Part 4 out of 10
Ch' erano a quella eta, che nei vallone,
Nelle scure spelonche e boschi fieri,
Tane di serpi, d'orsi e di leoni,
Trovavan quel che nei palazzi altieri
Appena or trovar pon giudici buoni;
Donne che nella lor piu fresca etade
Sien degne di aver titol di beltade."
Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, can. xiii. 1.
Chapter 3.I. The Return of Walter de Montreal to his Fortress.
When Walter de Montreal and his mercenaries quitted Corneto, they made the
best of their way to Rome; arriving there, long before the Barons, they met
with a similar reception at the gates, but Montreal prudently forbore all
attack and menace, and contented himself with sending his trusty Rodolf
into the city to seek Rienzi, and to crave permission to enter with his
troop. Rodolf returned in a shorter time than was anticipated. "Well,"
said Montreal impatiently, "you have the order I suppose. Shall we bid
them open the gates?"
"Bid them open our graves," replied the Saxon, bluntly. "I trust my next
heraldry will be to a more friendly court."
"How! what mean you?"
"Briefly this: - I found the new governor, or whatever his title, in the
palace of the Capitol, surrounded by guards and councillors, and in a suit
of the finest armour I ever saw out of Milan."
"Pest on his armour! give us his answer."
"'Tell Walter de Montreal,' said he, then, if you will have it, 'that Rome
is no longer a den of thieves; tell him, that if he enters, he must abide a
trial - '"
"A trial!" cried Montreal, grinding his teeth.
"'For participation in the evil doings of Werner and his freebooters.'"
"'Tell him, moreover, that Rome declares war against all robbers, whether
in tent or tower, and that we order him in forty-eight hours to quit the
territories of the Church.'"
"He thinks, then, not only to deceive, but to menace me? Well, proceed."
"That was all his reply to you; to me, however, he vouchsafed a caution
still more obliging. 'Hark ye, friend,' said he, for every German bandit
found in Rome after tomorrow, our welcome will be cord and gibbet!
"Enough! enough!" cried Montreal, colouring with rage and shame. "Rodolf,
you have a skilful eye in these matters, how many Northmen would it take to
give that same gibbet to the upstart?"
Rodolf scratched his huge head, and seemed awhile lost in calculation; at
length he said, "You, Captain, must be the best judge, when I tell you,
that twenty thousand Romans are the least of his force, so I heard by the
way; and this evening he is to accept the crown, and depose the Emperor."
"Ha, ha!" laughed Montreal, "is he so mad? then he will want not our aid to
hang himself. My friends, let us wait the result. At present neither
barons nor people seem likely to fill our coffers. Let us across the
country to Terracina. Thank the saints," and Montreal (who was not without
a strange kind of devotion, - indeed he deemed that virtue essential to
chivalry) crossed himself piously, "the free companions are never long
"Hurrah for the Knight of St. John!" cried the mercenaries. "And hurrah
for fair Provence and bold Germany!" added the Knight, as he waved his hand
on high, struck spurs into his already wearied horse, and, breaking out
into his favourite song,
"His steed and his sword,
And his lady the peerless," &c.,
Montreal, with his troop, struck gallantly across the Campagna.
The Knight of St. John soon, however, fell into an absorbed and moody
reverie; and his followers imitating the silence of their chief, in a few
minutes the clatter of their arms and the jingle of their spurs, alone
disturbed the stillness of the wide and gloomy plains across which they
made towards Terracina. Montreal was recalling with bitter resentment his
conference with Rienzi; and, proud of his own sagacity and talent for
scheming, he was humbled and vexed at the discovery that he had been duped
by a wilier intriguer. His ambitious designs on Rome, too, were crossed,
and even crushed for the moment, by the very means to which he had looked
for their execution. He had seen enough of the Barons to feel assured that
while Stephen Colonna lived, the head of the order, he was not likely to
obtain that mastery in the state which, if leagued with a more ambitious or
a less timid and less potent signor, might reward his aid in expelling
Rienzi. Under all circumstances, he deemed it advisable to remain aloof.
Should Rienzi grow strong, Montreal might make the advantageous terms he
desired with the Barons; should Rienzi's power decay, his pride,
necessarily humbled, might drive him to seek the assistance, and submit to
the proposals, of Montreal. The ambition of the Provencal, though vast and
daring, was not of a consistent and persevering nature. Action and
enterprise were dearer to him, as yet, than the rewards which they
proffered; and if baffled in one quarter, he turned himself, with the true
spirit of the knight-errant, to any other field for his achievements.
Louis, king of Hungary, stern, warlike, implacable, seeking vengeance for
the murder of his brother, the ill-fated husband of Joanna, (the beautiful
and guilty Queen of Naples - the Mary Stuart of Italy,) had already
prepared himself to subject the garden of Campania to the Hungarian yoke.
Already his bastard brother had entered Italy - already some of the
Neapolitan states had declared in his favour - already promises had been
held out by the northern monarch to the scattered Companies - and already
those fierce mercenaries gathered menacingly round the frontiers of that
Eden of Italy, attracted, as vultures to the carcass, by the preparation of
war and the hope of plunder. Such was the field to which the bold mind of
Montreal now turned its thoughts; and his soldiers had joyfully conjectured
his design when they had heard him fix Terracina as their bourne.
Provident of every resource, and refining his audacious and unprincipled
valour by a sagacity which promised, when years had more matured and
sobered his restless chivalry, to rank him among the most dangerous enemies
Italy had ever known, on the first sign of Louis's warlike intentions,
Montreal had seized and fortified a strong castle on that delicious coast
beyond Terracina, by which lies the celebrated pass once held by Fabius
against Hannibal, and which Nature has so favoured for war as for peace,
that a handful of armed men might stop the march of an army. The
possession of such a fortress on the very frontiers of Naples, gave
Montreal an importance of which he trusted to avail himself with the
Hungarian king: and now, thwarted in his more grand and aspiring projects
upon Rome, his sanguine, active, and elastic spirit congratulated itself
upon the resource it had secured.
The band halted at nightfall on this side the Pontine Marshes, seizing
without scruple some huts and sheds, from which they ejected the miserable
tenants, and slaughtering with no greater ceremony the swine, cattle, and
poultry of a neighbouring farm. Shortly after sunrise they crossed those
fatal swamps which had already been partially drained by Boniface VIII.;
and Montreal, refreshed by sleep, reconciled to his late mortification by
the advantages opened to him in the approaching war with Naples, and
rejoicing as he approached a home which held one who alone divided his
heart with ambition, had resumed all the gaiety which belonged to his
Gallic birth and his reckless habits. And that deadly but consecrated
road, where yet may be seen the labours of Augustus, in the canal which had
witnessed the Voyage so humourously described by Horace, echoed with the
loud laughter and frequent snatches of wild song by which the barbarian
robbers enlivened their rapid march.
It was noon when the company entered upon that romantic pass I have before
referred to - the ancient Lantulae. High to the left rose steep and lofty
rocks, then covered by the prodigal verdure, and the countless flowers, of
the closing May; while to the right the sea, gentle as a lake, and blue as
heaven, rippled musically at their feet. Montreal, who largely possessed
the poetry of his land, which is so eminently allied with a love of nature,
might at another time have enjoyed the beauty of the scene; but at that
moment less external and more household images were busy within him.
Abruptly ascending where a winding path up the mountain offered a rough and
painful road to their horses' feet, the band at length arrived before a
strong fortress of grey stone, whose towers were concealed by the lofty
foliage, until they emerged sullenly and suddenly from the laughing
verdure. The sound of the bugle, the pennon of the knight, the rapid
watchword, produced a loud shout of welcome from a score or two of grim
soldiery on the walls; the portcullis was raised, and Montreal, throwing
himself hastily from his panting steed, sprung across the threshold of a
jutting porch, and traversed a huge hall, when a lady - young, fair, and
richly dressed - met him with a step equally swift, and fell breathless and
overjoyed into his arms.
"My Walter! my dear, dear Walter; welcome - ten thousand welcomes!"
"Adeline, my beautiful - my adored - I see thee again!"
Such were the greetings interchanged as Montreal pressed his lady to his
heart, kissing away her tears, and lifting her face to his, while he gazed
on its delicate bloom with all the wistful anxiety of affection after
"Fairest," said he, tenderly, "thou hast pined, thou hast lost roundness
and colour since we parted. Come, come, thou art too gentle, or too
foolish, for a soldier's love."
"Ah, Walter!" replied Adeline, clinging to him, "now thou art returned, and
I shall be well. Thou wilt not leave me again a long, long time."
"Sweet one, no;" and flinging his arm round her waist, the lovers - for
alas! they were not wedded! - retired to the more private chambers of the
Chapter 3.II. The Life of Love and War - the Messenger of Peace - the
Girt with his soldiery, secure in his feudal hold, enchanted with the
beauty of the earth, sky, and sea around, and passionately adoring his
Adeline, Montreal for awhile forgot all his more stirring projects and his
ruder occupations. His nature was capable of great tenderness, as of great
ferocity; and his heart smote him when he looked at the fair cheek of his
lady, and saw that even his presence did not suffice to bring back the
smile and the fresh hues of old. Often he cursed that fatal oath of his
knightly order which forbade him to wed, though with one more than his
equal; and remorse embittered his happiest hours. That gentle lady in that
robber hold, severed from all she had been taught most to prize - mother,
friends, and fair fame - only loved her seducer the more intensely; only
the more concentrated upon one object all the womanly and tender feelings
denied every other and less sinful vent. But she felt her shame, though
she sought to conceal it, and a yet more gnawing grief than even that of
shame contributed to prey upon her spirits and undermine her health. Yet,
withal, in Montreal's presence she was happy, even in regret; and in her
declining health she had at least a consolation in the hope to die while
his love was undiminished. Sometimes they made short excursions, for the
disturbed state of the country forbade them to wander far from the castle,
through the sunny woods, and along the glassy sea, which make the charm of
that delicious scenery; and that mixture of the savage with the tender, the
wild escort, the tent in some green glade in the woods at noon, the lute
and voice of Adeline, with the fierce soldiers grouped and listening at the
distance, might have well suited the verse of Ariosto, and harmonised
singularly with that strange, disordered, yet chivalric time, in which the
Classic South became the seat of the Northern Romance. Still, however,
Montreal maintained his secret intercourse with the Hungarian king, and,
plunged in new projects, willingly forsook for the present all his designs
on Rome. Yet deemed he that his more august ambition was only delayed,
and, bright in the more distant prospects of his adventurous career, rose
the Capitol of Rome and shone the sceptre of the Caesars.
One day, as Montreal, with a small troop in attendance, passed on horseback
near the walls of Terracina, the gates were suddenly thrown open, and a
numerous throng issued forth, preceded by a singular figure, whose steps
they followed bareheaded and with loud blessings; a train of monks closed
the procession, chanting a hymn, of which the concluding words were as
Beauteous on the mountains - lo,
The feet of him glad tidings gladly bringing;
The flowers along his pathway grow,
And voices, heard aloft, to angel harps are singing:
And strife and slaughter cease
Before thy blessed way, Young Messenger of Peace!
O'er the mount, and through the moor,
Glide thy holy steps secure.
Day and night no fear thou knowest,
Lonely - but with God thou goest.
Where the Heathen rage the fiercest,
Through the armed throng thou piercest.
For thy coat of mail, bedight
In thy spotless robe of white.
