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Father Antonio had been down through the streets of
the old town of Sorrento, searching for the young stone-cutter,
and, finding him, had spent some time in enlightening
him as to the details of the work he wished him to execute.

He found him not so easily kindled into devotional fervors
as he had fondly imagined, nor could all his most devout exhortations
produce one quarter of the effect upon him that
resulted from the discovery that it was the fair Agnes who
originated the design and was interested in its execution.
Then did the large black eyes of the youth kindle into something
of sympathetic fervor, and he willingly promised to do
his very best at the carving.

“I used to know the fair Agnes well, years ago,” he said,
“but of late she will not even look at me; yet I worship her
none the less. Who can help it that sees her? I don't think
she is so hard-hearted as she seems; but her grandmother
and the priests won't so much as allow her to lift up her eyes
when one of us young fellows goes by. Twice these five
years past have I seen her eyes, and then it was when I contrived
to get near the holy water when there was a press
round it of a saint's day, and I reached some to her on my
finger, and then she smiled upon me and thanked me.
Those two smiles are all I have had to live on for all this
time. Perhaps, if I work very well, she will give me
another, and perhaps she will say, `Thank you, my good


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Pietro!' as she used to, when I brought her birds' eggs or
helped her across the ravine, years ago.”

“Well, my brave boy, do your best,” said the monk, “and
let the shrine be of the fairest white marble. I will be answerable
for the expense; I will beg it of those who have

“So please you, holy father,” said Pietro, “I know of a
spot, a little below here on the coast, where was a heathen
temple in the old days; and one can dig therefrom long
pieces of fair white marble, all covered with heathen images.
I know not whether your Reverence would think them fit for
Christian purposes.”

“So much the better, boy! so much the better!” said the
monk, heartily. “Only let the marble be fine and white,
and it is as good as converting a heathen any time to baptize
it to Christian uses. A few strokes of the chisel will soon
demolish their naked nymphs and other such rubbish, and
we can carve holy virgins, robed from head to foot in all
modesty, as becometh saints.”

“I will get my boat and go down this very afternoon,”
said Pietro; “and, Sir, I hope I am not making too bold in
asking you, when you see the fair Agnes, to present unto her
this lily, in memorial of her old playfellow.”

“That I will, my boy! And now I think of it, she spoke
kindly of you as one that had been a companion in her
childhood, but said her grandmother would not allow her to
speak to you now.”

“Ah, that is it!” said Pietro. “Old Elsie is a fierce old
kite, with strong beak and long claws, and will not let the
poor girl have any good of her youth. Some say she means
to marry her to some rich old man, and some say she will
shut her up in a convent, which I should say was a sore hurt


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and loss to the world. There are a plenty of women, whom
nobody wants to look at, for that sort of work; and a beautiful
face is a kind of psalm which makes one want to be

“Well, well, my boy, work well and faithfully for the
saints on this shrine, and I dare promise you many a smile
from this fair maiden; for her heart is set upon the glory
of God and his saints, and she will smile on any one who
helps on the good work. I shall look in on you daily for a
time, till I see the work well started.”

So saying, the old monk took his leave. Just as he was
passing out of the house, some one brushed rapidly by him,
going down the street. As he passed, the quick eye of the
monk recognized the cavalier whom he had seen in the
garden but a few evenings before. It was not a face and
form easily forgotten, and the monk followed him at a little
distance behind, resolving, if he saw him turn in anywhere,
to follow and crave an audience of him.

Accordingly, as he saw the cavalier entering under the low
arch that led to his hotel, he stepped up and addressed him
with a gesture of benediction.

“God bless you, my son!”

“What would you with me, father?” said the cavalier,
with a hasty and somewhat suspicious glance.

“I would that you would give me an audience of a few
moments on some matters of importance,” said the monk,

The tones of his voice seemed to have excited some vague
remembrance in the mind of the cavalier; for he eyed him
narrowly, and seemed trying to recollect where he had seen
him before. Suddenly a light appeared to flash upon his
mind; for his whole manner became at once more cordial.


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“My good father,” he said, “my poor lodging and leisure
are at your service for any communication you may see fit
to make.”

So saying, he led the way up the damp, ill-smelling stone
staircase, and opened the door of the deserted room where
we have seen him once before. Closing the door, and seating
himself at the one rickety table which the room afforded, he
motioned to the monk to be seated also; then taking off his
plumed hat, he threw it negligently on the table beside him,
and passing his white, finely formed hand through the black
curls of his hair, he tossed them carelessly from his forehead,
and, leaning his chin in the hollow of his hand, fixed his
glittering eyes on the monk in a manner that seemed to
demand his errand.

