Chapter 52445138

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Chapter NumberPART III. I
Chapter TitleTHE MAD ENGLISHMAN OF VENICE
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52445138
Full Date1893-03-27
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4297
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleUnder the Great Seal
article text

TALES AND SKETCHES.

[NOW FIEST.rUDLIBUED.]

UNDER THEGREAT SEAL,

A NOVEL, ,

BV JOSEPH HvrroN.

Author of " Clytie," " By Order of tho Czar,"

"John Needham's Double," "Cruel Lon-1

don," kc. I

[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]

PART III.

CHAPTER I.-" THE MAD ENGLISHMAN OK

VENICE."

Two ruins. Tiic first almost human in its time-worn aspect, its blind windows, its broken columns. Thc second entirely human, the living wreck of a man. Thc 'first u decayed palace with a brave and brilliant history. Thc second a man, battered by cruel blows of fate, aged before his time, but with thc windows of Iiis soul still undimmed, except for here and there a film that had come from thc shedding of many tears.

The marble ruin was not. entirely desolate. It had a custodian, one who had known it when its echoes resounded to the laugh and shout of triumph and festival. The human ruin was alone, solitary in the great world. In its pinched and wounded heart lay the everlasting difference between thc dead ruin and the living ; it was the well-spring of hope that keeps green 'some sunny spots in the dreariest past, and freshens the most arid fore-

casts of the future.

At tho date of this history, Yriarte, the historian, will tell you that visitors to Venice must have remarked in passing down tile Grand Canal an ancient buildbuj-'with its open loggia on the first storey, ornamented with marble columns, having (.Byzantine capitals. The antique facade set with slabs of Greek innrblc and encrusted with circular escutcheons was falling into ruin, its inters- tices choked with earth and moss. Here and there trailing vines and varied creepers had taken root iii floor and crevice, giving that touch of leaf und flower that always arrests the attention wherever it is observed among the halls and palaces of this city in the sea.

Tile Turkish custodian still lived there and

might be seen leaning against the last arch of the loggia, a type of Kostera immobility, in- different, to the gondolas passing and rcpassing under his eyes, looking, but seeing nothing. " A poet who did not know that placidity of the Oriental, which looks like dreaming and yet is sb dreamless, might have imagined that fae read a look pt wistfulness in this man's eyes, and that the forlorn warder was think- ing of the ancient glories oj Venice."

In these present days if you would see with the eyes of the historian and follow the adventures of thu hero of Heart's Delight, you must look back through the spick and span facings of the palace that have blotted out the resting place of thc prisoner of Talfilct, There arc Venetians still living who knew the old palace and its picturesque custodian. Thc stones are fresh that have been piled on the ancient foundations,-and the present writer has moved his gondola by the steps on the Grand Canal, and talked with an ola Venetian who had known the stranger they call "the mod Englishman."

Thisbuilding wastheold l'oudacodciTurchi, predecessor of thc new, palace, built in thc thirteenth century, and of which the present building is supposed in many respects to bc a reproduction of the blind old house which had for its custodian the dreamy Orientât Three hundred years after thc splendid entertain- ments that thc Lords of liriure gave there,

thc palace liecainc thc residence of thc Turkish merchants and dealers, and it was in its lost

days of decrcptitude and picturesque misery when Alan Keith begged for shelter at thc hands of the Turkish custodian. '

They were well met these three-thc blink- ing old Turk in the shadow of thc' crumbling palace, and tho half-demented sca-farcr who had been landed by a Spanish ship to take his chances of life and death in Venice. There was something almost inarticulate in thé woc&jof the three. Thc palace spoke to the human fancy in whispers of parasite leaves that held many of the marble stones together. The custodian addressed* the Englishman, but to Alan it was in the unknown tongue of France. Alan replied in a guttural English that was full of recollec- tions of thc Scottish vernacular, with now and then a smattering of French words and Spanish, such French, however, as might have been English to thc Turk who could only guess at the stranger's meaning. There was, however, between thc two human ruins

a sympathetic language which they could not mistake. They both belonged to the miserable. They had lioth seen strange adventures ; they were boMi old ; they were both poor-; poverty knows its fellow. The custodian of thc decaying palace clung to the old walls for love and not for wages. Alan had about him thc few gold and silver'coins that some philanthropic Spaniard had given him when obtaining his release from the Moorish dungeon. Elsewhere he had treasure in abundance, away on thc silent shores of tile secret waterways of Demon's Creek : always supposing that the supposed graves had remained undisturbed except by wind

md weather.

