Bee him depart.
The imagination of herself gliding away in that boat on the darkening waters was growing more and more into a longing, as the thought of a cool brook in sultriness becomes a painful thirst To be freed from the burden of choice when all motive was
DRIFTING AWAY. 149
bruised, to commit herself, sleeping, to destiny which would either bring death or else new neces- sities that might rouse a new life in her ! — it was a thought that beckoned her the more because the soft evening air made her long to rest in the still solitude, instead of going back to the noise and heat of the village.
At last the slow fisherman had gathered up all his movables and was walking away. Soon the gold was shrinking and getting duskier in sea and sky, and there was no living thing in sight, no sound but the lulling monotony of the lapping waves. In this sea there was no tide that would help to carry her away if she waited for its ebb; but Eomola thought the breeze from the land was rising a little. She got into the boat, unfurled the sail, and fas- tened it as she had learned in that first brief lesson. She saw that it caught the light breeze, and this was all she cared for. Then she loosed the boat from its moorings, and tried to urge it with an oar, till she was far out from the land, till the sea was dark even to the west, and the stars were disclosing themselves like a palpitating life over the wide heavens. Eesting at last, she threw back her cowl, and taking off the kerchief underneath, which con- fined her hair, she doubled them both under her head for a pillow on one of the boat's ribs. The fair head was still very young, and could bear a hard pillow.
And so she lay, with the soft night air breathing on her while she glided on the water and watched the deepening quiet of the sky. She was alone now : she had freed herself from all claims, she had freed herself even from that burden of choice which presses with heavier and heavier weight when claims have loosed their guiding hold.
Had she found anything like the dream of her girlhood ? No. Memories hung upon her like the weight of broken wings that could never be lifted, — memories of human sympathy which even in its pains leaves a thirst that the Great Mother has no milk to still. Eomola felt orphaned in those wide spaces of sea and sky. She read no message of love for her in that far-off symbolic writing of the heavens, and with a great sob she wished that she might be gliding into death.
She drew the cowl over her head again and cov- ered her face, choosing darkness rather than the light of the stars, which seemed to her like the hard light of eyes that looked at her without seeing her. Presently she felt that she was in the grave, but not resting there : she was touching the hands of the beloved dead beside her, and trying to wake them.
not Christ* 8 Vicar. His corses are broken swords : he grasps a hilt without a blade. His commands are contrary to the Christian life : it is lawful to disobey them, — nay, it is not lawful to obey them. 9 * And the people still flocked to hear him as he preached in his own church of San Marco, though the Pope was hanging terrible threats over Florence if it did not renounce the pestilential schismatic and send him to Borne to be "converted," — still, as on this very morning, accepted the Communion from his excommunicated hands. For how if this Frate had really more command oyer the Divine lightnings than that official successor of Saint Peter? It was a momentous question, which for the mass of citizens could never be decided by the Frate's ulti- mate test ; namely, what was and what was not accordant with the highest spiritual law. No ; in such a case as this, if God had chosen the Frate as his prophet to rebuke the High Priest who carried the mystic raiment unworthily, he would attest his choice by some unmistakable sign. As long as the belief in the Prophet carried no threat of outward calamity, but rather the confident hope of excep- tional safety, no sign was needed : his preaching was a music to which the people felt themselves march- ing along the way they wished to go ; but now that belief meant an immediate blow to their commerce, the shaking of their position among the Italian States, and an interdict on their city, there inevita- bly came the question, "What miracle showest thou ? " Slowly at first, then faster and faster, that fatal demand had been swelling in Savonarola's ear, provoking a response, outwardly in the declaration that at the fitting time the miracle would come; inwardly in the faith, — not unwavering, for what
THE BENEDICTION. 153
faith is so ? — that if the need for miracle became urgent, the work he had before him was too great for the Divine power to leave it halting. His faith wavered, but not his speech : it is the lot of every man who has to speak for the satisfaction of the crowd, that he must often speak in virtue of yester- day's faith, hoping it will come back to-morrow.
It was in preparation for a scene which was really a response to the popular impatience for some su- pernatural guarantee of the Prophet's mission, that the wooden pulpit had been erected above the church-door. But while the ordinary Frati in black mantles were entering and arranging them- selves, the faces of the multitude were not yet eagerly directed towards the pulpit : it was felt that Savonarola would not appear just yet, and there was some interest in singling out the various monks, some of them belonging to high Florentine families, many of them having fathers, brothers, or cousins among the artisans and shopkeepers who made the majority of the crowd. It was not till the tale of monks was complete, not till they had fluttered their books and had begun to chant, that people said to each other, " Fra Girolamo must be coming now."
That expectation rather than any spell from the accustomed wail of psalmody was what made silence and expectation seem to spread like a paling solemn light over the multitude of upturned faces, all now directed towards the empty pulpit
The next instant the pulpit was no longer empty. A figure covered from head to foot in black cowl and mantle had entered it, and was kneeling with bent head and with face turned away. It seemed a weary time to the eager people while the black
figure knelt and the monks chanted. But the still- ness was not broken, for the Fiate's audiences with Heaven were yet charged with electric awe for that mixed multitude, so that those who had already the will to stone him felt their arms unnerved.
At last there was a vibration among the multi- tude, each seeming to give his neighbour a momen- tary aspen-like touch, as when men who have been watching for something in the heavens see the ex- pected presence silently disclosing itself. The Frate had risen, turned towards the people, and partly pushed back his cowl The monotonous wail of psj^mody had ceased, and to those who stood near the pulpit, it was as if the sounds which had just been tiding their ears had suddenly merged them- arlves in the force of Savonarola's flashing glance, as he looked round him in the silence. Then he stretched out hi? hands, which in their exquisite dclvacy seemed transfigured from an animal organ for grasping into vehicles of sensibility too acute to need anv cross contact. — hands that came like an arwaV.r.i *we:h from that part of his soul which was masked Ty hi? strong passionate face, written or. r.**w with deeper lines about the mouth and br*** than art made by forty-four years of ordinary
At the first stretching out of the hands some of tbr OKwd :r. the front ranks fell on their knees, and bw *r,d there a devout disciple farther off; but the $roai i^ay.v.; j st.wi firm, some resisting the impulse to V.uvl before this excommunicated man (might n^t a gw*t judgment fall upon him even in this act s\i btattn£ ^ — othi rs jarred with scorn and hatred «%f th«* amb;tvu* dewixer who was getting up this w* %vw<sl} > before which, nevertheless, they felt
THE BENEDICTION. 155
themselves impotent, as before the triumph of a fashion.
But then came the voice, clear and low at first, uttering the words of absolution, — " Misereatur vestri" — and more fell on their knees ; and as it rose higher and yet clearer, the erect heads became fewer and fewer, till, at the words " Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus" it rose to a masculine cry, as if protesting its power to bless under the clutch of a demon that wanted to stifle it : it rang like a trum- pet to the extremities of the piazza, and under it every head was bowed.
After the utterance of that blessing, Savonarola himself fell on his knees and hid his face in tem- porary exhaustion. Those great jets of emotion were a necessary part of his life ; he himself had said to the people long ago, "Without preaching I cannot live." But it was a life that shattered him.
In a few minutes more, some had risen to their feet, but a larger number remained kneeling, and all faces were intently watching him. He had taken into his hands a crystal vessel, containing the consecrated Host, and was about to address the people.
"You remember, my children, three days ago I besought you, when I should hold this Sacrament in my hand in the face of you all, to pray fervently to the Most High that if this work of mine does not come from Him, He will send a fire and con- sume me, that I may vanish into the eternal dark- ness away from His light which I have hidden with my falsity. Again I beseech you to make that prayer, and to make it now"
It was a breathless moment: perhaps no man
really prayed, if some in a spirit of deruut obedience made the effort to pray. Every consciousness was chiefly possessed by the sense that Savonarola was praying, in a voice not loud, but distinctly audible in the wide stillness.
- Lord, if I have not wrought in sincerity of soul,
if my word cometh not from Thee, strike me in this moment with Thy thunder, and let the fires of Thy wrath enclose me. 1 *
He ceased to speak, and stood motionless, with the consecrated mystery in his hand, with eyes uplifted and a quivering excitement in his whole aspect. Every one else was motionless and silent too, while the sunlight, which for the last quarter of an hour had here and there been piercing the grayness, made fitful streaks across the convent wall, causing some awe-stricken spectators to start timidly. But soon there was a wider parting, and with a gentle quickness, like a smile, a stream of brightness poured itself on the crystal vase, and then spread itself over Savonarola's face with mild glorification.
An instantaneous shout rang through the piazza, "Behold the answer!"
The warm radiance thrilled through Savonarola's frame, and so did the shout. It was his last mo- ment of untroubled triumph, and in its rapturous confidence he felt carried to a grander scene yet to come, before an audience that would represent all Christendom, in whose presence he should again be sealed as the messenger of the supreme righteous- ness, and feel himself full charged with Divine strength. It was but a moment that expanded itself in that prevision. While the shout was still ringing in his ears he turned away within the
THE BENEDICTION. 157
church, feeling the strain too great for him to bear it longer.
But when the Frate had disappeared, and the sunlight seemed no longer to have anything special in its illumination, but was spreading itself impar- tially over all things clean and unclean, there be- gan, along with the general movement of the crowd, a confusion of voices in which certain strong dis- cords and varying scales of laughter made it evident that, in the previous silence and universal kneeling, hostility and scorn had only submitted unwillingly to a momentary spell.
" It seems to me the plaudits are giving way to criticism," said Tito, who had been watching the scene attentively from an upper loggia in one of the houses opposite the church. " Nevertheless it was a striking moment, eh, Messer Pietro ? Fra Giro- lamo is a man to make one understand that there was a time when the monk's frock was a symbol of power over men's minds rather than over the keys of women's cupboards."
"Assuredly," said Pietro CenninL "And until I have seen proof that Fra Girolamo has much less faith in God's judgments than the common run of men, instead of having considerably more, I shall not believe that he would brave Heaven in this way if his soul were laden with a conscious lie."
A month after that Carnival, one morning near the end of March, Tito descended the marble steps of the Old Palace, bound on a pregnant errand to San Marco. For some reason he did not choose to take the direct road, which was but a slightly bent line from the Old Palace ; he chose rather to make a circuit by the Piazza di Santa Croce, where the people would be pouring out of the church after the early sermon.
It was in the grand church of Santa Croce that the daily Lenten sermon had of late had the largest audience. For Savonarola's voice had ceased to be heard even in his own church of San Marco, a hos- tile Signoria having imposed silence on him in obedience to a new letter from the Pope, threaten- ing the city with an immediate interdict if this " wretched worm " and " monstrous idol " were not forbidden to preach, and sent to demand pardon at Some. And next to hearing Fra Girolamo himself, the most exciting Lenten occupation was to hear him argued against and vilified. This excitement was to be had in Santa Croce, where the Franciscan appointed to preach the Quaresimal sermons had offered to clench his arguments by walking through the fire with Fra Girolamo. Had not that schis- matical Dominican said that his prophetic doctrine
RIPENING SCHEMES. 159
would be proved by a miracle at the fitting time ? Here, then, was the fitting time. Let Savonarola walk through the fire, and if he came out unhurt, the Divine origin of his doctrine would be demon- strated; but if the fire consumed him, his falsity would be manifest; and that he might have no excuse for evading the test, the Franciscan declared himself willing to be a victim to this high logic, and to be burned for the sake of securing the necessary minor premiss.
Savonarola, according to his habit, had taken no notice of these pulpit attacks. But it happened that the zealous preacher of Santa Croce was no other than the Fra Francesco di Puglia, who at Prato the year before had been engaged in a like challenge with Savonarola's fervent follower Fra Domenico, but had been called home by his supe- riors while the heat was simply oratorical. Honest Fra Domenico, then, who was preaching Lenten sermons to the women in the Via del Cocomero, no sooner heard of this new challenge, than he took up the gauntlet for his master, and declared himself ready to walk through the fire with Fra Francesco. Already the people were beginning to take a strong interest in what seemed to them a short and easy method of argument (for those who were to be con- vinced), when Savonarola, keenly alive to the dan- gers that lay in the mere discussion of the case, commanded Fra Domenico to withdraw his accept- ance of the challenge and secede from the affair. The Franciscan declared himself content; he had not directed his challenge to any subaltern, but to Fra Girolamo himself.
After that, the popular interest in the Lenten sermons had flagged a little. But this morning,
when Tito entered the Piazza di Santa Croce, he found, as he expected, that the people were pouring from the church in large numbers. Instead of dis- persing, many of them concentrated themselves towards a particular spot near the entrance of the Franciscan monastery, and Tito took the same direction, threading the crowd with a careless and leisurely air, but keeping careful watch on that monastic entrance, as if he expected some object of interest to issue from it.
It was no such expectation that occupied the crowd. The object they were caring about was already visible to them in the shape of a large placard, affixed by order of the Signoria, and covered with very legible official handwriting. But curi- osity was somewhat balked by the fact that the manuscript was chiefly in Latin, and though nearly every man knew beforehand approximately what the placard contained, he had an appetite for more exact knowledge, which gave him an irritating souse of his neighbour's ignorance in not being able to interpret the learned tongue. For that aural acquaintance with Latin phrases which the un- learned might pick up from pulpit quotations con- stantly interpreted by the preacher could help them little when they saw written Latin; the spelling even of the modern language being in an unorgan- ized and scrambling condition for the mass of people who could read and write, 1 while the majority of those assembled nearest to the placard were not in the dangerous predicament of possessing that little knowledge.
- The old diarists throw in their consonants with a regard rather
to quantity than position, well typified by the Ragnolo BraghieUo (Agnolo Uabriello) of Boccaccio's Ferondo.
HIPENING SCHEMES. 161
u It 's the Frate's doctrines that he 's to prove by being burned," said that large public character Goro, who happened to be among the foremost gazers. " The Signoria has taken it in hand, and the writ- ing is to let us know. It's what the Padre has been telling us about in his sermon."
" Nay, Goro," said a sleek shopkeeper, compassion- ately, "thou hast got thy legs into twisted hose there. The Frate has to prove his doctrines by not being burned : he is to walk through the fire, and come out on the other side sound and whole."
" Yes, yes," said a young sculptor, who wore his white-streaked cap and tunic with a jaunty air. " But Fra Girolamo objects to walking through the fire. Being sound and whole already, he sees no reason why he should walk through the fire to come out in just the same condition. He leaves such odds and ends of work to Fra Domenico."
"Then I say he flinches like a coward," said Goro, in a wheezy treble. " Suffocation ! that was what he did at the Carnival. He had us all in the piazza to see the lightning strike him, and nothing came of it."
" Stop that bleating," said a tall shoemaker, who had stepped in to hear part of the sermon, with bunches of slippers hanging over his shoulders. " It seems to me, friend, that you are about as wise as a calf with water on its brain. The Frate will flinch from nothing : he '11 say nothing beforehand, perhaps, but when the moment comes he'll walk through the fire without asking any gray-frock to keep him company. But I would give a shoestring to know what this Latin all is."
"There's so much of it," said the shopkeeper, "else I'm pretty good at guessing. Is there no
VOL. III. — ll
scholar to be seen ? " he added, with a slight expres- sion of disgust.
There was a general turning of heads, which caused the talkers to descry Tito approaching in their rear.
" Here is one," said the young sculptor, smiling and raising his cap.
" It is the secretary of the Ten : he is going to the convent, doubtless; make way for him," said the shopkeeper, also doffing, though that mark of re- spect was rarely shown by Florentines except to the highest officials. The exceptional reverence was really exacted by the splendour and grace of Tito's appearance, which made his black mantle, with its gold fibula, look like a regal robe, and his ordinary black velvet cap like an entirely excep- tional head-dress. The hardening of his cheeks and mouth, which was the chief change in his face since he came to Florence, seemed to a superficial glance only to give his beauty a more masculine character. He raised his own cap immediately, and said, —
" Thanks, my friend, I merely wished, as you did, to see what is at the foot of this placard, — ah, it is as I exjvcted. I had been informed that the gov- emTfter.t |y*rmits any one who will, to subscribe his TiftTno a* a 0M>5i3«* to enter the fire, — which is an » v n <•>( liVraTity worthy of the magnificent Signoria,
Tw^rvinc of cortW' tl*£ ri*:ht to make a selection.
Arr. doubtless mimy believer? will be eager to sub- Si-riNf their T>s7r>^ For what is it to enter the fire, to on** who**- tank is Snn ? A man is afraid of the ftov btvai*^ he believes it will burn him; but if )*e beeves the contrary ? n — here Tito lifted his »fctt*\)eT* and ma J* an oratorical pause, — "for
- -hvX t*M»on I have never been one to disbelieve
RIPENING SCHEMES. 163
the Frate, when he has said that he would enter the fire to prove his doctrine. For in his place, if you believed the fire would not burn you, which of you, my friends, would not enter it as readily as you would walk along the dry bed of the Mugnone ? "
As Tito looked round him during this appeal, there was a change in some of his audience very much like the change in an eager dog when he is invited to smell something pungent Since the question of burning was becoming practical, it was not every one who would rashly commit himself to any general view of the relation between faith and fire. The scene might have been too much for a gravity less under command than Tito's.
