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The bearers of these happy tidings immediately descended into the mines. As they approached Alberti's hut, the light which glimmered through some apertures in the shattered door, induced them to look at its inmates before they entered. Though dressed in a dark coarse garment, and wasted away to an almost incredible slightness, still enough of her former loveliness remained, to tell them that the pallid female they beheld was the young Countess; and the heart admired her more, as she sat leaning over her husband, and holding up to his kisses her small infant, her dark hair carelessly parted, and bound round her pale brow, seeming to live but in her husband's love; than when elegance had vied with splendour in her attire, when her hair had sparkled with diamonds, and, in full health and beauty, she had been the one gazed at and admired in the midst of the noblest and fairest company of Vienna. The door was still unopened, for Bianca was singing to her husband she had chosen a song, which her hearers had last listened to in her own splendid saloon, on the last night she had sung there: the soft complaining notes of her voice had seemed out of place there, where all was careless mirth and festivity; but its tone was suited to that dark solitude-it was like the song of hope in the cave of despair.
The feelings of Bianca, as she ascended slowly in the miners' bucket from the dark mine, cannot be described. She had unwillingly yielded to her husband's intreaties, that she should be first drawn up; and with her infant in her bosom, her eyes shaded with a thick veil, and supported by the surveyor of the mines, she gradually rose from the horrible depths. The dripping damps that hung round the cavern, fell upon her, but she heeded them not. Once she looked up at the pale pure star of light, far, far above her, but immediately after, she bent down over her infant, and continued without moving or speaking. Several times the bucket swayed against the sides of the shaft, and Bianca shuddered, but her companion calmly steadied it; and at last she was lifted out upon the ground. She did not look up; she knelt in fervent but distracted prayer, till she heard the bucket which contained her husband approaching. The chain creaked, and the bucket swung, as it stopped above the black abyss. Even then there was danger, the chance of great danger; it was necessary for Ernest to remain immoveable; at the highest certainty of hope, he might yet be plunged at once into the yawning depths below. Bianca felt this, and stirred not; she held in her breath convulsively-she saw through her veil the planks drawn over the cavern's mouth-she saw Ernest spring from the bucket-some one caught her child, as, stretching forth her arms to her husband, she fell senseless on the ground.
There were many hearts that sorrowed over the departure of the young Alberti and his wife from the mines of Idria. The miners, with whom they had lived so long, had learned to love them, at a time when too many a heart had almost forgotten to love and to hope; had learned from their kind words, but more, Oh! much more from their beautiful example, to shake off the dreadful bands of despair, and daily to seek, and to find, a peace which passeth all understanding. Ernest and Bianca had taught them to feel how happy, how cheerful, a thing religion is ! Was it then surprising, that, at their departure, their poor companions should crowd around them, and weep with
mournful gratitude, as Ernest distributed among them his working tools, and the simple furniture of his small hut? Was it surprising, that Bianca and her husband, as they sat on the green grass, with waving trees and a cloudless sky above them, while the summer breeze bore with it full tides of freshness and fragrance from their magnificent gardens, and they beheld the pure rose colour of health begin to tinge the cheek of their delicate child, was it surprising that they should turn with feelings of affectionate sorrow to the dark and dreary mines, of Idria ?
I must not forget to mention, that Ernest and his wife were publicly reinstated in all their former titles and possessions. A short time after their return to Vienna, they made their first appearance at court for that purpose. At the imperial command, all the princes and nobles of Austria, gorgeously dressed, and blazing with gold and jewels, were assembled. Through the midst of these, guiding the steps of his feeble and venerable mother, Alberti advanced to the throne. A deep blush seemed fixed upon his manly features, and the hand which supported bis infirm parent trembled more than the wasted fingers he tenderly clasped. The Empress herself hung the order of the golden fleece round his neck, and gave into his hands the sword which he had before forfeited; but as she did so, her tears fell upon the golden scabbard ; the young soldier kissed them off with quivering lips. But soon every eye was turned to the wife of Alberti, who, with her young child sleeping in her arms, and supported by the noble-minded general, who had obtained her husband's pardon, next approached. Bianca had not forgotten that she was still only the wife of an Idrian miner, and no costly ornament adorned her simple dress. Not a tinge of colour had yet returned to her cheeks of marble paleness, and a shadowy lan.. guor still remained about her large hazel eyes: but her delicately shaped lips had almost regained their soft crimson dye, and her dark brown hair, confined by a single ribbon, shone as brightly as the beautiful and braided tresses around her. She wore a loose dress of white silk, adorned only with a fresh cluster of roses, (for since she had left the mines, she was more fond than ever of flowers.) Every eye was fixed on her, and the Empress turned coldly from the glittering forms beside her, to the simple Bianca. Descending from the throne, Maria Theresa hastened to raise her, ere she could kneel; and, kissing her with the tender affection of a dear and intimate friend, she led the trembling Bianca to the highest step of the throne. There she turned to the whole assembly, and, looking like a queen as she spoke, said, "This is the person whom we should all respect, as the brightest ornament of our court. This is the wife, ladies of Austria, whom I, your monarch, hold up as your example-whom I am proud to consider far our superior in the duties of a wife. Shall we not learn of her to turn away from the false pleasures of vanity and splendour, and like her to act up, modestly, but firmly, to that high religious principle, which proves true nobility of soul?-Count Alberti," continued the Empress, "every husband may envy you your residence in the mines of Idria. May God bless you both, and make you as happy, with the rank and wealth to which I now fully restore you, as you were in the hut of an Idrian miner."
