Read CHAPTER VIII of The Bravo, free online book, by James Fenimore Cooper, on ReadCentral.com.

“The fisher came

From his green islet, bringing o’er the waves
His wife and little one; the husbandman
From the firm land, with many a friar and nun.
And village maiden, her first flight from home,
Crowding the common ferry.”

Rogers.

A brighter day than that which succeeded the night last mentioned never dawned upon the massive domes, the gorgeous palaces, and the glittering canals of Venice. The sun had not been long above the level of the Lido before the strains of horns and trumpets arose from the square of St. Mark. They were answered in full echoes from the distant arsenal. A thousand gondolas glided from the canals, stealing in every direction across the port, the Giudecca, and the various outer channels of the place; while the well known routes from Fusina and the neighboring isles were dotted with endless lines of boats urging their way towards the capital.

The citizens began to assemble early, in their holiday attire, while thousands of contadini landed at the different bridges, clad in the gay costumes of the main. Before the day had far advanced, all the avenues of the great square were again thronged, and by the time the bells of the venerable cathedral had finished a peal of high rejoicing, St. Mark’s again teemed with its gay multitude. Few appeared in masks, but pleasure seemed to lighten every eye, while the frank and unconcealed countenance willingly courted the observation and sympathy of its neighbors. In short, Venice and her people were seen, in all the gaiety and carelessness of a favorite Italian festa. The banners of the conquered nations flapped heavily on the triumphal masts, each church-tower hung out its image of the winged lion, and every palace was rich in its hangings of tapestry and silk, floating from balcony and window.

In the midst of this exhilarating and bright spectacle was heard the din of a hundred thousand voices. Above the constant hum, there arose, from time to time, the blasts of trumpets and the symphonies of rich music. Here the improvisatore, secretly employed by a politic and mysterious government, recounted, with a rapid utterance, and in language suited to the popular ear, at the foot of the spars which upheld the conquered banners of Candia, Crete, and the Morea, the ancient triumphs of the Republic; while there, a ballad-singer chanted, to the greedy crowd, the glory and justice of San Marco. Shouts of approbation succeeded each happy allusion to the national renown, and bravos, loud and oft-repeated, were the reward of the agents of the police, whenever they most administered to the self-delusion and vanity of their audience.

In the meantime, gondolas rich in carvings and gildings, and containing females renowned for grace and beauty, began to cluster in hundreds around the port. A general movement had already taken place among the shipping, and a wide and clear channel was opened from the quay at the foot of the Piazzetta, to the distant bank, which shut out the waves of the Adriatic. Near this watery path, boats of all sizes and descriptions, filled with the curious and observant, were fast collecting.

The crowd thickened as the day drew in, all the vast plains of the Padovano appearing to have given up their people to swell the numbers of those that rejoiced. A few timid and irresolute masquers now began to appear in the throng, stealing a momentary pleasure under the favor of that privileged disguise, from out of the seclusion and monotony of their cloisters. Next came the rich marine équipages of the accredited agents of foreign states, and then, amid the sound of clarions and the cries of the populace, the Bucentaur rowed out of the channel of the arsenal, and came sweeping to her station at the quay of St. Mark.

These preliminaries, which occupied some hours, being observed, the javelin-men, and others employed about the person of the head of the Republic, were seen opening an avenue through the throng. After which, the rich strains of a hundred instruments proclaimed the approach of the Doge.

We shall not detain the narrative, to describe the pomp in which a luxurious and affluent aristocracy, that in general held itself aloof from familiar intercourse with those it ruled, displayed its magnificence to the eyes of the multitude, on an occasion of popular rejoicing. Long lines of senators, dressed in their robes of office, and attended by crowds of liveried followers, came from under the galleries of the palace, and descended by the Giant’s Stairway into the sombre court. Thence, the whole issued into the Piazzetta in order, and proceeded to their several stations on the canopied deck of the well known bark. Each patrician had his allotted place, and before the rear of the cortege had yet quitted the quay, there was a long and imposing row of grave legislators seated in the established order of their precedency. The ambassadors, the high dignitaries of the state, and the aged man who had been chosen to bear the empty honors of sovereignty, still remained on the land, waiting, with the quiet of trained docility, the moment to embark. At this moment, a man of an embrowned visage, legs bare to the knee, and breast open to the breeze, rushed through the guards, and knelt on the stones of the quay at his feet.

“Justice! great prince!” cried the bold stranger; “justice and mercy! Listen to one who has bled for St. Mark, and who hath his scars for his witnesses.”

