Imágenes de páginas

See them, for the gross-feeding, little know, until the friar put surly, spend-all, take-all knaves out his foot and found Vanna’s. that they were! One or two A tremor, beginning at her she might name if she had a heart, ran down to her toes; mindah! one or two in this Battista felt the flutter of it very city of Verona, in this and was assured. very Street of the Star, who When he left her that night —but there! Vanna must go he kissed her cold hand, then and hear the Frate's next ser La Testolina's, which he found mon, she must indeed. And if by no means cold, and moved she could take her old curm off leisurely towards the Piazza Pshutt! What was she say- dell'Erbe. Neither woman spoke ing? How she ran on! She for a while : La Testolina was did indeed. Fra Battista, lean- picking at her apron, Vanna ing against the lintel, kept his sat quietly in the dark holding eyelids on the droop, seemed her heart. She was still in a to find his toes of interest. tremble, so ridiculously moved But now and again he would that when her friend kissed her look delicately up, and so sure she burst out crying. La Tesas he did the brown eyes and tolina went nodding away; and the grey seemed to swim to- the end of the episode may be wards each other, to melt in predicted. Not at one but at a point, swirl in an eddy of many sermons of the tall Carthe feelings in which Vanna melite did Vanna sit rapt; not found herself drowning, and for one but for every dusk did found such death sweet. La he stoop to kiss her hand. All Testolina still ran on, but now Verona saw her devotion,_all in a monologue. Fra Battista Verona, that is, but one old looked and longed, and Vanna Veronese. The essence of com looked again and thrilled. It edy being that the spectators grew quite dark; nothing of shall chuckle at actors in a fog, each other could they see and here was a comedy indeed.


When Vanna announced her freely and voices were shrill condition the neighbours looked when neither was by. Down slyly at each other; when her by the river especially, upon condition announced Vanna, that bleached board below the they chattered; the gossip sank bridge, ci and si whistled like to whispering behind the hand the wind in the chimneys, and as time went on, and ceased the hands of testimony were as altogether when the baby was the aspen leaves when storms born. That was a signal for are in.

Some took one side, heads to shake. Some pitied some another; but when, in the father, many defended the due season, it was seen what mother: it did not depend upon inordinate pride Baldassare your sex; sides were taken had in the black-eyed bambino VOL. CLXV.—NO. M.





there was no question of sides. besides eloquence to lean on: He had ranked himself with there were other sermons than the unforgivable party : the young Fra Battista's, and the old man

an old fool, a moral his person pointed had gull whose power of swallow a double edge. In fact, stirred disgust. Vanna had where he pointed with his perthe rights of it, they said ; such son, the Dominicans pointed men were made to be tricked with their sharp tongues. The As for Fra Battista's pulpit, Franciscans, more homely, it was thronged about with pointed with their fingers. upturned faces; for those who Fra Battista began to be notohad not been before went now, rious—a thing widely different to judge what they would have from fame; he also began to done under the circumstances. be uncomfortable, and his supeHaving been, there were rior with him. They talked two opinions about that. Mes- it over in the cloister, walking ser Gabriele Arcangelo, some up and down together in the said, judging by the honey- cool of the day. “It has an tongue; San Bastiano, others ugly look, my dear,” said the considered him, who went by provincial; “send the young his comely proportions; and woman to me. these gained the day, since his What of the young woman, beardless face and friar's frock meantime? Let me tell the induced the idea of innocence, truth: motherhood became her which Sebastian's virgin bloom so well that she was brazen also taught. The quality of his from the very beginning. No sermons did not grow thread- delicacy, no pretty shame, no bare under this adventitious shrinking — she gloried in the criticism : he kept a serene growing fact. When she was front, lost no authority, nor brought to bed she made a failed of any unction. There quick recovery; she insisted was always a file at his confes- upon a devout churching, an sional; and at Corpus Christi, elaborate christening of the when in the pageant he actually doubtful son (whereat, if you figured as Sebastian, his plump will believe me, no other than round limbs roped to a pine- Fra Battista himself must do stock drew tears from all eyes. the office !); thenceforth she was

Unhappily you have to pay never seen without her bambino. for your successes.

