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Title: Casa Braccio, Volumes 1 and 2 (of 2)
Author: Crawford, F. Marion (Francis Marion), 1854-1909
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Casa Braccio, Volumes 1 and 2 (of 2)" ***

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CASA BRACCIO

[Illustration: Emblem]

[Illustration: "He looked at her long and sadly."--Vol. I., p. 239.]



CASA BRACCIO

BY

F. MARION CRAWFORD

AUTHOR OF "SARACINESCA," "PIETRO GHISLERI," ETC.

IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. I.

_WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. CASTAIGNE_

                 =New York=
              MACMILLAN AND CO.
                 AND LONDON
                   1895

          _All rights reserved_

          COPYRIGHT, 1894,

          BY F. MARION CRAWFORD.


          =Norwood Press=
          J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
          Norwood Mass. U.S.A.



          THIS STORY, BEING MY TWENTY-FIFTH NOVEL,
              IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO
                         MY WIFE

          SORRENTO, 1895



CONTENTS.

          PART I.
          SISTER MARIA ADDOLORATA      1


          PART II.
          GLORIA DALRYMPLE           225



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

VOL. I.

                                                         PAGE

          Nanna and Annetta                                15

          Maria Addolorata                                 25

          "Sor Tommaso was lying motionless"               78

          "She had covered her face with the veil"        126

          "An evil death on you!"                         218

          "He looked at her long and sadly"               239

          "Fire and sleet and candle-light;
              And Christ receive thy soul"                324



PART I.

_SISTER MARIA ADDOLORATA._



CASA BRACCIO.



PART I.

_SISTER MARIA ADDOLORATA._



CHAPTER I.


SUBIACO lies beyond Tivoli, southeast from Rome, at the upper end of a
wild gorge in the Samnite mountains. It is an archbishopric, and gives a
title to a cardinal, which alone would make it a town of importance. It
shares with Monte Cassino the honour of having been chosen by Saint
Benedict and Saint Scholastica, his sister, as the site of a monastery
and a convent; and in a cell in the rock a portrait of the holy man is
still well preserved, which is believed, not without reason, to have
been painted from life, although Saint Benedict died early in the fifth
century. The town itself rises abruptly to a great height upon a mass of
rock, almost conical in shape, crowned by the cardinal's palace, and
surrounded on three sides by rugged mountains. On the third, it looks
down the rapidly widening valley in the direction of Vicovaro, near
which the Licenza runs into the Anio, in the neighbourhood of Horace's
farm. It is a very ancient town, and in its general appearance it does
not differ very much from many similar ones amongst the Italian
mountains; but its position is exceptionally good, and its importance
has been stamped upon it by the hands of those who have thought it worth
holding since the days of ancient Rome. Of late it has, of course,
acquired a certain modernness of aspect; it has planted acacia trees in
its little piazza, and it has a gorgeously arrayed municipal band. But
from a little distance one neither hears the band nor sees the trees,
the grim mediæval fortifications frown upon the valley, and the
time-stained dwellings, great and small, rise in rugged irregularity
against the lighter brown of the rocky background and the green of
scattered olive groves and chestnuts. Those features, at least, have not
changed, and show no disposition to change during generations to come.

In the year 1844, modern civilization had not yet set in, and Subiaco
was, within, what it still appears to be from without, a somewhat gloomy
stronghold of the Middle Ages, rearing its battlements and towers in a
shadowy gorge, above a mountain torrent, inhabited by primitive and
passionate people, dominated by ecclesiastical institutions, and,
though distinctly Roman, a couple of hundred years behind Rome itself in
all matters ethic and æsthetic. It was still the scene of the Santacroce
murder, which really decided Beatrice Cenci's fate; it was still the
gathering place of highwaymen and outlaws, whose activity found an
admirable field through all the region of hill and plain between the
Samnite range and the sea, while the almost inaccessible fortresses of
the higher mountains, towards Trevi and the Serra di Sant' Antonio,
offered a safe refuge from the halfhearted pursuit of Pope Gregory's
lazy soldiers.

Something of what one may call the life-and-death earnestness of earlier
times, when passion was motive and prejudice was law, survived at that
time and even much later; the ferocity of practical love and hatred
dominated the theory and practice of justice in the public life of the
smaller towns, while the patriarchal system subjected the family in
almost absolute servitude to its head.

There was nothing very surprising in the fact that the head of the house
of Braccio should have obliged one of his daughters to take the veil in
the Convent of Carmelite nuns, just within the gate of Subiaco, as his
sister had taken it many years earlier. Indeed, it was customary in the
family of the Princes of Gerano that one of the women should be a
Carmelite, and it was a tradition not unattended with worldly advantages
to the sisterhood, that the Braccio nun, whenever there was one, should
be the abbess of that particular convent.

Maria Teresa Braccio had therefore yielded, though very unwillingly, to
her father's insistence, and having passed through her novitiate, had
finally taken the veil as a Carmelite of Subiaco, in the year 1841, on
the distinct understanding that when her aunt died she was to be abbess
in the elder lady's stead. The abbess herself was, indeed, in excellent
health and not yet fifty years old, so that Maria Teresa--in religion
Maria Addolorata--might have a long time to wait before she was promoted
to an honour which she regarded as hereditary; but the prospect of such
promotion was almost her only compensation for all she had left behind
her, and she lived upon it and concentrated her character upon it, and
practised the part she was to play, when she was quite sure that she was
not observed.

Nature had not made her for a recluse, least of all for a nun of such a
rigid Order as the Carmelites. The short taste of a brilliant social
life which she had been allowed to enjoy, in accordance with an ancient
tradition, before finally taking the veil, had shown her clearly enough
the value of what she was to abandon, and at the same time had
altogether confirmed her father in his decision. Compared with the
freedom of the present day, the restrictions imposed upon a young girl
in the Roman society of those times were, of course, tyrannical in the
extreme, and the average modern young lady would almost as willingly go
into a convent as submit to them. But Maria Teresa had received an
impression which nothing could efface. Her intuitive nature had divined
the possible semi-emancipation of marriage, and her temperament had felt
in a certain degree the extremes of joyous exaltation and of that
entrancing sadness which is love's premonition, and which tells maidens
what love is before they know him, by making them conscious of the
breadth and depth of his yet vacant dwelling.

She had learned in that brief time that she was beautiful, and she had
felt that she could love and that she should be loved in return. She had
seen the world as a princess and had felt it as a woman, and she had
understood all that she must give up in taking the veil. But she had
been offered no choice, and though she had contemplated opposition, she
had not dared to revolt. Being absolutely in the power of her parents,
so far as she was aware, she had accepted the fatality of their will,
and bent her fair head to be shorn of its glory and her broad forehead
to be covered forever from the gaze of men. And having submitted, she
had gone through it all bravely and proudly, as perhaps she would have
gone through other things, even to death itself, being a daughter of an
old race, accustomed to deify honour and to make its divinities of
tradition. For the rest of her natural life she was to live on the
memories of one short, magnificent year, forever to be contented with
the grim rigidity of conventual life in an ancient cloister surrounded
by gloomy mountains. She was to be a veiled shadow amongst veiled
shades, a priestess of sorrow amongst sad virgins; and though, if she
lived long enough, she was to be the chief of them and their ruler, her
very superiority could only make her desolation more complete, until her
own shadow, like the others, should be gathered into eternal darkness.

Sister Maria Addolorata had certain privileges for which her companions
would have given much, but which were traditionally the right of such
ladies of the Braccio family as took the veil. For instance, she had a
cell which, though not larger than the other cells, was better situated,
for it had a little balcony looking over the convent garden, and high
enough to afford a view of the distant valley and of the hills which
bounded it, beyond the garden wall. It was entered by the last door in
the corridor within, and was near the abbess's apartment, which was
entered from the corridor, through a small antechamber which also gave
access to the vast linen-presses. The balcony, too, had a little
staircase leading down into the garden. It had always been the custom to
carry the linen to and from the laundry through Maria Addolorata's cell,
and through a postern gate in the garden wall, the washing being done in
the town. By this plan, the annoyance was avoided of carrying the huge
baskets through the whole length of the convent, to and from the main
entrance, which was also much further removed from the house of Sora
Nanna, the chief laundress. Moreover, Maria Addolorata had charge of all
the convent linen, and the employment thus afforded her was an undoubted
privilege in itself, for occupation of any kind not devotional was
excessively scarce in such an existence.

In the eyes of the other nuns, the constant society of the abbess
herself was also a privilege, and one not by any means to be despised.
After all, the abbess and her niece were nearly related, they could talk
of the affairs of their family, and the abbess doubtless received many
letters from Rome containing all the interesting news of the day, and
all the social gossip--perfectly innocent, of course--which was the
chronicle of Roman life. These were valuable compensations, and the nuns
envied them. The abbess, too, saw her brother, the archbishop and
titular cardinal of Subiaco, when the princely prelate came out from
Rome for the coolness of the mountains in August and September, and his
conversation was said to be not only edifying, but fascinating. The
cardinal was a very good man, like many of the Braccio family, but he
was also a man of the world, who had been sent upon foreign missions of
importance, and had acquired some worldly fame as well as much
ecclesiastical dignity in the course of his long life. It must be
delightful, the nuns thought, to be his own sister, to receive long
visits from him, and to hear all he had to say about the busy world of
Rome. To most of them, everything beyond Rome was outer darkness.

But though the nuns envied the abbess and Maria Addolorata, they did not
venture to say so, and they hardly dared to think so, even when they
were all alone, each in her cell; for the concentration of conventual
life magnifies small spiritual sins in the absence of anything really
sinful, and to admit that she even faintly wishes she might be some one
else is to tarnish the brightness of the nun's scrupulously polished
conscience. It would be as great a misdeed, perhaps, as to allow the
attention to wander to worldly matters during times of especial
devotion. Nevertheless, the envy showed itself, very perceptibly and
much against the will of the sisters themselves, in a certain cold
deference of manner towards the young and beautiful nun who was one day
to be the superior of them all by force of circumstances for which she
deserved no credit. She had the position among them, and something of
the isolation, of a young royal princess amongst the ladies of her queen
mother's court.

There was about her, too, an undefinable something, like the shadow of
future fate, a something almost impossible to describe, and yet
distinctly appreciable to all who saw her and lived with her. It came
upon her especially when she was silent and abstracted, when she was
kneeling in her place in the choir, or was alone upon her little balcony
over the garden. At such times a luminous pallor gradually took the
place of her fresh and healthy complexion, her eyes grew unnaturally
dark, with a deep, fixed fire in them, and the regular features took
upon them the white, set straightness of a death mask. Sometimes, at
such moments, a shiver ran through her, even in summer, and she drew her
breath sharply once or twice, as though she were hurt. The expression
was not one of suffering or pain, but was rather that of a person
conscious of some great danger which must be met without fear or
flinching.

She would have found it very hard to explain what she felt just then.
She might have said that it was a consciousness of something unknown.
She could not have said more than that. It brought no vision with it,
beatific or horrifying; it was not the consequence of methodical
contemplation, as the trance state is; and it was followed by no
reaction nor sense of uneasiness. It simply came and went as the dark
shadow of a thundercloud passing between her and the sun, and leaving no
trace behind.

There was nothing to account for it, unless it could be explained by
heredity, and no one had ever suggested any such explanation to Maria.
It was true that there had been more than one tragedy in the Braccio
family since they had first lifted their heads above the level of their
contemporaries to become Roman Barons, in the old days before such
titles as prince and duke had come into use. But then, most of the old
families could tell of deeds as cruel and lives as passionate as any
remembered by Maria's race, and Italians, though superstitious in
unexpected ways, have little of that belief in hereditary fate which is
common enough in the gloomy north.

"Was Sister Maria Addolorata a great sinner, before she became a nun?"
asked Annetta, Sora Nanna's daughter, of her mother, one day, as they
came away from the convent.

"What are you saying!" exclaimed the washerwoman, in a tone of rebuke.
"She is a great lady, and the niece of the abbess and of the cardinal.
Sometimes certain ideas pass through your head, my daughter!"

And Sora Nanna gesticulated, unable to express herself.

"Then she sins in her throat," observed Annetta, calmly. "But you do not
even look at her--so many sheets--so many pillow-cases--and good day!
But while you count, I look."

"Why should I look at her?" inquired Nanna, shifting the big empty
basket she carried on her head, hitching her broad shoulders and
wrinkling her leathery forehead, as her small eyes turned upward. "Do
you take me for a man, that I should make eyes at a nun?"

"And I? Am I a man? And yet I look at her. I see nothing but her face
when we are there, and afterwards I think about it. What harm is there?
She sins in her throat. I know it."

Sora Nanna hitched her shoulders impatiently again, and said nothing.
The two women descended through the steep and narrow street, slippery
and wet with slimy, coal black mud that glittered on the rough
cobble-stones. Nanna walked first, and Annetta followed close behind
her, keeping step, and setting her feet exactly where her mother had
trod, with the instinctive certainty of the born mountaineer. With heads
erect and shoulders square, each with one hand on her hip and the other
hanging down, they carried their burdens swiftly and safely, with a
swinging, undulating gait as though it were a pleasure to them to move,
and would require an effort to stop rather than to walk on forever. They
wore shoes because they were well-to-do people, and chose to show that
they were when they went up to the convent. But for the rest they were
clad in the costume of the neighbourhood,--the coarse white shift, close
at the throat, the scarlet bodice, the short, dark, gathered skirt, and
the dark blue carpet apron, with flowers woven on a white stripe across
the lower end. Both wore heavy gold earrings, and Sora Nanna had eight
or ten strings of large coral beads around her throat.

Annetta was barely fifteen years old, brown, slim, and active as a
lizard. She was one of those utterly unruly and untamable girls of whom
there are two or three in every Italian village, in mountain or plain, a
creature in whom a living consciousness of living nature took the place
of thought, and with whom to be conscious was to speak, without reason
or hesitation. The small, keen, black eyes were set under immense and
arched black eyebrows which made the eyes themselves seem larger than
they were, and the projecting temples cast shadows to the cheek which
hid the rudimentary modelling of the coarse lower lids. The ears were
flat and ill-developed, but close to the head and not large; the teeth
very short, though perfectly regular and exceedingly white; the lips
long, mobile, brown rather than red, and generally parted like those
of a wild animal. The girl's smoothly sinewy throat moved with every
step, showing the quick play of the elastic cords and muscles. Her
blue-black hair was plaited, though far from neatly, and the braids were
twisted into an irregular flat coil, generally hidden by the flap of the
white embroidered cloth cross-folded upon her head and hanging down
behind.

[Illustration: Nanna and Annetta.--Vol. I., p. 15.]

For some minutes the mother and daughter continued to pick their way
down the winding lanes between the dark houses of the upper village.
Then Sora Nanna put out her right hand as a signal to Annetta that she
meant to stop, and she stood still on the steep descent and turned
deliberately till she could see the girl.

"What are you saying?" she began, as though there had been no pause in
the conversation. "That Sister Maria Addolorata sins in her throat! But
how can she sin in her throat, since she sees no man but the gardener
and the priest? Indeed, you say foolish things!"

"And what has that to do with it?" inquired Annetta. "She must have seen
enough of men in Rome, every one of them a great lord. And who tells you
that she did not love one of them and does not wish that she were
married to him? And if that is not a sin in the throat, I do not know
what to say. There is my answer."

"You say foolish things," repeated Sora Nanna.

Then she turned deliberately away and began to descend once more, with
an occasional dissatisfied movement of the shoulders.

"For the rest," observed Annetta, "it is not my business. I would rather
look at the Englishman when he is eating meat than at Sister Maria when
she is counting clothes! I do not know whether he is a wolf or a man."

"Eh! The Englishman!" exclaimed Sora Nanna. "You will look so much at
the Englishman that you will make blood with Gigetto, who wishes you
well, and when Gigetto has waited for the Englishman at the corner of
the forest, what shall we all have? The galleys. What do you see in the
Englishman? He has red hair and long, long teeth. Yes--just like a wolf.
You are right. And if he pays for meat, why should he not eat it? If he
did not pay, it would be different. It would soon be finished. Heaven
send us a little money without any Englishman! Besides, Gigetto said the
other day that he would wait for him at the corner of the forest. And
Gigetto, when he says a thing, he does it."

"And why should we go to the galleys if Gigetto waits for the
Englishman?" inquired Annetta.

"Silly!" cried the older woman. "Because Gigetto would take your
father's gun, since he has none of his own. That would be enough. We
should have done it!"

Annetta shrugged her shoulders and said nothing.

"But take care," continued Sora Nanna. "Your father sleeps with one eye
open. He sees you, and he sees also the Englishman every day. He says
nothing, because he is good. But he has a fist like a paving-stone. I
tell you nothing more."

They reached Sora Nanna's house and disappeared under the dark archway.
For Sora Nanna and Stefanone, her husband, were rich people for their
station, and their house was large and was built with an arch wide
enough and high enough for a loaded beast of burden to pass through with
a man on its back. And, within, everything was clean and well kept,
excepting all that belonged to Annetta. There were airy upper rooms,
with well-swept floors of red brick or of beaten cement, furnished with
high beds on iron trestles, and wooden stools of well-worn brown oak,
and tables painted a vivid green, and primitive lithographs of Saint
Benedict and Santa Scholastica and the Addolorata. And there were lofts
in which the rich autumn grapes were hung up to dry on strings, and
where chestnuts lay in heaps, and figs were spread in symmetrical order
on great sheets of the coarse grey paper made in Subiaco. There were
apples, too, though poor ones, and there were bins of maize and wheat,
waiting to be picked over before being ground in the primeval household
mill. And there were hams and sides of bacon, and red peppers, and
bundles of dried herbs, and great mountain cheeses on shelves. There was
also a guest room, better than the rest, which Stefanone and his wife
occasionally let to respectable travellers or to the merchants who came
from Rome on business to stay a few days in Subiaco. At the present time
the room was rented by the Englishman concerning whom the discussion had
arisen between Annetta and her mother.

Angus Dalrymple, M.D., was not an Englishman, as he had tried to explain
to Sora Nanna, though without the least success. He was, as his name
proclaimed, a Scotchman of the Scotch, and a doctor of medicine. It was
true that he had red hair, and an abundance of it, and long white teeth,
but Sora Nanna's description was otherwise libellously incomplete and
wholly omitted all mention of the good points in his appearance. In the
first place, he possessed the characteristic national build in a
superior degree of development, with all the lean, bony energy which has
done so much hard work in the world. He was broad-shouldered,
long-armed, long-legged, deep-chested, and straight, with sinewy hands
and singularly well-shaped fingers. His healthy skin had that mottled
look produced by countless freckles upon an almost childlike complexion.
The large, grave mouth generally concealed the long teeth objected to by
Sora Nanna, and the lips, though even and narrow, were strong rather
than thin, and their rare smile was both genial and gentle. There were
lines--as yet very faint--about the corners of the mouth, which told of
a nervous and passionate disposition and of the strong Scotch temper, as
well as of a certain sensitiveness which belongs especially to northern
races. The pale but very bright blue eyes under shaggy auburn brows were
fiery with courage and keen with shrewd enterprise. Dalrymple was
assuredly not a man to be despised under any circumstances,
intellectually or physically.

His presence in such a place as Subiaco, at a time when hardly any
foreigners except painters visited the place, requires some explanation;
for he was not an artist, but a doctor, and had never been even tempted
to amuse himself with sketching. In the first place, he was a younger
son of a good family, and received a moderate allowance, quite
sufficient in those days to allow him considerable latitude of
expenditure in old-fashioned Italy. Secondly, he had entirely refused to
follow any of the professions known as 'liberal.' He had no taste for
the law, and he had not the companionable character which alone can make
life in the army pleasant in time of peace. His beliefs, or his lack of
belief, together with an honourable conscience, made him naturally
opposed to all churches. On the other hand, he had been attracted almost
from his childhood by scientific subjects, at a period when the
discoveries of the last fifty years appeared as misty but beatific
visions to men of science. To the disappointment and, to some extent, to
the humiliation of his family, he insisted upon studying medicine, at
the University of St. Andrew's, as soon as he had obtained his ordinary
degree at Cambridge. And having once insisted, nothing could turn him
from his purpose, for he possessed English tenacity grafted upon Scotch
originality, with a good deal of the strength of both races.

While still a student he had once made a tour in Italy, and like many
northerners had fallen under the mysterious spell of the South from the
very first. Having a sufficient allowance for all his needs, as has been
said, and being attracted by the purely scientific side of his
profession rather than by any desire to become a successful
practitioner, it was natural enough that on finding himself free to go
whither he pleased in pursuit of knowledge, he should have visited Italy
again. A third visit had convinced him that he should do well to spend
some years in the country; for by that time he had become deeply
interested in the study of malarious fevers, which in those days were
completely misunderstood. It would be far too much to say that young
Dalrymple had at that time formed any complete theory in regard to
malaria; but his naturally lonely and concentrated intellect had
contemptuously discarded all explanations of malarious phenomena, and,
communicating his own ideas to no one, until he should be in possession
of proofs for his opinions, he had in reality got hold of the beginning
of the truth about germs which has since then revolutionized medicine.

The only object of this short digression has been to show that Angus
Dalrymple was not a careless idler and tourist in Italy, only half
responsible for what he did, and not at all for what he thought. On the
contrary, he was a man of very unusual gifts, of superior education, and
of rare enterprise; a strong, silent, thoughtful man, about
eight-and-twenty years of age, and just beginning to feel his power as
something greater than he had suspected, when he came to spend the
autumn months in Subiaco, and hired Sora Nanna's guest room, with a
little room leading off it, which he kept locked, and in which he had a
table, a chair, a microscope, some books, a few chemicals and some
simple apparatus.

His presence had at first roused certain jealous misgivings in the heart
of the town physician, Sor Tommaso Taddei, commonly spoken of simply as
'the Doctor,' because there was no other. But Dalrymple was not without
tact and knowledge of human nature. He explained that he came as a
foreigner to learn from native physicians how malarious fevers were
treated in Italy; and he listened with patient intelligence to Sor
Tommaso's antiquated theories, and silently watched his still more
antiquated practice. And Sor Tommaso, like all people who think that
they know a vast deal, highly approved of Dalrymple's submissive
silence, and said that the young man was a marvel of modesty, and that
if he could stay about ten years in Subiaco and learn something from Sor
Tommaso himself, he might really some day be a fairly good
doctor,--which were extraordinarily liberal admissions on the part of
the old practitioner, and contributed largely towards reassuring
Stefanone concerning his lodger's character.

For Stefanone and his wife had their doubts and suspicions. Of course
they knew that all foreigners except Frenchmen and Austrians were
Protestants, and ate meat on fast days, and were under the most especial
protection of the devil, who fattened them in this world that they might
burn the better in the next. But Stefanone had never seen the real
foreigner at close quarters, and had not conceived it possible that any
living human being could devour so much half-cooked flesh in a day as
Dalrymple desired for his daily portion, paid for, and consumed.
Moreover, there was no man in Subiaco who could and did swallow such
portentous draughts of the strong mountain wine, without suffering any
apparent effects from his potations. Furthermore, also, Dalrymple did
strange things by day and night in the small laboratory he had arranged
next to his bedroom, and unholy and evil smells issued at times through
the cracks of the door, and penetrated from the bedroom to the stairs
outside, and were distinctly perceptible all over the house. Therefore
Stefanone maintained for a long time that his lodger was in league with
the powers of darkness, and that it was not safe to keep him in the
house, though he paid his bill so very regularly, every Saturday, and
never quarrelled about the price of his food and drink. On the whole,
however, Stefanone abstained from interfering, as he had at first been
inclined to do, and entering the laboratory, with the support of the
parish priest, a basin of holy water, and a loaded gun--all three of
which he considered necessary for an exorcism; and little by little, Sor
Tommaso, the doctor, persuaded him that Dalrymple was a worthy young
man, deeply engaged in profound studies, and should be respected rather
than exorcised.

"Of course," admitted the doctor, "he is a Protestant. But then he has a
passport. Let us therefore let him alone."

The existence of the passport--indispensable in those days--was a strong
argument in the eyes of the simple Stefanone. He could not conceive
that a magician whose soul was sold to the devil could possibly have a
passport and be under the protection of the law. So the matter was
settled.



CHAPTER II.


[Illustration: Maria Addolorata.--Vol. I., p. 25.]

SISTER MARIA ADDOLORATA sat by the open door of her cell, looking across
the stone parapet of her little balcony, and watching the changing
richness of the western sky, as the sun went down far out of sight
behind the mountains. Though the month was October, the afternoon was
warm; it was very still, and the air had been close in the choir during
the Benediction service, which was just over. She leaned back in her
chair, and her lips parted as she breathed, with a perceptible desire
for refreshment in the breath. She held a piece of needlework in her
heavy white hands; the needle had been thrust through the linen, but the
stitch had remained unfinished, and one pointed finger pressed the
doubled edge against the other, lest the material should slip before she
made up her mind to draw the needle through. Deep in the garden under
the balcony the late flowers were taking strangely vivid colours out of
the bright sky above, and some bits of broken glass, stuck in the mortar
on the top of the opposite wall as a protection against thieving boys,
glowed like a line of rough rubies against the misty distance. Even the
white walls of the bare cell and the coarse grey blanket lying across
the foot of the small bed drank in a little of the colour, and looked
less grey and less grim.

From the eaves, high above the open door, the swallows shot down into
the golden light, striking great circles and reflecting the red gold of
the sky from their breasts as they wheeled just beyond the wall, with
steady wings wide-stretched, up and down; and each one, turning at full
speed, struck upwards again and was out of sight in an instant, above
the lintel. The nun watched them, her eyes trying to follow each of them
in turn and to recognize them separately as they flashed into sight
again and again.

Her lips were parted, and as she sat there she began to sing very softly
and quite unconsciously. She could not have told what the song was. The
words were strange and oddly divided, and there was a deadly sadness in
a certain interval that came back almost with every stave. But the voice
itself was beautiful beyond all comparison with ordinary voices, full of
deep and touching vibrations and far harmonics, though she sang so
softly, all to herself. Notes like hers haunt the ears--and sometimes
the heart--when she who sang them has been long dead, and many would
give much to hear but a breath of them again.

It was hard for Maria Addolorata not to sing sometimes, when she was
all alone in her cell, though it was so strictly forbidden. Singing is a
gift of expression, when it is a really natural gift, as much as speech
and gesture and the smile on the lips, with the one difference that it
is a keener pleasure to him or her that sings than gesture or speech can
possibly be. Music, and especially singing, are a physical as well as an
intellectual expression, a pleasure of the body as well as a
'delectation' of the soul. To sing naturally and spontaneously is most
generally an endowment of natures physically strong and rich by the
senses, independently of the mind, though melody may sometimes be the
audible translation of a silent thought as well as the unconscious
speech of wordless passion.

And in Maria's song there was a strain of that something unknown and
fatal, which the nuns sometimes saw in her face and which was in her
eyes now, as she sang; for they no longer followed the circling of the
swallows, but grew fixed and dark, with fiery reflexions from the sunset
sky, and the regular features grew white and straight and square against
the deepening shadows within the narrow room. The deep voice trembled a
little, and the shoulders had a short, shivering movement under the
heavy folds of the dark veil, as the sensation of a presence ran through
her and made her shudder. But the voice did not break, and she sang on,
louder, now, than she realized, the full notes swelling in her throat,
and vibrating between the narrow walls, and floating out through the
open door to join the flight of the swallows.

The door of the cell opened gently, but she did not hear, and sang on,
leaning back in her chair and gazing still at the pink clouds above the
mountains.

          "Death is my love, dark-eyed death--"

she sang.

"Maria!"

The abbess was standing in the doorway and speaking to her, but she did
not hear.

          "His hands are sweetly cold and gentle--
           Flowers of leek, and firefly--
           Holy Saint John!"

"Maria!" cried the abbess, impatiently. "What follies are you singing? I
could hear you in my room!"

Maria Addolorata started and rose from her seat, still holding her
needlework, and turning half round towards her superior, with suddenly
downcast eyes. The elder lady came forward with slow dignity and walked
as far as the door of the balcony, where she stood still for a moment,
gazing at the beautiful sky. She was not a stately woman, for she was
too short and stout, but she had that calm air of assured superiority
which takes the place of stateliness, and which seems to belong
especially to those who occupy important positions in the Church. Her
large features, though too heavy, were imposing in their excessive
pallor, while the broad, dark brown shadows all around and beneath the
large black eyes gave the face a depth of expression which did not,
perhaps, wholly correspond with the original character. It was a
striking face, and considering the wide interval between the ages of the
abbess and her niece, and the natural difference of colouring, there was
a strong family resemblance in the two women.

The abbess sat down upon the only chair, and Maria remained standing
before her, her sewing in her hands.

"I have often told you that you must not sing in your cell," said the
abbess, in a coldly severe tone.

Maria's shoulders shook her veil a little, but she still looked at the
floor.

"I cannot help it," she answered in a constrained voice. "I did not know
that I was singing--"

"That is ridiculous! How can one sing, and not know it? You are not
deaf. At least, you do not sing as though you were. I will not have it.
I could hear you as far away as my own room--a love-song, too!"

"The love of death," suggested Maria.

"It makes no difference," answered the elder lady. "You disturb the
peace of the sisters with your singing. You know the rule, and you must
obey it, like the rest. If you must sing, then sing in church."

"I do."

"Very well, that ought to be enough. Must you sing all the time? Suppose
that the Cardinal had been visiting me, as was quite possible, what
impression would he have had of our discipline?"

"Oh, Uncle Cardinal has often heard me sing."

"You must not call him 'Uncle Cardinal.' It is like the common people
who say 'Uncle Priest.' I have told you that a hundred times at least.
And if the Cardinal has heard you singing, so much the worse."

"He once told me that I had a good voice," observed Maria, still
standing before her aunt.

"A good voice is a gift of God and to be used in church, but not in such
a way as to attract attention or admiration. The devil is everywhere, my
daughter, and makes use of our best gifts as a means of temptation. The
Cardinal certainly did not hear you singing that witch's love-song which
I heard just now. He would have rebuked you as I do."

"It was not a love-song. It is about death--and Saint John's eve."

"Well, then it is about witches. Do not argue with me. There is a rule,
and you must not break it."

Maria Addolorata said nothing, but moved a step and leaned against the
door-post, looking out into the evening light. The stout abbess sat
motionless in her straight chair, looking past her niece at the distant
hills. She had evidently said all she meant to say about the singing,
and it did not occur to her to talk of anything else. A long silence
followed. Maria was not timid, but she had been accustomed from her
childhood to look upon her aunt as an immensely superior person, moving
in a higher sphere, and five years spent in the convent as novice and
nun had rather increased than diminished the feeling of awe which the
abbess inspired in the young girl. There was, indeed, no other sister in
the community who would have dared to answer the abbess's rebuke at all,
and Maria's very humble protest really represented an extraordinary
degree of individuality and courage. Conventual institutions can only
exist on a basis of absolute submission.

The abbess was neither harsh nor unkind, and was certainly not a very
terrifying figure, but she possessed undeniable force of character,
strengthened by the inborn sense of hereditary right and power, and her
kindness was as imposing as her displeasure was lofty and solemn. She
had very little sympathy for any weakness in others, but she was always
ready to dispense the mercy of Heaven, vicariously, so to say, and with
a certain royally suppressed surprise that Heaven should be merciful.
On the whole, considering the circumstances, she admitted that Maria
Addolorata had accepted the veil with sufficient outward grace, though
without any vocation, and she took it for granted that with such
opportunities the girl must slowly develop into an abbess not unlike her
predecessors. She prayed regularly, of course, and with especial
intention, for her niece, as for the welfare of the order, and assumed
as an unquestionable result that her prayers were answered with perfect
regularity, since her own conscience did not reproach her with
negligence of her young relative's spiritual education.

To the abbess, religion, the order and its duties, presented themselves
as a vast machine controlled for the glory of God by the Pope. She and
her nuns were parts of the great engine which must work with perfect
regularity in order that God might be glorified. Her mind was naturally
religious, but was at the same time essentially of the material order.
There is a material imagination, and there is a spiritual imagination.
There are very good and devout men and women who take the world, present
and to come, quite literally, as a mere fulfilment of their own
limitations; who look upon what they know as being all that need be
known, and upon what they believe of God and Heaven as the mechanical
consequence of what they know rather than as the cause and goal,
respectively, of existence and action; to whom the letter of the law is
the arbitrary expression of a despotic power, which, somehow, must be
looked upon as merciful; who answer all questions concerning God's logic
with the tremendous assertion of God's will; whose God is a magnified
man, and whose devil is a malignant animal, second only to God in
understanding, while extreme from God in disposition. There are good men
and women who, to use a natural but not flippant simile, take it for
granted that the soul is cast into the troubled waters of life without
the power to swim, or even the possibility of learning to float,
dependent upon the bare chance that some one may throw it the life-buoy
of ritual religion as its only conceivable means of salvation. And the
opponents of each particular form of faith invariably take just such
good men and women, with all their limitations, as the only true
exponents of that especial creed, which they then proceed to tear in
pieces with all the ease such an undue advantage of false premise gives
them. None of them have thought of intellectual mercy as being, perhaps,
an integral part of Christian charity. Faith they have in abundance, and
hope also not a little; but charity, though it be for men's earthly ills
and, theoretically, if not always practically, for men's spiritual
shortcomings, is rigidly forbidden for the errors of men's minds. Why?
No thinking man can help asking the little question which grows great in
the unanswering silence that follows it.

All this is not intended as an apology for what the young nun, Maria
Addolorata, afterwards did, though much of it is necessary in
explanation of her deeds, which, however they may be regarded, brought
upon her and others their inevitable logical consequences. Still less is
it meant, in any sense, as an attack upon the conventual system of the
cloistered orders, which system was itself a consequence of spiritual,
intellectual and political history, and has a prime right to be judged
upon the evidence of its causes, and not by the shortcomings of its
results in changed times. What has been said merely makes clear the fact
that the characters, minds, and dispositions of Maria Addolorata and of
her aunt, the abbess, were wholly unsuited to one another. And this one
fact became a source of life and death, of happiness and misery, of
comedy and tragedy, to many individuals, even to the present day.

The nun remained motionless, pressing her cheek against the door-post
and looking out. Her aunt had not quite shut the door by which she had
entered, and a cool stream of air blew outward from the corridor and
through the cell, bringing with it that peculiar odour which belongs to
all large and old buildings inhabited by religious communities. It is
made up of the cold exhalations from stone walls and paved floors in
which there is always some dampness, of the acrid smell of the heavy,
leathern, wadded curtains which shut off the main drafts of air, as the
swinging doors do in a mine, of a faint but perceptible suggestion of
incense which penetrates the whole building from the church or the
chapel, and, not least, of the fumes from the cookery of the great
quantities of vegetables which are the staple food of the brethren or
the sisters. It is as imperceptible to the monks and nuns themselves as
the smell of tobacco to the smoker.

It had been very close in the little cell, and Maria was glad of the
coolness that came in through the open door. Her eyes were fixed on the
sky with a longing look. Again the words of her song rose to her lips,
but she checked them, remembering her aunt's presence, and with the
effort to be silent came the strong wish to be free, to be over there
upon those purple hills at evening, to look beyond and watch the sun
sinking into the distant sea, to breathe her fill of the mountain air,
to run along the crests of the hills till she should be tired, to sleep
under the open sky, to see, in dreams, to-morrow's sun rising through
the trees, to be waked by the song of birds and to find that the dream
was true.

Instead of that, and instead of all it meant to her, there was to be
the silent evening meal, the close, lighted chapel, the wearily nasal
chant of the sisters, her lonely cell, with its close darkness, the
unrefreshing sleep, broken by the bell calling her to another office in
the chapel; then, at last, the dawn, and the day that would seem as much
a prisoner as herself within the convent walls, and the praying and
nasal chanting, and the counting of sheets and pillow-cases, and doing a
little sewing, and singing to herself, perhaps, and then the being
reproved for it--the whole varied by meals of coarse food, and
periodical stations in her seat in the choir. The day! The very sun
seemed imprisoned in his corner of the garden wall, dragging slowly at
his chain, in a short half-circle, from morning till evening, like a
watch-dog tied up in a yard beside his kennel. The night was better.
Sometimes she could see the moon-rays through the cracks of the balcony
door, as she lay in her bed. She could see them against the darkness,
and the ends of them were straight white lines and round white spots on
the floor and on the walls. Her thoughts played in them, and her maiden
fancies caught them and followed them lightly out into the white night
and far away to the third world, which is dreamland. And in her dreams
she sang to the midnight stars, and clasped her bare arms round the
moon's white throat, kissing the moon-lady's pale and passionate cheek,
till she lost herself in the mysterious eyes, and found herself once
more, bathed in cool star-showers, the queen of a tender dream.

There sat the abbess, in the only chair, stolid, righteous, imposing.
The incarnation and representative of the ninety and nine who need no
forgiveness, exasperatingly and mathematically virtuous as a dogma, a
woman against whom no sort of reproach could be brought, and at the mere
sight of whom false witnesses would shrivel up and die, like jelly-fish
in the sun. She not only approved of the convent life, but she liked it.
She was at liberty to do a thousand things which were not permitted to
the nuns, but she had not the slightest inclination to do any of them,
any more than she was inclined to admit that any of them could possibly
be unhappy if they would only pray, sing, sleep, and eat boiled cabbage
at the appointed hours. What had she in common with Maria Addolorata,
except that she was born a princess and a Braccio?

Of what use was it to be a princess by birth, like a dozen or more of
the sisters, or even a noble, like all the others? Of what use or
advantage could anything be, where liberty was not? An even plainer and
more desperate question rose in the young nun's heart, as she leaned her
cheek against the door-post, still warm with the afternoon sun. Of what
use was life, if it was to be lived in the tomb with the accompaniment
of a lifelong funeral service? Why should not God be as well pleased
with suicide as with self-burial? Why should not death all at once, by
the sudden dash of cleanly steel, be as noble and acceptable a sacrifice
as death by sordid degrees of orderly suffering, systematic starvation,
and rigidly regulated misery? Was not life, life--and blood,
blood--whether drawn by drops, or shed from a quick wound in the
splendid redness of one heroic instant? Surely it would be as grand a
thing, if a mere sacrifice were the object, to be laid down stark dead,
with the death-thrust in the heart, at the foot of the altar, in all her
radiant youth and full young beauty, untempted and unsullied, as to fast
and pray through forty querulous years of misery in prison.

But then, there was the virtue of patience. Therein, doubtless, lay the
difference. It was not the death alone that was to please God, but the
long manner of it, the summed-up account of suffering, the interest paid
on the capital of life after it was invested in death. God was to be
pleased with items, and the sum of them. Item, a sleepless night. Item,
a bad cold, caught by kneeling on the damp stones. Item, a dish of
sweets refused on a feast-day. Item, the resolution not to laugh when a
fly settled on the abbess's nose. Item, the resolution not to wish that
her hair had never been cut off. Item, being stifled in summer and
frozen in winter, in her cell. Item, appreciating that it was the best
cell, and that she was better off than the other sisters.

Repeat the items for half a century, sum them up, and offer them to God
as a meet and fitting sacrifice--the destruction, by fine degrees of
petty suffering, of one woman's whole life, almost from the beginning,
and quite to the end, with the total annihilation of all its human
possibilities, of love, of motherhood, of reasonable enjoyment and
legitimate happiness. That was the formula for salvation which Maria
Addolorata had received with the veil.

And not only had she received it. It had been thrust upon her, because
she chanced to be the only available daughter of the ancient house of
Braccio, to fill the hereditary seat beneath the wooden canopy, as
abbess of the Subiaco Carmelites. If there had been another sister, less
fair, more religiously disposed, that sister would have been chosen in
Maria's stead. But there was no other; and there must be a young Braccio
nun, to take the place of the elder one, when the latter should have
filled her account to overflowing with little items to be paid for with
the gold of certain salvation.

That a sinful woman, full of sorrows, and weary of the world, might
silently bow her head under the nun's veil, and wear out with prayerful
austerity the deep-cut letters of her sin's story, that, at least, was a
thing Maria could understand. There were faces amongst the sisters that
haunted her in her solitude, lips that could have told much, but which
said only 'Miserere'; eyes that had looked on love, and that fixed
themselves now only on the Cross; cheeks blanched with grief and
hollowed as the marble of an ancient fountain by often flowing tears;
hearts that had given all, and had been beaten and bruised and rejected.
The convent was for them; the life was a life for them; for them there
was no freedom beyond these walls, in the living world, nor anywhere on
this side of death. They had done right in coming, and they did right in
staying; they were reasonable when they prayed that they might have
time, before they died, to be sorry for their sins and to touch again
the hem of the garment of innocence.

But even they, if they were told that it would be right, would they not
rather shorten their time to a day, even to one instant, of aggregated
pain, and offer up their sacrifice all at once? And why should it not be
right? Did God delight in pain and suffering for its own sake? The
passionate girl's heart revolted angrily against a Being that could
enjoy the sufferings of helpless creatures.

But then, there was that virtue of patience again, which was beyond her
comprehension. At last she spoke, her face still to the sunset.

"What difference can it make to God how we die?" she asked, scarcely
conscious that she was speaking.

The abbess must have started a little, for the chair creaked suddenly,
several seconds before she answered. Her face did not relax, however,
nor were her hands unclasped from one another as they lay folded on her
knees.

"That is a foolish question, my daughter," she said at last. "Do you
think that God was not pleased by the sufferings of the holy martyrs,
and did not reward them for what they bore?"

"No, I did not mean that," answered Maria, quickly. "But why should we
not all be martyrs? It would be much quicker."

"Heaven preserve us!" exclaimed the abbess. "What are you thinking of,
child?"

"It would be so much quicker," repeated Maria. "What are we here for? To
sacrifice our lives to God. We wish to make this sacrifice, and God
promises to accept it. Why would it be less complete if we were led to
the altar as soon as we have finished our novitiate and quickly killed?
It would be the same, and it would be much quicker. What difference can
it make how we die, since we are to die in the end, without
accomplishing anything except dying?"

By this time the abbess's pale hands were unclasped, and one of them
pressed each knee, as she leaned far forward in her seat, with an
expression of surprise and horror, her dark lips parted and all the
lines of her colourless face drawn down.

"Are you mad, Maria?" she asked in a low voice.

"Mad? No. Why should you think me mad?" The nun turned and looked down
at her aunt. "After all, it is the great question. Our lives are but a
preparation for death. Why need the preparation be so long? Why should
the death be so slow? Why should it be right to kill ourselves for the
glory of God by degrees, and wrong to do it all at once, if one has the
courage? I think it is a very reasonable question."

"Indeed, you are beside yourself! The devil suggests such things to you
and blinds you to the truth, my child. Penance and prayer, prayer and
penance--by the grace of Heaven it will pass."

"Penance and prayer!" exclaimed Maria, sadly. "That is it--a slow death,
but a sure one!"

"I am more than sixty years old," replied the abbess. "I have done
penance and prayed prayers all my life, and you see--I am well. I am
stout."

"For charity's sake, do not say so!" cried Maria, making the sign of the
horns with her fingers, to ward off the evil eye. "You will certainly
fall ill."

"Our lives are of God. It is our own eyes that are evil. You must not
make horns with your fingers. It is a heathen superstition, as I have
often told you. But many of you do it. Maria, I wish to speak to you
seriously."

"Speak, mother," answered the young nun, the strong habit of submission
returning instantly with the other's grave tone.

"These thoughts of yours are very wicked. We are placed in the world,
and we must continue to live in it, as long as God wills that we should.
When God is pleased to deliver us, He will take us in good time. You and
I and the sisters should be thankful that during our brief stay on earth
this sanctuary has fallen to our lot, and this possibility of a holy
life. We must take every advantage of it, thanking Heaven if our stay be
long enough for us to repent of our sins and obtain indulgence for our
venial shortcomings. It is wicked to desire to shorten our lives. It is
wicked to desire anything which is not the will of God. We are here to
live, to watch and to pray--not to complain and to rebel."

The abbess was stout, as she herself admitted, and between her sudden
surprise at her niece's wholly unorthodox, not to say blasphemous,
suggestion of suicide as a means of grace, and her own attempt at
eloquence, she grew rapidly warm, in spite of the comparatively cool
draft which was passing out from the interior of the building. She
caught the end of her loose over-sleeve and fanned herself slowly when
she had finished speaking.

But Maria Addolorata did not consider that she was answered. There in
the cell of a Carmelite convent, in the heart of a young girl who had
perhaps never heard of Shakespeare and who certainly knew nothing of
Hamlet, the question of all questions found itself, and she found for it
such speech as she could command. It broke out passionately and
impatiently.

"What are we? And why are we what we are? Yes, mother--I know that you
are good, and that all you say is true. But it is not all. There is all
the world beyond it. To live, or not to live--but you know that this is
not living! It is not meant to be living, as the people outside
understand what living means. What does it all signify but death, when
we take the veil, and lie before the altar, and are covered with a
funeral pall? It means dying--then why not altogether dying? Has not God
angels, in thousands, to praise Him and worship Him, and pray for
sinners on earth? And they sing and pray gladly, because they are
blessed and do not suffer, as we do. Why should God want us, poor little
nuns, to live half dead, and to praise Him with voices that crack with
the cold in winter, and to kneel till we faint with the heat in summer,
and to wear out our bodies with fasting and prayer and penance, till it
is all we can do to crawl to our places in the choir? Not I--I am young
and strong still--nor you, perhaps, for you are strong still, though you
are not young. But many of the sisters--yes, they are the best ones, I
know--they are killing themselves by inches before our eyes. You know
it--I know it--they know it themselves. Why should they not find some
shorter way of death for God's glory? Or if not, why should they not
live happily, since many of them could? Why should God, who made us,
wish us to destroy ourselves--or if He does, then why may we not do it
in our own way? Ah--it would be so short--a knife-thrust, and then the
great peace forever!"

The abbess had risen and was standing before Maria, one hand resting on
the back of the rush-bottomed chair.

"Blasphemy!" she cried, finding breath at last. "It is blasphemy, or
madness, or both! It is the evil one's own doing! Forgive her, good God!
She does not know what she is saying! Almighty and most merciful God,
forgive her!"

For a moment Maria Addolorata was silent, realizing how far she had
forgotten herself, and startled by the abbess's terrified eyes and
excited tone. But she was naturally a far more daring woman than she
herself knew. Though her face was pale, her lips smiled at her good
aunt's fright.

"But that is not an answer--just to cry 'blasphemy!'" she said. "The
question is clear--"

She did not finish the sentence. The abbess was really beside herself
with religious terror. With almost violent hands she dragged and thrust
her niece down till Maria fell upon her knees.

"Pray, child! Pray, before it is too late!" she cried. "Pray on your
knees that this possession may pass, before your soul is lost forever!"

She herself knelt beside the girl upon the stones, still clasping her
and pressing her down. And she prayed aloud, long, fervently, almost
wildly, appealing to God for protection against a bodily tempting devil,
who by his will, and with evil strength, was luring and driving a human
soul to utter damnation.



CHAPTER III.


"IT is well," said Stefanone. "The world is come to an end. I will not
say anything more."

He finished his tumbler of wine, leaned back on the wooden bench against
the brown wall, played with the broad silver buttons of his dark blue
jacket, and stared hard at Sor Tommaso, the doctor, who sat opposite to
him. The doctor returned his glance rather unsteadily and betook himself
to his snuffbox. It was of worn black ebony, adorned in the middle of
the lid with a small view of Saint Peter's and the colonnades in mosaic,
with a very blue sky. From long use, each tiny fragment of the mosaic
was surrounded by a minute black line, which indeed lent some tone to
the intensely clear atmosphere of the little picture, but gave the
architecture represented therein a dirty and neglected appearance. The
snuff itself, however, was of the superior quality known as Sicilian in
those days, and was of a beautiful light brown colour.

"And why?" asked the doctor very slowly, between the operations of
pinching, stuffing, snuffing, and dusting. "Why is the world come to an
end?"

Stefanone's eyes grew sullen, with a sort of dull glare in their
unwinking gaze. He looked dangerous just then, but the doctor did not
seem to be in the least afraid of him.

"You, who have made it end, should know why," answered the peasant,
after a short pause.

Stefanone was a man of the Roman type, of medium height, thick set and
naturally melancholic, with thin, straight lips that were clean shaven,
straight black hair, a small but aggressively aquiline nose and heavy
hands, hairy on the backs of the fingers, between the knuckles. His
wife, Sora Nanna, said that he had a fist like a paving-stone. He also
looked as though he might have the constitution of a mule. He was at
that time about five-and-thirty years of age, and there were a few
strong lines in his face, notably those curved ones drawn from the
beginning of the nostrils to the corners of the mouth, which are said to
denote an uncertain temper.

He wore the dress of the richer peasants of that day, a coarse but
spotless white shirt, very open at the throat, a jacket and waistcoat of
stout dark blue cloth, with large and smooth silver buttons,
knee-breeches, white stockings, and heavy low shoes with steel buckles.
He combined the occupations of farmer, wine-seller, and carrier. When he
was on the road between Subiaco and Rome, Gigetto, already mentioned,
was supposed to represent him. It was understood that Gigetto was to
marry Annetta--if he could be prevailed upon to do so, for he was the
younger son of a peasant family which held its head even higher than
Stefanone, and the young man as well as his people looked upon Annetta's
wild ways with disapproval, though her fortune, as the only child of
Stefanone and Sora Nanna, was a very strong attraction. In the meantime,
Gigetto acted as though he were the older man's partner in the
wine-shop, and as he was a particularly honest, but also a particularly
idle, young man with a taste for singing and playing on the guitar, the
position suited him admirably.

As for Sor Tommaso, with whom Stefanone seemed inclined to quarrel on
this particular evening, he was a highly respectable personage in a
narrow-shouldered, high-collared black coat with broad skirts, and a
snuff-coloured waistcoat. He wore a stock which was decidedly shabby,
but decent, and the thin cuffs of his shirt were turned back over the
tight sleeves of his coat, in the old fashion. He also wore amazingly
tight black trousers, strapped closely over his well-blacked boots. To
tell the truth, these nether garments, though of great natural
resistance, had lived so long at a high tension, so to say, that they
were no longer equally tight at all points, and there were, undoubtedly,
certain perceptible spots on them; but, on the whole, the general effect
of the doctor's appearance was fashionable, in the fashion of several
years earlier and judged by the standard of Subiaco. He wore his hair
rather long, in a handsome iron-grey confusion, his face was
close-shaven, and, though he was thin, his complexion was somewhat
apoplectic.

Having duly and solemnly finished the operation of taking snuff, the
doctor looked at the peasant.

"I do not wish to have said anything," he observed, by way of a general
retraction. "These are probably follies."

"And for not having meant to say anything, you have planted this knife
in my heart!" retorted Stefanone, the veins swelling at his temples.
"Thank you. I wish to die, if I forget it. You tell me that this
daughter of mine is making love with the Englishman. And then you say
that you do not wish to have said anything! May he die, the Englishman,
he, and whoever made him, with the whole family! An evil death on him
and all his house!"

"So long as you do not make me die, too!" exclaimed Sor Tommaso, with
rather a pitying smile.

"Eh! To die--it is soon said! And yet, people do die. You, who are a
doctor, should know that. And you do not wish to have said anything!
Bravo, doctor! Words are words. And yet they can sting. And after a
thousand years, they still sting. You--what can you understand? Are you
perhaps a father? You have not even a wife. Oh, blessed be God! You do
not even know what you are saying. You know nothing. You think, perhaps,
because you are a doctor, that you know more than I do. I will tell you
that you are an ignorant!"

"Oh, beautiful!" cried the doctor, angrily, stung by what is still
almost a mortal insult. "You--to me--ignorant! Oh, beautiful, most
beautiful, this! From a peasant to a man of science! Perhaps you too
have a diploma from the University of the Sapienza--"

"If I had, I should wrap half a pound of sliced ham--fat ham, you
know--in it, for the first customer. What should I do with your
diplomas! I ask you, what do you know? Do you know at all what a
daughter is? Blood of my blood, heart of my heart, hand of this hand.
But I am a peasant, and you are a doctor. Therefore, I know nothing."

"And meanwhile you give me 'ignorant' in my face!" retorted Sor Tommaso.

"Yes--and I repeat it!" cried Stefanone, leaning forwards, his clenched
hand on the table. "I say it twice, three times--ignorant, ignorant,
ignorant! Have you understood?"

"Say it louder! In that way every one can hear you! Beast of a
sheep-grazer!"

"And you--crow-feeder! Furnisher of grave-diggers. And then--ignorant!
Oh--this time I have said it clearly!"

"And it seems to me that it is enough!" roared the doctor, across the
table. "Ciociaro! Take that!"

"Ciociaro? I? Oh, your soul! If I get hold of you with my hands!"

A 'ciociaro' is a hill-man who wears 'cioce,' or rags, bound upon his
feet with leathern sandals and thongs. He is generally a shepherd, and
is held in contempt by the more respectable people of the larger
mountain towns. To call a man a 'ciociaro' is a bitter insult.

Stefanone in his anger had half risen from his seat. But the wooden
bench on which he had been sitting was close to the wall behind him, and
the heavy oak table was pushed up within a few inches of his chest, so
that his movements were considerably hampered as he stretched out his
hands rather wildly towards his adversary. The latter, who possessed
more moral than physical courage, moved his chair back and prepared to
make his escape, if Stefanone showed signs of coming round the table.

At that moment a tall figure darkened the door that opened upon the
street, and a quiet, dry voice spoke with a strong foreign accent. It
was Angus Dalrymple, returning from a botanizing expedition in the
hills, after being absent all day.

"That is a very uncomfortable way of fighting," he observed, as he stood
still in the doorway. "You cannot hit a man across a table broader than
your arm is long, Signor Stefano."

The effect of his words was instantaneous. Stefanone fell back into his
seat. The doctor's anxious and excited expression resolved itself
instantly into a polite smile.

"We were only playing," he said suavely. "A little discussion--a mere
jest. Our friend Stefanone was explaining something."

"If the table had been narrower, he would have explained you away
altogether," observed Dalrymple, coming forward.

He laid a tin box which he had with him upon the table, and shook hands
with Sor Tommaso. Then he slipped behind the table and sat down close to
his host, as a precautionary measure in case the play should be resumed.
Stefanone would have had a bad chance of being dangerous, if the
powerful Scotchman chose to hold him down. But the peasant seemed to
have become as suddenly peaceful as the doctor.

"It was nothing," said Stefanone, quietly enough, though his eyes were
bloodshot and glanced about the room in an unsettled way.

At that moment Annetta entered from a door leading to the staircase. Her
eyes were fixed on Dalrymple's face as she came forward, carrying a
polished brass lamp, with three burning wicks, which she placed upon the
table. Dalrymple looked up at her, and seeing her expression of inquiry,
slowly nodded. With a laugh which drew her long red-brown lips back from
her short white teeth, the girl produced a small flask and a glass,
which she had carried behind her and out of sight when she came in. She
set them before Dalrymple.

"I saw you coming," she said, and laughed again. "And then--it is always
the same. Half a 'foglietta' of the old, just for the appetite."

Sor Tommaso glanced at Stefanone in a meaning way, but the girl's father
affected not to see him. Dalrymple nodded his thanks, poured a few drops
of wine into the glass and scattered them upon the brick floor according
to the ancient custom, both for rinsing the glass and as a libation, and
then offered to fill the glasses of each of the two men, who smiled,
shook their heads, and covered their tumblers with their right hands. At
last Dalrymple helped himself, nodded politely to his companions, and
slowly emptied the glass which held almost all the contents of the
little flask. The 'foglietta,' or 'leaflet' of wine, is said to have
been so called from the twisted and rolled vine leaf which generally
serves it for a stopper. A whole 'foglietta' contained a scant pint.

"Will you eat now?" asked Annetta, still smiling.

"Presently," answered Dalrymple. "What is there to eat? I am hungry."

"It seems that you have to say so!" laughed the girl. "It is a new
thing. There is beefsteak or mutton, if you wish to know. And ham--a
fresh ham cut to-day. It is one of the Grape-eater's, and it seems good.
You remember, Sor Tommaso, the--speaking with respect to your face--the
pig we called the Grape-eater last year? Speaking with respect, he was a
good pig. It is one of his hams that we have cut. There is also salad,
and fresh bread, which you like. And wine, I will not speak of it. Eh,
he likes wine, the Englishman! He comes in with a long, long face--and
when he goes to bed, his face is wide, wide. That is the wine. But then,
it does nothing else to him. It only changes his face. When I look at
him, I seem to see the moon waxing."

"You talk too much," said Stefanone.

"Never mind, papa! Words are not pennies. The more one wastes, the more
one has!"

Dalrymple said nothing; but he smiled as she turned lightly with a toss
of her small dark head and left the room.

"Fine blood," observed the doctor, with a conciliatory glance at the
girl's father.

"You will be wanted before long, Sor Tommaso," said Dalrymple, gravely.
"I hear that the abbess is very ill."

The doctor looked up with sudden interest, and put on his professional
expression.

"The abbess, you say? Dear me! She is not young! What has she? Who told
you, Sor Angoscia?"

Now, 'Sor Angoscia' signifies in English 'Sir Anguish,' but the doctor
in spite of really conscientious efforts could not get nearer to the
pronunciation of Angus. Nevertheless, with northern persistency,
Dalrymple corrected him for the hundredth time. The doctor's first
attempt had resulted in his calling the Scotchman 'Sor Langusta,' which
means 'Sir Crayfish'--and it must be admitted that 'Anguish' was an
improvement.

"Angus," said Dalrymple. "My name is Angus. The abbess has caught a
severe cold from sitting in a draught when she was overheated. It has
immediately settled on her lungs, and you may be sent for at any moment.
I passed by the back of the convent on my way down, and the gardener was
just coming out of the postern. He told me."

"Dear me, dear me!" exclaimed Sor Tommaso, shaking his head.
"Cold--bronchitis, pleurisy, pneumonia--it is soon done! One would be
enough! Those nuns, what do they eat? A little grass, a little boiled
paste, a little broth of meat on Sundays. What strength should they
have? And then pray, pray, sing, sing! It needs a chest! Poor lungs! I
will go to my home and get ready--blisters--mustard--a lancet--they
will not allow a barber in the convent to bleed them. Well--I make
myself the barber! What a life, what a life! If you wish to die young,
be a doctor at Subiaco, Sor Angoscia. Good night, dear friend. Good
night, Stefanone. I wish not to have said anything--you know--that
little affair. Let us speak no more about it. I am more beast than you,
because I said anything. Good night."

Sor Tommaso got his stick from a dark corner, pressed his broad catskin
hat upon his head, and took his respectability away on its tightly
encased black legs.

"And may the devil go with you," said Stefanone, under his breath, as
the doctor disappeared.

"Why?" inquired Dalrymple, who had caught the words.

"I said nothing," answered the peasant, thoughtfully trimming one wick
of the lamp with the bent brass wire which, with the snuffers, hung by a
chain from the ring by which the lamp was carried.

"I thought you spoke," said the Scotchman. "Well--the abbess is very
ill, and Sor Tommaso has a job."

"May he do it well! So that it need not be begun again."

"What do you mean?" Dalrymple slowly sipped the remains of his little
measure of wine.

"Those nuns!" exclaimed Stefanone, instead of answering the question.
"What are they here to do, in this world? Better make saints of
them--and good night! There would be one misery less. Do you know what
they do? They make wine. Good! But they do not drink it. They sell it
for a farthing less by the foglietta than other people. The devil take
them and their wine!"

Dalrymple glanced at the angry peasant with some amusement, but did not
make any answer.

"Eh, Signore!" cried Stefanone. "You who are a foreigner and a
Protestant, can you not say something, since it would be no sin for
you?"

"I was thinking of something to say, Signor Stefanone. But as for that,
who does the business for the convent? They cannot do it themselves, I
suppose. Who determines the price of their wine for them? Or the price
of their corn?"

"They are not so stupid as you think. Oh, no! They are not stupid, the
nuns. They know the price of this, and the cost of that, just as well as
you and I do. But Gigetto's father, Sor Agostino, is their steward, if
that is what you wish to know. And his father was before him, and
Gigetto will be after him, with his pumpkin-head. And the rest is sung
by the organ, as we say when mass is over. For you know about Gigetto
and Annetta."

"Yes. And as you cannot quarrel with Sor Agostino on that account, I do
not see but that you will either have to bear it, or sell your wine a
farthing cheaper than that of the nuns."

"Eh--that is soon said. A farthing cheaper than theirs! That means half
a baiocco cheaper than I sell it now. And the best is only five baiocchi
the foglietta, and the cheapest is two and a half. Good bye profit--a
pleasant journey to Stefanone. But it is those nuns. They are to blame,
and the devil will pay them."

"In that case you need not," observed Dalrymple, rising. "I am going to
wash my hands before supper."

"At your pleasure, Signore," answered Stefanone, politely.

As Dalrymple went out, Annetta passed him at the door, bringing in
plates and napkins, and knives and forks. The girl glanced at his face
as he went by.

"Be quick, Signore," she said with a laugh. "The beefsteak of mutton is
grilling."

He nodded, and went up the dark stairs, his heavy shoes sending back
echoes as he trod. Stefanone still sat at the table, turning the glass
wine measure upside down over his tumbler, to let the last drops run
out. He watched them as they fell, one by one, without looking up at his
daughter, who began to arrange the plates for Dalrymple's meal.

"I will teach you to make love with the Englishman," he said slowly,
still watching the dropping wine.

"Me!" cried Annetta, with real or feigned astonishment, and she tossed a
knife and fork angrily into a plate, with a loud, clattering noise.

"I am speaking with you," answered her father, without raising his eyes.
"Do you know? You will come to a bad end."

"Thank you!" replied the girl, contemptuously. "If you say so, it must
be true! Now, who has told you that the Englishman is making love to me?
An apoplexy on him, whoever he may be!"

"Pretty words for a girl! Sor Tommaso told me. A little more, and I
would have torn his tongue out. Just then, the Englishman came in. Sor
Tommaso got off easily."

The girl's tone changed very much when she spoke again, and there was a
dull and angry light in her eyes. Her long lips were still parted, and
showed her gleaming teeth, but the smile was altogether gone.

"Yes. Too easily," she said, almost in a whisper, and there was a low
hiss in the words.

"In the meanwhile, it is true--what he said," continued Stefanone. "You
make eyes at him. You wait for him and watch for him when he comes back
from the mountains--"

"Well? Is it not my place to serve him with his supper? If you are not
satisfied, hire a servant to wait on him. You are rich. What do I care
for the Englishman? Perhaps it is a pleasure to roast my face over the
charcoal, cooking his meat for him. As for Sor Tommaso--"

She stopped short in her speech. Her father knew what the tone meant,
and looked up for the first time.

"O-è!" he exclaimed, as one suddenly aware of a danger, and warning some
one else.

"Nothing," answered Annetta, looking down and arranging the knives and
forks symmetrically on the clean cloth she had laid.

"I might have killed him just now in hot blood, when the Englishman came
in," said Stefanone, reflectively. "But now my blood has grown cold. I
shall do nothing to him."

"So much the better for him." She still spoke in a low voice, as she
turned away from the table.

"But I will kill you," said Stefanone, "if I see you making eyes at the
Englishman."

He rose, and taking up his hat, which lay beside him, he edged his way
out along the wooden bench, moving cautiously lest he should shake the
table and upset the lamp or the bottles. Annetta had turned again, at
the threat he had uttered, and stood still, waiting for him to get out
into the room, her hands on her hips, and her eyes on fire.

"You will kill me?" she asked, just as he was opposite to her.
"Well--kill me, then! Here I am. What are you waiting for? For the
Englishman to interfere? He is washing his hands. He always takes a long
time."

"Then it is true that you have fallen in love with him?" asked
Stefanone, his anger returning.

"Him, or another. What does it matter to you? You remind me of the old
woman who beat her cat, and then cried when it ran away. If you want me
to stay at home, you had better find me a husband."

"Do you want anything better than Gigetto? Apoplexy! But you have
ideas!"

"You are making a good business of it with Gigetto, in truth!" cried the
girl, scornfully. "He eats, he drinks, and then he sings. But he does
not marry. He will not even make love to me--not even with an eye. And
then, because I love the Englishman, who is a great lord, though he says
he is a doctor, I must die. Well, kill me!" She stared insolently at her
father for a moment. "Oh, well," she added scornfully, "if you have not
time now, it must be for to-morrow. I am busy."

She turned on her heel with a disdainful fling of her short, dark skirt.
Stefanone was exasperated, and his anger had returned. Before she was
out of reach, he struck her with his open hand. Instead of striking her
cheek, the blow fell upon the back of her head and neck, and sent her
stumbling forwards. She caught the back of a chair, steadied herself,
and turned again instantly, at her full height, not deigning to raise
her hand to the place that hurt her.

"Coward!" she exclaimed. "But I will pay you--and Sor Tommaso--for that
blow."

"Whenever you like," answered her father gruffly, but already sorry for
what he had done.

He turned his back, and went out into the night. It was now almost quite
dark, and Annetta stood still by the chair, listening to his retreating
footsteps. Then she slowly turned and gazed at the flaring wicks of the
lamp. With a gesture that suggested the movement of a young animal, she
rubbed the back of her neck with one hand and leisurely turned her head
first to one side and then to the other. Her brown skin was unusually
pale, but there was no moisture in her eyes as she stared at the lamp.

"But I will pay you, Sor Tommaso," she said thoughtfully and softly.

Then turning her eyes from the lamp at last, she took up one of the
knives from the table, looked at it, felt the edge, and laid it down
contemptuously. In those days all the respectable peasants in the Roman
villages had solid silver forks and spoons, which have long since gone
to the melting-pot to pay taxes. But they used the same blunt, pointless
knives with wooden handles, which they use to-day.

Annetta started, as she heard Dalrymple's tread upon the stone steps of
the staircase, but she recovered herself instantly, gave a finishing
touch to the table, rubbed the back of her head quickly once more, and
met him with a smile.

"Is the beefsteak of mutton ready?" inquired the Scotchman, cheerfully,
with his extraordinary accent.

Annetta ran past him, and returned almost before he was seated, bringing
the food. The girl sat down at the end of the table, opposite the street
door, and watched him as he swallowed one mouthful of meat after
another, now and then stopping to drink a tumbler of wine at a draught.

"You must be very strong, Signore," said Annetta, at last, her chin
resting on her doubled hand.

"Why?" inquired Dalrymple, carelessly, between two mouthfuls.

"Because you eat so much. It must be a fine thing to eat so much meat.
We eat very little of it."

"Why?" asked the Scotchman, again between his mouthfuls.

"Oh, who knows? It costs much. That must be the reason. Besides, it does
not go down. I should not care for it."

"It is a habit." Dalrymple drank. "In my country most of the people eat
oats," he said, as he set down his glass.

