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The Cloister and the Hearth
by Charles Reade
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Suddenly a more powerful gust than usual catching the sail at a disadvantage, the rotten shrouds gave way, and the sail was torn out with a loud crack, and went down the wind smaller and smaller, blacker and blacker, and fluttered into the sea, half a mile off, like a sheet of paper, and ere the helmsman could put the ship's head before the wind, a wave caught her on the quarter and drenched the poor wretches to the bone, and gave them a foretaste of chill death. Then one vowed aloud to turn Carthusian monk, if St. Thomas would save him. Another would go a pilgrim to Compostella, bareheaded, barefooted, with nothing but a coat of mail on his naked skin, if St. James would save him. Others invoked Thomas, Dominic, Denys, and above all, Catherine of Sienna.

Two petty Neapolitan traders stood shivering.

One shouted at the top of his voice, "I vow to St. Christopher at Paris a waxen image of his own weight, if I win safe to land."

On this the other nudged him, and said, "Brother, brother, take heed what you vow. Why, if you sell all you have in the world by public auction, 'twill not buy his weight in wax."

"Hold your tongue, you fool," said the vociferator. Then in a whisper:

"Think ye I am in earnest? Let me but win safe to land, I'll not give him a rush dip."

Others lay flat and prayed to the sea.

"Oh, most merciful sea! oh, sea most generous! oh! bountiful sea! oh, beautiful sea! be gentle, be kind, preserve us in this hour of peril."

And others wailed and moaned in mere animal terror each time the ill-fated ship rolled or pitched more terribly than usual; and she was now a mere plaything in the arms of the tremendous waves.

A Roman woman of the humbler class sat with her child at her half-bared breast, silent amid that wailing throng: her cheek ashy pale; her eye calm; and her lips moved at times in silent prayer, but she neither wept, nor lamented, nor bargained with the gods. Whenever the ship seemed really gone under their feet, and bearded men squeaked, she kissed her child; but that was all. And so she sat patient, and suckled him in death's jaws; for why should he lose any joy she could give him; moribundo? Ay, there I do believe, sat Antiquity among those mediaevals. Sixteen hundred years had not tainted the old Roman blood in her veins; and the instinct of a race she had perhaps scarce heard of taught her to die with decent dignity.

A gigantic friar stood on the poop with feet apart, like the Colossus of Rhodes, not so much defying, as ignoring, the peril that surrounded him. He recited verses from the Canticles with a loud unwavering voice; and invited the passengers to confess to him. Some did so on their knees, and he heard them and laid his hands on them, and absolved them as if he had been in a snug sacristy, instead of a perishing ship. Gerard got nearer and nearer to him, by the instinct that takes the wavering to the side of the impregnable. And in truth, the courage of heroes facing fleshly odds might have paled by the side of that gigantic friar, and his still more gigantic composure. Thus, even here, two were found who maintained the dignity of our race: a woman, tender, yet heroic, and a monk steeled by religion against mortal fears.

And now, the sail being gone, the sailors cut down the useless mast a foot above the board, and it fell with its remaining hamper over the ship's side. This seemed to relieve her a little.

But now the hull, no longer impelled by canvas, could not keep ahead of the sea. It struck her again and again on the poop, and the tremendous blows seemed given by a rocky mountain, not by a liquid.

The captain left the helm and came amidships pale as death. "Lighten her," he cried. "Fling all overboard, or we shall founder ere we strike, and lose the one little chance we have of life." While the sailors were executing this order, the captain, pale himself, and surrounded by pale faces that demanded to know their fate, was talking as unlike an English skipper in like peril as can well be imagined. "Friends," said he, "last night when all was fair, too fair, alas! there came a globe of fire close to the ship. When a pair of them come it is good luck, and nought can drown her that voyage. We mariners call these fiery globes Castor and Pollux. But if Castor come without Pollux, or Pollux without Castor, she is doomed. Therefore, like good Christians, prepare to die."

These words were received with a loud wail.

To a trembling inquiry how long they had to prepare, the captain replied, "She may, or may not, last half an hour; over that, impossible; she leaks like a sieve; bustle, men, lighten her."

The poor passengers seized on everything that was on deck and flung it overboard. Presently they laid hold of a heavy sack; an old man was lying on it, sea sick. They lugged it from under him. It rattled. Two of them drew it to the side; up started the owner, and with an unearthly shriek, pounced on it. "Holy Moses! what would you do? 'Tis my all; 'tis the whole fruits of my journey; silver candlesticks, silver plates, brooches, hanaps—"

"Let go, thou hoary villain," cried the others; "shall all our lives be lost for thy ill-gotten gear?" "Fling him in with it," cried one; "'tis this Ebrew we Christian men are drowned for." Numbers soon wrenched it from him, and heaved it over the side. It splashed into the waves. Then its owner uttered one cry of anguish, and stood glaring, his white hair streaming in the wind, and was going to leap after it, and would, had it floated. But it sank, and was gone for ever; and he staggered to and fro, tearing his hair, and cursed them and the ship, and the sea, and all the powers of heaven and hell alike.

And now the captain cried out: "See, there is a church in sight. Steer for that church, mate, and you, friends, pray to the saint, whoe'er he be."

So they steered for the church and prayed to the unknown god it was named after. A tremendous sea pooped them, broke the rudder, and jammed it immovable, and flooded the deck.

Then wild with superstitious terror some of them came round Gerard. "Here is the cause of all," they cried. "He has never invoked a single saint. He is a heathen; here is a pagan aboard."

"Alas, good friends, say not so," said Gerard, his teeth chattering with cold and fear. "Rather call these heathens, that lie a praying to the sea. Friends, I do honour the saints—but I dare not pray to them now—there is no time—(oh!) what avail me Dominic, and Thomas, and Catherine? Nearer God's throne than these St. Peter sitteth; and if I pray to him, it's odd, but I shall be drowned ere he has time to plead my cause with God. Oh! oh! oh! I must need go straight to Him that made the sea, and the saints, and me. Our Father which art in heaven, save these poor souls and me that cry for the bare life! Oh, sweet Jesus, pitiful Jesus, that didst walk Genezaret when Peter sank, and wept for Lazarus dead when the apostles' eyes were dry, oh, save poor Gerard—for dear Margaret's sake!"

At this moment the sailors were seen preparing to desert the sinking ship in the little boat, which even at that epoch every ship carried; then there was a rush of egotists; and thirty souls crowded into it. Remained behind three who were bewildered, and two who were paralyzed, with terror. The paralyzed sat like heaps of wet rags, the bewildered ones ran to and fro, and saw the thirty egotists put off, but made no attempt to join them: only kept running to and fro, and wringing their hands. Besides these there was one on his knees, praying over the wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, as large as life, which the sailors had reverently detached from the mast. It washed about the deck, as the water came slushing in from the sea, and pouring out at the scuppers; and this poor soul kept following it on his knees, with his hands clasped at it, and the water playing with it. And there was the Jew palsied, but not by fear. He was no longer capable of so petty a passion. He sat cross-legged, bemoaning his bag, and whenever the spray lashed him, shook his fist at where it came from, and cursed the Nazarenes, and their gods, and their devils, and their ships, and their waters, to all eternity.

And the gigantic Dominican, having shriven the whole ship, stood calmly communing with his own spirit. And the Roman woman sat pale and patient, only drawing her child closer to her bosom as death came nearer.

Gerard saw this, and it awakened his manhood.

"See! see!" he said, "they have ta'en the boat and left the poor woman and her child to perish."

His heart soon set his wit working.

"Wife, I'll save thee yet, please God." And he ran to find a cask or a plank to float her. There was none.

Then his eye fell on the wooden image of the Virgin. He caught it up in his arms, and heedless of a wail that issued from its worshipper like a child robbed of its toy, ran aft with it. "Come, wife," he cried. "I'll lash thee and the child to this. 'Tis sore worm eaten, but 'twill serve."

She turned her great dark eye on him and said a single word:

"Thyself?!"

But with wonderful magnanimity and tenderness.

"I am a man, and have no child to take care of."

"Ah!" said she, and his words seemed to animate her face with a desire to live. He lashed the image to her side. Then with the hope of life she lost something of her heroic calm; not much: her body trembled a little, but not her eye.

The ship was now so low in the water that by using an oar as a lever he could slide her into the waves.

"Come," said he, "while yet there is time."

She turned her great Roman eyes, wet now, upon him. "Poor youth!—God forgive me!—My child!" And he launched her on the surge, and with his oar kept her from being battered against the ship.

A heavy hand fell on him; a deep sonorous voice sounded in his ear: "'Tis well. Now come with me."

It was the gigantic friar.

Gerard turned, and the friar took two strides, and laid hold of the broken mast. Gerard did the same, obeying him instinctively. Between them, after a prodigious effort, they hoisted up the remainder of the mast, and carried it off. "Fling it in," said the friar, "and follow it." They flung it in; but one of the bewildered passengers had run after them, and jumped first and got on one end. Gerard seized the other, the friar the middle.

It was a terrible situation. The mast rose and plunged with each wave like a kicking horse, and the spray flogged their faces mercilessly, and blinded them: to help knock them off.

Presently was heard a long grating noise ahead. The ship had struck, and soon after, she being stationary now, they were hurled against her with tremendous force. Their companion's head struck against the upper part of the broken rudder with a horrible crack, and was smashed like a cocoa-nut by a sledge-hammer. He sunk directly, leaving no trace but a red stain on the water, and a white clot on the jagged rudder, and a death cry ringing in their ears, as they drifted clear under the lee of the black hull. The friar uttered a short Latin prayer for the safety of his soul, and took his place composedly. They rolled along; one moment they saw nothing, and seemed down in a mere basin of watery hills: the next they caught glimpses of the shore speckled bright with people, who kept throwing up their arms with wild Italian gestures to encourage them, and the black boat driving bottom upwards, and between it and them the woman rising and falling like themselves. She had come across a paddle, and was holding her child tight with her left arm, and paddling gallantly with her right.

When they had tumbled along thus a long time, suddenly the friar said quietly—

"I touched the ground."

"Impossible, father," said Gerard; "we are more than a hundred yards from shore. Prithee, prithee, leave not our faithful mast."

