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"I doubt, Signora Florinda, that your charge
hath spent more hours among the light works of
her late father's library, and less time with Vr
missal, than becomes her birth 1"

The eye of Violetta kindled, and she folded an
arm around the form of her shrinking companion
who drew down her veil at this reproof, though sh
forbore to answer.

" Signor Gradenigo," said the young heiress, " I
may have done discredit to my instructors, but if
the pupil has been idle, the fault should not be visited
on the innocent. It is some evidence that the com-
mands of holy church have not been neglected, that
I now come to entreat favor in behalf of one, to
whom I owe my life. Don Camillo Monforte has
long pursued, without success, a claim so just, that
were there no other motive to concede it, the char-
acter of Venice should teach the senators the dan-
ger of delay."

" My ward has spent her leisure with the doctors
of Padua 1 The republic hath its laws, and- none
who have right of their side appeal to them in vain.
Thy gratitude is not to be censured; it is rather
worthy of thy origin and hopes ; still, Donna Vio-
letta, we should remember how difficult it is to win-
now the truth from the chaff of imposition and legal
subtlety, and, most of all, should a judge be certain,
before he gives his decree, that, in confirming the
claims of one applicant, he does not defeat those of

" They tamper with his rights ! Being born in a
foreign realm, he ig required to renounce more in
the land of the stranger, than he will gain within
the limits of the republic. He wastes life and
youth in pursuing a phantom ! You are of weight
in the senate, my guardian, and were you to lend
nim the support of your powerful voice and great
instruction, a wronged noble would have justice, and

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Venice, though she might lose a trifle from her stores,
would better deserve the character of which she is
bo jealous."

" Thou art a persuasive advocate, and I will think
of what thou urgest," said the Signor Gradenigo,
changing the frown, which had been gathering about
his brow, to a look of indulgence, with a facility that
betrayed much practice in adapting the expression
of his features to his policy. "I ought only to
hearken to the Neapolitan, in my public character
of a judge ; but his service to thee, and my weakness
in thy behalf, extorts that thou would'st have."

* Donna Violetta received the promise, with a bright
and guileless smile. She kissed the hand he extend-
ed, as a pledge of his faith, with a fervor that gave
her attentive guardian serious uneasiness.

" Thou art too winning, even to be resisted by one
wearied with rebutting plausible pretensions," he
added. " The young and the generous, Donna Flo-
rinda, believe all to be as their own wishes and sim-
plicity would have them. As for this right of Don
Camillo — but no matter — thou wilt have it so, and it
shall be examined with that blindness which is said
to be the failing of justice."

" I have understood the metaphor to mean blind
fo favor, but not insensible to the ri^ht"

" I fear that is a sense which might defeat our
hopes— but we will look into it My son has been
mindful of his duty and respect of late, Donna Vio-
letta, as I would have him ? The boy wants little
urging, I know, to lead him to do honor to my ward,
and the fairest of Venice. Thou wilt receive him
with friendship, for the love thou bearest his father?"

Donna Violetta curtsied, but it was with womanly

" The door of my palace is never shut on the
Signor Giacomo, on all proper occasions," she said*

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coldly. " Signore, the son of my guardian could
hardly be other than an honored visitor."

" I would have the boy attentive — and even more ;
I would have him prove some little of that great

esteem, but we live in a jealous city, Donna Flo-

rinda, and one in which prudence is a virtue of the
nighest price. If the youth is less urgent than I
could wish, believe me, it is from the apprehension
of giving premature alarm to those who interest
themselves in the fortunes of our charge."

Both the ladies bowed, and by the manner in
which they drew their cloaks about them, they made
evident their wish to retire. Donna Violetta craved
a blessing, and after the usual compliments, and a
short dialogue of courtesy, she and her companion
withdrew to their boat.

The Signor Gradenigo paced the room, in which
he had received his ward, for several minutes in
silence. Not a sound of any sort was audible
throughout the whole of the vast abode, the stillness
and cautious tread of those within, answering to
the quiet town without ; but a young man, in whose
countenance and air were to be seen most of the
usual signs of a well-bred profligacy, sauntering
along the suite of chambers, at length caught the
eye of the senator, who beckoned him to approach.

