By the year 1820 the Revolutionists had for the third time perceptibly gained ground, and Morillo's force, spread like a fan at the inland base of the sierra, was gradually yielding to the unceasing pressure;—in a word, the Patriots were at length driving their enemies into the sea. Towards the close of 1820, Morillo opened negotiations with their chiefs, and a suspension of hostilities was commenced on the 26th of November, when the Spanish general gladly quitted the scene of his fruitless efforts, and retired to Spain with the title of Count of Carthagena, leaving Generals Morales and La Torre in authority behind him. The armistice was not prolonged. The Congress of Colombia, as the united republics of Venezuela and New Granada were then termed, demanded unqualified independence as the price of peace; and in June—the Battle Month—of 1821, Bolivar and Paez took up arms once more. The Spanish troops were concentrated at the base of the mountains, with Valencia and Caracas in their rear. Before them, the road wound westward, through tortuous passes, towards Tinaquilla and Barinas, at the former of which places Bolivar with his forces was now halting. Six thousand men were in arms on either side; but the troops of the Republic, though ragged, ill-fed, and badly armed, were flushed with the consciousness of success and the presentiment of triumph, while those of Spain were dispirited, worn out, and malcontent.
It was plain to the meanest trooper, however, that Carabobo must be held; and on intelligence of the Patriot advance, the position, of amazing strength, was resolutely occupied. It seemed, indeed, that a regiment could defend such a pass with ease against an army. In order to debouch upon the Plain of Carabobo, the Patriots must penetrate a defile, forming a narrow and tortuous pass, the road through which was a mere seam at the base of a deep ravine. This narrow passage, through which, of necessity, Bolivar's troops must march in straggling line, terminated abruptly in a basin or valley shut in by hills, except upon the northeast, where it opened upon the boundless expanse of the contested plain. At the mouth of this gorge La Torre lay with all his force. Despite the unfavorable condition of his men, with whom, moreover, he was not popular, the odds seemed overwhelmingly in his favor. He stood on the defensive, in one of the strongest of military positions, and well provided with artillery, while his adversary was to struggle through a narrow valley in the face of his opponents, before a single man could be made available. The mouth of this valley was blockaded by the Spanish infantry, who stretched in silent lines from side to side in the evening of the 23d of June. On either flank, the hills were occupied by corps of riflemen, and the artillery was posted at their base. No force, it appeared, could enter the beleaguered valley and live. Bolivar commenced his passage through the defile on the morning of the 24th, and halted in dismay as he reached the outlet. It was too apparent that such a conflict as lay before him could not be braved. At this moment Paez learned that a narrow side-path existed, permitting the passage of a single file, which led, by a detour, to the plain. It was one of those curious accidents on which the fate of battles seems to hang; and after some hesitation, Bolivar permitted Paez to venture the passage. Heading the famous Battalion of Apure, he at once wheeled to the left, and commenced the toilsome march. One by one the veterans struggled through the pass, but they were discovered by La Torre before they issued upon the plain.
Although taken entirely by surprise, the Spaniards had time for a partial change of front, and before the veterans of Apure had assembled at the mouth of the pass, a volley of musketry rang out from the Spanish lines, and the gleaming of bayonets told of a wall of steel across the path. The scanty force of Paez, however, dashed from the ravine, and, forming hastily, rushed upon the enemy. Four Royalist battalions converged upon them, and they were crushed. They fell back, flying in disorder, and the Spaniards were on the point of securing the pass, when a shout arose before them that made the stoutest quail. With one ever-memorable cheer, a long hurrah, which spoke of well-known unconquerable determination, the British legion, less than eight hundred strong, with their Colonel, John Ferrier, at their head, appeared at the mouth of the ravine. Forming instantaneously and in perfect silence, but with the accuracy of a regiment on parade, they threw forward their bayonets, and knelt down, sedately, calmly, immovably, to confront destruction. The remaining troops of Bolivar were in their rear, traversing slowly the defile; and until they reached its mouth, that living wall of Anglo-Saxon valor neither stirred nor blenched. Volley after volley enfiladed their ranks, and, after each discharge, the mass of men was smaller. Still their cool and ceaseless firing rolled death into the ranks of the enemy, until at length the troops whom they had saved from destruction rallied once more. Then, what remained of the legion, headed by the two or three officers whose lives had been marvellously preserved, rushed fiercely forward like an avenging flame, and swept before them the affrighted Spaniards, wildly scattering at the onslaught which it was impossible to withstand. In another moment, eighty or ninety of the lancers of Paez issued from the ravine, and, hurling themselves upon the broken enemy, turned the defeat into an utter rout. La Torre's troops, with the exception of one regiment, fled in disgraceful confusion, or perished by hundreds under the lances of the implacable pursuers; and on the evening of the 24th of June, Bolivar, encamped upon the Plain of Carabobo, laid his hand upon the shoulder of Jose Antonio Paez, thenceforward General-in-chief of the Armies of the Republic of Colombia!
Carabobo decided the War of Independence throughout South America. It snapped the chain which held Venezuela down, and the Spaniards, hemmed in for two years longer at Puerto Cabello, which place they defended with honorable pertinacity, were finally expelled from the free Republic in November, 1823. The city was taken by storm on the 7th of that month, and on the 9th the citadel surrendered. General Calzada, the commandant, with all his officers, and four hundred men, was shortly afterwards shipped for Spain.
Here the career of the Llanero closes. A new and still more brilliant avenue to distinction opens before Paez. At this, however, we can scarcely glance. Our business has been to study him in the saddle, wielding lasso and sword and lance; nor have we left ourselves room for adequate allusion to his subsequent life as President and private citizen, deliverer of his country, and exile in these Northern States. Yet the record could not be called complete, unless we passed briefly in review the vicissitudes of the past thirty years.
After the taking of Puerto Cabello, Paez administered the affairs of Venezuela as Provisional Chief of the State, and held that office under the Congress of Colombia, until the two republics were dissevered in 1830, when he was elected first President of Venezuela. Only partially disturbed by a military insurrection, headed by the turbulent General Jose T. Monagas, which was soon suppressed, the administration of Paez was such as surprised all lookers-on in America and Europe. He displayed administrative talents of a high order, with all the firmness and resolution of a soldier, yet with all the business capacity and peaceful proclivities of a civilian.
Laying down the Presidential office in 1834, he was again called upon to assume it four years later, and until the close of 1842 Venezuela prospered under his direction. The foreign and domestic debt was liquidated by the products of national industry, and three millions of dollars were left in the treasury on the accession to the Presidency of General Soublette, in 1843. Honors had rained on the ci-devant impetuous horseman, whose shout had once so frequently been the prelude to slaughter and devastation. William the Fourth of England presented General Paez, in 1837, with a sword of honor; Louis Philippe of France invested him, in 1843, with the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honor; and two years later, there arrived from Oscar of Sweden the Cross of the Military Order of the Sword.
But in 1850, and thenceforward, until 1858, Jose Antonio Paez trod the streets of New York as an exile from his native land.
General Jose T. Monagas was elected President of Venezuela in 1848, and created dissatisfaction by his course of action. Paez placed himself at the head of an insurrectionary movement against him, and, being defeated, was imprisoned in the city of Valencia. General Monagas, influenced, it is probable, by feelings of ancient friendship, and remembering the pardon extended to himself on a former similar occasion, contented himself with a decree of exile against the captive veteran, and Paez embarked for St. Thomas on the 24th of May, 1850. He passed from St. Thomas to the United States.
All, whose memories extend so far back as the year 1850, remember the ovation received in New York by the exiled chief. New York grants an ovation to every one; and Monagas would, doubtless, have been received with the same demonstration, had the breath of adverse fortune blown him hither, instead of his antagonist.
After the first effervescence produced by the dropping of a notability into the caldron of New York, the Llanero general was permitted to enjoy his placid domesticity without molestation; and in a pleasant street, far up-town among the Twenties, he lived in the midst of us for eight quiet years. A curious serenity of evening, for a life so turbulent and incarnadined in its beginning! How many of the thousands who were wont to pass the stout old soldier, with his seamed forehead and gray moustache, as he enjoyed his quiet stroll down Broadway, thought of him as the lad of Araure, the horseman of Barinas, terror of the Spaniard, victor of Carabobo, and President of Venezuela? But though retired and unpretending in his exile, Paez was not neglected in New York; and the procession which followed him, but a few weeks since, to the steamer destined to bear him back to his native land,—a procession saddened, it is true, by the feeble condition to which an accident had temporarily reduced the chieftain,—showed that his solid worth was recognized and honored.
Not yet, however, is it time for the summing-up of his history. The exile of 1850 has been solicited to return to his country, and the ninth anniversary of banishment may find him occupying once more the Presidential chair. General Monagas having been deposed in March, 1858, repeated invitations were dispatched, by the Provisional Government, to Paez, entreating his return; and, after much cautious hesitation, he resolved, in the following September, to comply with the request. Subsequent events belong rather to the chronology of the day than to the page of history we have thrown open here. Our task is at an end; the career of the Llanero has been unfolded; we have placed ourselves in the presence of the comrade of Bolivar, and have witnessed the rise of the Venezuelan Republic.
BULLS AND BEARS.
SHOWING AT WHAT COST OUR HERO ESCAPED DROWNING.
The boat lay at the wharf, a pretty little craft of six or eight tons, with a mainsail and jib. It was a delightful afternoon; a gentle westerly wind swept over a placid sea, and the sky was as clear as the mirror that reflected its exquisite blue. Greenleaf and Miss Sandford took their seats amidships, leaving the stern for the boatman. The ropes were cast off, and the sailor was about stepping aboard, when it was discovered that the fishing-lines had been left behind. Old Tarry was dispatched to bring them, and he rolled off as fast as his habitual gait allowed him. When he was fairly up the hill, Miss Sandford said,—
"You know how to sail a boat, don't you?"