"Oats!" laughed the girl. "Like horses! But horses will eat meat, too,
like you. As for me--good bread, fresh cheese, a little salad, a drink
of wine and water--that is enough."

"Like the nuns," observed Dalrymple, attacking the ham of the
'Grape-eater.'

"Oh, the nuns! They live on boiled cabbage! You can smell it a mile
away. But they make good cakes."

"You often go to the convent, do you not?" asked the Scotchman, filling
his glass, for the first mouthful of ham made him thirsty again. "You
take the linen up with your mother, I know."

"Sometimes, when I feel like going," answered the girl, willing to show
that it was not her duty to carry baskets. "I only go when we have the
small baskets that one can carry on one's head. I will tell you. They
use the small baskets for the finer things, the abbess's linen, and the
altar cloths, and the chaplain's lace, which belongs to the nuns. But
the sheets and the table linen are taken up in baskets as long as a man.
It takes four women to carry one of them."

"That must be very inconvenient," said Dalrymple. "I should think that
smaller ones would always be better."

"Who knows? It has always been so. And when it has always been so, it
will always be so--one knows that."

Annetta nodded her head rhythmically to convey an impression of the
immutability of all ancient customs and of this one in particular.

Dalrymple, however, was not much interested in the question of the
baskets.

"What do the nuns do all day?" he asked. "I suppose you see them,
sometimes. There must be young ones amongst them."

Annetta glanced more keenly at the Scotchman's quiet face, and then
laughed.

"There is one, if you could see her! The abbess's niece. Oh, that one is
beautiful. She seems to me a painted angel!"

"The abbess's niece? What is she like? Let me see, the abbess is a
princess, is she not?"

"Yes, a great princess of the Princes of Gerano, of Casa Braccio, you
know. They are always abbesses. And the young one will be the next, when
this one dies. She is Maria Addolorata, in religion, but I do not know
her real name. She has a beautiful face and dark eyes. Once I saw her
hair for a moment. It is fair, but not like yours. Yours is red as a
tomato."

"Thank you," said Dalrymple, with something like a laugh. "Tell me more
about the nun."

"If I tell you, you will fall in love with her," objected Annetta. "They
say that men with red hair fall in love easily. Is it true? If it is, I
will not tell you any more about the nun. But I think you are in love
with the poor old Grape-eater. It is good ham, is it not? By Bacchus, I
fed him on chestnuts with my own hands, and he was always stealing the
grapes. Chestnuts fattened him and the grapes made him sweet. Speaking
with respect, he was a pig for a pope."

"He will do for a Scotch doctor then," answered Dalrymple. "Tell me,
what does this beautiful nun do all day long?"

"What does she do? What can a nun do? She eats cabbage and prays like
the others. But she has charge of all the convent linen, so I see her
when I go with my mother. That is because the Princes of Gerano first
gave the linen to the convent after it was all stolen by the Turks in
1798. So, as they gave it, their abbesses take care of it."

Dalrymple laughed at the extraordinary historical allusion compounded of
the very ancient traditions of the Saracens in the south, and of the
more recent wars of Napoleon.

"So she takes care of the linen," he said. "That cannot be very amusing,
I should think."

"They are nuns," answered the girl. "Do you suppose they go about
seeking to amuse themselves? It is an ugly life. But Sister Maria
Addolorata sings to herself, and that makes the abbess angry, because it
is against the rules to sing except in church. I would not live in that
convent--not if they would fill my apron with gold pieces."

"But why did this beautiful girl become a nun, then? Was she unhappy, or
crossed in love?"

"She? They did not give her time! Before she could shut an eye and say,
'Little youth, you please me, and I wish you well,' they put her in. And
that door, when it is shut, who shall open it? The Madonna, perhaps? But
she was of the Princes of Gerano, and there must be one of them for an
abbess, and the lot fell upon her. There is the whole history. You may
hear her singing sometimes, if you stand under the garden wall, on the
narrow path after the Benediction hour and before Ave Maria. But I am a
fool to tell you, for you will go and listen, and when you have heard
her voice you will be like a madman. You will fall in love with her. I
was a fool to tell you."

"Well? And if I do fall in love with her, who cares?" Dalrymple slowly
filled a glass of wine.

"If you do?" The young girl's eyes shot a quick, sharp glance at him.
Then her face suddenly grew grave as she saw that some one was at the
street door, looking in cautiously. "Come in, Sor Tommaso!" she called,
down the table. "Papa is out, but we are here. Come in and drink a glass
of wine!"

The doctor, wrapped in a long broadcloth cloak with a velvet collar,
and having a case of instruments and medicines under his arm, glanced
round the room and came in.

"Just a half-foglietta, my daughter," he said. "They have sent for me.
The abbess is very ill, and I may be there a long time. If you think
they would remember to offer a Christian a glass up there, you are very
much mistaken."

"They are nuns," laughed Annetta. "What can they know?"

She rose to get the wine for the doctor. There had not been a trace of
displeasure in her voice nor in her manner as she spoke.



CHAPTER IV.


SOR TOMMASO was rarely called to the convent. In fact, he could not
remember that he had been wanted more than half a dozen times in the
long course of his practice in Subiaco. Either the nuns were hardly ever
ill, or else they must have doctored themselves with such simple
remedies as had been handed down to them from former ages. Possibly they
had been as well off on the whole as though they had systematically
submitted to the heroic treatment which passed for medicine in those
days. As a matter of fact, they suffered chiefly from bad colds; and
when they had bad colds, they either got well, or died, according to
their several destinies. Sor Tommaso might have saved some of them; but
on the other hand, he might have helped some others rather precipitately
from their cells to that deep crypt, closed, in the middle of the little
church, by a single square flag of marble, having two brass studs in it,
and bearing the simple inscription: 'Here lie the bones of the Reverend
Sisters of the order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.' On the
whole, it is doubtful whether the practice of not calling in the doctor
on ordinary occasions had much influence upon the convent's statistics
of mortality.

But though the abbess had more than once had a cold in her life, she had
never suffered so seriously as this time, and she had made little
objection to her niece's strong representations as to the necessity of
medical aid. Therefore Sor Tommaso had been sent for in the evening and
in great haste, and had taken with him a supply of appropriate material
sufficient to kill, if not to cure, half the nuns in the convent. All
the circumstances which he remembered from former occasions were
accurately repeated. He rang at the main gate, waited long in the
darkness, and heard at last the slapping and shuffling of shoes along
the pavement within, as the portress and another nun came to let him in.
Then there were faint rays of light from their little lamp, quivering
through the cracks of the old weather-beaten door upon the cracked
marble steps on which Sor Tommaso was standing. A thin voice asked who
was there, and Sor Tommaso answered that he was the doctor. Then he
heard a little colloquy in suppressed tones between the two nuns. The
one said that the doctor was expected and must be let in without
question. The other observed that it might be a thief. The first said
that in that case they must look through the loophole. The second said
that she did not know the doctor by sight. The first speaker remarked
with some truth that one could tell a respectable person from a
highwayman, and suddenly a small square porthole in the door was opened
inwards, and a stream of light fell upon Sor Tommaso's face, as the nuns
held up their little flaring lamp behind the grating. Behind the lamp he
could distinguish a pair of shadowy eyes under an overhanging veil,
which was also drawn across the lower part of the face.

"Are you really the doctor?" asked one of the voices, in a doubtful
tone.

"He himself," answered the physician. "I am the Doctor Tommaso Taddei of
the University of the Sapienza, and I have been called to render
assistance to the very reverend the Mother Abbess."

The light disappeared, and the porthole was shut, while a second
colloquy began. On the whole, the two nuns decided to let him in, and
then there was a jingling of keys and a clanking of iron bars and a
grinding of locks, and presently a small door, cut and hung in one leaf
of the great, iron-studded, wooden gate, was swung back. Sor Tommaso
stooped and held his case before him, for the entrance was low and
narrow.

"God be praised!" he exclaimed, when he was fairly inside.

"And praised be His holy name," answered both the sisters, promptly.

Both had dropped their veils, and proceeded to bolt and bar the little
door again, having set down the lamp upon the pavement. The rays made
the unctuous dampness of the stone flags glisten, and Sor Tommaso
shivered in his broadcloth cloak. Then, as before, he was conducted in
silence through arched ways, and up many steps, and along labyrinthine
corridors, his strong shoes rousing sharp, metallic echoes, while the
nuns' slippers slapped and shuffled as one walked on each side of him,
the one on the left carrying the lamp, according to the ancient rules of
politeness. At last they reached the door of the antechamber at the end
of the corridor, through which the way led to the abbess's private
apartment, consisting of three rooms. The last door on the left, as Sor
Tommaso faced that which opened into the antechamber, was that of Maria
Addolorata's cell. The linen presses were entered from within the
anteroom by a door on the right, so that they were actually in the
abbess's apartment, an old-fashioned and somewhat inconvenient
arrangement. Maria Addolorata, her veil drawn down, so that she could
not see the doctor, but only his feet, and the folds of it drawn across
her chin and mouth, received him at the door, which she closed behind
him. The other two nuns set down their lamp on the floor of the
corridor, slipped their hands up their sleeves, and stood waiting
outside.

The abbess was very ill, but had insisted upon sitting up in her
parlour to receive the doctor, dressed and veiled, being propped up in
her great easy-chair with a pillow which was of green silk, but was
covered with a white pillow-case finely embroidered with open work at
each end, through which the vivid colour was visible--that high green
which cannot look blue even by lamplight. Both in the anteroom and in
the parlour there were polished silver lamps of precisely the same
pattern as the brass ones used by the richer peasants, excepting that
each had a fan-like shield of silver to be used as a shade on one side,
bearing the arms of the Braccio family in high boss, and attached to the
oil vessel by a movable curved arm. The furniture of the room was very
simple, but there was nevertheless a certain ecclesiastical solemnity
about the high-backed, carved, and gilt chairs, the black and white
marble pavement, the great portrait of his Holiness, Gregory the
Sixteenth, in its massive gilt frame, the superb silver crucifix which
stood on the writing-table, and, altogether, in the solidity of
everything which met the eye.

It was no easy matter to ascertain the good lady's condition, muffled up
and veiled as she was. It was only as an enormous concession to
necessity that Sor Tommaso was allowed to feel her pulse, and it needed
all Maria Addolorata's eloquent persuasion and sensible argument to
induce her to lift her veil a little, and open her mouth.

"Your most reverend excellency must be cured by proxy," said Sor
Tommaso, at his wit's end. "If this reverend mother," he added, turning
to the young nun, "will carry out my directions, something may be done.
Your most reverend excellency's life is in danger. Your most reverend
excellency ought to be in bed."

"It is the will of Heaven," said the abbess, in a very weak and hoarse
voice.

"Tell me what to do," said Maria Addolorata. "It shall be done as though
you yourself did it."

Sor Tommaso was encouraged by the tone of assurance in which the words
were spoken, and proceeded to give his directions, which were many, and
his recommendations, which were almost endless.

"But if your most reverend excellency would allow me to assist you in
person, the remedies would be more efficacious," he suggested, as he
laid out the greater part of the contents of his case upon the huge
writing-table.

"You seem to forget that this is a religious house," replied the abbess,
and she might have said more, but was interrupted by a violent attack of
coughing, during which Maria Addolorata supported her and tried to ease
her.

"It will be better if you go away," said the nun, at last. "I will do
all you have ordered, and your presence irritates her. Come back
to-morrow morning, and I will tell you how she is progressing."

The abbess nodded slowly, confirming her niece's words. Sor Tommaso very
reluctantly closed his case, placed it under his arm, gathered up his
broadcloth cloak with his hat, and made a low obeisance before the sick
lady.

"I wish your most reverend excellency a good rest and speedy recovery,"
he said. "I am your most reverend excellency's most humble servant."

Maria Addolorata led him out into the antechamber. There she paused, and
they were alone together for a moment, all the doors being closed. The
doctor stood still beside her, waiting for her to speak.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"I do not wish to say anything," he answered.

"What do you wish me to say? A stroke of air, a cold, a bronchitis, a
pleurisy, a pneumonia. Thanks be to Heaven, there is little fever. What
do you wish me to say? For the stroke of air, a little good wine; for
the cold, warm covering; for the bronchitis, the tea of marshmallows;
for the pleurisy, severe blistering; for the pneumonia, a good mustard
plaster; for the general system, the black draught; above all, nothing
to eat. Frictions with hot oil will also do good. It is the practice of
medicine by proxy, my lady mother. What do you wish me to say? I am
disposed. I am her most reverend excellency's very humble servant. But I
cannot perform miracles. Pray to the Madonna to perform them. I have
not even seen the tip of her most reverend excellency's most wise
tongue. What can I do?"

"Well, then, come back to-morrow morning, and I will see you here," said
Maria Addolorata.

Sor Tommaso found the nuns waiting for him with their little lamp in the
corridor, and they led him back through the vaulted passages and
staircases and let him out into the night without a word.

The night was dark and cloudy. It had grown much darker since he had
come up, as the last lingering light of evening had faded altogether
from the sky. The October wind drew down in gusts from the mountains
above Subiaco, and blew the doctor's long cloak about so that it flapped
softly now and then like the wings of a night bird. After descending
some distance, he carefully set down his case upon the stones and
fumbled in his pockets for his snuffbox, which he found with some
difficulty. A gust blew up a grain of snuff into his right eye, and he
stamped angrily with the pain, hurting his foot against a rolling stone
as he did so. But he succeeded in getting his snuff to his nose at last.
Then he bent down in the dark to take up his case, which was close to
his feet, though he could hardly see it. The gusty south wind blew the
long skirts of his cloak over his head and made them flap about his
ears. He groped for the box.

[Illustration: "Sor Tommaso was lying motionless."--Vol. I., p. 78.]

Just then the doctor heard light footsteps coming down the path behind
him. He called out, warning that he was in the way.

"O-è, gently, you know!" he cried. "An apoplexy on the wind!" he added
vehemently, as his head and hands became entangled more and more in the
folds of his cloak.

"And another on you!" answered a woman's voice, speaking low through
clenched teeth.

In the darkness a hand rose and fell with something in it, three times
in quick succession. A man's low cry of pain was stifled in folds of
broadcloth. The same light footsteps were heard for a moment again in
the narrow, winding way, and Sor Tommaso was lying motionless on his
face across his box, with his cloak over his head. The gusty south wind
blew up and down between the dark walls, bearing now and then a few
withered vine leaves and wisps of straw with it; and the night grew
darker still, and no one passed that way for a long time.



CHAPTER V.


WHEN Angus Dalrymple had finished his supper, he produced a book and sat
reading by the light of the wicks of the three brass lamps. Annetta had
taken away the things and had not come back again. Gigetto strolled in
and took his guitar from the peg on the wall, and idled about the room,
tuning it and humming to himself. He was a tall young fellow with a
woman's face and beautiful velvet-like eyes, as handsome and idle a
youth as you might meet in Subiaco on a summer's feast-day. He exchanged
a word of greeting with Dalrymple, and, seeing that the place was
otherwise deserted, he at last slung his guitar over his shoulder,
pulled his broad black felt hat over his eyes, and strolled out through
the half-open door, presumably in search of amusement. Gigetto's chief
virtue was his perfectly childlike and unaffected taste for amusing
himself, on the whole very innocently, whenever he got a chance. It was
natural that he and the Scotchman should not care for one another's
society. Dalrymple looked after him for a moment and then went back to
his book. A big glass measure of wine stood beside him not half empty,
and his glass was full.

He was making a strong effort to concentrate his attention upon the
learned treatise, which formed a part of the little library he had
brought with him. But Annetta's idle talk about the nuns, and especially
about Maria Addolorata and her singing, kept running through his head in
spite of his determination to be serious. He had been living the life of
a hermit for months, and had almost forgotten the sound of an educated
woman's voice. To him Annetta was nothing more than a rather pretty wild
animal. It did not enter his head that she might be in love with him.
Sora Nanna was simply an older and uglier animal of the same species. To
a man of Dalrymple's temperament, and really devoted to the pursuit of a
serious object, a woman quite incapable of even understanding what that
object is can hardly seem to be a woman at all.

But the young Scotchman was not wanting in that passionate and fantastic
imagination which so often underlies and even directs the hardy northern
nature, and the young girl's carelessly spoken words had roused it to
sudden activity. In spite of himself, he was already forming plans for
listening under the convent wall, if perchance he might catch the sound
of the nun's wonderful voice, and from that to the wildest schemes for
catching a momentary glimpse of the singer was only a step. At the same
time, he was quite aware that such schemes were dangerous if not
impracticable, and his reasonable self laughed down his unreasoning
romance, only to be confronted by it again as soon as he tried to turn
his attention to his book.

He looked up and saw that he had not finished his wine, though at that
hour the measure was usually empty, and he wondered why he was less
thirsty than usual. By force of habit he emptied the full glass and
poured more into it,--by force of that old northern habit of drinking a
certain allowance as a sort of duty, more common in those days than it
is now. Then he began to read again, never dreaming that his strong head
and solid nerves could be in any way affected by his potations. But his
imagination this evening worked faster and faster, and his sober reason
was recalcitrant and abhorred work.

The nun had fair hair and dark eyes and a beautiful face. Those were
much more interesting facts than he could find in his work. She had a
wonderful voice. He tried to recall all the extraordinary voices he had
heard in his life, but none of them had ever affected him very much,
though he had a good ear and some taste for music. He wondered what sort
of voice this could be, and he longed to hear it. He shut up his book
impatiently, drank more wine, rose and went to the open door. The gusty
south wind fanned his face pleasantly, and he wished he were to sleep
out of doors.

The Sora Nanna, who had been spending the evening with a friend in the
neighbourhood, came in, her thin black overskirt drawn over her head to
keep the embroidered head-cloth in its place. By and by, as Dalrymple
still stood by the door, Stefanone appeared, having been to play a game
of cards at a friendly wine-shop. He sat down by Sora Nanna at the
table. She was mixing some salad in a big earthenware bowl adorned with
green and brown stripes. They talked together in low tones. Dalrymple
had nodded to each in turn, but the gusty air pleased him, and he
remained standing by the door, letting it blow into his face.

It was growing late. Italian peasants are not great sleepers, and it is
their custom to have supper at a late hour, just before going to bed. By
this time it was nearly ten o'clock as we reckon the hours, or about
'four of the night' in October, according to old Italian custom, which
reckons from a theoretical moment of darkness, supposed to begin at Ave
Maria, half an hour after sunset.

Suddenly Dalrymple heard Annetta's voice in the room behind him,
speaking to her mother. He had no particular reason for supposing that
she had been out of the house since she had cleared the table and left
him, but unconsciously he had the impression that she had been away,
and was surprised to hear her in the room, after expecting that she
should pass him, coming in from the street, as the others had done. He
turned and walked slowly towards his place at the table.

"I thought you had gone out," he said carelessly, to Annetta.

The girl turned her head quickly.

"I?" she cried. "And alone? Without even Gigetto? When do I ever go out
alone at night? Will you have some supper, Signore?"

"I have just eaten, thank you," answered Dalrymple, seating himself.

"Three hours ago. It was not yet an hour of the night when you ate.
Well--at your pleasure. Do not complain afterwards that we make you die
of hunger."

"Bread, Annetta!" said Stefanone, gruffly but good-naturedly. "And
cheese, and salt--wine, too! A thousand things! Quickly, my daughter."

"Quicker than this?" inquired the girl, who had already placed most of
the things he asked for upon the table.

"I say it to say it," answered her father. "'Hunger makes long jumps,'
and I am hungry."

"Did you win anything?" asked Sora Nanna, with both her elbows on the
table.

"Five baiocchi."

"It was worth while to pay ten baiocchi for another man's bad wine, for
the sake of winning so much!" replied Sora Nanna, who was a careful
soul. "Of course you paid for the wine?"

"Eh--of course. They pay for wine when they come here. One takes a
little and one gives a little. This is life."

Annetta busied herself with the simple preparations for supper, while
they talked. Dalrymple watched her idly, and he thought she was pale,
and that her eyes were very bright. She had set a plate for herself, but
had forgotten her glass.

"And you? Do you not drink?" asked Stefanone. "You have no glass."

"What does it matter?" She sat down between her father and mother.

"Drink out of mine, my little daughter," said Stefanone, holding his
glass to her lips with a laugh, as though she had been a little child.

She looked quietly into his eyes for a moment, before she touched the
wine with her lips.

"Yes," she answered, with a little emphasis. "I will drink out of your
glass now."

"Better so," laughed Stefanone, who was glad to be reconciled, for he
loved the girl, in spite of his occasional violence of temper.

"What does it mean?" asked Sora Nanna, her cunning peasant's eyes
looking from one to the other, and seeming to belie her stupid face.

"Nothing," answered Stefanone. "We were playing together. Signor
Englishman," he said, turning to Dalrymple, "you must sometimes wish
that you were married, and had a wife like Nanna, and a daughter like
Annetta."

"Of course I do," said Dalrymple, with a smile.

Before very long, he took his book and went upstairs to bed, being tired
and sleepy after a long day spent on the hillside in a fruitless search
for certain plants which, according to his books, were to be found in
that part of Italy, but which he had not yet seen. He fell asleep,
thinking of Maria Addolorata's lovely face and fair hair, on which he
had never laid eyes. In his dreams he heard a rare voice ringing true,
that touched him strangely. The gusty wind made the panes of his bedroom
window rattle, and in the dream he was tapping on Maria Addolorata's
casement and calling softly to her, to open it and speak to him, or
calling her by name, with his extraordinary foreign accent. And he
thought he was tapping louder and louder, upon the glass and upon the
wooden frame, louder and louder still. Then he heard his name called
out, and his heart jumped as though it would have turned upside down in
its place, and then seemed to sink again like a heavy stone falling into
deep water; for he was awake, and the voice that was calling him was
certainly not that of the beautiful nun, but gruff and manly; also the
tapping was not tapping any more upon a casement, but was a vigorous
pounding against his own bolted door.

Dalrymple sat up suddenly and listened, wide awake at once. The square
of his window was faintly visible in the darkness, as though the dawn
were breaking. He called out, asking who was outside.

"Get up, Signore! Get up! You are wanted quickly!" It was Stefanone.

Dalrymple struck a light, for he had a supply of matches with him, a
convenience of modern life not at that time known in Subiaco, except as
an expensive toy, though already in use in Rome. As he was, he opened
the door. Stefanone came in, dressed in his shirt and breeches, pale
with excitement.

"You must dress yourself, Signore," he said briefly, as he glanced at
the Scotchman, and then set down the small tin and glass lantern he
carried.

"What is the matter?" inquired Dalrymple, yawning, and stretching his
great white arms over his head, till his knuckles struck the low
ceiling; for he was a tall man.

"The matter is that they have killed Sor Tommaso," answered the peasant.

Dalrymple uttered an exclamation of surprise and incredulity.

"It is as I say," continued Stefanone. "They found him lying across the
way, in the street, with knife-wounds in him, as many as you please."

"That is horrible!" exclaimed Dalrymple, turning, and calmly trimming
his lamp, which burned badly at first.

"Then dress yourself, Signore!" said Stefanone, impatiently. "You must
come!"

"Why? If he is dead, what can I do?" asked the northern man, coolly. "I
am sorry. What more can I say?"

"But he is not dead yet!" Stefanone was growing excited. "They have
taken him--"

"Oh! he is alive, is he?" interrupted the Scotchman, dashing at his
clothes, as though he were suddenly galvanized into life himself. "Then
why did you tell me they had killed him?" he asked, with a curious, dry
calmness of voice, as he instantly began to dress himself. "Get some
clean linen, Signor Stefano. Tear it up into strips as broad as your
hand, for bandages, and set the women to make a little lint of old
linen--cotton is not good. Where have they taken Sor Tommaso?"

"To his own house," answered the peasant.

"So much the better. Go and make the bandages."

Dalrymple pushed Stefanone towards the door with one hand, while he
continued to fasten his clothes with the other.

Stefanone was not without some experience of similar cases, so he
picked up his lantern and went off. In less than a quarter of an hour,
he and Dalrymple were on their way to Sor Tommaso's house, which was in
the piazza of Subiaco, not far from the principal church. Half a dozen
peasants, who had met the muleteers bringing the wounded doctor home
from the spot where he had been found, followed the two men, talking
excitedly in low voices and broken sentences. The dawn was grey above
the houses, and the autumn mists had floated up to the parapet on the
side where the little piazza looked down to the valley, and hung
motionless in the still air, like a stage sea in a theatre. In the
distance was heard the clattering of mules' shoes, and occasionally the
deep clanking of the goats' bells. Just as the little party reached the
small, dark green door of the doctor's house the distant convent bells
tolled one, then two quick strokes, then three again, and then five, and
then rang out the peal for the morning Angelus. The door of the dirty
little coffee shop in the piazza was already open, and a faint light
burned within. The air was damp, quiet and strangely resonant, as it
often is in mountain towns at early dawn. The gusty October wind had
gone down, after blowing almost all night.

The case was far from being as serious as Dalrymple had expected, and he
soon convinced himself that Sor Tommaso was not in any great danger. He
had fainted from fright and some loss of blood, but neither of the two
thrusts which had wounded him had penetrated to his lungs, and the third
was little more than a scratch. Doubtless he owed his safety in part to
the fact that the wind had blown his cloak in folds over his shoulders
and head. But it was also clear that his assailant had possessed no
experience in the use of the knife as a weapon. When the group of men at
the door were told that Sor Tommaso was not mortally wounded, they went
away somewhat disappointed at the insignificant ending of the affair,
though the doctor was not an unpopular man in the town.

"It is some woman," said one of them, contemptuously. "What can a woman
do with a knife? Worse than a cat--she scratches, and runs away."

"Some little jealousy," observed another. "Eh! Sor Tommaso--who knows
where he makes love? But meanwhile he is growing old, to be so gay."

"The old are the worst," replied the first speaker. "Since it is
nothing, let us have a baiocco's worth of acquavita, and let us go
away."

So they turned into the dirty little coffee shop to get their pennyworth
of spirits. Meanwhile Dalrymple was washing and binding up his friend's
wounds. Sor Tommaso groaned and winced under every touch, and the
Scotchman, with dry gentleness, did his best to reassure him. Stefanone
looked on in silence for some time, helping Dalrymple when he was
needed. The doctor's servant-woman, a somewhat grimy peasant, was
sitting on the stairs, sobbing loudly.

"It is useless," moaned Sor Tommaso. "I am dead."

"I may be mistaken," answered Dalrymple, "but I think not."

And he continued his operations with a sure hand, greatly to the
admiration of Stefanone, who had often seen knife-wounds dressed.
Gradually Sor Tommaso became more calm. His face, from having been
normally of a bright red, was now very pale, and his watery blue eyes
blinked at the light helplessly like a kitten's, as he lay still on his
pillow. Stefanone went away to his occupations at last, and Dalrymple,
having cleared away the litter of unused bandages and lint, and set
things in order, sat down by the bedside to keep his patient company for
a while. He was really somewhat anxious lest the wounds should have
taken cold.

"If I get well, it will be a miracle," said Sor Tommaso, feebly. "I must
think of my soul."

"By all means," answered the Scotchman. "It can do your soul no harm,
and contemplation rests the body."

"You Protestants have not human sentiment," observed the Italian, moving
his head slowly on the pillow. "But I also think of the abbess. I was
to have gone there early this morning. She will also die. We shall both
die."

Dalrymple crossed one leg over the other, and looked quietly at the
doctor.

"Sor Tommaso," he said, "there is no other physician in Subiaco. I am a
doctor, properly licensed to practise. It is evidently my duty to take
care of your patients while you are ill."

"Mercy!" cried Sor Tommaso, with sudden energy, and opening his eyes
very wide.

"Are you afraid that I shall kill them," asked Dalrymple, with a smile.

"Who knows? A foreigner! And the people say that you have converse with
the devil. But the common people are ignorant."

"Very."

"And as for the convent--a Protestant--for the abbess! They would rather
die. Figure to yourself what sort of a scandal there would be! A
Protestant in a convent, and then, in that convent, too! The abbess
would much rather die in peace."

"At all events, I will go and offer my services. If the abbess prefers
to die in peace, she can answer to that effect. I will ask her what she
thinks about it."

"Ask her!" repeated Sor Tommaso. "Do you imagine that you could see her?
But what can you know? I tell you that last night she was muffled up in
her chair, and her face covered. It needed the grace of Heaven, that I
might feel her pulse! As for her tongue, God knows what it is like! I
have not seen it. Not so much as the tip of it! Not even her eyes did I
see. And to-day I was not to be admitted at all, because the abbess
would be in bed. Imagine to yourself, with blisters and sinapisms, and a
hundred things. I was only to speak with Sister Maria Addolorata, who is
her niece, you know, in the anteroom of the abbess's apartment. They
would not let you in. They would give you a bath of holy water through
the loophole of the convent door and say, 'Go away, sinner; this is a
religious house!' You know them very little."

"You are talking too much," observed Dalrymple, who had listened
attentively. "It is not good for you. Besides, since you are able to
speak, it would be better if you told me who stabbed you last night,
that I may go to the police, and have the person arrested, if possible."

"You do not know what you are saying," answered Sor Tommaso, with sudden
gravity. "The woman has relations--who could handle a knife better than
she."

And he turned his face away.



CHAPTER VI.


THE sun was high when Dalrymple left Sor Tommaso in charge of the old
woman-servant and went back to Stefanone's house to dress himself with
more care than he had bestowed upon his hasty toilet at dawn. And now
that he had plenty of time, he was even more careful of his appearance
than usual; for he had fully determined to attempt to take Sor Tommaso's
place in attendance upon the abbess. He therefore put on a coat of a
sober colour and brushed his straight red hair smoothly back from his
forehead, giving himself easily that extremely grave and trust-inspiring
air which distinguishes many Scotchmen, and supports their solid
qualities, while it seems to deny the possibility of any adventurous and
romantic tendency.

At that hour nobody was about the house, and Dalrymple, stick in hand,
sallied forth upon his expedition, looking for all the world as though
he were going to church in Edinburgh instead of meditating an entrance
into an Italian convent. He had said nothing more to the doctor on the
subject. The people in the streets had most of them seen him often and
knew him by name, and it did not occur to any one to wonder why a
foreigner should wear one sort of coat rather than another, when he took
his walks abroad. He walked leisurely; for the sky had cleared, and the
sun was hot. Moreover, he followed the longer road in order to keep his
shoes clean, instead of climbing up the narrow and muddy lane in which
Sor Tommaso had been attacked. He reached the convent door at last,
brushed a few specks of dust from his coat, settled his high collar and
the broad black cravat which was then taking the place of the stock, and
rang the bell with one steady pull. There was, perhaps, no occasion for
nervousness. At all events, Dalrymple was as deliberate in his movements
and as calm in all respects as he had ever been in his life. Only, just
after he had pulled the weather-beaten bell-chain, a half-humorous smile
bent his even lips and was gone again in a moment.

There was the usual slapping and shuffling of slippers in the vaulted
archway within, but as it was now day, the loophole was opened
immediately, and the portress came alone. Dalrymple explained in
strangely accented but good Italian that Sor Tommaso had met with an
accident in the night; that he, Angus Dalrymple, was a friend of the
doctor's and a doctor himself, and had undertaken all of Sor Tommaso's
duties, and, finally, that he begged the portress to find Sister Maria
Addolorata, to repeat his story, and to offer his humble services in
the cause of the abbess's recovery. All of which the veiled nun within
heard patiently to the end.

"I will speak to Sister Maria Addolorata," she said. "Have the goodness
to wait."

"Outside?" inquired Dalrymple, as the little shutter of the loophole was
almost closed.

"Of course," answered the nun, opening it again, and shutting it as soon
as she had spoken.

Dalrymple waited a long time in the blazing sun. The main entrance of
the convent faced to the southeast, and it was not yet midday. He grew
hot, after his walk, and softly wiped his forehead, and carefully folded
his handkerchief again before returning it to his pocket. At last he
heard the sound of steps again, and in a few seconds the loophole was
once more opened.

"Sister Maria Addolorata will speak with you," said the portress's
voice, as he approached his face to the little grating.

He felt an odd little thrill of pleasant surprise. But so far as seeing
anything was concerned, he was disappointed. Instead of one veiled nun,
there were now two veiled nuns.

"Madam," he began, "my friend Doctor Tommaso Taddei has met with an
accident which prevents him from leaving his bed." And he went on to
repeat all that he had told the portress, with such further
explanations as he deemed necessary and persuasive.

While he spoke, Maria Addolorata drew back a little into the deeper
shadow away from the loophole. Her veil hung over her eyes, and the
folds were drawn across her mouth, but she gradually raised her head,
throwing it back until she could see Dalrymple's face from beneath the
edge of the black material. In so doing she unconsciously uncovered her
mouth. The Scotchman saw a good part of her features, and gazed intently
at what he saw, rightly judging that as the sun was behind him, she
could hardly be sure whether he were looking at her or not.

As for her, she was doubtless inspired by a natural curiosity, but at
the same time she understood the gravity of the case and wished to form
an opinion as to the advisability of admitting the stranger. A glance
told her that Dalrymple was a gentleman, and she was reassured by the
gravity of his voice and by the fact that he was evidently acquainted
with the abbess's condition, and must, therefore, be a friend of Sor
Tommaso. When he had finished speaking, she immediately looked down
again, and seemed to be hesitating.

"Open the door, Sister Filomena," she said at last.

The portress shook her head almost imperceptibly as she obeyed, but she
said nothing. The whole affair was in her eyes exceedingly irregular.
Maria Addolorata should have retired to the little room adjoining the
convent parlour, and separated from it by a double grating, and
Dalrymple should have been admitted to the parlour itself, and they
should have said what they had to say to one another through the bars,
in the presence of the portress. But Maria Addolorata was the abbess's
niece. The abbess was too ill to give orders--too ill even to speak, it
was rumoured. In a few days Maria Addolorata might be 'Her most Reverend
Excellency.' Meanwhile she was mistress of the situation, and it was
safer to obey her. Moreover, the portress was only a lay sister, an old
and ignorant creature, accustomed to do what she was told to do by the
ladies of the convent.

Dalrymple took off his hat and stooped low to enter through the small
side-door. As soon as he had passed the threshold, he stood up to his
height and then made a low bow to Maria Addolorata, whose veil now quite
covered her eyes and prevented her from seeing him,--a fact which he
realized immediately.

"Give warning to the sisters, Sister Filomena," said Maria Addolorata to
the portress, who nodded respectfully and walked away into the gloom
under the arches, leaving the nun and Dalrymple together by the door.

"It is necessary to give warning," she explained, "lest you should meet
any of the sisters unveiled in the corridors, and they should be
scandalized."

Dalrymple again bowed gravely and stood still, his eyes fixed upon Maria
Addolorata's veiled head, but wandering now and then to her heavy but
beautifully shaped white hands, which she held carelessly clasped before
her and holding the end of the great rosary of brown beads which hung
from her side. He thought he had never seen such hands before. They were
high-bred, and yet at the same time there was a strongly material
attraction about them.

He did not know what to say, and as nothing seemed to be expected of
him, he kept silence for some time. At last Maria Addolorata, as though
impatient at the long absence of the portress, tapped the pavement
softly with her sandal slipper, and turned her head in the direction of
the arches as though to listen for approaching footsteps.

"I hope that the abbess is no worse than when Doctor Taddei saw her last
night," observed Dalrymple.

"Her most reverend excellency," answered Maria Addolorata, with a little
emphasis, as though to teach him the proper mode of addressing the
abbess, "is suffering. She has had a bad night."

"I shall hope to be allowed to give some advice to her most reverend
excellency," said Dalrymple, to show that he had understood the hint.

"She will not allow you to see her. But you shall come with me to the
antechamber, and I will speak with her and tell you what she says."

"I shall be greatly obliged, and will do my best to give good advice
without seeing the patient."

Another pause followed, during which neither moved. Then Maria
Addolorata spoke again, further reassured, perhaps, by Dalrymple's quiet
and professional tone. She had too lately left the world to have lost
the habit of making conversation to break an awkward silence. Years of
seclusion, too, instead of making her shy and silent, had given her
something of the ease and coolness of a married woman. This was natural
enough, considering that she was born of worldly people and had acquired
the manners of the world in her own home, in childhood.

"You are an Englishman, I presume, Signor Doctor?" she observed, in a
tone of interrogation.

"A Scotchman, Madam," answered Dalrymple, correcting her and drawing
himself up a little. "My name is Angus Dalrymple."

"It is the same--an Englishman or a Scotchman," said the nun.

"Pardon me, Madam, we consider that there is a great difference. The
Scotch are chiefly Celts. Englishmen are Anglo-Saxons."

"But you are all Protestants. It is therefore the same for us."

Dalrymple feared a discussion of the question of religion. He did not
answer the nun's last remark, but bowed politely. She, of course, could
not see the inclination he made.

"You say nothing," she said presently. "Are you a Protestant?"

"Yes, Madam."

"It is a pity!" said Maria Addolorata. "May God send you light."

"Thank you, Madam."

Maria Addolorata smiled under her veil at the polite simplicity of the
reply. She had met Englishmen in Rome.

"It is no longer customary to address us as 'Madam,'" she answered, a
moment later. "It is more usual to speak to us as 'Sister' or 'Reverend
Sister'--or 'Sister Maria.' I am Sister Maria Addolorata. But you know
it, for you sent your message to me."

"Doctor Taddei told me."

At this point the portress appeared in the distance, and Maria
Addolorata, hearing footsteps, turned her head from Dalrymple, raising
her veil a little, so that she could recognize the lay sister without
showing her face to the young man.

"Let us go," she said, dropping her veil again, and beginning to walk
on. "The sisters are warned."

Dalrymple followed her in silence and at a respectful distance,
congratulating himself upon his extraordinary good fortune in having got
so far on the first attempt, and inwardly praying that Sor Tommaso's
wounds might take a considerable time in healing. It had all come about
so naturally that he had lost the sensation of doing something
adventurous which had at first taken possession of him, and he now
regarded everything as possible, even to being invited to a friendly cup
of tea in Sister Maria Addolorata's sitting-room; for he imagined her as
having a sitting-room and as drinking tea there in a semi-luxurious
privacy. The idea would have amused an Italian of those days, when tea
was looked upon as medicine.

They reached the end of the last corridor. Dalrymple, like Sor Tommaso,
was admitted to the antechamber, while the portress waited outside to
conduct him back again. But Maria did not take him into the abbess's
parlour, into which she went at once, closing the door behind her.
Dalrymple sat down upon a carved wooden box-bench, and waited. The nun
was gone a long time.

"I have kept you waiting," she said, as she entered the little room
again.

"My time is altogether at your service, Sister Maria Addolorata," he
answered, rising quickly. "How is her most reverend excellency?"

"Very ill. I do not know what to say. She will not hear of seeing you.
I fear she will not live long, for she can hardly breathe."

"Does she cough?"

"Not much. Not so much as last night. She complains that she cannot draw
her breath and that her lungs feel full of something."

The case was evidently serious, and Dalrymple, who was a physician by
nature, proceeded to extract as much information as he could from the
nun, who did her best to answer all his questions clearly. The long
conversation, with its little restraints and its many attempts at a
mutual understanding, did more to accustom Maria Addolorata to
Dalrymple's presence and personality than any number of polite speeches
on his part could have done. There is an unavoidable tendency to
intimacy between any two people who are together engaged in taking care
of a sick person.

"I can give you directions and good advice," said Dalrymple, at last.
"But it can never be the same as though I could see the patient myself.
Is there no possible means of obtaining her consent? She may die for the
want of just such advice as I can only give after seeing her. Would not
her brother, his Eminence the Cardinal, perhaps recommend her to let me
visit her once?"

"That is an idea," answered the nun, quickly. "My uncle is a man of
broad views. I have heard it said in Rome. I could write to him that
Doctor Taddei is unable to come, and that a celebrated foreign physician
is here--"

"Not celebrated," interrupted Dalrymple, with his literal Scotch
veracity.

"What difference can it make?" uttered Maria Addolorata, moving her
shoulders a little impatiently. "He will be the more ready to use his
influence, for he is much attached to my aunt. Then, if he can persuade
her, I can send down the gardener to the town for you this afternoon. It
may not be too late."

"I see that you have some confidence in me," said Dalrymple. "I am of a
newer school than Doctor Taddei. If you will follow my directions, I
will almost promise that her most reverend excellency shall not die
before to-morrow."

He smiled now, as he gave the abbess her full title, for he began to
feel as though he had known Maria Addolorata for a long time, though he
had only had one glimpse of her eyes, just when she had raised her head
to get a look at him through the loophole of the gate. But he had not
forgotten them, and he felt that he knew them.

"I will do all you tell me," she answered quietly.

Dalrymple had some English medicines with him on his travels, and not
knowing what might be required of him at the convent, he had brought
with him a couple of tiny bottles.

"This when she coughs--ten drops," he said, handing the bottles to the
nun. "And five drops of this once an hour, until her chest feels freer."

He gave her minute directions, as far as he could, about the general
treatment of the patient, which Maria repeated and got by heart.

"I will let you know before twenty-three o'clock what the cardinal says
to the plan," she said. "In this way you will be able to come up by
daylight."

As Dalrymple took his leave, he held out his hand, forgetting that he
was in Italy.

"It is not our custom," said Maria Addolorata, thrusting each of her own
hands into the opposite sleeve.

But there was nothing cold in her tone. On the contrary, Dalrymple
fancied that she was almost on the point of laughing at that moment, and
he blushed at his awkwardness. But she could not see his face.

"Your most humble servant," he said, bowing to her.

"Good day, Signor Doctor," she answered, through the open door, as the
portress jingled her keys and prepared to follow Dalrymple.

So he took his departure, not without much satisfaction at the result of
his first attempt.



CHAPTER VII.


SOR TOMMASO recovered but slowly, though his injuries were of themselves
not dangerous. His complexion was apoplectic and gouty, he was no longer
young, and before forty-eight hours had gone by his wounds were
decidedly inflamed and he had a little fever. At the same time he was by
no means a courageous man, and he was ready to cry out that he was dead,
whenever he felt himself worse. Besides this, he lost his temper several
times daily with Dalrymple, who resolutely refused to bleed him, and he
insisted upon eating and drinking more than was good for him, at a time
when if he had been his own patient he would have enforced starvation as
necessary to recovery.

Meanwhile the cardinal had exerted his influence with his sister, the
abbess, and had so far succeeded that Dalrymple, who went every day to
the convent, was now made to stand with his back to the abbess's open
door, in order that he might at least ask her questions and hear her own
answers. Many an old Italian doctor can tell of even stranger and more
absurd precautions observed by the nuns of those days. As soon as the
oral examination was over, Maria Addolorata shut the door and came out
into the parlour, where Dalrymple finished his visit, prolonging it in
conversation with her by every means he could devise.

Though encumbered with a little of the northern shyness, Dalrymple was
not diffident. There is a great difference between shyness and
diffidence. Diffidence distrusts itself; shyness distrusts the mere
outward impression made on others. At this time Dalrymple had no object
beyond enjoying the pleasure of talking with Maria Addolorata, and no
hope beyond that of some day seeing her face without the veil. As for
her voice, his present position as doctor to the convent made it foolish
for him to run the risk of being caught listening for her songs behind
the garden wall. But he had not forgotten what Annetta had told him, and
Maria Addolorata's soft intonations and liquid depths of tone in
speaking led him to believe that the peasant girl had not exaggerated
the nun's gift of singing.

One day, after he had seen her and talked with her more than half a
dozen times, he approached the subject, merely for the sake of
conversation, saying that he had been told of her beautiful voice by
people who had heard her across the garden.

"It is true," she answered simply. "I have a good voice. But it is
forbidden here to sing except in church," she added with a sigh. "And
now that my aunt is ill, I would not displease her for anything."

"That is natural," said Dalrymple. "But I would give anything in the
world to hear you."

"In church you can hear me. The church is open on Sundays at the
Benediction service. We are behind the altar in the choir, of course.
But perhaps you would know my voice from the rest because it is deeper."

"I should know it in a hundred thousand," asseverated the Scotchman,
with warmth.

"That would be a great many--a whole choir of angels!" And the nun
laughed softly, as she sometimes did, now that she knew him so much
better.

There was something warm and caressing in her laughter, short and low as
it was, that made Dalrymple look at those full white hands of hers and
wonder whether they might not be warm and caressing too.

"Will you sing a little louder than the rest next Sunday afternoon,
Sister Maria?" he asked. "I will be in the church."

"That would be a great sin," she answered, but not very gravely.

"Why?"

"Because I should have to be thinking about you instead of about the
holy service. Do you not know that? But nothing is sinful according to
you Protestants, I suppose. At all events, come to the church."

"Do you think we are all devils, Sister Maria?" asked Dalrymple, with a
smile.

"More or less." She laughed again. "They say in the town that you have a
compact with the devil."

"Do you hear what is said in the town?"

"Sometimes. The gardener brings the gossip and tells it to the cook. Or
Sora Nanna tells it to me when she brings the linen. There are a
thousand ways. The people think we know nothing because they never see
us. But we hear all that goes on."

Dalrymple said nothing in answer for some time. Then he spoke suddenly
and rather hoarsely.

"Shall I never see you, Sister Maria?" he asked.

"Me? But you see me every day--"

"Yes,--but your face, without the veil."

Maria Addolorata shook her head.

"It is against all rules," she answered.

"Is it not against all rules that we should sit here and make
conversation every day for half an hour?"

"Yes--I suppose it is. But you are here as a doctor to take care of my
aunt," she added quickly. "That makes it right. You are not a man. You
are a doctor."

"Oh,--I understand." Dalrymple laughed a little. "Then I am never to see
your beautiful face?"

"How do you know it is beautiful, since you have never seen it?"

"From your beautiful hands," answered the young man, promptly.

"Oh!" Maria Addolorata glanced at her hands and then, with a movement
which might have been quicker, concealed them in her sleeves.

"It is a sin to hide what God has made beautiful," said Dalrymple.

"If I have anything about me that is beautiful, it is for God's glory
that I hide it," answered Maria, with real gravity this time.

Dalrymple understood that he had gone a little too far, though he did
not exactly regret it, for the next words she spoke showed him that she
was not really offended. Nevertheless, in order to exhibit a proper
amount of contrition he took his leave with a little more formality than
usual on this particular occasion. Possibly she was willing to show that
she forgave him, for she hesitated a moment just before opening the
door, and then, to his great surprise, held out her hand to him.

"It is your custom," she said, just touching his eagerly outstretched
fingers. "But you must not look at it," she added, drawing it back
quickly and hiding it in her sleeve with another low laugh. And she
began to shut the door almost before he had quite gone through.

Dalrymple walked more slowly on that day, as he descended through the
steep and narrow streets, and though he was surefooted by nature and
habit, he almost stumbled once or twice on his way down, because,
somehow, though his eyes looked towards his feet, he did not see exactly
where he was going.

There is no necessity for analyzing his sensations. It is enough to say
at once that he was beginning to be really in love with Maria
Addolorata, and that he denied the fact to himself stoutly, though it
forced itself upon him with every step which took him further from the
convent. He felt on that day a strong premonitory symptom in the shape
of a logical objection, as it were, to his returning again to see the
nun. The objection was the evident and total futility of the almost
intimate intercourse into which the two were gliding. The day must soon
come when the abbess would no longer need his assistance. In all
probability she would recover, for the more alarming symptoms had
disappeared, and she showed signs of regaining her strength by slow
degrees. It was quite clear to Dalrymple that, after her ultimate
recovery, his chance of seeing and talking with Maria Addolorata would
be gone forever. Sor Tommaso, indeed, recovered but slowly. Of the two
his case was the worse, for fever had set in on the third day and had
not left him yet, so that he assured Dalrymple almost hourly that his
last moment was at hand. But he also was sure to get well, in the
Scotchman's opinion, and the latter knew well enough that his own
temporary privileges as physician to the convent would be withdrawn from
him as soon as the Subiaco doctor should be able to climb the hill.

It was all, therefore, but a brief incident in his life, which could not
possibly have any continuation hereafter. He tried in vain to form plans
and create reasons for seeing Maria Addolorata even once a month for
some time to come, but his ingenuity failed him altogether, and he grew
angry with himself for desiring what was manifestly impossible.

With true masculine inconsequence, so soon as he was displeased with
himself he visited his displeasure upon the object that attracted him,
and on the earliest possible occasion, on their very next meeting. He
assumed an air of coldness and reserve such as he had certainly not
thought necessary to put on at his first visit. Almost without any
preliminary words of courtesy, and without any attempt to prolong the
short conversation which always took place before he was made to stand
with his back to the abbess's open door, he coldly inquired about the
good lady's condition during the past night, and made one or two
observations thereon with a brevity almost amounting to curtness.

Maria Addolorata was surprised; but as her face was covered, and her
hands were quietly folded before her, Dalrymple could not see that his
behaviour had any effect upon her. She did not answer his last remark at
all, but quietly bowed her head.

Then followed the usual serio-comic scene, during which Dalrymple stood
turned away from the open door, asking questions of the sick woman, and
listening attentively for her low-spoken answers. To tell the truth, he
judged of her condition more from the sound of her voice than from
anything else. He had also taught Maria Addolorata how to feel the
pulse; and she counted the beats while he looked at his watch. His chief
anxiety was now for the action of the heart, which had been weakened by
a lifetime of unhealthy living, by food inadequate in quality, even when
sufficient in quantity, by confinement within doors, and lack of
life-giving sunshine, and by all those many causes which tend to reduce
the vitality of a cloistered nun.

When the comedy was over, Maria Addolorata shut the door as usual; and
she and Dalrymple were alone together in the abbess's parlour, as they
were every day. The abbess herself could hear that they were talking,
but she naturally supposed that they were discussing the details of her
condition; and as she felt that she was really recovering, so far as
she could judge, and as almost every day, after Dalrymple had gone,
Maria Addolorata had some new direction of his to carry out, the elder
lady's suspicions were not aroused. On the contrary, her confidence in
the Scotch doctor grew from day to day; and in the long hours during
which she lay thinking over her state and its circumstances, she made
plans for his conversion, in which her brother, the cardinal, bore a
principal part. She was grateful to Dalrymple, and it seemed to her that
the most proper way of showing her gratitude would be to save his soul,
a point of view unusual in the ordinary relations of life.

On this particular day, Maria Addolorata shut the door, and came forward
into the parlour as usual. As usual, too, she sat down in the abbess's
own big easy-chair, expecting that Dalrymple would seat himself opposite
to her. But he remained standing, with the evident intention of going
away in a few moments. He said a few words about the patient, gave one
or two directions, and then stood still in silence for a moment.

Maria Addolorata lifted her head a little, but not enough to show him
more than an inch of her face.

"Have I displeased you, Signor Doctor?" she asked, in her deep, warm
voice. "Have I not carried out your orders?"

"On the contrary," answered Dalrymple, with a stiffness which he
resented in himself. "It is impossible to be more conscientious than you
always are."

Seeing that he still remained standing, the nun rose to her feet, and
waited for him to go. She believed that she was far too proud to detain
him, if he wished to shorten the meeting. But something hurt her, which
she could not understand.

Dalrymple hesitated a moment, and his lips parted as though he were
about to speak. The silence was prolonged only for a moment or two.

"Good morning, Sister Maria Addolorata," he said suddenly, and bowed.

"Good morning, Signor Doctor," answered the nun.

She bent her head very slightly, but a keener observer than Dalrymple
was, just then, would have noticed that as she did so, her shoulders
moved forward a little, as though her breast were contracted by some
sudden little pain. Dalrymple did not see it. He bowed again, let
himself out, and closed the door softly behind him.

When he was gone, Maria Addolorata sat down in the big easy-chair again,
and uncovered her face, doubling her veil back upon her head, and
withdrawing the thick folds from her chin and mouth. Her features were
very pale, as she sat staring at the sky through the window, and her
eyes fixed themselves in that look which was peculiar to her. Her full
white hands strained upon each other a little, bringing the colour to
the tips of her fingers. During some minutes she did not move. Then she
heard her aunt's voice calling to her hoarsely. She rose at once, and
went into the bedroom. The abbess's pale face was very thin and yellow
now, as it lay upon the white pillow; the coverlet was drawn up to her
chin, and a grimly carved black crucifix hung directly above her head.

"The doctor did not stay long to-day," she said, in a hollow tone.

"No, mother," answered the young nun. "He thinks you are doing very
well. He wishes you to eat a wing of roast chicken."

"If I could have a little salad," said the abbess. "Maria," she added
suddenly, "you are careful to keep your face covered when you are in the
next room, are you not?"

"Always."

"You generally do not raise your veil until you come into this room,
after the doctor is gone," said the elder lady.

"He went so soon, to-day," answered Maria Addolorata, with perfectly
innocent truth. "I stayed a moment in the parlour, thinking over his
directions, and I lifted my veil when I was alone. It is close to-day."

"Go into the garden, and walk a little," said the abbess. "It will do
you good. You are pale."

If she had felt even a faint uneasiness about her niece's conduct, it
was removed by the latter's manner.



CHAPTER VIII.


ONCE more Dalrymple was sitting over his supper at the table in the
vaulted room on the ground floor which Stefanone used as a wine shop. To
tell the truth, it was very superior to the ordinary wine shops of
Subiaco and had an exceptional reputation. The common people never came
there, because Stefanone did not sell his cheap wine at retail, but sent
it all to Rome, or took it thither himself for the sake of getting a
higher price for it. He always said that he did not keep an inn, and
perhaps as much on account of his relations with Gigetto's family, he
assumed as far as possible the position of a wine-dealer rather than
that of a wine-seller. The distinction, in Italian mountain towns, is
very marked.

"They can have a measure of the best, if they care to pay for it," he
said. "If they wish a mouthful of food, there is what there is. But I am
not the village host, and Nanna is not a wine-shop cook, to fry tripe
and peel onions for Titius and Caius."

The old Roman expression, denoting generally the average public,
survives still in polite society, and Stefanone had caught it from Sor
Tommaso.

Dalrymple was sitting as usual over his supper, by the light of the
triple-beaked brass lamp, his measure of wine beside him, and a
beefsteak, which on this occasion was really of beef, before him.
Stefanone was absent in Rome, with a load of wine. Sora Nanna sat on
Dalrymple's right, industriously knitting in Italian fashion, one of the
needles stuck into and supported by a wooden sheath thrust into her
waist-band, while she worked off the stitches with the others. Annetta
sat opposite the Scotchman, but a little on one side of the lamp, so
that she could see his face.

"Mother," she said suddenly, without lifting her chin from the hand in
which it rested, "you do not know anything! This Signor Englishman is
making love with a nun in the convent! Eh--what do you think of it? Only
this was wanting. A little more and the lightning will fall upon the
convent! These Protestants! Oh, these blessed Protestants! They respect
nothing, not even the saints!"

"My daughter! what are you saying?"

Sora Nanna's fingers did not pause in their work, nor did her eyes look
up, but the deep furrow showed itself in her thick peasant's forehead,
and her coarse, hard lips twitched clumsily with the beginning of a
smile.

"What am I saying? The truth. Ask rather of the Signore whether it is
not true."

"It is silly," said Dalrymple, growing unnaturally red, and looking up
sharply at Annetta, before he took his next mouthful.

"Look at him, mother!" laughed the girl. "He is red, red--he seems to me
a boiled shrimp. Eh, this time I have guessed it! And as for Sister
Maria Addolorata, she no longer sees with her eyes! To-day, when you
were carrying in the baskets, you and the other women who went with us,
I asked her whether the abbess was satisfied with the new doctor, and
she answered that he was a very wise man, much wiser than Sor Tommaso.
So I told her that it was a pity, because Sor Tommaso was getting well
and would not allow the English doctor to come instead of him much
longer. Then she looked at me. By Bacchus, I was afraid. Certain eyes!
Not even a cat when you take away her kittens! A little more and she
would have eaten me. And then her face made itself of marble--like that
face of a woman that is built into the fountain in the piazza.
Arch-priest! What a face!"

The girl stared hard at Dalrymple, and her mouth laughed wickedly at his
evident embarrassment, while there was something very different from
laughter in her eyes. During the long speech, Sora Nanna had stopped
knitting, and she looked from her daughter to the Scotchman with a sort
of half-stupid, half-cunning curiosity.

"But these are sins!" she exclaimed at last.

"And what does it matter?" asked the girl. "Does he go to confession? So
what does it matter? He keeps the account himself, of his sins. I should
not like to have them on my shoulders. But as for Sister Maria
Addolorata--oh, she! I told you that she sinned in her throat. Well, the
sin is ready, now. What is she waiting for? For the abbess to die? Or
for Sor Tommaso to get well? Then she will not see the Signor Englishman
any more. It would be better for her. When she does not see him any
more, she will knead her pillow with tears, and make her bread of it, to
bite and eat. Good appetite, Sister Maria!"

"You talk, you talk, and you conclude nothing," observed Sora Nanna.
"You have certain thoughts in your head! And you do not let the Signore
say even a word."

"What can he say? He will say that it is not true. But then, who will
believe him? I should like to see them a little together. I am sure that
she shows him her face, and that it is 'Signor Doctor' here, and 'Dear
Signor Doctor' there, and a thousand gentlenesses. Tell the truth,
Signore. She shows you her face."

"No," said Dalrymple, who had regained his self-possession. "She never
shows me her face."

"What a shame for a Carmelite nun to show her face to a man!" cried the
girl.

"But I tell you she is always veiled to her chin," insisted Dalrymple,
with perfect truth.

"Eh! It is you who say so!" retorted Annetta. "But then, what can it
matter to me? Make love with a nun, if it goes, Signore. Youth is a
flower--when it is withered, it is hay, and the beasts eat it."

"This is true," said Sora Nanna, returning to her knitting. "But do not
pay attention to her, Signore. She is stupid. She does not know what she
says. Eat, drink, and manage your own affairs. It is better. What can a
child understand? It is like a little dog that sees and barks, without
understanding. But you are a much instructed man and have been round the
whole world. Therefore you know many things. It seems natural."

Though Dalrymple was not diffident, as has been said, he was far from
vain, on the whole, and in particular he had none of that contemptible
vanity which makes a man readily believe that every woman he meets is in
love with him. He had not the slightest idea at that time that Annetta,
the peasant girl, looked upon him with anything more than the curiosity
and vague interest usually bestowed on a foreigner in Italy.

He was annoyed, however, by what she said this evening, though he was
also secretly surprised and delighted. The contradiction is a common
one. The miser is half mad with joy on discovering that he has much
more than he supposed, and bitterly resents, at the same time, any
notice which may be taken of the fact by others.

Annetta did not enjoy his discomfiture and evident embarrassment, for
she was far more deeply hurt herself than she realized, and every word
she had spoken about Maria Addolorata had hurt her, though she had taken
a sort of vague delight in teasing Dalrymple. She relapsed into silence
now, alternately wishing that he loved her, and then, that she might
kill him. If she could not have his heart, she would be satisfied with
his blood. There was a passionate animal longing in the instinct to have
him for herself, even dead, rather than that any other woman should get
his love.

Dalrymple was aware only that the girl's words had annoyed him, while
inwardly conscious that if what she said were true, the truth would make
a difference in his life. He showed no inclination to talk any more, and
finished his supper in a rather morose silence, turning to his book as
soon as he had done. Then Gigetto came in with his guitar and sang and
talked with the two women.

But he was restless that night, and did not fall asleep until the moon
had set and his window grew dark. And even in his dreams he was restless
still, so that when he awoke in the morning he said to himself that he
had been foolish in his behaviour towards Maria Addolorata on the
previous day. He felt tired, too, and his colour was less brilliant
than usual. It was Sunday, and he remembered that if he chose he could
go in the afternoon to the Benediction in the convent church and hear
Maria's voice perhaps. But at the usual hour, just before noon, he went
to make his visit to the abbess.

It was his intention to forget his stiff manner, and to behave as he had
always behaved until yesterday. Strange to say, however, he felt a
constraint coming upon him as soon as he was in the nun's presence. She
received him as usual, there was the usual comic scene at the abbess's
door, and, as every day, the two were alone together after her door was
shut.

"Are you ill?" asked Maria Addolorata, after a moment's silence which,
short as it was, both felt to be awkward.

Dalrymple was taken by surprise. The tone in which she had spoken was
cold and distant rather than expressive of any concern for his welfare,
but he did not think of that. He only realized that his manner must seem
to her very unusual, since she asked such a question. An Italian would
have observed that his own face was pale, and would have told her that
he was dying of love.

"No, I am not ill," answered the Scotchman, simply, and in his most
natural tone of voice.

"Then what is the matter with you since yesterday?" asked Maria
Addolorata, less coldly, and as though she were secretly amused.

"There is nothing the matter--at least, nothing that I could explain to
you."

She sat down in the big easy-chair and, as formerly, he took his seat
opposite to her.

"There is something," she insisted, speaking thoughtfully. "You cannot
deceive a woman, Signor Doctor."

Dalrymple smiled and looked at her veiled head.

"You said the other day that I was not a man, but a doctor," he
answered. "I suppose I might answer that you are not a woman, but a
nun."

"And is not a nun a woman?" asked Maria Addolorata, and he knew that she
was smiling, too.

"You would not forgive me if I answered you," he said.

"Who knows? I might be obliged to, since I am obliged to meet you every
day. It may be a sin, but I am curious."

"Shall I tell you?"

As though instinctively, Maria was silent for a moment, and turned her
veiled face towards the abbess's door. But Dalrymple needed no such
warning to lower his voice.

"Tell me," she said, and under her veil she could feel that her eyes
were growing deep and the pupils wide and dark, and she knew that she
had done wrong.

"How should I know whether you are a saint or only a woman, since I have
never seen your face?" he asked. "I shall never know--for in a few days
Doctor Taddei will be well again, and you will not need my services."

He saw the quick tightening of one hand upon the other, and the slight
start of the head, and in a flash he knew that all Annetta had told him
was true. The silence that followed seemed longer than the awkward pause
which had preceded the conversation.

"It cannot be so soon," she said in a very low tone.

"It may be to-morrow," he answered, and to his own astonishment his
voice almost broke in his throat, and he felt that his own hands were
twisting each other, as though he were in pain. "I shall die without
seeing you," he added almost roughly.

Again there was a short silence in the still room.

Suddenly, with quick movements of both hands at once, Maria Addolorata
threw back the veil from her face, and drew away the folds that covered
her mouth.

"There, see me!" she exclaimed. "Look at me well this once!"

Her face was as white as marble, and her dark eyes had a wild and
startled look in them, as though she saw the world for the first time.
A ringlet of red-gold hair had escaped from the bands of white that
crossed her forehead in an even line and were drawn down straight on
either side, for in the quick movement she had made she had loosened the
pin that held them together under her chin, and had freed the dazzling
throat down to the high collar.

[Illustration: "She had covered her face with the veil."--Vol. I., p.
126.]

Dalrymple's pale, bright blue eyes caught fire, and he looked at her
with all his being, at her face, her throat, her eyes, the ringlet of
her hair. He breathed audibly, with parted lips, between his clenched
teeth.

Gradually, as he looked, he saw the red blush rise from the throat to
the cheeks, from the cheeks to the forehead, and the marble grew more
beautiful with womanly life. Then, all at once, he saw the hot tears
welling up in her eyes, and in an instant the vision was gone. With a
passionate movement she had covered her face with the veil, and throwing
herself sideways against the high back of the chair, she pressed the
dark stuff still closer to her eyes and mouth and cheeks. Her whole body
shook convulsively, and a moment later she was sobbing, not audibly, but
visibly, as though her heart were breaking.

Dalrymple was again taken by surprise. He had been so completely lost in
the utterly selfish contemplation of her beauty that he had been very
far from realizing what she herself must have felt as soon as she
appreciated what she had done. He at once accused himself of having
looked too rudely at her, but at the same time he was himself too much
disturbed to argue the matter. Quite instinctively he rose to his feet
and tried to take one of her hands from her veil, touching it
comfortingly. But she made a wild gesture, as though to drive him away.

"Go!" she cried in a low and broken voice, between her sobs. "Go! Go
quickly!"

She could not say more for her sobbing, but he did not obey her. He only
drew back a little and watched her, all his blood on fire from the touch
of her soft white hand.

She stifled her sobs in her veil, and gradually grew more calm. She even
arranged the veil itself a little better, her face still turned away
towards the back of the chair.

"Maria! Maria!" The abbess's voice was calling her, hoarsely and almost
desperately, from the next room.

She started and sat up straight, listening. Then the cry was heard
again, more desperate, less loud. With a quick skill which seemed
marvellous in Dalrymple's eyes, Maria adjusted her veil almost before
she had sprung to her feet.

"Wait!" she said. "Something is the matter!"

She was at the bedroom door in an instant, and in an instant more she
was at her aunt's bedside.

"Maria--I am dying," said the abbess's voice faintly, as she felt the
nun's arm under her head.

Dalrymple heard the words, and did not hesitate as he hastily felt for
something in his pocket.

"Come!" cried Maria Addolorata.

But he was already there, on the other side of the bed, pouring
something between the sick lady's lips.

It was fortunate that he was there at that moment. He had indeed
anticipated the possibility of a sudden failure in the action of the
heart, and he never came to the convent without a small supply of a
powerful stimulant of his own invention. The liquid, however, was of
such a nature that he did not like to leave the use of it to Maria
Addolorata's discretion, for he was aware that she might easily be
mistaken in the symptoms of the collapse which would really require its
use.

The abbess swallowed a sufficient quantity of it, and Dalrymple allowed
her head to lie again upon the pillow. She looked almost as though she
were dead. Her eyes were turned up, and her jaw had dropped. Maria
Addolorata believed that all was over.

"She is dead," she said. "Let us leave her in peace."

It is a very ancient custom among Italians to withdraw as soon as a
dying person is unconscious, if not even before the supreme moment.

"She will probably live through this," answered Dalrymple, shaking his
head.

Neither he nor the nun spoke again for a long time. Little by little,
the abbess revived under the influence of the stimulant, the heart beat
less faintly, and the mouth slowly closed, while the eyelids shut
themselves tightly over the upturned eyes. The normal regular breathing
began again, and the crisis was over.

"It is passed," said Dalrymple. "It will not come again to-day. We can
leave her now, for she will sleep."

"Yes," said the abbess herself. "Let me sleep." Her voice was faint, but
the words were distinctly articulated.

Then she opened her eyes and looked about her quite naturally. Her
glance rested on Dalrymple's face. Suddenly realizing that she was not
veiled, she drew the coverlet up over her face. It is a peculiarity of
such cases, that the patient returns almost immediately to ordinary
consciousness when the moment of danger is past.

"Go!" she said, with more energy than might have been expected. "This is
a religious house. You must not be here."

