Part 9 out of 10
schemers of dust. Thou hast enough, at present, for the employ of all
thine energy - not to extend thy power, but to preserve thyself. For,
trust me, never stood human greatness on so wild and dark a precipice!"
"Thou art honest," said the Senator; "and these are the first words of
doubt, and yet of sympathy, I have heard in Rome. But the People love me,
the Barons have fled from Rome, the Pontiff approves, and the swords of the
Northmen guard the avenues of the Capitol. But these are nought; in mine
own honesty are my spear and buckler. Oh, never," continued Rienzi,
kindling with his enthusiasm, "never since the days of the old Republic,
did Roman dream a purer and a brighter aspiration, than that which animates
and supports me now. Peace restored - law established - art, letters,
intellect, dawning upon the night of time; the Patricians, no longer
bandits of rapine, but the guard of order; the People ennobled from a mob,
brave to protect, enlightened to guide, themselves. Then, not by the
violence of arms, but by the majesty of her moral power, shall the Mother
of Nations claim the obedience of her children. Thus dreaming and thus
hoping, shall I tremble or despond? No, Adrian Colonna, come weal or woe,
I abide, unshrinking and unawed, by the chances of my doom!"
So much did the manner and the tone of the Senator exalt his language, that
even the sober sense of Adrian was enchanted and subdued. He kissed the
hand he held, and said earnestly,
"A doom that I will deem it my boast to share - a career that it will be my
glory to smooth. If I succeed in my present mission - "
"You are my brother!" said Rienzi.
"If I fail?"
"You may equally claim that alliance. You pause - you change colour."
"Can I desert my house?"
"Young Lord," said Rienzi, loftily, "say rather can you desert your
country? If you doubt my honesty, if you fear my ambition, desist from
your task, rob me not of a single foe. But if you believe that I have the
will and the power to serve the State - if you recognise, even in the
reverses and calamities I have known and mastered, the protecting hand of
the Saviour of Nations - if those reverses were but the mercies of Him who
chasteneth - necessary, it may be, to correct my earlier daring and sharpen
yet more my intellect - if, in a word, thou believest me one whom, whatever
be his faults, God hath preserved for the sake of Rome, forget that you are
a Colonna - remember only that you are a Roman!"
"You have conquered me, strange and commanding spirit," said Adrian, in a
low voice, completely carried away; "and whatever the conduct of my
kindred, I am yours and Rome's. Farewell."
Chapter 9.III. Adrian's Adventures at Palestrina.
It was yet noon when Adrian beheld before him the lofty mountains that
shelter Palestrina, the Praeneste of the ancient world. Back to a period
before Romulus existed, in the earliest ages of that mysterious
civilisation which in Italy preceded the birth of Rome, could be traced the
existence and the power of that rocky city. Eight dependent towns owned
its sway and its wealth; its position, and the strength of those mighty
walls, in whose ruins may yet be traced the masonry of the remote Pelasgi,
had long braved the ambition of the neighbouring Rome. From that very
citadel, the Mural Crown (Hence, apparently, its Greek name of Stephane.
Palestrina is yet one of the many proofs which the vicinity of Rome affords
of the old Greek civilization of Italy.) of the mountain, had waved the
standard of Marius; and up the road which Adrian's scanty troop slowly
wound, had echoed the march of the murtherous Sylla, on his return from the
Mithridatic war. Below, where the city spread towards the plain, were yet
seen the shattered and roofless columns of the once celebrated Temple of
Fortune; and still the immemorial olives clustered grey and mournfully
around the ruins.
A more formidable hold the Barons of Rome could not have selected; and as
Adrian's military eye scanned the steep ascent and the rugged walls, he
felt that with ordinary skill it might defy for months all the power of the
Roman Senator. Below, in the fertile valley, dismantled cottages and
trampled harvests attested the violence and rapine of the insurgent Barons;
and at that very moment were seen, in the old plain of the warlike Hernici,
troops of armed men, driving before them herds of sheep and cattle,
collected in their lawless incursions. In sight of that Praeneste, which
had been the favourite retreat of the luxurious Lords of Rome in its most
polished day, the Age of Iron seemed renewed.
The banner of the Colonna, borne by Adrian's troop, obtained ready
admittance at the Porta del Sole. As he passed up the irregular and narrow
streets that ascended to the citadel, groups of foreign mercenaries, -
half-ragged, half-tawdry knots of abandoned women, - mixed here and there
with the liveries of the Colonna, stood loitering amidst the ruins of
ancient fanes and palaces, or basked lazily in the sun, upon terraces,
through which, from amidst weeds and grass, glowed the imperishable hues of
the rich mosaics, which had made the pride of that lettered and graceful
nobility, of whom savage freebooters were now the heirs.
The contrast between the Past and Present forcibly occurred to Adrian, as
he passed along; and, despite his order, he felt as if Civilization itself
were enlisted against his House upon the side of Rienzi.
Leaving his train in the court of the citadel, Adrian demanded admission to
the presence of his cousin. He had left Stefanello a child on his
departure from Rome, and there could therefore be but a slight and
unfamiliar acquaintance betwixt them, despite their kindred.
Peals of laughter came upon his ear, as he followed one of Stefanello's
gentlemen through a winding passage that led to the principal chamber. The
door was thrown open, and Adrian found himself in a rude hall, to which
some appearance of hasty state and attempted comfort had been given.
Costly arras imperfectly clothed the stone walls, and the rich seats and
decorated tables, which the growing civilization of the northern cities of
Italy had already introduced into the palaces of Italian nobles, strangely
contrasted the rough pavement, spread with heaps of armour negligently
piled around. At the farther end of the apartment, Adrian shudderingly
perceived, set in due and exact order, the implements of torture.
Stefanello Colonna, with two other Barons, indolently reclined on seats
drawn around a table, in the recess of a deep casement, from which might be
still seen the same glorious landscape, bounded by the dim spires of Rome,
which Hannibal and Pyrrhus had ascended that very citadel to survey!
Stefanello himself, in the first bloom of youth, bore already on his
beardless countenance those traces usually the work of the passions and
vices of maturest manhood. His features were cast in the mould of the old
Stephen's; in their clear, sharp, high-bred outline might be noticed that
regular and graceful symmetry, which blood, in men as in animals, will
sometimes entail through generations; but the features were wasted and
meagre. His brows were knit in an eternal frown; his thin and bloodless
lips wore that insolent contempt which seems so peculiarly cold and
unlovely in early youth; and the deep and livid hollows round his eyes,
spoke of habitual excess and premature exhaustion. By him sat (reconciled
by hatred to one another) the hereditary foes of his race; the soft, but
cunning and astute features of Luca di Savelli, contrasted with the broad
frame and ferocious countenance of the Prince of the Orsini.
The young head of the Colonna rose with some cordiality to receive his
cousin. "Welcome," he said, "dear Adrian; you are arrived in time to
assist us with your well-known military skill. Think you not we shall
stand a long siege, if the insolent plebeian dare adventure it? You know
our friends, the Orsini and the Savelli? Thanks to St. Peter, or Peter's
delegate, we have now happily meaner throats to cut than those of each
Thus saying, Stefanello again threw himself listlessly on his seat, and the
shrill, woman's voice of Savelli took part in the dialogue.
"I would, noble Signor, that you had come a few hours earlier: we are
still making merry at the recollection - he, he, he!"
"Ah, excellent," cried Stefanello, joining in the laugh; "our cousin has
had a loss. Know Adrian, that this base fellow, whom the Pope has had the
impudence to create Senator, dared but yesterday to send us a varlet, whom
he called - by our Lady! - his ambassador!"
"Would you could have seen his mantle, Signor Adrian!" chimed in the
Savelli: "purple velvet, as I live, decorated in gold, with the arms of
Rome: we soon spoiled his finery."
"What!" exclaimed Adrian, "you did not break the laws of all nobility and
knighthood? - you offered no insult to a herald!"
"Herald, sayst thou?" cried Stefanello, frowning till his eyes were scarce
visible. "It is for Princes and Barons alone to employ heralds. An' I had
had my will, I would have sent back the minion's head to the usurper."
"What did ye then?" asked Adrian, coldly.
"Bade our swineherds dip the fellow in the ditch, and gave him a night's
lodging in a dungeon to dry himself withal."
"And this morning - he, he, he!" added the Savelli, "we had him before us,
and drew his teeth, one by one; - I would you could have heard the fellow
mumble out for mercy!"
Adrian rose hastily, and struck the table fiercely with his gauntlet.
"Stefanello Colonna," said he, colouring with noble rage, "answer me: did
you dare to inflict this indelible disgrace upon the name we jointly bear?
Tell me, at least, that you protested against this foul treason to all the
laws of civilization and of honour. You answer not. House of the Colonna,
can such be thy representative!"
"To me these words!" said Stefanello, trembling with passion. "Beware!
Methinks thou art the traitor, leagued perhaps with yon rascal mob. Well
do I remember that thou, the betrothed of the Demagogue's sister, didst not
join with my uncle and my father of old, but didst basely leave the city to
her plebeian tyrant."
"That did he!" said the fierce Orsini, approaching Adrian menacingly, while
the gentle cowardice of Savelli sought in vain to pluck him back by the
mantle - "that did he! and but for thy presence, Stefanello - "
"Coward and blusterer!" interrupted Adrian, fairly beside himself with
indignation and shame, and dashing his gauntlet in the very face of the
advancing Orsini - "wouldst thou threaten one who has maintained, in every
list of Europe, and against the stoutest Chivalry of the North, the honour
of Rome, which thy deeds the while disgraced? By this gage, I spit upon
and defy thee. With lance and with brand, on horse and on foot, I maintain
against thee and all thy line, that thou art no knight to have thus
maltreated, in thy strongholds, a peaceful and unarmed herald. Yes, even
here, on the spot of thy disgrace, I challenge thee to arms!"
"To the court below! Follow me," said Orsini, sullenly, and striding
towards the threshold. "What, ho there! my helmet and breast-plate!"
"Stay, noble Orsini," said Stefanello. "The insult offered to thee is my
quarrel - mine was the deed - and against me speaks this degenerate scion
of our line. Adrian di Castello - sometime called Colonna - surrender your
sword: you are my prisoner!"
"Oh!" said Adrian, grinding his teeth, "that my ancestral blood did not
flow through thy veins - else - but enough! Me! your equal, and the
favoured Knight of the Emperor, whose advent now brightens the frontiers of
Italy! - me - you dare not detain. For your friends, I shall meet them yet
perhaps, ere many days are over, where none shall separate our swords.
Till then, remember, Orsini, that it is against no unpractised arm that
thou wilt have to redeem thine honour!"
Adrian, his drawn sword in his hand, strode towards the door, and passed
the Orsini, who stood, lowering and irresolute, in the centre of the
Savelli whispered Stefanello. "He says, 'Ere many days be past!' Be sure,
dear Signor, that he goes to join Rienzi. Remember, the alliance he once
sought with the Tribune's sister may be renewed. Beware of him! Ought he
to leave the castle? The name of a Colonna, associated with the mob, would
distract and divide half our strength."
"Fear me not," returned Stefanello, with a malignant smile. "Ere you
spoke, I had determined!"
The young Colonna lifted the arras from the wall, opened a door, and passed
into a low hall, in which sate twenty mercenaries.
"Quick!" said he. "Seize and disarm yon stranger in the green mantle - but
slay him not. Bid the guard below find dungeons for his train. Quick! ere
he reach the gate."