During all thc days of his imprisonment ¿lan had never forgotten any circumstances con- nected with his life at Heart's Delight. Dropped down off Labrador blindfolded he felt that he could steer into thc silent harbour whence the cunning vengeance of Lester Bents had driven him and bis comrades to fall victims to the English sliip of war. When Borne unknown power had come to thc aid of the prisoners at Fencstru, he had selected to bc put ashore at Venice, fooling that of all cities in thc world he might there possibly still have a friend. He remembered the

yoting priest's talk of Venice us his borne, of the probability of his removal thither, and that he had a mother living in Florence.

More than twenty years had gone by since then, and Father Lavcllo might be dead, be might, 'however, have left behind him some friend upon whom he could count for advice aud help. Twenty years was long in the memory of friendship, but short in the memory of a foe ; and« Alan knew not to what extent his name might be branded with the penalties of treason and crime, with piracy and murder in the annals of British justice. Could he have known that he was dead in the official report of thc Admiral of the " St. George "-dead with all his com- rades, dead and buried v ith his pirate ship beneath the deep and stormy waves that roll around Bahama's coral reefs- he might lia,ve selected' to bc put on board' an English ship; but he was weary, and his mind turned to Venice und Father Lavcllo. He had taken upon himself ii new name by way of wise preaaution, and resolved to feel his way to the abiding-place of Father Lavcllo, and know something of his record and the churn ut er he bore with Iiis

people before entrusting to him thc secret of Iiis existence und his desires. His long imprisonment had made him secretive and mistrustful ; dulled his perceptive qualities ; given his eye a trick of wandering, and given to his speech a certain hesitancy that to the common mind marked him down as imbecile. And no once more he was dubbed thc mad Englishman, and later he was assigned not only a name hut a local habitation : he was called "Thc Mad Englishman of Venice."

But Alan wus far from mud. Dreamy? Yes, fur more so than thc dreumy-lookiny custodian of the time-worn palace ; dreamy, with lucid intervals ufsencrgy und passion ; dreamy, with poetic memories of a saintly wife and child : dreamy, with sounds of the sea in his cars and mirthful voices ; dreamy, with the light of thc crackling Hie of a winter's hearth in his memory, und pictures of domestic peace, of neighbours silting in thc wintry glow of peut und wood, be was a dreamer gazing back on sunny seas and happy Keher.-folk, a dreamer who falls front paradise to hell, (rom happiness and peace and domestic love und home to tyranny und wrong ; ta battle, murder, and tempestuous tights at sea ; from lying by thc «dc of a wife beloved beyond all women to lying prongeb her grave,

victim« both of thom of a lawless law and I

lawless magistracy. Yes, he was a dreamei indeed, thu wanderer who passed a» if from sheer sympathy by the rough steps of th< decaying palace with its long-robed und lie fezzed custodian, a wrinkled, silent, minina ting Turk.

Surely thu ruined house was the place where such a bony, withered, hawk-eyed mariner as Alan Keith should rest ; this wat the sentinel of silent palaces and mysteriout boats who should make him welcome. And so he addressed himself to the Turk, and thc Turk came out of his reverie to look witt pitying eyes upon the stranger. Such a pr*' sentution of picturesque age were these three that one's mind rests upon it with awe and wonder : The two Btrahge men, the one dead palace. . . '

- It was an instinctive act of hospitality that led thc Turk to take the wanderer in. A humble boatman had rowed him from the quay in his mnddo, aud here he had left bim with the Turk, who, opposite in creed, in thought, in every way, still found, reason for comradeship with his grim petitioner. They were both ulone, one with his memories, thc other a stranger in a strange land. The custodian however had acquaintances. He had lived long enough in Venice to adopt some of her habits, and to be on speaking terms with certain frequenters of a ¿ufe in u Bhady corner of the steps that lead upwards over the Rialto bridge. Here he would once or twice a week take his -cup of coffee and smoke his chibouk, and listen lo thc conver- sation of other guests while they sipped their diluted anisette or drank their black corleo, denouncing with bated breath 01 blutent defiance as thc case might'bc, their Austrian masters. The blonde mistress of the landlord

with her lightly shod feet, showing shapely ankles in white stockings, would pay special attention to thc silent Turk, and the Venetians would often falk at him of the time when Venice was great and free, und the Fonda dei Grech! one of the glories of thc Grand Canal. Otherwise the custodian had

neither kith nor kin nor friends in Venice.