Dalrymple retired into the parlour again, shutting the door behind him,
and waited for Maria Addolorata, for it was now indispensable that he
should give her directions for the night. During the few minutes which
passed while he was alone, he stood looking out of the window. The
excitement of the last half-hour had cut off from his present state of
mind the emotion he had felt before the abbess's cry for help, but had
not decreased the impression it had left. While he was helping the sick
lady there had not been one instant in which he had not felt that there
was more than the life of a half-saintly old woman in the balance, and
that her death meant the end of his meetings with Maria Addolorata.
Annetta's words came back to him, 'she will knead her pillow with tears
and make her bread of it.'

Several minutes passed, and the door opened softly and closed again.
Maria Addolorata came up to him, where he stood by the window. She did
not speak for a moment, but he saw that her hand was pressed to her
side.

"I have spent a bad half-hour," she said at last, with something like a
gasp.

"It is the worst half-hour I ever spent in my life," answered Dalrymple.
"I thought it was all over," he added.

"Yes," she said, "I thought it was all over."

He could hear his heart beating in his ears. He could almost hear hers.
His hand went out toward her, cold and unsteady, but it fell to his side
again almost instantly. But for the heart-beats, it seemed to him that
there was an appalling stillness in the air of the quiet room. His
manly face grew very pale. He slowly bit his lip and looked out of the
window. An enormous temptation was upon him. He knew that if she moved
to leave his side he should take her and hold her. There was a tiny drop
of blood on his lip now. Something in him made him hope against himself
that she would speak, that she would say some insignificant dry words.
But every inch of his strong fibre and every ounce of his hot blood
hoped that she would move, instead of speaking.

She sighed, and the sigh was broken by a quick-drawn breath. Slowly
Dalrymple turned his white face and gleaming eyes to her veiled head.
Still she neither spoke nor moved. He, in memory, saw her face, her
mouth, and her eyes through the thick stuff that hid them. The silence
became awful to him. His hands opened and shut convulsively.

She heard his breath and she saw the uncertain shadow of his hand,
moving on the black and white squares of the pavement. She made a
slight, short movement towards him and then stepped suddenly back,
overcoming the temptation to go to him.

"No!"

He uttered the single word with a low, fierce cry. In an instant his
arms were around her, pressing her, lifting her, straining her, almost
bruising her. In an instant his lips were kissing a face whiter than his
own, eyes that flamed like summer lightning between his kisses, lips
crushed and hurt by his, but still not kissed enough, hands that were
raised to resist, but lingered to be kissed in turn, lest anything
should be lost.

A little splintering crash, the sound of a glass falling upon a stone
floor in the next room, broke the stillness. Dalrymple's arms relaxed,
and the two stood for one moment facing one another, pale, with fire in
their eyes and hearts beating more loudly than before. Dalrymple raised
his hand to his forehead, as though he were dazed, and made an uncertain
step in the direction of the door. Maria raised her white hands towards
him, and her eyelids drooped, even while she looked into his face.

He kissed her once more with a kiss in which all other kisses seemed to
meet and live and die a lingering, sweet death. She sank into the deep
old easy-chair, and when she looked up, he was gone.



CHAPTER IX.


IT rained during the afternoon, and Dalrymple sat in his small
laboratory, among his books and the simple apparatus he used for his
experiments. His little window was closed, and the southwest wind drove
the shower against the clouded panes of glass, so that the rain came
through the ill-fitted strips of lead which joined them, and ran down in
small streams to the channel in the stone sill, whence the water found
its way out through a hole running through the wall. He sat in his
rush-bottomed chair, sideways by the deal table, one long leg crossed
over the other. His hand lay on an open book, and his fingers
occasionally tapped the page impatiently, while his eyes were fixed on
the window, watching the driving rain.

He was not thinking, for he could not think. Over and over again the
scene of the morning came back to him and sent the hot blood rushing to
his throat. He tried to reflect, indeed, and to see whether what he had
done was to have any consequences for him, or was to be left behind in
his life, like a lovely view seen from a carriage window on a swift
journey, gone before it is half seen, and never to be seen again,
except in dreams. But he was utterly unable to look forward and reason
about the future. Everything dragged him back, up the steep ascent to
the convent, through the arched ways and vaulted corridors, to the room
in which he had passed the supreme moments of his life. The only
distinct impression of the future was the strong desire to feel again
what he had felt that day; to feel it again and again, and always, as
long as feeling could last; to stretch out his hands and take, to close
them and hold, to make his, indubitably, what had been but questionably
his for an instant, to get the one thing worth having, for himself, and
only for himself. For the passion of a strong man is loving and taking,
and the passion of a good woman is loving and giving. Dalrymple reasoned
well enough, later,--too well, perhaps,--but during those hours he spent
alone on that day, there was no power of reasoning in him. The world was
the woman he loved, and the world's orbit was but the circle of his
clasping arms. Beyond them was chaos, without form and void, clouded as
the rain-streaked panes of his little window.

He looked at his watch more than once. At last he rose, threw a cloak
over his shoulders and went out, locking the door of the little
laboratory behind him as he always did, and thrusting the unwieldy key
into his pocket.

He climbed the hill to the convent, taking the short cut through the
narrow lanes. The rain had almost ceased, and the wet mist that blew
round the corners of the dark houses was pleasant in his face. But he
scarcely knew what he saw and felt on his way. He reached the convent
church and went in, and stood by one of the pillars near the door.

It was a small church, built with a great choir for the nuns behind the
high altar; from each side of the latter a high wooden screen extended
to the walls, completely cutting off the space. It was dark, too,
especially in such weather, and almost deserted, save for a number of
old women who knelt on the damp marble pavement, some leaning against
the backs of chairs, some resting one arm upon the plastered bases of
the yellow marble columns. There were many lights on the high altar. Two
acolytes, rough-headed boys of Subiaco, knelt within the altar rail,
dressed in black cassocks and clean linen cottas. Two priests and a
young deacon sat side by side on the right of the altar, with small
black books in their hands. The nuns were chanting, unseen in the choir.
No one noticed Dalrymple, wrapped in his cloak, as he leaned against the
pillar near the door. His head was a little inclined, involuntarily
respectful to ceremonies he neither believed in nor understood, but
which had in them the imposing element of devout earnestness. Yet his
eyes were raised and looked up from under his brows, steadily and
watchfully, for he knew that Maria Addolorata was behind the screen, and
from the first moment of entering the church it seemed to him that he
could distinguish her voice from the rest.

He knew that it was hers, though he had never heard her sing. There was
in all those sweet, colourless tones one tone that made ringing
harmonies in his strong heart. Amongst all those mingling accents, there
was one accent that touched his soul. Amidst the echoes that died softly
away under the dim arches, there was one echo that died not, but rang on
and on in his ears. There was a voice not like other voices there, nor
like any he had ever heard. Many were strong and sweet; this one was not
sweet and strong only, but alive with a divine life, winged with divine
wings, essential of immortality, touching beyond tears, passionate as
the living, breathing, sighing, dying world, grand as a flood of light,
sad as the twilight of gods, full as a great water swinging to the tide
of the summer's moon, fine-drawn as star-rays--a voice of gold.

As Dalrymple stood there in the shadow, he heard it singing to him and
telling him all that he had not been told in words, all that he felt,
and more also. For there was in it the passion of the woman, and the
passionate remorse of the nun, the towering love of Maria Braccio,
woman and princess, and the deep despair of Maria Addolorata, nun and
sinner, unfaithful spouse of the Lord Christ, accused and self-accusing,
self-wronged, self-judged, but condemned of God and foretasting the
ultimate tragedy that is eternal--the tragedy of supreme hell.

The man who stood there knew that it was his doing, and the burden of
his deeds bowed him bodily as he stood. But still he listened, and, as
she sung, he watched her lips in the dark, inner mirror of sin's memory,
and they drew him on.

Little by little, he heard only her voice, and the others chanted but
faintly as from an infinite distance. And then, not in his thought, but
in deed, she was singing alone, and the words of 'O Salutaris Hostia,'
sounded in the dim church as they had never sounded before, nor could
ever sound again, the appeal of a lost soul's agony to God, the glory of
golden voice, the accent of transcendent genius, the passion, the
strength, the despair, of an ancient race.

In the dark church the coarse, sad peasant women bowed themselves upon
the pavement. One of them sobbed aloud and beat her breast. Angus
Dalrymple kneeled upon one knee and pressed his brow against the foot of
the pillar, kneeling neither to God, nor to the Sacred Host, nor to
man's belief in Heaven or Hell, neither praying nor blaspheming,
neither hoping nor dreading, but spell-bound upon a wrack of torture
that was heart-breaking delight, his senses torn and strained to the
utmost of his strong endurance, to the very scream of passion, his soul
crucified upon the exquisite loveliness of his sin.

Then all was still for an instant. Again there was a sound of voices, as
the nuns sang in chorus the 'Tantum Ergo.' But the voice of voices was
silent among them. The solemn Benediction blessed the just and the
unjust alike. The short verses and responses of the priests broke the
air that still seemed alive and trembling.

Dalrymple rose slowly, and wrapped his cloak about him. Above the
footsteps of the women going out of the church, he could hear the soft
sound of all the nuns moving together as they left the choir. He knew
that she was with them, and he stood motionless in his place till
silence descended as a curtain between him and what had been. Then, with
bent head, he went out into the rain that poured through the dim
twilight.



CHAPTER X.


THEY were together on the following day. The abbess was better, and as
yet there had been no return of the syncope which Dalrymple dreaded.

Contrary to her habit, Maria Addolorata sat on a high chair by the
table, her head veiled and turned away, her chin supported in her hand.
Dalrymple was seated not far from her, leaning forward, and trying to
see her face, silent, and in a dangerous mood. She had refused to let
him come near her, and even to raise her veil. When she spoke, her voice
was full of a profound sadness that irritated him instead of touching
him, for his nerves were strung to passion and out of tune with regret.

"The sin of it; the deadly sin!" she said.

"There is no sin in it," he answered; but she shook her veiled head.

And there was silence again, as on the day before, but the stillness was
of another kind. It was not the awful lull which goes before the
bursting of the storm, when the very air seems to start at the fall of a
leaf for fear lest it be already the thunder-clap. It was more like the
noiseless rising of the hungry flood that creeps up round the doomed
house, wherein is desperate, starving life, higher and higher, inch by
inch--the flood of rising fate.

"You say that there is no sin in it," she said, after a time. "You say
it, but you do not think it. You are a man--you have honour to lose--you
understand that, at least--"

"You are a woman, and you have humanity's right to be free. It is an
honourable right. You gave it up when you took that veil, not knowing
what it was that you gave up. You have done no wrong. You have done
nothing that any loving maiden need be ashamed of. I kissed you, for you
could not help yourself. That is the monstrous crime which you say is to
be punished with eternal damnation. It is monstrous that you should
think so. It is blasphemy to say that God made woman to lead a life of
suffering and daily misery, chained to a cross which it is agony to look
at, and shame to break from."

"Go--leave me. You are tempting me again." She spoke away from him, not
changing her position.

"If truth is temptation, I am tempting you, for I am showing you the
truth. The truth is this. When you were almost a child they began to
bend you and break you in the way they meant you to grow. You bent, but
you were not broken. Your nature is too strong. There is a life of your
own in you. It was against your will, and when you were just grown up,
they buried you, your beauty, your youth, your fresh young heart, your
voice and your genius--for it is nothing less. It was all done with
deliberate intention for the glory of your family, blasphemously
asserted to be the glory of God. It was pressed upon you, before you
knew what you were doing, and made pleasant to you before you knew what
it all meant. Your cross was cushioned for you and your crown of thorns
was gilded. They made the seat under the canopy seem a seat in heaven.
They even made you believe that the management of two or three score
suffering women was government and power. It seemed a great thing to be
abbess, did it not?"

Maria Addolorata bent her veiled head slowly twice or three times, in a
heavy-hearted way.

"They made you believe all that," continued Dalrymple, with cold
earnestness, "and much more besides--a great deal of which I know
little, I suppose--the life to come, and saintship, and the glories of
heaven. You have found out what it is all worth. We have found it out
together. And they frightened you with hell. Do you know what hell is? A
life without love, when one knows what love can mean. I am not eloquent;
I wish I were. But I am plain, and I can tell you the truth."

"It is not the truth," answered the nun, slowly. "You tell me it is, to
tempt me. I cannot drive you away by force. Will you not go? I cannot
cry out for help--it would ruin me and you. Will you not leave me? But
for God's grace, I am at your mercy, and there is little grace for me, a
sinner."

"No, I will not go away," said Dalrymple, and it seemed to Maria that
his voice was the voice of her fate.

"Then God have mercy!" she cried, in a low tone, and as her head sank
forward, it was her forehead that rested in her right hand, instead of
her chin.

"Love is more merciful than God," he answered.

There was a sudden softness in his voice which she had never heard, not
even yesterday. Rising, he stole near to her, and standing, bent down
and leaned upon the table by her side and spoke close to her ear. But he
did not touch her. She could feel his breath through her veil when he
spoke again. It was vital and fierce, and softly hot, like the breathing
of a powerful wild beast.

"You are my God," he said. "I worship you, and adore you. But I must
have you for mine always. I would rather kill you, and have no God, than
lose you alive. Come with me. You are free. You can get through the
garden at night--with good horses we can reach the sea to-morrow. There
is an English ship of war at anchor in Civita Vecchia. The officers are
my friends. Before to-morrow night we can be safe--married--happy. No
one will know--no one will follow us. Maria--come--come--come!"

His voice sank to a vibrating whisper as he repeated the word again and
again, closer and closer to her ear. Her hands had dropped from her
forehead and lay upon the table. With bent head she listened.

"Come, my darling," he continued, fast and low. "I have a beautiful
home, my father's home, my mother's--your laws and vows are nothing to
them. You shall be honoured, loved--ah, dear! adored, worshipped--you do
not know what we will do for you, to fill your life with sweet things.
All your life, Maria, from to-morrow. Instead of pain and penance and
everlasting suffering and weariness, you shall have all that the world
holds of love and peace and flowers. And you shall sing your whole heart
out when you will, and have music to play with from year's beginning to
year's end and year's end again. Sweet, let me tell you how I love
you--how you are alive in every drop of my blood, beating through me
like living fire, through heart and soul and head and hand--"

With a quick movement she pressed her palms against her veil upon her
ears to shut out the sound of his words. She rocked herself a little, as
though the pain were almost greater than she could bear. But his hands
moved too, stealthily, strongly, as a tiger's velvet feet, with a
vibration all through them, to the very ends of his fingers. For he was
in earnest. And the arm went softly round her, and closed gently upon
her as her figure swayed in her chair; and the other sought hers, and
found it cold as ice and trembling, and not strong to stop her hearing.
And again she listened.

Wild and incoherent words fell from his lips, hot and low, with no
reason in them but the overwhelming reason of love itself. For he was
not an eloquent man, and now he took no thought of what he said. He was
far too natural to be eloquent, and far too deeply stirred to care for
the shape his love took in speech. There was in his words the strong
rush of out-bursting truth which even the worst passion has when it is
real to the roots. Words terrible and gentle, blasphemous and devout,
wove themselves into a new language such as Maria Addolorata had never
heard, nor dared to think of hearing. But he dared everything, to tell
her, to hold her, against God and devil, heaven and earth, and all
mankind. And he promised all he had, and all that was not his to promise
nor to give, rending her beliefs to shreds, trampling on the broken
fragments of all she had worshipped, tearing her chains link from link
and scattering them like straw down the storm of passionate contempt.
And then, again, pouring out love, and more love, and love again, as a
stream of liquid fire let loose to flood all it meets with dazzling
destruction and hot death.

It is not every woman that knows what it is to be so loved and to listen
to such words, so spoken. Those who have heard and felt can understand,
but not the rest. Gradually as he spoke, her veiled face was drawn
toward his; gradually her hand raised the thick veil and drew it back;
and again a little, and the hand that had struggled long and silently
against his, lay still at last, and the face that had appealed in vain
to Heaven, hid itself against the heart of the strong man.

"The Lord have mercy upon my sinful soul!" she softly prayed.

"I love you!" whispered Dalrymple, folding her to him with both his
arms, and pressing his lips to her head. "That is all the world holds.
That is all the Heaven there is, and we have it for our own."

But presently she drew back from him, clinging to him with her hands as
though to hold him, and yet separating from him and looking up into his
face.

"And to-morrow?" she said, with a despairing question in her tone.

"We will go away to-night," he answered, "and to-morrow will be ours,
too, and all the to-morrows after that."

But she shook her head, and her hands loosened their hold upon his arms,
still lingering on his sleeves.

"And leave her to die?" she asked, with a quick glance at the abbess's
door.

Then she looked at him, with something of sudden fear as she met his
eyes again. And almost instantly she turned from him, and threw herself
forward upon the table as she sat.

"The sin, the deadly sin!" she moaned. "Oh, the horror of it all--the
sin, the shame, the disgrace! That is the worst to bear--the shame! The
undying shame of it!"

Dalrymple's brows bent themselves in a heavy frown, for he was in no
temper to be thwarted, desperate as the risk might be. For himself, he
knew that he was setting his life on the chances, if she consented, and
that life would not be worth having if she refused. He knew well enough
that they must almost certainly be pursued, and that there would be
little hesitation about shooting him or cutting his throat if they were
caught and if he resisted, as he knew that he should. He had been in
love with her for days. The last twenty-four hours had made him
desperate. And a desperate man is not to be played with, more especially
if he chance to have any Highland blood in his veins.

"What do you believe in most?" he asked suddenly and almost brutally.

She turned, startled, and looked him in the face.

"Because, if you believe in God, as I suppose you do, I take God to
witness that I shall be a dead man this night, unless you promise to go
with me."

She stared, and turned white to the lips, as he had never seen her turn
pale before. She leaned forward, gazing into his eyes and breathing
hard.

"You do not mean that," she said, as though trying hard to convince
herself.

"I mean it," he answered slowly, pale himself, and knowing what he said.

She leaned nearer to him and took his arms with her hands, for she could
not speak. The terrible question was in his eyes.

"You would kill yourself, if I refused--if I would not go with you?"
Still she could not believe him.

"Yes," he answered.

Once more the room was very still, as the two looked into one another's
eyes. But Maria Addolorata said nothing. The frown deepened on
Dalrymple's face, and his strong mouth was drawn, as a man draws in his
lips at the moment of meeting death.

"Good-bye," he said, gently loosening himself from her hold.

Her hands dropped and she turned half round, following him as he went
towards the door. His hand was almost on the latch. He did not turn.
But as he heard her swift feet behind him, he bent his head a little.
Her arms went round his throat, reaching up to his great height.

"No! No!" she cried, drawing his head down to her.

But he took her by the wrists and held her away from him at his arms'
length.

"Are you in earnest?" he asked fiercely. "If you play with me any more,
you shall die, too."

"But not to-day!" she answered imploringly. "Not to-night! Give me
time--a day--a little while--"

"To lose you? No. I have been near losing you. I know what it means.
Make up your mind. Yes, or no."

"To-night? But how? There is not time--these clothes I wear--"

She turned her head distractedly to one side and the other as she spoke,
while he held her wrists. Dalrymple saw that there was reason in the
objections she made. So dangerous a flight could not be undertaken
without some preparation. He loosed her hands and began to pace the
room, concentrating his mind upon the details. She watched him in
silence, leaning against the back of the easy-chair. Then he stopped
just before her.

"My cloak would come down to your feet," he said, measuring her height
with his eyes. "I have a plaid which would cover your head. Once on
horseback, no one would notice anything. Can you ride?"

"No. I never learned."

"That is unlucky. But we can manage it. The main thing would be to get a
long start if possible--that you should not be missed--to get away just
at the beginning of the longest time during which the nuns would not
expect to see you. Where is your own room? Is it near this?"

Maria Addolorata told him, and explained the position of the balcony
with the steps leading down into the garden. He asked her who kept the
key of the postern. It was in the possession of the gardener, who took
it away with him at night, but the lock was on the inside, and
uncovered, as old Italian locks are. By raising the curved spring one
could push back the bolt. There was a handle on the latter, for that
purpose. There would be no difficulty about getting out, nor about
letting Dalrymple in, provided that the night were dark.

"The moon is almost full," said Dalrymple, thoughtfully, and he began to
walk up and down again. "Never mind. It must be to-morrow night. In your
dark dress, when the sisters are asleep, if you keep in the shadow along
the wall, there is not the slightest risk. I will be waiting for you on
the other side of the gate with my cloak and plaid. I will have the
horses ready, a little higher up. There is a good mule path which goes
down into the valley on that side. You have only to reach the gate and
let yourself out. It is very easy. Tell me at what time to be waiting."

Maria leaned heavily upon the chair, with bent head.

"I cannot do it--oh, I cannot!" she said despairingly. "The shame of it!
To be the talk of Rome--the scandal of the day--a disgrace to my father
and mother!"

Dalrymple frowned, and biting his lip, he struck his clenched fist
softly with the palm of his hand, making a few quick steps backward and
forward. He stopped suddenly and looked at her with dangerous eyes.

"I have told you," he said. "I will not repeat it. You must choose."

"Oh, you cannot be in earnest--"

"You shall see. It is plain enough," he added, with an accent of scorn.
"You are more afraid of a little talk and gossip in Rome, than of being
told to-morrow morning that I died in the night. That is Italian
courage, I suppose."

She hung her head for a moment. Then, as she heard his footsteps, she
threw her veil back and saw that he was going towards the door without a
word.

"You are cruel," she said, half catching her breath. "You know that you
make me suffer--that I cannot live without you."

"I shall certainly not live without you," he answered. "I mean to have
you at any price, or I will die in the attempt to get you."

The words have a melodramatic look on paper. But he spoke them not only
with his lips, but with his whole self. They were not out of keeping
with his nature. There is no more desperate blood in the world's veins
than that of the Celt when he is driven to bay or exasperated by
passion. In him the reckless fatalism of the Asiatic is blended with the
cool daring of the northerner.

Maria Addolorata had little experience of the world or of men, but she
had the hereditary instincts of her sex, and as she looked at Dalrymple
she recognized in him the man who would do what he said, or forfeit his
life in trying to do it. There is no mistaking the truth about such men,
at such moments.

"I believe you would," she said, and she felt pride in saying it.

Her own life was in the balance. She bent her head again. Her temples
were throbbing, and it was hard to think at all connectedly.

"I want your answer," he said, still standing near the door. "Yes or
no--for to-morrow night?"

"I cannot live without you," she answered slowly, and still looking
down. "I must go."

But she did not meet his eyes, for she knew that she was wavering still,
and almost as uncertain as before. All at once Dalrymple's manner
changed. He came quietly to her side and took one of her hands, which
hung idly over the back of the chair, in both of his.

"You must be in earnest, as I am, my dear," he said, very calmly and
gently. "You must not play with a man's life and heart, as though they
were worth nothing but play. You called me cruel, dear, a moment ago.
But you are more cruel than I, for I do not hesitate."

"I must go," she repeated, still avoiding his look. "Yes, I must go. I
should die without you."

"But to-morrow when I come, you will hesitate again," he said, still
speaking very quietly. "I must be sure. You must give me some promise,
something more than you have given me yet."

She looked up with startled eyes.

"You do not believe me?" she asked. "What shall I do? I--I promise! You
yourself have never said that you promised."

"Does it need that?" He pressed the hand he held, with softly increasing
strength, between his palms.

"No," she answered, looking at him. "I can see it. You will do what you
say. I have promised, too."

He gazed incredulously into her face.

"Do you doubt me?" she asked.

"Have I not reason to doubt? You change your mind easily. I do not blame
you. But how am I to believe?"

She grew impatient of his unbelief. Yet as he pressed her hand, the
power he had over her increased with every second.

"But I will, I will!" she cried, in a low voice. "And still you doubt--I
see it in your eyes. Have I not promised? What more can I do?"

"I do not know," he answered. "But you must make me believe you." The
strength of his eyes seemed to be forcing something from her.

"I say it--I promise it--I swear it! Do I not love you? Am I not giving
my soul for you? Have I not given it already? What more can I do or
say?"

"I do not know," he answered a second time, holding her with his eyes.
"I must believe you before I go."

He spoke honestly and earnestly, not meaning to exasperate her,
searching in her look for what was unmistakably in his own. His hands
shook, not weakly, as they held hers. His piercing eyes seemed to see
through and through her. She trembled all over, and the colour rose to
her face, more in despair of convincing him than in a blush of shame.

"Believe me!" she said, imperiously, and her eyelids contracted with the
effort of her will.

But he said nothing. She felt that he was immeasurably stronger than
she. But just then, he was not more desperate. There was a short,
intense silence. Her face grew pale and was set with the fatal look she
sometimes had.

"I pledge you with my blood!" she said suddenly.

Her eyes did not waver from his, but she wrenched her right hand from
him, and before he could take it again, her even teeth had met in the
flesh. The bright scarlet drops rose high and broke, and trickled in
vivid stripes across her hand as she held it before his face. Her own
was very white, but without a trace of pain. Something in the fierce
action appealed strongly to the fiery Celtic nature of the man. His
features relaxed instantly.

"I believe you," he said, and she knew it as his arms went round her;
and the pain of the wound made his kisses sweeter.



CHAPTER XI.


WHEN Dalrymple left Maria on that day, he returned as usual to
Stefanone's house. Sora Nanna was alone, for Stefanone was still absent
in Rome, and Annetta had gone on the previous day with a number of women
to the fair at Civitella San Sisto, which took place on Sunday. She was
expected to return on Monday afternoon. It is usual enough for a party
of women, with two or three men, to go to the fairs in neighbouring
towns and to spend the night with the friends of some one of the
company. It was more common still, in those days.

Sora Nanna gave Dalrymple his dinner and kept him company for a while.
But he was gloomy and preoccupied, and before long she retired to the
regions of the laundry, which was installed in a long low building that
ran out into the vegetable garden at the back of the house. Monday was
generally the day for ironing the heavy linen of the convent, which was
taken up on Tuesdays in the huge baskets carried by four women, slung to
a pole which rested on their shoulders in the old primitive fashion,
just as litters are still carried in many parts of Asia. It had
occurred more than once to Dalrymple, during the last two days, that he
could hide almost anything he chose in one of these baskets, which were
always delivered directly to Maria Addolorata and which she was at
liberty to unpack in the privacy of the linen room if she chose.

He thought of this again as he sat over his dinner, and heard the
endless song of the women, far off, at their work. He knew the habits of
the house thoroughly and all the customs regarding the carrying up of
the baskets, and he remembered that several of them would surely be
taken to the convent on the morrow. He thought that if he could procure
some more suitable clothes for Maria to wear, this would be a safe means
of conveying them to her. She could put them on in her cell, just before
the hour at which she was to expect him, so that there would be no time
lost and the danger of detection during their flight would be greatly
diminished. But there were all sorts of difficulties in the way, and he
realized them one by one, until he almost abandoned the scheme in favour
of the cloak and plaid which he had first proposed.

He pushed back his chair and went upstairs to his own room. The
impression made upon him by Maria Addolorata, when she had bitten her
hand, had been a strong one, but the man's nature, though not exactly
distrustful, was melancholic and pessimistic. Two hours and more had
passed since they had been together, and things had a different look. He
realized more clearly the strength of the ties which bound Maria to her
convent life, and the effort it must be to her to break them. He
remembered the arguments he had used, and he saw that they had been
those of passion rather than of reason. Their effect could not be
lasting, when he himself was not there to lend them his words and the
persuasion of his strength. Maria would repent of her promise, and there
was nothing to bind her to it. Hitherto there had been no risk, no
common danger. By a chain of natural circumstances he had made his way
into a most extraordinary position, but it was in her power, in a moment
of repentance, to force him from it. While the abbess was ill, Maria was
virtually mistress of the convent. At a word from her the doors might be
shut in his face. She might promise again, and bite her hand again, but
when it came to his waiting outside the garden gate, she might be seized
by a fit of repentance, and he might wait till morning.

As he sat in his room he realized all this, and more, for he knew that
on calm reflexion he meant to do what he had that morning threatened in
his haste. He had never been attached to life for its own sake.
Melancholic men often are not. He had many times thought over the
subject of suicide with a sort of grim interest in it, which indicated
the direction his temper would take if he were ever absolutely defeated
in a matter which he had at heart.

Nothing he had ever felt in his life had taken hold of him as his love
for Maria Addolorata, for he had never really been in love before and he
had completely abandoned himself to it, as such a man was sure to do in
such surroundings. She was beautiful, but that was not all. Since he had
heard her sing, he knew that her voice and her rare talent together were
genius and nothing less. But that was far from being all. She was of his
own class, and he had been seeing her daily, when the peasant women
amongst whom he lived were little more than good-natured animals; but
even that was not all. He was at that time of life when a man's
character is apt to take a violent and sudden turn in its ultimate
direction, when the forces that have been growing show themselves all at
once, when passion, having appealed as yet but to the man, has climbed
and is within reach of his soul, to take hold of it and twist it, or to
be finally conquered, perhaps, in a holy life. But Dalrymple was very
far from being the kind of man who could have taken refuge against
himself in higher things. At a time when materialism was beginning to
seem a great thing, he was a strong materialist in scientific
questions. He grasped what he could see and held it, but what he could
not see had no existence for him. Nothing transcendental attracted him
beyond the sphere of mathematics. Yet he had not the materialist's
temperament, for the Highland blood in his veins brought strong fancies
and sudden passions to his head and heart, such as his chemistry could
not explain; and when the brain burned and the heart beat fast, it meant
doing or dying with him, as with many a Scotchman before and since. Life
had never seemed to be worth much in his eyes, compared with a thing he
wanted.

He sat still and thought the matter over, and considered the question of
death, for a few short minutes. There was not a trace of philosophical
speculation in his reflexions, or they would have lasted longer. He
merely desired to be sure, with that curious Scotch caution, of his own
intentions, in order not to be obliged to think the matter over again at
the last minute.

He had drunk a measure of strong wine with his dinner, as usual. To-day
it increased the gloom of his temper, and the pessimistic view he took.
In less than a quarter of an hour he had made up his mind that if Maria
Addolorata repented at a late hour and refused to leave the convent, he
would make an attempt to carry her away by force. If he failed, and
found himself shut off from all possibility of intercourse with her,
life would not be worth living, and he would throw it away. When strong
men are in that frame of mind, they generally accomplish what they have
in view. Moreover, it is a great mistake to think that the people who
think and talk of suicide will not take their own lives. On the
contrary, statistics show that it is more often those who speak of it
the most frequently, who ultimately make away with themselves. The mere
fact of contemplating and discussing death familiarizes man with it till
he does not even attribute to it its true value, which is little enough,
as most of us know. Dalrymple was in earnest, and he knew it.

He rose from his chair and unlocked his little laboratory. Among many
other things upon the long table there was a plain English oak box,
filled with small stoppered bottles, each having a label upon it with
the name of the contents written in his own hand. Some were merely
medicines, which he carried with him in case his services should ever be
required, as had happened at the present time. Others were chemicals
which he used in his experiments, such as he could not easily have
procured in Italy, outside of the great cities. One even contained the
common spirits of camphor, of which he had once given Annetta a
teaspoonful when she had complained of a chill and sickness. One,
however, was more than half full of a solution of hydrocyanide of
potassium, a liquid little less suddenly and surely fatal than the
prussic acid which enters into its composition.

He took out this bottle and held it up to the light. The liquid was
clear and transparent as water. He watched it curiously as he made it
run up to the neck and back again. It might have been taken for pure
alcohol, being absolutely colourless.

"It would not take much of that," he said to himself, with a grim smile.

His meditations were interrupted by the voice of Sora Nanna, who had
opened his bedroom door without ceremony and stood calling to him. He
came forward hastily from the laboratory and went up to her.

"You do not know!" she cried, laughing and holding up a letter.
"Stefanone has written to me from Rome! To me! Who the devil knows what
he says? I do not understand anything of it. Who should teach me to
read? He takes me for a priest, that I should know how to read!"

Dalrymple laughed a little as he took the letter. He picked up his hat
from a chair, for he meant to go out and spend the afternoon alone upon
the hillside.

"We will read it downstairs," he said. "I am going for a walk."

He read it to her in the common room on the ground floor. It was a
letter dictated by Stefanone to a public scribe, instructing his wife to
tell Gigetto that she must send another load of wine to Rome as soon as
possible, as the price was good in the market. Stefanone would remain in
the city till it came, and sell it before returning.

"These husbands!" exclaimed Sora Nanna, with a grin. "What they will not
do! They go, riding, riding, and they come back when it seems good to
them. Who tells me what he does in Rome? Rome is great."

Dalrymple laughed, put on his hat and went off, leaving Sora Nanna to
find Gigetto and give the necessary directions.



CHAPTER XII.


GIGETTO had refused to accompany Annetta and her party to the fair at
Civitella San Sisto. He had been to Rome several times, and was far too
fine a young gentleman to divert himself in such a very primitive place.
He preferred to spend his leisure hours, which were very many, in
elegant idleness, according to his lights, between the tobacconist's,
the chemist's shop, which was the resort of all the superior men of the
place after four o'clock in the afternoon, and the abundant, though not
very refined table which was spread twice daily in his father's house.
Civitella wine, Civitella fireworks, and especially Civitella girls,
were quite beneath his notice. As for Annetta, he looked upon her with
something like contempt, though he had a high respect for the fortune
which must one day be hers. She was to be a necessary encumbrance of his
future life, and for the present he meant to see as little of her as was
conveniently possible without relinquishing his claims to her hand. She
had admired him, in a way, until the arrival of Dalrymple, and he felt a
little irritation at the Scotchman's presence in the house, so that he
occasionally frightened Sora Nanna by talking of waiting for him with a
gun at the corner of the forest. It produced a good impression, he
thought, to show from time to time that he was not without jealousy. But
as for going with her on such an expedition as a visit to a country
fair, it was not to be expected of him.

Nevertheless, Annetta had enjoyed herself thoroughly with her
companions, and was very glad that Gigetto had not been at her elbow
with his city notions of propriety, which he applied to her, but made as
elastic as he pleased for himself. She had been to high mass in the
village church, crowded to suffocation, she had walked up and down the
main street half the afternoon, arm in arm with the other girls,
giggling and showing off her handsome costume to the poorer natives of
the little place, and smiling wickedly at the handsome youths who stood
idly in groups at the corners of the streets. She had dined sumptuously,
and had made her eyes sparkle like rather vulgar little stars by
drinking a glass of strong old white wine to the health and speedy
marriage of all the other girls. She had gone out with them at dusk, and
had watched the pretty fireworks in the small piazza, and had wandered
on with them afterwards in the moonlight to the ruin of the Cyclopean
fortress which overlooks the two valleys. Then back to the house of her
friends, who kept the principal inn, and more tough chicken and tender
salad and red wine for supper. And on the next day they had all gone
down to the meagre vineyards, half way to San Vito and just below the
thick chestnut woods which belong to the Marchese and feudal lord of
that ancient town. And there amongst the showers of reddening vine
leaves, she had helped to gather the last grapes of the year, with song
and jest and laughter. At noon they climbed the hill again in the
October sun, and dined upon the remains of the previous day's feast;
then, singing still, they had started on their homeward downward way,
happy and not half tired yet when they reached Subiaco in the evening
glow.

They came trooping through the town to the little piazza in which the
doctor's house was situated. They separated here, some to go up to the
higher part, while others were to go down in the same direction as
Annetta. The girl looked up at the doctor's windows, and her small eyes
flashed viciously. It would be a pleasant ending to the two days'
holiday to have a look at her work. Now that he was getting well, as
Dalrymple told her, she was glad that she had not killed him. It was an
even greater satisfaction to have almost frightened the old coward to
death. She had been uneasy about the question of confession.

"By Bacchus," she laughed, "I will go and see Sor Tommaso. They say he
is better."

So she took leave of her companions and entered the narrow door, and
climbed the short flight of dark steps and knocked. The doctor's
sleeping-room opened directly upon the staircase. He used the room on
the ground floor as an office and dining-room, his old peasant
woman-servant slept in the attic, and the other two rooms were let by
the year. It was a very small house.

The old woman, whose name was Serafina, opened the bedroom door and
thrust out her head, covered with a dark and threadbare shawl. There was
a sibylline gloom about her withered face, as though she had lived a
lifetime in the face of a horror to come.

"What do you want?" she croaked roughly, and not opening the door any
wider.

"Eh! What do I want? I am the Annetta of Stefanone, and I have come to
pay a visit to this dear doctor, because they say that he is better, God
bless him."

"Oh! I did not recognize you," said the old woman. "I will ask."

Still holding the door almost closed, she drew in her head and spoke
with Sor Tommaso. Annetta could hear his answer.

"Of course!" he said, in a voice still weak, but singularly oily with
the politeness of his intention. "Let her favour us!"

The door was opened, and Annetta went in. Sor Tommaso was sitting up
near the window, in a deep easy-chair covered with ragged green damask.
The girl was surprised by his pallor, as compared with his formerly
rubicund complexion. Peasant-like, she glanced about the room to judge
of its contents before she spoke.

"How are you, dear Sor Tommaso?" she asked after the short pause. "Eh,
what we have suffered for you, all of us! Who was this barbarian who
wished to send you to Paradise?"

"Who knows?" returned Sor Tommaso, with amazing blandness. "I trust that
he may be forgiven as I forgive him."

"What it is to be a wise man!" exclaimed Annetta, with affected
admiration. "To have such sentiments! It is a beautiful thing. And how
do you feel now, dear Sor Tommaso? Are you getting your strength again?
They took your blood, those cowardly murderers! You must make it again."

Their eyes met, and each knew that the other knew and understood. Sor
Tommaso smiled gently. The savage girl's mouth twitched as though she
should have liked to laugh.

"Little by little; who goes slowly goes safely," answered the doctor. "I
am an old man, you must know."

"Old!" Annetta was glad of the opportunity to laugh at last. "Old? Eh,
on Sunday, when you have on those new black trousers of yours that are
tight, tight--you seem to me a boy as young as Gigetto. For my part, I
should prefer you. You are more serious. Gigetto! What must I say? He is
handsome, he may be good, but he has not a head. There is nothing in
that pumpkin."

"Blood of youth," answered Sor Tommaso. "It must boil. It must fling its
chains about. Afterwards it begins to know the chains. Little by little
it accustoms itself to them. Then it is quiet, quiet, as we old ones
are. Sit down, my daughter. Serafina! A chair--the one that is not lame.
These chairs remember the blessed soul of mamma," added Sor Tommaso, in
explanation of their weakness.

"Requiesca'!" exclaimed Annetta, sitting down.

"Amen," responded Sor Tommaso. "You are so beautiful to-day," he
continued, looking at her flowered bodice and new apron; "where have you
been?"

"Where should I go? To Civitella. There was the fair. We ate certain
chickens--tough! But the air of the mountain consumes. There were also
fireworks."

"What? Have you walked?" asked Sor Tommaso.

"Even with two legs one can walk," laughed the girl. "But of course a
beast is better with four. The beasts had all gone to Tivoli with wine
for Rome. They had not come back yesterday morning. Therefore with
these two feet I walked. I and many others, girls like me. It is true
that I am half dead."

"You are fresher than lettuce," observed Sor Tommaso. "And then you have
climbed up my stairs. This is a true Christian act. God return it to
you. I am alone all day."

"But the Englishman comes to see you," said Annetta, indifferently.

"The Englishman, yes. He comes. More or less, he has almost cured me.
But then, for his conversation, I say nothing!"

"Meanwhile he is also curing the abbess. He has a fortunate hand. There
death, here death--he makes them all alive. Where is death, now? Here,
perhaps? Hidden in some corner, or under the bed? He has certain
medicines, that Englishman! Medicines that you do not even dream of.
Strong! It is I that tell you. Sometimes, the whole house smells of
them. Death could not resist them a moment. They drive even the flies
out of the windows. The Englishman gave me some once. I had been in the
sun and had drunk a gallon of cold water, foolish as I was. I was
thirsty, as I am now. Well, he gave me a spoonful of something like
water, mixed in water. I do not tell you anything. At first it burned
me. Arch-priest, it burned! Then, not even a minute, and I had Paradise
in my body. And so it passed."

"Who knows? A cordial, perhaps," observed Sor Tommaso, thoughtfully. "I
have such cordials, too."

"I do not doubt it," answered the girl, suspiciously. "But I would
rather not taste them. I feel quite well."

It crossed her mind that in return for three knife-thrusts, Sor Tommaso
would probably not miss so good a chance of paying her with a glass of
poison. She would certainly have done as much herself, had she been in
his place.

"Who thought of offering you cordials!" replied the doctor, with a
polite laugh. "I said it to say it. But if you are thirsty, command me.
There is water and good wine. They are the best cordials."

"Eh, a little water. I do not refuse. As for the wine, no. I thank you
the same. I am fasting and have walked. After supper, at home, I will
drink."

"Serafina!" cried Sor Tommaso, and the old sibyl immediately appeared
from the stairs, whither she had discreetly retired to wait during
Annetta's visit. "Bring water, and that bottle of my wine from
downstairs. You know, the bottle of old wine of Stefanone's that was
opened."

"No, no. I want no wine," said Annetta, quickly.

"Bring it all the same. Perhaps she will do us the honour to drink it."

Serafina nodded, and her bare feet were heard on the stone steps as she
descended.

"It is bad to drink pure water when one is very thirsty," said Sor
Tommaso. "It cramps the stomach. A little wine gives the stomach
strength. But it is best to eat. If you will eat, there are fresh
jumbles. I also eat them."

"I thank you the same," answered Annetta. "I wish only water. It is a
long way from Civitella, and there is no good spring. There is the brook
that runs out of the pond at the foot of the last hill. But it is heavy
water, full of stuff."

Serafina came back, bringing two heavy tumblers of pressed glass on a
little black japanned tray, with a decanter of cold water. In her other
hand she carried two bottles, one half full of wine, the other
containing the white and sugary syrup of peach kernels of which Italians
are so fond.

"I brought this also," she said, holding up the bottle as she set down
the tray. "Perhaps it is better."

"Yes," said Sor Tommaso, nodding in approbation. "It is better."

"You will drink a little orgeat?" asked the old woman, in a tone of
persuasion, and mixing it in the glass.

"Water, simply water," said Annetta, who was still suspicious. "Give me
water in the other glass."

"But I have mixed already in both," answered Serafina. "Eh, you will
drink it. You will not make an old woman like me go all the way down the
stairs again. But then, it is good. It is I that tell you. I made it
myself, yesterday morning, for the doctor, to refresh his blood a
little."

Annetta had risen to her feet and was watching the glasses, as the old
woman stirred the white syrup in the water with an old-fashioned,
long-handled spoon. She did not wish to seem absurdly suspicious, and
yet she distrusted her enemy. She took one of the glasses, went to his
side, and held it to his lips as one gives an invalid drink.

"After you," he said, with a polite smile, but raising his hand to take
the glass.

"Sick people first, well people afterwards," answered Annetta, smiling
too, but watching him intently.

He had satisfied himself that she really suspected foul play, for he
knew the peasants well, and was only a degree removed from them himself.
He at once dismissed her suspicions by drinking half the tumbler at a
draught. She immediately took the other and emptied it eagerly, as she
was really very thirsty.

"A little more?" suggested Serafina, in her croaking voice.

"No," interposed Sor Tommaso. "It might hurt her--so much at once."

But Annetta filled the tumbler with pure water, and emptied it again.

"At last!" she exclaimed with a sigh of satisfaction. "What thirst! I
seemed to have eaten ashes! And now I thank you, Sor Tommaso, and I am
going home; for it is Ave Maria, and I do not wish to make a bad meeting
in the dark as happened to you. Ugly assassins! I will never forgive
them, never! What am I to say at home? That you will come to supper one
of these days?"

"Eh, if God wills," answered the doctor. "I will be accompanied by
Serafina."

"I!" exclaimed the old woman. "I am afraid even of a cat! What could I
do for you?"

"Company is always company," said Sor Tommaso, wisely. "Where one would
not go, two go bravely. Good evening, my beautiful daughter," he added,
looking up at Annetta. "The Madonna go with you."

"Thank you, and good evening," answered the girl, dropping half a
courtsey, with a vicious twinkle in her little eyes.

She turned, and was out of the room in a moment. On the way home through
the narrow streets in the evening glow, she sang snatches of song to
herself, and thought of all she had said to Sor Tommaso, and of all he
had said to her, and of how much afraid he was of her father's knife.
For otherwise, as she knew, he would have had her arrested.

Suddenly, at the last turning she stopped and turned very pale, clasping
both hands upon her bodice.

"Assassin!" she groaned, grinding her short white teeth. "_He_ has
poisoned me, after all! An evil death to him and all his house!
Assassin!"

She forgot that she had experienced precisely the same sensations once
before, when she had been overheated and had swallowed too much cold
water.



CHAPTER XIII.


WITH slow steps, and pressing her clasped hands to her bodice, the girl
reached the door of her father's house at dusk. She knew that he was
away, and that as she had not come home earlier her mother would be in
the lower regions preparing Dalrymple's supper for him. The door which
gave access to the staircase from the street was still open, and she was
almost sure of being able to reach her own room unobserved, unless she
chanced to come upon Dalrymple himself on the stairs. Just then she
would rather have met him than her mother. She was in great pain, and it
would have been hard to explain to Sora Nanna that she believed herself
to have been deliberately poisoned.

She crept noiselessly up the stairs, which were almost dark, and she
came to Dalrymple's door which faced the first landing. She paused and
hesitated, leaning against the wall. He was a wise man in her opinion,
and would of course understand her symptoms at once. But then, as she
was poisoned, he could do nothing for her. If that were true, her next
thought told her that Sor Tommaso must have poisoned himself. He would
not do that. She had never heard of antidotes; for though poisoning was
traditionally familiar to her and the people of her class, it was very
uncommon. Yet her sharpened wit told her that if Sor Tommaso had
swallowed the stuff, as he had done, with a smile, he had means at his
disposal for counteracting it--some medicine which he had doubtless
taken as soon as she had left him. But if he had medicine to save from
poison, Dalrymple, who was a far wiser man, must have such medicines,
too, and even better ones. This reflexion decided her. She was close to
his door. It was probable that he would be in his room at that hour. She
was in fear of her life, and she knocked.

But Dalrymple had not come back. He had gone for a long walk alone in
the hills, had climbed higher as the sun sank lower, and was belated in
steep paths along which even his mountain-trained feet trod with some
caution. He was too familiar with the country to lose his way, but he by
no means found the shortest way there was, nor was he especially anxious
to do so. The hours would pass sooner in walking than in sitting over
his books under the flaring little flames of the three brass beaks.

Annetta saw that there was no light in the room, for the hole through
which the latch-string hung was worn wide with use. She felt dizzy, too,
and the knife-like pain ran through her so that she bent herself. She
knew that Dalrymple kept his medicines locked up in the laboratory, and
that she could not get at them, though she would have had little
hesitation in swallowing anything she found, in the simple certainty
that all his medicines must be good in themselves, and therefore
life-saving and good for her. But he was out, and she was sure that
there could be nothing in the bedroom. She had herself too often looked
into every corner when she watered and swept the brick floor each
morning, and put things in order according to her primitive ideas.

She then and there lost her hold upon life. She was poisoned, and must
die. She was as sure of it as the Chinaman who has seen an eagle, and
who, recognizing that his hour is come, calmly lies down and breathes
his last by the mere suspension of volition. In old countries the lower
orders, as a rule, have but a low vitality. It may be truer to say that
the vital volition is weak. Let the learned settle the definition. The
fact is easily accounted for. During generations upon generations the
majority of European agricultural populations live upon vegetable food,
like the majority of Eastern Asiatics, and with the same result. Hard
labour produces hard muscles, but vegetable food yields a low vital
tension, so to say. Soldiers know it well enough. The pale-faced city
clerk who eats meat twice a day will out-fight and out-last and
out-starve the burly labourer whose big thews and sinews are mostly
compounded of potatoes, corn, and water.

The girl crept up the stairs stealthily to her lonely little room, and
lay down to die upon her bed, as though that were the only thing to be
done under the circumstances. It never occurred to her to go to her
mother and tell her what had happened and what she suspected, any more
than it had suggested itself to Sor Tommaso to lay information against
her for having stabbed him. If her father had been at home, she might
perhaps have gone to him and told him with her dying breath that the
doctor had killed her, and that Stefanone must avenge her. But he was
away. She was stronger than her mother and had always dominated her. She
knew also that if she complained, Sora Nanna would raise such a scream
as would bring half Subiaco running to the house. The girl's animal
instinct was to die alone, and quietly. So she made no sound, and lay
upon her bed writhing in pain and holding her sides with all her might,
but with close-set teeth and silent lips.

Looked at from the point of view of fact, it was all ridiculous enough.
The girl had been all day in the hot autumn sun, had eaten a quantity of
over-ripe figs and grapes, which might have upset the digestion of an
ostrich, had tired even her strong limbs with the final walk home, and
had then, at Sor Tommaso's house, swallowed nearly a quart of ice-cold
water. It was not surprising that she should be very ill. It was not
even strange that the theory of poison should suggest itself. To her it
was tragedy, and meant nothing less than death, when she lay down upon
her bed.

Between the spasms all sorts of things passed through her mind, when her
head lay still upon the pillow. Chiefly and particularly her thoughts
were filled with hatred of Sor Tommaso, and a sort of doglike longing to
see Dalrymple's face before she died. She was still fascinated by the
vision of his red hair and bright blue eyes which came back to her
vividly, with the careless smile his hard face had for her
half-childish, half-malicious sayings. And with the thought of him came
also jealousy of Maria Addolorata, and another hatred which was deeper
and stronger and more vengeful than any she owed Sor Tommaso. She felt,
rather than understood, that Dalrymple loved the nun with all his heart.
She had spoken of her to him and had watched his face, and had seen the
quick, savage glare of his eyes, though his voice had only expressed his
annoyance. As the vision of him rose before her, she saw him as he had
been when the angry blush had overspread his face to the roots of his
hair.

The image fixed itself. In the dim shadow behind it, she saw the face of
Maria Addolorata like a death-mask, and those strange, deep eyes of the
nun's looking scornfully at her over the man's shoulder, though she
forgot him in the woman's deadly fascination. She stared, unable to
close her lids, as it seemed to her, though she longed to shut out the
sight. Then a dull noise seemed to be in her ears, a noise that was not
a sound, but the stunning effect on her brain of a sound not heard but
imagined. There were great circles of light around the nun's head, which
cut through Dalrymple's face and then hid it. They were like glories,
like the halos about the heads of saints. Annetta was angry with them,
for she was sure that Maria Addolorata was bad, and sinned in her
throat.

"An evil death on you and all your house!" cried the angry peasant girl,
in a low voice.

"Death!" She could not tell whence the echo came back to her, in a tone
strange to her ears--for it was her own, perhaps.

She was startled. The vision vanished, and she sat up on her bed with a
quick movement, suddenly wide awake. The pain must have passed. No--it
came again, but with far less keenness. She felt her face with her
hands, and laughed softly, for she knew that she was alive. It was
night, and she must have lain some time there all alone, for there was a
silvery, misty something through the darkness, the white dawn of
moonrise, which is not like the dawn of day, nor like the departing
twilight. As she sat up she saw the outline of the hills, jagged against
the crosses of the lead-joined panes in the window. There was the
moon-dawn sending up its soft radiance to the sky. A little longer she
watched, and a single bright point sent one level ray straight into her
face. A moment more and the room was flooded with light so that she
could see the smallest objects distinctly.

"But I am alive!" she exclaimed in a soft, glad tone. "The brigand only
did me a spite. He was afraid to kill me."

The pain seized her again, less sharp than before, but keen enough to
stir her anger. She still sat up, but bent forward, clasping her bodice.
In the moonlight she could see her heavy shoes on her feet sticking up
before her. Realizing that it was a disgraceful thing to lie down with
them on, she sprang off the bed, and began to dust the coverlet with her
hand. The pain passed.

After all, she reflected, she had swallowed a quantity of cold water at
Sor Tommaso's, whether the first glass had contained any poison or not.
She had not forgotten, either, that the same thing had once happened to
her before, and that Dalrymple had made it pass with a spoonful of
something that had stung her mouth and throat, but which had afterwards
warmed her and cured her. She felt chilly now, and she wished that she
had some of that same stinging, warming stuff.

Something moved, somewhere in the house. The girl listened intently for
a moment. Probably Dalrymple had come back and was moving about in his
room, washing his hands, as he always did before supper, and taking off
his heavy boots. His room was immediately under hers, facing in the same
direction. She went towards the door, intending to go down at once and
ask him for some of his medicine. By this time she was persuaded that
she was not in any danger, and her common-sense told her that she had
merely made herself momentarily ill with too many grapes, too much cold
water, and too long exposure to the sun. She did not care to let her
mother know anything about it, for Sora Nanna would scold her. It would
be a simple matter to catch the Scotchman at his door, to get what she
wanted from him with an easily given promise of secrecy, and then to
come downstairs as though nothing had happened.

Annetta only hesitated a moment, and then went out into the dark
staircase, and crept down, as she had crept up, feeling her way at the
turnings, by the wall. She reached the door, and was surprised to see
that there was no light within--none of that yellow light which a lamp
makes, but only the grey glimmer of the moonlight through the shadow,
creeping out by the hole of the latch-string. Her ears had deceived
her, and Dalrymple was not there. Nevertheless she believed that he was.
The moonlight would be in his room as it was in hers, just overhead, and
he might not have taken the trouble to light his lamp. It was very
probable. She tapped softly, but there was no answer. She was afraid
that her mother might come up the stairs and hear her speaking through
the door, as though by stealth. She put her lips close to the hole of
the latch and whistled softly. Her whistle was broken by her own smile
as she fancied that Dalrymple might start at the unexpected sound.

But there was no response. Growing bolder, she called him gently.

"Signor! Are you there?"

There was no answer. Just then, as she stooped, the pain ran through her
once more. She was so sure that she had heard him that she was convinced
he must be within, very probably in his little laboratory beyond the
bedroom. The pain hurt her, and he had the medicine. Very naturally she
pulled the string and pushed the door open.

He was not there. The moonlight flooded everything, and the whitewashed
walls reflected it, so that the place was as bright as day. The first
object that met her eyes was a small bottle standing near the edge of
the table in the middle of the room, where Dalrymple had carelessly set
it down in the afternoon when Sora Nanna had called him to read her
letter. It was directly in the line of the moon's rays, and the stopper
gleamed like a little star.

Annetta started with joy as she saw it. It was the very bottle from
which he had given her the camphor, less than a month ago--the same in
size, in its transparent contents, in its label. It might have deceived
a keener eye than hers.

The door of the laboratory stood open, as he had left it, being at the
time preoccupied and careless. She only stopped a moment to assure
herself that the bottle was the right one, reflecting that he had
perhaps felt ill and had taken some of it himself. She went on and
looked into the little room.

"Signore!" she called softly. But there was no answer.

It was clear that Dalrymple was either still out, or was downstairs at
his supper, with her mother. He might be out, however. It was quite
possible, on such a fine evening, for he was irregular in his hours. He
would not like it if he came in suddenly and found her meddling with his
belongings. She crossed the room again and softly shut the door. At
least, if he came, she would not be found with the bottle in her hand.
She could give an excuse.

It was all so natural. It was the same bottle. She knew the right
quantity, for she had the peasant's memory for such detail. There was a
glass and a decanter of water on a white plate on the table. She had no
spoon, but that did not matter. She took out the stopper with her strong
fingers, though it stuck a little. The pain ran through her again as she
poured some of the contents into the tumbler, and it made her hand shake
so that she poured out a little more than necessary. But it did not
matter. She filled it up with water, held the glass up to the moonlight,
and drank it at a draught, and set the empty tumbler upon the table
again.

Instantly her features changed. She felt as though she were struck
through head and heart and body with red-hot steel. Maria Addolorata's
death-mask rose before her in the moonlight.

"An evil death on you and all your house!" she tried to say.

But the words were not out of her mouth before she shivered, caught
herself by the table, sank down, and lay stone dead upon the brick
floor.

There was no noise. Dying, she thought she screamed, but only the
faintest moan had passed her lips.

The door was shut, and the quiet moonlight floated in and silvered her
dark, dead face.



CHAPTER XIV.


AT moonrise on that evening, Maria Addolorata was standing at the open
door of her cell, watching the dark clouds in the west, as they caught
the light one by one, edge by edge. The black shadow of the convent
covered all the garden still, and one passing could hardly have seen her
as she stood there. Her veil was raised, and the cold mountain breeze
chilled her cheeks. But she did not feel it, for she had been long by
the abbess's bedside, and then long, again, in the close choir of the
church, and her head was hot and aching.

To her, as she looked towards the western mountains and watched the
piling clouds, and felt the cool, damp wind, it seemed as though there
were something strangely tragic in the air that night. The wind whistled
now and then through the cracks of the convent windows and over the
crenellations of the old walls, as Death's scythe might whistle if he
were mowing down men with a right good will, heaps upon heaps of slain.
The old bell struck the hour, sullenly, with a dead thud in the air
after each stroke, as a bell tolls for a burial. The very clouds were
black and silver in the sky, like a funeral pall.

Maria Addolorata leaned against the door-post and looked out, her hand
white in the shadow against the dark wood, her face whiter still. But on
her hand there were two marks, visible even in the dimness. They would
have been red in the day, and the place hurt her from time to time, for
she had bitten it savagely. It was her pledge, and the pain of it
reminded her of what she had promised to do.

She needed the reminder; for now that he was not near her, the enormous
crime stood out, black and lofty as death itself. It was different when
Dalrymple was at her side. His violent vitality dragged hers into
action, dragged, drove it, and goaded it, as unwilling soldiers have
been driven into battle in barbarous armies. Then the fatality seemed
irresistible, then the dangers seemed small, and the burning red shame
was pale and weak. Those bony young hands of his had strength in them
for two, his gleaming eyes burnt out the resistance in hers, and lighted
them with their own glow. The hearty recklessness of his unbelief drove
through and through her composite faith, and riddled it with loopholes
for her soul's escape. Then the reality of her passion made her nobler
love mad to be free, and to break through the solid walls in which it
had been born and had grown too strong. When his love was there, hers
matched itself with his, to smite fortune in the face, to dare and
out-dare heaven and hell for love's sake, with him, the bursting blood
made iron of her hand, tingling to buffet coward fate's pale mouth. Then
she was strong above women; then she was brave as brave men; then,
having promised, to keep was but the natural hold of will, to die was
but to dare one little adversary more.

But she was alone now, and thinking, as she looked out into the tragic
night, and watched the blackness of the monumental clouds. She did not
return to her former self, as some women do when the goad leaves the
heart in peace for a moment. She did not say to herself that she would
order the convent gate to be shut on Angus Dalrymple forever, and
herself go back to the close choir, to sit in her seat amongst the rest,
and sing holy songs with the others, restfully unhappy as many of them
were. She knew far too well how strongly her heart could beat, and how
icy cold her hands could grow when love was near her. Yet she shuddered
with horror at what she had promised to do. She would struggle to the
last, but she must yield when she heard his voice, and felt his hand, at
the very last moment, when they should be at the garden gate, he drawing
her on, she looking back.

It was perjury and sacrilege, and earthly shame, and eternal damnation.
Nothing less. And the words had full and deadly meaning for her. It
mattered little that he should think differently, being of another
faith, or rather, of no faith at all. It was all true to her. It was not
risk; it was certainty. What forgiveness had earth or heaven for a
faithless nun? He talked of marriage, and he would marry her according
to a rite that had a meaning in his eyes. Heaven would not divorce the
sworn and plighted spouse of Christ to be the earthly wife of Angus
Dalrymple.

Visions of eternal torment rose in her mind, a tangible searing hell
alive with flame and devils, a sea of liquid fire, an ocean of boiling
pitch, Satan commanding in the midst, and a myriad of fiends working his
tormenting will.

Her pale lips curled scornfully in the dark. Those were not the terrors
that frightened her, nor the horrors from which she shrank. There was a
question which was not to be answered by her own soul in damnation or
salvation, but by the lips of men hereafter--the question of the honour
of her name. The traditions of the good old barons were not dead in that
day, nor are they all dead yet. Many a Braccio had done evil deeds in
his or her day, and one, at least, had evil deeds to do after Maria
Addolorata had been laid in her grave. But sin was one thing, and
dishonour was quite another, even in the eyes of the nun of Subiaco. For
her sins she could and must answer with the weal or woe of her own
soul. But her dishonour would be upon her father and her mother and upon
all her race. Nor was there any dishonour deeper, more deadly, or more
lasting than that brought upon a stainless name by a faithless nun.
Maria Braccio hesitated at disgrace, while Maria Addolorata smiled at
perdition. It was not the first time that honour had taken God's part
against the devil in the history of her family.

That was the great obstacle of all, and she knew it now. She was able to
face all consequences but that, terrible as they might be. The barrier
was there, the traditional old belief in honour as first, and above
every consideration. They had played upon that very belief, when, at the
last, she had hesitated to take the veil. She had gone so far, they had
told her, that it would be cowardly and dishonourable to turn back at
the last minute. The same argument existed now. Then, she would at least
have had human right and ecclesiastical law on her side, if she had
refused to become a nun. Now, all was against her. Then, she would have
had to face but the condemning opinion of a few who spoke of implied
obligation. Now, she must stand up and be ashamed before the whole
world. There would be a horrible publicity about it. She was too high
born not to feel that all the world in which she should ever move was as
one great family. Dalrymple might promise her honour and respect, and
the affection of his own father and mother for the love of her parents,
a home, respected wifehood, and all the rest. With his strength, he
might impose her upon his family, and they might treat her as he should
dictate, for he was a strong and dominant man. But in their hearts,
Protestants, English people, foreigners as they were to her race, even
they could not tell themselves honestly that it was not a shameful thing
to break such vows as hers, shameful and nothing less. And if, for a
moment, he were not there to hold them in his check, she should see it
in their faces, and she must hang her head, for she could have nothing
to answer. For him, she must not only sacrifice her soul, wrench out her
faith, break her promise to God, and her vows to the Church. She must
give herself to public, earthly shame, for his sake.

It was too much. She could bear anything but that. Rather than endure
that, it was better to die.

The black clouds rose higher in the west, and the gloomy air blew upon
her face. Her head was no longer hot, for a chilly horror had come upon
her, like the shadow of something unspeakably awful, close at hand.
Suddenly, she was afraid to be alone. A bat, lured by the second
twilight of the moon's rising, whirled down from above, with softly
flapping wings, and almost brushed her face. She drew back quickly into
the doorway. It was a very tragic night, she thought. She shut the door,
and groped her way out beyond her cell to the corridor, dimly
illuminated by a single light hanging from the vault by a running cord.
She entered the abbess's apartment. One of the sisters had taken her
place, but Maria Addolorata sent her away by a gesture, and sat down by
the bedside.

The old lady was either asleep, or did not notice her niece's coming.
Her face was grey as ashes, and upturned in the shadow. Upon the stone
floor stood the primitive Italian night-light, a wick supported in a
triangular bit of tin by three little corks in oil floating on water in
a tumbler. The light was very clear and steady, though there was little
of it, and to Maria, who had been long in comparative darkness, the room
seemed bright enough. There was little furniture besides the plain bed,
a little table, a couple of chairs, and a tall, dark wardrobe. A grim
crucifix hung above the abbess's head, on the white wall, the work of an
age in which horror was familiar to the eye, and needed exaggeration to
teach hardened humanity.

Maria was too much occupied with her own thoughts to notice the sick
woman's condition at once. Besides, during the last two days there had
been no return of the syncope, and the abbess had seemed to be improving
steadily. She breathed rather heavily and seemed to be asleep.

Gradually, however, as the nun sat motionless beside her and as the
storm of thought subsided, she became aware that all was not right. Her
aunt's face was unnaturally grey, the breathing was unusually slow and
heavy. When the breath was drawn in, the thin nostrils flattened
themselves strangely on each side, and the features had a peaked look.
Maria rose and felt the pulse. It was fluttering, and not always
perceptible.

At first Maria's attention to these facts was only mechanical. Then,
with a sudden sinking at her own heart, she realized what they might
mean--another crisis like the one in which the abbess had so narrowly
escaped death. It was true that on that occasion she had called for help
more than once, showing that she had felt herself to be sinking. At
present she seemed to be unconscious, which, if anything, was a worse
feature.

Maria drew a long breath and held it, biting her lips, as people do in
moments of suspense, doubt, and anxiety. It was as though fate had
thrust the great decision onward at the last moment. The life that hung
in the balance before her eyes meant the possibility of waiting, with
the feeble consolation of being yet undecided.

She stood as still as a statue, her face like a mask, her hand on the
unconscious woman's wrist. The stimulant which Dalrymple had shown her
how to use was at hand--the glass with which to administer it. It would
prolong life. It might save it.

Should she give it? The seconds ran to minutes, and the dreadful
question was unanswered. If the abbess died, as die she almost certainly
must within half an hour, if the medicine were not given to her--if she
died, Maria would call the sisters, the portress would be instructed,
and when Dalrymple came on the morrow, he would be told that all was
over, and that he was no longer needed. Nothing could be more sure. He
might do his utmost. He could not enter the convent again.

In a quick vision, as she stood stone-still, Maria saw herself alone in
the chapel by night, prostrate, repentant, washing the altar steps with
tears, forgiven of God, since God could still forgive her, honoured on
earth as before, since none but the silent confessor could ever know
what she had done, still less what she had meant to do. Her sorrow would
be real, overwhelming, able to move Heaven to mercy, her penance
true-hearted and severe as she deserved. Her name would be unspotted and
unblemished.

It would be so easy, if she had not to see him again. How could she
resist him, if he could so much as touch her hand? But if she were
defended from him, she could bury his love and pray for him in the
memory of the thing dead. All that, if she but let that heavy breathing
go on a little longer, if she did not raise her hand and set a glass to
those grey, parted lips.

They were parted now. The laboured breath was drawn through the teeth.
The eyelids were a little raised, and showed but the white of the
upturned eyes.

Maria stared fixedly into the pinched face, and a new horror came upon
her.

It was murder she was doing. Nothing less. The power to save was there,
and she would not use it. No--it could not be murder--it was not
possible that she could do murder.

Still with wide eyes she stared. Surely the heavy breath had come more
quickly a moment ago. It seemed an age between each rise and fall of the
coverlet. There was a ghastly whistling sound of it between the teeth.

It was slower still. The eyelids were gradually opening--the blind white
was horrible to see. Each breath was a convulsion that shook the frail
body.

It was murder. Her hand shot out like lightning and seized the small
bottle. Let anything come,--love, shame, heaven, damnation; it should
not be murder.

She forced the unstoppered bottle into the dying woman's mouth with a
desperate hand. The next breath was drawn with a choking effort. The
whole body stirred. The thin hand appeared, grasped the coverlet with
distorting energy, and then lay almost still, twitching convulsively
second by second. Still Maria tried wildly to pour more of the stimulant
between the set teeth. When they parted, no breath came, and the fingers
only moved once more, for the very last time.

It was not murder, but it was death. The wasted old woman had outlived
by two or three hours the strong, young peasant girl, and fate had laid
her hand heavily upon the life of Maria Addolorata.



