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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMarietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 14
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Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 14 Post by :AndyW Category :Long Stories Author :F. Marion Crawford Date :May 2012 Read :850

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Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 14


Zorzi had not left the glass-house since he had been hurt, but he foresaw that he might be obliged to leave the laboratory for an hour or more, now that he was better. He could walk, with one crutch and a stick, resting a little on the injured foot, and he felt sure that in a few days he should be able to walk with the stick alone. He had the certainty that he was lame for life, and now and then, when it was dusk and he sat under the plane-tree, meditating upon the uncertain future, he felt a keen pang at the thought that he might never again walk without limping; for he had been light and agile, and very swift of foot as a boy.

He fancied that Marietta would pity him, but not as she had pitied him at first. There would be a little feeling of repulsion for the cripple, mixed with her compassion for the man. It was true that, as matters were going now, he might not see her often again, and he was quite sure that he had no right to think of loving her. Zuan Venier's visit had recalled very clearly the obligations by which he had solemnly bound himself, and which he honestly meant to fulfil; and apart from them, when he tried to reason about his love, he could make it seem absurd enough that he should dream of winning Marietta for his wife.

But love itself does not argue. At first it is seen far off, like a beautiful bird of rare plumage, among flowers, on a morning in spring; it comes nearer, it is timid, it advances, it recedes, it poises on swiftly beating wings, it soars out of sight, but suddenly it is nearer than before; it changes shapes, and grows vast and terrible, till its flight is like the rushing of the whirlwind; then all is calm again, and in the stillness a sweet voice sings the chant of peace or the melancholy dirge of an endless regret; it is no longer the dove, nor the eagle, nor the storm that leaves ruin in its track--it is everything, it is life, it is the world itself, for ever and time without end, for good or evil, for such happiness as may pass all understanding, if God will, and if not, for undying sorrow.

Zorzi had forgotten his small resentment against Marietta, for not having given him a sign nor sent one word of greeting. He knew only that he loved her with all his heart and would give every hope he had for the pressure of her hand in his and the sound of her answering voice; and he dreaded lest she should pity him, as one pities a hurt creature that one would rather not touch.

It would not be in the hope of seeing her that he might leave the laboratory before long. He felt quite sure that Giovanni would make some further attempt to get possession of the little book that meant fortune to him who should possess it; and Giovanni evidently knew where it was. It would he easy for him to send Zorzi on an errand of importance, as soon as he should be so far recovered as to walk a little. The great glass-houses had dealings with the banks in Venice and with merchants of all countries, and Beroviero had more than once sent Zorzi to Venice on business of moment. Giovanni would come in some morning and declare that he could trust no one but Zorzi to collect certain sums of money in the city, and he would take care that the matter should keep him absent several hours. That would be ample time in which to try the flagstones with a hammer and to turn over the right one. Zorzi had convinced himself that it gave a hollow sound when he tapped it and that Giovanni could find it easily enough.

It was therefore folly to leave the box in its present place any longer, and he cast about in his mind for some safer spot in which to hide it. In the meantime, fearing lest Giovanni might think of sending him out at any moment, he waited till Pasquale had brought him water in the morning, and then raised the stone, as he had done before, took the box out of the earth and hid it in the cool end of the annealing oven, while he replaced the slab. The effort it cost him to move the latter told him plainly enough that his injury had weakened him almost as an illness might have done, but he succeeded in getting the stone into its bed at last. He tapped it with the end of his crutch as he knelt on the floor, and the sound it gave was even more hollow than before. He smiled as he thought how easily Giovanni would find the place, and how grievously disappointed he would be when he realised that it was empty.

It occurred at once to Zorzi that Giovanni's first impression would naturally be that Zorzi had taken the book himself in order to use it during the master's absence; and this thought perplexed him for a time, until he reflected that Giovanni could not accuse him of the deed without accusing himself of having searched for the box, a proceeding which his father would never forgive. Zorzi did not intend to tell the master of his conversation with Giovanni, nor of his suspicions. He would only say that the hiding-place had not seemed safe enough, because the stone gave a hollow sound which even the boys would notice if anything fell upon it.

But for Nella, it would be safest to give the box into Marietta's keeping, since no one could possibly suspect that it could have found its way to her room. At the mere thought, his heart beat fast. It would be a reason for seeing her alone, if he could, and for talking with her. He planned how he would send her a message by Nella, begging that he might speak to her on some urgent business of her father's, and she would come as she had come before; they would talk in the garden, under the plane-tree, where Pasquale and Nella could see them, and he would explain what he wanted. Then he would give her the box. He thought of it with calm delight, as he saw it all in a beautiful vision.

