So far, all seemed going on well. The Genoese had suffered heavily, and made no impression upon the batteries at the head of the bridge. The days passed in Venice in a state of restless disquietude. It was hoped and believed that Chioggia could successfully defend itself; but if it fell, the consequence would be terrible.
Already the Hungarians had overrun the Venetian possessions on the mainland, the Lord of Padua was in the field with his army, and communication was cut with Ferrara, their sole ally. Should Chioggia fall, the Genoese fleet would enter the lagoons, and would sail, by the great channel through the flats, from Chioggia to Venice; and their light galleys could overrun the whole of the lagoons, and cut off all communication with the mainland, and starvation would rapidly stare the city in the face.
Polani made all preparations for the worst. Many of his valuables were hidden away, in recesses beneath the floors. Others were taken on board one of his ships in the port, and this was held in readiness to convey Giulia and Maria, whose husband had willingly accepted Polani’s offer, to endeavour to carry her off by sea with Giulia, in case the Genoese should enter the city.
The merchant made an excursion to Chioggia, with Francis, to see for himself how things were going, and returned somewhat reassured. Francis spent much of his time at the port visiting Polani’s ships, talking to the sailors, and expressing to them his opinion, that the Genoese and Paduans would never have dared to lay siege to Chioggia, had they not known that Pisani was no longer in command of the Venetian forces.
“I regard the present state of affairs,” he said, over and over again, “as a judgment upon the city, for its base ingratitude to the brave admiral, and I am convinced that things will never come right, until we have him again in command of our fleet.
“Giustiniani is no doubt an able man; but what has he ever done in comparison to what Pisani has accomplished? Why should we place our only hope of safety in the hands of an untried man? I warrant, if Pisani was out and about, you would see Venice as active as a swarm of bees, pouring out against our aggressors. What is being done now? Preparations are being made; but of what kind? Ships are sunk in the channel; but what will be the use of this if Chioggia falls? The canals to that place will be blocked, but that will not prevent the Genoese from passing, in their light boats, from island to island, until they enter Venice itself.
“Do you think all these ships would be lying idly here, if Pisani were in command? Talk to your comrades, talk to the sailors in the port, talk to those on shore when you land, and urge, everywhere, that the cry should be raised for Pisani’s release, and restoration to command.”
Chapter 18: The Release Of Pisani.
On the morning of the 17th, the party were sitting at breakfast, when Giulia suddenly sprang to her feet.