For the sinful sword - thy hand
Bearing bright the silver wand:
Through the camp and through the court,
Through the bandit's gloomy fort,
On the mission of the dove,
Speeds the minister of love;
By a word the wildest taming,
And the world to Christ reclaiming:
While, as once the waters trod
By the footsteps of thy God,
War, and wrath, and rapine cease,
Hush'd round thy charmed path, O Messenger of Peace!
The stranger to whom these honours were paid was a young, unbearded man,
clothed in white wrought with silver; he was unarmed and barefooted: in
his hand he held a tall silver wand. Montreal and his party halted in
astonishment and wonder, and the Knight, spurring his horse toward the
crowd, confronted the stranger.
"How, friend," quoth the Provencal, "is thine a new order of pilgrims, or
what especial holiness has won thee this homage?"
"Back, back," cried some of the bolder of the crowd, "let not the robber
dare arrest the Messenger of Peace."
Montreal waved his hand disdainfully.
"I speak not to you, good sirs, and the worthy friars in your rear know
full well that I never injured herald or palmer."
The monks, ceasing from their hymn, advanced hastily to the spot; and
indeed the devotion of Montreal had ever induced him to purchase the
goodwill of whatever monastery neighboured his wandering home.
"My son," said the eldest of the brethren, "this is a strange spectacle,
and a sacred: and when thou learnest all, thou wilt rather give the
messenger a passport of safety from the unthinking courage of thy friends
than intercept his path of peace."
"Ye puzzle still more my simple brain," said Montreal, impatiently, "let
the youth speak for himself; I perceive that on his mantle are the arms of
Rome blended with other quarterings, which are a mystery to me, - though
sufficiently versed in heraldic art as befits a noble and a knight."
"Signor," said the youth, gravely, "know in me the messenger of Cola di
Rienzi, Tribune of Rome, charged with letters to many a baron and prince in
the ways between Rome and Naples. The arms wrought upon my mantle are
those of the Pontiff, the City, and the Tribune."
"Umph; thou must have bold nerves to traverse the Campagna with no other
weapon than that stick of silver!"
"Thou art mistaken, Sir Knight," replied the youth, boldly, "and judgest of
the present by the past; know that not a single robber now lurks within the
Campagna, the arms of the Tribune have rendered every road around the city
as secure as the broadest street of the city itself."
"Thou tellest me wonders."
"Through the forest - and in the fortress, - through the wildest solitudes,
- through the most populous towns, - have my comrades borne this silver
wand unmolested and unscathed; wherever we pass along, thousands hail us,
and tears of joy bless the messengers of him who hath expelled the brigand
from his hold, the tyrant from his castle, and ensured the gains of the
merchant and the hut of the peasant."
"Pardieu," said Montreal, with a stern smile, "I ought to be thankful for
the preference shown to me; I have not yet received the commands, nor felt
the vengeance, of the Tribune; yet, methinks, my humble castle lies just
within the patrimony of St. Peter."
"Pardon me, Signor Cavalier," said the youth; "but do I address the
renowned Knight of St. John, warrior of the Cross, yet leader of banditti?"
"Boy, you are bold; I am Walter de Montreal."
"I am bound, then, Sir Knight, to your castle."
"Take care how thou reach it before me, or thou standest a fair chance of a
quick exit. How now, my friends!" seeing that the crowd at these words
gathered closer round the messenger, "Think ye that I, who have my mate in
kings, would find a victim in an unarmed boy? Fie! give way - give way.
Young man, follow me homeward; you are safe in my castle as in your
mother's arms." So saying, Montreal, with great dignity and deliberate
gravity, rode slowly towards his castle, his soldiers, wondering, at a
little distance, and the white-robed messenger following with the crowd,
who refused to depart; so great was their enthusiasm, that they even
ascended to the gates of the dreaded castle, and insisted on waiting
without until the return of the youth assured them of his safety.
Montreal, who, however lawless elsewhere, strictly preserved the rights of
the meanest boor in his immediate neighbourhood, and rather affected
popularity with the poor, bade the crowd enter the courtyard, ordered his
servitors to provide them with wine and refreshment, regaled the good monks
in his great hall, and then led the way to a small room, where he received
"This," said the youth, "will best explain my mission," as he placed a
letter before Montreal.
The Knight cut the silk with his dagger, and read the epistle with great
"Your Tribune," said he, when he had finished it, "has learned the laconic
style of power very soon. He orders me to render this castle, and vacate
the Papal Territory within ten days. He is obliging; I must have breathing
time to consider the proposal; be seated, I pray you, young sir. Forgive
me, but I should have imagined that your lord had enough upon his hands
with his Roman barons, to make him a little more indulgent to us foreign
visitors. Stephen Colonna - "
"Is returned to Rome, and has taken the oath of allegiance; the Savelli,
the Orsini, the Frangipani, have all subscribed their submission to the
"How!" cried Montreal, in great surprise.
"Not only have they returned, but they have submitted to the dispersion of
all their mercenaries, and the dismantling of all their fortifications.
The iron of the Orsini palace now barricades the Capitol, and the stonework
of the Colonna and the Savelli has added new battlements to the gates of
the Lateran and St. Laurence."
"Wonderful man!" said Montreal, with reluctant admiration. "By what means
was this effected?"
"A stern command and a strong force to back it. At the first sound of the
great bell, twenty thousand Romans rise in arms. What to such an army are
the brigands of an Orsini or a Colonna? - Sir Knight, your valour and
renown make even Rome admire you; and I, a Roman, bid you beware."
"Well, I thank thee - thy news, friend, robs me of breath. So the Barons
"Yes: on the first day, one of the Colonna, the Lord Adrian, took the
oath; within a week, Stephen, assured of safe conduct, left Palestrina, the
Savelli in his train; the Orsini followed - even Martino di Porto has
"The Tribune - but is that his dignity - methought he was to be king - "
"He was offered, and he refused, the title. His present rank, which
arrogates no patrician honours, went far to conciliate the nobles."
"A wise knave! - I beg pardon, a sagacious prince! - Well, then, the
Tribune lords it mightily, I suppose, over the great Roman names?"
"Pardon me - he enforces impartial justice from peasant or patrician; but
he preserves to the nobles all their just privileges and legal rank."
"Ha! - and the vain puppets, so they keep the semblance, scarce miss the
substance - I understand. But this shows genius - the Tribune is unwed, I
think. Does he look among the Colonna for a wife?"
"Sir Knight, the Tribune is already married; within three days after his
ascension to power, he won and bore home the daughter of the Baron di
"Raselli! no great name; he might have done better."
"But it is said," resumed the youth, smiling, "that the Tribune will
shortly be allied to the Colonna, through his fair sister the Signora
Irene. The Baron di Castello woos her."
"What, Adrian Colonna! Enough! you have convinced me that a man who
contents the people and awes or conciliates the nobles is born for empire.
My answer to this letter I will send myself. For your news, Sir Messenger,
accept this jewel," and the knight took from his finger a gem of some
price. "Nay, shrink not, it was as freely given to me as it is now to
The youth, who had been agreeably surprised, and impressed, by the manner
of the renowned freebooter, and who was not a little astonished himself
with the ease and familiarity with which he had been relating to Fra
Moreale, in his own fortress, the news of Rome, bowed low as he accepted
The astute Provencal, who saw the evident impression he had made, perceived
also that it might be of advantage in delaying the measures he might deem
it expedient to adopt. "Assure the Tribune," said he, on dismissing the
messenger, "shouldst thou return ere my letter arrive, that I admire his
genius, hail his power, and will not fail to consider as favourably as I
may of his demand."
"Better," said the messenger, warmly (he was of good blood, and gentle
bearing), - "better ten tyrants for our enemy, than one Montreal."
"An enemy! believe me, sir, I seek no enmity with princes who know how to
govern, or a people that has the wisdom at once to rule and to obey."
The whole of that day, however, Montreal remained thoughtful and uneasy; he
despatched trusty messengers to the Governor of Aquila (who was then in
correspondence with Louis of Hungary), to Naples, and to Rome: - the last
charged with a letter to the Tribune, which, without absolutely
compromising himself, affected submission, and demanded only a longer
leisure for the preparations of departure. But, at the same time, fresh
fortifications were added to the castle, ample provisions were laid in,
and, night and day, spies and scouts were stationed along the pass, and in
the town of Terracina. Montreal was precisely the chief who prepared most
for war when most he pretended peace.
One morning, the fifth from the appearance of the Roman messenger,
Montreal, after narrowly surveying his outworks and his stores, and feeling
satisfied that he could hold out at least a month's siege, repaired, with a
gayer countenance than he had lately worn, to the chamber of Adeline.
The lady was seated by the casement of the tower, from which might be seen
the glorious landscape of woods, and vales, and orange groves - a strange
garden for such a palace! As she leant her face upon her hand, with her
profile slightly turned to Montreal, there was something ineffably graceful
in the bend of her neck, - the small head so expressive of gentle blood, -
with the locks parted in front in that simple fashion which modern times
have so happily revived. But the expression of the half-averted face, the
abstracted intentness of the gaze, and the profound stillness of the
attitude, were so sad and mournful, that Montreal's purposed greeting of
gallantry and gladness died upon his lips. He approached in silence, and
laid his hand upon her shoulder.
Adeline turned, and taking the hand in hers, pressed it to her heart, and
smiled away all her sadness. "Dearest," said Montreal, "couldst thou know
how much any shadow of grief on thy bright face darkens my heart, thou
wouldst never grieve. But no wonder that in these rude walls - no female
of equal rank near thee, and such mirth as Montreal can summon to his
halls, grating to thy ear - no wonder that thou repentest thee of thy
"Ah, no - no, Walter, I never repent. I did but think of our child as you
entered. Alas! he was our only child! How fair he was, Walter; how he
"Nay, he had thine eyes and brow," replied the Knight, with a faltering
voice, and turning away his head.
"Walter," resumed the lady, sighing, "do you remember? - this is his
birthday. He is ten years old today. We have loved each other eleven
years, and thou hast not tired yet of thy poor Adeline."
"As well might the saints weary of paradise," replied Montreal, with an
enamoured tenderness, which changed into softness the whole character of
his heroic countenance.
"Could I think so, I should indeed be blest!" answered Adeline. "But a
little while longer, and the few charms I yet possess must fade; and what
other claim have I on thee?"
"All claim; - the memory of thy first blushes - thy first kiss - of thy
devoted sacrifices - of thy patient wanderings - of thy uncomplaining love!
Ah, Adeline, we are of Provence, not of Italy; and when did Knight of
Provence avoid his foe, or forsake his love? But enough, dearest, of home
and melancholy for today. I come to bid thee forth. I have sent on the
servitors to pitch our tent beside the sea, - we will enjoy the orange
blossoms while we may. Ere another week pass over us, we may have sterner
pastime and closer confines."
"How, dearest Walter! thou dost not apprehend danger?"
"Thou speakest, lady-bird," said Montreal, laughing, "as if danger were
novelty; methinks by this time, thou shouldst know it as the atmosphere we
"Ah, Walter, is this to last for ever? Thou art now rich and renowned;
canst thou not abandon this career of strife?"
"Now, out on thee, Adeline! What are riches and renown but the means to
power! And for strife, the shield of warriors was my cradle - pray the
saints it be my bier! These wild and wizard extremes of life - from the
bower to the tent - from the cavern to the palace - today a wandering
exile, tomorrow the equal of kings - make the true element of the chivalry
of my Norman sires. Normandy taught me war, and sweet Provence love. Kiss
me, dear Adeline; and now let thy handmaids attire thee. Forget not thy
lute, sweet one. We will rouse the echoes with the songs of Provence."