CHAPTER XV.


WHEN Dalrymple came home that evening, he found his supper already on
the table and half cold. Sora Nanna was busier than her daughter, and
less patient of the Scotchman's irregularities. If he could not come
home at a reasonable hour, he must not expect her to keep everything
waiting for him.

He sat down to the table without even going upstairs as usual to wash
his hands, simply because the cooked meat would be cold and greasy if he
let it stand five minutes longer. Being once seated in his place, he did
not move for a long time. Sora Nanna came in more than once. She was
very much preoccupied about the load of wine which her husband had
ordered to be sent, and which, if possible, she meant to send off before
morning, for she did not wish him to be absent in Rome with money in his
pocket a day longer than necessary.

Gloomy and preoccupied, without even a book before him, Dalrymple sat
with his back to the wall, drinking his wine in silence, and staring at
the lamp. Sora Nanna asked him whether he had seen Annetta. He shook
his head without speaking. The woman observed that the girls were quite
capable of spending a second night at Civitella to prolong the
festivities. Dalrymple nodded, not caring at all.

Annetta being absent, Gigetto had not thought it necessary to put in an
appearance. But Sora Nanna wished to see him again about the wine. With
a grin, she asked Dalrymple whether he would keep house if she went out
for half an hour. Again he nodded in silence. He heard her lock from the
inside the door which opened from the staircase upon the street, for it
was already late. Then she came through the common room again, with her
overskirt over her head, went out, and left the door ajar. Dalrymple was
alone in the house, unaware that Annetta was lying dead on the floor of
his room upstairs.

Sora Nanna had not been gone a quarter of an hour when a boy came in
from the street. Dalrymple knew him, for he was the son of the convent
gardener.

The lad said that Dalrymple was wanted immediately, as the abbess was
very ill. That was all he knew. He was rather a dull boy, and he
repeated mechanically what he had been told. The Scotchman started and
was about to speak, when he checked himself. He asked the boy two or
three questions, in the hope of getting more accurate information, but
could only elicit a repetition of the message. He was wanted
immediately, as the abbess was very ill.

He covered his eyes with his hand for a few seconds. In a flash he saw
that if he were ever to carry off Maria Addolorata, it must be to-night.
The chances were a hundred to one that if there were another crisis, the
abbess would be dead before he could reach the convent. Once dead, there
was no knowing what might happen in the confusion that would ensue, and
during the elaborate funeral ceremonies. The man had that daring temper
that rises at obstacles as an eagle at a crag, without the slightest
hesitation. When he dropped his hand upon the table he had made up his
mind.

It was generally easy to get a good mule at any hour of the night in
Subiaco. The mules were in their stables then. In the daytime it would
have been very doubtful, when most of them were away in the vineyards,
or carrying loads to the neighbouring towns. The convent gardener, who
was well-to-do in the world, had a very good mule, as Dalrymple knew,
and its stable was half-way up the ascent. The boy could saddle it with
the pack-saddle without any difficulty, and meet him anywhere he chose.
Dalrymple's reputation was excellent as a liberal foreigner who paid
well, and the gardener would not blame the boy for saddling the mule
without leave.

In a few words Dalrymple explained what he wanted, and to help the lad's
understanding he gave him some coppers which filled the little fellow
with energy and delight. The boy was to be at the top of the mule path
leading down from above the convent to the valley in half an hour.
Dalrymple told him that he wished to go to Tivoli, and that the boy
could come with him if he chose, after the visit to the abbess was over.
The boy ran away to saddle the mule.

Dalrymple rose quickly, and shut the street door in order to take the
lamp with him to his room, and not to leave the house open with no light
in it. The case was urgent. He went upstairs, carrying the lamp, and
opened the door of his quarters. Instantly he recognized the faint,
sickly odour of hydrocyanide of potassium, and remembered that he had
left the bottle with the solution on his table that afternoon in his
hurry. Then he looked down and saw a white face upon the floor, and the
flowered bodice and smart skirt of the peasant girl.

He had solid nerves, and possessed that perfect indifference to death as
a phenomenon which most medical men acquire in the dissecting-room. But
he was shocked when, bending down, and setting the lamp upon the floor,
he saw in a few seconds that Annetta had been dead some time. He even
shook his head a little, very slowly, which meant a great deal for his
hard nature. Glancing at the unstoppered bottle and at the empty glass,
side by side on the table, he understood at once that the girl,
intentionally or by mistake, had swallowed enough of the poison to kill
half-a-dozen strong men. He remembered instantly how he had once given
her spirits of camphor when she had felt ill, and he understood all the
circumstances in a moment, almost as though he had seen them.

Scarcely thinking of what he was doing, though with an effort which any
one who has attempted to lift a dead body from the ground will
understand, he took up the lifeless girl, stiff and stark as she was,
and laid her upon his own bed. It was a mere instinct of humanity. Then
he went back and took the lamp and held it near her face, and shook his
head again, thoughtfully. A word of pity escaped his lips, spoken very
low.

He set the lamp down on the floor by the bedside, for there was no small
table near. There never is, in peasants' houses. He began to walk up and
down the room, thinking over the situation, which was grave enough.

Suddenly he smelt the acrid odour of burning cotton. He turned quickly,
and saw that he had placed the three-beaked lamp so near to the bed that
the overhanging coverlet was directly above one of the flames, and was
already smouldering. He smothered it with the stuff itself between his
hands, brought the lamp into the laboratory, and set it upon the table.

Then, realizing that his own case was urgent, he began to make his
preparations. He took a clean bottle and poured thirty-five drops of
laudanum into it, put in the stopper, and thrust it into his pocket.
Unlocking another box, he took out some papers and a canvas bag of gold,
such as bankers used to give travellers in those times when it was
necessary to take a large supply of cash for a journey. He threw on his
cloak, took his plaid over one arm and went back into his bedroom,
carrying the lamp in the other hand. Then he hesitated, sniffing the air
and the smell of the burnt cotton. Suddenly an idea seemed to cross his
mind, for he put down the lamp and dropped his plaid upon a chair. He
stood still a moment longer, looking at the dead girl as she lay on the
bed, biting his lip thoughtfully, and nodding his head once or twice. He
made a step towards the bed, then hesitated once more, and then made up
his mind.

He went back to the bedside, and stooping a little lifted the body on
his arms as though judging of its weight and of his power to carry it.
His first instinct had been to lock the door of the room behind him, and
to go up to the convent, leaving the dead girl where she was, whether he
were destined to come back that night, or never. A moment's reflection
had told him that if he did so he must certainly be accused of having
poisoned her. He meant, if it were possible, to take Maria Addolorata on
board of the English man-of-war at Civita Vecchia within twenty-four
hours. So far as the carrying off of a nun was concerned, he would be
safe on the ship; but if he were accused of murder, no matter how
falsely, the captain would have a right to refuse his protection, even
though he was Dalrymple's friend. A little chain of circumstances had
led him to form a plan, in a flash, which, if successfully carried out,
would account both for the disappearance of Annetta herself, and of
Maria Addolorata as well.

His eyelids contracted slightly, and his great jaw set itself with the
determination to overcome all obstacles. In a few seconds he had
divested the dead girl of her heavy bodice and skirt and carpet apron
and heavy shoes. He rolled the things into a bundle, tossed them into
the laboratory, locked the door of the latter, and stuck the key into
his pocket. He carefully stopped the bottle containing the remainder of
the prussiate of potassium, and took that also. Then he rolled the body
up carefully in his great plaid, mummy-like, and tied the ends of the
shawl with shoe-laces which he had among his things. He drew his soft
hat firmly down upon his forehead, and threw his cloak over his left
shoulder. He lifted the body off the bed. It was so stark that it stood
upright beside him. With his right arm round its waist, he raised it so
high that he could walk freely, and he drew his wide cloak over it as
well as he could, and freed his left hand. He grasped the lamp as he
passed the table, listened at the door, though he knew that the house
was locked below, and he cautiously and with difficulty descended the
stairs.

Just inside the street door of the staircase there was a niche, as there
is in almost all old Italian houses. He set the body in it, and went
into the common room with the lamp. Taking the bottle with the laudanum
in it from his pocket, he filled it more than half full of aniseed
cordial, of which a decanter stood with other liquors upon a sideboard,
as usual in such places. He returned it to his pocket, and listened
again. Then he assured himself that he had all he needed--the bottle,
money, his cloak, and a short, broad knife which he always took with him
on his walks, more for the sake of cutting a loaf of bread if he stopped
for refreshment than for any other purpose. His passport he had taken
with his few other valuable papers from the box.

He left the lamp on the table, and unlocked the street door, though he
did not pull it open. Brave as he was, his heart beat fast, for it was
the first decisive moment. If Sora Nanna should come home within the
next sixty seconds, there would be trouble. But there was no sound.

In the dark he went back to the door of the staircase, unlocked it, and
opened it wide, looking out. The heavy clouds had so darkened the
moonlight that he could hardly see. But the street was quiet, for it was
late, and there were no watchmen in Subiaco at that time. A moment
later, the door was closed behind him, and he was disappearing round the
dark corner with Annetta's body in his arms, all wrapped with himself in
his great cloak.

It was a long and terrible climb. A weaker man would have fainted or
given it up long before Dalrymple set his foot firmly upon the narrow
beaten path which ran along between the garden wall at the back of the
convent, and the precipitous descent on his left. The sweat ran down
over his hard, pale face in the dark, as he shook off his cloak and laid
down his ghastly burden under the deep shadow of the low postern. He
shook his big shoulders and wiped his brow, and stretched out his long
arms, doubling them and stretching them again, for they were benumbed
and asleep with the protracted effort. But so far it was done, and no
one had met him. There had been little chance of that, but he was glad,
all the same. And if, down at the house, any one went to his room,
nothing would be found. He had the key of the little laboratory in his
pocket. It would be long before they broke down the door and found
Annetta's skirt and bodice and shoes wrapped together in a corner.

He went on up the ascent five minutes further, walking as though on air
now that he carried no weight in his arms. At the top of the mule path
the lad was already waiting for him with the mule. He told the little
fellow that he might have to wait half an hour longer, as he must go
into the convent to see the abbess before starting for Tivoli. He bid
him tie the mule by the halter to the low branch of an overhanging
fig-tree, and sit down to wait.

"It is a cool night," said Dalrymple, though he was hot enough himself.
"Drink this, my boy."

He gave him the little bottle of aniseed, opening it as he did so. The
boy smelt it and knew that it was good, for it is a common drink in the
mountains. He drank half of it, pouring it into his mouth with a
gurgling sound.

"Drink it all," said Dalrymple. "I brought it for you."

The boy did not hesitate, but drained it to the last drop, and handed
the bottle back without a word. Dalrymple made him sit down near the
mule's head, well aside from the path, in case any one should pass. He
knew that between the unaccustomed dose of spirits and the thirty-five
drops of opium, the lad would be sound asleep before long. For the rest,
there was nothing to be done but to trust to luck. He had done the
impossible already, so far as physical effort was concerned, but Fortune
must not thwart him at the end. If she did, he had in his other pocket
enough left of what had killed Annetta to settle his own affairs
forever, and he might need it. At that moment he was absolutely
desperate. It would be ill for any one who crossed his path that night.



CHAPTER XVI.


DALRYMPLE wrapped his cloak about him once more, as he turned away, and
retraced his steps by the garden wall. He glanced at the long dark thing
that lay in the shadow of the postern, as he went by. It was not
probable that it would be noticed, even if any one should pass that way,
which was unlikely, between ten o'clock at night and three in the
morning. He went on without stopping, and in three or four minutes he
had gone round the convent to the main entrance, next to the church. He
rang the bell. The portress was expecting him, and he was admitted
without a word.

He found Maria Addolorata in the antechamber of the abbess's apartment,
veiled, and standing with folded hands in the middle of the little hall.
She must have heard the distant clang of the bell, for she was evidently
waiting for him.

"Am I in time?" he asked in a tone of anxiety.

She shook her head slowly.

"Is she dead?"

"She was dead before I sent for you," answered Maria Addolorata, in a
low and almost solemn tone. "No one knows it yet."

"I feared so," said Dalrymple.

He made a step towards the door of the parlour, naturally expecting that
Maria would speak with him there, as usual. But she stepped back and
placed herself in his way.

"No," she said briefly.

"Why not?" he asked in quick surprise.

She raised her finger to her veiled lips, and then pointed to the other
door, to warn him that the portress was there and was almost within
hearing. With quick suspicion he understood that she was keeping him in
the antechamber to defend herself, that she had not been able to resist
the desire to see him once more, and that she intended this to be their
last meeting.

"Maria," he began, but he only pronounced her name, and stopped short,
for a great fear took him by the throat.

"Yes," she answered, in her calm, low voice. "I have made up my mind. I
will not go. God will perhaps forgive me what I have done. I will pray
for forgiveness. But I will not do more evil. I will not bring shame
upon my father's house, even for love of you."

Her voice trembled a little at the last words. Even veiled as she was,
the vital magnetism of the man was creeping upon her already. She had
resolved that she would see him once more, that she would tell him the
plain truth that was right, that she would bid him farewell, and
promise to pray for him, as she must pray for herself. But she had sworn
to herself that she would not speak of love. Yet with the first words
she spoke, the word and the vibration of love had come too. Her hands
disappeared in her sleeves, and her nails pressed the flesh in the
determination to be strong. She little guessed the tremendous argument
he had in store.

"It is hard to speak here," he said. "Let us go into the parlour."

She shook her head, and again moved backwards a step, so that her
shoulders were almost against the door.

"You must say what you have to say here," she answered after a moment's
pause, and she felt strong again. "For my part, I have spoken. May God
forget me in my utmost need if I go with you."

Dalrymple seemed little moved by the solemn invocation. It meant little
enough to him.

"I must tell you a short story," he replied quietly. "Unless I tell you,
you cannot understand. I have set my life upon your love, and I have
gone so far that I cannot save my life except by you--my life and my
honour. Will you listen to me?"

She nodded, and he heard her draw a quick breath. Then he began his
story, putting it together clearly, from the facts he knew, in very few
words. He told her how Annetta must have mistaken the bottle on his
table for camphor, and how he had found her dead. Nothing would save him
from the accusation of having murdered the girl but the absolute
disappearance of her body. Maria shuddered and turned her head quickly
when he told her that the body was lying under the postern arch behind
the garden wall. He told her, too, that the boy was by this time asleep
beside the mule on the path beyond. Then he told her of his plan, which
was short, desperate, and masterly.

"You must tell no one that the abbess is dead," he said. "Go out through
your cell into the garden, as soon as I am gone, and when I tap at the
postern open the door. Leave a lamp in your cell. I will do the rest."

"What will you do?" asked Maria, in a low and wondering tone.

"You must lock the door of your cell on the inside and leave the lamp
there," said Dalrymple. "You will wait for me in the garden by the gate.
I will carry the poor girl's body in and lay it in your bed. Then I will
set fire to the bed itself. Of course there is an under-mattress of
maize leaves--there always is. I will leave the lamp standing on the
floor by the bedside. I will shut the door and come out to you, and I
can manage to slip the bolt of the garden gate from the outside by
propping up the spring from within. You shall see."

"It is horrible!" gasped Maria. "And I do not see--"

"It is simple, and nothing else can save my life. Your cell is of course
a mere stone vault, and the fire cannot spread. The sisters are asleep,
except the portress, who will be far away. Long before they break down
your door, the body will be charred by the fire beyond all recognition.
They will see the lamp standing close by, and will suppose that you lay
down to rest, leaving the lamp close to you--too close; that the abbess
died while you were asleep, and that you had caught fire before you
waked; that you were burned to death, in fact. The body will be buried
as yours, and you will be legally dead. Consequently there will not be
the slightest suspicion upon your good name. As for me, it will be
supposed that I have procured other clothes for Annetta, thrown hers
into the laboratory and carried her off. In due time I will send her
father a large sum of money without comment. If you refuse, I must
either be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of
a girl who killed herself without my knowledge, or, as is probable, I
shall go out now, sit down in a quiet place, and be found dead in the
morning. It is certain death to me in either case. It would be
absolutely impossible for me to get rid of the dead body without
arousing suspicion. If it is wrong to save oneself by burning a dead
body, it is not a great wrong, and I take it upon myself. It is the only
wrong in the matter, unless it is wrong to love you and to be willing to
die for you. Do you understand me?"

Leaning back against the door of the parlour, Maria Addolorata had
almost unconsciously lifted her veil and was gazing into his eyes. The
plan was horrible, but she could not help admiring the man's strength
and daring. In his voice, even when he told her that he loved her, there
was that quiet courage which imposes itself upon men and women alike.
The whole situation was as clear as day to her in a moment, for all his
calculations were absolutely correct,--the fire-proof vault of the cell,
the certainty that the body would be taken for hers, above all, the
assurance of her own supposed death, with the utter freedom from
suspicion which it would mean for her ever afterwards. Was she not to be
buried with Christian burial, mourned as dead, and freed in one hour
from all the consequences of her life? It was masterly, though there was
a horror in it.

She loved him more than her own soul. It was the fear of bringing shame
upon her father and mother that had held her, far more than any
spiritual dread. It was not strange that she should waver again when he
had unfolded his scheme.

She turned, opened the door, and led him into the parlour, where the
silver lamp was burning brightly.

"You must tell it all again," she said, still standing. "I must be quite
sure that I understand."

He knew well enough that she had finally yielded, since she went so far.
In his mind he quickly ran over the details of the plan once more, and
mentally settled what still remained to be decided. But since she wished
it, he went over all he had said already. Being able to speak in his
natural voice without fear of being overheard by the portress, and
feeling sure of the result, he spoke far more easily and more
eloquently. Before he had finished he was holding her hand in his, and
she was gazing intently into his eyes.

"It is life or death for me," he said, when he had told her everything.
"Which shall it be?"

She was silent for a moment. Then her strong mouth smiled strangely.

"It shall be life for you, if I lose my soul for it," she said.

She felt the quick thrill and pressure of his hand, and all the man's
tremendous energy was alive again.

"Then let us do it quickly," he answered. "I will go out with the
portress. Go to your cell before we reach the end of the corridor, and
shut the door with some noise. She will remember it afterwards. Wait at
the garden gate till I tap softly, and leave the rest to me. There is no
danger. Do not be afraid."

"Afraid!" she exclaimed proudly. "How little you know me! It never was
fear that held me. Besides--with you!"

The two last words told him more than all she had ever said before, and
for the first time he wholly trusted her. Besides, it was to be only for
a few minutes, while he went out by the front gate and walked round to
the back of the convent. The plan was so well conceived that it could
not fail when put into execution.

They shook hands, as two people who have agreed to do a desperate deed,
each for the other's sake. Then as their grasp loosened, Dalrymple
turned towards the door, but turned again almost instantly and took her
in his arms, and kissed her as men kiss women they love when their lives
are in the balance. Then he went out, passed through the antechamber,
and found the portress waiting for him as usual. She took up her little
lamp and led the way in silence. A moment later he heard Maria come out
and enter her cell, closing the door loudly behind her.

"Her most reverend excellency is in no danger now," he said to the
portress, with Scotch veracity.

"Sister Maria Addolorata may then rest a little," answered the lay
sister, who rarely spoke.

"Precisely so," said Dalrymple, drily.

Five minutes later he was at the garden gate, tapping softly.
Immediately the door yielded to his gentle pressure, for Maria had
already unfastened the lock within.

"Stand aside a little," said Dalrymple, in a whisper. "You need not
see--it is not a pretty sight. Keep the door shut till I come back.
Where is your cell?"

She pointed to a door that was open above the level of the garden. A
little light came out. With womanly caution she had set the lamp in the
corner behind the door when she had opened it, so as to show as little
as possible from without.

She turned her head away as he passed her with his heavy burden,
treading softly upon the hard, dry ground. But he was not half across
the garden before she looked after him. She could not help it. The dark
thing he carried in his arms attracted her, and a shudder ran through
her. She closed the gate, and stood with her hand on the lock.

It seemed to her that he was gone an interminable time. Though the moon
was now high, the clouds were so black that the garden was almost quite
dark. Suddenly she heard his step, and he was nearer than she thought.

"It is burning well," he said with grim brevity.

He stooped and looked closely in the dimness at the old-fashioned lock.
It was made as he supposed and could be easily slipped from without. He
found a pebble under his foot, raised the spring, and placed the small
stone under it, after examining the position of the cracks in the wood,
which were many.

"There is plenty of time, now," he said, and he gently pushed her out
upon the narrow walk, drawing the door after him.

With his big knife, working through the widest crack he teazed the bolt
into the socket. Then with his shoulder he softly shook the whole door.
He heard the spring fall into its place, as the pebble dropped upon the
dry ground.

"No human being can suspect that the door has been opened," he said.

He wrapped her in his long cloak, standing beside her under the wall.
Very gently he pushed the veil and bands away from her golden hair. She
helped him, and he kissed the soft locks. Then about her head he laid
his plaid in folds and drew it forward over her shoulders. She let him
do it, not realizing what service the shawl had but lately done.

They walked forward. The boy was fast asleep and did not move. The mule
stamped a little as they came up. Dalrymple lifted Maria upon the
pack-saddle, sideways, and stretched the packing-cords behind her back.

"Hold on," he said. "I will lead the mule."

[Illustration: "An evil death on you!"--Vol. I., p. 218.]

So it was all over, and the deed was done, for good or evil. But it was
for evil, for it was a bad deed.

To the last, fortune favoured Dalrymple and Maria, and everything took
place after their flight just as the strong man had anticipated. Not a
trace of the truth was left behind. Early in the morning the abbess was
found dead, and in the little cell near by, upon the still smouldering
remains of the mattress, lay the charred and burned form of a woman. In
Stefanone's house, the little bundle of clothes in the locked laboratory
was all that was left of Annetta. All Subiaco said that the Englishman
had carried off the peasant girl to his own country.

Up at the convent the nuns buried the abbess in great state, with
catafalque and canopy, with hundreds of wax candles and endless funeral
singing. They buried also another body with less magnificence, but with
more pomp than would have been bestowed upon any of the other sisters,
and not long afterwards a marble tablet in the wall of the church set
forth in short good Latin sentences, how the Sister Maria Addolorata, of
many virtues, had been burned to death in her bed on the eve of the
feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist, and all good Christians were
enjoined to pray for her soul--which indeed was in need of their
prayers.

Stefanone returned from Rome, but it was a sad home-coming when he
found that his daughter was gone, and unconsciously he repeated the very
words she had last spoken when she was dying in Dalrymple's room all
alone.

"An evil death on you and all your house!" he said, shaking his fist at
the door of the room.

And Stefanone swore within himself solemnly that the Englishman should
pay the price. And he and his paid it in full, and more also, after
years had passed, even to generations then unborn.

This is the first act, as it were, of all the story, and between this
one and the beginning of the next a few years must pass quickly, if not
altogether in silence.



PART II.


_GLORIA DALRYMPLE._



CHAPTER XVII.


IN the year 1861 Donna Francesca Campodonico was already a widow. Her
husband, Don Girolamo Campodonico, had died within two years of their
marriage, which had been one of interest and convenience so far as he
had been concerned, for Donna Francesca was rich, whereas he had been
but a younger son and poor. His elder brother was the Duca di Norba, the
father of another Girolamo, who succeeded him many years later, of
Gianforte Campodonico, and of the beautiful Bianca, in whose short, sad
life Pietro Ghisleri afterwards held so large a part. But of these
latter persons, some were then not yet born, and others were in their
infancy, so that they play no part in this portion of the present
history.

Donna Francesca was of the great Braccio family, the last of a
collateral branch. She had inherited a very considerable estate, which,
if she had no descendants, was to revert to the Princes of Gerano. She
had married Don Girolamo in obedience to her guardians' advice, but not
at all against her will, and she had become deeply attached to him
during the short two years of their married life. He had never been
strong, since his childhood, his constitution having been permanently
injured by a violent attack of malarious fever when he had been a mere
boy. A second fever, even more severe than the first, caught on a
shooting expedition near Fiumicino, had killed him, and Donna Francesca
was left a childless widow, in full possession of her own fortune and of
a little more in the shape of a small jointure. It was thought that she
would marry again before very long, but it was too soon to expect this
as yet.

Among her possessions as the last of her branch of the Braccio family,
of which the main line, however, was sufficiently well represented, was
the small but beautiful palace in which she now lived alone. It was
situated between the Capitoline Hill and the Tiber, surrounded on three
sides by dark and narrow streets, but facing a small square in which
there was an ancient church. When it is said that the palace was a small
one, its dimensions are compared with the great Roman palaces, more than
one of which could easily lodge a thousand persons. It was built on the
same general plan as most of them, with a ground floor having heavily
barred windows; a state apartment in the first story, with three stone
balconies on the front; a very low second story above that, but not
coextensive with it, because two of the great state rooms were higher
than the rest and had clere-story windows; and last of all, a third
story consisting of much higher rooms than the second, and having a
spacious attic under the sloping roof, which was, of course, covered
with red tiles in the old fashion. The palace, at that time known as the
Palazzo, or 'Palazzetto,' Borgia, was externally a very good specimen of
Renascence architecture of the period when the florid, 'barocco' style
had not yet got the upper hand in Rome. The great arched entrance for
carriages was well proportioned, the stone carvings were severe rather
than graceful, the cornices had great nobility both of proportion and
design. The lower story was built of rough-faced blocks of travertine
stone, above which the masonry was smooth. The whole palace was of that
warm, time-toned colour, which travertine takes with age, and which is,
therefore, peculiar to old Roman buildings.

Within, though it could not be said that any part had exactly fallen to
decay, there were many rooms which had been long disused, in which the
old frescoes and architectural designs in grey and white, and bits of
bold perspective painted in the vaults and embrasures, were almost
obliterated by time, and in which such furniture as there was could not
survive much longer. About one-half of the state apartment, comprising,
perhaps, fifteen or twenty rooms, large and small, had been occupied by
Donna Francesca and her husband, and she now lived in them alone. In
that part of the palace there was a sort of quiet and stately luxury,
the result of her own taste, which was strongly opposed to the gaudy
fashions then introduced from Paris at the height of the Second Empire's
importance. Girolamo Campodonico had been aware that his young wife's
judgment was far better than his own in artistic matters, and had left
all such questions entirely to her.

She had taken much pleasure in unearthing from attics and disused rooms
all such objects as possessed any intrinsic artistic value, such as old
carved furniture, tapestries, and the like. Whatever she found worth
keeping she had caused to be restored just so far as to be useful, and
she had known how to supply the deficiencies with modern material in
such a way as not to destroy the harmony of the whole.

It should be sufficiently clear from these facts that Donna Francesca
Campodonico was a woman of taste and culture, in the modern sense.
Indeed, the satisfaction of her tastes occupied a much more important
place in her existence than her social obligations, and had a far
greater influence upon her subsequent life. Her favourite scheme was to
make her palace at all points as complete within as its architect had
made it outside, and she had it in her power to succeed in doing so. She
was not, as some might think, a great exception in those days. Within
the narrow limits of a certain class, in which the hereditary
possession of masterpieces has established artistic intelligence as a
stamp of caste, no people, until recently, have had a better taste than
the Italians; as no people, beyond these limits, have ever had a worse.
There was nothing very unusual in Donna Francesca's views, except her
constant and industrious energy in carrying them out. Even this might be
attributed to the fact that she had inherited a beautiful but
dilapidated palace, which she was desirous of improving until, on a
small scale, it should be like the houses of the great old families,
such as the Saracinesca, the Savelli, the Frangipani, and her own near
relatives, the Princes of Gerano.

She had an invaluable ally in her artistic enterprises in the person of
an artist, who, in a sort of way, was considered as belonging to Casa
Braccio, though his extraordinary talent had raised him far above the
position of a dependent of the family, in which he had been born as the
son of the steward of the ancient castle and estate of Gerano. As
constantly happened in those days, the clever boy had been noticed by
the Prince,--or, perhaps, thrust into notice by his father, who was
reasonably proud of him. The lad had been taken out of his surroundings
and thoroughly educated for the priesthood in Rome, but by the time he
had attained to the age necessary for ordination, his artistic gifts had
developed to such an extent that in spite of his father's
disappointment, even the old Prince--the brother of Sister Maria
Addolorata--advised Angelo Reanda to give up the Church, and to devote
himself altogether to painting.

Young Reanda had been glad enough of the change in his prospects. Many
eminent Italians have begun life in a similar way. Cardinal Antonelli
was not the only one, for there have been Italian prime ministers as
well as dignitaries of the Church, whose origin was as humble and who
owed their subsequent distinction to the kindly interest bestowed on
them by nobles on whose estates their parents were mere peasants, very
far inferior in station to Angelo Reanda's father, a man of a certain
education, occupying a position of trust and importance.

Nor was Reanda's priestly education anything but an advantage to him, so
far as his career was concerned, however much it had raised him above
the class in which he had been born. So far as latinity and rhetoric
were to be counted he was better educated than his father's master; for
with the same advantages he had greater talents, greater originality,
and greater industry. As an artist, his mental culture made him the
intellectual superior of most of his contemporaries. As a man, ten years
of close association with the sons of gentlemen had easily enough made a
gentleman of one whose instincts were naturally as refined as his
character was sensitive and upright.

Donna Francesca, as the last of her branch of the family and an orphan
at an early age, had of course been brought up in the house of her
relatives of Gerano, and from her childhood had known Reanda's father,
and Angelo himself, who was fully ten years older than she. Some of his
first paintings had been done in the great Braccio palace, and many a
time, as a mere girl, she had watched him at his work, perched upon a
scaffolding, as he decorated the vault of the main hall. She could not
remember the time when she had not heard him spoken of as a young
genius, and she could distinctly recall the discussion which had taken
place when his fate had been decided for him, and when he had been at
last told that he might become an artist if he chose. At that time she
had looked upon him with a sort of wondering admiration in which there
was much real friendly feeling, and as she grew up and saw what he could
do, and learned to appreciate it, she silently determined that he should
one day help her to restore the dilapidated Palazzetto Borgia, where her
father and mother had died in her infancy, and which she loved with that
sort of tender attachment which children brought up by distant relations
often feel for whatever has belonged to their own dimly remembered
parents.

There was a natural intimacy between the young girl and the artist. Long
ago she had played at ball with him in the great courtyard of the Gerano
castle, when he had been at home for his holidays, wearing a black
cassock and a three-cornered hat, like a young priest. Then, all at
once, instead of a priest he had been a painter, dressed like other men
and working in the house in which she lived. She had played with his
colours, had scrawled with his charcoals upon the white plastered walls,
had asked him questions, and had talked with him about the famous
pictures in the Braccio gallery. And all this had happened not once, but
many times in the course of years. Then she had unfolded to him her
schemes about her own little palace, and he had promised to help her, by
and bye, half jesting, half in earnest. She would give him rooms in the
upper story to live in, she said, disposing of everything beforehand. He
should be close to his work, and have it under his hand always until it
was finished. And when there was no more to do, he might still live
there and have his studio at the top of the old house, with an entrance
of his own, leading by a narrow staircase to one of the dark streets at
the back. She had noticed all sorts of peculiarities of the building in
her occasional visits to it with the governess,--as, for instance, that
there was a convenient interior staircase leading from the great hall to
the upper story, by a door once painted like the wall, and hard to
find, but now hanging on its hinges and hideously apparent. The great
hall must all be painted again, and Angelo could live overhead and come
down to his work by those steps. With childish pleasure she praised her
own ingenuity in so arranging matters beforehand. Angelo was to help her
in all she did, until the Palazzetto Borgia should be as beautiful as
the Palazzo Braccio itself, though of course it was much smaller. Then
she scrawled on the walls again, trying to explain to him, in childishly
futile sketches, her ideas of decoration, and he would come down from
his scaffold and do his best with a few broad lines to show her what she
had really imagined, till she clapped her small, dusty hands with
delight and was ultimately carried off by her governess to be made
presentable for her daily drive in the Villa Borghese with the Princess
of Gerano.

As a girl Francesca had the rare gift of seeing clearly in her mind what
she wanted, and at last she had found herself possessed of the power to
carry out her intentions. As a matter of course she had taken Reanda
into her confidence as her chief helper, and the intimacy which dated
from her childhood had continued on very much the same footing. His
talent had grown and been consolidated by ten years of good work, and
she, as a young married woman, had understood what she had meant when
she had been a child. Reanda was now admittedly, in his department, the
first painter in Rome, and that was fame in those days. His high
education and general knowledge of all artistic matters made him an
interesting companion in such work as Francesca had undertaken, and he
had, moreover, a personal charm of manner and voice which had always
attracted her.

No one, perhaps, would have called him a handsome man, and at this time
he was no longer in his first youth. He was tall, thin, and very dark,
though his black beard had touches of a deep gold-brown colour in it,
which contrasted a little with his dusky complexion. He had a sad face,
with deep, lustreless, thoughtful eyes, which seemed to peer inward
rather than outward. In the olive skin there were heavy brown shadows,
and the bony prominence of the brow left hollows at the temples, from
which the fine black hair grew with a backward turn which gave something
unusual to his expression. The aquiline nose which characterizes so many
Roman faces, was thin and delicate, with sensitive nostrils that often
moved when he was speaking. The eyebrows were irregular and thick,
extending in a dark down beyond the lower angles of the forehead, and
almost meeting between the eyes; but the somewhat gloomy expression
which this gave him was modified by a certain sensitive grace of the
mouth, little hidden by the thin black moustache or by the beard, which
did not grow up to the lower lip, though it was thick and silky from the
chin downwards.

It was a thoughtful face, but there was creative power in the high
forehead, as there was direct energy in the long arms and lean, nervous
hands. Donna Francesca liked to watch him at his work, as she had
watched him when she was a little girl. Now and then, but very rarely,
the lustreless eyes lighted up, just before he put in some steady,
determining stroke which brought out the meaning of the design. There
was a quick fire in them then, at the instant when the main idea was
outwardly expressed, and if she spoke to him inadvertently at such a
moment, he never answered her at once, and sometimes forgot to answer
her at all. For his art was always first with him. She knew it, and she
liked him the better for it.

The intimacy between the great lady and the artist was, indeed, founded
upon this devotion of his to his painting, but it was sustained by a
sort of community of interests extending far back into darker ages, when
his forefathers had been bondsmen to her ancestors in the days of
serfdom. He had grown up with the clearly defined sensation of belonging
with, if not to, the house of Braccio. His father had been a trusty and
trusted dependent of the family, and he had imbibed as a mere child its
hereditary likes and dislikes, its traditions wise and foolish,
together with an indomitable pride in its high fortunes and position in
the world. And Francesca herself was a true Braccio, though she was
descended from a collateral branch, and, next to the Prince of Gerano,
had been to Reanda by far the most important person bearing the name.
She had admired him when she had been a child, had encouraged him as she
grew up, and now she provided his genius with employment, and gave him
her friendship as a solace and delight both in work and idleness. It is
said that only Italians can be admitted to such a position with the
certainty that they will not under any circumstances presume upon it. To
Angelo Reanda it meant much more than to most men who could have been
placed as he was. His genius raised him far above the class in which he
had been born, and his education, with his natural and acquired
refinement, placed him on a higher level than the majority of other
Roman artists, who, in the Rome of that day, inhabited a Bohemia of
their own which has completely disappeared. Their ideas and
conversation, when they were serious, interested him, but their manners
were not his, and their gaiety was frankly distasteful to him. He
associated with them as an artist, but not as a companion, and he
particularly disliked their wives and daughters, who, in their turn,
found him too 'serious' for their society, to use the time-honoured
Italian expression. Nevertheless, his natural gentleness of disposition
made him treat them all alike with quiet courtesy, and when, as often
happened, he was obliged to be in their company, he honestly endeavoured
to be one of them as far as he could.

On the other hand, he had no footing in the society to which Francesca
belonged, but for which she cared so little. There were, indeed, one or
two houses where he was received, as he was at Casa Braccio, in a manner
which, for the very reason that it was familiar, proved his social
inferiority--where he addressed the head of the house as 'Excellency'
and was called 'Reanda' by everybody, elders and juniors alike, where he
was appreciated as an artist, respected as a man, and welcomed
occasionally as a guest when no other outsider was present, but where he
was not looked upon as a personage to be invited even with the great
throng on state occasions. He was as far from receiving such cold
acknowledgments of social existence as those who received them and
nothing else were distantly removed from intimacy on an equal footing.

He did not complain of such treatment, nor even inwardly resent it. The
friendliness shown him was as real as the kindness he had received
throughout his early youth from the Prince of Gerano, and he was not the
man to undervalue it because he had not a drop of gentle blood in his
veins. But his refined nature craved refined intercourse, and preferred
solitude to what he could get in any lower sphere. The desire for the
atmosphere of the uppermost class, rather than the mere wish to appear
as one of its members, often belongs to the artistic temperament, and
many artists are unjustly disliked by their fellows and pointed at as
snobs because they prefer, as an atmosphere, inane elegance to inelegant
intellectuality. It is often forgotten by those who calumniate them that
hereditary elegance, no matter how empty-headed, is the result of an
hereditary cultivation of what is thought beautiful, and that the
vainest, silliest woman who dresses well by instinct is an artist in her
way.

In Francesca Campodonico there was much more than such superficial
taste, and in her Reanda found the only true companion he had ever
known. He might have been for twenty years the intimate friend of all
Roman society without meeting such another, and he knew it, and
appreciated his good fortune. For he was not naturally a dissatisfied
man, nor at all given to complain of his lot. Few men are, who have
active, creative genius, and whose profession gives them all the scope
they need. Of late years, too, Francesca had treated him with a sort of
deference which he got from no one else in the world. He realized that
she did, without attempting to account for the fact, which, indeed,
depended on something past his comprehension.

He felt for her something like veneration. The word does not express
exactly the attitude of his mind towards her, but no other defines his
position so well. He was not in love with her in the Italian sense of
the expression, for he did not conceive it possible that she should ever
love him, whereas he told himself that he might possibly marry, if he
found a wife to his taste, and be in love with his wife without in the
least infringing upon his devotion to Donna Francesca.

That she was young and lovely, if not beautiful, he saw and knew. He
even admitted unconsciously that if she had been an old woman he could
not have 'venerated' her as he did, though veneration, as such, is the
due of the old rather than of the young. Her spiritual eyes and virginal
face were often before him in his dreams and waking thoughts. There was
a maidenlike modesty, as it were, even about her graceful bodily self,
which belonged, in his imagination, to a saint upon an altar, rather
than to a statue upon a pedestal. There was something in the sweep of
her soft dark brown hair which suggested that it would be sacrilege and
violence for a man's hand to touch it. There was a dewy delicacy on her
young lips, as though they could kiss nothing more earthly than a newly
opened flower, already above the earth, but not yet touched by the sun.
There was a thoughtful turn of modelling in the smooth, white forehead,
which it was utterly beyond Reanda's art to reproduce, often as he had
tried. He thought a great sculptor might succeed, and it was the one
thing which made him sometimes wish that he had taken the chisel for his
tool, instead of the brush.

She was never considered one of the great beauties of Rome. She had not
the magnificent presence and colouring of her kinswoman, Maria
Addolorata, whose tragic death in the convent of Subiaco--a fictitious
tragedy accepted as real by all Roman society--had given her a special
place in the history of the Braccio family. She had not the dark and
queenly splendour of Corona d'Astradente, her contemporary and the most
beautiful woman of her time. But she had, for those who loved her,
something which was quite her own and which placed her beyond them in
some ways and, in any case, out of competition for the homage received
by the great beauties. No one recognized this more fully than Angelo
Reanda, and he would as soon have thought of being in love with her, as
men love women, as he would have imagined that his father, for instance,
could have loved Maria Addolorata, the Carmelite nun.

The one human point in his devoted adoration lay in his terror lest
Francesca Campodonico should die young and leave him to grow old without
her. He sometimes told her so.

"You should marry," she answered one day, when they were together in the
great hall which he was decorating.

She was still dressed in black, and as she spoke, he turned and saw the
outline of her small pure face against the high back of the old chair in
which she was sitting. It was so white just then that he fancied he saw
in it that fatal look which belonged to some of the Braccio family, and
which was always spoken of as having been one of Maria Addolorata's
chief characteristics. He looked at her long and sadly, leaning against
an upright of his scaffolding as he stood on the floor near her, holding
his brushes in his hand.

"I do not think I shall ever marry," he answered at last, looking down
and idly mixing two colours on his palette.

"Why not?" she asked quickly. "I have heard you say that you might, some
day."

"Some day, some day--and then, all at once, the 'some day' is past, and
is not any more in the future. Why should I marry? I am well enough as I
am; there would only be unhappiness."

"Do you think that every one who marries must be unhappy?" she asked.
"You are cynical. I did not know it."

"No. I am not cynical. I say it only of myself. There are many reasons.
I could not marry such a woman as I should wish to have for my wife.
You must surely understand that. It is very easy to understand."

He made as though he would go up the ladder to his little platform and
continue his work. But she stopped him.

"What is the use of hurting your eyes?" she asked. "It is late, and the
light is bad. Besides, I am not so sure that I understand what you mean,
though you say that it is so easy. We have never talked about it much."

He laid his palette and brushes upon a ragged straw chair and sat down
upon another, not far from her. There was no other furniture in the
great vaulted hall, and the brick pavement was bare, and splashed in
many places with white plaster. Fresco-painting can only be done upon
stucco just laid on, while it is still moist, and a mason came early
every day and prepared as much of the wall as Reanda could cover before
night. If he did not paint over the whole surface, the remainder was
chipped away and freshly laid over on the following morning.

The evening light already reddened the tall western windows, for it was
autumn, and the days were shortening quickly. Reanda knew that he could
not do much more, and sat down, to answer Francesca's question, if he
could.

"I am not a gentleman, as you understand the word," he said slowly. "And
yet I am certainly not of the class to which my father belonged. My
position is not defined. I could not marry a woman of your class, and I
should not care to marry one of any other. That is all. Is it not
clear?"

"Yes," answered Francesca. "It is clear enough. But--"

She checked herself, and he looked into her face, expecting her to
continue. But she said nothing more.

"You were going to find an objection to what I said," he observed.

"No; I was not. I will say it, for you will understand me. What you tell
me is true enough, and I am sorry that it should be so. Is it not to
some extent my fault?"

"Your fault?" cried Reanda, leaning forward and looking into her eyes.
"How? I do not understand."

"I blame myself," answered Francesca, quietly. "I have kept you out of
the world, perhaps, and in many ways. Here you live, day after day, as
though nothing else existed for you. In the morning, long before I am
awake, you come down your staircase through that door, and go up that
ladder, and work, and work, and work, all day long, until it is dark, as
you have worked to-day, and yesterday, and for months. And when you
might and should be out of doors, or associating with other people, as
just now, I sit and talk to you and take up all your leisure time. It
is wrong. You ought to see more of other men and women. Do men of genius
never marry? It seems to me absurd!"

"Genius!" exclaimed Reanda, shaking his head sadly. "Do not use the word
of me."

"I will do as other people do," answered Francesca. "But that is not the
question. The truth is that you live pent up in this old house, like a
bird in a cage. I want you to spread your wings."

"To go away for a time?" asked Reanda, anxiously.

"I did not say that. Perhaps I should. Yes, if you could enjoy a
journey, go away--for a time."

She spoke with some hesitation and rather nervously, for he had said
more than she had meant to propose.

"Just to make a change," she added, after a moment's pause, as he said
nothing. "You ought to see more of other people, as I said. You ought to
mix with the world. You ought at least to offer yourself the chance of
marrying, even if you think that you might not find a wife to your
taste."

"If I do not find one here--" He did not complete the sentence, but
smiled a little.

"Must you marry a Roman princess?" she asked. "What should you say to a
foreigner? Is that impossible, too?"

"It would matter little where she came from, if I wished to marry her,"
he answered. "But I like my life as it is. Why should I try to change
it? I am happy as I am. I work, and I enjoy working. I work for you, and
you are satisfied. It seems to me that there is nothing more to be said.
Why are you so anxious that I should marry?"

Donna Francesca laughed softly, but without much mirth.

"Because I think that in some way it is my fault if you have not
married," she said. "And besides, I was thinking of a young girl whom I
met, or rather, saw, the other day, and who might please you. She has
the most beautiful voice in the world, I think. She could make her
fortune as a singer, and I believe she wishes to try it. But her father
objects. They are foreigners--English or Scotch--it is the same. She is
a mere child, they say, but she seems to be quite grown up. There is
something strange about them. He is a man of science, I am told, but I
fancy he is one of those English enthusiasts about Italian liberty. His
name is Dalrymple."

"What a name!" Reanda laughed. "I suppose they have come to spend the
winter in Rome," he added.

"Not at all. I hear that they have lived here for years. But one never
meets the foreigners, unless they wish to be in society. His wife died
young, they say, and this girl is his only daughter. I wish you could
hear her sing!"

"For that matter, I wish I might," said Reanda, who was passionately
fond of music.



CHAPTER XVIII.


SEVENTEEN years had scored their account on Angus Dalrymple's hard face,
and one great sorrow had set an even deeper mark upon him--a sorrow so
deep and so overwhelming that none had ever dared to speak of it to him.
And he was not the man to bear any affliction resignedly, to feed on
memory, and find rest in the dreams of what had been. Sullenly and
fiercely rebellious against his fate, he went down life, rather than
through it, savage and silent, for the most part, Nero-like in his wish
that he could end the world at a single blow, himself and all that
lived. Yet it was characteristic of the man that he had not chosen
suicide as a means of escape, as he would have done in his earlier
years, if Maria Addolorata had failed him. It seemed cowardly now, and
he had never done anything cowardly in his life. Through his grief the
sense of responsibility had remained with him, and had kept him alive.
He looked upon his existence not as a state from which he had a right to
escape, but as a personal enemy to be fought with, to be despised, to be
ill-treated barbarously, perhaps, but still as an enemy to murder whom
in cold blood would be an act of cowardice.

There was little more than the mere sense of the responsibility, for he
did little enough to fulfil his obligations. His wife had borne him a
daughter, but it was not in Angus Dalrymple's nature to substitute one
being in his heart for another. He could not love the girl simply
because her mother was dead. He could only spoil her, with a rough idea
that she should be spared all suffering as much as possible, but that if
he gave her what she wanted, he had done all that could be expected of
him. For the rest, he lived his own life.

He had a good intelligence and superior gifts, together with
considerable powers of intellectual acquisition. He had believed in his
youth that he was destined to make great discoveries, and his papers
afterwards showed that he was really on the track of great and new
things. But with his bereavement, all ambition as well as all curiosity
disappeared in one day from his character. Since then he had never gone
back to his studies, which disgusted him and seemed stale and flat. He
grew rudely dogmatical when scientific matters were discussed before
him, as he had become rough, tyrannical, and almost violent in his
ordinary dealings with the world, whenever he found any opposition to
his opinions or his will. The only exception he made was in his
treatment of his daughter, whom he indulged in every way except in her
desire to be a public singer. It seemed to him that to give her
everything she wanted was to fulfil all his obligations to her; in the
one question of appearing on the stage he was inflexible. He simply
refused to hear of it, rarely giving her any reasons beyond the ordinary
ones which present themselves in such cases, and which were far from
answering the impulse of the girl's genius.

They had called her Gloria in the days of their passionate happiness.
The sentimental name had meant a great deal to them, for Dalrymple had
at that time developed that sort of uncouth sentimentality which is in
strong men like a fungus on an oak, and disgusts them afterwards unless
they are able to forget it. The two had felt that the glory of life was
in the child, and they had named her for it, as it were.

Years afterwards Dalrymple brought the little girl to Rome, drawn back
irresistibly to the place by that physical association of impressions
which moves such men strongly. They had remained, keeping from year to
year a lodging Dalrymple had hired, at first hired for a few months. He
never went to Subiaco.

He gave Gloria teachers, the best that could be found, and there were
good instructors in those days when people were willing to take time in
learning. In music she had her mother's voice and talent. Her father
gave her a musician's opportunities, and it was no wonder that she
should dream of conquering Europe from behind the footlights as Grisi
had done, and as Patti was just about to do in her turn.

She and her father spoke English together, but Gloria was bilingual, as
children of mixed marriages often are, speaking English and Italian with
equal ease. Dalrymple found a respectable middle-aged German governess
who came daily and spent most of the day with Gloria, teaching her and
walking with her--worshipping her, too, with that curious faculty for
idealizing the very human, which belongs to German governesses when they
like their pupils.

Dalrymple led his own life. Had he chosen to mix in Roman society, he
would have been well received, as a member of a great Scotch family and
not very far removed from the head of his house. No one of his relatives
had ever known the truth about his wife except his father, who had died
with the secret, and it was not likely that any one should ask
questions. If any one did, he would certainly not satisfy such
curiosity. But he cared little for society, and spent his time either
alone with books and wine, or in occasional excursions into the artist
world, where his eccentricities excited little remark, and where he met
men who secretly sympathized with the Italian revolutionary movement,
and dabbled in conspiracies which rather amused than disquieted the
papal government.

Though Gloria was at that time but little more than sixteen years of
age, her father took her with him to little informal parties at the
studios or even at the houses of artists, where there was often good
music, and clever if not serious conversation. The conventionalities of
age were little regarded in such circles. Gloria appeared, too, much
older than she really was, and her marvellous voice made her a centre of
attraction at an age when most young girls are altogether in the
background. Dalrymple never objected to her singing on such occasions,
and he invariably listened with closed eyes and folded hands, as though
he were assisting at a religious service. Her voice was like her
mother's, excepting that it was pitched higher, and had all the compass
and power necessary for a great soprano. Dalrymple's almost devout
attitude when Gloria was singing was the only allusion, if one may call
it so, which he ever made to his dead wife's existence, and no one who
watched him knew what it meant. But he was often more silent than usual
after she had sung, and he sometimes went off by himself afterwards and
sat for hours in one of the old wine cellars near the Capitol, drinking
gloomily of the oldest and strongest he could find. For he drank more or
less perpetually in the evening, and wine made him melancholic and
morose, though it did not seem to affect him otherwise. Little by
little, however, it was dulling the early keenness of his intellect,
though it hardly touched his constitution at all. He was lean and bony
still, as in the old days, but paler in the face, and he had allowed his
red beard to grow. It was streaked with grey, and there were small,
nervous lines about his eyes, as well as deep furrows on his forehead
and face.

Dalrymple had found in the artist world a man who was something of a
companion to him at times,--a very young man, whom he could not
understand, though his own dogmatic temper made him as a rule believe
that he understood most things and most men. But this particular
individual alternately puzzled, delighted, and irritated the nervous
Scotchman.

They had made acquaintance at an artists' supper in the previous year,
had afterwards met accidentally at the bookseller's in the Piazza di
Spagna, where they both went from time to time to look at the English
newspapers, and little by little they had fallen into the habit of
meeting there of a morning, and of strolling in the direction of
Dalrymple's lodging afterwards. At last Dalrymple had asked his
companion to come in and look at a book, and so the acquaintance had
grown. Gloria watched the young stranger, and at first she disliked
him.

The aforesaid bookseller dealt, and deals still, in photographs and
prints, as well as in foreign and Italian books. At the present time his
establishment is distinctively a Roman Catholic one. In those days it
was almost the only one of its kind, and was patronized alike by Romans
and foreigners. Even Donna Francesca Campodonico went there from time to
time for a book on art or an engraving which she and Reanda needed for
their work. They occasionally walked all the way from the Palazzetto
Borgia to the Piazza di Spagna together in the morning. When they had
found what they wanted, Donna Francesca generally drove home in a cab,
and Reanda went to his midday meal before returning. For the line of his
intimacy with her was drawn at this point. He had never sat down at the
same table with her, and he never expected to do so. As the two stood to
one another at present, though Francesca would willingly have asked him
to breakfast, she would have hesitated to do so, merely because the
first invitation would inevitably call attention to the fact that the
line had been drawn somewhere, whereas both were willing to believe that
it had never existed at all. Under any pressure of necessity she would
have driven with him in a cab, but not in her own carriage. They both
knew it, and by tacit consent never allowed such unknown possibilities
to suggest themselves. But in the mornings, there was nothing to
prevent their walking together as far as the Piazza di Spagna, or
anywhere else.

They went to the bookseller's one day soon after the conversation which
had led Francesca to mention the Dalrymples. As they walked along the
east side of the great square, they saw two men before them.

"There goes the Gladiator," said Reanda to his companion, suddenly.
"There is no mistaking his walk, even at this distance."

"What do you mean?" asked Francesca. "Unless I am mistaken, the man who
is a little the taller, the one in the rough English clothes, is Mr.
Dalrymple. I spoke of him the other day, you know."

"Oh! Is that he? The other has a still more extraordinary name. He is
Paul Griggs. He is the son of an American consul who died in Civita
Vecchia twenty years ago, and left him a sort of waif, for he had no
money and apparently no relatives. Somehow he has grown up, Heaven knows
how, and gets a living by journalism. I believe he was at sea for some
years as a boy. He is really as much Italian as American. I have met him
with artists and literary people."

"Why do you call him the Gladiator?" asked Francesca, with some
interest.

"It is a nickname he has got. Cotogni, the sculptor, was in despair for
a model last year. Griggs and two or three other men were in the
studio, and somebody suggested that Griggs was very near the standard of
the ancients in his proportions. They persuaded him to let them measure
him. You know that in the 'Canons' of proportion, the Borghese
Gladiator--the one in the Louvre--is given as the best example of an
athlete. They measured Griggs then and there, and found that he was at
all points the exact living image of the statue. The name has stuck to
him. You see what a fellow he is, and how he walks."

"Yes, he looks strong," said Francesca, watching the man with natural
curiosity.

The young American was a little shorter than Dalrymple, but evidently
better proportioned. No one could fail to notice the vast breadth of
shoulder, the firm, columnar throat, and the small athlete's head with
close-set ears. He moved without any of that swinging motion of the
upper part of the body which is natural to many strong men and was
noticeable in Dalrymple, but there was something peculiar in his walk,
almost undefinable, but conveying the idea of very great strength with
very great elasticity.

"But he is an ugly man," observed Reanda, almost immediately. "Ugly, but
not repulsive. You will see, if he turns his head. His face is like a
mask. It is not the face you would expect with such a body."

"How curious!" exclaimed Francesca, rather idly, for her interest in
Paul Griggs was almost exhausted.

They went on along the crowded pavement. When they reached the
bookseller's and went in, they saw that the two men were there before
them, looking over the foreign papers, which were neatly arranged on a
little table apart. Dalrymple looked up and recognized Francesca, to
whom he had been introduced at a small concert given for a charity in a
private house, on which occasion Gloria had sung. He lifted his hat from
his head and laid it down upon the newspapers, when Francesca rather
unexpectedly held out her hand to him in English fashion. He had left a
card at her house on the day after their meeting, but as she was alone
in the world, she had no means of returning the civility.

"It would give me great pleasure if you would bring your daughter to see
me," she said graciously.

"You are very kind," answered Dalrymple, his steely blue eyes
scrutinizing her pure young features.

She only glanced at him, for she was suddenly conscious that his
companion was looking at her. He, too, had laid down his hat, and she
instantly understood what Reanda had meant by comparing his face to a
mask. The features were certainly very far from handsome. If they were
redeemed at all, it was by the very deep-set eyes, which gazed into
hers in a strangely steady way, as though the lids never could droop
from under the heavy overhanging brow, and then, still unwinking, turned
in another direction. The man's complexion was of that perfectly even
but almost sallow colour which often belongs to very strong melancholic
temperaments. His face was clean-shaven and unnaturally square and
expressionless, excepting for such life as there was in the deep eyes.
Dark, straight, closely cut hair grew thick and smooth as a priest's
skull-cap, low on the forehead and far forward at the temples. The level
mouth, firmly closed, divided the lower part of the face like the scar
of a straight sabre-cut. The nose was very thick between the eyes,
relatively long, with unusually broad nostrils which ran upward from the
point to the lean cheeks. The man wore very dark clothes of extreme
simplicity, and at a time when pins and chains were much in fashion, he
had not anything visible about him of gold or silver. He wore his watch
on a short, doubled piece of black silk braid slipped through his
buttonhole. He dressed almost as though he were in mourning.

Francesca unconsciously looked at him so intently for a moment that
Dalrymple thought it natural to introduce him, fancying that she might
have heard of him and might wish to know him out of curiosity.

"May I introduce Mr. Griggs?" he said, with the stiff inclination which
was a part of his manner.

Griggs bowed, and Donna Francesca bent her head a little. Reanda came up
and shook hands with the American, and Francesca introduced the artist
to Dalrymple.

"I have long wished to have the pleasure of knowing you, Signor Reanda,"
said the latter. "We have many mutual acquaintances among the artists
here. I may say that I am a great admirer of your work, and my daughter,
too, for that matter."

Reanda said something civil as his hand parted from the Scotchman's.
Francesca saw an opportunity of bringing Reanda and Gloria together.

"As you like Signor Reanda's painting so much," she said to Dalrymple,
"will you not bring your daughter this afternoon to see the frescoes he
is doing in my house? You know the Palazzetto? Of course--you left a
card, but I had no one to return it," she added rather sadly. "Will you
also come, Mr. Griggs?" she asked, turning to the American. "It will
give me much pleasure, and I see you know Signor Reanda. This afternoon,
if you like, at any time after four o'clock."

Both Dalrymple and Griggs secretly wondered a little at receiving such
an invitation from a Roman lady whom the one had met but once before,
and to whom the other had but just been introduced. But they bowed their
thanks, and promised to come.

After a few more words they separated, Francesca and Reanda to pick out
the engraving they wanted, and the other two men to return to their
newspapers. By and bye Francesca passed them again, on her way out.

"I shall expect you after four o'clock," she said, nodding graciously as
she went by.

Dalrymple looked after her, till she had left the shop.

"That woman is not like other women, I think," he said thoughtfully, to
his companion.

The mask-like face turned itself deliberately towards him, with shadowy,
unwinking eyes.

"No," answered Griggs, and he slowly took up his paper again.



CHAPTER XIX.


DONNA FRANCESCA received her three guests in the drawing-room, on the
side of the house which she inhabited. Reanda was at his work in the
great hall.

Gloria entered first, followed closely by her father, and Francesca was
dazzled by the young girl's brilliancy of colour and expression, though
she had seen her once before. As she came in, the afternoon sun streamed
upon her face and turned her auburn hair to red gold, and gleamed upon
her small white teeth as her strong lips parted to speak the first
words. She was tall and supple, graceful as a panther, and her voice
rang and whispered and rang again in quick changes of tone, like a
waterfall in the woods in summer. With much of her mother's beauty, she
had inherited from her father the violent vitality of his youth. Yet she
was not noisy, though her manners were not like Francesca's. Her voice
rippled and rang, but she did not speak too loud. She moved swiftly and
surely, but not with rude haste. Nevertheless, it seemed to Francesca
that there must be some exaggeration somewhere. The elder woman at
first set it down as a remnant of schoolgirl shyness, and then at once
felt that she was mistaken, because there was not the smallest
awkwardness nor lack of self-possession about it. The contrast between
the young girl and Paul Griggs was so striking as to be almost violent.
He was cold and funereal in his leonine strength, and his face was more
like a mask than ever as he bowed and sat down in silence. When he did
not remind her of a gladiator, he made her think of a black lion with a
strange, human face, and eyes that were not exactly human, though they
did not remind her of any animal's eyes which she had ever seen.

As for Dalrymple, she thought that he was singularly haggard and worn
for a man apparently only in middle age. There was a certain imposing
air about him, which she liked. Besides, she rarely met foreigners, and
they interested her. She noticed that both men wore black coats and
carried their tall hats in their hands. They were therefore not artists,
nor to be classed with artists. She was still young enough to judge them
to some extent by details, to which people attached a good deal more
importance at that time than at present. She made up her mind in the
course of the next few minutes that both Dalrymple and Griggs belonged
to her own class, though she did not ask herself where the young
American had got his manners. But somehow, though Gloria fascinated her
eyes and her ears, she set down the girl as being inferior to her
father. She wondered whether Gloria's mother had not been an actress;
which was a curious reflexion, considering that the dead woman had been
of her own house and name.

After exchanging a few words with her guests, Francesca suggested that
they should cross to the other side and see the frescoes, adding that
Reanda was probably still at work.

"You know him, Mr. Griggs?" she said, as they all rose to leave the
room.

"Yes," he answered, "as one man knows another."

"What does that mean?" asked Francesca, moving towards the door to lead
the way.

"It does not mean much," replied the young man, with curious ambiguity.

He was very gentle in his manner, and spoke in a low voice and rather
diffidently. She looked at him as though mentally determining to renew
the question at some other time. Her first impression was that of a sort
of duality about the man, as she found the possibility of a double
meaning in his answer. His magnificent frame seemed to belong to one
person, his voice and manner to another. Both might be good in their
way, but her curiosity was excited by the side which was the less
apparent.

They all went through the house till they came to a door which divided
the inhabited part from the hall in which Reanda was working. She
knocked gently upon it with her knuckles, and then smiled as she saw
Gloria looking at her.

"We keep it locked," she said. "The masons come in the morning to lay on
the stucco. One never trusts those people. Signor Reanda keeps the key
of this door."

The artist opened from within, and stood aside to let the party pass. He
started perceptibly when he first saw Gloria. As a boy he had seen Maria
Braccio more than once before she had entered the convent, and he was
struck by the girl's strong resemblance to her. Francesca, following
Gloria, saw his movement of surprise, and attributed it merely to
admiration or astonishment such as she had felt herself a quarter of an
hour earlier. She smiled a little as she went by, and Reanda knew that
the smile was for him because he had shown surprise. He understood the
misinterpretation, and resented it a little.

But she knew Reanda well, and before ten minutes had passed she had
convinced herself that he was repelled rather than attracted by the
young girl, in spite of the latter's undisguised admiration of his work.
It was not mere unintelligent enthusiasm, either, and he might well have
been pleased and flattered by her unaffected praise.

She was interested, too, in the technical mechanics of fresco-painting,
which she had never before been able to see at close quarters.
Everything interested Gloria, and especially everything connected with
art. As soon as they had all spoken their first words of compliment and
appreciation, she entered into conversation with the painter, asking him
all sorts of questions, and listening earnestly to what he said, until
he realized that she was certainly not assuming an appearance of
admiration for the sake of flattering him.

Meanwhile Francesca talked with Griggs, and Dalrymple, having gone
slowly round the hall alone after all the others, came and stood beside
the two and watched Francesca, occasionally offering a rather dry remark
in a somewhat absent-minded way. It was all rather commonplace and
decidedly quiet, and he was not much amused, though from time to time he
seemed to become absorbed in studying Francesca's face, as though he saw
something there which was past his comprehension. She noticed that he
watched her, and felt a little uncomfortable under his steely blue eyes,
so that she turned her head and talked more with Griggs than with him.
Remembering what Reanda had told her of the young man's origin, she did
not like to ask him the common questions about residence in Rome and his
liking for Italy. She was self-possessed and ready enough at
conversation, and she chose to talk of general subjects. They talked in
Italian, of course. Dalrymple, as of old, spoke fluently, but with a
strange accent. Any one would have taken Paul Griggs for a Roman. At
last, almost in spite of herself, she made a remark about his speech.

"I was born here," answered Griggs. "It is much more remarkable that
Miss Dalrymple should speak Italian as she does, having been born in
Scotland."

"Are you talking about me?" asked the young girl, turning her head
quickly, though she was standing with Reanda at some distance from the
others.

"I was speaking of your accent in Italian," said Griggs.

"Is there anything wrong about it?" asked Gloria, with an anxiety that
seemed exaggerated.

"On the contrary," answered Donna Francesca, "Mr. Griggs was telling me
how perfectly you speak. But I had noticed it."

"Oh! I thought Mr. Griggs was finding fault," answered Gloria, turning
to Reanda again.

Dalrymple looked at his daughter as though he were annoyed. The eyes of
Francesca and Griggs met for a moment. All three were aware that they
resented the young girl's quick question as one which they themselves
would not have asked in her place, had they accidentally heard their
names mentioned in a distant conversation. But Francesca instantly went
on with the subject.

"To us Italians," she said, "it seems incredible that any one should
speak our language and English equally well. It is as though you were
two persons, Mr. Griggs," she added, smiling at the covered expression
of her thought about him.

"I sometimes think so myself," answered Griggs, with one of his steady
looks. "In a way, every one must have a sort of duality--a good and evil
principle."

"God and the devil," suggested Francesca, simply.

"Body and soul would do, I suppose. The one is always in slavery to the
other. The result is a sinner or a saint, as the case may be. One never
can tell," he added more carelessly. "I am not sure that it matters. But
one can see it. The battle is fought in the face."

"I do not understand. What battle?"

"The battle between body and soul. The face tells which way the fight is
going."

She looked at his own, and she felt that she could not tell. But to a
certain extent she understood him.

"Griggs is full of theories," observed Dalrymple. "Gloria, come down!"
he cried in English, suddenly.

Gloria, intent upon understanding how fresco-painting was done, was
boldly mounting the steps of the ladder towards the top of the little
scaffolding, which might have been fourteen feet high. For the vault
had long been finished, and Reanda was painting the walls.

"Nonsense, papa!" answered the young girl, also in English. "There's no
danger at all."

"Well--don't break your neck," said Dalrymple. "I wish you would come
down, though."

Francesca was surprised at his indifference, and at his daughter's calm
disregard of his authority. Timid, too, as most Italian women of higher
rank, she watched the girl nervously. Griggs raised his eyes without
lifting his head.

"Gloria is rather wild," said Dalrymple, in a sort of apology. "I hope
you will forgive her--she is so much interested."

"Oh--if she wishes to see, let her go, of course," answered Francesca,
concealing a little nervous irritation she felt.

A moment later Gloria and Reanda were on the small platform, on one side
of which only there was a hand rail. It had been made for him, and his
head was steady even at a much greater elevation. He was pointing out to
her the way in which the colours slowly changed as the stucco dried from
day to day, and explaining how it was impossible to see the effect of
what was done until all was completely dry. The others continued to talk
below, but Griggs glanced up from time to time, and Francesca's eyes
followed his. Dalrymple had become indifferent, allowing his daughter
to do what she pleased, as usual.

When Gloria had seen all she wished to see, she turned with a quick
movement to come down again, and on turning, she found herself much
nearer to the edge than she had expected. She was bending forwards a
little, and Griggs saw at once that she must lose her balance, unless
Reanda caught her from behind. But she made no sound, and turned very
white as she swayed a little, trying to throw herself back.

With a swift movement that was gentle but irresistible, Griggs pushed
Francesca back, keeping his eyes on the girl above. It all happened in
an instant.

"Jump!" he cried, in a voice of command.

She had felt that she must spring or fall, and her body was already
overbalanced as she threw herself off, instinctively gathering her skirt
with her hands. Dalrymple turned as pale as she. If she struck the bare
brick floor, she could scarcely escape serious injury. But she did not
reach it, for Paul Griggs caught her in his arms, swayed with her
weight, then stood as steady as a rock, and set her gently upon her
feet, beside her father.