“My Lord,” said the monk, in those gentle, conciliating
tones which were natural to him, “I would ask a little help
of you in regard of a Christian undertaking which I have
here in hand. The dear Lord hath put it into the heart of
a pious young maid of this vicinity to erect a shrine to the
honor of our Lady and her dear Son in this gorge of Sorrento,
hard by. It is a gloomy place in the night, and hath
been said to be haunted by evil spirits; and my fair niece,
who is full of all holy thoughts, desired me to draw the
plan for this shrine, and, so far as my poor skill may go,
I have done so. See here, my Lord, are the drawings.”

The monk laid them down on the table, his pale cheek
flushing with a faint glow of artistic enthusiasm and pride,
as he explained to the young man the plan and drawings.

The cavalier listened courteously, but without much apparent
interest, till the monk drew from his portfolio a paper
and said, —


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“This, my Lord, is my poor and feeble conception of the
most sacred form of our Lady, which I am to paint for the
centre of the shrine.”

He laid down the paper, and the cavalier, with a sudden
exclamation, snatched it up, looking at it eagerly.

“It is she!” he said; “it is her very self! — the divine
Agnes, — the lily flower, — the sweet star, — the only one
among women!”

“I see you have recognized the likeness,” said the monk,
blushing. “I know it hath been thought a practice of
doubtful edification to represent holy things under the image
of aught earthly; but when any mortal seems especially
gifted with a heavenly spirit outshining in the face, it may
be that our Lady chooses that person to reveal herself in.”

The cavalier was gazing so intently on the picture that
he scarcely heard the apology of the monk; he held it
up, and seemed to study it with a long admiring gaze.

“You have great skill with your pencil, my father,” he
said; “one would not look for such things from under a
monk's hood.”

“I belong to the San Marco in Florence, of which you
may have heard,” said Father Antonio, “and am an unworthy
disciple of the traditions of the blessed Angelico,
whose visions of heavenly things are ever before us; and
no less am I a disciple of the renowned Savonarola, of
whose fame all Italy hath heard before now.”

“Savonarola?” said the other, with eagerness, — “he that
makes these vile miscreants that call themselves Pope and
cardinals tremble? All Italy, all Christendom, is groaning
and stretching out the hand to him to free them from these
abominations. My father, tell me of Savonarola: how goes
he, and what success hath he?”


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“My son, it is now many months since I left Florence;
since which time I have been sojourning in by-places, repairing
shrines and teaching the poor of the Lord's flock,
who are scattered and neglected by the idle shepherds, who
think only to eat the flesh and warm themselves with the
fleece of the sheep for whom the Good Shepherd gave his
life. My duties have been humble and quiet; for it is not
given to me to wield the sword of rebuke and controversy,
like my great master.”

“And you have not heard, then,” said the cavalier, eagerly,
“that they have excommunicated him?”

“I knew that was threatened,” said the monk, “but I did
not think it possible that it could befall a man of such shining
holiness of life, so signally and openly owned of God
that the very gifts of the first Apostles seem revived in

“Does not Satan always hate the Lord,” said the cavalier.
“Alexander and his councils are possessed of the Devil, if
ever men were, — and are sealed as his children by every
abominable wickedness. The Devil sits in Christ's seat, and
hath stolen his signet-ring, to seal decrees against the Lord's
own followers. What are Christian men to do in such

The monk sighed and looked troubled.

“It is hard to say,” he answered. “So much I know, —
that before I left Florence our master wrote to the King of
France touching the dreadful state of things at Rome, and
tried to stir him up to call a general council of the Church.
I much fear me this letter may have fallen into the hands
of the Pope.”

“I tell you, father,” said the young man, starting up and
laying his hand on his sword, “we must fight! It is the


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sword that must decide this matter! Was not the Holy
Sepulchre saved from the Infidels by the sword? — and
once more the sword must save the Holy City from worse
infidels than the Turks. If such doings as these are allowed
in the Holy City, another generation there will be no Christians
left on earth. Alexander and Cæsar Borgia and the
Lady Lucrezia are enough to drive religion from the world.
They make us long to go back to the traditions of our Roman
fathers, — who were men of cleanly and honorable
lives and of heroic deeds, scorning bribery and deceit.
They honored God by noble lives, little as they knew of
Him. But these men are a shame to the mothers that
bore them.”

“You speak too truly, my son,” said the monk. “Alas!
the creation groaneth and travaileth in pain with these
things. Many a time and oft have I seen our master
groaning and wrestling with God on this account. For it
is to small purpose that we have gone through Italy preaching
and stirring up the people to more holy lives, when from
the very hill of Zion, the height of the sanctuary, come
down these streams of pollution. It seems as if the time
had come that the world could bear it no longer.”

