Venetian Glass by Brander Matthews
IN THE OLD WORLD.
They had been to the Lido for a short swim in the slight but bracing
surf of the Adriatic. They had had a midday breakfast in a queer
little restaurant, known only to the initiated and therefore early
discovered by Larry, who had a keen scent for a cook learned in the
law. They had loitered along the Riva degli Schiavoni, looking at a
perambulatory puppet-show, before which a delighted audience sturdily
disregarded the sharp wind which bravely fluttered the picturesque
tatters of the spectators; and they were moved to congratulate the
Venetians on their freedom from the monotonous repertory of the
Anglo-American Punch-and-Judy, which consists solely of a play really
unique in the exact sense of that much-abused word. They were getting
their fill of the delicious Italian art which is best described by an
American verb—to loaf. And yet they were not wont to be idle, and
they had both the sharp, quick American manner, on which laziness sits
uneasily and infrequently.
John Manning and Laurence Laughton were both young New Yorkers.
Larry—for so in youth was he called by everybody pending the arrival
of years which should make him a universal uncle, to be known of all
men as “Uncle Larry”—was as pleasant a travelling companion as one
could wish. He was the only son and heir of a father, now no more, but
vaguely understood when alive and in the flesh to have been “in the
China trade”—although whether this meant crockery or Cathay no one
was able with precision to declare. Larry Laughton had been graduated
from Columbia College with the class of 1860, and the following spring
found him here in Venice after a six months’ ramble through Europe
with his old friend, John Manning, partly on foot and partly in an old
carriage of their own, in which they enjoyed the fast-vanishing
pleasures of posting.
John Manning was a little older than Larry; he had left West Point in
1854 with a commission as second lieutenant in the ——first Cavalry.
For nearly six years he did his duty in that state of life in which it
pleased the Secretary of War and General Scott to call him; he had
crossed the plains one bleak winter to a post in the Rocky Mountains,
and he had danced through two summers at Fort Adams at Newport; he had
been stationed for a while in New Mexico, where there was an abundance
of the pleasant sport of Indian-fighting—even now he had only to make
believe a little to see the tufted head of a Navajo peer around the
columns supporting the Lion of Saint Mark, or to mistake the fringe of
facchini on the edge of the Grand Canal for a group of the shiftless
half-breeds of New Mexico. In time the ——first Cavalry had been
ordered North, where the work was then less pleasant than on the
border; and, in fact, it was a distinct unwillingness to execute the
Fugitive Slave Law which forced John Manning to resign his commission
in the army, although it was the hanging of John Brown which drew from
him the actual letter of resignation. Before settling down to other
work, for he was a man who could not and would not be idle, he had
gratified his long desire of taking a turn through the Old World.
Larry Laughton had joined him in Holland, where he had been making
researches into the family history, and proving to his own
satisfaction at least that the New York Mannings, in spite of their
English name, had come from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam. And now,
toward the end of April, 1861, John Manning and Laurence Laughton
stood on the Rialto, hesitating Fra Marco e Todaro, as the Venetians
have it, in uninterested question whether they should go into the
Ghetto, among the hideous homes of the chosen people, or out again to
Murano for a second visit to the famous factory of Venetian glass.
“I say, John,” remarked Larry as they lazily debated the question,
gazing meanwhile on the steady succession of gondolas coming and going
to and from the steps by the side of the bridge, “I’d as lief if not
liefer go to Murano again, if they’ve any of their patent anti-poison
goblets left. You know they say they used to make a glass so fine that
it was shattered into shivers whenever poison might be poured into it.
Of course I don’t believe it, but a glass like that would be mighty
handy in the sample-rooms of New York. I’m afraid a man walking up
Broadway could use up a gross of the anti-poison goblets before he got
one straight drink of the genuine article, unadulterated and drawn
from the wood.”
“You must not make fun of a poetic legend, Larry. You have to believe
everything over here or you do not get the worth of your money,” said
“Well, I don’t know,” was Larry’s reply; “I don’t know just what to
believe. I was talking about it last night at Florian’s, while you
were writing letters home.”
“I did not know Mr. Laughton had friends in Venice.”
“Oh, I can make friends anywhere. And this one was lots of fun. He was
a priest, an abbate, I think he calls himself. He had read five
newspapers in the caffè and paid for one tiny cup of coffee. When I
finished the Débats I passed it to him for his sixth—and he spoke
to me in French, and I wasn’t going to let an Italian talk French to
me without answering back, so I just sailed in and began to swap
stories with him.”
