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said Crescentia, with a sigh-and now for the first time he remarked that she had been weeping bitterly. She trimmed the lamp, and preceded him in silence. He followed her up the narrow steps, and when they had entered the small dark chamber, the maid placed the lamp on a table, and was in the act of retiring. However, when she got to the door, she turned round and surveyed the young man with a deathlike glance; she stood for a moment trembling before him, and then, uttering a loud shriek, fell in convulsions at his feet. "What ails you, my dear child?” said he, lifting her up. "Be composed, and tell me your affliction."
"No," cried the weeping damsel, "let me lie where I am. Would to God that I could die this moment at your feet! This is too dreadful. And I can do nothing. I cannot prevent it. Dumb and powerless, I must be a spectator of the infernal deed. Alas! you are a doomed man."
"Collect yourself," said Antonio, comforting her, "and tell me plainly what is the meaning of all this."
"I resemble," said she, in a voice broken by violent sobs-" I resemble, you say, your dead love, and yet I am she whose hand must lead you to a murder-grave. It is easy for my mother to foretell that some terrible danger is near you, knowing as she does the company that harbour nightly in this den. No man ever went forth alive out of this hell. Every moment brings nearer and nearer the steps of the dreadful Ildefons and the accursed Andrea, with their helpmates and followers. And yet I can do nothing but be the herald of your death. I can afford you no help, and no means of escape.
Antonio became alarmed. In considerable agitation, he groped for his sword, and examined the point of his dagger: and then he felt his courage and determination revive. Ardently as he had wished for death, he now felt that there was something too dreadful in meeting it in a robber's den. "But you, my girl," said he— "you, with such a countenance, and such a form-how can you consent to be the companion and helpmate of these murderous ruffians?"
"I cannot escape," answered she, "otherwise how gladly would I fly this house. And, alas! it has been. determined that to-morrow I shall be carried away across the sea-the wife
of Andrea or Ildefons, God that I might perish now!" "Come," cried Antonio," the door is open. Fly with me the night— the wood will protect us."
"Behold!" said the maiden, how strongly the windows are secured by thick iron stanchels. The door of the house is fastened with a great lock, the key of which my mother never parts with. Did you not observe how she turned the bolt immediately after you had entered the house."
"We might dispatch the old hag," said Antonio, "and then obtain possession of her key.”
"Murder my mother!" cried the maiden, turning pale, and clinging to Antonio, so that he could not stir hand or foot.
The young man quieted her apprehensions. He then proposed, that as the old woman was intoxicated and fast asleep, they should softly abstract the key from her side, then open the door and escape. Crescentia appeared to have some hopes of the success of this plan. They therefore descended gently into the lower chamber, in which they found the old woman still sleeping soundly. Crescentia, with trembling hands, sought and found the key, and after some time, succeeded in loosening it from her girdle.
She made a sign to the youth they softly approached the door, and cautiously inserted the key into the lock: Antonio was in the act of forcing back the bolt with a firm noiseless hand, when he found that another person was, at the same moment, turning the lock from the outside. The door opened, and there stood before him, face to face, a huge savage-looking man. "Ildefonso!" shrieked the maiden; and the youth recognised at the first glance the murderer of his father-Roberto.
"What is the meaning of this?" said the robber, in a hoarse voice. "How came you by the key?"
