Part 8 out of 10
My course is taken, I will form the fairest army in Italy, and with it I
will win a throne in the Capitol. Fool that I was six years ago! - Instead
of deputing that mad dolt Pepin of Minorbino, had I myself deserted the
Hungarian, and repaired with my soldiery to Rome, the fall of Rienzi would
have been followed by the rise of Montreal. Pepin was outwitted, and threw
away the prey after he had hunted it down. The lion shall not again trust
the chase to the jackal!"
"Walter, thou speakest of the fate of Rienzi, let it warn thee!"
"Rienzi!" replied Montreal; "I know the man! In peaceful times or with an
honest people, he would have founded a great dynasty. But he dreamt of
laws and liberty for men who despise the first and will not protect the
last. We, of a harder race, know that a new throne must be built by the
feudal and not the civil system; and into the city we must transport the
camp. It is by the multitude that the proud Tribune gained power, - by the
multitude he lost it; it is by the sword that I will win it, and by the
sword will I keep it!"
"Rienzi was too cruel, he should not have incensed the Barons," said
Brettone, about to finish the flask, when the strong hand of his brother
plucked it from him, and anticipated the design.
"Pooh," said Montreal, finishing the draught with a long sigh, "he was not
cruel enough. He sought only to be just, and not to distinguish between
noble and peasant. He should have distinguished! He should have
exterminated the nobles root and branch. But this no Italian can do. This
is reserved for me."
"Thou wouldst not butcher all the best blood of Rome?"
"Butcher! No, but I would seize their lands, and endow with them a new
nobility, the hardy and fierce nobility of the North, who well know how to
guard their prince, and will guard him, as the fountain of their own power.
Enough of this now. And talking of Rienzi - rots he still in his dungeon?"
"Why, this morning, ere I left, I heard strange news. The town was astir,
groups in every corner. They said that Rienzi's trial was to be today, and
from the names of the judges chosen, it is suspected that acquittal is
already determined on."
"Ha! thou shouldst have told me of this before."
"Should he be restored to Rome, would it militate against thy plans?"
"Humph! I know not - deep thought and dexterous management would be
needed. I would fain not leave this spot till I hear what is decided on."
"Surely, Walter, it would have been wiser and safer to have stayed with thy
soldiery, and intrusted me with the absolute conduct of this affair."
"Not so," answered Montreal; "thou art a bold fellow enough, and a cunning
- but my head in these matters is better than thine. Besides," continued
the Knight, lowering his voice, and shading his face, "I had vowed a
pilgrimage to the beloved river, and the old trysting-place. Ah me! - But
all this, Brettone, thou understandest not - let it pass. As for my
safety, since we have come to this amnesty with Albornoz, I fear but little
danger even if discovered: besides, I want the florins. There are those
in this country, Germans, who could eat an Italian army at a meal, whom I
would fain engage, and their leaders want earnest-money - the griping
knaves! - How are the Cardinal's florins to be paid?"
"Half now - half when thy troops are before Rimini!"
"Rimini! the thought whets my sword. Rememberest thou how that accursed
Malatesta drove me from Aversa, (This Malatesta, a signior of illustrious
family, was one of the most skilful warriors in Italy. He and his brother
Galeotto had been raised to the joint-tyranny of Rimini by the voice of its
citizens. After being long the foes of the Church, they were ultimately
named as its captains by the Cardinal Albornoz.) broke up my camp, and made
me render to him all my booty? There fell the work of years! But for
that, my banner now would be floating over St. Angelo. I will pay back the
debt with fire and sword, ere the summer has shed its leaves."
The fair countenance of Montreal grew terrible as he uttered these words;
his hands griped the handle of his sword, and his strong frame heaved
visibly; tokens of the fierce and unsparing passions, by the aid of which a
life of rapine and revenge had corrupted a nature originally full no less
of the mercy than the courage of Provencal chivalry.
Such was the fearful man who now (the wildness of his youth sobered, and
his ambition hardened and concentered) was the rival with Rienzi for the
mastery of Rome.
Chapter 7.VIII. The Crowd. - The Trial. - The Verdict. - The Soldier and
It was on the following evening that a considerable crowd had gathered in
the streets of Avignon. It was the second day of the examination of
Rienzi, and with every moment was expected the announcement of the verdict.
Amongst the foreigners of all countries assembled in that seat of the Papal
splendour, the interest was intense. The Italians, even of the highest
rank, were in favour of the Tribune, the French against him. As for the
good townspeople of Avignon themselves, they felt but little excitement in
any thing that did not bring money into their pockets; and if it had been
put to the secret vote, no doubt there would have been a vast majority for
burning the prisoner, as a marketable speculation!
Amongst the crowd was a tall man in a plain and rusty suit of armour, but
with an air of knightly bearing, which somewhat belied the coarseness of
his mail; he wore no helmet, but a small morion of black leather, with a
long projecting shade, much used by wayfarers in the hot climates of the
south. A black patch covered nearly the whole of one cheek, and altogether
he bore the appearance of a grim soldier, with whom war had dealt harshly,
both in purse and person.
Many were the jests at the shabby swordsman's expense, with which that
lively population amused their impatience; and though the shade of the
morion concealed his eyes, an arch and merry smile about the corners of his
mouth shewed that he could take a jest at himself.
"Well," said one of the crowd, (a rich Milanese,) "I am of a state that was
free, and I trust the People's man will have justice shewn him."
"Amen," said a grave Florentine.
"They say," whispered a young student from Paris, to a learned doctor of
laws, with whom he abode, "that his defence has been a masterpiece."
"He hath taken no degrees," replied the doctor, doubtingly. "Ho, friend,
why dost thou push me so? thou hast rent my robe."
This was said to a minstrel, or jongleur, who, with a small lute slung
round him, was making his way, with great earnestness, through the throng.
"I beg pardon, worthy sir," said the minstrel; "but this is a scene to be
sung of! Centuries hence; ay, and in lands remote, legend and song will
tell the fortunes of Cola di Rienzi, the friend of Petrarch and the Tribune
The young French student turned quickly round to the minstrel, with a glow
on his pale face; not sharing the general sentiments of his countrymen
against Rienzi, he felt that it was an era in the world when a minstrel
spoke thus of the heroes of intellect - not of war.
At this time the tall soldier was tapped impatiently on the back.
"I pray thee, great sir," said a sharp and imperious voice, "to withdraw
that tall bulk of thine a little on one side - I cannot see through thee;
and I would fain my eyes were among the first to catch a glimpse of Rienzi
as he passes from the court."
"Fair sir page," replied the soldier, good-humouredly, as he made way for
Angelo Villani, "thou wilt not always find that way in the world is won by
commanding the strong. When thou art older thou wilt beard the weak, and
the strong thou wilt wheedle."
"I must change my nature, then," answered Angelo, (who was of somewhat
small stature, and not yet come to his full growth,) trying still to raise
himself above the heads of the crowd.
The soldier looked at him approvingly; and as he looked he sighed, and his
lips worked with some strange emotion.
"Thou speakest well," said he, after a pause. "Pardon me the rudeness of
the question; but art thou of Italy? - thy tongue savours of the Roman
dialect; yet I have seen lineaments like thine on this side the Alps."
"It may be, good fellow," said the page, haughtily; "but I thank Heaven
that I am of Rome."
At this moment a loud shout burst from that part of the crowd nearest the
court. The sound of trumpets again hushed the throng into deep and
breathless silence, while the Pope's guards, ranged along the space
conducting from the court, drew themselves up more erect, and fell a step
or two back upon the crowd.
As the trumpet ceased, the voice of a herald was heard, but it did not
penetrate within several yards of the spot where Angelo and the soldier
stood; and it was only by a mighty shout that in a moment circled through,
and was echoed back by, the wide multitude - by the waving of kerchiefs
from the windows - by broken ejaculations, which were caught up from lip to
lip, that the page knew that Rienzi was acquitted.
"I would I could see his face!" sighed the page, querulously.
"And thou shalt," said the soldier; and he caught up the boy in his arms,
and pressed on with the strength of a giant, parting the living stream from
right to left, as he took his way to a place near the guards, and by which
Rienzi was sure to pass.
The page, half-pleased, half-indignant, struggled a little, but finding it
in vain, consented tacitly to what he felt an outrage on his dignity.
"Never mind," said the soldier, "thou art the first I ever willingly raised
above myself; and I do it now for the sake of thy fair face, which reminds
me of one I loved."
But these last words were spoken low, and the boy, in his anxiety to see
the hero of Rome, did not hear or heed them. Presently Rienzi came by; two
gentlemen, of the Pope's own following, walked by his side. He moved
slowly, amidst the greetings and clamour of the crowd, looking neither to
the right nor left. His bearing was firm and collected, and, save by the
flush of his cheek, there was no external sign of joy or excitement.
Flowers dropped from every balcony on his path; and just when he came to a
broader space, where the ground was somewhat higher, and where he was in
fuller view of the houses around, he paused - and, uncovering, acknowledged
the homage he had received, with a look - a gesture - which each who beheld
never forgot. It haunted even that gay and thoughtless court, when the
last tale of Rienzi's life reached their ears. And Angelo, clinging then
round that soldier's neck, recalled - but we must not anticipate.
It was not, however, to the dark tower that Rienzi returned. His home was
prepared at the palace of the Cardinal d'Albornoz. The next day he was
admitted to the Pope's presence, and on the evening of that day he was
proclaimed Senator of Rome.
Meanwhile the soldier had placed Angelo on the ground; and as the page
faltered out no courteous thanks, he interrupted him in a sad and kind
voice, the tone of which struck the page forcibly, so little did it suit
the rough and homely appearance of the man.
"We part," he said, "as strangers, fair boy; and since thou sayest thou art
of Rome, there is no reason why my heart should have warmed to thee as it
has done; yet if ever thou wantest a friend, - seek him" - and the
soldier's voice sunk into a whisper - "in Walter de Montreal."
Ere the page recovered his surprise at that redoubted name, which his
earliest childhood had been taught to dread, the Knight of St. John had
vanished amongst the crowd.
Chapter 7.IX. Albornoz and Nina.
But the eyes which, above all others, thirsted for a glimpse of the
released captive were forbidden that delight. Alone in her chamber, Nina
awaited the result of the trial. She heard the shouts, the exclamations,
the tramp of thousands along the street; she felt that the victory was won;
and, her heart long overcharged, she burst into passionate tears. The
return of Angelo soon acquainted her with all that had passed; but it
somewhat chilled her joy to find Rienzi was the guest of the dreaded
Cardinal. That shock, in which certainty, however happy, replaces
suspense, had so powerful an effect on her frame, joined to her loathing
fear of a visit from the Cardinal, that she became for three days
alarmingly ill; and it was only on the fifth day from that which saw Rienzi
endowed with the rank of Senator of Rome, that she was recovered
sufficiently to admit Albornoz to her presence.
The Cardinal had sent daily to inquire after her health, and his inquiries,
to her alarmed mind, had appeared to insinuate a pretension to the right to
make them. Meanwhile Albornoz had had enough to divert and occupy his
thoughts. Having bought off the formidable Montreal from the service of
John de Vico, one of the ablest and fiercest enemies of the Church, he
resolved to march to the territories of that tyrant as expeditiously as
possible, and so not to allow him time to obtain the assistance of any
other band of the mercenary adventurers, who found Italy the market for
their valour. Occupied with raising troops, procuring money, corresponding
with the various free states, and establishing alliances in aid of his
ulterior and more ambitious projects at the court of Avignon, the Cardinal
waited with tolerable resignation the time when he might claim from the
Signora Cesarini the reward to which he deemed himself entitled. Meanwhile
he had held his first conversations with Rienzi, and, under the semblance
of courtesy to the acquitted Tribune, Albornoz had received him as his
guest, in order to make himself master of the character and disposition of
one in whom he sought a minister and a tool. That miraculous and magic
art, attested by the historians of the time, which Rienzi possessed over
every one with whom he came into contact, however various in temper,
station, or opinions, had not deserted him in his interview with the
Pontiff. So faithfully had he described the true condition of Rome, so
logically had he traced the causes and the remedies of the evils she
endured, so sanguinely had he spoken of his own capacities for
administering her affairs, and so brilliantly had he painted the prospects
which that administration opened to the weal of the Church, and the
interests of the Pope, that Innocent, though a keen and shrewd, and
somewhat sceptical calculator of human chances, was entirely fascinated by
the eloquence of the Roman.
