"How! what means this mummery!" cried the Legate, trembling already, and looking round to the nobles.
"Please your Eminence," said one of the councillors, who had come from the Capitol to meet the Legate, "we saw it at daybreak, the ink yet moist, as we entered the Hall. We deemed it best to leave it for your Eminence to deal with."
"You deemed! Who are you, then?"
"One of the members of the Council, your Eminence, and a stanch opponent of the Tribune, as is well known, when he wanted the new tax - "
"Council - trash! No more councils now! Order is restored at last. The Orsini and the Colonna will look to you in future. Resist a tax, did you? Well, that was right when proposed by a tyrant; but I warn you, friend, to take care how you resist the tax we shall impose. Happy if your city can buy its peace with the Church on any terms: - and his Holiness is short of the florins."
The discomfited councillor shrank back.
"Tear off yon insolent placard. Nay, hold! fix over it our proclamation of ten thousand florins for the heretic's head! Ten thousand? methinks that is too much now - we will alter the cipher. Meanwhile Rinaldo Orsini, Lord Senator, march thy soldiers to St. Angelo; let us see if the heretic can stand a siege."
"It needs not, your Eminence," said the councillor, again officiously bustling up; "St. Angelo is surrendered. The Tribune, his wife, and one page, escaped last night, it is said, in disguise."
"Ha!" said the old Colonna, whose dulled sense had at length arrived at the conclusion that something extraordinary arrested the progress of his friends. "What is the matter? What is that placard? Will no one tell me the words? My old eyes are dim."
As he uttered the questions, in the shrill and piercing treble of age, a voice replied in a loud and deep tone - none knew whence it came; the crowd was reduced to a few stragglers, chiefly friars in cowl and serge, whose curiosity nought could daunt, and whose garb ensured them safety - the soldiers closed the rear: a voice, I say, came, startling the colour from many a cheek - in answer to the Colonna, saying: