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humble a sinner might dare to offer."

"Thou hast not forgotten the beautiful lady I
drew from the Guidecca?"

" Corpo di Bacco ! Your eccellenza floated like
a swan, and swam faster than a gull. Forgotten 1
Signore, no, — I think of it every time I hear a plash
in the canals, and every time I think of it I curse
the Ancona-man in my neart St Theodore forgive
me, if it be unlike a Christian to do so. But, though
we all tell marvels of what our Lord did in the
Guidecca, the dip of its waters is not the marriage-
ceremony, nor can we speak with much certainty
of beauty, that was seen to so great disadvantage."

" Thou art right, Gino. — But that lady, the illus-
trious Donna violetta Tiepolo, the daughter and
heiress of a famed senator, is now thy mistress. It
remains for us to establish her in the Castle of Sant'
Agata, where I shall defy Venice and its agents."

Gino bowed his head in submission, though he
cast a look behind, to make sure that none of those
agents, whom his master set so openly at defiance,
were within ear-shot

In the mean time the gondola proceeded, for the
dialogue in no manner interrupted the exertions of
Gino, still holding the direction of the Lido. As the
land-breeze freshened, the different vessels in sight
glided away, and by the time Don Camillo reacheci
the barrier of sand, which separates the Lagunes
from the Adriatic, most of them had glided through
the passages, and were now shaping their courses,

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according to their different destinations, across the
open gulL The young noble had permitted his peo-
ple to pursue the direction originally taken, in pure
indecision. He was certain that his bride was in
one of the many barks in sight, but he possessed no
clue to lead him towards the right one, nor any suf-
ficient means of pursuit, were he even master of
that important secret. When he landed, therefore,
it was with the simple hope of being able to form
some general conjecture as to the portion of the re-

Eublic's dominions, in which he mignt search for her
e had lost, by observing to what part of the Adri-
atic the different feluccas held their way. He had
determined on immediate pursuit, however, and be-
fore he quitted the gondola, he once more turned to
his confidential gondolier to give the necessary in-

" Thou knowest, Gino," he said, " that there is
one born a vassal on my estates, here in the port,
with a felucca from the Sorrentine shore ?"

" I know the man better than I know my own
faults, Signore, or even my own virtues."

" Go to him, at once, and make sure of his pres-
ence. I have imagined a plan to decoy him into
the service of his lord ; but I would nowjuiow the
condition of his vessel."

Gino said a few words in commendation of the
zeal of his friend Stefano, and in praise of the
Bella Sorrentina, as the gondola receded from the
shore ; and then he dashed his oar into the water,
like a man in earnest to execute the commission.

There is a lonely spot on the Lido di Palestrina,
where Catholic exclusion has decreed that the re-
mains of all who die in Venice, without the pale of
the church of Rome, shall moulder into their kin-
dred dust. Though it is not distant from the ordi*
nary landing and the few buildings which line the
shore, it is a place that, in itself, is no bad emblem

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of a hopeless lot. Solitary, exposed equally to the
hot airs of the south and the bleak blasts of the Alps,
frequently covered with the spray of the Adriatic,
and based on barren sands, the utmost that human
art, aided by a soil which has been fattened by hu-
man remains, can do, has been to create around th
modest graves a meager vegetation, that is in slight
contrast to the sterility of most of the bank. This
place of interment is without the relief of trees, at
the present day it is uninclosed, and in the opinions
of those who have set it apart for heretic and Jew,
it is unblessed. And yet, though condemned alike
to this, the last indignity which man can inflict on
his fellow, the two proscribed classes furnish a melan-
choly proof of the waywardness of human passions
and prejudice, by refusing to share in common the
scanty pittance of earth, which bigotry has allowed
for their everlasting repose ! While the protestant
sleeps by the side of protestant in exclusive obloquy,
the children of Israel moulder apart on the same
barren heath, sedulous to preserve, even in the
grave, the outward distinctions of faith. We shall
not endeavor to seek that deeply-seated principle
which renders man so callous to the most eloquent
and striking appeals to liberality, but rest satisfied
with being grateful that we have been born in a
land, in which the interests of religion are as little
as possible sullied by the vicious contamination of
those of life ; in which Christian humility is not ex-
hibited beneath the purple, nor Jewish adhesion by
intolerance ; in which man is left to care for the
welfare of his own soul, and in which, so far as the
human eye can penetrate, God is worshipped for

Don Camillo Monforte landed near the retired
graves of the proscribed. As he wished to ascend
the low sand-hills, which have been thrown up by
the waves and the winds of the gulf, on the outer

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edge of the Lido, it was necessary that he should
pass directly across the contemned spot, or make
, such a circuit as would have been inconvenient
Crossing himself, with a superstition that was inter-
woven with all his habits and opinions, and loosen-
ing his rapier, in order that he might not miss the
succor of that good weapon, at need, he moved
across the heath tenanted by the despised dead,
taking care to avoid the mouldering heaps of earth
which lay above the bones of heretic or Jew. He
had not threaded more than half the graves, how-
ever, when a human form arose from tne grass, and
seemed to walk like one who mused on the moral
that the piles at his feet would be apt to excite.
Again Don Camillo touched the handle of his rapier ;
then moving aside, in a manner to give himself an
equal advantage from the light of the moon, he
drew near the stranger. His footstep was heard
for the other paused, regarded the approaching
cavalier, and folding his arms, as it might be in sigo
of neutrality, awaited his nearer approach.

"Thou hast chosen a melancholy hour for thy
walk, Signore," said the young Neapolitan ; " and a
still more melancholy scene. I hope I do not in-
trude on an Israelite, or a Lutheran, who mourns
for his friend?"

"Don Camillo Monforte, I am, like yourself, a

"Ha ! Thou knowest me — 'tis Battista, the gon-
dolier that I once entertained in my household?"

" Signore, 'tis not Battista."

As he spoke, the stranger faced the moon, in a
manner that threw all of its mild light upon his fea-

"Jacopo!" exclaimed the duke, recoiling, as did
all in Venice habitually, when that speaking eye was
unexpectedly met.

* Signore— Jacopo."

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In a moment the rapier of Don Camillo glittered
in the rays of the moon.

* " Keep thy distance, fellow, and explain the
motive that hath brought thee thus across my soli-

The Bravo smiled, but his arms maintained their

" I might, with equal justice, call upon the Duke
erf Sant' Agata to furnish reasons, why he wanders
at this hour among the Hebrew graves."

" Nay, spare thy pleasantry ; I trifle not with men
of thy reputation ; if any in Venice have thought
fit to employ thee against my person, thou wilt have
need of all thy courage and skill, ere thou earnest
thy fee."

. " Put up thy rapier, Don Camillo ; here is none to
do you harm. Think you, if employed in the man-
ner you name, I would be in this spot to seek you T
Ask yourself whether your visit here was known,
or whether it was more than the idle caprice of a
young noble, who finds his bed less easy than his
gondola. We have met, Duke of Sant' Agata, when
you distrusted my honor less."

" Thou speakest true, Jacopo ;" returned the no-
ble, suffering the point of his rapier to fall from be-
fore the breast of the Bravo, though he still hesitated
to withdraw the point. "Thou sayest the truth.
My visit'to this spot is indeed accidental, and thou
could'st not have possihly foreseen it Why art thou

" Why are these here?" demanded Jacopo, point-
ing to the graves at his feet " We are born, and
we die — that much is known to us all; but the
when and the where are mysteries, until time reveals

" Thou art not a man to act without good mo-
tive. Though these Israelites could not foresee their

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visit to the Lido, thine hath not been without inten-

" I am here, Don Camillo Monforte, because my
spirit hath need of room. I want the air of the sea
— the canals choke me — I can only breathe in free-
dom on this bank of sand !"

" Thou hast another reason, Jacopo 1 n

" Ay, Signore — I lothe yon city of crimes !"

As the Bravo spoke, he shook his hand in the di
rection of the domes of St Mark, and the deep tones
of his voice appeared to heave up from the depths of
his chest.

" This is extraordinary language for a "

" Bravo ; speak the word boldly, Signore — it is no
stranger to my ears. But even the stiletto of a
Bravo is honorable, compared to that sword of pre-
tended justice which St Mark wields ! The common-
est hireling of Italy — he who will plant his dagger
in the heart of his friend for two sequins, is a man
of open dealing, compared to the merciless treach-
ery of some in yonder town !"

" I understand thee, Jacopo ; thou art, at length,
proscribed. The public voice, faint as it is in the
republic, has finally reached the ears of thy employ-
ers, and they withdraw their protection."