Adrian had gained the open hall below - his train and his steed were in
sight in the court - when suddenly the soldiery of the Colonna, rushing
through another passage than that which he had passed, surrounded and
intercepted his retreat.
"Yield thee, Adrian di Castello," cried Stefanello from the summit of the
stairs; "or your blood be on your own head."
Three steps did Adrian make through the press, and three of his enemies
fell beneath his sword. "To the rescue!" he shouted to his band, and
already those bold and daring troopers had gained the hall. Presently the
alarum bell tolled loud - the court swarmed with soldiers. Oppressed by
numbers, beat down rather than subdued, Adrian's little train was soon
secured, and the flower of the Colonna, wounded, breathless, disarmed, but
still uttering loud defiance, was a prisoner in the fortress of his
Chapter 9.IV. The Position of the Senator. - The Work of Years. - The
Rewards of Ambition.
The indignation of Rienzi may readily be conceived, on the return of his
herald mutilated and dishonoured. His temper, so naturally stern, was
rendered yet more hard by the remembrance of his wrongs and trials; and the
result which attended his overtures of conciliation to Stefanello Colonna
stung him to the soul.
The bell of the Capitol tolled to arms within ten minutes after the return
of the herald. The great gonfalon of Rome was unfurled on the highest
tower; and the very evening after Adrian's arrest, the forces of the
Senator, headed by Rienzi in person, were on the road to Palestrina. The
troopers of the Barons had, however, made incursions as far as Tivoli with
the supposed connivance of the inhabitants, and Rienzi halted at that
beautiful spot to raise recruits, and receive the allegiance of the
suspected, while his soldiers, with Arimbaldo and Brettone at their head,
went in search of the marauders. The brothers of Montreal returned late at
night with the intelligence, that the troopers of the Barons had secured
themselves amidst the recesses of the wood of Pantano.
The red spot mounted to Rienzi's brow. He gazed hard at Brettone, who
stated the news to him, and a natural suspicion shot across his mind.
"How! - escaped!" he said. "Is it possible? Enough of such idle
skirmishes with these lordly robbers. Will the hour ever come when I shall
meet them hand to hand? Brettone," and the brother of Montreal felt the
dark eye of Rienzi pierce to his very heart; "Brettone!" said he, with an
abrupt change of voice, "are your men to be trusted? Is there no
connivance with the Barons?"
"How!" said Brettone, sullenly, but somewhat confused.
"How me no hows!" quoth the Tribune-Senator, fiercely. "I know that thou
art a valiant Captain of valiant men. Thou and thy brother Arimbaldo have
served me well, and I have rewarded ye well! Have I not? Speak!"
"Senator," answered Arimbaldo, taking up the word, "you have kept your word
to us. You have raised us to the highest rank your power could bestow, and
this has amply atoned our humble services."
"I am glad ye allow thus much," said the Tribune.
Arimbaldo proceeded, somewhat more loftily, "I trust, my Lord, you do not
"Arimbaldo," replied Rienzi, in a voice of deep, but half-suppressed
emotion; "you are a lettered man, and you have seemed to share my projects
for the regeneration of our common kind. You ought not to betray me.
There is something in unison between us. But, chide me not, I am
surrounded by treason, and the very air I breathe seems poison to my lips."
There was a pathos mingled with Rienzi's words which touched the milder
brother of Montreal. He bowed in silence. Rienzi surveyed him wistfully,
and sighed. Then, changing the conversation, he spoke of their intended
siege of Palestrina, and shortly afterwards retired to rest.
Left alone, the brothers regarded each other for some moments in silence.
"Brettone," said Arimbaldo at length, in a whispered voice, "my heart
misgives me. I like not Walter's ambitious schemes. With our own
countrymen we are frank and loyal, why play the traitor with this high-
souled Roman?" (The anonymous biographer of Rienzi makes the following
just remark: "Sono li tedeschi, come discendon de la Alemagna, semplici,
puri, senza fraude, come si allocano tra' taliani, diventano mastri coduti,
viziosi, che sentono ogni malizia." - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib. ii.
"Tush!" said Brettone. "Our brother's hand of iron alone can sway this
turbulent people; and if Rienzi be betrayed, so also are his enemies, the
Barons. No more of this! I have tidings from Montreal; he will be in Rome
in a few days."
"Rienzi, weakened by the Barons (for he must not conquer) - the Barons,
weakened by Rienzi - our Northmen seize the Capitol, and the soldiery, now
scattered throughout Italy, will fly to the standard of the Great Captain.
Montreal must be first Podesta, then King, of Rome."
Arimbaldo moved restlessly in his seat, and the brethren conferred no more
on their projects.
The situation of Rienzi was precisely that which tends the most to sour and
to harden the fairest nature. With an intellect capable of the grandest
designs, a heart that beat with the loftiest emotions, elevated to the
sunny pinnacle of power and surrounded by loud-tongued adulators, he knew
not among men a single breast in which he could confide. He was as one on
a steep ascent, whose footing crumbles, while every bough at which he
grasps seems to rot at his touch. He found the people more than ever
eloquent in his favour, but while they shouted raptures as he passed, not a
man was capable of making a sacrifice for him! The liberty of a state is
never achieved by a single individual; if not the people - if not the
greater number - a zealous and fervent minority, at least must go hand in
hand with him. Rome demanded sacrifices in all who sought the Roman
regeneration - sacrifices of time, ease, and money. The crowd followed the
procession of the Senator, but not a single Roman devoted his life, unpaid,
to his standard; not a single coin was subscribed in the defence of
freedom. Against him were arrayed the most powerful and the most ferocious
Barons of Italy; each of whom could maintain, at his own cost, a little
army of practised warriors. With Rienzi were traders and artificers, who
were willing to enjoy the fruits of liberty, but not to labour at the soil;
who demanded, in return for empty shouts, peace and riches; and who
expected that one man was to effect in a day what would be cheaply
purchased by the struggle of a generation. All their dark and rude notion
of a reformed state was to live unbutchered by the Barons and untaxed by
their governors. Rome, I say, gave to her Senator not a free arm, nor a
voluntary florin. (This plain fact is thoroughly borne out by every
authority.) Well aware of the danger which surrounds the ruler who defends
his state by foreign swords, the fondest wish, and the most visionary dream
of Rienzi, was to revive amongst the Romans, in their first enthusiasm at
his return, an organised and voluntary force, who, in protecting him, would
protect themselves: - not, as before, in his first power, a nominal force
of twenty thousand men, who at any hour might yield (as they did yield) to
one hundred and fifty; but a regular, well disciplined, and trusty body,
numerous enough to resist aggression, not numerous enough to become
themselves the aggressors.
Hitherto all his private endeavours, his public exhortations, had failed;
the crowd listened - shouted - saw him quit the city to meet their tyrants,
and returned to their shops, saying to each other, "What a great man!"
The character of Rienzi has chiefly received for its judges men of the
closet, who speculate upon human beings as if they were machines; who gauge
the great, not by their merit, but their success; and who have censured or
sneered at the Tribune, where they should have condemned the People! Had
but one-half the spirit been found in Rome which ran through a single vein
of Cola di Rienzi, the august Republic, if not the majestic empire, of
Rome, might be existing now! Turning from the people, the Senator saw his
rude and savage troops, accustomed to the licence of a tyrant's camp, and
under commanders in whom it was ruin really to confide - whom it was equal
ruin openly to distrust. Hemmed in on every side by dangers, his character
daily grew more restless, vigilant, and stern; and still, with all the aims
of the patriot, he felt all the curses of the tyrant. Without the rough
and hardening career which, through a life of warfare, had brought Cromwell
to a similar power - with more of grace and intellectual softness in his
composition, he resembled that yet greater man in some points of character
- in his religious enthusiasm; his rigid justice, often forced by
circumstance into severity, but never wantonly cruel or blood-thirsty; in
his singular pride of country; and his mysterious command over the minds of
others. But he resembled the giant Englishman far more in circumstance
than original nature, and that circumstance assimilated their characters at
the close of their several careers. Like Cromwell, beset by secret or open
foes, the assassin's dagger ever gleamed before his eyes; and his stout
heart, unawed by real, trembled at imagined, terrors. The countenance
changing suddenly from red to white - the bloodshot, restless eye, belying
the composed majesty of mien - the muttering lips - the broken slumber -
the secret corselet; these to both were the rewards of Power!
The elasticity of youth had left the Tribune! His frame, which had endured
so many shocks, had contracted a painful disease in the dungeon at Avignon
("Dicea che ne la prigione era stato ascarmato." "Vita di Cola di Rienzi",
lib. ii. cap. 18.) - his high soul still supported him, but the nerves gave
way. Tears came readily into his eyes, and often, like Cromwell, he was
thought to weep from hypocrisy, when in truth it was the hysteric of over-
wrought and irritable emotion. In all his former life singularly
temperate, ("Solea prima esser sobrio, temperato, astinente, or a e
diventato distemperatissimo bevitore," &c. - Ibid.) he now fled from his
goading thoughts to the beguiling excitement of wine. He drank deep,
though its effects were never visible upon him except in a freer and wilder
mood, and the indulgence of that racy humour, half-mirthful, half-bitter,
for which his younger day had been distinguished. Now the mirth had more
loudness, but the bitterness more gall.
Such were the characteristics of Rienzi at his return to power - made more
apparent with every day. Nina he still loved with the same tenderness,
and, if possible, she adored him more than ever: but, the zest and
freshness of triumphant ambition gone, somehow or other, their intercourse
together had not its old charm. Formerly they talked constantly of the
future - of the bright days in store for them. Now, with a sharp and
uneasy pang, Rienzi turned from all thought of that "gay tomorrow." There
was no "gay tomorrow" for him! Dark and thorny as was the present hour,
all beyond seemed yet less cheering and more ominous. Still he had some
moments, brief but brilliant, when, forgetting the iron race amongst whom
he was thrown, he plunged into scholastic reveries of the worshipped Past,
and half-fancied that he was of a People worthy of his genius and his
devotion. Like most men who have been preserved through great dangers, he
continued with increasing fondness to nourish a credulous belief in the
grandeur of his own destiny. He could not imagine that he had been so
delivered, and for no end! He was the Elected, and therefore the
Instrument, of Heaven. And thus, that Bible which in his loneliness, his
wanderings, and his prison, had been his solace and support, was more than
ever needed in his greatness.
It was another cause of sorrow and chagrin to one who, amidst such
circumstances of public danger, required so peculiarly the support and
sympathy of private friends, - that he found he had incurred amongst his
old coadjutors the common penalty of absence. A few were dead; others,
wearied with the storms of public life, and chilled in their ardour by the
turbulent revolutions to which, in every effort for her amelioration, Rome
had been subjected, had retired, - some altogether from the city, some from
all participation in political affairs. In his halls, the Tribune-Senator
was surrounded by unfamiliar faces, and a new generation. Of the heads of
the popular party, most were animated by a stern dislike to the Pontifical
domination, and looked with suspicion and repugnance upon one who, if he
governed for the People, had been trusted and honoured by the Pope. Rienzi
was not a man to forget former friends, however lowly, and had already
found time to seek an interview with Cecco del Vecchio. But that stern
Republican had received him with coldness. His foreign mercenaries, and
his title of Senator, were things that the artisan could not digest. With
his usual bluntness, he had said so to Rienzi.
"As for the last," answered the Tribune, affably, "names do not alter
natures. When I forget that to be delegate to the Pontiff is to be the
guardian of his flock, forsake me. As for the first, let me but see five
hundred Romans sworn to stand armed day and night for the defence of Rome,
and I dismiss the Northmen."