There were

While she worked it lay at her other preachers in Verona, and feet or across her knee like a other eloquent preachers, per la stout chrysalis; the breast was Santissima, who, being honest ever at its service, pillow or men, had to depend upon their fount; when it slept she lifted eloquence. These

the up a finger or her grave eyes at enemy Franciscans, of course, the very passers-by; her lips and Dominicans—who got wind moulded a “Hush !” at them of something amiss, and began lest they should dare disturb to nose for a scandal. What her


lord's rest. The they got gave them something saucy jade! Was ever such


impudence in the world before? more majestic; but no less the It drew her, too, to old Bal- tall, swaying, crowned girl she dassare in a remarkable way. had ever been. She was seen, This the neighbours—busy with without doubt, for a splendid sniffing-did not see. She had

young woman. The heavy child always had a sense of the sweet seemed not to drag her down, root under the rind, always nor the skeered looks of respectpurred at his stray grunts and able citizens, her neighbours, to pats, taking them by instinct lower her head. She met them for what they were really

really with level eyes quite candid, and worth; and now to watch his a smiling mouth to all appearnew delight filled her with

ance pure.

When she found gratitude - and more, she felt they would not discuss her free to love the man. For one

riches she talked of theirs. thing, it unlocked his lips and When she found them overhers. She could sing about the satisfied with their children, house since Cola had come. she laughed quietly as one who they had christened him after knew better. This was a thing good Saint Nicholas — because to take away a woman's breath, Master Baldassare was so talka that she should grow the more tive on his account. The old glorious for her shame. Party man sat at home whenever he feeling had been stormy, like could, in his shiny arm-chair, his crossing tides, between those cup of black wine by his side, who held Baldassare for a gull and watched Vanna with the and those who resented Vanna's baby by the hour together, por- unruffled brows. But now there ing over every downward turn was but one party. It was very of her pretty head, every pass well to hoodwink an old skinof her fingers, every little eager flint; but, by the Mass! not striving of the sucking child. honest to flaunt your methods There were, indeed, no bounds in the world's face. And since to his content: to be a father our own dignity is the skin poor old soul !_seemed to him upon which we rely for all the most glorious position in our protection, while contempt the world. .

Can Grande II. in for our neighbours is but a the judgment-seat, the bishop grease we put upon it for its stalled in his throne, the Holy ease, it was self-defence which Father himself in the golden brought it about that the party chambers of his castle at Avig- against Vanna grew ominously non, had nothing to offer Ser large, while Baldassare gained Baldassare Dardicozzo, the old- quite a host of sympathisers. clothesman.

The girl was now shunned, osThough the neighbours knew tentatiously, carefully shunned. nothing of this inner peace, they Even La Testolina was shy of could not deny that Monna her. But, bless you, she saw Vanna, brazen

no, was nothing of it—or cared nothing. mightily become by her new She chattered to her grossly dignity or (as you should say) deceived husband, went (nominindignity. She was more staid, ally, you may be sure!) con


fessing to the grossly deceiving word. The tongues lay itchfriar, she cooed to her baby, ing; two or three barren wowarbled her little


looked men in the Via Stella were handsome, carried herself nobly, hoarding stones. as if she were the Blessed Vir Then, just about the time gin herself, no less. This could when the prior of the Carmelnot be endured : a thousand ites bid Fra Battista send him tongues were ready to shoot the young woman, Baldassare at her, and would have shot took the road for a round of but for fear of old Baldassare's chaffer which might keep him grim member—reputed forked out of Verona a week. The While he was in the way, fat- Via Stella felt, and Fra Batheaded fool, there was no moral tista knew, that the chance had glow to be won by a timely come.