"Yes," said Greenleaf, "I have frequently been out alone; but I thought I would not take the responsibility of a more precious freight."
"It would be delightful to have a sail by ourselves."
"Charming, truly! Our salt-water friend may be a very estimable person, but we should be freer to talk in his absence."
"Suppose you try it. I will sit here, and you take his place."
Greenleaf hesitated; the proposal was a tempting one, but he had no great confidence in his own skill.
"The sea is like a pond," continued his companion. "We can sail out a short distance, and then return for our pilot, if we like."
Greenleaf allowed himself to be persuaded. He shoved off the boat, hoisted sail, and they were soon lightly skimming the waters of the bay. They rounded the rocky point and stood for the eastward. Their boatman soon appeared on the shore and made frantic gestures to no purpose; they looked back and rather enjoyed his discomfiture.
Never did the sea have such a fascination for Greenleaf. He held the rudder and drew the sheets with a feeling of proud mastery, deeper and more exciting than the horseman feels on the back of his steed. These first emotions, however, gradually lost their intensity, and he resigned himself to the measureless content which the gentle motion, the bland air, and the sunny sky inspired.
What had been the character of Miss Sandford's regard for Greenleaf hitherto would he a difficult question to answer; it is doubtful whether she knew, herself. She had been pleased with his conversation and manners, flattered by his graceful and not too obsequious attentions, and proud of his success in his art. Living upon the pleasures of the day, without a thought of the future, she had never seriously reflected upon the consequences of her flirtation, supposing that, as in every former case, there would come a time of ennui and coolness. Besides, she had felt the force of her prudent sister-in-law's suggestion, that a man without an estate would never be able to supply the necessities of a woman of fashion. With all her quasi advances a degree of reserve was mingled, and she persuaded herself that she should never become entangled beyond the power of retreat. But Greenleaf was not an easy conquest. She was aware of her influence over him, and employed all her arts to win and secure his devotion; as long as the least indifference on his part remained, she was unsatisfied. But in this protracted effort she had drifted unconsciously from her own firm anchorage. Day by day his society had grown more and more necessary to her, and her habitual caution was more and more neglected. The conduct of Greenleaf, without any design on his part, had been such as to draw her on irresistibly, until their positions had become reversed; she was now fascinated beyond self-control, and without a thought of the future, while he was merely agreeable, but inwardly cool and self-possessed. Still at times the strange thrills returned as the soft light of her eyes fell upon him, and the intoxication he felt at his first meeting with her again drowned his senses in delight.
They did not talk very freely that summer's day. The heart when full rarely pours itself out in words. A look, a pressure of the hand, or (if such improprieties are to be imagined) a kiss, expresses the emotions far better than the most glowing speech. It was enough for Marcia, steeped in delicious languor, to sway with the rocking boat, to feel the soft wind dallying with her hair, and to look with unutterable fondness at her companion.
As long as the ceremonies of society are observed, and people are kept asunder a room's distance, so that only the mind acts, and the senses are in repose, reserve may keep up its barrier. Words lose their electricity in passing through a cool tract of air, and Reason shows all things in her own clear white light. But establish a magnetic circle by contact, let hand rest in quivering hand, while eye looks into melting eye, and Reason may as well resign her sway. When the nerves tingle, the heart bounds, and the breath quickens, estates, honors, family, prudence, are of little worth. The Grundys, male and female, may go hang; the joy of the present so transcends all memory, so eclipses hope even, that all else is forgotten.
The boat careened somewhat, and Marcia changed her seat to the opposite side, quite near to Greenleaf. His right hand held the tiller,—his left, quite unconsciously, it would seem, fell into her open palm. The subtile influence ran through every fibre. What he said he did not know, only that he verged towards the momentous subject, and committed himself so far that he must either come plainly to the point or apologize and withdraw as best he might. Could he withdraw, while, as he held her soft hand, that lambent fire played along his nerves? He did not give up the hand.
Poor little Alice! Her picture in his breast-pocket no longer weighed upon his heart.
The breeze freshened, the boat rose and fell with easy motion over the whitening waves. The sun all at once was obscured. They looked behind them; a heavy black cloud was rising rapidly in the west. Greenleaf put the boat about, and, as it met the shock of the sea, they were covered with spray. To go back in the wind's eye was clearly impossible; they must beat up, and, hauling as close to the wind as possible, they stood towards Swampscot. For a mile or two they held this course, and then tacked. But making very little headway in that direction, the bow was turned northward again. In coming about they shipped so much water, that Marcia, though by no means a coward, screamed out, "We are lost!" She flung herself into the bottom of the boat and laid her head in Greenleaf's lap like a frightened child. He soothed her and denied that there was danger; he did not venture to tack again, however, for fear of being swamped, but determined to run northwardly along the coast in the hope of getting ashore on some sandy beach before the fury of the storm should come. The boat now careened so far that her gunwale was under water; he saw that he must take in the mainsail. With some difficulty he persuaded Marcia to hold the tiller while he let go the halliards. The mainsail came down with a run, and the boat kept on with the jib only, though of course at a slower rate. They were still two or three miles from shore, and the storm increased momently. They saw Lynn Beach without hope of gaining it, the wind driving them northward. Neither could Greenleaf run into the little bay of Swampscot. In spite of his efforts the boat shot by Phillips's Point, and he must therefore run upon the rocks beyond the Point or make for Marblehead harbor. But the latter was an untried and dangerous course for an inexperienced boatman, and, grim as the coast looked, he was obliged to trust to its tender mercies for the chance of getting ashore. The rain now fell in blinding torrents and a blackness as of night brooded over the sea. Greenleaf was utterly bewildered, but held on to the tiller with his aching, stiffening hand, and strove to inspire his companion with courage. The boat was "down by the head," on account of the wind's drawing the jib, and rolled and plunged furiously. Behind were threatening billows, and before were ragged, precipitous rocks, around which the surges boiled and eddied. Greenleaf quailed as he neared the awful coast; his heart stood still as he thought of the peril to a helpless woman in clambering up those cliffs, even if she were not drowned before reaching them. Every flash of lightning seemed to disclose some new horror. If life is measured by sensations, he lived years of torture in the few minutes during which he waited for the shock of the bows against the granite wall. Marcia, fortunately, had become insensible, though her sobbing, panting breath showed the extremity of terror that had pursued her as long as consciousness remained. Nearer and nearer they come; an oar's length, a step; they touch now! No, a wave careens the boat, and she lightly grazes by. Now opens a cleft, perhaps wide enough for her to enter. With helm hard down the bow sweeps round, and they float into a narrow basin with high, perpendicular walls, opening only towards the sea. When within this little harbor, the boat lodged on a shelving rock and heeled over as the wave retreated. Greenleaf and his companion, who had now recovered from her swoon, kept their places as though hanging at the eaves of a house. They were safe from the fury of the storm without, but there was no prospect of an immediate deliverance. The rock rose sheer above them thirty or forty feet, and they were shut up as in the bottom of a well. The waves dallied about the narrow entrance, shooting by, meeting, or returning on the sweep of an eddy; but at intervals they gathered their force, and, tumbling over each other, rushed in, dashing the spray to the top of the basin, and completely drenching the luckless voyagers. This, however, was not so serious a matter as it would have been if their clothes had not been wet before in the heavy rain. The tide slowly rose, and the boat floated higher and higher against the rock, as the shadows began to settle over the gulf.
In spite of the peril they had encountered, and their present discomfort and perplexity, Greenleaf now experienced an indescribable pleasure. Marcia was exhausted with fatigue and terror, and rested her head upon his shoulder. Unconsciously, he used the cheering, caressing tones which the circumstances naturally prompted. It was an occasion to draw out what was most manly, most tender, most chivalric in him. The pride of the woman was gone, her artifices forgotten. In that hour she had looked beyond the factitious distinctions of society; she had found herself face to face with her companion without disguise, as spirit looks upon spirit, and she felt herself drawn to him by the loyalty which a superior nature inevitably inspires.
A slight movement of the boat caused Greenleaf to turn his head. Just behind him there was a shelf not three feet above the gunwale; beyond that was a second step, and still farther a winding fissure. After measuring the distances again with his eye, to be sure that he should raise no illusive hope, he pointed out to Marcia the way of escape. Their conversation had naturally taken an affectionate turn, and Greenleaf's delicate courtesy and hardly ambiguous words had raised a tumult in her bosom which could no longer be repressed. She flung herself into his arms, and with tears exclaimed,—
"Dear George, you have saved my life! It is yours! Take me!"
The rush of emotion swept away the last barrier; he yielded to the impulse; he clasped her fondly in his arms and gave his heart and soul to her keeping. Carefully he assisted her up by the way he had found, and when at last they reached the top of the cliff, both fell on their knees in gratitude to Heaven for their preservation. Then new embraces and protestations. Rain and salt spray, hunger and fatigue, were of little moment in that hour.
Near the cliff stood a gentleman's villa, and to that they now hastened to procure dry clothing before returning home. They found the welcome hospitality they expected, and after rest and refreshment started to walk to Swampscot, where they could obtain a carriage for Nahant. But at the gate they met Easelmann and Mrs. Sandford, who, alarmed at their long absence, had driven in a barouche along the coast in hope of hearing some tidings of the boat.
The wanderers were overwhelmed with congratulations, mingled with deserved reproofs for their rashness in venturing forth without their pilot. On the way home, Greenleaf told the story which the reader already knows, omitting only some few passages. Easelmann turned and said, with a meaning emphasis,—
"I thought so. I thought what would happen. You aren't drowned, to be sure; but some people can't be drowned; better for them, if they could!"
