Графични страници
PDF файл

round them; an insurrection making its authors seem weak, and are its indispensable preliminary. This they have, helpless, and unsuccessful to the world and amidst the strug- mildness and self-sacrifice; and we have seen what an atgles of the world, but enabling them to know the joy and traction it exercises. Could we ask for a stronger testipeace for which the world thirsts in vain, and inspiring in mony to Christianity ? Could we wish for any sign more the heart of mankind an irresistible sympathy. “The convincing, that Christ was indeed, what Christians call twelve Imams,” says Gibbon, “ Ali, Hassan, Hussein, and him, the Desire of all nations? So salutary, so necessary is the lineal descendants of Hussein to the ninth generation, what Christianity contains, that a religion — great, powerwithout arms or treasures or subjects, successively enjoyed ful, successful religion — arises without it, and the missing the veneration of the people. Their names were often the virtue forces its way in! Christianity may say to these pretence of sedition and civil war; but these royal saints Persian Mahometans, with their gaze fondly turned towards despised the pomp of the world, submitted to the will of the martyred Imams, what in our Bible God says by Isaiah God and the injustice of man, and devoted their innocent to Cyrus, their great ancestor :-" I girded thee, though thou lives to the study and practice of religion.”

hast not known me.' It is a long way from Kerbela to CalAbnegation and mildness, based on the depth of the in- vary; but the sufferers of Kerbela hold aloft to the eyes of ner life, and visited by unmerited misfortune, made the millions of our race the lesson so loved by the Sufferer of power of the first and famous Imams, Ali, Hassan, Hussein, Calvary. For he said: “ Learn of me, that I am mild and over the popular imagination. “O brother,” said Hassan, lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls." as he was dying of poison, to Hussein who sought to find out and punish his murderer, “O brother, let him alone till he and I meet together before God!” So his father Ali

THE IRON CAGE. had stood back from his rights instead of snatching at them; It was at the time when all sorts of plots and conspira80 of Hussein it was said by his successful rival, the usurp- cies were being hatched at Venice, that a certain private ing Caliph Yezid : “God loved Hussein, but he would not individual, Luca Orioli by name, lived in the town, along suffer him to attain to any thing.They might attain to with his sister Brigida, who kept house for him, and looked nothing, they were too pure, these great ones of the world after his wants. Brigida was altogether devoted to her as by birth they were; but the people, which itself also can brother, and seemed to live but for him, to attend to his attain to so little, loved them all the better on that account, eomforts, and forward in all things whatever objects he loved them for their abnegation and mildness, felt that they had in view. There are some women like this, who devote were dear to God, that God loved them, and that they and themselves to others, and seem to lose sight of themselves their lives filled the void in the severe religion of Mahomet. altogether. There are not too many of them, but they These saintly self-deniers, these resigned sufferers, who exist. would not strive nor cry, supplied a tender and pathetic Orioli was by calling a missal painter, an illuminator of side in Islam; the conquered Persians, a more mobile, more ancient manuscripts; but the concerns in which at the time impressionable, and gentler race than their concentrated, I speak of he was entirely absorbed, were neither literary narrow, and austere Semitic conquerors, felt the need of nor artistic. He was altogether occupied with politics, most, and gave most prominence to the ideals which satis- machinations against the existing government, plans for fied the need; but in Arabs and Turks also, and in all the overthrowing it, and setting up in its place a commonwealth, Mahometan world, Ali and his sons excite enthusiasm and in which equal rights were to be accorded to all, in which affection. Round the central sufferer, Hussein, has come to the highest noble in Venice was to enjoy no privileges whatgroup itself every thing which is most tender and touching; ever beyond those which were to be accorded to the meanhis person brings to the Mussulman's mind the most human est citizen in the town. side of Mahomet himself, his fondness for children, - for It was a most hazardous plot against the State in which Mahomet had loved to nurse the little Hussein on his knee, this Orioli was engaged; he, and I know not how many and to show him from the pulpit to his people. The Family others; some living at Venice, some elsewhere, at Chioggia, of the Tent is full of women and children, and their devo- at Verona, at Ravenna even, who knows? At all events, tion and sufferings, – blameless and saintly women, lovely they were scattered hither and thither, and had to be comand innocent children;—there too, are the beauty and the municated with, when any intelligence was to be made love of youth; all follow the attraction of the pure and known to the fraternity, by letter. Altogether there was a resigned Imam, all die for him ; their tender pathos flows deal of writing to be got through; not letters only, but reinto his and enhances it, till there arises for the popular im- ports, statements, projects drawn up on paper to be circuagination an immense ideal of mildness and self-sacrifice, lated among the different conspirators. And it was in melting and overpowering the soul.

