Chapter 65755046

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberPART III. I
Chapter TitleTHE MAD ENGLISHMAN OF VENICE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65755046
Full Date1893-03-25
Page Number8
Corrections0
Word Count4070
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)
Trove TitleUnder the Great Seal
article text

jMtfmi Jfttfelto.

[sow ftbst fcbusheo.]

UNDER THE GREAT SEAL, A NOVEL,

BY JOSEPH HATTON. Author or ' Qytie,' 'By Order olliic Car,' 'John Needham's Double,' 'Cruel Lon don,' &c

FALL EIGHTS SS5EKVED.] PAKTin. CHAPTER L— ' The Mao Ekgushjuk of Vbsice.'

Two ruins. The first almost human in its tune-worn aspect, its blind windows, ita broken colainns. The second entirely human, the living wreck, .of a man. The fitst a decayed palace with a brave and brilliant history. The second a .man, battered by cruel blows of fate, aged before his time, but with the windows of iiis soul still nndimmed, excent for here and there a film that had

come from Hie shedding of many tears. The marble rain. was not entirely desolntf It faad .a. rintn^wn, one. who bad known it when its echoes resounded to the langh and shout of triumph and festival. The human ruin w*s alone, solitary in die great world. In its pinched end wounded heart lay the everlasting difference between tiie dead ruin and the living ; it was the well-spring of hope that keeps .green some sonny spots in the dreariest past, and freshens tie most arid fore casts of the future. At the date of this history, Triarte, the historian, will tell you that visitors to Venice must have remarked in passing down the Grand Canal an ancient, building with its open loggia on the first storey, ornamented with marble columns, having Byzantine capitals... The antique facade set with slabs of Greek marble and encrusted with circular escutcheons was f«H'ig into ruin, its inters tices choked with earth and moss. Here and there trailing- vines and varied creepers bad taken root in floor and crevice, giving that touch of leaf and flower that always arrests the pttf*'-1 whererer it ia observed among the halls and pslsrrs of this city in the sea. The Turkish custodian stffl lived there and might be seen leamng against the last arch of the loggia, a type of Eastern immobility, in different to the BOodolas passing and repassinff under his eyes, looking, but seeing wftijifnjr, ' A poet woo did not know that placidity of the Oriental, .which, looks like defaming and yet is so drcainless, might have imflpTHHi that he read a look of wistfolness in this man's eyes, and that the forlorn warder was think ing of the ancient glories of Venice.' In these present days if you would see with the eyes of the historian and follow the adventures of the hero of Heart's Delight, you fnosfc look t^^y through the spick and span facings of the palace that have blotted out the resting place of the prisoner of Talfilet. There are Venetians Btfll living who knew the old palace and ita picturesque custodian. The stones are fresh that have been piled on the ancient foundations, and the present writer has moved-bis gondola by the steps on the Grand Canal, and talked with an old Venetian who had known the stranger they call 'the mad ^z«*nrl«A»waT- ** * ThiabofldingTaatheoldFondaoodeiTiirciir, predecessor of the new palace, built in the thirteenth century, and of which the present bunding is supposed in many respects to be a reproduction of the blind old house which bad for its custodian the dreamy Oriental. Three hundred yean after the splendid entertain ment* that the Lords o£ Briare gave there, the palgf«» tw^TTM* *^a **Mv*ftiM*g of Uw Tnripfh merchants and dealers, and it was in its last days of decrepHtode and picturesque misery when Aim Keith begged for shelter at the bands of the Turkish custodian. They wertfweU net these three-the blink