Greenleaf made no reply to the brusque sarcasm, but drew Marcia closer to his side. He could not talk after such an adventure, especially while in contact with the woman for whom he had risked so much.
Poor little Alice!
THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
The flurry in the money-market gradually increased to a storm. Confidence was destroyed, and business at a stand. The daily bulletins of failures formed the chief topic of conversation. The merchants and bankers, especially those who held Western lands, Western securities, or Western credits, went down one after another. Houses tumbled like a row of bricks. No class was safe at a time when the relations of debtor and creditor were so complicated and so universal. Stocks went down with a run. Bullion was not disappointed in his calculations, and Fletcher, in spite of his insane whims upon the subject of chances, proved himself shrewd, vigilant, and energetic. Flushed with success, he made bolder ventures, and the daily balances grew to be enormous. Within the first fortnight, Bullion had given Fletcher notes for over five thousand dollars as his share of the profits. The brokers, even, were astonished at the silent but all-powerful influence that pressed upon the market, bringing the best stocks down till they sold like damaged goods at a sheriff's auction. But Tonsor, the lucky agent, kept his counsel. Daily he attended the sales at the Board, with apparently exhaustless resources, bearing pitilessly, triumphantly, until the unlucky bulls came to think the sight of his face was an ill omen.
Of all men, Sandford felt this steady, determined pressure most keenly. To sustain the credit of those in whose affairs he was concerned, he was obliged from time to time to put under the hammer stocks which had been placed in his hands. Every sale showed the value of these securities to be sinking, until it really seemed that they would come to be as worthless as the old Continental currency. But neither he nor other sufferers had any remedy;—stocks were worth only what they would bring; prices must take care of themselves; and the calm, determined bids of Tonsor were like the voice of Fate.
In his extremity, Sandford thought of Monroe, and remembering his own personal responsibility for the sum he had received, he determined to "hedge." So he sent for Monroe; he showed him the notes, all amply secured, if any man's name could be said to give security.
"You see," said Sandford, "how careful I have been. Two good names on every note. They may fail, it is true. So stocks may go for a song, and universal bankruptcy follow. See, there is a note signed by Flint, Steel, & Co., and indorsed by Lameduck, another by Kiteflyer and Co., indorsed by Burntwick, and this by Stearine & Star, indorsed by Bullion. Every dollar will yield at least the eight per cent. I promised."
"The names are good, I should think.—as long as anybody is good," said Monroe. "Still I should feel safer with a mortgage, or even with stocks; for if these do go down, they will come up again."
"Stocks!" said Sandford, with an air of contempt. "There isn't a bank that is worth that"—snapping his fingers. "They keep on their legs only by sufferance; if put to the test, they could not redeem their notes a day. The factories are worse yet,—rotten, hollow. Railroads, —eaten up with bonds and mortgages."
"Well, perhaps you have done wisely. Time will show."
"I sent for you," said Sandford, "because I knew you must be anxious. I gave you a part of the interest, you know. You'll take these notes? You approve of my judgment?"
"I must, I suppose. Yes,—you can make the transfers to me, if you like. They may as well remain with you, however."
Sandford drew a long breath with a sense of relief. If he were to be hard pushed, these notes would serve for collateral securities.
Monroe left the office, not quite so cheerful as when he came. He remembered his mother's regrets at the disposition of the money,—their all. His own health had been failing. His relative, whom he went to see, was dead; and now that his cousin had accepted his invitation to come and live with him, he felt an increased solicitude about the future.
Sandford's main anxiety now was to provide for Stearine's note, which he felt assured the promisor could not meet. He dared not let the loss fall upon the Vortex until every expedient had been tried; for such an affair would lead at once to an unwelcome investigation of the Company's accounts. He determined first to see Bullion, to whom the note was due. He found that gentleman cool, tranquil, and not at all frightened, as he supposed he would be, at the idea of a protest. The truth was, that Bullion had already made so much in his operations, that he could easily "lift" the note; but as long as his capital was yielding such golden returns, he was not disposed to use it in that way until obliged to do so. Besides, he believed, from Sandford's anxiety, that he would himself make an effort to raise the money elsewhere. He was quite easy, therefore.
"Stearine must look out for his own paper; if he don't, he must go down. If I have to pay it, I shall any way get a dividend out of him, and, what is better, get a few days' time. Time is money, these days."
There was no course for Sandford, then, but to sell or hypothecate the shares of stock he held. Then the thought of the still falling prices frightened him. The stocks he had to sell were already quoted far below their usual price, and he, in common with all the street, had heard of the secret irresistible influence that was bearing down upon the daily sales. If Tonsor should come into market against him, the consequences might be ruinous. It was out of the question for him to stand up against any further serious depreciation.
To Tonsor he went, in the hope of persuading or buying him off from his destructive course. As he entered the broker's door he saw Fletcher hand over a package of bills, and just caught the words, "Forty-five thousand." What was Fletcher doing? He remembered that he had not met his old agent for some days, and he knew well that such a scheming brain would not be idle in a time like this. A light flashed upon him. Was Fletcher in the conspiracy? If he knew and shared in the scheme, the secret should be wrenched from him.
Mr. Sandford affected, therefore, to have come to see Fletcher only, and drew him into a corner.
"Fletcher, what's in the wind? Don't Danforth & Co. do their own buying and selling? They don't employ Tonsor, do they?"
"You don't expect me to tell their business, do you?"
"Well, no,—not exactly. I thought you might have dipped in on your own account."
"That's a good joke. How should I have the funds?"
"Any chances to invest, Fletcher? I'll give liberal commissions."
"Chances are plenty for those that have money."
Fletcher started as though he would return to his place of business. But Sandford dropped his smooth and honeyed tone and spoke more decidedly.
"You can't blind me, Fletcher. You know what the bears are doing. They are ruining everything, knocking down prices, destroying credit, using what little money there is for speculation, thriving on the distress of the public. It's no better than highway-robbery; and it's my belief you are concerned in the plot."
"You had better go to the nobs, and not talk to me. You might as well pitch into the tellers or messengers when the banks suspend payment."
"No,—I shan't let you off. The 'nobs,' as you call them, dare not be seen in this matter; they will pocket the chestnuts, but they will get some cat's-paw to rake them out of the ashes."
"Well, what are you going to do about it?"
Fletcher was astonished at his own temerity as soon as he had uttered the words; but his prosperity and the support of Bullion had given him some courage.
"Do? you scoundrel!" said Sandford, in a rage that rarely overtook him. "What am I going to do? I'll break every bone in your skin, if you don't give up this plot you are in. Do you dare to set yourself to put me down? Don't let any of your tools dare to run my stocks! If you do, I'll go to a magistrate and have you arrested."
"When I am arrested, my good Sir," said Fletcher, with a face pale as death, but with lips firmly set, "I advise you to have your accounts ready. For I shan't be in the jug a minute before you'll have to show your papers and your cash-book to the Company."
Sandford staggered as though he had received a blow from a bruiser. He gasped for breath,—turned pale, then red,—at length with difficulty said, "You defy me, then? We shall see!"
"You have it;—I defy you, hate you, despise you! I have been your slave long enough. Do your worst. But the instant you move, I promise you that a man will look after you, d—d quick."
Sandford looked around. Tonsor was calmly counting the pile of bank-notes before him. It was near eleven. This Board would soon commence its session. He stepped into the street, slamming the door after him.
"Pretty well, for a beginning!" said Fletcher, meditating, "a shot betwixt wind and water. So much for Bullion's advice. Bullion is a trump, and Sandford be hanged!"
SED REVOCARE GRADUM!—
The fatigue, drenching, and terror of the unlucky day's sail produced their natural effects upon a rather delicate constitution. Miss Sandford was ill the following day, and, in spite of the doctors, a fever set in. Her sister-in-law was assiduous in her attentions, and Greenleaf called daily with inquiries and tender messages. While thus occupied, he had little time to consider the real state of his feelings towards the new love, still less to reflect upon his conduct towards the old. For the first time in his life he became a coward. If he meant to abide by his last engagement, honor should have led him to break the unwelcome news to Alice as best he might, and extricate himself from his false and embarrassing position. If he still loved the girl of his first choice, and felt that his untruth to her was only the result of a transient, sensuous passion, it was equally plain that he must resolutely break away from the beautiful tempter. But he oscillated, pendulum-like, between the two. When Marcia began to recover, and he was allowed to see her in her chamber, the influence she had at first exerted returned upon him with double force. In her helplessness, she appealed powerfully to the chivalric sentiment which man feels towards the dependent; her tones, softened by affection and tremulous from weakness, thrilled his soul; and the touch of her hand was electric. When he returned to his studio, as he thought of the trustful, unsuspecting, generous heart of Alice, he was smitten with a pang of remorse too keen to be borne. He tried to look at her picture, but the face was to him like the sight of a reproving angel. He could not look steadily upon the placid features; the calm eyes turned his heart to stone; the sweet mouth was an accuser he dared not face. But when next he saw Marcia, all was forgotten; while under her spell he could have braved the world, only too happy to live and die for her.
For days this struggle continued. His art had no power to amuse him or engross his thought. His friends were neglected,—Easelmann with the rest. His enemy could not have wished to see him more completely miserable. He knew that he must decide, must act; but whatever might be his determination, he had a most painful duty to perform. Let him do what he might, he must prove himself a villain. He loathed, detested himself. Sometimes he was tempted to fly; but then he reflected that he should in that way prove a scoundrel to two women instead of one. For three weeks he had not written to Alice, and the last letter he had received from her was now a month old. He took it from his pocket, where it lay among the perfumed and tinted evidences of his unfaithfulness. It was a simple thing, but how the gentle words smote upon his heart!