" Thou art unhappy, as of wont, Giacomo," he
said, in a tone between paternal indulgence and
reproach. " The Donna V ioletta has, but a minute
since, departed, and thou wert absent. Some un-
worthy intrigue with the daughter of a jeweller, or
some more injurious bargain of thy hopes, with the
father, hath occupied the time that might have been
devoted more honorably, and to far better profit"

" You do me little justice," returned the youth,
" Neither Jew, nor Jewess, hath this day greeted my

" The calendar should mark the time, for its sin

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TttE BRAVO. 77

gularity ! I would know, Giacomo, if thou turnest
to a right advantage the occasion of my guardian-
ship, and if thou thinkest, with sufficient gravity, of
the importance of what I urge?"

" Doubt it not, father. He who hath so much suf-
fered for the want of that which the Donna Violetta
possesses in so great profusion, needeth little prompt-
ing on such a subject. By refusing to supply my
wants, you have made certain of my consent There
is not a fool in Venice who sighs more loudly be-
neath his mistress's window, than I utter my pathetic
wishes to the lady — when there is opportunity, and
I am in the humor."

"Thou knowest the danger of alarming the
senate ?"

"Fear me not My progress is by secret and
gradual means. Neither my countenance nor my
mind is unused to a mask, — thanks to necessity! My
spirits have been too buoyant not to have made me
acquainted with duplicity!"

" Thou speakest, ungrateful boy, as if I denied thy

fouth the usual indulgences of thy years and rank,
t is thy excesses, and not thy spirits, I would check.
But I would not, now, harden thee with reproof!
Giacomo, thou hast a rival in- the stranger. His act
in the Giudecca has won upon the fancy of the girl,
and like all of generous and ardent natures, ignorant
as she is of his merits, she supplies his character
with all necessary qualities by her own ingenuity."

" I would she did the same by me !"

" With thee, Sirrah, my ward might be required
to forget, rather than invent Hast thou bethought
thee of turning the eyes of the council on the dan-
ger which besets their heiress?"

"I have."

"And the means?"

" The plainest and the most certain — the Lion's


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"Ha! — that, indeed, is a bold adventure. 4 *

"And, like all bold adventures, it is the more
likely to succeed. For once Fortune hath not been
a niggard with me. — I have given them the Neapoli-
tan's signet by way of proof/*

"Giacomo! dost thou know the hazard of thv
temerity T I hope there is no clue left in the hand-
writing, or by any other means taken to obtain the

" Father, though I may have overlooked thy in-
struction in less weighty matters, not an admonition
which touches the policy of Venice hath been for
gotten. The Neapolitan stands accused, and if thy
Council is faithful, he will be a suspected, if not a
banished, m^n."

" That the Council of Three will perform its trust
is beyond dispute. I would I were as certain that
thy indiscreet zeal may not lead to some unpleasant
exposure \"

The shameless son stared at the father a moment
in doubt, and then he passed into the more private
parts of the palace, lite one too much accustomed
to double-dealing, to lend it a second, or a serious
thought The senator remained. His silent walk
was now manifestly disturbed by great uneasiness ;
and he frequently passed a hand across his brow, as
if he mused in pain. While thus occupied, a figure
stole through the long suite of ante-chambers, and
stopped near the door of the room he occupied.
The intruder was aged ; his face was tawny by ex-
posure, and his hair thinned and whitened by time.
His dress was that of a fisherman, being both scanty
and of the meanest materials. Still there was a
naturally noble and frank intelligence in his bold eye
and prominent features, while the bare arms and
naked legs exhibited a muscle and proportion, which
proved that nature was rather at a stand than in the
uecline. He had been many moments dangling his

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cap, in habitual but unembarrassed respect, before
his presence was observed.

"Ha! thou here, Antonio!" exclaimed the sena-
tor, when their eyes met " Why this visit ?"

" Signore, my heart is heavy."

" Hath the calendar no saint — the fisherman no
patron? I suppose the sirocco hath been tossing
the waters of the bay, and thy nets are empty. —
Hold! thou art my foster-brother, and thou must
not want"

The fisherman drew back with dignity, refusing
the gift simply, but decidedly, by the act

" Signore, we have lived from childhood to old
age since we drew our milk from the same breast ;
in all that time, have you ever known me a beggar?"

