網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

new-made prince would have his ducal coronet sit easily on his brow, he would do well to secure the esteem of his nearest neighbors."

"This is obviously true, and little that my influ ence can do toward effecting the object, shall be wanting. And now, may I entreat of your friendship, advice as to the manner of further urging my own long-neglected claims?"

"You will do well, Don Camillo, to remind the senators of your presence, by frequent observance of the courtesies due to their rank and yours."

"This do I never neglect, as seemly both in my station and my object."

"The judges should not be forgotten, young man, for it is wise to remember that justice hath ever an ear for solicitation."

"None can be more assiduous in the duty, nor is it common to see a suppliant so mindful of those whom he troubleth, by more substantial proofs of respect."

"But chiefly should you be particular to earn the senate's esteem. No act of service to the state is overlooked by that body, and the smallest good deed finds its way into the recesses of the two councils."

"Would I could have communication with those reverend fathers! I think the justice of my claim would speedily work out its own right."

"That were impossible!" gravely returned the senator. "Those august bodies are secret, that their majesty may not be tarnished by communication with vulgar interests. They rule like the unseen influence of mind over matter, and form, as it were, the soul of the state, whose seat, like that of reason, remains a problem exceeding human penetration."

I express the desire, rather as a wish than with any hope of its being granted," returned the Duke of St. Agata, resuming his cloak and mask, neither of

which had been entirely laid aside. "Adien, noble Signore; I shall not cease to move the Castilian with frequent advice, and, in return, I commit my affair to the justice of the patricians, and your own good friendship."

Signor Gradenigo bowed his guest through all the rooms of the long suite, but the last, where he committed him to the care of the groom of his chambers.

"The youth must be stirred to greater industry in this matter, by clogging the wheels of the law. He that would ask favors of St. Mark must first earn them, by showing zealous dispositions in his behalf."

Such were the reflections of the Signor Gradenigo, as he slowly returned towards his closet, after a ceremonious leave-taking with his guest, in the outer apartment. Closing the door, he commenced pacing the small apartment, with the step and eye of a man who again mused with some anxiety. After a minute of profound stillness, a door, concealed by the hangings of the room, was cautiously opened, and the face of still another visitor appeared.

"Enter!" said the senator, betraying no surprise at the apparition; "the hour is past, and I wait

for thee.

[ocr errors]

The flowing dress, the gray and venerable beard, the noble outline of features, the quick, greedy, and suspicious eye, with an expression of countenance that was, perhaps, equally marked by worldly sagacity, and feelings often rudely rebuked, proclaimed a Hebrew of the Rialto.

"Enter, Hosea, and unburthen thyself," continued the senator, like one prepared for some habitua. communication. "Is there aught new that touches the public weal?”

"Blessed is the people over whom there is so

fatherly a care! Can there be good or evil to the citizen of the republic, noble Signore, without the bowels of the senate moving, as the parent yearneth over its young? Happy is the country in which men of reverend years and whitened heads watch, until night draws toward the day, and weariness is forgotten in the desire to do good, and to honor the state!"

"Thy mind partaketh of the eastern imagery of the country of thy fathers, good Hosea, and thou art apt to forget that thou art not yet watching on the steps of the temple. What of interest hath the day brought forth ?"

66

Say rather the night, Signore, for little worthy of your ear hath happened, save a matter of some trifling import, which hath grown out of the movements of the evening."

"Have there been stilettoes busy on the bridge?ha!-or do the people joy less than common in their levities?"

"None have died wrongfully, and the square is gay as the fragrant vineyards of Engedi. Holy Abraham! what a place is Venice for its pleasures, and how the hearts of old and young revel in their merriment! It is almost sufficient to fix the font in the synagogue, to witness so joyous a dispensation in behalf of the people of these islands! I had not hoped for the honor of an interview to-night, Signore, and I had prayed, before laying my head upon the pillow, when one charged by the council brought to me a jewel, with an order to decipher the arms and other symbols of its owner. 'Tis a ring, with the usual marks, which accompany private confidences."

"Thou hast the signet?" said the noble, stretching

out an arm.

"It is here, and a goodly stone it is; a turquoise of price"

"Whence came it-and why is it sent to thee?” "It came, Signore, as I gather more through hints and intimations of the messenger than by his words, from a place resembling that which the righteous Daniel escaped, in virtue of his godlines and birth."

"Thou meanest the Lion's Mouth!"

"So say our ancient books, Signore, in reference to the prophet, and so would the council's agent seem to intimate, in reference to the ring."

"Here is naught but a crest with the equestrian helmet-comes it of any in Venice?"

"The upright Solomon guide the judgment of his servant in a matter of this delicacy! The jewel is of rare beauty, such as few possess but those who have gold in store for other purposes. Do but regard the soft lustre in this light, noble Signore, and remark the pleasing colors that rise by the change of view!"

66

“Ay—'t is well—but who claimeth the bearings?" "It is wonderful to contemplate how great a value may lie concealed in so small a compass! I have known sequins of full weight and heavy amount given for baubles less precious."

way

"Wilt thou_never forget thy stall and the farers of the Rialto? I bid thee name him who beareth these symbols as marks of his family and rank."

"Noble Signore, I obey. The crest is of the family of Monforte, the last senator of which died some fifteen years since."

"And his jewels?"

66

They have passed, with other movables of which the state taketh no account, into the keeping of his kinsman and successor-if it be the senate's pleasure that there shall be a successor to that ancient name-Don Camillo of St. Agata. The wealthy Neapolitan who now urges his rights here VOL. I. I

in Venice, is the present owner of this precious stone."

"Give me the ring; this must be looked to-hast thou more to say?"

"Nothing, Signore-unless to petition, if there is to be any condemnation and sale of the jewel, that it may first be offered to an ancient servitor of the republic, who hath much reason to regret that his age hath been less prosperous than his youth."

"Thou shalt not be forgotten. I hear it said, Hosea, that divers of our young nobles frequent thy Hebrew shops with intent to borrow gold, which, lavished in present prodigality, is to be bitterly repaid at a later day by self-denial, and such embarrassments as suit not the heirs of noble names. Take heed of this matter-for if the displeasure of the council should alight on any of thy race, there would be long and serious accounts to settle! Hast thou had employment of late with other signets, besides this of the Neapolitan?"

"Unless in the vulgar way of our daily occupation, none of note, illustrious Signore."

"Regard this," continued the Signor Gradenigo, first searching in a secret drawer, whence he drew a small bit of paper, to which a morsel of wax adhered; "canst thou form any conjecture, by the impression, concerning him who used that seal?"

The jeweller took the paper and held it towards the light, while his glittering eyes intently examined the conceit.

"This would surpass the wisdom of the son of David!" he said, after a long and seemingly a fruitress examination; "here is naught but some fanciful device of gallantry, such as the light-hearted cavaliers of the city are fond of using, when they tempt the weaker sex with fair words and seductive vanities."

« 上一頁繼續 »