"MY DEAR GEORGE, (her dear George!)—How I wish I could be with you, to rejoice over your success! You are really a great artist, the papers say, and are becoming famous! Not that I love you the more for that. If you were still unknown to the world, still only a lover of beauty for its own sake, and content with painting for your own pleasure, I am not sure that I should not love you the more. But you will believe me, that I am proud of your success. If I am ambitious, it is for you. I would have the world see and know you as I do. Yet not as I do,—nobody can do that. To the world you are a great painter. To me—ah, my dearest George!—you are the noblest and truest heart that ever woman rested upon. Nobody but me knows that. I shall be proud of the homage the world gives you, because at the same time I shall say, 'That is my betrothed, my husband, whom they praise; what his heart is, no woman knows but me'"——
He could read no farther. His emotions were too powerful to be borne in silence. He yielded, and, strong man as he was, bowed his head and wept. The tears of childhood, and oftentimes the tears of woman, lie shallow; they come at the first bidding of sorrow or sympathy. But it is no common event, no common feeling, that prevails over man; nothing less than a convulsion like an earthquake unseals the fountain of tears in him. Whoever has seen the agony of a manly nature in groans and tears and sobs has something to remember for a life-time.
It was a long night,—a night of unutterable suffering, struggle, and doubt. The hours seemed shod with lead. Sleep seemed banished from the universe. But with the coming of dawn the tempest was stilled. In the clear light of day the path of duty seemed plain. He felt sure that in his heart of hearts he loved Alice, and her only. He would go at once to Marcia and tell her of his perfidy, implore the forgiveness of silence and charity, and bid her farewell. When he had reached this conclusion he became calm. As he looked out from his window, he saw the world awake from slumber, and he shared in the gladness of Nature. He even rejoiced in the prospect of deliverance from his wretched condition, although he well knew the humiliation he must pass through to attain it. He waited impatiently for the hour when he could present himself before Marcia, own his duplicity, and take leave of her. He felt strong in his new resolution. All vacillation was past. He could face any temptation without one flutter of inconstancy towards his first-love.
Greenleaf was not the only one in the city with whom the night had passed heavily. The cloud still hung over the mercantile world. Failures, by dozens, were announced daily. Men heard the dismal intelligence, as in time of pestilence they would hear the report of the dead and dying. No business-man felt secure. No amount of property, other than ready money, was any safeguard. Neighbor met neighbor, asking, with doleful accent, "Where is this going to end?" The street, at 'change hours, presented a crowd of haggard faces, furrowed with care, their eyes fixed and despairing. Some looked white with apprehension, some crushed and tearful, others stony, sullen, or defiant. Whatever was bravest had been drawn out in manly endeavor; whatever was most generous was excited to sympathy and brotherly-kindness; whatever was most selfish was stimulated by the fierce desire for self-preservation; whatever was most fiendish was roused by blind rage and useless resentment. In the halcyon days of plenty and prosperity men know little of each other; trade has its accustomed way; balances are smoothly adjusted; notes are given and paid with smiling faces; one would think that honor and manliness were the commonest of qualities. Now, every man was put to the severest proof, and showed the inborn and essential traits of his nature. Like a ship's crew on a raft, alone on the ocean without provisions, they looked at each other as they were. There, in their extremity, were to be seen calm resignation, unmanly terror, moody despair, turbulent passion, and stealthy, fiendish glances that blinked not at cannibalism itself.
Mr. Sandford, almost for the first time in his life, had been rendered nervous with apprehension. To be sure, he was not one of the "sleek-headed men that sleep o' nights"; he was always busy with some scheme; but, heretofore, success had followed every plan, and he had gone on with steadfast confidence. Now the keenest foresight was of no avail; events defied calculation; misfortunes came without end and without remedy. It was the moment of fate to him. He had gone to the last verge, exhausted every resource, and, if there were not some help, as unlooked for as a shower of gold from heaven, he must stop payment —he, whose credit had been spotless and without limit, whose name in the financial world was honor itself, whose influence had been a tower of strength in every undertaking. It was not without a struggle that he brought himself to look this inexorable fact in the face. Marcia and his sister-in-law heard him as he paced the room through the night; they had noticed his abstracted and downcast air the preceding evening; and at breakfast the few words that escaped from between his firm-set lips were sufficiently ominous. It was the first morning that Marcia had appeared at the table, and in her feeble condition the apprehension of danger was intense and overpowering. Mrs. Sandford tried in vain to change the conversation, by significant glances towards the invalid; but the brother was too much absorbed to notice anything outside of the gloomy circle that hemmed him in. Muttering still of "ruin," "beggary," and similar topics, so admirably adapted to cheer the convalescent, he swallowed his breakfast like an animal, left the room without his usual bland "good morning," and slammed the street-door after him.
A fit of hysterics was the natural consequence. The kind and sisterly widow bore, rather than led, Marcia to an upper room, propped her with pillows in an arm-chair, and employed every tender and womanly art to soothe her excited nerves. Calmness came, but only with exhaustion. The door-bell rang. Mrs. Sandford gave an inaudible direction to the servant. But Marcia exclaimed, "It is George! I heard his step on the pavement. I must see him. Let him in." Mrs. Sandford remonstrated to no purpose, and then went to her own room.
It was "George." He entered the room with a pale face, and a look betokening both suffering and resolution. He was evidently struck by the appearance of Miss Sandford, rightly judging that she was not able to bear what he had come to tell her. He would have uttered a few commonplace courtesies, and deferred his weighty communication to another time. But Marcia's senses were preternaturally sharpened; weak as a vine without its trellis, instinct seemed to guide her to clasp by every tendril the support to which she had been wont to cling. She noticed a certain uneasiness in Greenleaf's demeanor; ready to give the worst interpretation to everything, she exclaimed, in a quick, frightened manner, "George, dear George, what is the matter? You are cold, you are distant. Are you in trouble, too, like all the world?"
"Deeply in trouble," he answered gravely,—still standing, hat in hand.
"Trouble that I cannot soothe?"
"I am afraid not."
"And you won't tell me?"
"Then you don't love me."
Greenleaf was silent; his lips showing the emotion he strove to control. Her voice took a more cheerful tone, as if she would assure herself, and, with a faint smile, she said,—
"You are silent; but I am only childish. You do love me,—don't you, George?"
"As much as I ever did."
A mean subterfuge; for though it was true, perhaps, to him, he knew it was a falsehood to her. She attempted to rise from her chair; he sprang to support her.
"You are so gloomy, reserved, to-day!" she continued.
Still Greenleaf was silent. He aided her to resume her seat; but when he had done so, she detained him, seizing his arm and then his hand. His heart beat rapidly, and he turned away his head to avoid the fond but keen scrutiny of her eyes,—at the same time gently, but ineffectually, attempting to free his hand. Once more he resolved, since the conversation had taken such a turn, to risk the consequences, and prepare her mind for a separation. But a sudden thought struck her, and, before he could frame a sentence, she spoke:—
"You have heard bad news this morning?"
He shook his head.
"No,—I know you are not mercenary; I would not wrong you with the suspicion."
"What suspicion, pray?" he asked, turning suddenly towards her.
"You have not heard?"
"I have heard nothing."
"Pity my foolishness. But my brother is in difficulty; he may fail; perhaps has failed even now. Pray, don't chide me for my fears. All the world goes with the rich and the prosperous."
"The world has very little company just now, then," said Greenleaf, with a grim smile. "But assure yourself," he continued; "the dowry of my wife is a matter I have never considered. With the woman I love," said he, with deep emphasis, "honest poverty is what I do not dread."
Interpreting this fervent declaration in the natural way, Marcia reached forth her arms with sudden fervor, drew him nearer, and covered his forehead, lips, and cheeks with kisses. Every kiss fell like a spot of mildew on his flesh; her caresses filled him with shame. Could he undeceive her? In her feeble condition, the excitement into which she had been thrown by her brother's danger was all she could bear. False as his position was, heartless and empty as his soothing words and caresses were, he must continue to wear the mask, and show himself as he was at some time when she had no other trouble to weigh her down. Still she chid his gloomy reserve, his absent air, and mechanical movements. Was he weak, if under such influences his fixed resolves bent?—if his nerves felt the old thrill?—if his voice took a softer tone?—and if he parted from her with something of his former tenderness? He tried to excuse himself to his conscience by the plea, that the deception once begun must be kept up until it could be ended with safety. For he saw that her heart was really bound up in him. She no longer kept up the brilliant fence of repartee; she had abandoned all coquettish arts, and, for once at least, was sincerely, fondly, even foolishly, in love. Home he went, sadder than before, his conscience yet more aroused, and his resolutions farther than ever from accomplishment.
Poor little Alice!
EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF.
Mr. Sandford walked towards his office, that fine autumn morning, in no amiable mood. Nature seemed to protest against his angry violence; the very stones of the pavement seemed to say,—"He need not thump us in that way; we can't pay his notes." The trees along Mount Vernon Street rustled their leaves with a shudder, as he passed under them; they dropped no benison upon a face which even the golden morning could not lighten. "Let him stride on!" said they; "we shall be more cheerful in company with the maids washing the sidewalks or taking out the children (blessed darlings!) for an airing." Canaries ceased their songs in the windows; urchins stopped their hoops and stood on the curbstones, eyeing the gloomy man askance. When he passed the Granary Burying-Ground, he saw a squirrel dart down a tree, and scamper over the old graves in search of some one of his many stores; then rising on his haunches, he munched the pea-nut which he had unearthed, (the gift of some schoolboy, months ago,) as much as to say, "We know how to look out for hard times; but what have you done with your pea-nuts, old fellow, that you look so cross? Can't get 'em, eh? You should put 'em where you'll know where they are." A whisk of his tail and he flew up the tree. The lesson was lost upon the financier. At the office-door he met Bullion,—his face a trifle more ruddy, his eye with a colder glitter, and his queer eyebrow pointing with an odder significance.
