Open main menu


When the turmoil by which the people were agitated was somewhat allayed, the body of Pietro was silently buried at night, without the consecrated churchyard. Antonio and Alfonso renewed their friendship, and attacht themselves to the pious Theodore, who, after going through the solemn rites and pronouncing a devout oration, had the body of the beautiful Crescentia laid a second time in the vault designed for her. Antonio however could not bear to stay any longer at Padua; he resolved to revisit his native city, that he might settle his affairs, and then perhaps get admitted into a convent. Alfonso on the other hand determined to make a pilgrimage to Rome, where the holy Father had just been proclaiming a year of jubilee with a plenary indulgence for sins. Not only throughout Italy was every one in motion; but from France too, and Germany, and Spain, came numerous trains of pilgrims, to celebrate this till then unheard of solemnity, this great festival of the church, in the holy city.

After the friends had parted, Antonio pursued his lonely path, shunning the great road, partly for the sake of brooding uninterruptedly over his sorrows, and partly to avoid the swarms that were flocking along the highway, and were often troublesome at the nightly resting-places.

Thus following his own mood, he roamed through the plains and through the vallies of the Apennines. One evening the sun set and no inn was to be seen. As the shades were deepening, he heard a hermit's little bell tinkling in a wood on one side. He bent his steps toward the sound, and when the darkness of night was already closing, he arrived at a small hut, to which a narrow plank led across a brook, surrounded by bushes.

He found an aged infirm man praying with the deepest devotion before a crucifix. The hermit received the youth, who greeted him courteously, with kindness made up a couch of moss for him in a recess of the rock which was separated by a door from his cell, and placed some of his fruit, some water, and a little wine before him. When Antonio was refresht, he was greatly pleased with the conversation of the monk, who in earlier times had lived in the world, and served as a soldier in many campaigns. In this way it had grown late in the night, and the youth betook himself to his bed, just as another weak and sickly monk entered, who meant to pass the night with the hermit in prayer.

When Antonio had rested about an hour he started suddenly out of his sleep. It seemed to him as though loud voices were disputing. He sat up; and all doubt about the quarelling and squabbling was removed. The tones too struck him as if he knew them; and he askt himself whether he was not dreaming. He went to the door, and found a crevice through which he could pry into the front room.

How was he amazed at beholding Pietro Abano, whom he could not but deem dead, speaking loudly, with eyes of rage and a red face, and striding about with violent gestures! Over against him stood little Beresynth's hideous carcase.

So you have got your persecutor, cried the latter with a croaking voice, who has made you thus wretched, the lovesick godly fool, here under your roof! he has run of his own accord like a silly rabbit into the snare: and you are shillishallying about cutting his throat.

Silence! cried the large figure: I have already taken counsel with my spirits; they will not consent; I have no hold upon him; for he is imprisoned in no sin.

Smite him dead then, said the little one, without your spirits, with your own gracious hands: so his virtue and his sinlessness will not avail him much; and I should be a sorry servant if I were not to stand by you in so praiseworthy an exploit.

Well then! said Pietro: let us go to work; take thou the hammer; I'll carry the axe; he is fast asleep now.

They advanced toward the door; but Antonio tore it back, to meet the villains boldly in the face. He had drawn his sword; but he remained like a statue, standing with uplifted arm, when he saw two sickly decrepit hermits lying on their knees before the cross, mumbling their prayers.

Do you want anything? askt his host, rising toilsomely from the floor. Antonio was so astounded, he could make no answer.

Why that drawn sword? askt the weak stooping hermit; and wherefore these menacing looks?

Antonio drew back with the excuse that a frightful dream had scared and worried him. He could not fall asleep again; his senses were in such a tumult. Ere long he again plainly heard Beresynth's croaking voice; and Pietro said with a full clear tone:

Have done; thou seest he is armed and warned; he will not trust himself to sleep again.

We must overpower him then; screamed the little one: now that he has recognized us, we are quite undone every way. The pious slave will go and give us up to the inquisition tomorrow; and the pious rabble will then be at hand in a trice with their faggots and flames.

Through the chink in the door he perceived the two magicians. He again rusht in with his sword drawn, and again found two decrepit old men lying on the ground and whining their prayers. Enraged at the cheating forms, he seized them in his arms and wrestled violently with them; they defended themselves desperately; it was now Pietro, now the hermit, one moment the imp Beresynth, the next a crippled old monk.

After much screaming and raving, cursing and wailing, he at last succeeded in thrusting them out of the cell, which he then carefully fastened. He now heard a whining without and entreaties and groans, mixt up with the whispering of many voices, and with songs and yells; afterward rain and wind seemed to be stirring, and a storm afar off rolled athwart the multitudinous sound. Stunned at length by all this, Antonio fell asleep, leaning on his sword as he sat before the crucifix; and when the cold morning breeze awakened him, he found himself on the highest peak of a narrow ridge in the midst of a thick forest, and thought he heard bursts of scornful laughter behind him.

It was at the peril of his life that he climbed down the steep precipice, tearing his clothes, and wounding his face and hands and feet. He had then to wander wearisomely through the forest: there was not a soul to call to, not a hut to be discovered far around, often as he mounted the hights to explore. When it was almost night, faint with fatigue, hunger, and exhaustion, he fell in with an old collier who refresht him in his little hut. He learnt that he must be some twelve miles and upward from the hermitage he had met with the evening before. It was only late on the following day that, somewhat strengthened and cheered, he could pursue his journey toward Florence.

__________