Cecco del Vecchio was unsoftened; honest, but uneducated - impracticable,
and by nature a malcontent, he felt as if he were no longer necessary to
the Senator, and this offended his pride. Strange as it may seem, the
sullen artisan bore, too, a secret grudge against Rienzi, for not having
seen and selected him from a crowd of thousands on the day of his triumphal
entry. Such are the small offences which produce deep danger to the great!
The artisans still held their meetings, and Cecco del Vecchio's voice was
heard loud in grumbling forebodings. But what wounded Rienzi yet more than
the alienation of the rest, was the confused and altered manner of his old
friend and familiar, Pandulfo di Guido. Missing that popular citizen among
those who daily offered their homage at the Capitol, he had sent for him,
and sought in vain to revive their ancient intimacy. Pandulfo affected
great respect, but not all the condescension of the Senator could conquer
his distance and his restraint. In fact, Pandulfo had learned to form
ambitious projects of his own; and but for the return of Rienzi, Pandulfo
di Guido felt that he might now, with greater safety, and indeed with some
connivance from the Barons, have been the Tribune of the People. The
facility to rise into popular eminence which a disordered and corrupt
state, unblest by a regular constitution, offers to ambition, breeds the
jealousy and the rivalship which destroy union, and rot away the ties of
Such was the situation of Rienzi, and yet, wonderful to say, he seemed to
be adored by the multitude; and law and liberty, life and death, were in
Of all those who attended his person, Angelo Villani was the most favoured;
that youth who had accompanied Rienzi in his long exile, had also, at the
wish of Nina, attended him from Avignon, through his sojourn in the camp of
Albornoz. His zeal, intelligence, and frank and evident affection, blinded
the Senator to the faults of his character, and established him more and
more in the gratitude of Rienzi. He loved to feel that one faithful heart
beat near him, and the page, raised to the rank of his chamberlain, always
attended his person, and slept in his ante-chamber.
Retiring that night at Tivoli, to the apartment prepared for him, the
Senator sat down by the open casement, through which were seen, waving in
the starlight, the dark pines that crowned the hills, while the stillness
of the hour gave to his ear the dash of the waterfalls heard above the
regular and measured tread of the sentinels below. Leaning his cheek upon
his hand, Rienzi long surrendered himself to gloomy thought, and, when he
looked up, he saw the bright blue eye of Villani fixed in anxious sympathy
on his countenance.
"Is my Lord unwell?" asked the young chamberlain, hesitating.
"Not so, my Angelo; but somewhat sick at heart. Methinks, for a September
night, the air is chill!"
"Angelo," resumed Rienzi, who had already acquired that uneasy curiosity
which belongs to an uncertain power, - "Angelo, bring me hither yon writing
implements; hast thou heard aught what the men say of our probable success
"Would my Lord wish to learn all their gossip, whether it please or not?"
"If I studied only to hear what pleased me, Angelo, I should never have
returned to Rome."
"Why, then, I heard a constable of the Northmen say, meaningly, that the
place will not be carried."
"Humph! And what said the captains of my Roman Legion?"
"My Lord, I have heard it whispered that they fear defeat less than they do
the revenge of the Barons, if they are successful."
"And with such tools the living race of Europe and misjudging posterity
will deem that the workman is to shape out the Ideal and the Perfect!
Bring me yon Bible."
As Angelo reverently brought to Rienzi the sacred book, he said,
"Just before I left my companions below, there was a rumour that the Lord
Adrian Colonna had been imprisoned by his kinsman."
"I too heard, and I believe, as much," returned Rienzi: "these Barons
would gibbet their own children in irons, if there were any chance of the
shackles growing rusty for want of prey. But the wicked shall be brought
low, and their strong places shall be made desolate."
"I would, my Lord," said Villani, "that our Northmen had other captains
than these Provencals."
"Why?" asked Rienzi, abruptly.
"Have the creatures of the Captain of the Grand Company ever held faith
with any man whom it suited the avarice or the ambition of Montreal to
betray? Was he not, a few months ago, the right arm of John di Vico, and
did he not sell his services to John di Vico's enemy, the Cardinal
Albornoz? These warriors barter men as cattle."
"Thou describest Montreal rightly: a dangerous and an awful man. But
methinks his brothers are of a duller and meaner kind; they dare not the
crimes of the Robber Captain. Howbeit, Angelo, thou hast touched a string
that will make discord with sleep tonight. Fair youth, thy young eyes have
need of slumber; withdraw, and when thou hearest men envy Rienzi, think
that - "
"God never made Genius to be envied!" interrupted Villani, with an energy
that overcame his respect. "We envy not the sun, but rather the valleys
that ripen beneath his beams."
"Verily, if I be the sun," said Rienzi, with a bitter and melancholy smile,
"I long for night, - and come it will, to the human as to the celestial
Pilgrim! - Thank Heaven, at least, that our ambition cannot make us
Chapter 9.V. The Biter Bit.
The next morning, when Rienzi descended to the room where his captains
awaited him, his quick eye perceived that a cloud still lowered upon the
brow of Messere Brettone. Arimbaldo, sheltered by the recess of the rude
casement, shunned his eye.
"A fair morning, gentles," said Rienzi; "the Sun laughs upon our
enterprise. I have messengers from Rome betimes - fresh troops will join
us ere noon."
"I am glad, Senator," answered Brettone, "that you have tidings which will
counteract the ill of those I have to narrate to thee. The soldiers murmur
loudly - their pay is due to them; and, I fear me, that without money they
will not march to Palestrina."
"As they will," returned Rienzi, carelessly. "It is but a few days since
they entered Rome; pay did they receive in advance - if they demand more,
the Colonna and Orsini may outbid me. Draw off your soldiers, Sir Knight,
Brettone's countenance fell - it was his object to get Rienzi more and more
in his power, and he wished not to suffer him to gain that strength which
would accrue to him from the fall of Palestrina: the indifference of the
Senator foiled and entrapped him in his own net.
"That must not be," said the brother of Montreal, after a confused silence;
"we cannot leave you thus to your enemies - the soldiers, it is true,
demand pay - "
"And should have it," said Rienzi. "I know these mercenaries - it is ever
with them, mutiny or money. I will throw myself on my Romans, and triumph
- or fall, if so Heaven decrees, with them. Acquaint your constables with
Scarce were these words spoken, ere, as previously concerted with Brettone,
the chief constable of the mercenaries appeared at the door. "Senator,"
said he, with a rough semblance of aspect, "your orders to march have
reached me, I have sought to marshal my men - but - "
"I know what thou wouldst say, friend," interrupted Rienzi, waving his
hand: "Messere Brettone will give you my reply. Another time, Sir
Captain, more ceremony with the Senator of Rome - you may withdraw."
The unforeseen dignity of Rienzi rebuked and abashed the constable; he
looked at Brettone, who motioned him to depart. He closed the door and
"What is to be done?" said Brettone.
"Sir Knight," replied Rienzi, gravely, "let us understand each other.
Would you serve me or not? If the first, you are not my equal, but
subordinate - and you must obey and not dictate; if the last, my debt to
you shall be discharged, and the world is wide enough for both."
"We have declared allegiance to you," answered Brettone, "and it shall be
"One caution before I re-accept your fealty," replied Rienzi, very slowly.
"For an open foe, I have my sword - for a traitor, mark me, Rome has the
axe; of the first I have no fear; for the last, no mercy."
"These are not words that should pass between friends," said Brettone,
turning pale with suppressed emotion.
"Friends! - ye are my friends, then! - your hands! Friends, so ye are! -
and shall prove it! Dear Arimbaldo, thou, like myself, art book-learned, -
a clerkly soldier. Dost thou remember how in the Roman history it is told
that the Treasury lacked money for the soldiers? The Consul convened the
Nobles. 'Ye,' said he, 'that have the offices and dignity should be the
first to pay for them.' Ye heed me, my friends; the nobles took the hint,
they found the money - the army was paid. This example is not lost on you.
I have made you the leaders of my force, Rome hath showered her honours on
you. Your generosity shall commence the example which the Romans shall
thus learn of strangers. Ye gaze at me, my friends! I read your noble
souls - and thank ye beforehand. Ye have the dignity and the office; ye
have also the wealth! - pay the hirelings, pay them!" (See the anonymous
biographer, lib. ii. cap. 19.)
Had a thunderbolt fallen at the feet of Brettone, he could not have been
more astounded than at this simple suggestion of Rienzi's. He lifted his
eyes to the Senator's face, and saw there that smile which he had already,
bold as he was, learned to dread. He felt himself fairly sunk in the pit
he had digged for another. There was that in the Senator-Tribune's brow
that told him to refuse was to declare open war, and the moment was not
ripe for that.
"Ye accede," said Rienzi; "ye have done well."
The Senator clapped his hands - his guard appeared.
"Summon the head constables of the soldiery."
The brothers still remained dumb.
The constables entered.
"My friends," said Rienzi, "Messere Brettone and Messere Arimbaldo have my
directions to divide amongst your force a thousand florins. This evening
we encamp beneath Palestrina."
The constables withdrew in visible surprise. Rienzi gazed a moment on the
brothers, chuckling within himself - for his sarcastic humour enjoyed his
triumph. "You lament not your devotion, my friends!"
"No," said Brettone, rousing himself; "the sum but trivially swells our
"Frankly said - your hands once more! - the good people of Tivoli expect me
in the Piazza - they require some admonitions. Adieu till noon."
When the door closed on Rienzi, Brettone struck the handle of his sword
fiercely - "The Roman laughs at us," said he. "But let Walter de Montreal
once appear in Rome, and the proud jester shall pay us dearly for this."
"Hush!" said Arimbaldo, "walls have ears, and that imp of Satan, young
Villani, seems to me ever at our heels!"
"A thousand florins! I trust his heart hath as many drops," growled the
chafed Brettone, unheeding his brother.
The soldiers were paid - the army marched - the eloquence of the Senator
had augmented his force by volunteers from Tivoli, and wild and half armed
peasantry joined his standard from the Campagna and the neighbouring
Palestrina was besieged: Rienzi continued dexterously to watch the
brothers of Montreal. Under pretext of imparting to the Italian volunteers
the advantage of their military science, he separated them from their
mercenaries, and assigned to them the command of the less disciplined
Italians, with whom, he believed, they could not venture to tamper. He
himself assumed the lead of the Northmen - and, despite themselves, they
were fascinated by his artful, yet dignified affability, and the personal
courage he displayed in some sallies of the besieged Barons. But as the
huntsmen upon all the subtlest windings of their prey, - so pressed the
relentless and speeding Fates upon Cola di Rienzi!
Chapter 9.VI. The Events Gather to the End.
