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come forth from his prison to make room for this false one-when the hairs which have grown white in darkness shall be crowned with laurels in the sun—when— Suddenly arrested by a warning gesture of his friend, Jacopo looked impatiently over bis shoulder in the direction of the café.
"Is it only thou, pretty Zanina ?-By thy glance of terror, Ludo, I thought thou hadst been stung by a scorpion, or seen one creeping up my shoulder. Zanina is no spy:—Say, pretty child, wouldst thou not exchange thy basket of flowers this evening for a branch off the tree of liberty?'
“I have never seen that tree, Signor.'
'No, Poverina, thou sayest truly; but there are many of them, never. theless, growing in our land; they are budding just now, but they will blossom by-and-by.'
· My Signor speaks in parables ; I cannot understand all that he says. But here is a bunch of violets and a rose ; see this one striped with white -take it, Signor !
Zanina laid a bunch of flowers on the marble slab before him, and moved on to the group seated at the next table.
Jacopo drew the flowers towards him with a pre-occupied manner, and raised them in his hand. "Ma, certo! this is a rare specimen,' he cried, suddenly arrested by the strange marking of the rose she had given him. I wonder where the girl obtained this flower.—Here, Zanina carissima mia, tell me where thou didst procure this rose ?' 'I bought it in the market, Signor.'
In the market ?'
• Yes, truly ;' but Zanina's cheek grew crimson red as the flower which Jacopo held in his hand.
Nay, nay, who would send such a gem to the market? speak the truth, Poveretta, say thy love gave it thee. Come now, is it not so ?'
• If it were my love gave it me, it would be ungrateful not to keep it,' replied Zanina, recovering quickly her composure, and entering her usual promise of banter, 'I should be giving you the preference over him, Signor, which would not be just.'
Bravo! thou hast well answered him, Zanina,' laughed Ludovico, taking the rose from his friend's hand and examining it carefully ; 'but stay, if I mistake not, I know the tree from whence this flower was cut. It grows in the Boboli gardens, just by the palace fountain. I can tell thee who planted it also; no less a personage than the Dowager Grandduchess herself, who brought the graft from her own country; is it not so, Zanina ?
'I bought it in the market, Signor,' replied Zanina angrily; ‘have I not told thee so thrice?'
‘No doubt you are both right,' cried Jacopo, with a bitter laugh; "why should not our illustrious Grand-duke send his goods to the market like other honest folk; those who buy and sell human lives, and barter fesh and blood every day, must understand the tricks of trade. Here, Zanina, child, shew me thy basket; I will have another flower instead, for this one smells of tyranny and falsehood.' Jacopo threw the offending rose on the ground, and crushed it with his foot.
The flower-girl's black eyes flashed with a strange light as she drew a second rose from her basket, almost as uncommon in its colour and markings, and placed it in his hands, watching with a curious interest, whilst he fastened it in his button-hole.
'Enough of this ! let us light our cigars and dream of the golden ages. Zanina, thou art a good girl, and thy roses are no doubt of as humble but honest an origin as thyself.
Zanina's lips were parted to reply; a smile of strange import hovered round them, when suddenly the words she would have uttered were arrested, and all ears were on the stretch to count the throbs of the Misericordia bell, now booming ominously over the city, telling those assembled for earthly pleasure, greed, or warfare, that one immortal soul amongst them stood even now on the brink of the valley and shadow of death.
Once-twice-it is an urgent case.' Jacopo started from his chair, threw his newly-lighted cigar on the ground. 'Farewell! Dossi; addio, Zanina, a rivederla! I am on the duty of the Misericordia this week.' And before either could utter a word in reply, Jacopo was already halfway across the Piazza, bound on his errand of charity, a willing member of this noble freemasonhood of mercy.
"Per bacco! he is a brave kind-hearted fellow,' ejaculated Dossi, stamping out the embers of his friend's cigar.
*It is Andrea, Andrea mio! murmured Zanina, crossing herself thrice on her bosom; 'Andrea mio, morendo sta.'