copying such writings out, or taking down the matter of Even for us, to whom almost all the names are strange, which they were to consist from her brother's lips, that whose interest in the places and persons is faint, who have Brigida made herself more useful than in almost any other them before us for a moment to-day, to see them again, way. The girl was an excellent writer, and could copy out probably, no more forever, even for us, unless I err a document so that it should be as readable as print. This greatly, the power and pathos of this ideal are recog- was a rare accomplishment in those days, and Brigida was nizable. What must they be for those to whom every name kept hard at it you may be assured, writing from dictation, is familiar and calls up the most solemn and cherished as- copying papers of which duplicates were wanted, and so sociations; who have had their adoring, gaze fixed all on, all through the day, and part of the night as well. their lives upon this exemplar of self-denial and gentleness, But for all she was so hard worked, the young lady found and who have no other ? If it was superfluous to say to time to do a little writing on her own account. The fact English people that the religion of the Koran has not the is, that the signorina had a lover, one Filippo, ordinarily value of the religion of the Old Testament, still more is it called Lippo, Rinaldi, living at Padua, and with this young superfluous to say that the religion of the Imams has not fellow she would correspond whenever she got a chance of the value of Christianity. The character and discourse of sending a letter. She would write to him of every thing Christ possess, I have often elsewhere said, two signal pow- that was going on, both of her brother's doings and her own; ers: mildness and sweet reasonableness. The latter, the and very pretty letters they were, no doubt, and such as power which so puts before our view duty of every kind as any young gentleman, as much in love as Lippo was, would to give it the force of an intuition, as to make it seem, - to be very glad to get. make the total sacrifice of our ordinary self seem,


This brother and sister lived, as I have heard the story told, most simple, natural, winning, necessary thing in the world, in a little piazzetta at the back of the Riva dei Schiavoni, has been hitherto applied with but a very limited range; it and not far from the church of St. Giorgio de Greci. It was is destined to an infinitely wider application, and has a an out-of-the-way kind of place, for it was very important fruitfulness which may yet transform the world. Of this the for Orioli that he should live as retired as possible, and be Imams have nothing, except so far as all mildness and self- as much as possible unobserved by any body. Here, then, sacrifice have in them something of sweet reasonableness, it was that for the most part all those plots and machina

tions in which Orioli was so deeply implicated were con character, plans of action to be adopted by the leading cocted; and here, sometimes, one or more of the conspira- conspirators, letters to them from Luca himself on matters tors would come to confabulate with him, at times when connected with the plot, which, though intrusted to careful there seemed to be the least chance of discovery.

hands for delivery, had fallen into the clutches of the One autumn afternoon the brother and sister were en- numerous spies who were always on the look out for such gaged in preparing a document to be sent to Verona by papers, a great mass of such writings had been seized, and special messenger that night. As often happened, Luca proved beyond doubt to be in the young girl's handwriting ; was dictating, and his sister was writing. The light was proved, indeed, by comparison with the piece of writing on fast fading, and Brigida had established herself close to the which she was actually engaged at the moment when the window to take advantage of all that was to be had. Orioli officers of justice made their arrest of Luca. was at the window too, but he was standing, leaning his The crushing weight with which this implication of forehead against one of the cross mullions which enclosed his little sister fell on Luca can hardly be described in the small panes of glass, and gazing out into the little piaz- words. Brigida – Brida, as he always called her — hau zu behind the house, which had, it may be mentioned, two been so many years under his care, her parents having entrances, one giving on the piazzetta, and the other on died in her childhood, and was so much his junior, that he one of the small canals which intersect the town in all had got to regard her almost more as a daughter than as a directions. There was little light in the room except just sister, so much did a feeling of care for her, and a sense close to the window, and the gathering darkness held un- that she was a creature to be sheltered from all harm, and disputed possession of the other end of the apartment. protected by him at all cost, pervade all the relations be

