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landed him beneath the bridge of the Rial to. Here
he masked, and drawing his cloak about him, he
moved with the current towards the square of St
Mark, by means of the narrow streets. Once in
the crowd, there was little danger of impertinent
observation. Disguise was as often useful to the
oligarchy of Venice, as it was absolutely necessary
to elude its despotism, and to render the town tol-
erable to the citizen. Paolo saw swarthy, bare-
legged men of the Lagunes entering occasionally
into the cathedral. He followed, and found him-
self standing near the dimly-lighted altar, at which
masses were still saying for the soul of Antonio.

" This is one of thy fellows?" he asked of a fish-
erman, whose dark eye glittered in that light, like
the organ of a basilisk.

" Signore, he was — a more honest, or a more
just man, did not cast his net in the gulf."

" He has fallen a victim to his craft ? "

" Cospetto di Bacco ! none know in what manner
he came by his end. Some say St. Mark was im«

Eatient to see him in paradise, and some pretend,
e has fallen by the hand of a common Bravo
named Jacopo Frontoni."

" Why should a Bravo take the life of one like

" By having the goodness to answer your own
question, Signore, you will spare me some trouble.
Why should he, sure enough ? They say Jacopo is

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revengeful, and that shame and anger at his defeat
in the late regatta by one old as this, was the rea-

" Is he so jealous of his honor with the oar 1 "

" Diamine ! I have seen the time when Jacopo
would sooner die, than lose a race ; but that was
before he carried a stiletto. Had he kept to his
oar, the thing might have happened, but once known
for the hired blow, it seems unreasonable he should
set his heart so strongly on the prizes of the canals."

" May not the man have fallen into the Lagunes,
by accident?"

" No doubt, Signore. This happens to some of
us daily ; but then we think ft wiser to swim to the
boat, than to sink. Old Antonio had an arm in
youth, to carry him from the quay to the Lido."

" But he may have been struck in falling, and
rendered unable to do himself this good office."

"There would be marks to show this, were it
true, Signore !"

" Would not Jacopo have used the stiletto ?"

•' Perhaps not, on one like Antonio. The gondola
of the old man was found in the mouth of the
Grand Canal, half a league from the body, and
against the wind! we note these things, Signore
for they are within our knowledge."

" A happy night to thee, fisherman."

" A most happy night, eccellenza ;" said the la-
borer of the Lagunes, gratified with having so long
occupied the attention of one he rightly believed so
much his superior. The disguised senator passed
on. He had no difficulty in quitting the cathedral
unobserved, and he had his private means of enter-
ing the palace, without attracting any impertinent
eye to his movements. Here he quickly joined his
colleagues of the fearful tribunal.

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*' There the prisoners rest together ; they hear not the voice of
•he oppressor. " Job.

The manner in which the Council of Three held
its more public meetings, if aught connected with
that mysterious body could be called public, has al-
ready been seen. On the present occasion, there
were the same robes, the same disguises, and the
same officers of the inquisition, as in the scene re-
lated in a previous chapter. The only change was
in the character of the judges, and in that of the
accused. By a peculiar arrangement of the lamp,
too, most of the light was thrown upon the spot it
was intended the prisoner should occupy, while the
side of the apartment on which the inquisitors sate,
was left in a dimness that well accorded with their
gloomy and secret duties. Previously to the open-
ing of the door, by which the person to be examin-
ed was to appear, there was audible the clanking
of chains, the certain evidence that the affair in
hand was considered serious. The hinges turned,
and the Bravo stood in presence of those unknown
men who were to decide on his fate.

As Jacopo had often been before the council,
though, not as a prisoner, he betrayed neither sur-
prise nor alarm at the black aspect of all his eye
oeheld. His features were composed tfiough pale,
his limbs immovable, and his mien decent. When
the little bustle of his entrance had subsided, there
reigned a stillness in the room.

"Thou art called Jacopo Frontoni?" said the
secretary, who acted as the mouth-piece of the
Three, on this occasion.

" I am."

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" Thou art the son of a certain Ricardo Fronto-
ni, a man well known as having been concerned in
robbing the republic's customs, and who is thought
to have been banished to the distant islands, or to
be otherwise punished ? "

" Signore — or otherwise punished,"

" Thou wert a gondolier in thy youth?"

" I was a gondolier."