“Justice and mercy are not always companions,” calmly observed he who wore the horned bonnet, motioning to his officious attendants to let the intruder stay.

“Mighty prince! I come for the last.”

“Who and what art thou?”

“A fisherman of the Lagunes. One named Antonio, who seeketh the liberty of the prop of his years a glorious boy, that force and the policy of the state have torn from me.”

“This should not be! Violence is not the attribute of justice but the youth hath offended the laws, and he suffereth for his crimes?”

“He is guilty, Excellent and most Serene Highness, of youth, and health, and strength, with some skill in the craft of the mariner. They have taken him, without warning or consent, for the service of the galleys, and have left me in my age, alone.”

The expression of pity, which had taken possession of the venerable features of the prince, changed instantly to a look of uneasiness and distrust. The eye, which just before had melted with compassion, became cold and set in its meaning, and signing to his guards, he bowed with dignity to the attentive and curious auditors, among the foreign agents, to proceed.

“Bear him away,” said an officer, who took his master’s meaning from the glance; “the ceremonies may not be retarded for a prayer so idle.”

Antonio offered no resistance, but yielding to the pressure of those around him, he sank back meekly among the crowd, disappointment and sorrow giving place, for an instant, to an awe and an admiration of the gorgeous spectacle, that were perhaps in some degree inseparable from his condition and habits. In a few moments, the slight interruption produced by this short scene, was forgotten in the higher interest of the occasion.

When the ducal party had taken their places, and an admiral of reputation was in possession of the helm, the vast and gorgeous bark, with its gilded galleries thronged with attendants, swept away from the quay with a grand and stately movement. Its departure was the signal for a new burst of trumpets and clarions, and for fresh acclamations from the people. The latter rushed to the edge of the water, and by the time the Bucentaur had reached the middle of the port, the stream was black with the gondolas that followed in her train. In this manner did the gay and shouting cortege sweep on, some darting ahead of the principal bark, and some clinging, like smaller fish swimming around the leviathan, as near to her sides as the fall of the ponderous oars would allow. As each effort of the crew sent the galley further from the land, the living train seemed to extend itself, by some secret principle of expansion; nor was the chain of its apparent connexion entirely broken, until the Bucentaur had passed the island, long famous for its convent of religious Arminians. Here the movement became slower, in order to permit the thousand gondolas to approach, and then the whole moved forward, in nearly one solid phalanx, to the landing of the Lido.

The marriage of the Adriatic, as the ceremony was quaintly termed, has been too often described to need a repetition here. Our business is rather with incidents of a private and personal nature than with descriptions of public events, and we shall pass over all that has no immediate connexion with the interest of the tale.

When the Bucentaur became stationary, a space around her stern was cleared, and the Doge appeared in a rich gallery, so constructed as to exhibit the action to all in sight. He held a ring, glittering with precious stones, on high, and, pronouncing the words of betrothal, he dropped it upon the bosom of his fancied spouse. Shouts arose, trumpets blew their blasts, and each lady waved her handkerchief, in felicitation of the happy union. In the midst of the fracas which was greatly heightened by the roar of cannon on board the cruisers in the channel, and from the guns in the arsenal a boat glided into the open space beneath the gallery of the Bucentaur. The movement of the arm which directed the light gondola was dexterous and still strong, though the hairs of him who held the oar were thin and white. A suppliant eye was cast up at the happy faces that adorned the state of the prince, and then the look was changed intently to the water. A small fisherman’s buoy fell from the boat, which glided away so soon, that, amid the animation and uproar of that moment, the action was scarce heeded by the excited throng.

The aquatic procession now returned towards the city, the multitude rending the air with shouts at the happy termination of a ceremony, to which time and the sanction of the sovereign pontiff had given a species of sanctity that was somewhat increased by superstition. It is true that a few among the Venetians themselves regarded these famous nuptials of the Adriatic with indifference; and that several of the ministers of the northern and more maritime states, who were witnesses on the occasion, had scarcely concealed, as they cast glances of intelligence and pride among themselves, their smiles. Still, such was the influence of habit for so much does even arrogant assumption, when long and perseveringly maintained, count among men that neither the increasing feebleness of the Republic, nor the known superiority of other powers on the very element which this pageant was intended to represent as the peculiar property of St. Mark, could yet cover the lofty pretension with the ridicule it merited. Time has since taught the world that Venice continued this idle deception for ages after both reason and modesty should have dictated its discontinuance; but, at the period of which we write, that ambitious, crapulous, and factitious state was rather beginning to feel the symptomatic evidence of its fading circumstances, than to be fully conscious of the swift progress of a downward course. In this manner do communities, like individuals, draw near their dissolution, inattentive to the symptoms of decay, until they are overtaken with that fate which finally overwhelms empires and their power in the common lot of man.