Orioli stood and looked out on the piazzetta, but his eyes tween the two. Nay, it is impossible to say whether the took in, as far as he was conscious, nothing of the scene physical difference between them - for Luca was a big, before him. He was absorbed in the letter which he was powerful man, while Brida was slightly and delicately dictating to his sister, and which related to a final meeting formed in an uncommon degree — may not have helped to of the brotherhood to which he belonged, which was to strengthen this feeling on the brother's part, that to keep take place in a few days, and the time, place, and object of his little sister out of harm's way was one of the chief occuwhich he was notifying to his Veronese friend. Now and pations of his life. then he would pause in the work of dictation, to say a few That this frail creature should be involved through him words to his sister on some subject connected with the mat- in so terrible a calamity was to Orioli a thought which was ter in hand.

entirely insupportable. Her constitution was delicate as “ Brigida,” he said, on one of these occasions, “I think I her frame was, and there could be little doubt that the exwas followed last night when I parted from Tito Grimani posure to the cold and damp, for it was now late autumn, and his brother Bartolommeo, in the enclosure at the back must cause her the extremest suffering. Death, of course, of the palace. The vile spies and secret officers of the sen- was inevitable for both, as they were to hang there in the ate are everywhere, and I surely think that I detected one iron cage till famine did its work, but that she should suffer of them dogging my footsteps last night.”.

as well as die - It was too terrible, and the carnest and Brigida looked quickly up from her writing with anxious, passionate appeal which Luca made to the judges on his frightened eyes.

sister's behalf he had made no such appeal for himself — "I am always fearing it,” she said. “ Dear Luca, the might have touched, one would have thought, even harder thought that this plot will one day be discovered, and hearts than those to which he had to address himself. that you will be taken and imprisoned, is forever haunt- “ It is my doing, and mine only,” he cried, at last.

“ She ing me. How I wish that the old days, before you had

did what I told her - miserable that I am. On me let the become involved in any of these terrible risks, were back penalty fall — a double penalty if you choose. Let me be again !”

tortured, burnt at a slow fire, anything, only spare her, my At this moment a slight noise in the room attracted little Brigida, a creature incapable of harming any one, and Luca's attention, and turning hastily from the window, and whose love for her brother has been her only fault.” looking into that part of the apartment which was involved But he spoke to men of stone when he addressed that in comparative obscurity, he was able to detect the shadowy pitiless assembly in the dimly-lighted council-chamber of forms of three men, whom he felt at once were servants of the Doge's Palace. The fiat had gone forth, and must be the State.

obeyed. She was sentenced, and must suffer. “ We come to arrest you as head conspirator in a plot against the lawful authority of the Venetian senate," said A damp, cold night at the end of October. An iron the chief officer, stepping forward out of the obscurity. cage hung out upon a crane-like arm projecting from the

The Venetian senate in those days made short work of top of the great belfry tower of Venice, and in it were the the trial of political offenders. There were so many of two malefactors who had incurred the wrath of the Venethese that the government, in its alarm for its own safety, tian senate. The cage and its occupants had been hung dealt out severe justice to all such who got within its out a little before sunset, and while the light lasted the reach. The evidence against Luca Orioli was irresistibly people in the piazza below had stood about the base of the strong, and it being considered that an opportunity of pillar gazing up at the uncommon sight. "making an example ” was afforded by his detection, it was There was not much to see.

Little could be made out at determined that a punishment should be resorted to in his that height of the two figures in the cage; the structure itinstance which was only used very rarely, and principally self and its occupants, looking not much bigger than a birdin cases which were marked by especial atrocity : parricides, cage with a couple of linnets inside. Still the people knew persons who were convicted of sacrilege, monks or nuns that human creatures were up there, and they gazed so long who had broken their vows, and the like exceptionally as the light lasted, and not till it had quite faded did the gross offenders. The punishment in question consisted in last of them go away. The cage would be there the next day, being hung out in an iron cage which was suspended from however, " that was one comfort,” and after that who could the top of the great bell-tower or Campanile of Venice, and tell how long. There would be a couple of corpses in it in which the victim was suffered to perish miserably of one day instead of these living creatures. The spectacle starvation and exposure. This was the horrible penalty would be more interesting, if possible, then even than now. which was awarded to Luca Orioli.