Verona, stormy centre of summer), stooped over her baby, strife, whose scarred grey face happy and calm as always, and still wears a blush when viewed fingering her breast that she from the ramp of the Giusti might give the little tyrant ease garden, was in those times a of his drink. That baby was a place of short and little ease. glutton. “Hist, Vanna, hist!” The swords were never rusty. La Testolina whispered, and A warning clang from the Vanna looked up at her with belfry, two three harsh a guarded smile, as who should strokes, the tall houses dis- say, “Speak softer, my dear, gorged, the streets packed, lest Cola should strangle in his Capulet faced Montague, swallow.” Bevilacqua caught Ridolfi by But La Testolina's eyes were the throat, and Della Scala like pin-points, centring all her sitting in his hall knew that alarms. he must do murder if he would “ You must come to the Carlive a prince. It seems odd melites, Vanna. There is a that the suckling of a little great to-do. The warden of shopkeeper should lead to such San Francesco has been to the issues; but so it was. And bishop, and the bishop is with thus it was.

Can Grande at this moment. On the morning of Baldas- You must come, indeed, at sare's setting out for the Man- oncesubitissimo!tuan road, La Testolina

Vanna laughed — the rich that time much and unhealthily quiet laugh of a girl whose in Fra Battista's hire came affairs are in good train, and breathless to the Via Stella all other affairs the scratch of Craning her quick head round a flea. the door-post, she saw Vanna “Why, what have I to do sitting all in cool white (for the with the bishop and Can Grande, weather was at the top of La Testolina ?” says she.



master is out, and I must mind business? Where is the baby? the shop. There is baby too." Let me judge for myself.”

“By Saints Pan and Silvanus, La Testolina, protesting her my girl, it will be the worse for remarkable innocence by every you if you come not,” said La quiver of her head, edged Vanna Testolina with a tragic sniff. to the front. Vanna stood up, “Eh, you little fool, don't you straight as a candle, and unknow that it is you and your veiled her bosom. brat have set all Verona by the “Do you want to see my

little ears?"

son, reverend prior?” she said. Vanna had never thought of “Behold him here (Eccololi).' the ears of Verona, and knew She held him out proudly in her not how to think of them now; arms, as if he were monstrance but she saw that her friend was and she priest. in a fever of suppressed know Now whether it was that ledge. Therefore she shawled motherhood had fired a comely her head and her baby in her girl with the beautiful serioussea-blue cloak, locked the shop ness of a woman, so that she door, and followed La Testo- was transfigured before him; or lina.

whether some chance passage The sealed gates in the white of the crossing lights played convent wall were barred and tricks with his vision—which it double-locked. A scared brother was, or whether it was both, I cocked his eye through the grille know not. He saw, or thought to see who was there. “She he saw, a tall smiling lady, is here,” hissed La Testolina. hooded in blue over white, holdDio mio, the causa causans !ing up a child; he saw, or cried he, and let them in through thought for a moment that he a cranny. “Follow me, mis- saw, the Image of all Mothers tresses, and God give good displaying the Image of all ending to this adventure, ” he Sons. His fingers pattered over prayed as he slippered up his scapular. “Eh, my Lady the court. Vanna, blank and the Virgin! What dost thou smiling, La Testolina with wan- here, glorifying this place ?dering fearful eyes, followed. As soon as he had said it he

They found the prior sitting knew that he was a fool; well back in his ebony chair and Vanna's large grey eyes loomed in a meditation, his chin buried upon him to swallow him up, in his hand. Behind him (and her colour of faint rose glowed behind his back his hands) stood and throbbed. Vera incessu Fra Corinto the pittanciar, pock- patuit dea! By her presence ye marked, thin, and mortified. He shall judge her, quoth the prior looked the prior's reproach, and to himself

, and hid his eyes. was.

There was a hush over all the “Now, women," said the group in the chamber, during prior testily—a fat and flabby which you could have heard far old man with a sour mouth off the nasal discords of the “Now, women, which of you is brethren in choir droning at the bottom of this accursed through an office. No one

« AnteriorContinuar »