The Bucentaur did not return directly to the quay, to disburden itself of its grave and dignified load. The gaudy galley anchored in the centre of the port, and opposite to the wide mouth of the great canal. Officers had been busy, throughout the morning, in causing all the shipping and heavy boats, of which hundreds lay in that principal artery of the city, to remove from the centre of the passage, and heralds now summoned the citizens to witness the regatta, with which the public ceremonies of the day were to terminate.

Venice, from her peculiar formation and the vast number of her watermen, had long been celebrated for this species of amusement. Families were known and celebrated in her traditions for dexterous skill with the oar, as they were known in Rome for feats of a far less useful and of a more barbarous nature. It was usual to select from these races of watermen the most vigorous and skilful; and after invoking the aid of patron-saints, and arousing their pride and recollections by songs that recounted the feats of their ancestors, to start them for the goal, with every incitement that pride and the love of victory could awaken.

Most of these ancient usages were still observed. As soon as the Bucentaur was in its station, some thirty or forty gondoliers were brought forth, clad in their gayest habiliments, and surrounded and supported by crowds of anxious friends and relatives. The intended competitors were expected to sustain the long-established reputations of their several names, and they were admonished of the disgrace of defeat. They were cheered by the men, and stimulated by the smiles and tears of the other sex. The rewards were recalled to their minds; they were fortified by prayers to the saints; and then they were dismissed, amid the cries and the wishes of the multitude, to seek their allotted places beneath the stern of the galley of state.

It has already been mentioned in these pages, that the city of Venice is divided into two nearly equal parts by a channel much broader than that of the ordinary passages of the town. This dividing artery, from its superior size and depth, and its greater importance, is called the Grand Canal. Its course is not unlike that of an undulating line, which greatly increases its length. As it is much used by the larger boats of the bay being, in fact, a sort of secondary port and its width is so considerable, it has throughout the whole distance but one bridge, the celebrated Rialto. The regatta was to be held on this canal, which offered the requisites of length and space, and which, as it was lined with most of the palaces of the principal senators, afforded all the facilities necessary for viewing the struggle.

In passing from one end of this long course to the other, the men destined for the race were not permitted to make any exertion. Their eyes roamed over the gorgeous hangings, which, as is still wont throughout Italy on all days of festa, floated from every window, and on groups of females in rich attire, brilliant with the peculiar charms of the famed Venetian beauty, that clustered in the balconies. Those who were domestics, rose and answered to the encouraging signals thrown from above, as they passed the palaces of their masters; while those who were watermen of the public, endeavored to gather hope among the sympathizing faces of the multitude.

At length every formality had been duly observed, and the competitors assumed their places. The gondolas were much larger than those commonly used, and each was manned by three watermen in the centre, directed by a fourth, who, standing on the little deck in the stern, steered, while he aided to impel the boat. There were light, low staffs in the bows, with flags, that bore the distinguishing colors of several noble families of the Republic, or which had such other simple devices as had been suggested by the fancies of those to whom they belonged. A few flourishes of the oars, resembling the preparatory movements which the master of fence makes ere he begins to push and parry, were given; a whirling of the boats, like the prancing of curbed racers, succeeded; and then, at the report of a gun, the whole darted away as if the gondolas were impelled by volition. The start was followed by a shout, which passed swiftly along the canal, and an eager agitation of heads that went from balcony to balcony, till the sympathetic movement was communicated to the grave load under which the Bucentaur labored.

For a few minutes the difference in force and skill was not very obvious. Each gondola glided along the element apparently with that ease with which a light-winged swallow skims the lake, and with no visible advantage to any one of the ten. Then, as more art in him who steered, or greater powers of endurance in those who rowed, or some of the latent properties of the boat itself came into service, the cluster of little barks which had come off like a closely-united flock of birds taking flight together in alarm, began to open, till they formed a long and vacillating line in the centre of the passage. The whole train shot beneath the bridge so near each other as to render it still doubtful which was to conquer, and the exciting strife came more in view of the principal personages of the city.