The ductile temper of Adeline yielded easily to the gaiety of her lord; and
the party soon sallied from the castle towards the spot in which Montreal
had designed their resting-place during the heats of day. But already
prepared for all surprise, the castle was left strictly guarded, and
besides the domestic servitors of the castle, a detachment of ten soldiers,
completely armed, accompanied the lovers. Montreal himself wore his
corselet, and his squires followed with his helmet and lance. Beyond the
narrow defile at the base of the castle, the road at that day opened into a
broad patch of verdure, circled on all sides, save that open to the sea, by
wood, interspersed with myrtle and orange, and a wilderness of odorous
shrubs. In this space, and sheltered by the broad-spreading and classic
fagus (so improperly translated into the English "beech"), a gay pavilion
was prepared, which commanded the view of the sparkling sea; - shaded from
the sun, but open to the gentle breeze. This was poor Adeline's favourite
recreation, if recreation it might be called. She rejoiced to escape from
the gloomy walls of her castellated prison, and to enjoy the sunshine and
the sweets of that voluptuous climate without the fatigue which of late all
exercise occasioned her. It was a gallantry on the part of Montreal, who
foresaw how short an interval might elapse before the troops of Rienzi
besieged his walls; and who was himself no less at home in the bower than
in the field.
As they reclined within the pavilion - the lover and his lady, - of the
attendants without, some lounged idly on the beach; some prepared the
awning of a pleasure-boat against the decline of the sun; some, in a ruder
tent, out of sight in the wood, arranged the mid-day repast; while the
strings of the lute, touched by Montreal himself with a careless skill,
gave their music to the dreamy stillness of the noon.
While thus employed, one of Montreal's scouts arrived breathless and heated
at the tent.
"Captain," said he, "a company of thirty lances completely armed, with a
long retinue of squires and pages, have just quitted Terracina. Their
banners bear the two-fold insignia of Rome and the Colonna."
"Ho!" said Montreal, gaily, "such a troop is a welcome addition to our
company; send our squire hither."
The squire appeared.
"Hie thee on thy steed towards the procession thou wilt meet with in the
pass, (nay, sweet lady mine, no forbiddal!) seek the chief, and say that
the good Knight Walter de Montreal sends him greeting, and prays him, in
passing our proper territory, to rest awhile with us a welcome guest; and -
stay, - add, that if to while an hour or so in gentle pastime be acceptable
to him, Walter de Montreal would rejoice to break a lance with him, or any
knight in his train, in honour of our respective ladies. Hie thee quick!"
"Walter, Walter," began Adeline, who had that keen and delicate
sensitiveness to her situation, which her reckless lord often wantonly
forgot; "Walter, dear Walter, canst thou think it honour to - "
"Hush thee, sweet Fleur de lis! Thou hast not seen pastime this many a
day; I long to convince thee that thou art still the fairest lady in Italy
- ay, and of Christendom. But these Italians are craven knights, and thou
needst not fear that my proffer will be accepted. But in truth, lady mine,
I rejoice for graver objects, that chance throws a Roman noble, perhaps a
Colonna, in my way; - women understand not these matters; and aught
concerning Rome touches us home at this moment."
With that the Knight frowned, as was his wont in thought, and Adeline
ventured to say no more, but retired to the interior division of the
Meanwhile the squire approached the procession that had now reached the
middle of the pass. And a stately and gallant company it was: - if the
complete harness of the soldiery seemed to attest a warlike purpose, it was
contradicted on the other hand by a numerous train of unarmed squires and
pages gorgeously attired, while the splendid blazon of two heralds
preceding the standard-bearers, proclaimed their object as peaceful, and
their path as sacred. It required but a glance at the company to tell the
leader. Arrayed in a breast-plate of steel, wrought profusely with gold
arabesques, over which was a mantle of dark green velvet, bordered with
pearls, while above his long dark locks waved a black ostrich plume in a
high Macedonian cap, such as, I believe, is now worn by the Grand Master of
the order of St. Constantine, rode in the front of the party, a young
cavalier, distinguished from his immediate comrades, partly by his graceful
presence and partly by his splendid dress.
The squire approached respectfully, and dismounting, delivered himself of
The young cavalier smiled, as he answered, "Bear back to Sir Walter de
Montreal the greeting of Adrian Colonna, Baron di Castello, and say, that
the solemn object of my present journey will scarce permit me to encounter
the formidable lance of so celebrated a knight; and I regret this the more,
inasmuch as I may not yield to any dame the palm of my liege lady's beauty.
I must live in hope of a happier occasion. For the rest, I will cheerfully
abide for some few hours the guest of so courteous a host."
The squire bowed low. "My master," said he, hesitatingly, "will grieve
much to miss so noble an opponent. But my message refers to all this
knightly and gallant train; and if the Lord Adrian di Castello deems
himself forbidden the joust by the object of his present journey, surely
one of his comrades will be his proxy with my master."
Out and quickly spoke a young noble by the side of Adrian, Riccardo
Annibaldi, who afterwards did good service both to the Tribune and to Rome,
and whose valour brought him, in later life, to an untimely end.
"By the Lord Adrian's permission," cried he, "I will break a lance with - "
"Hush! Annibaldi," interrupted Adrian. "And you, Sir Squire, know, that
Adrian di Castello permits no proxy in arms. Avise the Knight of St. John
that we accept his hospitality, and if, after some converse on graver
matters, he should still desire so light an entertainment, I will forget
that I am the ambassador to Naples, and remember only that I am a Knight of
the Empire. You have your answer."
The squire with much ceremony made his obeisance, remounted his steed, and
returned in a half-gallop to his master.
"Forgive me, dear Annibaldi," said Adrian, "that I balked your valour; and
believe me that I never more longed to break a lance against any man than I
do against this boasting Frenchman. But bethink you, that though to us,
brought up in the dainty laws of chivalry, Walter de Montreal is the famous
Knight of Provence, to the Tribune of Rome, whose grave mission we now
fulfil, he is but the mercenary captain of a Free Company. Grievously in
his eyes should we sully our dignity by so wanton and irrelevant a holiday
conflict with a declared and professional brigand."
"For all that," said Annibaldi, "the brigand ought not to boast that a
Roman knight shunned a Provencal lance."
"Cease, I pray thee!" said Adrian, impatiently. In fact, the young
Colonna, already chafed bitterly against his discreet and dignified
rejection of Montreal's proffer, and recollecting with much pique the
disparaging manner in which the Provencal had spoken of the Roman chivalry,
as well as a certain tone of superiority, which in all warlike matters
Montreal had assumed over him, - he now felt his cheek burn, and his lip
quiver. Highly skilled in the martial accomplishments of his time, he had
a natural and excusable desire to prove that he was at least no unworthy
antagonist even of the best lance in Italy: and, added to this, the
gallantry of the age made him feel it a sort of treason to his mistress to
forego any means of asserting her perfections.
It was, therefore, with considerable irritation that Adrian, as the
pavilion of Montreal became visible, perceived the squire returning to him.
And the reader will judge how much this was increased when the latter, once
more dismounting, accosted him thus:
"My master, the Knight of St. John, on hearing the courteous answer of the
Lord Adrian di Castello, bids me say, that lest the graver converse the
Lord Adrian refers to should mar gentle and friendly sport, he ventures
respectfully to suggest, that the tilt should preface the converse. The
sod before the tent is so soft and smooth, that even a fall could be
attended with no danger to knight or steed."
"By our Lady!" cried Adrian and Annibaldi in a breath, "but thy last words
are discourteous; and" (proceeded Adrian, recovering himself) "since thy
master will have it so, let him look to his horse's girths. I will not
gainsay his fancy."
Montreal, who had thus insisted upon the exhibition, partly, it may be,
from the gay and ruffling bravado, common still amongst his brave
countrymen; partly because he was curious of exhibiting before those who
might soon be his open foes his singular and unrivalled address in arms,
was yet more moved to it on learning the name of the leader of the Roman
Company; for his vain and haughty spirit, however it had disguised
resentment at the time, had by no means forgiven certain warm expressions
of Adrian in the palace of Stephen Colonna, and in the unfortunate journey
to Corneto. While Adrian, halting at the entrance of the defile, aided by
his squires, indignantly, but carefully, indued the rest of his armour, and
saw, himself, to the girths, stirrup-leathers, and various buckles in the
caparison of his noble charger, Montreal in great glee kissed his lady,
who, though too soft to be angry, was deeply vexed, (and yet her vexation
half forgotten in fear for his safety,) snatched up her scarf of blue,
which he threw over his breastplate, and completed his array with the
indifference of a man certain of victory. He was destined, however, to one
disadvantage, and that the greatest; his armour and lance had been brought
from the castle - not his warhorse. His palfrey was too slight to bear the
great weight of his armour, nor amongst his troop was there one horse that
for power and bone could match with Adrian's. He chose, however, the
strongest that was at hand, and a loud shout from his wild followers
testified their admiration when he sprung unaided from the ground into the
saddle - a rare and difficult feat of agility in a man completely arrayed
in the ponderous armour which issued at that day from the forges of Milan,
and was worn far more weighty in Italy than any other part of Europe.
While both companies grouped slowly, and mingled in a kind of circle round
the green turf, and the Roman heralds, with bustling importance, attempted
to marshal the spectators into order, Montreal rode his charger round the
sward, forcing it into various caracoles, and exhibiting, with the vanity
that belonged to him, his exquisite and practised horsemanship.
At length, Adrian, his visor down, rode slowly into the green space, amidst
the cheers of his party. The two Knights, at either end, gravely fronted
each other; they made the courtesies with their lances, which, in friendly
and sportive encounters, were customary; and, as they thus paused for the
signal of encounter, the Italians trembled for the honour of their chief:
Montreal's stately height and girth of chest forming a strong contrast,
even in armour, to the form of his opponent, which was rather under the
middle standard, and though firmly knit, slightly and slenderly built. But
to that perfection was skill in arms brought in those times, that great
strength and size were far from being either the absolute requisites, or
even the usual attributes, of the more celebrated knights; in fact, so much
was effected by the power and the management of the steed, that a light
weight in the rider was often rather to his advantage than his prejudice:
and, even at a later period, the most accomplished victors in the tourney,
the French Bayard and the English Sydney, were far from remarkable either
for bulk or stature.
Whatever the superiority of Montreal in physical power, was, in much,
counterbalanced by the inferiority of his horse, which, though a thick-
built and strong Calabrian, had neither the blood, bone, nor practised
discipline of the northern charger of the Roman. The shining coat of the
latter, coal black, was set off by a scarlet cloth wrought in gold; the
neck and shoulders were clad in scales of mail; and from the forehead
projected a long point, like the horn of an unicorn, while on its crest
waved a tall plume of scarlet and white feathers. As the mission of Adrian
to Naples was that of pomp and ceremony to a court of great splendour, so
his array and retinue were befitting the occasion and the passion for show
that belonged to the time; and the very bridle of his horse, which was
three inches broad, was decorated with gold, and even jewels. The Knight
himself was clad in mail, which had tested the finest art of the celebrated
Ludovico of Milan; and, altogether, his appearance was unusually gallant
and splendid, and seemed still more so beside the plain but brightly
polished and artfully flexile armour of Montreal, (adorned only with his
lady's scarf,) and the common and rude mail of his charger. This contrast,
however, was not welcome to the Provencal, whose vanity was especially
indulged in warlike equipments; and who, had he foreseen the "pastime" that
awaited him, would have outshone even the Colonna.