"My son," said the friar, "you speak prudently. But know that I have business of Holy Church on hand, and may not waste time floating when I can walk, in her service. There I felt it with my toes again; see the benefit of wearing sandals, and not shoon. Again; and sandy. Thy stature is less than mine: keep to the mast! I walk." He left the mast accordingly and extending his powerful arms, rushed through the water. Gerard soon followed him. At each overpowering wave the monk stood like a tower, and closing his mouth, threw his head back to encounter it, and was entirely lost under it awhile: then emerged and ploughed lustily on. At last they came close to the shore; but the suction outward baffled all their attempts to land. Then the natives sent stout fishermen into the sea, holding by long spears in a triple chain; and so dragged them ashore.

The friar shook himself, bestowed a short paternal benediction on the natives, and went on to Rome, with eyes bent on earth according to his rule, and without pausing. He did not even cast a glance back upon that sea, which had so nearly engulfed him, but had no power to harm him, without his Master's leave.

While he stalks on alone to Rome without looking back, I who am not in the service of Holy Church, stop a moment to say that the reader and I were within six inches of this giant once before; but we escaped him that time. Now I fear we are in for him. Gerard grasped every hand upon the beach. They brought him to an enormous fire, and with a delicacy he would hardly have encountered in the north, left him to dry himself alone: on this he took out of his bosom a parchment, and a paper, and dried them carefully. When this was done to his mind, and not till then, he consented to put on a fisherman's dress and leave his own by the fire, and went down to the beach. What he saw may be briefly related.

The captain stuck by the ship, not so much from gallantry, as from a conviction that it was idle to resist Castor or Pollux, whichever it was that had come for him in a ball of fire.

Nevertheless the sea broke up the ship and swept the poop, captain and all, clear of the rest, and took him safe ashore. Gerard had a principal hand in pulling him out of the water. The disconsolate Hebrew landed on another fragment, and on touching earth, offered a reward for his bag, which excited little sympathy, but some amusement. Two more were saved on pieces of the wreck. The thirty egotists came ashore, but one at a time, and dead; one breathed still. Him the natives, with excellent intentions, took to a hot fire. So then he too retired from this shifting scene.

As Gerard stood by the sea, watching, with horror and curiosity mixed, his late companions washed ashore, a hand was laid lightly on his shoulder. He turned. It was the Roman matron, burning with womanly gratitude. She took his hand gently, and raising it slowly to her lips, kissed it; but so nobly, she seemed to be conferring an honour on one deserving hand. Then with face all beaming and moist eyes, she held her child up and made him kiss his preserver.

Gerard kissed the child more than once. He was fond of children. But he said nothing. He was much moved; for she did not speak at all, except with her eyes, and glowing cheeks, and noble antique gesture, so large and stately. Perhaps she was right. Gratitude is not a thing of words. It was an ancient Roman matron thanking a modern from her heart of hearts.

Next day towards afternoon, Gerard—twice as old as last year, thrice as learned in human ways, a boy no more, but a man who had shed blood in self-defence, and grazed the grave by land and sea—reached the Eternal City; post tot naufragia tutus.



CHAPTER LVI

Gerard took a modest lodging on the west bank of the Tiber, and every day went forth in search of work, taking a specimen round to every shop he could hear of that executed such commissions.

They received him coldly. "We make our letter somewhat thinner than this," said one. "How dark your ink is," said another. But the main cry was, "What avails this? Scant is the Latin writ here now. Can ye not write Greek?"

"Ay, but not nigh so well as Latin."

"Then you shall never make your bread at Rome."

Gerard borrowed a beautiful Greek manuscript at a high price, and went home with a sad hole in his purse, but none in his courage.

In a fortnight he had made vast progress with the Greek character; so then, to lose no time, he used to work at it till noon, and hunt customers the rest of the day.

When he carried round a better Greek specimen than any they possessed, the traders informed him that Greek and Latin were alike unsaleable; the city was thronged with works from all Europe. He should have come last year.

Gerard bought a psaltery. His landlady, pleased with his looks and manners, used often to speak a kind word in passing. One day she made him dine with her, and somewhat to his surprise asked him what had dashed his spirits. He told her. She gave him her reading of the matter. "Those sly traders," she would be bound, "had writers in their pay, for whose work they received a noble price, and paid a sorry one. So no wonder they blow cold on you. Methinks you write too well. How know I that? say you. Marry—marry, because you lock not your door, like the churl Pietro, and women will be curious. Ay, ay, you write too well for them."

Gerard asked an explanation.

"Why," said she, "your good work might put out the eyes of that they are selling."

Gerard sighed. "Alas! dame, you read folk on the ill side, and you so kind and frank yourself."

"My dear little heart, these Romans are a subtle race. Me? I am a Siennese, thanks to the Virgin."

"My mistake was leaving Augsburg," said Gerard.

"Augsburg?" said she haughtily: "is that a place to even to Rome? I never heard of it, for my part."

She then assured him that he should make his fortune in spite of the booksellers. "Seeing thee a stranger, they lie to thee without sense or discretion. Why, all the world knows that our great folk are bitten with the writing spider this many years, and pour out their money like water, and turn good land and houses into writ sheepskins, to keep in a chest or a cupboard. God help them, and send them safe through this fury, as He hath through a heap of others; and in sooth hath been somewhat less cutting and stabbing among rival factions, and vindictive eating of their opposites' livers, minced and fried, since Scribbling came in. Why, I can tell you two. There is his eminence Cardinal Bassarion, and his holiness the Pope himself. There be a pair could keep a score such as thee a writing night and day. But I'll speak to Teresa; she hears the gossip of the court."

The next day she told him she had seen Teresa, and had heard of five more signors who were bitten with the writing spider. Gerard took down their names, and bought parchment, and busied himself for some days in preparing specimens. He left one, with his name and address, at each of these signors' doors, and hopefully awaited the result.

There was none.

Day after day passed and left him heartsick.

And strange to say this was just the time when Margaret was fighting so hard against odds to feed her male dependents at Rotterdam, and arrested for curing without a licence instead of killing with one.

Gerard saw ruin staring him in the face.

He spent the afternoons picking up canzonets and mastering them. He laid in playing cards to colour, and struck off a meal per day.

This last stroke of genius got him into fresh trouble.

In these "camere locande" the landlady dressed all the meals, though the lodgers bought the provisions. So Gerard's hostess speedily detected him, and asked him if he was not ashamed himself: by which brusque opening, having made him blush and look scared, she pacified herself all in a moment, and appealed to his good sense whether Adversity was a thing to be overcome on an empty stomach.

"Patienza, my lad! times will mend; meantime I will feed you for the love of heaven." (Italian for "gratis.")

"Nay, hostess," said Gerard, "my purse is not yet quite void, and it would add to my trouble an if true folk should lose their due by me."

"Why, you are as mad as your neighbour Pietro, with his one bad picture."

"Why, how know you 'tis a bad picture?"

"Because nobody will buy it. There is one that hath no gift. He will have to don casque and glaive, and carry his panel for a shield."

Gerard pricked up his ears at this: so she told him more. Pietro had come from Florence with money in his purse, and an unfinished picture; had taken her one unfurnished room, opposite Gerard's, and furnished it neatly. When his picture was finished, he received visitors and had offers for it: though in her opinion liberal ones, he had refused so disdainfully as to make enemies of his customers. Since then he had often taken it out with him to try and sell, but had always brought it back; and the last month, she had seen one movable after another go out of his room, and now he wore but one suit, and lay at night on a great chest. She had found this out only by peeping through the keyhole, for he locked the door most vigilantly whenever he went out. "Is he afraid we shall steal his chest, or his picture, that no soul in all Rome is weak enough to buy?"

"Nay, sweet hostess; see you not 'tis his poverty he would screen from view?"

"And the more fool he! Are all our hearts as ill as his? A might give us a trial first, anyway."

"How you speak of him. Why, his case is mine; and your countryman to boot."

"Oh, we Siennese love strangers. His case yours? Nay, 'tis just the contrary. You are the comeliest youth ever lodged in this house; hair like gold: he is a dark, sour-visaged loon. Besides, you know how to take a woman on her better side; but not he. Natheless, I wish he would not starve to death in my house, to get me a bad name. Anyway, one starveling is enough in any house. You are far from home, and it is for me, which am the mistress here, to number your meals—for me and the Dutch wife, your mother, that is far away: we two women shall settle that matter. Mind thou thine own business, being a man, and leave cooking and the like to us, that are in the world for little else that I see but to roast fowls, and suckle men at starting, and sweep their grownup cobwebs."

"Dear kind dame, in sooth you do often put me in mind of my mother that is far away."

"All the better; I'll put you more in mind of her before I have done with you." And the honest soul beamed with pleasure.

Gerard not being an egotist, nor blinded by female partialities, saw his own grief in poor proud Pietro; and the more he thought of it the more he resolved to share his humble means with that unlucky artist; Pietro's sympathy would repay him. He tried to waylay him; but without success.

One day he heard a groaning in the room. He knocked at the door, but received no answer. He knocked again. A surly voice bade him enter.

He obeyed somewhat timidly, and entered a garret furnished with a chair, a picture, face to wall, an iron basin, an easel, and a long chest, on which was coiled a haggard young man with a wonderfully bright eye. Anything more like a coiled cobra ripe for striking the first comer was never seen.

"Good Signor Pietro," said Gerard, "forgive me that, weary of my own solitude, I intrude on yours; but I am your nighest neighbour in this house, and methinks your brother in fortune. I am an artist too."

"You are a painter? Welcome, signer. Sit down on my bed."

And Pietro jumped off and waved him into the vacant throne with a magnificent demonstration of courtesy.

Gerard bowed, and smiled; but hesitated a little. "I may not call myself a painter. I am a writer, a caligraph. I copy Greek and Latin manuscripts, when I can get them to copy."

"And you call that an artist?"

"Without offence to your superior merit, Signor Pietro."

"No offence, stranger, none. Only, meseemeth an artist is one who thinks, and paints his thought. Now a caligraph but draws in black and white the thoughts of another."