"Is this the man," he is reported to have said, "whom for twelve months we
have treated as a prisoner and a criminal? Would that it were on his
shoulders only that the Christian empire reposed!"
At the close of the interview he had, with every mark of favour and
distinction, conferred upon Rienzi the rank of Senator, which, in fact, was
that of Viceroy of Rome, and had willingly acceded to all the projects
which the enterprising Rienzi had once more formed - not only for
recovering the territories of the Church, but for extending the dictatorial
sway of the Seven-hilled City, over the old dependencies of Italy.
Albornoz, to whom the Pope retailed this conversation, was somewhat jealous
of the favour the new Senator had so suddenly acquired, and immediately on
his return home sought an interview with his guest. In his heart, the Lord
Cardinal, emphatically a man of action and business, regarded Rienzi as one
rather cunning than wise - rather fortunate than great - a mixture of the
pedant and the demagogue. But after a long and scrutinizing conversation
with the new Senator, even he yielded to the spell of his enchanting and
master intellect. Reluctantly Albornoz confessed to himself that Rienzi's
rise was not the thing of chance; yet more reluctantly he perceived that
the Senator was one whom he might treat with as an equal, but could not
rule as a minion. And he entertained serious doubts whether it would be
wise to reinstate him in a power which he evinced the capacity to wield and
the genius to extend. Still, however, he did not repent the share he had
taken in Rienzi's acquittal. His presence in a camp so thinly peopled was
a matter greatly to be desired. And through his influence, the Cardinal
more than ever trusted to enlist the Romans in favour of his enterprise for
the recovery of the territory of St. Peter!
Rienzi, who panted once more to behold his Nina, endeared to him by trial
and absence, as by fresh bridals, was not however able to discover the name
she had assumed at Avignon; and his residence with the Cardinal closely but
respectfully watched as he was, forbade Nina all opportunity of
corresponding with him. Some half bantering hints which Albornoz had
dropped upon the interest taken in his welfare by the most celebrated
beauty of Avignon, had filled him with a vague alarm which he trembled to
acknowledge even to himself. But the volto sciolto (Volto sciolto,
pensieri stretti - the countenance open, the thoughts restrained.) which,
in common with all Italian politicians, concealed whatever were his
pensieri stretti - enabled him to baffle completely the jealous and
lynxlike observation of the Cardinal. Nor had Alvarez been better enabled
to satisfy the curiosity of his master. He had indeed sought the page
Villani, but the imperious manner of that wayward and haughty boy had cut
short all attempts at cross-examination. And all he could ascertain was,
that the real Angelo Villani was not the Angelo Villani who had visited
Trusting at last that he should learn all, and inflamed by such passion and
such hope as he was capable of feeling, Albornoz now took his way to the
He was ushered with due state into the apartment of the Signora. He found
her pale, and with the traces of illness upon her noble and statuelike
features. She rose as he entered; and when he approached, she half bent
her knee, and raised his hand to her lips. Surprised and delighted at a
reception so new, the Cardinal hastened to prevent the condescension;
retaining both her hands, he attempted gently to draw them to his heart.
"Fairest!" he whispered, "couldst thou know hear I have mourned thy illness
- and yet it has but left thee more lovely, as the rain only brightens the
flower. Ah! happy if I have promoted thy lightest wish, and if in thine
eyes I may henceforth seek at once an angel to guide me and a paradise to
Nina, releasing her hand, waved it gently, and motioned the Cardinal to a
seat. Seating herself at a little distance, she then spoke with great
gravity and downcast eyes.
"My Lord, it is your intercession, joined to his own innocence, that has
released from yonder tower the elected governor of the people of Rome. But
freedom is the least of the generous gifts you have conferred; there is a
greater in a fair name vindicated, and rightful honours re-bestowed. For
this, I rest ever your debtor; for this, if I bear children, they shall be
taught to bless your name; for this the historian who recalls the deeds of
this age, and the fortunes of Cola di Rienzi, shall add a new chaplet to
the wreaths you have already won. Lord Cardinal, I may have erred. I may
have offended you - you may accuse me of woman's artifice. Speak not,
wonder not, hear me out. I have but one excuse, when I say that I held
justified any means short of dishonour, to save the life and restore the
fortunes of Cola di Rienzi. Know, my Lord, that she who now addresses you
is his wife."
The Cardinal remained motionless and silent. But his sallow countenance
grew flushed from the brow to the neck, and his thin lips quivered for a
moment, and then broke into a withering and bitter smile. At length he
rose from his seat, very slowly, and said, in a voice trembling with
"It is well, madam. Giles d'Albornoz has been, then, a puppet in the
hands, a stepping-stone in the rise, of the plebeian demagogue of Rome.
You but played upon me for your own purposes; and nothing short of a
Cardinal of Spain, and a Prince of the royal blood of Aragon, was meet to
be the instrument of a mountebank's juggle! Madam, yourself and your
husband might justly be accused of ambition - "
"Cease, my Lord," said Nina, with unspeakable dignity; "whatever offence
has been committed against you was mine alone. Till after our last
interview, Rienzi knew not even of my presence at Avignon."
"At our last interview, Lady, (you do well to recall it!) methinks there
was a hinted and implied contract. I have fulfilled my part - I claim
yours. Mark me! I do not forego that claim. As easily as I rend this
glove can I rend the parchment which proclaims thy husband 'the Senator of
Rome.' The dungeon is not death, and its door will open twice."
"My Lord - my Lord!" cried Nina, sick with terror, "wrong not so your noble
nature, your great name, your sacred rank, your chivalric blood. You are
of the knightly race of Spain, yours not the sullen, low, and inexorable
vices that stain the petty tyrants of this unhappy land. You are no
Visconti - no Castracani - you cannot stain your laurels with revenge upon
a woman. Hear me," she continued, and she fell abruptly at his feet; "men
dupe, deceive our sex - and for selfish purposes; they are pardoned - even
by their victims. Did I deceive you with a false hope? Well - what my
object? - what my excuse? My husband's liberty - my land's salvation!
Woman, - my Lord, alas, your sex too rarely understand her weakness or her
greatness! Erring - all human as she is to others - God gifts her with a
thousand virtues to the one she loves! It is from that love that she alone
drinks her nobler nature. For the hero of her worship she has the meekness
of the dove - the devotion of the saint; for his safety in peril, for his
rescue in misfortune, her vain sense imbibes the sagacity of the serpent -
her weak heart, the courage of the lioness! It is this which, in absence,
made me mask my face in smiles, that the friends of the houseless exile
might not despair of his fate - it is this which brought me through forests
beset with robbers, to watch the stars upon yon solitary tower - it was
this which led my steps to the revels of your hated court - this which made
me seek a deliverer in the noblest of its chiefs - it is this which has at
last opened the dungeon door to the prisoner now within your halls; and
this, Lord Cardinal," added Nina, rising, and folding her arms upon her
heart - "this, if your anger seeks a victim, will inspire me to die without
a groan, - but without dishonour!"
Albornoz remained rooted to the ground. Amazement - emotion - admiration -
all busy at his heart. He gazed at Nina's flashing eyes and heaving bosom
as a warrior of old upon a prophetess inspired. His eyes were riveted to
hers as by a spell. He tried to speak, but his voice failed him. Nina
"Yes, my Lord; these are no idle words! If you seek revenge, it is in your
power. Undo what you have done. Give Rienzi back to the dungeon, or to
disgrace, and you are avenged; but not on him. All the hearts of Italy
shall become to him a second Nina! I am the guilty one, and I the
sufferer. Hear me swear - in that instant which sees new wrong to Rienzi,
this hand is my executioner. - My Lord, I supplicate you no longer!"
Albornoz continued deeply moved. Nina but rightly judged him, when she
distinguished the aspiring Spaniard from the barbarous and unrelenting
voluptuaries of Italy. Despite the profligacy that stained his sacred robe
- despite all the acquired and increasing callousness of a hard, scheming,
and sceptical man, cast amidst the worst natures of the worst of times -
there lingered yet in his soul much of the knightly honour of his race and
country. High thoughts and daring spirits touched a congenial string in
his heart, and not the less, in that he had but rarely met them in his
experience of camps and courts. For the first time in his life, he felt
that he had seen the woman who could have contented him even with wedlock,
and taught him the proud and faithful love of which the minstrels of Spain
had sung. He sighed, and still gazing on Nina, approached her, almost
reverentially; he knelt and kissed the hem of her robe. "Lady," he said,
"I would I could believe that you have altogether read my nature aright,
but I were indeed lost to all honour, and unworthy of gentle birth, if I
still harboured a single thought against the peace and virtue of one like
thee. Sweet heroine," - he continued - "so lovely, yet so pure - so
haughty, and yet so soft - thou hast opened to me the brightest page these
eyes have ever scanned in the blotted volume of mankind. Mayest thou have
such happiness as life can give; but souls such as thine make their nest
like the eagle, upon rocks and amidst the storms. Fear me no more - think
of me no more - unless hereafter, when thou hearest men speak of Giles
d'Albornoz, thou mayest say in thine own heart," - and here the Cardinal's
lip curled with scorn - "he did not renounce every feeling worthy of a man,
when Ambition and Fate endued him with the surplice of the priest."
The Spaniard was gone before Nina could reply.
BOOK VIII. THE GRAND COMPANY.
"Montreal nourrissoit de plus vastes projets...il donnoit a sa campagnie un
gouvernement regulier...Par cette discipline il faisoit regner l'abondance
dans son camp; les gens de guerre ne parloient, en Italie, que des
richesses qu'on acqueroit a son service." - Sismondi, "Histoire des
Republiques Italiennes", tom. vi. c. 42.
"Montreal cherished more vast designs...he subjected his company to a
regular system of government...By means of this discipline he kept his camp
abundantly supplied, and military adventurers in Italy talked of nothing
but the wealth won in his service." - Sismondi's "History of Italian
Chapter 8.I. The Encampment.
It was a most lovely day, in the very glow and meridian of an Italian
summer, when a small band of horsemen were seen winding a hill which
commanded one of the fairest landscapes of Tuscany. At their head was a
cavalier in a complete suit of chain armour, the links of which were so
fine, that they resembled a delicate and curious network, but so strongly
compacted, that they would have resisted spear or sword no less effectually
than the heaviest corselet, while adapting themselves exactly and with ease
to every movement of the light and graceful shape of the rider. He wore a
hat of dark green velvet shaded by long plumes, while of two squires
behind, the one bore his helmet and lance, the other led a strong warhorse,
completely cased in plates of mail, which seemed, however, scarcely to
encumber its proud and agile paces. The countenance of the cavalier was
comely, but strongly marked, and darkened, by long exposure to the suns of
many climes, to a deep bronze hue: a few raven ringlets escaped from
beneath his hat down a cheek closely shaven. The expression of his
features was grave and composed even to sadness; nor could all the
loveliness of the unrivalled scene before him dispel the quiet and settled
melancholy of his eyes. Besides the squires, ten horsemen, armed cap-a-
pie, attended the knight; and the low and murmured conversation they
carried on at intervals, as well as their long fair hair, large stature,
thick short beards, and the studied and accurate equipment of their arms
and steeds, bespoke them of a hardier and more warlike race than the
children of the south. The cavalcade was closed with a man almost of
gigantic height, bearing a banner richly decorated, wherein was wrought a
column, with the inscription, "ALONE AMIDST RUINS." Fair indeed was the
prospect which with every step expanded yet more widely its various beauty.
