University of Virginia Library


The hospital of St. Girolamo is attached to the convent of
that name, standing on one of the canals which put forth on the
seaward side of Venice. It is a long building, with its low windows
and latticed doors opening almost on the level of the sea, and the
wards for the sick are large and well aired; but, except when the
breeze is stirring, impregnated with a saline dampness from the
canal, which, as Pasquali remarked, was good for the rheumatism.
It was not so good for the patient.

The loving wife Fiametta grew worse and worse after the fatal
festa, and the fit of rheumatism brought on by the slightness of
her dress and the spattering he had given her in the race, had
increased by the end of the week, to a rheumatic fever. Fia
metta was old and tough, however, and struggled manfully


Page 92
(woman as she was) with the disease, but being one night a little
out of her head, her loving husband took occasion to shudder at
the responsibility of taking care of her, and jumping into his
gondola, he pulled across to St. Girolamo and bespoke a dry bed
and a sister of charity, and brought back the pious father Gasparo
and a comfortable litter. Fiametta was dozing when they
arrived, and the kind-hearted tailor willing to spare her the pain
of knowing that she was on her way to the hospital for the poor,
set out some meat and wine for the monk, and sending over for
Turturilla and the nurse to mix the salad, they sat and ate away
the hours till the poor dame's brain should be wandering again.

Toward night the monk and Dame Bentoccata were comfortably
dozing with each other's support (having fallen asleep at
table), and Pasquali with a kiss from Turturilla, stole softly up
stairs. Fiametta was muttering unquietly, and working her
fingers in the palms of her hands, and on feeling her pulse he
found the fever was at its height. She took him, besides, for the
prize pig of the festa, for he knew her wits were fairly abroad.
He crept down stairs, gave the monk a strong cup of coffee to
get him well awake, and between the four of them, they got poor
Fiametta into the litter, drew the curtains tenderly around and
deposited her safely in the bottom of the gondola.

Lightly and smoothly the winner of the pig pulled away with
his loving burden, and gliding around the slimy corners of the
palaces, and hushing his voice as he cried out “right!” or
“left!” to guard the coming gondoliers of his vicinity, he
arrived, like a thought of love to a maid's mind in sleep, at the
door of St. Girolamo. The abbess looked out and said, “Benedicite!
and the monk stood firm on his brown sandals to receive
the precious burden from the arms of Pasquali. Believing firmly


Page 93
that it was equivalent to committing her to the hand of St.
Peter, and of course abandoning all hope of seeing her again in
this world, the soft-hearted tailor wiped his eye as she was lifted
in, and receiving a promise from Father Gasparo that he would
communicate faithfully the state of her soul in the last agony, he
pulled, with lightened gondola and heart back to his widower's
home and Turturilla.

For many good reasons, and apparent as good, it is a rule in
the hospital of St. Girolamo, that the sick under its holy charge
shall receive the visit of neither friend nor relative. If they
recover, they return to their abodes to earn candles for the altar
of the restoring saint. If they die, their clothes are sent to their
surviving friends, and this affecting memorial, besides communicating
the melancholy news, affords all the particulars and all the
consolation they are supposed to require upon the subject of their

Waiting patiently for Father Gasparo and his bundle, Pasquali
and Turturilla gave themselves up to hopes, which on the tailor's
part (we fear it must be admitted), augured a quicker recovery
from grief than might be credited to an elastic constitution.
The fortune of poor Fiametta was sufficient to warrant Pasquali
in neglecting his shop to celebrate every festa that the church
acknowledged, and for ten days subsequent to the committal of
his wife to the tender mercies of St. Girolamo, five days out of
seven was the proportion of merry holydays with his new

They were sitting one evening in the open piazza of St. Mark,
in front of the most thronged café of that matchless square.
The moon was resting her silver disk on the point of the Campanile,
and the shadows of thousands of gay Venetians fell on the


Page 94
immense pavement below, clear and sharply drawn as a black
cartoon. The four extending sides of the square lay half in
shades half in light, with their innumerable columns and balconies
and sculptured work, and, frowning down on all, in broken
light and shadow, stood the arabesque structure of St. Mark's
itself, dizzying the eyes with its mosaics and confused devices, and
thrusting forth the heads of her four golden-collared steeds into
the moonbeams, till they looked on that black relief, like the
horses of Pluto issuing from the gates of Hades. In the centre
of the square stood a tall woman, singing, in rich contralto, an
old song of the better days of Venice; and against one of the
pillars, Polichinello had backed his wooden stage, and beat about
his puppets with an energy worthy of old Dandolo and his helmeted
galley-men To those who wore not the spectacles of grief
or discontent, the square of St. Mark's that night was like some
cozening tableau. I never saw anything so gay.