"Maria Santissima!" cried Francesca, terrified, though instantly
relieved, and dimly understanding the stupendous feat of bodily strength
which had just been done before her eyes.

Above, Reanda leaned upon the single rail of the scaffolding with
wide-staring eyes. Gloria was faint with the shock of fear, and grasped
her father's arm.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" he said roughly, in English, but
in a low voice. "You probably owe your life to Mr. Griggs," he added,
immediately regaining his self-possession.

Griggs alone seemed wholly unmoved by what had happened. Gloria had held
one of her gloves loosely in her hand, and it had fallen to the ground
as she sprang. He picked it up and handed it to her with a curious
gentleness.

"It must be yours, Miss Dalrymple," he said.



CHAPTER XX.


IT was late before Reanda and Donna Francesca were alone together on
that afternoon. When the first surprise and shock of Gloria's accident
had passed, Francesca would not allow Dalrymple to take her away at
once, as he seemed anxious to do. The girl was not in the least hurt,
but she was still dazed and frightened. Francesca took them all back to
the drawing-room and insisted upon giving them tea, because they were
foreigners, and Gloria, she said, must naturally need something to
restore her nerves. Roman tea, thirty years ago, was a strange and
uncertain beverage, as both Gloria and her father knew, but they drank
what Francesca gave them, and at last went away with many apologies for
the disturbance they had made. To tell the truth, Francesca was glad
when they were gone and she was at liberty to return to the hall where
Reanda was still at work. She found him nervous and irritated. He came
down from the scaffolding as soon as he heard her open the door. Neither
spoke until she had seated herself in her accustomed chair, with a very
frank sigh of relief.

"I am very grateful to you, Donna Francesca," said Reanda, twisting his
beard round his long, thin fingers, as he glanced at her and then
surveyed his work.

"It was your fault," she answered, tapping the worm-eaten arms of the
old chair with both her white hands, for she herself was still annoyed
and irritated. "Do not make me responsible for the girl's folly."

"Responsibility! May that never be!" exclaimed the artist, in the common
Italian phrase, but with a little irony. "But as for the responsibility,
I do not know whose it was. It was certainly not I who invited the young
lady to go up the ladder."

"Well, it was her fault. Besides, the absent are always wrong. But she
is handsome, is she not?"

Reanda shrugged his thin shoulders, and looked critically at his hands,
which were smeared with paint.

"Very handsome," he said indifferently. "But it is a beauty that says
nothing to me. One must be young to like that kind of beauty. She is a
beautiful storm, that young lady. For one who seeks peace--" He shrugged
his shoulders again. "And then, her manners! I do not understand
English, but I know that her father was telling her to come down, and
yet she went up. I do not know what education these foreigners have.
Instruction, yes, as much as you please; but education, no. They have no
more than barbarians. The father says, 'You must not do that.' And the
daughter does it. What education is that? Of course, if they were
friends of yours, I should not say it."

"Nevertheless that girl is very handsome," insisted Francesca. "She has
the Venetian colouring. Titian would have painted her just as she is,
without changing anything."

"Beauty, beauty!" exclaimed Reanda, impatiently. "Of course, it is
beauty! Food for the brush, that says nothing to the heart. The devil
can also take the shape of a beautiful woman. That is it. There is
something in that young lady's face--how shall I say? It pleases
me--little! You must forgive me, princess. My nerves are shaken. Divine
goodness! To see a young girl flying through the air like Simon Magus!
It was enough!"

Francesca laughed gently. Reanda shook his head with slow
disapprobation, and frowned.

"I say the truth," he said. "There is something--I cannot explain. But I
can show you," he added quickly.

He took up his palette and brushes from the chair on which they lay, and
reached the white plastered wall in two steps.

"Paint her," said Francesca, to encourage him.

"Yes, I will show her to you--as I think she is," he answered.

He closed his eyes for a moment, calling up the image before him, then
went back to the chair and took a quantity of colour from a tube which
lay, with half-a-dozen others, in the hollow of the rush seat. They were
not the colours he used for fresco-painting, but had been left there
when he had made a sketch of a head two or three days previously. In a
moment he was before the wall again. It was roughly plastered from the
floor to the lower line of the frescoes. With a long, coarse brush he
began to sketch a gigantic head of a woman. The oil paint lay well on
the rough, dry surface. He worked in great strokes at the full length of
his arm.

"Make her beautiful, at least," said Francesca, watching him.

"Oh, yes--very beautiful," he answered.

He worked rapidly for a few minutes, smiling, as his hand moved, but not
pleasantly. Francesca thought there was an evil look in his face which
she had never seen there before, and that his smile was wicked and
spiteful.

"But you are painting a sunset!" she cried suddenly.

"A sunset? That is her hair. It is red, and she has much of it. Wait a
little."

And he went on. It was certainly something like a sunset, the bright,
waving streamers of the clouds flying far to right and left, and
blending away to the neutral tint of the dry plaster as though to a grey
sky.

"Yes, but it is still a sunset," said Francesca. "I have seen it like
that from the Campagna in winter."

"She is not 'Gloria' for nothing," answered Reanda. "I am making her
glorious. You shall see."

Suddenly, with another tone, he brought out the main features of the
striking face, by throwing in strong shadows from the flaming hair.
Francesca became more interested. The head was colossal, extraordinary,
almost unearthly; the expression was strange.

"What a monster!" exclaimed Francesca at last, as he stood aside, still
touching the enormous sketch here and there with his long brush, at
arm's length. "It is terrible," she added, in a lower tone.

"Truth is always terrible," answered Reanda. "But you cannot say that it
is not like her."

"Horribly like. It is diabolical!"

"And yet it is a beautiful head," said the artist. "Perhaps you are too
near." He himself crossed the hall, and then turned round to look at his
work. "It is better from here," he said. "Will you come?"

She went to his side. The huge face and wildly streaming hair stood out
as though in three dimensions from the wall. The great, strong mouth
smiled at her with a smile that was at once evil and sad and fatal. The
strange eyes looked her through and through from beneath the vast brow.

"It is diabolical, satanical!" she responded, under her breath.

Reanda still smiled wickedly and watched her. The face seemed to grow
and grow till it filled the whole range of vision. The dark eyes
flashed; the lips trembled; the flaming hair quivered and waved and
curled up like snakes that darted hither and thither. Yet it was
horribly like Gloria, and the fresh, rich oil colours gave it her
startling and vivid brilliancy.

It was the sudden and enormous expression of a man of genius, strung and
stung, till irritation had to find its explosion through the one art of
which he was absolute master--in a fearful caricature exaggerating
beauty itself to the bounds of the devilish.

"I cannot bear it!" cried Francesca.

She snatched the big brush from his hand, and, running lightly across
the room, dashed the colour left in it across the face in all
directions, over the eyes and the mouth, and through the long red hair.
In ten seconds nothing remained but confused daubs and splashes of
brilliant paint.

"There!" cried Francesca. "And I wish I had never seen it!"

Still holding the brush in her hand, she turned her back to the
obliterated sketch and faced Reanda, with a look of girlish defiance and
satisfaction. His face was grave now, but he seemed pleased with what he
had done.

"It makes no difference," he said. "You will never forget it."

He felt that he was revenged for the smile she had bestowed upon his
apparent surprise at Gloria's beauty, when she had followed the girl
into the hall, and had seen him start. He could not conceal his triumph.

"That is the young lady whom you thought I might wish to marry," he
said. "You know me little after so many years, Donna Francesca. You have
bestowed much kindness upon a man whom you do not know."

"My dear Reanda, who can understand you? But as for kindness, do not let
me hear the word between you and me. It has no meaning. We are always
good friends, as we were when I was a little girl and used to play with
your paints. You have given me far more than I can ever repay you for,
in your works. I do not flatter you, my friend. Cupid and Psyche, there
in your frescoes, will outlive me and be famous when I am forgotten--yet
they are mine, are they not? And you gave them to me."

The sweet young face turned to him with an unaffected, grateful smile.
His sad features softened all at once.

"Ah, Donna Francesca," he said gently, "you have given me something
better than Cupid and Psyche, for your gift will live forever in
heaven."

She looked thoughtfully into his eyes, but with a sort of question in
her own.

"Your dear friendship," he added, bending his head a little. Then he
laughed suddenly. "Do not give me a wife," he concluded.

"And you, Reanda--do not make wicked caricatures of women you have only
seen once! Besides, I go back to it again. I saw you start when she
passed you at the door. You were surprised at her beauty. You must admit
that. And then, because you are irritated with her, you take a brush and
daub that monstrous thing upon the wall! It is a shame!"

"I started, yes. It was not because she struck me as beautiful. It was
something much more strange. Do you know? She is the very portrait of
Donna Maria, who was in the Carmelite convent at Subiaco, and who was
burned to death. I have often told you that I remembered having seen her
when I was a boy, both at Gerano and at the Palazzo Braccio, before she
took the veil. There is a little difference in the colouring, I think,
and much in the expression. But the rest--it is the image!"

Francesca, who could not remember her ill-fated kinswoman, was not much
impressed by Reanda's statement.

"It makes your caricature all the worse," she answered, "since it was
also a caricature of that holy woman. As for the resemblance, after all
these years, it is a mere impression. Who knows? It may be. There is no
portrait of Sister Maria Addolorata."

"Oh, but I remember well!" insisted Reanda.

"Well, it concludes nothing, after all," returned Francesca, with much
logic. "It does not make a fiend of the poor nun, who is an angel by
this time, and it does not make Miss Dalrymple less beautiful. And now,
Signor Painter," she added, with another girlish laugh, "if we have
quarrelled enough to restore your nerves, I am going out. It is almost
dark, and I have to go to the Austrian Embassy before dinner, and the
carriage has been waiting for an hour."

"You, princess!" exclaimed Reanda, in surprise; for she had not begun to
go into the world yet since her husband's death.

"It is not a reception. We are to meet there about arranging another of
those charity concerts for the deaf and dumb."

"I might have known," answered the painter. "As for me, I shall go to
the theatre to-night. There is the Trovatore."

"That is a new thing for you, too. But I am glad. Amuse yourself, and
tell me about the singing to-morrow. Remember to lock the door and take
the key. I do not trust the masons in the morning."

"Do I ever forget?" asked Reanda. "But I will lock it now, as you go
out; for it is late, and I shall go upstairs."

"Good night," said Francesca, as she turned to leave the room.

"And you forgive the caricature?" asked Reanda, holding the door open
for her to pass.

"I would forgive you many things," she answered, smiling as she went
by.



CHAPTER XXI.


IN those days the Trovatore was not an old-fashioned opera. It was not
'threshed-out,' to borrow the vigorous German phrase. Wagner had not
eclipsed melody with 'tone-poetry,' nor made men feel more than they
could hear. Many of the great things of this century-ending had not been
done then, nor even dreamed of, and even musicians listened to the
Trovatore with pleasure, not dreaming of the untried strength that lay
waiting in Verdi's vast reserve. It was then the music of youth. To us
it seems but the music of childhood. Many of us cannot listen to
Manrico's death-song from the tower without hearing the grind-organ upon
which its passion has grown so pathetically poor. But one could
understand that music. The mere statement that it was comprehensible
raises a smile to-day. It appealed to simple feelings. We are no longer
satisfied with such simplicity, and even long for powers that do not
appeal, but twist us with something stronger than our hardened selves,
until we ourselves appeal to the unknown, in a sort of despairing
ecstasy of unsatisfied delight, asking of possibility to stretch itself
out to the impossible. We are in a strange phase of development. We see
the elaborately artificial world-scape painted by Science on the curtain
close before our eyes, but our restless hands are thrust through it and
beyond, opening eagerly and shutting on nothing, though we know that
something is there.

Angelo Reanda was passionately fond of what was called music in Italy
more than thirty years ago. He had the true ear and the facile memory
for melody common to Italians, who are a singing people, if not a
musical race, and which constituted a talent for music when music was
considered to be a succession of sounds rather than a series of sensuous
impressions. He could listen to an opera, understand it without thought,
enjoy it simply, and remember it without difficulty, like thousands of
other Romans. Most of us would willingly go back to such childlike
amusements if we could. A few possess the power even now, and are looked
upon with friendly contempt by their more cultured, and therefore more
tortured, musical acquaintances, whose dream it is to be torn to very
rags in the delirium of orchestral passion.

Reanda went to the Apollo Theatre in search of merely pleasurable
sensations, and he got exactly what he wanted. The old house was
brilliant even in those days, less with light than with jewels, it is
true, but perhaps that illumination was as good as any other. The Roman
ladies and the ladies of the great embassies used then to sit through
the whole evening in their boxes, and it was the privilege, as it is
still in Rome, of the men in the stalls and pit to stand up between the
acts and admire them and their diamonds as much as they pleased. The
light was dim enough, compared with what we have nowadays; for gas was
but just introduced in a few of the principal streets, and the lamps in
the huge chandelier at the Apollo, and in the brackets around the house,
were filled with the olive oil which to-day dresses the world's salad.
But it was a soft warm light, with rich yellow in it, which penetrated
the shadows and beautified all it touched.

Reanda, like the others, stood up and looked about him after the first
act. His eyes were instantly arrested by Gloria's splendid hair, which
caught the light from above. She was seated in the front of a box on the
third tier, the second row of boxes being almost exclusively reserved in
those days. Dalrymple was beside his daughter, and the dark, still face
of Paul Griggs was just visible in the shadow.

Gloria saw the artist almost immediately, for he could not help looking
at her curiously, comparing her face with the mad sketch he had made on
the wall. She nodded to him, and then spoke to her father, evidently
calling his attention to Reanda, for Dalrymple looked down at once, and
also nodded, while Griggs leaned forward a little and stared vacantly
into the pit.

"It is an obsession to-day," said Reanda to himself, reflecting that
though the girl lived in Rome he had never noticed her before, and had
now seen her twice on the same day.

He mentally added the reflexion that she must have good nerves, and that
most young girls would be at home with a headache after such a narrow
escape as hers. She was quite as handsome as he had thought, however,
and even more so, now that he saw her in her girlish evening gown, which
was just a little open at the throat, and without even the simplest of
ornaments. The white material and the shadow around and behind her threw
her head into strong relief.

The curtain went up again, and Reanda sat down and watched the
performance and listened to the simple, stirring melodies. But he was
uncomfortably conscious that Gloria was looking at the back of his head
from her box. Nervous people know the unpleasant sensation which such a
delusion can produce. Reanda moved uneasily in his seat, and looked
round more than once, just far enough to catch sight of Gloria's hair
without looking up into her eyes.

His thoughts were disturbed, and he recalled vividly the face of the
dead nun, which he had seen long ago. The resemblance was certainly
strong. Maria Addolorata had sometimes had a strange expression which
was quite her own, and which he had not yet seen in Gloria. But he felt
that he should see it some day. He was sure of it, so sure that he had
thrown its full force into the sketch on the wall, knowing that it would
startle Donna Francesca. It was not possible that two women should be so
much alike and yet that one of them should never have that look. Perhaps
Gloria had it now and was staring at the back of his head.

An unaccountable nervousness took possession of the sensitive man, and
he suffered as he sat there. After the curtain dropped he rose and left
the theatre without looking up, and crossed the narrow street to a
little coffee shop familiar to him for many years. He drank a cup of
coffee, broke off the end of a thin black Roman cigar, and smoked for a
few minutes before he returned.

Gloria had not moved, but Griggs was either gone or had retired further
back into the shadow. Dalrymple was leaning back in his chair, bony and
haggard, one of his great hands hanging listlessly over the front of the
box. Reanda sat down again, and determined that he would not turn round
before the end of the act. But it was of no use. He irritated his
neighbours on each side by his restlessness, and his forehead was moist
as though he were suffering great pain. Again he faced about and stared
upwards at the box. Gloria, to his surprise, was not looking at him, but
in the shadow he met the inscrutable eyes of Paul Griggs, fixed upon him
as though they would never look away. But he cared very little whether
Griggs looked at him or not. He faced the stage again and was more
quiet.

It was a good performance, and he began to be glad that he had come. The
singers were young, the audience was inclined to applaud, and everything
went smoothly. Reanda thought the soprano rather weak in the great tower
scene.

          "Calpesta il mio cadavere, ma salva il Trovator!"

she sang in great ascending intervals.

Reanda sighed, for she made no impression on him, and he remembered that
he had been deeply impressed, even thrilled, when he had first heard the
phrase. He had realized the situation then and had felt with Leonora.
Perhaps he had grown too old to feel that sort of young emotion any
more. He sighed regretfully as he rose from his seat. Looking up once
more, he saw that Gloria was putting on her cloak, her back turned to
the theatre. He waited a moment and then moved on with the crowd, to get
his coat from the cloak-room.

He went out and walked slowly up the Via di Tordinona. It was a dark
and narrow street in those days. The great old-fashioned lanterns were
swung up with their oil lamps in them, by long levers held in place by
chains locked to the wall. Here and there over a low door a red light
showed that wine was sold in a basement which was almost a cellar. The
crowd from the theatre hurried along close by the walls, in constant
danger from the big coaches that dashed past, bringing the Roman ladies
home, for all had to pass through that narrow street. Landaus were not
yet invented, and the heavy carriages rumbled loudly through the
darkness, over the small paving-stones. But the people on foot were used
to them, and stood pressed against the walls as they went by, or grouped
for a moment on the low doorsteps of the dark houses.

Reanda went with the rest. He might have gone the other way, by the
Banchi Vecchi, from the bridge of Sant' Angelo, and it would have been
nearer, but he had a curious fancy that the Dalrymples might walk home,
and that he might see Gloria again. Though it was not yet winter, the
night was bright and cold, and it was pleasant to walk. The regular
season at the Apollo Theatre did not begin until Christmas, but there
were often good companies there at other times of the year.

The artist walked on, glancing at the groups he passed in the dim
street, but neither pausing nor hurrying. He meant to let fate have her
own way with him that night.

Fate was not far off. He had gone on some distance, and the crowd had
dispersed in various directions, till he was almost alone as he emerged
into the open space where the Via del Clementino intersects the Ripetta.
At that moment he heard a wild and thrilling burst of song.

          "Calpesta il mio cadavere, ma salva il Trovator!"

The great soprano rang out upon the midnight silence, like the voice of
a despairing archangel, and there was nothing more.

"Hush!" exclaimed a man's voice energetically.

Two or three windows were opened high up, for no one had ever heard such
a woman's voice in the streets before. Reanda peered before him through
the gloom, saw three people standing at the next corner, and hastened
his long steps. An instinct he could not explain told him that Gloria
had sung the short strain, which had left him cold and indifferent when
he had heard it in the theatre. He was neither now, and he was possessed
by the desire to be sure that it had been she.

He was not mistaken. Griggs had recognized him first, and they had
waited for him at the corner.

"It is an unexpected pleasure to meet twice in the same day," said
Reanda.

"The pleasure is ours," answered Dalrymple, in the correct phrase, but
with his peculiar accent. "I suppose you heard my daughter's screams,"
he added drily. "She was explaining to us how a particular phrase should
be sung."

"Was I not right?" asked Gloria, quickly appealing to Reanda with the
certainty of support.

"A thousand times right," he answered. "How could one be wrong with such
a voice?"

Gloria was pleased, and they all walked on together till they reached
the door of Dalrymple's lodging.

"Come in and have supper with us," said the Scotchman, who seemed to be
less gloomy than usual. "I suppose you live in our neighbourhood?"

"No. In the Palazzetto Borgia, where I work."

"This is not exactly on your way home, then," observed Gloria. "You may
as well rest and refresh yourself."

Reanda accepted the invitation, wondering inwardly at the assurance of
the foreign girl. With her Italian speech she should have had Italian
manners, he thought. The three men all carried tapers, as was then
customary, and they all lit them before they ascended the dark
staircase.

"This is an illumination," said Dalrymple, looking back as he led the
way.

Gloria stopped suddenly, and looked round. She was following her father,
and Reanda came after her, Griggs being the last.

"One, two, three," she counted, and her eyes met Reanda's.

Without the slightest hesitation, she blew out the taper he held in his
hand. But, for one instant, he had seen in her face the expression of
the dead nun, distinct in the clear light, and close to his eyes.

"Why did you do that?" asked Dalrymple, who had turned his head again,
as the taper was extinguished.

"Three lights mean death," said Gloria, promptly; and she laughed, as
she went quickly up the steps.

"It is true," answered Reanda, in a low voice, as he followed her; and
it occurred to him that in a flash he had seen death written in the
brilliant young face.

Ten minutes later, they were seated around the table in the Dalrymples'
small dining-room. Reanda noticed that everything he saw there evidently
belonged to the hired lodging, from the old-fashioned Italian silver
forks, battered and crooked at the prongs, to the heavy cut-glass
decanters, stained with age and use, at the neck, and between the
diamond-shaped cuttings. There was supper enough for half-a-dozen
people, however, and an extraordinary quantity of wine. Dalrymple
swallowed a big tumbler of it before he ate anything. Paul Griggs filled
his glass to the brim, and looked at it. He had hardly spoken since
Reanda had joined the party.

The artist made an effort to be agreeable, feeling that the invitation
had been a very friendly one, considering the slight acquaintance he had
with the Dalrymples, an acquaintance not yet twenty-four hours old.
Presently he asked Gloria if she had felt no ill effects from her
extraordinary accident in the afternoon.

"I had not thought about it again," she answered. "I have thought of
nothing but your painting all the evening, until that woman sang that
phrase as though she were asking the Conte di Luna for more strawberries
and cream."

She laughed, but her eyes were fixed on his face.

          "'Un altro po' di fravole, e dammi crema ancor,'"

she sang softly, in the Roman dialect.

Then she laughed again, and Reanda smiled at the absurd words--"A few
more strawberries, and give me some more cream." But even the few notes,
a lazy parody of the prima donna's singing of the phrase, charmed his
simple love of melody.

"Don't look so grim, papa," she said in English. "Nobody can hear me
here, you know."

"I should not think anybody would wish to," answered the Scotchman; but
he spoke in Italian, in consideration of his guest, who did not
understand English.

"I do not know why you are always so angry if I sing anything foolish,"
said the young girl, going back to Italian. "One cannot be always
serious. But I was talking about your frescoes, Signor Reanda. I have
thought of nothing else."

Again her eyes met the artist's, but fell before his. He was too great a
painter not to know the value of such flattering speeches in general,
and in a way he was inclined to resent the girl's boldness. But at the
same time, it was hard to believe that she was not really in earnest,
for she had that power of sudden gravity which lends great weight to
little speeches. In spite of himself, and perhaps rightly, he believed
her. Paul Griggs did not, and he watched her curiously.

"Why do you look at me like that?" she asked, turning upon him with a
little show of temper.

"If your father will allow me to say so, you are the object most worth
looking at in the room," answered the young man, calmly.

"You will make her vain with your pretty speeches, Griggs," said
Dalrymple.

"I doubt that," answered Griggs.

He relapsed into silence, and drained a big tumbler of wine. Reanda
suspected, with a shrewd intuition, that the American admired Gloria,
but that she did not like him much.

"Miss Dalrymple is doing her best to make me vain with her praise," said
Reanda.

"I never flattered any one in my life," answered Gloria. "Signor Reanda
is the greatest painter in Italy. Everybody says so. It would be foolish
of me to even pretend that after seeing him at work I had thought of
anything else. We have all said, this evening, that the frescoes were
wonderful, and that no one, not even Raphael, who did the same thing,
has ever had a more beautiful idea of the history of Cupid and Psyche.
Why should we not tell the truth, just because he happens to be here?
How illogical you are!"

"I believe I excepted Raphael," said Dalrymple, with his national
accuracy. "But Signor Reanda will not quarrel with me on that account, I
am sure."

"But I did not except Raphael, nor any one," persisted Gloria, before
Reanda could speak.

"Really, Signorina, though I am mortal and susceptible, you go a little
too far. Flattery is not appreciation, you know."

"It is not flattery," she answered, and the colour rose in her face. "I
am quite in earnest. Nobody ever painted anything better than your Cupid
and Psyche. Raphael's is dull and uninteresting compared with it."

"I blush, but I cannot accept so much," said the Italian, smiling
politely, but still trying to discover whether she meant what she said
or not.

In spite of himself, as before, he continued to believe her, though his
judgment told him that hers could not be worth much. But he was pleased
to have made such an impression, and by quick degrees his prejudice
against her began to disappear. What had seemed like boldness in her no
longer shocked him, and he described it to himself as the innocent
frankness of a foreign girl. It was not possible that any one so like
the dead Maria Braccio could be vulgar or bold. From that moment he
began to rank Gloria as belonging to the higher sphere from which his
birth excluded him. It was a curious and quick transition, and he would
not have admitted that it was due to her exaggerated praise of his work.
Strange as it must seem to those not familiar with the almost impassable
barriers of old Italian society, Reanda had that evening, for the first
time in his life, the sensation of being liked, admired, and talked with
by a woman of Francesca Campodonico's class; stranger still, it was one
of the most delicious sensations he had ever experienced. Yet the woman
in question was but a girl not yet seventeen years old. Before he rose
to go home, he unconsciously resented Griggs's silent admiration for
Gloria. To the average Italian, such silence is a sign that a man is in
love, and Reanda was the more attracted to Gloria because she treated
Griggs with such perfect indifference.

It was nearly one o'clock when he lighted his taper to descend the
stairs. Griggs was also ready to go. It was a relief to know that he was
not going to stay behind and talk with Gloria. They went down in
silence.

"I wanted to ask you a question," said the American, as they came out
upon the street, and blew out their tapers. "We live in opposite
directions, so I must ask it now. Should you mind, if I wrote an article
on your frescoes for a London paper?"

"Mind!" exclaimed the artist, with a sudden revulsion of feeling in
favour of the journalist. "I should be delighted--flattered."

"No," said Griggs, coldly. "I shall not write as Miss Dalrymple talks.
But I shall try and do you justice, and that is a good deal, when one is
a serious artist, as you are."

Reanda was struck by the cool moderation of the words, which expressed
his own modest judgment of himself almost too exactly to be agreeable
after Gloria's unlimited praise. He thanked Griggs warmly, however, and
they shook hands before they parted.



CHAPTER XXII.

THREE months passed, and Reanda was intimate with the Dalrymples. It was
natural enough, considering the circumstances. They lived much alone,
and Reanda was like them in this respect, for he rarely went where he
was obliged to talk. During the day he saw much of Donna Francesca, but
when it grew dark in the early afternoons of midwinter, the artist was
thrown upon his own resources. In former years he had now and then done
as many of the other artists did, and had sometimes for a month or two
spent most of his evenings at the eating-house where he dined, in
company with half-a-dozen others who frequented the same establishment.
Each dropped in, at any hour that chanced to suit him, ate his supper,
pushed back his chair, and joined in the general conversation, smoking,
and drinking coffee or a little wine, until it was time to go home.
There were grey-headed painters who had hardly been absent more than a
few days in five and twenty years from their accustomed tables at such
places as the Falcone, the Gabbione, or the Genio. But Reanda had never
joined in any of these little circles for longer than a month or two,
by which time he had exhausted the stock of his companions' ideas, and
returned to solitude and his own thoughts. For he had something which
they had not, besides his greater talent, his broader intelligence, and
his deeper artistic insight. Donna Francesca's refining influence
exerted itself continually upon him, and made much of the common
conversation tiresome or disagreeable to him. A man whose existence is
penetrated by the presence of a rarely refined woman seldom cares much
for the daily society of men. He prefers to be alone, when he cannot be
with her.

Reanda believed that what he felt for Francesca was a devoted and almost
devout friendship. The fact that before many weeks had passed after his
first meeting with Gloria he was perceptibly in love with the girl,
while he felt not the smallest change in his relations with Donna
Francesca, satisfactorily proved to him that he was right. It would not
have been like an Italian and a Latin to compare his feelings for the
two women by imaginary tests, as, for instance, by asking himself for
which of the two he would make the greater sacrifice. He took it for
granted that the one sentiment was friendship and the other love, and he
acted accordingly.

He was distrustful, indeed, and very suspicious, but not of himself.
Gloria treated him too well. Her eyes told him more than he felt able to
believe. It was not natural that a girl so young and fresh and
beautiful, with the world before her, should fall in love with a man of
his age. That, at least, was what he thought. But the fact that it was
unnatural did not prevent it from taking place.

Reanda ignored certain points of great importance. In the first place,
Gloria had not really the world before her. Her little sphere was
closely limited by her father's morose selfishness, which led him to
keep her in Rome because he liked the place himself, and to keep away
from his countrymen, whom he detested as heartily as Britons living
abroad sometimes do. On the other hand, a vague dread lest the story of
his marriage might some day come to the light kept him away from Roman
society. He had fallen back upon artistic Bohemia for such company as he
wanted, which was little enough, and as his child grew up he had not
understood that she was developing early and coming to womanhood while
she was still under the care of the governess he had provided. He had
not even made any plans for her future, for he did not love her, though
he indulged her as a selfish and easy means of fulfilling his paternal
obligations. It was to get rid of her importunity that he began to take
her to the houses of some of the married artists when she was only
sixteen years old, though she looked at least two years older.

But in such society as that, Reanda was easily first, apart from the
talent which placed him at the head of the whole artistic profession. He
had been brought up, taught, and educated among gentlemen, sons of one
of the oldest and most fastidious aristocracies in Europe, and he had
their manners, their speech, their quiet air of superiority, and
especially that exterior gentleness and modesty of demeanour which most
touches some women. In Gloria's opinion, he even had much of their
appearance, being tall, thin, and dark. Accustomed as she was to living
with her father, who was gloomy and morose, and to seeing much of Paul
Griggs, whose powers of silence were phenomenal at that time, Reanda's
easy grace of conversation charmed and flattered her. He was, by many
degrees, the superior in talent, in charm, in learning, to any one she
had ever met, and it must not be forgotten that although he was twenty
years older than she, he was not yet forty, and that, as he had not a
grey hair in his head, he could still pass for a young man, though his
grave disposition made him feel older than he was. Of the three
melancholic men in whose society she chiefly lived, her father was
selfish and morose; Griggs was gentle, but silent and incomprehensible,
though he exerted an undoubted influence over her; Reanda alone, though
naturally melancholy, was at once gentle, companionable, and talkative
with her.

Dalrymple accepted the intimacy with indifference and even with a
certain satisfaction. In his reflexions, he characterized Reanda as a
rare combination of the great artist and the gentleman. Since Gloria had
known him she had grown more quiet. She admired him and imitated his
manner. It was a good thing. He was glad, too, that Reanda was not
married, for it would have been a nuisance, thought Dalrymple, to have
the man's wife always about and expecting to be amused.

It began to occur to him that Reanda might be falling in love with
Gloria, and he did not resent the idea. In fact, though at first sight
it should have seemed strange to an Englishman, he looked upon the idea
with favour. He wished to live out his life in Italy, for he had got
that fierce affection for the country which has overcome and bound many
northern men, from Sir John Hawkwood to Landor and Browning. Though he
did not love Gloria, he was attached to her in his own way, and did not
wish to lose sight of her altogether. But, in consequence of his own
irregular marriage, he could not marry her to a man of his own rank in
Rome, who would not fail to make inquiries about her mother. It was most
natural that he should look upon such a man as Reanda with favour.
Reanda had many good qualities. Dalrymple's judgment was generally keen
enough about people, and he had understood that such a woman as Donna
Francesca Campodonico would certainly not make a personal friend of a
painter, and allow him to occupy rooms in her palace, unless his
character were altogether above suspicion.

Gloria was, of course, too young to be married yet, though she seemed to
be so entirely grown up and altogether a woman. In this respect
Dalrymple was not prejudiced. His own mother had been married at the age
of seventeen, and he had lived long in Italy, where early marriages were
common enough. There could certainly be no serious objection to the
match on that score, when another year should have passed.

Dalrymple's only anxiety about his daughter concerned her strong
inclination to be a public singer. The prejudice was by no means
extraordinary, and as a Scotchman, it had even more weight with him than
it could have had, for instance, with an Italian. Reanda entirely agreed
with him on this point, and when Gloria spoke of it, he never failed to
draw a lively picture of the drawbacks attending stage life. The artist
spoke very strongly, for one of Gloria's earliest and chiefest
attractions in his eyes had been the certainty he felt that she belonged
to Francesca's class. For that reason her flattering admiration had
brought with it a peculiar savour, especially delightful to the taste of
a man of humble origin. Dalrymple did not understand that, but he knew
that if Gloria married the great painter, the latter would effectually
keep her from the stage.

As for Griggs, the Scotchman was well aware that the poor young
journalist might easily fall in love with the beautiful girl. But this
did not deter him at all from having Griggs constantly at the house.
Griggs was the only man he had ever met who did not bore him, who could
be silent for an hour at a time, who could swallow as much strong wine
as he without the slightest apparent effect upon his manner, who
understood all he said, though sometimes saying things which he could
not understand--in short, Griggs was a necessity to him. The young man
was perhaps aware of the fact, and he found Dalrymple congenial to his
own temper; but he was as excessively proud as he was extremely poor, at
that time, and he managed to refuse the greater part of the hospitality
offered to him, simply because he could not return it. It was very
rarely that he accepted an invitation to a meal, though he now generally
came in the evening, besides meeting Dalrymple almost every morning when
they went to the bookseller's together.

He puzzled the Scotchman strangely. He was an odd combination of a
thinker and an athlete, half literary man, half gladiator. The common
phrase 'an old head on young shoulders' described him as well as any
phrase could. The shoulders were perhaps the more remarkable, but the
head was not to be despised. A man who could break a horseshoe and tear
in two a pack of cards, and who spent his spare time in studying Hegel
and Kant, when he was not writing political correspondence for
newspapers, deserved to be considered an exception. He seemed to have no
material wants, and yet he had the animal power of enjoying material
things even in excess, which is rare. He had a couple of rooms in the
Via della Frezza, between the Corso and the Ripetta, where he lived in a
rather mysterious way, though he made no secret about it. Occasionally
an acquaintance climbed the steep stairs, but no one ever got him to
open the door nor to give any sign that he was at home, if he were
within. A one-eyed cobbler acted as porter downstairs, from morning till
night, astride upon his bench and ever at work, an ill-savoured old pipe
in his mouth.

"You may try," he answered, when any one asked for Griggs. "Who knows?
Perhaps Sor Paolo will open. Try a little, if you have patience."

Patience being exhausted, the visitor came down the five flights again,
and remonstrated with the cobbler.

"I did not say anything," he would reply, in a cloud of smoke. "Many
have tried. I told you to try. Am I to tell you that no one has ever
got in? Why? To disoblige you? If you want anything of Sor Paolo, say
it to me. Or come again."

"But he will not open," objected the visitor.

"Oh, that is true," returned the man of one eye. "But if you wish to
try, I am not here to hinder you. This is the truth."

Now and then, some one more inquisitive suggested that there might be a
lady in the question. The one eye then fixed itself in a vacant stare.

"Females?" the cobbler would exclaim. "Not even cats. What passes
through your head? He is alone always. If you do not believe me, you can
try. I do not say Sor Paolo will not open the door. A door is a door, to
be opened."

"But since I have tried!"

"And I, what can I do? You have come, you have seen, you have knocked,
and no one has opened. May the Madonna accompany you! I can do nothing."

So even the most importunate of visitors departed at last. But Griggs
had taken Dalrymple up to his lodgings more than once, and they had sat
there for an hour talking over books. Dalrymple observed, indeed, that
Griggs was more inclined to talk in his own rooms than anywhere else,
and that his manner then changed so much as to make him almost seem to
be a different man. There was a look of interest in the stony mask, and
there was a light in the deep-set eyes which neither wine nor wit could
bring there at other times. The man wore his armour against the world,
as it were, a tough shell made up of a poor man's pride, and solid with
that sense of absolute physical superiority which is an element in the
character of strong men, and which the Scotchman understood. He himself
had been of the strong, but not always the strongest. Paul Griggs had
never yet been matched by any man since he had first got his growth. He
was the equal of many in intellect, but his bodily strength was not
equalled by any in his youth and manhood. The secret of his one
well-hidden vanity lay in that. His moral power showed itself in his
assumed modesty about it, for it was almost impossible to prevail upon
him to make exhibition of it. Gloria alone seemed able to induce him,
for her especial amusement, to break a silver dollar with his fingers,
or tear a pack of cards, and then only in the presence of her father or
Reanda, but never before other people.

"You are the strongest man in the world, are you not?" she asked him
once.

"Yes," he answered. "I probably am, if it is I. I am vain of it, but not
proud of it. That makes me think sometimes that I am two men in one.
That might account for it, you know."

"What nonsense!" Gloria laughed.

"Is it? I daresay it is." And he relapsed into indifference, so far as
she could see.

"What is the other man like?" she asked. "Not the strong man of the two,
but the other?"

"He is a good man. The strong man is bad. They fight, and the result is
insignificance. Some day one of the two will get the better of the
other."

"What will happen then?" she asked lightly, and still inclined to laugh.

"One or the other, or both, will die, I suppose," he answered.

"How very unpleasant!"

She did not at all understand what he meant. At the same time she could
not help feeling that he was eminently a man to whom she would turn in
danger or trouble. Girl though she was, she could not mistake his great
admiration of her, and by degrees, as the winter wore on, she trusted
him more, though he still repelled her a little, for his saturnine calm
was opposed to her violent vitality, as a black rock to a tawny torrent.
Griggs had neither the manner nor the temper which wins women's hearts
as a rule. Such men are sometimes loved by women when their sorrow has
chained them to the rock of horror, and grief insatiable tears out their
broken hearts. But in their strength they are not loved. They cannot
give themselves yet, for their strength hinders them, and women think
them miserly of words and of love's little coin of change. If they get
love at last, it is as the pity which the unhurt weak feel for the
ruined strong.

Gloria was not above irritating Griggs occasionally, when the fancy took
her to seek amusement in that way. She knew how to do it, and he rarely
turned upon her, even in the most gentle way.

"We are good friends, are we not?" she asked one day, when it was
raining and he was alone with her, waiting for her father to come in.

"I hope so," he answered, turning his impassive face slowly towards her.

"Then you ought to be much nicer to me," she said.

"I am as nice as I know how to be," replied Griggs, with fixed eyes.
"What shall I do?"

"That is it. You ought to know. You could talk and say pleasant things,
for instance. Don't you admit that you are very dull to-day?"

"I admit it. I regret it, and I wish I were not."

"You need not be. I am sure you can talk very well, when you please. You
are not exactly funny at any time, but to-day you are funereal. You
remind me of those big black horses they use for hearses, you know."

"Thank you, thank you," said Griggs, quietly, repeating the words
without emphasis.

"I don't like you!" she exclaimed petulantly, but with a little laugh.

"I know that," he answered. "But I like you very much. We were probably
meant to differ."

"Then you might amuse me. It's awfully dull when it rains. Pull the
house down, or tear up silver scudi, or something."

"I am not Samson, and I am not a clown," observed Griggs, coldly.

"I shall never like you if you are so disagreeable," said Gloria, taking
up a book, and settling herself to read.

"I am afraid you never will," answered Griggs, following her example.

A few minutes passed in silence. Then Gloria looked up suddenly.

"Mr. Griggs?"

"Yes?"

"I did not mean to be horrid."

"No, of course not."

"Because, if I were ever in trouble, you know--I should come straight to
you."

"Thank you," he answered very gently. "But I hope you will never be in
trouble. If you ever should be--" He stopped.

"Well?"

"I do not think you would find anybody who would try harder to help
you," he said simply.

She wished that his voice would tremble, or that he would put out his
hand towards her, or show something a little more like emotion. But she
had to be satisfied.

"Would it be the good man or the bad man that would help me?" she
asked, remembering the former conversation.

"Both," answered Griggs, without hesitation.

"I am not sure that I might not like the bad man better," said Gloria,
almost to herself.

"Is Reanda a bad man?" inquired Griggs, slowly, and looking for the
blush in her face.

"Why?" But she blushed, as he expected.

"Because you like him better than me."

"You are quite different. It is of no use to talk about it, and I want
to read."

She turned from him and buried herself in her book, but she moved
restlessly two or three times, and it was some minutes before the
heightened colour disappeared from her face.

She was very girlish still, and when she had irritated Griggs as far as
such a man was capable of irritation, she preferred to refuse battle
rather than deal with the difficulty she had created. But Griggs
understood, and amongst his still small sufferings he often felt the
little, dull, hopeless pang which tells a man that he is unlovable.



CHAPTER XXIII.


VERY late, one night in the Carnival season, Paul Griggs was walking the
streets alone. His sufferings were no longer so small as they had been,
and the bitterness of solitude was congenial to him.

He had been at the house of a Spanish artist, where there had been
dancing and music and supper and improvised tableaux. Gloria and her
father and Reanda had all been there, too, and something had happened
which had stirred the depths of the young man's slow temper. He hated to
make an exhibition of himself, and much against his will he had been
exhibited, as it were, to help the gaiety of the entertainment. Cotogni,
the great sculptor, had suggested that Griggs should appear as Samson,
asleep with his head on Delilah's knee, and bound by her with cords
which he should seem to break as the Philistines rushed in. He had
refused flatly, again and again, till all the noisy party caught the
idea and forced him to it.

They had dressed him in silk draperies, his mighty arms bare almost to
the shoulder, and they had given him a long, dark, theatrical wig. They
had bound his arms and chest with cords, and had made him lie down and
pretend to be asleep at the feet of the artist's beautiful wife. They
had made slipping knots in the cords, so that he could easily wrench
them loose. Then the curtain had been drawn aside, and there had been a
pause as the tableau was shown. All at once a mob of artists, draped
hastily in anything they could lay their hands upon, and with all manner
of helmets on their heads from the Spaniard's collection, had rushed in.

"The Philistines are upon thee!" cried Delilah in a piercing voice.

He sprang to his feet, his legs being free, and he struggled with the
cords. The knots would not slip as they were meant to do. The situation
lasted several seconds, and was ridiculous enough.

People began to laugh.

"Cut off his hair!" cried one.

"Of what use was the wig?" laughed another, and every one tittered.

Griggs could hear Gloria's clear, high laugh above the rest. His blood
slowly rose in his throat. But no one pulled the curtain across. The
Philistines, young artists, mad with Carnival, improvised a very
eccentric dance of triumph, and the laughter increased.

Griggs looked at the cords. Then his mask-like face turned slowly to the
audience. Only the great veins swelled suddenly at his temples, while
every one watched him in the general amusement. Suddenly his eyes
flashed, and he drew a deep breath, for he was angry. In an instant
there was dead silence in the room. A moment later one of the cords,
drawn tight round his chest, over the silk robe, snapped like a thread,
then another, and then a third. Then in a sort of frenzy of anger he
savagely broke the whole cord into pieces with his hands, tossing the
bits contemptuously upon the floor. His face was as white as a dead
man's.

A roar of applause broke the silence when the guests realized what he
had done. The artists seized him and carried him high in procession
round the room, the women threw flowers at him, and some one struck up a
triumphal march on the piano. It was an ovation. Half an hour later,
dressed again in his ordinary clothes, he found himself next to Gloria.

"You told me the other day that you were not Samson," she said. "You see
you can be when you choose."

"No," answered Griggs, coldly; "I am a clown."

What she had said was natural enough, but somehow the satisfaction of
his bodily vanity had stung his moral pride beyond endurance. It seemed
a despicable thing to be as vain as he was of a gift for which he had
not paid any price. Deep down, too, he felt bitterly that he had never
received the slightest praise for any thought of his which he had
written down and sent to that cauldron of the English daily press in
which all individual right to distinction disappears, with all claim to
praise, from written matter, however good it be. He worked, he read, he
studied, he wrote late, and rose early to observe. But his natural gift
was to be a mountebank, a clown, a circus Hercules. By stiffening one of
his senseless arms he could bring down roars of applause. By years of
bitter labour with his pen he earned the barest living. The muscles that
a porter might have, offered him opulence, because it was tougher by a
few degrees than the flesh of other men. The knowledge he had striven
for just kept him above absolute want.

He slipped away from the gay party as soon as he could. His last glance
round the room showed him Angelo Reanda and Gloria, sitting in a corner
apart. The girl's face was grave. There was a gentle and happy light in
the artist's eyes which Griggs had never seen. That also was the strong
man's portion.

Wrathfully he strode away from the house, under the dim oil lamps, an
unlighted cigar between his teeth, his soft felt hat drawn over his
eyes. He crossed the city towards the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona,
his cigar still unlighted.

The streets were alive, though it was very late. There was more freedom
to be gay and more hope of being simply happy in those days. Many men
and women wandered about in bands of ten or a dozen, singing in soft
voices, above which now and then rose a few ringing tenor notes. There
was laughter everywhere in the air; tambourines drummed and thumped and
jingled, guitars twanged, and mandolines tinkled and quavered. From a
dark lane somewhere off the broader thoroughfare, a single voice sang
out in serenade. The Corso was bright with unusual lights, and strewn
with the birdseed and plaster-of-Paris 'confetti,' with yellow sand and
sprigs of box leaves, and withering flowers, and there was about all the
neighbourhood that peculiar smell of plaster and crushed flower-stalks
which belonged then to the street carnival of Rome. Further on, in the
dim quarters by the Tiber, the wine shops were all crowded, and men
stood and drank outside on the pavement, and paid, and went laughing on,
laughing and singing, singing and laughing, through the night.

Griggs felt the penetrating loneliness of him who cannot laugh amidst
laughter, and it was congenial to him. He had always been alone, and he
felt that the world held no companion for him. There was satisfaction in
knowing that no one could ever guess what went on between his heart and
his head.

He wandered on with the same even, untiring stride, for a long time,
through the dark and winding ways, from the Pantheon through the old
city, through Piazza Paganica and Costaguti to Piazza Montanara, where
the carters and carriers congregate from the country. There, in the
middle of the three-cornered open space, a flag in the paving marked the
spot on which men used to be put to death. To-night even the carriers
were making merry. Griggs was thirsty, and paused at the door of a wine
shop. Though it was winter, men were sitting outside, for there was no
more room within. A flaring torch of pitched rope was stuck in an iron
ring, and shed an uncertain, smoky light upon the men's faces. A drawer
in an apron brought Griggs a glass, and he drank standing.

"It makes no difference," said a rough voice in the little crowd. "They
may cut off my head there on the paving-stone. They would do me a
favour. If I find him, I kill him. An evil death on him and all his
house!"

Griggs looked at the speaker without surprise, for he had often heard
such things said. He saw an iron-grey man in good peasant's clothes of
dark blue with broad silver buttons, a man with a true Roman face, a
small aquiline nose, and keen, dark eyes. He turned away, and began to
retrace his steps.

In half an hour he was at the door of the old Falcone inn, gone now like
many relics of that day. It stood in the Piazza of Saint Eustace near
the Pantheon, and in its time was the best of the old-fashioned
eating-houses. Griggs felt suddenly hungry. He had walked seven or eight
miles since he had left the party. He entered, and passed through the
crowded rooms below and up the narrow steps to a small upper chamber,
where he hoped to be alone. But there, also, every seat was taken.

To his surprise Dalrymple and Reanda were at the table furthest from
him, in earnest conversation, with a measure of wine between them.
Griggs had never seen the Italian there before, but the latter caught
sight of him as he stood in the door, and rose to his feet, making a
sign which meant that he was going away, and that the chair was vacant.
Griggs came forward, and looked into his face as they met. There was the
same gentle and happy light in Reanda's eyes which had been there when
he was sitting with Gloria in the corner of the Spanish artist's
drawing-room. Then Griggs understood and knew the truth, and guessed the
meaning of the unaccustomed pressure of the hand as Reanda greeted him
without speaking, and hurriedly went out.

Dalrymple had seen Griggs coming and was already calling to a man in a
spotless white jacket for another glass and more wine. The Scotchman's
bony face was haggard, but there was a little colour in his cheeks, and
he seemed pleased.

"Sit down, Griggs," he said. "There are no more chairs, so we can keep
the table to ourselves. I hope you are half as thirsty as I am."

"Rather more than half," answered the other, and he drank eagerly. "Give
me some more, please," he said, holding out his glass.

"I see that you are in the right humour to hear good news," said the
Scot. "Reanda is to marry my daughter in the summer."

"I congratulate you all three," said Griggs, slowly, for he had known
what was coming. "Let us drink the health of the couple."

"By all means," answered Dalrymple, filling again. "By all means let us
drink. I could not swallow that sweet stuff at Mendoza's. This is
better. By all means let us drink as much as we can."

"That might mean a good deal," said Griggs, quickly, and he drained a
third glass. "Were you ever drunk, Dalrymple?" he inquired gravely.

"No. I never was," answered the Scotchman.

"Nor I. This seems a fitting occasion for trying an experiment. We might
try to get drunk."

"By all means, let us try," replied Dalrymple. "I have my doubts about
the possibility of the thing, however."

"So have I."

They sat opposite to one another in silence for some minutes, each
satisfied that the other was in earnest. Dalrymple solemnly filled the
glasses and then leaned back in his chair.

"You did not seem much surprised by what I told you," he observed at
last. "I suppose you expected it."

"Yes. It seemed natural enough, though it is not always the natural
things that happen."

"I think they are suited to marry. Of course, Reanda is very much older,
but he is comparatively a young man still."

"Comparatively. He will make a better husband for having had experience,
I daresay."

"That depends on what experience he has had. When I first saw him I
thought he was in love with Donna Francesca. It would have been like an
artist. They are mostly fools. But I was mistaken. He worships at a
distance."

"And she preserves the distance," Griggs remarked. "You are not drinking
fair. My glass is empty."

Dalrymple finished his and refilled both.

"I have been here some time," he observed, half apologetically. "But as
I was saying--or rather, as you were saying--Donna Francesca preserves
the distance. These Italians do that admirably. They know the difference
between intimacy and familiarity."

"That is a nice distinction," said Griggs. "I will use it in my next
letter. No. Donna Francesca could never be familiar with any one. They
learn it when they are young, I suppose, and it becomes a
race-characteristic."

"What?" asked Dalrymple, abruptly.

"A certain graceful loftiness," answered the younger man.

The Scotchman's wrinkled eyelids contracted, and he was silent for a few
moments.

"A certain graceful loftiness," he repeated slowly. "Yes, perhaps so. A
certain graceful loftiness."

"You seem struck by the expression," said Griggs.

"I am. Drink, man, drink!" added Dalrymple, suddenly, in a different
tone. "There's no time to be lost if we mean to drink enough to hurt us
before those beggars go to bed."

"Never fear. They will be up all night. Not that it is a reason for
wasting time, as you say."

He drank his glass and watched Dalrymple as the latter did likewise,
with that deliberate intention which few but Scotchmen can maintain on
such occasions. The wine might have been poured into a quicksand, for
any effect it had as yet produced.

"Those race-characteristics of families are very curious," continued
Griggs, thoughtfully.

"Are they?" Dalrymple looked at him suspiciously.

"Very. Especially voices. They run in families, like resemblance of
features."

"So they do," answered the other, thoughtfully. "So they do."

He had of late years got into the habit of often repeating such short
phrases, in an absent-minded way.

"Yes," said Griggs. "I noticed Donna Francesca's voice, the first time I
ever heard it. It is one of those voices which must be inherited. I am
sure that all her family have spoken as she does. It reminds me of
something--of some one--"

Dalrymple raised his eyes suddenly again, as though he were irritated.

"I say," he began, interrupting his companion. "Do you feel anything?
Anything queer in your head?"

"No. Why?"

"You are talking rather disconnectedly, that is all."

"Am I? It did not strike me that I was incoherent. Probably one half of
me was asleep while the other was talking." He laughed drily, and drank
again. "No," he said thoughtfully, as he set down his glass. "I feel
nothing unusual in my head. It would be odd if I did, considering that
we have only just begun."

"So I thought," answered Dalrymple.

He ordered more wine and relapsed into silence. Neither spoke again for
a long time.

"There goes another bottle," said Dalrymple, at last, as he drained the
last drops from the flagon measure. "Drink a little faster. This is slow
work. We know the old road well enough."

"You are not inclined to give up the attempt, are you?" inquired Griggs,
whose still face showed no change. "Is it fair to eat? I am hungry."

"Certainly. Eat as much as you like."

Griggs ordered something, which was brought after considerable delay,
and he began to eat.

"We are not loquacious over our cups," remarked Dalrymple. "Should you
mind telling me why you are anxious to get drunk to-night for the first
time in your life?"

"I might ask you the same question," answered Griggs, cautiously.

"Merely because you proposed it. It struck me as a perfectly new idea. I
have not much to amuse me, you know, and I shall have less when my
daughter leaves me. It would be an amusement to lose one's head in some
way."

"In such a way as to be able to get it back, you mean. I was walking
this evening after the party, and I came to the Piazza Montanara. There
is a big flagstone there on which people used to leave their heads for
good."

"Yes. I have seen it. You cannot tell me much about Rome which I do not
know."

"There were a lot of carriers drinking close by. It was rather grim, I
thought. An old fellow there had a spite against somebody. You know how
they talk. 'They may cut off my head there on the paving-stone,' the man
said. 'If I find him, I kill him. An evil death on him and all his
house!' You have heard that sort of thing. But the fellow seemed to be
very much in earnest."

"He will probably kill his man," said Dalrymple.

Suddenly his big, loose shoulders shook a little, and he shivered. He
glanced towards the window, suspecting that it might be open.

"Are you cold?" asked Griggs, carelessly.

"Cold? No. Some one was walking over my grave, as they say. If we varied
the entertainment with something stronger, we should get on faster,
though."

"No," said Griggs. "I refuse to mix things. This may be the longer way,
but it is the safer."

And he drank again.

"He was a man from Tivoli, or Subiaco," he remarked presently. "He spoke
with that accent."

"I daresay," answered Dalrymple, who looked down into his glass at that
moment, so that his face was in shadow.

Just then four men who had occupied a table near the door rose and went
out. It was late, even for a night in Carnival.

"I hope they are not going to leave us all to ourselves," said
Dalrymple. "The place will be shut up, and we need at least two hours
more."

"At least," assented Paul Griggs. "But they expect to be open all night.
I think there is time."

The men at the other tables showed no signs of moving. They sat quietly
in their places, drinking steadily, by sips. Some of them were eating
roasted chestnuts, and all were talking more or less in low tones.
Occasionally one voice or another rose above the rest in an exclamation,
but instantly subsided again. Italians of that class are rarely noisy,
for though the Romans drink deep, they generally have strong heads, and
would be ashamed of growing excited over their wine.

The air was heavy, for several men were smoking strong cigars. The
vaulted chamber was lighted by a single large oil lamp with a reflector,
hung by a cord from the intersection of the cross-arches. The floor was
of glazed white tiles, and the single window had curtains of Turkey red.
It was all very clean and respectable and well kept, even at that
crowded season, but the air was heavy with wine and tobacco, and the
smell of cooked food,--a peculiar atmosphere in which the old-fashioned
Roman delighted to sit for hours on holidays.

Dalrymple looked about him, moving his pale blue eyes without turning
his head. The colour had deepened a little on his prominent cheek bones,
and his eyes were less bright than usual. But his red hair, growing
sandy with grey, was brushed smoothly back, and his evening dress was
unruffled. He and Griggs were so evidently gentlemen, that some of the
Italians at the other tables glanced at them occasionally in quiet
surprise, not that they should be there, but that they should remain so
long, and so constantly renew their order for another bottle of wine.

Giulio, the stout, dark drawer in a spotless jacket, moved about
silently and quickly. One of the Italians glanced at Griggs and
Dalrymple and then at the waiter, who also glanced at them quickly and
then shrugged his shoulders almost perceptibly. Dalrymple saw both
glances, and his eyes lighted up.

"I believe that fellow is laughing at us," he said to Griggs.

"There is nothing to laugh at," answered the latter, unmoved. "But of
course, if you think so, throw him downstairs."

Dalrymple laughed drily.

"There is a certain calmness about the suggestion," he said. "It has a
good, old-fashioned ring to it. You are not a very civilized young man,
considering your intellectual attainments."

"I grew up at sea and before the mast. That may account for it."

"You seem to have crammed a good deal into a short life," observed
Dalrymple. "It must have been a classic ship, where they taught Greek
and Latin."

"The captain used to call her his Ship of Fools. As a matter of fact, it
was rather classic, as you say. The old man taught us navigation and
Greek verse by turns for five years. He was a university man with a
passion for literature, but I never knew a better sailor. He put me
ashore when I was seventeen with pretty nearly the whole of my five
years' pay in my pocket, and he made me promise that I would go to
college and stay as long as my money held out. I got through somehow,
but I am not sure that I bless him. He is afloat still, and I write to
him now and then."

"An Englishman, I suppose?"

"No. An American."

"What strange people you Americans are!" exclaimed Dalrymple, and he
drank again. "You take up a profession, and you wear it for a bit, like
a coat, and then change it for another," he added, setting down his
empty glass.

"Very much like you Scotch," answered Griggs. "I have heard you say that
you were a doctor once."

"A doctor--yes--in a way, for the sake of being a man of science, or
believing myself to be one. My family was opposed to it," he continued
thoughtfully. "My father told me it was his sincere belief that science
did not stand in need of any help from me. He said I was more likely to
need the help of science, like other lunatics. I will not say that he
was not right."

He laughed a little and filled his glass.

"Poor Dalrymple!" he exclaimed softly, still smiling.

Paul Griggs raised his slow eyes to his companion's face.

"It never struck me that you were much to be pitied," he observed.

"No, no. Perhaps not. But I will venture to say that the point is
debatable, and could be argued. 'To be, or not to be' is a question
admirably calculated to draw out the resources of the intellect in
argument, if you are inclined for that sort of diversion. It is a very
good thing, a very good thing for a man to consider and weigh that
question while he is young. Before he goes to sleep, you know, Griggs,
before he goes to sleep."

"'For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come--'" Griggs quoted,
and stopped.

"'When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.' You do not know your
Shakespeare, young man."

"'Must give us pause,'" continued Griggs. "I was thinking of the dreams,
not of the rest."


[Illustration:

          "Fire and sleet and candle-light;
             And Christ receive thy soul."

--Vol. I., p. 324.]

"Dreams? Yes. There will be dreams there. Dreams, and other
things--'this ae night of all.' Not that my reason admits that they can
be more than dreams, you know, Griggs. Reason says 'to sleep--no more.'
And fancy says 'perchance to dream.' Well, well, it will be a long
dream, that's all."

"Yes. We shall be dead a long time. Better drink now." And Griggs drank.

          "'Fire and sleet and candle-light,
              And Christ receive thy soul;'"

said Dalrymple, with a far-away look in his pale eyes. "Do you know the
Lyke-Wake Dirge, Griggs? It is a grand dirge. Hark to the swing of it.

          "'This ae night, this ae night,
             Every night and all,
           Fire and sleet and candle-light,
             And Christ receive thy soul.'"

He repeated the strange words in a dull, matter-of-fact way, with a
Scotch accent rarely perceptible in his conversation. Griggs listened.
He had heard the dirge before, with all its many stanzas, and it had
always had an odd fascination for him. He said nothing.

"It bodes no good to be singing a dirge at a betrothal," said the
Scotchman, suddenly. "Drink, man, drink! Drink till the blue devils fly
away. Drink--

          "'Till a' the seas gang dry, my love,
              Till a' the seas gang dry.'

Not that it is in the disposition of the Italian inn-keeper to give us
time for that," he added drily. "As I was saying, I am of a melancholic
temper. Not that I take you for a gay man yourself, Griggs. Drink a
little more. It is my opinion that a little more will produce an
agreeable impression upon you, my young friend. Drink a little more. You
are too grave for so very young a man. I should not wish to be
indiscreet, but I might almost take you for a man in love, if I did not
know you better. Were you ever in love, Griggs?"

"Yes," answered Griggs, quietly. "And you, Dalrymple? Were you never in
love?"

Dalrymple's loosely hung shoulders started suddenly, and his pale blue
eyes set themselves steadily to look at Griggs. The red brows were
shaggy, and there was a bright red spot on each cheek bone. He did not
answer his companion's question, though his lips moved once or twice as
though he were about to speak. They seemed unable to form words, and no
sound came from them.

His anger was near, perhaps, and with another man it might have broken
out. But the pale and stony face opposite him, and the deep, still eyes,
exercised a quieting influence, and whatever words rose to his lips were
never spoken. Griggs understood that he had touched the dead body of a
great passion, sacred in its death as it must have been overwhelming in
its life. He struck another subject immediately, and pretended not to
have noticed Dalrymple's expression.

"I like your queer old Scotch ballads," he said, humouring the man's
previous tendency to quote poetry.

"There's a lot of life in them still," answered Dalrymple, absently
twisting his empty glass.

Griggs filled it for him, and they both drank. Little by little the
Italians had begun to go away. Giulio, the fat, white-jacketed drawer,
sat nodding in a corner, and the light from the high lamp gleamed on his
smooth black hair as his head fell forward.

"There is a sincere vitality in our Scotch poets," said Dalrymple, as
though not satisfied with the short answer he had given. "There is a
very notable power of active living exhibited in their somewhat
irregular versification, and in the concatenation of their
ratiocinations regarding the three principal actions of the early
Scottish life, which I take to have been birth, stealing, and a violent
death."

"'But of these three charity is the greatest,'" observed Griggs, with
something like a laugh, for he saw that Dalrymple was beginning to make
long sentences, which is a bad sign for a Scotchman's sobriety.

"No," answered Dalrymple, with much gravity. "There I venture--indeed, I
claim the right--to differ with you. For the Scotchman is hospitable,
but not charitable. The process of the Scotch mind is unitary, if you
will allow me to coin a word for which I will pay with my glass."

And he forthwith fulfilled the obligation in a deep draught. Setting
down the tumbler, he leaned back in his chair and looked slowly round
the room. His lips moved. Griggs could just distinguish the last lines
of another old ballad.

          "'Night and day on me she cries,
            And I am weary of the skies
            Since--'"

He broke off and shook himself nervously, and looked at Griggs, as
though wondering whether the latter had heard.

"This wine is good," he said, rousing himself. "Let us have some more.
Giulio!"

The fat waiter awoke instantly at the call, looked, nodded, went out,
and returned immediately with another bottle.

"Is this the sixth or the seventh?" asked Dalrymple, slowly.

"Eight with Signor Reanda's," answered the man. "But Signor Reanda paid
for his as he went out. You have therefore seven. It might be enough."
Giulio smiled.

"Bring seven more, Giulio," said the Scotchman, gravely. "It will save
you six journeys."

"Does the Signore speak in earnest?" asked the servant, and he glanced
at Griggs, who was impassive as marble.

"You flatter yourself," said Dalrymple, impressively, to the man, "if
you imagine that I would make even a bad joke to amuse you. Bring seven
bottles." Giulio departed.

"That is a Homeric order," observed Griggs.

"I think--in fact, I am almost sure--that seven bottles more will
produce an impression upon one of us. But I have a decidedly melancholic
disposition, and I accustomed myself to Italian wine when I was very
young. Melancholy people can drink more than others. Besides, what does
such a bottle hold? I will show you. A tumbler to you, and one to me.
Drink; you shall see."

He emptied his glass and poured the remainder of the bottle into it.

"Do you see? Half a tumbler. Two and a half are a bottle. Seven bottles
are seventeen and a half glasses. What is that for you or me in a long
evening? My blue devils are large. It would take an ocean to float them
all. I insist upon going to bed in a good humour to-night, for once, in
honour of my daughter's engagement. By the bye, Griggs, what do you
think of Reanda?"

"He is a first-rate artist. I like him very well."

"A good man, eh? Well, well--from the point of view of discretion,
Griggs, I am doing right. But then, as you may very wisely object,
discretion is only a point of view. The important thing is the view, and
not the point. Here comes Ganymede with the seven vials of wrath! Put
them on the table, Giulio," he said, as the fat waiter came noiselessly
up, carrying the bottles by the necks between his fingers, three in one
hand and four in the other. "They make a fine show, all together," he
observed thoughtfully, with his bony head a little on one side.

"And may God bless you!" said Giulio, solemnly. "If you do not die
to-night, you will never die again."

"I regard it as improbable that we shall die more than once," answered
Dalrymple. "I believe," he said, turning to Griggs, "that when men are
drunk they make mistakes about money. We will pay now, while we are
sober."

Griggs insisted on paying his share. They settled, and Giulio went away
happy.

The two strong men sat opposite to each other, under the high lamp in
the small room, drinking on and on. There was something terrifying in
the Scotchman's determination to lose his senses--something grimly
horrible in the younger man's marble impassiveness, as he swallowed
glass for glass in time with his companion. His face grew paler still,
and colder, but there was a far-off gleaming in the shadowy eyes, like
the glimmer of a light over a lonely plain through the dark.
Dalrymple's spirits did not rise, but he talked more and more, and his
sentences became long and involved, and sometimes had no conclusion. The
wine was telling on him at last. He had never been so strong as Griggs,
at his best, and he was no match for him now. The younger man's
strangely dual nature seemed to place his head beyond anything which
could affect his senses.

Dalrymple talked on and on, rambling from one subject to another, and
not waiting for any answer when he asked a question. He quoted long
ballads and long passages from Shakespeare, and then turned suddenly off
upon a scientific subject, until some word of his own suggested another
quotation.

Griggs sat quietly in his seat, drinking as steadily, but paying little
attention now to what the Scotchman said. Something had got hold of his
heart, and was grinding it like grain between the millstones, grinding
it to dust and ashes. He knew that he could not sleep that night. He
might as well drink, for it could not hurt him. Nothing material had
power to hurt him, it seemed. He felt the pain of longing for the
utterly unattainable, knowing that it was beyond him forever. The
widowhood of the unsatisfied is hell, compared with the bereavement of
complete possession. He had not so much as told Gloria that he had loved
her. How could he, being but one degree above a beggar? The unspoken
words burned furrows in his heart, as molten metal scores smoking
channels in living flesh. Gloria would laugh, if she knew. The torture
made his face white. There was the scorn of himself with it, because a
mere child could hurt him almost to death, and that made it worse. A
mere child, barely out of the schoolroom, petulant, spoiled, selfish!

But she had the glory of heaven in her voice, and in her face the fatal
beauty of her dead mother's deadly sin. He need not have despised
himself for loving her. Her whole being appealed to that in man to which
no woman ever appealed in vain since the first Adam sold heaven to Satan
for woman's love.

Dalrymple, leaning on his elbow, one hand in his streaked beard, the
other grasping his glass, talked on and quoted more and more.

          "'The flame took fast upon her cheek,
              Took fast upon her chin,
            Took fast upon her fair body
              Because of her deadly sin.'"

His voice dropped to a hoarse whisper at the last words, and suddenly,
regardless of his companion, his hand covered his eyes, and his long
fingers strained desperately on his bony forehead. Griggs watched him,
thinking that he was drunk at last.