Right before stretched a long vale, now covered with green woodlands
glittering in the yellow sunlight, now opening into narrow plains bordered
by hillocks, from whose mosses of all hues grew fantastic and odorous
shrubs; while, winding amidst them, a broad and silver stream broke into
light at frequent intervals, snatched by wood and hillock from the eye,
only to steal upon it again, in sudden and bright surprise. The opposite
slope of gentle mountains, as well as that which the horsemen now
descended, was covered with vineyards, trained in alleys and arcades: and
the clustering grape laughed from every leafy and glossy covert, as gaily
as when the Fauns held a holiday in the shade. The eye of the Cavalier
roved listlessly over this enchanting prospect, sleeping in the rosiest
light of a Tuscan heaven, and then became fixed with a more earnest
attention on the grey and frowning walls of a distant castle, which, high
upon the steepest of the opposite mountains, overlooked the valley.
"Behold," he muttered to himself, "how every Eden in Italy hath its curse!
Wherever the land smiles fairest, be sure to find the brigand's tent and
the tyrant's castle!"
Scarce had these thoughts passed his mind, ere the shrill and sudden blast
of a bugle that sounded close amongst the vineyards by the side of the path
startled the whole group. The cavalcade halted abruptly. The leader made
a gesture to the squire who led his war-horse. The noble and practised
animal remained perfectly still, save by champing its bit restlessly, and
moving its quick ear to and fro, as aware of a coming danger, - while the
squire, unencumbered by the heavy armour of the Germans, plunged into the
thicket and disappeared. He returned in a few minutes, already heated and
"We must be on our guard," he whispered; "I see the glimmer of steel
through the vine leaves."
"Our ground is unhappily chosen," said the Knight, hastily bracing on his
helmet and leaping on his charger; and waving his hand towards a broader
space in the road, which would permit the horsemen more room to act in
union, with his small band he made hastily to the spot - the armour of the
soldiers rattling heavily as two by two they proceeded on.
The space to which the Cavalier had pointed was a green semicircle of
several yards in extent, backed by tangled copses of brushwood sloping down
to the vale below. They reached it in safety; they drew up breast to
breast in the form of a crescent: every visor closed save that of the
Knight, who looked anxiously and keenly round the landscape.
"Hast thou heard, Giulio," he said, to his favourite squire, (the only
Italian of the band,) "whether any brigands have been seen lately in these
"No, my Lord; on the contrary, I am told that every lance hath left the
country to join the Grand Company of Fra Moreale. The love of his pay and
plunder has drawn away the mercenaries of every Tuscan Signor."
As he ceased speaking, the bugle sounded again from nearly the same spot as
before; it was answered by a brief and martial note from the very rear of
the horsemen. At the same moment, from the thickets behind, broke the
gleam of mail and spears. One after another, rank after rank, from the
copse behind them, emerged men-at-arms, while suddenly, from the vines in
front, still greater numbers poured forth with loud and fierce shouts.
"For God, for the Emperor, and for the Colonna!" cried the Knight, closing
his visor; and the little band, closely serried, the lance in every rest,
broke upon the rush of the enemy in front. A score or so, borne to the
ground by the charge, cleared a path for the horsemen, and, without waiting
the assault of the rest, the Knight wheeled his charger and led the way
down the hill, almost at full gallop, despite the roughness of the descent:
a flight of arrows despatched after them fell idly on their iron mail.
"If they have no horse," cried the Knight, "we are saved!"
And, indeed, the enemy seemed scarcely to think of pursuing them; but
(gathered on the brow of a hill) appeared contented to watch their flight.
Suddenly a curve in the road brought them before a broad and wide patch of
waste land, which formed almost a level surface, interrupting the descent
of the mountain. On the commencement of this waste, drawn up in still
array, the sunlight broke on the breastplates of a long line of horsemen,
whom the sinuosities of the road had hitherto concealed from the Knight and
The little troop halted abruptly - retreat - advance alike cut off; gazing
first at the foe before them, that remained still as a cloud, every eye was
then turned towards the Knight.
"An thou wouldst, my Lord," said the leader of the Northmen, perceiving the
irresolution of their chief, "we will fight to the last. You are the only
Italian I ever knew whom I would willingly die for!"
This rude profession was received with a sympathetic murmur from the rest,
and the soldiers drew closer around the Knight. "Nay, my brave fellows,"
said the Colonna, lifting his visor, "it is not in so inglorious a field,
after such various fortunes, that we are doomed to perish. If these be
brigands, as we must suppose, we can yet purchase our way. If the troops
of some Signor, we are strangers to the feud in which he is engaged. Give
me yon banner - I will ride on to them."
"Nay, my Lord," said Giulio; "such marauders do not always spare a flag of
truce. There is danger - "
"For that reason your leader braves it. Quick!"
The Knight took the banner, and rode deliberately up to the horsemen. On
approaching, his warlike eye could not but admire the perfect caparison of
their arms, the strength and beauty of their steeds, and the steady
discipline of their long and glittering line.
As he rode up, and his gorgeous banner gleamed in the noonlight, the
soldiers saluted him. It was a good omen, and he hailed it as such. "Fair
sirs," said the Knight, "I come, at once herald and leader of the little
band who have just escaped the unlooked-for assault of armed men on yonder
hill - and, claiming aid, as knight from knight, and soldier from soldier,
I place my troop under the protection of your leader. Suffer me to see
"Sir Knight," answered one, who seemed the captain of the band, "sorry am I
to detain one of your gallant bearing, and still more so, on recognising
the device of one of the most potent houses of Italy. But our orders are
strict, and we must bring all armed men to the camp of our General."
"Long absent from my native land, I knew not," replied the Knight, "that
there was war in Tuscany. Permit me to crave the name of the general whom
you speak of, and that of the foe against whom ye march."
The Captain smiled slightly.
"Walter de Montreal is the General of the Great Company, and Florence his
"We have fallen, then, into friendly, if fierce, hands," replied the
Knight, after a moment's pause. "To Sir Walter de Montreal I am known of
old. Permit me to return to my companions, and acquaint them that if
accident has made us prisoners, it is, at least, only to the most skilful
warrior of his day that we are condemned to yield."
The Italian then turned his horse to join his comrades.
"A fair Knight and a bold presence," said the Captain of the Companions to
his neighbour, "though I scarce think it is the party we are ordered to
intercept. Praised be the Virgin, however, his men seem from the North.
Them, perhaps, we may hope to enlist."
The Knight now, with his comrades, rejoined the troop. And, on receiving
their parole not to attempt escape, a detachment of thirty horsemen were
despatched to conduct the prisoners to the encampment of the Great Company.
Turning from the main road, the Knight found himself conducted into a
narrow defile between the hills, which, succeeded by a gloomy track of wild
forest-land, brought the party at length into a full and abrupt view of a
wide plain, covered with the tents of what, for Italian warfare, was
considered a mighty army. A stream, over which rude and hasty bridges had
been formed from the neighbouring timber, alone separated the horsemen from
"A noble sight!" said the captive Cavalier, with enthusiasm, as he reined
in his steed, and gazed upon the wild and warlike streets of canvass,
traversing each other in vistas broad and regular.
One of the captains of the Great Company who rode beside him, smiled
"There are few masters of the martial art who equal Fra Moreale," said he;
"and savage, reckless, and gathered from all parts and all countries - from
cavern and from marketplace, from prison and from palace, as are his
troops, he has reduced them already into a discipline which might shame
even the soldiery of the Empire."
The Knight made no reply; but, spurring his horse over one of the rugged
bridges, soon found himself amidst the encampment. But that part at which
he entered little merited the praises bestowed upon the discipline of the
army. A more unruly and disorderly array, the Cavalier, accustomed to the
stern regularity of English, French, and German discipline, thought he had
never beheld: here and there, fierce, unshaven, half-naked brigands might
be seen, driving before them the cattle which they had just collected by
predatory excursions. Sometimes a knot of dissolute women stood -
chattering, scolding, gesticulating - collected round groups of wild
shagged Northmen, who, despite the bright purity of the summer-noon, were
already engaged in deep potations. Oaths, and laughter, and drunken
merriment, and fierce brawl, rang from side to side; and ever and anon some
hasty conflict with drawn knives was begun and finished by the fiery and
savage bravoes of Calabria or the Apennines, before the very eyes and
almost in the very path of the troop. Tumblers, and mountebanks, and
jugglers, and Jew pedlers, were exhibiting their tricks or their wares at
every interval, apparently well inured to the lawless and turbulent market
in which they exercised their several callings. Despite the protection of
the horsemen who accompanied them, the prisoners were not allowed to pass
without molestation. Groups of urchins, squalid, fierce, and ragged,
seemed to start from the ground, and surrounded their horses like swarms of
bees, uttering the most discordant cries; and, with the gestures of
savages, rather demanding than beseeching money, which, when granted,
seemed only to render them more insatiable. While, sometimes mingled with
the rest, were seen the bright eyes and olive cheek, and half-pleading,
half-laughing smile of girls, whose extreme youth, scarce emerged from
childhood, rendered doubly striking their utter and unredeemed abandonment.
"You did not exaggerate the decorum of the Grand Company!" cried the
Knight, gravely, to his new acquaintance.
"Signor," replied the other, "you must not judge of the kernel by the
shell. We are scarcely yet arrived at the camp. These are the outskirts,
occupied rather by the rabble than the soldiers. Twenty thousand men from
the sink, it must be owned, of every town in Italy, follow the camp, to
fight if necessary, but rather for plunder, and for forage: - such you now
behold. Presently you will see those of another stamp."
The Knight's heart swelled high. "And to such men is Italy given up!"
thought he. His revery was broken by a loud burst of applause from some
convivialists hard by. He turned, and under a long tent, and round a board
covered with wine and viands, sate some thirty or forty bravoes. A ragged
minstrel, or jongleur, with an immense beard and mustachios, was tuning,
with no inconsiderable skill, a lute which had accompanied him in all his
wanderings - and suddenly changing its notes into a wild and warlike
melody, he commenced in a loud and deep voice the following song: -
The Praise of the Grand Company.
Ho, dark one from the golden South, -
Ho, fair one from the North;
Ho, coat of mail and spear of sheen -
Ho, wherefore ride ye forth?
"We come from mount, we come from cave,
We come across the sea,
In long array, in bright array,
To Montreal's Companie."
Oh, the merry, merry band.
Light heart, and heavy hand -
Oh, the Lances of the Free!
Ho, Princes of the castled height -
Ho, Burghers of the town;
Apulia's strength, Romagna's pride,
And Tusca's old renown!
Why quail ye thus? why pale ye thus?
What spectre do ye see?
"The blood-red flag, and trampling march,
Of Montreal's Companie."
Oh, the sunshine of your life -
Oh, the thunders of your strife!
Wild Lances of the Free!
Ho, scutcheons o'er the vaulted tomb
Where Norman valour sleeps,
Why shake ye so? why quake ye so!
What wind the trophy sweeps?
"We shake without a breath - below,
The dead are stirred to see,
The Norman's fame revived again
In Montreal's Companie."
Since Roger won his crown,
Who hath equalled your renown,
Brave Lances of the Free?
Ho, ye who seek to win a name,
Where deeds are bravest done -
Ho, ye who wish to pile a heap,
Where gold is lightest won;
Ho, ye who loathe the stagnant life,
Or shun the law's decree,
Belt on the brand, and spur the steed,
To Montreal's Companie.
And the maid shall share her rest,
And the miser share his chest,
With the Lances of the Free!
Oh! the Lances of the Free!
Then suddenly, as if inspired to a wilder flight by his own minstrelsy, the
jongleur, sweeping his hand over the chords, broke forth into an air
admirably expressive of the picture which his words, running into a rude,
but lively and stirring doggerel, attempted to paint.
The March of the Grand Company.
Tira, tirala - trumpet and drum -
Rising bright o'er the height of the mountain they come!
