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dise, and, with unscaled eyes, shall behold nature and all her powers as she appeared on the first day of creation in her bride-like attire."
While the meek student was thus speaking, Alphonso cast a triumphant glance upon his friend, and Antonio could not help confessing that he was more prepossessed by the discourse and humble demeanour of their new friend, than he had ever been by the ostentatious parade and grandiloquence of the mighty Abano. He now began to think that the wisdom usually deemed supernatural and unlawful, was perfectly compatible with true piety and lowliness of heart.
"Can you tell me what my destiny is to be?" asked Antonio.
"If I knew the year, the day, and the hour of your birth," replied Castalio, "I should then draw your horoscope, and, after comparing it with the lineaments of your countenance and the lines of your hand, I think I could reveal to you something of your future fate."
Antonio handed a pocket-book to the seer, in which his father had put down the precise hour of his birth. Castalio made the young men sit down, and placed wine before them, of which he himself also partook while he was making his calculations. He likewise, from time to time, joined gaily in the conversation; and, in short, went through his work in such an easy off-hand manner, as plainly showed that it by no means required his undivided attention. When about an hour had passed over in this way, Castalio rose, and beckoned Antonio to a window. "I have called you aside," said he, "because I do not know how far your friend is in your confidence. He then, after attentively examining his countenance and the lines upon his hands, related to him, step by step, the history of his parents' misery-his mother's violent
death-the guilty passion, and the murder of his father. He then passed on to the events of Antonio's own life -how, while pursuing his father's murderer, he had been detained in Padua by an attachment to the lovely Crescentia. "And it is with the utmost astonishment," he concluded, "that I discover you to be the man who brought to light the hellish practices of the accursed Abano, and delivered that miscreant over to the punishment he so richly deserved. Alas, my young friend, how deeply do I sympathize with your affliction, for twice over had you to sustain the terrible loss of your beloved one!"
Antonio opened his whole soul to his new friend, with as much confidence as if he had been merely speaking to himself. He related to him the adventures of that dreadful night in which he seemed to have discovered a second Crescentia in the cottage of the old witch, whom, he was convinced, he had seen that very day in the streets. "Can you inform me," asked he with eagerness, "whether what I then beheld was real, and whether there be another Crescentia alive, whom I shall yet have the happiness of restoring to her parents?
Castalio became more thoughtful than before-" Provided the person you saw to-day," said he,“ be not the fiend Berecynth disguised as a woman, I have little doubt but that we shall detect the old hag. However, wait patiently till the morning, and in the mean time let us part. Rest assured of this, that the events of that night were no mere fancies bred in your distempered brain; but were actual realities you and your friends may be perfectly satisfied of that.'
The young men bade adieu to Castalio; and Antonio thanked the Spaniard very heartily for having procured him such an agreeable acquaintance.
A CHAPTER ON BEAUTY, AND OTHER MATTERS.
Antonio had not been mistaken. The old woman he had caught a glimpse of in the crowded streets, was really she in whose cottage in the forest he had passed the night. dwelt in a small hovel, behind some ruined houses near the Lateran church. Persecuted, and in want-hated, feared, and forsaken-her house seemed
the very abode of despair. She seldom ventured abroad, but on this occasion had gone out into the town to look for her Crescentia, who was absent without leave. After her return, when sitting up at night, she was greatly surprised to hear a violent knocking at the door, and a confused noise of cries and lamentations. She
took up her lamp and went to the door, where she found a mob collected, and busily engaged in persecuting a little hump-backed figure, who wore a red velvet cloak, fantastically decorated with gold.
"Does not the good woman Pancratia dwell here ?" cried the little man, as soon as he saw the door opened.
"She does," said the old woman, admitting him, and slamming back the door in the faces of the mob, who were left to expend their taunts and threats on the empty air. "Who may you be, my noble sir?" continued she-" and what brings you to the hovel of a poor forlorn old woman?"
"Sit down," said the dwarf-"and let us have a little more light, that we may see what we are doing. And since you say that you are poor, take this piece of gold, and let us consolidate our acquaintance over a glass of good wine.'
The hag looked pleased, lighted a couple of tapers, and replied-" You shall have a flask of Florentine wine, which is no poor drink, I promise you." She opened a small cupboard, and set a long-necked bottle on the table, pushing it across to her guest.