But here those radical qualities which insure success in efforts of this nature manifested themselves. The weaker began to yield, the train to lengthen, and hopes and fears to increase, until those in front presented the exhilarating spectacle of success, while those behind offered the still more noble sight of men struggling without hope. Gradually the distances between the boats increased, while that between them and the goal grew rapidly less, until three of those in advance came in, like glancing arrows, beneath the stern of the Bucentaur, with scarce a length between them. The prize was won, the conquerors were rewarded, and the artillery gave forth the usual signals of rejoicing. Music answered to the roar of cannon and the peals of bells, while sympathy with success, that predominant and so often dangerous principle of our nature, drew shouts even from the disappointed.

The clamor ceased, and a herald proclaimed aloud the commencement of a new and different struggle. The last, and what might be termed the national race, had been limited by an ancient usage to the known and recognised gondoliers of Venice. The prize had been awarded by the state, and the whole affair had somewhat of an official and political character. It was now announced, however, that a race was to be run, in which the reward was open to all competitors, without question as to their origin, or as to their ordinary occupations. An oar of gold, to which was attached a chain of the same precious metal, was exhibited as the boon of the Doge to him who showed most dexterity and strength in this new struggle; while a similar ornament of silver was to be the portion of him who showed the second-best dexterity and bottom. A mimic boat of less precious metal was the third prize. The gondolas were to be the usual light vehicles of the canals, and as the object was to display the peculiar skill of that city of islands, but one oarsman was allowed to each, on whom would necessarily fall the whole duty of guiding, while he impelled his little bark. Any of those who had been engaged in the previous trial were admitted to this; and all desirous of taking part in the new struggle were commanded to come beneath the stern of the Bucentaur within a prescribed number of minutes, that note might be had of their wishes. As notice of this arrangement had been previously given, the interval between the two races was not long.

The first who came out of the crowd of boats which environed the vacant place that had been left for the competitors, was a gondolier of the public landing, well known for his skill with the oar, and his song on the canal.

“How art thou called, and in whose name dost thou put thy chance?” demanded the herald of this aquatic course.

“All know me for Bartolomeo, one who lives between the Piazzetta and the Lido, and, like a loyal Venetian, I trust in San Teodoro.”

“Thou art well protected; take thy place and await thy fortune.”

The conscious waterman swept the water with a back stroke of his blade, and the light gondola whirled away into the centre of the vacant spot, like a swan giving a sudden glance aside.

“And who art thou?” demanded the official of the next that came.

“Enrico, a gondolier of Fusina. I come to try my oar with the braggarts of the canals.”

“In whom is thy trust?”

“Sant’ Antonio di Padua?”

“Thou wilt need his aid, though we commend thy spirit. Enter, and take place.” “And who art thou?” he continued, to another, when the second had imitated the easy skill of the first.

“I am called Gino of Calabria, a gondolier in private service.”

“What noble retaineth thee?”

“The illustrious and most excellent Don Camillo Monforte, Duca and Lord of Sant’ Agata in Napoli, and of right a senator in Venice.”

“Thou should’st have come of Padua, friend, by thy knowledge of the laws! Dost thou trust in him thou servest for the victory?”

There was a movement among the senators at the answer of Gino; and the half-terrified varlet thought he perceived frowns gathering on more than one brow. He looked around in quest of him whose greatness he had vaunted, as if he sought succor.

“Wilt thou name thy support in this great trial of force?” resumed the herald.

“My master,” uttered the terrified Gino, “St. Januarius, and St. Mark.”

“Thou art well defended. Should the two latter fail thee, thou mayest surely count on the first!”

“Signor Monforte has an illustrious name, and he is welcome to our Venetian sports,” observed the Doge, slightly bending his head towards the young Calabrian noble, who stood at no great distance in a gondola of state, regarding the scene with a deeply-interested countenance. This cautious interruption of the pleasantries of the official was acknowledged by a low reverence, and the matter proceeded.

“Take thy station, Gino of Calabria, and a happy fortune be thine,” said the latter; then turning to another, he asked in surprise “Why art thou here?”

“I come to try my gondola’s swiftness.”

“Thou art old, and unequal to this struggle; husband thy strength for daily toil. An ill-advised ambition hath put thee on this useless trial.”

The new aspirant had forced a common fisherman’s gondola, of no bad shape, and of sufficient lightness, but which bore about it all the vulgar signs of its daily uses, beneath the gallery of the Bucentaur. He received the reproof meekly, and was about to turn his boat aside, though with a sorrowing and mortified eye, when a sign from the Doge arrested his arm.

“Question him, as of wont,” said the prince.