The trumpeters of either party gave a short blast - the Knights remained
erect as statues of iron; a second, and each slightly bent over his saddle-
bow; a third, and with spears couched, slackened reins, and at full speed,
on they rushed, and fiercely they met midway. With the reckless arrogance
which belonged to him, Montreal had imagined, that at the first touch of
his lance Adrian would have been unhorsed; but to his great surprise the
young Roman remained firm, and amidst the shouts of his party, passed on to
the other end of the lists. Montreal himself was rudely shaken, but lost
neither seat nor stirrup.
"This can be no carpet knight," muttered Montreal between his teeth, as,
this time, he summoned all his skill for a second encounter; while Adrian,
aware of the great superiority of his charger, resolved to bring it to bear
against his opponent. Accordingly, when the Knights again rushed forward,
Adrian, covering himself well with his buckler, directed his care less
against the combatant, whom he felt no lance wielded by mortal hand was
likely to dislodge, than against the less noble animal he bestrode. The
shock of Montreal's charge was like an avalanche - his lance shivered into
a thousand pieces, Adrian lost both stirrups, and but for the strong iron
bows which guarded the saddle in front and rear, would have been fairly
unhorsed; as it was, he was almost doubled back by the encounter, and his
ears rung and his eyes reeled, so that for a moment or two he almost lost
all consciousness. But his steed had well repaid its nurture and
discipline. Just as the combatants closed, the animal, rearing on high,
pressed forward with its mighty crest against its opponent with a force so
irresistible as to drive back Montreal's horse several paces: while
Adrian's lance, poised with exquisite skill, striking against the
Provencal's helmet, somewhat rudely diverted the Knight's attention for the
moment from his rein. Montreal, drawing the curb too tightly in the
suddenness of his recovery, the horse reared on end; and, receiving at that
instant, full upon his breastplate, the sharp horn and mailed crest of
Adrian's charger - fell back over its rider upon the sward. Montreal
disencumbered himself in great rage and shame, as a faint cry from his
pavilion reached his ear, and redoubled his mortification. He rose with a
lightness which astonished the beholders; for so heavy was the armour worn
at that day, that few knights once stretched upon the ground could rise
without assistance; and drawing his sword, cried out fiercely - "On foot,
on foot! - the fall was not mine, but this accursed beast's, that I must
needs for my sins raise to the rank of a charger. Come on - "
"Nay, Sir Knight," said Adrian, drawing off his gauntlets and unbuckling
his helmet, which he threw on the ground, "I come to thee a guest and a
friend; but to fight on foot is the encounter of mortal foes. Did I accept
thy offer, my defeat would but stain thy knighthood."
Montreal, whose passion had beguiled him for the moment, sullenly
acquiesced in this reasoning. Adrian hastened to soothe his antagonist.
"For the rest," said he, "I cannot pretend to the prize. Your lance lost
me my stirrups - mine left you unshaken. You say right; the defeat, if
any, was that of your steed."
"We may meet again when I am more equally horsed," said Montreal, still
"Now, our Lady forbid!" exclaimed Adrian, with so devout an earnestness
that the bystanders could not refrain from laughing; and even Montreal
grimly and half-reluctantly, joined in the merriment. The courtesy of his
foe, however, conciliated and touched the more frank and soldierly
qualities of his nature, and composing himself, he replied: -
"Signor di Castello, I rest your debtor for a courtesy that I have but
little imitated. Howbeit, if thou wouldst bind me to thee for ever, thou
wilt suffer me to send for my own charger, and afford me a chance to
retrieve mine honour. With that steed, or with one equal to thine, which
seems to me of the English breed, I will gage all I possess, lands, castle,
and gold, sword and spurs, to maintain this pass, one by one, against all
Fortunately, perhaps, for Adrian, ere he could reply, Riccardo Annibaldi
cried, with great warmth, "Sir Knight, I have with me two steeds well
practised in the tourney; take thy choice, and accept in me a champion of
the Roman against the French chivalry; - there is my gage."
"Signor," replied Montreal, with ill-suppressed delight, "thy proffer shows
so gallant and free a spirit, that it were foul sin in me to balk it. I
accept thy gage, and whichever of thy steeds thou rejectest, in God's name
bring it hither, and let us waste no words before action."
Adrian, who felt that hitherto the Romans had been more favoured by fortune
than merit, vainly endeavoured to prevent this second hazard. But
Annibaldi was greatly chafed, and his high rank rendered it impolitic in
Adrian to offend him by peremptory prohibition; the Colonna reluctantly,
therefore, yielded his assent to the engagement. Annibaldi's steeds were
led to the spot, the one a noble roan, the other a bay, of somewhat less
breeding and bone, but still of great strength and price. Montreal finding
the choice pressed upon him, gallantly selected the latter and less
Annibaldi was soon arrayed for the encounter, and Adrian gave the word to
the trumpeters. The Roman was of a stature almost equal to that of
Montreal, and though some years younger, seemed, in his armour, nearly of
the same thews and girth, so that the present antagonists appeared at the
first glance more evenly matched than the last. But this time Montreal,
well horsed, inspired to the utmost by shame and pride, felt himself a
match for an army; and he met the young Baron with such prowess, that while
the very plume on his casque seemed scarcely stirred, the Italian was
thrown several paces from his steed, and it was not till some moments after
his visor was removed by his squires that he recovered his senses. This
event restored Montreal to all his natural gaiety of humour, and
effectually raised the spirits of his followers, who had felt much humbled
by the previous encounter.
He himself assisted Annibaldi to rise with great courtesy, and a profusion
of compliments, which the proud Roman took in stern silence, and then led
the way to the pavilion, loudly ordering the banquet to be spread.
Annibaldi, however, loitered behind, and Adrian, who penetrated his
thoughts, and who saw that over their cups a quarrel between the Provencal
and his friend was likely to ensue, drawing him aside, said: - "Methinks,
dear Annibaldi, it would be better if you, with the chief of our following,
were to proceed onward to Fondi, where I will join you at sunset. My
squires, and some eight lances, will suffice for my safeguard here; and, to
say truth, I desire a few private words with our strange host, in the hope
that he may be peaceably induced to withdraw from hence without the help of
our Roman troops, who have enough elsewhere to feed their valour."
Annibaldi pressed his companion's hand: "I understand thee," he replied
with a slight blush, "and, indeed, I could but ill brook the complacent
triumph of the barbarian. I accept thy offer."
Chapter 3.III. The Conversation between the Roman and the Provencal -
Adeline's History - the Moonlit Sea - the Lute and the Song.
As soon as Annibaldi, with the greater part of the retinue, was gone,
Adrian, divesting himself of his heavy greaves, entered alone the pavilion
of the Knight of St. John. Montreal had already doffed all his armour,
save the breastplate, and he now stepped forward to welcome his guest with
the winning and easy grace which better suited his birth than his
profession. He received Adrian's excuses for the absence of Annibaldi and
the other knights of his train with a smile which seemed to prove how
readily he divined the cause, and conducted him to the other and more
private division of the pavilion in which the repast (rendered acceptable
by the late exercise of guest and host) was prepared; and here Adrian for
the first time discovered Adeline. Long inurement to the various and
roving life of her lover, joined to a certain pride which she derived from
conscious, though forfeited, rank, gave to the outward manner of that
beautiful lady an ease and freedom which often concealed, even from
Montreal, her sensitiveness to her unhappy situation. At times, indeed,
when alone with Montreal, whom she loved with all the devotion of romance,
she was sensible only to the charm of a presence which consoled her for all
things; but in his frequent absence, or on the admission of any stranger,
the illusion vanished - the reality returned. Poor lady! Nature had not
formed, education had not reared, habit had not reconciled, her to the
breath of shame!
The young Colonna was much struck by her beauty, and more by her gentle and
highborn grace. Like her lord she appeared younger than she was; time
seemed to spare a bloom which an experienced eye might have told was
destined to an early grave; and there was something almost girlish in the
lightness of her form - the braided luxuriance of her rich auburn hair, and
the colour that went and came, not only with every moment, but almost with
every word. The contrast between her and Montreal became them both - it
was the contrast of devoted reliance and protecting strength: each looked
fairer in the presence of the other: and as Adrian sate down to the well-
laden board, he thought he had never seen a pair more formed for the poetic
legends of their native Troubadours.
Montreal conversed gaily upon a thousand matters - pressed the wine flasks
- and selected for his guest the most delicate portions of the delicious
spicola of the neighbouring sea, and the rich flesh of the wild boar of the
"Tell me," said Montreal, as their hunger was now appeased - "tell me,
noble Adrian, how fares your kinsman, Signor Stephen? A brave old man for
"He bears him as the youngest of us," answered Adrian.
"Late events must have shocked him a little," said Montreal, with an arch
smile. "Ah, you look grave - yet commend my foresight; - I was the first
who prophesied to thy kinsman the rise of Cola di Rienzi; he seems a great
man - never more great than in conciliating the Colonna and the Orsini."
"The Tribune," returned Adrian, evasively, "is certainly a man of
extraordinary genius. And now, seeing him command, my only wonder is how
he ever brooked to obey - majesty seems a very part of him."
"Men who win power, easily put on its harness, dignity," answered Montreal;
"and if I hear aright - (pledge me to your lady's health) - the Tribune, if
not himself nobly born will soon be nobly connected."
"He is already married to a Raselli, an old Roman house," replied Adrian.
"You evade my pursuit, - Le doulx soupir! le doulx soupir! as the old
Cabestan has it" - said Montreal, laughing. "Well, you have pledged me one
cup to your lady, pledge another to the fair Irene, the Tribune's sister -
always provided they two are not one. - You smile and shake your head."
"I do not disguise from you, Sir Knight," answered Adrian, "that when my
present embassy is over, I trust the alliance between the Tribune and a
Colonna will go far towards the benefit of both."
"I have heard rightly, then," said Montreal, in a grave and thoughtful
tone. "Rienzi's power must, indeed, be great."
"Of that my mission is a proof. Are you aware, Signor de Montreal, that
Louis, King of Hungary - "
"How! what of him?"
"Has referred the decision of the feud between himself and Joanna of
Naples, respecting the death of her royal spouse, his brother, to the fiat
of the Tribune? This is the first time, methinks, since the death of
Constantine, that so great a confidence and so high a charge were ever
intrusted to a Roman!"
"By all the saints in the calendar," cried Montreal, crossing himself,
"this news is indeed amazing! The fierce Louis of Hungary waive the right
of the sword, and choose other umpire than the field of battle!"
"And this," continued Adrian, in a significant tone, "this it was which
induced me to obey your courteous summons. I know, brave Montreal, that
you hold intercourse with Louis. Louis has given to the Tribune the best
pledge of his amity and alliance; will you do wisely if you - "
"Wage war with the Hungarian's ally," interrupted Montreal. "This you were
about to add; the same thought crossed myself. My Lord, pardon me -
Italians sometimes invent what they wish. On the honour of a knight of the
Empire, these tidings are the naked truth?"
"By my honour, and on the Cross," answered Adrian, drawing himself up; "and
in proof thereof, I am now bound to Naples to settle with the Queen the
preliminaries of the appointed trial."
"Two crowned heads before the tribunal of a plebeian, and one a defendant
against the charge of murther!" muttered Montreal; "the news might well
He remained musing and silent a little while, till looking up, he caught
Adeline's tender gaze fixed upon him with that deep solicitude with which
she watched the outward effect of schemes and projects she was too soft to
desire to know, and too innocent to share.
"Lady mine," said the Provencal, fondly, "how sayest thou? must we abandon
our mountain castle, and these wild woodland scenes, for the dull walls of
a city? I fear me so. - The Lady Adeline," he continued, turning to
Adrian, "is of a singular bias; she hates the gay crowds of streets and
thoroughfares, and esteems no palace like the solitary outlaw's hold. Yet,
methinks, she might outshine all the faces of Italy, - thy mistress, Lord
Adrian, of course, excepted."