German, and Hun, and the Islandrie,
Who routed the Frenchman at famed Cressie,
When the rose changed its hue with the fleur-de-lis;
With the Roman, and Lombard, and Piedmontese,
And the dark-haired son of the southern seas.
Tira, tirala - more near and near
Down the steep - see them sweep; - rank by rank they appear!
With the Cloud of the Crowd hanging dark at their rear -
Serried, and steadied, and orderlie,
Like the course - like the force - of a marching sea!
Open your gates, and out with your gold,
For the blood must be spilt, or the ransom be told!
Woe, Burghers, woe! Behold them led
By the stoutest arm and the wisest head,
With the snow-white cross on the cloth of red; -
With the eagle eye, and the lion port,
His barb for a throne, and his camp for a court:
Sovereign and scourge of the land is he -
The kingly Knight of the Companie!
Hurrah - hurrah - hurrah!
Hurrah for the army - hurrah for its lord -
Hurrah for the gold that is got by the sword -
Hurrah - hurrah - hurrah!
For the Lances of the Free!
Shouted by the full chorus of those desperate boon-companions, and caught
up and re-echoed from side to side, near and far, as the familiar and well-
known words of the burthen reached the ears of more distant groups or
stragglers, the effect of this fierce and licentious minstrelsy was
indescribable. It was impossible not to feel the zest which that daring
life imparted to its daring followers, and even the gallant and stately
Knight who listened to it, reproved himself for an involuntary thrill of
sympathy and pleasure.
He turned with some impatience and irritation to his companion, who had
taken a part in the chorus, and said, "Sir, to the ears of an Italian
noble, conscious of the miseries of his country, this ditty is not welcome.
I pray you, let us proceed."
"I humbly crave your pardon, Signor," said the Free Companion; "but really
so attractive is the life led by Free Lances, under Fra Moreale, that
sometimes we forget the - ; but pardon me - we will on."
A few moments more, and bounding over a narrow circumvallation, the party
found themselves in a quarter, animated indeed, but of a wholly different
character of animation. Long lines of armed men were drawn up on either
side of a path, conducting to a large marquee, placed upon a little
hillock, surmounted by a blue flag, and up this path armed soldiers were
passing to and fro with great order, but with a pleased and complacent
expression upon their swarthy features. Some that repaired to the marquee
were bearing packets and bales upon their shoulders - those that returned
seemed to have got rid of their burthens, but every now and then,
impatiently opening their hands, appeared counting and recounting to
themselves the coins contained therein.
The Knight looked inquiringly at his companion.
"It is the marquee of the merchants," said the captain; "they have free
admission to the camp, and their property and persons are rigidly
respected. They purchase each soldier's share of the plunder at fair
prices, and either party is contented with the bargain."
"It seems, then, that there is some kind of rude justice observed amongst
you," said the Knight.
"Rude! Diavolo! Not a town in Italy but would be glad of such even
justice, and such impartial laws. Yonder lie the tents of the judges,
appointed to try all offences of soldier against soldier. To the right,
the tent with the golden ball contains the treasurer of the army. Fra
Moreale incurs no arrears with his soldiery."
It was, indeed, by these means that the Knight of St. John had collected
the best equipped and the best contented force in Italy. Every day brought
him recruits. Nothing was spoken of amongst the mercenaries of Italy but
the wealth acquired in his service, and every warrior in the pay of
Republic or of Tyrant sighed for the lawless standard of Fra Moreale.
Already had exaggerated tales of the fortunes to be made in the ranks of
the Great Company passed the Alps; and, even now, the Knight, penetrating
farther into the camp, beheld from many a tent the proud banners and
armorial blazon of German nobility and Gallic knighthood.
"You see," said the Free Companion, pointing to these insignia, "we are not
without our different ranks in our wild city. And while we speak, many a
golden spur is speeding hitherward from the North!"
All now in the quarter they had entered was still and solemn; only afar
came the mingled hum, or the sudden shout of the pandemonium in the rear,
mellowed by distance to a not unpleasing sound. An occasional soldier,
crossing their path, stalked silently and stealthily to some neighbouring
tent, and seemed scarcely to regard their approach.
"Behold! we are before the General's pavilion," said the Free Lance.
Blazoned with purple and gold, the tent of Montreal lay a little apart from
the rest. A brooklet from the stream they had crossed murmured gratefully
on the ear, and a tall and wide-spreading beech cast its shadow over the
While his troop waited without, the knight was conducted at once to the
presence of the formidable adventurer.
Chapter 8.II. Adrian Once More the Guest of Montreal.
Montreal was sitting at the head of a table, surrounded by men, some
military, some civil, whom he called his councillors, and with whom he
apparently debated all his projects. These men, drawn from various cities,
were intimately acquainted with the internal affairs of the several states
to which they belonged. They could tell to a fraction the force of a
signor, the wealth of a merchant, the power of a mob. And thus, in his
lawless camp, Montreal presided, not more as a general than a statesman.
Such knowledge was invaluable to the chief of the Great Company. It
enabled him to calculate exactly the time to attack a foe, and the sum to
demand for a suppression of hostilities. He knew what parties to deal with
- where to importune - where to forbear. And it usually happened that, by
some secret intrigue, the appearance of Montreal's banner before the walls
of a city was the signal for some sedition or some broil within. It may be
that he thus also promoted an ulterior, as well as his present, policy.
The divan were in full consultation when an officer entered, and whispered
a few words in Montreal's ear. His eyes brightened. "Admit him," he said
hastily. "Messires," he added to his councillors, rubbing his hands, "I
think our net has caught our bird. Let us see."
At this moment the drapery was lifted and the Knight admitted.
"How!" muttered Montreal, changing colour, and in evident disappointment.
"Am I to be ever thus balked?"
"Sir Walter de Montreal," said the prisoner, "I am once more your guest.
In these altered features you perhaps scarcely recognise Adrian di
"Pardon me, noble Signor," said Montreal, rising with great courtesy; "the
mistake of my varlets disturbed my recollection for a moment. - I rejoice
once more to press a hand that has won so many laurels since last we
parted. Your renown has been grateful to my ears. Ho!" continued the
chieftain, clapping his hands, "see to the refreshment and repose of this
noble Cavalier and his attendants. Lord Adrian, I will join you
Adrian withdrew. Montreal, forgetful of his councillors, traversed his
tent with hasty strides; then summoning the officer who had admitted
Adrian, he said, "Count Landau still keeps the pass?"
"Hie thee fast back, then - the ambuscade must tarry till nightfall. We
have trapped the wrong fox."
The officer departed, and shortly afterwards Montreal broke up the divan.
He sought Adrian, who was lodged in a tent beside his own.
"My Lord," said Montreal, "it is true that my men had orders to stop every
one on the roads towards Florence. I am at war with that city. Yet I
expected a very different prisoner from you. Need I add, that you and your
men are free?"
"I accept the courtesy, noble Montreal, as frankly as it is rendered. May
I hope hereafter to repay it? Meanwhile permit me, without any disrespect,
to say that had I learned the Grand Company was in this direction, I should
have altered my course. I had heard that your arms were bent (somewhat to
my mind more nobly) against Malatesta, the tyrant of Rimini!"
"They were so. He was my foe; he is my tributary. We conquered him. He
paid us the price of his liberty. We marched by Asciano upon Sienna. For
sixteen thousand florins we spared that city; and we now hang like a
thunderbolt over Florence, which dared to send her puny aid to the defence
of Rimini. Our marches are forced and rapid and our camp in this plain but
"I hear that the Grand Company is allied with Albornoz, and that its
General is secretly the soldier of the Church. Is it so?"
"Ay - Albornoz and I understand one another," replied Montreal, carelessly;
"and not the less so that we have a mutual foe; whom both are sworn to
crush, in Visconti, the archbishop of Milan."
"Visconti! the most potent of the Italian princes. That he has justly
incurred the wrath of the Church I know - and I can readily understand that
Innocent has revoked the pardon which the intrigues of the Archbishop
purchased from Clement VI. But I do not see clearly why Montreal should
willingly provoke so dark and terrible a foe."
Montreal smiled sternly. "Know you not," he said, "the vast ambition of
that Visconti? By the Holy Sepulchre, he is precisely the enemy my soul
leaps to meet! He has a genius worthy to cope with Montreal's. I have
made myself master of his secret plans - they are gigantic! In a word, the
Archbishop designs the conquest of all Italy. His enormous wealth
purchases the corrupt - his dark sagacity ensnares the credulous - his
daring valour awes the weak. Every enemy he humbles - every ally he
enslaves. This is precisely the Prince whose progress Walter de Montreal
must arrest. For this (he said in a whisper as to himself) is precisely
the Prince who, if suffered to extend his power, will frustrate the plans
and break the force of Walter de Montreal."
Adrian was silent, and for the first time a suspicion of the real nature of
the Provencal's designs crossed his breast.
"But, noble Montreal," resumed the Colonna, "give me, if your knowledge
serves, as no doubt it does, - give me the latest tidings of my native
city. I am Roman, and Rome is ever in my thoughts."
"And well she may," replied Montreal, quickly. "Thou knowest that
Albornoz, as Legate of the Pontiff, led the army of the Church into the
Papal Territories. He took with him Cola di Rienzi. Arrived at Monte
Fiascone, crowds of Romans of all ranks hastened thither to render homage
to the Tribune. The Legate was forgotten in the popularity of his
companion. Whether or not Albornoz grew jealous - for he is proud as
Lucifer - of the respect paid to the Tribune, or whether he feared the
restoration of his power, I cannot tell. But he detained him in his camp,
and refused to yield him to all the solicitations and all the deputations
of the Romans. Artfully, however, he fulfilled one of the real objects of
Rienzi's release. Through his means he formally regained the allegiance of
Rome to the Church, and by the attraction of his presence swelled his camp
with Roman recruits. Marching to Viterbo, Rienzi distinguished himself
greatly in deeds of arms against the tyrant ("Vita di Cola di Rienzi".)
John di Vico. Nay, he fought as one worthy of belonging to the Grand
Company. This increased the zeal of the Romans; and the city disgorged
half its inhabitants to attend the person of the bold Tribune. To the
entreaties of these worthy citizens (perhaps the very men who had before
shut up their darling in St. Angelo) the crafty Legate merely replied, 'Arm
against John di Vico - conquer the tyrants of the Territory - re-establish
the patrimony of St. Peter, and Rienzi shall then be proclaimed Senator,
and return to Rome.'
"These words inspired the Romans with so great a zeal, that they willingly
lent their aid to the Legate. Aquapendente, Bolzena yielded, John di Vico
was half reduced and half terrified into submission, and Gabrielli, the
tyrant of Agobbio, has since succumbed. The glory is to the Cardinal, but
the merit with Rienzi."
"Albornoz continued to entertain the Senator-Tribune with great splendour
and fair words, but not a word about restoring him to Rome. Wearied with
this suspense, I have learned by secret intelligence that Rienzi has left
the camp, and betaken himself with few attendants to Florence, where he has
friends, who will provide him with arms and money to enter Rome."
"Ah then! now I guess," said Adrian, with a half smile, "for whom I was
Montreal blushed slightly. "Fairly conjectured!" said he.
"Meanwhile, at Rome," continued the Provencal - "at Rome, your worthy
House, and that of the Orsini, being elected to the supreme power,
quarrelled among themselves, and could not keep the authority they had won.
Francesco Baroncelli, (This Baroncelli, who has been introduced to the
reader in a former portion of this work, is called by Matteo Villani "a man
of vile birth and little learning - he had been a Notary of the Capitol."