" Then, Messer Segretario," said the young sculp- tor, " it seems to me Fra Francesco is the greater hero, for he offers to enter the fire for the truth, though he is sure the fire will burn him."
" I do not deny it," said Tito, blandly. " But if it turns out that Fra Francesco is mistaken, he will have been burned for the wrong side, and the Church has never reckoned such victims to be mar- tyrs. We must suspend our judgment until the trial has really taken place."
"It is true, Messer Segretario," said the shop- keeper, with subdued impatience. "But will you favour us by interpreting the Latin ? "
" Assuredly," said Tito. " It does but express the conclusions or doctrines which the Frate specially teaches, and which the trial by fire is to prove true or false. They are doubtless familiar to you. First, that Florence — "
" Let us have the Latin bit by bit, and then tell us what it means," said the shoemaker, who had been a frequent hearer of Fra Girolamo.
" Willingly," said Tito, smiling. « Ton will then judge if I give you the light meaning."
" Yes, yes ; that 'a fair," said Gonx
- Ecdcria Dei indiget renovation* ; that is, the
Church of God needs purifying or regenerating."
" It is true," said several voices at once.
"That means, the priests ought to lead better lives; there needs no miracle to prove that That's what the Frate has always been saying," said the shoemaker.
" Flagellabitur," Tito went on. "That is, it will be scourged. Renovabiiur: it will be purified. Florentia quoque post flagellant renovabiiur et pros- perabitur : Florence also, after the scourging, shall be purified and shall prosper."
" That means we are to get Pisa again," said the shopkeeper.
" And get the wool from England as we used to do, I should hope," said an elderly man, in an old- fashioned berretta, who had been silent till now. " There f s been scourging enough with the sinlring of the trade."
At this moment a tall personage, surmounted by a red feather, issued from the door of the convent, and exchanged an indifferent glance with Tito; who, tossing his becchetto carelessly over his left shoulder, turned to his reading again, while the bystanders, with more timidity than respect, shrank to make a passage for Messer Dolfo Spini
" Infideles convertentur ad Christum" Tito went on. "That is, the infidels shall be converted to Christ."
" Those are the Turks and the Moors. Well, I Ve nothing to say against that," said the shopkeeper, dispassionately.
RIPENING SCHEMES. 165
" Hcec autem omnia erunt temporibus nostris: and all these things shall happen in our times."
" Why, what use would they be else ? " said Goro.
" Excommunicatio nuper lata contra Reverendum Pattern, nostrum Fratrem Hieronymum nulla est: the excommunication lately pronounced against our reverend father, Fra Girolamo, is null. JNon obser- vantes earn non peccant : those who disregard it are not committing a sin."
" I shall know better what to say to that when we have had the Trial by Fire," said the shopkeeper.
" Which doubtless will clear up everything," said Tito. " That is all the Latin, — all the conclusions that are to be proved true or false by the trial The rest you can perceive is simply a proclamation of the Signoria in good Tuscan, calling on such as are eager to walk through the fire, to come to the Palazzo and subscribe their names. Can I serve you fur- ther ? If not — "
Tito, as he turned away, raised his cap and bent slightly, with so easy an air that the movement seemed a natural prompting of deference.
He quickened his pace as he left the piazza, and after two or three turnings he paused in a quiet street before a door at which he gave a light and peculiar knock. It was opened by a young woman whom he chucked under the chin as he asked her if the Padrone was within; and he then passed, without further ceremony, through another door which stood ajar on his right hand. It admitted him into a handsome but untidy room, where Dolfo Spini sat playing with a fine stag-hound which al- ternately snuffed at a basket of pups and licked his hands with that affectionate disregard of her master's morals sometimes held to be one of the
most agreeable attributes of her sex. He just looked up as Tito entered, but continued his play, simply from that disposition to persistence in some irrele- vant action, by which slow-witted sensual people seem to be continually counteracting their own purposes. Tito was patient
" A handsome bracca that," he said quietly, stand- ing with his thumbs in his belt Presently he added, in that cool liquid tone which seemed mild, but compelled attention : " When you have finished such caresses as cannot possibly be deferred, my Dolfo, we will talk of business, if you please. My time, which I could wish to be eternity at your service, is not entirely my own this morning."
"l>own, Mischief, down!" said Spini, with sud- tlon roughness. " Malediction ! " he added, still mow grullly, pushing the dog aside ; then, starting from his sent, he stood close to Tito, and put a hand on his shoulder as he spoke.
" I hope your sharp wits see all the ins and outs of this business, my fine necromancer, for it seems to mo no clearer than the bottom of a sack."
" What is your difficulty, my cavalier ? "
"Those accursed Frati Minori at Santa Croce. Thoy are drawing back now. Fra Francesco him- nolf nooms afraid of sticking to his challenge ; talks of tho Prophet being likely to use magic to get up a fulso miracle, — thinks he himself might be dragged into the fire and burned, and the Prophet might oomo out whole by magic, and the Church be \\\\\\o (ho hot tor. And then, after all our talking, t horo V not so much as a blessed lay brother who will otVor himsolf to pair with that pious sheep Fra Oomouioo"
" It i* tho jvouliar stupidity of the tonsured skull
RIPENING SCHEMES. 167
that prevents them from seeing of how little conse- quence it is whether they are burned or not," said Tito. "Have you sworn well to them that they shall be in no danger of entering the fire ? "
" No," said Spini, looking puzzled ; " because one of them will be obliged to go in with Fra Domenico, who thinks it a thousand years till the fagots are ready."
" Not at alL Fra Domenico himself is not likely to go in. I have told you before, my Dolfo, only your powerful mind is not to be impressed without more repetition than suffices for the vulgar, — I have told you that now you have got the Signoria to take up this affair and prevent it from being hushed up by Fra Girolamo, nothing is necessary but that on a given day the fuel should be prepared in the piazza, and the people got together with the expec- tation of seeing something prodigious. If, after that, the Prophet quits the piazza without any appearance of a miracle on his side, he is ruined with the peo- ple : they will be ready to pelt him out of the city; the Signoria will find it easy to banish him from the territory, and his Holiness may do as he likes with him. Therefore, my Alcibiades, swear to the Fran- ciscans that their gray frocks shall not come within singeing distance of the fire."
Spini rubbed the back of his head with one hand, and tapped his sword against his leg with the other, to stimulate his power of seeing these intangible combinations.
" But," he said presently, looking up again, " un- less we fall on him in the piazza, when the people are in a rage, and make an end of him and his lies then and there, Valori and the Salviati and the Albizzi will take up arms and raise a fight for him.
I know that was talked of when there was the hub- bub on Ascension Sunday. And the people may turn round again : there may be a story raised of the French king coming again, or some other cursed chance in the hypocrite's favour. The city will never be safe till he's out of it"
" He will be out of it before long, without your giving yourself any further trouble than this little comedy 'of the Trial by Fire. The wine and the sun will make vinegar without any shouting to help them, as your Florentine sages would say. You will have the satisfaction of delivering your city from an incubus by an able stratagem, instead of risking blunders with sword-thrusts."
" But suppose he did get magic and the devil to help him, and walk through the fire after all?" said Spini, with a grimace intended to hide a cer- tain shyness in trenching on this speculative ground. " How do you know there 's nothing in those things ? Plenty of scholars believe in them, and this Frate is bad enough for anything."
" Oh, of course there are such things," said Tito, with a shrug : " but I have particular reasons for knowing that the Frate is not on such terms with the devil as can give him any confidence in this affair. The only magic he relies on is his own ability."
" Ability ! " said Spini. " Do you call it ability to be setting Florence at loggerheads with the Pope and all the powers of Italy, — all to keep beckoning at the French king who never comes ? You may call him able, but I call him a hypocrite, who wants to be master of everybody, and get himself made Pope."
"You judge with your usual penetration, my
BIPENING SCHEMES. 169
captain, but our opinions do not clash. The Frate, wanting to be master, and to carry out his projects against the Pope, requires the lever of a foreign power, and requires Florence as a fulcrum. I used to think him a narrow-minded bigot; but now I think him a shrewd ambitious man who knows what he is aiming at, and directs his aim as skil- fully as you direct a ball when you are playing at maglio."
"Yes, yes," said Spini, cordially, "I can aim a ball."
" It is true," said Tito, with bland gravity ; " and I should not have troubled you with my trivial re- mark on the Frate's ability, but that you may see how this will heighten the credit of your success against him at Borne and at Milan, which is sure to serve you in good stead when the city comes to change its policy."
" Well, thou art a good little demon, and shalt have good pay," said Spini, patronizingly; where- upon he thought it only natural that the useful Greek adventurer should smile with gratification as he said, —
"Of course, any advantage to me depends en- tirely on your — "
"We shall have our supper at my palace to- night," interrupted Spini, with a significant nod and an affectionate pat on Tito's shoulder, " and I shall expound the new scheme to them all."
" Pardon, my magnificent patron," said Tito ; " the scheme has been the same from the first, — it has never varied except in your memory. Are you sure you have fast hold of it now ? "
" One thing more," he said, as Tito was hastening
sharp-nosed notary, Ser Cecccoi* : in its lesa handy of late. Tell me, you woe >3*a see a 2L3d wink when you 're behind him,
Tts»: iiKC ar:« say, *Xa* He knew his com- psaka sco w**H to xrcs* him with advice when all Spcnf s Tiziry msd self-interest were not engaged in
ibtissC he answered promptly. "I have nothing to say against Ceocone."
Thai suggestion of the notary's intimate access to Spini caused Tito a passing twinge, interrupting his amused satisfaction in the success with which he made a tool of the man who fancied himself a patron. For he had been rather afraid of Ser Cec- cone. Tito's nature made him peculiarly alive to circumstances that might be turned to his disad- vantage; his memory was much haunted by such possibilities, stimulating him to contrivances by which he might ward them oft And it was not likely that he should forget that October morning more than a year ago, when Romola had appeared suddenly before him at the door of Nello's shop, and had compelled him to declare his certainty that Fra Girolamo was not going outside the gates, ■ The fact that Ser Ceocone had been a witness of that scene, together with Tito's perception that for some reason or other he was an object of dislike to the notary, had received a new importance from the re- cent turn of events. For after having been impli- cated in the Medicean plots, and having found it advisable in consequence to retire into the country for some time, Ser Ceccone had of late, since his re- appearance in the city, attached himself to the Arrabbiati, and cultivated the patronage of Dolfo
RIPENING SCHEMES. 171
Spin! Now that captain of the Compagnacci was much given, when in the company of intimates, to con- fidential narrative about his own doings ; and if Ser Ceccone's powers of combination were sharpened by enmity, he might gather some knowledge which he could use against Tito with very unpleasant results.
It would be pitiable to be balked in well-con- ducted schemes by an insignificant notary ; to be lamed by the sting of an insect whom he had of- fended unawares. "But," Tito said to himself, "the man's dislike to me can be nothing deeper than the ill-humour of a dinnerless dog ; I shall con- quer it if I can make him prosperous." And he had been very glad of an opportunity which had presented itself of providing the notary with a tem- porary post as an extra cancelliere or registering secretary under the Ten, believing that with this sop and the expectation of more, the waspish cur must be quite cured of the disposition to bite him.
But perfect scheming demands omniscience, and the notary's envy had been stimulated into hatred by causes of which Tito knew nothing. That even- ing when Tito, returning from his critical audience with the Special Council, had brushed by Ser Cec- cone on the stairs, the notary, who had only just returned from Pistoja, and learned the arrest of the conspirators, was bound on an errand which bore a humble resemblance to Tito's. He also, without giving up a show of popular zeal, had been putting in the Medicean lottery. He also had been privy to the unexecuted plot, and was willing to tell what he knew, but knew much less to tell. He also would have been willing to go on treacher- ous errands, but a more eligible agent had fore- stalled him. His propositions were received coldly ;
the council, he was told, was already in possession of the needed information, and since he had been thus busy in sedition, it would be well for him to retire out of the way of mischief, otherwise the government might be obliged to take note of him. Ser Ceccone wanted no evidence to make him at- tribute his failure to Tito, and his spite was the more bitter because the nature of the case com- pelled him to hold his peace about it Nor was this the whole of his grudge against the flourishing Melema. On issuing from his hiding-place, and attaching himself to the Arrabbiati, he had earned some pay as one of the spies who reported informa- tion on Florentine affairs to the Milanese court; but his pay had been small, notwithstanding his pains to write full letters, and he had lately been apprised that his news was seldom more than a late and imperfect edition of what was known already. Now Ser Ceccone had no positive knowledge that Tito had an underhand connection with the Arrabbiati and the Court of Milan, but he had a suspicion of which he chewed the cud with as strong a sense of flavour as if it had been a certainty.
This fine-grown vigorous hatred could swallow the feeble opiate of Tito's favours, and be as lively as ever after it. Why should Ser Ceccone like Melema any the better for doing him favours ? Doubtless the suave secretary had his own ends to serve ; and what right had he to the superior position which made it possible for him to show favour ? But since he had tuned his voice to flattery, Ser Cec- cone would pitch his in the same key, and it re- mained to be seen who would win at the game of outwitting.
To have a mind well oiled with that sort of argu-
RIPENING SCHEMES. 173
ment which prevents any claim from grasping it seems eminently convenient sometimes : only the oil becomes objectionable when we find it anoint- ing other minds on which we want to establish a hold.
Tito, however, not being quite omniscient, felt now no more than a passing twinge of uneasiness at the suggestion of Ser Ceccone's power to hurt him. It was only for a little while that he cared greatly about keeping clear of suspicions and hos- tility. He was now playing his final game in Flor- ence, and the skill he was conscious of applying gave him a pleasure in it even apart from the ex- pected winnings. The errand on which he was bent to San Marco was a stroke in which he felt so much confidence that he had already given notice to the Ten of his desire to resign his office at an indefinite period within the next month or two, and had obtained permission to make that resignation suddenly, if his affairs needed it, with the under- standing that Niccolo Macchiavelli was to be his provisional substitute, if not his successor. He was acting on hypothetic grounds, but this was the sort of action that had the keenest interest for his diplomatic mind. From a combination of general knowledge concerning Savonarola's purposes with diligently observed details he had framed a conjec- ture which he was about to verify by this visit to San Marco. If he proved to be right, his game would be won, and he might soon turn his back on Florence. He looked eagerly towards that consum- mation, for many circumstances besides his own weariness of the place told him that it was time for him to be gone.
THE PROPHET IN HI8 CELL.
Tito's visit to San Marco had been announced be- forehand, and he was at once conducted by Fra Niccolo, Savonarola's secretary, up the spiral stair- case into the long corridors lined with cells, — cor- ridors where Fra Angelico's frescos, delicate as the rainbow on the melting cloud, startled the unac- customed eye here and there, as if they had been sudden reflections cast from an ethereal world, where the Madonna sat crowned in her radiant glory, and the Divine infant looked forth with perpetual promise.
It was an hour of relaxation in the monastery, and moat of the cells were empty. The light through the narrow windows looked in on nothing but bare walls, and the hard pallet and the crucifix. And even behind that door at the end of a long corridor, in the inner cell opening from an ante* chamber where the Prior usually sat at his desk or received private visitors, the high jet of light fell on only one more object that looked quite as com- mon a monastic sight as the bare walls and hard pallet It was but the hack of a figure in the long white Dominican tunic and scapulary, kneeling with bowed head before a crucifix. It might have been any ordinary Fra Girolamo, who had nothing worse to confess than thinking of wrong things
THE PROPHET IN HIS CELL. 175
when he was singing in coro, or feeling a spiteful joy when Fra Benedetto dropped the ink over his own miniatures in the breviary he was illuminating, — who had no higher thought than that of climb- ing safely into Paradise up the narrow ladder of prayer, fasting, and obedience. But under this par- ticular white tunic there was a heart beating with a consciousness inconceivable to the average monk, and perhaps hard to be conceived by any man who has not arrived at self-knowledge through a tumult- uous inner life : a consciousness in which irrevo- cable errors and lapses from veracity were so entwined with noble purposes and sincere beliefs, in which self-justifying expediency was so inwoven with the tissue of a great work which the whole being seemed as' unable to abandon as the body was unable to abandon glowing and trembling before the objects of hope and fear, that it was perhaps im- possible, whatever course might be adopted, for the conscience to find perfect repose.
