Antonio and Veronica by Anonymous

In the time of Charles the Second, there was at Salerno a noble knight, of an ancient family, called Messer Mazzeo, a chief justice, extremely rich both in money and lands, whose wife being rather old, died, and left an only daughter, whose name was Veronica, youthful, handsome, and very virtuous. Her father, whether from affection, or that he wished to marry her advantageously, kept her single at home, though she had many offers. It happened that a youth, named Antonio Marcello, of noble birth, who had been familiar in the house from his infancy, under the sanction of a certain relationship between him and Messer Mazzeo's lady, became so enraptured with Veronica, that he was almost mad. Antonio, although reserved and virtuous, and dearly beloved as a worthy son could be, yet unable to resist all powerful love, and having opportunities which his weak resolution could not withstand, this pair of youthful lovers forgot what was due to their father and themselves. Though they continued, with the greatest caution, this guilty intercourse, yet their utmost care could not guard them from the cruel storm which fate was raising against them. One night being together, and not suspecting any thing, it happened that one of the servants espied them, and immediately went to his master, and having related the fact, the former, full of indignation, went with some of his servants to the place where the couple were, who, being thrown into the utmost consternation, were both seized, but Antonio being very strong and courageous, disengaged himself, and, sword in hand, rushed forth and made his escape, unhurt and unseen, and went home. Messer Mazzeo, grieved to death on seeing how matters stood, insisted on knowing from his daughter who the young man was. She very prudently, knowing the temper of her father, and that the death of her lover must be the consequence, determined rather to expose her own life than his, and finally told her father that she would suffer every torment, and even death itself, rather than let the youth's name be known. The father, in the greatest rage, after having tortured her in various ways, seeing her obstinately determined to be silent, although parental feeling moved him at times, determined upon her death, and, without seeing her more, he commanded two of his trusty servants immediately to drag her into a boat, and throw her overboard, when they should be some miles from shore. The men, though most unwillingly, bound her hands, and forced her to the sea side, and while they were making the boat ready, one of them being moved to compassion, sifted the other, who was equally sorry at the cruel circumstance, and talking over the matter, they agreed not only to spare her life, but to set her at liberty; and having unbound her, they told her that being strongly moved to pity, they could not execute the cruel sentence her father had ordered, and begged of her, as a return for the liberty they restored to her, that she would expatriate herself, so that her father might never hear of their having saved her. The poor young lady finding she received life through the humanity of her own servants, and that she was unable to reward them sufficiently, poured forth her prayers to heaven to send them blessings equal to the inestimable gift they bestowed upon her; and after recovering from-her fright and terror she swore to them, by that life they had saved her, that she would conduct herself in such a manner, that not only her merciless father, but no living soul should ever be apprised of the circumstance.

After having cut her hair, and dressed her up as well as they could with their own clothes, and giving her what trifle of money they had about them, they directed her on the way to Naples, and left her with tears; and having returned home with her clothes, they asserted, that with a large stone tied to her neck, they had plunged her into the sea about ten miles off. The noble lady, who had never before been out of the city, felt herself nearly fainting at every step she took; the thoughts of leaving her poor Antonio without the hope of ever seeing him again, together with many other tender thoughts, nearly induced her to turn back; but recollecting the kindness she experienced, and the solemn promise she had made to them, gratitude, that blossom of every virtue, had such power over her feelings, that every such thought was dismissed. She therefore went on, not knowing where, and praying to heaven to help her, she walked the remaining part of the night. About dawn, being near Nocera, she was overtaken by a party who were going on to Naples, and joined company with them; among these was a Calabrian gentleman, who was taking some sparrow hawks to the Duke of Calabria. The youth (for so the lady appeared) seeming to him a pleasant young man, he asked her what countryman he was, and whether he wanted employment? Veronica, who in sport had learned in her youth to imitate the language of an old woman of Apulia, who was in her father's house, thought she would make use of those Pugliese words which she recollected, as often as she could in the course of her conversation with him, and answered, "I am a native of Apulia, and came forth from home only to get a situation, but, as I am the son of a noble father, I would not wish to undertake too menial a place." To which the Calabrian said, "would you like to be keeper of the hawks?" This question highly delighted Veronica, having at her father's house had the care of several; she answered, that from her infancy she had been accustomed to the care of them. After some conversation as they went along, she took the care of one, and being arrived at Naples, and clad so that she appeared a very neat and elegant little squire, whether fate had so decreed it, or that her likely appearance captivated him, the duke would have both the hawks and the young Pugliese keeper who managed them so well, and, consequently, he was installed in the family with a young Neapolitan. She so carefully fulfilled her duty, and was so exact in her attendance, that in a short time she became the greatest favourite, and was much valued by the duke; insomuch that she remained with him till fortune directed another course for her.

