Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

Rienzi, the last of the tribunes (Volume 3) online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonRienzi, the last of the tribunes (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ing till his eyes were scarce visible. " It is for
Princes and Barons alone to employ heralds.
An I had had my will, I would have sent back
the minion's head to the usurper."

" What did ye then ?" asked Adrian coldly.

" Bade our swineherds dip the fellow in the
ditch, and gave him a night's lodging in a dun-
geon to dry himself withall."

" And this morning he, he, he !" added the
Savelli, " we had him before us, and drew his
teeth, one by one; I would you could have
heard the fellow mumble out for mercy !"


Adrian rose hastily, and struck the table
fiercely with his gauntlet.

" Stefanello Colonna," said he, colouring
with noble rage, " answer me : did you dare to
inflict this indelible disgrace upon the name we
jointly bear? Tell me, at least, that you pro-
tested against this foul treason to all the laws
of civilisation and of honour. You answer not.
House of the Colonna, can such be thy repre-
sentative !"

" To me these words !" said Stefanello, trem-
bling with passion, " Beware ! Methinks thou
art the traitor, leagued perhaps with yon rascal
mob. Well do I remember that thou, the be-
trothed of the Demagogue's sister, didst not join
with my uncle and my father of old, but didst
basely leave the city to her plebeian tyrant."

" That did he," said the fierce Orani, ap-
proaching Adrian menacingly, while the gentle
cowardice of Savelli sought in vain to pluck him
back by the mantle " that did he, and but
for thy presence, Stefanello.'"

" Coward and blusterer," interrupted Adrian,
fairly beside himself with indignation and shame,


and dashing his gauntlet in the very face of the
advancing Orsini "wouldst thou threaten
one who has maintained, in every list of Europe,
and against the stoutest Chivalry of the North,
the honour of Rome, which thy deeds the while
disgraced ? By this gage, I spit upon and defy
thee. With lance and with brand, on horse and
on foot, I maintain against thee and all thy line,
that thou art no knight to have thus maltreated,
in thy strongholds, a peaceful and unarmed
herald. Yes, even here, on the spot of thy
disgrace, I challenge thee to arms."

" To the court below ! Follow me," said
Orsini sullenly, and striding towards the thresh-
old, " What ho there, my helmet and breast-
plate P

" Stay, noble Orsini," said Stefanello. " The
insult offered to thee is my quarrel mine was
the deed and against me speaks this dege-
nerate scion of our line. Adrian di Castello,
sometime called Colonna surrender your sword
you are my prisoner!"

" Oh !" said Adrian, grinding his teeth ; " that
my ancestral blood did not flow through thy


veins else but enough ! Me ! your equal,
and the favoured Knight of the Emperor, whose
advent now brightens the frontiers of Italy!
me you dare not detain. For your friends, I
shall meet them yet perhaps, ere many days are
over, where none shall separate our swords. Till
then, remember, Orsini, that it is against no
unpractised arm that thou wilt have to redeem
thine honour !"

Adrian, his drawn sword in his hand, strode
towards the door, and passed the Orsini, who
stood, lowering and irresolute, in the centre
of the apartment.

Savelli whispered Stefanello. " He says, t Ere
many days be past!' Be sure, dear Signor,
that he goes to join Rienzi. Remember, the
alliance he once sought with the Tribune's sis-
ter may be renewed. Beware of him ! Ought
he to leave the castle ? The name of a Colonna,
associated with the mob, would distract and
divide half our strength."

"Fear me not," returned Stefanello, with a
malignant smile. " Ere you spoke, I had deter-
mined !"


The young Colonna lifted the arras from
the wall, opened a door, passed into a low hall,
in which sate twenty mercenaries ;

" Quick !" said he. " Seize and disarm yon
stranger in the green mantle but slay him not.
Bid the guard below find dungeons for his train.
Quick ! ere he reach the gate."

Adrian had gained the open hall below his
train and his steed were in sight in the court
when suddenly the soldiery of the Colonna,
rushing through another passage than that
which he had past, surrounded and intercepted
his retreat.

" Yield thee, Adrian de Castello," cried Ste-
fanello from the summit of the stairs ; " or your
blood be on your own head."