Before eleven o'clock the carriages were beginning to roll homewards from the Cascine ; the people were moving inside of the cafés from the keen east wind, which had sprung up at sun-set; and Zanina, with her basket half full of flowers, had moved out of the Piazza.
She was in no mood this evening to smile and joke, and thrust her goods into the hands of passers-by. She was sick at heart, and loathed her lovely burden of flowers. And as she stood on the Ponte Trinita, and gazed down into the depths of the river beneath, she passionately flung the bright blossoms by handfuls into the water, and watched them floating away.
Everything she looked on this evening seemed tainted with fear and death; all the bloom of young life was chilled, and the quivering sound of the Misericordia bell still vibrated on her ear.
It was the knell of all that she had loved on earth; and yet the thought that Andrea was dying was not the bitterest which overwhelmed her heart that night. Shame and feeble repentance were struggling with a wild fear in her breast; and this shadowy fear, and this foreboding of evil, had been growing on her of late. As hope and light dawned in the breasts of her fellow countrymen and women, her soul became a prey to terror and nervous forebodings : a hasty step behind her on the pavement -a sudden shout-a crowd gathered in the streets-each of these trifles were enough to send the life-blood bounding to the heart, till her knees trembled beneath her, and she was often forced to cling to the walls or door-ways for support.
She stood long on the bridge this evening, doubting which course to pursue, whether to call and learn from the old jeweller whether they had carried Andrea to the hospital or to the Casa dei Morti, or to finish her day's work, the heaviest part of which remained still to be carried out. For Zanina's occupation was not altogether flower-selling, or smiling, or bandying repartees; this was a suitable enough occupation for a bright young girl, scarcely entered into her seventeenth year. She had other and darker duties to fulfil; let us not inquire just now too closely into their nature. It is enough to know that to-night her soul recoiled from the self-imposed task.
• Would that I had never consented !' she groaned in her heartwould that I had never begun this hateful life. To have deceived Andrea as I have done-worse, to be ever sinning, day after day to be blackening my heart with crimes which would make him turn from me with horror if he knew them; and yet! oh! Andrea! Andrea, it was for you—it was to bring the home and the life with you nearer—it was a dower of gold, wbich I meant to have brought to you, and instead of that it is a sore hard weight which I shall ever have to carry alone. Would you have bated me if you had known all ?—will you know it when you go to God?' and shuddering at the thought, Zanina walked on restlessly for a few paces. Then she paused suddenly, 'Is it too late?' she thought; could I not give up my life's lie to-night? Even now, a voice from Heaven seems to bid me give it up, and perhaps God would let Andrea live if I did; but no! I dare not! I have gone too far. Neither side would shew me pity now if I turned back. My patrons are bound to protect me if I do their work, and soon their hour of power will come. Signor Federighi is too rash; but, poor soul, how he fled to the succour of my Andrea !' Then, impelled by a feverish anxiety, she hurried to the court-way where Zarti lived, and entered the door of the jeweller's shop.
What news hast thou for me this evening, Zarti ?' she asked.
The old man shook his head despondingly. “The Misericordia have been here, my child, and have taken him away. I tell thee the truth when I say he will never return to this poor place again; but they left this gift for thee, Poverina! Zarti pointed to a heap of silver on the counter. "They asked “if Andrea had any friends.” I answered, “Yes ! one poor soul who loved him from her heart.” They inquired if you were rich. I answered No! for after all thine is a thankless trade, Zanina, buying flowers and giving half of them away. I told no lie, Poverina. The tallest of the set, he who was evidently at the head, left this present for thee, and said he would give thee more if Andrea died.'
Zanina looked at the silver with eyes from which the light of life seemed to have utterly died out; she placed her fingers hesitatingly on the glittering coins.
"Take it, my child, in the spirit of charity in which it was given ; never, no never, bave I seen such courage and tenderness combined. He lifted him in his arms like a brother, and spoke pitifully as a woman.
•What is that on the floor? asked Zanina, over whose eyes a film was gathering.
"A rose which fell from beneath the cloak of him who stooped to raise the litter; nay, if I mistake not, it is one I saw in thy basket this morning.'