"How are you, Sandford?"—A very short nod.—"Cool, this morning."— Standing with his dumpy legs apart, he nibbled at the ivory head of his cane.
"Mr. Bullion," said Sandford, "you must help me. You must lift that note. Come, I know you can do it,—and I'll make it worth your while."
"Can't do it; you want a long extension, I s'pose."
"Say three or four months."
"Time is money, as I told you before. In four months, with forty thousand dollars, I could—do pretty well," ending the sentence in a lower tone, that indicated a desire to keep his first thought back.
"In a time like this, Mr. Bullion, it is the duty of every man to assist his neighbor to the extent of his ability. If there is no forbearance, no brotherly aid, how are the complicated settlements of a mad community like this to be made? There is not money enough to pay what must be paid."
The eyebrow was stiffly pointed as Bullion answered,—
"I do forbear. I must forbear. Stearine owes me; you indorse; you can't pay, neither of you. I sha'n't get the money. I must go without."
It was an injured tone.
"Then why do you let it go to protest?"
"Only a form, Sandford. Usage of the mercantile world. Very irregular not to do it. Sorry, but can't help it."
Mr. Sandford's patience was exhausted.
"It is my turn to-day, Bullion; I have no further resource; I am ruined. You feel strong and look upon my distress in triumph. But your turn will come. Mark my words. Within a fortnight I shall see you rushing down State Street in despair; your property will be swept away with a flood, and you will be a beggar,—as you deserve to be. Damn your stony heart!"
It was the first outburst of profanity from Mr. Sandford,—too fastidious, usually, to allow himself the use of such expletives.
"Sorry to see you excited, Sandford. Best to keep temper. Guess you and Fayerweather will raise the money. Pity Stearine hadn't wick enough in him to stand alone. Rather a poor candle, he is,—he! he! Morning!"
The gray eyes twinkled, the eyebrow whisked, and the sturdy legs bore the creditor away.
Entering the office, Mr. Sandford tried to assume a cheerful look. He looked over the list of failures, in the "Independent," with something of the interest which a patient in a hospital would feel when overhearing the report from the dead-house. Was there no one of the bald or grizzly-haired gentlemen who smiled so benignly whom he could ask for aid? Not one; he knew their circumstances; they had no money at command; all their property was locked up in investments. He thought of the many chairmen and directors in benevolent associations with whom he was connected. No,—they were either men of moderate means, or had some son or nephew or brother in business whose credit they must uphold. How gladly would he barter all his parchment testimonials for one good "promise to pay"! He groaned almost audibly, and wondered how he could pass the time till the close of bank-hours. The suspense was a torture as keen as the calamity itself.
A visitor entered; it was Plotman. He came with a cheerful, even exulting, look.
"Good news, Sandford!"
"News!" exclaimed Sandford, impetuously. "What news? How much?"
In his absent state he forgot that Plotman was not aware of his thoughts, and associated good news only with an accommodation to serve his present need. But his fluttering expectations were dashed to the ground with the reply.
"'How much,' did you say? A clean majority over all. Your name stands at the head of the ticket."
"I am obliged to you," replied Sandford, sadly, "but I don't think I can accept the nomination."
"Well, that is rather strong," said Plotman. "You'd best keep your modesty for the papers; it's thrown away on me."
"I really can't bother with politics."
"Why in the Devil, then, did you lay your corns to get the place, and make me all this trouble for nothing?"
"I am really sorry, Plotman; but, to tell you just how it is, I am so much involved in this fearful monetary pressure that I have no time nor heart for anything else."
"Confounded spooney!" muttered Plotman, between his teeth. "If I'd known he was so weak in the knees. I'd have gone in for Spreadeagle, who offered a handsome figure."
"Come in to-morrow, Plotman, and we'll talk about it. I can't think about it now. I'll make all right with you."
Still muttering, the disappointed politician departed, leaving Sandford in a deeper abyss than before. To prevent unwelcome visits, the latter left word with his clerks that he could see no one whatever.
To wile away the time, he took out his cash-book and private papers. There was about a thousand dollars in bank.
"It will be best to draw that," thought he, "for there's no knowing what may happen."
And the office-boy was dispatched with a check for the amount.
"Let us see what other resources. There are Monroe's notes,—ten thousand dollars. I can raise something on them. I'll borrow from Tonsor, who seems to have funds enough."
He sent a clerk and succeeded in obtaining eight thousand dollars for five days, by depositing the notes.
"If worst comes to worst, I have nine thousand to fall back upon. Now, what next? Fletcher's note for five hundred, with the rather peculiar admission at the beginning. I wonder, now, what he would give for this little paper? Possibly he is in funds. He's a scheming devil and hasn't been idle in this gale of wind. I'll send for him."
Fletcher entered with an air of confidence.
"Well, Mr. Sandford, you don't bear malice, I see. If you didn't want to get a saucy answer, you shouldn't have threatened, the other day."
"You were hardly civil, Fletcher," said Sandford, gravely, "and rather forgetful, besides. If I were you, I wouldn't bluster until a certain piece of paper was safe in my possession."
"Do you suppose I ever forget that paper, or how you bullied it out of me? But you know that at the time when I used that five hundred dollars, I had money enough, and felt as sure of returning it the next day as you do of paying the ten thousand you had of Monroe."
"How did you know whose money I had?"
"Never mind. I hear a great many things. As I was saying, I didn't steal the money, for you didn't miss it till I told you; and if I hadn't been a coward and a fool to boot, I should never have signed that cursed paper."
"I have it, though. The law calls it a confession of theft."
"You have told me that often enough before. You needn't touch me on the raw to make me remember it."
He waited, but Sandford made no reply. Fletcher continued:—
"Well, what is it? You've something on hand, or you wouldn't have sent for me."
"You propose to pay sometime, I believe?"
"Of course, I do. I've offered to pay times enough, you know. I can get the money in ten minutes."
"Can you! How much?"
"Why, the five hundred and interest."
"I rather think the document is worth more money."
"You'd take my heart's blood for it, I know. But you can't get any more money than I have got."
"You were very ready in promising five hundred in ten minutes. It seems to me that in an hour you might raise a larger sum."
"Do you suppose I am a capitalist?—that I own Fogarty, Danforth, and Dot?"
"I'm sure, I can't tell. Stranger things have happened."
"I wonder if he suspects my connection with old Bullion?" thought Fletcher.
"I'll make you a fair proposition, Fletcher. I need some money, for a few days. Get me thirty thousand dollars for a week, say; I'll pay a liberal interest and give up the paper."
"I can't do it. The figure is altogether above me. You don't want me to rob my employers?"
"'Rob' is a hard word, Fletcher. No, I counsel no crime. You don't want anything more to think of. But you may know some chance to borrow that sum?"
Fletcher mused. "If Sandford comes to a man like me for such a sum, it must be because he is devilish hard up; and if I get him the money, it would likely be sunk. I can't do it."
"No, Mr. Sandford, it's out of the question. Everybody that has money has twenty applications for every dollar."
"Then you'd rather see this paper in an officer's hands?"
Fletcher's face blanched and his knees shook, but he kept his resolution in spite of his bodily tremor.
"I have been like a mouse cuffed between a cat's paws so long that I don't care to run. If you mean to pounce up on me and finish me, go ahead. I may as well die as to be always dreading it. But you'll please remember what I said about overhauling your accounts."
Sandford found his man firmer than he had expected. He changed his tactics.
"Fletcher, as you can't do what I want, how much will you give outright for the little obligation? You shall have it for fifteen hundred dollars. Come, now, that's reasonable."
"Reasonable as the fellow who puts a pistol to your head on a dark night in the middle of Cambridge bridge."
"Tut, tut! Don't talk of highway-robbery! I think I am letting you off cheap."
"How do you suppose I can raise fifteen hundred dollars?"
"That is your affair."
"You are as cruel as a bloodhound after a runaway nigger."
"I have once or twice remonstrated against your use of harsh words."
"What's the use of being mealy-mouthed? I owe you five hundred dollars. Every dollar beyond that you get from me you rob me of; and it doesn't matter whether it is a pistol or a writ that you threaten me with."
"You persist in a violent tone."
"I can't talk to suit you, and I shall stop. We shall never agree. I'll tell you, though, what I will do. I'll give you a note, to-morrow, for a thousand dollars, on short time, with a good name."
"Money, Fletcher!—money! I don't want any note."
"Well, I'll see what I can do. Perhaps I can get the money."
"And, Fletcher, I advise you to settle the affair to-day. It has stood quite long enough. Just devote to-day to this little matter. Come in before two,—not later than three, at any rate. Perhaps your employers might advance it,—that is, rather than have their clerk compromised. Suppose I lay the matter before them?"
Fletcher's rage broke out afresh. He gnashed his teeth and foamed at the mouth. If he had had a weapon, it might have fared hard with his oppressor. But his anger was inarticulate,—too mighty, too tumultuous, for words. He left the office, his eyes glowing like a cat's, and his fringy moustache trembling over his white teeth.