“How art thou named?” continued the reluctant official, who, like all of subordinate condition, had far more jealousy of the dignity of the sports he directed, than his superior.

“I am known as Antonio, a fisherman of the Lagunes.”

“Thou art old!”

“Signore, none know it better than I. It is sixty summers since I first threw net or line into the water.”

“Nor art thou clad as befitteth one who cometh before the state of Venice in a regatta.”

“I am here in the best that I have. Let them who would do the nobles greater honor, come in better.”

“Thy limbs are uncovered thy bosom bare thy sinews feeble go to; thou art ill advised to interrupt the pleasures of the nobles by this levity.”

Again Antonio would have shrunk from the ten thousand eyes that shone upon him, when the calm voice of the Doge once more came to his aid.

“The struggle is open to all,” said the sovereign; “still I would advise the poor and aged man to take counsel; give him silver, for want urges him to this hopeless trial.”

“Thou hearest; alms are offered thee; but give place to those who are stronger and more seemly for the sport.”

“I will obey, as is the duty of one born and accustomed to poverty. They said the race was open to all, and I crave the pardon of the nobles, since I meant to do them no dishonor.”

“Justice in the palace, and justice on the canals,” hastily observed the prince. “If he will continue, it is his right. It is the pride of St. Mark that his balances are held with an even hand.”

A murmur of applause succeeded the specious sentiment, for the powerful rarely affect the noble attribute of justice, however limited may be its exercise, without their words finding an echo in the tongues of the selfish.

“Thou hearest His Highness, who is the voice of a mighty state, says thou mayest remain; though thou art still advised to withdraw.”

“I will then see what virtue is left in this naked arm,” returned Antonio, casting a mournful glance, and one that was not entirely free from the latent vanity of man, at his meagre and threadbare attire. “The limb hath its scars, but the infidels may have spared enough, for the little I ask.”

“In whom is thy faith?”

“Blessed St. Anthony, of the Miraculous Draught.”

“Take thy place. Ha! here cometh one unwilling to be known! How now! who appears with so false a face?”

“Call me, Mask.”

“So neat and just a leg and arm need not have hid their follow, the countenance. Is it your Highness’s pleasure that one disguised should be entered for the sports?”

“Doubt it not. A mask is sacred in Venice. It is the glory of our excellent and wise laws, that he who seeketh to dwell within the privacy of his own thoughts, and to keep aloof from curiosity by shadowing his features, rangeth our streets and canals as if he dwelt in the security of his own abode. Such are the high privileges of liberty, and such it is to be a citizen of a generous, a magnanimous, and a free state.”

A thousand bowed in approbation of the sentiment, and a rumor passed from mouth to mouth that a young noble was about to try his strength in the regatta, in compliment to some wayward beauty.

“Such is justice!” exclaimed the herald, in a loud voice, admiration apparently overcoming respect, in the ardor of the moment. “Happy is he that is born in Venice, and envied are the people in whose councils wisdom and mercy preside, like lovely and benignant sisters! On whom dost thou rely?”

“Mine own arm.”

“Ha! this is impious! None so presuming may enter into these privileged sports.”

The hurried exclamation of the herald was accompanied by a general stir, such as denotes sudden and strong emotion in a multitude.

“The children of the Republic are protected by an even hand,” observed the venerable prince. “It formeth our just pride, and blessed St. Mark forbid that aught resembling vain-glory should be uttered! but it is truly our boast that we know no difference between our subjects of the islands or those of the Dalmatian coast; between Padua or Candia; Corfu or St. Giorgio. Still it is not permitted for any to refuse the intervention of the saints.”

“Name thy patron, or quit the place,” continued the observant herald, anew.

The stranger paused, as if he looked into his mind, and then he answered

“San Giovanni of the Wilderness.”

“Thou namest one of blessed memory!”

“I name him who may have pity on me, in this living desert.”

“The temper of thy soul is best known to thyself, but this reverend rank of patricians, yonder brilliant show of beauty, and that goodly multitude, may claim another name. Take thy place.”

While the herald proceeded to take the names of three or four more applicants, all gondoliers in private service, a murmur ran through the spectators, which proved how much their interest and curiosity had been awakened by the replies and appearance of the two last competitors. In the meantime, the young nobles who entertained those who came last, began to move among the throng of boats, with the intention of making such manifestations of their gallant desires and personal devotion, as suited the customs and opinions of the age. The list was now proclaimed to be full, and the gondolas were towed off, as before, towards the starting point, leaving the place beneath the stern of the Bucentaur, vacant. The scene that followed, consequently passed directly before the eyes of those grave men, who charged themselves with most of the private interests, as well as with the public concerns of Venice.