Zanina lifted the heap of silver with a sudden movement from the counter, and flinging it across the room with a passionate cry, went out through the open door-way.
It was night now, and Florence was asleep. Carriages had long ceased to rattle over its pavements ; lights were extinguished in the houses ; and sentinels challenged at the gates the few foot passengers who, belated in the country, sought to return to their houses within the walls.
But outside the town, in a villa on one of the hills, where such strict scrutiny could not be maintained, lights were still burning up to the early hour of one in the morning, and the drawing-room windows lay wide open to the ground.
Three or four gentlemen were seated outside, in the long verandah which overlooked the pleasure-ground; others were gathered inside, round a table, on which were papers and writing materials; whilst, strolling up and down the garden, beneath the white and purple lilacs heavily fragrant in the night air, linked in the arm of Ludovico Dossi, walked Jacopo Federighi, still eagerly discoursing on the subject of the Italian Constitution, and vehemently declaiming against the vacillating conduct of the Grand-duke. The moon was shining brightly over the garden, so brightly that the gold-fish could be seen sound asleep at the bottom of their tanks; the white roses on the trees gleamed out like stars, and the fire-flies' darting lamp could only be descried now and again beneath the shade of the cypress alley.
Jacopo paused in his excited walk, and freeing his hand from his friend's arm, lifted the drooping head of a sumptuous standard rose. “See, Dossi,' he said, exposing the flower to the full light of the moon, 'how my roses are destroyed this year by insects; here are three in the heart of this one.' Jacopo shook the rose, two of the green beetles fell heavily to the ground, while one boomed out into his very face. 'I had hoped,' he continued, lifting another flower, that my roses would carry off the palm this year above all others, till this plague came upon them ; by-the
by, mon ami, those were rare flowers Zanina proffered to me this afternoon at the café.
Dossi shook his head ominously, and gave a long dubious whistle. "Why, Ludo, dost thou think she has a lover in high quarters ? 'Nay, not exactly a lover. I do not doubt that she may have friends.' “What would you have me to understand ? come, speak out.' 'I would have you be more wary in her presence.' *You think, then, that she is in the pay of the Government ? Dossi nodded a gloomy assent.
• Zanina a spy, Poverina! when the Government can find no stronger or sharper tools than poor Zanina to undermine our new-born constitution, Florence must be near the morning of her liberty.'
• Well, have it your own way, Jacopo; when that morning comes, darker things even than this may be brought to light.' Jacopo, again taking his friend's arm, passed up the steps into the verandah, and from thence into the saloon ; but Dossi could not remain as his guest for the night; he had a task of difficulty and danger before him, which he did not care to communicate to his friend; so, wishing him good-night, he went out through the dark gate beneath the acacias, and down the steep lane leading into the high-road.
It was a wonderfully calm night in the country, almost oppressively so to one whose heart was strained to the utmost. Not a leaf stirred among the pale olives. The white dust rose up spectre-like at his feet, the nightingales seemed to have forgotten their songs, only in the distant marshes the frogs croaked ominously, and the Mugnone river rushed onward to its fate.
Replying to the challenge of the sentinel, Dossi passed into the sleeping town. He did not, however, take the turn leading to his home; he had determined this night to test the truth of a rumour, vital to the cause he had at heart; and with a cautious step, he took the direction leading across the river towards the ducal palace.
Just, however, as he turned out of one of the narrowest streets leading towards the San Miniato, he was arrested by the sound of a woman's voice raised in a deprecatory and fretful key, and the low curse and hush of a man, which came out like the hiss of a serpent through the creak of an open window just beside him.
Something familiar in the sound of the woman's voice made Dossi stop for a moment longer and listen, then bend his head lower and lower, till at length his ear was on a level with the open gap left between the sashes.
*You are playing false, girl. You are reserving facts and words. There were other witnesses besides you; your account of the conversation does not tally with theirs; you must tell the whole truth or none. Come now, take courage, child—what said he at the moment that he threw the flower you gave him on the ground and crushed it with his foot? You must tell the whole truth or none. Come, now, take courage,