In the midst of the armed dissensions between the Barons, which followed
the expulsion of Rienzi, Baroncelli contrived to make himself Master of the
Capitol, and of what was considered an auxiliary of no common importance -
viz. the Great Bell, by whose alarum Rienzi had so often summoned to arms
the Roman people. Baroncelli was crowned Tribune, clothed in a robe of
gold brocade, and invested with the crozier-sceptre of Rienzi. At first,
his cruelty against the great took the appearance of protection to the
humble; but the excesses of his sons (not exaggerated in the text), and his
own brutal but bold ferocity, soon made him execrated by the people, to
whom he owed his elevation. He had the folly to declare against the Pope;
and this it really was that mainly induced Innocent to restore, and oppose
to their New Demagogue, the former and more illustrious Tribune.
Baroncelli, like Rienzi, was excommunicated; and in his instance, also, the
curse of the Church was the immediate cause of his downfall. In attempting
flight he was massacred by the mob, December, 1353. Some, however, have
maintained that he was slain in combat with Rienzi; and others, by a
confusion of dates, have made him succeed to Rienzi on the death of the
latter. - Matteo Villani, lib. iii. cap. 78. Osservaz. Stor. di Zefirino
Re. MS. Vat. Rip. dal Bzovio, ann. 1353. N. 2.) a new demagogue, a humble
imitator of Rienzi, rose upon the ruins of the peace broken by the nobles,
obtained the title of Tribune, and carried about the very insignia used by
his predecessor. But less wise than Rienzi, he took the antipapal party.
And the Legate was thus enabled to play the papal demagogue against the
usurper. Baroncelli was a weak man, his sons committed every excess in
mimicry of the highborn tyrants of Padua and Milan. Virgins violated and
matrons dishonoured, somewhat contrasted the solemn and majestic decorum of
Rienzi's rule; - in fine, Baroncelli fell massacred by the people. And
now, if you ask what rules Rome, I answer, 'It is the hope of Rienzi.'"
"A strange man, and various fortunes. What will be the end of both!"
"Swift murder to the first, and eternal fame to the last," answered
Montreal, calmly. "Rienzi will be restored; that brave phoenix will wing
its way through storm and cloud to its own funereal pyre: I foresee, I
compassionate, I admire. - And then," added Montreal, "I look beyond!"
"But wherefore feel you so certain that, if restored, Rienzi must fall?"
"Is it not clear to every eye, save his, whom ambition blinds? How can
mortal genius, however great, rule that most depraved people by popular
means? The Barons - (you know their indomitable ferocity) - wedded to
abuse, and loathing every semblance to law; the Barons, humbled for a
moment, will watch their occasion, and rise. The people will again desert.
Or else, grown wise in one respect by experience, the new Senator will see
that popular favour has a loud voice, but a recreant arm. He will, like
the Barons, surround himself by foreign swords. A detachment from the
Grand Company will be his courtiers; they will be his masters! To pay them
the people must be taxed. Then the idol is execrated. No Italian hand can
govern these hardy demons of the north; they will mutiny and fall away. A
new demagogue will lead on the people, and Rienzi will be the victim. Mark
"And then the 'beyond' to which you look?"
"Utter prostration of Rome, for new and long ages; God makes not two
Rienzis; or," said Montreal, proudly, "the infusion of a new life into the
worn-out and diseased frame, - the foundation of a new dynasty. Verily,
when I look around me, I believe that the Ruler of nations designs the
restoration of the South by the irruptions of the North; and that out of
the old Franc and Germanic race will be built up the thrones of the future
As Montreal thus spoke, leaning on his great war-sword, with his fair and
heroic features - so different, in their frank, bold, fearless expression,
from the dark and wily intellect that characterises the lineaments of the
South - eloquent at once with enthusiasm and thought - he might have seemed
no unfitting representative of the genius of that northern chivalry of
which he spake. And Adrian half fancied that he saw before him one of the
old Gothic scourges of the Western World.
Their conversation was here interrupted by the sound of a trumpet, and
presently an officer entering, announced the arrival of ambassadors from
"Again you must pardon me, noble Adrian," said Montreal, "and let me claim
you as my guest at least for tonight. Here you may rest secure, and on
parting, my men shall attend you to the frontiers of whatsoever territory
you design to visit."
Adrian, not sorry to see more of a man so celebrated, accepted the
Left alone, he leaned his head upon his hand, and soon became lost in his
Chapter 8.III. Faithful and Ill-fated Love. - The Aspirations Survive the
Since that fearful hour in which Adrian Colonna had gazed upon the lifeless
form of his adored Irene, the young Roman had undergone the usual
vicissitudes of a wandering and adventurous life in those exciting times.
His country seemed no longer dear to him. His very rank precluded him from
the post he once aspired to take in restoring the liberties of Rome; and he
felt that if ever such a revolution could be consummated, it was reserved
for one in whose birth and habits the people could feel sympathy and
kindred, and who could lift his hand in their behalf without becoming the
apostate of his order and the judge of his own House. He had travelled
through various courts, and served with renown in various fields. Beloved
and honoured wheresoever he fixed a temporary home, no change of scene had
removed his melancholy - no new ties had chased away the memory of the
Lost. In that era of passionate and poetical romance, which Petrarch
represented rather than created, Love had already begun to assume a more
tender and sacred character than it had hitherto known, it had gradually
imbibed the divine spirit which it derives from Christianity, and which
associates its sorrows on earth with the visions and hopes of heaven. To
him who relies upon immortality, fidelity to the dead is easy; because
death cannot extinguish hope, and the soul of the mourner is already half
in the world to come. It is an age that desponds of a future life -
representing death as an eternal separation - in which, if men grieve
awhile for the dead, they hasten to reconcile themselves to the living.
For true is the old aphorism, that love exists not without hope. And all
that romantic worship which the Hermit of Vaucluse felt, or feigned, for
Laura, found its temple in the desolate heart of Adrian Colonna. He was
emphatically the Lover of his time! Often as, in his pilgrimage from land
to land, he passed the walls of some quiet and lonely convent, he seriously
meditated the solemn vows, and internally resolved that the cloister should
receive his maturer age. The absence of years had, however, in some degree
restored the dimmed and shattered affection for his fatherland, and he
desired once more to visit the city in which he had first beheld Irene.
"Perhaps," he thought, "time may have wrought some unlooked-for change; and
I may yet assist to restore my country."
But with this lingering patriotism no ambition was mingled. In that heated
stage of action, in which the desire of power seemed to stir through every
breast, and Italy had become the El Dorado of wealth, or the Utopia of
empire, to thousands of valiant arms and plotting minds, there was at least
one breast that felt the true philosophy of the Hermit. Adrian's nature,
though gallant and masculine, was singularly imbued with that elegance of
temperament which recoils from rude contact, and to which a lettered and
cultivated indolence is the supremest luxury. His education, his
experience, and his intellect, had placed him far in advance of his age,
and he looked with a high contempt on the coarse villanies and base tricks
by which Italian ambition sought its road to power. The rise and fall of
Rienzi, who, whatever his failings, was at least the purest and most
honourable of the self-raised princes of the age, had conspired to make him
despond of the success of noble, as he recoiled from that of selfish
aspirations. And the dreamy melancholy which resulted from his ill-starred
love, yet more tended to wean him from the stale and hackneyed pursuits of
the world. His character was full of beauty and of poetry - not the less
so in that it found not a vent for its emotions in the actual occupation of
the poet! Pent within, those emotions diffused themselves over all his
thoughts and coloured his whole soul. Sometimes, in the blessed
abstraction of his visions, he pictured to himself the lot he might have
chosen had Irene lived, and fate united them - far from the turbulent and
vulgar roar of Rome - but amidst some yet unpolluted solitude of the bright
Italian soil. Before his eye there rose the lovely landscape - the palace
by the borders of the waveless lake - the vineyards in the valley - the
dark forests waving from the hill - and that home, the resort and refuge of
all the minstrelsy and love of Italy, brightened by the "Lampeggiar dell'
angelico riso," that makes a paradise in the face we love. Often, seduced
by such dreams to complete oblivion of his loss, the young wanderer started
from the ideal bliss, to behold around him the solitary waste of way - or
the moonlit tents of war - or, worse than all, the crowds and revels of a
Whether or not such fancies now, for a moment, allured his meditations,
conjured up, perhaps, by the name of Irene's brother, which never sounded
in his ears but to awaken ten thousand associations, the Colonna remained
thoughtful and absorbed, until he was disturbed by his own squire, who,
accompanied by Montreal's servitors, ushered in his solitary but ample
repast. Flasks of the richest Florentine wines - viands prepared with all
the art which, alas, Italy has now lost! - goblets and salvers of gold and
silver, prodigally wrought with barbaric gems - attested the princely
luxury which reigned in the camp of the Grand Company. But Adrian saw in
all only the spoliation of his degraded country, and felt the splendour
almost as an insult. His lonely meal soon concluded, he became impatient
of the monotony of his tent; and, tempted by the cool air of the descending
eve, sauntered carelessly forth. He bent his steps by the side of the
brooklet that curved, snakelike and sparkling, by Montreal's tent; and
finding a spot somewhat solitary and apart from the warlike tenements
around, flung himself by the margin of the stream.
The last rays of the sun quivered on the wave that danced musically over
its stony bed; and amidst a little copse on the opposite bank broke the
brief and momentary song of such of the bolder habitants of that purple air
as the din of the camp had not scared from their green retreat. The clouds
lay motionless to the west, in that sky so darkly and intensely blue, never
seen but over the landscapes that a Claude or a Rosa loved to paint; and
dim and delicious rose-hues gathered over the grey peaks of the distant
Apennines. From afar floated the hum of the camp, broken by the neigh of
returning steeds; the blast of an occasional bugle; and, at regular
intervals, by the armed tramp of the neighbouring sentry. And opposite to
the left of the copse - upon a rising ground, matted with reeds, moss, and
waving shrubs - were the ruins of some old Etruscan building, whose name
had perished, whose very uses were unknown.
The scene was so calm and lovely, as Adrian gazed upon it, that it was
scarcely possible to imagine it at that very hour the haunt of fierce and
banded robbers, among most of whom the very soul of man was embruted, and
to all of whom murder or rapine made the habitual occupation of life.
Still buried in his reveries, and carelessly dropping stones into the noisy
rivulet, Adrian was aroused by the sound of steps.
"A fair spot to listen to the lute and the ballads of Provence," said the
voice of Montreal, as the Knight of St. John threw himself on the turf
beside the young Colonna.
"You retain, then, your ancient love of your national melodies," said
"Ay, I have not yet survived all my youth," answered Montreal, with a
slight sigh. "But somehow or other, the strains that once pleased my fancy
now go too directly to my heart. So, though I still welcome jongleur and
minstrel, I bid them sing their newest conceits. I cannot wish ever again
to hear the poetry I heard when I was young!"
"Pardon me," said Adrian, with great interest, "but fain would I have
dared, though a secret apprehension prevented me hitherto, - fain would I
have dared to question you of that lovely lady, with whom, seven years ago,
we gazed at moonlight upon the odorous orange-groves and rosy waters of
Montreal turned away his face; he laid his hand on Adrian's arm, and
murmured, in a deep and hoarse tone, "I am alone now!"
Adrian pressed his hand in silence. He felt no light shock at thus
learning the death of one so gentle, so lovely, and so ill-fated.
"The vows of my knighthood," continued Montreal, "which precluded Adeline
the rights of wedlock - the shame of her house - the angry grief of her
mother - the wild vicissitudes of my life, so exposed to peril - the loss
of her son - all preyed silently on her frame. She did not die (die is too
harsh a word!), but she drooped away, and glided into heaven. Even as on a
summer's morn some soft dream fleets across us, growing less and less
distinct, until it fades, as it were, into light, and we awaken - so faded
Adeline's parting spirit, till the daylight of God broke upon it."
Montreal paused a moment, and then resumed: "These thoughts make the
boldest of us weak sometimes, and we Provencals are foolish in these
matters! - God wot, she was very dear to me!"