" Thou art not wont to ask these boons, Antonio,
it is true; but age conquers our pride with our
strength. If it be not sequins that thou seekost,
what would'st thou?"

" There are other wants than those of the body
Signore, and other, sufferings beside hunger."

The countenance of the senator lowered. He
cast a sharp glance at his foster-brother, and ere he
answered he closed the door which communicated
with the outer chamber.

"Thy words forebode disaffection, as of wont
Thou art accustomed to comment on measures and
interests that are beyond thy limited reason, and
thou knowest that thy opinions have already drawn
displeasure on thee. The ignorant and the low are ;
to the state, as children, whose duty it is to obey
and not to cavil. — Thy errand ?"

" I am not the man you think me, Signore. I am
used to poverty and want, and little satisfies my
wishes. The senate is my master, and as such I
honor it ; but a fisherman hath his feelings as well
as the doge!"

" Again ! — These feelings of thine, Antonio, are

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most exacting. Thou namest them on all occasions
as if they were the engrossing concerns of life,"

" Signore, are they not to me ? Though I think
mostly of my own concerns, still I can have a
thought for tne distress of those I honor. When
the beautiful and youthful lady, your eccellenjza's
daughter, was called away to the company of the
saints, I felt the blow, as if it had been the death of
my own child ; and it has pleased God, as you very
well know, Signore, not to leave me unacquainted
with the anguish of such a loss."
' " Thou art a good fellow, Antonio," returned the
senator, covertly removing the moisture from his
eyes ; " an honest and a proud man, for thy con-

" She, from whom we both drew our first nour-
ishment, Signore, often told me tnat, next to my
own kin, it was my duty to love the noble race she
had helped to support. I make no merit, of natural
feeling, which is a gift from Heaven, and the greater
is the reason that the state should not deal lightly
with such affections."

" Once more the state ! — Name thy errand."

" Your eccellenza knows the history of my hum-
ble life. I need not tell you, Signore, of the song
which God, by the intercession of the Vngin and
blessed St. Anthony, was pleased to bestow on me,
or of the manner in which he hath seen proper to
take them, one by one, away."

" Thou hast known sorrow, poor Antonio ; I well
remember thou hast suffered, too."

" Signore, I have. The deaths of five manly and
honest sons is a blow to bring a groan from a rock.
But I have known how to bless God, and be

" Worthy fisherman, the doge himself might envy
this resignation. It is often easier to endure the
loss than the life of a child, Antonio !"

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u Signore, no boy of mine ever caused me grief,
but the hour in which he died. And even then," the
old man turned aside, to conceal the working of his
features — "I struggled to remember, from how much
pain, and toil, and suffering they were- removed, to
enjoy a more blessed state."

The lip of the Signor Gradenigo quivered, and
he moved to and fro with a quicker step.

" I think, Antonio," he said, " I think, honest An-
tonio, I had masses said for the souls of them all?"

"Signore, you had; St. Anthony remember the
kindness in your own extremity ! I was wrong in
saying that tne youths never gave me sorrow but in
dying, for there is a pain the rich cannot know, in
being too poor to buy a prayer for a dead child !"

"Wilt tnou have more masses? Son of thine
shall never want a voice with the saints, for the
ease of his soul!"

"I thank you, eccellenza, but X have faith in what
has been done, and, more than all, in the mercy of
God. My errand now is in behalf of the living."

The sympathy of the senator was suddenly check-
ed, and he alrpady listened with a doubting and
suspicious air.

" Thy errand?" he simply repeated.

" Is to beg your interest, Signore, to obtain the
release of my grandson from tne galleys. They
have seized the Tad in his fourteenth year, and con-
demned him to the wars with the Infidels, without
thought of his tender years, without thought of evil
example, without thought of my age and loneliness,
and without justice ; for his father died in the last
battle given to the Turk."

As he ceased, the fisherman riveted his look on
the marble countenance of his auditor, wistfully en-
deavoring to trace the effect of his words. But au
there w r as coJd, unanswering, and void of human
ivmpathy. The soulless, practised, and specious

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reasoning of the state, had long since deadened all
feeling in the senator, on any subject that touched an
interest so vital as the maritime power of the re-
public. He saw the kazard of innovation in the
slightest approach to interests so delicate, and his
mind was drilled by policy into an apathy that no
charity could disturb, when there was question of
the right of St. Mark to the services of his people.