Savonarola was not only in the attitude of prayer, there were Latin words of prayer on his lips ; and yet he was not praying. He had entered his cell, had fallen on his knees, and burst into words of supplication, seeking in this way for an influx of calmness which would be a warrant to him that the resolutions urged on him by crowding thoughts and passions were not wresting him away from the Divine support ; but the previsions and impulses which had been at work within him for the last hour were too imperious ; and while he pressed his hands against his face, and while his lips were uttering audibly, " Cor mundum crea in me" his mind was still filled with the images of the snare his enemies had prepared for him, was still busy
with the arguments by which he could justify him- self against their taunts and accusations.
And it wns not only against his opponents that Savonarola had to defend himself. This morning he had had new proof that his friends and followers were as much inclined to urge on the Trial by Fire as his enemies: desiring and tacitly expecting that he himself would at last accept the challenge and evoke the long-expected miracle which was to dis- sipate doubt and triumph over malignity. Had be not said that God would declare himself at the fit- ting time ? And to the understanding of plain Florentines, eager to get party questions settled, it seemed that no time could be more fittiug than this. Certainly, if Fra Domeuico walked through the fire unhurt, that would be a miracle, and the faith and ardour of that good brother were felt to be a cheer- ing augury ; but Savonarola was acutely conscious that the secret longing of his followers to see him accept the challenge had not been dissipated by any reasons he had given for his refusal
Yet it was impossible to him to satisfy them; and with bitter distress be saw now that it was im- possible for him any longer to resist the prosecution of the trial in Fra Domenico's case. Not that Sa- vonarola had uttered and written a falsity when he declared his belief in a future supernatural attesta- tion of his work ; but his mind was so constituted that while it was easy for him to believe in a mira- cle which, being distant and undefined, was screened behind the strong reasons he saw for its occurrence, and yet easier for him to have a belief in inward miracles such as bis own prophetic inspiration and divinely wrought intuitions ; it was at the same time insurmountably difficult to him to believe in
THE PROPHET IN HIS CELL. 177
the probability of a miracle which, like this of be- ing carried unhurt through the fire, pressed in all its details on his imagination and involved a de- mand not only for belief but for exceptional action.
Savonarola's nature was one of those in which op- posing tendencies co-exist in almost equal strength : the passionate sensibility which, impatient of defi- nite thought, floods every idea with emotion and tends towards contemplative ecstasy, alternated in him with a keen perception of outward facts and a vigorous practical judgment of men and things. And in this case of the Trial by Fire, the latter characteristics were stimulated into unusual activ- ity by an acute physical sensitiveness which gives overpowering force to the conception of pain and destruction as a necessary sequence of facts which have already been causes of pain in our experience. The promptitude with which men will consent to touch red-hot iron with a wet finger is not to be measured by their theoretic acceptance of the im- possibility that the iron will burn them : practical belief depends on what is most strongly represented in the mind at a given moment. And with the Frate's constitution, when the Trial by Fire was urged on his imagination as an immediate demand, it was impossible for him to believe that he or any other man could walk through the flames unhurt, — impossible for him to believe that even if he re- solved to offer himself, he would not shrink at the last moment.
But the Florentines were not likely to make these fine distinctions. To the common run of mankind it has always seemed a proof of mental vigour to find moral questions easy, and judge con-
TOL. III. — 12
duct according to concise alternatives. And noth- ing was likely to seem plainer than that a man who at one time declared that God would not leave him without the guarantee of a miracle, and jet drew back when it was proposed to test his declaration, had said what he did not believe. Were not Fra Domenico and Fra. Mariano, and scores of Piagnoni besides, ready to enter the fire? What was the cause of their superior courage, if it was not their superior faith ? Savonarola could not have ex- plained his conduct satisfactorily to his friends, even if he had been able to explain it thoroughly to himself. And he was not Our naked feelings make haste to clothe themselves in propositions which lie at hand among our store of opinions, and to give a true account of what passes within us something else is necessary besides sincerity, even when sincerity is unmixed. In these very mo- ments, when Savonarola was kneeling in audible prayer, he had ceased to hear the words on his lips. They were drowned by argumentative voices within him that shaped their reasons more and more for an outward audience.
" To appeal to heaven for a miracle by a rash ac- ceptance of a challenge, which is a mere snare pre- pared for me by ignoble foes, would be a tempting of God, and the appeal would not be responded to. Let the Pope's legate come, let the ambassadors of all the great Powers come and promise that the calling of a General Council and the reform of the Church shall hang on the miracle, and I will enter the flames, trusting that God will not withhold His seal from that great work. Until then I reserve myself for higher duties which are directly laid upon me: it is not permitted to me to leap from
THE PROPHET IN HIS CELL. 179
the chariot for the sake of wrestling with every loud vaunter. But Fra Domenico's invincible zeal to enter into the trial may be the sign of a Divine vocation, may be a pledge that the miracle — "
But no ! when Savonarola brought his mind close to the threatened scene in the piazza, and imagined a human body entering the fire, his belief recoiled again. It was not an event that his imagination could simply see : he felt it with shuddering vibra- tions to the extremities of his sensitive fingers. The miracle could not be. Nay, the trial itself was not to happen : he was warranted in doing all in his power to hinder it The fuel might be got ready in the piazza, the people might be assembled, the pre- paratory formalities might be gone through : all this was perhaps inevitable now, and he could no longer resist it without bringing dishonour on — himself ? Yes, and therefore on the cause of God. But it was not really intended that the Franciscan should enter the fire, and while he hung back there would be the means of preventing Fra Domenico's en- trance. At the very worst, if Fra Domenico were compelled to enter, he should carry the consecrated Host with him, and with that Mystery in his hand, there might be a warrant for expecting that the ordinary effects of fire would be stayed; or, more probably, this demand would be resisted, and might thus be a final obstacle to the trial.
But these intentions could not be avowed : he must appear frankly to await the trial, and to trust in its issue. That dissidence between inward real- ity and outward seeming was not the Christian simplicity after which he had striven through years of his youth and prime, and which he had preached as a chief fruit of the Divine life. In the stress
and heat of the day, with cheeks burning, with shouts ringing in the ears, who is so blest as to remember the yearnings he had in the cool and silent morning and know that he has not belied them?
"0 God, it is for the sake of the people, — because they are blind, — because their faith depends on me. If I put on sackcloth and cast myself among the ashes, who will take up the standard and head the battle ? Have I not been led by a way which I knew not to the work that lies before me ? "
The conflict was one that could not end, and in the effort at prayerful pleading the uneasy mind laved its smart continually in thoughts of the great- ness of that task which there was no man else to fulfil if he forsook it It was not a thing of every day that a man should be inspired with the vision and the daring that made a sacred rebel
Even the words of prayer had died away. He continued to kneel, but his mind was filled with the images of results to be felt through all Europe ; and the sense of immediate difficulties was being lost in the glow of that vision, when the knocking at the door announced the expected visit.
Savonarola drew on his mantle before he left his cell, as was his custom when he received visitors ; and with that immediate response to any appeal from without which belongs to a power-loving na- ture accustomed to make its power felt by speech, he met Tito with a glance as self-possessed and strong as if he had risen from resolution instead of conflict
Tito did not kneel, but simply made a greeting of profound deference, which Savonarola received quietly without any sacerdotal words, and then desiring him to be seated, said at once, —
THE PROPHET IN HI8 CELL. 181
" Your business is something of weight, my son, that could not be conveyed through others ? "
" Assuredly, father, else I should not have pre- sumed to ask it. I wiU not trespass on your time by any proem. I gathered from a remark of Messer Domenico Mazzinghi that you might be glad to make use of the next special courier who is sent to France with despatches from the Ten. I must en- treat you to pardon me if I have been too officious ; but inasmuch as Messer Domenico is at this mo- ment away at his villa, I wished to apprise you that a courier carrying important letters is about to de- part for Lyons at daybreak to-morrow."
The muscles of Fra Girolamo's face were emi- nently under command, as must be the case with all men whose personality is powerful, and in de- liberate speech he was habitually cautious, confiding his intentions to none without necessity. But under any strong mental stimulus, his eyes were liable to a dilatation and added brilliancy that no strength of will could controL He looked steadily at Tito, and did not answer immediately, as if he had to consider whether the information he had just heard met any purpose of his.
Tito, whose glance never seemed observant, but rarely let anything escape it, had expected pre- cisely that dilatation and flash of Savonarola's eyes which he had noted on other occasions. He saw it, and then immediately busied himself in adjusting his gold fibula, which had got wrong ; seeming to imply that he awaited an answer patiently.
The fact was that Savonarola had expected to receive this intimation from Domenico Mazzinghi, one of the Ten, an ardent disciple of his whom he had already employed to write a private letter to
the Florentine ambassador in France, to prepare the way for a letter to the French king himself in Savonarola's handwriting, which now lay ready in the desk at his side. It was a letter calling on the king to assist in summoning a General Council, that might reform the abuses of the Church, and begin by deposing Pope Alexander, who was not right- fully Pope, being a vicious unbeliever, elected by corruption and governing by simony.
This fact was not what Tito knew, but what his constructive talent, guided by subtle indications, had led him to guess and hope.
" It is true, my son/' said Savonarola, quietly, — "it is true I have letters which I would gladly send by safe conveyance under cover to our ambas- sador. Our community of San Marco, as you know, has affairs in France, being, among other things, responsible for a debt to that singularly wise and experienced Frenchman, Signor Philippe de Co- mines, on the library of the Medici, which we pur- chased ; but I apprehend that Domenico Mazzinghi himself may return to the city before evening, and I should gain more time for preparation of the let- ters if I waited to deposit them in his hands."
" Assuredly, reverend father, that might be better on all grounds, except one, namely, that if anything occurred to hinder Messer Domenico's return, the despatch of the letters would require either that I should come to San Marco again at a late hour, or that you should send them to me by your secretary ; and I am aware that you wish to guard against the false inferences which might be drawn from a too frequent communication between yourself and any officer of the government." In throwing out this difficulty Tito felt that the more unwillingness the
THE PROPHET IN HIS CELL. 183
Frate showed to trust him, the more certain he would be of his conjecture.
Savonarola was silent; but while he kept his mouth firm, a slight glow rose in his face with the suppressed excitement that was growing within him. It would be a critical moment, — that in which he delivered the letter out of his own hands.
" It is most probable that Messer Domenico will return in time," said Tito, affecting to consider the Frate's determination settled, and rising from his chair as he spoke. " With your permission, I will take my leave, father, not to trespass on your time when my errand is done ; but as I may not be fa- voured with another interview, I venture to confide to you — what is not yet known to others, except to the magnificent Ten — that I contemplate resign- ing my secretaryship, and leaving Florence shortly. Am I presuming too much on your interest in stat- ing what relates chiefly to myself ? "
" Speak on, my son," said the Frate ; " I desire to ■*y know your prospects."
" I find, then, that I have mistaken my real voca- tion in forsaking the career of pure letters, for which I was brought up. The politics of Florence, father, are worthy to occupy the greatest mind — to occupy yours — when a man is in a position to execute his own ideas ; but when, like me, he can only hope to be the mere instrument of changing schemes, he requires to be animated by the minor attachments of a born Florentine : also, my wife's unhappy alienation from a Florentine residence since the painful events of August naturally influences me. I wish to join her."
Savonarola inclined his head approvingly.
" I intend, then, soon to leave Florence, to visit
the chief courts of Europe, and to widen my ac- quaintance with the men of letters in the various universities. I shall go first to the court of Hun- gary, where scholars are eminently welcome ; and I shall probably Btart in a week or ten days. I have not concealed from yon, father, that I am no relig- ious enthusiast ; I have not my wife's ardour ; hut religious enthusiasm, as I conceive, is not necessary in order to appreciate the grandeur and justice of your views concerning the government of nation B and the Church. And if you condescend to intrust me with any commission that will further the rela- tions you wish to establish, I Bhall feel honoured. May I now take my leave ? "
" Stay, my son. When you depart from Florence I will send a letter to your wife, of whose spiritual welfare I would fain he assured, for she left me in anger. As for the letters to France, such as I have ready — ■
Savonarola rose and turned to his desk as he spoke. He took from it a letter on which Tito j could see, but not read, an address in the Frate'a own minute and exquisite handwriting, still to be Been covering the margins of his Bibles. He took a large sheet of paper, enclosed the letter, and sealed it
" Pardon me, father," said Tito, before Savonarola had time to speak, " unless it were your decided wish, I would rather not incur the responsibility of carrying away the letter. Messer Domenico Maz- zinghi will doubtless return, or, if not, Fra Niccold can convey it to me at the second honr of the even- ing, when I shall place the other despatches in the courier's hands."
"At present, my son," said the Frate, waiving
THE PROPHET IN HIS CELL. 185
that point, " I wish you to address this packet to our ambassador in your own handwriting, which is preferable to my secretary's."
Tito sat down to write the address, while the Frate stood by him with folded arms, the glow mounting in his cheek, and his lip at last quivering. Tito rose and was about to move away, when Savo- narola said abruptly : " Take it, my son. There is no use in waiting. It does not please me that Fra Niccolo should have needless errands to the Palazzo."
As Tito took the letter, Savonarola stood in sup- pressed excitement that forbade further speech. There seems to be a subtle emanation from pas- sionate natures like his, making their mental states tell immediately on others ; when they are absent- minded and inwardly excited, there is silence in the air.
Tito made a deep reverence, and went out with the letter under his mantle.
The letter was duly delivered to the courier and carried out of Florence. But before that happened another messenger, privately employed by Tito, had conveyed information in cipher, which was carried by a series of relays to armed agents of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the watch for the very purpose of intercepting despatches on the borders of the Milanese territory.
THE TRIAL BY TIKE. 187
Florentines were going to see one. At the very least they would see half a miracle ; for if the monk did not come whole out of the fire, they would see him enter it, and infer that he was burned in the middle.
There could be no reasonable doubt, it seemed, that the fire would be kindled, and that the monks would enter it. For there, before their eyes, was the long platform, eight feet broad, and twenty yards long, with a grove of fuel heaped up terribly, great branches of dry oak as a foundation, crackling thorns above, and well-anointed tow and rags, known to make fine flames in Florentine illumina- tions. The platform began at the corner of the marble terrace in front of the Old Palace, close to Marzocco, the stone lion, whose aged visage looked frowningly along the grove of fuel that stretched obliquely across the piazza.
Besides that, there were three large bodies of armed men : five hundred hired soldiers of the Sig- noria stationed before the palace; five hundred Compagnacci under Dolfo Spini, far off on the opposite side of the piazza; and three hundred armed citizens of another sort, under Marco Salvi- ati, Savonarola's friend, in front of Orgagna's Loggia, where the Franciscans and Dominicans were to be placed with their champions.
Here had been much expense of money and labour, and high dignities were concerned. There could be no reasonable doubt that something great was about to happen ; and it would certainly be a great thing if the two monks were simply burned, for in that case too God would have spoken, and said very plainly that Fra Girolamo was not His prophet.
And there was not much longer to wait, for it was now near midday. Half the monks -were already at their post, and that half of the Loggia that lies towards the Palace was already filled with gray mantles; but the other half, divided off by boards, was still empty of everything except a small altar. The Franciscans had entered and taken their places in silence. But now, at the other side of the piazza was heard loud chanting from two hundred voices, and there was general satisfaction, if not in the chanting, at least in the evidence that the Dominicans were come. That loud chanting repetition of the prayer, "Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered," was un- pleasantly suggestive to some impartial ears of a desire to vaunt confidence and excite dismay ; and so was the flame-coloured velvet cope in which Fra Domenico was arrayed as he headed the procession, cross in hand, his simple mind really exalted with faith, and with the genuine intention to enter the flames for the glory of God and Fra Girolamo. Be- hind him came Savonarola in the white vestment of a priest, carrying in his hands a vessel contain- ing the consecrated Host. He, too, was chanting loudly ; he, too, looked firm and confident, and as all eyes were turned eagerly on him, either in anxi- ety, curiosity, or malignity, from the moment when he entered the piazza till he mounted the steps of the Loggia and deposited the Sacrament on the altar, there was an intensifying flash and energy in his countenance responding to that scrutiny.
We are so made, almost all of us, that the false seeming which we have thought of with painful shrinking when beforehand in our solitude it has urged itself on us as a necessity, will possess our
THE TRIAL BY FIBE. 189
muscles and move our lips as if nothing but that were easy when once we have come under the stimulus of expectant eyes and ears. And the strength of that stimulus to Savonarola can hardly be measured by the experience of ordinary lives. Perhaps no man has ever had a mighty influence over his fellows without having the innate need to dominate, and this need usually becomes the more imperious in proportion as the complications of life make Self inseparable from a purpose which is not selfish. In this way it came to pass that on the day of the Trial by Fire, the doubleness which is the pressing temptation in every public career, whether of priest, orator, or statesman, was more strongly defined in Savonarola's consciousness as the acting of a part, than at any other period in his life. He was struggling not against impending martyrdom, but against impending ruin.
