In the Italian city of Ferrara, around the 16th century, two young men lived: Fabius and Muzio. They were relatives and close relatives, they belonged to old and rich families and never parted. Muzio was a musician, and Fabius an artist. Having the same tastes and inclinations, outwardly they were not alike. Fabius was tall, blue-eyed and light-haired, with a bright, affable smile on his lips. Muzio had a swarthy, serious and unsmiling face, black hair and brown eyes. Both friends were beautiful and liked ladies.
At the same time in Ferrara lived a beautiful Valeria, a modest, meek and shy girl, the daughter of a noble but poor widow. From the house, Valeria went out only to the church and sometimes appeared at the city festivities.
Oh, how happy that young man will be, for whom this still curled in his petals will finally blossom, still untouched and virgin flower.
Fabius and Muzio saw Valeria on the “lush folk festivities” and fell passionately in love with her. They decided to get close to the girl and give her a choice. The loser will submit and leave.
Good fame allowed friends “to penetrate the widow’s inaccessible home.” They took care of Valeria for a long time, and then wrote her a letter with a request to give her hand and heart to one of them. The girl asked advice from her mother, and the widow advised her to choose Fabia – she noticed that before him the daughter is not so shy.
The newlyweds settled in the beautiful Villa Fabia, surrounded by a shady garden. Four years the couple lived happily. Valeria’s virtues were revealed “in a new captivating light,” and Muzio “became a significant painter.” Only one thing overshadowed the happiness of the couple: they had no children.
By the end of the fourth year, Valeria’s mother had died. She lamented for a long time, but gradually life went back on track.
A year later Muzzio suddenly returned to Ferrara. Fabio happened to meet a friend on the street, was delighted and invited him to settle in the pavilion in his villa. Muzio moved there with his servant, the “servile-feigned” Malay, whose tongue was cut out.
Muzio brought with him dozens of chests with various jewels collected during travel. One of them – a luxurious pearl necklace – Muzio put on Valeria’s neck: “it seemed to her heavy and gifted with some kind of strange warmth, it so clung to the skin.”
Mutio described his travels through Persia, Arabia, India, to the borders of China and Tibet. Muzia’s features did not change, but his expression became different – focused and important. His voice became deaf, and the movements of hands and body “lost their swagger”, typical of the Italians. In the behavior of Mucius “something alien and unprecedented was manifested.”
At dinner, Muzio gave his friends a golden and thick Shirazian wine.
It did not taste like European wines; it was very sweet and spicy, and, drunk slowly, in small sips, excited in all the members a feeling of pleasant slumber.
Pouring wine into the bowl of Valeria, he whispered something and shook his fingers.
Then Muzio played a few mournful folk songs on the Indian violin, and then a passionate melody, a song he heard on the island of Ceylon, where it is called the song of happy, satisfied love.
Valeria fell asleep just before morning. She dreamed that she entered a richly decorated room with alabaster columns. The curtain at the opposite end of the room leaned back and Muzio entered. He laughed and hugged Valeria, his dry lips burned it all, and she fell on the luxurious carpet.
Valeria hardly woke up, woke her husband and said that she had a nightmare. At that moment a song of triumphant love sounded from the side of the pavilion. Valeria did not tell her husband what her dream was about.
In the morning Muzio went out to breakfast. He seemed content, cheerful and told that he dreamed that he was in a rich, decorated with alabaster columns, alone with a woman whom he had once loved. The woman was so beautiful that he was all burned with the same love. Waking up, Muzio played the violin with a song of triumphant love. According to Mutsiy’s description, the frightened Valeria recognized the room from her dream.
In the afternoon, Fabius tried to continue working on the portrait of his wife, which he had begun before Muzio returned, but could not find on the pale and tired face of Valeria the pure, holy expression that he so much liked. Fabius already repented that he invited Muzio to stay at home. He was embarrassed not only by a changed friend, but also by his dumb servant. According to Muzi, the severed tongue was a victim, bringing it that the Malay gained great power.
Cheerfully spent this day, both spouses. It seemed that something dark hung over their heads. but what it was – they could not name.
Muzio, calm and content, returned late at night. He again treated the couple with Shiraz wine. Valeria refused, and Muzio, as if to himself, said: “Now it’s no longer necessary.”
At night, Fabio woke up and found that Valeria was not in the bedroom, and then saw his wife in a night dress, entering the room from the garden. She made her way to the bed to the touch, “with her eyes closed, with an expression of secret horror on her immobile face.” Fabius rushed into the garden and saw on the track “traces of a double pair of legs” – barefoot and shod. Suddenly, the sounds of a magical song were heard – this again played Muzio.
In the morning Valeria went to her spiritual father to the neighboring monastery. In confession she told everything. The confessor released her involuntary sin. Suspecting the “enchantment of demons”, a staid monk went with Valeria to her villa and advised Fabio to remove the guest from the house whenever possible. The confessor believed that Muzio engaged in black magic. Fabius decided to follow his advice.
For dinner, Muzio did not return, and Fabio had to postpone the conversation for the morning. At night, Fabius saw Valeria get out of bed and went into the garden, reaching out her hands and looking in front of her lifeless eyes. He ran out into another door and quickly locked the one to which Valeria was going. Rushing to the pavilion, Fabius saw Muzia. With his hands outstretched, with dull eyes he walked towards Valeria, who had left attempts to open the door and was already leaving through a tall window. Embraced by rabies, Fabius hit Muzia with a dagger in his side. Lying blood, Muzio disappeared into the pavilion, and Valeria fell to the ground.
Taking Valeria to the bedroom where the woman fell asleep, Fabio went to the pavilion to see whether Mucius was still alive. He saw a dead friend and a Malays who was carrying out some sort of magic ritual over the corpse.
Urm the butler told Fabio that he had received a note from the Malays. He wrote that signor fell ill, wants to move to the city and asks to give him to help people for packing things, horses and several escorts. Waking up, Valeria was glad that Muzio was leaving, and ordered to throw the necklace he gave to the well. Fabia thought that the pearls on the necklace faded.
Fabius was sure that he had seen Muzio dead at night. He decided to look again and entered the pavilion through the back door. Fabius saw that the Malay put on the corpse of Muzia pavement and tried to revive him with the same ritual.
The dead man’s eyelids fluttered, unevenly peeled off, and from beneath them appeared the dull, like lead, pupils. A proud face and joy, joy almost malicious, the face of the Malays beamed.
Scared Fabio rushed to run.
A few hours later, the Malay withdrew from the pavilion lifeless Muzio, planted it in front of him on a horse, and they, accompanied by a caravan loaded with property of horses left the villa. At the last moment, it seemed to Fabia that Muzioi looked at him with his dead eyes.
The spouses began to live the same life. Her usual expression of purity returned to Valeria’s face. Once Valery, in addition to her will, played on the organ a song of triumphant love, and at the same moment for the first time “felt the thrill of a new, emerging life”.