"'Tis well distinguished, signor. But then, a writer can write the thoughts of the great ancients, and matters of pure reason, such as no man may paint: ay, and the thoughts of God, which angels could not paint. But let that pass. I am a painter as well; but a sorry one."

"The better thy luck. 'They will buy thy work in Rome."

"But seeking to commend myself to one of thy eminence, I thought it well rather to call myself a capable writer, than a scurvy painter."

At this moment a step was heard on the stair. "Ah! 'tis the good dame," cried Gerard. "What oh! hostess, I am here in conversation with Signor Pietro. I dare say he will let me have my humble dinner here."

The Italian bowed gravely.

The landlady brought in Gerard's dinner smoking and savoury. She put the dish down on the bed with a face divested of all expression, and went.

Gerard fell to. But ere he had eaten many mouthfuls, he stopped, and said: "I am an ill-mannered churl, Signor Pietro. I ne'er eat to my mind when I eat alone. For our Lady's sake put a spoon into this ragout with me; 'tis not unsavoury, I promise you."

Pietro fixed his glittering eye on him.

"What, good youth, thou a stranger, and offerest me thy dinner?"

"Why, see, there is more than one can eat."

"Well, I accept," said Pietro; and took the dish with some appearance of calmness, and flung the contents out of window.

Then he turned, trembling with mortification and ire, and said: "Let that teach thee to offer alms to an artist thou knowest not, master writer."

Gerard's face flushed with anger, and it cost him a bitter struggle not to box this high-souled creature's ears. And then to go and destroy good food! His mother's milk curdled in his veins with horror at such impiety. Finally, pity at Pietro's petulance and egotism, and a touch of respect for poverty-struck pride, prevailed.

However, he said coldly, "Likely what thou hast done might pass in a novel of thy countryman, Signor Boccaccio; but 'twas not honest."

"Make that good!" said the painter sullenly.

"I offered thee half my dinner; no more. But thou hast ta'en it all. Hadst a right to throw away thy share, but not mine. Pride is well, but justice is better."

Pietro stared, then reflected.

"'Tis well. I took thee for a fool, so transparent was thine artifice. Forgive me! And prithee leave me! Thou seest how 'tis with me. The world hath soured me. I hate mankind. I was not always so. Once more excuse that my discourtesy, and fare thee well."

Gerard sighed, and made for the door.

But suddenly a thought struck him. "Signor Pietro," said he, "we Dutchmen are hard bargainers. We are the lads 'een eij scheeren,' that is, 'to shave an egg.' Therefore, I, for my lost dinner, do claim to feast mine eyes on your picture, whose face is toward the wall."

"Nay, nay," said the painter hastily, "ask me not that; I have already misconducted myself enough towards thee. I would not shed thy blood."

"Saints forbid! My blood?"

"Stranger," said Pietro sullenly, "irritated by repeated insults to my picture, which is my child, my heart, I did in a moment of rage make a solemn vow to drive my dagger into the next one that should flout it, and the labour and love that I have given to it."

"What, are all to be slain that will not praise this picture?" and he looked at its back with curiosity.

"Nay, nay; if you would but look at it, and hold your parrot tongues. But you will be talking. So I have turned it to the wall for ever. Would I were dead, and buried in it for my coffin!"

Gerard reflected.

"I accept the condition. Show me the picture! I can but hold my peace."

Pietro went and turned its face, and put it in the best light the room afforded, and coiled himself again on his chest, with his eye, and stiletto, glittering.

The picture represented the Virgin and Christ, flying through the air in a sort of cloud of shadowy cherubic faces; underneath was a landscape, forty or fifty miles in extent, and a purple sky above.

Gerard stood and looked at it in silence. Then he stepped close, and looked. Then he retired as far off as he could, and looked; but said not a word.

When he had been at this game half an hour, Pietro cried out querulously and somewhat inconsistently: "well, have you not a word to say about it?"

Gerard started. "I cry your mercy; I forgot there were three of us here. Ay, I have much to say." And he drew his sword.

"Alas! alas!" cried Pietro, jumping in terror from his lair. "What wouldst thou?"

"Marry, defend myself against thy bodkin, signor; and at due odds, being, as aforesaid, a Dutchman. Therefore, hold aloof, while I deliver judgment, or I will pin thee to the wall like a cockchafer."

"Oh! is that all?" said Pietro, greatly relieved. "I feared you were going to stab my poor picture with your sword, stabbed already by so many foul tongues."

Gerard "pursued criticism under difficulties." Put himself in a position of defence, with his sword's point covering Pietro, and one eye glancing aside at the picture. "First, signor, I would have you know that, in the mixing of certain colours, and in the preparation of your oil, you Italians are far behind us Flemings. But let that flea stick. For as small as I am, I can show you certain secrets of the Van Eycks, that you will put to marvellous profit in your next picture. Meantime I see in this one the great qualities of your nation. Verily, ye are solis filii. If we have colour, you have imagination. Mother of Heaven! an he hath not flung his immortal soul upon the panel. One thing I go by is this; it makes other pictures I once admired seem drossy, earth-born things. The drapery here is somewhat short and stiff, why not let it float freely, the figures being in air and motion?

"I will! I will!" cried Pietro eagerly. "I will do anything for those who will but see what I have done."

"Humph! This landscape it enlightens me. Henceforth I scorn those little huddled landscapes that did erst content me. Here is nature's very face: a spacious plain, each distance marked, and every tree, house, figure, field, and river smaller and less plain, by exquisite gradation, till vision itself melts into distance. O, beautiful! And the cunning rogue hath hung his celestial figure in air out of the way of his little world below. Here, floating saints beneath heaven's purple canopy. There, far down, earth and her busy hives. And they let you take this painted poetry, this blooming hymn, through the streets of Rome and bring it home unsold. But I tell thee in Ghent or Bruges, or even in Rotterdam, they would tear it out of thy hands. But it is a common saying that a stranger's eye sees clearest. Courage, Pietro Vanucci! I reverence thee and though myself a scurvy painter, do forgive thee for being a great one. Forgive thee? I thank God for thee and such rare men as thou art; and bow the knee to thee in just homage. Thy picture is immortal, and thou, that hast but a chest to sit on, art a king in thy most royal art. Viva, il maestro! Viva!"

At this unexpected burst the painter, with all the abandon of his nation, flung himself on Gerard's neck. "They said it was a maniac's dream," he sobbed.

"Maniacs themselves! no, idiots!" shouted Gerard.

"Generous stranger! I will hate men no more since the world hath such as thee. I was a viper to fling thy poor dinner away; a wretch, a monster."

"Well, monster, wilt be gentle now, and sup with me?"

"Ah! that I will. Whither goest thou?"

"To order supper on the instant. We will have the picture for third man."

"I will invite it whiles thou art gone. My poor picture, child of my heart."

"Ah, master, 'twill look on many a supper after the worms have eaten you and me."

"I hope so," said Pietro.



CHAPTER LVII

About a week after this the two friends sat working together, but not in the same spirit. Pietro dashed fitfully at his, and did wonders in a few minutes, and then did nothing, except abuse it; then presently resumed it in a fury, to lay it down with a groan. Through all which kept calmly working, calmly smiling, the canny Dutchman.

To be plain, Gerard, who never had a friend he did not master, had put his Onagra in harness. The friends were painting playing cards to boil the pot.

When done, the indignant master took up his picture to make his daily tour in search of a customer.

Gerard begged him to take the cards as well, and try and sell them. He looked all the rattle-snake, but eventually embraced Gerard in the Italian fashion, and took them, after first drying the last-finished ones in the sun, which was now powerful in that happy clime.

Gerard, left alone, executed a Greek letter or two, and then mended a little rent in his hose. His landlady found him thus employed, and inquired ironically whether there were no women in the house.

"When you have done that," said she "come and talk to Teresa, my friend I spoke to thee of, that hath a husband not good for much, which brags his acquaintance with the great."

Gerard went down, and who should Teresa be but the Roman matron.

"Ah, madama," said he, "is it you? The good dame told me not that. And the little fair-haired boy, is he well is he none the worse for his voyage in that strange boat?"

"He is well," said the matron.

"Why, what are you two talking about?" said the landlady, staring at them both in turn; "and why tremble you so, Teresa mia?"

"He saved my child's life," said Teresa, making an effort to compose herself.

"What! my lodger? and he never told me a word of that. Art not ashamed to look me in the face?"

"Alas! speak not harshly to him," said the matron. She then turned to her friend and poured out a glowing description of Gerard's conduct, during which Gerard stood blushing like a girl, and scarce recognizing his own performance, gratitude painted it so fair.

"And to think thou shouldst ask me to serve thy lodger, of whom I knew nought but that he had thy good word, oh, Fiammina; and that was enough for me. Dear youth, in serving thee I serve myself."

Then ensued an eager description, by the two women, of what had been done, and what should be done, to penetrate the thick wall of fees, commissions, and chicanery, which stood between the patrons of art and an unknown artist in the Eternal City.

Teresa smiled sadly at Gerard's simplicity in leaving specimens of his skill at the doors of the great.

"What!" said she, "without promising the servants a share—without even feeing them, to let the signors see thy merchandise! As well have flung it into Tiber."

"Well-a-day!" sighed Gerard. "Then how is an artist to find a patron? for artists are poor, not rich."

"By going to some city nobler and not so greedy as this," said Teresa. "La corte Romana non vuol' pecora senza lana."

She fell into thought, and said she would come again to-morrow.

The landlady felicitated Gerard. "Teresa has got something in her head," said she.

Teresa was scarce gone when Pietro returned with his picture, looking black as thunder. Gerard exchanged a glance with the landlady, and followed him upstairs to console him.

"What, have they let thee bring home thy masterpiece?"

"As heretofore."

"More fools they, then."

"That is not the worse."

"Why, what is the matter?"

"They have bought the cards," yelled Pietro, and hammered the air furiously right and left.

"All the better," said Gerard cheerfully.

"They flew at me for them. They were enraptured with them. They tried to conceal their longing for them, but could not. I saw, I feigned, I pillaged; curse the boobies."