Mr. Sandford was somewhat exhilarated, and rubbed his smooth hands with energy. "I think he'll come back," thought he. "Failure is inevitable. Let it come! We must bear it as we can. And for a ruined man I don't know of any consolation like a little ready money. Now to play my last cards. These shares which I own in the Vortex are worth more to-day than they are likely to be to-morrow. It would be a shame not to dispose of them while they will bring something. Fayerweather and the others who have agreed to buy at ninety per cent. are at the Board. I'll get a new hand to take them in. They won't suspect, for they think Stearine's note has been extended."
He called a junior clerk and dispatched the shares to a broker to be sold for cash on account of whom it might concern. He then locked himself in the back office to be free from troublesome visitors, keeping a cautious lookout for Fletcher, whom he expected, and for the clerk who was to bring the money. His chief anxiety was lest Mr. Fayerweather should come before the sale was effected; and he was in a fever until the money was brought to him. Through the window he saw his friends Monroe, Bullion, and others, who called for him and were denied by his order; he chose to remain unseen.
Fletcher did not return. In going out he met Bullion, and, telling him that he had to pay Sandford a thousand dollars, asked for a part of the money due him.
"Don't be a fool," replied that sturdy financier, "Sandford will fail to-day, probably. That's the reason for his hurry to get the money. Let him sweat. Keep your funds. You can pay his assignee any time these six months to come."
It was near two o'clock. Mr. Sandford had in his pocket the proceeds of the Vortex shares, the loan from Tensor, and his balance from bank,—a comfortable sum altogether; and he thought it not prudent to risk the whole by waiting for Fletcher, who, after all, might not come. So, seeing the coast clear, he put on his surtout and walked out of the front door with an unconcerned air.
The notary came with the inevitable protest. Mr. Fayerweather was the astounded individual who received it. A sudden light broke upon him. He was swindled. He took out the Vortex shares which he had just bought by agreement, and, turning to the transfer-book, found that they were Sandford's. The Secretary had weathered the President with a vengeance.
The lawyer to whom the protested note came happened to hold other claims against Mr. Fayerweather and the Vortex, and, naturally judging that the Company might be involved in the difficulties of its officers, he commenced suit without a moment's delay. Ill news flies fast. In an hour after the first writs were served, suit was brought by Tonsor and other creditors, and the office was shut. The safe was found to hold nothing more valuable than duplicates of policies, the Company's bank-account was overdrawn, its stocks and bonds were sold or pledged, and its available assets consisted of the office-furniture, a few reams of paper, and half a dozen sticks of sealing-wax.
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
"THE NEW LIFE" OF DANTE.
Were the author of the "Vita Nuova" unknown, its story of youth and love would still possess a charm, as standing in the dawn of modern literature,—the first book in which modern sentiment finds free expression. It would be of interest, as contrasted with the later growth of the sentimental element in literature, which speedily exhibits the influence of factitious feeling, of self-conscious effort, and of ambitious display. The sentiment of the "Vita Nuova" is separated by the wide gulf that lies between simplicity and affectation from the sentimentality of Petrarch's sonnets. But connected as it is with Dante's life,—the first of that series of works in which truth, intensity, and tenderness of feeling are displayed as in the writings of no other man,—its interest no longer arises merely from itself and from its place in literature, but becomes indissolubly united with that which belongs by every claim to the "Divina Commedia" and to the life of Dante.
When the "Vita Nuova" was completed, Dante was somewhat less than twenty-eight years old. Beatrice had died between two and three years before, in 1290; and he seems to have pleased himself after her loss by recalling to his memory the sweet incidents of her life, and of her influence upon himself. He begins with the words:—
"In that part of the book of my memory before which little can be read is found a rubric which says: Incipit Vita Nova ['The New Life begins']. Under which rubric I find the words written which it is my intention to copy into this little book,—if not all of them, at least their meaning."
This introduction, short as it is, exhibits a characteristic trait of Dante's mind, in the declaration of his intention to copy from the book of his memory, or, in other words, to write the true records of experience. Truth was the chief quality of his intellect, and upon this, as upon an unshaken foundation, rest the marvellous power and consistency of his imaginations. His heart spoke clearly, and he interpreted its speech plainly in his words. His tendency to mysticism often, indeed, led him into strange fancies; but these, though sometimes obscure, are never vague. After these few words of preface, the story begins:—
"Nine times now, since my birth, the heaven of light had turned almost to the same point in its gyration, when first appeared before my eyes the glorious lady of my mind, who was called Beatrice, by many who did not know why they thus called her.[A] She had now been in this life so long, that in its time the starred heaven had moved toward the east one of the twelve parts of a degree;[B] so that about the beginning of her ninth year she appeared to me, and I near the end of my ninth year saw her. She appeared to me clothed in a most noble color, a becoming and modest crimson, and she was girt and adorned in the style that suited her extreme youth. At that instant, I say truly, the spirit of life, which dwells in the most secret chamber of the heart, began to tremble with such violence, that it appeared horribly in the least pulses, and, trembling, said these words: Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi! [Behold a god, stronger than I, who, coming, shall rule me![C]]
[Footnote A: It may be that Dante here refers to the meaning of the name Beatrice,—She who renders happy. She who blesses.]
[Footnote B: According to the astronomy of the times, the sphere of the stars moved from west to east one degree in a hundred years. The twelfth of a degree was, therefore, eight and a half years. See the Convito, Tratt. II. c. vi.]
[Footnote C: Compare with this passage Canzone x, st. 5, 6. Especially the lines,
"E, se 'l libro non erra, Lo spirito maggior tremo si forte, Che parve ben, che morte Per lui in questo mondo giunta fosse."
"And, if the book errs not, the chief spirit so greatly trembled, that it plainly appeared that death for him had arrived in this world."
When Dante meets Beatrice in Purgatory, he says, referring to this time,—and it is pleasant to note these connections between his earliest and his latest works,—
"Tosto che nella vista mi percosse L' alta virtu, che gia m' avca trafitto Prima ch' io fuor di puerizia fosse." Canto xxx. l. 40-42. ]
"At that instant, the spirit of the soul, which dwells in the high chamber to which all the spirits of the senses bring their perceptions, began to marvel greatly, and, addressing the spirits of the sight, said these words: Apparuit jam beatitudo vestra. [Now hath appeared your bliss.] At that instant the natural spirit, which dwells in that part where the nourishment is supplied, began to weep, and, weeping, said these words: Heu miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps. [Woe is me wretched! because frequently henceforth shall I be hindered.]
"From this time forward I say that Love lorded over my soul, which had been thus quickly put at his disposal;[D] and he began to exercise over me such control and such lordship, through the power which my imagination gave to him, that I was obliged to perform completely all his pleasure. He commanded me many times that I should seek to see this youthful angel, so that I in my boyhood often went seeking her, and saw her of such noble and praiseworthy deportment, that truly of her might be said that saying of the poet Homer: 'She does not seem the daughter of a mortal, but of God.' And it befell that her image, which stayed constantly with me, inspired boldness in Love to hold lordship over me; but it was of such noble virtue, that it never suffered that Love should rule without the faithful counsel of Reason in those matters in which such counsel could be useful."
[Footnote D: The text of the Vita Nuova is often uncertain. Here, for example, many authorities concur in the reading, "la quale fu si tosto a lui disponsata," "which had been so quickly betrothed to him." But we prefer to read "disposta," as being more in accordance with the remainder of the figure concerning Love. Many other various readings will be passed over without notice,—but a translation might be exposed to the charge of inaccuracy, if it were judged by the text of any special edition of the original, without comparison with others. The text usually followed in these versions is that of Fraticelli.]
Such is the account which Dante gives of the beginning of his love for Beatrice. The tenderness and purity of his passion are obscured, but not concealed, by quaintness of expression and formality of learning. In literary style the passage displays the uncertain hand of youth, and in a translation something is lost of the charm of simplicity which pervades the original. But in this passage the keynote of Dante's life is struck.
Passing over many things, he says that exactly nine years were completed after the above-described appearance of this most gentle lady, when it happened that "she appeared before me clothed in purest white between two noble ladies, and, passing along the street, she turned her eyes toward that place where I stood very timidly, and, by her ineffable courtesy, which is now rewarded in eternity, saluted me with such virtue, that I seemed to behold all the bounds of bliss. The hour when her most sweet salutation reached me was exactly the ninth of that day; and since it was the first time that her words came to my ears, I felt such great delight, that, as it were intoxicated, I turned away from the crowd, and, betaking myself to the solitary place of my chamber, sat myself down to think of this most courteous lady, and, thinking of her, a sweet slumber came upon me, in which a marvellous vision appeared to me." After describing this vision, he says, that, thinking of what had appeared to him, he "proposed to bring it to the knowledge of many who were famous poets at that time; and since I had already seen in myself the art of speaking words in rhyme, I proposed to write a sonnet, in which I would salute all the vassals of Love; and praying them to give an interpretation of my vision, I wrote to them that which I had seen in my slumber. And I began then this sonnet:—
"To every captive soul and gentle heart Before whose sight may come the present word, That they may thereupon their thoughts impart, Be greeting in Love's name, who is their lord.
"Now of those hours wellnigh one third had gone In which each star appears in heaven most bright, When on a sudden Love before me shone, To think upon whose being gives me fright.
"Joyful seemed Love, and he was keeping My heart within his hands, while on his arm He held my Lady, covered o'er and sleeping.
"Then waking her, he with this flaming heart Did humbly feed her, fearful of some harm. Sudden I saw him weep, and quick depart."
This sonnet is somewhat obscure in the details of its meaning, and has little beauty, but it is of interest as being the earliest poetic composition by Dante that has been preserved for us, and it is curious as being the account of a vision. In our previous article on the "New Life," we referred to the fact of this book being in great part composed of the account of a series of visions, thus connecting itself in the form of its imaginations with the great work of Dante's later years. As a description of things unseen except by the inward eye, this sonnet is bound in poetic connection to the nobler visions of the "Divina Commedia." The private stamp of Dante's imagination is indelibly impressed upon it.
