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They crossed at the farther corner, went up a few steps, and then were lost in the glooms of the arched way.
of you?" Baldinanza blinked Piazza; it was a cold white hard. "I am your servant, Can Grande," he said finally; "where you go I follow. That is how I read the Book of the Law." "Well, Checco," the tyrant went on, turning to the youngster still at the table, "what of you?"
Francesco threw up his arms. "Never, Excellency, never!" he groaned in his anguish. "I dare not, I dare not!" He concealed neither his tears, nor his despair, nor his bodily fear. Can Grande shrugged.
"Are you ready, Ubaldo?" he asked. Baldinanza bowed his head. The two men cloaked and masked themselves, and went out of the palace. The moon shone broad over the
They never came out alive. Six hired daggers hacked the life out of them and their hearts from the bodies. Το this day the unwholesome place is called for a testimony the "Volto Barbaro," the horrid entry. So died in his sin Can Grande II., a man who feared nothing and won nothing but fear, and Can Signorio his son reigned in his stead. You might trust the cloth - white lackey and the stricken conscience of Francesco della Rocca Rossa to spread the news they had.
VIII. THE REPROACHES.
A scared city of blank casements, a city of citizens feverishly asking questions whose answers they knew beforehand, a city of swift feet and hushed voices, was Verona on the morrow of Can Grande's murder. They carried the two torn bodies covered with one sheet to Sant' Anastasia, laid them there, not in state but just huddled out of sight, while the bishop and his canons sang a requiem, and "Dirige and "Placebo" went whining about the timbers of the roof. Nobody mourned the man, yet he had his due. His yellowskinned wife knelt at his feet; Can Signorio, the new tyrant, frozen rigid, armed in mail, knelt at his head. The mercenaries held the nave, the
In the afternoon the show of a trial-at-law was made. The depositions of the lackey, of Rocca Rossa, of the finders of the murdered and the hunters for the murderers, were taken and recorded by the podestà in the presence of the council. After that the six unknown dastards were publicly condemned to death by the civil power from the loggia of the palace, and as publicly excommunicated by the bishop from the steps of the cathedral. It was felt on all hands that on this occasion the
arm at least, in the absence of
bishop had wielded the heavier heresy in him to overlook, or
Now although, as it has been said, and truly said, there was no soul in the city who doubted, there was one soul very much in doubt. That was Fra Battista's. The offer of purgation had come in frenzy from the lips of his prior; by its acceptance Fra Battista saw himself driven to one of two courses. He must destroy his reputation for obedience to heavenly commands which it had been rank
der, slit open like a rotten bag -God of the love of women, never, never in life! The other course, then? He pictured himself, the tall and comely youth, standing up alone before the grim assembly of elders, flinty old men who knew nothing of my Lord Amor, how he rides afield in a rose-coloured garment, throwing a flower and a dart to boy or girl as he goes. He saw a dewy-eyed Battista owning himself Love's priest. The women called him Sebastian for his beauty. A Sebastian he was, per Dio! stuck all over with Amor's fiery darts. Like Sebastian, by his persecutors he would be stripped bare; like that martyr's enemies, they would wound his tender flesh; like Sebastian he would endure, casting his eyes upwards; and like Sebastian he would infallibly be wept by the women.
If women will weep for you they will bleed for you; the fount of tears feeds a river as well as betrays a hidden well. Good then, good then! He saw a future in all this. From the From the other spike of the dilemma he saw nothing but his impaling; in this case, if he was impaled, balm at least would be laid upon his wounds. Fra Battista determined to brazen it out before Verona.
They lit the tapers in the sanctuary betimes; and then all the brethren in their hoods sat in choir awaiting the bishop. With him and his clergy should come the reverend prior. Fra Battista was to stand on the rood-step to make his purgation. He would be backed by the light. So much of grace they
would do him, that he should face a sea of dark, and be seen but in outline by it.
The bishop's procession, long announced by the indefinable hum a great crowd breeds, swept up the nave with a slippering of countless feet. The bishop in purple, his canons in scarlet, his cross-bearer, his chaplains and singing-men, the bearer of his mitre, his ring on a cushion; after these the archdeacon and his chaplains, the clergy of the city, heads of religious orders, representatives of the civil arm, Can Signorio with the officers of his household; finally the silent eager people, edging past each other, whispering, craning their heads to see what there was and what there was not to be seen. So came Verona in a multitude to the great business of Fra Battista and the ragpicker's wife, in reality thrilling with but one thought: Madonna of the Peachtree was in the city, for any waking soul to see!
After the penitential psalms, a litany, and the office appointed, the bishop stood with his back to the altar, and spoke urbi et orbi from the text, "God, who in divers times and in divers places," &c. I cannot do more than report the sum of his discourse, which was that, as it was plain these late marvels had some root in the hidden ways of men's hearts, so it behoved him as a father to lay all such ways bare. That for himself, if he might speak as a man only, he was conscious of no sin unpurged which the apparitions might condemn, and certainly (alas!) of no graces of his own
which they could have been designed to reward. Let each speak for himself. If there was any man in that vast assembly unshriven, let him confess now what his fault was; so that instant prayer might be made to their glorious visitant for forgiveness by intercession. If, on the other hand, there was some Christian virtue blossoming in secret, let them (brethren) find it speedily out, that thanks might be given for mercies vouchsafed. It was noticed afterwards that the death by butchery of the feudal lord was passed by without a comment. There might have been a reason for this in the circumstance that Can Grande II. had been warned of his sin, had nevertheless set out to commit it, and had died in the act, as it had been foretold. To discuss all this in the hearing of Can Signorio, his successor, might have been a task too delicate for the bishop. But I believe that the scent of the miraculous, which was all about him, was too much for him. He could nose out nothing beyond the line which that fragrance seemed to point. All his thoughts, with those of his auditors, were upon Madonna of the Peach-tree, whom there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to connect with Fra Battista, his doings and undoings. No one detected this, so Can Grande may have been inspired. A great to-do, which no one had the rights of, was followed by mysterious appearances which no one pretended to understand. What more natural than that one mystery should be allowed to explain the other?
The bishop having ended, the prior (who was very nervous) began. There were certainly foxes here and there in the vineyard, wild grapes on the vines as well as grapes. No community was so holy but that, through excess of zeal, overinflamed by charity. it might nurture upon its bosom a fanged snake. Might he not allude to the detestable and never-enoughto-be-condemned sin of simony which, as they knew only too well, had fattened in the Dominican convent at B- ? What should he say of that Friar Minor, the famous preacher of Swho had been found dead of a surfeit of melons and white wine? Alas! he brought the charge of gluttony-a deadly sin-upon his order! Wonderful then would it be in such days as these if the most renowned of all orders and most venerable, that of Mount Carmel, should pass unscathed through the tempting fires! Not only wonderful, but in itself a snare. What a temptation to the sin of pride in the order! What a drawing on of others (too disposed already) to the sin of envy, to uncharitable speaking-ah, and to unlovely dealing! Let sin be owned, therefore, since men were born sinners; but let purgation be done, the wicked member plucked out, &c., &c.
He passed to the sin of Fra Battista--that promising young apostle-handled it soberly yet gingerly, hinted extenuating circumstances - the pride of life, young blood, the snares of women, Satan's favourite sitting-places, &c. - drew a tear
or two from his own eyes and floods from La Testolina; and then called Fra Battista to come forth that he might purge himself or be purged by the canon law.
Thus exhorted, Fra Battista, becomingly tonsured, delicately combed, with an aspect most meek and hands at a pretty droop, came demurely out of the friars' door into the full light of the chancel. To the bishop he bowed, to the altar he bent a knee, to his father in religion he bent both; to the hush in the nave he cast a glance of wistful appeal. was truly aimed. They could see nothing of his face, nothing but the shape of him, yet the women were sure he made a
wistful appeal. Many were affected; the anxiety to hear him was intense, the squeezing fearful. An enormous fishseller from the Lago di Garda, who had come in express, leaned over La Testolina and ground a braized heel into her toes. "Achi!" whimpered the little laundress; but "Snakes of Purgatory!" said the other, "what's a toe more or less when Madonna is round the corner with a blessing for us in her maunch?”
In a rapt silence, with no preface at all, Fra Battista made direct confession to all his gods (whether remote or throned within the sanctuaryrail) that he had committed the sin whereof he was accused. A perceptible shiver of sensation swept over the church, although everybody in it was sure, before he had uttered a word, what that word ought
to be. Indeed he had never denied it; but not to deny is different from bold affirmation. The prior, whose avowal had also been tacit, looked pained: avowals are painful things. The bishop, more used to avowals, did his best to look shocked; the archdeacon (professionally enough) thought avowal the most indecent part of an indecent business. The Dominicans looked at each other, frankly delighted; the Friars Minor told each other what they had always said. What the people thought can only be guessed, for the nave was in darkness; but when Battista had made an end a shuddering sigh came from a woman far down the church and then stopped, hidden in some hasty new movement there which could not be accounted for. There seemed to be a stampede, a sudden rush to the side, the surging of some great unsuspected wave, which broke, as it were, in the midst of the throng, and washed an open space to right and left. Up in the choir, after the first surge of this wave (which made every heart beat), all ears heard the longdrawn following "Ah!"-not fear only, not expectation made real, but rather awe, expectation shown just. It began low and hollow, ran up to a hiss: then the silence was such that the cracking of a man's ankle-bone by the door sounded like a carter's whip at the bishop's throne. In that deathly state the whole body of people remained breathless, waiting what was to ensue.