And he flung down a dozen small silver coins on the floor and jumped on them, and danced on them with basilisk eyes, and then kicked them assiduously, and sent them spinning and flying, and running all abroad. Down went Gerard on his knees, and followed the maltreated innocents directly, and transferred them tenderly to his purse.

"Shouldst rather smile at their ignorance, and put it to profit," said he.

"And so I will," said Pietro, with concentrated indignation. "The brutes! We will paint a pack a day; we will set the whole city gambling and ruining itself, while we live like princes on its vices and stupidity. There was one of the queens, though, I had fain have kept back. 'Twas you limned her, brother. She had lovely red-brown hair and sapphire eyes, and above all, soul."

"Pietro," said Gerard softly, "I painted that one from my heart."

The quick-witted Italian nodded, and his eyes twinkled.

"You love her so well, yet leave her."

"Pietro, it is because I love her so dear that I have wandered all this weary road."

This interesting colloquy was interrupted by the landlady crying from below, "Come down, you are wanted." He went down, and there was Teresa again.

"Come with me, Ser Gerard."



CHAPTER LVIII

Gerard walked silently beside Teresa, wondering in his own mind, after the manner of artists, what she was going to do with him; instead of asking her. So at last she told him of her own accord. A friend had informed her of a working goldsmith's wife who wanted a writer. "Her shop is hard by; you will not have far to go."

Accordingly they soon arrived at the goldsmith's wife.

"Madama," said Teresa, "Leonora tells me you want a writer: I have brought you a beautiful one; he saved my child at sea. Prithee look on him with favour."

The goldsmith's wife complied in one sense. She fixed her eyes on Gerard's comely face, and could hardly take them off again. But her reply was unsatisfactory. "Nay, I have no use for a writer. Ah! I mind now, it is my gossip, Claelia, the sausage-maker, wants one; she told me, and I told Leonora."

Teresa made a courteous speech and withdrew.

Claelia lived at some distance, and when they reached her house she was out. Teresa said calmly, "I will await her return," and sat so still, and dignified, and statuesque, that Gerard was beginning furtively to draw her, when Claelia returned.

"Madama, I hear from the goldsmith's wife, the excellent Olympia, that you need a writer" (here she took Gerard by the hand and led him forward); "I have brought you a beautiful one; he saved my child from the cruel waves. For our Lady's sake look with favour on him."

"My good dame, my fair Ser," said Claelia, "I have no use for a writer; but now you remind me, it was my friend Appia Claudia asked me for one but the other day. She is a tailor, lives in the Via Lepida."

Teresa retired calmly.

"Madama," said Gerard, "this is likely to be a tedious business for you."

Teresa opened her eyes.

"What was ever done without a little patience?" She added mildly, "We will knock at every door at Rome but you shall have justice."

"But, madama, I think we are dogged. I noticed a man that follows us, sometimes afar, sometimes close."

"I have seen it," said Teresa coldly; but her cheek coloured faintly. "It is my poor Lodovico."

She stopped and turned, and beckoned with her finger.

A figure approached them somewhat unwillingly.

When he came up, she gazed him full in the face, and he looked sheepish.

"Lodovico mio," said she, "know this young Ser, of whom I have so often spoken to thee. Know him and love him, for he it was who saved thy wife and child."

At these last words Lodovico, who had been bowing and grinning artificially, suddenly changed to an expression of heartfelt gratitude, and embraced Gerard warmly.

Yet somehow there was something in the man's original manner, and his having followed his wife by stealth, that made Gerard uncomfortable under this caress. However, he said, "We shall have your company, Ser Lodovico?"

"No, signor," replied Lodovico, "I go not on that side Tiber."

"Addio, then," said Teresa significantly.

"When shall you return home, Teresa mia?"

"When I have done mine errand, Lodovico."

They pursued their way in silence. Teresa now wore a sad and almost gloomy air.

To be brief, Appia Claudia was merciful, and did not send them over Tiber again, but only a hundred yards down the street to Lucretia, who kept the glove shop; she it was wanted a writer; but what for, Appia Claudia could not conceive. Lucretia was a merry little dame, who received them heartily enough, and told them she wanted no writer, kept all her accounts in her head. "It was for my confessor, Father Colonna; he is mad after them."

"I have heard of his excellency," said Teresa.

"Who has not?"

"But, good dame, he is a friar; he has made vow of poverty. I cannot let the young man write and not be paid. He saved my child at sea.

"Did he now?" And Lucretia cast an approving look on Gerard. "Well, make your mind easy; a Colonna never wants for money. The good father has only to say the word, and the princes of his race will pour a thousand crowns into his lap. And such a confessor, dame! the best in Rome. His head is leagues and leagues away all the while; he never heeds what you are saying. Why, I think no more of confessing my sins to him than of telling them to that wall. Once, to try him, I confessed, along with the rest, as how I had killed my lodger's little girl and baked her in a pie. Well, when my voice left off confessing, he started out of his dream, and says he, a mustering up a gloom, 'My erring sister, say three Paternosters and three Ave Marias kneeling, and eat no butter nor eggs next Wednesday, and pax vobiscum!' and off a went with his hands behind him, looking as if there was no such thing as me in the world."

Teresa waited patiently, then calmly brought this discursive lady back to the point: "Would she be so kind as go with this good youth to the friar and speak for him?"

"Alack! how can I leave my shop? And what need? His door is aye open to writers, and painters, and scholars, and all such cattle. Why, one day he would not receive the Duke d'Urbino, because a learned Greek was closeted with him, and the friar's head and his so close together over a dusty parchment just come in from Greece, as you could put one cowl over the pair. His wench Onesta told me. She mostly looks in here for a chat when she goes an errand."

"This is the man for thee, my friend," said Teresa.

"All you have to do," continued Lucretia, "is to go to his lodgings (my boy shall show them you), and tell Onesta you come from me, and you are a writer, and she will take you up to him. If you put a piece of silver in the wench's hand, 'twill do you no harm: that stands to reason."

"I have silver," said Teresa warmly.

"But stay," said Lucretia, "mind one thing. What the young man saith he can do, that he must be able to do, or let him shun the good friar like poison. He is a very wild beast against all bunglers. Why, 'twas but t'other day, one brought him an ill-carved crucifix. Says he, 'Is this how you present "Salvator Mundi?" who died for you in mortal agony; and you go and grudge him careful work. This slovenly gimcrack, a crucifix? But that it is a crucifix of some sort, and I am a holy man, I'd dust your jacket with your crucifix,' says he. Onesta heard every word through the key-hole; so mind."

"Have no fears, madama," said Teresa loftily. "I will answer for his ability; he saved my child."

Gerard was not subtle enough to appreciate this conclusion; and was so far from sharing Teresa's confidence that he begged a respite. He would rather not go to the friar to-day: would not to-morrow do as well?

"Here is a coward for ye," said Lucretia.

"No, he is not a coward," said Teresa, firing up; "he is modest."

"I am afraid of this high-born, fastidious friar," said Gerard, "Consider he has seen the handiwork of all the writers in Italy, dear dame Teresa; if you would but let me prepare a better piece of work than yet I have done, and then to-morrow I will face him with it."

"I consent," said Teresa.

They walked home together.

Not far from his own lodging was a shop that sold vellum. There was a beautiful white skin in the window. Gerard looked at it wistfully; but he knew he could not pay for it; so he went on rather hastily. However, he soon made up his mind where to get vellum, and parting with Teresa at his own door, ran hastily upstairs, and took the bond he had brought all the way from Sevenbergen, and laid it with a sigh on the table. He then prepared with his chemicals to erase the old writing; but as this was his last chance of reading it, he now overcame his deadly repugnance to bad writing, and proceeded to decipher the deed in spite of its detestable contractions. It appeared by this deed that Ghysbrecht Van Swieten was to advance some money to Floris Brandt on a piece of land, and was to repay himself out of the rent.

On this Gerard felt it would be imprudent and improper to destroy the deed. On the contrary, he vowed to decipher every word, at his leisure. He went downstairs, determined to buy a small piece of vellum with his half of the card-money.

At the bottom of the stairs he found the landlady and Teresa talking. At sight of him the former cried, "Here he is. You are caught, donna mia. See what she has bought you?" And whipped out from under her apron the very skin of vellum Gerard had longed for.

"Why, dame! why, donna Teresa!" And he was speechless with pleasure and astonishment.

"Dear donna Teresa, there is not a skin in all Rome like it. However came you to hit on this one? 'Tis glamour."

"Alas, dear boy, did not thine eye rest on it with desire? and didst thou not sigh in turning away from it? And was it for Teresa to let thee want the thing after that?"

"What sagacity! what goodness, madama! Oh, dame, I never thought I should possess this. What did you pay for it?"

"I forget. Addio, Fiammina. Addio, Ser Gerard. Be happy, be prosperous, as you are good." And the Roman matron glided away while Gerard was hesitating, and thinking how to offer to pay so stately a creature for her purchase.

The next day in the afternoon he went to Lucretia, and her boy took him to Fra Colonna's lodgings. He announced his business, and feed Onesta, and she took him up to the friar. Gerard entered with a beating heart. The room, a large one, was strewed and heaped with objects of art, antiquity, and learning, lying about in rich profusion, and confusion. Manuscripts, pictures, carvings in wood and ivory, musical instruments; and in this glorious chaos sat the friar, poring intently over an Arabian manuscript.

He looked up a little peevishly at the interruption. Onesta whispered in his ear.

"Very well," said he. "Let him be seated. Stay; young man, show me how you write?" And he threw Gerard a piece of paper, and pointed to an inkhorn.

"So please you, reverend father," said Gerard, "my hand it trembleth too much at this moment; but last night I wrote a vellum page of Greek, and the Latin version by its side, to show the various character."

"Show it me?"

Gerard brought the work to him in fear and trembling; then stood heart-sick, awaiting his verdict.

When it came it staggered him. For the verdict was, a Dominican falling on his neck.

The next day an event took place in Holland, the effect of which on Gerard's destiny, no mortal at the time, nor even my intelligent reader now, could, I think, foresee.

Marched up to Eli's door a pageant brave to the eye of sense, and to the vulgar judgment noble, but to the philosophic, pitiable more or less.

