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spoke. The prior's lips moved scatter before the wolves ? Fra at his prayers; Fra Corinto Battista, his penance duly done, looked frowningly before him; must leave Verona ; and you, La Testolina was fidgety to my sister, must do penance, speak, but dared not; Vanna, that God be not mocked, nor her long form like a ripple of the Veronese upraised to mock moonlight in the dusk, cooed Him.” under her voice to the baby ; Of this solemn appeal, Vanna, he, unheeding cause of so much to all seeming, understood not strife in high places, held out one word. True, she blushed a his pair of puckered hands and little, but that was because a crowed to the company. So prior was talking to her: her with their thoughts: the prior honest grey eyes were quite unthought he had seen the Holy troubled, her smile as tender Virgin ; Fra Corinto thought as ever. She spoke as the prior an old fool ; La Testo- deprecating temerity—that she lina hoped his reverence had should speak at all to so great not the colic; and Vanna a man—and by no means any thought of nothing at all. judgment.
Fra Corinto it was looking “I am only a poor girl, not for Madonna in a baggage), reverend prior," said she, who, by discreetly coughing, “most ignorant and thickbrought his master back to his witted. Pray, what have I
The prior cleared his and my baby to do with these throat once or twice, looked at high matters of Fra Battista's the young woman, and felt quite error?” himself. Ridiculous what tricks The prior grew angry, “Tush, a flicker of sunlight will play my woman,” he grunted, “I beg on the wisest of men !
you to drop the artless. It is “Monna Vanna," said he, "I useless here. Let me look at have not brought you here to the youngster.” judge between
my “Yes, yes, mistress, let us see brother Battista (now at dis- the child," said Fra Corinto, cipline in his cell). The flesh, who croaked like a nightingale which he should have tamed, in June. has raised, it appears, a bruised Vanna moved forward on a head for one last spite. My light foot.
My light foot. “Willingly, reverend brother was bitten, and my fathers,” said she.
“ He is a brother fell into sin. Whether, fine child, they all say, and reas of old, the tempter was the puted the image of his father." woman, it is sure that, as of A sublime utterance, full of old, the eater was a man. I humoursome matter, if it had will not condemn you unheard, been a time for humours. lest I incur reproach in my
But it was not. La Testolina turn.
our order is in could not contain her virtuous peril; the enemy is abroad, with indignation--for who is so tranEnvy, Hatred, and Malice bark- scendently righteous as your ing on their leashes. What rascal for once in the right? can the poor sheep do but “Hey, woman!” she cried
shrilly, “what grossness is this? faster and stuck more deep. Do you think the whole city The mob, as she blundered don't know about you?” through the streets, shuffling,
Vanna turned quivering. gasping, stumbling at hercaught “And what is it that the gown, dry-eyed, open-mouthed, whole city knows but does not panting her terror, her bewilder: say, if you please?”
ment, her shame and amazë—The prior raised his hands. the mob, I say, dizzied about Like Pilate, he would have her like a cloud of wasps; yet washed off the business if he they had in them what wasps could. He looked at the two have not — voices primed by women. Eh, by the Lord ! there hatred to bay her mad. There would be a
But the was no longer any doubt for whole thing was too impudent her: the pittanciar'sword (which a fraud : there must be an end had not been “drab”) was tossed of it. He caught Fra Corinto's from pavement to pavement, eye and raised his brows. Fra from balcony to balcony, out Corinto was his jackal — here at every open door, shot like was his cue. He went swiftly slops from every leaning caseto the door, set it open, came ment, and hissed in her ears as back and caught Vanna roughly it flew. It was a mad race. by the shoulder. He turned The Franciscans tucked up
their her shocked face to the open frocks and discarded stones, that door, and his dry voice grated they might run and shout the horribly upon her ears.
