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قراءة كتاب A Jay of Italy

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‏اللغة: English
A Jay of Italy

A Jay of Italy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

travelled on till sundown through the green plains; and, for one good hour dating from their start, not a word would Madam Beatrice utter. Then she gave out—Messer Carlo being a distance in advance—but with no grace at all.

'You are an ill horseman, Saint. I am near jogged from my seat.'

'Put thine arms about me.'

'Nay, I am not holy enough.'

She was silent again, for five minutes.

'Your lute bangs my nose.'

He shifted it. She held her peace during two minutes.

'Who taught you to play it, Saint?'

'It was one of the fathers. What would it profit you to know which?'

'Nothing at all. I trow he was a good master to that and your gospel.'

'My gospel?'

'Ay, of love. He has made you worldly-wise for a saint. Hast ever before been beyond thy walls?'

'Of course.'

'And studied this and that? Experience, methinks is the right nurse for such a creed. What made you accuse me of dishonour?'

'I did not.'

'Nay, is that to be a saint?'

'Whom the shoe fits, let her wear it.'

'Bernardo! Where got you the shoe?'

'Does it fit, I say?'

'I fear me 'twas in some bagnio.'

'Where you had dropped it? For shame!'

A rather long pause.

'I will not be angry—just yet. Where got you the shoe, I say? An eavesdropper is well equipped for a prophet.'

'I am no eavesdropper.'

'Who enlightened you?'

'Your cicisbeo.'

'Under that title?'

'Nay; it is not the devil's policy to call himself devil.'

A shorter pause.

'But you had heard of me?'

'Nothing escapes the Church's hearing. Besides, Messer Lanti's summer lodge is within call, one may say of San Zeno.'

'You are daring. Dost know in what high favour he stands with the Duke?'

'Else how could he have compassed Uriah's dismissal to the wars?'

Silence, and then a sigh.

'Whom do you mean by Uriah?'

'Thy lord, the Count of Casa Caprona.'

'He is a soldier, and an old man.'

'Didst covenant with his age in thy marriage vows?'

'Bernardino, I am very sleepy.'

'Sleep, then, and forget thyself, and awake, another.'

She sighed, and put her arms softly about him and her cheek against his shoulder. Messer Lanti, falling back, saw her thus, with closed eyes; and laughed, and then frowned, and cried boisterously—

'Hast converted her, Parablist? Art a saint indeed?'

He spurred forward again, with a discontented look, and madam opened her eyes.

'What gossips are thine old monks, Bernardino; and what hypocrites, denouncing the licence they example!'

'I know not what you mean.'

'Are they all saints, then, in San Zeno?'

'That is for Rome to say. It is a good law which lays down this wine of sanctity to mature. In a hundred years we shall know what stood the test.'

'Ah me! And I am but seventeen. Will you speak for your Abbot?'

'Ay, like a dear son.'

'Is he your father, Bernardo?'

'Is he not the father of us all?'

'Maybe. But 'tis of Benjamin I ask. Now, he is a strange father, methinks, to bid his Benjamin, thus apparelled, on a wild goose chase.'

'He could not discount the voices.'

'What voices?'

The boy lifted his face and eyes to the heavens, and lowered them again with no answer but a sigh of rapture.

'So? And did the voices bid thee wear a velvet mantlet and roses to thy shoes?' whispered the girl, with a tiny chuckle.

'They said, "Not in cockle shells, but a plume, goes the Pilgrim of Love,"' answered Bembo. 'As I am and have been, God finds me fitting in His sight.'

'And the Father Abbot, I wot?'

'Yes: "Since," says he, "Christ bequeathed His Kingdom to beauty."'

'And you have inherited it? I think I will be your subject, Bernardo.'

'I hope so, Madonna.'

He spoke perfectly gravely, and made her a little courtly gesture backwards.

'Well,' said she, 'had I been Father Abbot, I had put this pet of my fancy in a cage.'

'You know not of what you speak,' he answered seriously. 'God works great ends with little instruments. The puny bee is yet the very fairy midwife of the forests, I should have broke my heart had he denied me.'

'It would have saved others, alack!'

'What do you mean?'

'Nothing at all. Will you sing me another parable, Bernardo?'

'Ay, Madonna; and on what subject? The woman taken in adultery?'

'If you like; and whom Christ forgave.'

'And He said: "Go, and sin no more"'

She began to weep softly.

'It is shocking to be so abused for a little thing. I would you were back with your monks.'

He sighed.

'Ah!' she murmured, still weeping, 'that this bee had been content to remain a pander to his flowers! To dup hell's door with a reed! You know not to what you have engaged yourself, my poor boy.'

'To Christ, His service of Love,' he said simply.

'Go back, go back!' she cried in pain. 'There are ten thousand sophisters to interpret that word according to their lusts. Convert Galeazzo? Convert the brimstone lake from burning! Dost know the manner of man he is?'

'Else why am I here?'

'Ay, but his moods, his passions, his nameless, shameless deeds? He hath no pity but for his desires; no mercy but through his caprices. To cross him is to taste the rack, the fire, the living burial. He is possessed. Some believe him Caligula reincarnate—an atavism of that dreadful stock. And dost think to quench that furnace with a parable? Unless, indeed—Go back, little Bembo, and waste thy passion for reform on thy monks.'

'Madonna,' he said, 'I obey the voices. I shall not be let to perish, since Christ died to save His world to loveliness.'

It was the early