"Why did you call me noble?" asked the dwarf.
"Does not that gold piece speak volumes in favour of your nobility?" returned the old woman. "Besides, don't I see the fineness of your cloak, the feather in your hat, and so forth. Are you not a prince, or a duke at the least?"
"Neither the one nor the other," rejoined the little man. "What! my old aunt-donner and blitzen! don't you know me? Don't you know your own nephew, the little Berecynth of Milan? It is said we are very like one another."
"Gemini!" cried the old woman, quite delighted, "are you Berecynth of Milan, of whom I have heard so much? It does my old eyes good to see you here before me, face to face."
"Ay," replied Berecynth, "say, rather, nose to nose; for that, I fancy, is the only feature either of us have worth mentioning. For the sake of curiosity, dear aunt, let us try if we cannot accomplish a kiss between us. No-it won't do-we have already locked noses. If we would make it out, we must forcibly hold them to
one side with both hands. There-that will do. Now, good aunt, take care you don't yet yours fly back suddenly. If you do, it will fetch me such a box on the ear that not a remaining tooth will be left in my head!"
The old woman laughed, and said, "I know not when I have been so happy. You are in a merry mood tonight, nephew. But what were the people tormenting you about in the streets?"
"What about ?" answered he. "About my appearance to be sure: it affords them rare amusement. Now, is not man, my good nurse, an incomprehensibly stupid animal? Here are upwards of a hundred thousand souls collected together in Rome, within the last few months, for the purpose of doing honour to their Saviour, and of atoning for their own sins. Well, the moment I happen to put my head out of my window-(I only arrived here yesterday)-be it with only my nightcap on; or to show my whole person in the market-place, in my best attire, you would take your oath that all this myriad of people had come together from every quarter of Europe on my sole and particular account:—such peeping, and ogling, and shouting, and roaring, and laughing, does the appearance of your humble servant excite. I could make a fortune, I am certain, if I were to show myself for payment. They pull out their purses to see an ape, an Indian, or a sea-cat; and yet the ungrateful blockheads, who can see me for nothing, raise a tumult, and overwhelm me with abuse whenever I appear."
"It is the same with me," sighed the old woman, "my case is just as bad. Why, the very brute beasts are not so irrational. Each of them may have any sort of nose or eyes he pleases, and is yet allowed to pass peaceably on his way."
"Ay," continued Berecynth, "look at fishes, for example; what philosophic toleration is to be witnessed among them? And yet some of them are all nose together. Look down into the waters and you behold countenances cold and serious, and yet perfectly aware of their own and each other's originality. One, perhaps, has a mouth in his belly, and another eyes upon his back, and yet none of their fellow-fishes ever think of making sport of them on that account.
molesting and unmolested, the strangevisaged monsters move about on all sides. Man alone is foolish enough and base enough to make a mockery of his fellow-creatures."
"And yet," said the old woman, "wherein does all the mighty difference between one man and another consist? I never yet saw a nose an ell long. It is but an inch, or at the most two, which makes the whole difference between beauty and deformity in this feature. And as for a humpback, if it were not so confoundedly inconvenient in bed, I know not that I should not prefer it to a straight one, in which none of the beautiful bends and flourishes of nature are to be seen."
"You're right there," replied the drunken dwarf, nodding to his drunken companion; "I know not what nature means by throwing off so many straight people from her potter's wheel. Surely it is a great waste of labour, for they are not in general worth their clay. But, mother, we who have been more highly favoured, must not be too vain of our superior charms. We must remember that we did not make ourselves."
"Well, then," answered the old woman, "let us change the subject. Come, tell me what trade you are now driving, and where you live."
"To tell the truth," replied Berecynth, "I have been leading a sort of vagabond life-at one time here-at another there. But now I am determined to settle down; for, hearing that I had a near relation alive, I resolved to search her out; you are she, and with you I shall henceforth live. In my early youth I was an apɔthecary's apprentice in Calabria; but my master drove me from his shop, be cause it was alleged that I compounded love-potions. Ah, happy days! I still look back upon them with delight. I then became a tailor, but was found to cabbage too much cloth; and next a pastry-cook, but had soon to give that up the outcry against me being, that my mutton-pies were made of the flesh of dogs and cats. I then became a monk, but no monastery would admit me. Having passed doctor, I narrowly escaped being burned for witchcraft. I devoted myself to study -wrote poetry and so forth—but my effusions fell into discredit, the people having taken it into their heads that
they glanced sarcastically at Christianity. After many years I fell in with the illustrious Pietro d'Abano, and became his famulus. I afterwards was a hermit, and many other things besides; but the best of it is, that, in whatsoever situation I was thrown, there I was sure to accumulate money, so that I am under no fear of spending my old age in poverty and need. And now, my good aunt, tell us your history."
"My history," answered she, "is not unlike your own. Innocence is every where alike persecuted. I have stood in the pillory-I have been banished my native land-I have been within an ace of being burned alive. It was alleged that I practised sorcery, stole children, bewitched the people, and brewed poison."
"And was there not a spice of truth in all these allegations?" asked Berecynth with a chuckle. "I can answer for myself at least—and I believe it runs in the family—that I do not stand quite clear of such practices. Believe me, my fair friend, he or she who has once dabbled in witchcraft, retains a liquorish liking for the same as long as life lasts. Sorcery in this resembles dramdrinking; once fairly wet your tooth with either, and tongue, throat, palate, liver, lights, and the whole alimentary canal, are filled, day and night, with clamorous cravings for the stimulating enjoyment."
"You know mankind well," said the hag, laughing. No doubt, innocent people like us are permitted to practise a little murder, witchcraft, stealing, and poisoning. There is no great harm in all that; but what are we to think of the ingratitude of our own children? There is my daughter, or at least she whom I have brought up as such-have I not pinched myself in all manner of ways to put decent clothes on her back, and to get her handsomely married? Did I not throw her in the way of Ildefons and Andrea, and other men, any one of whom would have made her a husband ten times better than she deserved? but the ungrateful monkey would have nothing to say to them, on the ground, forsooth, that they were robbers and murderers; and now she has fled from her own home to a nunnery, and I cannot get her back. That is the way in which parents are treated now. a-days."
"Let her go," said Berecynth, "we shall get on very well without her, so admirably do our dispositions harmonize.'
"But wherefore should she have run away from me, ungrateful baggage that she is? If we were to part, why could we not part friends? Confound her, though! I might have made a good market of her, and would have done so, had she not obstinately held out in the strength of her love for that silly young gallant who came to our cottage in the forest."
"Hold there!" cried Berecynth, hiccuping, and reeling, and half asleep. "if you begin to talk of love, I have done with you-ha, ha, ha! Love!
-it was that stupid word that demolished my great master Pietro. He might have been a professor to this hour, and fed his young goslings with philosophy, but he tumbled over love, and broke his neck; and so, farewell to him and farewell to you also, dear aunt. To-morrow night I shall return to you about the same hour; and then we meet never to part more."
"Farewell!" responded Pancratia. "Since you entered I have felt myself quite a different being. What a joyous time we shall have of it!"
"That we shall," stammered Berecynth, who, staggering forth into the street, went in the direction of his own dwelling.
THE END OF PIETRO.
Mean while Antonio apprised Podesta and his wife of his absolute conviction that he had seen the old wo man, and should yet succeed in restoring their lost daughter to their arms. The mother placed implicit confidence in what he said, but the father still continued sceptical. Before sunset, he went, in company with his friend Alphonso, to visit the wise Castalio.
Castalio received them with much cordiality, and said to Antonio-"Here, my friend, take this paper; you will find marked upon it the particular street and house in which that wicked old woman is to be found. When you have discovered her, I think you will no longer doubt the accuracy of my science.'
"I am already convinced of its certainty," replied Antonio. "You are certainly the wisest of mortals; and, through your means, I expect to be made the happiest. I shall straightway proceed to the old woman's house, and, if Crescentia be not dead or carried off, I shall at once restore her to her parents."
Full of these expectations, he laid his hand on the handle of the door, and was about to leave the house, when a knocking was heard from without, accompanied by a violent coughing and a scraping of feet. "Who is there?" cried CastalioAntonio opened the door, and in walked Berecynth.
"Your most obedient," said he, making a variety of grimaces as he paid his respects to Castalio.
"Who are you?" cried the latter, turning pale and recoiling a few paces before the presence of the dwarf.