“No doubt you gave him much valuable information.”
“Well, I did; I just exuded information. Why, the first thing he said,
when I told him I was an American, was to wonder whether I hadn’t met
his brother, who was also in America—in Rio Janeiro—just as if Rio
was the other side of the North River!”
John Manning smiled at Larry’s disgusted expression, and asked, “What
has this abbate to do with the fragile Venetian glass?”
“Only this,” answered Larry. “I told him two or three North-westers,
just as well as I could in French, and then he said that marvellous
things were also done here once upon a time. And he told me about the
glass which broke when poison was poured into it.”
“It is a pleasant superstition,” said John Manning. “I think Poe makes
use of it, and I believe Shakespeare refers to it.”
“But did either Poe or Shakespeare say anything about the two goblets
just alike made for the twin brothers Manin nearly four hundred years
ago? Did they tell you how one glass was shivered by poison and its
owner killed, and how the other brother had to flee for his life? Did
they inform you that the unbroken goblet exists to this day, and is
in fact now for sale by an Hebrew Jew who peddles antiquities? Did
they tell you that?”
“Neither Edgar Allan Poe nor William Shakespeare ever disturbs my
slumbers by telling me anything of the sort,” laughed Manning.
“Well, my abbate told me just that, and he gave me the address of
the Shylock who has the surviving goblet for sale.”
“Suppose we go there and see it,” suggested Manning, “and you can tell
me the whole story of the twin brothers as we go along.”
“Shall we take a gondola or walk?” was Larry’s interrogative
acceptance of the suggestion.
“It’s in the Ghetto, isn’t it?”
“Most of the Jew curiosity dealers have left the Ghetto. Our Shylock
has a palace on the Grand Canal. I guess we had better take a gondola,
though it can’t be far.”
So they sat themselves down in one of the aquatic cabs which ply the
water streets of the city in the sea. The gondolier stood to his oar
and put his best foot foremost, and as the boat sped forward on its
way along the capital S of the Grand Canal, Larry told the tale of the
twin brothers and the shattered goblet.
“Well, it seems that some time in the sixteenth century, say three
hundred years ago or thereabout, there were several branches of the
great and powerful Manin family—the same family to which the
patriotic Daniele Manin belonged, you know. And at the head of one of
these branches were the twin brothers Marco Manin and Giovanni Manin.
Now, these brothers were devoted to each other, and they had only one
thought, one word, one deed. When one of them happened to think of a
thing, it often happened that the other brother did it. So it was not
surprising that they both fell in love with the same woman. She was a
dangerous-looking, yellow-haired woman, with steel-gray eyes—that is,
if her eyes were not really green, as to which there was doubt. But
there was no doubt at all that she was powerfully handsome. The
abbate said that there was a famous portrait of her in one of these
churches as a Saint Mary Magdalen with her hair down. She was a
splendid creature, and lots of men were running after her besides the
twin Manins. The two brothers did not quarrel with each other about
the woman, but they did quarrel with some of her other lovers, and
particularly with a nobleman of the highest rank and power, who was
supposed to belong not only to the Council of Ten but to the Three.
Between this man and the Manins there was war to the knife and the
knife to the hilt. One day Marco Manin expressed a wish for one of
these goblets of Venetian glass so fine that poison shatters it, and
so Giovanni went out to Murano and ordered two of them, of the very
finest quality, and just alike in every particular of color and shape
and size. You see the twins always had everything in pairs. But the
people at Murano somehow misunderstood the order, and although they
made both glasses they sent home only one. Marco Manin was at table
when it arrived, and he took it in his hand at once, and after
admiring its exquisite workmanship—you see, all these old Venetians
had the art-feeling strongly developed—he told a servant to fill it
to the brim with Cyprus wine. But as he raised the flowing cup to his
lips it shivered in his grasp and the wine was spilt on the marble
floor. He drew his sword and slew the servant who had sought to betray
him, and rushing into the street he found himself face to face with
the enemy whom he knew to have instigated the attempt. They crossed
swords at once, but before Marco Manin could have a fair fight for his
life he was stabbed in the back by a glass stiletto, the hilt of which
was broken off short in the wound.”
“Where was his brother all this time?” was the first question with
which John Manning broke the thread of his friend’s story.