"It is an exception which only a lover, and that too a betrothed lover,
would dare to make," replied Adrian, gallantly.
"Nay," said Adeline, in a voice singularly sweet and clear, "nay, I know
well at what price to value my lord's flattery, and Signor di Castello's
courtesy. But you are bound, Sir Knight, to a court, that, if fame speak
true, boasts in its Queen the very miracle and mould of beauty."
"It is some years since I saw the Queen of Naples," answered Adrian; "and I
little dreamed then, when I gazed upon that angel face, that I should live
to hear her accused of the foulest murther that ever stained even Italian
"And, as if resolved to prove her guilt," said Montreal, "ere long be sure
she will marry the very man who did the deed. Of this I have certain
Thus conversing, the Knights wore away the daylight, and beheld from the
open tent the sun cast his setting glow over the purple sea. Adeline had
long retired from the board, and they now saw her seated with her handmaids
on a mound by the beach; while the sound of her lute faintly reached their
ears. As Montreal caught the air, he turned from the converse, and
sighing, half shaded his face with his hand. Somehow or other the two
Knights had worn away all the little jealousy or pique which they had
conceived against each other at Rome. Both imbued with the soldier-like
spirit of the age, their contest in the morning had served to inspire them
with that strange kind of respect, and even cordiality, which one brave man
even still (how much more at that day!) feels for another, whose courage he
has proved while vindicating his own. It is like the discovery of a
congenial sentiment hitherto latent; and, in a life of camps, often
establishes sudden and lasting friendship in the very lap of enmity. This
feeling had been ripened by their subsequent familiar intercourse, and was
increased on Adrian's side by the feeling, that in convincing Montreal of
the policy of withdrawing from the Roman territories, he had obtained an
advantage that well repaid whatever danger and delay he had undergone.
The sigh, and the altered manner of Montreal, did not escape Adrian, and he
naturally connected it with something relating to her whose music had been
its evident cause.
"Yon lovely dame," said he, gently, "touches the lute with an exquisite and
fairy hand, and that plaintive air seems to my ear as of the minstrelsy of
"It is the air I taught her," said Montreal, sadly, "married as it is to
indifferent words, with which I first wooed a heart that should never have
given itself to me! Ay, young Colonna, many a night has my boat been
moored beneath the starlit Sorgia that washes her proud father's halls, and
my voice awaked the stillness of the waving sedges with a soldier's
serenade. Sweet memories! bitter fruit!"
"Why bitter? ye love each other still."
"But I am vowed to celibacy, and Adeline de Courval is leman where she
should be wedded dame. Methinks I fret at that thought even more than she,
- dear Adeline!"
"Your lady, as all would guess, is then nobly born?"
"She is," answered Montreal, with a deep and evident feeling which, save in
love, rarely, if ever, crossed his hardy breast. "She is! our tale is a
brief one: - we loved each other as children: Her family was wealthier
than mine: We were separated. I was given to understand that she
abandoned me. I despaired, and in despair I took the cross of St. John.
Chance threw us again together. I learned that her love was undecayed.
Poor child! - she was even then, sir, but a child! I, wild, - reckless -
and not unskilled, perhaps, in the arts that woo and win. She could not
resist my suit or her own affection! - We fled. In those words you see the
thread of my after history. My sword and my Adeline were all my fortune.
Society frowned on us. The Church threatened my soul. The Grand Master my
life. I became a knight of fortune. Fate and my right hand favoured me.
I have made those who scorned me tremble at my name. That name shall yet
blaze, a star or a meteor, in the front of troubled nations, and I may yet
win by force from the Pontiff the dispensation refused to my prayers. On
the same day, I may offer Adeline the diadem and the ring. - Eno' of this;
- you marked Adeline's cheek! - Seems it not delicate? I like not that
changeful flush, - and she moves languidly, - her step that was so blithe!"
"Change of scene and the mild south will soon restore her health," said
Adrian; "and in your peculiar life she is so little brought in contact with
others, especially of her own sex, that I trust she is but seldom made
aware of whatever is painful in her situation. And woman's love, Montreal,
as we both have learned, is a robe that wraps her from many a storm!"
"You speak kindly," returned the Knight; "but you know not all our cause of
grief. Adeline's father, a proud sieur, died, - they said of a broken
heart, - but old men die of many another disease than that! The mother, a
dame who boasted her descent from princes, bore the matter more sternly
than the sire; clamoured for revenge, - which was odd, for she is as
religious as a Dominican, and revenge is not Christian in a woman, though
it is knightly in a man! - Well, my Lord, we had one boy, our only child;
he was Adeline's solace in my absence, - his pretty ways were worth the
world to her! She loved him so, that, but he had her eyes and looked like
her when he slept, I should have been jealous! He grew up in our wild
life, strong and comely; the young rogue, he would have been a brave
knight! My evil stars led me to Milan, where I had business with the
Visconti. One bright morning in June, our boy was stolen; verily that June
was like a December to us!"
"Stolen! - how? - by whom?"
"The first question is answered easily, - the boy was with his nurse in the
courtyard, the idle wench left him for but a minute or two - so she avers -
fetch him some childish toy; when she returned he was gone; not a trace
left, save his pretty cap with the plume in it! Poor Adeline, many a time
have I found her kissing that relic till it was wet with tears!"
"A strange fortune, in truth. But what interest could - "
"I will tell you," interrupted Montreal, "the only conjecture I could form;
- Adeline's mother, on learning we had a son, sent to Adeline a letter,
that well nigh broke her heart, reproaching her for her love to me, and so
forth, as if that had made her the vilest of the sex. She bade her take
compassion on her child, and not bring him up to a robber's life, - so was
she pleased to style the bold career of Walter de Montreal. She offered to
rear the child in her own dull halls, and fit him, no doubt, for a shaven
pate and a monk's cowl. She chafed much that a mother would not part with
her treasure! She alone, partly in revenge, partly in silly compassion for
Adeline's child, partly, it may be, from some pious fanaticism, could, it
so seemed to me, have robbed us of our boy. On inquiry, I learned from the
nurse - who, but that she was of the same sex as Adeline, should have
tasted my dagger, - that in their walks, a woman of advanced years, but
seemingly of humble rank, (that might be disguise!) had often stopped, and
caressed and admired the child. I repaired at once to France, sought the
old Castle of De Courval; - it had passed to the next heir, and the old
widow was go on, none knew whither, but, it was conjectured, to take the
veil in some remote convent."
"And you never saw her since?"
"Yes, at Rome," answered Montreal, turning pale; "when last there I chanced
suddenly upon her; and then at length I learned my boy's fate, and the
truth of my own surmise; she confessed to the theft - and my child was
dead! I have not dared to tell Adeline of this; it seems to me as if it
would be like plucking the shaft from the wounded side - and she would die
at once, bereft of the uncertainty that rankles within her. She has still
a hope - it comforts her; though my heart bleeds when I think on its
vanity. Let this pass, my Colonna."
And Montreal started to his feet as if he strove, by a strong effort, to
shake off the weakness that had crept over him in his narration.
"Think no more of it. Life is short - its thorns are many - let us not
neglect any of its flowers. This is piety and wisdom too; Nature that
meant me to struggle and to toil, gave me, happily, the sanguine heart and
the elastic soul of France; and I have lived long enough to own that to die
young is not an evil. Come, Lord Adrian, let us join my lady ere you part,
if part you must; the moon will be up soon, and Fondi is but a short
journey hence. You know that though I admire not your Petrarch, you with
more courtesy laud our Provencal ballads, and you must hear Adeline sing
one that you may prize them the more. The race of the Troubadours is dead,
but the minstrelsy survives the minstrel!"
Adrian, who scarce knew what comfort to administer to the affliction of his
companion, was somewhat relieved by the change in his mood, though his more
grave and sensitive nature was a little startled at its suddenness. But,
as we have before seen, Montreal's spirit (and this made perhaps its
fascination) was as a varying and changeful sky; the gayest sunshine, and
the fiercest storm swept over it in rapid alternation; and elements of
singular might and grandeur, which, properly directed and concentrated,
would have made him the blessing and glory of his time, were wielded with a
boyish levity, roused into war and desolation, or lulled into repose and
smoothness, with all the suddenness of chance, and all the fickleness of
Sauntering down to the beach, the music of Adeline's lute sounded more
distinctly in their ears, and involuntarily they hushed their steps upon
the rich and odorous turf, as in a voice, though not powerful, marvellously
sweet and clear, and well adapted to the simple fashion of the words and
melody, she sang the following stanzas: -
Lay of the Lady of Provence.
Ah, why art thou sad, my heart? Why
Darksome and lonely?
Frowns the face of the happy sky
Over thee only?
Ah me, ah me!
Render to joy the earth!
Grief shuns, not envies, Mirth;
But leave one quiet spot,
Where Mirth may enter not,
To sigh, Ah, me! -
As a bird, though the sky be clear,
Feels the storm lower;
My soul bodes the tempest near,
In the sunny hour;
Ah me, ah me!
Be glad while yet we may!
I bid thee, my heart, be gay;
And still I know not why, -
Thou answerest with a sigh,
(Fond heart!) Ah me! -
As this twilight o'er the skies,
Doubt brings the sorrow;
Who knows when the daylight dies,
What waits the morrow?
Ah me, ah me!
Be blithe, be blithe, my lute,
Thy strings will soon be mute;
Be blithe - hark! while it dies,
The note forewarning, sighs
Its last - Ah me!
"My own Adeline - my sweetest night-bird," half-whispered Montreal, and
softly approaching, he threw himself at his lady's feet - "thy song is too
sad for this golden eve."
"No sound ever went to the heart," said Adrian, "whose arrow was not
feathered by sadness. True sentiment, Montreal, is twin with melancholy,
though not with gloom."
The lady looked softly and approvingly up at Adrian's face; she was pleased
with its expression; she was pleased yet more with words of which women
rather than men would acknowledge the truth. Adrian returned the look with
one of deep and eloquent sympathy and respect; in fact, the short story he
had heard from Montreal had interested him deeply in her; and never to the
brilliant queen, to whose court he was bound, did his manner wear so
chivalric and earnest a homage as it did to that lone and ill-fated lady on
the twilight shores of Terracina.
Adeline blushed slightly and sighed; and then, to break the awkwardness of
a pause which had stolen over them, as Montreal, unheeding the last remark
of Adrian, was tuning the strings of the lute, she said - "Of course the
Signor di Castello shares the universal enthusiasm for Petrarch?"
"Ay," cried Montreal; "my lady is Petrarch mad, like the rest of them: but
all I know is, that never did belted knight and honest lover woo in such
fantastic and tortured strains."
"In Italy," answered Adrian, "common language is exaggeration; - but even
your own Troubadour poetry might tell you that love, ever seeking a new
language of its own, cannot but often run into what to all but lovers seems
distortion and conceit."
"Come, dear Signor," said Montreal, placing the lute in Adrian's hands,
"let Adeline be the umpire between us, which music - yours or mine - can
woo the more blandly."
"Ah," said Adrian, laughing; "I fear me, Sir Knight, you have already
bribed the umpire."
Montreal's eyes and Adeline's met; and in that gaze Adeline forgot all her
With a practised and skilful hand, Adrian touched the strings; and
selecting a song which was less elaborate than those mostly in vogue
amongst his countrymen, though still conceived in the Italian spirit, and
in accordance with the sentiment he had previously expressed to Adeline, he
sang as follows: -
Love's Excuse for Sadness.