“Well, if it come to the trial of the sword, as come it
must,” said the cavalier, “say to your master that Agostino
Sarelli has a band of one hundred tried men and an impregnable
fastness in the mountains, where he may take refuge,
and where they will gladly hear the Word of God from
pure lips. They call us robbers, — us who have gone out
from the assembly of robbers, that we might lead honest and
cleanly lives. There is not one among us that hath not lost
houses, lands, brothers, parents, children, or friends through
their treacherous cruelty. There be those whose wives and


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sisters have been forced into the Borgia harem; there be
those whose children have been tortured before their eyes,
— those who have seen the fairest and dearest slaughtered
by these hell-hounds, who yet sit in the seat of the Lord and
give decrees in the name of Christ. Is there a God? If
there be, why is He silent?”

“Yea, my son, there is a God,” said the monk; “but
His ways are not as ours. A thousand years in His sight
are but as yesterday, as a watch in the night. He shall
come, and shall not keep silence.”

“Perhaps you do not know, father,” said the young man,
“that I, too, am excommunicated. I am excommunicated,
because, Cæsar Borgia having killed my oldest brother, and
dishonored and slain my sister, and seized on all our possessions,
and the Pope having protected and confirmed him
therein, I declare the Pope to be not of God, but of the
Devil. I will not submit to him, nor be ruled by him; and
I and my fellows will make good our mountains against
him and his crew with such right arms as the good Lord
hath given us.”

“The Lord be with you, my son!” said the monk; “and
the Lord bring His Church out of these deep waters!
Surely, it is a lovely and beautiful Church, made dear and
precious by innumerable saints and martyrs who have given
their sweet lives up willingly for it; and it is full of records
of righteousness, of prayers and alms and works of mercy
that have made even the very dust of our Italy precious and
holy. Why hast Thou abandoned this vine of Thy planting,
O Lord? The boar out of the wood doth waste it;
the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech
Thee, and visit this vine of Thy planting!”

The monk clasped his hands and looked upward pleadingly,


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the tears running down his wasted cheeks. Ah, many
such strivings and prayers in those days went up from silent
hearts in obscure solitudes, that wrestled and groaned under
that mighty burden which Luther at last received strength
to heave from the heart of the Church.

“Then, father, you do admit that one may be banned by
the Pope, and may utterly refuse and disown him, and yet
be a Christian?”

“How can I otherwise?” said the monk. “Do I not see
the greatest saint this age or any age has ever seen under
the excommunication of the greatest sinner? Only, my son,
let me warn you. Become not irreverent to the true Church,
because of a false usurper. Reverence the sacraments, the
hymns, the prayers all the more for this sad condition in
which you stand. What teacher is more faithful in these
respects than my master? Who hath more zeal for our
blessed Lord Jesus, and a more living faith in Him? Who
hath a more filial love and tenderness towards our blessed
Mother? Who hath more reverent communion with all the
saints than he? Truly, he sometimes seems to me to walk
encompassed by all the armies of heaven, — such a power
goes forth in his words, and such a holiness in his life.”

“Ah,” said Agostino, “would I had such a confessor!
The sacraments might once more have power for me, and I
might cleanse my soul from unbelief.”

“Dear son,” said the monk, “accept a most unworthy, but
sincere follower of this holy prophet, who yearns for thy
salvation. Let me have the happiness of granting to thee
the sacraments of the Church, which, doubtless, are thine
by right as one of the flock of the Lord Jesus. Come to me
some day this week in confession, and thereafter thou shalt
receive the Lord within thee, and be once more united to


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“My good father,” said the young man, grasping his hand,
and much affected, “I will come. Your words have done
me good; but I must think more of them. I will come
soon; but these things cannot be done without pondering; it
will take some time to bring my heart into charity with all

The monk rose up to depart, and began to gather up his

“For this matter, father,” said the cavalier, throwing several
gold pieces upon the table, “take these, and as many
more as you need ask for your good work. I would willingly
pay any sum,” he added, while a faint blush rose to his
cheek, “if you would give me a copy of this. Gold would
be nothing in comparison with it.”

“My son,” said the monk, smiling, “would it be to thee
an image of an earthly or a heavenly love?”

“Of both, father,” said the young man. “For that dear
face has been more to me than prayer or hymn; it has been
even as a sacrament to me, and through it I know not what
of holy and heavenly influences have come to me.”

“Said I not well,” said the monk, exulting, “that there
were those on whom our Mother shed such grace that their
very beauty led heavenward? Such are they whom the
artist looks for, when he would adorn a shrine where the
faithful shall worship. Well, my son, I must use my poor
art for you; and as for gold, we of our convent take it not
except for the adorning of holy things, such as this shrine.”

“How soon shall it be done?” said the young man,

“Patience, patience, my Lord! Rome was not built in a
day, and our art must work by slow touches; but I will do
my best. But wherefore, my Lord, cherish this image?”