ing old Xarirfh the shadow of the crumbling palace, and %bchaff^e»enbed-Bea-farerTrho bad been landed iiy a Spanish ship to take his chances of _ life and death in Venice. There was Bocbefching almost inarticulate in the woes of.the £hree. The 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 Ainu it was in the unknown tongue of Fiance. Alan replied in a guttural English that was fall of recollec tions of the Scottish vernacular, with now and then a smattering of French words and ?Spanish, such French, however, as might have been English to the Turk who conld only guess at the stranger'a meaning. There was, however, between, the two human ruins a sympathetic language which they could not mistake; They both belonged to the miserable. They had both seen strange adventure*; they were boA old ; they were both poor; poverty knows its fellow. The custodian of the decaying palace dung to the old walls for lore and not for wages. Alan bad about him the few cold and silver coins that some philanthropic Spaniard had given him when obtaining hie release from the Moorish dungeon. Elsewhere he had treasure in abundance, away on the silent shores of the secret waterways of Demon's Creek-, always supposing that the supposed graves bad remained nnduturbed except by wind and weather. During all the days of hie imprisonment Alan had never forgotten any circumstances con nected with bis life at Heart's Deligbt. Dropped down off Labrador blindfolded he felt that be could steer into the silent harbour whence the coining. vengeance of Lester Bentz bad driven him and his comrades to fall victims to the English ship of war. When some unknown power had come to the aid of the prisoners at Fenestra, he had selected to be put asbore at Venice, feeling that of all cities in the world he might there possibly stfll have a friend. He remembered the young prtestV talk of Venice as his home, of

the probability of bis removal thither, and that he had a mother living in Florence. Hore than twenty yean had gone by since then, and Father Lavello might be dead. lie might, however, bare left behind him some friend upon whom be 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 la the annals of British justice. Could he have known that be was dead in the official report of the Admiral of the ' St. George '—dead with all his com rades, dead and buried v ith hie pirate ship beneath the deep and stormy waves that roll around Bahama** coral reefs — he might have selected to be put on board on EngKqli ship ; bat he was weary, and his mind turned to Venice and Father Lavello. He had taken upon himself a new n&xue by way of wiae precaution, and resolved to feel his way to the abiding-place of Father Lavello, and know something of his record and the character he bore with bis people before entrusting to him .the secret of his existence and 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 wind marked him down as iinbecOe. And so once more he was dubbed the mad Engfohnv**, and later he was assigned not only a name but a local habitation : he was called ' The Mad Englishman of Venice.' Bat Alan was far from mad. Dreamy? Yes, far more so than the dreamy-looking custodian -*E the time-worn palace ; dreamy, with lucid intervals of energy and passion ; dreamy, with poetic memories of a saintly wife and child ; dreamy, . with Bounds of the sea in his ears and mirthful voices % j&reajny,* with the light of the crackling fire of a winter's hearth to his memory, and pictures of domestic peace, of neighbours sitting in the wintry glow of peat and wood, tie was a dreamer eating bade on sunny *ffflf And happy usher-folk, a dreamer who falls from paradise to hell, from h*'PF»**jw and ppscg aT'^ 'rtW-psij'^