It looked one animal, a centaur; but on severe analysis proved two. The human half were sadly bedizened with those two metals, to clothe his carcass with which and line his pouch, man has now and then disposed of his soul: still the horse was the vainer brute of the two; he was far worse beflounced, bebonneted, and bemantled, than any fair lady regnante crinolina. For the man, under the colour of a warming-pan, retained Nature's outline. But it was subaudi equum! Scarce a pennyweight of honest horse-flesh to be seen. Our crinoline spares the noble parts of women, and makes but the baser parts gigantic (why this preference?); but this poor animal from stem to stern was swamped in finery. His ears were hid in great sheaths of white linen tipped with silver and blue. His body swaddled in stiff gorgeous cloths descending to the ground, except just in front, where they left him room to mince. His tail, though dear to memory, no doubt, was lost to sight, being tucked in heaven knows how. Only his eyes shone out like goggles, through two holes pierced in the wall of haberdashery, and his little front hoofs peeped in and out like rats.

Yet did this compound, gorgeous and irrational, represent power; absolute power: it came straight from a tournament at the Duke's court, which being on a progress, lay last night at a neighbouring town—to execute the behests of royalty.

"What ho!" cried the upper half, and on Eli emerging, with his wife behind him, saluted them. "Peace be with you, good people. Rejoice! I am come for your dwarf."

Eli looked amazed, and said nothing. But Catherine screamed over his shoulder, "You have mistook your road, good man; here abides no dwarf."

"Nay, wife, he means our Giles, who is somewhat small of stature: why gainsay what gainsayed may not be?"

"Ay!" cried the pageant, "that is he, and discourseth like the big taber.

"His breast is sound for that matter," said Catherine sharply.

"And prompt with his fists though at long odds."

"Else how would the poor thing keep his head in such a world as this?"

"'Tis well said, dame. Art as ready with thy weapon as he; art his mother, likely. So bring him forth, and that presently. See, they lead a stunted mule for him. The Duke hath need of him, sore need; we are clean out o' dwarven, and tiger-cats, which may not be, whiles earth them yieldeth. Our last hop o' my thumb tumbled down the well t'other day."

"And think you I'll let my darling go to such an ill-guided house as you, where the reckless trollops of servants close not the well mouth, but leave it open to trap innocents, like wolven?"

The representative of autocracy lost patience at this unwonted opposition, and with stern look and voice bade her bethink her whether it was the better of the two; "to have your abortion at court fed like a bishop and put on like a prince, or to have all your heads stricken off and borne on poles, with the bellman crying, 'Behold the heads of hardy rebels, which having by good luck a misbegotten son, did traitorously grudge him to the Duke, who is the true father of all his folk, little or mickle?'

"Nay," said Eli sadly, "miscall us not. We be true folk, and neither rebels nor traitors. But 'tis sudden, and the poor lad is our true flesh and blood, and hath of late given proof of more sense than heretofore."

"Avails not threatening our lives," whimpered Catherine; "we grudge him not to the Duke; but in sooth he cannot go; his linen is all in holes. So there is an end."

But the male mind resisted this crusher.

"Think you the Duke will not find linen, and cloth of gold to boot? None so brave, none so affected, at court, as our monsters, big or wee."

How long the dispute might have lasted, before the iron arguments of despotism achieved the inevitable victory, I know not; but it was cut short by a party whom neither disputant had deigned to consult.

The bone of contention walked out of the house, and sided with monarchy.

"If my folk are mad, I am not," he roared. "I'll go with you and on the instant."

At this Catherine set up a piteous cry. She saw another of her brood escaping from under her wing into some unknown element. Giles was not quite insensible to her distress, so simple yet so eloquent. He said, "Nay, take not on, mother! Why, 'tis a godsend. And I am sick of this, ever since Gerard left it."

"Ah, cruel Giles! Should ye not rather say she is bereaved of Gerard: the more need of you to stay aside her and comfort her."

"Oh! I am not going to Rome. Not such a fool. I shall never be farther than Rotterdam; and I'll often come and see you; and if I like not the place, who shall keep me there? Not all the dukes in Christendom."

"Good sense lies in little bulk," said the emissary approvingly. "Therefore, Master Giles, buss the old folk, and thank them for misbegetting of thee; and ho! you—bring hither his mule."

One of his retinue brought up the dwarf mule. Giles refused it with scorn. And on being asked the reason, said it was not just.

"What! would ye throw all into one scale! Put muckle to muckle, and little to wee! Besides, I hate and scorn small things. I'll go on the highest horse here, or not at all."

The pursuivant eyed him attentively a moment. He then adopted a courteous manner. "I shall study your will in all things reasonable. (Dismount, Eric, yours is the highest horse.) And if you would halt in the town an hour or so, while you bid them farewell, say but the word, and your pleasure shall be my delight."

Giles reflected.

"Master," said he, "if we wait a month, 'twill be still the same: my mother is a good soul, but her body is bigger than her spirit. We shall not part without a tear or two, and the quicker 'tis done the fewer; so bring yon horse to me."

Catherine threw her apron over her face and sobbed. The high horse was brought, and Giles was for swarming up his tail, like a rope; but one of the servants cried out hastily, "Forbear, for he kicketh." "I'll kick him," said Giles. "Bring him close beneath this window, and I'll learn you all how to mount a horse which kicketh, and will not be clomb by the tail, the staircase of a horse." And he dashed into the house, and almost immediately reappeared at an upper window, with a rope in his hand. He fastened an end somehow, and holding the other, descended as swift and smooth as an oiled thunderbolt in a groove, and lighted astride his high horse as unperceived by that animal as a fly settling on him.

The official lifted his hands to heaven in mawkish admiration. "I have gotten a pearl," thought he, "and wow but this will be a good day's work for me."

"Come, father, come, mother, buss me, and bless me, and off I go."

Eli gave him his blessing, and bade him be honest and true, and a credit to his folk. Catherine could not speak, but clung to him with many sobs and embraces; and even through the mist of tears her eye detected in a moment the little rent in his sleeve he had made getting out of window, and she whipped out her needle and mended it then and there, and her tears fell on his arm the while, unheeded—except by those unfleshly eyes, with which they say the very air is thronged.

And so the dwarf mounted the high horse, and rode away complacent with the old hand laying the court butter on his back with a trowel.

Little recked Perpusillus of two poor silly females that sat by the bereaved hearth, rocking themselves, and weeping, and discussing all his virtues, and how his mind had opened lately, and blind as two beetles to his faults, who rode away from them, jocund and bold.

Ingentes animos angusto pectore versans.

Arrived at court he speedily became a great favourite.

One strange propensity of his electrified the palace; but on account of his small size, and for variety's sake, and as a monster, he was indulged on it. In a word, he was let speak the truth.

It is an unpopular thing.

He made it an intolerable one.

Bawled it.



CHAPTER LIX

Happy the man who has two chain-cables: Merit, and Women.

Oh, that I, like Gerard, had a 'chaine des dames' to pull up by.

I would be prose laureat, or professor of the spasmodic, or something, in no time. En attendant, I will sketch the Fra Colonna.

The true revivers of ancient learning and philosophy were two writers of fiction—Petrarch and Boccaccio.

Their labours were not crowned with great, public, and immediate success; but they sowed the good seed; and it never perished, but quickened in the soil, awaiting sunshine.

From their day Italy was never without a native scholar or two, versed in Greek; and each learned Greek who landed there was received fraternally. The fourteenth century, ere its close, saw the birth of Poggio, Valla, and the elder Guarino; and early in the fifteenth Florence under Cosmo de Medici was a nest of Platonists. These, headed by Gemistus Pletho, a born Greek, began about A.D. 1440 to write down Aristotle. For few minds are big enough to be just to great A without being unjust to capital B.

Theodore Gaza defended that great man with moderation; George of Trebizond with acerbity, and retorted on Plato. Then Cardinal Bessarion, another born Greek, resisted the said George, and his idol, in a tract "Adversus calumniatorem Platonis."

Pugnacity, whether wise or not, is a form of vitality. Born without controversial bile in so zealous an epoch, Francesco Colonna, a young nobleman of Florence, lived for the arts. At twenty he turned Dominican friar. His object was quiet study. He retired from idle company, and faction fights, the humming and the stinging of the human hive, to St. Dominic and the Nine Muses.

An eager student of languages, pictures, statues, chronology, coins, and monumental inscriptions. These last loosened his faith in popular histories.

He travelled many years in the East, and returned laden with spoils; master of several choice MSS., and versed in Greek and Latin, Hebrew and Syriac. He found his country had not stood still. Other lettered princes besides Cosmo had sprung up. Alfonso King of Naples, Nicolas d'Este, Lionel d'Este, etc. Above all, his old friend Thomas of Sarzana had been made Pope, and had lent a mighty impulse to letters; had accumulated 5000 MSS. in the library of the Vatican, and had set Poggio to translate Diodorus Siculus and Xenophon's Cyropaedia, Laurentius Valla to translate Herodotus and Thucydides, Theodore Gaza, Theophrastus; George of Trebizond, Eusebius, and certain treatises of Plato, etc. etc.

The monk found Plato and Aristotle under armistice, but Poggio and Valla at loggerheads over verbs and nouns, and on fire with odium philologicum. All this was heaven; and he settled down in his native land, his life a rosy dream. None so happy as the versatile, provided they have not their bread to make by it. And Fra Colonna was Versatility. He knew seven or eight languages, and a little mathematics; could write a bit, paint a bit, model a bit, sing a bit, strum a bit; and could relish superior excellence in all these branches. For this last trait he deserved to be as happy as he was. For, gauge the intellects of your acquaintances, and you will find but few whose minds are neither deaf, nor blind, nor dead to some great art or science—

"And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out."

And such of them as are conceited as well as stupid shall even parade instead of blushing for the holes in their intellects.

A zealot in art, the friar was a sceptic in religion.

In every age there are a few men who hold the opinions of another age, past or future. Being a lump of simplicity, his sceptism was as naif as his enthusiasm. He affected to look on the religious ceremonies of his day as his models, the heathen philosophers, regarded the worship of gods and departed heroes: mummeries good for the populace. But here his mind drew unconsciously a droll distinction. Whatever Christian ceremony his learning taught him was of purely pagan origin, that he respected, out of respect for antiquity; though had he, with his turn of mind, been a pagan and its contemporary, he would have scorned it from his philosophic heights.