Three steps did Adrian make through the
press, and three of his enemies fell beneath his
sword. " To the rescue !" he shouted to his
band, and already those bold and daring troopers
had gained the hall. Presently the alarum bell
tolled loud the court swarmed with soldiers.
Oppressed by numbers, beat down rather than
subdued, Adrian's little train were soon se-


cured, and the flower of the Colonna, wounded,
breathless, disarmed, but still uttering loud
defiance, was a prisoner in the fortress of his




THE indignation of Rienzi may readily be con-
ceived, on the return of his herald mutilated and
dishonoured. His temper, so naturally stern, was
rendered yet more hard by the remembrance of
his wrongs and trials ; and the result which at-
tended his overtures of conciliation to Stefa-
nello Colonna, stung him to the soul.

The bell of the Capitol tolled to arms within
ten minutes after the return of the herald.
The great gonfalon of Rome was unfurled
on the highest tower; and the very evening
after Adrian's arrest, the forces of the Senator,
headed by Rienzi in person, were on the


road to Palestrina. The troopers of the Barons
had, however, made incursions as far as Ti-
voli with the supposed connivance of the in-
habitants, and Rienzi halted at that beautiful
spot to raise recruits, and receive the allegiance
of the suspected, while his soldiers, with Arim-
baldo and Brettone at their head, went in search
of the marauders. The brothers of Montreal re-
turned late at night with the intelligence, that the
troopers of the Barons had secured themselves
amidst the recesses of the wood of Pantano.

The red spot mounted to Rienzi's brow. He
gazed hard at Brettone, who stated the news to
him, and a natural suspicion shot across his

" How escaped !" he said. " Is it possible ?
Enough of such idle skirmishes with these lordly
robbers. Will the hour ever come when I shall
meet them, hand to hand ? Brettone" and the
brother of Montreal felt the dark eye of
Rienzi pierce to his very heart ; " Brettone !"
said he, with an abrupt change of voice, " are
your men to be trusted ! Is there no connivance
with the Barons ?'


" How !" said Brettone, sullenly, but some-
what confused.

" How me no hows !" quoth the Tribune-
Senator, fiercely. " I know that thou art a va-
liant Captain of valiant men. Thou and thy
brother Arimbaldo have served me well, and I
have rewarded ye well ! Have I not ? Speak !"

" Senator," answered Arimbaldo, taking up
the word; "you have kept your word to us.
You have raised us to the highest rank your
power could bestow, and this has amply atoned
our humble services."

" I am glad ye allow thus much," said the

Arimbaldo proceeded somewhat more loftily,
" I trust, my Lord, you do not doubt us."

"Arimbaldo," replied Rienzi, in a voice of
deep, but half-suppressed emotion; "you are a
lettered man, and you have seemed to share my
projects for the regeneration of our common
kind. You ought not to betray me. There is
something in unison between us. But, chide
me not, I am surrounded by treason, and the
very air I breathe seems poison to my lips."


There was a pathos mingled with Rienzi's
words which touched the milder brother of Mon-
treal. He bowed in silence. Rienzi surveyed
him wistfully, and sighed. Then, changing the
conversation, he spoke of their intended siege
of Palestrina, and shortly afterwards retired to

Left alone, the brothers regarded each other
for some moments in silence. " Brettone," said
Arimbaldo at length, in a whispered voice, " my
heart misgives me. I like not Walter's ambitious
schemes. With our own countrymen we are frank
and loyal, why play the traitor with this high-
souled Roman?"

" Tush !" said Brettone. " Our brother's
hand of iron alone can sway this turbulent peo-
ple ; and if Rienzi be betrayed, so also are his
enemies, the Barons. No more of this ! I have
tidings from Montreal ; he will be in Rome in a
few days."

" And then !"

" Rienzi, weakened by the Barons, (for he
must not conquer,) the Barons weakened by
Rienzi, our Northmen seize the Capitol, and the


soldiery now scattered throughout Italy will
fly to the standard of the Great Captain. Mon-
treal must be first Podesta, then King, of Rome."
Arimbaldo moved restlessly in his seat, and the
brethren conferred no more on their projects.