The Knight bent down and crossed himself devoutly, his lips muttered a
prayer. Strange as it may seem to our more enlightened age, so martial a
garb did morality then wear, that this man, at whose word towns had blazed
and torrents of blood had flowed, neither adjudged himself, nor was
adjudged by the majority of his contemporaries, a criminal. His order,
half monastic, half warlike, was emblematic of himself. He trampled upon
man, yet humbled himself to God; nor had all his acquaintance with the
refining scepticism of Italy shaken the sturdy and simple faith of the bold
Provencal. So far from recognising any want of harmony between his calling
and his creed, he held that man no true chevalier who was not as devout to
the Cross as relentless with the sword.
"And you have no child save the one you lost?" asked Adrian, when he
observed the wonted composure of Montreal once more returning.
"None!" said Montreal, as his brow again darkened. "No love-begotten heir
of mine will succeed to the fortunes I trust yet to build. Never on earth
shall I see upon the face of her child the likeness of Adeline! Yet, at
Avignon, I saw a boy I would have claimed; for methought she must have
looked her soul into his eyes, they were so like hers! Well, well! The
Provence tree hath other branches; and some unborn nephew must be - what?
The stars have not yet decided! But ambition is now the only thing in the
world left me to love."
"So differently operates the same misfortune upon different characters,"
thought the Colonna. "To me, crowns became valueless when I could no
longer dream of placing them on Irene's brow!"
The similarity of their fates, however, attracted Adrian strongly towards
his host; and the two Knights conversed together with more friendship and
unreserve than they had hitherto done. At length Montreal said, "By the
way, I have not inquired your destination."
"I am bound to Rome," said Adrian; "and the intelligence I have learned
from you incites me thitherward yet more eagerly. If Rienzi return, I may
mediate successfully, perchance, between the Tribune-Senator and the
nobles; and if I find my cousin, young Stefanello, now the head of our
house, more tractable than his sires, I shall not despair of conciliating
the less powerful Barons. Rome wants repose; and whoever governs, if he
govern but with justice, ought to be supported both by prince and
Montreal listened with great attention, and then muttered to himself, "No,
it cannot be!" He mused a little while, shading his brow with his hand,
before he said aloud, "To Rome you are bound. Well, we shall meet soon
amidst its ruins. Know, by the way, that my object here is already won:
these Florentine merchants have acceded to my terms; they have purchased a
two years' peace; tomorrow the camp breaks up, and the Grand Company march
to Lombardy. There, if my schemes prosper, and the Venetians pay my price,
I league the rascals (under Landau, my Lieutenant) with the Sea-City, in
defiance of the Visconti, and shall pass my autumn in peace amidst the
pomps of Rome."
"Sir Walter de Montreal," said Adrian, "your frankness perhaps makes me
presumptuous; but when I hear you talk, like a huxtering trader, of selling
alike your friendship and your forbearance, I ask myself, 'Is this the
great Knight of St. John; and have men spoken of him fairly, when they
assert the sole stain on his laurels to be his avarice?"
Montreal bit his lip; nevertheless, he answered calmly, "My frankness has
brought its own penance, Lord Adrian. However, I cannot wholly leave so
honoured a guest under an impression which I feel to be plausible, but not
just. No, brave Colonna; report wrongs me. I value Gold, for Gold is the
Architect of Power! It fills the camp - it storms the city - it buys the
marketplace - it raises the palace - it founds the throne. I value Gold, -
it is the means necessary to my end!"
"And that end - "
"Is - no matter what," said the Knight coldly. "Let us to our tents, the
dews fall heavily, and the malaria floats over these houseless wastes."
The pair rose; - yet, fascinated by the beauty of the hour, they lingered
for a moment by the brook. The earliest stars shone over its crisping
wavelets, and a delicious breeze murmured gently amidst the glossy
"Thus gazing," said Montreal, softly, "we reverse the old Medusan fable the
poets tell us of, and look and muse ourselves out of stone. A little
while, and it was the sunlight that gilded the wave - it now shines as
brightly and glides as gaily beneath the stars; even so rolls the stream of
time: one luminary succeeds the other equally welcomed - equally
illumining - equally evanescent! - You see, the poetry of Provence still
lives beneath my mail!"
Adrian early sought his couch; but his own thoughts and the sounds of loud
mirth that broke from Montreal's tent, where the chief feasted the captains
of his band, a revel from which he had the delicacy to excuse the Roman
noble, kept the Colonna long awake; and he had scarcely fallen into an
unquiet slumber, when yet more discordant sounds again invaded his repose.
At the earliest dawn the wide armament was astir - the creaking of cordage
- the tramp of men - loud orders and louder oaths - the slow rolling of
baggage-wains - and the clank of the armourers, announced the removal of
the camp, and the approaching departure of the Grand Company.
Ere Adrian was yet attired, Montreal entered his tent.
"I have appointed," he said, "five score lances under a trusty leader, to
accompany you, noble Adrian, to the borders of Romagna; they wait your
leisure. In another hour I depart; the on-guard are already in motion."
Adrian would fain have declined the proffered escort; but he saw that it
would only offend the pride of the chief, who soon retired. Hastily Adrian
endued his arms - the air of the fresh morning, and the glad sun rising
gorgeously from the hills, revived his wearied spirit. He repaired to
Montreal's tent, and found him alone, with the implements of writing before
him, and a triumphant smile upon his countenance.
"Fortune showers new favours on me!" he said, gaily. "Yesterday the
Florentines spared me the trouble of a siege: and today (even since I last
saw you - a few minutes since) puts your new Senator of Rome into my
"How! Have your bands then arrested Rienzi?"
"Not so - better still! The Tribune changed his plan, and repaired to
Perugia, where my brothers now abide - sought them - they have supplied him
with money and soldiers enough to brave the perils of the way, and to defy
the swords of the Barons. So writes my good brother Arimbaldo, a man of
letters, whom the Tribune thinks rightly he has decoyed with old tales of
Roman greatness, and mighty promises of grateful advancement. You find me
hastily expressing my content at the arrangement. My brothers themselves
will accompany the Senator-Tribune to the walls of the Capitol."
"Still, I see not how this places Rienzi in your power."
"No! His soldiers are my creatures - his comrades my brothers - his
creditor myself! Let him rule Rome then - the time soon comes when the
Vice-Regent must yield to - "
"The Chief of the Grand Company," interrupted Adrian, with a shudder, which
the bold Montreal was too engrossed with the unconcealed excitement of his
own thoughts to notice. "No, Knight of Provence, basely have we succumbed
to domestic tyrants: but never, I trust, will Romans be so vile as to wear
the yoke of a foreign usurper."
Montreal looked hard at Adrian, and smiled sternly.
"You mistake me," said he; "and it will be time enough for you to play the
Brutus when I assume the Caesar. Meanwhile we are but host and guest. Let
us change the theme."
Nevertheless this, their latter conference, threw a chill over both during
the short time the Knights remained together, and they parted with a
formality which was ill-suited to their friendly intercourse of the night
before. Montreal felt he had in cautiously revealed himself, but caution
was no part of his character, whenever he found himself at the head of an
army, and at the full tide of fortune; and at that moment, so confident was
he of the success of his wildest schemes, that he recked little whom he
offended, or whom alarmed.
Slowly, with his strange and ferocious escort, Adrian renewed his way.
Winding up a steep ascent that led from the plain, - when he reached the
summit, the curve in the road shewed him the whole army on its march; - the
gonfalons waving - the armour flashing in the sun, line after line, like a
river of steel, and the whole plain bristling with the array of that moving
war; - while the solemn tread of the armed thousands fell subdued and
stifled at times by martial and exulting music. As they swept on, Adrian
descried at length the stately and towering form of Montreal upon a black
charger, distinguished even at that distance from the rest, not more by his
gorgeous armour than his lofty stature. So swept he on in the pride of his
array - in the flush of his hopes - the head of a mighty armament - the
terror of Italy - the hero that was - the monarch that might be!
BOOK IX. THE RETURN.
"Allora la sua venuta fu a Roma sentita; Romani si apparecchiavano a
riceverlo con letizia...furo fatti archi trionfali," &c. &c. - "Vita di
Cola di Rienzi", lib. ii. c. 17.
"Then the fame of his coming was felt at Rome; the Romans made ready to
receive him with gladness...triumphal arches were erected," &c., &c. -
"Life of Cola di Rienzi".
Chapter 9.I. The Triumphal Entrance.
All Rome was astir! - from St. Angelo to the Capitol, windows, balconies,
roofs, were crowded with animated thousands. Only here and there, in the
sullen quarters of the Colonna, the Orsini, and the Savelli, reigned a
death-like solitude and a dreary gloom. In those fortifications, rather
than streets, not even the accustomed tread of the barbarian sentinel was
heard. The gates closed - the casements barred - the grim silence around -
attested the absence of the Barons. They had left the city so soon as they
had learned the certain approach of Rienzi. In the villages and castles of
the Campagna, surrounded by their mercenaries, they awaited the hour when
the people, weary of their idol, should welcome back even those ferocious
With these exceptions, all Rome was astir! Triumphal arches of drapery,
wrought with gold and silver, raised at every principal vista, were
inscribed with mottoes of welcome and rejoicing. At frequent intervals
stood youths and maidens, with baskets of flowers and laurels. High above
the assembled multitudes - from the proud tower of Hadrian - from the
turrets of the Capitol - from the spires of the sacred buildings dedicated
to Apostle and to Saint - floated banners as for a victory. Rome once more
opened her arms to receive her Tribune!
Mingled with the crowd - disguised by his large mantle - hidden by the
pressure of the throng - his person, indeed, forgotten by most - and, in
the confusion of the moment, heeded by none - stood Adrian Colonna! He had
not been able to conquer his interest for the brother of Irene. Solitary
amidst his fellow-citizens, he stood - the only one of the proud race of
Colonna who witnessed the triumph of the darling of the people.
"They say he has grown large in his prison," said one of the bystanders;
"he was lean enough when he came by daybreak out of the Church of St.
"Ay," said another, a little man with a shrewd, restless eye, "they say
truly; I saw him take leave of the Legate."
Every eye was turned to the last speaker; he became at once a personage of
importance. "Yes," continued the little man with an elated and pompous
air, "as soon, d'ye see, as he had prevailed on Messere Brettone, and
Messere Arimbaldo, the brothers of Fra Moreale, to accompany him from
Perugia to Monte Fiascone, he went at once to the Legate d'Albornoz, who
was standing in the open air conversing with his captains. A crowd
followed. I was one of them; and the Tribune nodded at me - ay, that did
he! - and so, with his scarlet cloak, and his scarlet cap, he faced the
proud Cardinal with a pride greater than his own. 'Monsignore,' said he,
'though you accord me neither money nor arms, to meet the dangers of the
road and brave the ambush of the Barons, I am prepared to depart. Senator
of Rome, his Holiness hath made me: according to custom, I pray you,
Monsignore, forthwith to confirm the rank.' I would you could have seen
how the proud Spaniard stared, and blushed, and frowned; but he bit his
lip, and said little."
"And confirmed Rienzi Senator?"
"Yes; and blessed him, and bade him depart."
"Senator!" said a stalwart but grey-haired giant with folded arms; "I like
not a title that has been borne by a patrician. I fear me, in the new
title he will forget the old."
"Fie, Cecco del Vecchio, you were always a grumbler!" said a merchant of
cloth, whose commodity the ceremonial had put in great request. "Fie! -
for my part, I think Senator a less new-fangled title than Tribune. I hope
there will be feasting enow, at last. Rome has been long dull. A bad time
for trade, I warrant me!"
The artisan grinned scornfully. He was one of those who distinguished
between the middle class and the working, and he loathed a merchant as much
as he did a noble. "The day wears," said the little man; "he must be here
anon. The Senator's lady, and all his train, have gone forth to meet him
these two hours."
Scarce were these words uttered, when the crowd to the right swayed
restlessly; and presently a horseman rode rapidly through the street. "Way
there! Keep back! Way - make way for the Most Illustrious the Senator of
The crowd became hushed - then murmuring - then hushed again. From balcony
and casement stretched the neck of every gazer. The tramp of steeds was
heard at a distance - the sound of clarion and trumpet; - then, gleaming
through the distant curve of the streets, was seen the wave of the
gonfalons - then, the glitter of spears - and then from the whole
multitude, as from one voice, arose the shout, - "He comes! he comes!"