While this the state of the camp of the besiegers, Luca di Savelli and
Stefanello Colonna were closeted with a stranger, who had privately entered
Palestrina on the night before the Romans pitched their tents beneath its
walls. This visitor, who might have somewhat passed his fortieth year, yet
retained, scarcely diminished, the uncommon beauty of form and countenance
for which his youth had been remarkable. But it was no longer that
character of beauty which has been described in his first introduction to
the reader. It was no longer the almost woman delicacy of feature and
complexion, or the highborn polish, and graceful suavity of manner, which
distinguished Walter de Montreal: a life of vicissitude and war had at
length done its work. His bearing was now abrupt and imperious, as that of
one accustomed to rule wild spirits, and he had exchanged the grace of
persuasion for the sternness of command. His athletic form had grown more
spare and sinewy, and instead of the brow half shaded by fair and
clustering curls, his forehead, though yet but slightly wrinkled, was
completely bald at the temples; and by its unwonted height, increased the
dignity and manliness of his aspect. The bloom of his complexion was
faded, less by outward exposure than inward thought, into a bronzed and
settled paleness; and his features seemed more marked and prominent, as the
flesh had somewhat sunk from the contour of the cheek. Yet the change
suited the change of age and circumstance; and if the Provencal now less
realised the idea of the brave and fair knight-errant, he but looked the
more what the knight-errant had become - the sagacious counsellor and the
"You must be aware," said Montreal, continuing a discourse which appeared
to have made great impression on his companions, "that in this contest
between yourselves and the Senator, I alone hold the balance. Rienzi is
utterly in my power - my brothers, the leaders of his army; myself, his
creditor. It rests with me to secure him on the throne, or to send him to
the scaffold. I have but to give the order, and the Grand Company enter
Rome; but without their agency, methinks if you keep faith with me, our
purpose can be effected."
"In the meanwhile, Palestrina is besieged by your brothers!" said
"But they have my orders to waste their time before its walls. Do you not
see, that by this very siege, fruitless, as, if I will, it shall be, Rienzi
loses fame abroad, and popularity in Rome."
"Sir Knight," said Luca di Savelli, "you speak as a man versed in the
profound policy of the times; and under all the circumstances which menace
us, your proposal seems but fitting and reasonable. On the one hand, you
undertake to restore us and the other Barons to Rome; and to give Rienzi to
the Staircase of the Lion - "
"Not so, not so," replied Montreal, quickly. "I will consent either so to
subdue and cripple his power, as to render him a puppet in our hands, a
mere shadow of authority - or, if his proud spirit chafe at its cage, to
give it once more liberty amongst the wilds of Germany. I would fetter or
banish him, but not destroy; unless (added Montreal, after a moment's
pause) fate absolutely drives us to it. Power should not demand victims;
but to secure it, victims may be necessary."
"I understand your refinements," said Luca di Savelli, with his icy smile,
"and am satisfied. The Barons once restored, our palaces once more manned,
and I am willing to take the chance of the Senator's longevity. This
service you promise to effect?"
"And, in return, you demand our assent to your enjoying the rank of Podesta
for five years?"
"You say right."
"I, for one, accede to the terms," said the Savelli: "there is my hand; I
am wearied of these brawls, even amongst ourselves, and think that a
Foreign Ruler may best enforce order: the more especially, if like you,
Sir Knight, one whose birth and renown are such as to make him comprehend
the difference between Barons and Plebeians."
"For my part," said Stefanello, "I feel that we have but a choice of evils
- I like not a foreign Podesta; but I like a plebeian Senator still less; -
there too is my hand, Sir Knight."
"Noble Signors," said Montreal, after a short pause, and turning his
piercing gaze from one to the other with great deliberation, "our compact
is sealed; one word by way of codicil. Walter de Montreal is no Count
Pepin of Minorbino! Once before, little dreaming, I own, that the victory
would be so facile, I intrusted your cause and mine to a deputy; your cause
he promoted, mine he lost. He drove out the Tribune, and then suffered the
Barons to banish himself. This time I see to my own affairs; and, mark
you, I have learned in the Grand Company one lesson; viz. never to pardon
spy or deserter, of whatever rank. Your forgiveness for the hint. Let us
change the theme. So ye detain in your fortress my old friend the Baron di
"Ay," said Luca di Savelli; for Stefanello, stung by Montreal's threat,
which he dared not openly resent, preserved a sullen silence; "Ay, he is
one noble the less to the Senator's council."
"You act wisely. I know his views and temper; at present dangerous to our
interests. Yet use him well, I entreat you; he may hereafter serve us.
And now, my Lords, my eyes are weary, suffer me to retire. Pleasant dreams
of the New Revolution to us all!"
"By your leave, noble Montreal, we will attend you to your couch," said
Luca di Savelli.
"By my troth, and ye shall not. I am no Tribune to have great Signors for
my pages; but a plain gentleman, and a hardy soldier: your attendants will
conduct me to whatever chamber your hospitality assigns to one who could
sleep soundly beneath the rudest hedge under your open skies."
Savelli, however, insisted on conducting the Podesta that was to be, to his
apartment. He then returned to Stefanello, whom he found pacing the saloon
with long and disordered strides.
"What have we done, Savelli?" said he, quickly; "sold our city to a
"Sold!" said Savelli; "to my mind it is the other part of the contract in
which we have played our share. We have bought, Colonna, not sold - bought
our lives from yon army; bought our power, our fortunes, our castles, from
the Demagogue Senator; bought, what is better than all, triumph and
revenge. Tush, Colonna, see you not that if we had balked this great
warrior, we had perished? Leagued with the Senator, the Grand Company
would have marched to Rome; and, whether Montreal assisted or murdered
Rienzi, (for methinks he is a Romulus, who would brook no Remus), we had
equally been undone. Now, we have made our own terms, and our shares are
equal. Nay, the first steps to be taken are in our favour. Rienzi is to
be snared, and we are to enter Rome."
"And then the Provencal is to be Despot of the city."
"Podesta, if you please. Podestas who offend the people are often
banished, and sometimes stoned - Podestas who insult the nobles are often
stilettoed, and sometimes poisoned," said Savelli. "'Sufficient for the
day is the evil thereof.' Meanwhile, say nothing to the bear, Orsini.
Such men mar all wisdom. Come, cheer thee, Stefanello."
"Luca di Savelli, you have not such a stake in Rome as I have," said the
young Lord, haughtily; "no Podesta can take from you the rank of the first
Signor of the Italian metropolis!"
"An you had said so to the Orsini, there would have been drawing of
swords," said Savelli. "But cheer thee, I say; is not our first care to
destroy Rienzi, and then, between the death of one foe and the rise of
another, are there not such preventives as Ezzelino da Romano has taught to
wary men? Cheer thee, I say; and, next year, if we but hold together,
Stefanello Colonna and Luca di Savelli will be joint Senators of Rome, and
these great men food for worms!"
While thus conferred the Barons, Montreal, ere he retired to rest, stood
gazing from the open lattice of his chamber over the landscape below, which
slept in the autumnal moonlight, while at a distance gleamed, pale and
steady, the lights round the encampment of the besiegers.
"Wide plains and broad valleys," thought the warrior, "soon shall ye repose
in peace beneath a new sway, against which no petty tyrant shall dare
rebel. And ye, white walls of canvass, even while I gaze - ye admonish me
how realms are won. Even as, of old, from the Nomad tents was built up the
stately Babylon, (Isaiah, c. xxii.) that 'was not till the Assyrian founded
it for them that dwell in the wilderness;' so by the new Ishmaelites of
Europe shall a race, undreamt of now, be founded; and the camp of
yesterday, be the city of tomorrow. Verily, when, for one soft offence,
the Pontiff thrust me from the bosom of the Church, little guessed he what
enemy he raised to Rome! How solemn is the night! - how still the heavens
and earth! - the very stars are as hushed, as if intent on the events that
are to pass below! So solemn and so still feels mine own spirit, and an
awe unknown till now warns me that I approach the crisis of my daring
BOOK X. THE LION Of BASALT.
"Ora voglio contare la morte del Tribuno." - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib.
ii. cap. 24.)
"Now will I narrate the death of the Tribune." - "Life of Cola di Rienzi".
Chapter 10.I. The Conjunction of Hostile Planets in the House of Death.
On the fourth day of the siege, and after beating back to those almost
impregnable walls the soldiery of the Barons, headed by the Prince of the
Orsini, the Senator returned to his tent, where despatches from Rome
awaited him. He ran his eye hastily over them, till he came to the last;
yet each contained news that might have longer delayed the eye of a man
less inured to danger. From one he learned that Albornoz, whose blessing
had confirmed to him the rank of Senator, had received with special favour
the messengers of the Orsini and Colonna. He knew that the Cardinal, whose
views connected him with the Roman Patricians, desired his downfall; but he
feared not Albornoz: perhaps in his secret heart he wished that any open
aggression from the Pontiff's Legate might throw him wholly on the people.
He learned further, that, short as had been his absence, Pandulfo di Guido
had twice addressed the populace, not in favour of the Senator, but in
artful regrets of the loss to the trade of Rome in the absence of her
"For this, then, he has deserted me," said Rienzi to himself. "Let him
The tidings contained in the next touched him home: Walter de Montreal had
openly arrived in Rome. The grasping and lawless bandit, whose rapine
filled with a robber's booty every bank in Europe - whose Company was the
army of a King - whose ambition, vast, unprincipled, and profound, he so
well knew - whose brothers were in his camp - their treason already more
than suspected; - Walter de Montreal was in Rome!
The Senator remained perfectly aghast at this new peril; and then said,
setting his teeth as in a vice,
"Wild tiger, thou art in the Lion's den!" Then pausing, he broke out
again, "One false step, Walter de Montreal, and all the mailed hands of the
Grand Company shall not pluck thee from the abyss! But what can I do?
Return to Rome - the plans of Montreal unpenetrated - no accusation against
him! On what pretence can I with honour raise the siege? To leave
Palestrina, is to give a triumph to the Barons - to abandon Adrian, to
degrade my cause. Yet, while away from Rome, every hour breeds treason and
danger. Pandulfo, Albornoz, Montreal - all are at work against me. A keen
and trusty spy, now; - ha, well thought of - Villani! - What, ho - Angelo
The young chamberlain appeared.
"I think," said Rienzi, "to have often heard, that thou art an orphan?"
"True, my Lord; the old Augustine nun who reared my boyhood, has told me
again and again that my parents are dead. Both noble, my Lord; but I am
the child of shame. And I say it often, and think of it ever, in order to
make Angelo Villani remember that he has a name to win."
"Young man, serve me as you have served, and if I live you shall have no
need to call yourself an orphan. Mark me! I want a friend - the Senator
of Rome wants a friend - only one friend - gentle Heaven! only one!"
Angelo sank on his knee, and kissed the mantle of his Lord.
"Say a follower. I am too mean to be Rienzi's friend."
"Too mean! - go to! - there is nothing mean before God, unless it be a base
soul under high titles. With me, boy, there is but one nobility, and
Nature signs its charter. Listen: thou hearest daily of Walter de
Montreal, brother to these Provencals - great captain of great robbers?"
"Ay, and I have seen him, my Lord."
"Well, then, he is in Rome. Some daring thought - some well-supported and
deep-schemed villany, could alone make that bandit venture openly into an
Italian city, whose territories he ravaged by fire and sword a few months
back. But his brothers have lent me money - assisted my return; - for
their own ends, it is true: but the seeming obligation gives them real
power. These Northern swordsmen would cut my throat if the Great Captain
bade them. He counts on my supposed weakness. I know him of old. I
suspect - nay I read, his projects; but I cannot prove them. Without
proof, I cannot desert Palestrina in order to accuse and seize him. Thou
art shrewd, thoughtful, acute; - couldst thou go to Rome? - watch day and
night his movements - see if he receive messengers from Albornoz or the
Barons - if he confer with Pandulfo di Guido; - watch his lodgment, I say,
night and day. He affects no concealment; your task will be less difficult
than it seems. Apprise the Signora of all you learn. Give me your news
daily. Will you undertake this mission?"
"I will, my Lord."
"To horse, then, quick! - and mind - save the wife of my bosom, I have no
confidant in Rome."