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“Father, are you of near kin to this maid?”

“I am her mother's only brother.”

“Then I say to you, as the nearest of her male kin, that I
seek this maid in pure and honorable marriage; and she
hath given me her promise, that, if ever she be wife of mortal
man, she will be mine.”

“But she looks not to be wife of any man,” said the
monk; “so, at least, I have heard her say; though her
grandmother would fain marry her to a husband of her
choosing. 'T is a wilful woman, is my sister Elsie, and a
worldly, — not easy to persuade, and impossible to drive.”

“And she hath chosen for this fair angel some base peasant
churl who will have no sense of her exceeding loveliness?
By the saints, if it come to this, I will carry her
away with the strong arm!”

“That is not to be apprehended just at present. Sister
Elsie is dotingly fond of the girl, which hath slept in her
bosom since infancy.”

“And why should I not demand her in marriage of your
sister?” said the young man.

“My Lord, you are an excommunicated man, and she
would have horror of you. It is impossible; it would not
be to edification to make the common people judges in such
matters. It is safest to let their faith rest undisturbed, and
that they be not taught to despise ecclesiastical censures.
This could not be explained to Elsie; she would drive you
from her doors with her distaff, and you would scarce wish
to put your sword against it. Besides, my Lord, if you were
not excommunicated, you are of noble blood, and this alone
would be a fatal objection with my sister, who hath sworn
on the holy cross that Agnes shall never love one of your


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“What is the cause of this hatred?”

“Some foul wrong which a noble did her mother,” said
the monk; “for Agnes is of gentle blood on her father's

“I might have known it,” said the cavalier to himself;
“her words and ways are unlike anything in her class. —
Father,” he added, touching his sword, “we soldiers are
fond of cutting all Gordian knots, whether of love or religion,
with this. The sword, father, is the best theologian, the
best casuist. The sword rights wrongs and punishes evildoers,
and some day the sword may cut the way out of this
embarrass also.”

“Gently, my son! gently!” said the monk; “nothing is
lost by patience. See how long it takes the good Lord to
make a fair flower out of a little seed; and He does all
quietly, without bluster. Wait on Him a little in peacefulness
and prayer, and see what He will do for thee.”

“Perhaps you are right, my father,” said the cavalier,
cordially. “Your counsels have done me good, and I shall
seek them further. But do not let them terrify my poor
Agnes with dreadful stories of the excommunication that
hath befallen me. The dear saint is breaking her good little
heart for my sins, and her confessor evidently hath forbidden
her to speak to me or look at me. If her heart were left to
itself, it would fly to me like a little tame bird, and I would
cherish it forever; but now she sees sin in every innocent,
womanly thought, — poor little dear child-angel that she

“Her confessor is a Franciscan,” said the monk, who,
good as he was, could not escape entirely from the ruling
prejudice of his order, — “and, from what I know of him, I
should think might be unskilful in what pertaineth to the


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nursing of so delicate a lamb. It is not every one to whom
is given the gift of rightly directing souls.”

“I 'd like to carry her off from him!” said the cavalier,
between his teeth. “I will, too, if he is not careful!”
Then he added aloud, “Father, Agnes is mine, — mine by
the right of the truest worship and devotion that man could
ever pay to woman, — mine because she loves me. For I
know she loves me; I know it far better than she knows it
herself, the dear innocent child! and I will not have her
torn from me to waste her life in a lonely, barren convent,
or to be the wife of a stolid peasant. I am a man of my
word, and I will vindicate my right to her in the face of God
and man.”

“Well, well, my son, as I said before, patience, — one
thing at a time. Let us say our prayers and sleep to-night,
to begin with, and to-morrow will bring us fresh counsel.”

“Well, my father, you will be for me in this matter?”
said the young man.

“My son, I wish you all happiness; and if this be for
your best good and that of my dear niece, I wish it. But,
as I said, there must be time and patience. The way must
be made clear. I will see how the case stands; and you
may be sure, when I can in good conscience, I will befriend

“Thank you, my father, thank you!” said the young
man, bending his knee to receive the monk's parting benediction.

“It seems to me not best,” said the monk, turning once
more, as he was leaving the threshold, “that you should
come to me at present where I am, — it would only raise a
storm that I could not allay; and so great would be the
power of the forces they might bring to bear on the child,


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that her little heart might break and the saints claim her too

“Well, then, father, come hither to me to-morrow at this
same hour, if I be not too unworthy of your pastoral care.”

“I shall be too happy, my son,” said the monk. “So
be it.”

And he turned from the door just as the bell of the cathedral
struck the Ave Maria, and all in the street bowed in
the evening act of worship.