"Thy mother is "

" Dead ;" said Jacopo, perceiving the other paus-
ed to examine his notes.

The depth of the tone, in which this word was
uttered^ caused a silence, that the secretary did not
interrupt, until he had thrown a glance backward
at the judges.

" She was not accused of thy father's crime?"

" Had she been, Signore, she is long since beyond
the power of the republic."

" Shortly after thy father fell under the displea-
sure of the state, thou quittedst thy business of a

" Signore, I did."

" Thou art accused, Jacopo, of having laid aside
the oar for the stiletto?"

" Signore, I am."

"For several years, the rumors of thy bloody
deeds have been growing in Venice, until, of late,
none have met with an untimely fate, that the blow
has not been attributed to thy hand ?"

" This is too true, Signor Segretario— I would it
were not ! "

" The ears of his highness, and of the Councils,
have not been closed to these reports, but they have
long attended to the rumors with the earnestness
which becomes a paternal and careful government.
If they have suffered thee to go at large, it hath
only lieen that there might be no hazard of sullying

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the ermine of justice, with a premature and not suf*
ficiently supported judgment"

Jacopo bent his head, but without speaking. A
smile so wild and meaning, however, gleamed on
his face at this declaration, that the permanent offi-
cer of the secret tribunal, he who served as its or-
gan of communication, bowed nearly to the paper
he held, as it might be to look deeper into his docu-
ments. Let not the reader turn back to this page
in surprise, when he shall have reached the expla-
nation of the tale, for mysticisms quite as palpable,
if not of so ruthless a character, have been publicly
acted by political bodies in his own times.

" There is now a specific and a frightful charge
brought against thee, Jacopo Frontoni," continued
the secretary; "and, in tenderness of the citizen's
life, the dreaded council itself hath taken the matter
in hand. Didst thou know a certain Antonio Vec
chio, a fisherman here in our Lagunes?"

" Signore, I knew him well of late, and much re
gret that it was only of late."

" Thou knowest, too, that his body hath been
found, drowned in the bay V

Jacopo shuddered, signifying his assent merely
by a sign. The effect of this tacit acknowledg-
ment on the youngest of the three was apparent,
for he turned to his companions, like one struck by
the confession it implied. His colleagues made dig
nified inclinations in return, and the silent communi-
ation ceased.

"His death has excited discontent among his fel-
lows, and its cause has become a serious subject of
inquiry for the illustrious Council."

" The death of the meanest man in Venice should
call forth the care of the patricians, Signore."

" Dost thou know, Jacopo, that thou art accused
of being his murderer?"

" Signore, I do."

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"It is said that thou earnest among the gondo-
liers in the late regatta, and that, but for this aged
fisherman, thou would'st have been winner of the

" In that, rumor hath not lied, Signore."

" Thou dost not, then, deny the charge !" said the
examiner, in evident surprise.

" It is certain that but for the fisherman, I should
have been the winner.

" And thou wished it, Jacopo ?"

" Signore, greatly;" returned the accused, with a
show of emotion, that had not hitherto escaped
him. " I was a man condemned of his fellows, and
the oar had been my pride, from childhood to that

Another movement of the third inquisitor betray-
ed, equally, his interest and his surprise.

"Dost thou confess the crime?"

Jacopo smiled, but more in derision than with any
other feeling.

" If the illustrious senators here present will un-
mask, I may answer that question, haply, with greater
confidence ;" he said.

" Thy request is bold and out of rule. None
know the persons of the patricians who preside over
the destinies of the state. Dost thou confess the

The entrance of an officer, in some haste, pre-
vented a reply. The man placed a written report
iii the hands of the inquisitor in red, and withdrew.
After a short pause, the guards were ordered to re-
tire with their prisoner.

" Great senators!" said Jacopo, advancing earn-
estly towards the table, as if he would seize the
moment to urge what he was about to say; —
" Mercy ! grant me your authority to visit one in
the prisons, beneath the leads ! — I have weighty rea

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sons for the wish, and I pray you, as men and fa-
thers, to grant it !"

The interest of the two, who were consulting
apart on the new intelligence, prevented them from
listening to what he urged. The other inquisitor,
who was the Signor Soranzo, had drawn near the
lamp, anxious to read the lineaments of one so no-
torious, and was gazing at his striking countenance.
Touched by the pathos of his voice, and agreeably
disappointed in the lineaments he studied, he took
upon himself the power to grant the request

"Humor his wish," he said to the halberdiers;
" but have him in readiness to reappear."