But there was Nella, and there was Pasquale, the former indiscreet, the latter silent but keen-sighted, and quick-witted in spite of his slow and surly ways. Every one knew that the book existed somewhere, and the porter and the serving-woman would guess the truth at once. At present no one but himself knew positively where the thing was. If he carried out his plan, three other persons would possess the knowledge. It was not to be thought of.

He looked about the laboratory. There were the beams and crossbeams, and the box would probably just fit into one of the shadowy interstices between two of the latter. But they were twenty feet from the ground, he had no ladder, and if there had been one at hand he could not have mounted it yet. His eye fell on the big earthen jar, more than half a man's height and as big round as a hogshead, half full of broken glass from the experiments. No one would think of it as a place for hiding anything, and it would not be emptied till it was quite full, several months hence. Besides, no one would dare to empty it without Beroviero's orders, as it contained nothing but fine red glass, which was valuable and only needed melting to be used at once.

It was not an easy matter to take out half the contents, and he was in constant danger of interruption. At night it would have been impossible owing to the presence of the boys. If Pasquale appeared and saw a heap of broken glass on the floor, he would surely suspect something. Zorzi calculated that it would take two hours to remove the fragments with the care necessary to avoid cutting his hands badly, and to put them back again, for the shape of the jar would not admit of his employing even one of the small iron shovels used for filling the crucibles.

With considerable difficulty he moved a large chest, that contained sifted white sand, out of the dark corner in which it stood and placed it diagonally so as to leave a triangular space behind it. To guard against the sound of the broken glass being heard from without, he shut the window, in spite of the heat, and having arranged in the corner one of the sacks used for bringing the cakes of kelp-ashes from Egypt, he began to fill it with the broken glass he brought from the jar in a bucket. When he judged that he had taken out more than half the contents, he took the iron box from the annealing oven. It was hard to carry it under the arm by which he walked with a stick, the other hand being necessary to move the crutch, and as he reached the jar he felt that it was slipping. He bent forward and it fell with a crash, bedding itself in the smashed glass. Zorzi drew a long breath of satisfaction, for the hardest part of the work was done.

He tried to heave up the sack from the corner, but it was far too heavy, and he was obliged to bring back more than half of what it held by bucketfuls, before he was able to bring the rest, dragging it after him across the floor. It was finished at last, he had shaken out the sack carefully over the jar's mouth, and he had moved the sand-chest back to its original position. No one would have imagined that the broken glass had been removed and put back again. The box was safely hidden now.

He was utterly exhausted when he dropped into the big chair, after washing the dust and blood from his hands--for it had been impossible to do what he had done without getting a few scratches, though none of them could have been called a cut. He sat quite still and closed his eyes. The box was safe now. It was not to be imagined that any one should ever suspect where it was, and on that point he was well satisfied. His only possible cause of anxiety now might be that if anything should happen to him, the master would be in ignorance of what he had done. But he saw no reason to expect anything so serious and his mind was at rest about a matter which had much disturbed him ever since Giovanni's visit.

The plan which he had attributed to the latter was not, however, the one which suggested itself to the younger Beroviero's mind. It would have been easy to carry out, and was very simple, and for that very reason Giovanni did not think of it. Besides, in his estimation it would be better to act in such a way as to get rid of Zorzi for ever, if that were possible.

On the Saturday night after Zorzi had hidden the box in the jar, the workmen cleared away the litter in the main furnace rooms and the order was given to let the fires go out. Zorzi sent word to the night boys who tended the fire in the laboratory that they were to come as usual. They appeared punctually, and to his surprise made no objection to working, though he had expected that they would complain of the heat and allege that their fathers would not let them go on any longer. On Sunday, according to the old rule of the house, no work was done, and Zorzi kept up the fire himself, spending most of the long day in the garden. On Sunday night the boys came again and went to work without a word, and in the morning they left the usual supply of chopped billets piled up and ready for use. Zorzi had rested himself thoroughly and went back to his experiments on that Monday with fresh energy.

The very first test he took of the glass that had been fusing since Saturday night was successful beyond his highest expectations. He had grown reckless after having spoiled the original mixtures by adding the copper in the hope of getting more of the wonderful red, and carried away by the love of the art and by the certainty of ultimate success which every man of genius feels almost from boyhood, he had deliberately attempted to produce the white glass for which Beroviero was famous. He followed a theory of his own in doing so, for although he was tolerably sure of the nature of the ingredients, as was every workman in the house, neither he nor they knew anything of the proportions in which Beroviero mixed the substances, and every glass-maker knows by experience that those proportions constitute by far the most important element of success.

