Pietro of Abano/XV
Antonio meanwhile had already been to prepare old Ambrosio and his wife, telling them he was now sure of finding out the hideous old woman again, and no doubt her daughter Crescentia also. The mother readily believed him; but the father persisted in his doubts.
Even before the sun had set, the youth was again with his friend at the door of the wise Castalio. The latter met them smiling, and said:
— Here, Antonio, take this paper: you will find noted down on it, in what street, in what house, you may meet with the old crone. When you have discovered her, you will no longer entertain any doubts about my science.
— I am already convinced; replied Antonio: I was so even yesterday: you are the wisest of mortals, and by the help of your art will make me the happiest. I will go to seek for the old woman: and if Crescentia is not dead or lost, I shall carry her to the arms of her parents.
Powerfully excited and full of expectation he was about to depart in haste; his hand was already on the door-knob; when a low timid knock was heard on the outside, accompanied by a hoarse coughing and a scraping of feet.
— Who's there? cried Castalio; and, when the friends opened the door, in came Beresynth, who immediately stationed himself in the middle of the room, and with sundry antick bows and writhings of his features, offered his services to the wise man.
— Who are you? exclaimed Castalio, who had changed colour, and pale and trembling had shrunk back a few steps.
— A villain he is, the fiend! cried Antonio: a magician, whom we must put into the inquisition's hands. It is the accursed Beresynth himself, whose name, my honoured friend, you have already heard, and of whom I have told you.
— Think you so, young jackanapes? said Beresynth with a sneer of the deepest contempt. With you, children, I have no business. Do you not know me? cried he turning to Castalio: perhaps you have nothing for me to do.
— How should I? said Castalio with a faltering voice: I never saw you before. Leave me; I must decline your services. In this little house of mine I have no room for any stranger.
Beresynth paced with his biggest strides up and down.
— So, you don't know me? It may be; folks alter a good deal sometimes; for no man is always in his bloom. But, it strikes me, people ought not to forget me, or to mistake me for any one else, quite so soon as they might many of your smooth nicely painted ninnies. — And you too, as he turned round to the youths, you perchance don't know that wisdommonger there.
— O yes! said Antonio: he is our best friend, the excellent Castalio.
Here the dwarf raised such an enormous shout of laughter, that the walls and windows of the room clattered and echoed it back.
— Castalio! Castalio! screamed he as if possest: why not Aganippe too, or Hippocrene? So, you have got spectacles before your eyes, and your souls stare stupidly with a calf's look out of your round pumpkins of heads! Rub your noses, and see, and recognize, I pray you, your honoured Pietro of Abano, the great jack-of-all-trades from Padua!
He who called himself Castalio had sunk as if fainting into a chair: his trembling was so violent that all his limbs fluttered; the muscles of his face quivered with such force that no feature in it could be distinguisht; and after the young men had gazed on it for some time amazedly, they thought with horrour they perceived that from this distortion of all the lineaments came forth the well-known countenance of the aged Apone.
With a loud scream the magician started from his seat, clencht his fists, and foamed at the mouth; he seemed in his fury of a gigantic size.
— Well, yes! he roared in a tone of thunder: it is I, I, Pietro! and thou slave, thou art spoiling my game, as I was destroying those young brats after a new fashion. What wouldst thou, worm, of me, who am thy master, and who have cast thee off? Tremblest thou not through all thy bones at the thought of my vengeance and punishment?
Beresynth again raised the same pealing horrid laugh.
— Vengeance! Punishment! he repeated grinning. Fool! matchless fool! art thou now for the first time to find out that such language toward me does not beseem thee? that thou juggler, must crawl in the dust before me? that a glance of my eye, a grasp of my iron arm, will dash thee to pieces, thou earth-born mummery with thy wretched tricks, which only prospered through my countenance.
A spectre stood in the hall. His eyes shot forth sparks of fire; his arms spread themselves out like an eagle's wings; his head toucht the ceiling: Pietro lay whining and howling at his feet.
— It was I, so the demon spake on, who furthered thy paltry tricks; who deluded the people; who made thee sin and thrive in thy sins. Thou troddest me under foot; I was thy scorn; thy high-minded wisdom triumpht over my silliness. Now I am thy master. Now thou shalt follow me as my bondslave into my kingdom. — Depart hence, ye poor wretches! he cried to the youths: what more we have still to settle, it befits not you to behold! and a tremendous clap of thunder shook the house to the bottom.
Dazzled, horrour-struck, Antonio and Alfonso rusht out; their knees tottered; their teeth chattered. Without knowing how, they found themselves again in the street; they fled into a neighbouring church; for a howling whirlwind now arose, with thunder and lightning, and the house, when they lookt behind them, was burning and had fallen in ruins.
Two dark shadows hovered over the flame, fighting, as it seemed, and twining round each other, and wrestling and dashing each other to and fro: yells of despair and peals of scornful laughter resounded alternately between the pauses of the loudly raving storm.