‘Two Florentine usurers who had come through Milan, dined yesterday at my house; they had witnessed the entrance of the emperor into that city. The lord of Milan, Guido della Torre, was obliged to discharge his soldiers, and unarmed, at the head of an unarmed multitude, went out to meet the emperor, who had the Visconti in his train, and all the Ghibelines, the old enemies of the Torre family. These are now reinstated in their possessions; yet Henry still pretends to impartiality, and in his march has restored all the exiles to their various towns, whether they be Guelphs or Ghibelines.’

‘I wonder,’ said Pepi, ‘how long he will keep on the mask; few men are impartial, an emperor never: to one curious in state affairs it were a fine occasion, to conjecture what will be the issue and crown of these pretensions.’

‘Why,’ asked Castruccio, ‘should not they be as they appear? Cannot the emperor be animated by a generous policy, and wish to reconcile all parties by a just and fair proceeding?’

‘Impossible!’ cried Pepi with energy; ‘an emperor just! a prince impartial! Do not thrones rest upon dissentions and quarrels? And must there not be weakness in the people to create power in the prince? I prophesy; and as a discreet man I prophesy seldom, yet I now securely foretell, that Henry will set all Italy by the ears, to reap the fruits of their dissentions. He procures the recal of all the exiles——I admire his policy, worthy of being studied and understood by all who would reign. Can Ghibelines and Guelphs live within the walls of the same town? No more than one vessel can contain fire and water. No; the cities of Italy will be filled with brawls, and her rivers run blood, by means of this conjunction. If he had meant to establish peace in Italy, he would have assassinated all of one party, to secure the lives of the other; but to unite them, is to destroy both, and under the mask of friendship to get into his own hands all that each has possessed.’

Pepi uttered this harangue with an energy and a vivacity that startled Castruccio; his black eyes sparkled, his brows became elevated, and drawing down the perpendicular wrinkles of his cheeks, and contracting the horizontal ones of his forehead, he looked round with an air of triumph on his companions.

‘You say true, Messer Benedetto,’ said Tadeo, groaning at the dismal prognostications of his friend; ‘and I greatly fear lest this pretended justice prove the watchword for war and bloodshed. Yet now all wears the appearance of peace and brotherhood. The lords of Langusco, Pavia, Vercelli, Novara and Lodi have resigned their tyrannies and given up the keys of their respective towns to Henry, and Imperial Vicars are every where established. Guido della Torre, the proudest and most powerful tyrant of Lombardy, has submitted; and the court of the emperor at Milan is crowded by the lords of the towns in the east of Italy, and the ambassadors of the free states of the south.’

‘Has Florence submitted?’ asked Castruccio.

‘No;—that town and its league holds out; Sienna, Lucca and Bologna. Yet, when the emperor marches south, we shall see these proud republicans bow their stiff knees.’

‘Never!’ cried Pepi; ‘Bologna, Lucca and Sienna may submit; but Florence never will; they are stiff-kneed, stiff-necked, and hate the name of emperor and master more than Pope Urban hated the house of Suabia. These republicans, whom from my soul I detest, have turned out the Ghibelines, and are now fighting with the nobles, and asserting the superiority of the vulgar, till every petty artizan of its meanest lane fancies himself as great a prince as the emperor Henry himself. Besides, when all else fails, they will buy him off: these Florentines squander their golden florins, and pay thousands to purchase what would be a dear bargain even as a gift. Their watchword is that echo of fools, and laughing stock of the wise,—Liberty. Surely the father of lies invented that bait, that trap, at which the multitude catch, as a mouse at a bit of cheese: well would it be for the world, if they found the same end; and, as the nibbling mouse pulls down the iron on his head, they, as if they had one neck, were lopped off, as they seized their prize:—but Florence flourishes!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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