He tells us that many answers were made to this sonnet, and "among those who replied to it was he whom I call the first of my friends, and he wrote a sonnet which began,
'Thou seest in my opinion every worth.'
This was, as it were, the beginning of our friendship when he knew that it was I who had sent these verses to him." This first of Dante's friends was Guido Cavalcanti. Their friendship was of long duration, beginning thus in Dante's nineteenth year, and ending only with Guido's death, in 1300, when Dante was thirty-five years old. It may be taken as a proof of its intimacy and of Dante's high regard for the genius of his friend, that, when Dante, in his course through Hell, at Easter in 1300, represents himself as being recognized by the father of Guido, the first words of the old man to him are,
"If through this blind prison thou goest through loftiness of soul, where is my son? oh, why is he not with thee?"[E]
[Footnote E: Inferno, x. 58-60.]
The sonnet of Guido, in reply to that sent him by Dante, has been preserved, together with the replies by two other contemporary poets; but Dante says of them all,—"The true meaning of my sonnet was not then seen by any one, though now it is plain to the simplest."
After this vision, the poet, whose soul was wholly devoted to his most gentle lady, was brought by Love into so frail a condition of health, that his friends became anxious for him, and questioned him about that which he most wished to conceal. Then he told them that it was Love which had brought him to this pass. But when they asked him, "For whom has Love thus wasted thee?" he looked at them smiling, and said nothing.
"One day it happened," he goes on to relate, "that this most gentle lady sat where words concerning the Queen of Glory are heard, and I was in a place from which I beheld my bliss. Between her and me in a direct line sat a gentle lady of most pleasing aspect, who looked at me often, wondering at my gaze, which seemed to terminate upon her; and many observed her looks. So great attention, indeed, was paid to this, that when I went out from the place I heard some one say, 'Behold how that lady wastes the life of this man!'—and naming her, I heard that they spoke of her who had been in the path of the straight line which, parting from my most gentle Beatrice, had ended in my eyes." Then he says he thought to make this lady serve as a screen for his real love, and he did this so well that in a short time many persons fancied they knew his secret. And in order to deceive them still more, he addressed to this lady many trifles in rhyme, of which he will insert in this account of his "New Life" only those which bear reference to Beatrice.
Some time after this, "it was the pleasure of the Lord of the Angels to call to his glory a young and beautiful lady, who had been very lovely in the city of Florence. And I saw her body lying without its soul, surrounded by many ladies who wept grievously. Then remembering that I had formerly seen her in company with that most gentle lady, I could not restrain some tears; and, weeping, I proposed to say some words about her death, as a return for that I had seen her sometimes with my lady." Then, he says, he wrote two poems, of which we give the last, adding to it his verbal comment, as an example of the style of commentary with which he has accompanied all the poems of the "Vita Nuova":—
"O villain Death, compassion's foe, The Mother from of old of woe, Inexorable judge severe, Thou givest sorrow for the heart to bear; Wherefore in grief I go, And blaming thee my very tongue outwear.
"And if of every grace thou wouldst be bare, It only needs that I declare The guilt of this thy sinful blow, So that all those shall know, And each shall be thy foe, Who erst were nurtured with Love's tender care
"For thou hast taken from the world the grace And virtue which are woman's praise, And in youth's gayest days The charm of loveliness thou dost deface.
"Who is this lady is not to be told, Save as these qualities do make her known. He who deserves salvation may alone Have hope companionship with her to hold.
"This sonnet is divided into four parts.[F] In the first I address Death by certain of her proper names; in the second, speaking to her, I tell the reason why I am moved to blame her; in the third, I revile her; in the fourth, I speak to a person undefined, although definite as regards my intention. The second part begins at Thou givest; the third at And if of every grace; the fourth at He who deserves."
[Footnote F: Dante calls this little poem a sonnet, although, strictly, the name does not belong to it.]
After this, Dante tells of a journey he was forced to take, in the direction of the city to which the lady who had afforded him the means of disguising his real love had gone. He says, that, on the way, which he calls the way of sighs, he met Love, who was sad in aspect, and clad like a pilgrim, and that Love told him the name of another lady who must thenceforth serve as his screen to conceal his secret. He goes on to relate, that, after his return,[G] he sought out this lady, and made her his defence so effectually, that many persons spoke of it beyond the terms of courtesy, which weighed on him heavily. And on account of this lying talk which defamed him greatly, he says that Beatrice, "the most gentle lady, who was the enemy of all the vices, and the queen of virtue, passing by a certain place, denied me her most sweet salute, in which consisted all my bliss. And departing a little from the present subject, I will declare that which her salutation effected within me. I say, then, that, whenever she appeared, in my hope for her admirable salutation I no longer had an enemy, for a flame of charity possessed me which made me pardon every one who had done me wrong; and if at that time any one had asked anything of me, my only answer would have been Love, and my face would have been clothed with humility. And when she was near to giving me a salutation, a spirit of Love, destroying all the other spirits of the senses, drove out the feeble spirits of the sight, and said to them, 'Go and do honor to your lady,' and he stayed in their place. And whoever had wished to know Love might have done so by looking at the trembling of my eyes."
[Footnote G: In his few words of introduction to the Vita Nuova, Dante implies that he shall not copy out into his book all his compositions relating to its subject. Some of the poems of this period, not included in the Vita Nuova, have been preserved, and we propose to refer to them in their appropriate places. Compare with this passage Sonnet lxxix., Poesie Liriche, ed. Fraticelli,—
"Se 'l bello aspetto non mi fosse tolto,"—
which was apparently written during Dante's absence from Beatrice.]
After the salutation which had been wont to bring to him a joy almost beyond his capacity had been refused to him, Dante went weeping to his chamber, where he could lament without being heard; and there he fell asleep, crying like a little child who has been beaten. And in his sleep he had a vision of Love, who entered into talk with him, and bade him write a poem, adorned with sweet harmony, in which he should set forth the truth and fidelity of his love for Beatrice, and should sue for her pardon. Dante awoke at the ninth hour of the day, and at once began the poem, of which the following is a portion. He personifies his poem, and he bids it
"Tell her,—'O Lady, this his heart is stayed On faithfulness so sure and firm, Save to serve you it has no other care: Early 'twas yours, and never has it strayed.' But if she trust not what thou dost affirm, Tell her to ask of Love, who will the truth declare; And at the end, beg her, with humble prayer, That she her pardon of its wrong would give; Then let her bid that I no longer live, And she shall see her servant quick obey."[H]
[Footnote H: Compare Canz. x. and xi.]
After this poem was finished, Dante describes what he calls "a battle of thoughts" concerning Love within his mind, and then goes on to relate that it happened one day that he was taken, by a friend who thought to give him pleasure, to a feast at which many ladies were present. "They were assembled," he says, "to attend a lady who was married that day, and, according to the custom of the city, they bore her company at her first sitting at table in the dwelling of her new husband." Dante, believing thus to do pleasure to his friend, proposed to stand in waiting upon these ladies. But at the moment of this intention he felt a sudden tremor, which caused him to lean for support against a painting which ran round the wall,[I] and, raising his eyes, he beheld Beatrice. His confusion became apparent; and the ladies, not excepting Beatrice herself, laughed at his strange appearance. Then his friend took him from their presence, and having asked him what so ailed him, Dante replied, "I have set my feet on that edge of life beyond which no man can go with intent to return." Then leaving him, he went to the chamber of tears, weeping and ashamed; and in his trouble he wrote a sonnet to Beatrice, in which he says, that, if she had known the cause of his trouble, he believes that she would have felt pity for him.[J]
[Footnote I: This is, perhaps, the earliest reference in modern literature to the use of painting as a decoration for houses. It is probable that it was a recent application of the art, and resulted from the revival of interest in its works which accompanied the revival of the art. We shall have occasion again to note a reference to painting.]
[Footnote J: To this period, apparently, belong Sonnets xxix. and xxx. of the general collection. The last may not unlikely have been omitted in the Vita Nuova on account of the tenderness with which the death of Beatrice had invested every memory of her, preventing the insertion of a poem which might seem harsh in its expression:—
"I curse the day on which I first beheld The light of thy betraying eyes." ]
The foregoing passage, like many others in the "Vita Nuova," is full of the intense and exaggerated expressions of passionate feeling. But this feeling is recorded with a frank simplicity which carries conviction of the sincerity of emotion. It may be laughed at, but it cannot be doubted. It is possible, though hardly probable, that the scene took place at the wedding festival of Beatrice herself. She was married sometime previous to 1287, and unless a reference to this event be found here, no notice of it is taken by Dante in what he has written concerning her. That the fact of her marriage changed in no degree the feeling with which Dante regarded her is plain. His love was of no low quality, to be altered by earthly circumstance. It was a love of the soul. No change or separation that left the being untouched could part him from it. To the marriage of true souls there was no impediment, and he would admit none, in her being the wife of another. The qualities which she possessed as a maiden belonged to her no less as a wife.
It was in the same year, probably, as that in which the "Vita Nuova" was composed and published, that Dante himself was married to Gemma Donati. There are stories that their married life was unhappy. But these stories have not the weight of even contemporary gossip. Possibly they arose from the fact of the long separation between Dante and his wife during his exile. Boccaccio insinuates more than he asserts, and he concludes a vague declamation about the miseries of married life with the words, "Truly I do not affirm that these things happened to Dante, for I do not know." Dante keeps utter silence in his works,—certainly giving no reason to suppose that domestic trials were added to his other burdens. One thing is known which deserves remembrance,—that, when, after some years, a daughter was born to him, the name which she received was Beatrice.