Zorzi had not poured out the specimen on the table as he had done when the glass was coloured; on the contrary he had taken some on the blow-pipe and had begun to work with it at once, for the three great requisites were transparency, ductility, and lightness. In a few minutes he had convinced himself that his glass possessed all these qualities in an even higher degree than the master's own, and that was immeasurably superior to anything which the latter's own sons or any other glass-maker could produce. Zorzi had taken very little at first, and he made of it a thin phial of graceful shape, turned the mouth outward, and dropped the little vessel into the bed of ashes. He would have set it in the annealing oven, but he wished to try the weight of it, and he let it cool. Taking it up when he could touch it safely, it felt in his hand like a thing of air. On the shelf was another nearly like it in size, which he had made long ago with Beroviero's glass. There were scales on the table; he laid one phial in each, and the old one was by far the heavier. He had to put a number of pennyweights into the scale with his own before the two were balanced.

His heart almost stood still, and he could not believe his good fortune. He took the sheet of rough paper on which he had written down the precise contents of the three crucibles, and he carefully went over the proportions of the ingredients in the one from which he had just taken his specimen. He made a strong effort of memory, trying to recall whether he had been careless and inexact in weighing any of the materials, but he knew that he had been most precise. He had also noted the hour at which he had put the mixture into the crucible on Saturday, and he now glanced at the sand-glass and made another note. But he did not lay the paper upon the table, where it had been lying for two days, kept in place by a little glass weight. It had become his most precious possession; what was written on it meant a fortune as soon as he could get a furnace to himself; it was his own, and not the master's; it was wealth, it might even be fame. Beroviero might call him to account for misusing the furnace, but that was no capital offence after all, and it was more than paid for by the single crucible of magnificent red glass. Zorzi was attempting to reproduce that too, for he had the master's notes of what the pot had contained, and it was almost ready to be tried; he even had the piece of copper carefully weighed to be equal in bulk with the ladle that had been melted. If he succeeded there also, that was a new secret for Beroviero, but the other was for himself.

All that morning he revelled in the delight of working with the new glass. A marvellous dish with upturned edge and ornamented foot was the next thing he made, and he placed it at once in the annealing oven. Then he made a tall drinking glass such as he had never made before, and then, in contrast, a tiny ampulla, so small that he could almost hide it in his hand, with its spout, yet decorated with all the perfection of a larger piece. He worked on, careless of the time, his genius all alive, the rest a distant dream.

He was putting the finishing touches to a beaker of a new shape when the door opened, and Giovanni entered the laboratory. Zorzi was seated on the working stool, the pontil in one hand, the 'porcello' in the other. He glanced at Giovanni absently and went on, for it was the last touch and the glass was cooling quickly.

"Still working, in this heat?" asked Giovanni, fanning himself with his cap as was his custom.

There was a moment's silence. Then a sharp clicking sound and the beaker fell finished into the soft ashes.

"Yes, I am still at work, as you see," answered Zorzi, not realising that Giovanni would particularly notice what he was doing.

He rose with some difficulty and got his crutch under one arm. With a forked stick he took the beaker from the ashes and placed it in the annealing oven. Giovanni watched him, and when the broad iron door was open, he saw the other pieces already standing inside on the iron tray.

"Admirable!" cried Giovanni. "You are a great artist, my dear Zorzi! There is no one like you!"

"I do what I can," answered Zorzi, closing the door quickly, lest the hot end of the oven should cool at all.

"I should say that you do what no one else can," returned Giovanni. "But how lame you are! I had expected to find you walking as well as ever by this time."

"I shall never walk again without limping."

"Oh, take courage!" said Giovanni, who seemed determined to be both cheerful and flattering. "You will soon be as light on your feet as ever. But it was a shocking accident."

He sat down in the big chair and Zorzi took the small one by the table, wishing that he would go away.

"It is a pity that you had no white glass in the furnace on that particular day," Giovanni continued. "You said you had none, if I remember. How is it that you have it now? Have you changed one of the crucibles?"

"Yes. One of the experiments succeeded so well that it seemed better to take out all the glass."

"May I see a piece of it?" inquired Giovanni, as if he were asking a great favour.

It was one thing to let him test the glass himself, it was quite another to show him a piece of it. He would see it sooner or later, and he could guess nothing of its composition.