more freely. The Dominicans “Out with
drab!” was soon tired: their end was served. what he said, and Vanna reeled. The cloistered orders were out For a full minute she gaped at of condition; the secular clergy him for a meaning; his face came to weary of what was, taught the force of his words after all, but a matter for the only too well. She sobbed, mendicants. Thecommon people, threw up her high head, bent it, however, had the game well in like Jesus, for the cross, and fled. hand. They headed her off the
The old porter leered by his narrow streets, where safety open gates. “He! he! They might have been, and kept her are all outside,” he chuckled — to the Lung' Adige. Round “Magpies and Dusty-hoods, Par- the great s the river makes vuses, Minors, Minims, Benets, she battled her blind way, tryand Austins, every cowl in ing for nothing, with wits for Verona! Come along, my hand- nothing, without hope, or undersome girl, you must move brisk- standing, or thought. ish this day!” She heard the a hunted woman, straight before hoarse muttering of the men, her, and at last shook off the and, a worse poison for good last of her pursuers by San ears, the shrill venom of the Zeno. Stumbling headlong into women, Out of the gates she a little pine-wood beyond the blindly went, and all the pack gates, she fell, swooned, and opened their music upon her. forgot. Stones flew, but words flew It was near dark when she
opened her loaded eyes—that is allow herself to think—for chilthere was no moon, but a great dren must be fed though their concourse of stars, which kept mothers are stoned from the the night as a long time of gates. Vanna nursed him till dusk. The baby was awake, he dropped asleep, and sat on too, groping for food and whim- with her thoughts and troubles. pering a little. She sat up to Happily for her, he had turned supply him : though in that act these to other roads than the her brain swam, it is probable Lung' Adige. She knew that the duty saved her. Fearing if he was to be fed again she to faint again, she dared not must feed also.
V.—THE MIRACLE OF THE PEACH-TREE.
Directly you were outside the it ploughed a broad furrow, Porta San Zeno the peach-trees which ended in a ragged edge. began-acre by acre of bent You would never have seen trunks, whose long branches, that if it had not been a clear tied at the top, took shapes of night. blown candle - flames : beyond
Still also it was. You heard these was
an open waste of the cropping of the goats, the bents and juniper scrub, which jaws' champ when they chewed afforded certain eatage for the crisp leaves; the flicker of goats.
the bats' wings. In the marsh, Here three herd-boys, Luca, half a mile away, the chorus Biagio, and Astorre, simple of frogs, when it swelled up, brown-skinned souls, watched drowned all nearer noise; but their flocks all the summer when it broke off suddenly, those night, sleeping, waking to play others resumed their hold upon pranks with each other, whining the stillness. It was a breathendless doggerel, praying at every less night of suspense. Anyscare, and swearing at everything might happen on such reassurance. Simple puppyish a night. folk though they were, Madonna Luca, Biagio, and Astorre, of the Peach-tree chose them to under the spell of this marvelwitness her epiphany.
lous night, lay on their stomachs It was a very still night, of alert for alarms.
A heavywonderful star-shine, but with- wheeling white owl had come out a moon. The stars were by with a swish, and Biagio so thickly spread, so clear and had called aloud to Madonna hot, that there was light enough in his agony. Astorre had for the lads to see each other's crossed himself over and over faces, the rough shapes of each again: this was the Angel of other. It was light enough to Death cruising abroad on the notice how the square belfry of hunt for goats or goat-herds; San Zeno cut a wedge of black but “No, no!” cried Luca, eldest into the spangled blue vault of the three, “the wings are too Sheer through the Milky Way short, friends. That is a fluffy
“I am very
new soul just let loose. She sacred word, lifted in his knows not the way, you see.