“He had been to see the yellow-haired beauty, and he came back just in
time to meet his brother’s lifeless body as it was carried into their
desolate home. Holding his dead brother’s hand as he had often held it
living, he promised his brother to avenge his death without delay and
at any cost. Then he prepared at once for flight. He knew that Venice
would be too hot to hold him when the deed was done; and besides, he
felt that without his brother life in Venice would be intolerable. So
he made ready for flight. Twenty-four hours to a minute after Marco
Manin’s death the body of the hireling assassin was sinking to the
bottom of the Grand Canal, while the man who had paid for the murder
lay dead on the same spot with the point of a glass stiletto in his
heart! And when they wanted to send him the other goblet, there was no
one to send it to: Giovanni Manin had disappeared.”
“Where had he gone?” queried John Manning.
“That’s what I asked the abbate, and he said he didn’t know for
sure, but that in those days Venice had a sizable trade with the Low
Countries, and there was a tradition that Giovanni Manin had gone to
“To Holland?” asked John Manning with unwonted interest.
“Yes, to Amsterdam or to Rotterdam or to some one of those —dam
towns, as we used to call them in our geography class.”
“It was to Amsterdam,” said Manning, speaking as one who had certain
“How do you know that?” asked Larry. “Even the abbate said it was
only a tradition that he had gone to Holland at all.”
“He went to Amsterdam,” said Manning; “that I know.”
Before Larry could ask how it was that his friend knew anything about
the place of exile of a man whom he had never heard of ten minutes
earlier, the gondola had paused before the door of the palace in which
dwelt the dealer in antiquities who had in his possession the famous
goblet of Venetian glass. As they ascended to the sequence of rambling
rooms cluttered with old furniture, rusty armor, and odds and ends of
statuary, in the which the modern Jew of Venice sat at the receipt of
custom, both Larry Laughton and John Manning had to give their
undivided attention to the framing in Italian of their wishes. Shylock
himself was a venerable and benevolent person, with a look of
wonderful shrewdness and an incomprehensibility of speech, for he
spoke the Venetian dialect with a harsh Jewish accent, either of which
would have daunted a linguistic veteran. Plainly enough, conversation
was impossible, for he could barely understand their American-Italian,
and they could not at all understand his Jewish-Venetian. But it would
not do to let these Inglesi go away without paying tribute.
“Ciò!” said Shylock, smiling graciously at his futile attempts to open
communication with the enemy. Then he called Jessica from the deep
window where she had been at work on the quaint old account-books of
the shop, as great curiosities as anything in it, since they were kept
in Venetian, but by means of the Hebrew alphabet. She spoke Italian,
and to her the young men made known their wants. She said a few words
to her father, and he brought forth the goblet.
It was a marvellous specimen of the most exquisite Venetian
workmanship. A pair of green serpents with eyes that glowed like fire
writhed around the golden stem of a blood-red bowl, and as the white
light of the cloudless sky fell on it from the broad window, it burned
in the glory of the sunshine and seemed to fill itself full of some
mysterious and royal wine. Shylock revolved it slowly in his hand to
show the strange waviness of its texture, and as it turned, the
serpents clung more closely to the stem and arched their heads and
shot a glance of hate at the strangers who came to gaze on them with
John Manning looked at the goblet long and eagerly. “How did it come
into your possession?” he asked.
And Jessica translated Shylock’s declaration that the goblet had been
at Murano for hundreds of years; it was antico—antichissimo, as the
signor could see for himself. It was of the best period of the art.
That Shylock would guarantee. How came it into his possession? By the
greatest good fortune. It was taken from Murano during the troubles
after the fall of the Republic in the time of Napoleon. It had gone
finally into the hands of a certain count, who, very luckily, was
poor. Conte che non conta, non conta niente. So Shylock had been
enabled to buy it. It had been the desire of his heart for years to
own so fine an object.
“How much do you want for it?” asked John Manning.
Shylock scented from afar the battle of bargaining, dear in Italy to
both buyer and seller. He gave a keen look at both the Inglesi, and
took up the glass affectionately, as though he could not bear to part
with it. Jessica interpreted. Shylock had intended that goblet for his
own private collection, but the frank and generous manner of their
excellencies had overcome him, and he would let them have it for five
“Five hundred florins! Phew!” whistled Larry, astonished in spite of
his initiation into the mysteries of Italian bargaining. “Well, if you
were to ask me the Shakespearian conundrum, Hath not a Jew eyes? I
shouldn’t give it up; I should say he has eyes—for the main chance.”