"The specimen is there, on the table," Zorzi answered.

Giovanni rose at once and took the piece from the paper on which it lay, and held it up against the light. He was amazed at the richness of the colour, and gave vent to all sorts of exclamations.

"Did you make this?" he asked at last.

"It is the result of the master's experiments."

"It is marvellous! He has made another fortune."

Giovanni replaced the specimen where it had lain, and as he did so, his eye fell on the phial Zorzi had made that morning. Zorzi had not put it into the annealing oven because it had been allowed to get quite cold, so that the annealing would have been imperfect. Giovanni took it up, and uttered a low exclamation of surprise at its lightness. He held it up and looked through it, and then he took it by the neck and tapped it sharply with his finger-nail.

"Take care," said Zorzi; "it is not annealed. It may fly."

"Oh!" exclaimed Giovanni. "Have you just made it?"


"It is the finest glass I ever saw. It is much better than what they had in the main furnaces the day you were hurt. Did you not find it so yourself, in working with it?"

Zorzi began to feel anxious as to the result of so much questioning. Whatever happened he must hide from Giovanni the fact that he had discovered a new glass of his own.

"Yes," he answered, with affected indifference. "I thought it was unusually good. I daresay there may be some slight difference in the proportions."

"Do you mean to say that my father does not follow any exact rule?"

"Oh yes. But he is always making experiments."

"He mixes all the materials for the main furnaces himself, does he not?" inquired Giovanni.

"Yes. He does it alone, in the room that is kept locked. When he has finished, the men come and carry out the barrows. The materials are stirred and mixed together outside."

"Yes. I do it in the same way myself. Have you ever helped my father in that work?"

"No, certainly not. If I had helped him once, I should know the secret." Zorzi smiled.

"But if you do not know the secret," said Giovanni unexpectedly, "how did you make this glass?"

He held up the phial.

"Why do you suppose that I made it?" Zorzi felt himself growing pale. "The master has supplies of everything here in the laboratory and in the little room where I sleep."

"Is there white glass here too?"

"Of course!" answered Zorzi readily. "There is half a jar of it in my room. We keep it there so that the night boys may not steal it a little at a time."

"I see," answered Giovanni. "That is very sensible."

He was firmly convinced that if he asked Zorzi any more direct question, the answer would be a falsehood, and he applauded himself for stopping at the point he had reached in his inquiries. For he was an experienced glass-maker and was perfectly sure that the phial was not made from Beroviero's ordinary glass. It followed that Zorzi had used the precious book, and Giovanni inferred that the rest was a lucky accident.

"Will you sell me one of those beautiful things you have in the oven?" Giovanni asked, in an insinuating tone.

Zorzi hesitated. The master had often paid him a fair price for objects he had made, and which were used in Beroviero's house, as has been told. Zorzi did not wish to irritate Giovanni by refusing, and after all, there was no great difference between being paid by old Beroviero or by his son. The fact that he worked in glass, which had been an open secret among the workmen for a long time, was now no secret at all. The question was rather as to his right, being Beroviero's trusted assistant, to sell anything out of the house.

"Will you?" asked Giovanni, after waiting a few moments for an answer.

"I would rather wait until the master comes back," said Zorzi doubtfully. "I am not quite sure about it."

"I will take all the responsibility," Giovanni answered cheerfully. "Am I not free to come to my father's glass-house and buy a beaker or a dish for myself, if I please? Of course I am. But there is no real difference between buying from you, on one side of the garden, or from the furnace on the other. Is there?"

"The difference is that in the one case you buy from the master and pay him, but now you are offering to pay me, who am already well paid by him for any work I may do."

"You are very scrupulous," said Giovanni in a disappointed tone. "Tell me, does my father never give you anything for the things you make, and which you say are in the house?"

"Oh yes," answered Zorzi promptly. "He always pays me for them."

"But that shows that he does not consider them as part of the work you are regularly paid to do, does it not?"

"I suppose so," Zorzi said, turning over the question in his mind.

Giovanni took a small piece of gold from the purse he carried at his belt, and he laid it on the flat arm of the chair beside him, and put down one of his crooked forefingers upon it.

"I cannot see what objection you can have, in that case. You know very well that young painters who work for masters help them, but are always allowed to sell anything they can paint in their leisure time."

"Yes. That is true. I will take the money, sir, and you may choose any of the pieces you like. When the master comes, I will tell him, and if I have no right to the price he shall keep it himself."

"Do you really suppose that my father would be mean enough to take the money?" asked Giovanni, who would certainly have taken it himself under the circumstances.