He had permitted, however, the friendly encroachments of a certain humble gondolier and his wife to find a lodging in a wing of tho palace overlooking a hack canal, in return for which they gave him such domestic service aa he required, did his marketing, cooked his food, and in winter mode desperate if un- availing efforts to keep his saloon warm. Atilio was the gondolier and Teresa was his wife, aud they could both speak a little English picked up iii thc service of a great

merchant who had traded round the world

and bad once taken them to the great port of London, Hut Atilio had never heard such strange English as thc grim stranger (.poke, and Teresa had never seen no evidently mud a lodger as he whom his excellency, thc Signori, had thought well to shelter and protect.

In suck a multifarious community as that of Venice in those days, with its strange sails from Eastern ports and West, with its curious fibhcrfplk from the Islands of the lagoons, its mysterious Jews of the ghetto in their pic- turesque gaberdines, its Austrian officials and sentinels, and its grave old citizens, it might have been thought that Alan Keith would have escaped notice : but he seemed to impress mysteriously the most ordinary person ; his ganut figure towering above the crowd, the long, patched and foreign coat he wore reaching from his neck to' hu buckled shoes , and decorated in some queer barbaric fashion : his long spider legs in faded velvet trunks and silken hose ; his bony hands and Îiallid biny face, his sunken eyes that shone

ike meteors from beneath thc shaggy eye- brows ; his long, thin grey hair, and his rest- less manner ; they knew not what to make of him, the simple gondolier and his wife, and the keeper of the cafe whither the silent Turk had taken bim, were as much as a loss ; and lu a very short time he came to he spoken of as " the mad Englishman. " Once unwittingly he had offended a number of men and boys on the quay by some remark which he thougbt was a 'complimentary expression in choice Italian and which was nothing like it. They made for him to testify their anger in blows, but the gaunt stranger scattered them like leaves before a mighty wind. Mischief would hare been .done, had not an English-captain whose ship waa lying in port awaiting ber sailing papers, interposed and explained what Alan Keith had intended to say, whereupon the crowd burst forth into laughter, and insisted on shaking bands with the poor mod fellow ; for^now they knew he must be mad to

call them villains and beasts of burden when he had meant to do them honour.

And so Alan wandeied about the city, which was to him a dream, within a dream, and he a ghost from some other worjd. He was happy, quite happy, for a long, long time, free to come and go, with shelter for his head and food for his stomach. No gaoler held him by the heels. Once in n way, the Aus- trian challenge of"Hall! Wer da," broke in upon his dreams, but the sentinel wnnld smile good naturedly as the mad Englishman retired with % bow of submission and a "purdon tnesBieur," spoken with a broad Scotch accent. Alan, indeed, began to think he had been translated to paradise, and for a time what he considered to bc the ambition of his latter days, faded out in the free air of Italy ; for it waaíree to him, the very essence of the supremest liberty, whatever it might be to the Italians, whose aspirations he did not understand. . He found that the few gold and silver pieces which his Spanish deliverer had deposited with the suit of clothes with which he had been endowed, and the bundle of curious linen that had been placed for him on board the ship, went a long way hi the estima niatiou nf the unspeakable Turk, and that an odd coin now and then, made Atilio and Teresa both willing servants, however mad he might seem to them-a madness that was not .vicious, be it said, but a madness that was un- mistakable-especially when, as had happened' more than once, Alan had tossed one of his strange coins upon thc cafe counter te treat some (atgnone tn acup of wine, or had himself indulged in an extra glass of brandy with hie' coffee, for then his eyes would fairly blaze, and he Would talk of fights on sea and land, of stonily waters and thc haunted lands of distant shores; bdt even then, he spoke with a kind of reserve that emphasised his

madness.

