Pietro of Abano/V

When the unhappy youth, Antonio, had rested, the Podesta rode forth on the following day with him and with a large train of armed followers, to seek for the hut with the hideous old woman and the robbers, and to take them prisoners. On hearing Antonio's story, the disconsolate father became very eager to see the damsel who was said to be so like his lost daughter.

Can it be, said the old man on their way, that a dream to which I have only too often abandoned myself, is about to become true?

The father was in such haste that he gave the youth no further explanation. They came to the neighbouring wood; and here Antonio thought he recollected himself and had found his track again. But that night had so bewildered him, and excited such a turmoil throughout his whole frame, that he could not make out the way further on, which he had taken during the storm, half stunned by the roaring of the thunder, on foot, wandering over ploughed land and meadow.

They crost the large plain in every quarter; wherever trees or bushes were to be seen, thither Antonio spurred his horse, in the hope of meeting with that den of robbers and the marvellous apparition within it; or at least, should the inhabitants have absconded, as he might well expect, of gaining some sort of tidings about them.

At length the Podesta, after they had been roaming about thus for a great part of the day, began to fancy that the youth's heated imagination had merely beheld these phantoms in the wild ravings of his grief.

Such happiness, he exclaimed, would be too great; and I am born only for misfortune.

On reaching a village they were forced to let their horses and servants bait. The inhabitants said they knew nothing of any such suspicious neighbours, nor had the bodies of the slain been found anywhere round about. After a short pause Antonio again set off, but the Podesta now followed him more mistrustingly. Inquiries were made of every peasant they fell in with; but none could give them any certain information.

Toward evening they got to a building that appeared to have been destroyed; ashes and rubbish lay around; some charred beams peered out from among the stones; the trees that stood near were scorcht.

Here the youth seemed to recognize what he saw. This, he affirmed confidently, had been the abode of the murderers and of that wonderous Crescentia. They made halt. Far and wide through the waste country there was no house to be seen, no human being to call to.

A servant rode to the next hamlet, and returned an hour after, bringing an old man on horseback. This old man said he knew that a good year since a hut had been burnt down there, having been set fire to by some soldiers; that the owner of the estate had already been ten years at Rome waiting for an office promist him in the church; and that his bailiff had taken a journey to Ravenna for the sake of getting in an old debt.

Vext and wearied the travellers rode back to the city. The Podesta Ambrosio determined to give up his office, to withdraw from public life, and to leave Padua, where everything reminded him only of his misfortunes.

Antonio resolved to learn in the school of the renowned Apone how to bear his wretchedness, and perchance to forget it. He removed into the house of that great man, who had long treated him with much kindness.