"Roberto!" exclaimed Antonio, seizing the ruffian furiously by the throat. They struggled violently together; but the strength and activity of the youth at length prevailed: he hurled the miscreant to the earth, and planting his knee upon his breast, plunged his dagger into his heart. Mean-while, the old dame awoke with loud cries: she sprang up, and tore away her daughter from the scene of strife, with shrieks and
curses: she dragged her into the upper chamber, and bolted the door from within. Antonio was about to go up stairs to burst open the door, when several dark figures entered the cottage, and were not a little astonished to find their leader dead upon the floor. "I now am your captain!" cried a stout figure, all over ornaments, savagely drawing his sword as he said it. "Yes, provided Crescentia be given up to me"-replied a younger robber fiercely. In a moment their swords were crossed, and they fell murderously to work. The lamp was upset, and they fought in the darkness from corner to corner, amid yells and curses. "Are ye mad?" cried another voice, striking in during the fray-" Ye will allow the stranger to escape. Cut him down first, and settle your own disputes afterwards.” But the combatants, blind with rage, heard not what was said. The first streaks of dawn were now beginning to dapple the horizon. At this moment, Antonio felt a hand aiming at his throat: he struck the murderer from him: "I am slain," cried the latter, falling to the earth-" Fools, why don't ye guard the door, and prevent his escape?" Mean-while, Antonio had got to the open door-he bolted through the garden, and over the hedge, with the robbers at his heels. He was only a few paces ahead of them, and they did their best to over. take him. Followed by their yells and
threats, he reached a spot in the wood from which several pathways diverg ed, and was uncertain which to take. He looked behind him, and seeing that. his pursuers were separated, he attacked the nearest of them, and disabled him from following further. But, at the same instant, he heard renewed shouts, and looking into the wood, he saw new assailants coming upon him from a side-path, and likely to cut off his retreat. In this perplexity, he luckily fell in with his horse, grazing in a small open space, and seemingly quite refreshed. He lost not a moment in springing upon its back; and no sooner had he seized the bridle, than the animal, as if aware of his master's danger, carried him along a beaten track, with the speed of the wind, out of the wood. By degrees, the cries of his pursuers became fainter and fainter: he reached the open country; and by the time he had recovered from his frightful adventure, the city spires appeared shining before him in the light of the morning
The strange appearance he presented, without his hat, and with his dress otherwise disordered, excited great curiosity among the crowds of country people whom he fell in with on their way to the market, and the citizens looked upon him with astonishment as he dismounted before the great palace of Podesta.
CHAP. IV. THE INCANTATION.
That same night there were strange doings at Padua, which, as yet, men little wot of. No sooner had darkness enveloped the city in its heavy folds, than Pietro d'Abano set about arranging all the utensils and instruments of his art, for the performance of a mysterious and wonderful operation. He was clothed in a long robe inwrought with hieroglyphics; already had he described the magic circle on the floor of his apartment, and made all the other preparations requisite for ensuring the mighty result which he desired. He had diligently scrutinized the position of the stars, and now was waiting patiently for the propitious moment which was to crown all his expectations.
His attendant, the hateful Berecynth, was likewise clothed in magi
cal attire, and moved about fetching and arranging all things according to his master's commands. Painted coverlets were spread upon the walls, and along the floor of the chamber: the great magic mirror was set upright; and now the moment drew on which the enchanter deemed most favourable for his schemes.
"Have you placed the crystals within the circle?" cried Pietro. "I have," answered the caricature of humanity, bustling about unweariedly among the phials, glasses, human skeletons, and other extraordinary furniture which littered that strange apartment. The incense-vessel was now produced-a flame was kindled on the altar-and the magician drew forth cautiously, and with almost trembling hand, from an innermost
recess, the mighty book of his science. "Is it time?" cried Berecynth. "Peace!" said the old man solemnly, "and disturb not the holy charm with any useless mischievous babbling." He read, at first softly, and then in a louder and more vehement voice, as he moved up and down, with measured steps, within the circle. After a time, he stopped and cried out," Go, and see what sort of appearance the heavens present.
"Thick darkness," answered his servant, returning, "is over the face of the sky; the clouds are gathering, and rain is beginning to fall." "The heavens are propitious!" cried the old man-" we must succeed." He now knelt down, and, muttering imprecations, frequently touched the floor with his forehead. His countenance was flushed, and his eyes sparkled. He muttered the holy names which man is forbid to speak; and after a while he again sent his servant out to examine the firmament. Mean-while, the gathering storm began to rage with all its force; lightning and thunder were slipt from their leashes, and the house trembled to its foundations. "Hearken to the storm!" cried Berecynth, coming back in haste,-"Hell has broken loose from below, and is abroad with all his fires; and what with the crashing thunderbolts that are bursting upon us from above, the globe herself is almost shaken from her sphere. Cease your incantations, lest the very bands break which hold the solid universe together!"
"Fool! madman!" cried the magician-“ Peace with that drivelling chatter! Haste and throw wide open all the doors-the door of the house also." The dwarf departed to execute his master's commands. The magician, in the mean time, lighted the consecrated tapers. With shuddering steps he approached the great torch which stood upon a lofty stand, and when it, too, had taken fire, then he prostrated himself to the ground, and offered up louder and louder adjurations. His eyes streamed with fire; his limbs trembled as if convulsively; and the cold sweat of anxiety burst forth from every pore. With frantic gestures, and in dreadful terror, the dwarf came bounding back from his errand, and took refuge within the circle. "The world is bursting into pieces!" cried he, with pale features and chattering teeth. "All the elements of horror
and fury are abroad; but every living creature has retreated into the innermost recess of its dwelling, in order to escape the anguish of this terrible time.