" I would thou hadst come to beg masses, or
gold, or aught but this, Antonio!" he answered,
after a moment of delay. " Thou hast had the
company of the boy, if I remember, from his birth,

" Signore, I have had that satisfaction, for he was
an orphan born ; and I would wish to have it until
the child is fit to go into the world, armed with an
honesty and faith that shall keep him from harm.
Were my own brave son here, he would ask no
other fortune for the lad, than such counsel and aid
as a poor man has a right to bestow on his own
flesh and blood."

"He fareth no worse than others; and thou
knowest that the republic hath need, of every arm."

"Eccellenza, I saw the Signor Giacomo land
from his gondola, as I entered the palace."

" Out upon thee, fellow ! dost thou make no dis-
tinction between the son of a fisherman, one trained
to the oar and toil, and the heir of an ancient house?
Go to, presuming man, and remember thy condi-
tion, and the difference that God hath made between
our children."

"Mine never gave me sorrow but the hour in
which they died," said the fisherman, uttering a
severe but mild reproof.

The Signor Gradenigo felt the sting of this retort,
which in no degree aided the cause of his indiscreet
foster-brother. After pacing the room in agitation

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for some time, he so far conquered his resentment*
as to answer more mildly, as became his rank.

" Antonio," he said, " thy disposition and boldness
are not strangers to me — If thou would'st have
masses for the dead, or gold for the living, they are
thine ; but in asking for my interest with the general
of the galleys, thou askest that which, at a moment
so critical, could not be yielded to the son of the
doge, were the doge — "

"A fisherman," continued Antonio, observing
that he hesitated — "Signore, adieu; I would not
part in anger with my foster-brother, and I pray the
saints to bless you and your house. May you never
know the grief of losing a child by a fate far worse
than death — that of destruction by vice."

As Antonio ceased, he made his reverence and
departed by the way he had entered. He retired
unnoticed, for the senator averted his eyes, with a
secret consciousness of the force of what the other,
in his simplicity, had uttered ; and it was some time
before the latter knew he was alone. Another step,
however, soon diverted his attention. The door re-
opened, and a menial appeared. He announced
that one without sought a private audience.

"Let him enter," answered the ready senator,
smoothing his features to the customary cautious
and distrustful expression.

The servant withdrew, when one masked, and
wearing a cloak, quickly entered the room. When
the latter instrument of disguise was thrown upon
an arm, and the visor was removed, the form and
face cf the dreaded Jacopo became visible.

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Coesar himself hai work, and our oppression
Exceeds what we expected.


" Didst thou note him that left me?" eagerly de
manded the Signor Gradenigo.

"I did."

" Enough so to recognize form and countenance?*

"'Twas a fisherman of the Lagunes, named

The senator dropped the extended limb, and re-
garded the Bravo, with a look, in which surprise
and admiration were equally blended. He resumed
his course up and down the room, while his com-
panion stood waiting his pleasure, in an attitude so
calm as to be dignified. A few minutes were
wasted in this abstraction.

" Thou art quick of sight, Jacopo !" continued the
patrician, breaking the pause — " Hast thou had deal-
ings with the man?"

" Never."

" Thou art certain it is — "

" Your eccellenza's foster-brother."

"I did not inquire into thy knowledge of his in-
fancy and origin, but of his present state ;" returned
the Signor Gradenigo, turning away to conceal his
countenance from the glowing eye of Jacopo — " Has
he been named to thee by any in authority?"

" He has not — my mission does not lie with fish-

"Duty may lead us into still humbler society
young man. They who are charged with the
grievous burthen of the state, must not consider the
quality of the load they carry. In what manner
nath this Antonio come to thy knowledge?"

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H I have known him as one esteemed by his fel-
ows — a man skilful in his craft, and long practised
in the mystery of the Lagunes."

" He is a defrauder of the revenue, thou would'st
be understood to say?"

" I would not. He toils too late and early to have
other means of support than labor."

" Thou knowest, Jacopo, the severity of our laws
in matters that concern the public moneys?"

" I know that the judgment of St. Mark, Signore,
is never light when its own interest is touched."