Her old father, meanwhile, torn with grief and remorse, for the fatal story had got wind, remained mostly shut up in his house or at his country villa, secluded from all society. Antonio, after bitterly sorrowing for the death of his dear Veronica, and finding that the old man had never discovered who the cavalier was who had escaped on that fatal night, determined after a few days, as well to prevent suspicion, as moved by compassion, to visit the old man; he generally accompanied him to his villa, and shewed himself as kind, obedient, and dutiful, as if he had been his own son, the which Mazzeo felt the more sensibly, as the youth seemed to be the only one who had not forsaken him in his dire calamity, and therefore loved him as he would have done his own, and could not rest one hour without his dear Antonio. As the latter persevered in his kindness and attentions to him, it occurred to the old man, that since his ill fortune had deprived him of an heir, he would adopt him as such. Full of this thought he made his will, and left Antonio heir to every thing he possessed, and died shortly after. Antonio having thus acquired immense property, and occupying the house of the deceased, met with numberless objects that recalled to his mind the tender and heroic affection of his dear Veronica, who rather met her death, than reveal his name. His grief and gratitude were such, that he vowed he never would marry. Meanwhile the duke determined to go to Calabria, which thing enraptured the Pugliese (Veronica), as she would not only see her dear country again, but might perchance hear of her lover, and of her father, whom she still loved, in spite of his cruelty, and of whom she had made no enquiry lest her secret should be known. Being arrived at Salerno, and the duke's retinue accommodated with lodgings according to their rank, it happened, as it pleased fortune to ordain, in order to put an end to their long sufferings, and finally make Antonio happy, that it fell to the lot of Antonio Marcello to accommodate the Pugliese and his companions with lodgings, which circumstance we may naturally suppose was no small joy to Veronica. They were honorably and courteously entertained by Antonio; at night he provided an elegant supper, and in the very apartment where he was wont to spend such happy moments with Veronica. As these two were looking anxiously on each other, Antonio thought he traced in the countenance of the Pugliese some of the features of his beloved, and recollecting her death, every word he uttered was broken by the deepest sighs. Veronica, seeing herself in her own house, though delighted at beholding her lover in possession of all the property, yet not seeing her father nor any of the family she had left, felt much afflicted and became very desirous of hearing something about him. While she remained thus agitated, in the course of the supper, her companion asked Antonio whether those painted arms in the hall were his, to which Antonio answered in the negative, and said they were those of a noble lord, named Messer Mazzeo, first judge, who having died in old age without children, had bequeathed all his property to him, for which reason having been adopted by him, he had taken possession, not only of the property, but assumed the name, as if he had been his own father. When Veronica heard this, her heart leaped with joy, and she could scarcely refrain from shedding tears; she, however, calmed herself till supper was over, when she thought it was high time she should fold her beloved to her arms, whom fortune had so kindly preserved to her; and taking Antonio by the hand, leaving her friends with the rest of the company, they entered an adjoining room, where she wished to say something to him by which he might recognise her. She attempted to speak, but could not utter a syllable from excess of joy and tears. Thus exhausted by contending feelings, she fell into his arms, exclaiming; "Oh! Antonio, my love, is it possible thou dost not know me?" He, who as I have said before, thought he recognized some features of his dear Veronica, upon hearing those words, immediately became convinced of what he only at first surmised, and overcome with the ten-derest feelings, said, "my soul, art thou really living?" So saying he swooned in her arms. After caressing each other for a time with endearments, and relating their adventures, Antonio considering it fit to divulge the whole circumstances, and herself being of the same mind, they went out of the room to her companions, and although it was late, Antonio sent to all his own friends and Veronica's, desiring them to attend directly at his house, on business of the greatest importance. They being arrived, he requested them to attend him as far as the palace of the duke, as he meant to request him to put him in possession of an estate formerly belonging to Messer Mazzeo, from which no fruit or advantage had been derived for many years past. The whole group having willingly agreed so to do, when before the duke, Antonio, taking his Veronica by the hand, in the presence of all, related every circumstance that had happened, without concealing the least particular; declaring afterwards how, from the very beginning of their love, they had pledged their faith as man and wife, and meant, with their lord's approbation, to celebrate publicly this marriage. The duke, barons, relations, and strangers present, hearing these extraordinary events were much surprised, and heartily rejoiced at the happy issue. The conduct and constancy of Antonio and Veronica were highly praised; they took leave of the duke, and next day high mass was celebrated in the presence of his highness, and Antonio and Veronica were both married; noble presents were sent by the duke, and they in love, and with many beautiful children, lived, and terminated this life at a very old age.