Hand in hand, the brother and sister sat crouching on But what was the saddest part of all

and it was cer

the floor of the cage, quiet, resigned, and waiting for the tainly felt to be so by Luca himself — was that his sister, end. They spoke but seldom, a word or two now and then, his poor little Brigida, was convicted of complicity with an attempt to encourage each other; then there would come a hiin in this disastrous plot, and was condemned to share his long pause, while they took half unconscious note of the punishment.

scene around, above, below. Mechanically their eyes dwelt It was that skill of hers in penmanship which had ruined on the near details of the huge column to which their prison her. All sorts of documents of the most compromising was suspended, the ornamentation which looked so smooth

[merged small][ocr errors]

and elaborate from below, but here close by seemed quite place the bars very near together. A little squeezing, dear, rough and unfinished. The stars burnt above them, the and we shall get that small body of yours through between twinkling lights came out in the city below, the dark lagoon these two bars, which by some accident have got more stretched out as far as they could see; the tower and beltries forced apart than the others.” of the town showed dimly above the other buildings, but Brigida shuddered involuntarily, but her brother allowed none came near in height to the great Campanile from her no time for reflection. Rapidly, but skilfully, he fastwhich they hung, and which, when the bells rang out, seemed ened one end of the rope to the cage, and then tenderly, positively to sway with the vibration of the deatening sound. but very securely, wound the other end about his sister's They were utterly we iried and exhausted. It was cold,

body. and the damp ro: e from the canal and the lagoon, and seem- “How terrible it looks,” said the girl, gazing down into ed to chill them iu he bɔne. Poor little Brigida shivered the darkness below. “ Luca," she cried, as if a sudden involuntarily from time to time. The absence of all hope thought had struck her, “you will let me down, but who -- all possibility of deliverance — seemed to depress her vital will let you down ?” power, and produced a degree of chill which the actual con- “I shall descend the rope hand over hand as I have done dition of the temperature did not account for.

scores of times for pastime at the gymnasium. It is noth“My poor Brida,” said Luca, tenderly, looking kindly on ing to me." her in the dim light, “they might have spared you. What « O Lucal are you sure ? And the bars. If I can get a conspirator,” he added, smiling bitterly, “what a danger- through them, which seems hardly possible, are you sure ous subject. Oh!” he cried, his tone changing suddenly,

you can, dear 2" " that something could b: done to deliver you from this “I am as slippery as an eel,” he answered with a forced dreadful fate!”

laugh, "and shall get through as easily as possible. Come, “ Do you wish me away, then, Luca ? "

She paused a dear,” he added, hurriedly, “ there is not a moment to lose. moment, and her thoughts went back to happier times. The rope is safely round you, it cannot slip. Now, dear, “Luca,” she went on,“ how happy we used to be before you courage a little pain in squeezing through and you are were mixed up with these dreadful plots and conspiracies; safe." when you used to work all day at your beautiful missals, He gave her, in his merciful consideration, no time to and I sat by you making the patterns which you had think, and very firmly, but with such care as a surgeon uses designed on my embroidery; and Lippo, who used to be when subjecting his patient to inevitable pain, he forced with us so often. Poor Lippo! I wonder what he is doing, her through the opening between the bars, which at the and if he got the letter which I sent him after you were particular part might have been perhaps from seven to arrested "

seven and a half inches asunder. She stopped abruptly as her brother started up from “ O Luca, Luca !” cried the girl,“ take me back, you will the crouching position in which he had lain so long, caus- never, never be able to follow me. You are so much big. ing the cage to swing violently to and fro by the sudden ger. Take me back, and let me stay with you to the movement.

end." “ What was that?" he cried. “ Something rushed She struggled and clung to the cage, but Luca would by me in the air; was it a bird ? It came quite near my

not listen to her. He detached her hands from the bars, head. Again !” he cried, after a short interval. “ Ah! it is only too easily, for she was half fainting, then he leaned not a bird. It is - it is an arrow !"