"Because of her deadly sin," he repeated slowly, and the tone changed.
"There is no sin in it!" he cried suddenly, in a low voice, that had a
distant, ghostly ring in it.

He looked up, and his eyes were changed, and Griggs knew that they no
longer saw him.

"Stiff," he said softly. "Quite stiff. Dead two or three hours, I
daresay. It stands up on its feet beside me--certainly dead two or three
hours."

He nodded wisely to himself twice, and then spoke again in the same
far-off tone, gazing past Griggs, at the wall.

"The clothes-basket is a silly idea. Besides, I should lose the night.
Rather carry it myself--wrap it up in the plaid. She'll never know, when
she has it on her head. Who cares?"

A long silence followed. One hand grasped the empty glass. The other lay
motionless on the table. The blue eyes, with widely dilated pupils,
stared at the wall, never blinking nor turning. But in the face there
was the drawn expression of a bodily effort. Presently Griggs saw the
fine beads of perspiration on the great forehead. Then the voice spoke
again, but in Italian this time.

"You had better look away while I go by. It is not a pretty sight. No,"
he continued, changing to English, "not at all a pretty sight. Stiff as
a board still."

The unwinking eyes dilated. The bright colour was gone from the cheek
bones.

"It burns very well," he said again in Italian. The whole face quivered
and the hard lips softened and kissed the air. "It is golden--I can see
it in the dark--but I must cover it, darling. Quick--this way. At last!
No--you cannot see the fire, but it is burning well, I am sure. Hold on!
Hold the pommel of the saddle with both hands--so!"

The voice ceased. Griggs began to understand. He touched Dalrymple's
sleeve, leaning across the table.

"I say!" he called softly. "Dalrymple!"

The Scotchman started violently, and the pupils of his eyes contracted.
The empty glass in his right hand rattled on the hard wood. Then he
smiled vaguely at Griggs.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed in his natural voice. "I think I must have been
napping--'Sleep'ry Sim of the Lamb-hill, and snoring Jock of
Suport-mill!' By Jove, Griggs, we have got near the point at last. One
bottle left, eh? The seventh.

          "'Then up and gat the seventh o' them,
            And never a word spake he;
            But he has striped his bright brown brand--'

The rest has no bearing upon the subject," he concluded, filling both
glasses. "Griggs," he said, before he drank, "I am afraid this settles
the matter."

"I am afraid it does," said Griggs.

"Yes. I had hopes a little while ago, which appeared well founded. But
that unfortunate little nap has sent me back to the starting-point. I
should have to begin all over again. It is very late, I fancy. Let us
drink this last glass to our own two selves, and then give it up."

Something had certainly sobered the Scotchman again, or at least cleared
his head, for he had not been drunk in the ordinary sense of the word.

"It cannot be said that we have not given the thing a fair trial," said
Griggs, gloomily. "I shall certainly not take the trouble to try it
again."

Nevertheless he looked at his companion curiously, as they both rose to
their feet together. Dalrymple doubled his long arms as he stood up and
stretched them out.

"It is curious," he said. "I feel as though I had been carrying a heavy
weight in my arms. I did once, for some distance," he added
thoughtfully, "and I remember the sensation."

"Very odd," said Griggs, lighting a cigar.

Giulio, sitting outside, half asleep, woke up as he heard the steady
tread of the two strong men go by.

"If you do not die to-night, you will never die again!" he said, half
aloud, as he rose to go in and clear the room where the guests had been
sitting.


END OF VOL. I.



CASA BRACCIO

[Illustration]

[Illustration: "As he stood there repeating the name."--Vol. II., p.
331.]



CASA BRACCIO

BY

F. MARION CRAWFORD

AUTHOR OF "SARACINESCA," "PIETRO GHISLERI," ETC.

IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. II.

_WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. CASTAIGNE_

                 =New York=
              MACMILLAN AND CO.
                 AND LONDON
                    1895

          _All rights reserved_



          COPYRIGHT, 1894,
          BY F. MARION CRAWFORD.

          =Norwood Press=
          J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
          Norwood Mass. U.S.A.



CONTENTS.


          PART II.--_Continued._
          GLORIA DALRYMPLE                   1

          PART III.
          DONNA FRANCESCA CAMPODONICO      227



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


VOL. II.

                                                   PAGE
          "Gloria--forgive me!"                      50

          Stefanone and Gloria                      100

          "The horror of poverty smote him"         123

          "Let us not speak of the dead"            203

          "The last great, true note died away"     219

          "As he stood there repeating the name"    331



Part II.--_Continued._

_GLORIA DALRYMPLE._



CASA BRACCIO.

PART II.--_Continued._

_GLORIA DALRYMPLE._



CHAPTER XXIV.


DURING the first few months of their marriage Reanda and Gloria believed
themselves happy, and really were, since there is no true criterion of
man's happiness but his own belief in it. They took a small furnished
apartment at the corner of the Macel de' Corvi, with an iron balcony
overlooking the Forum of Trajan. They would have had no difficulty in
obtaining other rooms adjoining the two Reanda had so long occupied in
the Palazzetto Borgia, but Gloria was opposed to the arrangement, and
Reanda did not insist upon it. The Forum of Trajan was within a
convenient distance of the palace, and he went daily to his work.

"Besides," said Gloria, "you will not always be painting frescoes for
Donna Francesca. I want you to paint a great picture, and send it to
Paris and get a medal."

She was ambitious for him, and dreamed of his winning world-wide fame.
She loved him, and she felt that Francesca had caged him, as Francesca
herself had once felt. She wished to remove him altogether from the
latter's influence, both because she was frankly jealous of his
friendship for the older woman, and wished to have him quite to herself,
and also in the belief that he could do greater things if he were
altogether freed from the task of decorating the palace, which had kept
him far too long in one limited sequence of production. There was,
moreover, a selfish consideration of vanity in her view, closely linked
with her unbounded admiration for her husband. She knew that she was
beautiful, and she wished his greatest work to be a painting of herself.

Gloria, however, wished also to take a position in Roman society, and
the only person who could help her and her husband to cross the line was
Francesca Campodonico. It was therefore impossible for Gloria to break
up the intimacy altogether, however much she might wish to do so.
Meanwhile, too, Reanda had not finished his frescoes.

Soon after the marriage, which took place in the summer, Dalrymple left
Rome, intending to be absent but a few months in Scotland, where his
presence was necessary on account of certain family affairs and
arrangements consequent upon the death of Lord Redin, the head of his
branch of the Dalrymples, and of Lord Redin's son only a few weeks
later, whereby the title went to an aged great-uncle of Angus
Dalrymple's, who was unmarried, so that Dalrymple's only brother became
the next heir.

Gloria was therefore quite alone with her husband. Paul Griggs had also
left Rome for a time on business connected with his journalistic career.
He had in reality been unwilling to expose himself to the unnecessary
suffering of witnessing Gloria's happiness, and had taken the earliest
opportunity of going away. Gloria herself was at first pleased by his
departure. Later, however, she wished that he would come back. She had
no one to whom she could turn when she was in need of any advice on
matters which Reanda could not or would not decide.

Reanda himself was at first as absolutely happy as he had expected to
be, and Francesca Campodonico congratulated herself on having brought
about a perfectly successful match. While he continued to work at the
Palazzetto Borgia, the two were often together for hours, as in former
times. Gloria had at first come regularly in the course of the morning
and sat in the hall while her husband was painting, but she had found it
a monotonous affair after a while. Reanda could not talk perpetually.
More than once, indeed, he introduced his wife's face amongst the many
he painted, and she was pleased, though not satisfied. He could not make
her one of the central figures which appeared throughout the series,
because the greater part of the work was done already, and it was
necessary to preserve the continuity of each resemblance. Gloria wished
to be the first everywhere, though she did not say so.

Little by little, she came less regularly in the mornings. She either
stayed at home and studied seriously the soprano parts of the great
operas then fashionable, or invented small errands which kept her out of
doors. She sometimes met Reanda when he left the palace, and they walked
home together to their midday breakfast.

Little by little, also, Francesca fell into the habit of visiting Reanda
in the great hall at hours when she was sure that Gloria would not be
there. It was not that she disliked to see them together, but rather
because she felt that Gloria was secretly antagonistic. There was a
small, perpetual, unexpressed hostility in Gloria's manner which could
not escape so sensitive a woman as Francesca. Reanda felt it, too, but
said nothing. He was almost foolishly in love with his wife, and he was
devotedly attached to Francesca herself. For the present he was very
simple in his dealings with himself, and he quietly shut his eyes to the
possibility of a disagreement between the two women, though he felt
that it was in the air.

Instead of diminishing with his marriage, the obligations under which he
was placed towards Donna Francesca were constantly increasing. She saw
and understood his wife's social ambition, and gave herself trouble to
satisfy it. Reanda felt this keenly, and while his gratitude increased,
he inwardly wished that each kindness might be the last. But Gloria had
the ambition and the right to be received in society on a footing of
equality, and no one but Francesca Campodonico could then give her what
she wanted.

She did not obtain what is commonly called social success, though many
people received her and her husband during the following winter. She got
admiration in plenty, and she herself believed that it was friendship.
Of the two, Reanda, who had no social ambition at all, was by far the
more popular. He was, as ever, quiet and unassuming, as became a man of
his extraordinary talent. He so evidently preferred in society to talk
with intelligent people rather than to make himself agreeable to the
very great, that the very great tried to attract him to themselves, in
order to appear intelligent in the eyes of others. They altogether
forgot that he was the son of the steward of Gerano, though he sometimes
spoke unaffectedly of his boyhood.

But Gloria reminded people too often that she had a right to be where
she was, as the daughter of Angus Dalrymple, who might some day be Lord
Redin. Fortunately for her, no one knew that Dalrymple had begun life as
a doctor, and very far from such prospects as now seemed quite within
the bounds of realization. But even as the possible Lord Redin, her
father's existence did not interest the Romans at all. They were not
accustomed to people who thought it necessary to justify their social
position by allusions to their parentage, and since Francesca
Campodonico had assured them that Dalrymple was a gentleman, they had no
further questions to ask, and raised their eyebrows when Gloria
volunteered information on the subject of her ancestors. They listened
politely, and turned the subject as soon as they could, because it bored
them.

But the admiration she got was genuine of its kind, as admiration and as
nothing else. Her magnificent voice was useful to ancient and charitable
princesses who wished to give concerts for the benefit of the deserving
poor, but her face disturbed the hearts of those excellent ladies who
had unmarried sons, and of other excellent ladies who had gay husbands.
Her beauty and her voice together were a danger, and must be admired
from a distance. Gloria and her husband were asked to many houses on
important occasions. Gloria went to see the princesses and duchesses,
and found them at home. Their cards appeared regularly at the small
house in the Macel de' Corvi, but there was always a mystery as to how
they got there, for the princesses and the duchesses themselves did not
appear, except once or twice when Francesca Campodonico brought one of
her friends with her, gently insisting that there should be a proper
call. Gloria understood, and said bitter things about society when she
was alone, and by degrees she began to say them to her husband.

"These Romans!" she exclaimed at last. "They believe that there is
nobody like themselves!"

Angelo Reanda's face had a pained look, as he laid his long thin hand
upon hers.

"My dear," he said gently. "You have married an artist. What would you
have? I am sure, people have received us very well."

"Very well! Of course--as though we had not the right to be received
well. But, Angelo--do not say such things--that I have married an
artist--"

"It is quite true," he answered, with a smile. "I work with my hands.
They do not. There is the difference."

"But you are the greatest artist in the world!" she cried
enthusiastically, throwing her arms round his neck, and kissing him
again and again. "It is ridiculous. In any other city, in London, in
Paris, people would run after you, people would not be able to do
enough for you. But it is not you; it is I. They do not like me, Angelo,
I know that they do not like me! They want me at their big parties, and
they want me to sing for them--but that is all. Not one of them wants me
for a friend. I am so lonely, Angelo."

Her eyes filled with tears, and he tried to comfort her.

"What does it matter, my heart?" he asked, soothingly. "We have each
other, have we not? I, who adore you, and you, who love me--"

"Love you? I worship you! That is why I wish you to have everything the
world holds, everything at your feet."

"But I am quite satisfied," objected Reanda, with unwise truth. "Do not
think of me."

She loved him, but she wished to put upon him some of her uncontrollable
longing for social success, in order to justify herself. To please her,
he should have joined in her complaint. Her tears dried suddenly, and
her eyes flashed.

"I will think of you!" she cried. "I have nothing else to think of. You
shall have it all, everything--they shall know what a man you are!"

"An artist, my dear, an artist. A little better than some, a little less
good than others. What can society do for me?"

She sighed, and the colour deepened a little in her cheeks. But she hid
her annoyance, for she loved him with a love at once passionate and
intentional, compounded of reality and of a strong inborn desire for
emotion, a desire closely connected with her longing for the life of the
stage, but now suddenly thrown with full force into the channel of her
actual life.

Reanda began to understand that his wife was not happy, and the
certainty reacted strongly upon him. He became more sad and abstracted
from day to day, when he was not with her. He longed, as only a man of
such a nature can long, for a friend in whom he could confide, and of
whom he could ask advice. He had such a friend, indeed, in Francesca
Campodonico, but he was too proud to turn to her, and too deeply
conscious that she had done all she could to give Gloria the social
position the latter coveted.

Francesca, on her side, was not slow to notice that something was
radically wrong. Reanda's manner had changed by degrees since his
marriage. His pride made him more formal with the woman to whom he owed
so much, and she felt that she could do nothing to break down the
barrier which was slowly rising between them. She suffered, in her way,
for she was far more sincerely attached to the man than she recognized,
or perhaps would have been willing to recognize, when she allowed
herself to look the situation fairly in the face. For months she
struggled against anything which could make her regret the marriage she
had made. But at last she admitted the fact that she regretted it, for
it thrust itself upon her and embittered her own life. Then she became
conscious in her heart of a silent and growing enmity for Gloria, and of
a profound pity for Angelo Reanda. Being ashamed of the enmity, as
something both sinful in her eyes, and beneath the nobility of her
nature, she expressed it, if that were expression, by allowing her pity
for the man to assert itself as it would. That, she told herself, was a
form of charity, and could not be wrong, however she looked at it.

All mention of Gloria vanished from her conversation with Reanda when
they were alone together. At such times she did her best to amuse him,
to interest him, and to take him out of himself. At first she had little
success. He answered her, and sometimes even entered into an argument
with her, but as soon as the subject dropped, she saw the look of
harassed preoccupation returning in his face. So far as his work was
concerned, what he did was as good as ever. Francesca thought it was
even better. But otherwise he was a changed man.

In the course of the winter Paul Griggs returned. One day Francesca was
sitting in the hall with Reanda, when a servant announced that Griggs
had asked to see her. She glanced at Reanda's face, and instantly
decided to receive the American alone in the drawing-room, on the other
side of the house.

"Why do you not receive him here?" asked Reanda, carelessly.

"Because--" she hesitated. "I should rather see him in the
drawing-room," she added a moment later, without giving any further
explanation.

Griggs told her that he had come back to stay through the year and
perhaps longer. She took a kindly interest in the young man, and was
glad to hear that he had improved his position and prospects during his
absence. He rarely found sympathy anywhere, and indeed needed very
little of it. But he was capable of impulse, and he had long ago decided
that Francesca was good, discreet, and kind. He answered her questions
readily enough, and his still face warmed a little while she talked with
him. She, on her part, could not help being interested in the lonely,
hard-working man who never seemed to need help of any kind, and was
climbing through life by the strength of his own hands. There was about
him at that time an air of reserved power which interested though it did
not attract those who knew him.

Suddenly he asked about Gloria and her husband. There was an odd
abruptness in the question, and a hard little laugh, quite unnecessary,
accompanied it. Francesca noted the change of manner, and remembered
how she had at first conceived the impression that Griggs admired
Gloria, but that Gloria was repelled by him.

"I suppose they are radiantly happy," he said.

Francesca hesitated, being truthful by nature, as well as loyal. There
was no reason why Griggs should not ask her the question, which was
natural enough, but she had many reasons for not wishing to answer it.

"Are they not happy?" he asked quickly, as her silence roused his
suspicions.

"I have never heard anything to the contrary," answered Francesca,
dangerously accurate in the statement.

"Oh!" Griggs uttered the ejaculation in a thoughtful tone, but said no
more.

"I hope I have not given you the impression that there is anything
wrong," said Francesca, showing her anxiety too much.

"I saw Dalrymple in England," answered Griggs, with ready tact. "He
seems very well satisfied with the match. By the bye, I daresay you have
heard that Dalrymple stands a good chance of dying a peer, if he ever
dies at all. With his constitution that is doubtful."

And he went on to explain to Francesca the matter of the Redin title,
and that as Dalrymple's elder brother, though married, was childless,
he himself would probably come into it some day. Then Griggs took his
leave without mentioning Reanda or Gloria again. But Francesca was aware
that she had betrayed Reanda's unhappiness to a man who had admired
Gloria, and had probably loved her before her marriage. She afterwards
blamed herself bitterly and very unjustly for what she had done.

Griggs went away, and called soon afterwards at the small house in the
Macel de' Corvi. He found Gloria alone, and she was glad to see him. She
told him that Reanda would also be delighted to hear of his return.
Griggs, who wrote about everything which gave him an opportunity of
using his very various knowledge, wrote also upon art, and besides the
first article he had written about Reanda, more than a year previously,
had, since then, frequently made allusion to the artist's great talent
in his newspaper correspondence. Reanda was therefore under an
obligation to the journalist, and Gloria herself was grateful. Moreover,
Englishmen who came to Rome had frequently been to see Reanda's work in
consequence of the articles. One old gentleman had tried to induce the
artist to paint a picture for him, but had met with a refusal, on the
ground that the work at the Palazzetto Borgia would occupy at least
another year. The Englishman said he should come back and try again.

Between Griggs and Gloria there was the sort of friendly confidence
which could not but exist under the circumstances. She had known him
long, and he had been her father's only friend in Rome. She remembered
him from the time when she had been a mere child, before her sudden
transition to womanhood. She trusted him. She understood perfectly well
that he loved her, but she believed that she had it in her power to keep
his love as completely in the background as he himself had kept it
hitherto. Her instinct told her also that Griggs might be a strong ally
in a moment of difficulty. His reserved strength impressed her even more
than it impressed Francesca Campodonico. She received him gladly, and
told him to come again.

He came, and she asked him to dinner, feeling sure that Reanda would
wish to see him. He accepted the first invitation and another which
followed before long. By insensible degrees, during the winter, Griggs
became very intimate at the house, as he had been formerly at
Dalrymple's lodgings.

"That young man loves you, my dear," said Reanda, one day in the
following spring, with a smile which showed how little anxiety he felt.

Gloria laughed gaily, and patted her husband's hand.

"What men like that call love!" she answered. "Besides--a journalist!
And hideous as he is!"

"He certainly has not a handsome face," laughed Reanda. "I am not
jealous," he added, with sudden gravity. "The man has done much for my
reputation, too, and I know what I owe him. I have good reason for
wishing to treat him well, and I am all the more pleased, if you find
him agreeable."

He made the rather formal speech in a decidedly formal tone, and with
the unconscious intention of justifying himself in some way, though he
was far too simple by nature to suspect himself of any complicated
motive. She looked at him, but did not quite understand.

"You surely do not suppose that I ever cared for him!" she said, readily
suspecting that he suspected her.

He started perceptibly, and looked into her eyes. She was very truly in
earnest, but her exaggerated self-consciousness had given her tone a
colour which he did not recognize. Some seconds passed before he
answered her. Then the gentle light came into his face as he realized
how much he loved her.

"How foolish you are, love!" he exclaimed. "But Griggs is younger than
I--it would not be so very unnatural if you had cared for him."

She broke out passionately.

"Younger than you! So am I, much younger than you! But you are young,
too. I will not have you suggest that you are not young. Of course you
are. You are unkind, besides. As though it could make the slightest
difference to me, if you were a hundred years old! But you do not
understand what my love for you is. You will never understand it. I wish
I loved you less; I should be happier than I am."

He drew her to him, reluctant, and the pained look which Francesca knew
so well came into his face.

"Are you unhappy, my heart?" he asked gently. "What is it, dear? Tell
me!"

She was nervous, and the confession or complaint had been unintentional
and the result of irritation more than of anything else. The fact that
he had taken it up made matters much worse. She was in that state in
which such a woman will make a mountain of a molehill rather than forego
the sympathy which her constitution needs in a larger measure than her
small sufferings can possibly claim.

"Oh, so unhappy!" she cried softly, hiding her face against his coat,
and glad to feel the tears in her eyes.

"But what is it?" he asked very kindly, smoothing her auburn hair with
one hand, while the other pressed her to him.

As he looked over her head at the wall, his face showed both pain and
perplexity. He had not the least idea what to do, except to humour her
as much as he could.

"I am so lonely, sometimes," she moaned. "The days are so long."

"And yet you do not come and sit with me in the mornings, as you used to
do at first." There was an accent of regret in his voice.

"She is always there," said Gloria, pressing her face closer to his
coat.

"Indeed she is not!" he cried, and she could feel the little breath of
indignation he drew. "I am a great deal alone."

"Not half as much as I am."

"But what can I do?" he asked, in despair. "It is my work. It is her
palace. You are free to come and go as you will, and if you will not
come--"

"I know, I know," she answered, still clinging to him. "You will say it
is my fault. It is just like a man. And yet I know that you are there,
hour after hour, with her, and she is young and beautiful. And she loves
you--oh, I know she loves you!"

Reanda began to lose patience.

"How absurd!" he exclaimed. "It is ridiculous. It is an insult to Donna
Francesca to say that she is in love with me."

"It is true." Gloria suddenly raised her head and drew back from him a
very little. "I am a woman," she said. "I know and I understand. She
meant to sacrifice herself and make you happy, by marrying you to me,
and now she regrets it. It is enough to see her. She follows you with
her eyes as you move, and there is a look in them--"

Reanda laughed, with an effort.

"It is altogether too absurd!" he said. "I do not know what to say. I
can only laugh."

"Because you know it is true," answered Gloria. "It is for your sake
that she has done it all, that she makes such a pretence of being
friendly to me, that she pushes us into society, and brings her friends
here to see me. They never come unless she brings them," she added
bitterly. "There is no fear of that. The Duchess of Astrardente would
not have her black horses seen standing in the Macel de' Corvi, unless
Donna Francesca made her do it and came with her."

"Why not?" asked Reanda, simply, for his Italian mind did not grasp the
false shame which Gloria felt in living in a rather humble
neighbourhood.

"She would not have people know that she had friends living in such a
place," Gloria answered.

Unwittingly she had dealt Reanda a deadly thrust.

He had fallen in love with her and had married her on the understanding
with himself, so to say, that she was in all respects as much a great
lady as Donna Francesca herself, and he had taken it for granted that
she must be above such pettiness. The lodging was extremely good and had
the advantage of being very conveniently situated for his work. It had
never struck him that because it was in an unfashionable position,
Gloria could imagine that the people she knew would hesitate to come and
see her. Since their marriage she had done and said many little things
which had shaken his belief in the thoroughness of her refinement. She
had suddenly destroyed that belief now, by a single foolish speech. It
would be hard to build it up again.

Like many men of genius he could not forgive his own mistake, and Gloria
was involved in this one. Moreover, as an Italian, he fancied that she
secretly suspected him of meanness, and when Italians are not mean,
there is nothing which they resent more than being thought to be so. He
had plenty of money, for he had always lived very simply before his
marriage, and Dalrymple gave Gloria an allowance.

His tone changed, when he answered her, but she was far from suspecting
what she had done.

"We will get another apartment at once," he said quietly.

"No," she answered at once, protesting, "you must not do anything of the
kind! What an idea! To change our home merely because it is not on the
Corso or the Piazza di Venezia!"

"You would prefer the Corso?" inquired Angelo. "That is natural. It is
more gay."

The reflexion that the view of the deserted Forum of Trajan was dull
suggested itself to him as a Roman, knowing the predilection of Roman
women of the middle class for looking out of the window.

"It is ridiculous!" cried Gloria. "You must not think of it.
Besides--the expense--"

"The expense does not enter into the question, my dear," he answered,
having fully made up his mind. "You shall not live in a place to which
you think your friends may hesitate to come."

"Friends! They are not my friends, and they never mean to be," she
replied more hotly. "Why should I care whether they will take the
trouble to come and see me or not? Let them stay away, if I am not good
enough for them. Tell Donna Francesca not to bring them--not to come
herself any more. I hate to feel that she is thrusting me down the
throat of a society that does not want me! She only does it to put me
under an obligation to her. I am sure she talks about me behind my back
and says horrid things--"

"You are very unjust," said Reanda, hurt by the vulgarity of the speech
and deeply wounded in his own pride.

"You defend her! You see!" And the colour rose in Gloria's cheeks.

"She has done nothing that needs defence. She has acted always with the
greatest kindness to me and to us. You have no right to suppose that she
says unkind things of you when you are not present. I cannot imagine
what has come over you to-day. It must be the weather. It is sirocco."

Gloria turned away angrily, thinking that he was laughing at her,
whereas the suggestion about the weather was a perfectly natural one in
Rome, where the southeast wind has an undoubted effect upon the human
temper.

But the seeds of much discussion were sown on that close spring
afternoon. Reanda was singularly tenacious of small purposes, as he was
of great ideas where his art was concerned, and his nature though gentle
was unforgiving, not out of hardness, but because he was so sensitive
that his illusions were easy to destroy.

He went out and forthwith began to search for an apartment of which his
wife should have no cause to complain. In the course of a week he found
what he wanted. It was a part of the second floor of one of the palaces
on the Corso, not far from the Piazza di Venezia. It was partially
furnished, and without speaking to Gloria he had it made comfortable
within a few days. When it was ready, he gave her short warning that
they were to move immediately.

Strange to say, Gloria was very much displeased, and did not conceal her
annoyance. She really liked the small house in the Macel de' Corvi, and
resented the way in which her husband had taken her remarks about the
situation. To tell the truth, Reanda had deceived himself with the idea
that she would be delighted at the change, and had spent money rather
lavishly, in the hope of giving her a pleasant surprise. He was
proportionately disappointed by her unexpected displeasure.

"What was the use of spending so much money?" she asked, with a
discontented face. "People will not come to see us because we live in a
fine house."

"I did not take the house with that intention, my dear," said Reanda,
gently, but wounded and repelled by the remark and the tone.

"Well then, we might have stayed where we were," she answered. "It was
much cheaper, and there was more sun for the winter."

"But this is gayer," objected Reanda. "You have the Corso under the
window."

"As though I looked out of the window!" exclaimed Gloria, scornfully.
"It was so nice--our little place there."

"You are hard to please, my dear," said the artist, coldly.

Then she saw that she had hurt him, which she had not meant to do. Her
own nature was self-conscious and greedy of emotion, but not sensitive.
She threw her arms round him, and kissed him and thanked him.

But Reanda was not satisfied. Day by day when Francesca looked at him,
she saw the harassed expression deepening in his face, and she felt that
every furrow was scored in her own heart. And she, in her turn, grew
very grave and thoughtful.



CHAPTER XXV.


PAUL GRIGGS was a man compounded of dominant qualities and dormant
contradictions of them which threatened at any moment to become dominant
in their turn for a time. He himself almost believed that he had two
separate individualities, if not two distinct minds.

It may be doubted whether it can be good for any man to dwell long upon
such an idea in connexion with himself, however distinctly he may see in
others the foundation of truth on which it rests. To Griggs, however, it
presented itself so clearly that he found it impossible not to take it
into consideration in the more important actions of his life. The two
men were very sharply distinguished in his thoughts. The one man would
do what the other would not. The other could think thoughts above the
comprehension of the first.

The one was material, keen, strong, passionate, and selfish;
pre-eminently adapted for hard work; conscientious in the force of its
instinct to carry out everything undertaken by it to the very end, and
judging that whatever it undertook was good and worth finishing; having
something of the nature of a strong piece of clockwork which being
wound up must run to the utmost limit before stopping, whether regulated
to move fast or slow, with a fateful certainty independent of will;
possessed of such uncommon strength as to make it dangerous if opposed
while moving, and at the same time having an extraordinary inertia when
not wound up to do a certain piece of work; self-reliant to a fault, as
the lion is self-reliant in the superiority of physical endowment;
gentle when not opposed, because almost incapable of action without a
determinate object and aim; but developing an irresistible momentum when
the inertia was overcome; thorough, in the sense in which the tide is
thorough, in rising evenly and all at the same time, and as ruthless as
the tide because it was that part of the whole man which was a result,
and which, therefore, when once set in motion was almost beyond his
control; reasonable only because, as a result, it followed its causes
logically, and required a real cause to move it at first.

The other man in him was very different, almost wholly independent of
the first, and very generally in direct conflict with it, at that time.
It was an imaginative and meditative personality, easily deceived into
assuming a false premise, but logical beyond all liability to deception
when reasoning from anything it had accepted. Its processes were
intuitively correct and almost instantaneous, while its assumptions
were arbitrary in the extreme. It might begin to act at any point
whatsoever, and unlike the material man, which required a will to move
it at first, it struck spontaneously with the directness of straight
lightning from one point to another, never misled in its path, though
often fatally mistaken in the value of the points themselves.

Most men who have thought much, wisely or foolishly, and who have seen
much, good or bad, are more or less conscious of their two
individualities. Idle and thoughtless people are not, as a rule. With
Griggs, the two were singularly distinct and independent. Sometimes it
seemed to him that he sat in judgment, as a third person, between them.
At other moments he felt himself wholly identified with the one and
painfully aware of the opposition of the other. The imaginative part of
him despised the material part for its pride of life and lust of living.
The material part laughed to scorn the imaginative one for its false
assumptions and unfounded beliefs. When he could abstract himself from
both, he looked upon the intuitive personality as being himself in every
true sense of the word, and upon the material man as a monstrous
overgrowth and encumbrance upon his more spiritual self.

When he began to love Gloria Dalrymple, she appealed to both sides of
his nature. For once, the spiritual instinct coincided with the
direction given to the material man by a very earthly passion.

The cause of this was plain enough and altogether simple. The spiritual
instinct had taken the lead. He had known Gloria before she had been a
woman to be loved. The maiden genius of the girl had spoken to the
higher man from a sphere above material things, and had created in him
one of those assumed premises for subsequent spiritual intuition from
which he derived almost the only happiness he knew. Then, all at once,
the woman had sprung into existence, and her young beauty had addressed
itself to the young gladiator with overwhelming force. The woman
fascinated him, and the angelic being his imagination had assumed in the
child still enchanted him.

He was not like Reanda; for his sensitiveness was one-sided, and
therefore only half vulnerable. Gloria's faults were insignificant
accidents of a general perfectness, the result of having arbitrarily
assumed a perfect personality. They could not make the path of his
spiritual intuitive love waver, and they produced no effect at all
against his direct material passion. To destroy the prime beautiful
illusion, something must take place which would upset the mistaken
assumption from a point beyond it, so to say. As for the earthly part of
his love, it was so strong that it might well stand alone, even if the
other should disappear altogether.

Then came honour, and the semi-religious morality of the man, defending
the woman against him, for the sake of the angel he saw through her.
Chief of all, in her defence, stood his own conviction that she did not
love him, and never would, nor ever could. To all intents and purposes,
too, he had been her father's friend, though between the two men there
had been little but the similarity of their gloomy characters. It was
the will of the material man to be governed, and as no outward influence
set it in motion, it remained inert, in unstable equilibrium, as a vast
boulder may lie for ages on the very edge of a precipice, ready but not
inclined to fall. There was fatality in its stillness, and in the
certainty that if moved it must crash through everything it met.

Gloria had not the least understanding of the real man. She thought
about him often during the months which followed his return, and a week
rarely passed in which she did not see him two or three times. Her
thoughts of him were too ignorant to be confused. She was conscious,
rather than aware, that he loved her, but it seemed quite natural to
her, at her age, that he should never express his love by any word or
deed.

But she compared him with her husband, innocently and unconsciously, in
matters where comparison was almost unavoidable. His leonine strength of
body impressed her strongly, and she felt his presence in the room,
even when she was not looking at him. Reanda was physically a weak and
nervous man. When he was painting, the movements of his hand seemed to
be independent of his will and guided by a superior unseen power, rather
than directed by his judgment and will. Paul Griggs never made the
slightest movement which did not strike Gloria as the expression of his
will to accomplish something. He was wonderfully skilful with his hands.
Whatever he meant to do, his fingers did, forthwith, unhesitatingly. His
mental processes were similar, so far as she could see. If she asked him
a question, he answered it categorically and clearly, if he were able.
If not, he said so, and relapsed into silence, studying the problem, or
trying to force his memory to recall a lost item. Reanda, on the other
hand, answered most questions with the expression of a vague opinion,
often right, but apparently not founded on anything particular. The
accuracy of Griggs sometimes irritated the artist perceptibly, in
conversation; but he took an interest in what Griggs wrote, and made
Gloria translate many of the articles to him, reading aloud in Italian
from the English. Strange to say, they pleased him for the very
qualities which he disliked in the man's talk. The Italian mind, when it
has developed favourably, is inclined to specialism rather than to
generalization, and Griggs wrote of many things as though he were a
specialist. He had enormous industry and great mechanical power of
handling language.

"I have no genius," he said one day to Gloria, when she had been
admiring something he had written, and using the extravagant terms of
praise which rose easily to her lips. "Your husband has genius, but I
have none. Some day I shall astonish you all by doing something very
remarkable. But it will not be a work of genius."

It was in the late autumn days, more than a year and a half after
Gloria's marriage. The southeast wind was blowing down the Corso, and
the pavements were yellow and sticky with the moistened sand-blast from
the African desert. The grains of sand are really found in the air at
such times. It is said that the undoubted effect of the sirocco on the
temper of Southern Italy is due to the irritation caused by inhaling the
fine particles with the breath. Something there is in that especial
wind, which changes the tempers of men and women very suddenly and
strangely.

Gloria and her companion were seated in the drawing-room that afternoon,
and the window was open. The wind stirred the white curtains, and now
and then blew them inward and twisted them round the inner ones, which
were of a dark grey stuff with broad brown velvet bands, in a fashion
then new. Gloria had been singing, and sat leaning sideways on the desk
of the grand piano. A tall red Bohemian glass stood beside the music on
one of the little sliding shelves meant for the candles, and there were
a few flowers in it, fresh an hour ago, but now already half withered
and drooping under the poisonous breath of the southeast. The warm damp
breeze came in gusts, and stirred the fading leaves and Gloria's auburn
hair, and the sheet of music upright on the desk. Griggs sat in a low
chair not far from her, his still face turned towards her, his shadowy
eyes fixed on her features, his sinewy hands clasped round his crossed
knees. The nature of the great athlete showed itself even in repose--the
broad dark throat set deep in the chest, the square solidity of the
shoulders, the great curved lines along the straightened arms, the
small, compact head, with its close, dark hair, bent somewhat forward in
the general relaxation of the resting muscles. In his complete
immobility there was the certainty of instant leaping and flash-like
motion which one feels rather than sees in the sleeping lion.

Gloria looked at him thoughtfully with half-closed lids.

"I shall surprise you all," he repeated slowly, "but it will not be
genius."

"You will not surprise me," Gloria answered, still meeting his eyes. "As
for genius, what is it?"

"It is what you have when you sing," said Griggs. "It is what Reanda has
when he paints."

"Then why not what you do when you write?"

"The difference is simple enough. Reanda does things well because he
cannot help it. When I do a thing well it is because I work so hard at
it that the thing cannot help being done by me. Do you understand?"

"I always understand what you tell me. You put things so clearly. Yes, I
think I understand you better than you understand yourself."

Griggs looked down at his hands and was silent for a moment.
Mechanically he moved his thumb from side to side and watched the knot
of muscle between it and the forefinger, as it swelled and disappeared
with each contraction.

"Perhaps you do understand me. Perhaps you do," he said at last. "I have
known you a long time. It must be four years, at least--ever since I
first came here to work. It has been a long piece of life."

"Indeed it has," Gloria answered, and a moment later she sighed.

The wind blew the sheet of music against her. She folded it impatiently,
threw it aside and resumed her position, resting one elbow on the narrow
desk. The silence lasted several seconds, and the white curtains flapped
softly against the heavy ones.

"I wonder whether you understand my life at all," she said presently.

"I am not sure that I do. It is a strange life, in some ways--like
yourself."

"Am I strange?"

"Very."

"What makes you think so?"

Again he was silent for a time. His face was very still. It would have
been impossible to guess from it that he felt any emotion at the moment.

"Do you like compliments?" he asked abruptly.

"That depends upon whether I consider them compliments or not," she
answered, with a little laugh.

"You are a very perfect woman in very imperfect surroundings," said
Griggs.

"That is not a compliment to the surroundings, at all events. I do not
know whether to laugh or not. Shall I?"

"If you will. I like to hear you laugh."

"You should hear me cry!" And she laughed again at herself.

"God forbid!" he said gravely.

"I do sometimes," she answered, and her face grew suddenly sad, as he
watched her.

He felt a quick pain for her in his heart.

"I am sorry you have told me so," he said. "I do not like to think of
it. Why should you cry? What have you to cry for?"

"What should you think?" she asked lightly, though no smile came with
the words.

"I cannot guess. Tell me. Is it because you still wish to be a singer?
Is that it?"

"No. That is not it."

"Then I cannot guess." He looked for the answer in her face. "Will you
tell me?" he asked after a pause.

"Of what use could it be?" Her eyes met his for a moment, the lids fell,
and she turned away. "Will you shut the window?" she said suddenly. "The
wind blows the things about. Besides, it is getting late."

He rose and went to the window. She watched him as he shut it, turning
his back to her, so that his figure stood out distinct and black against
the light. She realized what a man he was. With those arms and those
shoulders he could do anything, as he had once caught her in the air and
saved her life, and then, again, as he had broken the cords that night
at Mendoza's house. There was nothing physical which such a man could
not do. He was something on which to rely in her limited life, an
absolute contrast to her husband, whose vagueness irritated her, while
his deadness of sensibility, where she had wrung his sensitiveness too
far, humiliated her in her own eyes. She had kept her secret long, she
thought, though she had kept it for the simple reason that she had no
one in whom to confide.

Griggs came back from the window and sat down near her again in the low
chair, looking up into her face.

"Mr. Griggs," she said, turning from his eyes and looking into the
piano, "you asked me a question just now. I should like to answer it, if
I were quite sure of you."

"Are you not sure of me?" he asked. "I think you might be, by this time.
We were just saying that we had known each other so long."

"Yes. But--all sorts of things have happened in that time, you know. I
am not the same as I was when I first knew you."

"No. You are married. That is one great difference."

"Too great," said she. "Honestly, do you think me improved since my
marriage?"

"Improved? No. Why should you improve? You are just what you were meant
to be, as you always were."

"I know. You called me a perfect woman a little while ago, and you said
my surroundings were imperfect. You must have meant that they did not
suit me, or that I did not suit them. Which was it?"

"They ought to suit you," said Griggs. "If they do not, it is not your
fault."

"But I might have done something to make them suit me. I sometimes think
that I have not treated them properly."

"Why should you blame yourself? You did not make them, and they cannot
unmake you. You have a right to be yourself. Everybody has. It is the
first right. Your surroundings owe you more than you owe to them,
because you are what you are, and they are not what they ought to be.
Let them bear the blame. As for not treating them properly, no one could
accuse you of that."

"I do not know--some one might. People are so strange, sometimes."

She stopped, and he answered nothing. Looking down into the open piano,
she idly watched the hammers move as she pressed the keys softly with
one hand.

"Some people are just like this," she said, smiling, and repeating the
action. "If you touch them in a certain way, they answer. If you press
them gently, they do not understand. Do you see? The hammer comes just
up to the string, and then falls back again without making any noise. I
suppose those are my surroundings. Sometimes they answer me, and
sometimes they do not. I like things I can be sure of."

"And by things you mean people," suggested Griggs.

"Of course."

"And by your surroundings you mean--what?"

"You know," she answered in a low voice, turning her face still further
away from him.

"Reanda?"

She hesitated for a moment, knowing that her answer must have weight on
the man.

"I suppose so," she said at last. "I ought not to say so--ought I? Tell
me the truth."

"The truth is, you are unhappy," he answered slowly. "There is no reason
why you should not tell me so. Perhaps I might help you, if you would
let me."

He almost regretted that he had said so much, little as it was. But she
had wished him to say it, and more, also. Still turning from him, she
rested her chin in her hand. His face was still, but there was the
beginning of an expression in it which she had never seen. Now that the
window was shut it was very quiet in the room, and the air was strangely
heavy and soft and dim. Now and then the panes rattled a little. Griggs
looked at the graceful figure as Gloria sat thinking what she should
say. He followed the lines till his eyes rested on what he could see of
her averted face. Then he felt something like a sharp, quick blow at his
temples, and the blood rose hot to his throat. At the same instant came
the bitter little pang he had known long, telling him that she had never
loved him and never could.

"Are you really my friend?" she asked softly.

"Yes." The word almost choked him, for there was not room for it and for
the rest.

She turned quietly and surveyed the marble mask with curious inquiry.

"Why do you say it like that," she asked; "as though you would rather
not? Do you grudge it?"

"No." He spoke barely above his breath.

"How you say it!" she exclaimed, with a little laugh that could not
laugh itself out, for there was a strange tension in the air, and on her
and on him. "You might say it better," she added, the pupils of her eyes
dilating a little so that the room looked suddenly larger and less
distinct.

She knew the sensation of coming emotion, and she loved it. She had
never thought before that she could get it by talking with Paul Griggs.
He did not answer her.

"Perhaps you meant it," she said presently. "I hardly know. Did you?"

"Please be reasonable," said Griggs, indistinctly, and his hands gripped
each other on his knee.

"How oddly you talk!" she exclaimed. "What have I said that was
unreasonable?"

She felt that the emotion she had expected was slipping from her, and
her nerves unconsciously resented the disappointment. She was out of
temper in an instant.

"You cannot understand," he answered. "There is no reason why you
should. Forgive me. I am nervous to-day."

"You? Nervous?" She laughed again, with a little scorn. "You are not
capable of being nervous."

She was dimly conscious that she was provoking him to something, she
knew not what, and that he was resisting her. He did not answer her last
words. She went back to the starting-point again, dropping her voice to
a sadder key.

"Honestly, will you be my friend?" she asked, with a gentle smile.

"Heart and soul--and hand, too, if you want it," he said, for he had
recovered his speech. "Tell me what the trouble is. If I can, I will
take you out of it."

It was rather an odd speech, and she was struck by the turn of the
phrase, which expressed more strength than doubt of power to do anything
he undertook.

"I believe you could," she said, looking at him. "You are so strong. You
could do anything."

"Things are never so hard as they look, if one is willing to risk
everything," he answered. "And when one has nothing to lose," he added,
as an after-thought.

She sighed, and turned away again, half satisfied.

"There is nothing to risk," she said. "It is not a case of danger. And
you cannot take my trouble and tear it up like a pack of cards with
those hands of yours. I wish you could. I am unhappy--yes, I have told
you so. But what can you do to help me? You cannot make my surroundings
what they are not, you know."

"No--I cannot change your husband," said Griggs.

She started a little, but still looked away.

"No. You cannot make him love me," she said, softly and sadly.

The big hands lost their hold on one another, and the deep eyes opened a
little wider. But she was not watching him.

"Do you mean to say--" He stopped.

She slowly bent her head twice, but said nothing.

"Reanda does not love you?" he said, in wondering interrogation. "Why--I
thought--" He hesitated.

"He cares no more for me than--that!" The hand that stretched towards
him across the open piano tapped the polished wood once, and sharply.

"Are you in serious earnest?" asked Griggs, bending forward, as though
to catch her first look when she should turn.

"Does any one jest about such things?" He could just see that her lips
curled a little as she spoke.

"And you--you love him still?" he asked, with pressing voice.

"Yes--I love him. The more fool I."

The words did not grate on him, as they would have jarred on her
husband's ear. The myth he had imagined made perfections of the woman's
faults.

"It is a pity," he said, resting his forehead in his hand. "It is a
deadly pity."

Then she turned at last and saw his attitude.

"You see," she said. "There is nothing to be done. Is there? You know my
story now. I have married a man I worship, and he does not care for me.
Take it and twist it as you may, it comes to that and nothing else. You
can pity me, but you cannot help me. I must bear it as well as I can,
and as long as I must. It will end some day--or I will make it end."

"For God's sake do not talk like that!"

"How should I talk? What should I say? Is it of any use to speak to him?
Do you think I have not begged him, implored him, besought him, almost
on my knees, to give up that work and do other things?"

Griggs looked straight into her eyes a moment and then almost understood
what she meant.

"You mean that he--that when he is painting there--" He hesitated.

"Of course. All day long. All the bitter live-long day! They sit there
together on pretence of talking about it. You know--you can guess at
least--it is the old, old story, and I have to suffer for it. She could
not marry him--because she is a princess and he an artist--good enough
for me--God knows, I love him! Too good for her, ten thousand times too
good! But yet not good enough for her to marry! He needed a wife, and
she brought us together, and I suppose he told her that I should do very
well for the purpose. I was a good subject. I fell in love with
him--that was what they wanted. A wife for her favourite! O God! When I
think of it--"

She stopped suddenly and buried her face in both her hands, as she
leaned upon the piano.

"It is not to be believed!" The strong man's voice vibrated with the
rising storm of anger.

She looked up again with flashing eyes and pale cheeks.

"No!" she cried. "It is not to be believed! But you see it now. You see
what it all is, and how my life is wrecked and ruined before it is half
begun. It would be bad enough if I had married him for his fame, for his
face, for his money, for anything he has or could have. But I married
him because I loved him with all my soul, and worshipped him and
everything he did."

"I know. We all saw it."

"Of course--was it anything to hide? And I thought he loved me, too. Do
you know?" She grew more calm. "At first I used to go and sit in the
hall when he was at work. Then he grew silent, and I felt that he did
not want me. I thought it was because he was such a great artist, and
could not talk and work, and wanted to be alone. So I stayed away. Then,
once, I went there, and she was there, sitting in that great chair--it
shows off the innocence of her white face, you know! The innocence of
it!" Gloria laughed bitterly. "They were talking when I came, and they
stopped as soon as the door opened. I am sure they were talking about
me. Then they seemed dreadfully uncomfortable, and she went away. After
that I went several times. Once or twice she came in while I was there.
Then she did not come any more. He must have told her, of course. He
kept looking at the door, though, as if he expected her at any moment.
But she never came again in those days. I could not bear it--his trying
to talk to me, and evidently wishing all the time that she would come. I
gave up going altogether at last. What could I do? It was unbearable. It
was more than flesh and blood could stand."

"I do not wonder that you hate her," said Griggs. "I have often thought
you did."

Gloria smiled sadly.

"Yes," she answered. "I hate her with all my heart. She has robbed me of
the only thing I ever had worth having--if I ever had it. I sometimes
wonder--or rather, no. I do not wonder, for I know the truth well
enough. I have been over and over it again and again in the night. He
never loved me. He never could love any one but her. He knew her long
ago, and has loved her all his life. Why should he put me in her place?
He admired me. I was a beautiful plaything--no, not beautiful--" She
paused.

"You are the most beautiful woman in the world," said Paul Griggs, with
deep conviction.

He saw the blush of pleasure in her face, saw the fluttering of the
lids. But he neither knew that she had meant him to say it, nor did he
judge of the vast gulf her mind must have instantaneously bridged, from
the outpouring of her fancied injuries and of her hatred for Francesca
Campodonico, to the unconcealable satisfaction his words gave her.

"I have heard him say that, too," she answered a moment later. "But he
did not mean it. He never meant anything he said to me--not one word of
it all. You do not know what that means," she went on, working herself
back into a sort of despairing anger again. "You do not know. To have
built one's whole life on one thing, as I did! To have believed only one
thing, as I did! To find that it is all gone, all untrue, all a wretched
piece of acting--oh, you do not know! That woman's face haunts me in the
dark--she is always there, with him, wherever I look, as they are
together now at her house. Do you understand? Do you know what I feel?
You pity me--but do you know? Oh, I have longed for some one--I have
wished I had a dog to listen to me--sometimes--it is so hard to be
alone--so very hard--"

She broke off suddenly and hid her face again.

"You are not alone. You have me--if you will have me."

Before he had finished speaking the few words, the first sob broke,
violent, real, uncontrollable. Then came the next, and then the storm of
tears. Griggs rose instinctively and came to her side. He leaned heavily
on the piano, bending down a little, helpless, as some men are at such
moments. She did not notice him, and her sobs filled the still room. As
he stood over her he could see the bright tears falling upon the black
and white ivory keys. He laid his trembling hand upon her shoulder. He
could hardly draw his breath for the sight of her suffering.

"Don't--don't," he said, almost pathetic in his lack of eloquence when
he thought he most needed it.

One of her hot hands, all wet with tears, went suddenly to her shoulder,
and grasped his that lay there, with a convulsive pressure, seeming to
draw him down as she bowed herself almost to the keyboard in her agony
of weeping. Then, without thought, his other hand, cold as ice, was
under her throat, bringing her head gently back upon his arm, till the
white face was turned up to his. Sob by sob, more distantly, the tempest
subsided, but still the great tears swelled the heavy lids and ran down
across her face upon his wrist. Then the wet, dark eyes opened and
looked up to his, above her head.

"Be my friend!" she said softly, and her fingers pressed his very
gently.

He looked down into her eyes for one moment, and then the passion in him
got the mastery of his honourable soul.

"How can I?" he cried in a broken, choking voice. "I love you!"

In an instant he was standing up, lifting her high from the floor, and
the lips that had perhaps never kissed for love before, were pressed
upon hers. What chance had she, a woman, in those resistless arms of
his? In her face was the still, fateful look of the dead nun, rising
from the far grave of a buried tragedy.

In his uncontrollable passion he crushed her to him, holding her up like
a child. She struggled and freed her hands and pressed them both upon
his two eyes.

"Please--please!" she cried.

There was a pitiful ring in the tone, like the bleating of a frightened
lamb. He hurt her too, for he was overstrong when he was thoughtless.

She cried out to him to let her go. But as she hung there, it was not
all fear that she felt. There came with it an uncertain, half-delirious
thrill of delight. To feel herself but a feather to his huge strength,
swung, tossed, kissed, crushed, as he would. There was fear already,
there was all her innocent maidenlike resistance, beating against him
with might and anger, there was the feminine sense of injury by
outrageous violence; but with it all there was also the natural woman's
delight in the main strength of the natural man, that could kill her in
an instant if he chose, but that could lift her to itself as a little
child and surround her and protect her against the whole world.

"Please--please!" she cried again, covering his fierce eyes and white
face with her hands and trying to push him away. The tone was pathetic
in its appeal, and it touched him. His arms relaxed, tightened again
with a sort of spasm, and then she found herself beside him on her feet.
A long silence followed.

Gloria sank into a chair, glanced at him and saw that his face was
turned away, looked down again and then watched him. His chest heaved
once or twice, as though he had run a short sharp race. One hand grasped
the back of a chair as he stood up. All at once, without looking at her,
he went to the window and stood there, looking out, but seeing nothing.
The soft damp wind made the panes of glass rattle. Still neither broke
the silence. Then he came to her and stood before her, looking down,
and she looked down, too, and would not see him. She was more afraid of
him now than when he had lifted her from her feet, and her heart beat
fast. She wondered what he would say, for she supposed that he meant to
ask her forgiveness, and she was right.

[Illustration: "Gloria--forgive me!"--Vol. II., p. 50.]

"Gloria--forgive me," he said.

She looked up, a little fear of him still in her face.

"How can I?" she asked, but in her voice there was forgiveness already.

Her womanly instinct, though she was so young, told her that the fault
was hers, and that considering the provocation it was not a great
one--what were a few kisses, even such kisses as his, in a lifetime? And
she had tempted him beyond all bounds and repented of it. Before the
storm she had raised in him, her fancied woes sank away and seemed
infinitely small. She knew that she had worked herself up to emotion and
tears, though not half sure of what she was saying, that she had
exaggerated all she knew and suggested all she did not know, that she
had almost been acting a part to satisfy something in her which she
could not understand. And by her acting she had roused the savage truth
in her very face and it had swept down everything before it. She had not
guessed such possibilities. Before the tempest of his love all she had
ever felt or dreamed of feeling seemed colourless and cold. She
dreaded to rouse it again, and yet she could never forget the instant
thrill that had quivered through her when he had lifted her from her
feet.

When she had answered him with her question, he stood still in silence
for a moment. She was too perfect in his eyes for him to cast the blame
upon her, yet he knew that it had not been all his fault. And in the
lower man was the mad triumph of having kissed her and of having told
her, once for all, the whole meaning of his being. She looked down, and
he could not see her eyes. There was no chair near. To see her face he
dropped upon his knee and lightly touched her hands that lay idly in her
lap. She started, fearing another outbreak.

"Please--please!" he said softly, using the very word she had used to
him.

"Yes--but--" She hesitated and then raised her eyes.

The mask of his face was all softened, and his lips trembled a little.
His hands quivered, too, as they touched hers.

"Please!" he repeated. "I promise. Indeed, I promise. Forgive me."

She smiled, all at once, dreamily. All his emotion, and her desire for
it, were gone.

"I asked you to be my friend," she said. "I meant it, you know. How
could you? It was not kind."

"No--but forgive me," he insisted in a pleading tone.

"I suppose I must," she said at last. "But I shall never feel sure of
you again. How can I?"

"I promise. You will believe me, not to-day, perhaps, nor to-morrow, but
soon. I will be just what I have always been. I will never do anything
to offend you again."

"You promise me that? Solemnly?" She still smiled.

"Yes. It is a promise. I will keep it. I will be your friend always.
Give me something to do for you. It will make it easier."

"What can I ask you to do? I shall never dare to speak to you about my
life again."

"I think you will, when you see that I am just as I used to be. And you
forgive me, quite?"

"Yes. I must. We must forget to-day. It must be as though it had never
happened. Will you forget it?"

"I will try." But of that he knew the utter impossibility.

"If you try, you can succeed. Now get up. Be reasonable."

He took her hand in both of his. She made a movement to withdraw it, and
then submitted. He barely touched it with his lips and rose to his feet
instantly.

"Thank you," she said simply.

She had never had such a mastery of charm over him as at that moment.
But his mood was changed, and there was no breaking out of the other man
in him, though he felt again the quick sharp throb in the temples, and
the rising blood at his throat. The higher self was dominant once more,
and the features was as still as a statue's.

He took leave of her very quickly and went out into the damp street and
faced the gusty southeast wind.

When he was gone, she rose and went to the window with a listless step,
and gazed idly through the glass at the long row of windows in the
palace opposite, and then went back and sank down, as though very weary,
upon a sofa far from the light. There was a dazed, wondering look in her
face and she sat very still for a long time, till it began to grow dark.
In the dusk she rose and went to the piano and sang softly to herself.
Her voice never swelled to a full note, and the chords which her fingers
sought were low and gentle and dreamy.

While she was singing, the door opened noiselessly, and Reanda came in
and stood beside her. She broke off and looked up, a little startled.
The same wondering, half-dazed look was in her face. Her husband bent
down and kissed her, and she kissed him silently.



CHAPTER XXVI.


DONNA FRANCESCA had put off her mourning, and went into the world again
during that winter. The world said that she might marry if she so
pleased, and was somewhat inclined to wonder that she did not. She could
have made a brilliant match if she had chosen. But instead, though she
appeared everywhere where society was congregated together, she showed a
tendency to religion which surprised her friends.

A tendency to religion existed in the Braccio family, together with
various other tendencies not at all in harmony with it, nor otherwise
edifying. Those other tendencies seemed to be absent in Francesca, and
little by little her acquaintances began to speak of her as a devout
person. The Prince of Gerano even hinted that she might some day be an
abbess in the Carmelite Convent at Subiaco, as many a lady of the great
house had been before her. But Francesca was not prepared to withdraw
from the world altogether, though at the present time she was very
unhappy.

She suspected herself of a great sin, besides reproaching herself
bitterly with many of her deeds which deserved no blame at all. Yet she
was by no means morbid, nor naturally inclined to perpetual
self-examination. On the contrary, she had always been willing to accept
life as a simple affair which could not offer any difficulties provided
that one were what she meant by "good"--that is, honest in word and
deed, and scrupulous in doing thoroughly and with right intention those
things which her religion required of her, but in which only she herself
could judge of her own sincerity.

Of late, however, she had felt that there was something very wrong in
all her recent life. The certainty of it dawned by degrees, and then
burst upon her suddenly one day when she was with Reanda.

She had long ago noticed the change in his manner, the harassed look,
and the sad ring in his voice, and for a time his suffering was her
sorrow, and there was a painful pleasure in being able to feel for him
with all her heart. He had gone through a phase which had lasted many
months, and the change was great between his former and his present
self. He had suffered, but indifference was creeping upon him. It was
clear enough. Nothing interested him but his art, and perhaps her own
conversation, though even that seemed doubtful to her.

They were alone together on a winter's afternoon in the great hall. The
work was almost done, and they had been talking of the more mechanical
decorations, and of the style of the furniture.

"It is a big place," said Francesca, "but I mean to fill it. I like
large rooms, and when it is finished, I will take up my quarters here,
and call it my boudoir."

She smiled at the idea. The hall was at least fifty feet long by thirty
wide.

"All the women I know have wretched little sitting-rooms in which they
can hardly turn round," she said. "I will have all the space I like, and
all the air and all the light. Besides, I shall always have the dear
Cupid and Psyche, to remind me of you."

She spoke the last words with the simplicity of absolute innocence.

"And me?" he asked, as innocently and simply as she. "What will you do
with me?"

"Whatever you like," she said, taking it quite for granted, as he did,
that he was to work for her all his life. "You can have a studio in the
house, just as it used to be, if you please. And you can paint the great
canvas for the ceiling of the dining-room. Or shall I restore the old
chapel? Which should you rather do--oil-painting, or fresco?"

"You would not want the altar piece which I should paint," he said, with
sudden sadness.

"Santa Francesca?" she asked. "It would have to be Santa Francesca. The
chapel is dedicated to her. You could make a beautiful picture of her--a
portrait, perhaps--" she stopped.

"Of yourself? Yes, I could do that," he answered quickly.

"No," she said, and hesitated. "Of your wife," she added rather
abruptly.

He started and looked at her, and she was sorry that she had spoken.
Gloria's beautiful face had risen in her mind, and it had seemed
generous to suggest the idea. Finding a difficulty in telling him, she
had thought it her duty to be frank.

He laughed harshly before he answered her.

"No," he said. "Certainly not a portrait of my wife. Not even to please
you. And that is saying much."

He spoke very bitterly. In the few words, he poured out the pent-up
suffering of many months. Francesca turned pale.

"I know, and it is my fault," she said in a low voice.

"Your fault? No! But it is not mine."

His hands trembled violently as he took up his palette and brushes and
began to mix some colours, not knowing what he was doing.

"It is my fault," said Francesca, still very white, and staring at the
brick floor. "I have seen it. I could not speak of it. You are
unhappy--miserable. Your life is ruined, and I have done it. I!"

She bit her lip almost before the last word was uttered; for it was
stronger and louder than she had expected it to be, and the syllable
rang with a despairing echo in the empty hall.

Reanda shook his head, and bent over his colours with shaking hands, but
said nothing.

"I was so happy when you were married," said Francesca, forcing herself
to speak calmly. "She seemed such a good wife for you--so young, so
beautiful. And she loves you--"

"No." He shook his head energetically. "She does not love me. Do not say
that, for it is not true. One does not love in that way--to-day a kiss,
to-morrow a sting--to-day honey, to-morrow snake-poison. Do not say that
it is love, for it is not true. The heart tells the truth, all alone in
the breast. A thousand words cannot make it tell one lie. But for me--it
is finished. Let us speak no more of love. Let us talk of our good
friendship. It is better."

"Eh, let us speak of it, of this friendship! It has cost tears of
blood!"

Francesca, in the sincerity of what she felt, relapsed into the Roman
dialect. Almost all Romans do, under any emotion.

"Everything passes," answered Reanda, laying his palette aside, and
beginning to walk up and down, his hands in his pockets. "This also
will pass," he added, as he turned. "We are men. We shall forget."

"But not I. For I did it. Your sadness cuts my heart, because I did it.
I--I alone. But for me, you would be free."

"Would to Heaven!" exclaimed the artist, almost under his breath. "But I
will not have you say that it is your fault!" he cried, stopping before
her. "I was the fool that believed. A man of my age--oh, a serious
man--to marry a child! I should have known. At first, I do not say. I
was the first. She thought she had paradise in her arms. A husband! They
all want it, the husband. But I, who had lived and seen, I should have
known. Fool, fool! Ignorant fool!"

The words came out vehemently in the strong dialect, and the nervous,
heart-wrung man struck his breast with his clenched fist, and his eyes
looked upward.

"Reanda, Reanda! What are you saying? When I tell you that I made you
marry her! It was here,--I was in this very chair,--and I told you about
her. And I asked her here with intention, that you might see how
beautiful she was. And then, neither one nor two, she fell in love with
you! It would have been a miracle if you had not married her. And her
father, he was satisfied. May that day be accursed when I brought them
here to torment you!"

She spoke excitedly, and her lip quivered. He began to walk again with
rapid, uncertain strides.

"For that--yes!" he said. "Let the day bear the blame. But I was the
madman. Who leaves the old way and follows the new knows what he leaves,
but not what he may find. I might have been contented. I was so happy!
God knows how happy I was!"

"And I!" exclaimed Francesca, involuntarily; but he did not hear her.

She felt a curious sense of elation, though she was so truly sorry for
him, and it disturbed her strangely. She looked at him and smiled, and
then wondered why the smile came. There is a ruthless cruelty in the
half-unconscious impulses of the purest innocence, of which vice itself
might be ashamed in its heart. It is simple humanity's assertion of its
prior right to be happy. She smiled spontaneously because she knew that
Reanda no longer loved Gloria, and she felt that he could not love her
again; and for a while she was too simply natural to quarrel with
herself for it, or to realize what it meant.

He was nervous, melancholy, and unstrung, and he began to talk about
himself and his married life for the first time, pouring out his
sufferings and thoughtless of what Francesca might think and feel. He,
too, was natural. Unlike his wife, he detested emotion. To be angry was
almost an illness to his over-finely organized temperament. In a way,
Griggs had been right in saying that Reanda seemed to paint as an agent
in the power of an unseen, directing influence. Beauty made him feel
itself, and feel for it in his turn with his brush. The conception was
before him, guiding his hand, before a stroke of the work was done.
There was the lightning-like co-respondence and mutual reaction between
thought and execution, which has been explained by some to be the
simultaneous action of two minds in man, the subjective and the
objective. In doing certain things he had the patience and the delicacy
of one for whom time has no meaning. He could not have told whether his
hand followed his eye, or his eye followed his hand. His whole being was
of excessively sensitive construction, and emotion of any kind, even
pleasure, jarred upon its hair-fine sensibilities. And yet, behind all
this, there was the tenacity of the great artist and the phenomenal
power of endurance, in certain directions, which is essential to
prize-winning in the fight for fame. There was the quality of nerve
which can endure great tension in one way, but can bear nothing in other
ways.

He went on, giving vent to all he felt, talking to himself rather than
to Francesca. He could not reproach his wife with any one action of
importance. She was fond of Paul Griggs. But it was only Griggs! He
smiled. In his eyes, the cold-faced man was no more than a stone. In
their excursions into society she had met men whom he considered far
more dangerous, men young, handsome, rich, having great names. They
admired her and said so to her in the best language they had, which was
no doubt often very eloquent. Had she ever looked twice at one of them?
No. He could not reproach her with that. The Duchess of Astrardente was
not more cold to her admirers than Gloria was. It was not that. There
were little things, little nothings, but in thousands. He tried to
please her with something, and she laughed in his face, or found fault.
She had small hardnesses and little vulgarities of manner that drove him
mad.

"I had thought her like you," he said suddenly, turning to Francesca.
"She is not. She is coarse-grained. She has the soul of a peasant, with
the face of a Madonna. What would you have? It is too much. Love is an
illusion. I will have no more of it. Besides, love is dead. It would be
easier to wake a corpse. I shall live. I may forget. Meanwhile there is
our friendship. That is of gold."

Francesca listened in silence, thoughtful and with downcast eyes, as the
short, disjointed sentences broke vehemently from his lips, each one
accusing her in her own heart of having wrought the misery of two lives,
one of which was very dear to her. Too dear, as she knew at last. The
scarlet shame would have burned her face, if she had owned to herself
that she loved this man, whom she had married to another, believing that
she was making his happiness. She would not own it. Had she admitted it
then, she would have been capable of leaving him within the hour, and of
shutting herself up forever in the Convent at Subiaco to expiate the sin
of the thought. It was monstrous in her eyes, and she would still refuse
to see it.

But she owned that there was the suspicion, and that Angelo Reanda was
far dearer to her than anything else on earth. Her innocence was so
strong and spotless that it had a right to its one and only
satisfaction. But what she felt for Reanda was either love, or it was
blasphemy against the holy thing in whose place he stood in her temple.
It must not be love, and therefore, as anything else, it was too much.
And the strange joy she felt because Gloria was nothing to him, still
filled her heart, though it began to torment her with the knowledge of
evil which she had never understood.

There was much else against him, too, in her pride of race, and it
helped her just then, for it told her how impossible it was that she, a
princess of the house of Braccio, should love a mere artist, the son of
a steward, whose forefathers had been bondsmen to her ancestors from
time immemorial. It was out of the question, and she would not believe
it of herself. Yet, as she looked into his delicate, spiritual face and
watched the shades of expression that crossed it, she felt that it made
little difference whence he came, since she understood him and he
understood her.

She became confused by her own thoughts and grasped at the idea of a
true and perfect friendship, with a somewhat desperate determination to
see it and nothing else in it, for the rest of her life, rather than
part with Angelo Reanda.

"Friends," she said thoughtfully. "Yes--always friends, you and I. But
as a friend, Reanda, what can I do? I cannot help you."

"The time for help is past, if it ever came. You are a saint--pray for
me. You can do that."

"But there is more than that to be done," she said, ready to sacrifice
anything or everything just then. "Do not tell me it is hopeless. I will
see your wife often and I will talk to her. I am older than she, and I
can make her understand many things."

"Do not try it," said Reanda, in an altered tone. "I advise you not to
try it. You can do no good there, and you might find trouble."

"Find trouble?" repeated Francesca, not understanding him. "What do you
mean? Does she dislike me?"

"Have you not seen it?" he asked, with a bitter smile.

Francesca did not answer him at once, but bent her head again. Once or
twice she looked up as though she were about to speak.

"It is as I tell you," said Reanda, nodding his head slowly.

Francesca made up her mind, but the scarlet blood rose in her face.

"It is better to be honest and frank," she said. "Is Gloria jealous of
me?" She was so much ashamed that she could hardly look at him just
then.