Jacopo looked his gratitude, but fearful that the
others might still interfere to prevent his wish, he
hurried from the room.

The march of the little procession, which pro-
ceeded from the chamber of the inquisition to the
summer cells of its victims, was sadly characteristic
of the place and the government.

It went through gloomy and secret corridors,
that were hid from the vulgar eye, while thin par-
titions only separated it from the apartments of
the doge, which, like the specious aspect oT the
state, concealed the nakedness and misery within,
by their gorgeousness and splendor! On reach-
ing the attic, Jacopo stopped, and turned to his con-

" If you are beings of God's forming," he said,
" take off these clanking chains, though it be but for
a moment."

The keepers regarded each other in surprise, nei
ther offering to do the charitable office.

" I go to visit, probably for the last time," con-
tinued the prisoner, " a bed-ridden — I may say — a
dying father, who knows nothing of my situation,—
will ye that he should see me thus?"

The appeal which was made, more with the voice

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and manner, than in the words, had its effect. A
keeper removed the chains, and bade him proceed.
With a cautious tread, Jacopo advanced, and when
the door was opened he entered the room alone,
for none there nad sufficient interest in an inter
view between a common Bravo and his father, to
endure the globing warmth of the place, the while.
The door was closed after him, and the room be-
came dark.

Notwithstanding his assumed firmness, Jacopo
hesitated, when he found himself so suddenly intro-
duced to the silent misery of the forlorn captive.
A hard breathing told him the situation of the
pallet, but the walls, which were solid on the side
of the corridor, effectually prevented the admission
of light.

" Father!" said Jacopo, with gentleness.

He got no answer.

" Father !" he repeated in a stronger voice.

The breathing became more audible, and then the
captive spoke.

H Holy Maria hear? my prayers !" he said feebly.
H God hath sent thee, son, to close my eyes !"

* Doth thy strength fail thee, father ?"

" Greatly — my time is come — I had hoped to see
the light of the day again ; to Mess thy dear mother
and sister — God's will be done !"

" They pray for us both, father. They are be-
yond the power of the senate."

"Jacopo,— I do not understand thee!"

" My mother and sister are dead; they are saints
in Heaven, father."

The old man groaned, for the tie of earth had
not yet been entirely severed. Jacopo heard him
murmuring a prayer, and he knelt by the side of his

"This is a sudden blow!" whispered the old
man. " We depart together."

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" They are long dead, father.*'

"Why hast thou not told me this before, Ja-

"Hadst thou not sorrows enough without this 1
— now that thou art about to join them, it will be
pleasant to know, that they have so long been

"And thou? — thou wilt be alone — give me thy
hand, — poor Jacopo !"

The Bravo reached forth, and took the feeble
member of his parent; it was clammy and cold.

"Jacopo," continued the captive, whose mind still
sustained the body, "I have prayed thrice within
the hour — once for my own soul — once for the
peace of thy mother — lastly, for thee !"

"Bless thee, father! — bless thee! — I have need
of prayer!"

" I have asked of God — favor in thy behalf. I
have bethought me— of all thy love and care — of
all thy devotion to my age and sufferings. When
thou wert a child, Jacopo — tenderness for thee—
tempted me to acts of weakness, — I trembled lest
thy manhood might bring upon me— pain and re-
pentance. Thou nast not known the yearnings — of
a parent for his offspring — but thou hast well requi-
ted them. Kneel, Jacopo— that I may ask of God
—once more, to remember thee."

" I am at thy side, father."

The old mau raised his feeble arms, and with a
voice, whose force appeared reviving, he pronounc-
ed a fervent and solemn benediction.

" The blessing of a dying parent will sweeten
thy life— Jacopo," he added, after a pause, "and
give peace to tny last moments."

" It will do the latter, father."

A rude summons at the door interrupted them.

"Come forth Jacopo," said a keeper j— "the
Council seeks thee !"

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Jacopo felt the convulsive start of his father, bu*
he did not answer.