Jacopo regarded the noble, for an instant, with an
expression so ambiguous, as to cause the latter in-
sensibly to raise the point of his rapier, but when he
answered, it was with his ordinary quiet

" Signor Duca," he said, " I have been thought
worthy to be retained by Don Camillo Monforte !"

" I deny it not — and now that thou recallest tkt,
occasion, new light breaks in upon me. Villain, to
thy faithlessness! owe the loss of my bride !"

Though the rapier was at the very throat of
Jacopo, he did not flinch. Gazing at his excited
companion, he laughed in a smothered manner, but

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"It would seem that the Lord of Sant' Agata
wishes to rob me of my trade," he said. " Arise,
ye Israelites, and bear witness, lest men doubt the
fact ! A common bravo of the canals is waylaid,
among your despised graves, by the proudest Sig-
nor of Calabria ! You have chosen your spot, in
mercy, Don Camillo, for sooner or later this crumb-
ling and sea-worn earth is to receive me. Were I
to die at the altar itself, with the most penitent prayer
of holy church on my lips, the bigots would send
my body to rest among those hungry Hebrews and
accursed heretics. Yes, I am a man proscribed, and
unfit to sleep with the faithful !"

His companion spoke with so strange a mixture
of irony and melancholy, that the purpose of Don
Camillo wavered. But remembering his loss, he
shook the rapier's point, and continued: —

" Thy taunts and effrontery will not avail thee,
knave;" he cried. "Thou knowest that I would
have engaged thee as the leader of a chosen band,
to favor the flight of one dear from Venice."

"Nothing more true, Signore."

" And thou didst refuse the tervice V 9

"Noble duke, I did."

" Not content with this, having learned the par-
ticulars of my project, thou sold the secret to the

" Don Camillo Monforte, I did not. My engage-
ments with the council would not permit me to
serve you; else, by the brightest star of yonder
vault ! it would have gladdened my heart to have
witnessed the happiness of two young and faithful
lovers. No — no — no; they know me not, who
think I cannot find pleasure in the joy of another
I told you that I was the senate's, — and there the
matter ended."

" And I had the weakness to believe thee, Jacopo,
for thou hast a character so strangely compounded

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of good and evil, and bearest so fair a name for ob-
servance of thy faith, that the seeming frankness
of the answer lulled me to security. Fellow, I
have been betrayed, and that at the moment when
I thought success most sure."

Jacopo manifested interest, but, as he moved
slowly on, accompanied by the vigilant and zealous
noble, he smiled coldly, like one who had pity for
the other's credulity.

" In bitterness of soul, I have cursed the whole
race for its treachery ;" continued the Neapolitan.

" This is rather for the priore of St. Mark, than
for the ear of one who carries a public stiletto."

" My gondola has been imitated — the liveries of
my people copied — my bride stolen. — Thou an*
swerest not, Jacopo?"

" What answer would you have ? You have been
cozened, Signore, in a state, whose very prince
dare not trust his secrets to his wife. You would
have robbed Venice of an heiress, and Venice
has robbed you of a bride. You have played
high, Don Camillo, and have lost a heavy stake.
You have thought of your own wishes and rights,
while you have pretended to serve Venice with the

Don Camillo started in surprise.

" Why this wonder, Signore ? — You forget that 1
have lived much among those who weigh the
chances of every political interest, and that your
name is often in their mouths. This marriage is
doubly disagreeable to Venice, who has nearly as
much need of the bridegroom as of the bride. The
council hath long ago forbidden the banns."

"Ay — but the means ?— explain the means by'
which I have been duped, lest the treachery be
ascribed to thee."

" Signore, the very marbles of the city give up
their secrets to the state. I have seen much, and

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nnderstood much, when my superiors have believed
me merely a tool ; but I have seen much that even
those who employed me could not comprehend. I
could have foretold this consummation of your nup-
tials, had I known of their celebration."

" This thou could'st not have done, without being
an agent of their treachery."

" The schemes of the selfish may be foretold ; i
is only the generous and the honest that baffle cal-
culation. He who can gain a knowledge of the
present interest of Venice is master of her dearest
secrets of state ; for what she wishes she will do,
unless the service cost too dear. As for the means
— how can they be wanting in a household like
yours, Signore?"