love and home to tyranny and wrong; to battle, murder, and tempestuous fights at sea ; from lying by the side of a wife beloved beyond all women to lying prone by her grave, victims both of them of a. lawless law and a lawless magistracy. ¥es» be was a dreamer indeed, this wanderer who paused at, if from sheer sympathy by the rough steps of the decaying palace with its long-robed and be fpyyyd custodian, a wrinkled, silent* rumina ting Turk. Surely this mined house was the place where such a bony, withered, hawk-eyed mariner as Alan Keith should rest ; thie was the sentinel of silent palaces and mysterious boats wfaoahould make him welcome. And so he addressed himself to the Turk, and the Turk came out of his reverie to look with pitying eyes upon the stranger. Such a pre sentation of pictnreeqce age were these three that one's mind rests upon it with awe and wonder: The two strange men, the one dead It was an instinctive act of hoepitalitv that led the Turk to take the wanderer in. A humble boatman had rowed him from the quay in his samdolo, and bete be faad left him with the Turk, who, opposite in creed, in thought, in every way, etfll found reason for comradeship with his grim petitioner. They were both alone, one with his memories, the other a stranger in a strange land. The custodian however had acquaintances. He had lived long enough, in Venice w adapt some of her habits, and to be on speaking terms with certain frequenters of a cafe in a shady corner of the steps that lead upwards overtbe RuUto bridge. Here he would once or twice a week take his cup of coffee and smoke bis chibouk, and listen to the conver sation of other guests while they sipped their diluted anisette or drank their black coffee, denouncing with bated breath or blatent defiance as the case might be, 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 the silent Turk, and the Venetians would often talk at him of the time when Venice was great and free, and the Fonda dei Grechi one of the glories of the Grand Canal Otherwise the custodian had neither kith nor kin nor friends ia Venice. He bad permitted, however, the frieudly encroachments of a certain hnmble gondolier and his wife to find a lodging in a wing of the palace overlooking a back canal, in return for which they gave him such domestic service as he required, did hie marketing, cooked his food, and in winter made desperate if un availing efforts to keep his saloon, warm. Atilio was the gondolier and Teresa was fait; wile, and they could both speak a little English picked up in the service of a great merchant who bad traded round the world and had once taken them to the great port of London. But Atilio had never heard such strange KnE*'*1 as the grim stranger spoke, and Teresa bad never seen so evidently mad a lodger as he whom his excellency, the Siguori, had thought well to shelter and protect. In such a multifarious community as that of Venice in tbo^c days, with its strange sails from Eastern ports and West, with its curious fitberfolk from the Islands of the lagoqps, its mysterious Jews of the ghetto in their pic taresqne gaberdines, its Austrian officials and sentinels, and its grave old citizens, it might have been thought that Alan Keith would have escaped notice ; bat he seemed to impress mysteriously the most ordinary person ; his gaunt figure towering above the crowd, the long, patched and foreign coat he wore reaching from his neck to Iiis buckled shoes , and decorated ia some queer barbaric fashion : his long spider legs in faded velvet trunks and ailkeu hose ; his bony bands and pallid b-iDy face, his snnken eyes, that shone like meteors from beneath the shaggy eye brow ; bis lone, thin grey hair, and bis 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 h»i\ taken him, were as much as a loss ; and in a very abort tame he came to be spoken of as 'the mad Englishman.' Once unwittingly be bad offended a number of men and boys on the quay by some remark which be thought was a complimentary expression in choice Italian and which was nothing like it. They made for him to testify their anger in blown, but the gaunt stranger scattered them like leaves before a mighty wind. Mischief would have been done, had not an English captain whose ship was lying in port awaiting her sailing papers, interposed and explained what Alan Keith bad intended to ay, whereupon the crowd burst forth into laughter, and insisted on shaking bands with the poor mad fellow ; for now they knew be must be mad to call them vQlatns and beasts of burden when he bad meant to do them honour. And so Alan wandeied about the city, wbich was to him a dream, within & dream, and he a ghost from some other world. He was happy, qnite happy, for a long, long time, free to come and go, with shelter for bin head and food for his stomach. No .g&oler held him by the beels. Once in a way, the Aus trian challenge oilfJTalt! War da? broke in upon his dreams, but the sentinel wooM BtnQe good nRturedly as the mad ff*r w fff ish thhi retired with * bow of submission and a ** pardon jnessjeur,' spoken witli a broad Scotch accent. * Alan, indeed, began to think he bad been translated to paradise, and for a time what be considered to be the ambition of bis latter days, faded out in the free air of Italy; for it was free to bim, the very essence of the supremest liberty, whatever it might be to the Italians, whose aspiration? he did not understand. He found that the few gold and silver pieces which his Spanufa deliverer had deposited with the suit of clothes with which lie had been endowed, and die bundle of curious linen that had been placed for him on board the ship, went a long way in the estinm mation -»f the unspeakable Turk, and that an odd coin now and then, made Atilio and Teresa both willing servants, however mad be might seem to them ? a madness tfiw* was not vicious, be It said, but a madness that was un mistakabte-especialJy when, as had happened more than once, Alan bad tossed one. of bis strange coins npon the cafe counter to treat some lasynone to a cup of wine, or bad himself indulged in an extra glass of brandy with hie coffee, for then bis eyes would fairly blaze, and he would talk of fights on sea and land, of stormy waters and the haunted lands of distant shores ; but even then, he spoke with a kind of reserve that emphasised bis There was neither latitude nor longitude