The situation of Rienzi was precisely that
which tends the most to sour and to harden the
fairest nature. With an intellect capable of the
grandest designs, a heart that beat with the
loftiest emotions, elevated to the sunny pinna-
cle of power and surrounded by loud-tongued
adulators, he knew not among men a single
breast in which he could confide. He was as
one on a steep ascent, whose footing crumbles,
while every bough at which he grasps seems to
rot at his touch. He found the people more
than ever eloquent in his favour, but while they
shouted raptures as he passed, not a man was
capable of making a sacrifice for him ! The
liberty of a state is never achieved by a single
individual ; if not the People if not the greater
number a zealous and fervent minority at
least, must go hand in hand with him. Rome
demanded sacrifices in all who sought the Ro-


man regeneration sacrifices of time, ease, and
money. The crowd followed the procession of
the Senator, but not a single Roman devoted
his life, unpaid, to his standard ; not a single
coin was subscribed in the defence of freedom.
Against him were arrayed the most powerful,
and the most ferocious Basons of Italy ; each
of whom could maintain, at his own cost, a
little army of practised warriors. With Rienzi,
were traders and artificers, who were willing to
enjoy the fruits of liberty, but not to labour at
the soil, who demanded, in return for empty
shouts, peace and riches ; and who expected that
one man was to effect in a day what would be
cheaply purchased by the struggle of a genera-
tion. All their dark and rude notion of a Re-
formed state was to live unbutchered by the Ba-
rons, and untaxed by their governors. Rome I
say, gave to her Senator not a free arm, nor a volun-
tary florin. Well aware of the danger which sur-
rounds the ruler who defends his state by foreign
swords, the fondest wish, and the most visionary
dream of Rienzi, was to revive amongst the
Romans, in their first enthusiasm at his return,


an organized and voluntary force, who, in
protecting him, would protect themselves:
not as before, in his first power, a nominal
force of twenty thousand men, who at any hour
might yield (as they did yield) to one hundred and
fifty ; hut a regular, well-disciplined, and trusty
body, numerous enough to resist aggression, not
numerous enough to become themselves the ag-

Hitherto all his private endeavours, his public
exhortations, had failed; the crowd listened-
shouted saw him quit the city to meet their
tyrants, and returned to their shops, saying to
each other, " What a great man !"

The character of Rienzi has chiefly received
for its judges men of the closet, who speculate
upon human beings as if they were steam-en-
gines who gauge the great, not by their merit,
but their success, and who have censured or
sneered at the Tribune, where they should have
condemned the People ! Had but one-half the
spirit been found in Rome which ran through
a single vein of Cola di Rienzi, the august Re-
public, if not the majestic Empire, of Rome,


might be existing now ! Turning from the
People, the Senator saw his rude and savage
troops accustomed to the license of a tyrant's
camp, and under commanders in whom it was
ruin really to confide whom it was equal
ruin openly to distrust. Hemmed in on every
side by dangers, his character daily grew more
restless, vigilant, and stern ; and still, with all
the aims of the patriot, he felt all the curses of
the tyrant. Without the rough and hardening
career which, through a life of warfare, had
brought Cromwell to a similar power with
more of grace and intellectual softness in his
composition, he resembled that yet greater
man in some points of character in his reli-
gious enthusiasm, his rigid justice often forced
by circumstance into severity, but never wantonly
cruel or blood-thirsty in his singular pride of
country and his mysterious command over the
minds of others. But he resembled the giant
Englishman far more in circumstance than ori-
ginal nature, and that circumstance assimilated
their characters at the close of their several



careers. Like Cromwell, beset by secret or open
foes, the assassin's dagger ever gleamed before
his eyes. And his stout heart, unawed by real,
trembled at imagined, terrors. The counte-
nance changing suddenly from red to white
the restless eye, belying the composed majesty
of mien the muttering lips the broken slum-
ber the secret corselet ; these to both were the
rewards of Power !

The elasticity of youth had left the Tribune !
His frame, which had endured so many shocks,
had contracted a painful disease in the dungeon
of Avignon his high soul still supported him,
but the nerves gave way. Tears came readily
into his eyes, and often, like Cromwell, he was
thought to weep from hypocrisy, when in truth
it was the hysteric of overwrought and irritable
emotion. In all his former life singularly tem-
perate, he now fled from his goading thoughts to
the beguiling excitement of wine. He drank
deep, though its effects were never visible upon
him except in a freer and wilder mood, and
the indulgence of that racy humour, half-


mirthful, half-bitter, for which his younger day
had been distinguished. Now the mirth had
more loudness, but the bitterness more gall.