"He is a miscreant of the worst description," answered Antonio-" a sorcerer, whom we must deliver up to the Inquisition. This is the accursed Berecynth himself, whose story you are already acquainted with." "So you think, youngster! " said the dwarf, with an expression of the profoundest contempt. "But my business is not with you, child. Do you not know me?" roared he aloud to Castalio," or have you no need of my services at present?"
"How should I," said Castalio, with faltering voice," when I never saw you in my life before? Begone, I must decline your services; my poor house is too small to accommodate any more than myself."
Berecynth paced up and down the floor. "You do not know me, then?" said he. "It may be so-people change, and a man is not always in his prime. Yet, I think, that any one who has once seen me, would not easily forget And you, my young gentlemen, (turning to the youths,) do you not know who this precious wisdom-hunter is?"
"To be sure we do," answered Antonio," he is our friend, the excellent Castalio."
The little man shouted with laughter till walls and roof rang; "Castalio! Castalio!" cried he, like one possess. ed, "and why not Aganippe or Hippocrene? Where are your eyes, my
good sirs? What can have bewitched these pumpkins of heads of yours? Take another look at him, and tell me whether the man before you be not the renowned Pietro d'Abano, the great artist of Padua ?”
Castalio had sunk down into a chair, trembling violently, while the muscles of his countenance worked so frightfully, that not a feature could be rightly distinguished; but, after the young men had viewed him attentively for some time, they traced with horror, in the distorted lineaments of his face, the expression of the old sorcerer of Abano.
The magician started from his seat, and, rising into giant stature, exclaimed, in a voice of thunder, "Yes, I am that Pietro! and you, caitiff, you have crossed me in the schemes by which I intended to have crushed these youths into the dust-tremble, worm, before the vengeance of your master!"
Berecynth again laughed a loud laugh of mockery : "The vengeance of my master!" echoed he-"Fool without an equal, to apply such language unto me! Knowest thou not, thou wretched juggler, that one glance of my eyes-one grasp of my hand, can blast you for ever?-Thou earthborn tamperer with the things of hell-were not all thy power and success derived from me?"
A phantom of horror filled the hall
in which they stood. streamed with fire, and its arms were stretched forth like eagles' wings. Pietro prostrated himself, shrieking for mercy at its feet. "It was my might," said the demon, "which upheld thy hellish machinations; it was I that gave success to the jugglery with which thou didst dazzle the eyes of men. But all the while thou madest me thy scoff, and didst trample me under foot. Now my time has come, and thou must be my servant. Thou must go down with me into my kingdom, to be my slave throughout eternity. Begone, ye strangers!" continued he, addressing the young men. "He and I have accounts to settle, and ye may not be present at the reckoning." A violent peal of thunder shook the house to its foundation, as Antonio and Alphonso rushed out of it in terror. They got into the streets they knew not how, and fled to a neighbouring church, while the storm broke over their heads with ever increasing fury. They looked back to the house from which they had fled, and saw that it was enveloped in flames. Two dark shadows were seen wavering and wrestling among the blazing rafters; and howlings of despair, blended with the loud laughter of scorn, drifted towards them between the pauses of the loud-raging tempest.
It was a considerable time before Antonio was strong enough to go in quest of the old woman whose house had been pointed out to him. When he did so, he found the old lady gaily attired, and she welcomed him with smiles.
"Ah! my young Florentine," said she, "have you again come to pay a visit to your old friend of the forest?" "Where is your daughter?" asked Antonio, trembling with anxiety.
"If you are determined to have her," said the old woman, "I won't keep her back from you. But either you or the Podesta family must pay for her right handsomely, for she is their child, having been kidnapped by me in her infancy, under the temptation of a large bribe which I received from the family of Marconi."
"How can you prove that she is their child?" asked Antonio.
"In a hundred ways," answered the old woman. "I have still by me the dress she wore when I carried her off. She has a mole upon her right shoulder, which her mother cannot fail to remember; and besides, I still have in my possession the letters themselves of the Marconi family, urging me to the deed. All these shall be laid before you; but I must have gold in a good round sum-mind you that."
Antonio told down all the money he had with him, and added a diamond ring and golden chain to the heap. The old woman greedily scraped the gold towards her, and laughed as she said, "Do not be surprised that I am so easily satisfied; the truth is, the girl has fled from me, because she did