"No. He is very generous. Nevertheless, I shall certainly tell him the whole story."

"That is your affair. I have nothing to say about it. Here is the money, for which I will take the beaker I saw you finishing when I came in. Is it enough? Is it a fair price?"

"It is a very good price," Zorzi answered. "But there may be a piece among those in the oven which you will like better. Will you not come to-morrow, when they are all annealed, and make your choice?"

"No. I have fallen in love with the piece I saw you making."

"Very well. You shall have it, and many thanks."

"Here is the money, and thanks to you," said Giovanni, holding out the little piece of gold.

"You shall pay me when you take the beaker," objected Zorzi. "It may fly, or turn out badly."

"No, no!" answered Giovanni, rising, and putting the money into Zorzi's hand. "If anything happens to it, I will take another. I am afraid that you may change your mind, you see, and I am very anxious to have such a beautiful thing."

He laughed cheerfully, nodded to Zorzi and went out at once, almost before the latter had time to rise from his seat and get his crutch under his arm.

When he was alone, Zorzi looked at the coin and laid it on the table. He was much puzzled by Giovanni's conduct, but at the same time his artist's vanity was flattered by what had happened. Giovanni's admiration of the glass was genuine; there could be no doubt of that, and he was a good judge. As for the work, Zorzi knew quite well that there was not a glass-blower in Murano who could approach him either in taste or skill. Old Beroviero had told him so within the last few months, and he felt that it was true.

He would have been neither a natural man nor a born artist if he had refused to sell the beaker, out of an exaggerated scruple. But the transaction had shown him that his only chance of success for the future lay in frankly telling old Beroviero what he had done in his absence, while reserving his secret for himself. The master was proud of him as his pupil, and sincerely attached to him as a man, and would certainly not try to force him into explaining how the glass was made. Besides, the glass itself was there, easily distinguished from any other, and Zorzi could neither hide it nor throw it away.

Giovanni went out upon the footway, and as he passed, Pasquale thought he had never seen him so cheerful. The sour look had gone out of his face, and he was actually smiling to himself. With such a man it would hardly have been possible to attribute his pleased expression to the satisfaction he felt in having bought Zorzi's beaker. He had never before, in his whole life, parted with a piece of gold without a little pang of regret; but he had felt the most keen and genuine pleasure just now, when Zorzi had at last accepted the coin.

Pasquale watched him cross the wooden bridge and go into his father's house opposite. Then the old porter shut the door and went back to the laboratory, walking slowly with his ugly head bent a little, as if in deep thought. Zorzi had already resumed his occupation and had a lump of hot glass swinging on his blow-pipe, his crutch being under his right arm.

"Half a rainbow to windward," observed the old sailor. "There will be a squall before long."

"What do you mean?" asked Zorzi.

"If you had seen the Signor Giovanni smile, as he went out, you would know what I mean," answered Pasquale. "In our seas, when we see the stump of a rainbow low down in the clouds, we say it is the eye of the wind, looking out for us, and I can tell you that the wind is never long in coming!"

"Did you say anything to make him smile?" asked Zorzi, going on with his work.

"I am not a mountebank," growled the porter. "I am not a strolling player at the door of his booth at a fair, cracking jokes with those who pass! But perhaps it was you who said something amusing to him, just before he left? Who knows? I always took you for a grave young man. It seems that I was mistaken. You make jokes. You cause a serious person like the Signor Giovanni to die of laughing."

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Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 18 Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 18

Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 18
CHAPTER XVIIIAristarchi's interference to rescue Zorzi had not been disinterested, and so far as justice was concerned he was quite ready to believe that the Dalmatian had done all the things of which he was accused. The fact was not of the slightest importance in the situation. It was much more to the point that in the complicated and dangerous plan which the Greek captain and Arisa were carrying out, Zorzi could be of use to them, without his own knowledge. As has been told, the two had decided that he was in love with Marietta, and she with him. The

Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 13 Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 13

Marietta: A Maid Of Venice - Chapter 13
CHAPTER XIIIZorzi swung himself along the dark corridor on his crutches after Pasquale, who opened the outer door with his usual deliberation. A little man stood outside in grey hose and a servant's dark coat, gathered in at the waist by a leathern belt. He was clean shaven and his hair was cropped close to his head, which was bare, for he held his black hat in his hand. Zorzi did not like his face. He waited for Zorzi to speak first. "Have you a message for me?" asked the Dalmatian. "I am Zorzi." "That is the name, sir," answered the