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" Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?”
WOR 19 FEB 30
The evening of such a day, in a city with the habits of Venice, was not likely to be spent in the dulness of retirement. The great square of St. Mark was again filled with its active and motley crowd, and the scenes already described in the opening chapters of this work, were re
sumed, if possible, with more apparent devotion to the levities of the hour, than on the occasion mentioned. The tumblers and jugglers renewed their antics, the cries of the fruit-sellers and other venders of light luxuries were again mingled with the tones of the flute and the notes of the guitar and harp, while the idle and the busy, the thoughtless and the designing, the conspirator and the agent of the police, once more met in privileged security.
The night had advanced beyond its turn, when a gondola came gliding through the shipping of the port, with that easy and swan-like motion, which is peculiar to its slow niovement, and touched the quay with its beak, at the point where the canal of St. Mark forms its junction with the bay.
“ Thou art welcome, Antonio,” said one, who approached the solitary individual that had directed the gondola, when the latter had thrust the iron spike of his painter between the crevices of the stones, as gondoliers are accustomed
to secure their barges; “thou art welcome, Antonio, though late.”
" I begin to know the sounds of that voice, though they come from a masked face,” said the fisherman. Friend, I owe my success today to thy kindness, and though it has not had the end for which I had both hoped and prayed, I ought not to thank thee less. Thou hast thyself been borne hard upon by the world, or thou wouldst not have bethought thee of an old and despised man, when the shouts of triumph were ringing in thy ear, and when thy own young blood was stirred with the feelings of pride and victory." “ Nature gives thee strong language, fisher
I have not passed the hours, truly, in the games and levities of my years. Life has been no festa to me-but no matter. The senate was not pleased to hear of lessening the number of the gallies' crew, and thou wilt bethink thee of some other reward. I have, here, the chain
and golden oar in the hope that it will still be welcome.”
Antonio looked amazed, but, yielding to a natural curiosity, he gazed a moment with longing at the prize. Then, recoiling with a shudder, he uttered moodily, and with the tones of one whose determination was made: " I should think the bauble coined of my grand-child's blood ! Keep it: they have trusted it to thee, for it is thine of right, and now that they refuse to hear my prayer, it will be useless to all but to him who fairly earned it.”
“ Thou makest no allowance, fisherman, for difference of years and for sinews that are in their vigour. Methinks that in adjudging such a prize, thought should be had to these matters, and then wouldest thou be found outstripping us all. Holy St. Theodore! I passed my childhood with the oar in hand, and never before have I met one in Venice who has driven my gondola so hard ! Thou touchest the water with the delicacy of a lady fingering her harp,