Chide not, beloved, if oft with thee
I feel not rapture wholly;
For aye the heart that's fill'd with love,
Runs o'er in melancholy.
To streams that glide in noon, the shade
From summer skies is given;
So, if my breast reflects the cloud,
'Tis but the cloud of heaven!
Thine image glass'd within my soul
So well the mirror keepeth;
That, chide me not, if with the light
The shadow also sleepeth.
"And now," said Adrian, as he concluded, "the lute is to you: I but
preclude your prize."
The Provencal laughed, and shook his head. - "With any other umpire, I had
had my lute broken on my own head, for my conceit in provoking such a
rival; but I must not shrink from a contest I have myself provoked, even
though in one day twice defeated." And with that, in a deep and
exquisitely melodious voice, which wanted only more scientific culture to
have challenged any competition, the Knight of St. John poured forth
The Lay of the Troubadour.
Gentle river, the moonbeam is hush'd on thy tide,
On thy pathway of light to my lady I glide.
My boat, where the stream laves the castle, I moor, -
All at rest save the maid and her young Troubadour!
As the stars to the waters that bore
My bark, to my spirit thou art;
Heaving yet, see it bound to the shore,
So moor'd to thy beauty my heart, -
Bel' amie, bel' amie, bel' amie!
Wilt thou fly from the world? It hath wealth for the vain;
But Love breaks his bond when there's gold in the chain;
Wilt thou fly from the world? It hath courts for the proud; -
But Love, born in caves, pines to death in the crowd.
Were this bosom thy world, dearest one,
Thy world could not fail to be bright;
For thou shouldst thyself be its sun,
And what spot could be dim in thy light -
Bel' amie, bel' amie, bel' amie?
The rich and the great woo thee dearest; and poor,
Though his fathers were princes, thy young Troubadour!
But his heart never quail'd save to thee, his adored, -
There's no guile in his lute, and no stain on his sword.
Ah, I reck not what sorrows I know,
Could I still on thy solace confide;
And I care not, though earth be my foe,
If thy soft heart be found by my side, -
Bel' amie, bel' amie, bel' amie!
The maiden she blush'd, and the maiden she sighed,
Not a cloud in the sky, not a gale on the tide;
But though tempest had raged on the wave and the wind,
That castle, methinks, had been still left behind!
Sweet lily, though bow'd by the blast,
(To this bosom transplanted) since then,
Wouldst thou change, could we call the past,
To the rock from thy garden again -
Bel' amie, bel' amie, bel' amie?
Thus they alternated the time with converse and song, as the wooded hills
threw their sharp, long shadows over the sea; while from many a mound of
waking flowers, and many a copse of citron and orange, relieved by the dark
and solemn aloe, stole the summer breeze, laden with mingled odours; and,
over the seas, coloured by the slow-fading hues of purple and rose, that
the sun had long bequeathed to the twilight, flitted the gay fireflies that
sparkle along that enchanted coast. At length, the moon slowly rose above
the dark forest-steeps, gleaming on the gay pavilion and glittering pennon
of Montreal, - on the verdant sward, - the polished mail of the soldiers,
stretched on the grass in various groups, half-shaded by oaks and cypress,
and the war-steeds grazing peaceably together - a wild mixture of the
Pastoral and the Iron time.
Adrian, reluctantly reminded of his journey, rose to depart.
"I fear," said he to Adeline, "that I have already detained you too late in
the night air: but selfishness is little considerate."
"Nay, you see we are prudent," said Adeline, pointing to Montreal's mantle,
which his provident hand had long since drawn around her form; "but if you
must part, farewell, and success attend you!"
"We may meet again, I trust," said Adrian.
Adeline sighed gently; and the Colonna, gazing on her face by the
moonlight, to which it was slightly raised, was painfully struck by its
almost transparent delicacy. Moved by his compassion, ere he mounted his
steed, he drew Montreal aside, - "Forgive me if I seem presumptuous," said
he; "but to one so noble this wild life is scarce a fitting career. I know
that, in our time, War consecrates all his children; but surely a settled
rank in the court of the Emperor, or an honourable reconciliation with your
knightly brethren, were better - "
"Than a Tartar camp, and a brigand's castle," interrupted Montreal, with
some impatience. "This you were about to say - you are mistaken. Society
thrust me from her bosom; let society take the fruit it hath sown. 'A
fixed rank,' say you? some subaltern office, to fight at other men's
command! You know me not: Walter de Montreal was not formed to obey. War
when I will, and rest when I list, is the motto of my escutcheon. Ambition
proffers me rewards you wot not of; and I am of the mould as of the race of
those whose swords have conquered thrones. For the rest, your news of the
alliance of Louis of Hungary with your Tribune makes it necessary for the
friend of Louis to withdraw from all feud with Rome. Ere the week expire,
the owl and the bat may seek refuge in yon grey turrets."
"But your lady?"
"Is inured to change. - God help her, and temper the rough wind to the
"Enough, Sir Knight: but should you desire a sure refuge at Rome for one
so gentle and so highborn, by the right hand of a knight, I promise a safe
roof and an honoured home to the Lady Adeline."
Montreal pressed the offered hand to his heart; then plucking his own
hastily away, drew it across his eyes, and joined Adeline, in a silence
that showed he dared not trust himself to speak. In a few moments Adrian
and his train were on the march; but still the young Colonna turned back,
to gaze once more on his wild host and that lovely lady, as they themselves
lingered on the moonlit sward, while the sea rippled mournfully on their
It was not many months after that date, that the name of Fra Monreale
scattered terror and dismay throughout the fair Campania. The right hand
of the Hungarian king, in his invasion of Naples, he was chosen afterwards
vicar (or vice-gerent) of Louis in Aversa; and fame and fate seemed to lead
him triumphantly along that ambitious career which he had elected, whether
bounded by the scaffold or the throne.
BOOK IV. THE TRIUMPH AND THE POMP.
"Allora fama e paura di si buono reggimento, passa in ogni terra." - "Vita
di Cola di Rienzi", lib. i. cap. 21.
"Then the fame and the fear of that so good government passed into every
land." - "Life of Cola di Rienzi".
Chapter 4.I. The Boy Angelo - the Dream of Nina Fulfilled.
The thread of my story transports us back to Rome. It was in a small
chamber, in a ruinous mansion by the base of Mount Aventine, that a young
boy sate, one evening, with a woman of a tall and stately form, but
somewhat bowed both by infirmity and years. The boy was of a fair and
comely presence; and there was that in his bold, frank, undaunted carriage,
which made him appear older than he was.
The old woman, seated in the recess of the deep window, was apparently
occupied with a Bible that lay open on her knees; but ever and anon she
lifted her eyes, and gazed on her young companion with a sad and anxious
"Dame," said the boy, who was busily employed in hewing out a sword of
wood, "I would you had seen the show today. Why, every day is a show at
Rome now! It is show enough to see the Tribune himself on his white steed
- (oh, it is so beautiful!) - with his white robes all studded with jewels.
But today, as I have just been telling you, the Lady Nina took notice of
me, as I stood on the stairs of the Capitol: you know, dame, I had donned
my best blue velvet doublet."
"And she called you a fair boy, and asked if you would be her little page;
and this has turned thy brain, silly urchin that thou art - "
"But the words are the least: if you saw the Lady Nina, you would own that
a smile from her might turn the wisest head in Italy. Oh, how I should
like to serve the Tribune! All the lads of my age are mad for him. How
they will stare, and envy me at school tomorrow! You know too, dame, that
though I was not always brought up at Rome, I am Roman. Every Roman loves
"Ay, for the hour: the cry will soon change. This vanity of thine,
Angelo, vexes my old heart. I would thou wert humbler."
"Bastards have their own name to win," said the boy, colouring deeply.
"They twit me in the teeth, because I cannot say who my father and mother
"They need not," returned the dame, hastily. "Thou comest of noble blood
and long descent, though, as I have told thee often, I know not the exact
names of thy parents. But what art thou shaping that tough sapling of oak
"A sword, dame, to assist the Tribune against the robbers."
"Alas! I fear me, like all those who seek power in Italy, he is more
likely to enlist robbers than to assail them."
"Why, la you there, you live so shut up, that you know and hear nothing, or
you would have learned that even that fiercest of all the robbers, Fra
Moreale, has at length yielded to the Tribune, and fled from his castle,
like a rat from a falling house."
"How, how!" cried the dame; "what say you? Has this plebeian, whom you
call the Tribune - has he boldly thrown the gage to that dread warrior? and
has Montreal left the Roman territory?"
"Ay, it is the talk of the town. But Fra Moreale seems as much a bugbear
to you as to e'er a mother in Rome. Did he ever wrong you, dame?"
"Yes!" exclaimed the old woman, with so abrupt a fierceness, that even that
hardy boy was startled.
"I wish I could meet him, then," said he, after a pause, as he flourished
his mimic weapon.
"Now Heaven forbid! He is a man ever to be shunned by thee, whether for
peace or war. Say again this good Tribune holds no terms with the Free
"Say it again - why all Rome knows it."
"He is pious, too, I have heard; and they do bruit it that he sees visions,
and is comforted from above," said the woman, speaking to herself. Then
turning to Angelo, she continued, - "Thou wouldst like greatly to accept
the Lady Nina's proffer?"
"Ah, that I should, dame, if you could spare me."
"Child," replied the matron, solemnly, "my sand is nearly run, and my wish
is to see thee placed with one who will nurture thy young years, and save
thee from a life of licence. That done, I may fulfil my vow, and devote
the desolate remnant of my years to God. I will think more of this, my
child. Not under such a plebeian's roof shouldst thou have lodged, nor
from a stranger's board been fed: but at Rome, my last relative worthy of
the trust is dead; - and at the worst, obscure honesty is better than gaudy
crime. Thy spirit troubles me already. Back, my child; I must to my
closet, and watch and pray."
Thus saying, the old woman, repelling the advance, and silencing the
muttered and confused words, of the boy - half affectionate as they were,
yet half tetchy and wayward - glided from the chamber.
The boy looked abstractedly at the closing door, and then said to himself -
"The dame is always talking riddles: I wonder if she know more of me than
she tells, or if she is any way akin to me. I hope not, for I don't love
her much; nor, for that matter, anything else. I wish she would place me
with the Tribune's lady, and then we'll see who among the lads will call
Angelo Villani bastard."
With that the boy fell to work again at his sword with redoubled vigour.
In fact, the cold manner of this female, his sole nurse, companion,
substitute for parent, had repelled his affections without subduing his
temper; and though not originally of evil disposition, Angelo Villani was
already insolent, cunning, and revengeful; but not, on the other hand,
without a quick susceptibility to kindness as to affront, a natural
acuteness of understanding, and a great indifference to fear. Brought up
in quiet affluence rather than luxury, and living much with his protector,
whom he knew but by the name of Ursula, his bearing was graceful, and his
air that of the well-born. And it was his carriage, perhaps, rather than
his countenance, which, though handsome, was more distinguished for
intelligence than beauty, which had attracted the notice of the Tribune's
bride. His education was that of one reared for some scholastic
profession. He was not only taught to read and write, but had been even
instructed in the rudiments of Latin. He did not, however, incline to
these studies half so fondly as to the games of his companions, or the
shows or riots in the street, into all of which he managed to thrust
himself, and from which he had always the happy dexterity to return safe
The next morning Ursula entered the young Angelo's chamber. "Wear again
thy blue doublet today," said she; "I would have thee look thy best. Thou
shalt go with me to the palace."
