BUT to return to Signor Gualdi, from whom we have notwithstanding made no impertinent digression, since he was eventually suspected to be one of the strange people, or Rosicrucians, or Ever-Livers of whom we are treating. This was from mysterious circumstances which occurred afterwards in relation to him, and which are in print.
The Venetian nobleman was now on a footing of sufficient intimacy with Signor Gualdi to say to him one evening, at his own house, that he understood that he had a fine collection of pictures, and that, if agreeable, he would pay him a visit some day for the purpose of viewing them. The nobleman's daughter who was present, and who was pensively looking down upon the table, more than half in love with the stranger as she had become, thinking deeply of something that the Signor had just said, raised her eyes eagerly at this expression of wish by her father and, as accorded with her feelings, she appeared, though she spoke not, to be greatly desirous to make one of the party to see the pictures. It was natural that she should secretly rejoice at this opportunity of becoming more intimately acquainted with the domestic life, of one whom she had grown to regard with feelings of such powerful interest. She felt that the mere fact of being his guest, and under the roof which was his; would seem to bring her nearer to him; and, as common with lovers, it appeared to her that their
being thus together would, in feeling at least, appear to identify both. Signor Gualdi was very polite, and readily invited the nobleman to his house, and also extended the invitation to the young lady, should she feel disposed to accompany her father, since he divined from the expression of her face that she was wishful to that effect. The day for the visit was then named, and the Signor took his departure with the expressions of friendship on all sides which usually ended their pleasant meetings.
It followed from this arrangement, that on the day appointed the father and daughter went to Signor Gualdi’s house. They were received by the Signor with warm kindness, and were shown over his rooms with every mark of friendliness and distinction. The nobleman viewed Signor Gualdi’s pictures with great attention; and when he had completed his tour of the gallery, he expressed his satisfaction by telling the Signor that he had never seen a finer collection, considering the number of pieces. They were now in Signor Gualdi’s own chamber--the last of his set of rooms; and they were just on the point of turning to go out and bidding adieu, and Gualdi was courteously removing the tapestry from before the door to widen the egress, when the nobleman, who had paused to allow him thus to clear the way, by chance cast his eyes upwards over the door, where there hung a picture with the curtain accidentally left un-drawn, evidently of the stranger himself. The Venetian looked upon it with doubt, and after a while his face fell; but it soon cleared, as if with relief. The gaze of the daughter was also now riveted upon the picture, which was very like Gualdi; but she regarded it with a look of tenderness and a blush. The Venetian looked from the picture to Gualdi, and back again from Gualdi to the picture. It was some time before
he spoke; and when, he did; his voice sounded strangely.
'That picture was intended for you, sir', said he at last, hesitating, to Signor Gualdi. A slight cold change passed over the eyes of the stranger; but he only made reply by a low bow. 'You look a moderately young man--to be candid with you, sir, I should say about forty-five or thereabouts; and yet I know, by certain means of which I will not now further speak, that this picture is by the hand of Titian, who has been dead nearly a couple of hundred years. How is this possible'? he added, with a polite, grave smile. 'It is not easy', said Signor Gualdi quietly, 'to know all things that are possible or not possible, for very frequently mistakes are made concerning such; but there is certainly nothing strange in my being like a portrait painted by Titian.' The nobleman easily perceived by his manner, and by a momentary cloud upon his brow, that the stranger felt offence. The daughter clung to her father's arm, secretly afraid that this little unexpected demur might pass into coolness, and end with a consummation of estrangement, which she feared excessively; she dreaded nervously the rupture of their intimacy with the stranger; and, contradictory as it may seem, she wanted to withdraw, even without the demur she dreaded being cleared up into renewed pleasant confidence. However, this little temporary misunderstanding was soon put an end to by Signor Gualdi himself, who in a moment or two resumed his ordinary manner; and he saw the father and daughter downstairs, and forth to the entrance of his house, with his usual composed politeness, though the nobleman could not help some feeling of restraint, and his daughter experienced a considerable amount of mortification; and she could not look at Signor Gualdi, or
rather, when she did, she dwelt on his face too much.
This little occurrence remained as a puzzle in the mind of the nobleman. His daughter felt lonely and dissatisfied afterwards, eager for the restoration of the same friendly feeling with Signor Gualdi, and revolving in her mind, with the ingenuity of love, numberless schemes to achieve it. The Venetian betook himself in the evening to the usual coffeehouse; and he could not forbear speaking of the incident among the group of people collected there. Their curiosity was roused, and one or two, resolved to satisfy themselves by looking at the picture attentively the next morning. But to obtain an opportunity to see the picture on this next morning, it was necessary to see the Signor Gualdi somewhere, and to have the invitation of so reserved a man to his lodgings for the purpose. The only likely place to meet with him was at the coffee-house; and thither' the gentlemen went at the usual time, hoping, as it was the Signor's habit to present himself, that he would do so. But he did not come; nor had he been heard of from the time of the visit of the nobleman the day before to the Signor's house--which absence, for the first time almost that he had been in Venice, surprised everybody. But as they did not meet with him at the coffee-house, as they thought was sure, one of the persons who had the oftenest conversed with the Signor, and therefore was the freer in his acquaintance, undertook to go to his lodgings and inquire after him, which he did; but he was, answered by the owner of the house, who came to the street-door to respond to the questioner, that the Signor had gone, having quitted Venice that morning, early, and that he had locked up his pictures with certain orders, and had taken the key of his rooms with him.
This affair made a great noise at the time in Venice; and an account of it found its way into most of the newspapers of the year in which it occurred. In these newspapers and elsewhere, an outline of the foregoing particulars may be seen. The account of the Signor Gualdi will also be met with in Les Mémoires Historiques for the year 1687, tome i. p. 365. The chief particulars of our own narrative are extracted from an old book in our collection treating of well-attested relations of the sages, and of life protracted by their art for several centuries: Hermippus Redivivus; or, the Sage's Triumph over Old Age and the Grave. London, Second Edition, much enlarged. Printed for J. Nourse, at The Lamb, against Catherine Street in the Strand, in, the year 1749.
And thus much for the history of Signor Gualdi, who was suspected to be a Rosicrucian.
We shall have further interesting notices of these unaccountable people as we proceed.