Chapter 10.II. Montreal at Rome. - His Reception of Angelo Villani.
The danger that threatened Rienzi by the arrival of Montreal was indeed
formidable. The Knight of St. John, having marched his army into Lombardy,
had placed it at the disposal of the Venetian State in its war with the
Archbishop of Milan. For this service he received an immense sum; while he
provided winter quarters for his troop, for whom he proposed ample work in
the ensuing spring. Leaving Palestrina secretly and in disguise, with but
a slender train, which met him at Tivoli, Montreal repaired to Rome. His
ostensible object was, partly to congratulate the Senator on his return,
partly to receive the monies lent to Rienzi by his brother.
His secret object we have partly seen; but not contented with the support
of the Barons, he trusted, by the corrupting means of his enormous wealth,
to form a third party in support of his own ulterior designs. Wealth,
indeed, in that age and in that land, was scarcely less the purchaser of
diadems than it had been in the later days of the Roman Empire. And in
many a city torn by hereditary feuds, the hatred of faction rose to that
extent, that a foreign tyrant, willing and able to expel one party, might
obtain at least the temporary submission of the other. His after-success
was greatly in proportion to his power to maintain his state by a force
which was independent of the citizens, and by a treasury which did not
require the odious recruit of taxes. But more avaricious than ambitious,
more cruel than firm, it was by griping exaction, or unnecessary bloodshed,
that such usurpers usually fell.
Montreal, who had scanned the frequent revolutions of the time with a calm
and investigating eye, trusted that he should be enabled to avoid both
these errors: and, as the reader has already seen, he had formed the
profound and sagacious project of consolidating his usurpation by an
utterly new race of nobles, who, serving him by the feudal tenure of the
North, and ever ready to protect him, because in so doing they protected
their own interests, should assist to erect, not the rotten and unsupported
fabric of a single tyranny, but the strong fortress of a new, hardy, and
compact Aristocratic State. Thus had the great dynasties of the North been
founded; in which a King, though seemingly curbed by the Barons, was in
reality supported by a common interest, whether against a subdued
population or a foreign invasion.
Such were the vast schemes - extending into yet wider fields of glory and
conquest, bounded only by the Alps - with which the Captain of the Grand
Company beheld the columns and arches of the Seven-hilled City.
No fear disturbed the long current of his thoughts. His brothers were the
leaders of Rienzi's hireling army - that army were his creatures. Over
Rienzi himself he assumed the right of a creditor. Thus against one party
he deemed himself secure. For the friends of the Pope, he had supported
himself with private, though cautious, letters from Albornoz, who desired
only to make use of him for the return of the Roman Barons; and with the
heads of the latter we have already witnessed his negotiations. Thus was
he fitted, as he thought, to examine, to tamper with all parties, and to
select from each the materials necessary for his own objects.
The open appearance of Montreal excited in Rome no inconsiderable
sensation. The friends of the Barons gave out that Rienzi was in league
with the Grand Company; and that he was to sell the imperial city to the
plunder and pillage of Barbarian robbers. The effrontery with which
Montreal (against whom, more than once, the Pontiff had thundered his
bulls) appeared in the Metropolitan City of the Church, was made yet more
insolent by the recollection of that stern justice which had led the
Tribune to declare open war against all the robbers of Italy: and this
audacity was linked with the obvious reflection, that the brothers of the
bold Provencal were the instruments of Rienzi's return. So quickly spread
suspicion through the city, that Montreal's presence alone would in a few
weeks have sufficed to ruin the Senator. Meanwhile, the natural boldness
of Montreal silenced every whisper of prudence; and, blinded by the dazzle
of his hopes, the Knight of St. John, as if to give double importance to
his coming, took up his residence in a sumptuous palace, and his retinue
rivalled, in the splendour of garb and pomp, the display of Rienzi himself
in his earlier and more brilliant power.
Amidst the growing excitement, Angelo Villani arrived at Rome. The
character of this young man had been formed by his peculiar circumstances.
He possessed qualities which often mark the Illegitimate as with a common
stamp. He was insolent - like most of those who hold a doubtful rank; and
while ashamed of his bastardy, was arrogant of the supposed nobility of his
unknown parentage. The universal ferment and agitation of Italy at that
day rendered ambition the most common of all the passions, and thus
ambition, in all its many shades and varieties, forces itself into our
delineations of character in this history. Though not for Angelo Villani
were the dreams of the more lofty and generous order of that sublime
infirmity, he was strongly incited by the desire and resolve to rise. He
had warm affections and grateful impulses; and his fidelity to his patron
had been carried to a virtue: but from his irregulated and desultory
education, and the reckless profligacy of those with whom, in ante-chambers
and guard-rooms, much of his youth had been passed, he had neither high
principles nor an enlightened honour. Like most Italians, cunning and
shrewd, he scrupled not at any deceit that served a purpose or a friend.
His strong attachment to Rienzi had been unconsciously increased by the
gratification of pride and vanity, flattered by the favour of so celebrated
a man. Both self-interest and attachment urged him to every effort to
promote the views and safety of one at once his benefactor and patron; and
on undertaking his present mission, his only thought was to fulfil it with
the most complete success. Far more brave and daring than was common with
the Italians, something of the hardihood of an Ultra-Montane race gave
nerve and vigour to his craft; and from what his art suggested, his courage
When Rienzi had first detailed to him the objects of his present task, he
instantly called to mind his adventure with the tall soldier in the crowd
at Avignon. "If ever thou wantest a friend, seek him in Walter de
Montreal," were words that had often rung in his ear, and they now recurred
to him with prophetic distinctness. He had no doubt that it was Montreal
himself whom he had seen. Why the Great Captain should have taken this
interest in him, Angelo little cared to conjecture. Most probably it was
but a crafty pretence - one of the common means by which the Chief of the
Grand Company attracted to himself the youths of Italy, as well as the
warriors of the North. He only thought now how he could turn the Knight's
promise to account. What more easy than to present himself to Montreal -
remind him of the words - enter his service - and thus effectually watch
his conduct? The office of spy was not that which would have pleased every
mind, but it shocked not the fastidiousness of Angelo Villani; and the
fearful hatred with which his patron had often spoken of the avaricious and
barbarian robber - the scourge of his native land, - had infected the young
man, who had much of the arrogant and mock patriotism of the Romans, with a
similar sentiment. More vindictive even than grateful, he bore, too, a
secret grudge against Montreal's brothers, whose rough address had often
wounded his pride; and, above all, his early recollections of the fear and
execration in which Ursula seemed ever to hold the terrible Fra Moreale,
impressed him with a vague belief of some ancient wrong to himself or his
race, perpetrated by the Provencal, which he was not ill-pleased to have
the occasion to avenge. In truth, the words of Ursula, mystic and dark as
they were in their denunciation, had left upon Villani's boyish impressions
an unaccountable feeling of antipathy and hatred to the man it was now his
object to betray. For the rest, every device seemed to him decorous and
justifiable, so that it saved his master, served his country, and advanced
Montreal was alone in his chamber when it was announced to him that a young
Italian craved an audience. Professionally open to access, he forthwith
gave admission to the applicant.
The Knight of St. John instantly recognised the page he had encountered at
Avignon; and when Angelo Villani said, with easy boldness, "I have come to
remind Sir Walter de Montreal of a promise - "
The Knight interrupted him with cordial frankness - "Thou needest not - I
remember it. Dost thou now require my friendship?"
"I do noble Signor!" answered Angelo; "I know not where else to seek a
"Canst thou read and write? I fear me not."
"I have been taught those arts," replied Villani.
"It is well. Is thy birth gentle?"
"Better still; - thy name?"
"I take thy blue eyes and low broad brow," said Montreal, with a slight
sigh, "in pledge of thy truth. Henceforth, Angelo Villani, thou art in the
list of my secretaries. Another time thou shalt tell me more of thyself.
Thy service dates from this day. For the rest, no man ever wanted wealth
who served Walter de Montreal; nor advancement, if he served him
faithfully. My closet, through yonder door, is thy waiting-room. Ask for,
and send hither, Lusignan of Lyons; he is my chief scribe, and will see to
thy comforts, and instruct thee in thy business."
Angelo withdrew - Montreal's eye followed him.
"A strange likeness!" said he, musingly and sadly; "my heart leaps to that
Chapter 10.III. Montreal's Banquet.
Some few days after the date of the last chapter, Rienzi received news from
Rome, which seemed to produce in him a joyous and elated excitement. His
troops still lay before Palestrina, and still the banners of the Barons
waved over its unconquered walls. In truth, the Italians employed half
their time in brawls amongst themselves; the Velletritrani had feuds with
the people of Tivoli, and the Romans were still afraid of conquering the
Barons; - "The hornet," said they, "stings worse after he is dead; and
neither an Orsini, a Savelli, nor a Colonna, was ever known to forgive."
Again and again had the captains of his army assured the indignant Senator
that the fortress was impregnable, and that time and money were idly wasted
upon the siege. Rienzi knew better, but he concealed his thoughts.
He now summoned to his tent the brothers of Provence, and announced to them
his intention of returning instantly to Rome. "The mercenaries shall
continue the siege under our Lieutenant, and you, with my Roman Legion,
shall accompany me. Your brother, Sir Walter, and I, both want your
presence; we have affairs to arrange between us. After a few days I shall
raise recruits in the city, and return."
This was what the brothers desired; they approved, with evident joy, the
Rienzi next sent for the lieutenant of his bodyguard, the same Riccardo
Annibaldi whom the reader will remember in the earlier part of this work,
as the antagonist of Montreal's lance. This young man - one of the few
nobles who espoused the cause of the Senator - had evinced great courage
and military ability, and promised fair (should Fate spare his life (It
appears that this was the same Annibaldi who was afterwards slain in an
affray: - Petrarch lauds his valour and laments his fate.)) to become one
of the best Captains of his time.
"Dear Annibaldi," said Rienzi; "at length I can fulfil the project on which
we have privately conferred. I take with me to Rome the two Provencal
Captains - I leave you chief of the army. Palestrina will yield now - eh!
- ha, ha, ha! - Palestrina will yield now!"
"By my right hand, I think so, Senator," replied Annibaldi. "These
foreigners have hitherto only stirred up quarrels amongst ourselves, and if
not cowards are certainly traitors!"
"Hush, hush, hush! Traitors! The learned Arimbaldo, the brave Brettone,
traitors! Fie on it! No, no; they are very excellent, honourable men, but
not lucky in the camp; - not lucky in the camp; - better speed to them in
the city! And now to business."
The Senator then detailed to Annibaldi the plan he himself had formed for
taking the town, and the military skill of Annibaldi at once recognised its
With his Roman troop, and Montreal's brothers, one at either hand, Rienzi
then departed to Rome.
That night Montreal gave a banquet to Pandulfo di Guido, and to certain of
the principal citizens, whom one by one he had already sounded, and found
hollow at heart to the cause of the Senator.
Pandulfo sate at the right hand of the Knight of St. John, and Montreal
lavished upon him the most courteous attentions.
"Pledge me in this - it is from the Vale of Chiana, near Monte Pulciano,"
said Montreal. "I think I have heard bookmen say (you know, Signor
Pandulfo, we ought all to be bookmen now!) that the site was renowned of
old. In truth, the wine hath a racy flavour."
"I hear," said Bruttini, one of the lesser Barons, (a stanch friend to the
Colonna,) "that in this respect the innkeeper's son has put his book-
learning to some use: he knows every place where the wine grows richest."