"Jealous! She would kill you!" he cried, and there was anger in his
voice at the thought. "Do not go to her. Something might happen."

The blush in Francesca's face deepened and then subsided, and she grew
very pale again.

"But if she is jealous, she loves you," she said earnestly and
anxiously.

He shrugged his high thin shoulders, and the bitter smile came back to
his face.

"It is a stage jealousy," he said cruelly. "How could she pass the time
without something to divert her? She is always acting."

"But what is she jealous of?" asked Francesca. "How can she be jealous
of me? Because you work here? She is free to come if she likes, and to
stay all day. I do not understand."

"Who can understand her? God, who made her, understands her. I am only a
man. I know only one thing, that I loved her and do not love her. And
she makes a scene for every day. One day it is you, and another day it
is the walls she does not like. You will forgive me, Princess. I speak
frankly what comes to my mouth from my heart. The whole story is this.
She makes my life intolerable. I am not an idle man, the first you may
meet in society, to spend my time from morning to night in studying my
wife's caprices. I am an artist. When I have worked I must have peace. I
do not ask for intelligent conversation like yours. But I must have
peace. One of these days I shall strangle her with my hands. The Lord
will forgive me and understand. I am full of nerves. Is it my fault? She
twists them as the women wring out clothes at the fountain. It is not a
life; it is a hell."

"Poor Reanda! Poor Reanda!" repeated Francesca, softly.

"I do not pity myself," he said scornfully. "I have deserved it, and
much more. But I am human. If it goes on a little longer, you may take
me to Santo Spirito, for I am going mad. At least I should be there in
holy peace. After her, the madmen would all seem doctors of wisdom. Do
you know what will happen this evening? I go home. 'Where have you
been?' she will ask. 'At the Palazzetto.' 'What have you been doing?'
'Painting--it is my trade.' 'Was Donna Francesca there?' 'Of course. She
is mistress in her own house.' 'And what did you talk of?' 'How should I
remember? We talked.' Then it will begin. It will be an inferno, as it
always is. 'Leave hope behind, all ye that enter here!' I can say it, if
ever man could! You are right to pity me. Before it is finished you will
have reason to pity me still more. Let us hope it may finish soon.
Either San Lorenzo, or Santo Spirito--with the mad or with the dead."

"Poor Reanda!"

"Yes--poor Reanda, if you like. People envy me, they say I am a great
artist. If they think so, let them say it. It seems to them that I am
somebody." He laughed, almost hysterically. "Somebody! Stuff for Santo
Spirito! That is all she has left me in two years--not yet two years."

"Do not talk of Santo Spirito," said Francesca. "You shall not go mad.
When you are unhappy, think of our friendship and of all the hours you
have here every day." She hesitated and seemed to make an effort over
herself. "But it is impossible that it should be all over, so hopelessly
and so soon. She is nervous, perhaps. The climate does not suit her--"

Reanda laughed wildly, for he was rapidly losing all control of himself.

"Therefore I should take her away and go and live somewhere else!" he
cried. "That would be the end! I should tear her to pieces with my
hands--"

"Hush, hush! You are talking madly--"

"I know it. There is reason. It will end badly, one of these days,
unless I end first, and that may happen also. Without you it would have
happened long ago. You are the good angel in my life, the one friend God
has sent me in my tormented existence, the one star in my black sky. Be
my friend still, always, for ever and ever, and I shall live forever
only to be your friend. As for love--the devil and his demons will know
what to do with it--they will find their account in it. They have lent
it, and they will take their payment in blood and tears of those who
believe them."

"But there is love in the world, somewhere," said Francesca, gently.

"Yes--and in hell! But not in heaven--where you will be."

Francesca sighed unconsciously, and looked long away towards the great
windows at the end of the hall. Reanda gathered up his palette and
brushes with a steadier hand. His anger had not spent itself, but it
made him suddenly strong, and the outburst had relieved him, though it
was certain that it would be followed by a reaction of profound
despondency.

All at once he came close to Francesca. She looked up, half startled by
his sudden movement.

"At least it is true--this one thing," he said. "I can count upon you."

"Yes. You can count upon me," she answered, gazing into his eyes.

He did not move. The one hand held his palette, the other hung free by
his side. All at once she took it in hers, still looking up into his
eyes.

"I am very fond of you," she said earnestly. "You can count upon me as
long as we two live."

"God bless you," he said, more quietly than he had spoken yet, and his
hand pressed hers a little.

There could be no harm in saying as much as that, she thought, when it
was so true and so simply said. It was all she could ever say to him, or
to herself, and there was no reason why she should not say it. He would
not misunderstand her. No man could have mistaken the innocence that was
the life and light of her clear eyes. She was glad she had said it, and
she was glad long afterwards that she had said it on that day, quietly,
when no one could hear them in the great still hall.



CHAPTER XXVII.


REANDA went home that evening in a very disturbed state of mind. He had
been better so long as he had not given vent to what he felt; for, as
with many southern men of excitable temper and weak nerves, his thoughts
about himself, as distinguished from his pursuits, did not take positive
shape in his mind until he had expressed them in words. Amongst the
Latin races the phrase, 'he cannot think without speaking,' has more
truth as applied to some individuals than the Anglo-Saxon can easily
understand.

For many months the artist had been most unhappy. His silence concerning
his grief had been almost exemplary, and had been broken only now and
then by a hasty exclamation of annoyance when Gloria's behaviour had
irritated him beyond measure. He was the gentlest of men; and even when
he had lost his temper with her, he had never spoken roughly.

"You are hard to please, my dear," he had sometimes said.

But that had been almost the strongest expression of his displeasure. It
was not, indeed, that he had exercised very great self-control in the
matter, for he had little power of that sort over himself. If he was
habitually mild and gentle in his manner with Gloria, it was rather
because, like many Italians, he dreaded emotion as something like an
illness, and could avoid it to some extent merely by not speaking freely
of what he felt. Silence was generally easy to him; and he had not
broken out more than two or three times in all his life, as he had done
on that afternoon alone with Francesca.

The inevitable consequence followed immediately,--a consequence as much
physical as mental, for when he went away from the Palazzetto, his clear
dark eyes were bloodshot and yellow, and his hands had trembled so that
he had hardly been able to find the armholes of his great-coat in
putting it on. He walked with an uncertain and agitated step, glancing
to right and left of him as he went, half-fiercely, half-timidly, as
though he expected a new adversary to spring upon him from every corner.
The straight line of the houses waned and shivered in the dusk, as he
looked at them, and he saw flashes of light in the air. His head was hot
and aching, and his hat hurt him. Altogether he was in a dangerous
state, not unlike that which, with northern men, sometimes follows hard
drinking.

He hated to go home that evening. So far as he was conscious, he had
neither misrepresented nor in any way exaggerated the miseries of his
domestic existence; and he felt that it was before him now, precisely as
he had described it. There would be the same questions, to which he
would give the same answers, at which Gloria would put on the same
expression of injured hopelessness, unless she broke out and lost her
temper, which happened often enough. The prospect was intolerable.
Reanda thrust his hands deep into the pocket of his overcoat, and glared
about him as he turned the corner of the Via degli Astalli, and saw the
Corso in the distance. But he did not slacken his pace as he went along
under the gloomy walls of the Austrian Embassy--the Palace of
Venice--the most grim and fortress-like of all Roman palaces.

He felt as a poor man may feel when, hot and feverish from working by a
furnace, he knows that he must face the winter storm of freezing sleet
and piercing wind in his thin and ragged jacket to go home--a plunge, as
it were, from molten iron into ice, with no protection from the cold.
Every step of the homeward way was hateful to him. Yet he knew his own
weakness well enough not to hesitate. Had he stopped, he might have been
capable of turning in some other direction, and of spending the whole
evening with some of his fellow-artists, going home late in the night,
when Gloria would be asleep. The thought crossed his mind. If he did
that, he was sure to be carried away into speaking of his troubles to
men with whom he had no intimacy. He was too proud for that. He wished
he could go back to Francesca, and pour out his woes again. He had not
said half enough. He should like to have it out, to the very end, and
then lie down and close his eyes, and hear Francesca's voice soothing
him and speaking of their golden friendship. But that was impossible, so
he went home to face his misery as best he could.

There was exaggeration in all he thought, but there was none in the
effect of his thoughts upon himself. He had married a woman unsuited to
him in every way, as he was unsuited to her. The whole trouble lay
there. Possibly he was not a man to marry at all, and should have led
his solitary life to the end, illuminated from the outside, as it were,
by Francesca Campodonico's faithful friendship and sweet influence. All
causes of disagreement, considered as forces in married life, are
relative in their value to the comparative solidity of the characters on
which they act--a truism which ought to be the foundation of social
charity, but is not. Reanda could not be blamed for his brittle
sensitivenesses, nor Gloria for a certain coarse-grained streak of
cruelty, which she had inherited from her father, and which had
combined strangely with the rare gifts and great faults of her dead
mother--the love of emotion for its own sake, and the tendency to do
everything which might produce it in herself and those about her.
Emotion was poison to Reanda. It was his wife's favourite food.

He reached his home, and went up the well-lighted marble staircase,
wishing that he were ascending the narrow stone steps at the back of the
Palazzetto Borgia, taper in hand, to his old bachelor quarters, to light
his lamp, to smoke in peace, and to spend the evening over a sketch, or
with a book, or dreaming of work not yet done. He paused on the landing,
before he rang the bell of his apartment. The polished door irritated
him, with its brass fittings and all that it meant of married life and
irksome social obligation. He never carried a key, because the Roman
keys of those times were large and heavy; but he had been obliged to use
one formerly, when he had lived by himself. The necessity of ringing the
bell irritated him again, and he felt a nervous shock of unwillingness
as he pulled the brass knob. He set his teeth against the tinkling and
jangling that followed, and his eyelids quivered. Everything hurt him.
He did not feel sure of his hands when he wanted to use them. He was
inclined to strike the silent and respectful man-servant who opened the
door, merely because he was silent and respectful. He went straight to
his own dressing-room, and shut himself in. It would be a relief to
change his clothes. He and Gloria were to go to a reception in the
evening, and he would dress at once. In those days few Romans dressed
for dinner every day.

He dropped a stud, for his hands were shaking so that he could hardly
hold anything; and he groped for the thing on his knees. The blood went
to his head, and hurt him violently, as though he had received a blow.

Gloria's room was next to his, and she heard him moving about. She
knocked and tried the door, but it was locked; and she heard him utter
an exclamation of annoyance, as he hunted for the stud. She thought it
was meant for her, and turned angrily back from the door. On any other
day he would have called her, for he had heard her trying to get in. But
he shrugged his lean shoulders impatiently, glanced once towards her
room, found his stud, and went on dressing.

He really made an effort to get control of himself while he was alone.
But to all intents and purposes he was actually ill. His face was drawn
and sallow; his eyes were yellow and bloodshot; and there were deep,
twitching lines about his mouth. His nostrils moved spasmodically when
he drew breath, and his long thin hands fumbled helplessly at the studs
and buttons of his clothes. At last he was dressed, and went into the
drawing-room. Gloria was already there, waiting by the fireside, with an
injured and forbidding expression in her beautiful face.

Reanda came to the fireside, and stood there, spreading out his
trembling hands to the blaze. He dreaded the first word, as a man lying
ill of brain fever dreads each cracking explosion in a thunderstorm.
Strained as their relations had been for a long time, he had never
failed to kiss Gloria when he came home. This evening he barely glanced
at her, and stood watching the dancing tongues of the wood fire, not
daring to think of the sound of his wife's voice. It came at last cool
and displeased.

"Are you ill?" she asked, looking steadily at him.

"No," he answered with an effort, and his outstretched hands shook
before the fire.

"Then what is the matter with you?"

"Nothing." He did not even turn his eyes to her, as he spoke the single
word.

A silence followed, during which he suffered. Nevertheless, the first
dreaded shock of hearing her voice was over. Though he had barely
glanced at her, he had known from her face what the sound of the voice
would be.

Gloria leaned back in her chair and watched the fire, and sighed. Griggs
had been with her in the afternoon, and she had been happy, quite
innocently, as she thought. The man's dominating strength and profound
earnestness, which would have been intolerably dull to many women,
smoothed Gloria, as it were. She said that he ironed the creases out of
her life for her. It was not a softening influence, but a calming one,
bred of strength pressing heavily on caprice. She resisted it, but took
pleasure in finding that it was irresistible. Now and then it was not
merely a steady pressure. He had a sledge hammer amongst his
intellectual weapons, and once in a while it fell upon one of her
illusions. She laughed at the destruction, and had no pity for the
fragments. They were not illusions integral with her vanity, for he
thought her perfect, and he would not have struck at her faults if he
had seen them. Her faults grew, for they had root in her vital nature,
and drew nourishment from his enduring strength, which surrounded them
and protected them in the blind, whole-heartedness of his love. For the
rest, he had kept his word. She had seen him turn white and bite his
lip, sometimes, and more than once he had left her abruptly, and had not
come back again for several days. But he had never forgotten his
promise, in any word or deed since he had given it.

It is a dangerous thing to pile up a mountain of massive reality from
which to look out upon the fading beauty of a fleeting illusion. In his
influence on Gloria's life, the strong man had overtopped the man of
genius by head and shoulders. And she loved the strange mixture of
attraction and repulsion she felt when she was with Griggs--the
something that wounded her vanity because she could not understand it,
and the protecting shield that overspread that same vanity, and gave it
freedom to be vain beyond all bounds. She would not have admitted that
she loved the man. It was her nature to play upon his pity with the
wounds her love for her husband had suffered. Yet she knew that if she
were free she should marry him, because she could not resist him, and
there was pleasure in the idea that she controlled so irresistible a
force. The contrast between him and Reanda was ever before her, and
since she had learned how weak genius could be, the comparison was
enormously in favour of the younger man.

As Reanda stood there before the fire that evening, she despised him,
and her heart rebelled against his nature. His nervousness, his
trembling hands, his almost evident fear of being questioned, were
contemptible. He was like a hunted animal, she thought. Two hours
earlier her friend had stood there, solid, leonine, gladiatorial,
dominating her with his square white face, and still, shadowy eyes,
quietly stretching to the flames two hands that could have torn her in
pieces,--a man imposing in his stern young sadness, almost solemn in his
splendid physical dignity.

She looked at Reanda, and her lip curled with scorn of herself for
having loved such a thing. It was long since she had seen the gentle
light in his face which had won her heart two years ago. She was
familiar with his genius, and it no longer surprised her into
overlooking his frailty. His fame no longer flattered her. His
gentleness was gone, and had left, not hardness nor violence, in its
place, but a sort of irritable palsy of discontent. That was what she
called it as she watched him.

"You used to kiss me when you came home," she said suddenly, leaning far
back in her chair.

Mechanically he turned his head. The habit was strong, and she had
reminded him of it. He did not wish to quarrel, and he did not reason.
He moved a step to her side and bent down to kiss her forehead. The
automatic conjugality of the daily kiss might have a good effect. That
was what he thought, if he thought at all.

But she put up her hands suddenly, and thrust him back rudely.

"No," she said. "That sort of thing is not worth much, if I have to
remind you to do it."

Her lip curled again. His high shoulders went up, and he turned away.

"You are hard to please," he said, and the words were as mechanical as
the action that had preceded them.

"It cannot be said that you have taken much pains to please me of late,"
she answered coldly.

The servant announced dinner at that moment, and Reanda made no answer,
though he glanced at her nervously. They went into the dining-room and
sat down.

The storm brewed during the silent meal. Reanda scarcely ate anything,
and drank a little weak wine and water.

"You hardly seem well enough to go out this evening," said Gloria, at
last, but there was no kindness in the tone.

"I am perfectly well," he answered impatiently. "I will go with you."

"There is not the slightest necessity," replied his wife. "I can go
alone, and you can go to bed."

"I tell you I am perfectly well!" he said with unconcealed annoyance.
"Let me alone."

"Certainly. Nothing is easier."

The voice was full of that injured dignity which most surely irritated
him, as Gloria knew. But the servant was in the room, and he said
nothing, though it was a real effort to be silent. His tongue had been
free that day, and it was hard to be bound again.

They finished dinner almost in silence, and then went back to the
drawing-room by force of habit. Gloria was still in her walking-dress,
but there was no hurry, and she resumed her favourite seat by the fire
for a time, before going to dress for the reception.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


THERE was something exasperating in the renewal of the position exactly
as it had been before dinner. To make up for having eaten nothing,
Reanda drank two cups of coffee in silence.

"You might at least speak to me," observed Gloria, as he set down the
second cup. "One would almost think that we had quarrelled!"

The hard laugh that followed the words jarred upon him more painfully
than anything that had gone before. He laughed, too, after a moment's
silence, half hysterically.

"Yes," he said; "one might almost think that we had quarrelled!" And he
laughed again.

"The idea seems to amuse you," said Gloria, coldly.

"As it does you," he answered. "We both laughed. Indeed, it is very
amusing."

"Donna Francesca has sent you home in a good humour. That is rare. I
suppose I ought to be grateful."

"Yes. I am in a fine humour. It seems to me that we both are." He bit
his cigar, and blew out short puffs.

"You need not include me. Please do not smoke into my face."

The smoke was not very near her, but she made a movement with her hands
as though brushing it away.

"I beg your pardon," he said politely, and he moved to the other side of
the fireplace.

"How nervous you are!" she exclaimed. "Why can you not sit down?"

"Because I wish to stand," he answered, with returning impatience.
"Because I am nervous, if you choose."

"You told me that you were perfectly well."

"So I am."

"If you were perfectly well, you would not be nervous," she replied.

He felt as though she were driving a sharp nail into his brain.

"It does not make any difference to you whether I am nervous or not," he
said, and his eye began to lighten, as he sat down.

"It certainly makes no difference to you whether you are rude or not."

He shrugged his shoulders, said nothing, and smoked in silence. One thin
leg was crossed over the other and swung restlessly.

"Is this sort of thing to last forever?" she inquired coldly, after a
silence which had lasted a full minute.

"I do not know what you mean," said Reanda.

"You know very well what I mean."

"This is insufferable!" he exclaimed, rising suddenly, with his cigar
between his teeth.

"You might take your cigar out of your mouth to say so," retorted
Gloria.

He turned on her, and an exclamation of anger was on his lips, but he
did not utter it. There was a remnant of self-control. Gloria leaned
back in her chair, and took up a carved ivory fan from amongst the
knick-knacks on the little table beside her. She opened it, shut it, and
opened it again, and pretended to fan herself, though the room was cool.

"I should really like to know," she said presently, as he walked up and
down with uneven steps.

"What?" he asked sharply.

"Whether this is to last for the rest of our lives."

"What?"

"This peaceful existence," she said scornfully. "I should really like to
know whether it is to last. Could you not tell me?"

"It will not last long, if you make it your principal business to
torment me," he said, stopping in his walk.

"I?" she exclaimed, with an air of the utmost surprise. "When do I ever
torment you?"

"Whenever I am with you, and you know it."

"Really! You must be ill, or out of your mind, or both. That would be
some excuse for saying such a thing."

"It needs none. It is true." He was becoming exasperated at last. "You
seem to spend your time in finding out how to make life intolerable. You
are driving me mad. I cannot bear it much longer."

"If it comes to bearing, I think I have borne more than you," said
Gloria. "It is not little. You leave me to myself. You neglect me. You
abuse the friends I am obliged to find rather than be alone. You neglect
me in every way--and you say that I am driving you mad. Do you realize
at all how you have changed in this last year? You may have really gone
mad, for all I know, but it is I who have to suffer and bear the
consequences. You neglect me brutally. How do I know how you pass your
time?"

Reanda stood still in the middle of the room, gazing at her. For a
moment he was surprised by the outbreak. She did not give him time to
answer.

"You leave me in the morning," she went on, working her coldness into
anger. "You often go away before I am awake. You come back at midday,
and sometimes you do not speak a word over your breakfast. If I speak,
you either do not answer, or you find fault with what I say; and if I
show the least enthusiasm for anything but your work, you preach me down
with proverbs and maxims, as though I were a child. I am foolish,
young, impatient, silly, not fit to take care of myself, you say! Have
you taken care of me? Have you ever sacrificed one hour out of your long
day to give me a little pleasure? Have you ever once, since we were
married, stayed at home one morning and asked me what I would do--just
to make one holiday for me? Never. Never once! You give me a fine house
and enough money, and you think you have given me all that a woman
wants."

"And what do you want?" asked Reanda, trying to speak calmly.

"A little kindness, a little love--the least thing of all you promised
me and of all I was so sure of having! Is it so much to ask? Have you
lied to me all this time? Did you never love me? Did you marry me for my
face, or for my voice? Was it all a mere empty sham from the beginning?
Have you deceived me from the first? You said you loved me. Was none of
it true?"

"Yes. I loved you," he answered, and suddenly there was a dulness in his
voice.

"You loved me--"

She sighed, and in the stillness that followed the little ivory fan
rattled as she opened and shut it. To his ear, the tone in which she had
spoken had rung false. If only he could have heard her voice speaking as
it had once sounded, he must have been touched.

"Yes," she continued. "You loved me, or at least you made me think you
did. I was young and I believed you. You do not even say it now. Perhaps
because you know how hard it would be to make me believe you."

"No. That is not the reason."

She waited a moment, for it was not the answer she had expected.

"Angelo--" she began, and waited, but he said nothing, though he looked
at her. "It is not true, it cannot be true!" she said, suddenly turning
her face away, for there was a bitter humiliation in it.

"It is much better to say it at once," he said, with the supernaturally
calm indifference which sometimes comes upon very sensitive people when
they are irritated beyond endurance. "I did love you, or I should not
have married you. But I do not love you any longer. I am sorry. I wish I
did."

"And you dare to tell me so!" she cried, turning upon him suddenly.

A moment later she was leaning forward, covering her face with her
hands, and speaking through them.

"You have the heart to tell me so, after all I have been to you--the
devotion of years, the tenderness, the love no man ever had of any
woman! Oh, God! It is too much!"

"It is said now. It is of no use to go back to a lie," observed Reanda,
with an indifference that would have seemed diabolical even to himself,
had he believed her outbreak to be quite genuine. "Of what use would it
be to pretend again?"

"You admit that you have only pretended to love me?" She raised her
flushed face and gleaming eyes.

"Of late--if you call it a pretence--"

"Oh, not that--not that! I have seen it--but at first. You did love me.
Say that, at least."

"Certainly. Why should I have married you?"

"Yes--why? In spite of her, too--it is not to be believed."

"In spite of her? Of whom? Are you out of your mind?"

Gloria laughed in a despairing sort of way.

"Do not tell me that Donna Francesca ever wished you to be married!" she
said.

"She brought us together. You know it. It is the only thing I could ever
reproach her with."

"She made you marry me?"

"Made me? No! You are quite mad."

He stamped his foot impatiently, and turned away to walk up and down
again. His cigar had gone out, but he gnawed at it angrily. He was
amazed at what he could still bear, but he was fast losing his head. The
mad desire to strangle her tingled in his hands, and the light of the
lamp danced when he looked at it.

"She has made you do so many things!" said Gloria.

Her tone had changed again, growing hard and scornful, when she spoke of
Donna Francesca.

"What has she made me do that you should speak of her in that way?"
asked Reanda, angrily, re-crossing the room.

"She has made you hate me--for one thing," Gloria answered.

"That is not true!" Reanda could hardly breathe, and he felt his voice
growing thick.

"Not true! Then, if not she, who else? You are with her there all
day--she talks about me, she finds fault with me, and you come home and
see the faults she finds for you--"

"There is not a word of truth in what you say--"

"Do not be so angry, then! If it were not true, why should you care? I
have said it, and I will say it. She has robbed me of you. Oh, I will
never forgive her! Never fear! One does not forget such things! She has
got you, and she will keep you, I suppose. But you shall regret it! She
shall pay me for it!"

Her voice shook, for her jealousy was real, as was all her emotion while
it lasted.

"You shall not speak of her in that way," said Reanda, fiercely. "I owe
her and her family all that I am, all that I have in the world--"

"Including me!" interrupted Gloria. "Pay her then--pay her with your
love and yourself. You can satisfy your conscience in that way, and you
can break my heart."

"There is not the slightest fear of that," answered Reanda, cruelly.

She rose suddenly to her feet and stood before him, blazing with anger.

"If I could find yours--if you had any--I would break it," she said.
"You dare to say that I have no heart, when you can see that every word
you say thrusts it through like a knife, when I have loved you as no
woman ever loved man! I said it, and I repeat it--when I have given you
everything, and would have given you the world if I had it! Indeed, you
are utterly heartless and cruel and unkind--"

"At least, I am honest. I do not play a part as you do. I say plainly
that I do not love you and that I am sorry for it. Yes--really sorry."
His voice softened for an instant. "I would give a great deal to love
you as I once did, and to believe that you loved me--"

"You will tell me that I do not--"

"Indeed, I will tell you so, and that you never did--"

"Angelo--take care! You will go too far!"

"I could never go far enough in telling you that truth. You never loved
me. You may have thought you did. I do not care. You talk of devotion
and tenderness and all the like! Of being left alone and neglected! Of
going too far! What devotion have you ever shown to me, beyond
extravagantly praising everything I painted, for a few months after we
were married. Then you grew tired of my work. That is your affair. What
is it to me whether you admire my pictures or Mendoza's, or any other
man's? Do you think that is devotion? I know far better than you which
are good and which are bad. But you call it devotion. And it was
devotion that kept you away from me when I was working, when I was
obliged to work--for it is my trade, after all--and when you might have
been with me day after day! And it was devotion to meet me with your
sour, severe look every day when I came home, as though I were a secret
enemy, a conspirator, a creature to be guarded against like a thief--as
though I had been staying away from you on purpose, and of my
will--instead of working for you all day long. That was your way of
showing your love. And to torment me with questions, everlastingly
believing that I spend my time in talking against you to Donna
Francesca--"

"You do!" cried Gloria, who had not been able to interrupt his
incoherent speech. "You love her as you never loved me--as you hate
me--as you both hate me!"

She grasped his sleeve in her anger, shaking his arm, and staring into
his eyes.

"You make me hate you!" he answered, trying to shake her off.

"And you succeed, between you--You and your--"

In his turn he grasped her arm with his long, thin fingers, with nervous
roughness.

"You shall not speak of her--"

"Shall not? It is the only right I have left--that and the right to hate
you--you and that infamous woman you love--yes--you and your
mistress--your pretty Francesca!" Her laugh was almost a scream.

His fury overflowed. After all, he was the son of a countryman, of the
steward of Gerano. He snatched the ivory fan from her hand and struck
her across the face with it. The fragile thing broke to shivers, and the
fragments fell between them.

Gloria turned deadly white, but there was a bright red bar across her
cheek. She looked at him a moment, and into her face there came that
fateful look that was like her dead mother's.

Then without a word she turned and left the room.



CHAPTER XXIX.


THE daughter of Angus Dalrymple and Maria Braccio was not the woman to
bear a blow tamely, or to hesitate long as to the surest way of
resenting it. Before she had reached the door she had determined to
leave the house at once, and ten minutes had not passed before she found
herself walking down the Corso, veiled and muffled in a cloak, and
having all the money she could call her own, in her pocket, together
with a few jewels of little value, given her by her father.

Reanda had sunk into a chair when the door had closed behind her, half
stunned by the explosion of his own anger. He looked at the bits of
broken ivory on the carpet, and wondered vaguely what they meant. He
felt as though he had been in a dream of which he could not remember the
distorted incidents at all clearly. His breath came irregularly, his
heart fluttered and stood still and fluttered again, and his hands
twitched at the fringe on the arms of the chair. By and bye, the butler
came in to take away the coffee cups and he saw that his master was ill.
Under such circumstances nothing can equal the gentleness of an Italian
servant. The man called some one to help him, and got Reanda to his
dressing-room, and undressed him and laid him upon the long leathern
sofa. Then they knocked at the bedroom door, but there was no answer.

"Do not disturb the signora," said Reanda, feebly. "She wishes to be
alone. We shall not want the carriage."

Those were the only words he spoke that evening, and the servants
understood well enough that something had happened between husband and
wife, and that it was best to be silent and to obey. No one tried the
door of the bedroom. If any one had turned the handle, it would have
been found to be locked. The key lay on the table in the hall, amongst
the visiting-cards. Dalrymple's daughter had inherited some of his quick
instinct and presence of mind. She had felt sure that if she locked the
door of her room when she left the house, her husband would naturally
suppose that she had shut herself in, not wishing to be disturbed, and
would respect her desire to be alone. It would save trouble, and give
her time to get away. He could sleep on the sofa in his dressing-room,
as he actually did, in the illness of his anger, treated as Italians
know how to treat such common cases, of which the consequences are
sometimes fatal. Many an Italian has died from a fit of rage. A single
blood-vessel, in the brain, a little weaker than the rest, and all is
over in an apoplexy. But Reanda was not of an apoplectic constitution.
The calming treatment acted very soon, he fell asleep, and did not wake
till daylight, quite unaware that Gloria was not in the next room,
sleeping off her anger as he had done.

She had gone out in her first impulse to leave the house of the man who
had so terribly insulted her. Under her veil the hot blood scorched her
where the blow had left its red bar, and her rage and wounded pride
chased one another from her heart to her head while with every beating
of her pulse the longing for revenge grew wilder and stronger.

She had left the house with one first idea--to find Paul Griggs and tell
him what had happened. No other thought crossed her mind, and her steps
turned mechanically down the Corso, for he still lived in his two rooms
in the Via della Frezza.

It was early still. People dined at six o'clock in those days, and it
was not yet eight when Gloria found herself in the street. It was quiet,
though there were many people moving about. During the hours between
dinner and the theatre there were hardly any carriages out, and the
sound of many footsteps and of many low voices filled the air. Gloria
kept to the right and walked swiftly along, never turning her head. She
had never been out in the streets alone at night in her life, and even
in her anger she felt a sort of intoxication of freedom that was quite
new to her, a beginning of satisfaction upon him who had injured her.
There was Highland blood in her veins, as well as Italian passion.

The southeast wind was blowing down the street behind her, that same
strange and tragic wind, tragic and passionate, that had blown so
gustily down upon Subiaco from the mountains, on that night long ago
when Maria Addolorata had stood aside by the garden gate to let
Dalrymple pass, bearing something in his arms. Gloria knew it by its sad
whisper and by the faint taste of it and smell of it, through her
close-drawn veil.

On she went, down the Corso, till she came to the Piazza Colonna, and
saw far on her left, beyond the huge black shaft of the column, the
brilliant lights from the French officers' Club. She hesitated then, and
slackened her speed a little. The sight of the Club reminded her of
society, of what she was doing, and of what it might mean. As she walked
more slowly, the wind gained upon her, as it were, from behind, and
tried to drive her on. It seemed to be driving her from her husband's
house with all its might, blowing her skirts before her and her thick
veil. She passed the square, keeping close to the shutters of the shops
under the Palazzo Piombino--gone now, to widen the open space. A gust,
stronger than any she had felt yet, swept down the pavement. She paused
a moment, leaning against the closed shutters of the clockmaker Ricci,
whose shop used to be a sort of landmark in the Corso. Just then a clock
within struck eight strokes. She heard them all distinctly through the
shutters.

She hesitated an instant. It was eight o'clock. She had not realized
what time it was. If she found the street door shut in the Via della
Frezza, it would be hard to get at Griggs. She had passed the house more
than once in her walks, and she knew that Griggs lived high up in the
fifth story. It might be already too late. She hesitated and looked up
and down the pavement. A young French officer of Zouaves was coming
towards her; his high wrinkled and varnished boots gleamed in the
gaslight. He had a black beard and bright young eyes, and was smoking a
cigarette. He was looking at her and slackened his pace as he came near.
She left her place and walked swiftly past him, down the Corso.

All at once she felt in the gust that drove her a cool drop of rain just
behind her ear, and a moment later, passing a gas-lamp, she saw the dark
round spots on the grey pavement. In her haste, she had brought no
umbrella. She hurried on, and the wind blew her forward with all its
might, so that she felt her steps lightened by its help. The Corso was
darker and there were fewer people. The rain fell fast when she reached
San Carlo, where the street widens, and she gathered her cloak about
her as well as she could and crossed to the other side, hoping to find
more shelter. She was nearing the Via della Frezza, and she knew some of
the ins and outs of the narrow streets behind the tribune of the great
church. It was very dark as she turned the semicircle of the apse, and
the rain fell in torrents, but it was shorter to go that way, for Griggs
lived nearer to the Ripetta than to the Corso, and she followed a sort
of crooked diagonal, in the direction of his house. She thought the
streets led by that way to the point she wished to reach, and she walked
as fast as she could. The flare of an occasional oil lamp swung out high
at the end of its lever showed her the way, and showed her, too, the
rush of the yellow water down the middle channel of the street. She
looked in vain for the turning she expected on her right. She had not
lost her way, but she had not found the short cut she had looked for.
Emerging upon the broad Ripetta, she paused an instant at the corner and
looked about, though she knew which way to turn. Just then there were
heavy splashing footsteps close to her.

"Permit me, Signora," said a voice that was rough and had an odd accent,
though the tone was polite, and a huge umbrella was held over her head.

She shrank back against the wall quickly, in womanly fear of a strange
man.

"No, thank you!" she exclaimed in answer.

"But yes!" said the man. "It rains. You are getting an illness,
Signora."

The faint light showed her that she would be safe enough in accepting
the offer. The man was evidently a peasant from the mountains, and he
was certainly not young. His vast black cloak was turned back a little
by his arm and showed the lining of green flannel and the blue clothes
with broad silver buttons which he wore.

"Thank you," she said, for she was glad of the shelter, and she stood
still under the enormous blue cotton umbrella, with its battered brass
knob and its coloured stripes.

"But I will accompany you," said the man. "It is certainly not beginning
to finish. Apoplexy! It rains in pieces!"

"Thank you. I am not going far," said Gloria. "You are very kind."

"It seems to be the act of a Christian," observed the peasant.

She began to move, and he walked beside her. He would have thought it
bad manners to ask whither she was going. Through the torrents of rain
they went on in silence. In less than five minutes she had found the
door of Griggs's house. To her intense relief it was still open, and
there was the glimmer of a tiny oil lamp from a lantern in the stairway.
Gloria felt for the money in her pocket. The man did not wait, nor
speak, and was already going away. She called him.

[Illustration: Stefanone and Gloria.--Vol. II., p. 100.]

"I wish to give you something," said Gloria.

"To me?" exclaimed the man, in surprise. "No, Signora. It seems that you
make a mistake."

"Excuse me," Gloria answered. "In the dark, I did not see. I am very
grateful to you. You are from the country?"

She wished to repair the mistake she had made, by some little civility.
The man stood on the doorstep, with his umbrella hanging backward over
his shoulder, and she could see his face distinctly,--a typical Roman
face with small aquiline features, keen dark eyes, a square jaw, and
iron-grey hair.

"Yes, Signora. Stefanone of Subiaco, wine merchant, to serve you. If you
wish wine of Subiaco, ask for me at Piazza Montanara. Signora, it rains
columns. With permission, I go."

"Thank you again," she answered.

He disappeared into the torrent, and she was left alone at the foot of
the gloomy stairs, under the feeble light of the little oil lamp. She
had thrown back her veil, for it was soaked with water and stuck to her
face. Little rivulets ran down upon the stones from her wet clothes,
which felt intolerably heavy as she stood there, resting one gloved hand
against the damp wall and staring at the lantern. Her thoughts had
been disturbed by her brief interview with the peasant; the rain chilled
her, and her face burned. She touched her cheek with her hand where
Reanda had struck her. It felt bruised and sore, for the blow had not
been a light one. The sensation of the wet leather disgusted her, and
she drew off the glove with difficulty, turning it inside out over her
full white hand. Then she touched the place again, and patted it,
softly, and felt it. But her eyes did not move from the lantern.

There was one of those momentary lulling pauses in the rush of events
which seem sent to confuse men's thoughts and unsettle their purposes.
Had she reached the house five minutes earlier, she would not have
hesitated a moment at the foot of the stairs. Suddenly she turned back
to the door, and stood there looking out. It looked very black. She
gathered her dripping skirt back as she bent forward a little and peered
into the darkness. The rain fell in sheets, now, with the unquavering
sound of a steadily rushing torrent. It would be madness to go out into
it. A shiver ran through her, and another. She was very cold and
miserable. No doubt Griggs had a fire upstairs, and a pleasant light in
his study. He would be there, hard at work. She would knock, and he
would open, and she would sit down by the fire and dry herself, and pour
out her misery. The red bar was still across her face--she had seen it
in the looking-glass when she had put on her hat.

To go back, to see her husband that night--it was impossible. Later,
perhaps, when he should be asleep, Griggs would find a carriage and take
her home. No one would ever know where she had been, and she would never
tell any more than Griggs would. She felt that she must see him and tell
him everything, and feel his strength beside her. After all, he was the
only friend she had in the world, and it was natural that she should
turn to him for help, in her father's absence. He was her father's
friend, too.

She shivered again and again from head to foot, and she drew back from
the door. For a moment she hesitated. Then with a womanly action she
began to shake the rain out of her cloak and her skirts as well as she
could, wetting her hands to the wrists. As she bent down, shaking the
hem of the skirt, the blood rushed to her face again, and the place he
had struck burned and smarted. It was quite a different sensation from
what she had felt when she had touched it with her cool wet hand. She
straightened herself with a spring and threw back her head, and her eyes
flashed fiercely in the dark. The accidents of fate closed round her,
and the hands of her destiny had her by the throat, choking her as she
breathed.

There was no more hesitation. With quick steps she began to ascend the
short, steep flights. It was dark, beyond the first turning, but she
went on, touching the damp walls with her hands. Then there was a
glimmer again, and a second lantern marked the first landing and shone
feebly upon a green door with a thin little square of white marble
screwed to it for a door-plate and a name in black. She glanced at it
and went on, for she knew that Griggs lived on the fifth floor. She was
surefooted, like her father, as she went firmly up, panting a little,
for her drenched clothes weighed her down. There was one more light, and
then there were no more. She counted the landings, feeling the doors
with her hands as she went by, dizzy from the constant turning in the
darkness. At last she thought she had got to the end, and groping with
her hands she found a worsted string and pulled it, and a cracked little
bell jangled and beat against the wood inside. She heard a pattering of
feet, and a shrill, nasal child's voice called out the customary
question, inquiring who was there. She asked for Griggs.

"He is not here," answered the child, and she heard the footsteps
running away again, though she called loudly.

Her heart sank. But she groped her way on. The staircase ended, for it
was the top of the house, and she found another door, and felt for a
string like the one she had pulled, but there was none. Something told
her that she was right, and with the sudden, desperate longing to be
inside, with her strong protector, in the light and warmth, she beat
upon the door with the palms of her hands, her face almost touching the
cold painted wood studded with nails, that smelled of wet iron.

Then came the firm, regular footsteps of the strong man, and his clear,
stern voice spoke from within, not in a question, but in a curt refusal
to open.

"Go away," he said, in Italian. "You have mistaken the door."

But she beat with her hands upon the heavy wood.

"Let me in!" she cried in English. "Let me in!"

There was a deep exclamation of surprise, and the oiled bolt clanked
back in its socket. The door opened inward, and Paul Griggs held up a
lamp with a green shade, throwing the light into Gloria's face.



CHAPTER XXX.


GLORIA pushed past Griggs and stood beside him in the narrow entry. He
shut the door mechanically, and turned slowly towards her, still holding
up the lamp so that it shone upon her face.

"What has happened to you?" he asked, slowly and steadily, his shadowed
eyes fixed upon her.

"He has beaten me, and I have come to you. Look at my face."

He saw the red bar across her cheek. He did not raise his voice, and
there was little change in his features, but his eyes glowed suddenly,
like the eyes of a wild beast, and he swore an oath so terrible that
Gloria turned a little pale and shrank from him. Then he was silent, and
they stood together. She could hear his breath. She could see him trying
to swallow, for his throat was suddenly as dry as cinders. Very slowly
his frown deepened to a scowl, and two straight furrows clove their way
down between his eyes, his dark eyebrows were lifted evilly, upward and
outward, and little by little the strong, clean shaven upper lip rose at
the corners and showed two gleaming, wolfish teeth. The smooth, close
hair bristled from the point where it descended upon his forehead.

Gloria shrank a little. She had seen such a look in an angry lion; just
the look, without a motion of the limbs. Then it all disappeared, and
the still face she knew so well was turned to hers.

"Will you come in?" he asked in a constrained tone. "It is my work-room.
I will light a fire, and you must dry yourself. How did you get so wet?
You did not come on foot?"

He opened the door while he was speaking, and led the way with the lamp.
Gloria shivered as she followed, for there was a small window open in
the entry, and her clothes clung to her in the cold draught. She closed
the door behind her, as she went in. It was very little warmer within
than without, and the small fireplace was black and cold. Instinctively
she glanced at Griggs. He wore a rough pilot coat that had seen much
service, buttoned to his throat. He set the little lamp with its green
shade down upon the table amidst a mass of papers and books, and drew
forward the only easy-chair there was, a dilapidated piece of furniture
covered with faded yellow reps and ragged fringes that dragged on the
floor. He took a great cloak from a clothes-horse in the corner and
threw it over the chair, smoothing it carefully with his hands.

"If you will sit down, I will try and make a fire," he said quietly.

She sat down as he bade her, wondering a little at his calmness, but
remembering the awful words that had escaped his lips when she had
spoken, and the look of the wild beast and incarnate devil that had been
one moment in his face. She looked about her while he began to make a
fire, not hindering him, for she was shivering. The room was large, but
very poorly furnished. There were two great tables, covered with books
and papers; there was a deal bookcase along one wall and an antiquated
cabinet between the two windows, one of its legs propped up with a dingy
faded paper. The coarse green carpet was threadbare, but still whole.
There were half-a-dozen plain chairs with green and white rush seats in
various parts of the room. On the narrow white marble mantel-shelf stood
two china candlesticks, in one of which there was a piece of candle that
had guttered when last burning. In the middle a cheap American clock of
white metal ticked loudly, and the hands pointed to twenty minutes
before nine. In one corner was the clothes-horse, with two or three
overcoats hanging on it, and two hats, one of which was hanging half
over on one side. It looked as though two cloaked skeletons in hats were
embracing. In another corner by the door a black stick and an umbrella
stood side by side. But for the books the place would have had a
desolate look. The air smelt of strong tobacco.

Gloria looked about her curiously, though her heart was beating fast.
The man was familiar to her, dear to her in many ways, and over much in
her life. The place where he lived contained a part of him which she did
not know. Her breath came quickly in the anticipation of an emotion
greater even than what she had felt already, but her eyes wandered in
curiosity from one object to another. Suddenly she heard the loud
cracking of breaking wood. There was a blaze of paper from the
fireplace, illuminating all the room, and some light pieces he was
throwing on kindled quickly. He was breaking them--she looked--it was
one of the rush-bottomed chairs.

"What are you doing?" she cried, leaning suddenly far forward.

"Making a good fire," he answered. "There happened to be only one bit of
wood in my box, so I am taking these things."

He broke the legs and the rails of the chair in his hands, as a child
would break twigs, and heaped them up upon the blaze.

"There are five more," he observed. "They will make a good fire."

He arranged the burning mass to suit him, looked at it, and then turned.

"You ought to be a little nearer," he said, and he lifted the chair with
her in it and set her before the fireplace.

It had all looked and felt desperately desolate half a minute earlier.
It was changed now. He went to a corner and filled a small glass with
wine from a straw-covered flask and brought it to her. She thanked him
with her eyes and drank half of it eagerly. He knelt down before the
fire again, for as the paper burned away underneath, the light sticks
fell inward and might go out. When he had arranged it all again, he
looked round and met her eyes, still kneeling.

"Is that better?" he asked quietly.

"You are so good," said Gloria, letting her eyelids droop as she looked
from him to the pleasant flame.

He put out his hand and gently touched the hem of her cloth skirt.

"You are drenched," he said.

Then, before she realized what he was doing, he bent down and kissed the
wet cloth, and without looking at her rose to his feet, got another
chair and sat down near her. A soft blush of pleasure had risen in her
cheeks. They were little things that he did, but they were like him,
unaffected, strong, direct. Another man would have made apologies for
having no wood and would have tried to make a fire of the single stick.
Another man would have made excuses for the disorder of his room, or for
the poverty of its furniture, perhaps. The other man she thought of was
her husband, and possibly she had her father in her mind, too.

"When you are rested, tell me your story," he said, and his face
hardened all at once.

She began to speak in a low and uncertain voice, reciting almost
mechanically many things which she had often told him before. He
listened without moving a muscle. Her voice was dear to him, whether she
repeated the endless history of her woes for the tenth or the hundredth
time. Where she was concerned he had no judgment, and he had no
criterion, for he had never loved another woman with whom he could
compare her. All that was of her was of paramount interest and weighty
importance. He could not hear it too often. But to-night her first words
had told him of the violent crisis in her life with Reanda, and he
listened to all she said, before she reached that point, with an
interest he had never felt before. But he would not look at her, for he
must have taken her in his arms, as he had done once, months before now.
She had come for protection and for help, and her need was the life
spring of his honour.

As she went on, her voice took colour from her emotion, her hands moved
now and then in short swift gestures, and her dark eyes burned. The
marvellous dramatic power she possessed blazed out under the lash of her
wrongs, and she found words she had only groped for until that moment.
She described the miserably nervous feebleness of the man with scathing
contempt, her tone made evil deeds of his shortcomings, her scorn made
his weakness a black crime; her jealous anger fastened upon Francesca
Campodonico and tore her honour to shreds and her virtues to rags of
abomination; and her flaming pride blazed out in searing hatred and
contempt for the coward who had struck her in the face.

"He broke my fan across my face!" she cried with the ascending
intonation of a fury rising still, and still more fiercely beautiful.
"He slashed my face with it and broke it and threw the bits down at my
feet! There, look at it! That is his work--oh, give it back to him, kill
him for me, tear him to pieces for me--make him feel what I have felt
to-day!"

She had pushed her brown hat and veil back from her head, and her wet
cloak had long ago fallen from her shoulders. One straight, white hand
shot out and fastened upon her companion's arm, as he sat beside her,
and she shook it in savage confidence of his iron strength.

A dead silence followed, but the fire made of the broken chairs roared
and blazed on the low brick hearth. The man kept his eyes upon it
fixedly, as though it were his salvation, for he felt that if he looked
at her he was lost. She had come to him not for love, but for
protection, of her own free will. Yet he felt that his honour was
burning in him, with no longer life, if she stayed there, than the
short, quick fire itself. His voice was thick when he answered, as
though he were speaking through a velvet pall.

"I will kill him, if he will fight," he answered, with an effort. "I
will not murder him, even for you."

She started, for she had not realized how he would take literally what
she said. She had no experience of desperate men in her limited life.

"Murder him? No!" she said, snatching back her hand from his arm. "No,
no! I never meant that."

"I am glad you did not. If you did, I should probably break down and do
it to please you. But if he will fight like a man, I will kill him to
please myself. Now I will go and get a carriage and take you home."

He rose to his feet and, turning, turned away from her, going toward the
corner to get an overcoat. She followed him with her eyes, in silence.

"You are not afraid to be left alone for a quarter of an hour?" he
asked, buttoning his coat, and looking toward his umbrella.

"Do not go just yet," she answered softly.

"I must. It is getting late. I shall not find a carriage if I wait any
longer. I must go now."

"Do not go."

She heard him breathe hard once or twice. Then with quick strides he was
beside her, and speaking to her.

"Gloria, I cannot stand it--I warn you. I love you in a way you cannot
understand. You must not keep me here."

"Do not go," she said again, in the deep, soft tone of her golden voice.

"I must."

He turned from her and went towards the door. Soft and swift she
followed him, but he was in the entry before her hand was on his arm. It
was almost dusk out there. He stopped.

"I cannot go back to him," she said, and he could see the light in her
eyes, and very faintly the red bar across the face he loved.

"You should--there is nowhere else for you to go," he said, and in the
dark his hand was finding the bolt of the door to the stairs.

"No--there is nowhere else--I cannot go back to him," she answered, and
the voice quavered uncertainly as the night breeze sighing amongst
reeds.

"You must--you must," he tried to say.

Her weight was all upon his arm, but it was nothing to him. He steadily
drew back the bolt. He turned up his face so that he could not see her.

With sudden strength her white hands went round his sinewy dark throat
as he threw back his head.

"You are all I have in the world!" she half said, half whispered. "I
will not let you go!"

"You?" His voice broke out as through a bursting shell.

"Yes. Come back!"

His arm fell like lead to his side. Gently she drew him back to the door
of the study. The blaze of the fire shot into her face.

"Come," she said. "See how well it burns."

"Yes," he said, mechanically, "it is burning well."

He stood aside an instant at the door to let her pass. His eyelids
closed and his face became rigid as a death mask of a man dead in
passion. One moment only; then he followed her and softly shut the
door.



CHAPTER XXXI.


THE brilliant winter morning had an intoxicating quality in it, after
the heavy rain which had fallen in the night, and Paul Griggs felt that
it was good to be alive as he threaded the narrow streets between his
lodging and the Piazza Colonna. He avoided the Corso; for he did not
know whom he might meet, and he had no desire to meet any one, except
Angelo Reanda.

Naturally enough, his first honourable impulse was to go to the artist,
to tell him something of the truth, and to give him an opportunity of
demanding the common satisfaction of a hostile meeting. It did not occur
to him that Reanda would not wish to exchange shots with him and have
the chance of taking his life. Griggs was not the man to refuse such an
encounter, and at that moment he felt so absolutely sure of himself that
the idea of being killed was very far removed from his thoughts. It was
without the slightest emotion that he enquired for Reanda at the
latter's house, but he was very much surprised to hear that the painter
had gone out as usual at his customary hour. He hesitated a moment and
then decided not to leave a card, upon which he could not have written
a message intelligible to Reanda which should not have been understood
also by the servant who received it. Griggs made up his mind that he
would write a formal note later in the day. He took it for granted that
Reanda must be searching for his wife.

It was necessary to find a better lodging than the one in the Via della
Frezza, and to provide as well as he could for Gloria's comfort. He was
met by a difficulty upon which he had not reflected as yet, though he
had been dimly aware of it more than once during the past twelve hours.

He was almost penniless, and he had no means of obtaining money at short
notice. The payments he received from the newspapers for which he worked
came regularly, but were not due for at least three weeks from that day.
Alone in his bachelor existence he could have got through the time very
well and without any greater privations than his capriciously ascetic
nature had often imposed upon itself.

He was not an improvident man, but in his lonely existence he had no
sense of future necessities, and the weakest point in his judgment was
his undiscriminating generosity. Of the value of money as a store
against possible needs, he had no appreciation at all, and he gave away
what he earned beyond his most pressing requirements in secret and often
ill-judged charities, whenever an occasion of doing so presented
itself, though he never sought one. For himself, he was able to subsist
on bread and water, and the meagre fare was scarcely a privation to his
hardy constitution. If he chanced to have no money to spare for fuel, he
bore the cold and buttoned up his old pea-jacket to the throat while he
sat at work at his table. His self-respect made him wise and careful in
regard to his dress, but in other matters many a handicraftsman was
accustomed to more luxury than he. At the present juncture he had been
taken unawares, and he found himself in great difficulty. He had left
himself barely enough for subsistence until the arrival of the next
remittance, and that meant but a very few scudi; and yet he knew that
certain expenses must be met immediately, almost within the twenty-four
hours. The very first thing was to get a lodging suitable for Gloria. It
would be necessary to pay at least one month's rent in advance. Even if
he were able to do that, he would be left without a penny for daily
expenses. He had no bank account; for he cashed the drafts he received
and kept the money in his room. He had never borrowed of an
acquaintance, and the idea was repulsive to him and most humiliating.
Had he possessed any bit of jewelry, or anything of value, he would have
sold the object, but he had nothing of the kind. His books were
practically valueless, consisting of such volumes as he absolutely
needed for his daily use, chiefly cheap editions, poorly bound and well
worn. He needed at least fifty scudi, and he did not possess quite ten.
Three weeks earlier he had sent a hundred, anonymously, to free a
starving artist from debt.

His position was only very partially enviable just then, but the bright
north wind seemed to blow his troubles back from him as he faced it,
walking home from his ineffectual attempt to meet Reanda. It was very
unlike the man to return to his lodging without having accomplished
anything, but he was hardly conscious of the fact. The face of the
ancient city was suddenly changed, and it seemed as though nothing could
go wrong if he would only allow fortune to play her own game without
interference. He walked lightly, and there was a little colour in his
face. He tried to think of what he should do to meet his present
difficulties, but when he thought of them they were whirled away,
shapeless and unrecognizable, and he felt a sense of irresistible power
with each breath of the crisp dry air.

As he went along he glanced at the houses he passed, and on some of the
doors were little notices scrawled in queer handwritings and telling
that a lodging was to let. Occasionally he paused, looked up and
hesitated, and then he went on. The difficulty was suddenly before him,
and he knew that even if he looked at the rooms he could not hire them,
as he had not enough money to cover the first month's rent. Immediately
he attempted to devise some means of raising the sum he needed, but
before he had reached the very next corner the clear north wind had
blown the trouble away like a cobweb. With all his strength and industry
and determination, he was still a very young man, and perplexity had no
hold upon him since passion had taken its own way.

He reached the corner of his own street and stood still for a few
moments. He could almost have smiled at himself as he paused. He had
been out more than an hour and had done nothing, thought out nothing,
made no definite plan for the future. His present poverty, which was
desperate enough, had put on a carnival mask and laughed at him, as it
were, and ran away when he tried to grapple with it and look it in the
face. Gloria was there, upstairs in that tall house on which the morning
sun was shining, and nothing else could possibly matter. But if anything
mattered, it would be simple to talk it over together and to decide it
in common.

Suddenly he felt ashamed of himself and of the confusion of his own
intelligence. There was something meek and childish in standing still at
the street corner, watching the people as they went by, listening to the
regularly recurring yell of the man who was selling country vegetables
from a hand-cart, and looking into the faces of people who went by, as
though expecting to find there some solution of a difficulty which his
disturbed powers of concentration did not clearly grasp. He could not
think connectedly, much less could he reason sensibly. He made a few
steps forward towards his house, and then stopped again, asking himself
what he was going to do. He felt that he had no right to go back to
Gloria until he had decided something for the future. He felt like a boy
who has been sent on an errand, and who comes back having forgotten what
he was to do. All at once he had lost his hold upon the logic of
common-sense, and when he groped for a thread that might lead him, he
was suddenly dazzled by the blaze of his happiness and deafened by the
voice of his own joy.

He went on again and came to his own door. The one-eyed cobbler was at
work, astride of his little bench with a brown pot of coals beside him.
From time to time, when he had drawn the waxed yarn out through the
leather on both sides, he blew into his black hands. Griggs stood still
and looked at him in idle indetermination, and only struggling against
the power that drew him towards the stairs.

"A fine north wind," observed Griggs, by way of salutation.

"It seems that it must be said," grunted the old man, punching a fresh
hole in the sole he was cobbling. "To me, my fingers say it. It has
always been a fine trade, this cobbling. It is a gentleman's trade
because one is always sitting down."

"I am going to change my lodging," said Griggs.

The cobbler looked up, resting his dingy fists upon the bench on each
side of the shoe, his awl in one hand, the other half encased in a
leathern sheath, black with age.

"After so many years!" he exclaimed. "The world will also come to an
end. I expected that it would. Now where will you take lodging?"

"Where I can find one. I want a little apartment--"

"It seems that your affairs go better," observed the old man,
scrutinizing the other's face with his one eye.

"No. No better. That is the trouble. I want a little apartment, and I do
not want to pay for it till the end of the first month."

"Then wait till the end of the month before you move to it, Signore."

"That is impossible."

"Then there is a female," said the cobbler, without the slightest
hesitation. "I understand. Why did you not say so?"

Griggs hesitated. The man's guess had taken him by surprise. He
reflected that it could make no difference whether the old cobbler knew
of Gloria's coming or not.

"There is a signora--a relation of mine--who has come to Rome."

"A fair signora? Very beautiful? With a little eye of the devil? I have
seen. Thanks be to heaven, one eye is still good. You are dark, and your
family is fair. How can it interest me?"

"What? Has she gone out?" asked Griggs, in sudden anxiety. "When?"

"I had guessed!" exclaimed the cobbler, with a grunting laugh, and he
ran the delicate bristles, which pointed the yarn, in opposite
directions through the hole he had made, caught one yarn round the knot
on the handle of the awl and the other round the leather sheath on his
left hand. He drew the yarn tight to his arm's length with a vicious
jerk.

"When did the signora go out?" enquired Griggs, repeating his question.

"It may be half an hour ago. Apoplexy! If your relations are all as
beautiful as that!"

But Griggs was already moving towards the staircase. The cobbler called
him back, and he stood still at the foot of the steps.

"There is the little apartment on the left, on the third floor," said
the man. "The lodgers went away yesterday. I was going to ask you to
write me a notice to put up on the door. As for paying, the padrone will
not mind, seeing that you are an old lodger. It is good, do you know?
There is sun. There is also a kitchen. There are five rooms with the
entry."

[Illustration: "The horror of poverty smote him."--Vol. II., p. 123.]

"I will take it," said Griggs, instantly, and he ran up the stairs.

He was breathless with anxiety as he entered his work-room, and looked
about him for something which should tell him where Gloria was gone.
Almost instantly his eyes fell upon a sheet of paper lying before his
accustomed seat. The writing on it was hers.

"I have gone to tell him. I shall be back soon."

That was all it said, but it was enough to blacken the sun that streamed
through the windows upon the old carpet. Griggs sat down and rested his
head in his hand. With the cloud that came between him and happiness,
his powers of reason returned, and he saw quickly, in the pre-vision of
logic, a scene of violence and anger between husband and wife, a
possible reconciliation, and the instant wreck of his storm-driven love.
It was impossible to know what Gloria would tell Reanda.

At the same instant the difficulties of his position rushed upon him and
demanded an instant solution. He looked about him at the poor room, the
miserable furniture, and the worn-out carpet, and the horror of poverty
smote him in the face. He had allowed Gloria to come to him, and he knew
that he could not support her decently. He had never found himself in
so desperate a position in the course of his short and adventurous life.
He could face anything when he alone was to suffer privation, but it was
horrible to force misery upon the woman he loved.

Then, too, he asked himself what was to happen to Gloria if Reanda
killed him, as was possible enough. And if he were not killed, there was
Dalrymple, her father, who might return at any moment. No one could
foretell what the Scotchman would do. It would be like him to do nothing
except to refuse ever to see his daughter again. But he, also, might
choose to fight, though his English traditions would be against it. In
any case, Gloria ran the risk of being left alone, ruined and
unprotected.

But the present problem was a meaner one, though not less desperate in
its way. He reproached himself with having wasted even an hour when the
case was so urgent. Without longer hesitation, he began to write letters
to the editors for whom he worked, requesting them as a favour to
advance the next remittance. Even then, he could scarcely expect to have
money in less than ten days, and there was no one to whom he would
willingly turn for help. Under ordinary circumstances he would have gone
without food for days rather than have borrowed of an acquaintance, but
he realized that he must overcome any such false pride within a day or
two, at the risk of making Gloria suffer.

In those first hours he was not conscious of any question of right or
wrong in what had taken place. Honour, in a rather worldly sense, had
always supplied for him the place of all other moral considerations. The
woman he loved had been ill-treated by her husband, and had come to him
for protection. He had done his best, in spite of his love, to make her
go back, and she had known how to refuse. Men, as men, would not blame
him for what he was doing. Gloria, as a woman, could never reproach him
with having tempted her. He might suffer for his deeds, but he could
never blush for them.



CHAPTER XXXII.


MEANWHILE, Gloria had gone out alone, intending to find her husband and
to tell him that the die was cast, that she had left him in haste and
anger, but that she never would return to his house. She felt that she
must live through the chain of emotions to the very last link, as it
were, until she could feel no more. It was like her to go straight to
Reanda and take up the battle where she had interrupted it. Her anger
had been sudden, but it was not brief. She had left weakness, and had
found strength to add to her own, and she wished the man who had hurt
her to feel how strong she was, and how she was able to take her life
out of his hands and to keep it for herself, and live it as she pleased
in spite of him and every one. The wild blood that ran in her veins was
free, now, and she meant that no one but herself should ever again have
the right to thwart it, to tell her heart that it should beat so many
times in each minute and no more. She was perfectly well aware that she
was accepting social ruin with her freedom, but she had long nourished a
rancorous hatred for the society which had seemed to accept her under
protest, for Francesca's sake, and she was ready enough to turn her back
on it before it should finally make up its polite mind to relegate her
to the middle distance of indifferent toleration.

As for Reanda, on that first morning she hated him with all her soul,
for himself, and for what he had done to her. She had words ready for
him, and she turned and fitted them in her heart that they might cut him
and stab him as long as he could feel. The selfishness with a tendency
to cruelty which was a working spring of her father's character was
strong in her, and craved the satisfaction of wounding. A part of the
sudden joy in life which she felt as she walked towards what had been
her home, lay in the certainty of dealing back fourfold hurt for every
real and fancied injury she had ever suffered at Reanda's hands.

She felt quite sure of finding him. She did not imagine it possible that
after what had happened he should go to the Palazzetto Borgia to work as
usual. Besides, he must have discovered her absence by this time, and
would in all probability be searching for her. She smiled at the idea,
and she went swiftly on, keenly ready to give all the pain she could.

At her own door the servant seemed surprised to see her. Every one had
supposed that she was still in her room, for it was not yet midday, and
she sometimes slept very late. She glanced at the hall table and saw
her key lying amongst the cards where she had thrown it when she had
left the house. The servant did not see her take it, for she made a
pretence of turning the cards over to find some particular one. She
asked indifferently about her husband. The man said that Reanda had gone
out as usual. Gloria started a little in surprise, and inquired whether
he had left no message for her. On hearing that he had given none, she
sent the servant away, went to her own room, and locked herself in.

With a curious Scotch caution very much at variance with her conduct,
she reflected that as the servants were evidently not aware of what had
taken place, they might as well be kept in the dark. In a few moments
she gave the room the appearance which it usually had in the morning.
With perfect calmness she dressed for the day, and then rang for her
maid.

She told the woman that she had slept badly, had got up early, and had
gone out for a long walk; that she now intended to leave Rome for a few
days, for a change of air, and must have what she needed packed within
an hour. She gave a few orders, clearly and concisely, and then went out
again, leaving word that if Reanda returned he should be told that she
was coming back very soon.

Clearly, she thought, he must have supposed that she was still sleeping,
and he had gone to his painting without any further thought of her.
Again she smiled, and a line of delicate cruelty was faintly shadowed
about her lips. She left the house and walked in the direction of the
Palazzetto. Reanda always came home to the midday breakfast, and it was
nearly time for him to be on his way. Gloria knew every turning which he
would take, and she hoped to meet him. Her eyes flashed in anticipation
of the contest, and she felt that he would not be able to meet them.
They would be too bright for him. There was a small mark on her cheek
still, where one of the sharp edges of the ivory slats had scratched her
fair skin, and there was a slight redness on that side, but the bright
red bar was gone. She was glad of it, as she nodded to a passing
acquaintance.

She wished to assure herself that her husband was really at the
Palazzetto, and she inquired of the porter at the great gate whether
Reanda had been seen that morning. The man said that he had come at the
usual hour, and stood aside for her to pass, but she turned from him
abruptly and went away without a word.

The blood rose in her cheeks, and her heart beat angrily. He had
attached no more importance than this to what he had done, and had gone
to his painting as though nothing had happened. He had not even tried to
see her in the morning to beg her pardon for having struck her. Strange
to say, in spite of what she herself had done, that was what most roused
her anger. She demanded the satisfaction of his asking her forgiveness,
as though she had no fault to find with herself. In comparison with his
cowardly violence to her, her leaving him for Griggs was as nothing in
her eyes.

She walked more slowly as she went homewards, and the unspoken
bitterness of her heart choked her, and the sharp words she could not
speak cut her cruelly. She compared the hand that had dared to hurt
though it had not strength to kill, with that other, dearer, gentler,
more terrible hand, which could have killed anything, but which would
rather be burned to the wrist than let one of its fingers touch her
roughly. She compared them, and she loved the one and she loathed the
other, with all her heart. And with that same hand Reanda, at that same
moment, was painting some goddess's face, and it had forgotten whose
divinely lovely cheek it had struck. It was painting unless, perhaps, it
lay in Francesca's. But Gloria had not forgotten, and she would repay
before the day darkened.

Her husband, since he was calm enough to go to his work, would come home
for his breakfast when he was hungry. Gloria went back to her room and
superintended the packing of what she needed. But she was not so calm as
she had been half an hour earlier, and she waited impatiently for her
husband's return and for the last scene of the drama. When the things
were packed, she had the box taken out to the hall and sent for a cab.
As she foresaw the situation, she would leave the house forever as soon
as the last word was spoken. Then she went into the drawing-room and
waited, watching the clock.

There, on the mantelpiece, lay the broken fan, where the fragments had
been placed by the servant. Gloria looked at them, handled them
curiously, and felt her cheek softly with her hand. He must have struck
her with all his might, she thought, to have hurt her as he had with so
light a weapon; and the whole quarrel came back to her vividly, in every
detail, and with every spoken word.

She could not regret what she had done. With an attempt at
self-examination, which was only a self-justification, she tried to
recall the early days when she had loved her husband, and to conjure up
the face with the gentle light in it. She failed, of course, and the
picture that came disgusted her and was unutterably contemptible and
weak and full of cowardice. The face of Paul Griggs came in its place a
moment later, and she heard in her ears the deep, stern voice, quavering
with strength rather than with weakness, and she could feel the arms she
loved about her, pressing her almost to pain, able to press her to death
in their love-clasp.

The hands of the clock went on, and Reanda did not come. She was
surprised to find how long she had waited, and with a revulsion of
feeling she rose to her feet. If he would not come, she would not wait
for him. She was hungry, too. It was absurd, perhaps, but she would not
eat his bread nor sit at his table, not even alone. She went to her
writing-table and wrote a note to him, short, cruel, and decisive. She
wrote that if her father had been in Rome she would have gone to him for
protection. As he was absent, she had gone to her father's best friend
and her own--to Paul Griggs. She said nothing more. He might interpret
the statement as he pleased. She sealed the note and addressed it, and
before she went out of the house she gave it to the servant, to be given
to Reanda as soon as he came home. The man-servant went downstairs with
her, and stood looking after the little open cab; he saw Gloria speak to
the coachman, who nodded and changed his direction before they were out
of sight.

At the door in the Via della Frezza the cabman let down Gloria's luggage
and drove away. She stood still a moment and looked at the one-eyed
cobbler.

"You have given the signore a beautiful fright," observed the old man.
"I told him you had gone out. With one jump he was upstairs. By this
time he cries."

