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Tonelli’s Marriage
by [?]

There was no richer man in Venice than Tommaso Tonelli, who had enough on his florin a day; and none younger than he, who owned himself forty-seven years old. He led the cheerfullest life in the world, and was quite a monster of content; but when I come to sum up his pleasures, I fear that I shall appear to my readers to be celebrating a very insipid and monotonous existence. I doubt if even a summary of his duties could be made attractive to the conscientious imagination of hard-working people; for Tonelli’s labors were not killing, nor, for that matter, were those of any Venetian that I ever knew. He had a stated employment in the office of the notary Cenarotti; and he passed there so much of every working day as lies between nine and five o’clock, writing upon deeds and conveyances and petitions and other legal instruments for the notary, who sat in an adjoining room, secluded from nearly everything in this world but snuff. He called Tonelli by the sound of a little bell; and, when he turned to take a paper from his safe, he seemed to be abstracting some secret from long-lapsed centuries, which he restored again, and locked back among the dead ages when his clerk replaced the document in his hands. These hands were very soft and pale, and their owner was a colorless old man, whose silvery hair fell down a face nearly as white; but, as he has almost nothing to do with the present affair, I shall merely say that, having been compromised in the last revolution, he had been obliged to live ever since in perfect retirement, and that he seemed to have been blanched in this social darkness as a plant is blanched by growth in a cellar. His enemies said that he was naturally a timid man, but they could not deny that he had seen things to make the brave afraid, or that he had now every reason from the police to be secret and cautious in his life. He could hardly be called company for Tonelli, who must have found the day intolerably long but for the visit which the notary’s pretty granddaughter contrived to pay every morning in the cheerless mezza. She commonly appeared on some errand from her mother, but her chief business seemed to be to share with Tonelli the modest feast of rumor and hearsay which he loved to furnish forth for her, and from which doubtless she carried back some fragments of gossip to the family apartments. Tonelli called her, with that mingled archness and tenderness of the Venetians, his Paronsina; and, as he had seen her grow up from the smallest possible of Little Mistresses, there was no shyness between them, and they were fully privileged to each other’s society by her mother. When she flitted away again, Tonelli was left to a stillness broken only by the soft breathing of the old man in the next room, and by the shrill discourse of his own loquacious pen, so that he was commonly glad enough when it came five o’clock. At this hour he put on his black coat, that shone with constant use, and his faithful silk hat, worn down to the pasteboard with assiduous brushing, and caught up a very jaunty cane in his hand. Then, saluting the notary, he took his way to the little restaurant, where it was his custom to dine, and had his tripe soup and his risotto, or dish of fried liver, in the austere silence imposed by the presence of a few poor Austrian captains and lieutenants. It was not that the Italians feared to be overheard by these enemies; but it was good dimostrazione to be silent before the oppressor, and not let him know that they even enjoyed their dinners well enough, under his government, to chat sociably over them. To tell the truth, this duty was an irksome one to Tonelli, who liked far better to dine, as he sometimes did, at a cook-shop, where he met the folk of the people (gente del popolo), as he called them; and where, though himself a person of civil condition, he discoursed freely with the other guests, and ate of their humble but relishing fare. He was known among them as Sior Tommaso; and they paid him a homage, which they enjoyed equally with him, as a person not only learned in the law, but a poet of gift enough to write wedding and funeral verses, and a veteran who had fought for the dead Republic of Forty-eight. They honored him as a most travelled gentleman, who had been in the Tyrol, and who could have spoken German, if he had not despised that tongue as the language of the ugly Croats, like one born to it. Who, for example, spoke Venetian more elegantly than Sior Tommaso? or Tuscan, when he chose? and yet he was poor,–a man of that genius! Patience! When Garibaldi came, we should see! The facchini and gondoliers, who had been wagging their tongues all day at the church corners and ferries, were never tired of talking of this gifted friend of theirs, when, having ended some impressive discourse or some dramatic story, he left them with a sudden adieu, and walked quickly away toward the Riva degli Schiavoni.