“Five hundred florins,” said John Manning. “Very well. I’ll take it.”
Shylock’s astonishment at getting four times what he would have taken
was equalled only by his regret that he had not asked twice as much.
“Can you pack it so that I can take it to New York safely?”
“Sicuro, signor,” and Shylock agreed to have the precious object
boxed with all possible care and despatch, and delivered at the hotel
“Servo suo!” said Jessica, as they stood at the door.
“Bon di, Patron!” responded Larry in Venetian fashion; then as the
door closed behind them he said to John Manning, “Seems to me you were
in a hurry! You could have had that glass for half the money.”
“Perhaps I could,” was Manning’s quiet reply, “but I was eager to get
it back at once.”
“Get it back? Why, it wasn’t stolen from you, was it? I never did
suppose he came by it honestly.”
“It was not stolen from me personally. But it belonged to my family.
It was made for Giovanni Manin, who fled from Venice to Amsterdam
three hundred odd years ago. His grandson and namesake left Amsterdam
for New Amsterdam half a century later. And when the English changed
New Amsterdam into New York, Jan Mannin became John Manning—and I am
his direct descendant, and the first of my blood to return to Venice
to get the goblet Giovanni Manin ordered and left behind.”
“Well, I’m damned!” said Larry, pensively.
“And now,” continued John Manning as they took their seats in the
gondola, “tell the man to go to the church where the picture of Mary
Magdalen is. I want a good look at that woman!”
In the evening, as John Manning sat in a little caffè under the
arcades of the Piazza San Marco, sipping a tiny cup of black coffee,
Larry entered with a rush of righteous indignation.
“What’s the matter, Larry?” was John Manning’s calm query.
“There’s the devil to pay at home. South Carolina has fired on the
flag at Sumter.”
Three weeks later Colonel Manning was assigned to duty in the Army of
IN THE NEW WORLD.
In the month of February, 1864, a chance newspaper paragraph informed
whom it might concern that Major Laurence Laughton, having three
weeks’ leave of absence from his regiment, was at the Astor House. In
consequence of this advertisement of his whereabouts, Major Laughton
received many cheerful circulars and letters, in most of which his
attention was claimed for the artificial limb made by the advertiser.
He also received a letter from Colonel John Manning urgently bidding
him to come out for a day at least to his little place on the Hudson,
where he was lying sick, and, as he feared, sick unto death. On the
receipt of this Larry cut short a promising flirtation with a
war-widow who sat next him at table and took the first train up the
river. It was a bleak day, and there was at least a foot of snow on
the ground, as hard and as dry as though it had clean forgot that it
was made of water. As Larry left the little station, to which the
train had slowly struggled at last, an hour behind time, the wind
sprang up again and began to moan around his feet and to sting his
face with icy shot; and as he trudged across the desolate path which
led to Manning’s lonely house he discovered that Rude Boreas could be
as keen a sharpshooter as any in the rifle-pits around Richmond. A
hard walk up-hill for a quarter of an hour brought him to the brow of
the cliff on which stood the forlorn and wind-swept house where John
Manning lay. An unkempt and hideous old crone as black as night opened
the door for him. He left in the hall his hat and overcoat and a
little square box he had brought in his hand; and then he followed the
ebony hag up-stairs to Colonel Manning’s room. Here at the door she
left him, after giving a sharp knock. A weak voice said, “Come in!”
Laurence Laughton entered the room with a quick step, but the
light-hearted words with which he had meant to encourage his friend
died on his lips as soon as he saw how grievously that friend had
changed. John Manning had faded to a shadow of his former self; the
light of his eye was quenched, and the spirit within him seemed
broken; the fine, sensitive, noble face lay white against the pillow,
looking weary and wan and hopeless. The effort to greet his friend
exhausted him and brought on a hard cough, and he pressed his hand to
his breast as though some hidden malady were gnawing and burning
“Well, John,” said Larry, as he took a seat by the bedside, “why
didn’t you let me know before now that you were laid up? I could have
got away a month ago.”
“Time enough yet,” said John Manning slowly; “time enough yet. I
shall not die for another week, I fear.”
