Pietro of Abano/X
All the bells in the city were ringing, that the holy feast of Easter might be kept with gladness and devotion. The people flockt toward the dome, to celebrate the most joyous of Christian festivals, and also to behold the renowned Apone in his new dignity. The students escorted their illustrious teacher, who walkt along amid the reverent salutations of the nobles, the council, and the citizens, in seeming piety and humility, an example to all, the pride of the city, the inspiring model of the youth. At the door of the cathedral the crowd shrank back in timid respect, to make way for their honoured bishop, who, in the garb of a prelate, with the golden chain round his neck, with his white beard and the white locks on his head, might be compared to an emperor or an ancient doctor of the church in his majestic demeanour.
A seat had been raised up on high for the great man near the altar, that the students and the people might see him; and when the multitude of the devout had poured into the church, the service began.
Theodore, the little priest, read mass on this day; and young and old, gentle and simple, all rejoiced to keep the festival of their Lord's resurrection in a worthy manner, and to behold the pomp of worship returning, glad that after the days of severe fasting, after the saddening representations of suffering and sorrow, they might now comfort themselves with the feeling of a new life springing forth from the grave.
The first part of the divine service was already over, when people were astonisht to see Antonio Cavalcanti stepping into the church by the side of the altar, leading a thickly veiled figure in his hand. He placed the figure on the raised pavement just in face of Pietro, and then threw himself down before the altar praying. The muffled form remained standing stiff and high, and beneath the covering one saw the firy black eyes. Pietro lifted himself from his seat, and sank back into it pale and trembling. The music of the mass now gusht and rolled in fuller symphonies; the muffled form disentangled itself slowly from its veils; the face became free; and those who were nearest with horrour recognized the dead Crescentia. A shudder passed through the whole church; even over those who were furthest off a secret shivering crept, to see the image pale as death standing so tall there, and praying so fervently, and never turning her large burning eyes from the priest at the altar. Even the great mighty Pietro himself seemed changed into a corpse; from his distorted features one might have held him to be dead, but that his life betrayed itself in his violent trembling.
Now the priest turned round and lifted up the consecrated host; trumpets announced the renewed presence of the Lord; and with a voice of triumph, with a face of high transport, her arms widely outspread, as she cried aloud Hosannah! so that the church resounded with it, the pale apparition dropt down, and lay dead, stiff, and motionless, before Pietro's feet.
The people rusht forward; the music stopt; curiosity, astonishment, horrour, and affright spake from every asking countenance; the nobles and students went up to comfort and support the venerable old man, who appeared so deeply shockt; when Antonio with a yelling sound shouted:
— Murder! Murder! and began the most fearful charge, the most appalling tale, unfolded the hellish arts, the accursed magic of the dismayed sinner, spake of himself and of Crescentia and of their awful meeting again, until anger and rage and imprecations and loathing and curses raved like a stormy sea around the criminal, and threatened to annihilate him, to tear him to pieces in the madness of their fury. They talkt of gaolers and chains; the inquisitors drew near; when Pietro started up as in a frenzy, thrust and struck about him with clencht fists, and seemed to spread himself out to a gigantic size. He walkt up to Crescentia's body that lay smiling like the picture of a saint, gazed at her once more, and then passed roaring and with flashing eyes through the crowd.
A new horrour seized the people; they made room for the huge form; all moved out of his way. Thus Pietro came to the open street: but the mob now bethought themselves, and with cries and curses and revilings pursued the fugitive, who ran hastily onward, while his long robes flew far behind him, and the gold chain beat and rattled upon his breast and shoulders. The rabble, as they could not catch him, tore up the stones from the pavement, and threw them after him; and wounded, bleeding, dripping with sweat, his teeth chattering from fear, Pietro at last reacht the threshold of his house.
He hid himself in the innermost apartments; and Beresynth came forward inquisitively, asking all sorts of questions, to meet the mob and the rush of the people.
— Fall upon the maskt devil! the familiar! they all shouted: tear in pieces the profane creature who never yet set foot in a church!
He was dragged and pusht into the street; no answer was made to his inquiries and intreaties, to his howls and shrieks, nor indeed was anything heard through the stormy tumult except curses and threats of death.
— Bring me before the magistrate! at length screamed the dwarf; there my innocence will be made clear as day.
The constables were summoned, and seizing him led him toward the prison. All the people prest after him.
— In here with him! cried the chief of the officers: chains and faggots are waiting for thee.
He tried to tear himself away from them; the constables laid hold on him and shoved him to and fro: one seized him by the collar, another by the arm, the next clung round his leg to hold him fast, a fourth caught his head to make quite sure of him.
While they were pulling him backward and forward in this way amid shouts and curses and laughter, on the sudden they all started off from one another; for each had got nothing but a piece of clothing, a sleeve, cap, or shoe of the monster; he himself was nowhere to be seen. He could not have run away; he seemed to have vanisht; but nobody could tell how.
When they had broken into Apone's chamber, those who rusht in found him lying on his bed, lifeless, having bled to death. They plundered the house; the magical implements, the books, the strange furniture, were all made over to the flames; and throughout the whole city nothing resounded except curses on the man whom but this morning all had honoured as a messenger from Heaven. This only embittered the loathing with which they now revolted from the phantom.