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GIROLAMO AND SYLVESTRA.
A TALE FROM THE ITALIAN.
THERE are some very good sort of people who fancy they are much wiser than their neighbours, whilst in fact their share of sense is much smaller ; and hence they do not scruple to oppose their own opinions not only to the judgment of others, but even to the current and bias of Nature itself ; from which presumption innumerable melancholy consequences have followed, but no shadow of good at any time. Now, among the whole circle of natural events there is nothing which, from its very essence, will less admit of counsel or opposition than Love; which indeed may sometimes be subdued by leaving it to waste away and consume itself, but, if there be truth in philosophy, was never yet destroyed or prevented by violence or foresight. To prove this needs nothing else than the simple relation of the following tale, wherein a certain elderly manoeuvring Lady, who would forsooth be more cunning than either she herself was, or the case admitted, took counsel how she might drag love from the heart of a lover, where his stars perhaps had infixed it, which indeed she effected by extirpating love and life together from the body of her son.
Some years ago there lived in Florence a very rich merchant, who was besides, as is not uncommon, of noble extraction, by name Leonardo Sighieri. He had one son by his wife, called Girolamo, very shortly after whose birth, he himself, having arranged all his affairs, departed from this world. The guardians, who were appointed to assist his widow in the direction and education of his son, were honourable citizens, and they strove to do justice to their young ward. Now it hap
pened that the little lad growing up as he did, together with many other boys of the neighbourhood, never cared much for the rude sports of his equals, but was always seen walking hand in hand with a little girl about his own age, who was the daughter of a respectable tradesman in the same street.
A few years afterwards, when age had matured their feelings, this childish fondness became, on the part of Girolamo, a passion so ardent and fierce, that he fell quite sick of love, and never was in spirits except when he was gazing upon his Sylvestra ; and it is certain that she loved him full as much as she was beloved. Now the mother of the boy, as soon as she perceived this attachment of her son, took him severely to task about it, and reproached him with a conduct unbecoming one of his rank and wealth. But, not being able to restrain him from his pursuit, she was much vexed, and revolved in her mind all the expedients she could dream of for preventing, what she dreaded more than any thing, an unworthy match for the heir of the illustrious House of Sighieri. At length she resolved upon communicating the matter to his guardians, and asking their advice or authority, which she did in these words :-“Well, gentlemen, I have a pretty affair to tell you! What think ye of our little sparrow, young Girolamo I mean, who is not yet fourteen years
age, being desperately in love with the daughter of the tailor, who lives at the corner of the street! And what is more, I can't persuade him out of it for my life, and I don't doubt, that unless we can somehow or other take him from her, he will, one of these days, without saying a word to any of us, take her for his bride—and then I am positive I shall die of chagrin; or if he does not go so far as that, he will pine away with love, if he sees her married to another. Now the best thing I can think of to prevent either of these events, is to send him away under pretence of looking into his mercantile affairs in Paris. Perhaps absence will allay his passion, Sylvestra your trade
will vanish from his mind, and, when he comes back, I will pick out some suitable match for him.”
The guardians all declared that the good lady spoke wisely,. and that they would promote her plan as far as possible; so, having called Girolamo into their presence, the eldest addressed him in a kind tone of voice as follows:—“My dear son, you are now grown quite a fine young man, and it is high time for you to begin looking a little after your own affairs ;-our opinion is, that you should immediately go to Paris, where a great part
of is carried on, and personally inspect the accounts of your agents; besides all which, Paris is the best place in which a youth like you can learn manners, and that elegance of carriage, which is only to be acquired by frequent converse with Lords and Ladies, and Knights and Gentlemen, plenty of whom you will meet with at that splendido court; after which you may return hither.” The boy listened very attentively, and then answered briefly, that he would do no such thing, for he could make as good a figure as any one else at Florence. Our worthy guardians upon this repeated their injunctions, and even went so far as to rebuke Girolamo very sharply for an hour together ; nevertheless they could not carry their point, nor get from him any
but that he was determined not to leave Florence. Away they went to his mother, and told her the event of her plan; whereupon she flew into a violent rage, and reproached him with being disobedient to her and his guardians, and with falling in love with such a creature as a tailor's daughter ; but, perceiving that she only made him more obstinately bent upon his will by this narsh treatment, she had recourse to coaxing him by kisses, and tears, and fiattery, to do what she wished, and at last she succeeded so well in softening his heart, that he corisented to go to Paris for a year, and no longer; which accordingly he did, though it cost him many a pang to tear himself from his first love. When he was once in Paris, his mo
ther found means, by various pretences, to keep him there for more than two years, and when at length, burning with restrained love, he returned home, he found Sylvestra married to a young tent-maker. This threw him into an agony of grief at first ; but at length, considering that what was once done could never be undone, he meditated for some time upon some means of gratifying his passion as he might. Accordingly, having discovered her room in her new house, he began, after the fashion of young lovers, to pass and repass her window, fondly hoping that she had not forgotten him, any more than he had forgotten her. But the case, as it happened, was otherwise. She did not remember him at all any more than if she had never seen him before, or at least, if she did at times recollect him, she feigned that she did not ; all which coldness he soon perceived, and was penetrated with the most poignant melancholy. Nevertheless he did every thing imaginable to recover his empire over her mind, but so entirely without success, that a fit of mingled passion, anger, and despondency, took entire possession of all his faculties, and he visibly declined in strength and health. In short, he felt that he was a dying man, and determined at all hazards, if he died for Sylvestra, to tell Sylvestra so himself.
To put this resolution in practice, he informed himself, by means of a neighbour, of the internal arrangements of the house, and one evening, whilst Sylvestra and her husband were gone out to a party of their friends, he secretly entered her chamber, concealed himself behind some canvass which was extended for the manufacture of tents, and quietly waited till they returned, went to rest, and he could perceive that her husband was asleep; then, moving gently from his hiding-place, he advanced to that side of the bed on which Sylvestra lay, and, putting his hand upon her bosom, said, in a very faint tone of voice,—“0, my own life, my love, sleepest thou yet?” Sylvestra, who was not asleep, had nearly screamed out, but the youth instantly checked her by whispering, “For the sake of God, don't be alarmed or cry out--I am your own poor Girolamo.” When she heard this, she trembled all over, and replied, “I intreat you, for Jesu's sake, Girolamo, to go away directly; alas ! alas ! you know, as well as I do, that those happy days of our childhood åre passed and gone, when no one forbade us to love each other. I am, as you see, married ; for which reason it is now very wrong in me to think of any man except my husband ; and so I again intreat you, as you fear God, to leave me instantly,
for should my husband awake and see you, supposing no other harm should follow, yet it is certain that I never should enjoy any peace with him more ; whereas I am now passionately loved by him, and, for my own part, I own I live tranquilly and happily with him.”
The youth, upon hearing these words, felt the most piercing grief; and although he reminded her of all the past scenes of their happy love, undiminished in his heart by time or distance, and mingled his
tale with the most fervent prayers and most tempting offers, he could not obtain the smallest favour. Desirous of ending his days near the object of his love, he prayed of her, lastly, as a reward for his long and unshaken passion, that she would permit him to lay himself by her side until he had recovered a little warmth, as he had become almost icy-cold in waiting for her; promising her, at the same time, that he would not speak to her a syllable, nor touch her person, and that as soon as he could feel some life in his limbs again, he would depart from her for ever. Sylvestra could not help feeling some little compassion for him, and, upon these conditions, permitted him to lie down by her. The unhappy boy being stretched out at length by the side of her he adored, though without touching her, and recollecting in one moment the long