Therefore he looked and acted as if he were thoroughly confident, when all the while foreboding was pressing with leaden weight on his heart, not only because of the probable issues of this trial, but because of another event already past, — an event which was spreading a sunny satisfaction through the mind of a man who was looking down at the passion-worn prophet from a window of the Old Palace. It was a common turning-point towards which those widely sundered lives had been con- verging, that two evenings ago the news had come that the Florentine courier of the Ten had been arrested and robbed of all his despatches, so that Savonarola's letter was already in the hands of the Duke of Milan, and would soon be in the hands of the Pope, not only heightening rage, but giving a new justification to extreme measures. There was
no malignity in Tito Melema's satisfaction : it was the mild self-gratulation of a man who has won a game that has employed hypothetic skill, not a game that has stirred the muscles and heated the blood. Of course that handle of desires and con- trivances called human nature, when moulded into the form of a plain-featured Frate Predicatore, more or less of an impostor, could not be a pathetic object to a brilliant-minded scholar who understood every- thing. Yet this tonsured Girolamo with the high nose and large under lip was an immensely clever Frate, mixing with his absurd superstitions or fabrications very remarkable notions about govern- ment ; no babbler, but a man who could keep his secrets. Tito had no more spite against him than against Saint Dominic. On the contrary, Fra Giro- lamo's existence had been highly convenient to Tito Melema, furnishing him with that round of the ladder from which he was about to leap on to a new and smooth footing very much to his heart's content And everything now was in forward preparation for that leap: let one more sun rise and set, and Tito hoped to quit Florence. He had been so industrious that he felt at full leisure to amuse himself with to-day's comedy, which the thick-headed Dolfo Spini could never have brought about but for him.
Not yet did the loud chanting cease, but rather swelled to a deafening roar, being taken up in all parts of the piazza by the Piagnoni, who carried their little red crosses as a badge, and, most of them, chanted the prayer for the confusion of God's enemies with the expectation of an answer to be given through the medium of a more signal person- age than Fra Domenico. This good Frate in his
THE TRIAL BY FIRE. 191
flame-coloured cope was now kneeling before the little altar on which the Sacrament was deposited, awaiting his summons.
On the Franciscan side of the Loggia there was no chanting and no flame-colour ; only silence and grayness. But there was this counterbalancing dif- ference, that the Franciscans had two champions: a certain Fra Giuliano was to pair with Fra Do- menico, while the original champion, Fra Francesco, confined his challenge to Savonarola.
"Surely," thought the men perched uneasily on the rods and pillars, " all must be ready now. This chanting might stop, and we should see better when the Frati are moving towards the platform."
But the Frati were not to be seen moving yet. Pale Franciscan faces were looking uneasily over the boarding at that flame-coloured cope. It had an evil look and might be enchanted, so that a false miracle would be wrought by magic. Your monk may come whole out of the fire, and yet it may be the work of the deviL
And now there was passing to and fro between the Loggia and the marble terrace of the Palazzo, and the roar of chanting became a little quieter, for every one at a distance was beginning to watch more eagerly. But it soon appeared that the new movement was not a beginning, but an obstacle to beginning. The dignified Florentines appointed to preside over this affair as moderators on each side, went in and out of the Palace, and there was much debate with the Franciscans. But at last it was clear that Fra Domenico, conspicuous in his flame- colour, was being fetched towards the Palace. Prob- ably the fire had already been kindled, — it was difficult to see at a distance, — and the miracle was going to begin.
Not at all The flame-coloured cope disappeared within the Palace; then another Dominican was fetched away; and for a long while everything went on as before, — the tiresome chanting, which was not miraculous, and Fra Girolamo in his white vestment standing just in the same place. But at last something happened : Fra Domenico was seen coming out of the Palace again, and returning to his brethren. He had changed all his clothes with a brother monk, but he was guarded on each flank by a Franciscan, lest coming into the vicinity of Savo- narola he should be enchanted again.
" Ah, then," thought the distant spectators, a little less conscious of cramped limbs and hunger, " Fra Domenico is not going to enter the fire. It is Fra Girolamo who offers himself, after all. We shall see him move presently, and if he comes out of the flames we shall have a fine view of him ! "
But Fra Girolamo did not move, except with the ordinary action accompanying speech. The speech was bold and firm, perhaps somewhat ironically remonstrant, like that of Elijah to the priests of Baal, demanding the cessation of these trivial delays. But speech is the most irritating kind of argument for those who are out of hearing, cramped in the limbs, and empty in the stomach. And what need was there for speech ? If the miracle did not begin, it could be no one's fault but Fra Girolamo's, who might put an end to all difficulties by offering himself now the fire was ready, as he had been for- ward enough to do when there was no fuel in sight.
More movement to and fro, more discussion ; and the afternoon seemed to be slipping away all the faster because the clouds had gathered, and changed the light on everything, and sent a chill through the spectators, hungry in mind and body.
THE TRIAL BY FIRE- 193
Now it was the crucifix which Fra Domenico wanted to carry into the fire and must not be allowed to profane in that manner. After some little resistance Savonarola gave way to this objec- tion, and thus had the advantage of making one more concession ; but he immediately placed in Fra Domenico's hands the vessel containing the conse- crated Host. The idea that the presence of the sacred Mystery might in the worst extremity avert the ordinary effects of fire hovered in his mind as a possibility ; but the issue on which he counted was of a more positive kind. In taking up the Host he said quietly, as if he were only doing what had been presupposed from the first, —
" Since they are not willing that you should enter with the crucifix, my brother, enter simply with the Sacrament."
New horror in the Franciscans ; new firmness in Savonarola. " It was impious presumption to carry the Sacrament into the fire : if it were burned the scandal would be great in the minds of the weak and ignorant." " Not at all : even if it were burned, the Accidents only would be consumed, the Sub- stance would remain." Here was a question that might be argued till set of sun and remain as elastic as ever; and no one could propose settling it by proceeding to the trial, since it was essentially a preliminary question. It was only necessary that both sides should remain firm, — that the Francis- cans should persist in not permitting the Host to be carried into the fire, and that Fra Domenico should persist in refusing to enter without it.
Meanwhile the clouds were getting darker, the air chiller. Even the chanting was missed now it had given way to inaudible argument ; and the con-
VOL. III. — 18
fused sounds of talk from all points of the piazza, showing that expectation was everywhere relaxing, contributed to the irritating presentiment that noth- ing decisive would be done. Here and there a dropping shout was heard; then, more frequent shouts in a rising scale of scorn.
"Light the fire and drive them in!" "Let us have a smell of roast, — we want our dinner!" " Come, Prophet, let us know whether anything is to happen before the twenty-four hours are over ! " " Yes, yes, what 's your last vision ? " " Oh, he 's got a dozen in his inside ; they 're the small change for a miracle ! " " Oik, Frate, where are you ? Never mind wasting the fuel!"
Still the same movement to and fro between the Loggia and the Palace ; still the same debate, slow and unintelligible to the multitude as the colloquies of insects that touch antennae to no other apparent effect than that of going and coming. But an inter- pretation was not long wanting to unheard debates in which Fra Girolamo was constantly a speaker : it was he who was hindering the trial ; everybody was appealing to him now, and he was hanging back.
Soon the shouts ceased to be distinguishable, and were lost in an uproar not simply of voices, but of clashing metal and trampling feet. The suggestions of the irritated people had stimulated old impulses in Dolfo Spini and his band of Compagnacci ; it seemed an opportunity not to be lost for putting an end to Florentine difficulties by getting possession of the arch-hypocrite's person ; and there was a vig- orous rush of the armed men towards the Loggia, thrusting the people aside, or driving them on to the file of soldiery stationed in front of the Palace. At this movement everything was suspended, both
THE TRIAL BY FIRE. 195
with monks and embarrassed magistrates, except the palpitating watch to see what would come of the struggle.
But the Loggia was well guarded by the band under the brave Salviati ; the soldiers of the Signo- ria assisted in the repulse ; and the trampling and rushing were all backward again towards the Tetto de' Pisani, when the blackness of the heavens seemed to intensify in this moment of utter con- fusion ; and the rain, which had already been felt in scattered drops, began to fall with rapidly grow- ing violence, wetting the fuel, and running in streams off the platform, wetting the weary hungry people to the skin, and driving every man's disgust and rage inwards to ferment there in the damp darkness.
Everybody knew now that the Trial by Fire was not to happen. The Signoria was doubtless glad of the rain, as an obvious reason, better than any pre- text, for declaring that both parties might go home. It was the issue which Savonarola had expected and desired ; yet it would be an ill description of what he felt to say that he was glad. As that rain fell, and plashed on the edge of the Loggia, and sent spray over the altar and all garments and faces, the Frate knew that the demand for him to enter the fire was at an end. But he knew too, with a cer- tainty as irresistible as the damp chill that had taken possession of his frame, that the design of his enemies was fulfilled, and that his honour was not saved. He knew that he should have to make his way to San Marco again through the enraged crowd, and that the hearts of many friends who would once have defended him with their lives would now be turned against him.
When the rain had ceased, he asked for a guard from the Signoria, and it was given him. Had he said that he was willing to die for the work of his life ? Yes, and he had not spoken falsely. But to die in dishonour, — held up to scorn as a hypocrite and a false prophet ? "0 God ! that is not martyr- dom ! It is the blotting out of a life that has been a protest against wrong. Let me die because of the worth that is in me, not because of my weakness."
The rain had ceased, and the light from the break- ing clouds fell on Savonarola as he left the Loggia in the midst of his guard, walking as he had come, with the Sacrament in his hand. But there seemed no glory in the light that fell on him now, no smile of heaven : it was only that light which shines on, patiently and impartially, justifying or condemning by simply showing all things in the slow history of their ripening. He heard no blessing, no tones of pity, but only taunts and threats. He knew this was a foretaste of coming bitterness ; yet his cour- age mounted under all moral attack, and he showed no sign of dismay.
" Well parried, Frate ! " said Tito, as Savonarola descended the steps of the Loggia. " But I fear your career at Florence is ended. What say you, my Niccol6 ? "
" It is a pity his falsehoods were not all of a wise sort," said Macchiavelli, with a melancholy shrug. " With the times so much on his side as thev are about Church affairs, he might have done some- thing great."
A MASQUE OF THE FUBIES.
The next day was Palm Sunday, or Olive Sunday, as it was chiefly called in the olive-growing Val- darno ; and the morning sun shone with a more delicious clearness for the yesterday's rain. Once more Savonarola mounted the pulpit in San Marco, and saw a flock around him whose faith in him was still unshaken ; and this morning in calm and sad sincerity he declared himself ready to die : in front of all visions he saw his own doom. Once more he uttered the benediction, and saw the faces of men and women lifted towards him in venerating love. Then he descended the steps of the pulpit and turned away from that sight forever.
For before the sun had set Florence was in an uproar. The passions which had been roused the day before had been smouldering through that quiet morning, and had now burst out again with a fury not unassisted by design, and not without official connivance. The uproar had begun at the Duomo in an attempt of some Compagnacci to hinder the evening sermon, which the Piagnoni had assembled to hear. But no sooner had men's blood mounted and the disturbances had become an affray than the cry arose, " To San Marco ! the fire to San Marco I "
And long before the daylight had died, both the church and convent were being besieged by an
enraged and continually increasing multitude. Not without resistance. For the monks, long conscious of growing hostility without, had arms within their walls, and some of them fought as vigorously in their long white tunics as if they had been Knights Templars. Even the command of Savonarola could not prevail against the impulse to self-defence in arms that were still muscular under the Dominican serge. There were laymen too who had not chosen to depart, and some of them fought fiercely ; there was firing from the high altar close by the great crucifix, there was pouring of stones and hot embers from the convent roof, there was close fighting with swords in the cloisters. Notwithstanding the force of the assailants, the attack lasted till deep night.
The demonstrations of the government had all been against the convent; early in the attack guards had been sent for, not to disperse the assail- ants, but to command all within the convent to lay down their arms, all laymen to depart from it, and Savonarola himself to quit the Florentine territory within twelve hours. Had Savonarola quitted the convent then, he could hardly have escaped being torn to pieces ; he was willing to go, but his friends hindered him. It was felt to be a great risk even for some laymen of high name to depart by the gar- den wall ; but among those who had chosen to do so was Francesco Valori, who hoped to raise rescue from without.
And now when it was deep night — when the struggle could hardly have lasted much longer, and the Compagnacci might soon have carried their swords into the library, where Savonarola was pray- ing with the Brethren who had either not taken up arms or had laid them down at his command —
A MASQUE OF THE FURIES. 199
there came a second body of guards, commissioned by the Signoria to demand the persons of Fra Giro- lamo and his two coadjutors, Fra Domenico and Fra Salvestro.
Loud was the roar of triumphant hate when the light of lanterns showed the Frate issuing from the door of the convent with a guard who promised him no other safety than that of the prison. The struggle now was, who should get first in the stream that rushed up the narrow street to see the Prophet carried back in ignominy to the piazza where he had braved it yesterday, — who should be in the best place for reaching his ear with insult, nay, if possible, for smiting him and kicking him. This was not difficult for some of the arftied Com- pagnacci who were not prevented from mixing themselves with the guards.
When Savonarola felt himself dragged and pushed along in the midst of that hooting multitude ; when lanterns were lifted to show him deriding faces; when he felt himself spit upon, smitten and kicked with grossest words of insult, it seemed to him that the worst bitterness of life was past. If men judged him guilty, and were bent on having his blood, it was only death that awaited him. But the worst drop of bitterness can never be wrung on to our lips from without : the lowest depth of resignation is not to be found in martyrdom ; it is only to be found when we have covered our heads in silence and felt, " I am not worthy to be a martyr ; the Truth shall prosper, but not by me."
But that brief imperfect triumph of insulting the Frate, who had soon disappeared under the doorway of the Old Palace, was only like the taste of blood to the tiger. Were there not the houses of the hypocrite's friends to be sacked ? Already one half
of the armed multitude, too much in the rear to share greatly in the siege of the convent, had Ixjen employed in the more profitable work of attacking rich houses, not with planless desire for plunder, but with that discriminating selection of such as belonged to chief Piagnoni, which showed that the riot was under guidance, and that the rabble with clubs and staves was well officered by sword-girt Compagnacci. Was there uot — next criminal after the Frate — the ambitious Francesco Yalori, sus- pected of wanting with the Frate's help to make himself a Doge or Gonfaloniere for life? And the gray-haired man who eight months ago had lifted his arm and his voice in such ferocious demand for justice on five of his fellow-citizens, only escaped from San Marco to experience what others called justice, — to see Ms house surrounded by an angry, greedy multitude, to see his wife shot dead with an arrow, and to be himself murdered, as he was on his way to answer a Bummons to the Palazzo, by the swords of men named liidolfi and ToraabuonL
In this way that Masque of the Furies, called Riot, was played on in Florence through the hours of night and early morning.
But the chief director was not visible : he had his reasons for issuing his orders from a private retreat, being of rather too high a name to let his red feather be seen waving among all the work that was to be done before the dawn. The retreat was the same house and the same room in a quiet street between Santa Croce and San Marco, where we have seen Tito paying a secret visit to Dolfo Spini. Here the Captain of the Compagnacci sat through this memorable night, receiving visitors who came and went, and went and came, some of them in the guise of armed Compagnacci, others
A MASQUE OF THE FURIES. 201
dressed obscurely and without visible arms. There was abundant wine on the table, with drinking-cups for chance comers; and though Spini was on his guard against excessive drinking, he took enough from time to time to heighten the excitement pro- duced by the news that was being brought to him continually.
Among the obscurely dressed visitors Ser Ceccone was one of the most frequent ; and as the hours ad- vanced towards the morning twilight he had re- mained as Spini's constant companion, together with Francesco Cei, who was then in rather care- less hiding in Florence, expecting to have his ban- ishment revoked when the Frate's fall had been accomplished.
The tapers had burnt themselves into low shape- less masses, and holes in the shutters were just marked by a sombre outward light, when Spini, who had started from his seat and walked up and down with an angry flush on his face at some talk that had been going forward with those two unmilitary companions, burst out, —
" The devil spit him ! he shall pay for it, though I Ha, ha ! the claws shall be down on him when he little thinks of them. So he was to be the great man, after all! He's been pretending to chuck everything towards my cap, as if I were a blind beggarman, and all the while he's been winking and filling his own scarsella. I should like to hang skins about him and set my hounds on him ! And he 's got that fine ruby of mine, I was fool enough to give him yesterday. Malediction ! And he was laughing at me in his sleeve two years ago, and spoiling the best plan that ever was laid. I was a fool for trusting myself with a rascal who had long-
twisted contrivances that nobody could see to the end of but himself."
" A Greek, too, who dropped into Florence with gems packed about him," said Francesco Cei, who had a slight smile of amusement on his face at Spini's fuming. "You did not choose your confi- dant very wisely, my Dolfo."