"What, today?" cried the boy joyfully, half leaping from his bed. "Dear
dame Ursula, shall I really then belong to the train of the great Tribune's
"Yes; and leave the old woman to die alone! Your joy becomes you, - but
ingratitude is in your blood. Ingratitude! Oh, it has burned my heart
into ashes - and yours, boy, can no longer find a fuel in the dry crumbling
"Dear dame, you are always so biting. You know you said you wished to
retire into a convent, and I was too troublesome a charge for you. But you
delight in rebuking me, justly or unjustly."
"My task is over," said Ursula, with a deep-drawn sigh.
The boy answered not; and the old woman retired with a heavy step, and, it
may be, a heavier heart. When he joined her in their common apartment, he
observed what his joy had previously blinded him to - that Ursula did not
wear her usual plain and sober dress. The gold chain, rarely assumed then
by women not of noble birth - though, in the other sex, affected also by
public functionaries and wealthy merchants - glittered upon a robe of the
rich flowered stuffs of Venice, and the clasps that confined the vest at
the throat and waist were adorned with jewels of no common price.
Angelo's eye was struck by the change, but he felt a more manly pride in
remarking that the old lady became it well. Her air and mien were indeed
those of one to whom such garments were habitual; and they seemed that day
more than usually austere and stately.
She smoothed the boy's ringlets, drew his short mantle more gracefully over
his shoulder, and then placed in his belt a poniard whose handle was richly
studded, and a purse well filled with florins.
"Learn to use both discreetly," said she; "and, whether I live or die, you
will never require to wield the poniard to procure the gold."
"This, then," cried Angelo, enchanted, "is a real poniard to fight the
robbers with! Ah, with this I should not fear Fra Moreale, who wronged
thee so. I trust I may yet avenge thee, though thou didst rate me so just
now for ingratitude."
"I am avenged. Nourish not such thoughts, my son, they are sinful; at
least I fear so. Draw to the board and eat; we will go betimes, as
petitioners should do."
Angelo had soon finished his morning meal, and sallying with Ursula to the
porch, he saw, to his surprise, four of those servitors who then usually
attended persons of distinction, and who were to be hired in every city,
for the convenience of strangers or the holyday ostentation of the gayer
"How grand we are today!" said he, clapping his hands with an eagerness
which Ursula failed not to reprove.
"It is not for vain show," she added, "which true nobility can well
dispense with, but that we may the more readily gain admittance to the
palace. These princes of yesterday are not easy of audience to the over
"Oh! but you are wrong this time," said the boy. "The Tribune gives
audience to all men, the poorest as the richest. Nay, there is not a
ragged boor, or a bare-footed friar, who does not win access to him sooner
than the proudest baron. That's why the people love him so. And he
devotes one day of the week to receiving the widows and the orphans; - and
you know, dame, I am an orphan."
Ursula, already occupied with her own thoughts, did not answer, and
scarcely heard, the boy; but leaning on his young arm, and preceded by the
footmen to clear the way, passed slowly towards the palace of the Capitol.
A wonderful thing would it have been to a more observant eye, to note the
change which two or three short months of the stern but salutary and wise
rule of the Tribune had effected in the streets of Rome. You no longer
beheld the gaunt and mail-clad forms of foreign mercenaries stalking
through the vistas, or grouped in lazy insolence before the embattled
porches of some gloomy palace. The shops, that in many quarters had been
closed for years, were again open, glittering with wares and bustling with
trade. The thoroughfares, formerly either silent as death, or crossed by
some affrighted and solitary passenger with quick steps, and eyes that
searched every corner, - or resounding with the roar of a pauper rabble, or
the open feuds of savage nobles, now exhibited the regular, and wholesome,
and mingled streams of civilized life, whether bound to pleasure or to
commerce. Carts and waggons laden with goods which had passed in safety by
the dismantled holds of the robbers of the Campagna, rattled cheerfully
over the pathways. "Never, perhaps," - to use the translation adapted from
the Italian authorities, by a modern and by no means a partial historian
(Gibbon.) - "Never, perhaps, has the energy and effect of a single mind
been more remarkably felt than in the sudden reformation of Rome by the
Tribune Rienzi. A den of robbers was converted to the discipline of a camp
or convent. 'In this time,' says the historian, ("Vita di Cola di Rienzi",
lib. i. c. 9.) 'did the woods begin to rejoice that they were no longer
infested with robbers; the oxen began to plough; the pilgrims visited the
sanctuaries; (Gibbon: the words in the original are "li pellegrini
cominciaro a fere la cerca per la santuaria.") the roads and inns were
replenished with travellers: trade, plenty, and good faith, were restored
in the markets; and a purse of gold might be exposed without danger in the
midst of the highways.'"
Amidst all these evidences of comfort and security to the people - some
dark and discontented countenances might be seen mingled in the crowd, and
whenever one who wore the livery of the Colonna or the Orsini felt himself
jostled by the throng, a fierce hand moved involuntarily to the sword-belt,
and a half-suppressed oath was ended with an indignant sigh. Here and
there too, - contrasting the redecorated, refurnished, and smiling shops -
heaps of rubbish before the gate of some haughty mansion testified the
abasement of fortifications which the owner impotently resented as a
sacrilege. Through such streets and such throngs did the party we
accompany wend their way, till they found themselves amidst crowds
assembled before the entrance of the Capitol. The officers there stationed
kept, however, so discreet and dexterous an order, that they were not long
detained; and now in the broad place or court of that memorable building,
they saw the open doors of the great justice-hall, guarded but by a single
sentinel, and in which, for six hours daily, did the Tribune hold his
court, for "patient to hear, swift to redress, inexorable to punish, his
tribunal was always accessible to the poor and stranger." (Gibbon.)
Not, however, to that hall did the party bend its way, but to the entrance
which admitted to the private apartments of the palace. And here the pomp,
the gaud, the more than regal magnificence, of the residence of the
Tribune, strongly contrasted the patriarchal simplicity which marked his
Even Ursula, not unaccustomed, of yore, to the luxurious state of Italian
and French principalities, seemed roused into surprise at the hall crowded
with retainers in costly liveries, the marble and gilded columns wreathed
with flowers, and the gorgeous banners wrought with the blended arms of the
Republican City and the Pontifical See, which blazed aloft and around.
Scarce knowing whom to address in such an assemblage, Ursula was relieved
from her perplexity by an officer attired in a suit of crimson and gold,
who, with a grave and formal decorum, which indeed reigned throughout the
whole retinue, demanded, respectfully, whom she sought? "The Signora
Nina!" replied Ursula, drawing up her stately person, with a natural,
though somewhat antiquated, dignity. There was something foreign in the
accent, which influenced the officer's answer.
"Today, madam, I fear that the Signora receives only the Roman ladies.
Tomorrow is that appointed for all foreign dames of distinction."
Ursula, with a slight impatience of tone, replied -
"My business is of that nature which is welcome on any day, at palaces. I
come, Signor, to lay certain presents at the Signora's feet, which I trust
she will deign to accept."
"And say, Signor," added the boy, abruptly, "that Angelo Villani, whom the
Lady Nina honoured yesterday with her notice, is no stranger but a Roman;
and comes, as she bade him, to proffer to the Signora his homage and
The grave officer could not refrain a smile at the pert, yet not
ungraceful, boldness of the boy.
"I remember me, Master Angelo Villani," he replied, "that the Lady Nina
spoke to you by the great staircase. Madam, I will do your errand. Please
to follow me to an apartment more fitting your sex and seeming."
With that the officer led the way across the hall to a broad staircase of
white marble, along the centre of which were laid those rich Eastern
carpets which at that day, when rushes strewed the chambers of an English
monarch, were already common to the greater luxury of Italian palaces.
Opening a door at the first flight, he ushered Ursula and her young charge
into a lofty ante-chamber, hung with arras of wrought velvets; while over
the opposite door, through which the officer now vanished, were blazoned
the armorial bearings which the Tribune so constantly introduced in all his
pomp, not more from the love of show, than from his politic desire to
mingle with the keys of the Pontiff the heraldic insignia of the Republic.
"Philip of Valois is not housed like this man!" muttered Ursula. "If this
last, I shall have done better for my charge than I recked of."
The officer soon returned, and led them across an apartment of vast extent,
which was indeed the great reception chamber of the palace. Four-and-
twenty columns of the Oriental alabaster which had attested the spoils of
the later emperors, and had been disinterred from forgotten ruins, to grace
the palace of the Reviver of the old Republic, supported the light roof,
which, half Gothic, half classic, in its architecture, was inlaid with
gilded and purple mosaics. The tesselated floor was covered in the centre
with cloth of gold, the walls were clothed, at intervals, with the same
gorgeous hangings, relieved by panels freshly painted in the most glowing
colours, with mystic and symbolical designs. At the upper end of this
royal chamber, two steps ascended to the place of the Tribune's throne,
above which was the canopy wrought with the eternal armorial bearings of
the Pontiff and the City.
Traversing this apartment, the officer opened the door at its extremity,
which admitted to a small chamber, crowded with pages in rich dresses of
silver and blue velvet. There were few amongst them elder than Angelo;
and, from their general beauty, they seemed the very flower and blossom of
Short time had Angelo to gaze on his comrades that were to be: - another
minute, and he and his protectress were in the presence of the Tribune's
The chamber was not large - but it was large enough to prove that the
beautiful daughter of Raselli had realised her visions of vanity and
It was an apartment that mocked description - it seemed a cabinet for the
gems of the world. The daylight, shaded by high and deep-set casements of
stained glass, streamed in a purple and mellow hue over all that the art of
that day boasted most precious, or regal luxury held most dear. The
candelabras of the silver workmanship of Florence; the carpets and stuffs
of the East; the draperies of Venice and Genoa; paintings like the
illuminated missals, wrought in gold, and those lost colours of blue and
crimson; antique marbles, which spoke of the bright days of Athens; tables
of disinterred mosaics, their freshness preserved as by magic; censers of
gold that steamed with the odours of Araby, yet so subdued as not to deaden
the healthier scent of flowers, which blushed in every corner from their
marble and alabaster vases; a small and spirit-like fountain, which seemed
to gush from among wreaths of roses, diffusing in its diamond and fairy
spray, a scarce felt coolness to the air; - all these, and such as these,
which it were vain work to detail, congregated in the richest luxuriance,
harmonised with the most exquisite taste, uniting the ancient arts with the
modern, amazed and intoxicated the sense of the beholder. It was not so
much the cost, nor the luxury, that made the character of the chamber; it
was a certain gorgeous and almost sublime phantasy, - so that it seemed
rather the fabled retreat of an enchantress, at whose word genii ransacked
the earth, and fairies arranged the produce, than the grosser splendour of
an earthly queen. Behind the piled cushions upon which Nina half reclined,
stood four girls, beautiful as nymphs, with fans of the rarest feathers,
and at her feet lay one older than the rest, whose lute, though now silent,
attested her legitimate occupation.
But, had the room in itself seemed somewhat too fantastic and overcharged
in its prodigal ornaments, the form and face of Nina would at once have
rendered all appropriate; so completely did she seem the natural Spirit of
the Place; so wonderfully did her beauty, elated as it now was with
contented love, gratified vanity, exultant hope, body forth the brightest
vision that ever floated before the eyes of Tasso, when he wrought into one
immortal shape the glory of the Enchantress with the allurements of the
Nina half rose as she saw Ursula, whose sedate and mournful features
involuntarily testified her surprise and admiration at a loveliness so rare
and striking, but who, undazzled by the splendour around, soon recovered
her wonted self-composure, and seated herself on the cushion to which Nina
pointed, while the young visitor remained standing, and spell-bound by
childish wonder, in the centre of the apartment. Nina recognised him with
"Ah, my pretty boy, whose quick eye and bold air caught my fancy yesterday!