“Why, man, you must not talk like that. You are as good as a dozen
dead men yet,” said Larry, trying to look as cheerful as might be.
“I am as good as dead myself,” said the sick man seriously, as
befitted a man under the shadow of death; “and I have no wish to live.
The sooner I am out of this pain and powerlessness the better I shall
“I say, John, old man, this is no way for you to talk. Brace up, and
you will soon be another man!”
“I shall soon be in another world, I hope,” and the helpless misery of
the tone in which these few words were said smote Laurence Laughton to
“What’s the matter with you?” he asked with as lively an air as he
could attain, for the ominous and inexplicable sadness of the
situation was fast taking hold on him.
“I have a bullet through the lungs and a pain in the heart.”
“But men do not die of a bullet in the lungs and a pain in the heart,”
was Larry’s encouraging response.
“Why should you more than others?”
“Because there is something else—something mysterious, some unknown
malady—which bears me down and burns me up. There is no use trying
to deceive me, Larry. My papers are made out, and I shall get my
discharge from the Army of the Living in a very few days now. But I
must not waste the little breath I have left in talking about myself.
I sent for you to ask a favor.”
Larry held out his hand, and John Manning took it and seemed to gain
strength from the firm clasp.
“I knew I could rely on you,” he said, “for much or for little. And
this is not much, for I have not much to leave. This worn old house,
which belonged to my grandmother, and in which I spent the happiest
hours of my boyhood, this and a few shares of stock here and there,
are all I have to leave. I do not know what the house is worth—and I
shall be glad when I am gone from it. If I had not come here, I think
I might perhaps have got well. There seems to be something deadly
about the place.” The sick man’s voice sank to a wavering whisper, as
though borne down by a sudden weight of impending danger against which
he might struggle in vain; he gave a fearful glance about the room as
though seeking a mystic foe, hidden and unknown. “The very first day
we were here the cat lapped its milk by the fire and then stretched
itself out and died without a sign. And I had not been here two days
before I felt the fatal influence: the trouble from my wound came on
again, and this awful burning in my breast began to torture me. As a
boy, I thought that heaven must be like this house; and now I should
not want to die if I thought hell could be worse!”
“Why don’t you leave the place, since you hate it so?” asked Larry,
with what scant cheeriness he could muster; he was yielding himself
slowly to the place, though he fought bravely against his
“Am I fit to be moved?” was the sick man’s query in reply.
“But you will be better soon, and then—”
“I shall be worse before I am better, and I shall never be better in
this life or in this place. No, no, I must die in my hole like a dog.
Like a dog!” and John Manning repeated the words with a wistful face.
“Do you remember the faithful beast who always welcomed me here when
we came up before we went to Europe?”
“Of course I do,” said Larry, glad to get the sick man away from his
sickness, and to ease his mind by talk on a healthy topic; “he was a
splendid fellow, too. Cesar, that was his name, wasn’t it?”
“Cesar Borgia I called him,” was Manning’s sad reply. “I knew you
could not have forgotten him. He is dead. Cesar Borgia is dead. He was
the last living thing that loved me—except you, Larry, I know—and he
is dead. He died this morning. He came to my bedside as usual, and he
licked my hand gently and looked up in my face and laid him down
alongside of me on the carpet here and died. Poor Cesar Borgia—he
loved me, and he is dead! And you, Larry, you must not stay here. The
air is fatal. Every breath may be your last. When you have heard what
I want, you must be off at once. If you like, you may come up again to
the funeral before your leave is up. I saw you had three weeks.”
Laurence Laughton moved uneasily in his chair and swallowed with
difficulty. “John,” he managed to say after an effort, “if you talk to
me like that, I shall go at once. Tell me what it is you want me to do
“I want you to take care of my wife and of my child, if there be one
born to me after my death.”
“Your wife?” repeated Larry, in staring surprise.
“You did not know I was married? I knew it at the time, as the boy
said,” and John Manning smiled bitterly.
“Where is she?” was Larry’s second query.
“In this house. You shall see her before you go. And after the funeral
I want you to get her away from here with what speed you can. Sell
this house for what it will bring, and put the money into government
bonds. You may find it hard to persuade her to move, for she seems to
have a strange liking for this place. She breathes freely in the
deadly air that suffocates me. But you must not let her remain here;
this is no place for her now that a new life and new duties are before
“How was it I did not know of your marriage?” asked Larry.
“I knew nothing about it myself twenty-four hours before it happened,”
answered John Manning. “You need not look surprised. It is a simple
story. I had this shot through the breast at Gettysburg last Fourth of
July. I lay on the hill-side a day and a night before relief came.
Then a farmer took me into his house. A military surgeon dressed my
wounds, but I owed my life to the nursing and care and unceasing
attention of a young lady who was staying with the farmer’s daughter.
She had been doing her duty as a nurse as near to the field as she
could go ever since the first Bull Run. She saved my life, and I gave
it to her—what there was of it. She was a beautiful woman, indeed I
never saw a more beautiful—and she has a strange likeness to—but
that you shall see for yourself when you see her. She is getting a
little rest now, for she has been up all night attending to me. She
will wait on me in spite of all I say; of course I know there is no
use wasting effort on me now. She is the most devoted nurse in the
world; and we shall part as we met—she taking care of me at the last
as she did at the first. Would God our relation had never been other
than patient and nurse! It would have been better for both had we
never been husband and wife!” And John Manning turned his face to the
wall with a weary sigh; then he coughed harshly and raised his hand to
his breast as though to stifle the burning within him.
“It seems to me, John, that you ought not to talk like that of the
woman you loved,” said Laurence Laughton, with unusual seriousness.
“I never loved her,” answered Manning, coldly. Then he turned and
asked hastily, “Do you think I should want to die, if I loved her?”
“But she loves you,” said Laurence.
“She never loved me!” was Manning’s impatient retort.
“Then why were you married?”
“That’s what I would like to know. It was fate, I suppose. What is to
be, is. I never used to believe in predestination, but I know that of
my own free will I could never have done what I did.”
“I confess I do not understand you,” said Larry.
“I do not understand myself. There is so much in this world that is
mysterious—I hope the next will be different. I was under the charm,
I fancy, when I married her. She is a beautiful woman, as I told you,
and I was a man, and I was weak, and I had hope. Why she married me
that early September evening, I do not know. It was not long before we
both found out our mistake. And it was too late then. We were man and
wife. Don’t suppose I blame her—I do not. I have no cause of
complaint. She is a good wife to me, as I have tried to be a good
husband to her. We made a mistake in marrying each other, and we know
Before Laurence Laughton could answer, the door opened gently and
Mrs. Manning entered the room. Laurence rose to greet his friend’s
wife, but the act was none the less a homage to her resplendent
beauty. In spite of the worn look of her face, she was the most
beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had tawny tigress hair and
hungry tigress eyes. The eyes indeed were fathomless and
indescribable, and their fitful glance had something uncanny about it.
The hair was nearly of the true Venetian color, and she had the true
Venetian sumptuousness of appearance, simple as was her attire. She
seemed as though she had just risen from the couch whereon she
reclined before Titian or Tintoretto, and, having clothed herself, had
walked forth in this nineteenth century and these United States. She
was a strange and striking figure, and Laurence found it impossible to
analyze exactly the curious and weird impression she produced on him.
Her voice, as she greeted him, gave him a peculiar thrill; and when he
shook hands with her he seemed to feel himself face to face with some
strange being from another land and another century. She inspired him
with a supernatural awe he was not wont to feel in the presence of
woman. He had a dim consciousness that there lingered in his memory
the glimmering image of some woman seen somewhere, he knew not when,
who was like unto the woman before him.
As she took her seat by the side of the bed, she gave Laurence
Laughton a look that seemed to peer into his soul. Laurence felt
himself quiver under it. It was a look to make a man fearful. Then
John Manning, who had moved uneasily as his wife entered, said,
“Laurence, can you see any resemblance in my wife to any one you ever
Their eyes met again, and again Laurence had a vague remembrance as
though he and she had stood face to face before in some earlier
existence. Then his wandering recollections took shape, and he
remembered the face and the form and the haunting mystery of the
expression, and he felt for a moment as though he had been permitted
to peer into the cabalistic darkness of an awful mystery, though he
failed wholly to perceive its occult significance—if significance
there were of any sort.
“I think I do remember,” he said at last. “It was in Venice—at the
church of Santa Maria Madalena—the picture there that—”
“You remember aright!” interrupted John Manning. “My wife is the
living image of the Venetian woman for whose beauty Marco Manin was
one day stabbed in the back with a glass stiletto and Giovanni Manin
fled from the place of his birth and never saw it again. It is idle to
fight against the stars in their courses. We met here in the New
World, she and I, as they met in the Old World so long ago—and the
end is the same. It was to be ... it was to be!”