"I trusted none but those deepest in my con-

"Don Camillo, there is not a servitor in your
palace, Gino alone excepted, who is not a hireling
of the senate, or of its agents. The very gondoliers,
who row you to yofir daily pleasures, have had
their hands crossed with the republic's sequins.
Nay, they are not only paid to watch you, but to
watch each other."

"Can this be true!"

"Have you ever doubted it, Signore?" asked
Jacopo, looking up like one who admired at
another's simplicity.

" I knew them to be false — pretenders to a faith
that in secret they mock ; but I had not believed
they dared to tamper with the very menials of my
person. Thr's undermining of the security of fami-
lies is to destroy society at its core !"

" You talk like one who hath not been Jong a
oridegroom, Signore ;" said the Bravo with a hol-
low laugh. " A year hence, you may know what
it is to have your own wife turning your secret
thoughts into gold."

Vol. II. D

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" And thou servest them, Jacopo 1"

" Who does not, in some manner suited to his
habits ? We are not masters of our fortune, Don
Camillo, or the Duke of Sant' Agata would not be
turning his influence with a relative, to the advan-
tage of the republic. What I have done hath no 4
been done without bitter penitence, and an agony
of soul, that your own light servitude may have
Spared you, Signore."

"Poor Jacopo!"

" If I have lived through it all, 'tis because one
mightier than the state hath not deserted me. But,
Don Camillo Monforte, there are crimes which pass
beyond the powers of man to endure."

The Bravo shuddered, and he moved among the
despised graves, in silence.

" They have then proved too ruthless even for
thee?" said Don Camillo, who watched the con-
tracting eye and heaving form of his companion, in

"Signore, they have. I have witnessed, this
night, a proof of their heartlessness and bad faith,
that hath caused me to look forward to my own
fate. The delusion is over ; from this hour I serve
them no longer."

The Bravo spoke with deep feeling, and his com-
panion fancied, strange as it was coming from such
a man, with an air of wounded integrity. Don
Camillo knew that there was no condition of life,
however degraded or lost to the world, which had
not its own particular opinions of the faith due to its
fellows; and he had seen enough of the sinuous
course of the oligarchy of Venice, to understand
that it was quite possible its shameless and irrespon-
sible duplicity might offend* the principles of e^'en
an assassin. Less odium was attached to men of
that class, in Italy and at that day, than will be
easily imagined in a country like this ; for the radi-

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•cal defects and the vicious administration of the
laws, caused an irritable and sensitive people too
often to take into their own hands, the right of re-
dressing their own wrongs. Custom had lessened
the odium of the crime, and though society de-
nounced the assassin himself, it is scarcely too
much to say, that his employer was regarded with
littie more disgust than the religious of our time re-
gard the survivor of a private combat. Still it was
not usual for nobles like Don Camillo to hold inter-
course, beyond that which the required service ex-
acted, with men of Jacopo's cast ; but the language
and manner of the Bravo so strongly attracted the
curiosity; and even the sympathy of his companion
that the latter unconsciously sheathed his rapier and
drew nearer.

"Thy penitence and regrets, Jacopo, may lead
thee yet nearer to virtue," he said, " than mere aban-
donment of the senate's service. Seek out some
godly priest, and ease thy soul, by confession and

The Bravo trembled in every limb, and his eye
turned wistfully to the countenance of the other.

" Speak, Jacopo ; even I will hear thee, if thou
would'st remove the mountain from thy breast."

" Thanks, noble Signore ! a thousand thanks for
this glimpse of sympathy, to which I have long been
a stranger ! None know how dear a word of kind-
ness is, as he who has been condemned by all, as I
have been. I have prayed — I have craved — I have
wept for some ear to listen to my tale, and I thought
I had found one who would have heard me without
scorn, when the cold policy of the senate struck him.
T came here to commune with the hated dead, when
ehance brought us together. Could I — " the Bravo
paused and looked doubtfully, again, at his com-

'Say on, Jacopo."

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" I have not dared to trust my secrets even to the
confessional, Signore, and can I be so bold as to
offer them to you?"

" Truly, it is a strange behest !"

" Signore, it is. You are noble, I am of humble
blood. Your ancestors were senators and aqges of
Venice, while mine have been, since the fishermen
first built their huts in the Lagunes, laborers on the
canals, and rowers of gondolas. You are powerful
and rich, and courted ; while I am denounced, and,
in secret, I fear, condemned. In short, you are Don
Camillo Monforte, and I am Jacopo Frontoni !"