Adrian shrunk yet more backward amongst the throng; and, leaning against
the wall of one of the houses, contemplated the approaching pageant.
First came, six abreast, the procession of Roman horsemen who had gone
forth to meet the Senator, bearing boughs of olive in their hands; each
hundred preceded by banners, inscribed with the words, "Liberty and Peace
restored." As these passed the group by Adrian, each more popular citizen
of the cavalcade was recognised, and received with loud shouts. By the
garb and equipment of the horsemen, Adrian saw that they belonged chiefly
to the traders of Rome; a race who, he well knew, unless strangely altered,
valued liberty only as a commercial speculation. "A vain support these,"
thought the Colonna; - "what next?" on, then, came in glittering armour the
German mercenaries, hired by the gold of the Brothers of Provence, in
number two hundred and fifty, and previously in the pay of Malatesta of
Rimini; - tall, stern, sedate, disciplined, - eyeing the crowd with a look,
half of barbarian wonder, half of insolent disdain. No shout of
gratulation welcomed these sturdy strangers; it was evident that their
aspect cast a chill over the assembly.
"Shame!" growled Cecco del Vecchio, audibly. "Has the people's friend need
of the swords which guard an Orsini or a Malatesta? - shame!"
No voice this time silenced the huge malcontent.
"His only real defence against the Barons," thought Adrian, "if he pay them
well! But their number is not sufficient!"
Next came two hundred fantassins, or foot-soldiers, of Tuscany, with the
corselets and arms of the heavy-armed soldiery - a gallant company, and
whose cheerful looks and familiar bearing appeared to sympathise with the
crowd. And in truth they did so, - for they were Tuscans, and therefore
lovers of freedom. In them, too, the Romans seemed to recognise natural
and legitimate allies, - and there was a general cry of "Vivano i bravi
"Poor defence!" thought the more sagacious Colonna; "the Barons can awe,
and the mob corrupt them."
Next came a file of trumpeters and standard-bearers; - and now the sound of
the music was drowned by shouts, which seemed to rise simultaneously as
from every quarter of the city; - "Rienzi! Rienzi! - Welcome, welcome! -
Liberty and Rienzi! Rienzi and the Good Estate!" Flowers dropped on his
path, kerchiefs and banners waved from every house; - tears might be seen
coursing, unheeded, down bearded cheeks; - youth and age were kneeling
together, with uplifted hands, invoking blessings on the head of the
Restored. On he came the Senator-Tribune - "the Phoenix to his pyre!"
Robed in scarlet, that literally blazed with gold, his proud head bared in
the sun, and bending to the saddle bow, Rienzi passed slowly through the
throng. Not in the flush of that hour were visible, on his glorious
countenance, the signs of disease and care: the very enlargement of his
proportions gave a greater majesty to his mien. Hope sparkled in his eye -
triumph and empire sat upon his brow. The crowd could not contain
themselves; they pressed forward, each upon each, anxious to catch the
glance of his eye, to touch the hem of his robe. He himself was deeply
affected by their joy. He halted; with faltering and broken words, he
attempted to address them. "I am repaid," he said, - "repaid for all; -
may I live to make you happy!"
The crowd parted again - the Senator moved on - again the crowd closed in.
Behind the Tribune, to their excited imagination, seemed to move the very
goddess of ancient Rome.
Upon a steed, caparisoned with cloth of gold; - in snow-white robes,
studded with gems that flashed back the day, - came the beautiful and regal
Nina. The memory of her pride, her ostentation, all forgotten in that
moment, she was scarce less welcome, scarce less idolized, than her lord.
And her smile all radiant with joy - her lip quivering with proud and elate
emotion, - never had she seemed at once so born alike for love and for
command; - a Zenobia passing through the pomp of Rome, - not a captive, but
But not upon that stately form riveted the gaze of Adrian - pale,
breathless, trembling, he clung to the walls against which he leaned. Was
it a dream? Had the dead revived? Or was it his own - his living Irene -
whose soft and melancholy loveliness shone sadly by the side of Nina - a
star beside the moon? The pageant faded from his eyes - all grew dim and
dark. For a moment he was insensible. When he recovered, the crowd was
hurrying along, confused and blent with the mighty stream that followed the
procession. Through the moving multitude he caught the graceful form of
Irene, again snatched by the closing standards of the procession from his
view. His blood rushed back from his heart through every vein. He was as
a man who for years had been in a fearful trance, and who is suddenly
awakened to the light of heaven.
One of that mighty throng remained motionless with Adrian. It was Cecco
"He did not see me," muttered the smith to himself; "old friends are
forgotten now! Well, well, Cecco del Vecchio hates tyrants still - no
matter what their name, nor how smoothly they are disguised. He did not
see ME! Umph!"
Chapter 9.II. The Masquerade.
The acuter reader has already learned, without the absolute intervention of
the author as narrator, the incidents occurring to Rienzi in the interval
between his acquittal at Avignon and his return to Rome. As the impression
made by Nina upon the softer and better nature of Albornoz died away, he
naturally began to consider his guest - as the profound politicians of that
day ever considered men - a piece upon the great Chess-Board, to be moved,
advanced, or sacrificed, as best suited the scheme in view. His purpose
accomplished, in the recovery of the patrimonial territory, the submission
of John di Vico, and the fall and death of the Demagogue Baroncelli, the
Cardinal deemed it far from advisable to restore to Rome, and with so high
a dignity, the able and ambitious Rienzi. Before the daring Roman, even
his own great spirit quailed; and he was wholly unable to conceive or to
calculate the policy that might be adopted by the new Senator, when once
more Lord of Rome. Without affecting to detain, he therefore declined to
assist in restoring him. And Rienzi thus saw himself within an easy march
of Rome, without one soldier to protect him against the Barons by the way.
But Heaven had decreed that no single man, however gifted, or however
powerful, should long counteract or master the destinies of Rienzi: and
perhaps in no more glittering scene of his life did he ever evince so
dexterous and subtle an intellect as he now did in extricating himself from
the wiles of the Cardinal. Repairing to Perugia, he had, as we have seen,
procured, through the brothers of Montreal, men and money for his return.
But the Knight of St. John was greatly mistaken, if he imagined that Rienzi
was not thoroughly aware of the perilous and treacherous tenure of the
support he had received. His keen eye read at a glance the aims and the
characters of the brothers of Montreal - he knew that while affecting to
serve him, they designed to control - that, made the debtor of the grasping
and aspiring Montreal, and surrounded by the troops conducted by Montreal's
brethren, he was in the midst of a net which, if not broken, would soon
involve fortune and life itself in its fatal and deadly meshes. But,
confident in the resources and promptitude of his own genius, he yet
sanguinely trusted to make those his puppets, who dreamed that he was their
own; and, with empire for the stake, he cared not how crafty the
antagonists he was compelled to engage.
Meanwhile, uniting to all his rasher and all his nobler qualities, a
profound dissimulation, he appeared to trust implicitly to his Provencal
companions; and his first act on entering the Capitol, after the triumphal
procession, was to reward with the highest dignities in his gift, Messere
Arimbaldo and Messere Brettone de Montreal!
High feasting was there that night in the halls of the Capitol; but dearer
to Rienzi than all the pomp of the day, were the smiles of Nina. Her proud
and admiring eyes, swimming with delicious tears, fixed upon his
countenance, she but felt that they were re-united, and that the hours,
however brilliantly illumined, were hastening to that moment, when, after
so desolate and dark an absence, they might once more be alone.
Far other the thoughts of Adrian Colonna, as he sate alone in the dreary
palace in the yet more dreary quarter of his haughty race. Irene then was
alive, - he had been deceived by some strange error, - she had escaped the
devouring pestilence; and something in the pale sadness of her gentle
features, even in that day of triumph, told him he was still remembered.
But as his mind by degrees calmed itself from its first wild and tumultuous
rapture, he could not help asking himself the question whether they were
not still to be divided! Stefanello Colonna, the grandson of the old
Stephen, and (by the death of his sire and brother) the youthful head of
that powerful House, had already raised his standard against the Senator.
Fortifying himself in the almost impregnable fastness of Palestrina, he had
assembled around him all the retainers of his family, and his lawless
soldiery now ravaged the neighbouring plains far and wide.
Adrian foresaw that the lapse of a few days would suffice to bring the
Colonna and the Senator to open war. Could he take part against those of
his own blood? The very circumstance of his love for Irene would yet more
rob such a proceeding of all appearance of disinterested patriotism, and
yet more deeply and irremediably stain his knightly fame, wherever the
sympathy of his equals was enlisted with the cause of the Colonna. On the
other hand, not only his love for the Senator's sister, but his own secret
inclinations and honest convictions, were on the side of one who alone
seemed to him possessed of the desire and the genius to repress the
disorders of his fallen city. Long meditating, he feared no alternative
was left him but in the same cruel neutrality to which he had been before
condemned; but he resolved at least to make the attempt - rendered
favourable and dignified by his birth and reputation - to reconcile the
contending parties. To effect this, he saw that he must begin with his
haughty cousin. He was well aware that were it known that he had first
obtained an interview with Rienzi - did it appear as if he were charged
with overtures from the Senator - although Stefanello himself might be
inclined to yield to his representations, the insolent and ferocious Barons
who surrounded him would not deign to listen to the envoy of the People's
chosen one; and instead of being honoured as an intercessor, he should be
suspected as a traitor. He determined, then, to depart for Palestrina; but
(and his heart beat audibly) would it not be possible first to obtain an
interview with Irene? It was no easy enterprise, surrounded as she was,
but he resolved to adventure it. He summoned Giulio.
"The Senator holds a festival this evening - think you that the assemblage
will be numerous?"
"I hear," answered Giulio, "that the banquet given to the Ambassadors and
Signors today is to be followed tomorrow by a mask, to which all ranks are
admitted. By Bacchus, (Still a common Roman expletive.) if the Tribune
only invited nobles, the smallest closet in the Capitol would suffice to
receive his maskers. I suppose a mask has been resolved on in order to
disguise the quality of the visitors."
Adrian mused a moment; and the result of his revery was a determination to
delay for another sun his departure to Palestrina - to take advantage of
the nature of the revel, and to join the masquerade.
That species of entertainment, though unusual at that season of the year,
had been preferred by Rienzi, partly and ostensibly because it was one in
which all his numerous and motley supporters could be best received; but
chiefly and secretly because it afforded himself and his confidential
friends the occasion to mix unsuspected amongst the throng, and learn more
of the real anticipations of the Romans with respect to his policy and his
strength, than could well be gathered from the enthusiasm of a public
The following night was beautifully serene and clear. The better to
accommodate the numerous guests, and to take advantage of the warm and
moonlit freshness of the air, the open court of the Capitol, with the Place
of the Lion, (as well as the state apartments within,) was devoted to the
As Adrian entered the festive court with the rush of the throng, it chanced
that in the eager impatience of some maskers, more vehement than the rest,
his vizard was deranged. He hastily replaced it; but not before one of the
guests had recognised his countenance.
From courtesy, Rienzi and his family remained at first unmasked. They
stood at the head of the stairs to which the old Egyptian Lion gave the
name. The lights shone over that Colossal Monument - which, torn from its
antique home, had witnessed, in its grim repose, the rise and lapse of
countless generations, and the dark and stormy revolutions of avenging
fate. It was an ill omen, often afterwards remarked, that the place of
that state festival was the place also of the state executions. But at
that moment, as group after group pressed forward to win smile and word
from the celebrated man, whose fortunes had been the theme of Europe, or to
bend in homage to the lustrous loveliness of Nina, no omen and no warning
clouded the universal gladness.