in his inconsequential yarns ; buc once in a cafe' down by the quay, he bad been led into making overtures to as F.«gfi«li captain con cerning a buried treaore. He bad discovered a sudden energy during a talk between tbe captain and bis mate. They bad beard of a sunken Spanish galleon that of late had shifted, and now showed her masts, and into whose bold a Frenchman bad dived and fonod it foil of gold. Thereupon Alan's dream of peace, ana happy days of freedom in an earthly paradise had gone back to reality, and he felt how poor he was, yet how rich, that be might still have a son alive to whom be owed a fatherly duty, and to whom for the sweet sake of an angel mother in Heaven, be felt a yearning affection. ' I ken of a treasure,' he said, looking an from the seat where be had been huddled smoking a wooden pipe with a long red stem, 'and eh, raon, if I'd a ship, and ane or twa good bans, I'd mek the fortune of bim wWd provide it; anod's justasgadeasa wenktoa blind horse.' The sailors looked with undisguised surprise at the foreign looking, withered old man who without invitation joined in their conversation, and made a wild declaration of secret wealth, not in French or German, not in IfeiiMi. or Moorish or Hebrew, but in Scotchy English, and at Venice. 'Where d'ye bail from, master 7' asked the captain. 'All, ah,n langhed Alan, 'that's a veia easy question.' 'I fchonld say so,' remarked the mate, pouring out a fresh glass of Chiantt for his chief. _' Ef I could jest make a contract wT ye, given1 me command o* yer shep,' said A tan, ' within sixty days yeVl hae no further cause to sail the seas.' ' Very likely not,' said the captain good naturedly, 'and no ship to sail in may be; join us, friend, in a glass of wine for the sake of bonnie Scotland ; that's where ye hail from, I'm thinkinc1.' 'May be,*1 said Alan, 'we knaw where we hall f rae, bat where are we gaein*? That's the puzzle, eh 1' Alan felt he was being questioned ; and he was still wary about committing himself ; for he had yet to learn on what legal ground's he stood. He had reason to expect Father Lavello in Venice. Idly as he had spent his time, dreaming in the sun, revelling in his freedom, be bad nevertheless busied himself in enquiries about Father Lavello; and the gondolier had at hut made out what he wanted. In the first place Alan's method of pronouncing the Italian name had been a barrier to inquiry, and in the next place. Father Lavello had left Venice for Verona ? and Atilio had succeeded in having con veyed there a letter from AUn, to which an answer had been received by word of month implying that Alan would very booh see the priest whom he sought. This progress bad only been achieved within a few days of the incident on the quay; and Alan felt that he might be very near the discovery of things of the last importance to him, and he became all the more circumspect. At the same time he had of late brooded over a possible means of visiting Newfoundland, more particularly the scene of hts buncd fortunes, and the deen interest which the two English officer* ««£ expiessing in the sunken treasure of a Spanish ship, unloosed his tongue ; bet to no further