Such were the characteristics of Rienzi at his
return to power made more apparent with
every day. Nina he still loved with the same
tenderness, and, if possible, she adored him
more than ever ; but, the zest and freshness of
triumphant ambition gone, somehow or other,
their intercourse together had not its old charm.
Formerly they talked constantly of the future
of the bright days in store for them. Now,
with a sharp and uneasy pang, Rien/i turned
from all thought of that " gay to-morrow."
There was no " gay to-morrow" for him !
Dark and thorny as was the present hour, all
beyond seemed yet less cheering and more omi-
nous. Still he had some moments brief but
brilliant, when, forgetting the iron race amongst
whom he was thrown, he plunged into scholastic
reveries of the worshipped Past, and half-fancied
that he was of a People worthy of his genius
and his devotion. Like most men who have
been preserved through great dangers, he con-

L 2


tinued with encreasing fondness to nourish a
credulous belief in the grandeur of his own des-
tiny. He could not imagine that he had been
so delivered, and for no end ! He was the
Elected, and therefore the Instrument, of Heaven.
And thus, that Bible which in his loneliness, his
wanderings, and his prison, had been his solace
and support, was more than ever needed in his

It was another source of sorrow and chagrin
to one who, amidst such circumstances of public
emergence, required so peculiarly the support
and sympathy of private friends, that he found
he had incurred amongst his old coadjutors the
common penalty of absence. Some were dead
others, wearied with the storms of public life?
and chilled in their ardour by the turbulent re-
volutions to which, in every effort for her ame-
lioration, Rome had been subjected, had retired,
some altogether from the city some from all
participation in political affairs. In his halls,
the Tribune-Senator was surrounded by unfami-
liar faces, and a new generation. Of the heads
of the popular party, most were animated by a


stern dislike to the Pontifical domination, and
looked with suspicion and repugnance upon one
who, if he governed for the People, had been
trusted and honoured by the Pope. Rienzi was
not a man to forget former friends, however
lowly, and had already found time to seek an in-
terview with Cecco del Vecchio. But that
stern Republican had received him with cold-
ness. His foreign mercenaries, and his title of
Senator, were things that the artizan could not
digest With his usual blimtness, he had said
so to Rienzi.

" As for the last," answered the Tribune,
affably, " names do not alter natures. When I
forget that to be delegate to the Pontiff is to
be the guardian of his flock, forsake me. As for
the first, let me but see five hundred Romans
sworn to stand armed day and night for the de-
fence of Rome, and I dismiss the Northmen."

Cecco del Vecchio was unsoftened; honest,
but uneducated impracticable, and by nature a
malcontent, he felt as if he were no longer ne-
cessary to the Senator, and this offended his
pride. Strange as it may seem, the sullen arti-


san bore, too, a secret grudge against Rienzi,
for not having seen and selected him from a
crowd of thousands on the day of his triumphal
entry. Such are the small offences which pro-
duce deep danger to the great !

The artizans still held their meetings, and
Cecco del Vecchio's voice was heard loud in
grumbling forebodings. But what wounded Ri-
enzi yet more than the alienation of the rest,
was the confused and altered manner of his old
friend and familiar, Pandulfo di Guido. Miss-
ing that popular citizen among those who daily
offered their homage at the Capitol, he had sent
for him, and sought in vain to revive their an-
cient intimacy. Pandulfo affected great respect,
but not all the condescension of the Senator
could conquer his distance and his restraint.
In fact, Pandulfo had learned to form ambitious
projects of his own ; and but for the return of
Rienzi, Pandulfo di Guido felt that he might
now, with greater safety, and indeed with
some connivance from the Barons, have been the
Tribune of the People. The facility to rise into
popular eminence which a disordered and cor-


rupt state, unblest by a regular constitution,
offers to ambition, breeds the jealousy and the
rivalship, which destroy union, and rot away
the ties of party.

Such was the situation of Rienzi, and yet
wonderful to say, he seemed to be adored by the
multitude ; and law and liberty, life and death,
were in his hands !

Of all those who attended his person, Angelo
Villani was the most favoured that youth who
had accompanied Rienzi in his long exile, had also,
at the wish of Nina, attended him from Avignon,
through his sojourn in the camp of Albornoz.
His zeal, intelligence, and frank and evident
affection, blinded the Senator to the faults of his
character, and established him more and more in
the gratitude of Rienzi. He loved to feel that one
faithful heart beat near him, and the page, raised
to the rank of his chamberlain, always attended
his person, and slept in his ante-chamber.

Retiring that night at Tivoli, to the apart-
ment prepared for him, the Senator sat down
by the open casement, through which were seen
waving in the starlight, the dark pines that



crowned the hills, while the stillness of the hour
gave to his ear the dash of the waterfalls, heard
above the regular and measured tread of the
sentinels below. Leaning his .cheek upon his
hand, Rienzi long surrendered himself to gloomy
thought, and, when he looked up, he saw the
bright blue eye of Villani fixed in anxious sym-
pathy on his countenance.

" Is my Lord unwell ?" asked the young cham-
berlain, hesitating.

" Not so, my Angelo ; but somewhat sick at
heart. Methinks, for a September night, the
air is chill !"

" Angelo," resumed Rienzi, who had already
acquired that uneasy curiosity which belongs to
an uncertain power " Angelo, bring me hither
yon writing implements hast thou heard aught
what the men say of our probable success against
Palestrina ?"

" Would my Lord wish to learn all their
gossip, whether it please or not ?" answered

" If I studied only to hear what pleased me,
Angelo, I should never have returned to Rome."


" Why then, I heard a constable of the
Northmen say, meaningly, that the place will
not be carried."

" Humph ! And what said the captains of my
Roman Legion ?"

" My Lord, I have heard it whispered that
they fear defeat less than they do the revenge of
the Barons, if they are successful."

" And with such tools the living race of
Europe and misjudging posterity will deem that
the workman is to shape out the Ideal and the
Perfect ! Bring me yon Bible."

As Angelo reverently brought to Rienzi the
sacred book, he said,

" Just before I left my companions below,
there was a rumour that the Lord Adrian
Colonna had been imprisoned by his kinsman."

" I too heard, and I believe, as much," re-
turned Rienzi ; " these Barons would gibbet
their own children in irons, if there were any
chance of the shackles growing rusty for want of
prey. But the wicked shall be brought low,
and their strong places shall be made desolate."



" I would, my Lord," said Villani, " that our
Northmen had other captains than these Pro-

" Why ?" asked Rienzi, abruptly.

" Have the creatures of the Captain of the
Grand Company ever held faith with any man
whom it suited the avarice or the ambition
of Montreal to betray ? Was he not, a few
months ago, the right arm of John di Vico,
and did he not sell his services to John di Vice's
enemy, the Cardinal Albornoz ? These warriors
barter men as cattle."

" Thou describest Montreal rightly, a dan-
gerous and an awful man. But, methinks his
brothers are of a duller and meaner kind ;
they dare not the crimes of the robber Captain.
Howbeit, Angelo, thou hast touched a string
that will make discord with sleep to night.
Fair youth, thy young eyes have need of slum-
ber; withdraw, and when thou hearest men
envy Rienzi, think that - "

" God never made Genius to be envied !"
interrupted Villani, with an energy that over-


came his respect. " We envy not the sun,

but rather the valleys that ripen beneath his

" Verily, if I be the sun," said Rienzi, with
a bitter and melancholy smile, "I long for
night, and come it will, to the human as to the
celestial Pilgrim ! Thank Heaven, at least, that
our ambition cannot make us immortal !"




THE next morning when Rienzi descended to
the room where his captains awaited him, his
quick eye perceived that a cloud still lower-
ed upon the brow of Messere Brettone. Arim-
baldo, sheltered by the recess of the rude case-
ment, shunned his eye.

" A fair morning, gentles," said Rienzi; "the
Sun laughs upon our enterprize. I have mes-
sengers from Rome betimes fresh troops will
join us ere noon."

" I am glad, Senator," answered Brettone,
" that you hav e tidings which will counteract
the ill of those I have to narrate to thee. The
soldiers murmur loudly their pay is due to


them and I fear me that without money they
will not march to Palestrina."

" As they will, " returned Rienzi, carelessly.
" It is but a few days since they entered
Rome; pay did they receive in advance if they
demand more the Colonna and Orsini may
outbid me : Draw off your soldiers, Knight of
Narbonne, and farewell."

Brettone's countenance fell it was his object
to get Rienzi more and more in his power, and
he wished not to suffer him to gain that strength
which would accrue to him from the fall of Pa-
lestrina : the indifference of the Senator foiled
and entrapped him in his own net.

" That must not be," said the brother of
Montreal after a confused silence " we cannot
leave you thus to your enemies the soldiers, it
is true, demand pay "

" And should have it," said Rienzi. " I
know these mercenaries it is ever with them,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonRienzi, the last of the tribunes (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 15)