"He's a cursed deal cleverer than you, Francesco, and handsomer too," said Spini, turning on his as- sociate with a general desire to worry anything that presented itself.
"I humbly conceive," said Ser Ceccone, "that Messer Francesco's poetic genius will outweigh — "
" Yes, yes, rub your hands ! I hate that notary's trick of yours," interrupted Spini, whose patronage consisted largely in this sort of frankness. "But there comes Taddeo, or somebody ; now 's the time ! What news, eh ? " he went on, as two Compagnacci entered with heated looks.
"Bad!" said one. "The people have made up their minds they were going to have the sacking of Soderini's house, and now they have been balked we shall have them turning on us, if we don't take care. I suspect there are some Mediceans buzzing about among them, and we may see them attacking your palace over the bridge before long, unless we can find a bait for them another way."
" I have it ! " said Spini ; and seizing Taddeo by the belt, he drew him aside to give him directions, while the other went on telling Cei how the Sig- noria had interfered about Soderini's house.
" Ecco ! " exclaimed Spini, presently, giving Tad- deo a slight push towards the door. "Go, and make quick work."
WAITING BY THE RIVER.
About the time when the two Compagnacci went on their errand, there was another man who, on the opposite side of the Arno, was also going out into the chill gray twilight His errand, apparently, could have no relation to theirs; he was making his way to the brink of the river at a spot which, though within the city walls, was overlooked by no dwellings, and which only seemed the more shrouded and lonely for the warehouses and grana- ries which at some little distance backward turned their shoulders to the river. There was a sloping width of long grass and rushes made all the more dank by broad gutters which here and there emptied themselves into the Arno.
The gutters and the loneliness were the attrac- tion that drew this man to come and sit down among the grass, and bend over the waters that ran swiftly in the channelled slope at his side. For he had once had a large piece of bread brought to him by one of those friendly runlets, and more than once a raw carrot and apple-parings. It was worth while to wait for such chances in a place where there was no one to see, and often in his restless wakefulness he came to watch here before day- break ; it might save him for one day the need of
that silent begging which consisted in sitting on a church-step by the wayside out beyond the Porta San Frediano.
For Baldassarre hated begging so much that he would perhaps have chosen to die rather than make even that silent appeal, but for one reason that made him desire to live. It was no longer a hope ; it was only that possibility which clings to every idea that has taken complete possession of the mind, — the sort of possibility that makes a woman watch on a headland for the ship which held something dear, though all her neighbours are certain that the ship was a wreck long years ago. After he had come out of the convent hospital, where the monks of San Miniato had taken care of him as long as he was helpless ; after he had watched in vain for the Wife who was to help him, and had begun to think that she was dead of the pestilence that seemed to fill all the space since the night he parted from her, he had been unable to conceive any way in which sacred vengeance could satisfy itself through his arm. His knife was gone, and he was too feeble in body to win another by work, too feeble in mind, even if he had had the knife, to contrive that it should serve its one purpose. He was a shattered, bewildered, lonely old man ; yet he desired to live : he waited for something of which he had no distinct vision — something dim, formless — that startled hiin, and made strong pulsations within him, like that unknown thing which we look for when we start from sleep, though no voice or touch has waked us. Baldassarre desired to live ; and therefore he crept out in the gray light, and seated himself in the long grass, and watched the waters that had a faint promise in them.
WAITING BY THE RIVER. 205
Meanwhile the Compagnacci were busy at their work. The formidable bands of armed men, left to do their will with very little interference from an embarrassed if not conniving Signoria, had parted into two masses, but both were soon making their way by different roads towards the Arno. The smaller mass was making for the Ponte Rubaconte, the larger for the Ponte Vecchio ; but in both the same words had passed from mouth to mouth as a signal, and almost every man of the multitude knew that he was going to the Via de* Bardi to sack a house there. If he knew no other reason, could he demand a better ?
The armed Compagnacci knew something more, for a brief word of command flies quickly, and the leaders of the two streams of rabble had a perfect understanding that they would meet before a certain house a little towards the eastern end of the Via de' Bardi, where the master would probably be in bed, and be surprised in his morning sleep.
But the master of that house was neither sleep- ing nor in bed ; he had not been in bed that night. For Tito's anxiety to quit Florence had been stimu- lated by the events of the previous day : investiga- tions would follow in which appeals might be made to him delaying his departure ; and in all delay he had an uneasy sense that there was danger. False- hood had prospered and waxed strong ; but it had nourished the twin life, Fear. He no longer wore his armour, he was no longer afraid of Baldassarre ; but from the corpse of that dead fear a spirit had risen, — the undying habit of fear. He felt he should not be safe till he was out of this fierce, turbid Florence ; and now he was ready to go. Maso was to deliver up his house to the new ten-
ant; his horses and mules were awaiting him in San Gallo ; Tessa and the children had been lodged for the night in the Borgo outside the gate, and would be dressed in readiness to mount the mules and join him. He descended the stone steps into the courtyard, he passed through the great doorway, not the same Tito, but nearly as brilliant as on the day when he had first entered that house and made the mistake of falling in love with Somola. The mistake was remedied now ; the old life was cast off, and was soon to be far behind him.
He turned with rapid steps towards the Piazza dei Mozzi, intending to pass over the Ponte Kuba- conte ; but as he went along certain sounds came upon his ears that made him turn round and walk yet more quickly in the opposite direction. Was the mob coming into Oltrarno ? It was a vexation, for he would have preferred the more private road. He must now go by the Ponte Vecchio; and un- pleasant sensations made him draw his mantle close round him, and walk at his utmost speed. There was no one to see him in that gray twilight But before he reached the end of the Via de' Bardi, like sounds fell on his ear again, and this time they were much louder and nearer. Could he have been de- ceived before ? The mob must be coming over the Ponte Vecchio. Again he turned, from an impulse of fear that was stronger than reflection ; but it was only to be assured that the mob was actually enter- ing the street from the opposite end. He chose not to go back to his house : after all, they would not attack him. Still, he had some valuables about him ; and all things except reason and order are possible with a mob. But necessity does the work of courage. He went on towards the Ponte Vecchio,
WAITING BY THE RIVER. 207
the rush and the trampling and the confused voices getting so loud before him that he had ceased to hear them behind.
For he had reached the end of the street, and the crowd pouring from the bridge met him at the turn- ing and hemmed in his way. He had not time to wonder at a sudden shout before he felt himself surrounded, not, in the first instance, by an un- armed rabble, but by armed Compagnacci; the next sensation was that his cap fell off, and that he was thrust violently forward among the rabble, along the narrow passage of the bridge. Then he distinguished the shouts, " Piagnone ! Medicean ! Ragnone ! Throw him over the bridge ! "
His mantle was being torn off him with strong pulls that would have throttled him if the fib* ula had not given way. Then his scarsella was snatched at ; but all the while he was being hustled and dragged ; and the snatch failed, — his scarsella still hung at his side. Shouting, yelling, half motiveless execration rang stunningly in his ears, spreading even among those who had not yet seen him, and only knew there was a man to be reviled. Tito's horrible dread was that he should be struck down or trampled on before he reached the open arches that surmount the centre of the bridge. There was one hope for him, that they might throw him over before they had wounded him or beaten the strength out of him; and his whole soul was absorbed in that one hope and its obverse terror.
Yes, — they were at the arches. In that moment Tito, with bloodless face and eyes dilated, had one of the self-preserving inspirations that come in extremity. With a sudden desperate effort he mas-
tered the clasp of his belt, and flung belt and scar- sella forward towards a ard of clear space against the parapet, crying in a ringing voice, —
" There are diamonds ! there is gold 1 "
In the instant the hold on him was relaxed, and there was a rush towards the scarsella. He threw himself on the parapet with a desperate leap, and the next moment plunged, — plunged with a great plash into the dark river far below.
It was his chance of salvation ; and it was a good chance. His life had been saved once before by his fine swimming, and as he rose to the surface again after his long dive he had a sense of deliverance. He struck out with all the energy of his strong prime, and the current helped him. If he could only swim beyond the Ponte alia Carrara, he might land in a remote part of the city, and even yet reach San Gallo. Life was still before him. And the idiot mob, shouting and bellowing on the bridge there, would think he was drowned.
They did think so. Peering over the parapet along the dark stream, they could not see afar off the moving blackness of the floating hair, and the velvet tunic-sleeves.
It was only from the other way that a pale olive face could be seen looking white above the dark water, — a face not easy even for the indifferent to forget, with its square forehead, the long low arch of the eyebrows, and the long lustrous agate-like eyes. Onward the face went on the dark current, with inflated quivering nostrils, with the blue veins distended on the temples. One bridge was passed, — the bridge of Santa TrinitA. Should he risk landing now rather than trust to his strength ? No. He heard, or fancied he heard, yells and cries
WAITING BY THE BIVER. 209
pursuing him. Terror pressed him most from the side of his fellow-men : he was less afraid of indefi- nite chances, and he swam on, panting and strain- ing. He was not so fresh as he would have been if he had passed the night in sleep.
Yet the next bridge — the last bridge — was passed. He was conscious of it ; but in the tumult of his blood, he could only feel vaguely that he was safe and might land. But where? The current was having its way with him: he hardly knew where he was; exhaustion was bringing on the dreamy state that precedes unconsciousness.
But now there were eyes that discerned him, — aged eyes, strong for the distance. Baldassarre, looking up blankly from the search in the runlet that brought him nothing, had seen a white object coming along the broader stream. Could that be any fortunate chance for him I He looked and looked till the object gathered form; then he leaned forward with a start as he sat among the rank green stems, and his eyes seemed to be filled with a new light Yet he only watched, — motion- less. Something was being brought to him.
The next instant a man's body was cast violently on the grass two yards from him, and he started forward like a panther, clutching the velvet tunic as he fell forward on the body and flashed a look in the man's face.
Dead, — was he dead ? The eyes were rigid. But no, it could not be, — Justice had brought him. Men looked dead sometimes, and yet the life came back into them. Baldassarre did not feel feeble in that moment He knew just what he could do. He got his large fingers within the neck of the tunic and held them there, kneeling on one knee
VOL. III. — 14
beside the body and watching the face. There was a fierce hope in his heart, but it was mixed with trembling. In his eyes there was only fierceness ; all the slow-burning remnant of life within him seemed to have leaped into flame.
Rigid, — rigid stilL Those eyes with the half- fallen lids were locked against vengeance. Could it be that he was dead? There was nothing to measure the time ; it seemed long enough for hope to freeze into despair.
Surely at last the eyelids were quivering; the eyes were no longer rigid. There was a vibrating light in them ; they opened wide.
" Ah, yes ! You see me, — you know me I " Tito knew him ; but he did not know whether it was life or death that had brought him into the presence of his injured father. It might be death, — and death might mean this chill gloom with the face of the hideous past hanging over him forever.
But now Baldassarre's only dread was lest the young limbs should escape him. He pressed his knuckles against the round throat, and knelt upon the chest with all the force of his aged frame. Let death come now !
Again he kept his watch on the face ; and when the eyes were rigid again, he dared not trust them. He would never lose his hold till some one came and found them. Justice would send some witness ; and then he, Baldassarre, would declare that he had killed this traitor, to whom he had once been a father. They would perhaps believe him now, and then he would be content with the struggle of jus- tice on earth, — then he would desire to die with his hold on this body, and follow the traitor to hell that he might clutch him there.
WAITING BY THE RIVER. 211
And so he knelt, and so he pressed his knuckles against the round throat, without trusting to the seeming death, till the light got strong and he could kneel no longer. Then he sat on the body, still clutching the neck of the tunic. But the hours went on, and no witness came. No eyes descried afar off the two human bodies among the tall grass by the river-side. Florence was busy with greater affairs, and the preparation of a deeper tragedy.
Not long after those two bodies were lying in the grass, Savonarola was being tortured, and crying out in his agony, " I will confess ! "
It was not until the sun was westward that a wagon drawn by a mild gray ox came to the edge of the grassy margin, and as the man who led it was leaning to gather up the round stones that lay heaped in readiness to be carried away, he detected some startling object in the grass. The aged man had fallen forward, and his dead clutch was on the garment of the other. It was not possible to sepa- rate them ; nay, it was better to put them into the wagon and carry them as they were into the great piazza, that notice might be given to the Eight
As the wagon entered the frequented streets, there was a growing crowd escorting it with its strange burden. No one knew the bodies for a long while, for the aged face had fallen forward, half hiding the younger. But before they had been moved out of sight, they had been recognized.
" I know that old man," Hero di Cosimo had tes- tified. "I painted his likeness once. He is the prisoner who clutched Melema on the steps of the Duomo."
" He is perhaps the same old man who appeared at supper in my gardens/' said Bernardo Eucellai,
one of the Eight * I had forgotten him. I thought he had died in prison. But there is no knowing the truth now."
Who shall put his finger on the work of justice and say, " It is there " ? Justice is like the King- dom of God, — it is not without us as a fact, it is within us as a great yearning.
Eomola in her boat passed from dreaming into long deep sleep, and then again from deep sleep into busy dreaming, till at last she felt herself stretching out her arms in the court of the Bargello, where the flickering flames of the tapers seemed to get stronger and stronger till the dark scene was blotted out with light Her eyes opened, and she saw it was the light of morning. Her boat was lying still in a little creek ; on her right hand lay the speckless sapphire-blue of the Mediterranean ; on her left one of those scenes which were and still are repeated again and again like a sweet rhythm, on the shores of that loveliest sea.
In a deep curve of the mountains lay a breadth of green land, curtained by gentle tree-shadowed slopes leaning towards the rocky heights. Up these slopes might be seen here and there, gleaming between the tree-tops, a pathway leading to a little irregular mass of building that seemed to have clambered in a hasty way up the mountain-side, and taken a difficult stand there for the sake of showing the tall belfry as a sight of beauty to the scattered and clustered houses of the village below. The rays of the newly risen sun fell obliquely on the westward horn of this crescent-shaped nook; all else lay in dewy shadow. No sound came
across the stillness; the very waters seemed to have curved themselves there for rest
The delicious sun-rays fell on Romola, and thrilled her gently like a caress. She lay motionless, hardly watching the scene; rather, feeling simply the presence of peace and beauty. While we are still in our youth there can always come, in our early waking, moments when mere passive existence is itself a Lethe, when the exquisiteness of subtle indefinite sensation creates a bliss which is without memory and without desire. As the soft warmth penetrated Romola's young limbs, as her eyes rested on this sequestered luxuriance, it seemed that the agitating past had glided away like that dark scene in the Bargello, and that the afternoon dreams of her girlhood had really come back to her. For a minute or two the oblivion was untroubled; she did not even think that she could rest here forever, she only felt that she rested. Then she became distinctly conscious that she was lying in the boat which had been bearing her over the waters all through the night. Instead of bringing her to death, it had been the gently lulling cradle of a new life. And in spite of her evening despair she was glad that the morning had come to her again : glad to think that she was resting in the familiar sunlight rather than in the unknown regions of death. Could she not rest here ? No sound from Florence would reach her. Already oblivion was troubled ; from behind the golden haze were pierc- ing domes and towers and walls, parted by a river and enclosed by the green hills.
She rose from her reclining posture and sat up in the boat, willing, if she could, to resist the rush of thoughts that urged themselves along with the
ROMOLA'S WAKING. 215
conjecture how far the boat had carried her. Why need she mind ? This was a sheltered nook where there were simple villagers who would not harm her. For a little while, at least, she might rest and resolve on nothing. Presently she would go and get some bread and milk, and then she would nestle in the green quiet, and feel that there was a pause in her life. She turned to watch the crescent-shaped valley, that She might get back the soothing sense of peace and beauty which she had felt in her first waking.
She had not been in this attitude of contempla- tion more than a few minutes when across the still- ness there came a piercing cry ; not a brief cry, but continuous and more and more intense. Bomola felt sure it was the cry of a little child in distress that no one came to help. She started up and put one foot on the side of the boat ready to leap on to the beach ; but she paused there and listened : the mother of the child must be near, the cry must soon cease. But it went on, and drew Romola so irresistibly, seeming the more piteous to her for the sense of peace which had preceded it, that she jumped on to the beach and walked many paces before she knew what direction she would take. The cry, she thought, came from some rough garden growth many yards on her right hand, where she saw a half-ruined hovel. She climbed over a low broken stone fence, and made her way across patches of weedy green crops and ripe but neglected corn. The cry grew plainer, and convinced that she was right she hastened towards the hovel ; but even in that hurried walk she felt an oppressive change in the air as she left the sea behind. Was there some taint lurking among the green luxuriance
that had seemed such an inviting shelter from the heat of the coming day ? She could see the open- ing into the hovel now, and the cry was darting through her like a pain. The next moment her foot was within the doorway, but the sight she beheld in the sombre light arrested her with a shock of awe and horror. On the straw, with which the floor was scattered, lay three dead bodies, one of a tall man, one of a girl about eight years old, and one of a young woman whose long black hair was being clutched and pulled by a living child, — the child that was sending forth the pierc- ing cry. Somola's experience in the haunts of death and disease made thought and action prompt: she lifted the little living child, and in trying to soothe it on her bosom, still bent to look at the bodies and see if they were really dead. The strongly marked type of race in their features, and their peculiar garb made her conjecture that they were Spanish or Portuguese Jews, who had perhaps been put ashore and abandoned there by rapacious sailors, to whom their property remained as a prey. Such things were happening continually to Jews compelled to abandon their homes by the Inquisi- tion: the cruelty of greed thrust them from the sea, and the cruelty of superstition thrust them back to it.
