Pietro of Abano/IX
In order to be out of the way when his teacher returned from his journey, Antonio had bent his steps toward the loneliest part of the wood. It was an annoyance to him to meet his friend, the Spaniard, here; for he was in no mood to carry on a conversation. However, as there was no avoiding his comrade, he resigned himself in silent sadness to the society which at other times had been a pleasure to him and a comfort. He only half listened to what his friend said, and answered but sparingly. As was almost always the case, Pietro was again the theme of Alfonso's boundless admiration.
— Why are you thus stingy of your words today? he at length began, somewhat vext: is my company troublesome to you? or are you no longer as capable as you used to be of honouring our great teacher and giving him the glory he deserves?
Antonio was forced to collect himself, not to sink away entirely into his dreamy state.
— What is the matter with you? askt Alfonso again: it seems I have offended you.
— No, you have not; cried the Florentine; but if you have any regard for me, if you would not excite my anger, if you would not have the bitterest feelings rend my heart, do give over chaunting the praises of your idolized Pietro for today. Let us talk on some other subject.
— Ha! by Heaven! exclaimed Alfonso: so the parsons have twisted your feeble senses round at last. Go your own way henceforward, young man; wisdom, I now well see, is too lofty a prize for you. Your head is too weak for this fare; and you are longing again for the pap you were wont to get from the former fathers of your soul. You will do better to stay with them, at least till your milk teeth have dropt out.
— You are talking overweeningly, cried Antonio in wrath; or rather you are utterly ignorant of what you are saying, and I deserve not this language from you.
— How has our teacher deserved, said the Spaniard hastily, he who has taken you in like a father, he who favours you so highly above all the young men of our university, who allows you to dwell in his house, who entrusts you with all the thoughts of his heart, by what offense has he deserved, that you should thus mean-spiritedly deny him?
— If I were to answer now, returned Antonio angrily, that you do not know him, that I have reasons, and the fullest, to think otherwise of him, again you would not understand me.
— Verily, said Alfonso with a sneer, you have already scaled so high into the most secret places of his philosophy, that the common unfavoured child of earth is unable to follow you. Here again one sees that half-merit and quarter-merit puff themselves up the most. Pietro Abano is more lowly-minded than you, his feeble mimic.
— You are unmannerly! exclaimed the young Florentine irritated to the utmost. If I were now to assure you by my honour, by my faith, by heaven, and by everything which must needs be holy and venerable to you and me, that in all Italy, in all Europe, there is no such wicked villain, no so atrocious hypocrite as this——
— Who? shouted Alfonso.
— Pietro Abano, said Antonio now grown calm: what would you say then?
— Nothing! furiously cried the other, who had not allowed him to finish: save that you, and everybody else who dares to speak in that way, are the paltriest knaves that ever had the audacity to blaspheme holy things. Draw, if you would not be called a mean coward as well as a base slanderer.
Antonio's drawn sword met the challenger with the same speed; and it was in vain that a hoarse anxious voice cried out to them:
Alfonso was wounded in the breast; and the blood at the same time ran from Antonio's arm.
The old priest, who had wisht to separate the quarrellers, now hastened forward; bound up their wounds and stancht the blood; then he called to some students that he had seen a little way off, and told them to carry the wounded Alfonso to the city.
Before he was removed, Antonio went up to him and whispered in his ear:
— If you are a man of honour, not a word about the cause of our fray will pass over your lips. In four days time we will meet again: and if you are not of my way of thinking then, I am ready to give you any satisfaction.
Alfonso pledged his solemn promise; all the bystanders too assured Antonio that the wound as well as the whole affair should be kept a secret, not to expose him to any danger.
When they were all gone Antonio walkt with the priest Theodore deeper into the wood.
— Why, began the latter, will you, for a fiend's sake, make over your own soul to hell? I see, you are now of a different opinion; but is the sword the spokesman that should preach truth to a brother?
Antonio felt in doubt how much he should disclose to the monk; however he said nothing about the wonderful event that had befallen him, and only entreated that, at the approaching festival of Easter, he might be allowed to enter the great church during high mass through the sacristy, near the altar.
After some objections Theodore complied, though he could not conceive what was the youth's purpose in asking for this permission. All Antonio said further was:
— I wish to bring a friend into the church that way, whose entrance at the great door might perhaps be stopt.