Everybody who has “swam in a gondola,” knows how the
cafés of Venice thrust out their checkered awnings over a portion
of the square, and filled the shaded space below with chairs and
marble tables. In a corner of the shadow thus afforded, with
ice and coffee on a small round slab between them, and the flat
pavement of the public promenade under their feet, sat our two
lovers. With neither hoof nor wheel to drown or interrupt their
voices (as in cities whose streets are stones, not water), they
murmured their hopes and wishes in the softest language under
the sun, and with the sotto voce acquired by all the inhabitants
of this noiseless city. Turturilla had taken ice to cool her and
coffee to take off the chill of her ice, and a bicchiere del perfetto
to reconcile these two antagonists in her digestion, when
the slippers of a monk glided by, and in a moment the recognized


Page 95
Father Gasparo made a third in the shadowy corner. The expected
bundle was under his arm, and he was on his way to Pasquali's
dwelling. Having assured the disconsolate tailor that she
had unction and wafer as became the wife of a citizen of Venice
like himself, he took heart and grew content that she was in heaven.
It was a better place, and Turturilla for so little as a gold
ring, would supply her place in his bosom.

The moon was but a brief week older when Pasquali and Turturilla
stood in the church of our lady of grief, and Father Gasparo
within the palings of the altar. She was as fair a maid as
ever bloomed in the garden of beauty beloved of Titian, and the
tailor was nearer worth nine men to look at, than the fraction of
a man considered usually the exponent of his profession. Away
mumbled the good father upon the matrimonial service, thinking
of the old wine and rich pastries that were holding their sweetness
under cork and crust only till he had done his ceremony, and
quicker by some seconds than had ever been achieved before by
priest or bishop, he arrived at the putting on of the ring. His
hand was tremulous, and (oh unlucky omen!) he dropped it within
the gilden fence of the chancel. The choristers were called,
and Father Gasparo dropped on his knees to look for it—but if
the devil had not spirited it away, there was no other reason why
that search was in vain. Short of an errand to the goldsmith on
the Rialto, it was at last determined the wedding could not proceed.
Father Gasparo went to hide his impatience within the
restiary, and Turturilla knelt down to pray against the arts of
Sathanas. Before they had settled severally to their pious occupations,
Pasquali was half way to the Rialto.

Half an hour elapsed, and then instead of the light grazing of
a swift-sped gondola along the church stairs, the splash of a sullen


Page 96
oar was heard, and Pasquali stepped on shore. They had
hastened to the door to receive him—monk, choristers and bride
—and to their surprise and bewilderment, he waited to hand out
a woman in a strange dress, who seemed disposed, bridegroom as
he was, to make him wait her leisure. Her clothes fitted her ill,
and she carried in her hand a pair of shoes, it was easy to see
were never made for her. She rose at last, and as her face became
visible, down dropped Turturilla and the pious father, and
motionless and aghast stood the simple Pasquali. Fiametta stepped
on shore!

In broken words Pasquali explained. He had landed at the
stairs near the fish market, and with two leaps reaching the top,
sped off past the buttress in the direction of the goldsmith, when
his course was arrested by encountering at full speed, the person
of an old woman. Hastily raising her up, he recognized his
wife, who, fully recovered, but without a gondola, was threading
the zig-zag alleys on foot, on her way to her own domicil. After
the first astonishment was over, her dress explained the error of
the good father and the extent of his own misfortune. The
clothes had been hung between the bed of Fiametta and that of
a smaller woman who had been long languishing of a consumption.
She died, and Fiametta's clothes, brought to the door by
mistake, were recognized by Father Gasparo and taken to Pasquali.

The holy monk, chop-fallen and sad, took his solitary way to
the convent, but with the first step he felt something slide into
the heel of his sandal. He sat down on the church stairs and
absolved the devil from theft—it was the lost ring, which had
fallen upon his foot and saved Pasquali the tailor from the pains
of bigamy.