"What! the Senator is turned wine-bibber!" said Montreal, quaffing a vast
goblet full; "that must unfit him for business - 'tis a pity."
"Verily, yes," said Pandulfo; "a man at the head of a state should be
temperate - I never drink wine unmixed."
"Ah," whispered Montreal, "if your calm good sense ruled Rome, then,
indeed, the metropolis of Italy might taste of peace. Signor Vivaldi," -
and the host turned towards a wealthy draper, - "these disturbances are bad
"Very, very!" groaned the draper.
"The Barons are your best customers," quoth the minor noble.
"Much, much!" said the draper.
"'Tis a pity that they are thus roughly expelled," said Montreal, in a
melancholy tone. "Would it not be possible, if the Senator (I drink his
health) were less rash - less zealous, rather, - to unite free institutions
with the return of the Barons? - such should be the task of a truly wise
"It surely might be possible," returned Vivaldi; "the Savelli alone spend
more with me than all the rest of Rome."
"I know not if it be possible," said Bruttini; "but I do know that it is an
outrage to all decorum that an innkeeper's son should be enabled to make a
solitude of the palaces of Rome."
"It certainly seems to indicate too vulgar a desire of mob favour," said
Montreal. "However, I trust we shall harmonize all these differences.
Rienzi, perhaps, - nay, doubtless, means well!"
"I would," said Vivaldi, who had received his cue, "that we might form a
mixed constitution - Plebeians and Patricians, each in their separate
"But," said Montreal, gravely, "so new an experiment would demand great
"Why, true; but we might call in an umpire - a foreigner who had no
interest in either faction - who might protect the new Buono Stato; a
Podesta, as we have done before - Brancaleone, for instance. How well and
wisely he ruled! that was a golden age for Rome. A Podesta for ever! -
that's my theory."
"You need not seek far for the president of your council," said Montreal,
smiling at Pandulfo; "a citizen at once popular, well-born, and wealthy,
may be found at my right hand."
Pandulfo hemmed, and coloured.
Montreal proceeded. "A committee of trades might furnish an honourable
employment to Signor Vivaldi; and the treatment of all foreign affairs -
the employment of armies, &c., might be left to the Barons, with a more
open competition, Signor di Bruttini, to the Barons of the second order
than has hitherto been conceded to their birth and importance. Sirs, will
you taste the Malvoisie?"
"Still," said Vivaldi, after a pause - (Vivaldi anticipated at least the
supplying with cloth the whole of the Grand Company) - "still, such a
moderate and well-digested constitution would never be acceded to by
"Why should it? what need of Rienzi?" exclaimed Bruttini. "Rienzi may take
another trip to Bohemia."
"Gently, gently," said Montreal; "I do not despair. All open violence
against the Senator would strengthen his power. No, no, humble him - admit
the Barons, and then insist on your own terms. Between the two factions
you might then establish a fitting balance. And in order to keep your new
constitution from the encroachment of either extreme, there are warriors
and knights, too, who for a certain rank in the great city of Rome would
maintain horse and foot at its service. We Ultra-Montanes are often
harshly judged; we are wanderers and Ishmaelites, solely because we have no
honourable place of rest. Now, if I - "
"Ay, if you, noble Montreal!" said Vivaldi.
The company remained hushed in breathless attention, when suddenly there
was heard - deep, solemn, muffled, - the great bell of the Capitol!
"Hark!" said Vivaldi, the bell: "It tolls for execution: an unwonted
"Sure, the Senator has not returned!" exclaimed Pandulfo di Guido, turning
"No, no," quoth Bruttini, "it is but a robber, caught two nights ago in
Romagna. I heard that he was to die tonight."
At the word "robber," Montreal changed countenance slightly. The wine
circulated - the bell continued to toll - its suddenness over, it ceased to
alarm. Conversation flowed again.
"What were you saying, Sir Knight?" said Vivaldi.
"Why, let me think on't; - oh, speaking of the necessity of supporting a
new state by force, I said that if I - "
"Ah, that was it!" quoth Bruttini, thumping the table.
"If I were summoned to your aid - summoned, mind ye, and absolved by the
Pope's Legate of my former sins - (they weigh heavily on me, gentles) - I
would myself guard your city from foreign foe and civil disturbance, with
my gallant swordsmen. Not a Roman citizen should contribute a 'danaro' to
"Viva Fra Moreale!" cried Bruttini; and the shout was echoed by all the
"Enough for me," continued Montreal, "to expiate my offences. Ye know,
gentlemen, my order is vowed to God and the Church - a warrior-monk am I!
Enough for me to expiate my offences, I say, in the defence of the Holy
City. Yet I, too, have my private and more earthly views, - who is above
them? I - the bell changes its note!"
"It is but the change that preludes execution - the poor robber is about to
Montreal crossed himself, and resumed: - "I am a knight and a noble," said
he, proudly; "the profession I have followed is that of arms; but - I will
not disguise it - mine equals have regarded me as one who has stained his
scutcheon by too reckless a pursuit of glory and of gain. I wish to
reconcile myself with my order - to purchase a new name - to vindicate
myself to the Grand Master and the Pontiff. I have had hints, gentles, -
hints, that I might best promote my interest by restoring order to the
Papal metropolis. The Legate Albornoz (here is his letter) recommends me
to keep watch upon the Senator."
"Surely," interrupted Pandulfo, "I hear steps below."
"The mob going to the robber's execution," said Bruttini; "proceed, Sir
"And," continued Montreal, surveying his audience before he proceeded
farther, "what think ye - (I do but ask your opinion, wiser than mine) -
what think ye, as a fitting precaution against too arbitrary a power in the
Senator - what think ye of the return of the Colonna, and the bold Barons
"Here's to their health!" cried Vivaldi, rising.
As by a sudden impulse, the company rose. "To the health of the besieged
Barons!" was shouted aloud.
"Next, what if - (I do but humbly suggest) - what if you gave the Senator a
colleague? - it is no affront to him. It was but as yesterday that one of
the Colonna, who was Senator, received a colleague in Bertoldo Orsini."
"A most wise precaution," cried Vivaldi. "And where a colleague like
Pandulfo di Guido?"
"Viva Pandulfo di Guido!" cried the guests, and again their goblets were
drained to the bottom.
"And if in this I can assist ye by fair words with the Senator, (ye know he
owes me monies - my brothers have served him), command Walter de Montreal."
"And if fair words fail?" said Vivaldi.
"The Grand Company - (heed me, ye are the counsellors) - the Grand Company
is accustomed to forced marches!"
"Viva Fra Moreale!" cried Bruttini and Vivaldi, simultaneously. "A health
to all, my friends;" continued Bruttini; "a health to the Barons, Rome's
old friends; to Pandulfo di Guido, the Senator's new colleague, and to Fra
Moreale, Rome's new Podesta."
"The bell has ceased," said Vivaldi, putting down his goblet.
"Heaven have mercy on the robber!" added Bruttini.
Scarce had he spoken, ere three taps were heard at the door - the guests
looked at each other in dumb amaze.
"New guests!" said Montreal. "I asked some trusty friends to join us this
evening. By my faith they are welcome! Enter!"
The door opened slowly; three by three entered, in complete armour, the
guards of the Senator. On they marched, regular and speechless. They
surrounded the festive board - they filled the spacious hall, and the
lights of the banquet were reflected upon their corselets as on a wall of
Not a syllable was uttered by the feasters, they were as if turned to
stone. Presently the guards gave way, and Rienzi himself appeared. He
approached the table, and folding his arms, turned his gaze deliberately
from guest to guest, till at last, his eyes rested on Montreal, who had
also risen, and who alone of the party had recovered the amaze of the
And there, as these two men, each so celebrated, so proud, able, and
ambitious, stood, front to front - it was literally as if the rival Spirits
of Force and Intellect, Order and Strife, of the Falchion and the Fasces -
the Antagonist Principles by which empires are ruled and empires
overthrown, had met together, incarnate and opposed. They stood, both
silent, - as if fascinated by each other's gaze, - loftier in stature, and
nobler in presence than all around.
Montreal spoke first, and with a forced smile.
"Senator of Rome! - dare I believe that my poor banquet tempts thee, and
may I trust that these armed men are a graceful compliment to one to whom
arms have been a pastime?"
Rienzi answered not, but waved his hand to his guards. Montreal was seized
on the instant. Again he surveyed the guests - as a bird from the rattle-
snake, - shrunk Pandulfo di Guido, trembling, motionless, aghast, from the
glittering eye of the Senator. Slowly Rienzi raised his fatal hand towards
the unhappy citizen - Pandulfo saw, - felt his doom, - shrieked, - and fell
senseless in the arms of the soldiers.
One other and rapid glance cast the Senator round the board, and then, with
a disdainful smile, as if anxious for no meaner prey, turned away. Not a
breath had hitherto passed his lips - all had been dumb show - and his grim
silence had imparted a more freezing terror to his unguessed-for
apparition. Only, when he reached the door, he turned back, gazed upon the
Knight of St. John's bold and undaunted face, and said, almost in a
whisper, "Walter de Montreal! - you heard the death-knell!"
Chapter 10.IV. The Sentence of Walter de Montreal.
In silence the Captain of the Grand Company was borne to the prison of the
Capitol. In the same building lodged the rivals for the government of
Rome; the one occupied the prison, the other the palace. The guards
forebore the ceremony of fetters, and leaving a lamp on the table, Montreal
perceived he was not alone, - his brothers had preceded him.
"Ye are happily met," said the Knight of St. John; we have passed together
pleasanter nights than this is likely to be."
"Can you jest, Walter?" said Arimbaldo, half-weeping. "Know you not that
our doom is fixed? Death scowls upon us."
"Death!" repeated Montreal, and for the first time his countenance changed;
perhaps for the first time in his life he felt the thrill and agony of
"Death!" he repeated again. "Impossible! He dare not, Brettone; the
soldiers, the Northmen! - they will mutiny, they will pluck us back from
the grasp of the headsman!"
"Cast from you so vain a hope," said Brettone sullenly; "the soldiers are
encamped at Palestrina."
"How! Dolt - fool! Came you then to Rome alone! Are we alone with this
"You are the dolt! Why came you hither?" answered the brother.
"Why, indeed! but that I knew thou wast the Captain of the army; and - but
thou said'st right - the folly is mine, to have played against the crafty
Tribune so unequal a brain as thine. Enough! Reproaches are idle. When
were ye arrested?"
"At dusk - the instant we entered the gates of Rome. Rienzi entered
"Humph! What can he know against me? Who can have betrayed me? My
secretaries are tried - all trustworthy - except that youth, and he so
seemingly zealous - that Angelo Villani!"
"Villani! Angelo Villani!" cried the brothers in a breath. "Hast thou
confided aught to him?"
"Why, I fear he must have seen - at least in part - my correspondence with
you, and with the Barons - he was among my scribes. Know you aught of
"Walter, Heaven hath demented you!" returned Brettone. "Angelo Villani is
the favourite menial of the Senator."
"Those eyes deceived me, then," muttered Montreal, solemnly and shuddering;
"and, as if her ghost had returned to earth, God smites me from the grave!"
There was a long silence. At length Montreal, whose bold and sanguine
temper was never long clouded, spoke again.
"Are the Senator's coffers full? - But that is impossible."
"Bare as a Dominican's."
"We are saved, then. He shall name his price for our heads. Money must be
more useful to him than blood."