over and kissed her head, and then with rapid but cautious “An arrow ?" echoed Brigida; "what can that mean?” action paid out the rope through the bars. The moon had come out brightly just at this time from When Brigida reached the termination of her hazardous behind a cloud, and they both gazed down on the piazza. journey she was insensible, and it was in that state that The sky was covered again presently, and every thing was Lippo received her into his arms. By the time she was reindistinct, but Brigida thought she had made out something leased from the rope which was bound about her body, the like the figure of a man in the great square near the base poor girl had regained possession of her senses. Lippo's of the column. “What can it mean?” said Brigida again. first care, after almost suffocating his recovered treasure

“ It means," replied her brother, “ that we are hung up with caresses, was to provide for Brigida's immediate eshere as a mark to be shot at. But in the dark, why in the cape. He had a boat ready in the canal close by, manned dark?"

by a couple of boatmen whom he could implicitly trust, and Brigida shuddered involuntarily, and drew nearer to he was for hurrying her away at once, lest any of the offiher brother. “ I hope they will kill me first,” she said. cers of the night-watch, in making their rounds, should en

The words were hardly out of her mouth when a third ter the piazza. But Lippo's entreaties, usually so powerful arrow came whizzing through the air. This time it struck with Brigida, were in this case of no avail. Till Luca was Luca full on the shoulder.

free of the cage, and stood there beside her, nothing would • They aim well by this dim light,” he said. Strange,” induce her to consult her own safety. She would fly with he added after a pause; “ the arrow hit me full, and yet it him or not at all, and the utmost that Lippo's persuasion has not pierced my skin, nor I think made any wound. could effect was to induce her to hide herself, within a recess But what is this?” he added a moment afterwards. A in the great building which flanked the south side of the li::e had fallen across his arm, and as he drew one end of square, and came near to the Campanile's base. it to him he found that it was attached to the arrow which The girl was, in truth, in an agony of apprehension lest had struck him. “ The arrow is blunted at the end, and that escape from the cage, which, even in her case, had been there is a silken line attached to it."

effected with so much difficulty, should for her brother be a Quick in her woman's wit, quicker still in her love thing altogether impracticable. With every moment that instinct, Brigida saw in an instant what had happened. passed this terrible apprehension gained increase of strength. “It is from Lippo," she cried; "you know what a good As to what Luca himself was about, neither she nor Lippo marksman he is. I knew he would help us.”

could do more than form the vaguest conjectures. At that “ There is something fastened to the line,” said Luca, height, and in the darkness, they could see nothing but the pulling it swiftly into the cage. “It is heavy,” he con- general outline of the cage against the sky. They could tinued, “ and gets heavier as I draw it nearer. It is a make out, too, that the rope was violently agitated and rope !"

shaken, evidently owing to the movement imparted to the An exclamation of relief burst from brother and sister cage by the efforts of its occupant to force himself through at once. It was followed, as often happens, by a re- the bars. But time passed, and there was still no indication action.

of that descending figure for which they were looking with “But the cage !" cried Brigida. “How can we get out ?”. such absorbing eagerness, and Brigida could no longer resist

“ Easily," was the reply. “They have thought that the a sickening conviction that her worst fears were realized. height from the ground was safeguard enough against any Oh," she cried, " why did I leave him! It was selfish, attempt to escape, and have not considered it necessary to it was cruel. I knew he could not get through. Those


[ocr errors]



up a file.

large, strong shoulders of his - and here, so strangely are The sergeant in command of the party interposed at this we constituted, came out a touch of sisterly pride — “would juncture with the word to march, and the little band passed never pass through that small opening. Lippo,” she cried, They left poor Brigida with new matter for alarm. almost angrily, “can you do nothing ? Why did you shoot What if a sentry should yet be placed there? What if the that arrow? Why did you take me away from him ? Poor, watch should come round again? What if her brother noble brother; he only cared about me. Lippo," she cried should be able to get out, and they should appear as he was again, petulantly, “ there must be something more possible! in the act of descending? Quick l the night is passing away, and when daylight comes This inaction was terrible. Brigida felt as if she must it will be too late."