Fra Colonna was charmed with his new artist, and having the run of half the palaces in Rome, sounded his praises so, that he was soon called upon to resign him. He told Gerard what great princes wanted him. "But I am so happy with you, father," objected Gerard. "Fiddlestick about being happy with me," said Fra Colonna; "you must not be happy; you must be a man of the world; the grand lesson I impress on the young is, be a man of the world. Now these Montesini can pay you three times as much as I can, and they shall too-by Jupiter."

And the friar clapped a terrific price on Gerard's pen. It was acceded to without a murmur. Much higher prices were going for copying than authorship ever obtained for centuries under the printing press.

Gerard had three hundred crowns for Aristotle's treatise on rhetoric.

The great are mighty sweet upon all their pets, while the fancy lasts; and in the rage for Greek MSS. the handsome writer soon became a pet, and nobles of both sexes caressed him like a lap dog.

It would have turned a vain fellow's head; but the canny Dutchman saw the steel hand beneath the velvet glove, and did not presume. Nevertheless it was a proud day for him when he found himself seated with Fra Colonna at the table of his present employer, Cardinal Bessarion. They were about a mile from the top of that table; but never mind, there they were and Gerard had the advantage of seeing roast pheasants dished up with all their feathers as if they had just flown out of a coppice instead of off the spit: also chickens cooked in bottles, and tender as peaches. But the grand novelty was the napkins, surpassingly fine, and folded into cocked hats, and birds' wings, and fans, etc., instead of lying flat. This electrified Gerard; though my readers have seen the dazzling phenomenon without tumbling backwards chair and all.

After dinner the tables were split in pieces, and carried away, and lo, under each was another table spread with sweetmeats. The signoras and signorinas fell upon them and gormandized; but the signors eyed them with reasonable suspicion.

"But, dear father," objected Gerard, "I see not the bifurcal daggers, with which men say his excellency armeth the left hand of a man."

"Nay, 'tis the Cardinal Orsini which hath invented yon peevish instrument for his guests to fumble their meat withal. One, being in haste, did skewer his tongue to his palate with it, I hear; O tempora, O mores! The ancients, reclining godlike at their feasts, how had they spurned such pedantries."

As soon as the ladies had disported themselves among the sugar-plums, the tables were suddenly removed, and the guests sat in a row against the wall. Then came in, ducking and scraping, two ecclesiastics with lutes, and kneeled at the cardinal's feet and there sang the service of the day; then retired with a deep obeisance: In answer to which the cardinal fingered his skull cap as our late Iron Duke his hat: the company dispersed, and Gerard had dined with a cardinal and one that had thrice just missed being pope.

But greater honour was in store.

One day the cardinal sent for him, and after praising the beauty of his work took him in his coach to the Vatican; and up a private stair to a luxurious little room, with a great oriel window. Here were inkstands, sloping frames for writing on, and all the instruments of art. The cardinal whispered a courtier, and presently the Pope's private secretary appeared with a glorious grimy old MS. of Plutarch's Lives. And soon Gerard was seated alone copying it, awe-struck, yet half delighted at the thought that his holiness would handle his work and read it.

The papal inkstands were all glorious externally; but within the ink was vile. But Gerard carried ever good ink, home-made, in a dirty little inkhorn: he prayed on his knees for a firm and skilful hand, and set to work.

One side of his room was nearly occupied by a massive curtain divided in the centre; but its ample folds overlapped. After a while Gerard felt drawn to peep through that curtain. He resisted the impulse. It returned. It overpowered him. He left Plutarch; stole across the matted floor; took the folds of the curtain, and gently gathered them up with his fingers, and putting his nose through the chink ran it against a cold steel halbert. Two soldiers, armed cap-a-pie, were holding their glittering weapons crossed in a triangle. Gerard drew swiftly back; but in that instant he heard the soft murmur of voices, and saw a group of persons cringing before some hidden figure.

He never repeated his attempt to pry through the guarded curtain; but often eyed it. Every hour or so an ecclesiastic peeped in, eyed him, chilled him, and exit. All this was gloomy, and mechanical. But the next day a gentleman, richly armed, bounced in, and glared at him. "What is toward here?" said he.

Gerard told him he was writing out Plutarch, with the help of the saints. The spark said he did not know the signor in question. Gerard explained the circumstances of time and space that had deprived the Signor Plutarch of the advantage of the spark's conversation.

"Oh! one of those old dead Greeks they keep such a coil about."

"Ay, signor, one of them, who, being dead, yet live."

"I understand you not, young man," said the noble, with all the dignity of ignorance. "What did the old fellow write? Love stories?" and his eyes sparkled: "merry tales, like Boccaccio."

"Nay, lives of heroes and sages."

"Soldiers and popes?"

"Soldiers and princes."

"Wilt read me of them some day?"

"And willingly, signor. But what would they say who employ me, were I to break off work?"

"Oh, never heed that; know you not who I am? I am Jacques Bonaventura, nephew to his holiness the Pope, and captain of his guards. And I came here to look after my fellows. I trow they have turned them out of their room for you." Signor Bonaventura then hurried away. This lively companion, however, having acquired a habit of running into that little room, and finding Gerard good company, often looked in on him, and chattered ephemeralities while Gerard wrote the immortal lives.

One day he came a changed and moody man, and threw himself into chair, crying, "Ah, traitress! traitress!" Gerard inquired what was his ill? "Traitress! traitress!" was the reply. Whereupon Gerard wrote Plutarch. Then says Bonaventura, "I am melancholy; and for our Lady's sake read me a story out of Ser Plutarcho, to soothe my bile: in all that Greek is there nought about lovers betrayed?"

Gerard read him the life of Alexander. He got excited, marched about the room, and embracing the reader, vowed to shun "soft delights," that bed of nettles, and follow glory.

Who so happy now as Gerard? His art was honoured, and fabulous prices paid for it; in a year or two he should return by sea to Holland, with good store of money, and set up with his beloved Margaret in Bruges, or Antwerp, or dear Augsburg, and end their days in peace, and love, and healthy, happy labour. His heart never strayed an instant from her.

In his prosperity he did not forget poor Pietro. He took the Fra Colonna to see his picture. The friar inspected it severely and closely, fell on the artist's neck, and carried the picture to one of the Colonnas, who gave a noble price for it.

Pietro descended to the first floor; and lived like a gentleman.

But Gerard remained in his garret. To increase his expenses would have been to postpone his return to Margaret. Luxury had no charms for the single-hearted one, when opposed to love.

Jacques Bonaventura made him acquainted with other gay young fellows. They loved him, and sought to entice him into vice, and other expenses. But he begged humbly to be excused. So he escaped that temptation. But a greater was behind.



CHAPTER LX

FRA COLONNA had the run of the Pope's library, and sometimes left off work at the same hour and walked the city with Gerard, on which occasions the happy artist saw all things en beau, and was wrapped up in the grandeur of Rome and its churches, palaces, and ruins.

The friar granted the ruins, but threw cold water on the rest.

"This place Rome? It is but the tomb of mighty Rome." He showed Gerard that twenty or thirty feet of the old triumphal arches were underground, and that the modern streets ran over ancient palaces, and over the tops of columns; and coupling this with the comparatively narrow limits of the modern city, and the gigantic vestiges of antiquity that peeped aboveground here and there, he uttered a somewhat remarkable simile. "I tell thee this village they call Rome is but as one of those swallows' nests ye shall see built on the eaves of a decayed abbey."

"Old Rome must indeed have been fair then," said Gerard.

"Judge for yourself, my son; you see the great sewer, the work of the Romans in their very childhood, and shall outlast Vesuvius. You see the fragments of the Temple of Peace. How would you look could you see also the Capitol with its five-and-twenty temples? Do but note this Monte Savello; what is it, an it pleases you, but the ruins of the ancient theatre of Marcellus? and as for Testacio, one of the highest hills in modern Rome, it is but an ancient dust heap; the women of old Rome flung their broken pots and pans there, and lo—a mountain.

"'Ex pede Herculem; ex ungue leonem.'"

Gerard listened respectfully, but when the holy friar proceeded by analogy to imply that the moral superiority of the heathen Romans was proportionally grand, he resisted stoutly. "Has then the world lost by Christ His coming?" said he; but blushed, for he felt himself reproaching his benefactor.

"Saints forbid!" said the friar. "'Twere heresy to say so." And having made this direct concession, he proceeded gradually to evade it by subtle circumlocution, and reached the forbidden door by the spiral back staircase. In the midst of all which they came to a church with a knot of persons in the porch. A demon was being exorcised within. Now Fra Colonna had a way of uttering a curious sort of little moan, when things Zeno or Epicurus would not have swallowed were presented to him as facts. This moan conveyed to such as had often heard it not only strong dissent, but pity for human credulity, ignorance, and error, especially of course when it blinded men to the merits of Pagandom.

The friar moaned, and said, "Then come away.

"Nay, father, prithee! prithee! I ne'er saw a divell cast out."

The friar accompanied Gerard into the church, but had a good shrug first. There they found the demoniac forced down on his knees before the altar with a scarf tied round his neck, by which the officiating priest held him like a dog in a chain.

Not many persons were present, for fame had put forth that the last demon cast out in that church went no farther than into one of the company: "as a cony ferreted out of one burrow runs to the next."

When Gerard and the friar came up, the priest seemed to think there were now spectators enough; and began.

He faced the demoniac, breviary in hand, and first set himself to learn the individual's name with whom he had to deal.

"Come out, Ashtaroth. Oho! it is not you then. Come out, Belial. Come out, Tatzi. Come out, Eza. No; he trembles not. Come out, Azymoth. Come out, Feriander. Come out, Foletho. Come out, Astyma. Come out, Nebul. Aha! what, have I found ye? 'tis thou, thou reptile; at thine old tricks. Let us pray!