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.*
From "Tales of Humour, Gallantry, and Romance."
THERE was at Florence, of the family of the Seali, a merchant whose name was Biondo, who had been several times to Alexandria and others parts of Egypt, and all those long voyages which merchants generally take with their cargoes. This Biondo was very rich, and had three sons, and being on his death-bed, called his eldest and his second son, and made his will in their presence, leaving those two heirs to all he possessed, but left nothing to the youngest. The will being made, the younger, whose name was Gianetto, went to his father, who lay in his bed, and said, "My dear father, I wonder much at what you have done, and at your not remembering me in your will." His father answered, 66 my dear boy, there is no one of you I love more than yourself, for this reason I do not wish you to remain here; on the contrary, I intend you, when I am dead, to go to Venice, to a godfather of yours, whose name is Messer Ansaldo, who has not any children, and has often written to me to desire me to send you to him; and I can tell you he is one of the richest merchants among the Christians there. I therefore desire, as soon as I am laid low, that you will go to him, and present him with this letter, and be sure, if you conduct yourself with propriety, you will become a rich man." The son answered, "Father, I am ready to obey you." Upon which his father gave him his blessing, and after a few days, died. His sons lamented much his death, and paid due honours to his memory. After a few days, the two eldest brothers called Gianetto, and thus addressed him :-" Brother, it is true our father made his will, left us his heirs, and made no mention whatever of thee, yet thou art, nevertheless, our brother, and what belongs to us is equally thine." "Brothers," answered Gianetto, " I thank you for your offer; but for my part I have made up my mind to try my fortune elsewhere, and have so fixed; therefore do you keep the property, and Heaven prosper you with it." The brothers seeing him bent on this purpose, gave him a horse, and cash to bear all his expenses. Gianetto took leave of them, and went to Venice, found Messer Ansaldo's counting-house, and delivered him the letter his father had given him. On reading the letter, Ansaldo found that the bearer was the son of his worthy and beloved Biondo, and embraced him most affectionately, saying, "Welcome, my good child, whom I have so long wished to see; "then he asked him about his father; upon which Gianetto answered, he was dead. Ansaldo shed tears; embraced him again, and said, "Much am I grieved at the death of Biondo, for greatly did he contri
Translated from the " Pecorone" of Giovanni Fiorentino 1378. ED.