"Will they not leave thee — a few minutes long«
er?" whispered the old man — "I shall not keep
thee long ! "

The door opened, and a gleam from the lamp fell
on the group in the cell. The keeper had the hu-
manity to shut it again, leaving all in obscurity.
The glance which Jacopo obtained, by that passing
light, was the last look ne had of his father's coun-
tenance. Death was fearfully on it, but the eyes
were turned in unutterable affection on his own.

"The man is merciful — he will not shut thee
out ! " murmured the parent.

" They cannot leave thee to die alone, father ! "

" Son, I am with my God — yet I would gladly
have thee by my side ! — Didst thou say — thy mo-
ther and thy sister were dead?"


" Thy young sister, too 1 "

" Father, both. They are saints in Heaven."

The old man breathed thick, and there was si-
lence. Jacopo felt a hand moving in the darkness,
as if in quest of him. He aided the effort, and laid
the member in reverence on his own head.

" Maria unde filed, and her son, who is God ! —
bless thee, Jacopo !" whispered a voice, that to the
excited imagination of the kneeling Bravo, appealed
to hover in the air. The solemn words were fol-
lowed by a quivering sigh. Jacopo hid his face in
the blanket, and prayed. After which there was
deep quiet.

"Father!" he asked, trembling at his own
smothered voice.

He was unanswered. Stretching out a hand, it
touched the features of a corpse. With a firmness
that had the quality of desperation, he again bowed

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his head, and uttered, fervently, a prayer for tLe

When the door of the cell opened, Jacopo ap-
peared to the keepers, with a dignity of air tha
belongs only to character, and which was heighten
ed by the scene, in which he had just been an
actor. He raised his hands, and stood immovable
while the manacles were replaced. This office
done, they walked away together, in the direction
of the secret chamber. It was not long ere all
were again in their places, before the Council of

" Jacopo Frontoni," resumed the secretary,
• thou art suspected of being privy to another dark
deed, that hath had place of late, within our city.
Hast thou any knowledge of a noble Calabrian,
who hath high claim to the senate's honors, and
who hath long had his abode in Venice?"

" Signore, Fhave."

" Hast thou had aught of concern with him V 9

" Signore, yes." ,

A movement of common interest made itself ap-
parent among the auditors.

H Dost thou know where the Don Camillo Mon-
forte is, at present V 9

Jacopo hesitated. He so well understood the
means of intelligence possessed by the Council, that
he doubted how far it might be prudent to deny his
connexion with the flight of the lovers. Besides,
* at that moment his mind was deeply impressed with
a holy sentiment of truth.

" Canst thou say, why the young duca is not to
be found in his palace 1" repeated the secretary.

" Ulustrissimo, he hath quitted Venice for ever."

" How canst thou know this ? — Would he make
a confidant of a common Bravo t w

The smile which crossed the features of Jacopo
was full of superiority; it caused the conscious

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agent of the Secret Tribunal to look closely at his
papers, like one who felt its power.

" Art thou his confidant — I ask again?"

"Signore, in this, I am. — I have the assurance
from the mouth of Don Camillo Monforte himself,
that he will not return."

" This is impossible, since it would involve a loss
of all his fair hopes and illustrious fortunes."

" He consoled himself, Signore, with the posses-
sion of the heiress of Tiepolo's love, and with her

Again there was a movement among the Three,
which all their practised restraint, and the conven-
tional dignity of their mysterious functions, could
not prevent

" Let the keepers withdraw ;" said the inquisitor
of the scarlet robe. So soon as the prisoner was
alone with the Three, and their permanent officer,
he examination continued ; the senators themselves,
trusting to the effect produced by their masks, and
some feints, speaking as occasion offered.

" This is important intelligence that thou hast
communicated, Jacopo," continued he of the robe
^f flame. " It may yet redeem thy life, wert thou
vrise enough to turn it to account"

" What would your eccellenza, at my hands 1 It
is plain that the Council know of the flight of Don
Camillo, nor will I believe, that eyes, which so sel-
dom are closed, have not yet missed the daughter
of the Tiepolo."

" Both are true, Jacopo ; but what hast thou to
say of the means?" Remember, that as thou find-
est favor with the Council, thine own fate will be

The prisoner suffered another of those freezing
gleams to cross his face, which invariably caused
his examiners to bend their looks aside.

" The means of escape cannot be wanting to a

Vol. IL R

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bold lover, Signore ;" he replied. " Don Camillo in
rich, and might employ a thousand agents, had he
need of them."

