Mrs. Lawrence Turnbull.

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before the Ca' Giustiniani, and then floated leisurely down toward the
Piazzetta. She noted it idly while she sat waiting for Marco, for in the
gondola there was a graceful figure, closely wrapped, clasping her
mantle yet more closely with a hand that was white and slender enough
for one of the nobility; yet the gondolier wore the black sash of the
Nicolotti with the great hat of a bravo shading his face. "It is some
intrigue," she said, almost unconsciously, in the midst of her sad
dreaming.

"Oh, Marco, thou art come! It hath been long without thee."

"The Senate is but just dismissed," he answered, smiling fondly at the
eagerness which gave to her pale face a passing flush of health. "But
why is the Lady Beata not with thee?" he questioned abruptly.

"She is in the chapel, making it fair with flowers."

"Thou knowest it, Marina?"

"She came to me with a question but a little while ago, when Marconino
was with me - and I wished to be alone. Marco, he was so beautiful! And
the day has been a dream; I wished for no one but for thee alone."

He held her hand in a mute caress, but with preoccupation, while his
eyes wandered back to the Piazzetta searchingly.

"It is strange," he muttered to himself, still watching from the end of
the balcony. "It was an echo of the Lady Beata's voice that startled me,
crossing the Piazzetta saying two words only - 'In Padua.'"

Then rousing himself, he turned brightly to his wife. "Carina, I have
news for thee, for the time hath been momentous for us in Venice. Di
Gioiosa hath gone forward, these many days, with terms from Venice; and
soon, it is thought, there will be peace."

_Terms_ from Venice to Rome! - but the words did not move her from her
resolve to let no shadow of their difference mar the beauty of this
night.

She looked at him wearily. "It is ever the same," she said, "through
this long, dreary year - ever the same! Let us forget it all for this one
night. Let us talk together of our Marconino!"

And as if there had been no questions - no interdict - no pain - while the
night sounds died into silence and the moon withdrew her glamor and left
them alone to the solemn mystery of the starlight, they sat and talked
together of love and their little one and their hopes for him, and of
things that lie too deep for utterance - save by one to one - far into
that beautiful Venetian night, with the odor of flowers and incense
blown up to them on the breath of the sea.


XXIX

The yellow lamp flames were burning late in the cabinet of Girolamo
Magagnati, who took less note of the difference between evening hours
and those of early dawn since there was no longer in his household a
beloved one to guard from weariness. Nay, the night was rather the time
in which he might forget himself and plunge more whole-heartedly into
his schemes of work - financial or creative. For the world was surely on
the eve of discoveries important to his art, and it would be well if he
might secure them, before his working days should pass, for the
Stabilimento Magagnati.

Piero Salin stood in the doorway as he glanced up from the drawings that
littered his table - the dark oak table which had seemed a centre of
cheer to Girolamo, when, in this very chamber, his child had made a
radiance for him in which the lines of his life shone large and
satisfying.

Girolamo never seemed to remember that this son-in-law was a great man
among the people; to him he was only Piero Salin, barcariol; the single
token of the old man's favor was that in his thought he no longer added
the despicable word _toso_; and it was a proof that he was mellowing
with the years, for Girolamo never forgot this unwelcome and
dishonorable past, and Piero was always ill at ease in his presence.

"Messer Magagnati," he began awkwardly, twirling his black cap in his
hand rather after the fashion of a gondolier than of the Chief of the
Nicolotti, "I must crave, by dawn of the morrow, the blessing of San
Nicolò - of holy memory."

"Enter," said Girolamo, with a reluctance not wholly concealed by his
attempt at courtesy, for he felt the moments to be the more precious
that the dawn was near; but the invocation of the sailor's patron saint
portended a journey. "Verily, Piero, thy comings and goings have been,
of late, so frequent that one learns the wisdom of not mourning
over-much when thou dost crave an ave at the shrine of San Nicolò. May
he grant thee favoring breezes! Thou art in favor with the Ten, they
tell me."

Piero shrugged his shoulders. "Favor or disfavor," he said, "it is but
the turning of the head - and both may lead to that place of unsought
distinction between San Marco and San Teodoro, if the orders of their
Excellencies bring not the end they sought. But it matters little - a
candle flame is better blown out than dying spent."

"And whither art thou bent on the morrow?"