Have you come to accept my offer? Is it you, madam, who claim this fair
"Lady," replied Ursula, "my business here is brief: by a train of events,
needless to weary you with narrating, this boy from his infancy fell to my
charge - a weighty and anxious trust to one whose thoughts are beyond the
barrier of life. I have reared him as became a youth of gentle blood; for
on both sides, lady, he is noble, though an orphan, motherless and
"Poor child!" said Nina, compassionately.
"Growing now," continued Ursula, "oppressed by years, and desirous only to
make my peace with Heaven, I journeyed hither some months since, in the
design to place the boy with a relation of mine; and, that trust fulfilled,
to take the vows in the City of the Apostle. Alas! I found my kinsman
dead, and a baron of wild and dissolute character was his heir. Here
remaining, perplexed and anxious, it seemed to me the voice of Providence
when, yester-evening, the child told me you had been pleased to honour him
with your notice. Like the rest of Rome, he has already learned enthusiasm
for the Tribune - devotion to the Tribune's bride. Will you, in truth,
admit him of your household? He will not dishonour your protection by his
blood, nor, I trust, by his bearing."
"I would take his face for his guarantee, madam, even without so
distinguished a recommendation as your own. Is he Roman? His name then
must be known to me."
"Pardon me, lady," replied Ursula: "He bears the name of Angelo Villani -
not that of his sire or mother. The honour of a noble house for ever
condemns his parentage to rest unknown. He is the offspring of a love
unsanctioned by the church."
"He is the more to be loved, then, and to be pitied - victim of sin not his
own!" answered Nina, with moistened eyes, as she saw the deep and burning
blush that covered the boy's cheeks. "With the Tribune's reign commences a
new era of nobility, when rank and knighthood shall be won by a man's own
merit - not that of his ancestors. Fear not, madam: in my house he shall
know no slight."
Ursula was moved from her pride by the kindness of Nina: she approached
with involuntary reverence, and kissed the Signora's hand -
"May our Lady reward your noble heart!" said she: "and now my mission is
ended, and my earthly goal is won. Add only, lady, to your inestimable
favours one more. These jewels" - and Ursula drew from her robe a casket,
touched the spring, and the lid flying back, discovered jewels of great
size and the most brilliant water, - "these jewels," she continued, laying
the casket at Nina's feet, "once belonging to the princely house of
Thoulouse, are valueless to me and mine. Suffer me to think that they are
transferred to one whose queenly brow will give them a lustre it cannot
"How!" said Nina, colouring very deeply; "think you, madam, my kindness can
be bought? What woman's kindness ever was? Nay, nay - take back the
gifts, or I shall pray you to take back your boy."
Ursula was astonished and confounded: to her experience such abstinence
was a novelty, and she scarcely knew how to meet it. Nina perceived her
embarrassment with a haughty and triumphant smile, and then, regaining her
former courtesy of demeanour, said, with a grave sweetness -
"The Tribune's hands are clean, - the Tribune's wife must not be suspected.
Rather, madam, should I press upon you some token of exchange for the fair
charge you have committed to me. Your jewels hereafter may profit the boy
in his career: reserve them for one who needs them."
"No, lady," said Ursula, rising and lifting her eyes to heaven; - "they
shall buy masses for his mother's soul; for him I shall reserve a
competence when his years require it. Lady, accept the thanks of a
wretched and desolate heart. Fare you well!"
She turned to quit the room, but with so faltering and weak a step, that
Nina, touched and affected, sprung up, and with her own hand guided the old
woman across the room, whispering comfort and soothing to her; while, as
they reached the door, the boy rushed forward, and, clasping Ursula's robe,
sobbed out - "Dear dame, not one farewell for your little Angelo! Forgive
him all he has cost you! Now, for the first time, I feel how wayward and
thankless I have been."
The old woman caught him in her arms, and kissed him passionately; when the
boy, as if a thought suddenly struck him, drew forth the purse she had
given him and said, in a choked and scarce articulate voice, - "And let
this, dearest dame, go in masses for my poor father's soul; for he is dead,
too, you know!"
These words seemed to freeze at once all the tenderer emotions of Ursula.
She put back the boy with the same chilling and stern severity of aspect
and manner which had so often before repressed him: and recovering her
self-possession, at once quitted the apartment without saying another word.
Nina, surprised, but still pitying her sorrow and respecting her age,
followed her steps across the pages' ante-room and the reception-chamber,
even to the foot of the stairs, - a condescension the haughtiest princess
of Rome could not have won from her; and returning, saddened and
thoughtful, she took the boy's hand, and affectionately kissed his
"Poor boy!" she said, "it seems as if Providence had made me select thee
yesterday from the crowd, and thus conducted thee to thy proper refuge.
For to whom should come the friendless and the orphans of Rome, but to the
palace of Rome's first Magistrate?" Turning then to her attendants, she
gave them instructions as to the personal comforts of her new charge, which
evinced that if power had ministered to her vanity, it had not steeled her
heart. Angelo Villani lived to repay her well!
She retained the boy in her presence, and conversing with him familiarly,
she was more and more pleased with his bold spirit and frank manner. Their
conversation was however interrupted, as the day advanced, by the arrival
of several ladies of the Roman nobility. And then it was that Nina's
virtues receded into shade, and her faults appeared. She could not resist
the woman's triumph over those arrogant signoras who now cringed in homage
where they had once slighted with disdain. She affected the manner of, she
demanded the respect due to, a queen. And by many of those dexterous arts
which the sex know so well, she contrived to render her very courtesy a
humiliation to her haughty guests. Her commanding beauty and her graceful
intellect saved her, indeed, from the vulgar insolence of the upstart; but
yet more keenly stung the pride, by forbidding to those she mortified the
retaliation of contempt. Hers were the covert taunt - the smiling affront
- the sarcasm in the mask of compliment - the careless exaction of respect
in trifles, which could not outwardly be resented, but which could not inly
"Fair day to the Signora Colonna," said she to the proud wife of the proud
Stephen; "we passed your palace yesterday. How fair it now seems, relieved
from those gloomy battlements which it must often have saddened you to gaze
upon. Signora, (turning to one of the Orsini), your lord has high favour
with the Tribune, who destines him to great command. His fortunes are
secured, and we rejoice at it; for no man more loyally serves the state.
Have you seen, fair Lady of Frangipani, the last verses of Petrarch in
honour of my lord? - they rest yonder. May we so far venture as to request
you to point out their beauties to the Signora di Savelli? We rejoice,
noble Lady of Malatesta, to observe that your eyesight is so well restored.
The last time we met, though we stood next to you in the revels of the Lady
Giulia, you seemed scarce to distinguish us from the pillar by which we
"Must this insolence be endured!" whispered the Signora Frangipani to the
"Hush, hush; if ever it be our day again!"
Chapter 4.II. The Blessing of A Councillor Whose Interests and Heart Are
Our Own. - the Straws Thrown Upward, - Do They Portend A Storm.
It was later that day than usual, when Rienzi returned from his tribunal to
the apartments of the palace. As he traversed the reception hall, his
countenance was much flushed; his teeth were set firmly, like a man who has
taken a strong resolution from which he will not be moved; and his brow was
dark with that settled and fearful frown which the describers of his
personal appearance have not failed to notice as the characteristic of an
anger the more deadly because invariably just. Close as his heels followed
the Bishop of Orvietto and the aged Stephen Colonna. "I tell you, my
Lords," said Rienzi, "that ye plead in vain. Rome knows no distinction
between ranks. The law is blind to the agent - lynx-eyed to the deed."
"Yet," said Raimond, hesitatingly, "bethink thee, Tribune; the nephew of
two cardinals, and himself once a senator."
Rienzi halted abruptly, and faced his companions. "My Lord Bishop," said
he, "does not this make the crime more inexcusable? Look you, thus it
reads: - A vessel from Avignon to Naples, charged with the revenues of
Provence to Queen Joanna, on whose cause, mark you, we now hold solemn
council, is wrecked at the mouth of the Tiber; with that, Martino di Porto
- a noble, as you say - the holder of that fortress whence he derives his
title, - doubly bound by gentle blood and by immediate neighbourhood to
succour the oppressed - falls upon the vessel with his troops (what hath
the rebel with armed troops?) - and pillages the vessel like a common
robber. He is apprehended - brought to my tribunal - receives fair trial -
is condemned to die. Such is the law; - what more would ye have?"
"Mercy," said the Colonna.
Rienzi folded his arms, and laughed disdainfully. "I never heard my Lord
Colonna plead for mercy when a peasant had stolen the bread that was to
feed his famishing children."
"Between a peasant and a prince, Tribune, I, for one, recognise a
distinction: - the bright blood of an Orsini is not to be shed like that of
a base plebeian - "
"Which, I remember me," said Rienzi, in a low voice, "you deemed small
matter enough when my boy-brother fell beneath the wanton spear of your
proud son. Wake not that memory, I warn you; let it sleep. - For shame,
old Colonna - for shame; so near the grave, where the worm levels all
flesh, and preaching, with those gray hairs, the uncharitable distinction
between man and man. Is there not distinction enough at the best? Does
not one wear purple, and the other rags? Hath not one ease, and the other
toil? Doth not the one banquet while the other starves? Do I nourish any
mad scheme to level the ranks which society renders a necessary evil? No.
I war no more with Dives than with Lazarus. But before Man's judgment-
seat, as before God's, Lazarus and Dives are made equal. No more."
Colonna drew his robe round him with great haughtiness, and bit his lip in
silence. Raimond interposed.
"All this is true, Tribune. But," and he drew Rienzi aside, "you know we
must be politic as well as just. Nephew to two Cardinals, what enmity will
not this provoke at Avignon?"
"Vex not yourself, holy Raimond, I will answer it to the Pontiff." While
they spoke the bell tolled heavily and loudly.
"Great Tribune," said he, with a slight sneer, "deign to pause ere it be
too late. I know not that I ever before bent to you a suppliant; and I ask
you now to spare mine own foe. Stephen Colonna prays Cola di Rienzi to
spare the life of an Orsini."
"I understand thy taunt, old Lord," said Rienzi, calmly, "but I resent it
not. You are foe to the Orsini, yet you plead for him - it sounds
generous; but hark you, - you are more a friend to your order than a foe to
your rival. You cannot bear that one, great enough to have contended with
you, should perish like a thief. I give full praise to such noble
forgiveness; but I am no noble, and I do not sympathize with it. One word
more; - if this were the sole act of fraud and violence that this bandit
baron had committed, your prayers should plead for him; but is not his life
notorious? Has he not been from boyhood the terror and disgrace of Rome?
How many matrons violated, merchants pillaged, peaceful men stilettoed in
the daylight, rise in dark witness against the prisoner? And for such a
man do I live to hear an aged prince and a pope's vicar plead for mercy? -
Fie, fie! But I will be even with ye. The next poor man whom the law
sentences to death, for your sake will I pardon."
Raimond again drew aside the Tribune, while Colonna struggled to suppress
"My friend," said the Bishop, "the nobles will feel this as an insult to
their whole order; the very pleading of Orsini's worst foe must convince
thee of this. Martino's blood will seal their reconciliation with each
other, and they will be as one man against thee."
"Be it so: with God and the People on my side, I will dare, though a
Roman, to be just. The bell ceases - you are already too late." So
saying, Rienzi threw open the casement; and by the staircase of the Lion
rose a gibbet from which swung with a creaking sound, arrayed in his