The old man raised his countenance from the ground, death-pale, and with an expression of unfathomable horror, cried aloud in a strange accent"Silence! miserable slave! and disturb not the work. Take heed that you lose not your senses. The most appalling is yet to come."
With a loud voice, as if he would burst his chest, he again commenced reading and praying. His breath often failed; and the violent exertions he made, appeared as if they would kill him. Then suddenly was heard a confused noise of voices wrangling with one another. They whisperedthey raved - they laughed they blended together in song; and with the whole was mixed up an intricate chiming of strange instruments. All the utensils now became living, and danced up and down the apartment. From every wall in the house, strange creatures of all kinds came pouring forth beasts and monsters, abor tions and living caricatures of the most abominable description — and writhed and twisted themselves about in figures of the most complicated variety.
"Master!" cried Berecynth, "the house will soon be too small to hold them. What is to be done with this interminable host of spectres? Surely they must eat up one another. Alas! woe's me! each one of them is ever developing itself into ghastlier and more frantic numbers. I shall lose my senses amid their swarms, their yellings, and fifings-their bursts of laughter, and shrieks of passionate dreariment. Look! master, look! the walls are dilating-the chambers are stretching themselves away into vistas of infinity. We stand amid immeasurable halls. The ceilings
are lifting themselves up into vaults of unfathomable height. And still the phantoms are shooting forth on all sides, and ever keep multiplying themselves with the growing space. What is to be done? Have you no succour for us amid the trials of this dreadful hour?"
Here Pietro raised himself up, dreadfully exhausted. "Look out once more," said he in a low voice; direct thine eyes to the Cathedral, and tell me what thou see'st."
"If I stir a step," said Berecynth in perplexity, "I shall trample on the heads of these good people here. They are writhing on all sides of me like snakes, and laughing scornfully in my face. Are they spirits-real substan. tial goblins, or mere empty phantoms? I say, you devils, unless you get out of my way, I shall certainly tread on the green or blue snouts of some of you. Let every one look out for himself!" So saying, he dashed into the midst of them.
All was now still, and Pietro stood up. He made a sign, and the whole spectre host vanished from the place. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, and drew his breath more freely. Here his servant returned, and said, "Master, every thing is now quiet and gracious. At first, light phantoms went flying past me, and vanished in the dark sky; and then, when I had fixed my eyes on the Cathedral, a mighty peal arose, as if all the chords of a giant's harp had at once been made shiver, while, at the stroke, every street and house trembled. Then the great door of the cathedral flew open; sweet flutings arose upon the air, and a soft serene light flooded the interior of the church. A female form came forth into the beams, pale, but radiant as an angel, and crowned with a coronet of flowers. She stepped out of the church door, and an escort of gentle lights guided her steps along the streets through which she had to pass.
With erect head and folded hands she glided on towards our dwelling. Is this she whom you expect?"
"Take this golden key," answered Pietro," and open with it the innermost and most sumptuous apartment in my house. The purple couch is spread, and the perfumes are burning. Then betake yourself to rest. Make no further enquiries about what you have witnessed to-night. Be silent and obedient, as you value your life.'
"I know my own place, I believe,"
said the dwarf, taking himself off with the key, and darting a malicious glance behind him as he went.
Mean-while gentle strains were heard coming nearer and nearer. Pietro went down into his entrance-hall, and at the same moment there glided into it the pale corpse of Crescentia, dressed in her winding-sheet, and still holding the crucifix in her folded hands. The magician placed himself before her; she opened her eyes wide, and, trembling from head to foot, started back from him in horror, so that the crown of flowers was shaken from her head. In silence he parted her folded hands; but in the left she still held fast the cross. Taking her by the right, he led her through the range of his apartments; and she went with him-a rigid and unconscious form that regarded him not.