" But, surely," thought Eomola, " I shall find some woman in the village whose mother's heart will not let her refuse to tend this helpless child, — if the real mother is indeed dead."
This doubt remained, because while the man and girl looked emaciated and also showed signs of having been long dead, the woman seemed to have been hardier, and had not quite lost the robustness
ROMOLA'S WAKING. 217
of her form. Eomola, kneeling, was about to lay her hand on the heart ; but as she lifted the piece of yellow woollen drapery that lay across the bosom, she saw the purple spots which marked the familiar pestilence. Then it struck her that if the villagers knew of this, she might have more difficulty than she had expected in getting help from them ; they would perhaps shrink from her with that child in her arms. But she had money to offer them, and they would not refuse to give her some goat's milk in exchange for it.
She set out at once towards the village, her mind filled now with the effort to soothe the little dark creature, and with wondering how she should win some woman to be good to it. She could not help hoping a little in a certain awe she had observed herself to inspire, when she appeared, unknown and unexpected, in her religious dress. As she passed across a breadth of cultivated ground, she noticed, with wonder, that little patches of corn mingled with the other crops had been left to over-ripeness untouched by the sickle, and that golden apples and dark figs lay rotting on the weedy earth. There were grassy spaces within sight, but no cow, or sheep, or goat The stillness began to have something fearful in it to Eomola; she hurried along towards the thickest cluster of houses, where there would be the most life to appeal to on behalf of the helpless life she carried in her arms. But she had picked up two figs, and bit little pieces from the sweet pulp to still the child with.
She entered between two lines of dwellings. It was time that villagers should have been stirring long ago, but not a soul was in sight The air was becoming more and more oppressive, laden, it
seemed, with some horrible impurity. There was a door open ; she looked in, and saw grim empti- ness. Another open door; and through that she saw a man lying dead with all his garments on, his head lying athwart a spade handle, and an earthen- ware cruse in his hand, as if he had fallen suddenly.
Eomola felt horror taking possession of her. Was she in a village of the unburied dead ? She wanted to listen if there were any faint sound, but the child cried out afresh when she ceased to feed it, and the cry filled her ears. At last she saw a figure crawling slowly out of a house, and soon sinking back in a sitting posture against the walL She hastened towards the figure; it was a young woman in fevered anguish, and she, too, held a pitcher in her hand. As Romola approached her, she did not start ; the one need was too absorbing for any other idea to impress itself on her.
" Water ! get me water ! " she said, with a moan- ing utterance.
Romola stooped to take the pitcher, and said gently in her ear, " You shall have water ; can you point towards the well ? "
The hand was lifted towards the more distant end of the little street, and Romola set off at once with as much speed as she could use under the dif- ficulty of carrying the pitcher as well as feeding the child. But the little one was getting more content as the morsels of sweet pulp were repeated, and ceased to distress her with its cry, so that she could give a less distracted attention to the objects around her.
The well lay twenty yards or more beyond the end of the street ; and as Romola was approaching it, her eyes were directed to the opposite green
ROMOLA'S WAKING. 219
slope immediately below the church. High up, on a patch of grass between the trees, she had descried a cow and a couple of goats, and she tried to trace a line of path that would lead her close to that cheering sight, when once she had done her errand to the well. Occupied in this way, she was not aware that she was very near the well, and that some one approaching it on the other side had fixed a pair of astonished eyes upon her.
Eomola certainly presented a sight which at that moment and in that place could hardly have been seen without some pausing and palpitation. With her gaze fixed intently on the distant slope, the long lines of her thick gray garment giving a gliding character to her rapid walk, her hair rolling backward and illuminated on the left side by the sun-rays, the little olive baby on her right arm now looking out with jet-black eyes, she might well startle that youth of fifteen, accustomed to swing the censer in the presence of a Madonna less fair and marvellous than this.
" She carries a pitcher in her hand, — to fetch water for the sick. It is the Holy Mother, come to take care of the people who have the pestilence."
It was a sight of awe : she would, perhaps, be angry with those who fetched water for themselves only. The youth flung down his vessel in terror ; and Eomola, aware now of some one near her, saw the black and white figure fly as if for dear life towards the slope she had just been contemplating. But remembering the parched sufferer, she half- filled her pitcher quickly and hastened back.
Entering the house to look for a small cup, she saw salt meat and meal: there were no signs of want in the dwelling. With nimble movement she
seated baby on the ground, and lifted a cap of water to the sufferer, who drank eagerly and then closed her eyes and leaned her head backward, seeming to give herself up to the sense of relief. Presently she opened her eyes, and, looking at Eomola, said languidly, —
"Who are you?"
"I came over the sea," said Eomola. "I only came this morning. Are all the people dead in these houses?"
" I think they are all ill now, — all that are not dead. My father and my sister lie dead upstairs, and there is no one to bury them ; and soon I shall die."
"Not so, I hope," said Eomola. "I am come to take care of you. I am used to the pestilence ; I am not afraid. But there must be some left who are not ilL I saw a youth running towards the mountain when I went to the welL"
"I cannot tell. When the pestilence came, a great many people went away, and drove off the cows and goats. Give me more water!"
Eomola, suspecting that if she followed the di- rection of the youth's flight, she should find some men and women who were still healthy and able, determined to seek them out at once, that she might at least win them to take care of the child, and leave her free to come back and see how many living needed help, and how many dead needed burial. She trusted to her powers of persuasion to conquer the aid of the timorous, when once she knew what was to be done.
Promising the sick woman to come back to her, she lifted the dark bantling again, and set off towards the slope. She felt no burden of choice
ROMOLA'S WAKING. 221
on her now, no longing for death. She was think- ing how she would go to the other sufferers, as she had gone to that fevered woman.
But, with the child on her arm, it was not so easy to her as usual to walk up a slope, and it seemed a long while before the winding path took her near the cow and the goats. She was begin- ning herself to feel faint from heat, hunger, and thirst, and as she reached a double turning, she paused to consider whether she would not wait near the cow, which some one was likely to come and milk soon, rather than toil up to the church before she had taken any rest. Raising her eyes to measure the steep distance, she saw peeping between the boughs, not more than five yards off, a broad round face, watching her attentively, and lower down the black skirt of a priest's garment, and a hand grasping a bucket. She stood mutely observing, and the face, too, remained motionless. Eomola had often witnessed the overpowering force of dread in cases of pestilence, and she was cautious.
Raising her voice in a tone of gentle pleading, she said, " I came over the sea. I am hungry, and so is the child. Will you not give us some milk?"
Eomola had divined part of the truth, but she had not divined that preoccupation of the priest's mind which charged her words with a strange significance. Only a little while ago, the young acolyte had brought word to the Padre that he had seen the Holy Mother with the Babe, fetching water for the sick : she was as tall as the cypresses, and had a light about her head, and she looked up at the church. The pievano l had not listened with
- Parish priest
entire belief: he had been more than fifty years in the world without having any vision of the Ma- donna, and he thought the boy might have misin- terpreted the unexpected appearance of a villager. But he had been made uneasy, and before ven- turing to come down and milk his cow, he had repeated many Aves. The pievano's conscience tormented him a little: he trembled at the pes- tilence, but he also trembled at the thought of the mild-faced Mother, conscious that that Invisible Mercy might demand something more of him than prayers and " Hails." In this state of mind — un- able to banish the image the boy had raised of the Mother with the glory about her tending the sick — the pievano had come down to milk his cow, and had suddenly caught sight of Romola pausing at the parted way. Her pleading words, with their strange refinement of tone and accent, instead of being explanatory, had a preternatural sound for him. Yet he did not quite believe he saw the Holy Mother : he was in a state of alarmed hesitation. If anything miraculous were happening, he felt there was no strong presumption that the miracle would be in his favour. He dared not run away ; he dared not advance.
"Come down," said Eomola, after a pause. "Do not fear. Fear rather to deny food to the hungry when they ask you."
A moment after, the boughs were parted, and the complete figure of a thick-set priest with a broad, harmless face, his black frock much worn and soiled, stood, bucket in hand, looking at her timidly, and still keeping aloof as he took the path towards the cow in silence.
Eomola followed him and watched him without
ROMOLA'S WAKING. 223
speaking again, as he seated himself against the tethered cow, and, when he had nervously drawn some milk, gave it to her in a brass cup he carried with him in the bucket As Somola put the cup to the lips of the eager child, and afterwards drank some milk herself, the Padre observed her from his wooden stool with a timidity that changed its char- acter a little. He recognized the Hebrew baby, he was certain that he had a substantial woman before him ; but there was still something strange and unaccountable in Bomola's presence in this spot, and the Padre had a presentiment that things were going to change with him. Moreover, that Hebrew baby was terribly associated with the dread of pestilence.
Nevertheless, when Romola smiled at the little one sucking its own milky lips, and stretched out the brass cup again, saying, "Give us more, good father," he obeyed less nervously than before.
Somola on her side was not unobservant; and when the second supply of milk had been drunk, she looked down at the round-headed man, and said with mild decision, —
"And now tell me, father, how this pestilence came, and why you let your people die without the sacraments, and lie unburied. For I am come over the sea to help those who are left alive, — and you, too, will help them now."
He told her the story of the pestilence ; and while he was telling it, the youth, who had fled before, had come peeping and advancing gradually, till at last he stood and watched the scene from behind a neighbouring bush.
Three families of Jews, twenty souls in all, had been put ashore many weeks ago, some of them
appointed her trust, the shock seemed to have shaken her aloof from life and stunned her sympa- thy. But now she said, " It was mere baseness in me to desire death. If everything else is doubtful, this suffering that I can help is certain ; if the glory of the cross is an illusion, the sorrow is only the truer. While the strength is in my arm I will stretch it out to the fainting ; while the light visits my eyes they shall seek the forsaken."
And then the past arose with a fresh appeal to her. Her work in this green valley was done, and the emotions that were disengaged from the people immediately around her rushed back into the old deep channels of use and affection. That rare pos- sibility of self-contemplation which comes in any complete severance from our wonted life made her judge herself as she had never done before : the compunction which is inseparable from a sympa- thetic nature keenly alive to the possible experience of others, began to stir in her with growing force. She questioned the justness of her own conclusions, of her own deeds : she had been rash, arrogant, al- ways dissatisfied that others were not good enough, while she herself had not been true to what her soul had once recognized as the best. She began to con- demn her flight : after all, it had been cowardly self- care ; the grounds on which Savonarola had once taken her back were truer, deeper than the grounds she had had for her second flight. How could she feel the needs of others and not feel, above all, the needs of the nearest?
But then came reaction against such self-reproach. The memory of her life with Tito, of the conditions which made their real union impossible, while their external union imposed a set of false duties on her
ROMOLA'S WAKING. 225
effective sense that she was a human being whom God had sent over the sea to command them.
"Now we will carry down the milk," said Eo- mola, "and see if any one wants it."
So they went all together down the slope, and that morning the sufferers saw help come to them in their despair. There were hardly more than a score alive in the whole valley; but all of these were comforted, most were saved, and the dead were buried.
In this way days, weeks, and months passed with Eomola till the men were digging and sowing again, till the women smiled at her as they carried their great vases on their heads to the well, and the Hebrew baby was a tottering tumbling Christian, Benedetto by name, having been baptized in the church on the mountain-side. But by that time she herself was suffering from the fatigue and lan- guor that must come after a continuous strain on mind and body. She had taken for her dwelling one of the houses abandoned by their owners, stand- ing a little aloof from the village street ; and here on a thick heap of clean straw, — a delicious bed for those who do not dream of down, — she felt glad to lie still through most of the daylight hours, taken care of along with the little Benedetto by a woman whom the pestilence had widowed.
Every day the Padre and Jacopo and the small flock of surviving villagers paid their visit to this cottage to see the blessed Lady, and to bring her of their best as an offering, — honey, fresh cakes, eggs, and polenta. It was a sight they could none of them forget, a sight they all told of in their old age, — how the sweet and sainted lady with her fair face, her golden hair, and her brown eyes that had
TOL. III. — 16
a blessing in them, lay weary with her labours after she had been sent over the sea to help them in their extremity, and how the queer little black Benedetto used to crawl about the straw by her side and want everything that was brought to her, and she always gave him a bit of what she took, and told them if they loved her they must be good to Benedetto.
Many legends were afterwards told in that valley about the blessed Lady who came over the sea, but they were legends by which all who heard might know that in times gone by a woman had done beautiful loving deeds there, rescuing those who were ready to perish.
In those silent wintry hours when Eomola lay rest- ing from her weariness, her mind, travelling back over the past, and gazing across the undefined dis- tance of the future, saw all objects from a new position. Her experience since the moment of her waking in the boat had come to her with as strong an effect as that of the fresh seal on the dissolving wax. She had felt herself without bonds, without motive ; sinking in mere egoistic complaining that life could bring her no content ; feeling a right to say, "I am tired of life, I want to die." That thought had sobbed within her as she fell asleep, but from the moment after her waking when the cry had drawn her, she had not even reflected, as she used to do in Florence, that she was glad to live because she could lighten sorrow, — she had simply lived, with so energetic an impulse to share the life around her, to answer the call of need and do the work which cried aloud to be done, that the reasons for living, enduring, labouring, never took the form of argument.
The experience was like a new baptism to Romola. In Florence the simpler relations of the human being to his fellow-men had been complicated for her with all the special ties of marriage, the State, and religious discipleship ; and when these had dis-
appointed her trust, the shock seemed to have shaken her aloof from life and stunned her sympa- thy. But now she said, " It was mere baseness in me to desire death. If everything ehe is doubtful, this suffering that I can help is certain; if the glory of the cross is an illusion, the sorrow is only the truer. While the strength is in my arm I will stretch it out to the fainting; while the light visits my eyes they shall seek the forsaken."
And then the past arose with a fresh appeal to her. Her work in this green valley was done, and the emotions that were disengaged from the people immediately around her rushed back into the old deep channels of use and affection. That rare pos- sibility of self-contemplation which comes in any complete severance from our wonted life made her judge herself as she had never done before : the compunction which is inseparable from a sympa- thetic nature keenly alive to the possible experience of others, began to stir in her with growing force. She questioned the justness of her own conclusions, of her own deeds : she had been rash, arrogant, al- ways dissatisfied that others were not good enough, while she herself had not been true to what her soul had once recognized as the best. She began to con* demn her flight : after all, it had been cowardly self- care ; the grounds on which Savonarola had once taken her back were truer, deeper than the grounds ahe had had for her second flight. How could she feel the needs of others and not feel, above all, the needs of the nearest?
But then came reaction against such self-reproach. The memory of her life with Tito, of the conditions which made their real union impossible, while their external union imposed a set of false duties on her
which were essentially the concealment and sanc- tioning of what her mind revolted from, told her that flight had been her only resource. All minds, except such as are delivered from doubt by dulness of sensibility, must be subject to this recurring con- flict where the many-twisted conditions of life have forbidden the fulfilment of a bond. For in strict- ness there is no replacing of relations : the presence of the new does not nullify the failure and breach of the old. Life has lost its perfection : it has been maimed; and until the wounds are quite scarred, conscience continually casts backward, doubting glances.
Bomola shrank with dread from the renewal of her proximity to Tito, and yet she was uneasy that she had put herself out of reach of knowing what was his fate, — uneasy that the moment might yet come when he would be in misery and need her. There was still a thread of pain within her, testify- ing to those words of Fra Girolamo, that she could not cease to be a wife. Could anything utterly cease for her that had once mingled itself with the current of her heart's blood ?
Florence, and all her life there, had come back to her like hunger ; her feelings could not go wander- ing after the possible and the vague: their living fibre was fed with the memory of familiar things. And the thought that she had divided herself from them forever became more and more importunate in these hours that were unfilled with action. What if Fra Girolamo had been wrong? What if the life of Florence was a web of inconsistencies? Was she, then, something higher, that she should shake the dust from off her feet, and say, " This world is not good enough for me " ? If she had been really
higher, she would not so easily have lost all her trust
Her indignant grief for her godfather had no longer complete possession of her, and her sense of debt to Savonarola was recovering predominance. Nothing that had come, or was to come, could do away with the fact that there had been a great inspiration in him which had waked a new life in her. Who, in all her experience, could demand the same gratitude from her as he? His errors, — might they not bring calamities ?