Behind Nina, well contented to shrink from the gaze of the throng, and to
feel her softer beauty eclipsed by the dazzling and gorgeous charms of her
brother's wife, stood Irene. Amidst the crowd on her alone Adrian fixed
his eyes. The years which had flown over the fair brow of the girl of
sixteen - then animated by, yet trembling beneath, the first wild breath of
Love; - youth in every vein - passion and childish tenderness in every
thought, had not marred, but they had changed, the character of Irene's
beauty. Her cheek, no longer varying with every instant, was settled into
a delicate and thoughtful paleness - her form, more rounded to the
proportions of Roman beauty, had assumed an air of dignified and calm
repose. No longer did the restless eye wander in search of some imagined
object; no longer did the lip quiver into smiles at some untold hope or
half-unconscious recollection. A grave and mournful expression gave to her
face (still how sweet!) a gravity beyond her years. The bloom, the flush,
the April of the heart, was gone; but yet neither time, nor sorrow, nor
blighted love, had stolen from her countenance its rare and angelic
softness - nor that inexpressible and virgin modesty of form and aspect,
which, contrasting the bolder beauties of Italy, had more than aught else
distinguished to Adrian, from all other women, the idol of his heart. And
feeding his gaze upon those dark deep eyes, which spoke of thought far away
and busy with the past, Adrian felt again and again that he was not
forgotten! Hovering near her, but suffering the crowd to press one after
another before him, he did not perceive that he had attracted the eagle eye
of the Senator.
In fact, as one of the maskers passed Rienzi, he whispered, "Beware, a
Colonna is among the masks! beneath the reveller's domino has often lurked
the assassin's dagger. Yonder stands your foe - mark him!"
These words were the first sharp and thrilling intimation of the perils
into which he had rushed, that the Tribune-Senator had received since his
return. He changed colour slightly; and for some minutes the courtly smile
and ready greeting with which he had hitherto delighted every guest, gave
way to a moody abstraction.
"Why stands yon strange man so mute and motionless?" whispered he to Nina.
"He speaks to none - he approaches us not - a churl, a churl! - he must be
"Doubtless, some German or English barbarian," answered Nina. "Let not, my
Lord, so slight a cloud dim your merriment."
"You are right, dearest; we have friends here; we are well girt. And, by
my father's ashes, I feel that I must accustom myself to danger. Nina, let
us move on; methinks we might now mix among the maskers - masked
The music played loud and cheerily as the Senator and his party mingled
with the throng. But still his eye turned ever towards the grey domino of
Adrian, and he perceived that it followed his steps. Approaching the
private entrance of the Capitol, he for a few moments lost sight of his
unwelcome pursuer: but just as he entered, turning abruptly, Rienzi
perceived him close at his side - the next moment the stranger had vanished
amidst the throng. But that moment had sufficed to Adrian - he had reached
Irene. "Adrian Colonna (he whispered) waits thee beside the Lion."
In the absorption of his own reflections, Rienzi fortunately did not notice
the sudden paleness and agitation of his sister. Entered within his
palace, he called for wine - the draught revived his spirits - he listened
smilingly to the sparkling remarks of Nina; and enduing his mask and
disguise, said, with his wonted cheerfulness, "Now for Truth - strange that
in festivals it should only speak behind a vizard! My sweet sister, thou
hast lost thine old smile, and I would rather see that than - Ha! has Irene
"Only, I suppose, to change her dress, my Cola, and mingle with the
revellers," answered Nina. "Let my smile atone for hers."
Rienzi kissed the bright brow of his wife as she clung fondly to his bosom.
"Thy smile is the sunlight," said he; "but this girl disturbs me. Methinks
now, at least, she might wear a gladder aspect."
"Is there nothing of love beneath my fair sister's gloom?" answered Nina.
"Do you not call to mind how she loved Adrian Colonna?"
"Does that fantasy hold still?" returned Rienzi, musingly. "Well, and she
is fit bride for a monarch."
"Yet it were an alliance that would, better than one with monarchs,
strengthen thy power at Rome!"
"Ay, were it possible; but that haughty race! - Perchance this very masker
that so haunted our steps was but her lover. I will look to this. Let us
forth, my Nina. Am I well cloaked?"
"Excellently well - and I?"
"The sun behind a cloud."
"Ah, let us not tarry long; what hour of revel like that when thy hand in
mine, this head upon thy bosom, we forget the sorrows we have known, and
even the triumphs we have shared?"
Meanwhile, Irene, confused and lost amidst a transport of emotion, already
disguised and masked, was threading her way through the crowd back to the
staircase of the Lion. With the absence of the Senator that spot had
comparatively been deserted. Music and the dance attracted the maskers to
another quarter of the wide space. And Irene now approaching, beheld the
moonlight fall over the statue, and a solitary figure leaning against the
pedestal. She paused, the figure approached, and again she heard the voice
of her early love.
"Oh, Irene! recognised even in this disguise," said Adrian, seizing her
trembling hand; "have I lived to gaze again upon that form - to touch this
hand? Did not these eyes behold thee lifeless in that fearful vault, which
I shudder to recall? By what miracle wert thou raised again? By what
means did Heaven spare to this earth one that it seemed already to have
placed amongst its angels?"
"Was this, indeed, thy belief?" said Irene, falteringly, but with an accent
eloquent of joy. "Thou didst not then willingly desert me? Unjust that I
was, I wronged thy noble nature, and deemed that my brother's fall, my
humble lineage, thy brilliant fate, had made thee renounce Irene."
"Unjust indeed!" answered the lover. "But surely I saw thee amongst the
dead! - thy cloak, with the silver stars - who else wore the arms of the
"Was it but the cloak then, which, dropped in the streets, was probably
assumed by some more ill-fated victim; was it that sight alone, that made
thee so soon despair? Ah! Adrian," continued Irene, tenderly, but with
reproach; "not even when I saw thee seemingly lifeless on the couch by
which I had watched three days and nights, not even then did I despair!"
"What, then, my vision did not deceive me! It was you who watched by my
bed in that grim hour, whose love guarded, whose care preserved me! And I,
wretch that I was! - "
"Nay," answered Irene, "your thought was natural. Heaven seemed to endow
me with superhuman strength, whilst I was necessary to thee. But judge of
my dismay. I left thee to seek the good friar who attended thee as thy
leech; I returned, and found thee not. Heart-sick and terrified, I
searched the desolate city in vain. Strong as I was while hope supported
me, I sunk beneath fear. - And my brother found me senseless, and stretched
on the ground, by the church of St. Mark."
"The church of St. Mark! - so foretold his dream!"
"He had told me he had met thee; we searched for thee in vain; at length we
heard that thou hadst left the city, and - and - I rejoiced, Adrian, but I
For some minutes the young lovers surrendered themselves to the delight of
reunion, while new explanations called forth new transports.
"And now," murmured Irene, "now that we have met - " she paused, and her
mask concealed her blushes.
"Now that we have met," said Adrian, filling up the silence, "wouldst thou
say further, 'that we should not part?' Trust me, dearest, that is the
hope that animates my heart. It was but to enjoy these brief bright
moments with thee, that I delayed my departure to Palestrina. Could I but
hope to bring my young cousin into amity with thy brother, no barrier would
prevent our union. Willingly I forget the past - the death of my unhappy
kinsmen, (victims, it is true, to their own faults;) and, perhaps, amidst
all the crowds that hailed his return, none more appreciated the great and
lofty qualities of Cola di Rienzi, than did Adrian Colonna."
"If this be so," said Irene, "let me hope the best; meanwhile, it is enough
of comfort and of happiness to know, that we love each other as of old.
Ah, Adrian, I am sadly changed; and often have I thought it a thing beyond
my dreams, that thou shouldst see me again and love me still."
"Fairer art thou and lovelier than ever," answered Adrian, passionately;
"and time, which has ripened thy bloom, has but taught me more deeply to
feel thy value. Farewell, Irene, I linger here no longer; thou wilt, I
trust, hear soon of my success with my House, and ere the week be over I
may return to claim thy hand in the face of day."
The lovers parted; Adrian lingered on the spot, and Irene hastened to bury
her emotion and her raptures in her own chamber.
As her form vanished, and the young Colonna slowly turned away, a tall mask
strode abruptly towards him.
"Thou art a Colonna," it said, "and in the power of the Senator. Dost thou
"If I be a Colonna, rude masker," answered Adrian, coldly, "thou shouldst
know the old proverb, 'He who stirs the column, shall rue the fall.'"
The stranger laughed aloud, and then lifting his mask, Adrian saw that it
was the Senator who stood before him.
"My Lord Adrian di Castello," said Rienzi, resuming all his gravity, "is it
as friend or foe that you have honoured our revels this night?"
"Senator of Rome," answered Adrian, with equal stateliness, "I partake of
no man's hospitality but as a friend. A foe, at least to you, I trust
never justly to be esteemed."
"I would," rejoined Rienzi, "that I could apply to myself unreservedly that
most flattering speech. Are these friendly feelings entertained towards me
as the Governor of the Roman people, or as the brother of the woman who has
listened to your vows?"
Adrian, who when the Senator had unmasked had followed his example, felt at
these words that his eye quailed beneath Rienzi's. However, he recovered
himself with the wonted readiness of an Italian, and replied laconically,
"Both!" echoed Rienzi. "Then, indeed, noble Adrian, you are welcome
hither. And yet, methinks, if you conceived there was no cause for enmity
between us, you would have wooed the sister of Cola di Rienzi in a guise
more worthy of your birth; and, permit me to add, of that station which
God, destiny, and my country, have accorded unto me. You dare not, young
Colonna, meditate dishonour to the sister of the Senator of Rome. Highborn
as you are, she is your equal."
"Were I the Emperor, whose simple knight I but am, your sister were my
equal," answered Adrian, warmly. "Rienzi, I grieve that I am discovered to
you yet. I had trusted that, as a mediator between the Barons and
yourself, I might first have won your confidence, and then claimed my
reward. Know that with tomorrow's dawn I depart for Palestrina, seeking to
reconcile my young cousin to the choice of the People and the Pontiff.
Various reasons, which I need not now detail, would have made me wish to
undertake this heraldry of peace without previous communication with you.
But since we have met, intrust me with any terms of conciliation, and I
pledge you the right hand, not of a Roman noble - alas! the prisca fides
has departed from that pledge! - but of a Knight of the Imperial Court,
that I will not betray your confidence."
Rienzi, accustomed to read the human countenance, had kept his eyes
intently fixed upon Adrian while he spoke; when the Colonna concluded, he
pressed the proffered hand, and said, with that familiar and winning
sweetness which at times was so peculiar to his manner,
"I trust you, Adrian, from my soul. You were mine early friend in calmer,
perchance happier, years. And never did river reflect the stars more
clearly, than your heart then mirrored back the truth. I trust you!"
While thus speaking, he had mechanically led back the Colonna to the statue
of the Lion; there pausing, he resumed:
"Know that I have this morning despatched my delegate to your cousin
Stefanello. With all due courtesy, I have apprised him of my return to
Rome, and invited hither his honoured presence. Forgetting all ancient
feuds, mine own past exile, I have assured him, here, the station and
dignity due to the head of the Colonna. All that I ask in return is
obedience to the law. Years and reverses have abated my younger pride, and
though I may yet preserve the sternness of the Judge, none shall hereafter
complain of the insolence of the Tribune."
"I would," answered Adrian, "that your mission to Stefanello had been
delayed a day; I would fain have forestalled its purport. Howbeit, you
increase my desire of departure, should I yet succeed in obtaining an
honourable and peaceful reconciliation, it is not in disguise that I will
woo your sister."
"And never did Colonna," replied Rienzi, loftily, "bring to his House a
maiden whose alliance more gratified ambition. I still see, as I have seen
ever, in mine own projects, and mine own destinies, the chart of the new
"Be not too sanguine yet, brave Rienzi," replied Adrian, laying his hand on
the Lion of Basalt: "bethink thee on how many scheming brains this dumb
image of stone hath looked down from its pedestal - schemes of sand, and