"Oh, Lord, we pray thee to drive the foul fiend Nebul out of this thy creature: out of his hair, and his eyes, out of his nose, out of his mouth, out of his ears, out of his gums, out of his teeth, out of his shoulders, out of his arms, legs, loins, stomach, bowels, thighs, knees, calves, feet, ankles, finger-nails, toe-nails, and soul. Amen."

The priest then rose from his knees, and turning to the company, said, with quiet geniality, "Gentles, we have here as obstinate a divell as you may see in a summer day." Then, facing the patient, he spoke to him with great rigour, sometimes addressing 'the man and sometimes the fiend, and they answered him in turn through the same mouth, now saying that they hated those holy names the priest kept uttering, and now complaining they did feel so bad in their inside.

It was the priest who first confounded the victim and the culprit in idea, by pitching into the former, cuffing him soundly, kicking him, and spitting repeatedly in his face. Then he took a candle and lighted it, and turned it down, and burned it till it burned his fingers; when he dropped it double quick. Then took the custodial; and showed the patient the Corpus Domini within. Then burned another candle as before, but more cautiously: then spoke civilly to the demoniac in his human character, dismissed him, and received the compliments of the company.

"Good father," said Gerard, "how you have their names by heart. Our northern priests have no such exquisite knowledge of the hellish squadrons."

"Ay, young man, here we know all their names, and eke their ways, the reptiles. This Nebul is a bitter hard one to hunt out."

He then told the company in the most affable way several of his experiences; concluding with his feat of yesterday, when he drove a great hulking fiend out of a woman by her mouth, leaving behind him certain nails, and pins, and a tuft of his own hair, and cried out in a voice of anguish, "'Tis not thou that conquers me. See that stone on the window sill. Know that the angel Gabriel coming down to earth once lighted on that stone: 'tis that has done my business."

The friar moaned. "And you believed him?"

"Certes! who but an infidel has discredited a revelation so precise."

"What, believe the father of lies? That is pushing credulity beyond the age."

"Oh, a liar does not always lie."

"Ay doth he whenever he tells an improbable story to begin, and shows you a holy relic; arms you against the Satanic host. Fiends (if any) be not so simple. Shouldst have answered him out of antiquity—

'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.'

Some blackguard chopped his wife's head off on that stone, young man; you take my word for it." And the friar hurried Gerard away.

"Alack, father, I fear you abashed the good priest."

"Ay, by Pollux," said the friar, with a chuckle; "I blistered him with a single touch of 'Socratic interrogation.' What modern can parry the weapons of antiquity."

One afternoon, when Gerard had finished his day's work, a fine lackey came and demanded his attendance at the Palace Cesarini. He went, and was ushered into a noble apartment; there was a girl seated in it, working on a tapestry. She rose and left the room, and said she would let her mistress know.

A good hour did Gerard cool his heels in that great room, and at last he began to fret. "These nobles think nothing of a poor fellow's time." However, just as he was making up his mind to slip out, and go about his business, the door opened, and a superb beauty entered the room, followed by two maids. It was the young princess of the house of Cesarini. She came in talking rather loudly and haughtily to her dependents, but at sight of Gerard lowered her voice to a very feminine tone, and said, "Are you the writer, messer?"

"I am, Signora.

"'Tis well."

She then seated herself; Gerard and her maids remained standing.

"What is your name, good youth?"

"Gerard, signora."

"Gerard? body of Bacchus! is that the name of a human creature?"

"It is a Dutch name, signora. I was born at Tergou, in Holland."

"A harsh name, girls, for so well-favoured a youth; what say you?"

The maids assented warmly.

"What did I send for him for?" inquired the lady, with lofty languor. "Ah, I remember. Be seated, Ser Gerardo, and write me a letter to Ercole Orsini, my lover; at least he says so."

Gerard seated himself, took out paper and ink, and looked up to the princess for instructions.

She, seated on a much higher chair, almost a throne, looked down at him with eyes equally inquiring.

"Well, Gerardo."

"I am ready, your excellence."

"Write, then."

"I but await the words."

"And who, think you, is to provide them?"

"Who but your grace, whose letter it is to be?"

"Gramercy! what, you writers, find you not the words? What avails your art without the words? I doubt you are an impostor, Gerardo."

"Nay, Signora, I am none. I might make shift to put your highness's speech into grammar, as well as writing. But I cannot interpret your silence. Therefore speak what is in your heart, and I will empaper it before your eyes."

"But there is nothing in my heart. And sometimes I think I have got no heart."

"What is in your mind, then?"

"But there is nothing in my mind; nor my head neither."

"Then why write at all?"

"Why, indeed? That is the first word of sense either you or I have spoken, Gerardo. Pestilence seize him! why writeth he not first? then I could say nay to this, and ay to that, withouten headache. Also is it a lady's part to say the first word?"

"No, signora: the last."

"It is well spoken, Gerardo. Ha! ha! Shalt have a gold piece for thy wit. Give me my purse!" And she paid him for the article on the nail a la moyen age. Money never yet chilled zeal. Gerard, after getting a gold piece so cheap, felt bound to pull her out of her difficulty, if the wit of man might achieve it. "Signorina," said he, "these things are only hard because folk attempt too much, are artificial and labour phrases. Do but figure to yourself the signor you love—"

"I love him not."

"Well, then, the signor you love not-seated at this table, and dict to me just what you would say to him."

"Well, if he sat there, I should say, 'Go away.'"

Gerard, who was flourishing his pen by way of preparation, laid it down with a groan.

"And when he was gone," said Floretta, "your highness would say, 'Come back.'"

"Like enough, wench. Now silence, all, and let me think. He pestered me to write, and I promised; so mine honour is engaged. What lie shall I tell the Gerardo to tell the fool?" and she turned her head away from them and fell into deep thought, with her noble chin resting on her white hand, half clenched.

She was so lovely and statuesque, and looked so inspired with thoughts celestial, as she sat thus, impregnating herself with mendacity, that Gerard forgot all, except art, and proceeded eagerly to transfer that exquisite profile to paper.

He had very nearly finished when the fair statue turned brusquely round and looked at him.

"Nay, Signora," said he, a little peevishly; "for Heaven's sake change not your posture—'twas perfect. See, you are nearly finished."

All eyes were instantly on the work, and all tongues active.

"How like! and done in a minute: nay, methinks her highness's chin is not quite so."

"Oh, a touch will make that right."

"What a pity 'tis not coloured. I'm all for colours. Hang black and white! And her highness hath such a lovely skin. Take away her skin, and half her beauty is lost."

"Peace. Can you colour, Ser Gerardo?"

"Ay, signorina. I am a poor hand at oils; there shines my friend Pietro; but in this small way I can tint you to the life, if you have time to waste on such vanity."

"Call you this vanity? And for time, it hangs on me like lead. Send for your colours now—quick, this moment—for love of all the saints."

"Nay, signorina, I must prepare them. I could come at the same time."

"So be it. And you, Floretta, see that he be admitted at all hours. Alack! Leave my head! leave my head!"

"Forgive me, Signora; I thought to prepare it at home to receive the colours. But I will leave it. And now let us despatch the letter."

"What letter?"

"To the Signor Orsini."

"And shall I waste my time on such vanity as writing letters—and to that empty creature, to whom I am as indifferent as the moon? Nay, not indifferent, for I have just discovered my real sentiments. I hate him and despise him. Girls, I here forbid you once for all to mention that signor's name to me again; else I'll whip you till the blood comes. You know how I can lay on when I'm roused."

"We do. We do."

"Then provoke me not to it;" and her eye flashed daggers, and she turned to Gerard all instantaneous honey. "Addio, il Gerardo." And Gerard bowed himself out of this velvet tiger's den.

He came next day and coloured her; and next he was set to make a portrait of her on a large scale; and then a full-length figure; and he was obliged to set apart two hours in the afternoon, for drawing and painting this princess, whose beauty and vanity were prodigious, and candidates for a portrait of her numerous. Here the thriving Gerard found a new and fruitful source of income.

Margaret seemed nearer and nearer.

It was Holy Thursday. No work this day. Fra Colonna and Gerard sat in a window and saw the religious processions. Their number and pious ardour thrilled Gerard with the devotion that now seemed to animate the whole people, lately bent on earthly joys.

Presently the Pope came pacing majestically at the head of his cardinals, in a red hat, white cloak, a capuchin of red velvet, and riding a lovely white Neapolitan barb, caparisoned with red velvet fringed and tasselled with gold; a hundred horsemen, armed cap-a-pie, rode behind him with their lances erected, the butt-end resting on the man's thigh. The cardinals went uncovered, all but one, de Medicis, who rode close to the Pope and conversed with him as with an equal. At every fifteen steps the Pope stopped a single moment, and gave the people his blessing, then on again.

Gerard and the friar now came down, and threading some by-streets reached the portico of one of the seven churches. It was hung with black, and soon the Pope and cardinals, who had entered the church by another door, issued forth, and stood with torches on the steps, separated by barriers from the people; then a canon read a Latin Bull, excommunicating several persons by name, especially such princes as were keeping the Church out of any of her temporal possessions.

At this awful ceremony Gerard trembled, and so did the people. But two of the cardinals spoiled the effect by laughing unreservedly the whole time.

When this was ended, the black cloth was removed, and revealed a gay panoply; and the Pope blessed the people, and ended by throwing his torch among them: so did two cardinals. Instantly there was a scramble for the torches: they were fought for, and torn in pieces by the candidates, so devoutly that small fragments were gained at the price of black eyes, bloody noses, and burnt fingers; In which hurtling his holiness and suite withdrew in peace.

And now there was a cry, and the crowd rushed to a square where was a large, open stage: several priests were upon it praying. They rose, and with great ceremony donned red gloves. Then one of their number kneeled, and with signs of the lowest reverence drew forth from a shrine a square frame, like that of a mirror, and inside was as it were the impression of a face.

It was the Verum icon, or true impression of our Saviour's face, taken at the very moment of His most mortal agony for us. Received as it was without a grain of doubt, imagine how it moved every Christian heart.

The people threw themselves on their faces when the priest raised it on high; and cries of pity were in every mouth, and tears in almost every eye. After a while the people rose, and then the priest went round the platform, showing it for a single moment to the nearest; and at each sight loud cries of pity and devotion burst forth.