bute to the gains I have made in trade; but such is the joy I feel in having thee, my boy, with me, that it greatly alleviates my sorrow." He ordered him to be taken to his house, and commanded all his household to obey, and wait on Gianetto, as they would even upon himself. He gave him the key of the bureau, and said, " My son ! do thou dispose of the money as thou shalt think meet; clothe thyself as thou thinkest most becoming; keep open house for all such gentlemen as thou shalt think proper, and make thyself known. I leave such things entirely to thy care, and the more thou wilt make thyself known and beloved, the more happy shall I feel." Gianetto therefore began to get acquainted with the noble youths in Venice, and to give sumptuous dinners; assisted and clothed several families; bought fine horses; entered the ring, and revelled as one used and well practised in the style of a gentleman. He was never remiss in paying due honour where it was required, and more particularly to Messer Ansaldo, whom he treated as his real father; and so well did he conduct himself towards persons of every rank, that he became endeared even to the lower classes in Venice. Seeing how gracious, courtly, and affable he was, both ladies and gentlemen were delighted with him, his manners were so pleasing. Messer Ansaldo thought but of him; nor were there any parties, sports, or festivals in Venice, but Gianetto was sure to be invited, so much was he beloved. Two friends of his, at that time, wished to go to Alexandria with their cargoes in two ships, as they were wont to do every year, and told Gianetto of it, saying, "You ought to take this voyage with us, and see the world; particularly you should see Damascus, and "various countries beyond." "Indeed I should delight in it," replied Gianetto, "if my god-father Ansaldo would permit me." "We will contrive," said one of them," that he shall;" and they both went to him, saying, "Messer Ansaldo, we are about to entreat you to allow Gianetto to go with us next spring on our voyage to Alexandria, to freight him a ship, and suffer him to see a little of the world." "Well,” said Ansaldo," I am willing if he wishes it." "Sir," said they," he is most anxious to do so." Messer Ansaldo, in pursuance of this scheme, ordered a beautiful vessel to be got ready, loaded with the finest goods, and decorated in the best possible style. When all was ready, Ansaldo desired the captain and all the crew to obey Gianetto in every thing; "he should command, because I do not send him for the purpose of gain, but solely that he may see the world, and enjoy himself." When Gianetto was ready to embark, all Venice came in throngs to the shore, for it was many years since a ship was seen so well and so finely fitted out for sea. His departure grieved all that knew him; however, he took leave of Messer Ansaldo and his friends, and cheerfully sailed towards Alexandria.
These three friends were each in his ship, and sailing along one morning before day-light, when Gianetto espied a gulf, with a beautiful harbour, and asked the captain the name of it, to which he made answer, and said, "that place belongs to a noble widow who has been the cause of the ruin of many a gentleman." "How?" said Gianetto. “Sir,” said the captain, "this is a most beautiful and enchanting lady, who has established as a law in her domains, that whoever lands there must
pass the night with her, and if without sleep, he is at liberty to marry her, and then becomes master of the harbour, and all the estate; whereas, if he do not, he loses his cargo and every thing he had brought with him. Gianetto paused a while, then said, "you must manage how you can, but sail into that harbour." Sir," said the captain, "think well on what you are saying, for many a gentleman has gone there who has been driven away penniless." "Do not concern yourself about that, but do as I desire you," said Gianetto. Of course the thing was done, and on they sailed, without their companions noticing the course they had taken.
On the morning, the news was spread that this fine ship had reached the harbour, so that all the people came to see it: the lady was soon informed of it, and sent for Gianetto, who immediately presented himself respectfully to her. The lady took him by the hand, asked him who he was, whence he came, and whether he knew the usage of the place? Gianetto answered he did, and only came there in consequence of this knowledge. “A thousand times welcome," said the virtuous lady, and honoured and entertained him nobly, sending for the barons, counts, and knights, to welcome and amuse him. Gianetto's manners delighted all around him, and the day was spent in dancing, singing, and festivity, by the court, in honour of Gianetto; and one and all would have been pleased to have him for their lord. Evening coming on, the lady took him by the hand, and led him into an apartment, saying, "Methinks it seems time to withdraw." "Madam," said Gianetto, "I am at your commands." Two young damsels came, the one bringing wine in her hand, and the other some sweetmeats. "I know," said the lady," you must be thirsty, therefore drink." Gianetto took some of the sweetmeats, and drank some of the wine, which had been prepared as a sleeping draught, but he knew it not. He drank half a goblet, for it seemed very pleasant to him; and then he soon undressed himself and went to bed; no sooner had he lain down, than he fell asleep; the lady laid herself down by the side of the youth, who never awoke till the next morning about three o'clock.
The lady got up as soon as it was day light, and ordered the ship to be unladen, which she found contained a store of rich and good wares. It being now past three, the lady's maid went into Gianetto's room and made him rise, and told him he might depart, for that he had lost the ship, and all it contained; upon this he felt quite ashamed, and he thought he had certainly acted wrong. The lady ordered a horse and money to be given to him, and dismissed him, and he departed overwhelmed with sorrow. He arrived at Venice, but being ashamed, he would not go home, but in the evening went to a friend, who wondering said, "Alas! Gianetto, what means this ?"-" My ship," said he, "dashed in the night against a rock, and went to pieces; all was lost; some saved themselves as well as they could; I caught fast hold of a plank that brought me on shore, and have come home by land; and here I am." Gianetto remained several days with his friend, who some time after paid a visit to Messer Ansaldo, whom he found quite disconsolate. Ansaldo said, "I am in great apprehension that this son of mine is dead, or ill from the voyage; the love I bear him is such, that I have no peace or