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The wretched, starving beggar stood like one petrified, and gazed on the taunting stranger.
“ No, as I have a soul to save, signor, 'tis no lie that I tell you !—'tis the plain truth; have compassion, or f die this night of hunger.”
“ Begone this instant, I say, or by Heaven
The unfeeling man here drew out a concealed pistol, and pointed it at his preserver.
" Merciful Heaven ! and is it thus that services are acknowledged in Venice ?"
“ The watch is at no great distance ; I need only raise my voice, and
“ Hell and confusion! Do you take me for a robber, then ?"
“ Make no noise, I tell you ! Be quiet, you had better!”
“ Hark you, signor. Buonarotti is your name, I think? I will write it down, as belonging to the second scoundrel I have met in Venice.”
He paused for a moment; then continuing in a dreadful voice, - " And when, said he, “ thou, Buonarotti, shalt hereafter hear the name of Abellino tremble !”
Abellino turned away, and left the hard-hearted Ve. netian.
And now rushed the unfortunate wildly through the streets of Venice: he railed at fortune; he laughed and cursed by turns; yet sometimes he suddenly stood still, seemed as pondering on some great and wondrous enterprise, and then again rushed onwards, as if hastening to its execution.
Propped against a column of the Signoria, he counted
over the whole sum of his misfortunes. His wandering eyeballs seemed to seek comfort; but they found it not.
• Fate,” he at length exclaimed, in a paroxysm of despair,—" fate has condemned me to be either the wildest of adventurers - - or one, at the relation of whose crimes the world must shudder! To astonish is my destiny: Rosalvo can know no medium ; Rosalvo can never act like common men ! Is it not the hand of fate which has led me hither?
Who could have ever dreamt, that the son of the richest lord in Naples should have depended for a beggar's alms on Venetian charity! I - ), who feel myself possessed of strength of body and energy of soul fit for executing the most daring deeds — behold me creeping in rags through the streets of this inhospitable city, and torturing my wits in vain to discover some means by which I may rescue life from the jaws of famine ! Those men, whom my munificence nourished, who at my table bathed their worthless souls in the choicest wine of Cyprus, and glutted themselves with every delicacy which the globe's four quarters could supply, those very men now deny to my necessity even a miserable crust of mouldy bread. Oh, that is dreadful, cruel ! Cruel of men ! cruel of Heaven !”
He paused ; he folded his arms, and sighed.
“ Yet will I bear it! I will submit to my destiny! I will traverse every path, and go through every degree of human wretchedness; and whatever may be my fate, I will be still myself ; and whatever may be my fate, I will still act greatly! Away, then, with the Count Rosalvo, whom once all Naples idolised ; now - now am I the beggar Abellino ! - A beggar? - that name stands last in the scale of worldly rank, but first in the list of the famishing, the outcast, and the unworthy."
Something rustled near him - Abellino gazed around. He was aware of the Bravo, whom he had struck to the ground that night, and whom two companions of a similar stamp had now joined. As they 'advanced, they cast enquiring glances around them. They were in search of “ It is of thee that they are in search,” said Abellino, then advanced a few steps, and whistled.
The ruffians stood still — they whispered together, and seemed to be undecided.
Abellino whistled a second time.
“ 'T is he !” could he hear one of them say distinctly; and in a moment after they advanced slowly towards him.
Abellino kept his place, but unsheathed his sword. The three unknown (they were masked) stopped a few paces from him.
“ How now, fellow ?” quoth one of them. “ What is the matter? Why stand you on your guard ?”
Abellino. “ It is as well that you should be made to keep your distance, for I know you ; you are certain honest gentlemen, who live by taking away the lives of others."
First Ruffian. “ Was not your whistling addressed to
Abellino. “ It was.
Abellino. “ Hear me! I am à miserable wretch, and starving ; give me an alms out of your booty !”
A Ruffian. “ An alms ? Ha ! ha! ha! By my soul, that is whimsical! Alms from us, indeed! Oh, by all means ! No doubt, you shall have alms in plenty !”
Abellino. “ Or else give me fifty sequins, and I'll bind myself to your service, till I shall have worked out my debt."
A Ruffian. “Ay? And pray, then, who may you be ?"
Abellino. “ A starving wretch; the republic holds none more miserable. Such am I at present ; but hereafter
- I have powers, knaves this arm could pierce a heart, though guarded by three breastplates; this eye, though surrounded by Egyptian darkness, could still see to stab sure.”
A Ruffian. “ Why then did you strike me down even now?"
Abellino. “ In the hope of being paid for it; but though I saved his life, the scoundrel gave me not a single ducat."
No? So much the better. But hark ye, comrade ! are you sincere ?”
Abellino. “ Despair never lies.”
Abellino. " My heart would be within reach of your hands, and your daggers would be as sharp as now.'
The three dangerous companions again whispered among themselves for a few moments, after which they returned their daggers into the sheath.
“ Come on, then," said one of them; “ follow us to our home. It were unwise to talk over certain matters in the open street."
“I follow you," was Abellino's answer ; but tremble, should
any one of you dare to treat me as a foe. Comrade, forgive me that I gave your ribs somewhat too hard a squeeze just now; I will be your sworn brother in recom. pense.
“ We are on honour,” cried the banditti with one voice;
no harm shall happen to you : he, who does you an injury, shall be to us as a foe. A fellow of your humour suits us well : follow us, and fear not.” And on they went, Abellino marching between two of
Frequent were the looks of suspicion which he cast around him ; but no ill design was perceptible in the banditti. They guided him onwards, till they reached a canal, loosened a gondola, placed themselves in it, and rowed, till they had gained the most remote quarter of Venice. They landed, threaded several by-streets, and at length knocked at the door of a house of inviting appearance. It was opened by a young woman, who conducted them into a plain but comfortable chamber ; many were the looks of surprise and enquiry which she cast on the bewildered, half-pleased, half-anxious Abellino, who knew not whither he had been conveyed, and still thought it unsafe to confide entirely in the promises of the banditti.
THE TRIAL OF STRENGTH.
SCARCELY were the bravos seated, when Cinthia (for that was the young woman's name) was again summoned to the door ; and the company was now increased by two new-comers, who examined their unknown guest from head to foot.
« Now then," cried one of those who had conducted Abellino to this respectable society, “ let us see what
you are like."
As he said this, he raised a burning lamp from the table, and the light of its flame was thrown full upon A bellino's countenance.
Lord, forgive me my sins !” screamed Cinthia: out upon him ! what an ugly hound it is !”
She turned hastily round, and hid her face with her hands. Dreadful was the look with which Abellino repaid her compliment.
“ Knave," said one of the banditti, .“ nature's own hand has marked you out for an assassin. Come, prithee be frank, and tell us how thou hast contrived so long to escape the gibbet ? In what gaol didst thou leave thy last fetters ? Or from what galley hast thou taken thy departure, without staying to say adieu ? ”
Abellino folded his arms. “If I be such as you describe," said he, with an air of authority, and in a voice which made his hearers tremble, “'t is for me all the better. Whate'er may be my future mode of life, Heaven can have no right to find fault with it, since it was for that it formed and fitted me."
The five bravos stepped aside, and consulted together : the subject of their conference is easy to be divined. In the meanwhile Abellino remained quiet and indifferent to what was passing.
After a few minutes they again approached him : one, whose countenance was the most ferocious, and whose