In the next few pages of the "Vita Nuova" Dante describes various thoughts which came to his mind concerning his appearance when in presence of his lady; but, passing over these, we come to a passage which we give in full, as containing a delightful picture from Florence in its old time, and many sentences of sweet and characteristic feeling.
"Many persons had now learned from my looks the secret of my heart. And it happened that certain ladies, who well knew my heart, each of them having witnessed many of my discomfitures, had assembled together, taking pleasure in each other's company. And I, by chance passing near them, was addressed by one of these gentle ladies. She who called to me was very graceful in her speech, so that when I reached them, and saw well that my most gentle lady was not with them, reassuring myself, I saluted them, and asked what might be their pleasure. The ladies were many, and some of them were laughing together, and others looked at me, waiting for what I might say, while others spoke among themselves, and one of them, turning her eyes toward me, and calling me by name, said, 'To what end dost thou love this lady, since thou canst not support her presence? Tell us, for it is certain that the object of such a love must be a very strange one.' And when she had said these words to me, not only she, but all the others, began to attend in expectation of my reply. Then I said to them, 'Ladies, the object of my love was, in truth, the salutation of that lady of whom perhaps you speak; and in that dwelt the bliss which was the end of all my desires. But since it has pleased her to deny it to me, my lord Love, thanks be to him, has placed all my bliss in that which cannot be taken from me.' Then these ladies began to speak together, and, as we sometimes see rain falling mingled with beautiful snow, so, it seemed to me, I saw their words mingled with sighs. And after they had spoken for some time among themselves, the same lady who had first spoken to me said to me, 'We pray thee that thou wouldst tell us in what consists this thy bliss.' And I, replying to her, said, 'In those words which speak my lady's praise.' And she answered, 'If thou sayest truth in this, those words which thou hast spoken concerning thine own condition must have been written with another intention.'[K] Then I, thinking on these words, and, as it were, ashamed of myself, departed from them, and went, saying to myself, 'Since there is such bliss in those words which praise my lady, why has my speech been of other things?' And I proposed to take always for my subject, henceforward, the praise of this most gentle lady. And thinking much on this, I seemed to myself to have taken too lofty a subject for my power, so that I did not dare to begin. Thus I delayed some days, with the desire to speak, and with a fear of beginning.
[Footnote K: This refers to the sonnets Dante had written about his own trouble and the conflict of his thoughts. It will be observed that the words "speak" and "speech" are used in reference to poetic compositions. In those days the poet was commonly called il dicitore in rima, "the speaker in rhyme," or simply il dicitore.]
"Then it happened, that, walking along a road, at the side of which ran a very clear stream, so great a wish to speak came to me, that I began to think on the method I should observe; and I thought that to speak of her would not be becoming, unless I addressed my words to ladies,—and not to every lady, but only to those who are gentle, and not mere women.[L] Then I say that my tongue spoke as if moved by its own accord, and said, 'Ladies who have intelligence of Love.' These words I laid by in my mind with great joy, thinking to take them for my beginning. And returning to the city, after some days I began this Canzone:—[M]
[Footnote L: The epithet which Dante constantly applies to Beatrice is "most gentle," gentillisima, while other ladies are called gentile, "gentle." Here he makes the distinction between the donna and the donna gentile. The word is used with a signification similar to that which it has in our own early literature, and fuller than that which it now retains. It refers both to race, as in the phrase "of gentle birth," and to the qualities of character. "Gentleness means the same as nobleness," says Dante, in the Convito; "and by nobleness is meant the perfection of its own nature in anything." Tratt. iv. c. 14 16.
The delicacy and the dignity of meaning attaching to the word render it an epithet especially appropriate to Beatrice, as implying all that is loveliest in person and character. Its use in the Vita Nuova is the more to be remarked, as in the Divina Commedia it is never applied to Beatrice. Its appropriateness ceased with her earthly life, for there was "another glory of the celestial body."]
[Footnote M: This Canzone is one of the most beautiful of Dante's minor poems. We have preferred to give it in a literal translation, rather than to attempt one in which the involved rhyme of the original should be preserved, fearing lest this could not be done without sacrifice of the meaning to the form. The original must be read by those who would understand its grace of expression combined with its depth of feeling. Dante himself prized this Canzone, and represents Buonagiunta da Lucca in Purgatory as addressing him,—
"Ma di s' io veggio qui colui che fuore Trasse le nuove rime, cominciando: _Donne, ch' avete intelletto d'Amore."
"But tell me if I see him who wrote the new rhymes, beginning, 'Ladies who have intelligence of Love.'" Purgat. c. xxiv. l. 49-51.]
"Ladies who have intelligence of Love, I of my lady wish with you to speak; Not that to tell her praise in full I think, But to discourse that I may ease my mind.
"I say that when I think upon her worth, So sweet doth Love make himself feel to me, That if I then did not my courage lose, Speaking I would enamor all mankind. I do not wish so loftily to speak, Lest I should fail and fall through very fear. But of her gentle nature I will treat With lightest touch compared with her desert, Ladies and damsels bound to Love, with you; For unto others this may not be told.
"An Angel cries aloud in tongue divine, And says, 'O Sire! in the world is seen A miracle in action, that proceeds From out a soul which far as here doth shine.' The Heavens, which have no other want, indeed, But that of her, demand her of her Lord, And every Saint doth for this favor beg; Only Compassion our part defends. What sayeth God? what of Madonna means? 'O my delights, now be content in peace That, while I please, your hope should there remain Where dwelleth one who loss of her awaits, And who shall say in Hell to the condemned, I have beheld the hope of those in bliss.'"[N]
[Footnote N: Note the reference implied in these words to the journey of Dante through Hell.]
"My lady is desired in high heaven. Her virtues now will I make known to you. I say, whoso a gentle lady would appear Should go with her: for when she passeth by, Love casts a frost upon all villain hearts, So that their every thought doth freeze and die; And whoso bears to stay and look on her Will nobler thing become or else will die; And when one finds that he may worthy be To look on her, he doth his virtue prove: For then that comes to him which gives him health, And humbleth him till he forgets all wrong; And God hath given a still greater grace, That who hath spoke with her cannot end ill.
"Love says of her, 'How can a mortal thing Be thus in every part adorned and pure?' Then, gazing on her, to himself he swears That God in her a creature new designs. Color of pearl doth clothe her, as it were,— Not in excess, but most becomingly. Whate'er of good Nature can make she is; And by her model Beauty proves itself. From out her eyes, wherever they may move, Spirits inflamed with love do issue forth, Which strike the eyes of whoso looks on her, And enter so that every heart they find. Love you behold depicted on her face, On which with fixed look no one can gaze.
"I know, Canzone, thou wilt go to speak With many ladies, when I send thee forth; And now I bid thee, having bred thee up Like to a young and simple child of Love, That where thou goest thou shouldst praying say, 'Teach me which way to go, for I am sent To her with praise of whom I am adorned.' And if thou wishest not to go in vain, Remain not there where villain folk may be; Endeavor, if thou mayst, to be acquaint Only with ladies, or with courteous men, Who thee will guide upon the quickest way. Love thou wilt find in company with her, And to them both commend me as thou shouldst."
After explaining, according to his custom, and marking the divisions of this poem, Dante copies out a sonnet in which he answers the question of one of his friends, who, he says, perhaps entertaining an expectation of him beyond what was due, asked him, 'What is Love?' Many of the poets of that time tried their hands in giving an answer to this difficult question, and Dante begins his with confirming the opinion expressed by one of them:—
"Love is but one thing with the gentle heart, As in the saying of the sage we find."[O]
[Footnote O: it is probable that Dante refers to the first of a Canzone by Guido Guinicelli, which says,
"Within the gentle heart Love always stays,"
—a verse which he may have had still in his memory when he makes Francesca da Rimini say, (Inf. v. 100,)
"Love which by gentle heart is quickly learned."
For other definitions of Love as understood by the Italian poets of the trecento, see Guido Cavalcanti's most famous and most obscure Canzone, Donna mi priega; the sonnet (No. xlii.) falsely ascribed to Dante, Molti volendo dir che fosse Amore; the sonnet by Jacopo da Lentino, Amore e un desio che vien dal core; and many others.]
Another sonnet follows upon this, telling how this Love was awakened by Beatrice and beginning with the exquisite praise,
"Within her eyes my lady beareth Love, So that who looks on her is gentle made."[P]
[Footnote P: Compare with this Sonnet xl.,—
"Dagli occhi della mia donna si muove." ]
Not many days after this, the father of Beatrice died.[Q] "And inasmuch as it is the custom in the above-mentioned city for ladies to assemble with ladies, and men with men, in such affliction, many ladies assembled at the house where Beatrice was weeping piteously. And seeing certain of them returning from her, I heard them speak of this most gentle lady, how she was lamenting.... When these ladies had passed, I remained in such grief that tears began to fall, and, putting my hands before my eyes, I covered my face. And if it had not been that I expected to hear further of her, for I stood near by where most of the ladies who came from her passed, I should have hidden myself as soon as the tears assailed me. While I still delayed, more ladies passed by, talking together and saying, 'Who of us should ever be joyful after hearing this lady speak so piteously?' After these others passed, who said, as they went by, 'This one who is here weeps neither more nor less than if he had seen her as we have.' And then others said of me, 'See! so overcome is he, that he seems not himself.' And thus these ladies passing by, I heard speech of her and of myself." And going away, after this, he wrote two sonnets, telling of what he had seen and heard.[R]
[Footnote Q: Folco Portinari died December 31, 1289.]
[Footnote R: Compare with this passage Sonnet xlvi., which seems to have been written on this occasion;—