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Navigation menu Personal tools Create account Log in. Namespaces Page Talk. Views Read View source View history. As I understand the Duke of Glenbarth is with you, will you not bring him also?

Doctor Nikola

It will be very pleasant to have a chat upon by-gone days, and, what is more, I fancy this old house will interest you. There is one thing, however, that puzzles me; how did he become aware of my arrival in Venice? You say he was with you on the piazza last night, so that he could not have been at the railway station, and as I haven't been outside since I came, except for the row after dinner, I confess it puzzles me.

I am very curious on that point.

Doktor Nikola

If he does let us know, I shall begin to grow suspicious, for in that case it is a thousand pounds to this half-smoked cigar that we shall be called upon to render him assistance. However, if you are prepared to run the risk I will do so also. We may change our minds.

As a general rule when one sets out to pay a morning call one is not the victim of any particular nervousness; on this occasion however both Glenbarth and I, as we confessed to each other afterwards, were distinctly conscious of being in a condition which would be described by persons of mature years as an unpleasant state of expectancy, but which by school-boys is denominated "funk. There was a far-away look on his handsome face that told me that he was recalling some of the events connected with the time when he had been in Nikola's company.

This proved to be the case, for as we turned from the Grand Canal into [Pg 39] the street in which the palace is situated, he said—. Then I added after a short pause, "By Jove, what strange times those were. But see, here we are. As he spoke the gondola drew up at the steps of the Palace Revecce, and we prepared to step ashore. As we did so I noticed that the armorial bearings of the family still decorated the posts on either side of the door, but by the light of day the palace did not look nearly so imposing as it had done by moonlight the night before.

One thing about it was certainly peculiar. When we ordered the gondolier to wait for us he shook his head. Not for anything would he remain there longer than was necessary to set us down. I accordingly paid him off, and when we had ascended the steps we entered the building.

On pushing open the door we found ourselves standing in a handsome courtyard, in the centre of which was a well, its coping elegantly carved with a design of fruit and flowers. A broad stone staircase at the further [Pg 40] end led up to the floor above, but this, as was the case with everything else, showed unmistakable signs of having been allowed to fall to decay. As no concierge was to be seen, and there was no one in sight of whom we might make inquiries, we scarcely knew how to proceed.

Indeed, we were just wondering whether we should take our chance and explore the lower regions in search of Nikola, when he appeared at the head of the staircase and greeted us. I must apologize for not having been down-stairs to receive you. By the time he had finished speaking he had reached us, and was shaking hands with Glenbarth with the heartiness of an old friend.

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Then looking at him once more, he added, "If you will permit me to say so, you have changed a great deal since we last saw each other. But we will not talk of that here. Let us come [Pg 41] up to my room, which is the only place in this great house that is in the least degree comfortable. So saying he led the way up the stairs, and then along a corridor, which had once been beautifully frescoed, but which was now sadly given over to damp and decay.

At last, reaching a room in the front of the building, he threw open the door and invited us to enter.


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And here I might digress for a moment to remark, that of all the men I have ever met, Nikola possessed the faculty of being able to make himself comfortable wherever he might be, in the greatest degree. He would have been at home anywhere.

Description

As a matter of fact this particular apartment was furnished in a style that caused me considerable surprise. The room itself was large and lofty, while the walls were beautifully frescoed, the work of one Andrea Bunopelli, of whom I shall have more to say anon. The furniture was simple, but extremely good; a massive oak writing-table stood beside one wall, another covered with books and papers was opposite it, several easy-chairs were placed here and there, another table in the centre of the room supported various chemical paraphernalia, while books of all sorts and descriptions, in all languages and bindings, were to be discovered in every direction.

Some time ago, and quite by chance, I became acquainted with its history; I do not mean the political history of the respective families that have occupied it; you can find that in any guide-book. I mean the real, inner history of the house itself, embracing not a few of the deeds which have taken place inside its walls. I wonder if you would be interested if I were to tell you that in this very room, in the year fifteen hundred and eleven, one of the most repellent and cold-blooded murders of the Middle Ages took place.

Perhaps now that you have the scene before you you would like to hear the story. You would? In that case pray sit down. Let me offer you this chair, Duke," he continued, and as he spoke he wheeled forward a handsomely carved chair from beside his writing-table. I myself will take up my position here, so that I may be better able to retain your attention for my narrative.

So saying he stood between us on the strip of polished floor which showed between two heavy oriental rugs. The year fifteen hundred and nine, the same which found the French victorious at Agnadello, and the Venetian Republic at the commencement of that decline from which it has never recovered, saw this house in its glory. The owner, the illustrious Francesco del Revecce, was a sailor, and had the honour of commanding one of the many fleets of the Republic. He was an ambitious man, a good fighter, and as such twice defeated the fleet of the League of Camberi.


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  • It was after the last of these victories that he married the beautiful daughter of the Duke of Levano, one of the most bitter enemies of the Council of Ten. The husband being rich, famous, and still young enough to be admired for his personal attractions; the bride one of the wealthiest, as well as one of the most beautiful women in the Republic, it appeared as if all must be well with them for the remainder of their lives. Yet with it all the woman was perhaps the most unhappy individual in the universe.

    Unknown to [Pg 44] her husband and her father she had long since given her love elsewhere; she was passionately attached to young Andrea Bunopelli, the man by whom the frescoes of this room were painted. Finding that Fate demanded her renunciation of Bunopelli, and her marriage to Revecce, she resolved to see no more of the man to whom she had given her heart. Love, however, proved stronger than her sense of duty, and while her husband, by order of the Senate, had put to sea once more in order to drive back the French, who were threatening the Adriatic, Bunopelli put into operation the scheme that was ultimately to prove their mutual undoing.

    Unfortunately for Revecce he was not successful in his venture, and by and by news reached Venice that his fleet had been destroyed, and that he himself had been taken prisoner. Its meaning was plain enough. It proved that for a large sum of money Revecce had agreed to surrender the Venetian fleet, and, in order to secure his own safety, in case the Republic should lay hands on him afterwards, [Pg 45] it was to be supposed that he himself had only been taken prisoner after a desperate resistance, as had really been the case.