Soon after this the friends fell in with a procession of Flagellants, flogging their bare shoulders till the blood ran streaming down; but without a sign of pain in their faces, and many of them laughing and jesting as they lashed. The bystanders out of pity offered them wine; they took it, but few drank it; they generally used it to free the tails of the cat, which were hard with clotted blood, and make the next stroke more effective. Most of them were boys, and a young woman took pity on one fair urchin. "Alas! dear child," said she, "why wound thy white skin so?" "Basta," said he, laughing, "'tis for your sins I do it, not for mine."

"Hear you that?" said the friar. "Show me the whip that can whip the vanity out of man's heart! The young monkey; how knoweth he that stranger is a sinner more than he?"

"Father," said Gerard, "surely this is not to our Lord's mind. He was so pitiful."

"Our Lord?" said the friar, crossing himself. "What has He to do with this? This was a custom in Rome six hundred years before He was born. The boys used to go through the streets, at the Lupercalia flogging themselves. And the married women used to shove in, and try and get a blow from the monkeys' scourges; for these blows conferred fruitfulness in those days. A foolish trick this flagellation; but interesting to the bystander; reminds him of the grand old heathen. We are so prone to forget all we owe them."

Next they got into one of the seven churches, and saw the Pope give the mass. The ceremony was imposing, but again—spoiled by the inconsistent conduct of the cardinals and other prelates, who sat about the altar with their hats on, chattering all through the mass like a flock of geese.

The eucharist in both kinds was tasted by an official before the Pope would venture on it; and this surprised Gerard beyond measure. "Who is that base man? and what doth he there?"

"Oh, that is 'the Preguste,' and he tastes the eucharist by way of precaution. This is the country for poison; and none fall oftener by it than the poor Popes."

"Alas! so I have heard; but after the miraculous change of the bread and wine to Christ His body and blood, poison cannot remain; gone is the bread with all its properties and accidents; gone is the wine."

"So says Faith; but experience tells another tale. Scores have died in Italy poisoned in the host."

"And I tell you, father, that were both bread and wine charged with direst poison before his holiness had consecrated them, yet after consecration I would take them both withouten fear."

"So would I, but for the fine arts."

"What mean you?"

"Marry, that I would be as ready to leave the world as thou, were it not for those arts, which beautify existence here below, and make it dear to men of sense and education. No; so long as the Nine Muses strew my path with roses of learning and art, me may Apollo inspire with wisdom and caution, that knowing the wiles of my countrymen, I may eat poison neither at God's altar nor at a friend's table, since, wherever I eat it or drink it, it will assuredly cut short my mortal thread; and I am writing a book—heart and soul in it—'The Dream of Polifilo,' the man of many arts. So name not poison to me till that is finished and copied."

And now the great bells of St. John Lateran's were rung with a clash at short intervals, and the people hurried thither to see the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Gerard and the friar got a good place in the church, and there was a great curtain, and after long and breathless expectation of the people, this curtain was drawn by jerks, and at a height of about thirty feet were two human heads with bearded faces, that seemed alive. They were shown no longer than the time to say an Ave Maria, and then the curtain drawn. But they were shown in this fashion three times. St. Peter's complexion was pale, his face oval, his beard grey and forked; his head crowned with a papal mitre. St. Paul was dark skinned, with a thick, square beard; his face also and head were more square and massive, and full of resolution.

Gerard was awe-struck. The friar approved after his fashion.

"This exhibition of the 'imagines,' or waxen effigies of heroes and demigods, is a venerable custom, and inciteth the vulgar to virtue by great and invisible examples.

"Waxen images? What, are they not the apostles themselves, embalmed, or the like?"

The friar moaned.

"They did not exist in the year 800. The great old Roman families always produced at their funerals a series of these 'imagines,' thereby tying past and present history together, and showing the populace the features of far-famed worthies. I can conceive nothing more thrilling or instructive. But then the effigies were portraits made during life or at the hour of death. These of St. Paul and St. Peter are moulded out of pure fancy."

"Ah! say not so, father."

"But the worst is, this humour of showing them up on a shelf, and half in the dark, and by snatches, and with the poor mountebank trick of a drawn curtain.

'Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic incredulus odi.'

Enough; the men of this day are not the men of old. Let us have done with these new-fangled mummeries, and go among the Pope's books; there we shall find the wisdom we shall vainly hunt in the streets of modern Rome."

And this idea having once taken root, the good friar plunged and tore through the crowd, and looked neither to the right hand nor to the left, till he had escaped the glories of the holy week, which had brought fifty thousand strangers to Rome; and had got nice and quiet among the dead in the library of the Vatican.

Presently, going into Gerard's room, he found a hot dispute afoot between him and Jacques Bonaventura. That spark had come in, all steel from head to toe; doffed helmet, puffed, and railed most scornfully on a ridiculous ceremony, at which he and his soldiers had been compelled to attend the Pope; to wit the blessing of the beasts of burden.

Gerard said it was not ridiculous; nothing a Pope did could be ridiculous.

The argument grew warm, and the friar stood grimly neuter, waiting like the stork that ate the frog and the mouse at the close of their combat, to grind them both between the jaws of antiquity; when lo, the curtain was gently drawn, and there stood a venerable old man in a purple skull cap, with a beard like white floss silk, looking at them with a kind though feeble smile.

"Happy youth," said he, "that can heat itself over such matters."

They all fell on their knees. It was the Pope.

"Nay, rise, my children," said he, almost peevishly. "I came not into this corner to be in state. How goes Plutarch?"

Gerard brought his work, and kneeling on one knee presented it to his holiness, who had seated himself, the others standing.

His holiness inspected it with interest.

"'Tis excellently writ," said he.

Gerard's heart beat with delight.

"Ah! this Plutarch, he had a wondrous art, Francesco. How each character standeth out alive on his page: how full of nature each, yet how unlike his fellow!"

Jacques Bonaventura. "Give me the Signor Boccaccio."

His Holiness. "An excellent narrator, capitano, and writeth exquisite Italian. But in spirit a thought too monotonous. Monks and nuns were never all unchaste: one or two such stories were right pleasant and diverting; but five score paint his time falsely, and sadden the heart of such as love mankind. Moreover, he hath no skill at characters. Now this Greek is supreme in that great art: he carveth them with pen; and turning his page, see into how real and great a world we enter of war, and policy, and business, and love in its own place: for with him, as in the great world, men are not all running after a wench. With this great open field compare me not the narrow garden of Boccaccio, and his little mill-round of dishonest pleasures."

"Your holiness, they say, hath not disdained to write a novel."

"My holiness hath done more foolish things than one, whereof it repents too late. When I wrote novels I little thought to be head of the Church."

"I search in vain for a copy of it to add to my poor library."

"It is well. Then the strict orders I gave four years ago to destroy every copy in Italy have been well discharged. However, for your comfort, on my being made Pope, some fool turned it into French: so that you may read it, at the price of exile."

"Reduced to this strait we throw ourselves on your holiness's generosity. Vouchsafe to give us your infallible judgment on it!"

"Gently, gently, good Francesco. A Pope's novels are not matters of faith. I can but give you my sincere impression. Well then the work in question had, as far as I can remember, all the vices of Boccaccio, without his choice Italian."

Fra Colonna. "Your holiness is known for slighting Aeneas Silvius as other men never slighted him. I did him injustice to make you his judge. Perhaps your holiness will decide more justly between these two boys-about blessing the beasts."

The Pope demurred. In speaking of Plutarch he had brightened up for a moment, and his eye had even flashed; but his general manner was as unlike what youthful females expect in a Pope as you can conceive. I can only describe it in French. Le gentilhomme blase. A highbred, and highly cultivated gentleman, who had done, and said, and seen, and known everything, and whose body was nearly worn out. But double languor seemed to seize him at the father's proposal.

"My poor Francesco," said he, "bethink thee that I have had a life of controversy, and am sick on't; sick as death. Plutarch drew me to this calm retreat; not divinity."

"Nay, but, your holiness, for moderating of strife between two hot young bloods, {Makarioi oi eirinopioi}."

"And know you nature so ill, as to think either of these high-mettled youths will reck what a poor old Pope saith?"

"Oh! your holiness," broke in Gerard, blushing and gasping, "sure, here is one who will treasure your words all his life as words from Heaven."

"In that case," said the Pope, "I am fairly caught. As Francesco here would say—

{ouk estin ostis est' anyr eleutheos}.

I came to taste that eloquent heathen, dear to me e'en as to thee, thou paynim monk; and I must talk divinity, or something next door to it. But the youth hath a good and a winning face, and writeth Greek like an angel. Well then, my children, to comprehend the ways of the Church, we should still rise a little above the earth, since the Church is between heaven and earth, and interprets betwixt them.

"The question is then, not how vulgar men feel, but how the common Creator of man and beast doth feel, towards the lower animals. This, if we are too proud to search for it in the lessons of the Church, the next best thing is to go to the most ancient history of men and animals."

Colonna. "Herodotus."

"Nay, nay; in this matter Herodotus is but a mushroom. Finely were we sped for ancient history, if we depended on your Greeks, who did but write on the last leaf of that great book, Antiquity."

The friar groaned. Here was a Pope uttering heresy against his demigods.

"'Tis the Vulgate I speak of. A history that handles matters three thousand years before him pedants call 'the Father of History.'"

Colonna. "Oh! the Vulgate? I cry your holiness mercy. How you frightened me. I quite forgot the Vulgate."

"Forgot it? art sure thou ever readst it, Francesco mio?"

"Not quite, your holiness. 'Tis a pleasure I have long promised myself, the first vacant moment. Hitherto these grand old heathen have left me small time for recreation."

His Holiness. "First then you will find in Genesis that God, having created the animals, drew a holy pleasure, undefinable by us, from contemplating of their beauty. Was it wonderful? See their myriad forms; their lovely hair and eyes, their grace, and of some the power and majesty: the colour of others, brighter than roses, or rubies. And when, for man's sin, not their own, they were destroyed, yet were two of each kind spared.

"And when the ark and its trembling inmates tumbled solitary on the world of water, then, saith the word, 'God remembered Noah, and the cattle that were with him in the ark.'

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