do something. She would go to the foot of the pillar and call Lippo cast one look up towards the cage, and mechani- aloud to her brother. She would go and meet Lippo. No; cally stretched out his hand to the silken cord which hung she would do none of these things. She would control down still from the cage by the side of the rope. As he herself with all her might, and keep close there in her dark touched it he seemed to conceive a new idea.

corner till she could do something that would be really “ There is hope yet," he said. Only stay here, keep useful. She would — Ah! there was Lippo. Now somewithin the shadow of the wall, and wait, with what patience thing would be done, at any rate. you can, till I return."

“ Where have you been ? What have you dcoe ? " she He did not stop for her answer, but dashed off across the cried, as soon as he was within hearing of her. piazza at his utmost speed.

“ I have been home to fetch this," he answered, holding What a time was that which followed! Brigida was

“ Luca must file through one of the bars at the alone, alone at the foot of the column, at the top of which top. Then he will be able to bend it aside, and pass her well-loved brother was still encaged. She could not through." communicate with him. She had no one at all to speak to “ Oh, but is there time?" or take counsel with. It was one of those dreadful cases “ The day will not begin to break for an hour." in which the severest part of the trial is the necessity of Even while he was speaking Lippo was engaged in fastentotal inaction. It was almost unbearable. She longed to ing the little instrument on which so much depended to the speak. She longed to call aloud to her brother; to entreat silken cord, which still hung down by the side of the column. him not to despair. She felt that he had abandoned all This done, he gave the line one or two sharp pulls to atthoughts of escape. The rope hung quietly now, showing tract the attention of the occupant of the cage. that no movement was taking place in the cage. Oh that “ Thank God, he is alive at least," murmured Brigida, as she could know what this quietness meant! Was he wait- the line with the file attached to it was swiftly drawn up ing, patient, resigned, for the end? Did he think she had from above. abandoned him, and that she had consulted her own safety And now, indeed, there followed a time when the suspense in flight ? No, he could not believe that. Or had some endured by those who waited below amounted to something dreadful thing happened? Had he got fixed between the

little short of agony.

It was vain for them to strain their bars ? — was he strangled, suffocated ?

eyes into the darkness; they could make out notlung of The suspense was horrible, but it must be borne. Bri- what was going on above. It was vain to listen for the sound gida was possessed of the priceless gift of good sense. She of the file; it was a windy night, and so slight a noise could was wise as well as loving. She must be quiet, she must not be heard at that distance. Then there was the everkeep herself concealed, as she had been told to do. Every present fear lest some one should, even at that unlikely thing - her brother's fate especially — depended on her hour, appear on the piazza. The watch, again on their not being found. She must keep within the shadow of rounds, passed by once more with lights and their arms that piece of masonry behind which Lippo had hidden glittering, but this time they did not come so close to the ber, and wait.

column as they did before. Presently afterwards a drunken Once she stole out to the foot of the Campanile. The fellow came by and insisted on talking to Lippo in a disastrousrope by which she had descended hung out away from the ly friendly strain. He stayed so long, and was so garrulous pillar, and if any one came by the place would attract at- on the subject of the cage and its occupants, that Lippo tention. She got hold of it, and twisted and entwined it could only get him to leave the place by going with him, reamong some of the projecting decorations about the base of turning alone at his utmost speed as soon as he had lured the column, so that it should be less conspicuous. Then the talkative sot safely out of the square. she crept back and hid herself once again.

Meanwhile, the night, or rather the morning, was wearing Even at that hour - it was between two and three in the on. It was the time of year when the darkness is long in morning — St. Mark's Place was not entirely deserted. A giving place to daylight, and there was as yet no hint even couple of belated Venetians crossed the square just after of approaching dawn. Only the striking of the hours from she had got back to her hiding-place. They came quite the neighboring clocks told our two watchers of the near apnear to where she was concealed, and stood looking up at proach of dawn, and made them tremble. They almost the column, evidently occupied by the topic of the moment, counted the minutes now, so precious had they become. If which, indeed, all Venice was talking about. “It is the once the city began to wake up, and the people to stir girl I pity most,” she heard one of the men say, just as they abroad, the escape of Luca from his prison would be impospassed out of hearing. She was, indeed, at this moment, sible. There was no indication of any such thing as yet, but perhaps, most to be pitied. After the two men came party the time was nevertheless near at hand when the world would of the watch on their rounds. They came near to the foot wake up for the day, and the life of Venice bezin afresh. of the Campanile, and Brigida's heart almost stood still While Lippo ani Brigida were waiting at the column's with terror.