"Nay, Messer Girolamo, that is not mine own secret. But this word would
I leave with thee; if, perchance, I return not before many days, seek me
on the border-land - at the point nearest Roman dominions." He had come
close to the old merchant, and uttered the last words in a tone very low
and full of meaning.

Girolamo started. "On the border-land of Rome!" he echoed. "This mission
of thine is then weighty; and thou fearest - - "

"Nay, I fear naught," said Piero haughtily. "But the times are perilous;
and later, if thou would'st seek me, thou hast the clew. But of the
mission, to which I am sworn in secrecy, let it not be known that I have
so much as named it - it would argue ill for me and thee. And the clew is
for thy using only. Meanwhile, forget that I have spoken. The Ave Maria
will soon waken the fishers of Murano. _Addio_!"

But he still waited as if he had not uttered all his mind. Girolamo
studied his face closely.

"There is more," he said. "Speak!"

"By the Holy Madonna of San Donato!" said Piero, casting off his
restraint with a sudden impulse, "if I come not back, I would have thee
know that if ever there came a chance to me to serve Marina - the Lady
Marina of the Giustiniani - I, Piero, barcariol or gastaldo, would serve
her as a soldier may serve a saint. For she hath been good to the
Zuanino. Ay, though it cost me my life, I would serve her like a saint
in heaven!" he repeated. Then, flushed with the shame of such unwonted
speech and confession, he hastened to the door, and his steps were
already resounding on the stone floor of the passage when Girolamo
recovered from his astonishment sufficiently to follow him into the
shadow and command him to stop.

"Thou hast seen my daughter - thou hast news of her?"

"Ay, yestere'en, at the Ave Maria, I spoke with her, in Santa Maria
dell' Orto, coming upon her kneeling before the great picture of Jacopo
Robusti - she, saint enough already to wear a gloria and looking as if
the heart of her were worn away from grief! She hath need of thee daily,
for her love for thee is great, and death not far."

"Tell it plainly!" commanded Girolamo, hastening after the retreating
figure and violently grasping his arm to detain him. "Have I failed to
her in aught? She is soul of my soul! Maledetto! why dost thou break my
heart?"

"Look to thine other son-in-law!" Piero retorted wrathfully; "him of the
crimson robe who sits in the Councils of Venice, and findeth no cure for
thy daughter - dying of terror beside him."

"It is a base slander!" cried old Girolamo, trembling with anger and
fear. "Never was wife more beloved and petted! Marcantonio hath no
thought, save for Marina and Venice!"

"Ay, 'for Marina and Venice,'" was the scornful answer, "_but Venice
first_. Splendor and gifts and the pleasing of every whim, if he could
but guess it - gold for her asking, and her palace no better than a cross
for her dwelling; for the one thing she needeth for her peace and life
he giveth not!"

"What meanest thou?" cried Girolamo, furiously. "Hath he not spent a
fortune on physicians - sparing nothing, save to torment her no more,
since their skill is but weariness to her! She is eating her heart out
for this quarrel with Rome - which no man may help, and it is but
foolishness for women to meddle with; and she hath ever been too much
under priestly sway. Why earnest thou hither this night?"

"For this cause and for no other," said Piero solemnly, "that thou
mightest find me, if need should be for any service to her. And to swear
to thee, by the Madonna and every saint of Venice, that I would give my
life for her!"

But old Girolamo grew the angrier for Piero's professions of loyalty.
"Shall her father do less than thou?" he questioned, wrathfully. "On the
morrow will I go to her, and leave her no more until she forgets."

"By all the saints in heaven, and every Madonna in Venice, and our Lady
of every traghetto!" Piero exclaimed, as he wrenched himself away from
Girolamo's angry grasp, while the old man staggered against the wall,
still holding a bit of cloth from the gondolier's cloak in his closed
hand, "I am vowed to my mission before this dawn! What I have spoken is
for duty to thine house, and not in anger - though I could color my
stiletto in good patrician blood and die for it gaily, if that would
help her!"