At length they reached a remote chamber, in which they halted. It was most sumptuously adorned with purple and gold, silk and satin, and the light even of broad day fell with faint and deadened rays through the heavy curtains. The sorcerer motioned his victim towards the couch, and the unconscious being, filled so strangely with life, lifted and let fall her fair head, like a lily stirred by the wind, as she sank down on the purple coverlet, breathing as if in agony. The old man poured a precious essence from a golden flask into a small crystal saucer, and held it to her lips. The maiden swallowed the miraculous draught, opened her eyes once more, and gazed upon him whom in life she had regarded as her friend; she then turned from him with an expression of abhorrence, and sank into a deep slumber.
The magician now retired, locking the apartment. The whole house was buried in profound repose. He betook himself to his own chamber, there, amid his books and magical instruments, to await the sunrise and the business of the day.
When the unhappy youth Antonio was sufficiently rested, Podesta and a large troop of armed followers rode out with him on the following day, to search for the hut, and to capture the hateful hag and her banditti. The account given by Antonio, had made
the disconsolate father very anxious to behold the maiden who so closely resembled his dead daughter.
"Is it possible," said the old man, as he rode along, "that a dream I have often had should turn out to be really true?"
The father was too eager to reach the spot to carry on much conversation with Antonio. They at length entered the wood, and the youth expected to be able to recover the traces of his late journey. But so terribly had the events of that dreadful night perplexed and shaken his soul, that he was unable, with all his pains, to fix upon the path along which, during the storm, he had been carried with the madness of despair. They crossed the country in all directions; and wherever a thicket or trees were to be seen, Antonio spurred up to them, in hopes of detecting the robbers' den, or (if its inhabitants had taken themselves off, as he thought extremely probable) of at least discovering some traces that they had been there. At length, after they had spent the greater part of the day in a fruitless quest, Podesta came to the conclusion that the whole had been a mere vision, fabricated by the youth's brain, fevered by the bewilderment of grief. “The discovery,' exclaimed he, "would be too great good-luck for me, for I was born to be the most unfortunate of men!"
It was now necessary that they should bait their horses at a village hard by. Its inhabitants had never heard of their suspected neighbours, and the corpse of the slain robber had not been found any where in the country round about. After a time they again took the road, although Podesta now followed Antonio with very little hopes of success. They questioned every peasant they met, but could get
no satisfactory answer to their queries. Towards evening they came upon a spot which had the appearance of having been much disturbed; ashes and rubbish lay scattered around-here and there charred beams were visible among the ruins, and the neighbouring trees also bore the traces of fire. The youth thought he recognised the place. Here, thought he, surely stood the dwelling of the murderers; here it was that that strange apparition of Crescentia appeared to me. The company halted. Far and wide there was not a house in sight-not a human being to be seen. They dispatched a servant to the nearest farm, and, after a time, he brought back with him an old man on horseback. The old man said that, about a year ago, a cottage on this spot had been set on fire by some soldiers; that the proprietor of the ground had been living for the last ten years at Rome, in expectation of some priestly office; and that his steward had gone to Ravenna to collect some outstanding debts.
Dispirited and weary, the travellers returned to the city. Podesta determined to give up all his offices, to retire from business, and even to leave Padua, where every thing reminded him of his misfortune. Antonio resolved to become a pupil of the renowned Abano, and to try to forget his miseries in the studies of that famous school. He obtained lodgings in the house of that great man, who now for some time past had been his friend.
CHAP. VI. BERECYNTH.
A short time after these events, the old priest met the melancholy Antonio, and thus accosted him" You also, then, have joined that unhappy school and its pernicious teacher, who will lead your soul to perdition ?"
"What makes you so bitter against him, my pious friend?" replied Antonio. "Why should not religion and science go hand in hand, as they certainly do in the case of my worthy teacher? He is a man whom the whole world honours, whom princes love and cherish, and whom our holy father himself is about to elevate to high ecclesiastical dignity. Why should you chafe against him whom every one else loves? You do so be
cause you know not the man. acquainted with him, cultivate his society, and you will soon venerate him, and recant all your prejudices."
"Never!" cried the priest, with vehemence. "Young man," continued he, "let me warn you to be on your guard against him, and that hellish retainer of his; for, whatever doubts there may be about his master, there is no mistaking who he is."
"The little Berecynth," answered Antonio, "is certainly an absurd and unprepossessing figure, and I often wonder that the noble Pietro can endure to have him so much about him
as he has. But why should a humpback, and other grievous deformities, prejudice us against a poor fellow.