IeN^Sde« Alan b^P™**^ ^*uS I deferential. He anowed them to untajtsn* that he knew they thooght J™ *»^goj' bnt he made them feel that Uiere was J»*»™1 inhis madness. He apote o! *&***£ ' — imprisonment, of shipwreck and slavery, «'ta thmisiuid re*»ns wh- he might well be mad, and he also spoke of human bangs who Baa p^yek to dieWcoald not, men «*»«»« oat of every danger «'»«»^1**,OJX tortare, misery, thesuffocsbng embrace otthe s^Ttta anger of the breakers ?»'«*? coastB, andl&o lived on and on! He lield SenTwiUi his natoral doqneDce :, «J* '» drank their wine with every now and then a repetition of their own pledge of Bourne Scotland. Time went on. The moon came mt upon the lagoons, and he started homewards f «J1 «f stranS Tfandes, burning to take those ^saHor inenXto hfaconfidence,1inHforgeMiiS»avia. his son, only remembering the ««f»«!^ as he went swinging along, : ****£'***£ . physically and mentally by tie generous S- wine, he lapsed back into reverie and wonder, into tbe oft-recorring ??a'*'''* being in another world, in some half-way Boose to Heaven, some' eartfdy raraaise anchored in a summer sea. HesatdownbythestepsofSLMark'.?'* watched the evening ttaffic on the *»-»»-— — -_ Canal ; sketched himself down almost by the water, where oilier men were reclining. *ooe moved to give him pla« either in fear «c friendship. They knew he was mad, bnt he bad harmed no one, and Afito ? spoke wffl of him. They knew that the mad JEiutlJsh man had paid thar t&y the compliment of caning it Varadisc He lay unmolested, wiUi his bands underneath hischin, watching the gondolas with glowworm lights at their bows. . One or two coasters were maldiig forgieu- , anchorage by the Custom House : he faacea _ j the linS of the great ChnrchoJ San. Gjocpo Maggiore against the moonlit sky; and he waTvery happy in a negative Bud of way. . warm, contented, die wine coursing pleasantly through his vein.. He might have bun there ; all tibe livelong night nita the sun took np ; thestory of the moon had not Atflio lathis i heavy hand upon Vim and demanded his attention. 'Domu!' saidAtilio. ; 41^11 dreamed oo. - * - 'Awake, Hgnori!' saii Afflio, 'waite . ? eonnuF ' Wherefore ?' asked tbe mad Englishman, . taking up .sitting position, and looking at Atilio reproachfully, as bong awakened from a pleasant aleep. Atilio was excited. His litticEntfuJi fefled him when he was deeply moved. He could only repeat his one word, 'awake,' and ? point with a stumpy finger in the direction of the ruined palace where they bolt faad the £civilege to lodge, 'Home?' asked Alan. Si, a, caiauaUo,' said the gondolier, 'aniSajHoacam, come, awake, a^norL' Alan -H*»li^-r»^ i-;»M«.if «p ..—a «fmJ fcy . AtHin, so gaunt and yet so rscturesqnc, that one or two of the loungers looted at him with an admiration inspired by their inborn feeling for artistic effect. One of them smilingly asked why the madman did not continue to rise until he topped the campanile and could shake paws with the lion of St. Mark. Atilio laughed, and lifted up his arms, and pointing to the moon asked why not further ; yonder, where tile sflent man would know bim 1 the man in the moon, with whom the Signori held long conversations on nights like tbese. 'Poor devil,n said a brother gondolier, and yet he is happy.1' ,— ? ? ^ ' Most happy, dreams he owns ~wtb°fr of treasure, has ship- at sea laden with gold and precious stones; wait, he says, and £ will bring my donations of diamonds, rabies, and gold, for the domes of St. Marco,' said Atilio, chattering away in rt»K«w complimented by

the attention of his audience. 'Weu, that is good, he has a gratefal heart,' tbe other replied, 'and he adores our beautiful Venice; it is rafficienL' Alan, though now on his feet, still gazed out acrosi the cinaj, and now and then looked up at the moon, as she went, sailing along another vast waterway, it seemed to him in the heavens ; but presently as if he came out of his dream again, he asked, ' Wherefore, Atflio, wherefore ?' AtOio replied again, volnbly, bnt with such a strange mixture of English and Italian, that Alan could only ask again why be sought him, and catching something of Atjlio'u enthusiasm, put bis question into his own vernacular, and elaborated it without the slightest thought of Atflto— ' What in the deevQ's name dyVs want desturbin a man when be'a just (akin1 his ease, and requires neither yer service nor yer companie V' And as if he understood every word the gondolier replied, measuring his words care fully out : 11 prate, a araio, LaveUo.' „ ^»«llo I' aaid Ahm, almost in a whisper, 'Uvelio,' repeated Atilio, 'come, aignon. , ,f ta'Ial*lle 'yocros. thepisBa. AUn followed. They knew thefootpaths of Venice as well as they knew her waterways. The cotnpanileandthe pin,1' said one of the lonngers, who had hitherto been a silent looter on, as he turned to watch Atilio and themadman disappear in the shadows of St. CfTjL*^ oo?1Pu-a« striding oot with long legs, the pin almost running to keep np wilh A burst of laughter greeted the humorous comparison, to be raoceeded by the silence o£ mm who deep and the ripple of waters, that emphanae aileooe. (To U aathaud.)