And as if with that thought all further meditation were rendered
unnecessary, Montreal doffed his mantle, uttered a short prayer, and flung
himself on a pallet in a corner of the cell.
"I have slept on worse beds," said the Knight, stretching himself; and in a
few minutes he was fast asleep.
The brothers listened to his deep-drawn, but regular breathing, with envy
and wonder, but they were in no mood to converse. Still and speechless,
they sate like statues beside the sleeper. Time passed on, and the first
cold air of the hour that succeeds to midnight crept through the bars of
their cell. The bolts crashed, the door opened, six men-at-arms entered,
passed the brothers, and one of them touched Montreal.
"Ha!" said he, still sleeping, but turning round. "Ha!" said he, in the
soft Provencal tongue, "sweet Adeline, we will not rise yet - it is so long
since we met!"
"What says he?" muttered the guard, shaking Montreal roughly. The Knight
sprang up at once, and his hand grasped the head of his bed as for his
sword. He stared round bewildered, rubbed his eyes, and then gazing on the
guard, became alive to the present.
"Ye are early risers in the Capitol," said he. "What want ye of me?"
"It waits you!"
"It! What?" said Montreal.
"The rack!" replied the soldier, with a malignant scowl.
The Great Captain said not a word. He looked for one moment at the six
swordsmen, as if measuring his single strength against theirs. His eye
then wandered round the room. The rudest bar of iron would have been
dearer to him than he had ever yet found the proofest steel of Milan. He
completed his survey with a sigh, threw his mantle over his shoulders,
nodded at his brethren, and followed the guard.
In a hall of the Capitol, hung with the ominous silk of white rays on a
blood-red ground, sate Rienzi and his councillors. Across a recess was
drawn a black curtain.
"Walter de Montreal," said a small man at the foot of the table, "Knight of
the illustrious order of St. John of Jerusalem - "
"And Captain of the Grand Company!" added the prisoner, in a firm voice.
"You stand accused of divers counts: robbery and murder, in Tuscany,
Romagna, and Apulia - "
"For robbery and murder, brave men, and belted Knights," said Montreal,
drawing himself up, "would use the words 'war and victory.' To those
charges I plead guilty! Proceed."
"You are next accused of treasonable conspiracy against the liberties of
Rome for the restoration of the proscribed Barons - and of traitorous
correspondence with Stefanello Colonna at Palestrina."
"Step forth, Angelo Villani!"
"You are my betrayer, then?" said Montreal steadily. "I deserved this. I
beseech you, Senator of Rome, let this young man retire. I confess my
correspondence with the Colonna, and my desire to restore the Barons."
Rienzi motioned to Villani, who bowed and withdrew.
"There rests only then for you, Walter de Montreal, to relate, fully and
faithfully, the details of your conspiracy."
"That is impossible," replied Montreal, carelessly.
"Because, doing as I please with my own life, I will not betray the lives
"Bethink thee - thou wouldst have betrayed the life of thy judge!"
"Not betrayed - thou didst not trust me."
"The law, Walter de Montreal, hath sharp inquisitors - behold!"
The black curtain was drawn aside, and the eye of Montreal rested on the
executioner and the rack! His proud breast heaved indignantly.
"Senator of Rome," said he, "these instruments are for serfs and villeins.
I have been a warrior and a leader; life and death have been in my hands -
I have used them as I listed; but to mine equal and my foe, I never
proffered the insult of the rack."
"Sir Walter de Montreal," returned the Senator, gravely, but with some
courteous respect, "your answer is that which rises naturally to the lips
of brave men. But learn from me, whom fortune hath made thy judge, that no
more for serf and villein, than for knight and noble, are such instruments
the engines of law, or the tests of truth. I yielded but to the desire of
these reverend councillors, to test thy nerves. But, wert thou the meanest
peasant of the Campagna, before my judgment-seat thou needst not apprehend
the torture. Walter de Montreal, amongst the Princes of Italy thou hast
known, amongst the Roman Barons thou wouldst have aided, is there one who
could make that boast?"
"I desired only," said Montreal, with some hesitation, "to unite the Barons
with thee; nor did I intrigue against thy life!"
Rienzi frowned - "Enough," he said, hastily. "Knight of St. John, I know
thy secret projects, subterfuge and evasion neither befit nor avail thee.
If thou didst not intrigue against my life, thou didst intrigue against the
life of Rome. Thou hast but one favour left to demand on earth, it is the
manner of thy death."
Montreal's lip worked convulsively.
"Senator," said he, in a low voice, "may I crave audience with thee alone
for one minute?"
The councillors looked up.
"My Lord," whispered the eldest of them, "doubtless he hath concealed
weapons - trust him not."
"Prisoner," returned Rienzi, after a moment's pause; "if thou seekest for
mercy thy request is idle, and before my coadjutors I have no secret; speak
out what thou hast to say!"
"Yet listen to me," said the prisoner, folding his arms; "it concerns not
my life, but Rome's welfare."
"Then," said Rienzi, in an altered tone, "thy request is granted. Thou
mayst add to thy guilt the design of the assassin, but for Rome I would
dare greater danger."
So saying, he motioned to the councillors, who slowly withdrew by the door
which had admitted Villani, while the guards retired to the farthest
extremity of the hall.
"Now, Walter de Montreal, be brief, for thy time is short."
"Senator," said Montreal, "my life can but little profit you; men will say
that you destroyed your creditor in order to cancel your debt. Fix a sum
upon my life, estimate it at the price of a monarch's; every florin shall
be paid to you, and your treasury will be filled for five years to come.
If the 'Buono Stato' depends on your government, what I have asked, your
solicitude for Rome will not permit you to refuse."
"You mistake me, bold robber," said Rienzi, sternly; "your treason I could
guard against, and therefore forgive; your ambition, never! Mark me, I
know you! Place your hand on your heart and say whether, could we change
places, you, as Rienzi, would suffer all the gold of earth to purchase the
life of Walter de Montreal? For men's reading of my conduct, that must I
bear; for mine own reading, mine eyes must be purged from corruption. I am
answerable to God for the trust of Rome. And Rome trembles while the head
of the Grand Company lives in the plotting brain and the daring heart of
Walter de Montreal. Man - wealthy, great, and subtle as you are, your
hours are numbered; with the rise of the sun you die!"
Montreal's eyes, fixed upon the Senator's face, saw hope was over; his
pride and his fortitude returned to him.
"We have wasted words," said he. "I played for a great stake, I have lost,
and must pay the forfeit! I am prepared. On the threshold of the Unknown
World, the dark spirit of prophecy rushes into us. Lord Senator, I go
before thee to announce - that in Heaven or in Hell - ere many days be
over, room must be given to one mightier than I am!"
As he spoke, his form dilated, his eye glared; and Rienzi, cowering as
never had he cowered before, shrunk back, and shaded his face with his
"The manner of your death?" he asked, in a hollow voice.
"The axe: it is that which befits knight and warrior. For thee, Senator,
Fate hath a less noble death."
"Robber be dumb!" cried Rienzi, passionately; "Guards, bear back the
prisoner. At sunrise, Montreal - "
"Sets the sun of the scourge of Italy," said the Knight, bitterly. "Be it
so. One request more; the Knights of St. John claim affinity with the
Augustine order; grant me an Augustine confessor."
"It is granted; and in return for thy denunciations, I, who can give thee
no earthly mercy, will implore the Judge of all for pardon to thy soul!"
"Senator, I have done with man's mediation. My brethren? Their deaths are
not necessary to thy safety or thy revenge!"
Rienzi mused a moment: "No," said he, "dangerous tools they were, but
without the workman they may rust unharming. They served me once, too.
Prisoner, their lives are spared."
Chapter 10.V. The Discovery.
The Council was broken up - Rienzi hastened to his own apartments. Meeting
Villani by the way, he pressed the youth's hand affectionately. "You have
saved Rome and me from great peril," said he; "the saints reward you!"
Without tarrying for Villani's answer, he hurried on. Nina, anxious and
perturbed, awaited him in their chamber.
"Not a-bed yet?" said he: "fie, Nina, even thy beauty will not stand these
"I could not rest till I had seen thee. I hear (all Rome has heard it ere
this) that thou hast seized Walter de Montreal, and that he will perish by
"The first robber that ever died so brave a death," returned Rienzi, slowly
"Cola, I have never crossed your schemes, - your policy, even by a
suggestion. Enough for me to triumph in their success, to mourn for their
failure. Now, I ask thee one request - spare me the life of this man."
"Nina - "
"Hear me, - for thee I speak! Despite his crimes, his valour and his
genius have gained him admirers, even amongst his foes. Many a prince,
many a state that secretly rejoices at his fall, will affect horror against
his judge. Hear me farther. His brothers aided your return; the world
will term you ungrateful. His brothers lent you monies, the world - (out
on it!) - will term you - "
"Hold!" interrupted the Senator. "All that thou sayest, my mind
forestalled. But thou knowest me - to thee I have no disguise. No compact
can bind Montreal's faith - no mercy win his gratitude. Before his red
right hand truth and justice are swept away. If I condemn Montreal I incur
disgrace and risk danger - granted. If I release him, ere the first
showers of April, the chargers of the Northmen will neigh in the halls of
the Capitol. Which shall I hazard in this alternative, myself or Rome?
Ask me no more - to bed, to bed!"
"Couldst thou read my forebodings, Cola, mystic - gloomy - unaccountable?"
"Forebodings! - I have mine," answered Rienzi, sadly, gazing on space, as
if his thoughts peopled it with spectres. Then, raising his eyes to
Heaven, he said with that fanatical energy which made much both of his
strength and weakness - "Lord, mine at least not the sin of Saul! the
Amalekite shall not be saved!"
While Rienzi enjoyed a short, troubled, and restless sleep, over which Nina
watched - unslumbering, anxious, tearful, and oppressed with dark and
terrible forewarnings - the accuser was more happy than the judge. The
last thoughts that floated before the young mind of Angelo Villani, ere
wrapped in sleep, were bright and sanguine. He felt no honourable remorse
that he had entrapped the confidence of another - he felt only that his
scheme had prospered, that his mission had been fulfilled. The grateful
words of Rienzi rang in his ear, and hopes of fortune and power, beneath
the sway of the Roman Senator, lulled him into slumber, and coloured all
Scarce, however, had he been two hours asleep, ere he was wakened by one of
the attendants of the palace, himself half awake. "Pardon me, Messere
Villani," said he, "but there is a messenger below from the good Sister
Ursula; he bids thee haste instantly to the Convent - she is sick unto
death, and has tidings that crave thy immediate presence."
Angelo, whose morbid susceptibility as to his parentage was ever excited by
vague but ambitious hopes - started up, dressed hurriedly, and joining the
messenger below, repaired to the Convent. In the Court of the Capitol, and
by the Staircase of the Lion, was already heard the noise of the workmen,
and looking back, Villani beheld the scaffold, hung with black - sleeping
cloudlike in the grey light of dawn - at the same time, the bell of the
Capitol tolled heavily. A pang shot athwart him. He hurried on; - despite
the immature earliness of the hour, he met groups of either sex, hastening
along the streets to witness the execution of the redoubted Captain of the
Grand Company. The Convent of the Augustines was at the farthest extremity
of that city, even then so extensive, and the red light upon the hilltops
already heralded the rising sun, ere the young man reached the venerable
porch. His name obtained him instant admittance.
"Heaven grant," said an old Nun, who conducted him through a long and
winding passage, "that thou mayst bring comfort to the sick sister: she
has pined for thee grievously since matins."