But Girolamo could not yet find his voice, and Piero, with his hand on
the latch of the great iron gates of the water-story, turned and called
back: "Women are not like men, and Marina is like no other woman that
ever was born in Venice. Whether it be the priests that have bewitched
her - may the Holy Madonna have mercy, and curse them for it! - or whether
she be truly the Blessed Virgin of San Donato come to earth again, one
knows not. But, Messer Magagnati," - and the voice came solemnly from the
dark figure dimly outlined against the gray darkness beyond the iron
bars, - "thy daughter is dying for this curse of the Most Holy
Father - 'il mal anno che Dio le dia!' (may heaven make him suffer for
it!) - and she hath no peace in Venice. _She will never forget nor
change_. If thy love be great, as thou hast said, thou wilt find some
way to help her. _For in Venice she hath no peace_."

The old merchant, dazed by Piero's hot words, was a pitiful figure,
standing, desolate, behind the closed bars of his gate, the night wind
lifting his long beard and parting the thin gray locks that flowed from
under his cap, while he called and beckoned impotently to Piero to
return, repeating meanwhile mechanically, with no perception of their
meaning, those strange words of Piero's - "_In Venice she hath no
peace_." He stood, peering out into the gray gloom and listening to the
lessening plash of the oar, until the gondola of the gastaldo was
already far on the way to San Marco, where sat the Ten.

But it was not of Piero's mission he was thinking, but of his
child - saying over and over again those fateful words, "In Venice she
hath no peace." Had Piero said that?

Suddenly the entire speech recurred to him - insistent, tense with
meaning. She could not live in Venice. Marina had no peace in Venice.
She would never forget nor change. She had need of him - of her father's
love; and if he loved enough, _he would find a way_!

Chilled and heart-sick he turned, and with no torch and missing the
voice which had guided him through the long, dark passage, he groped his
way to his cabinet and sat down to confront a graver problem than any he
had ever conquered with Marina's aid. He _would_ find a way - but "it
must not be in Venice!" How could they leave Venice? Were they not
Venetians born, and was not Venice in trouble? To leave her now were to
deny her. _It could not be_!

He put the argument many times, feverishly at first, then more
calmly - coming always to the same conclusion, "it could not be." It was
a comfort to reach so sensible and positive a decision. To-morrow he
would go to his daughter, and meanwhile he must continue his work; he
needed to reassert his power, for he had been strangely shaken.

He drew the scattered papers together, but the lines, blurred and
confused, carried no meaning; the fragments of broken glass in the
little trays beside him were a dull, untranslucent gray, and written all
over papers and fragments, in vivid letters that burned into his brain,
were those other terrible words of Piero's which he had tried in vain to
forget - "Thy daughter is dying for this curse." _Marina - dying_!

How should Piero know more about Marina than her own father knew? Did he
profess to be a physician that one should credit his every word? What
did he mean by his impudent boast of "dying for her, if need should be!"
Had she not her husband and father to care for her? Her husband "who was
denying her the only thing that could give her life and peace," Piero
had said. - What was the matter with his insulting words, that he could
not forget them? - Had she not her father, who was going to her on the
morrow, when he had matured his plans, and would do whatever she
wished - "in Venice"? Her father "who loved her, as his own soul" - that
was what he had said to Piero, with the memory of all those dear years
when they had been all in all to each other, in this home.

Was it for hours or moments only that he sat in torture - enduring,
reasoning, placing love against pride, Marina against Venice, Venice
against a father's weakness, duty to the Republic before the need of
this only child who was "soul of his soul"?

The last of his race - inheriting the traditions and passionate
attachments of that long line of loyal men who had founded and built up
the stabilimento which was the pride of Murano; of the people, yet
ennobled by the proffer of the Senate, and grandsire to the son of one
of the highest nobles of the Republic - what was there left in life for
him away from Venice? How should he bear to die dishonored and
disinherited by the country which he had deserted in her hour of
struggle? For never any more might one return who should desert Venice
for Rome!

And those panes of brilliant, crystal clarity which he had dreamed of
adding to the honors of the Stabilimento Magagnati - so strong that a
single sheet might be framed in the great spaces of the windows of the
palaces and show neither curve nor flaw - so pure that their only trace
of color should come from a chance reflection which would but lend added
charm - these might not be the discovery of his later days, though the
time was near in which this gift _must_ come to Venice. He had not
dreamed that he could ever say, while strength yet remained to think and
plan, "The house of Magagnati has touched its height, and others may
come forward to do the rest for Venice."

And the secret lay so near - scarcely eluding him!