There was neither latitude nor longitude . in his inconsequential yarns ; but once in a

cafe down by thc quuy, he liad boen, lcd into ! making overtures to an English captain con- cerning a buried trenuro. He hod discovered a sudden energy during a talk between the

captain and lils mate. They bad heard' of a { sunken Spanishgalleon that of lutchadshifted, and now showed her masts, and into whose hold a Frenchman had dived and found it full of gold. Thereupon Alan's dream of peace, and happy days of freedom in au earthly paradise had gone back to reality, and he felt how poor he was, yet how rich,, that he might still have anon alive to whom be owed a fatherly duty, and to whom for the sweet sake of un angel mother in Heaven, lie felt a yearning affection. <

" I ken of a treasure," he said, looking up from, thc seat where lie had been huddled smoking a wooden pipe willi a long rod stem, " and eh, mon, if fd a ship, and anc or twa good hans, I'd mek thc fortune of him who'd Erovidcit; a nod's justas gudc as a wenk toa

lind horse."

Thc sailors lookod with undisguised surprise < ut thc foreign looking, withered old man who without invitation joined in their conversation, und mudo a wild declaration of secret wealth, not in French or (íerman, not in Italian, or Moorish or Hebrew, but in Scotchy English, and a* Venice.

" Where d'ye hail (rom, master !" ' usked the captain.

"Ah, ah," laughed Alan, "that's u vera cosy question."

"I should say so," remarked the mute, pouring out a fresh glass of Chianti for his

chief.

" Ef I could jcBt înbkc a contract wi' ye", given' me command o' vcr shep," said Alan, " within sixty days ye'A hue no further cause to sail tlic suas."

" Very likely not," said thc captain good' naturedly, "and no ship to sail in may he; join us, friend, ia a glass of n'ine for thc sake

i of bonnio Scotland ; that's where ye hall from,

I'm thinking." . 8

"May be," said Alan, "we knaw where wc hail frae, but where are we gaein'f That't the puede, eh I"

Alan felt ho waa being questioned ; and he was still wary about committing himself ; for he had yet to learn on what legal grounds be stood. He bad reason to expect Father Lavello in Venios. Idly as he had spent bis time, dreaming in tho sun, revelling in his freedom, be had nevertheless busied himself in enquiries about Father Lavello ; and the gondolier had at but made out what he wanted. In the first place Alan's- method of

Erpnouncing. the Italian name had been a

irrier to inquiry, and in the next placo, Father Lavcllo had left Venice for Verana; and Atilio had succeeded in having con. veyed there a letter from Alan, to which* an answer had been received by word of mouth, implying that Alan would very soon see the priest whom he sought, This progresa had only been achieved within a few days of the incident on the quay ; and Alan felt that he might be very near thc discovery of things of tlic last importance to him, and he became all the more circumspect. At the »ame, tillie, he had of late brooded over a possible means of visiting Newfoundland, more particularly the scene of his buried fortunes, and the deep interest, which the two English officers were cxpiessiug in the sunken treasure of u.Spanish ship, unloosed his tongue ; but to no further Etirpose than to convince the strangers that

c was a softy, a dreamer of dreams, a harm- less lunatic.

Nevertheless Alua surprised them with his knowledge of navigation ; ami in a little while they were both talking to him with a

rational consideration of certain distinction of

manner that gradually mude them even

deferential. He allowed them to understand

that he knew they thought him half-witted ; but he made them feel that there was method in his madness. He spoke of long years of imprisonment, of shipwreck and ela very, of a thousand reasons why be might well be mad, and he also spoke of human beings who had prayed to die and could not, men who caine out of every danger unscathed, who bore torture, misery, thc suffocating embrace of thc sea, the auger of tho breakers on rocky coasts, and who lived on and on ! He 'held them with his natural eloquence ; and he drank their wine.with'every now and then a repetition of their own pledge of Donnie

Scotland.

Time went on. The moon caine out upon the lagoons, and he started homewards full of strange fancies, burning to take thotc sailor men into ins confidence, half forgetting David, his son, only remembering the treasure ; and as ho went swinging along, strengthened physically and mentally by tbe generous Italian wine, he lapsed bock into reverie and wonder, into the oft-recurring sensation ol beiug in another world, in some half-way house to Heaven, some earthly Paradise anchored in a summer sea.

