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Cæsar himself has work, and our oppression
"DIDST thou note him that left me?" eagerly de manded the Signor Gradenigo.
"Enough so to recognize form and countenance?' ""Twas a fisherman of the Lagunes, named Antonio."
The senator dropped the extended limb, and regarded the Bravo, with a look, in which surprise and admiration were equally blended. He resumed his course up and down the room, while his companion stood waiting his pleasure, in an attitude so calm as to be dignified. A few minutes were wasted in this abstraction.
"Thou art quick of sight, Jacopo!" continued the patrician, breaking the pause-" Hast thou had dealings with the man?"
"Thou art certain it is-"
"Your eccellenza's foster-brother."
"I did not inquire into thy knowledge of his infancy and origin, but of his present state;" returned the Signor Gradenigo, turning away to conceal his countenance from the glowing eye of Jacopo-" Has he been named to thee by any in authority?"
"He has not-my mission does not lie with fishermen."
Duty may lead us into still humbler society young man. They who are charged with the grievous burthen of the state, must not consider the quality of the load they carry. In what manner hath this Antonio come to thy knowledge?"
"I have known him as one esteemed by his felows-a man skilful in his craft, and long practised in the mystery of the Lagunes."
"He is a defrauder of the revenue, thou would'st be understood to say?"
"I would not. He toils too late and early to have other means of support than labor.”
"Thou knowest, Jacopo, the severity of our laws in matters that concern the public moneys ?"
"I know that the judgment of St. Mark, Signore, is never light when its own interest is touched."
"Thou art not required to utter opinions beyond the present question. This man hath a habit of courting the good-will of his associates, and of making his voice heard concerning affairs of which none but his superiors may discreetly judge."
"Signore, he is old, and the tongue grows loose with years."
"This is not the character of Antonio. Nature hath not treated him unkindly; had his birth and education been equal to his mind, the senate might have been glad to listen-as it is, I fear he speaks in a sense to endanger his own interests."
"Surely, if he speaks to offend the ear of St. Mark."
There was a quick suspicions glance from the senator to the Bravo, as if to read the true meaning of the latter's words. Finding, however, the same expression of self-possession in the quiet features he scrutinized, the latter continued as if distrust had not been awakened.
"If, as thou sayest, he so speaks as to injure the republic, his years have not brought discretion. I love the man, Jacopo, for it is usual to regard, with some partiality, those who have drawn nourishment from the same breast with ourselves."
"Signore, it is."
"And feeling this weakness, in his favor, I would VOL. I. H
have him admonished to be prudent. Thou art acquainted, doubtless, with his opinions concerning the recent necessity of the state, to command the services of all the youths on the Lagunes in hei fleets?"
"I know that the press has taken from him the boy who toiled in his company.”
"To toil honorably, and perhaps gainfully, in behalf of the republic!”
"Signore, perhaps !"
"Thou art brief in thy speech to-night, Jacopo ! -But if thou knowest the fisherman, give him counsel of discretion. St. Mark will not tolerate such free opinions of his wisdom. This is the third occasion in which there has been need to repress that fisherman's speech; for the paternal care of the senate cannot see discontent planted in the bosom of a class, it is their duty and pleasure to render happy. Seek opportunities to let him hear this wholesome truth, for in good sooth, I would not willingly see a misfortune light upon the head of a son of my ancient nurse, and that, too, in the decline of his days."
The Bravo bent his body in acquiescence, while the Signor Gradenigo paced the room, in a manner to show that he really felt concern.
"Thou hast had advice of the judgment, in the matter of the Genoese?" resumed the latter, when another pause had given time to change the current of his thoughts. "The sentence of the tribunals has been prompt, and, though there is much assumption of a dislike between the two republics, the world can now see how sternly justice is consulted on our isles. I hear the Genoese will have ample amends, and that certain of our own citizens will be mulcted of much money."
"I have heard the same since the sun set, in the Piazzetta, Signore!"
"And do men converse of our impartiality, and more than all of our promptitude? Bethink thee, Jacopo, 'tis but a se'nnight since the claim was preferred to the senate's equity!"
"None dispute the promptitude with which the republic visits offences."
"Nor the justice, I trust also, good Jacopo. There is a beauty and a harmony in the manner in which the social machine rolls on its course, under such a system, that should secure men's applause! Justice administers to the wants of society, and checks the passions with a force as silent and dignified, as if her decrees came from a higher volition. I often compare the quiet march of the state, contrasted with the troubled movements of some other of our Italian sisters, to the difference between the clatter of a clamorous town, and the stillness of our own noiseless canals. Then the uprightness of the late decree is in the mouths of the masquers to-night?" "Signore, the Venetians are bold when there is an opportunity to praise their masters."
"Dost thou think thus, Jacopo? To me they have ever seemed more prone to vent their seditious discontent. But 'tis the nature of man to be niggardly of praise and lavish of censure. This decree of the tribunal must not be suffered to die, with the mere justice of the case. Our friends should dwell on it, openly, in the cafés, and at the Lido. They will have no cause to fear, should they give their tongues a little latitude. A just government hath no jealousy of comment."
"I look to thee and thy fellows to see that the affair be not too quickly forgotten. The contemplation of acts, such as this, will quicken the dormant seeds of virtue in the public mind. He who has examples of equity incessantly before his eyes, will
come at last to love the quality. The Genoese, I trust, will depart satisfied?"
"Doubt it not, Signore; he has all that can content a sufferer; his own with usury, and revenge of him who did the wrong."
"Such is the decree-ample restoration and the chastening hand of punishment. Few states would thus render a judgment against itself, Jacopo!"
Is the state answerable for the deed of the merchant, Signore?"
Through its citizen. He who inflicts punishment. on his own members, is a sufferer, surely. No one can part with his own flesh without pain; is not this true, fellow?"
"There are nerves that are delicate to the touch, Signore, and an eye or a tooth is precious; but the paring of a nail, or the fall of the beard, is little heeded."
"One who did not know thee, Jacopo, would imagine thee in the interest of the emperor! The sparrow does not fall in Venice, without the loss touching the parental feelings of the senate. Well, is there further rumor among the Jews, of a decrease of gold? Sequins are not so abundant as of wont, and the chicanery of that race lends itself to the scarcity, in the hope of larger profits."
"I have seen faces on the Rialto, of late, Signore, that look empty purses. The Christian seems anxious, and in want, while the unbelievers wear their gaberdines with a looser air than is usual."
"This hath been expected. Doth report openly of the Israelites who are in the custom of lending, on usury, to the young nobles?"
"All, who have to lend, may be accounted of the class; the whole synagogue, rabbis, and all, are of a mind, when there is question of a Christian's purse."
"Thou likest not the Hebrew, Jacopo; but he is