Don Camillo was touched, for the Bravo spoke
without bitterness, and in deep sorrow.

" I would thou wert at the confessional, poor Ja-
copo!" he said; "I am little able to give ease to
such a burthen."

" Signore, I have lived too long, shut out from the
good wishes of my fellows, and I can bear with it
no longer. The accursed senate may cut me off
without warning, and then who will stop to look at
my grave. Signore, I must speak, or die !"

"Thy case is piteous* Jacopo! — Thou hast need
of ghostly counsel"

" Here is no priest, Signore, and I carry a weight
past bearing. The only man who has shown inter-
est in me, for three long and dreadful years, is

" But he will return, poor Jacopo."

" Signore, he will never return. He is with the
fishes of the Lagunes."

" By thy hand, monster !"

" By the justice of the illustrious republic," said
the Bravo, with a smothered but bitter smile.

"Ha! they are then ^wake to the acts of thy
class? Thy repentance is the fruit of fear!"

Jacopo seemed choked. He had evidently count-
ed on the awakened sympathy of his companion,

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otwithstanding the difference in their situations, and
o be thus thrown off again, unmanned him. He
shuddered, and every muscle and nerve appeared
about to yield its power. Touched by so unequivo- v
cal signs of suffering, Don Camillo kept close at his
*ide, reluctant to enter more deeply into the feelings
of one of his known character, and yet unable to
lesert a fellow-creature in so grievous agony.

" Signor Duca," said the Bravo, with a pathos in
i;is voice that went to the heart of his auditor, " leave
iae. If they ask for a proscribed man, let them come
hero ; in the morning they will find my body near
the graves of the heretics."

"Speak, I will hear thee."

Jacopo looked up with doubt expressed on his

"Unburthen thyself; I will listen, though thou
recounted the assassination of my dearest friend."

The oppressed Bravo gazed at him, as if he still
distrusted his sincerity. His face worked, and his
look became still more wistful ; but as Don Camillo
faced the moon, and betrayed the extent of his sym-
pathy, the other burst into tears.

" Jacopo, I will hear thee — I will hear thee, poor
Jacopo !" cried Don Camillo, shocked at this exhibi-
tion of distress in one so stern by nature. A wave
from the hand of the Bravo silenced him, and Jacopo,
struggling with himself for a moment, spoke.

"You have saved a soul from perdition, Signore,"
he said, smothering his emption. " If the happy
knew how much power belongs to a single word of
kindness — a glance of feeling, when given to the
despised, they would not look so coldly on the mis-
erable. This night must have been my last, had
you cast me off without pity — but you will hear
my tale, Signore — you will not scorn the confession
of a Bravo?"


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" I have promised. Be brief, for at this moment
I have great care of my own."

" Signore, I know not the whole of your wrongs,
but they will not be less likely to be redressed for
this grace."

Jacopo made an effort to command himself, when
he commenced his tale.

The course of the narrative does not require thai
we should accompany this extraordinary man,
through the relation of the secrets he imparted to
Don Camillo. It is enough, for our present purposes
to say, that, as he proceeded, the young Calabrian
noble drew nearer to his side, and listened with
growing interest. The Duke of Sant' Agata scarce-
ly breathed, while his companion, with that energy
of language and feeling which marks Italian char-
acter, recounted his secret sorrows, and the scenes
in which he had been an actor. Long before he
was done, Don Camillo had forgotten his own pri-
vate causes of concern, and, by the time the tale
was finished, every shade of disgust had given place
to an ungovernable expression of pity. In short, so
eloquent was the speaker, and so interesting the
facts with which he dealt, that he seemed to play
with the sympathies of the listener, as the improvi-
satore of that- region is known to lead captive the
passions of the admiring crowd.

During the time Jacopo was speaking, he and his
wondering auditor had passed the limits of the de-
spised cemetery ; and as the voice of the former
ceased, they stood on the outer beach of the lido
When the low tone^s of the Bravo were no longer
audible, they were succeeded by the sullen wash of
.he Adriatic.

" This surpasseth belief!" Don Camillo exclaim-
ed, after a long pause, which had only been disturb-
ed by the rush and retreat of the waters.

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperCooper's novels → online text (page 20 of 34)