She could not rest She hardly knew whether it was her strength returning with the budding leaves that made her active again, or whether it was her eager longing to get nearer Florence. She did not imagine herself daring to enter Florence, but the de- sire to be near enough to learn what was happening there urged itself with a strength that excluded all other purposes.
And one March morning the people in the valley were gathered together to see the blessed Lady de- part. Jacopo had fetched a mule for her, and was going with her over the mountains. The Padre, too, was going with her to the nearest town, that he might help her in learning the safest way by which she might get to Pistoja. Her store of trinkets and money, untouched in this valley, was abundant for her needs.
If Eomola had been less drawn by the longing that was taking her away, it would have been a hard moment for her when she walked along the village street for the last time, while the Padre and Jacopo, with the mule, were awaiting her near the well. Her steps were hindered by the wailing people, who knelt and kissed her hands, then clung to her skirts
and kissed the gray folds, crying, "Ah, why will you go, when the good season is beginning and the crops will be plentiful ? Why will you go ? "
"Do not be sorry," said Eomola; "you are well now, and I shall remember you. I must go and see if my own people want me."
" Ah, yes, if they have the pestilence ! "
" Look at us again, Madonna ! "
"Yes, yes, we will be good to the little Benedetto !"
At last Eomola mounted her mule ; but a vigorous screaming from Benedetto as he saw her turn from him in this new position, was an excuse for all the people to follow her and insist that he must ride on the mule's neck to the foot of the slope.
The parting must come at last ; but as Eomola turned continually before she passed out of sight, she saw the little flock lingering to catch the last waving of her hand.
On the 14th of April Eomola was once more within the walls of Florence. Unable to rest at Pistoja, where contradictory reports reached her about the Trial by Fire, she had gone on to Prato ; and was beginning to think that she should be drawn on to Florence in spite of dread, when she encountered that monk of San Spirito who had been her god- father's confessor. From him she learned the full story of Savonarola's arrest and of her husband's death. This Augustinian monk had been in the stream of people who had followed the wagon with its awful burthen into the piazza, and he could tell her what was generally known in Florence, — that Tito had escaped from an assaulting mob by leaping into the Arno, but had been murdered on the bank by an old man who had long had an enmity against him. But Eomola understood the catastrophe as no one else did. Of Savonarola the monk told her, in that tone of unfavourable prejudice which was usual in the Black Brethren (Frati Neri) towards the brother who showed white under his black, that he had confessed himself a deceiver of the people.
Eomola paused no longer. That evening she was in Florence, sitting in agitated silence under the ex- clamations of joy and wailing, mingled with exuber- ant narrative, which were poured into her ears by
MEETING AGAIN. 233
Monna Brigida, who had backslided into false hair in Bomola's absence, but now drew it off again and declared she would not mind being gray, if her dear child would stay with her.
Eomola was too deeply moved by the main events which she had known before coming to Florence, to be wrought upon by the doubtful gossiping details added in Brigida's narrative. The tragedy of her husband's death, of Fra Girolamo's confession of duplicity under the coercion of torture, left her hardly any power of apprehending minor circum- stances. All the mental activity she could exert under that load of awe-stricken grief was absorbed by two purposes which must supersede every other, — to try and see Savonarola, and to learn what had become of Tessa and the children.
"Tell me, Cousin," she said abruptly, when Monna Brigida's tongue had run quite away from troubles into projects of Bomola's living with her, " has any- thing been seen or said since Tito's death of a young woman with two little children ? "
Brigida started, rounded her eyes, and lifted up her hands.
" Cristo ! no. What ! was he so bad as that, my poor child ? Ah, then, that was why you went away, and left me word only that you went of your own free wilL Well, well ; if I 'd known that, I should n't have thought you so strange and flighty. For I did say to myself, though I didn't tell anybody else,
- What was she to go away from her husband for,
leaving him to mischief, only because they cut poor Bernardo's head off? She 's got her father's temper/ I said ; ' that 's what it is.' Well, well ; never scold me, child: Bardo was fierce, you can't deny it But if you had only told me the truth, that there was a
young hussy and children, I should have understood it all. Anything seen or said of her ? No ; and the less the better. They say enough of ill about him without that. But since that was the reason you went — "
" No, dear cousin," said Eomola, interrupting her earnestly, " pray do not talk so. I wish above all things to find that young woman and her children, and to take care of them- They are quite helpless. Say nothing against it ; that is the thing I shall do first of all"
"Well," said Monna Brigida, shrugging her shoul- ders and lowering her voice with an air of puzzled discomfiture, " if that 's being a Piagnone, I Ye been taking peas for paternosters. Why, Fra Girolamo said as good as that widows ought not to marry again. Step in at the door and it 's a sin and a shame, it seems ; but come down the chimney and you 're welcome. Two children — Santiddio ! *
"Cousin, the poor thing has done no conscious wrong : she is ignorant of everything. I will tell you — but not now."
Early the next morning Romola's steps were directed to the house beyond San Anibrogio where she had once found Tessa ; but it was as she bad feared : Tessa was gone, fiomola conjectured that Tito had Bent her away beforehand to some spot where he had intended to join her, for she did not be- lieve that he would willingly part with those children. It was a painful conjecture, because, if Tessa were out of Florence, there was hardly a chance of finding her, and Romola pictured the childish creature wait* ing and waiting at some wayside spot in wondering, helpless misery. Those who lived near could tell her nothing except that old deaf Lisa had gone away
MEETING AGAIN. 235
a week ago with her goods, but no one knew where Tessa had gone. Komola saw no further active search open to her ; for she had no knowledge that could serve as a starting-point for inquiry, and not only her innate reserve but a more noble sensitiveness made her shrink from assuming an attitude of gen- erosity in the eyes of others by publishing Tessa's relation to Tito, along with her own desire to find her. Many days passed in anxious inaction. Even under strong solicitation from other thoughts Komola found her heart palpitating if she caught sight of a pair of round brown legs, or of a short woman in the contadina dress.
She never for a moment told herself that it was heroism or exalted charity in her to seek these beings : she needed something that she was bound specially to care for ; she yearned to clasp the children and to make them love her. This at least would be some sweet result, for others as well as herself, from all her past sorrow. It appeared there was much property of Tito's to which she had a claim; but she distrusted the cleanness of that money, and she had determined to make it all over to the State, except so much as was equal to the price of her father's library. This would be enough for the modest support of Tessa and the children. But Monna Brigida threw such planning into the background by clamorously insisting that Bomola must live with her and never forsake her till she had seen her safe in Paradise — else why had sh6 persuaded her to turn Piagnone ? — and if Bomola wanted to rear other people's children, she, Monna Brigida, must rear them too. Only they must be found first.
Bomola felt the full force of that innuendo. But
strong feeling unsatisfied ia never without its super- stition, either of hope or despair. Roniola's was the superstition of hope : somehow she was to find that mother and the children. And at last another direction for active inquiry suggested itself. She learned that Tito had provided horses and mules to await him in San Gallo; he wa3 therefore going to leave Florence by the gate of San Gallo, and she determined, though without much confidence in the issue, to try and ascertain from the gatekeepers if they had observed any one corresponding to the ! description of Tessa, with her children, to have passed the gates before the morning of the 9th of April. Walking along the Via San Gallo, and look- ing watchfully about her through her long widow's veil, lest she should miss any object that might aid her, she descried Bratti chaffering with a customer. That roaming man, she thought, might aid her: she would not mind talking of Tessa to him. But as she put aside her veil and crossed the street towards him, she saw something hanging from the corner of bis basket which made her heart leap with a much stronger hope.
" Bratti, my friend," she said abruptly, " where did you get that necklace ? "
"Your servant, Madonna," said Bratti, looking round at her very deliberately, his mind not being subject to surprise. " It's a necklace worth money, but I shall get little by it, for my heart 's too tender for a trader's ; I have promised to keep it in pledge."
"Pray tell me where you got it; — from a little woman named Tessa, is it not true 1 "
" Ah ! if you know her," said Bratti, " and would redeem it of me at a small profit, and give it her again, you 'd be doing a charity, for she cried at
MEETING AGAIN. 237
parting with it — you'd have thought she was run- ning into a brook. It 's a small profit I '11 charge you. You shall have it for a florin, for I don't like to be hard-hearted."
"Where is she?" said Romola, giving him the money, and unclasping the necklace from the basket in joyful agitation.
" Outside the gate there, at the other end of the Borgo, at old Sibilla Manetti's : anybody will tell you which is the house."
Eomola went along with winged feet, blessing that incident of the Carnival which had made her learn by heart the appearance of this necklace. Soon she was at the house she sought. The young woman and the children were in the inner room, — were to have been fetched away a fortnight ago and more, — had no money, only their clothes, to pay a poor widow with for their food and lodging. But since Madonna knew them — Eomola waited to hear no more, but opened the door.
Tessa was seated on the low bed : her crying had passed into tearless sobs, and she was looking with sad blank eyes at the two children, who were play- ing in an opposite corner, — Lillo covering his head with his skirt and roaring at Ninna to frighten her, then peeping out again to see how she bore it The door was a little behind Tessa, and she did not turn round when it opened, thinking it was only the old woman : expectation was no longer alive. Eomola had thrown aside her veil and paused a moment, holding the necklace in sight. Then she said, in that pure voice that used to cheer her father, - —
« Tessa ! "
Tessa started to her feet and looked round.
" See," said Eomola, clasping the beads on Tessa's neck, " God has sent me to you again."
The poor thing screamed and sobbed, and clung to the arms that fastened the necklace. She could not speak. The two children came from their corner, laid hold of their mother's skirts, and looked up with wide eyes at Romola.
That day they all went home to Monna Brigida's. in the Borgo degli Albizzi. Romola had mad known to Tessa, by gentle degrees, that Naldo could never come to her again, — not because he was cruel, but because he was dead.
" But be comforted, my Tessa," said Romola. " I am come to take care of you always. And we have got Lillo and Ninna,"
Monna Brigida's mouth twitched in the struggle between her awe of Romola and the desire to speak unseasonably.
■ Let be, for the present," Bhe thought ; " but it seems to me a thousand years till I tell this little contadina, who seems not to know how many fingers she 's got on her hand, who Romola is. And I vriil tell her some day, else she '11 never know her place. It's all very well for Romola; — nobody will call their souls their own when she 's by ; but if I 'm to have this puss-faced minx living in my house, she must be humble to me."
However, Monna Brigida wanted to give the children too many sweets for their supper, and con- fessed to Romola, the last thing before going to bed, that it would be a shame not to take care of such cherubs.
" But you must give up to me a little, Romola, about their eating, and those things. For you have never had a baby, and I had twins, only they died as soon as they were horn."
When Romola brought home Tessa and the children, April was already near its close, and the other great anxiety on her mind had been wrought to its highest pitch by the publication in print of Fra Girolamo's Trial, or rather of the confessions drawn from him by the sixteen Florentine citizens commissioned to interrogate him. The appearance of this document, issued by order of the Signoria, had called forth such strong expressions of public suspicion and discon- tent, that severe measures were immediately taken for recalling it Of course there were copies acci- dentally mislaid ; and a second edition, not by order of the Signoria, was soon in the hands of eager readers.
Eomola, who began to despair of ever speaking with Fra Girolamo, read this evidence again and again, desiring to judge it by some clearer light than the contradictory impressions that were taking the form of assertions in the mouths of both partisans and enemies.
In the more devout followers of Savonarola his want of constancy under torture, and his retracta- tion of prophetic claims, had produced a consternation too profound to be at once displaced as it ultimately was by the suspicion, which soon grew into a positive datum, that any reported words of his which
were in inexplicable contradiction to their faith in him, had not come from the lips of the prophet, but from the falsifying pen of Ser Ceccone, that notary of evil repute, who had made the digest of the examination. But there were obvious facts that at once threw discredit on the printed document Was not the list of sixteen examiners half made up of the prophet's bitterest enemies ? Was not the notorious Dolfo Spini one of the new Eight pre- maturely elected, in order to load the dice against a man whose ruin had been determined on by the party in power? It was but a murder with slow formalities that was being transacted in the Old Palace. The Signoria had resolved to drive a good bargain with the Pope and the Duke of Milan, by extinguishing the man who was as great a molesta- tion to vicious citizens and greedy foreign tyrants as to a corrupt clergy. The Frate had been doomed beforehand, and the only question that was pre- tended to exist now was, whether the Republic, in return for a permission to lay a tax on ecclesiastical property, should deliver him alive into the hands of the Pope, or whether the Pope should further con- cede to the Eepublic what its dignity demanded, — the privilege of hanging and burning its own prophet on its own piazza.
Who, under such circumstances, would give full credit to this so-called confession ? If the Frate had denied his prophetic gift, the denial had only been wrenched from him by the agony of torture, — agony that, in his sensitive frame, must quickly produce raving. What if these wicked examiners declared that he had only had the torture of the rope and pulley thrice, and only on one day, and that his confessions had been made when he was
THE CONFESSION. 241
under no bodily coercion, — was that to be believed ? He had been tortured much more; he had been tortured in proportion to the distress his confessions had created in the hearts of those who loved him.
Other friends of Savonarola, who were less ardent partisans, did not doubt the substantial genuineness of the confession, however it might have been coloured by the transpositions and additions of the notary; but they argued indignantly that there was nothing which could warrant a condemnation to death, or even to grave punishment. It must be clear to all impartial men that if this examination represented the only evidence against the Frate, he would die, not for any crime, but because he had made himself inconvenient to the Pope, to the rapacious Italian States that wanted to dismember their Tuscan neighbour, and to those unworthy citi- zens who sought to gratify their private ambition in opposition to the common weal
Not a shadow of political crime had been proved against him. Not one stain had been detected on his private conduct: his fellow-monks, including one who had formerly been his secretary for several years, and who, with more than the average culture of his companions, had a disposition to criticise Fra Girolamo's rule as Prior, bore testimony, even after the shock of his retractation, to an unimpeachable purity and consistency in his life, which had com- manded their unsuspecting veneration. The Pope himself had not been able to raise a charge of heresy against the Frate, except on the ground of disobedience to a mandate, and disregard of the sentence of excommunication. It was difficult to justify that breach of discipline by argument, but there was a moral insurgence in the minds of grave
VOL. III. — 16
mm y" " *^ ri» Court of Borne, which tended to <smfima£ wt theoretic distinction between the Chnzsit ami drardtmen, sad to lighten the scandal
jfen of ordinary riHjrallty and public spirit felt tjig£ tfb* oamnph of the Fiate's enemies was really obi aimnph of gross Eeense- And keen Florentines like "tiJi iini ami Pieto Gukeiardini may well have had an angry sm3e on their lips at a severity which dispensed with aE law in cxder to hang and burn a man in wham the seductions of a public career had warped the strictness of his veracity; may well have remarked that if the Frate had mixed a much deeper fraud with a zeal and ability less incon- venient to high personages* the fraud would have been regarded as an excellent oil for ecclesiastical and political wheels;
Nevertheless such shrewd men were forced to admit that, however poor a figure the Florentine government made in its clumsy pretence of a judicial warrant for what had in fact been predetermined as an act of policy, the measures of the Pope against Savonarola were necessary measures of self-defence. Nog to trv and rid himself of a man who wanted to stir up the Powers o! Europe to summon a General Council and depose him, would have been adding ineptitude to iniquity. There was no denying that towards Alexander the Sixth Savonarola was a rebel, and, what was much more, a dangerous rebeL Florence had heard him say, and had well under- stood what he meant, that he would not obey the devil. It was inevitably a life-and-death struggle between the Frate and the Pope; but it was less inevitable that Florence should make itself the Ifrpe's executioner.
THE CONFESSION. 243
Romola's ears were filled in this way with the suggestions of a faith still ardent under its wounds, and the suggestions of worldly discernment, judging things according to a very moderate standard of what is possible to human nature. She could be satisfied with neither. She brought to her long meditations over that printed document many pain- ful observations, registered more or less consciously through the years of her discipleship, which whis- pered a presentiment that Savonarola's retractation of his prophetic claims was not merely a spasmodic effort to escape from torture. But, on the other hand, her soul cried out for some explanation of his lapses which would make it still possible for her to believe that the main striving of his life had been pure and grand. The recent memory of the selfish discontent which had come over her like a blighting wind along with the loss of her trust in the man who had been for her an incarnation of the highest motives, had produced a reaction which is known to many as a sort of faith that has sprung up to them out of the very depths of their despair. It was impossible, she said now, that the negative disbelieving thoughts which had made her soul arid of all good, could be founded in the truth of things : impossible that it had not been a living spirit, and no hollow pretence, which had once breathed in the Frate's words, and kindled a new life in her. Whatever falsehood there had been in him, had been a fall and not a purpose ; a gradual entangle- ment in which he struggled, not a contrivance en- couraged by success.