There were many unmasked and high-born dames, whirling about in their boats, attended by cavaliers in rich attire, and here and there appeared a pair of dark lustrous eyes, peeping through the silk of a visor, that concealed some countenance too youthful for exposure in so gay a scene. One gondola, in particular, was remarked for the singular grace and beauty of the form it held, qualities which made themselves apparent, even through the half-disguise of the simple habiliments she wore. The boat, the servants, and the ladies, for there were two, were alike distinguished for that air of severe but finished simplicity, which oftener denotes the presence of high quality and true taste, than a more lavish expenditure of vulgar ornament. A Carmelite, whose features were concealed by his cowl, testified that their condition was high, and lent a dignity to their presence by his reverend and grave protection. A hundred gondolas approached this party, and after as many fruitless efforts to penetrate the disguises, glided away, while whispers and interrogatories passed from one to another, to learn the name and station of the youthful beauty. At length, a gay bark, with watermen in gorgeous liveries, and in whose equipment there was a studied display of magnificence, came into the little circle that curiosity had drawn together. The single cavalier who occupied the seat, arose, for few gondolas appeared that day with their gloomy-looking and mysterious pavilions, and saluted the masked females with the ease of one accustomed to all presences, but with the reserve of deep respect.

“I have a favorite follower in this race,” he said gallantly, “and one in whose skill and force I put great trust. Until now I have uselessly sought a lady of a beauty and merit so rare, as to warrant that I should place his fortune on her smiles. But I seek no further.”

“You are gifted with a keen sight, Signore, that you discover all you seek beneath these masks,” returned one of the two females, while their companion, the Carmelite, bowed graciously to the compliment, which seemed little more than was warranted by the usage of such scenes.

“There are other means of recognition than the eyes, and other sources of admiration than the senses, lady. Conceal yourselves as you will, here do I know that I am near the fairest face, the warmest heart, and the purest mind of Venice!”

“This is bold augury, Signore,” returned she who was evidently the oldest of the two, glancing a look at her companion as if to note the effect of this gallant speech. “Venice has a name for the beauty of its dames, and the sun of Italy warms many a generous heart.”

“Better that such noble gifts should be directed to the worship of the Creator than of the creature,” murmured the monk.

“Some there are, holy father, who have admiration for both. Such I would fain hope is the happy lot of her who is favored with the spiritual counsel of one so virtuous and wise as yourself. Here I place my fortune, let what may follow; and here would I gladly place a heavier stake, were it permitted.”

As the cavalier spoke, he tendered to the silent fair a bouquet of the sweetest and most fragrant flowers; and among them were those to which poets and custom have ascribed the emblematic qualities of constancy and love. She, to whom this offering of gallantry was made, hesitated to accept it. It much exceeded the reserve imposed on one of her station and years to allow of such homage from the other sex, though the occasion was generally deemed one that admitted of more than usual gallantry; and she evidently shrank, with the sensitiveness of one whose feelings were unpractised, from a homage so public.

“Receive the flowers, my love,” mildly whispered her companion “the cavalier who offers them simply intends to show the quality of his breeding.”

“That will be seen in the end,” hastily returned Don Camillo for it was he. “Signora, adieu; we have met on this water when there was less restraint between us.”

He bowed, and, signing to his gondolier, was quickly lost in the crowd of boats. Ere the barks, however, were separated, the mask of the silent fair was slightly moved as if she sought relief from the air; and the Neapolitan was rewarded for his gallantry by a momentary glance at the glowing countenance of Violetta.

“Thy guardian hath a displeased eye,” hurriedly observed Donna Florinda. “I wonder that we should be known!”

“I should more wonder that we were not. I could recall the noble Neapolitan cavalier amid a million. Thou dost not remember all that I owe to him!”

Donna Florinda did not answer; but in secret she offered up a fervent prayer that the obligation might be blessed to the future happiness of her who had received it. There was a furtive and uneasy glance between her and the Carmelite; but as neither spoke, a long and thoughtful silence succeeded the rencontre.

From this musing the party, in common with all the gay and laughing multitude by which they were surrounded, were reminded of the business on which they were assembled by the signal-gun, the agitation on the great canal nearest the scene of strife, and a clear blast of the trumpets. But in order that the narrative may proceed regularly, it is fit that we should return a little in the order of time.