" Thou art equivocating ; 't will be the worse for
thee, that thou triflest with the Council — who are
these agents?"

"He had a generous household, eccellenza; —
many hardy gondoliers, and servitors of all condi-

" Of these we have nothing to learn. He hath
escaped by other means — or art thou sure he hath
escaped at all?"

" Signore, is he in Venice ? "

" Nay, that we ask of thee. Here is an accusa-
tion, found in the lion's mouth, which charges thee
with his assassination."

" And the Donna Violetta's too, eccellenza?"

" Of her, we have heard nothing. What answer
' dost make to the charge ?"

" Signore, why should I betray my own secrets ? "

" Ha ! art thou equivocating and faithless ? Re-
member that we have a prisoner beneath the leads,
who can extract the truth from thee."

Jacopo raised his form to such an altitude, as one
might fancy to express the mounting of a liberated
spirit Still his eye was sad, and spite of an effort
to the contrary, his voice melancholy.

" Senators," he said, " your prisoner beneath the
leads, is free."

" How ! thou art trifling, in thy despair !"

" I speak truth. The liberation, so long detoyed,
hath come at last!"

"Thy father "

" Is dead ; interrupted Jacopo, solemnly.

The two elder members of the Council looked at
each other, in surprise, while their junior colleague
listened with the interest of one, who was just en-
tering on a noviciate of secret and embarrassing

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duties. The former consulted together, and then
they communicated as much of their opinions to the
Signor Soranzo, as they deemed necessary to the

" Wilt thou consult thine own safety, Jacopo, and
reveal all thou knowest of this affair of the Neapo-
litan?" continued the inquisitor, when this by-play
was ended.

Jacopo betrayed no weakness at the menace im-
plied by the words of the senator ; but, after a mo-
ment's reflection, he answered with as much frank-
ness as he could have used at the confessional.

" It is known to you, illustrious senator," he said,
" that the state had a desire to match the heiress of
Tiepolo, to its own advantage ; that she was be-
loved of the Neapolitan noble ; and that, as is wont,
between young and virtuous hearts, she returned
his love, as became a maiden of her high condition,
and tender years. Is there any thing extraordinary
in the circumstance, that two of so illustrious hopes
should struggle to prevent their own misery 1 Sig-
nori, the night that old Antonio died, I was alone,
among the graves of the Lido, with many melan-
choly and bitter thoughts, and life had become a
burthen to me. Had the evil spirit which was then
uppermost maintained its mastery, I might have
died the death of a hopeless suicide. God sent Don
Camillo Monforte, to my succor — praised be the
immaculate Maria, and her blessed Son, for the
mercy ! it was there, I learned the wishes of the
Neapolitan, and enlisted myself in his service. I
swore to him, senators of Venice, to be true ; to die
in his cause, should it be necessary ; and to help
iiim to his bride. This pledge have I redeemed.
The happy lovers are now in the states of the
Church, and under the puissant protection of the
cardinal secretary, Don Camillo's mother's brother."

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u Fool! why didst thou this? Hadst thou no.
thought for thyself 1"

" Eccellenza, but little ; I thought more of find-
ing a human bosom to pour out my sufferings to,
than of your high displeasure. I have not known
so sweet a moment in years, as that in which I saw
the lord of Sant' Agata fold his beautiful and weep-
ing bride to his heart!"

The inquisitors were struck with the quiet enthu-
siasm of the Bravo, and surprise once more held
them in suspense. At length, the elder of the three
resumed the exammation.

" Wilt thou impart the manner of this escape,
Jacopo?" he demanded, " Remember thou hast
still a life to redeem !"

u Signore, it is scarce worth the trouble. But to
do you pleasure, nothing shall be concealed."

Jacopo then recounted, in simple, and undisguised
terms, the entire means employed by Don Camillo,
id effecting his escape; his hopes, his disappoint-
ments, and his final success. In this narrative no-
thing was concealed, but the place in which the
ladies had temporarily taken refuge, and the name
of Gelsomina. Even the attempt of Giacomo Gra-
denigo on the life of the Neapolitan, and the agency
of the Hebrew, were fully exposed. None listened
to this explanation so intently as the young husband.
Notwithstanding his public duties, his pulses quick-
ened as the prisoner dwelt on the different chances

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperCooper's novels → online text (page 31 of 34)