In a cell set apart for the reception of visitors (from the outward world),
to such of the Sisterhood as received the necessary dispensation, sate the
aged Nun. Angelo had only seen her once since his return to Rome, and
since then disease had made rapid havoc on her form and features. And now,
in her shroudlike garments and attenuated frame, she seemed by the morning
light as a spectre whom day had surprised above the earth. She approached
the youth, however, with a motion more elastic and rapid than seemed
possible to her worn and ghastly form. "Thou art come," she said. "Well,
well! This morning after matins, my confessor, an Augustine, who alone
knows the secrets of my life, took me aside, and told me that Walter de
Montreal had been seized by the Senator - that he was adjudged to die, and
that one of the Augustine brotherhood had been sent for to attend his last
hours - is it so?"
"Thou wert told aright," said Angelo, wonderingly. "The man at whose name
thou wert wont to shudder - against whom thou hast so often warned me -
will die at sunrise."
"So soon! - so soon! - Oh, Mother of Mercy! - fly! thou art about the
person of the Senator, thou hast high favour with him; fly! down on thy
knees, and as thou hopest for God's grace, rise not till thou hast won the
"She raves," muttered Angelo, with white lips.
"I do not rave, - boy!" screeched the Sister, wildly, "know that my
daughter was his leman. He disgraced our house, - a house haughtier than
his own. Sinner that I was, I vowed revenge. His boy - they had only one!
- was brought up in a robber's camp; - a life of bloodshed - a death of
doom - a futurity of hell - were before him. I plucked the child from such
a fate - I bore him away - I told the father he was dead - I placed him in
the path to honourable fortunes. May my sin be forgiven me! Angelo
Villani, thou art that child; - Walter de Montreal is thy father. But now,
trembling on the verge of death, I shudder at the vindictive thoughts I
once nourished. Perhaps - "
"Sinner and accursed!" interrupted Villani, with a loud shout: - "sinner
and accursed thou art indeed! Know that it was I who betrayed thy
daughter's lover! - by the son's treason dies the father!"
Not a moment more did he tarry: he waited not to witness the effect his
words produced. As one frantic - as one whom a fiend possesses or pursues
- he rushed from the Convent - he flew through the desolate streets. The
death-bell came, first indistinct, then loud, upon his ear. Every sound
seemed to him like the curse of God; on - on - he passed the more deserted
quarter - crowds swept before him - he was mingled with the living stream,
delayed, pushed back - thousands on thousands around, before him.
Breathless, gasping, he still pressed on - he forced his way - he heard not
- he saw not - all was like a dream. Up burst the sun over the distant
hills! - the bell ceased! From right to left he pushed aside the crowd -
his strength was as a giant's. He neared the fatal spot. A dead hush lay
like a heavy air over the multitude. He heard a voice, as he pressed
along, deep and clear - it was the voice of his father! - it ceased - the
audience breathed heavily - they murmured - they swayed to and fro. On,
on, went Angelo Villani. The guards of the Senator stopped his way; - he
dashed aside their pikes - he eluded their grasp - he pierced the armed
barrier - he stood on the Place of the Capitol. "Hold, hold!" he would
have cried - but horror struck him dumb. He beheld the gleaming axe - he
saw the bended neck. Ere another breath passed his lips, a ghastly and
trunkless face was raised on high - Walter de Montreal was no more!
Villani saw - swooned not - shrunk not - breathed not! - but he turned his
eyes from that lifted head, dropping gore, to the balcony, in which,
according to custom, sate, in solemn pomp, the Senator of Rome - and the
face of that young man was as the face of a demon!
"Ha!" said he, muttering to himself, and recalling the words of Rienzi
seven years before - "Blessed art thou who hast no blood of kindred to
Chapter 10.VI. The Suspense.
Walter de Montreal was buried in the church of St. Maria dell' Araceli.
But the "evil that he did lived after him!" Although the vulgar had, until
his apprehension, murmured against Rienzi for allowing so notorious a
freebooter to be at large, he was scarcely dead ere they compassionated the
object of their terror. With that singular species of piety which Montreal
had always cultivated, as if a decorous and natural part of the character
of a warrior, no sooner was his sentence fixed, than he had surrendered
himself to the devout preparation for death. With the Augustine Friar he
consumed the brief remainder of the night in prayer and confession,
comforted his brothers, and passed to the scaffold with the step of a hero
and the self-acquittal of a martyr. In the wonderful delusions of the
human heart, far from feeling remorse at a life of professional rapine and
slaughter, almost the last words of the brave warrior were in proud
commendation of his own deeds. "Be valiant like me," he said to his
brothers, "and remember that ye are now the heirs to the Humbler of Apulia,
Tuscany, and La Marca." (Pregovi che vi amiate e siate valorosi al mondo,
come fui io, che mi feci fare obbedienza a la Puglia, Toscana, e a La
Marca." - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib. ii. cap. 22. "I pray you love one
another, and be valorous as was I, who made Apulia, Tuscany and La Marca
own obedience to me." - "Life of Cola di Rienzi".)
This confidence in himself continued at the scaffold. "I die," he said,
addressing the Romans - "I die contented, since my bones shall rest in the
Holy City of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Soldier of Christ shall have
the burial-place of the Apostles. But I die unjustly. My wealth is my
crime - the poverty of your state my accuser. Senator of Rome, thou mayst
envy my last hour - men like Walter de Montreal perish not unavenged." So
saying, he turned to the East, murmured a brief prayer, knelt down
deliberately, and said as to himself, "Rome guard my ashes! - Earth my
memory - Fate my revenge; - and, now, Heaven receive my soul! - Strike!"
At the first blow, the head was severed from the body.
His treason but imperfectly known, the fear of him forgotten, all that
remained of the recollection of Walter de Montreal (The military renown and
bold exploits of Montreal are acknowledged by all the Italian authorities.
One of them declares that since the time of Caesar, Italy had never known
so great a Captain. The biographer of Rienzi, forgetting all the offences
of the splendid and knightly robber, seems to feel only commiseration for
his fate. He informs us, moreover, that at Tivoli one of his servants
(perhaps our friend, Rodolf of Saxony), hearing his death, died of grief
the following day.) in Rome, was admiration for his heroism, and compassion
for his end. The fate of Pandulfo di Guido, which followed some days
afterwards, excited a yet deeper, though more quiet, sentiment, against the
Senator. "He was once Rienzi's friend!" said one man; "He was an honest,
upright citizen!" muttered another; "He was an advocate of the people!"
growled Cecco del Vecchio. But the Senator had wound himself up to a
resolve to be inflexibly just, and to regard every peril to Rome as became
a Roman. Rienzi remembered that he had never confided but he had been
betrayed; he had never forgiven but to sharpen enmity. He was amidst a
ferocious people, uncertain friends, wily enemies; and misplaced mercy
would be but a premium to conspiracy. Yet the struggle he underwent was
visible in the hysterical emotions he betrayed. He now wept bitterly, now
laughed wildly. "Can I never again have the luxury to forgive?" said he.
The coarse spectators of that passion deemed it, - some imbecility, some
hypocrisy. But the execution produced the momentary effect intended. All
sedition ceased, terror crept throughout the city, order and peace rose to
the surface; but beneath, in the strong expression of a contemporaneous
writer, "Lo mormorito quetamente suonava." ("The murmur quietly sounded.")
On examining dispassionately the conduct of Rienzi at this awful period of
his life, it is scarcely possible to condemn it of a single error in point
of policy. Cured of his faults, he exhibited no unnecessary ostentation -
he indulged in no exhibitions of intoxicated pride - that gorgeous
imagination rather than vanity, which had led the Tribune into spectacle
and pomp, was now lulled to rest, by the sober memory of grave
vicissitudes, and the stern calmness of a maturer intellect. Frugal,
provident, watchful, self-collected, 'never was seen,' observes no partial
witness, 'so extraordinary a man.' ("Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib. ii. c.
23.) 'In him was concentrated every thought for every want of Rome.
Indefatigably occupied, he inspected, ordained, regulated all things; in
the city, in the army, for peace, or for war. But he was feebly supported,
and those he employed were lukewarm and lethargic.' Still his arms
prospered. Place after place, fortress after fortress, yielded to the
Lieutenant of the Senator: and the cession of Palestrina itself was hourly
expected. His art and address were always strikingly exhibited in
difficult situations, and the reader cannot fail to have noticed how
conspicuously they were displayed in delivering himself from the iron
tutelage of his foreign mercenaries. Montreal executed, his brothers
imprisoned, (though their lives were spared,) a fear that induced respect
was stricken into the breasts of those bandit soldiers. Removed from Rome,
and, under Annibaldi, engaged against the Barons, constant action and
constant success, withheld those necessary fiends from falling on their
Master; while Rienzi, willing to yield to the natural antipathy of the
Romans, thus kept the Northmen from all contact with the city; and as he
boasted, was the only chief in Italy who reigned in his palace guarded only
by his citizens.
Despite his perilous situation - despite his suspicions, and his fears, no
wanton cruelty stained his stern justice - Montreal and Pandulfo di Guido
were the only state victims he demanded. If, according to the dark
Machiavelism of Italian wisdom, the death of those enemies was impolitic,
it was not in the act, but the mode of doing it. A prince of Bologna, or
of Milan would have avoided the sympathy excited by the scaffold, and the
drug or the dagger would have been the safer substitute for the axe. But
with all his faults, real and imputed, no single act of that foul and
murtherous policy, which made the science of the more fortunate princes of
Italy, ever advanced the ambition or promoted the security of the Last of
the Roman Tribunes. Whatever his errors, he lived and died as became a
man, who dreamed the vain but glorious dream, that in a corrupt and dastard
populace he could revive the genius of the old Republic.
Of all who attended on the Senator, the most assiduous and the most
honoured was still Angelo Villani. Promoted to a high civil station,
Rienzi felt it as a return of youth, to find one person entitled to his
gratitude; - he loved and confided in the youth as a son. Villani was
never absent from his side, except in intercourse with the various popular
leaders in the various quarters of the city; and in this intercourse his
zeal was indefatigable - it seemed even to prey upon his health; and Rienzi
chid him fondly, whenever starting from his own reveries, he beheld the
abstracted eye and the livid paleness which had succeeded the sparkle and
bloom of youth.
Such chiding the young man answered only by the same unvarying words.
"Senator, I have a great trust to fulfil;" - and at these words he smiled.
One day Villani, while with the Senator, said rather abruptly, "Do you
remember, my Lord, that before Viterbo, I acquitted myself so in arms, that
even the Cardinal d'Albornoz was pleased to notice me?"
"I remember your valour well, Angelo; but why the question?"
"My Lord, Bellini, the Captain of the Guard of the Capitol is dangerously
"I know it."
"Whom can my Lord trust at the post?"
"Why, the Lieutenant."
"What! - a soldier that has served under the Orsini!"
"True. Well! There is Tommaso Filangieri."
"An excellent man; but is he not kin by blood to Pandulfo di Guido?"
"Ay - is he so? It must be thought of. Hast thou any friend to name?"
said the Senator, smiling, "Methinks thy cavils point that way."
"My Lord," replied Villani, colouring; "I am too young perhaps; but the
post is one that demands fidelity more than it does years. Shall I own it?
- My tastes are rather to serve thee with my sword than with my pen."
"Wilt thou, indeed, accept the office? It is of less dignity and emolument
than the one you hold; and you are full young to lead these stubborn
"Senator, I led taller men than they are to the assault at Viterbo. But,