Looking at the printed confessions, she saw many sentences which bore the stamp of bungling fabrica- tion : they had that emphasis and repetition in self-
accusation which none but very low hypocrites use to their fellow-men. But the fact that these sen- tences were in striking opposition, not only to the character of Savonarola, but also to the general tone of the confessions, strengthened the impression that the rest of the text represented in the main what had really fallen from his lips. Hardly a word was dishonourable to him except what turned on his prophetic annunciations. He was unvarying in his statement of the ends be had pursued for Florence, the Church, and the world ; and, apart from the mixture of falsity in that claim to special inspiration by which he sought to gain hold of men's minds, there was no admission of having used unworthy means. Even in this confession, and without expurgation of the notary's malign phrases, Fra Girolamo shone forth as a man who had sought his own glory indeed, but sought it by labouring for the very highest end, — the moral welfare of men, — not by vague exhortations, but by striving to turn beliefs into energies that would work in all the details of life.
"Everything that I have done," said one mem- orable passage, which may perhaps have had its erasures and interpolations, " I have done with the design of being forever famous in the present and in future ages, and that I might win credit in Florence, and that nothing of great import should be done without my sanction. And when I had thus established my position in Florence, I had it in my mind to do great things in Italy and beyond Italy, by means of those chief personages with whom I had contracted friendship and consulted on high matters, such as this of the General Coun- cil. And in proportion as my first efforts succeeded,
THE CONFESSION. 245
I should have adopted further measures. Above all, when the General Council had once been brought about, I intended to rouse the princes of Christen- dom, and especially those beyond the borders of Italy, to subdue the infidels. It was not much in my thoughts to get myself made a Cardinal or Pope, for when I should have achieved the work I had in view, I should, without being Pope, have been the first man in the world in the authority I should have possessed, and the reverence that would have been paid me. If I had been made Pope, I would not have refused the office: but it seemed to me that to be the head of that work was a greater thing than to be Pope, because a man without virtue may be Pope; but such a work as I contemplated de- manded a man of excellent virtues**
That blending of ambition with belief in the su- premacy of goodness made no new tone to Bomola, who had been used to hear it in the voice that rang through the Duomo. It was the habit of Savona- rola's mind to conceive great things, and to feel that he was the man to do them. Iniquity should be brought low; the cause of justice, purity, and love should triumph ; and it should triumph by his voice, by his work, by his blood. In moments of ecstatic contemplation, doubtless, the sense of self melted in the sense of the Unspeakable, and in that part of his experience lay the elements of genuine self-abasement ; but in the presence of his fellow- men for whom he was to act, pre-eminence seemed a necessary condition of his life.
And perhaps this confession, even when it de- scribed a doubleness that was conscious and de- liberate, really implied no more than that wavering of belief concerning his own impressions and mo-
thres which most human beings who have not a stupid inflexibility of self-confidence must be liable to under a marked change of external conditions. In a life where the experience was so tumultuously mixed as it must have been in the Frate's, what a possibility was opened for a change of self -judg- ment, when, instead of eyes that venerated and knees that knelt, instead of a great work on its way to accomplishment, and in its prosperity stamping the agent as a chosen instrument, there came the hooting and the spitting and the curses of the crowd ; and then the hard faces of enemies made judges; and then the horrible torture, and with the torture the irrepressible cry, " It is true, what you would have me say : let me go : do not torture me again : yes, yes, I am guilty. O God ! Thy stroke has reached me I "
As Bomola thought of the anguish that must have followed the confession, — whether, in the subsequent solitude of the prison, conscience re- tracted or confirmed the self-taxing words, — that anguish seemed to be pressing on her own heart and urging the slow bitter tears. Every vulgar self-ignorant person in Florence was glibly pro- nouncing on this man's demerits, while he was knowing a depth of sorrow which can only be known to the soul that has loved and sought the most perfect thing, and beholds itself fallen.
She had not then seen — what she saw after- wards — the evidence of the Frate's mental state after he had had thus to lay his mouth in the dust. As the days went by, the reports of new unpublished 'examinations, eliciting no change of confessions, ceased; Savonarola was left alone in his prison, and allowed pen and ink for a while,
THE CONFESSION. 247
that, if he liked, he might use his poor bruised and strained right arm to write with. He wrote; but what he wrote was no vindication of his innocence, no protest against the proceedings used towards him : it was a continued colloquy with that divine purity with which he sought complete reunion ; it was the outpouring of self-abasement; it was one long cry for inward renovation. No linger- ing echoes of the old vehement self-assertion, " Look at my work, for it is good, and those who set their faces against it are the children of the devil!" The voice of Sadness tells him: "God placed thee in the midst of the people even as if thou hadst been one of the excellent In this way thou hast taught others, and hast failed to learn thyself. Thou hast cured others; and thou thyself hast been still diseased. Thy heart was lifted up at the beauty of thy own deeds, and through this thou hast lost thy wisdom, and art become, and shalt be to all eternity, nothing. . . . After so many benefits with which God has honoured thee, thou art fallen into the depths of the sea ; and after so many gifts bestowed on thee, thou, by thy pride and vainglory, hast scandalized all the world." And when Hope speaks and argues that the di- vine love has not forsaken him, it says nothing now of a great work to be done, but only says, " Thou art not forsaken, else why is thy heart bowed in penitence? That too is a gift"
There is no jot of worthy evidence that from the time of his imprisonment to the supreme moment, Savonarola thought or spoke of himself as a martyr. The idea of martyrdom had been to him a passion dividing the dream of the future with the triumph of beholding his work achieved. And now, in
place of both, had come a resignation which he called by no glorifying name.
But therefore he may the mare fitly be called a martyr by his fellow-men to all time. For power rose against him not because of his sins, but be- cause of his greatness, — not because he sought to deceive the world, but because he sought to make it noble. And through that greatness of his he en- dured a double agony, — not only the reviling and the torture and the death-throe, but the agony of sinking from the vision of glorious achievement into that deep shadow where he could only say, " I count as nothing ; darkness encompasses me : yet the light I saw was the true light."
THE LAST SILENCE.
Romola had seemed to hear, as if they had been a cry, the words repeated to her by many lips, — the words uttered by Savonarola when he took leave of those brethren of San Marco who had come to wit- ness his signature of the confession : " Pray for me, for God has withdrawn from me the spirit of prophecy."
Those words had shaken her with new doubts as to the mode in which he looked back at the past in moments of complete self-possession ; and the doubts were strengthened by more piteous things still, which soon reached her ears.
The 19th of May had come, and by that day's sunshine there had entered into Florence the two Papal Commissaries, charged with the completion of Savonarola's trial. They entered amid the ac- clamations of the people, calling for the death of the Frate. For now the popular cry was, " It is the Frate's deception that has brought on all our misfortunes; let him be burned, and all things right will be done, and our evils will cease."
The next day it is well certified that there was fresh and fresh torture of the shattered sensitive frame ; and now, at the first sight of the horrible implements, Savonarola, in convulsed agitation, fell on his knees, and in brief passionate words retracted his confession, declared that he had spoken falsely
iii denying his prophetic gift, and that if he suf- fered, he would Buffer for the truth, — "The things that I have spoken, I had them from God."
But not the less the torture was laid upon him ; and when he was under it he was asked why be had uttered those retracting words. Men were not demons in those days, and yet nothing but confes- sions of guilt were held a reason for release from torture. The answer came : " I said it that I might seem good : tear me no more, I will tell you the truth."
There were Florentine assessors at this new trial, and those words of twofold retractation had soon spread. They filled Komola with dismayed uncertainty.
"But" — it flashed across her — "there will come a moment when he may speak. When there is no dread hanging over him but the dread of falsehood, when they have brought him into the presence of death, when he is lifted above the people, and looks on them for the last time, they cannot hinder him from speaking a last decisive word. I will be there."
Three days after, on the 23d of May, 1498, there was again a long narrow platform stretching across the great piazza, from the Palazzo Vecchio towards the Tetta de' Pisani. But there waa no grove of fuel as before : instead of that, there was one great heap of fuel placed on the circular area which made the termination of the long narrow platform. And above this heap of fuel rose a gibbet with three halters on it; a gibbet which, having two arms, still looked so much like a cross as to make some beholders uncomfortable, though one arm had been truncated to avoid the resemblance.
THE LAST SILENCE. 251
On the marble terrace of the Palazzo were three tribunals, — one near the door for the Bishop, who was to perform the ceremony of degradation on Fra Girolamo and the two brethren who were to suffer as his followers and accomplices; another for the Papal Commissaries, who were to pronounce them heretics and schismatics, and deliver them over to the secular arm ; and a third, close to Marzocco, at the corner of the terrace where the platform began, for the Gonfaloniere, and the Eight who were to pronounce the sentence of death.
Again the piazza was thronged with expectant faces ; again there was to be a great fire kindled. In the majority of the crowd that pressed around the gibbet the expectation was that of ferocious hatred, or of mere hard curiosity to behold a bar- barous sight. But there were still many spectators on the wide pavement, on the roofs, and at the win- dows, who, in the midst of their bitter grief and their own endurance of insult as hypocritical Piagnoni, were not without a lingering hope, even at this eleventh hour, that God would interpose, by some sign, to manifest their beloved prophet as His servant And there were yet more who looked forward with trem- bling eagerness, as Bomola did, to that final moment when Savonarola might say, * people, I was inno- cent of deceit"
Bomola was at a window on the north side of the piazza, far away from the marble terrace where the tribunals stood ; and near her, also looking on in painful doubt concerning the man who had won his early reverence, was a young Florentine of two- and-twenty, named Jacopo Nardi, afterwards to de- serve honour as one of the very few who, feeling Fra Girolamo'8 eminence, have written about him with
tfog wwwfffo Agedc to» Ik* TesacoHss. He &2d said to
Ifrmnibv, wAfti irgpeettM gBBUfeni^flBf, when heaawthe aatajmjwj]^ hl ftjar between her frfciaAfrrmg horror of the score am£ Ibsr jammnqg to witaajas wfa^ inigfeji happsa nil the baft mxamenitt*—
^VbtftwTgTOL tifttHW is hhj> meed for jot to look it tfttww otns£ ttftgrrifffK. I wcM teM tot wheai he comes anil of tike- PsftEsaa. Trust to bust ; I know what tot
Sbmalk carraral kasr fore* bant tfee bootmgs that seemed txj mafia- the fca&sontj yre™» scEQ Tisible could not be- shnfc out. Jkft Hast he* arm was toiaeheit. and siie heard t^wnrfi^ He corneal Shelaoked towards the Palace^ and cotM see S&Toi&aidki fed oat in hi§ DomimBSL garik ; could see Mm sttandmg before the Bishop,, and being sasnigped <rf the black irantfc, the white scspnlarjv and Bang white tnmicv tiQ be scood ixt a close wqqUibl tmiAnr-tatamcy that told ot w> sacred alike, no rank. He had fceea degraded, and cue off from the ChindL lOrCaalL
TIxe baser part of tie mmlcEtiide delight in degra- dacitf n& apart from hit hatred : ft is the satire they best mnierstajmi There was a fresh, hoot of triumph as the three degraded brethren passed oa to the tri- bunal of she FapaJ. Commissaries* who were to pro- nounce them. schrwrmnics and heretics. E>id not the prophet look tiki a scnismiisii: and heretic now ? It is easy to helieTe in the damnable state of a ™n who stan<is stripped and degraded
Taexi the thirl tnfamfll wu passed. — that of the Ploreatine odicials who were to pronounce sentence,, and among whom* erai it her <Iistance. Romola could discern the odious tignre of Bolro Spin! in- dued in the grare black tnceo, as one of the Eight.
Then the three figures* in their close white rai-
THE LAST SILENCE. 253
ment, trod their way along the platform, amidst yells and grating tones of insult
" Cover your eyes, Madonna/' said Jacopo Nardi ; " Fra Girolamo will be the last"
It was not long before she had to uncover them again. Savonarola was there. He was not far off her now. He had mounted the steps; she could see him look round on the multitude.
But in the same moment expectation died, and she only saw what he was seeing, — torches waving to kindle the fuel beneath his dead body, faces glar- ing with a yet worse light ; she only heard what he was hearing, — gross jests, taunts, and curses.
The moment was past Her face was covered again, and she only knew that Savonarola's voice had passed into eternal silence.
fatter. She got on slowly and turned her head about a good deal, and asked Ninna's opinion with much deference ; for Tessa never ceased to be aston- ished at the wisdom of her children. She still wore her contadina gown : it was only broader than the old one ; and there was the silver pin in her rough curly brown hair, and round her neck the memora- ble necklace, with a red cord under it, that ended mysteriously in her bosom. Her rounded face wore even a more perfect look of childish content than in her younger days : everybody was so good in the world, Tessa thought; even Monna Brigida never found fault with her now, and did little else than sleep, which was an amiable practice in everybody, and one that Tessa liked for herself.
Monna Brigida was asleep at this moment, in a straight-backed arm-chair, a couple of yards off. Her hair, parting backward under her black hood, had that soft whiteness which is not like snow or anything else, but is simply the lovely whiteness of aged hair. Her chin had sunk on her bosom, and her hands rested on the elbow of her chair. She had not been weaving flowers or doing anything else ; she had only been looking on as usual, and as usual had fallen asleep.
The other two figures were seated farther off, at the wide doorway that opened on to the loggia. Lillo sat on the ground with his back against the angle of the door-post, and his long legs stretched out, while he held a large book open on his knee, and occasionally made a dash with his hand at an inquisitive fly, with an air of interest stronger than that excited by the finely printed copy of Petrarch which he kept open at one place, as if he were learning something by heart
- j* ROMOLA.
Komola sat nearly opposite Lfllo, observing him. Her hands were crossed on hex kp,
- ud her eyes were fixed absently on die
tuouutaius : she was evidently unconacxora of thiug around her. An eager life had left its upon her: the finely moulded cheek had sunk ; the golden crown was less massive; but there was a placidity in Koinola's face which had never belonged to it in youth. It is but once that we can know our worst sorrows, and Komola had known them while life was new.
AUsorlnnl in this way, she was not at first that Ullo had ceased to look at his book, and watchiug her with a slightly impatient air, which meaut that he wanted to talk to her, but was not quite sure whether she would like that entertain- ment ju*t now. But persevering looks make them- selves felt at last Komola did presently turn away her eyes from the distance, and met Lillo's impatient dark gaze with a brightor and brighter smile. He shuttled along the floor, still keeping the book on his lap. till he got close to her and lodged his chin on her knee.
"What is it, Lillo?" said Romola, pulling his hair back from his brow. Lillo was a handsome lad, but his features were turning out to be more massive and less regular than his father's. The blood of the Tuscan peasant was in his veins.
" Mamma Romola, what am I to be ? " he said, well contented that there was a prospect of talking till it would be too late to con "Spirto gentil" any longer.
11 What should you like to be, Lillo ? You might be a scholar. My father was a scholar, you know, and taught me a great deal. That is the reason why I can teach you."
" Yes," said Lillo, rather hesitatingly. " But he is old and blind in the picture. Did he get a great deal of glory ? "
"Not much, Lillo. The world was not always very kind to him, and he saw meaner men than himself put into higher places, because they could flatter and say what was false. And then his dear son thought it right to leave him and become a monk ; and after that, my father, being blind and lonely, felt unable to do the things that would have made his learning of greater use to men, so that he might still have lived in his works after he was in his grave."
" I should not like that sort of life," said Lillo. " I should like to be something that would make me a great man, and very happy besides, — something that would not hinder me from having a good deal of pleasure."
"That is not easy, my Lillo. It is only a poor sort of happiness that could ever come by caring very much about our own narrow pleasures. We can only have the highest happiness, such as goes along with being a great man, by having wide thoughts, and much feeling for the rest of the world as well as ourselves ; and this sort of happiness often brings so much pain with it that we can only tell it from pain by its being what we would choose before everything else, because our souls see it is good. There are so many things wrong and difficult in the world, that no man can be great — he can hardly keep himself from wickedness — unless he gives up thinking much about pleasure or rewards, and gets strength to endure what is hard and pain- full My father had the greatness that belongs to integrity; he chose poverty and obscurity rather
VOL. III. — 17
Again Eomola paused. Her voice was unsteady, and Lillo was looking up at her with awed wonder.
" Another time, my lillo, — I will tell you another time. See, there are our old Piero di Cosimo and Nello coming up the Borgo Pinti, bringing us their flowers. Let us go and wave our hands to them, that they may know we see them."
" How queer old Piero is ! " said Lillo, as they stood at the corner of the loggia, watching the advancing figures. " He abuses you for dressing the altar and thinking so much of Fra Girolamo, and yet he brings you the flowers."
"Never mind," said Bomola. "There are many good people who did not love Fra Girolamo. Per- haps I should never have learned to love him if he had not helped me when I was in great need."