Laurence Laughton gave a swift glance at his friend’s wife to see what
effect these words might have on her, and he was startled to detect
on her face the same enigmatic smile which was the chief memory he had
retained of the Venetian picture. Truly, the likeness between the
painting and the wife of his friend was marvellous; and Laurence tried
to shake off a morbid wonder whether there might be any obscure and
inscrutable survival from one generation to another across the seas
and across the years.
“If you remember the picture,” said John Manning, “perhaps you
remember the quaint goblet of Venetian glass I bought the same day?”
“Of course I do,” said Larry, glad to get Manning started on a topic
of talk a little less personal.
“Perhaps you know what has become of it?” asked Manning.
“I can answer ‘of course’ to that, too,” replied Larry, “because I
have it here.”
“Here—in a little square box, in the hall,” answered Larry. “I had it
in my trunk, you know, when we took passage on the Vanderbilt at
Havre that May morning. I forgot to give it to you in the hurry of
landing, and I haven’t had a chance since. This is the first time I
have seen you for nearly three years. I found the box this morning,
and I thought you might like to have it again, so I brought it up.”
John Manning rang the bell at the head of his bed. The black crone
answered it, and soon returned with the little square box. Manning
impatiently broke the seals and cords that bound its cover and began
eagerly to release the goblet from the cotton and tissue paper in
which it had been carefully swathed and bandaged. Mrs. Manning, though
her moods were subtler and more intense, showed an anxiety to see the
goblet quite as feverish as her husband’s. In a minute the last
wrapping was twisted off and the full beauty of the Venetian glass was
revealed to them. Assuredly no praise was too loud for its delicate
and exquisite workmanship.
“Does Mrs. Manning know the story of the goblet?” asked Larry; “has
she been told of the peculiar virtue ascribed to it?”
“She has too great a fondness for the horrible and the fantastic not
to have heard the story in its smallest details,” said Manning.
Mrs. Manning had taken the glass in her fine, thin hands. Evidently it
and its mystic legend had a morbid fascination for her. A strange
light gleamed in her wondrous eyes, and Laughton was startled again to
see the extraordinary resemblance between her and the picture they had
looked at on the day the goblet had been bought.
“When the poison was poured into it,” she said at last, with quick and
restless glances at the two men, “the glass broke—then the tale was
“It was a coincidence only, I’m afraid,” said her husband, who had
rallied and regained strength under the unwonted excitement.
Just then the old-fashioned clock on the stairs struck five. Mrs.
Manning started up, holding the goblet in her hand.
“It is time for your medicine,” she said.
“As you please,” answered her husband wearily, sinking back on his
pillow. “My wife insists on giving me every drop of my potions with
her own hands. I shall not trouble her much longer, and I doubt if it
is any use for her to trouble me now.”
“I shall give you everything in this glass after this,” she said.
“In the Venetian glass?” asked Larry.
“Yes,” she said, turning on him fiercely; “why not?”
“Do you think the doctor is trying to poison me?” asked her husband.
“No, I do not think the doctor is trying to poison you,” she repeated
mechanically as she moved toward a little sideboard in a corner of the
room. “But I shall give you all your medicines in this hereafter.”
She stood at the little sideboard, with her back toward them, and she
mingled the contents of various phials in the Venetian goblet. Then
she turned to cross the room to her husband. As she walked with the
glass in her hand there was a rift in the clouds high over the other
side of the river, and the rays of the setting sun thrust themselves
through the window and lighted up the glory of her hair and showed the
strange gleam in her staring eyes. Another step, and the red rays fell
on the Venetian glass, and it burned and glowed, and the green
serpents twined about its ruby stem seemed to twist and crawl with
malignant life, while their scorching eyes shot fire. Another step,
and she stood by the bedside. As John Manning reached out his hand for
the goblet, a tremor passed through her, her fingers clinched the
fragile stem, and the glass fell on the floor and was shattered to
shivers as its fellow had been shattered three centuries ago and more.
She still stared steadily before her; then her lips parted, and she
said, “The glass broke—the glass broke—then the tale is true!” And
with one hysteric shriek she fell forward amid the fragments of the
Venetian goblet, unconscious thereafter of all things.