" Thou art not required to utter opinions beyond
the present question. This man hath a habit of
courting the good-will of his associates, and of
making his voice heard concerning affairs of which
none but his superiors may discreetly judge."

" Signore, he is old, and the tongue grows loose
with years."

" This is not the character of Antonio. Nature
hath not treated him unkindly ; had his birth and
education been equal to his mind, the senate might
have been glad to listen — as it is, I fear he speaks in
a sense to endanger his own interests."

"Surely, if he speaks to offend the ear of St

There was a quick suspicious glance from the
senator to the Bravo, as if to read the true meaning
of the latter's words. Finding, however, the same
expression of self-possession in the quiet features he
scrutinized, the latter continued as if distrust had
not been awakened.

" If, as thou sayest, he so speaks as t« injure the
republic, his years have not brought discretion. I
love the man, Jacopo, for it is usual to regard, with
some partiality, those who have drawn nourishment
from the same breast with ourselves."

" Signore, it is."

" And feeling this weakness, in his favor, I would

Vol. I. H

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have him admonished to be prudent Thou art
acquainted, doubtless, with his opinions concerning
the recent necessity of the state, to command the
services of all the youths on the Lagunes in hei
fleets 1" 4

<# I know that the press has taken from him the
boy who toiled in his company."

"To toil honorably, and perhaps gainfully, in
behalf of the republic !"

" Signore, perhaps !"

" Thou art brief in thy speech to-night, Jacopo !
— But if thou knowest the fisherman, give him coun-
sel of discretion. St Mark will not tolerate such
free opinions of his wisdom. This is the third occa-
sion in which there has been need to repress that
fisherman's sjteech; for the paternal care of the
senate cannot see discontent planted in the bosom
of a class, it is their duty and pleasure to render
happy. Seek opportunities to let him hear this
wholesome truth, for in good sooth, I would not
willingly see a misfortune light upon fhe head of a
son of my ancient nurse, and that, too, in the decline
of his days."

The Bravo bent his body in acquiescence, while
the Signor Gradenigo paced the room, in a manner
to show that he really felt concern.

" Thou hast had advice of the judgment, in the
matter of the Genoese?" resumed the latter, when
another pause had given time to change the current
of his thoughts. " The sentence of the tribunals has
been prompt, arid, though there is much assumption
of a dislike between the two republics, the world
can now see how sternly justice is consulted on our
isles. I hear the Genoese will have ample amends,
and that certain of our own citizens will be mulcted
of much money."

" I have heaid the same since the sun set, in tht
Piazzetta, Signore I"

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" And do men converse of our impartiality, and
more than all of our promptitude? Bethink thee,
Jacopo, 'tis but a se'nnight since the claim was pre-
ferred to the senate's equity !"

"None dispute the promptitude with which the
republic visits offences."

" Nor the justice, I trust also, good Jacopo. There
is a beauty and a harmony in the manner in which
the social machine rolls on its course, under such a
system, that should secure men's applause ! Justice
administers to the wants of society, and checks the

Eassions with a force as silent and dignified, as if
er decrees came from a higher volition. £ often
compare the quiet march of the state, contrasted
with the troubled movements of some other of our
Italian sisters, to the difference between the clatter
of a clamorous town, and the stillness of our own
noiseless canals. Then the uprightness of the late
decree is in the mouths of the masquers to-night ?"

" Signore, the Venetians are bold when there is
an opportunity to praise their masters."

"Dost thou think thus, Jacopo? To me they
have ever seemed more prone to vent their seditious
discontent Rat 'tis the nature of man to be nig-
gardly of praise and lavish of censure. This decree
of the tribunal must not be suffered to die, with the
mere justice of the case. Our friends should dwell
on it, openly, in the cafes, and at the Lido. They
will have no cause to fear, should they give their
tongues a little latitude. A just government hath no
jealousy of comment."

"True, Signore."

" I look to thee and thy fellows to see that the
aflair be not too quickly forgotten. The contempla-
tion of acts, such as this, will quicken the dormant
seeds of virtue in the public mind. He who has ex-
amples of equity incessantly before his eyes, will

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come at last to love the quality. The Genoese, I

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperCooper's novels → online text (page 6 of 34)