“I don’t know which way to hope,” Francis said gravely. “He will certainly be a dangerous enemy if he is alive; and yet the thought of having killed a man troubles me much.”
“It would not trouble me at all if I were in your place,” Matteo said. “If you had not killed him, you may be very sure that he would have killed you, and that the deed would have caused him no compunction whatever. It was a fair fight, just as if it had been a hostile galley in mid-sea; and I don’t see why the thought of having rid Venice of one of her worst citizens need trouble you in any way.”
“You see I have been brought up with rather different ideas to yours, Matteo. My father, as a trader, is adverse to fighting of all kinds—save, of course, in defence of one’s country; and although he has not blamed me in any way for the part I took, I can see that he is much disquieted, and indeed speaks of sending me back to England at once.”
“Oh, I hope not!” Matteo said earnestly. “Hitherto you and I have been great friends, Francis, but we shall be more in future. All Polani’s friends will regard you as one of themselves; and I was even thinking, on my way here, that perhaps you and I might enter the service of the state together, and get appointed to a war galley in a few years.”
“My father’s hair would stand up at the thought, Matteo; though, for myself, I should like nothing so well. However, that could never have been. Still I am sorry, indeed, at the thought of leaving Venice. I have been very happy here, and I have made friends, and there is always something to do or talk about; and the life in London would be so dull in comparison. But here comes one of the ushers from the palace.”
The official came up to them, and asked if either of them was Messer Francisco Hammond, and, finding that he had come to the right person, requested Francis to follow him.
Chapter 4: Carried Off.
It was with a feeling of considerable discomfort, and some awe, that Francis Hammond followed his conductor to the chamber of the Council. It was a large and stately apartment. The decorations were magnificent, and large pictures, representing events in the wars of Venice, hung round the walls. The ceiling was also superbly painted. The cornices were heavily gilded. Curtains of worked tapestry hung by the windows, and fell behind him as he entered the door.
At a table of horseshoe shape eleven councillors, clad in the long scarlet robes, trimmed with ermine, which were the distinguishing dress of Venetian senators, were seated—the doge himself acting as president. On their heads they wore black velvet caps, flat at the top, and in shape somewhat resembling the flat Scotch bonnet. Signor Polani and his companions were seated in chairs, facing the table.
When Francis entered the gondolier was giving evidence as to the attack upon his boat. Several questions were asked him when he had finished, and he was then told to retire. The usher then brought Francis forward.