It was no mere empty jealousy, nor trivial wish for fame, nor greed of
recompense - of which he had enough - that forced the veins out on the
strong forehead of this master-worker, as he struggled with this
question of surrendering all for his daughter's peace. It was the art in
which his ancestors had taken the lead from the earliest industrial
triumphs of the Republic - an art in which Venice stood first - and in his
simple belief it was not less to their glory than the work of a Titian
or a Sansovino. In this field he wrought whole-hearted, with the passion
of an artist who has achieved, and his place and part in the Republic,
as in life, was bounded for him by his art. "To stand with folded
hands - always, hereafter, to be unnecessary to Venice!"

How should one who had not been born in Venice ever guess the strange
fascination of that magic city for her sons, or dream with what a
passion the blood of generations of Venetian ancestry surged in one's
veins, compelling patriotism, so that it was not possible to do aught
with one's gifts and life that did not enhance the greatness of so fair
a kingdom! It was the wonderful secret of the empire of Venice that here
the pride of self was counted only as a factor in the superior pride of
her dominion.

Marina had been proud of his cabinet, and he took the little antique
lamp she used to hold for him and unlocked the door with a tremulous
hand, standing unsteadily before it and trying to hearten himself, as he
ruthlessly flashed the light so that each fantastic bit came out in
perfect beauty, glowing with the wonderful coloring of transparent gems.

But suddenly those fearful words of Piero's played riot among them,
obliterating every trace of beauty, every claim of Venice, every
question as to his own judgment or Marina's reasoning - even the ignominy
of the secret flight. "_Thy daughter dying_!"

The letters blazed like stars, gleaming among his papers - glittering
around the chair where Marina used to sit, climbing up into the air,
closing nearer to him - wavering, writhing lines of living fire, tracing
those awful words he could not forget - -

"My God!" he cried, "is not Marina more than all!" There was no longer
anything in life that he willed to do but to win peace for her,
according to her whim.

"Stino!" he shrieked, with a voice louder than the clang of the rude
iron bell whose rope had broken in his impetuous hand.

"Light me a fire in the brazier, and burn me this rubbish!" he commanded
of the foreman who entered, aghast at the imperious summons, and yet
more amazed at the destruction of those precious pages over which his
master had spent days of brooding; but he ventured no protest.

"And here," said Girolamo, with a look of relief, as the last paper
shrivelled and curled into smoke, "are the keys of these cabinets - thou
knowest their contents, and that they are precious. And here shalt thou
remain, as master, until my return - keeping all in order, as thou
knowest how, and loyally serving the interest of the stabilimento. All
moneys which I may send for thou shalt instantly remit by trusty
messenger."

"How long doth the Master remain away?"

"So long as it may please the Lady Marina, who hath need of change. And
if I return not," Girolamo resumed, after a moment's pause which gave
solemnity to his words, "my will shall be found filed with the
Avvogadori del Commun; and thou, Stino, shalt answer to the summons they
will send thee - if I come no more."

"Master!" cried the faithful Stino, greatly troubled, for these
preparations filled him with dread, and were strange indeed for so old a
man who had never yet left Venice for a night. "Life is other than we
know it away from Venice; and the heart of us goes mourning for the
sight and sound of the sea and the color of our skies!"

"Nay, Stino, I have said it," his master answered, unmoved by his
imploring eyes.

"When goest thou - that all may be ready?"

"Now; ere the dawn!" Girolamo cried with sudden resolution. "I would say
my Ave Maria in the chapel of the Lady Marina. Rouse the gondolier, and
lift the curtain that I may see how soon the day cometh."

"Master, dear Master," said Stino tenderly, as he drew the heavy
draperies aside. "Already the sun is high, and the household hath been,
these many hours, awake."

"So!" Girolamo answered with deep gravity, for the battle had been
longer than he had dreamed, yet with his habitual control. "I knew not
the time - my thoughts held me. Stino, if I return not, may the saints
bless thee for all thou hast been to me since the Lady Marina hath dwelt
in the palazzo Giustiniani. And in my will thou art not forgotten."

As Girolamo issued from his own portal, closely followed by Stino and
the other superintendents of the great stabilimento who were filled with
foreboding at this sudden and surprising decision of their good master,
several gondolas wearing the colors of the Giustiniani floated into the
waterway from the broad lagoon; and with them, like a flock of sea-birds
in their habits of gray and their cowls of white, came the sisters of
San Donato, returning from that early chanted Mass at the palazzo
Giustiniani which had been a dream of the Lady Marina's happier days.