foot, turning these things over and over in their thoughts, they They seem quiet enough up there,” said one of the men. were suddenly startled by the sound of some object falling, “Quiet? Yes; I should think so," rejoined another. "I with a metallic, clinking sound, on the pavement of the shouldn't wonder if one of them, at any rate, was quiet in square. Every thing that befell now was of the most pro death. The girl looked more than half dead before she was digious moment, and Lippo rushed to the spot, and falling put up there."

on his knees on the ground made eager search for the object, "I wonder they haven't placed a sentry here by the whatever it might be, whose fall had produced the sound. Campanile,” said one of the men, who had not spoken An exclamation of dismay brought Brigida to his side. He before.

was holding in his hand the file which so short a time before "Why, what would be the use of a sentry?” retorted the they had seen drawn up to the top of the column. first speaker.

“ How do you think they could get out of the “What is it that has happened? ” faltered Brigida. Her cage? And do you suppose that, even if they did, they faculties were in some sort benumbed by long tension, and could make a hop, skip and a jump of it from the top of the she could not understand, only felt that something was Campanile, which is more than three hundred feet high, to the battom? A sentry, indeed I”

“ He has dropped it while at work,” replied Lippo. “We


must send it up to him again; but how? The silken cord more than the devotee does when she chooses a spiritua is drawn up-ah, there is the rope !”

director. She judges her director ere she submits to him; As Lippo spoke, he looked up and saw what seemed to take so does the man of the world his periodical; and each, in the very power of speaking away from him. He stretched the act of surrendering reason and judgment to another's out his hand, and seizing Brigida by the wrist, pointed up- keeping, commits thereby an act of the purest self-will and ward toward the top of the column.

self-opinion. A dim faint glimmer of approaching dawn was just begin- I am not blaming; I am not even complaining : such a ning to make itself felt rather than seen, in the eastern state of mind is inevitable at the present time. quarter of the sky. It was not dawn yet, only the first hint For this is — it is folly to deny it- an essentially revoof the coming morning twilight, enough to give some slight lutionary age. I do not talk of political revolutions. They additional distinctness to any object that stood out against are but a symptom and a very unimportant one - of a the sky, and no more. The true daybreak, which was pres- far deeper and wider fact; of an universal dissatisfaction, ently to bathe the whole of the heavens in loveliest pellucid an universal spirit of change, in all classes, of all opinions ; light, was near at hand, but it was not there yet.

the spirit of change which is gaining ground day by day in When Brigida looked up in the direction indicated by this rising generation, till, in the eyes of the great majorher lover, she could at first see nothing but the mighty pile ity, a man is not considered to be doing his duty as a man of masonry at whose feet she was standing, black and enor- unless he has a project for altering something or other. mous against the sky; but, as she continued to gaze, she I do not complain of this. I believe that this, too, is became presently conscious that high up in the air, suspended God's doing; that infinite good will come out of it— to the between earth and heaven, there hung some object which good : to the bad no good can come out of any thing. For moved, and swung, and swayed this way and that as it de- knaves and fools it matters not whether they alter for betscended, for it was descending, towards the still distant earth. ter or for worse, or whether they remain as they are. They The file had done its work.

will be still on the broad road which (whatever round it Mechanically she fell upon her knees, it was only in that may traverse) still leads to destruction. attitude that she could await the end, and with clasped hands But meanwhile, while the creeds and institutions of the gazed upwards at that slowly descending form, which now last fifteen hundred years are seething peacemeal in the with every inch of nearer approach became more distinctly Medea's caldron of reform, thoughtful men will, and must, and more surely recognizable.