mother's arms and turned openLet us pray for her. There handed towards them. Luca, are devils abroad on such close Biagio, and Astorre, goat-herds nights as this." Pray they did, all and honest lads, fell on their with
will, “ Ave Maria, ' faces with one accord ; “O Maris stella," and half the voice they cried, “Madonna, Paternoster, when Biagio burst Madonna, Madonna ! pray for into a guffaw, and gave Luca a us sinners!” push which sent Astorre down. But again the Lady spoke in “Why, 'tis only a screech-owl, her gentle tones. you fools !” he cried, though the hungry, and my child is hungry. sound of his own voice made Have you nothing to give me?' him falter ;
So then Luca kicked the prone teaser," he went on in a much Biagio, and Biagio's heel nicked lower voice. " Who's afraid ?' Astorre on the shin. But it was
A black-and-white cat mak- Luca, as became the eldest, who ing a pounce had sent hearts to got up first, all the same; and mouths after this : though they as soon as he was on his feet found her out before they had the others followed him. Luca got to “Dominus tecum," she took his cap off, Biagio saw the left them all in a quiver. It act and followed it. Astorre, had been a cat, but it might who dared not lift his eyes, and have been the devil. Then, was so busy making crosses on before the bristles had folded himself that he had no hands down on their backs, they rose to spare, kept his on till Luca up again, and the hair of their nudged Biagio, and Biagio heads became rigid as quills. cuffed him soundly, saying, Over the brow of a little hill, “Uncover, cow-face.” through the peach-trees (which Then Luca on his knees made bowed their spiry heads to her an offering of cheese and black as she walked), came quietly a bread to the Lady. They saw tall white Lady in a dark cloak. the gleam of her white hand as Hey! powers of earth and air, she stretched it out to take the but this was not to be doubted! victual. That hand shone like Evenly forward she came, with- agate in the dark. They saw out a footfall, without a rustle her eat, sitting very straight or a crackling twig, without and noble upon a tussock of so much as kneeing her skirt bents. Astorre whispered to -stood before them so nearly Biagio, Biagio consulted with that they saw the pale oval of Luca for a few anxious moments, her face, and said in a voice like and communicated again with a muffled bell, “I am hungry, my Astorre. Astorre jumped up friends; have you any meat ? and scuttled away into the She had a face like the moon, dark. Presently he came back, and great round eyes; within bearing something in his two her cloak, on the bosom of her hands. The three shock-heads white dress, she held a man- inspected his burden; there was child. He, they passed their much whispering, some conten
tion, almost a scuffle. The truth lage next day as they sat round was, that Biagio wanted to take him in a ring, and he on the the thing from Astorre, and that well-head as plain to be seen as Luca would not allow it. Luca this paper, that he felt at that was the eldest, and wanted to moment as if two rose-leaves take it himself. Astorre was had dropped from heaven upon in tears. “Cristo amore!” he his forehead. Slowly then, very blubbered, “ you will spill the slowly and smoothly (as they milk between you. I thought report), did the Lady move away of it all by myself. Let go, towards the peach-trees whence Biagio; let go, Luca !” So she had come. In the half light they whispered and tussled, there was—for by this it was pulling three different ways. the hour before dawn — they The Lady's voice broke over saw her take a peach from one them like silver rain.
of the trees. She stayed to eat him who thought of the kind it. Then she walked over the act give me the milk,” she said ; crest of the orchard and disso young Astorre on his knees appeared.
as they handed her the horn cup, and dared, when the light had come, through the cracks of his fingers they looked for her over that watched her drink every drop. same crest, but could see noth
That done, the cup returned ing whatever. With pale seriwith a smile piercingly sweet, ous faces the three youths rethe Lady rose. Saints on garded each other. There was thrones, how tall she was! no doubt as to what had hap" Bambino will thank you for pened—a miracle! a miracle ! this to-morrow, as I do now,” With one consent then-since said she. “Good - night, my this was plainly a Church affair friends, and may the good God —they ran to their parish priest, have mercy upon all souls !” Don Gasparo. He got the whole She turned to go the way she story at last ; nothing could had come, but Astorre, covering shake them ;
no detail his eyes with one hand, crept wanting. Thus it was : the forward on three legs (as you Blessed Virgin, carrying in her might say) and plucked the arms the Santissimo Bambino hem of her robe up, and kissed Gesù, had come through the it. She stooped to lay a hand peach-trees, asked for and eaten upon his head.
“Never kiss of their food, prayed for them my robe, Astorre,” she said — aloud to Messer Domeneddio himand how under heaven did she self, and kissed Astorre on the know his name if she were not forehead. As they were on their what she was ?—“never kiss my knees, she walked away, stopped, robe, but get up and let me took a peach, ate it, walked on, kiss you.” Well of Truth, to vanished - ecco ! The curate think of it! Up gets Astorre, rubbed his head, and tried anshaking like a nun in a fit, and other boy. Useless: the boy the Lady bent over him and, as was the same. Third boy, same sure as you are you, kissed his story. He tucked up his cassock forehead. Astorre told his vil- with decision, took his biretta