The young Senator had urged his boatmen to feverish speed, and his own
gondola was far in advance of the train. He bounded from his bark the
moment it neared the steps, and, rushing blindly toward the dwelling,
encountered his father-in-law on the threshold.

"She is here - Marina?" he questioned, half crazed with grief; and,
forgetful of the usual courtesies, would have pushed him aside to enter.
"I have come with her maidens and her child to take her home. Let me go
to her!"

And, as Girolamo stood, dumb and dazed, "I beseech thee - conceal her
not!"

Looking into each other's faces for one anguished moment, they knew,
without need of further speech, that she had gone from them both.

Girolamo gave a great and bitter cry, "My son!" folding his arms about
the younger man in measureless grief and compassion.

And when they could trust their footsteps they went desolately into the
house together.

* * * * *

"Nay," Girolamo had answered to every argument. "It is for thee to
remain in Venice with her child, that the Signoria be not wroth with the
Ca' Giustiniani, and for me to seek and care for her - mayhap, if heaven
be merciful, to bring her to thee again! She cannot be far to seek."

"In Padua!" cried Marcantonio, with sudden conviction. "They will sleep
in Padua to-night. It _was_ the voice of the Lady Beata!"


XXX

"Art thou sure, Marina?"

"Ay, Piero, though it were death to me; and death were sweeter - - "

Her hair lay like a wreath of snow across her forehead, from stress of
the night's vigil, her lip trembled like a grieved child's, but in her
exquisite face there was the grace of a spirit strong and tender.

He helped her silently into the gondola and steered it carefully between
the pali which rose like a scattered sheaf, glowing with the colors of
the Giustiniani, in the water before her palace. And thus, in the early
dawn - unattended, with the sadness of death in her pallid face - the lady
of the Giustiniani floated away from her beautiful home - away from
happiness and love - into a future cheerless and dim as the dawn lights
that were faintly tinging the sea. For the day was breaking, full of
gloom, under a sky of clouds, and the wind blew chill from across the
Lido.

She sat with her gray mantle shrouding her face, and neither of them
spoke, while the gondola, under Piero's deft guidance, quickly gained
the steps of the Piazzetta and passed on to San Giorgio. Then she
touched his arm entreatingly.

"Oh, let us wait one moment before we lose sight of the palazzo! Madre
Beatissima, have them in thy keeping!"

She stretched out her hands unconsciously, with a gesture of petition,
and her mantle slipped back, exposing her pallid, pain-stricken face and
her whitened tresses.

Piero was startled at the havoc the night had made, for he had seen her
only the day before, in answer to her summons, when she had been far
more like herself.

"Santa Maria!" he exclaimed, crossing himself, and awkward under the
unaccustomed sense of an overwhelming compassion. "The Holy Mother must
shrive me for breaking my vow, for if San Marco and San Teodoro would
give me a place between them before the matins ring again - mistaking me
for a traitor - I cannot take thee from Venice. We will return," and
already the gondola was yielding to his stroke. "Let Marcantonio bring
thee himself to Rome."

"Piero, thou hast sworn to me! Thou shalt abide by thy promise!" she
cried, seizing the oar in her trembling hand.

"Ay, Marina, I have sworn to thee," he answered, with slow pauses, "and
by our Holy Mother of San Giorgio, I will serve thee like a saint in
heaven. Yet I would thou wert in thy home again - already thou hast
broken thy heart for love of it."

The gondolas of the people were gathering about the steps of the
palaces, bringing their burdens for the day's ongoings in those
luxurious homes; the bells were calling to early Mass; the stir of life
was beginning in the city; soon, in her own palace, her little one would
wake, and Marco - She stood with straining eyes, yearning for the chance
of a face in her palace window - the bare last chance of another sight of
his dear face. She did not know that Piero was watching
her - compassionate and comprehending - while she was struggling to
outlive the agony for the very love's sake which made it so keen.

It was the only sweetness left in life for her, that this cruel parting
was yet for Marco's sake; that she might still plead with the Holy
Father for this desperate need of which Marco seemed unconscious - since,
in a vision never to be forgotten, the blessed Madre of San Donato had
confided this mission to her. She could bear everything to win such a
blessing for her beloved ones, only she must reach Rome - surely the


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Online LibraryMrs. Lawrence TurnbullA Golden Book of Venice → online text (page 21 of 24)