stand by and hold their peace, to see what will come out

again reorganized into new life and usefulness. Indeed, the My little story has reached its end. As soon as Luca thoughtful man has a right to say, Critical ? And why reached the ground, after safely accomplishing his perilous

should not I be critical? If men cannot make up their descent, the three made off, with such speed as belongs to minds, why should I? Would you have me go out into those who fly for life, to the boat which was awaiting them, the wilderness and expose myself to trouble and disappointand, long before their flight had been suspected, or the fact ment, that I may worship that reed shaken with the wind proclaimed that the iron cage was empty, its late occupants called nowadays public opinion ? Or to worship either were far away from terrible Venice, and safe from their those clothed in purple and fine linen, who used to be found pursuers. And in due time the old days of the missal in the palaces of Eastern despots, but now haunt rather painting and embroidering were revived, only the scene the counting-house and the exchange, preaching — Get was in a tranquil Dutch town, and Lippo, now the hus- money; honestly if you can, but still get money. But am I band of happy little Brigida, was a permanent part of the to go out to find a prophet? Let the prophet first proclaim establishment.

himself a prophet. Why should I call him one? Why

should I call a man infallible when he does not call himself THE CRITICAL SPIRIT.

infallible? Why should I believe in a man when he does not believe in himself ? Let me rather, with the old Stoics,

refrain from giving any opinion, and refuse to commit my“JUDGE nothing before the time.” This is a hard saying. self on matters concerning which I do not decide, and canWho can bear it? It certainly was never harder to bear not decide. and to obey than in England at the present day. We are all Nay, let me go further; and say to the preacher - You tempted to judge, bidden to judge; indeed - as it seems to

accuse me and my critical spirit of judging. That is exactus — compelled to judge. There was never a country, per- ly what I am trying not to do. I am trying to obey, in my haps, in which the critical spirit was so thoroughly in the own way, the very command of the apostle which you ascendant. I simply state the fact, without approving it or quote against me; trying to judge nothing before the time, disapproving it, when I say that every man now is —or, in the until some one or something you with St. Paul say that it opinion of his fellow-citizens, ought to be - an independent will be the Lord — shall come who will bring to light the critic, exercising his own private opinion to the utmost in hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels all matters, and judging boldly of creeds, institutions, states- of hearts. And then I will tell you what I think, because men, prelates, artists, poets, men of science. He has his I shall know what to believe. word about them each and all; and usually his word of Well and reasonably spoken; if it were not that such men blame as well as his word of praise. To accept fully —or, are too apt to omit (as I have just omitted) the last piece as it is now called, wholesale; to follow loyally- or, as it of the paragraph, — And then shall every man have praise is now called, blindly; to admire heartily — or, as it is now of God. Possibly, but not at present, praise from man. called, fanatically, — these are considered signs of weak- For the moderate rule is,– Praise no man, lest he come to ness or credulity. To believe intensely, to act unhesitat- shame, and bring you to shame with him. Unless, of ingly, to admire passionately, all this is, as the latest course, he is your own delegate, and reflects your own opinslang phrases it, bad form; a proof that a man is not likely ion; for then, in praising him, you praise yourself. Praise to win in the race of this world, the prize whereof is the

God, of course, may praise him ; for he sees the greatest possible enjoyment with the least possible work. secrets of the heart. But you who cannot see the secrets

The wise man, therefore, we are told, must nowadays of the heart, what can you do in common prudence, judge all things; -men, opinions, plans. He must, for his but judge every man by yourself? Impute to him the own safety's sake, take care how he commits himself rashly; same motives, weaknesses, vices, which you find in yourself. and therefore he must be on the watch everywhere for ele- Why should you fancy him a better man, a wiser man ments of weakness,- for self-seeking, for double-mindedness, than you are ? Is not every man as good as his neighbor ? for illogicality, for inaccuracy, for all which may endanger I do not trust myself, says the man of the world. Why success. He must, if he can, judge for himself.' If not, he should I trust any man ? I am not certain of my own must let the press judge for him, and tell him what and opinions. Why should I put my faith in those of any man ? whom to approve or disapprove. By so doing he does not Alas, alas ! from that tendency to evil which (let philangive up his own independence, his own self-opinion, any thropists say what they will) does exist and work in human


no man.

« ПредишнаНапред »