He sat down fey the steps of St. Mark's, and wutched the evening traffic on the Grand Canal ; stretched himself down almost by thc water, where other men were reclining. None moved to give him place either in fear or friendship. They knew he was mad, but he had harmed no one, and Atilio spoke well of him. They knew that the mad English- man had paid their city the compliment of calling it Paradise. He lay unmolested, with his hands underneath his chin, watching the gondolas with glowworm lights at their'bows. One or two coasters were making for' their anchorage by the Custom House ; he traced thc lines of the great Church of Sun Giorgio Maggiore against the moonlit sky ; and he was very happy in ft negative kind of way, warm, contented, the wine coursing pleasantly through his veins. ' He might have lain there all the livelong night until the sim'took up thc story of the moon had not Atilio laid his heavy hand upon him and demanded his'

attention.

" Dornte ?" said Atilio. Alan dreamed on.

"Awake, signori!" said Atilio, "tiente con me !" ,

" Wherefore?" asked thc mud Englishman, taking up a sitting position, and looking at Atilio reproachfully, ss being awakened from a pleasant sleep. .

Atilio was excited. His little English failed him when ho was deeply moved. He could only repeat his one »ord,- "awake," and point with à stumpy finger in the direction of the ruined palace where they both had the privilege to lodge.

" Home ?" asked Alan.

Si, si, certhitonto," said the gondolier, " audiamo a cam, come, awake, signori."

Alan gathered himself np' and stood by Atilio, so gaunt and yet so picturesque, that one or two of the loungers looked at bim with an admiration inspired Dy their inborn feeling for artistic effect. One of them smilingly asked why the madman did not continue to risc until be topped thc campanile and could shake paws with the lion of St. Mark.

Atilio laughed, and lifted up his arms, and pointing to tire moon asked why not further ; yonder, where the silent man would know him ! the man in the moon, with whom the Signori held long conversations on nights like

these.

"Poor devil," said a brother gondolier, and yet he is happy."

" Most happy, dreams he owns caskets of treasure, has «bips at sea laden with gold and Ercctous stones ; wait, he says, and I will

ring my donations of diamonds, rubies, and gold, for thedqniesof St. Marco," said Atilio, chattering away in Italian, complimented by thc attention of his audience.

"Well, that ii good, ho has a grateful heart," thc other replied, "and he adores our beautiful Venice ; it is sufficient." ,

Alan, though now on bis feet, still gazed out across the canal, and now and then looked up at thc moon, as she went, suiling along 'another vaBt waterway, it seemed to him in thc heavens ; but presently as if he came out of his dream again, he asked, " Wherefore, Atilio, wherefore I"

Àtilio replied again, volubly, but with such a strauge mixture of English and Italian, that Alan could only ask again why he sought him, and catching something of Atilio's enthusiasm, put his question into his own vernacular, and elaborated it without the slightest thought of Atilio-" What in tba decvil's name dy'e want desturbin a mau when he's just takin' his ease, and requires neither ycr service nor yer companie ?"

And 'os if he understood every word the gondolier replied, measuring hi< w'ords care- fully out : /' prête, ie curato, Lavelle"

" Lavollo !" said Alan, almost in a whisper,

" Lavello ?"

" Ijivello," repeated Atilio, " come, Signori."

Atilio lcd the way across the piazm. Alan followed. They knew thc footpaths of Venice os well us they knew her waterways.

"Tho compauilc and thc pin," said one of thc loungers, who had hitherto been a silent looker on, a« he turned to watch Atifio and thc madman disappear in the shadows of St. Mark's, the compauilc striding ont with long legs, thc pin almost running to keep up with

it.

A burst of laughter greeted thc humorous comparison, lo bc succeeded by the silence of men who sleep and the ripple of waters, that cinphusisc silence.

(To be continued. )

About thchcavicat yield of Tasmanian wheat on record, says a contemporary, comes from tile Don. Messrs. Jeffreys and Henry, nf the .Seaview ' Estate, bad two acres of wheat threshed hat week, which gave the enormous return of 202 bushels; tho grain being per- fectly clean. This part of the estate bas had an unprecedented record for heavy yields, and about six years back Mr. Jnmcs Stickling obtained thirty-three tons of marketable potatoes from it, which he »old ut £3 per ton. Mr. William Henry states that the land had been allowed'to lie for a number of yearn, and after having Ixien run with sheep waa used as a fattening paddock for hogs, mud the refuse, chiefly boiled peas, has turned out excellently

es A manure.