Pietro of Abano/XIII
Antonio was surprised at seeing before him a simple-mannered middle-sized young man, who from his appearance could not be much above thirty years old. With an unaffected air he greeted the youth on his entrance like an old acquaintance.
— Be welcome! said he with a pleasing voice: your Spanish friend has told me much good of you, so that I have long lookt forward with pleasure to becoming acquainted with you. Only you must by no means fancy that you are come to one of the sages, to an adept, or forsooth to a man before whom hell trembles in its foundations: you will find me a mere mortal, such as you yourself are and may become, as may every man whom such graver studies, and retirement from the vain tumult of the world, do not scare away.
Antonio felt comfortable and at ease, greatly as he was astonisht: he cast his eyes round the room, which beside a few books and a lute displayed nothing out of the way. In his own mind he compared this little house and its straightforward inmate with the palace and the pomp, the instruments and the mysteries, of his former teacher, and said:
— In truth one sees no traces here of that high and hidden knowledge which my friend has been extolling to me, and in which you are said to be infallible.
Castalio laught heartily, and then replied:
— No, my young friend, not infallible; no mortal can go so far as that. Only look around you; this is my sitting-room; there in that little chamber stands my bed: I have neither space nor means for hiding any instruments of fraud, or setting any artificial machinery in action. All those circles and glasses, those celestial globes and maps of the stars, which your conjurers need for their tricks, would find no room here: and those poor creatures after all are only deluded by the spirit of falsehood, because they will not labour to learn the powers of their own minds. He however who descends into the depths of his own soul, with humility and a pious disposition to guide him, he who is in earnest in wishing to know himself, will at the same time find every thing here which he would vainly strive by desperate means and devices to extort from Heaven and Hell. Become like children. In this exhortation the whole mystery lies hidden. Only let our feelings be pure, and we may again, even though it be but for hours or moments, cast off all that our first parents drew down upon themselves by their wanton disobedience; we walk again as in paradise; and Nature with all her powers comes forward as she did then, in the youthful bridal age of the world, to meet the transfigured man. Is not this the very thing which proves our spirit to be a spirit, that bodily hinderances, space and time, with the confusion they breed, cannot confine it? It soars even now on the wings of yearning and devotion far above all the circles of the stars: nothing checks its flight, save that earthly power which, when sin entered, pounced upon it and enslaved it. This however we can and ought to subdue, by prayer, by self-abasement before the Lord, by confessing our vast guilt, and by boundless gratitude to him for his unfathomable love; and then we see and hear the things that are curtained from us by space and time; we are here and there; the future comes forward and, like the past, pours out its secrets before us; the whole realm of knowledge, of comprehension, lies open to us; the powers of heaven become our willing servants: and yet to the truly wise man one glimpse into the mysteries of the Godhead, one emotion of his own heart when toucht by God's love, is far higher, and far more precious knowledge, than all the treasures which do homage to the inquiring mind, than the revealed soul of history or of the present time, than the bending knees of a thousand angels who are ready to call him their master.
Alfonso cast a look of enthusiasm upon his friend; and Antonio could not refrain from acknowledging to himself that here in the garb of lowly simplicity he found more than had ever delighted him from Apone's mouth, even at the time of his greatest admiration for that ostentatious philosopher. Indeed he was already become fully convinced that the knowledge which people call supernatural may be easily united with piety and a thorough resignation to the Lord.
— Do you know now what my fate has been? askt the youth with emotion: can you tell me anything about the events that are hereafter to befall me?
— If I learn the year, the day, and the hour of your birth, answered Castalio, compare the horoscope I shall then draw with the lines of your face and the marks on your hands, and afterward give free range to my mind in contemplating the results, I hardly doubt my being able to tell you something about your destinies.
Antonio gave him a pocket-book, in which his father had himself noted down the hour of his birth. Castalio placed some wine before the young men, himself partaking a little of it, turned over a few books, and then sat down to calculate, without however entirely breaking off his conversation with his guests. It only seemed as if the cheerful young man had some common business in hand, which was far from requiring the whole of his attention. Thus amid laughing and lively talk an hour may have past away, when Castalio stood up and beckoned to Antonio to go with him to the window.
— I know not, he began, how far you trust your friend there, or what you may wish to keep secret from him.
Hereupon he examined Antonio's face and hands very minutely, and then in regular connexion told him the story of his parents and their misfortunes, the early violent death of his mother, and his father's sinful passion, together with his murder by the hand of his wicked complice. Afterward he came to Antonio's own affairs, how he had sought for the murderer and pursued him, and had been detained at Padua by love.
— So you, he concluded, as not without astonishment I have learnt, are the very young man who a short time since detected the wickedness of the abominable Apone in such a wonderful way, and who delivered the shameless villain over to his punishment, although you yourself only became still unhappier than before, from having to lose your beloved a second time in so horrible a manner.
Antonio confirmed all that the friendly man said, and had gained such confidence in him, that he felt just as if he was talking to himself. He then went on to tell him about the adventures of that night, about the second Crescentia, and the odious witch, who, he could not help fancying, had appeared to him a second time on that day.
— Can you inform me now, he askt eagerly, whether this is all true, who that Crescentia is, and whether I shall ever see her again and carry her back to her parents?
Castalio became more thoughtful than before.
— Unless that strange creature Beresynth, he answered, the imp that used to be at the magician's side, has been disguising himself as a woman, to escape from his pursuers, I feel assured that I shall find the hag out. Only have patience till tomorrow, and I will then give you your answer. Meanwhile you may be satisfied that the occurrences of that night were no phantoms of your mind, but realities; thus far you may set yourself and your elderly friend at rest.
The young people were lost in thought as they left the wonderful man, and Antonio thankt the Spaniard heartily for having procured him this acquaintance.