Gloria took a silver piece of two pauls from her purse.

"Can you carry up these things for me?" she inquired, concealing her
annoyance at the man's speech.

"I am not a porter," said the cobbler, with his head on one side. "But
one must live. With courage and money one makes war. There are three
pieces. One at a time. But you must watch the door while I carry up the
box. If any one should steal my tools, it would be a beautiful day's
work. Without them I should be in the middle of the street. You will
understand, Signora. It is not to do you a discourtesy, but my tools are
my bread. Without them I cannot eat. There is also the left boot of Sor
Ercole. If any one were to steal it, Sor Ercole would go upon one leg.
Imagine the disgrace!"

"I will stay here," said Gloria. "Do not be afraid."

The cobbler, who was a strong old man, got hold of the trunk and
shouldered it with ease. When he stood up, Gloria saw that he was
bandy-legged and very short.

She turned and stood on the threshold of the street door as she had
stood on the previous night. No one would have believed that a few hours
earlier the rain had fallen in torrents, for the pavement was dry, and
even under the arch there seemed to be no dampness. Looking up the
street towards the Corso, she saw that there was a wine shop, a few
doors higher on the opposite side. Two or three men were standing before
it, under the brown bush which served for a sign, and amongst them she
saw a peasant in blue cloth clothes with silver buttons and clean white
stockings. She recognized him as the man who had held his umbrella over
her in the storm. He also saw her, lifted his felt hat and came
forwards, crossing the street. His look was fixed on her face with a
stare of curiosity as he stood before her.

"I hope you have not caught cold, Signora," he said, with steady,
unwinking eyes. "We passed a beautiful storm. Signora, I sell wine to
that host. If you should need wine, I recommend him to you." He pointed
to the shop.

"You told me to ask for you at the Piazza Montanara," said Gloria,
smiling.

"With that water you could not see the shop," answered Stefanone.
"Signora, you are very beautiful. With permission, I say that you should
not walk alone at night."

"It was the first and last time," said Gloria. "Fortunately, I met a
person of good manners. I thank you again."

"Signora, you are so beautiful that the Madonna and her angels always
accompany you. With permission, I go. Good day."

To the last, until he turned, he kept his eyes steadily fixed on
Gloria's face, as though searching for a resemblance in her features.
She noticed his manner and remembered him very distinctly after the
second meeting.

The cobbler came back again, closely followed by Griggs himself, who
said nothing, but took possession of the small valise and bag which
Gloria had brought in addition to her box. He led the way, and she
followed him swiftly. Inside the door of his lodging he turned and
looked at her.

"Please do not go away suddenly without telling me," he said in a low
voice. "I am easily frightened about you."

"Really?"

Gloria held out her two hands to meet him. He nodded as he took them.

"That is better than anything you have ever said to me." She drew him to
her.

It was natural, for she was thinking how Reanda had calmly gone back to
his work that morning, without so much as asking for her. The contrast
was too great and too strong, between love and indifference.

They went into the work-room together, and Gloria sat down on one of the
rush chairs, and told Griggs what she had done. He walked slowly up and
down while she was speaking, his eyes on the pattern of the old carpet.

"I might have stayed," she said at last. "The servants did not even know
that I had been out of the house."

"You should have stayed," said Griggs. "I ought to say it, at least."

But as he spoke the mask softened and the rare smile beautified for one
instant the still, stern face.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


REANDA neither wished to see Gloria again, nor to take vengeance upon
Paul Griggs. He was not a brave man, morally or physically, and he was
glad that his wife had left him. She had put him in the right, and he
had every reason for refusing ever to see her again. With a cynicism
which would have been revolting if it had not been almost childlike in
its simplicity, he discharged his servants, sold his furniture, gave up
his apartment in the Corso, and moved back to his old quarters in the
Palazzetto Borgia. But he did not acknowledge Gloria's note in any other
way.

She had left him, and he wished to blot out her existence as though he
had never known her, not even remembering the long two years of his
married life. She was gone. There was no Gloria, and he wished that
there never had been any woman with her name and face.

On the third day, he met Paul Griggs in the street. The younger man saw
Reanda coming, and stood still on the narrow pavement, in order to show
that he had no intention of avoiding him. As the artist came up, Griggs
lifted his hat gravely. Reanda mechanically raised his hand to his own
hat and passed the man who had injured him, without a word. Griggs saw a
slight, nervous twitching in the delicate face, but that was all. He
thought that Reanda looked better, less harassed and less thin, than for
a long time. He had at once returned to his old peaceful life and
enjoyed it, and had evidently not the smallest intention of ever
demanding satisfaction of his former friend.

Francesca Campodonico had listened in nervous silence to Reanda's story.

"She has done me a kindness," he concluded. "It is the first. She has
given me back my freedom. I shall not disturb her."

The colour was in Francesca's face, and her eyes looked down. Her
delicate lips were a little drawn in, as though she were making an
effort to restrain her words, for it was one of the hardest moments of
her life. Being what she was, it was impossible for her to understand
Gloria's conduct. But at the same time she felt that she was liberated
from something which had oppressed her, and the colour in her cheeks was
a flash of satisfaction and relief mingled with a certain displeasure at
her own sensations and the certainty that she should be ashamed of them
by and bye.

It was not in her nature to accept such a termination for Reanda's
married life, however he himself might be disposed to look upon it.

"You are to blame almost as much as Gloria," she said, and she was
sincerely in earnest.

She was too good and devout a woman to believe in duelling, but she was
far too womanly to be pleased with Reanda's indifference. It was wicked
to fight duels and unchristian to seek revenge. She knew that, and it
was a conviction as well as an opinion. But a man who allowed another to
take his wife from him and did not resent the injury could not command
her respect. Something in her blood revolted against such tameness,
though she would not for all the world have had Reanda take Gloria back.
Between the two opposites of conviction and instinct, she did not know
what to do. Moreover, Reanda had struck his wife. He admitted it, though
apologetically and with every extenuating circumstance which he could
remember.

"Yes," he answered. "I know that I did wrong. Am I infallible? Holy
Saint Patience! I could bear no more. But it is clear that she was
waiting for a reason for leaving me. I gave it to her, and she should be
grateful. She also is free, as I am."

"It is horrible!" exclaimed Francesca, with sorrowful emphasis.

She blamed herself quite as much as Reanda or Gloria, because she had
brought them together and had suggested the marriage. Reanda's thin
shoulders went up, and he smiled incredulously.

"I do not see what is so horrible," he answered. "Two people think they
are in love. They marry. They discover their mistake. They separate.
Well? It is finished. Let us make the sign of the cross over it."

The common Roman phrase, signifying that a matter is ended and buried,
as it were, jarred upon Francesca, for whom the smallest religious
allusion had a real meaning.

"It is not the sign of the cross which should be made," she said sadly
and gravely, and the colour was gone from her face now. "There are two
lives wrecked, and a human soul in danger. We cannot say that it is
finished, and pass on."

"What would you have me do?" asked Reanda, almost impatiently. "Take her
back?"

"No!" exclaimed Francesca, with a sharp intonation as though she were
hurt.

"Well, then, what? I do not see that anything is to be done. She herself
can think of her soul. It is her property. She has made me suffer
enough--let some one else suffer. I have enough of it."

"You will forgive her some day," said Francesca. "You are angry still,
and you speak cruelly. You will forgive her."

"Never," answered Reanda, with emphasis. "I will not forgive her for
what she made me bear, any more than I will forgive Griggs for receiving
her when she left me. I will not touch them, but I will not forgive
them. I am not angry. Why should I be?"

Francesca sighed, for she did not understand the man, though hitherto
she had always understood him, or thought that she had, ever since she
had been a mere child, playing with his colours and brushes in the
Palazzo Braccio. She left the hall and went to her own sitting-room on
the other side of the house. As soon as she was alone, the tears came to
her eyes. She was hardly aware of them, and when she felt them on her
cheeks she wondered why she was crying, for she did not often shed
tears, and was a woman of singularly well balanced nature, able to
control herself on the rare occasions when she felt any strong emotion.

In spite of Reanda's conduct, she determined not to leave matters as
they were without attempting to improve them. She wrote a note to Paul
Griggs, asking him to come and see her during the afternoon.

He could not refuse to answer the summons, knowing, as he did, that he
must in honour respond to any demand for an explanation coming from
Reanda's side. Gloria wished him to reply to the note, giving an excuse
and hinting that no good could come of any meeting.

"It is a point of honour," he answered briefly, and she yielded, for he
dominated her altogether.

Francesca received him in her own small sitting-room, which overlooked
the square before the Palazzetto. It was very quiet, and there were
roses in old Vienna vases. It was a very old-fashioned room, the air was
sweet with the fresh flowers, and the afternoon sun streamed in through
a single tall window. Francesca sat on a small sofa which stood
crosswise between the window and the writing-table. She had a frame
before her on which was stretched a broad band of deep red satin, a
piece of embroidery in which she was working heraldic beasts and
armorial bearings in coloured silks.

She did not rise, nor hold out her hand, but pointed to a chair near
her, as she spoke.

"I asked you to come," she said, "because I wish to speak to you about
Gloria."

Griggs bent his head, sat down, and waited with a perfectly impassive
face. Possibly there was a rather unusual aggressiveness in the straight
lines of his jaw and his even lips. There was a short silence before
Francesca spoke again.

"Do you know what you have done?" she asked, finishing a stitch and
looking quietly into the man's deep eyes.

He met her glance calmly, but said nothing, merely bending his head
again, very slightly.

"It is very wicked," said she, and she began to make another stitch,
looking down again.

"I have no doubt that you think so," answered Paul Griggs, slowly
nodding a third time.

"It is not a question of opinion. It is a matter of fact. You have
ruined the life of an innocent woman."

"If social position is the object of existence, you are right," he
replied. "I have nothing to say."

"I am not speaking of social position," said Donna Francesca, continuing
to make stitches.

"Then I am afraid that I do not understand you."

"Can you conceive of nothing more important to the welfare of men and
women than social position?"

"It is precisely because I do, that I care so little what society
thinks. I do not understand you."

"I have known you some time," said Francesca. "I had not supposed that
you were a man without a sense of right and wrong. That is the question
which is concerned now."

"It is a question which may be answered from more than one point of
view. You look at it in one way, and I in another. With your permission,
we will differ about it, since we can never agree."

"There is no such thing as differing about right and wrong," answered
Donna Francesca, with a little impatience. "Right is right, and wrong is
wrong. You cannot possibly believe that you have done right. Therefore
you know that you have done wrong."

"That sort of logic assumes God at the expense of man," said Griggs,
calmly.

Francesca looked up with a startled expression in her eyes, for she was
shocked, though she did not understand him.

"God is good, and man is sinful," she answered, in the words of her
simple faith.

"Why?" asked Griggs, gravely.

He waited for her answer to the most tremendous question which man can
ask, and he knew that she could not answer him, though she might satisfy
herself.

"I have never talked about religion with an atheist," she said at last,
slowly pushing her needle through the heavy satin.

"I am not an atheist, Princess."

"A Protestant, then--"

"I am not a Protestant. I am a Catholic, as you are."

She looked up suddenly and faced him with earnest eyes.

"Then you are not a good Catholic," she said. "No good Catholic could
speak as you do."

"Even the Apostles had doubts," answered Griggs. "But I do not pretend
to be good. Since I am a man, I have a right to be a man, and to be
treated as a man. If the right is not given me freely, I will take it.
You cannot expect a body to behave as though it were a spirit. A man
cannot imitate an invisible essence, any more than a sculptor can
imitate sound with a shape of clay. When we are spirits, we shall act as
spirits. Meanwhile we are men and women. As a man, I have not done
wrong. You have no right to judge me as an angel. Is that clear?"

"Terribly clear!" Francesca slowly shook her head. "And terribly
mistaken," she added.

"You see," answered the young man. "It is impossible to argue the point.
We do not speak the same language. You, by your nature, believe that you
can imitate a spirit. You are spiritual by intuition and good by
instinct, according to the spiritual standard of good. I am, on the
contrary, a normal man, and destined to act as men act. I cannot
understand you and you, if you will allow me to say so, cannot possibly
understand me. That is why I propose that we should agree to differ."

"And do you think you can sweep away all right and wrong, belief and
unbelief, salvation and perdition, with such a statement as that?"

"Not at all," replied Griggs. "You tell me that I am wicked. That only
means that I am not doing what you consider right. You deny my right of
judgment, in favour of your own. You make witnesses of spirits against
the doings of men. You judge my body and condemn my soul. And there is
no possible appeal from your tribunal, because it is an imaginary one.
But if you will return to the facts of the case, you will find it hard
to prove that I have ruined the life of an innocent woman, as you told
me that I had."

"You have! There is no denying it."

"Socially, and it is the fault of society. But society is nothing to me.
I would be an outcast from society for a much less object than the love
of a woman, provided that I had not to do anything dishonourable."

"Ah, that is it! You forget that a man's honour is his reputation at the
club, while the honour of a woman is founded in religion, and maintained
upon a single one of God's commandments--as you men demand that it shall
be."

Griggs was silent for a moment. He had never heard a woman state the
case so plainly and forcibly, and he was struck by what she said. He
could have answered her quickly enough. But the answer would not have
been satisfactory to himself.

"You see, you have nothing to say," she said. "But in one way you are
right. We cannot argue this question. I did not ask you to come in order
to discuss it. I sent for you to beg you to do what is right, as far as
you can. And you could do much."

"What should you think right?" asked Griggs, curious to know what she
thought.

"You should take Gloria to her father, as you are his friend. Since she
has left her husband, she should live with her father."

"That is a very simple idea!" exclaimed the young man, with something
almost like a laugh.

"Right is always simple," answered Francesca, quietly. "There is never
any doubt about it."

She looked at him once, and then continued to work at her embroidery.
His eyes rested on the pure outline of her maidenlike face, and he was
silent for a moment. Somehow, he felt that her simplicity of goodness
rebuked the simplicity of his sin.

"You forget one thing," said Griggs at last. "You make a spiritual
engine of mankind, and you forget the mainspring of the world. You leave
love out of the question."

"Perhaps--as you understand love. But you will not pretend to tell me
that love is necessarily right, whatever it involves."

"Yes," answered the young man. "That is what I mean. Unless your God is
a malignant and maleficent demon, the overwhelming passions which take
hold of men, and against which no man can fight beyond a certain point,
are right, because they exist and are irresistible. As for what you
propose that I should do, I cannot do it."

"You could, if you would," said Francesca. "There is nothing to hinder
you, if you will."

"There is love, and I cannot."



CHAPTER XXXIV.


PAUL GRIGGS left Francesca with the certainty in his own mind that she
had produced no impression whatever upon him, but he was conscious that
his opinion of her had undergone a change. He was suddenly convinced
that she was the best woman he had ever known, and that Gloria's
accusations were altogether unjust and unfounded. Recalling her face,
her manner, and her words, he knew that whatever influence she might
have had upon Reanda, there could be no ground for Gloria's jealousy.
She certainly disturbed him strangely, for Gloria was perfect in his
eyes, and he accepted all she said almost blindly. The fact that Reanda
had struck her now stood in his mind as the sole reason for the
separation of husband and wife.

Gloria was far from realizing what influence she had over the man she
loved. It seemed to her, on the contrary, that she was completely
dominated by him, and she was glad to feel his strength at every turn.
Her enormous vanity was flattered by his care of her, and by his
uncompromising admiration of her beauty as well as of her character, and
she yielded to him purposely in small things that she might the better
feel his strength, as she supposed. The truth, had she known it, was
that he hardly asserted himself at all, and was ready to make any and
every sacrifice for her comfort and happiness. He had sacrificed his
pride to borrow money from a friend to meet the first necessities of
their life together. He would have given his life as readily.

They led a strangely lonely existence in the little apartment in the Via
della Frezza. The world had very soon heard of what had happened, and
had behaved according to its lights. Walking alone one morning while
Griggs was at work, Gloria had met Donna Tullia Meyer, whom she had
known in society, and thoughtlessly enough had bowed as though nothing
had happened. Donna Tullia had stared at her coldly, and then turned
away. After that, Gloria had realized what she had already understood,
and had either not gone out without Griggs, or, when she did, had kept
to the more secluded streets, where she would not easily meet
acquaintances.

Griggs worked perpetually, and she watched him, delighting at first in
the difference between his way of working and that of Angelo Reanda;
delighted, too, to be alone with him, and to feel that he was writing
for her. She could sit almost in silence for hours, half busy with some
bit of needlework, and yet busy with him in her thoughts. It seemed to
her that she understood him--she told him so, and he believed her, for
he felt that he could not be hard to understand.

He was as singularly methodical as Reanda was exceptionally intuitive.
She felt that his work was second to her in his estimation of it, but
that, since they both depended upon it for their livelihood, they had
agreed together to put it first. With Reanda, art was above everything
and beyond all other interests, and he had made her feel that he worked
for art's sake rather than for hers. There was a vast difference in the
value placed upon her by the two men, in relation to their two
occupations.

"I have no genius," said Griggs to her one day. "I have no intuitions of
underlying truth. But I have good brains, and few men are able to work
as hard as I. By and bye, I shall succeed and make money, and it will be
less dull for you."

"It is never dull for me when I can be with you," she answered.

As he looked, the sunshine caught her red auburn hair, and the
love-lights played with the sunshine in her eyes. Griggs knew that life
had no more dulness for him while she lived, and as for her, he believed
what she said.

Without letting him know what she was doing, she wrote to her father. It
was not an easy letter to write, and she thought that she knew the
savage old Scotchman's temper. She told him everything. At such a
distance, it was easy to throw herself upon his mercy, and it was safer
to write him all while he was far away, so that there might be nothing
left to rouse his anger if he returned. She had no lack of words with
which to describe Reanda's treatment of her; but she was also willing to
take all the blame of the mistake she had made in marrying him. She had
ruined her life before it had begun, she said. She had taken the law
into her own hands, to mend it as best she could. Her father knew that
Paul Griggs was not like other men--that he was able to protect her
against all comers, and that he could make the world fear him if he
could not make it respect her. Her father must do as he thought right.
He would be justified, from the world's point of view, in casting her
off and never remembering her existence again, but she begged him to
forgive her, and to think kindly of her. Meanwhile, she and Griggs were
wretchedly poor, and she begged her father to continue her allowance.

If Paul Griggs had seen this letter, he would have been startled out of
some of his belief in Gloria's perfection. There was a total absence of
any moral sense of right or wrong in what she wrote, which would have
made a more cynical man than Griggs was look grave. The request for the
continuation of the allowance would have shocked him and perhaps
disgusted him. The whole tone was too calm and business-like. It was too
much as though she were fulfilling a duty and seeking to gain an object
rather than appealing to Dalrymple to forgive her for yielding to the
overwhelming mastery of a great passion. It was cold, it was
calculating, and it was, in a measure, unwomanly.

When she had sent the letter, she told Griggs what she had done, but her
account of its contents satisfied him with one of those brilliant false
impressions which she knew so well how to convey. She told him rather
what she should have said than what she had really written, and, as
usual, he found that she had done right.

It was not that she would not have written a better letter if she had
been able to compose one. She had done the best that she could. But the
truth lay there, or the letter was composed as an expression of what she
knew that she ought to feel, and was not the actual outpouring of an
overfull heart. She could not be blamed for not feeling more deeply, nor
for her inability to express what she did not feel. But when she spoke
of it to the man she loved, she roused herself to emotion easily enough,
and her words sounded well in her own ears and in his. To the last, he
never understood that she loved such emotion for its own sake, and that
he helped her to produce it in herself. In the comparatively simple
view of human nature which he took in those days, it seemed to him that
if a woman were willing to sacrifice everything, including social
respectability itself, for any man, she must love him with all her
heart. He could not have understood that any woman should give up
everything, practically, in the attempt to feel something of which she
was not capable.

In reply to her letter, Dalrymple sent a draft for a considerable sum of
money, through his banker. The fact that it was addressed to her at Via
della Frezza was the only indication that he had received her letter. In
due time, Gloria wrote to thank him, but he took no notice of the
communication.

"He never loved me," she said to Griggs as the days went by and brought
her nothing from her father. "I used to think so, when I was a mere
child, but I am sure of it now. You are the only human being that ever
loved me."

She was pale that day, and her white hand sought his as she spoke, with
a quiver of the lip.

"I am glad of it," he answered. "I shall not divide you with any one."

So their life went on, somewhat monotonously after the first few weeks.
Griggs worked hard and earned more money than formerly, but he
discovered very soon that it would be all he could do to support Gloria
in bare comfort. He would not allow her to use her own money for
anything which was to be in common, or in which he had any share
whatever.

"You must spend it on yourself," he said. "I will not touch it. I will
not accept anything you buy with it--not so much as a box of cigarettes.
You must spend it on your clothes or on jewels."

"You are unkind," she answered. "You know how much pleasure it would
give me to help you."

"Yes. I know. You cannot understand, but you must try. Men never do that
sort of thing."

And, as usual, he dominated her, and she dropped the subject, inwardly
pleased with him, and knowing that he was right.

His strength fascinated her, and she admired his manliness of heart and
feeling as she had never admired any qualities in any one during her
life. But he did not amuse her, even as much as she had been amused by
Reanda. He was melancholic, earnest, hard working, not inclined to
repeat lightly the words of love once spoken in moments of passion. He
meant, perhaps, to show her how he loved her by what he would do for her
sake, rather than tell her of it over and over again. And he worked as
he had never worked before, hour after hour, day after day, sitting at
his writing-table almost from morning till night. Besides his
correspondence, he was now writing a book, from which he hoped great
things--for her. It was a novel, and he read her day by day the pages he
wrote. She talked over with him what he had written, and her
imagination and dramatic intelligence, forever grasping at situations of
emotion for herself and others, suggested many variations upon his plan.

"It is my book," she often said, when they had been talking all the
evening.

It was her book, and it was a failure, because it was hers and not his.
Her imagination was disorderly, to borrow a foreign phrase, and she was
altogether without any sense of proportion in what she imagined. He did
not, indeed, look upon her as intellectually perfect, though for him she
was otherwise unapproachably superior to every other woman in the world.
But he loved her so wholly and unselfishly that he could not bear to
disappoint her by not making use of her suggestions. When she was
telling him of some scene she had imagined, her voice and manner, too,
were so thoroughly dramatic that he was persuaded of the real value of
the matter. Divested of her individuality and transferred in his rather
mechanically over-correct language to the black and white of pen and
ink, the result was disappointing, even when he read it to her. He knew
that it was, and wasted time in trying to improve what was bad from the
beginning. She saw that he failed, and she felt that he was not a man of
genius. Her vanity suffered because her ideas did not look well on his
paper.

Before he had finished the manuscript, she had lost her interest in it.
Feeling that she had, and seeing it in her face, he exerted his strength
of will in the attempt to bring back the expression of surprise and
delight which the earlier readings had called up, but he felt that he
was working uphill and against heavy odds. Nevertheless he completed the
work, and spent much time in fancied improvement of its details. At a
later period in his life he wrote three successful books in the time he
had bestowed upon his first failure, but he wrote them alone.

Gloria's face brightened when he told her that it was done. She took the
manuscript and read over parts of it to herself, smiling a little from
time to time, for she knew that he was watching her. She did not read it
all.

"Dedicate it to me," she said, holding out one hand to find his, while
she settled the pages on her knees with the other.

"Of course," he answered, and he wrote a few words of dedication to her
on a sheet of paper.

He sent it to a publisher in London whom he knew. It was returned with
some wholesome advice, and Gloria's vanity suffered another blow, both
in the failure of the book which contained so many of her ideas and in
the failure of the man to be successful, for in her previous life she
had not been accustomed to failure of any sort.

"I am afraid I am only a newspaper man, after all," said Paul Griggs,
quietly. "You will have to be satisfied with me as I am. But I will try
again."

"No," answered Gloria, more coldly than she usually spoke. "When you
find that you cannot do a thing naturally, leave it alone. It is of no
use to force talent in one direction when it wants to go in another."

She sighed softly, and busied herself with some work. Griggs felt that
he was a failure, and he felt lonely, too, for a moment, and went to his
own room to put away the rejected manuscript in a safe place. It was not
his nature to destroy it angrily, as some men might have done at his
age.

When he came back to the door of the sitting-room he heard her singing,
as she often did when she was alone. But to-day she was singing an old
song which he had not heard for a long time, and which reminded him
painfully of that other house in which she had lived and of that other
man whom she never saw, but who was still her husband.

He entered the room rather suddenly, after having paused a moment
outside, with his hand on the door.

"Please do not sing that song!" he said quickly, as he entered.

"Why not?" she asked, interrupting herself in the middle of a stave.

"It reminds me of unpleasant things."

"Does it? I am sorry. I will not sing it again."

But she knew what it meant, for it reminded her of Reanda. She was no
longer so sure that the reminiscence was all painful.



CHAPTER XXXV.


IN spite of all that Griggs could do, and he did his utmost, it was hard
to live in anything approaching to comfort on the meagre remuneration he
received for his correspondence, and his pride altogether forbade him to
allow Gloria to contribute anything to the slender resources of the
small establishment. At first, it had amused her to practise little
economies, even in the matter of their daily meals. Griggs denied
himself everything which was not absolutely necessary, and it pleased
Gloria to imitate him, for it made her feel that she was helping him.
The housekeeping was a simple affair enough, and she undertook it
readily. They had one woman servant as cook and maid-of-all-work, a
strong young creature, not without common-sense, and plentifully gifted
with that warm, superficial devotion which is common enough in Italian
servants. Gloria had kept house for her father long enough to understand
what she had undertaken, and it seemed easy at first to do the same
thing for Griggs, though on a much more restricted scale.

But the restriction soon became irksome. In a more active and
interesting existence, she would perhaps not have felt the constant
pinching of such excessive economy. If there had been more means within
her reach for satisfying her hungry vanity, she could have gone through
the daily round of little domestic cares with a lighter heart or, at
least, with more indifference. But she and Griggs led a very lonely
life, and, as in all lonely lives, the smallest details became
important.

It was not long before Gloria wished herself in her old home in the
Corso, not indeed with Reanda, but with Paul Griggs. He had made her
promise to use only the money he gave her himself for their
housekeeping. She secretly deceived him and drew upon her own store, and
listened in silence to his praise of her ingenuity in making the little
he was able to give her go so far. He trusted her so completely that he
suspected nothing.

She expected that at the end of three months her father would send her
another draft, but the day passed, and she received nothing, so that she
at last wrote to him again, asking for money. It came, as before,
without any word of inquiry or greeting. Dalrymple evidently intended to
take this means of knowing from time to time that his daughter was alive
and well. She would be obliged to write to him whenever she needed
assistance. It was a humiliation, and she felt it bitterly, for she had
thought that she had freed herself altogether and she found herself
still bound by the necessity of asking for help.

It seemed very hard to be thus shut off from the world in the prime of
her youth, and beauty, and talent. To a woman who craved admiration for
all she did and could do, it was almost unbearable. Paul Griggs worked
and looked forward to success, and was satisfied in his aspirations, and
more than happy in the companionship of the woman he so dearly loved.

"I shall succeed," he said quietly, but with perfect assurance. "Before
long we shall be able to leave Rome, and begin life somewhere else,
where nobody will know our story. It will not be so dull for you there."

"It is never dull when I am with you," said Gloria, but there was no
conviction in the tone any more. "If you would let me go upon the
stage," she added, with a change of voice, "things would be very
different. I could earn a great deal of money."

But Paul Griggs was as much opposed to the project as Reanda had been,
and in this one respect he really asserted his will. He was so confident
of ultimately attaining to success and fortune by his pen that he would
not hear of Gloria's singing in public.

"Besides," he said, after giving her many and excellent reasons, "if you
earned millions, I would not touch the money."

She sighed for the lost opportunities of brilliant popularity, but she
smiled at his words, knowing how she had used her own money for him, and
in spite of him. But for her own part she had lost all belief in his
talent since the failure of the book he had written.

The long summer days were hard to bear. He was not able to leave Rome,
for he was altogether dependent upon his regular correspondence for what
he earned, and he did not succeed in persuading his editors to employ
him anywhere else, for the very reason that he did so well what was
required of him where he was.

The weather grew excessively hot, and it was terribly dreary and dull in
the little apartment in the Via della Frezza. All day long the windows
were tightly closed to keep out the fiery air, both the old green blinds
and the glass within them. Griggs had moved his writing-table to the
feeble light, and worked away as hard as ever. Gloria spent most of the
hot hours in reading and dreaming. They went out together early in the
morning and in the evening, when there was some coolness, but during the
greater part of the day they were practically imprisoned by the heat.

Gloria watched the strong man and wondered at his power of working under
any circumstances. He was laborious as well as industrious. He often
wrote a page over two and three times, in the hope of improving it, and
he was capable of spending an hour in finding a quotation from a great
writer, not for the sake of quoting it, but in order to satisfy himself
that he had authority for using some particular construction of phrase.
He kept notebooks in which he made long indexed lists of words which in
common language were improperly used, with examples showing how they
should be rightly employed.

"I am constructing a superiority for myself," he said once. "No one
living takes so much pains as I do."

But Gloria had no faith in his painstaking ways, though she wondered at
his unflagging perseverance. Her own single great talent lay in her
singing, and she had never given herself any trouble about it. Reanda,
too, though he worked carefully and often slowly, worked without effort.
It was true that Griggs never showed fatigue, but that was due to his
amazing bodily strength. The intellectual labour was apparent, however,
and he always seemed to be painfully overcoming some almost unyielding
difficulty by sheer force of steady application, though nothing came of
it, so far as she could see.

"I cannot understand why you take so much trouble," she said. "They are
only newspaper articles, after all, to be read to-day and forgotten
to-morrow."

"I am learning to write," he answered. "It takes a long time to learn
anything unless one has a great gift, as you have for singing. I have
failed with one book, but I will not fail with another. The next will
not be an extraordinary book, but it will succeed."

Nothing could disturb him, and he sat at his table day after day. He was
moved by the strongest incentives which can act upon a man, at the time
when he himself is strongest; namely, necessity and love. Even Gloria
could never discover whether he had what she would have called ambition.
He himself said that he had none, and she compared him with Reanda, who
believed in the divinity of art, the temple of fame, and the reality of
glory.

In the young man's nature, Gloria had taken the place of all other
divinities, real and imaginary. His enduring nature could no more be
wearied in its worship of her than it could be tired in toiling for her.
He only resented the necessity of cutting out such a main part of the
day for work as left him but little time to be at leisure with her.

She complained of his industry, for she was tired of spending her life
with novels, and the hours hung like leaden weights upon her, dragging
with her as she went through the day.

"Give yourself a rest," she said, not because she thought he needed it,
but because she wished him to amuse her.

"I am never tired of working for you," he answered, and the rare smile
came to his face.

With any other man in the world she might have told the truth and might
have said frankly that her life was growing almost unbearable, buried
from the world as she was, and cut off from society. But she was
conscious that she should never dare to say as much to Paul Griggs. She
was realizing, little by little, that his love for her was greater than
she had dreamed of, and immeasurably stronger than what she felt for
him.

Then she knew the pain of receiving more than she had to give. It was a
genuine pain of its kind, and in it, as in many other things, she
suffered a constant humiliation. She had taken herself for a heroic
character in the great moment when she had resolved to leave her
husband, intuitively sure that she loved Paul Griggs with all her heart,
and that she should continue to love him to the end in spite of the
world. She knew now that there was no endurance in the passion.

The very efforts she made to sustain it contributed to its destruction;
but she continued to play her part. Her strong dramatic instinct told
her when to speak and when to be silent, and how to modulate her voice
to a tender appeal, to a touching sadness, to the strength of suppressed
emotion. It was for a good object, she told herself, and therefore it
must be right. He was giving his life for her, day by day, and he must
never know that she no longer loved him. It would kill him, she thought;
for with him it was all real. She grew melancholy and thought of death.
If she died young, he should never guess that she had not loved him to
the very last.

In her lonely thoughts she dwelt upon the possibility, for it was a
possibility now. There was that before her which, when it came, might
turn life into death very suddenly. She had moments of tenderness when
she thought of her own dead face lying on the white pillow, and the
picture was so real that her eyes filled with tears. She would be very
beautiful when she was dead.

The idea took root in her mind; for it afforded her an inward emotion
which touched her strangely and cost her nothing. It gained in
fascination as she allowed it to come back when it would, and the
details of death came vividly before her imagination, as she had read of
them in books,--her own white face, the darkened room, the candles, Paul
Griggs standing motionless beside her body.

One day he looked from his work and saw tears on her cheeks. He dropped
his pen as though something had struck him unawares; and he was beside
her in a moment, looking anxiously into her eyes.

"What is it?" he asked, and his hands were on hers and pressed them.

"It is nothing," she answered. "It is natural, I suppose--"

"No. It is not natural. You are unhappy. Tell me what is the matter."

"It is foolish," she said, turning her face from him. "I see you working
so hard day after day. I am a burden to you--it would be better if I
were out of the way. You are working yourself to death. If you could see
your face sometimes!" And more tears trickled down.

His strong hands shook suddenly.

"I am not working too hard--for me," he answered, but his voice trembled
a little. "One of your tears hurts me more than a hundred years of hard
work. Even if it were true--I would rather die for you than live to be
the greatest man that ever breathed--without you."

She threw her arms about his neck, and hid her face upon his shoulder.

"Tell me you love me!" she cried. "You are all I have in the world!"

"Does it need telling?" he asked, soothing her.

Then all at once his arms tightened so that she could hardly draw breath
for a moment, and his head was bent down and rested for an instant upon
her neck as though he himself sought rest and refuge.

"I think you know, dear," he said.

She knew far better than he could tell her, for the truth of his
passion shook the dramatic and artificial fabric of her own to its
foundations; and even as she pressed him to her, she felt that secret
repugnance which those who do not love feel for those who love them
overmuch. It was mingled with a sense of shame which made her hate
herself, and she began to suffer acutely.

When she thought of Reanda, as she now often did, she longed for what
she had felt for him, rather than for anything she had ever felt for
Paul Griggs. In the pitiful reaching after something real, she groped
for memories of true tenderness, and now and then they came back to her
from beyond the chaos which lay between, as memories of home come to a
man cast after many storms upon a desert island. She dwelt upon them and
tried to construct an under-life out of the past, made up only of sweet
things amongst which all that had not been good should be forgotten. She
went for comfort to the days when she had loved Reanda, before their
marriage--or when she had loved his genius as though it were himself,
believing that it was all for her.

Beside her always, with even, untiring strength, Paul Griggs toiled on,
his whole life based and founded in hers, every penstroke for her, every
dream of her, every aspiration and hope for her alone. He was splendidly
unconscious of his own utter loneliness, blankly unaware of the
life-comedy--or tragedy--which Gloria was acting for him out of pity
for the heart she could break, and out of shame at finding out what her
own heart was. Had he known the truth, the end would have come quickly
and terribly. But he did not know it. The woman's gifts were great, and
her beauty was greater. Greater than all was his whole-souled belief in
her. He had never conceived it possible, in his ignorance of women, that
a woman should really love him. She, whom he had first loved so
hopelessly, had given him all she had to give, which was herself,
frankly and freely. And after she had come to him, she loved him for a
time, beyond even self-deception. But when she no longer loved him, she
hid her secret and kept it long and well; for she feared him. He was not
like Reanda. He would not strike only; he would kill and make an end of
both.

But she might have gone much nearer to the truth without danger. It was
not his nature to ask anything nor to expect much, and he had taken all
there was to take, and knew it, and was satisfied.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


THE summer passed, with its monotonous heat. Rain fell in August and
poisoned the campagna with fever for six weeks, and the clear October
breezes blew from the hills, and the second greenness of the late season
was over everything for a brief month of vintage and laughter. Then came
November with its pestilent sirocco gales and its dampness, pierced and
cut through now and then by the first northerly winds of winter.

And then, one day, there was a new life in the little apartment in the
Via della Frezza. Fate, relentless, had brought to the light a little
child, to be the grandson of that fated Maria Braccio who had died long
ago, to have his day of happiness and his night of suffering in his turn
and to be a living bond between Gloria and the man who loved her.

They called the boy Walter Crowdie for a relative of Angus Dalrymple,
who had been the last of the name. It was convenient, and he would never
need any other, nor any third name after the two given to him in
baptism.

For a few days after the child's birth, Griggs left his writing-table.
He was almost too happy to work, and he spent many hours by Gloria's
side, not talking, for he knew that she must be kept quiet, but often
holding her hand and always looking at her face, with the strong, dumb
devotion of a faithful bloodhound.

Often she pretended to be sleeping when he was there, though she was
wide awake and could have talked well enough. But it was easier to seem
to be asleep than to play the comedy now, while she was so weak and
helpless. With the simplicity of a little child Griggs watched her, and
when her eyes were closed believed that she was sleeping. As soon as she
opened them he spoke to her. She understood and sometimes smiled in
spite of herself, with close-shut lids. He thought she was dreaming of
him, or of the child, and was smiling in her sleep.

As she lay there and thought over all that had happened, she knew that
she hated him as she had never loved him, even in the first days. And
she hated the child, for its life was the last bond, linking her to Paul
Griggs and barring her from the world forever. Until it had been there
she had vaguely felt that if she had the courage and really wished it,
she might in some way get back to her old life. She knew that all hope
of that was gone from her now.

In the deep perspective of her loosened intelligence the endless years
to come rolled away, grey and monotonous, to their vanishing point. She
had made her choice and had not found heart to give it up, after she had
made it, while there was yet time. Time itself took shape before her
closed eyes, as many succeeding steps, and she saw herself toiling up
them, a bent, veiled figure of great weariness. It was terrible to look
forward to such truth, and the present was no better. She grasped at the
past and dragged it up to her and looked at its faded prettiness, and
would have kissed it, as though it had been a living thing. But she knew
that it was dead and that what lived was horrible to her.

She wished that she might die, as she had often thought she might during
the long summer months. In those days her eyes had filled with tears of
pity for herself. They were dry now, for the suffering was real and the
pain was in her bodily heart. Yet she was so strong, and she feared Paul
Griggs with such an abject fear, that she played the comedy when she
could not make him think that she was asleep.

"My only thought is for you," she said. "It is another burden on you."

He was utterly happy, and he laughed aloud.

"It is another reason for working," he said.

And even as he said it she saw the writing-table, the poor room, his
stern, determined face and busy hand, and herself seated in her own
chair, with a half-read novel on her lap, staring at the grey future of
mediocrity and mean struggling that loomed like a leaden figure above
his bent head. Year after year, perhaps, she was to sit in that chair
and watch the same silent battle for bare existence. It was too horrible
to be borne. If only he were a man of genius, she could have suffered it
all, she thought, and more also. But he himself said that he had no
genius. His terrible mechanics of mind killed the little originality he
had. His gloomy sobriety over his work made her desperate. But she
feared him. The belief grew on her that if he ever found out that she
did not love him, he would end life then, for them both--perhaps for
them all three.

Surely, hell had no tortures worse than hers, she thought. Yet she bore
them, in terror of him. And he was perfectly happy and suspected
nothing. She could not understand how with his melancholy nature and his
constant assertion that he had but a little talent and much industry for
all his stock in trade, he could believe in his own future as he did. It
was an anomaly, a contradiction of terms, a weak point in the low level
of his unimaginative, dogged strength. She thought often of the poor
book he had written. She had heard that talent was stirred to music by a
great passion that strung it and struck it, till its heartstrings rang
wild changes and breathed deep chords, and burst into rushing harmonies
of eloquence. But his love was dumb and dull, though it might be deadly.
There had been neither eloquence nor music in his book. It had been an
old story, badly told. He had said that he was only fit to be a
newspaper man, and it was true, so far as she could see. His letters to
the paper were excellent in their way, but that was all he could do. And
she had given him, in the child, another reason for being what he was,
hard-working, silent--dull.

She looked at him and wondered; for there was a mystery in his shadowy
eyes and still face, which had promised much more than she had ever
found in him. There was something mysterious and dreadful, too, in his
unnatural strength. The fear of him grew upon her, and sometimes when he
kissed her she burst into tears out of sheer terror at his touch.

"They are tears of happiness," she said, trembling and drying her eyes
quickly.

She smiled, and he believed her, happier every day in her and in the
child.

Then came the realization of the grey dream of misery. Again she was
seated by the window in her accustomed chair, and he was in his place,
pen in hand, eyes on paper, thoughts fixed like steel in that obstinate
effort to do better, while she had the certainty of his failure before
her. And between them, in a straw cradle with a hood, all gauze and
lace and blue ribbons, lay the thing that bound her to him and cut her
off forever from the world,--little Walter Crowdie, the child without a
name, as she called him in her thoughts. And above the child, between
her and Paul Griggs, floated the little imaginary stage on which she was
to go on acting her play over and over again till all was done. She had
not even the right to shed tears for herself without telling him that
they were for the happiness he expected of her.

He would not leave her. He had scarcely been out of the house for weeks,
though the only perceptible effect of remaining indoors so long was that
he had grown a little paler. She implored him to go out. In a few days
she would be able to go with him, and meanwhile there was no reason why
he should be perpetually at her side. He yielded to her importunity at
last, and she was left alone with the child.

It was a relief even greater than she had anticipated. She could cry,
she could laugh, she could sing, and he was not there to ask questions.
For one moment after she had heard the outer door close behind him she
almost hesitated as to which she should do, for she was half hysterical
with the long outward restraint of herself while, inwardly, she had
allowed her thoughts to run wild as they would. She stood for a moment,
and there was a vague, uncertain look in her face. Then her breast
heaved, and she burst into tears, weeping as never before in her short
life, passionately, angrily, violently, without thought of control, or
indeed of anything definite.

Before an hour had passed Griggs came back. She was seated quietly in
her chair, as when he had left her. The light was all behind her, and he
could not see the slight redness of her eyes. Pale as she was, he
thought she had never been more beautiful. There was a gentleness in her
manner, too, beyond what he was accustomed to. He believed that perhaps
she might be the better for being left to herself for an hour or two
every day, until she should be quite strong again. On the following day
she again suggested that he should go out for a walk, and he made no
objection.

Again, as soon as he was gone, she burst into tears, almost in spite of
herself, though she unconsciously longed for the relief they had brought
her the first time. But to-day the fit of weeping did not pass so soon.
The spasms of sobbing lasted long after her eyes were dry, and she had
less time to compose herself before Griggs returned. Still, he noticed
nothing. The tears had refreshed her, and he found that same gentleness
which had touched him on the previous day.

Several times, after that, he went out and left her alone in the
afternoon. Then, one day, while he was walking, a heavy shower came on,
and he made his way home as fast as he could. He opened the door quickly
and came upon her to find her sobbing as though her heart would break.

He turned very pale and stood still for a moment. There was terror in
her face when she saw him, but in an instant he was holding her in his
arms and kissing her hair, asking her what was the matter.

"I am a millstone around your neck!" she sobbed. "It is breaking my
heart--I shall die, if I see you working so!"

He tried to comfort her, soothing her and laughing at her fears for him,
but believing her, as he always did. Little by little, her sobs
subsided, and she was herself again, as far as he could see. He tried to
argue the case fairly on its merits.

She listened to him, and listening was a new torture, knowing as she did
what her tears were shed for. But she had to play the comedy again, at
short notice, not having had the time to compose herself and enjoy the
relief she found in crying alone.

It was a relief which she sought again and again. When she thought of it
afterwards, it was as an indescribable, half-painful, half-pleasant
emotion through which she passed every day. When she felt that it was
before her, as soon as Griggs was out of the house, she made a slight
effort to resist it, for she was sensible enough to understand that it
was becoming a habit which she could not easily break.

Even after she was quite strong again, Griggs often left her to herself
for an hour, and he did not again come in accidentally and find her in
tears. He thought it natural that she should sometimes wish to be alone.

One day, when she had dried her eyes, she took a sheet of paper from his
table and began to write. She had no distinct intention, but she knew
that she was going to write about herself and her sufferings. It gave
her a strange and unhealthy pleasure to set down in black and white all
that she suffered. She could look at it, turn it, change it, and look at
it again. Constantly, as the pen ran on, the tears came to her eyes
afresh, and she brushed them away with a smile.

Then, all at once, she looked at the clock--the same cheap little
American clock which had ticked so long on the mantelpiece in Griggs's
old lodging upstairs. She knew that he would be back before long, and
she tore the sheets she had covered into tiny strips and threw them into
the waste-paper basket. When Griggs returned, she was singing softly to
herself over her needlework.

But she had enjoyed a rare delight in writing down the story of her
troubles. The utter loneliness of her existence, when Griggs was not
with her, made it natural enough. Then a strange thought crossed her
mind. She would write to Reanda and tell him that she had forgiven him,
and had expiated the wrong she had done him. She craved the excitement
of confession, and it could do no harm. He might, perhaps, answer her.
Griggs would never know, for she always received the letters and sorted
them for him, merely to save him trouble. The correspondence of a
newspaper man is necessarily large, covering many sources of his
information.

It was rather a wild idea, she thought, but it attracted her, or rather
it distracted her thoughts by taking her out of the daily comedy she was
obliged to keep up. There was in it, too, a very slight suggestion of
danger; for it was conceivable, though almost impossible, that some
letter of hers or her husband's might fall into Griggs's hands. There
was a perverseness about it which was seductive to her tortuous mind.

At the first opportunity she wrote a very long letter. It was the letter
of a penitent. She told him all that she had told herself a hundred
times, and it was a very different production from the one she had sent
to her father nearly a year earlier. There were tears in the phrases,
there were sobs in the broken sentences. And there were tears in her own
eyes when she sealed it.

She was going to ring for the woman servant to take it, and her hand
was on the bell. She paused, looked at the addressed envelope, glanced
furtively round the room, and then kissed it passionately. Then she
rang.

Griggs came home later than usual, but he thought she was preoccupied
and absent-minded.

"Has anything gone wrong?" he asked anxiously.

"Wrong?" she repeated. "Oh no!" She sighed. "It is the same thing. I am
always anxious about you. You were a little pale before you went out and
you had hardly eaten anything at breakfast."

"There is nothing the matter with me," laughed Griggs. "I am
indestructible. I defy fate."

She started perceptibly, for she was too much of an Italian not to be a
little superstitious.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


STEPHANONE was often seen in the Via della Frezza, for the host of the
little wine shop was one of his good customers. The neighbourhood was
very quiet and respectable, and the existence of the wine shop was a
matter of convenience and almost of necessity to the respectable
citizens who dwelt there. They sent their women servants or came
themselves at regular hours, bringing their own bottles and vessels of
all shapes and of many materials for the daily allowance of wine; they
invariably paid in cash, and they never went away in the summer. The
business was a very good one; for the Romans, though they rarely drink
too much and are on the whole a sober people, consume an amount of
strong wine which would produce a curious effect upon any other race, in
any other climate. Stefanone, though his wife had formerly thought him
extravagant, had ultimately turned out to be a very prudent person, and
in the course of a thirty years' acquaintance with Rome had selected his
customers with care, judgment, and foresight. Whenever he was in Rome
and had time to spare he came to the little shop in the Via della
Frezza. He had stood godfather for one of the host's children, which in
those days constituted a real tie between parents and god-parents.

But he had another reason for his frequent visits since that night on
which he had accompanied Gloria and had shielded her from the rain with
his gigantic brass-tipped umbrella. He took an interest in her, and
would wait a long time in the hope of seeing her, sitting on a
rush-bottomed stool outside the wine shop, and generally chewing the end
of a wisp of broom. He had the faculty of sitting motionless for an hour
at a time, his sturdy white-stockinged legs crossed one over the other,
his square peasant's hands crossed upon his knee,--the sharp angles of
the thumb-bones marked the labouring race,--his soft black hat tilted a
little forward over his eyes, his jacket buttoned up when the weather
was cool, thrown back and showing the loosened shirt open far below the
throat when the day was warm.

Gloria reminded him of Dalrymple. The process of mind was a very simple
one and needs no analysis. He had sought Dalrymple for years, but in
vain, and Gloria had something in her face which recalled her father,
though the latter's features were rough and harshly accentuated.
Stefanone had made the acquaintance of the one-eyed cobbler without
difficulty and had ascertained that there was a mystery about Gloria,
whom the cobbler had first seen on the morning after Stefanone had met
her in the storm. It was of course very improbable that she should be
the daughter of Dalrymple and Annetta, but even the faint possibility of
being on the track of his enemy had a strong effect upon the unforgiving
peasant. If he ever found Dalrymple, he intended to kill him. In the
meanwhile he had found a simple plan for finding out whether Gloria was
the Scotchman's daughter or not. He waited patiently for the spring, and
he came to Rome now every month for a week at a time.

More than once during the past year he had brought small presents of
fruit and wine and country cakes for Gloria, and both she and Griggs
knew all about him, and got their wine from the little shop which he
supplied. Gloria was pleased by the decent, elderly peasant's admiration
of her beauty, which he never failed to express when he got a chance of
speaking to her. When little Walter Crowdie was first carried out into
the sun, Stefanone was in the street, and he looked long and earnestly
into the baby's face.

"There is the same thing in the eyes," he muttered, as he turned away,
after presenting the nurse with a beautiful jumble, which looked as
though it had been varnished, and was adorned with small drops of hard
pink sugar. "If it is he--an evil death on him and all his house."

And he strolled slowly back to the wine shop, his hand fumbling with the
big, curved, brass-handled knife which he carried in the pocket of his
blue cloth breeches.

He was certainly mistaken about the baby's eyes, which were remarkably
beautiful and of a very soft brown; whereas Dalrymple's were hard, blue,
and steely, and it was not possible that anything like an hereditary
expression should be recognizable in the face of a child three weeks
old. But his growing conviction made his imagination complete every link
which chanced to be missing in the chain.

One day, in the spring, he met Griggs when the latter was going out
alone.

"A word, Signore, if you permit," he said politely.

"Twenty," replied Griggs, giving the common Roman answer.

"Signore, Subiaco is a beautiful place," said the peasant. "In spring it
is an enchantment. In summer, I tell you nothing. It is as fresh as
Paradise. There is water, water, as much as you please. Wine is not
wanting, and it seems that you know that. The butcher kills calves twice
a week, and sometimes an ox when there is an old one, or one lame. Eh,
in Subiaco, one is well."

"I do not doubt it when I look at you," answered Griggs, without a
smile.

"Thanks be to Heaven, my health still assists me. But I am thinking of
you and of your beautiful lady and of that little angel, whom God
preserve. In truth, you appear to me as the Holy Family. I should not
say it to every one, but the air of Subiaco is thin, the water is light,
and, for a house, mine is of the better ones. One knows that we are
country people, but we are clean people; there are neither chickens nor
children. If you find a flea, I will have him set in gold. You shall
say, 'This is the flea that was found in Stefanone's house.' In that way
every one will know. I do not speak of the beds. The pope could sleep in
the one in the large room at the head of the staircase, the pope with
all his cardinals. They would say, 'Now we know that this is indeed a
bed.' Do you wish better than this? I do not know. But if you will bring
your lady and the baby, you will see. Eyes tell no lies."

"And the price?" inquired Griggs, struck by the good sense of the
suggestion.

"Whatever you choose to give. If you give nothing, we shall have had
your company. In general, we take three pauls a day, and we give the
wine. You shall make the price as you like it. Who thinks of these
things? We are Christians."

When Griggs spoke of the project to Gloria, she embraced it eagerly. He
said that he should be obliged to come to Rome every week on account of
his correspondence. But Subiaco was no longer as inaccessible as
formerly, and there was now a good carriage road all the way and a daily
public conveyance. He should be absent three days, and would spend the
other four with her.

It was a sacrifice on his part, as she guessed from the way in which he
spoke, but it was clearly necessary that Gloria and the child should
have country air during the coming summer. He had often reproached
himself with not having made some such arrangement for the preceding hot
season, but he had seen that she did not suffer from the heat, and his
presence in the capital had been very necessary for his work. Now,
however, it looked possible enough, and before Stefanone went back to
the country for his next trip a preliminary agreement had been made.

Gloria looked forward with impatience to the liberty she was to gain by
his regular absences, for her life was becoming unbearable. She felt
that she could not much longer sustain the perpetual comedy she was
acting, unless she could get an interval of rest from time to time. At
first, the hour he gave her daily when he went out alone had been a
relief and had sufficed. The tears she shed, the letters she wrote to
Reanda, rested her and refreshed her. For she had written others since
that first one, though he had never answered any of them. But the small
daily interruption of her acting was no longer enough. The taste of
liberty had bred an intense craving for more of it, and she dreamed of
being alone for days together.

She wrote to Reanda now without the slightest hope of receiving any
reply, as madmen sometimes write endless letters to women they love,
though they have never exchanged a word with them. It was a vent for her
pent-up suffering. It could make no difference, and Griggs could never
know. Her strange position put the point of faithfulness out of the
question. She was in love with her husband, and the man who loved her
held her to her play of love by the terror she felt of what lay behind
his gentleness. She dreamed once that he had found out the truth, and
was tearing her head from her body with those hands of his, slowly,
almost gently, with mysterious eyes and still face. She woke, and found
that the heavy tress of her hair was twisted round her throat and was
choking her; but the impression remained, and her dread of Griggs
increased, and it became harder and harder to act her part.

At the same time the attraction of secretly writing to her husband grew
stronger, day by day. She did not send him all she wrote, nor a tenth
part of all, and the greater portion of her outpourings went into the
fire, or they were torn to infinitesimal bits and thrown into the
waste-paper basket. She was critical, in a strangely morbid way, of what
she wrote. The fact that she was acting for Griggs, and knew it, made
her dread to write anything to Reanda which could possibly seem
insincere. No aspiring young author ever took greater pains over his
work than she sometimes bestowed upon the composition of these letters,
or judged his work more conscientiously and severely than she. And the
result was that she told of her life with wonderful sincerity and truth.
Truth was her only luxury in the midst of the great lie she had to
sustain. She revelled in it, and yet, fearing to lose it, she used it
with a conscientiousness which she had never exhibited in anything she
had done before. It was her single delight, and she treasured it with
scrupulous and miserly care. In her letters, at least, she could be
really herself.

But the strain was telling upon her visibly, and Griggs was very anxious
about her, and hastened their departure for Subiaco as soon as the
weather began to grow warm, hoping that the mountain air would bring the
colour back to her pale cheeks. For her beauty's sake, he could almost
have deprecated the prospect, strange to say, for she had never seemed
more perfectly beautiful than now. She was thinner than she had formerly
been, and her pallor had refined her by softening the look of hard and
brilliant vitality which had characterized her before she had left
Reanda. There is perhaps no beauty which is not beautified by a touch
of sadness. Griggs saw it, and while his eyes rejoiced, his heart sank.

He knew what an utterly lonely life she was leading, even as he judged
her existence, and the tender string was touched in his deep nature. She
had sacrificed everything for him, as he told himself many a time in his
solitary walks. All the love he had given and had to give could never
repay her for what she had given him. Marriage, he reflected, was often
a bargain, but such devotion as hers was a gift for which there could be
no return. She had ruined herself in the eyes of the world for him, but
the world would never accuse him, nor shut its doors upon him because he
had accepted what she had so freely given. He was not an emotional man,
but even he longed for some turn of life in which for her sake he might
do something above the dead level of that commonplace heroism which
begins in hard work and ends in the attainment of ordinary necessities.
He felt his strength in him and about him, and he wished that he could
let it loose upon some adversary in the physical satisfaction of
fighting for what he loved. It was not a high aspiration, but it was a
manly one.

He drew upon his resources to the utmost, in order to make her
comfortable in Subiaco when they should get there. He was not a dreamer,
though he dreamed when he had time. It was his nature to take all the
things which came to him to be done and to do them one after another
with untiring energy. He worked at his correspondence, and got
additional articles to write for periodicals, though it was no easy
matter in that day when the modern periodical was in its infancy.

Gloria, acting her part, complained sadly that he worked too hard. Work
as he might, he had no such stress to fear as was wearing out her life.
She hated him, she feared him, and she envied him. Sometimes she pitied
him, and then it was easier for her to act the play. As for Griggs, he
laughed and told her for the hundredth time that he was indestructible
and defied fate.

So far as he could see what he had to deal with, he could defy anything.
But there was that beyond of which he could not dream, and destiny, with
leaden hands, was already upon him, on the day when a great,
old-fashioned carriage, loaded with boxes and belongings, brought him
and his to the door of Stefanone's house in Subiaco.

Sora Nanna, grey-haired, and withered as a brown apple, but tough as
leather still, stood on the threshold to receive them. She no longer
wore the embroidered napkin on her hair, for civilization had advanced a
generation in Subiaco, and a coloured handkerchief flapped about her
head, and she had caught one corner of it in her teeth to keep it out of
her eyes, as the afternoon breeze blew it across her leathery face.

First at the door of the carriage she saw the baby, held up by its
nurse, and the old woman threw up her hands and clapped them, and crowed
to the child till it laughed. Then Griggs got out. And then, out of the
dark shadow of the coach, a face looked at Sora Nanna, and it was a face
she had known long ago, with dark eyes, beautiful and deadly pale, and
very fateful.

She turned white herself, and her teeth chattered.

"Madonna Santissima!" she cried, shrinking back.

She crossed herself, and did not dare to meet Gloria's eyes again for
some time.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


SORA NANNA showed her new lodgers their rooms. They were the ones
Dalrymple had occupied long ago, together with a third, opening
separately from the same landing. In what had been the Scotchman's
laboratory, and which was now turned into a small bedroom, a large chest
stood in a corner, of the sort used by the peasant women to this day for
their wedding outfits.

"If it is not in your way, I will leave it here," said Sora Nanna.
"There are certain things in it."

"What things?" asked Gloria, idly, and for the sake of making
acquaintance with the woman, rather than out of curiosity.

"Things, things," answered Nanna. "Things of that poor girl's. We had a
daughter, Signora."

"Did she die long ago?" inquired Gloria, in a tone of sympathy.

"We lost her, Signora," said Nanna, simply. "Look at these beds! They
are new, new! No one has ever slept in them. And linen there is, as much
as you can ask for. We are country people, Signora, but we are good
people. I do not say that we are rich. One knows--in Rome everything is
beautiful. Even the chestnuts are of gold. Here, we are in the country,
Signora. You will excuse, if anything is wanting."

But Gloria was by no means inclined to find fault. She breathed more
freely in the mountain air, she was tired with the long drive from
Tivoli, where they had spent the previous night, and she was more hungry
than she had been for a long time.

It was not dark when they sat down to supper in the old guest chamber
which opened upon the street. Nanna was anxious and willing to bring
them their supper upstairs, but Gloria preferred the common room. She
said it would amuse her, and in reality it was easier for her not to be
alone with Griggs, and by going downstairs on the first evening she
meant to establish a precedent for the whole summer. He had told her
that he must go back to Rome for his work on the next day but one, and
she counted the hours before her up to the minute when she should be
free and alone.

They sat down at the old table at which Dalrymple had eaten his solitary
meals so often, more than twenty years earlier. There was no change.
There were the same solid, old-fashioned silver forks and spoons, there
were plates of the same coarse china, tumblers of the same heavy pressed
glass. Had Dalrymple been there, he would have recognized the old brass
lamp with its three beaks which poor Annetta had so often brought in
lighted when he sat there at dusk. On the shelf in the corner were the
selfsame decanters full of transparent aniseed and pink alchermes and
coarse brown brandy. Stefanone came in, laid his hat upon the bench, and
put his stick in the corner just as he had always done. There was no
change, except that Annetta was not there, and the husband and wife had
grown almost old since those days.

"How often does the post go to Rome?" Gloria asked of Sora Nanna, while
they were at supper.

"Every evening, at one of the night, Signora. There are also many
occasions of sending by the carters."

"I can write to you every day when you are away," said Gloria in English
to Griggs.

She was thinking of those letters which she wrote to Reanda almost in
spite of herself, but the loving smile did not play her false, and
Griggs believed her.

In her, the duality of her being had created two distinct lives. For
him, the two elements of consciousness and perception were merged in one
by his love. All that he felt he saw in her, and all that he saw in her
he felt. The perfection of love, while it lasts, is in that double
certainty from within and from without, which, if once disturbed, can
never be restored again. Singly, the one part or the other may remain
as of old, but the wholeness of the two has but one chance of life.

On that first night Gloria had an evil dream. She had fallen asleep,
tired from the journey and worn out with the endless weariness of her
secret suffering. She awoke in the small hours, and moonlight was
streaming into the room. She was startled to find herself in a strange
place, at first, and then she realized where she was, and gazed at the
clouded panes of common glass as her head lay on the pillow, and she
marked the moonlight on the brick floor by the joints of the bricks, and
watched how it crept silently away. For the moon was waning, and had not
long risen above the black line of the hills.

Her eyelids drooped, but she saw it all distinctly still--more
distinctly than before, she thought. The level light rose slowly from
the floor; very, very slowly, stiff and straight as a stark, shrouded
corpse, and stood upright between her and the window. She felt the heavy
hair rising on her scalp, and an intense horror took possession of her
body, and thrilled through her from head to foot and from her feet to
her head. But she could not move. She felt that something held her and
pressed on her, as though the air were moulded about her like cast iron.

The thing stood between her and the window, stiff and white. It showed
its face, and the face was white, too. It was Angelo Reanda. She knew
it, though there seemed to be no eyes in the white thing. She felt its
dead voice speaking to her.

"An evil death on you and all your house," it said.

The face was gone again, but the thing was still there. Very, very
slowly, stiff and white, it lay back, straight from the heel upwards,
unbending as it sank, till it laid itself upon the floor, and she was
staring at the joints of the bricks in the moonlight.

Then she shrieked aloud and awoke. The moonlight had moved a foot or
more, and she knew that she had been asleep.

"It was only a dream," she said to Griggs in the morning. "I thought I
saw you dead, dear. It frightened me."

"I am not dead yet," he laughed. "It was that salad--there were potatoes
in it."

She turned away; for the contrast between the triviality of what he said
and the horror of what she had felt brought an expression to her face
which even her consummate art could not have concealed.

The impression lasted all day, and when she went to bed she carefully
closed the shutters so that the moonlight should not fall upon the
floor. The dream did not return.

"It must have been the salad," said Griggs, when she told him that she
had not been disturbed again.

But Gloria was thinking of death, and his words jarred upon her
horribly, as a trivial jest would jar on a condemned man walking from
his cell to the scaffold. In the evening Griggs went by the diligence to
Rome, and Gloria was left alone with her child and the nurse.

Then she sat down and wrote to Reanda with a full heart and a trembling
hand. She told him of her dream, and how the fear of his death had
broken her nerves. She implored him to come out and see her when Griggs
was in Rome. She could let him know when to start, if he would write one
word. It was but a little journey, she said, and the cool mountain air
would do him good. But if he would not come, she besought him to write
to her, if it were only a line, to say that he was alive. She could not
forget the dream until she should know that he was safe.

She was not critical of her writing any more, for she was no longer in
fear of being misunderstood, and she wrote desperately. It seemed to her
that she was writing with her blood. She had sent him many letters
without hope of answer, but something told her that she could not appeal
in vain forever, and that he would at last reply to her.

Two days passed, and she spent much of her time with the child. She
felt that in time she might love it, if Griggs were not beside her. Then
he came back, and in the great joy of seeing her again after that first
short separation, the stern voice grew as soft as a woman's, and the
still face was moved. She had looked forward with dread to his return,
and she shivered when he touched her; she would have given all she had
if only he would not kiss her. Then, when she felt that he might have
found her cold to him at the first moment, that he might guess, that he
might find out her secret, she shivered again from head to heel, in fear
of him, and she forced the smile upon her face with all her will.

"I am so glad, that I am almost frightened!" she cried, and lest the
smile should be imperfect, she hid it against his shoulder.

She could have bitten the cloth and the tough arm under it, as she felt
him kiss the back of her neck just at the roots of the hair; as it was,
she grasped his arm convulsively.

"How strong you are!" he laughed, as he felt the pressure of her
fingers.

"Yes," she answered. "It is the mountain air--and you," she added.

And, as ever, it seemed to him true. The days he spent with her were
heavenly to him as they were days of living earthly hell to her. He did
not even leave her alone for an hour or two, as he had done in the
city, for when he was in Rome without her he did double work and
shortened his sleep by half, that he might lengthen the time he was to
have with her. The heat of the capital and the late hours brought out
dark shadows under his eyes, and gave her another excuse for saying that
he was overworking for her sake, and that she was a burden upon him--she
and the child.

On the morning before he next went to Rome, she received a letter from
Reanda. The blood rushed scarlet to her face, but Griggs was busy with
his own letters and did not see it.

She went to the baby's room. The child had been taken out by the nurse,
and she sat down in the nurse's chair by the empty cradle and broke the
seal of the note. There was a big sheet of paper inside, on which were
written these lines in the artist's small, nervous handwriting:--

"I am perfectly well, but I understand your anxiety about my health. I
do not wish to see you, but as human life is uncertain I have given
instructions that you may be at once informed of the good news of my
death, if you outlive me."

Gloria's hand closed upon the sheet of paper, and she reeled forward and
sideways in the chair, as though she had received a stunning blow. She
heard heavy footsteps on the brick floor in the next room and with a
desperate effort at consciousness she hid the crumpled letter in her
bosom before the door opened. But the room swam with her as she grasped
the straw cradle and tried to steady herself.

In an agony of terror she heard the footsteps coming nearer and nearer,
then retreating again, then turning back towards her. She prayed to God
at that moment that Griggs might not open the door. To gain strength,
she forced herself to rise to her feet and stand upright, but with the
first step she took, she stumbled against the chest that contained
Annetta's belongings. The physical pain roused her. She drew breath more
freely, and listened. Griggs was moving about in the other room,
probably putting together some few things which he meant to take to Rome
with him that evening. It seemed an hour before she heard him go away,
and the echo of his footsteps came more and more faintly as he went down
the stairs. He evidently had not guessed that she was in the little room
which served as a nursery--the room which had once been Dalrymple's
laboratory.

She did not read the letter again, but she found a match and set fire to
it, and watched it as it burned to black, gossamer-like ashes on the
brick floor. It was long before she had the courage to go down and face
Griggs and say that she was ready for the daily walk together before the
midday meal. And all that day she went about dreamily, scarcely knowing
what she did or said, though she was sure that she did not fail in
acting her part, for the habit was so strong that the acting was
natural to her, except when something waked her to herself too suddenly.

He went away at last in the evening, and she was free to do what she
pleased with herself, to close the deadly wound she had received, if
that were possible, to forget it even for an hour, if she could.

But she could not. She felt that it was her death-wound, for it had
killed a hope which she had tended and fostered into an inner life for
herself. She felt that her husband hated her, as she hated Paul Griggs.

She was impelled to fall upon her knees and pray to Something,
somewhere, though she knew not what, but she was ashamed to do it when
she thought of her life. That Something would turn upon her and curse
her, as Reanda had cursed her in her dream--and in the cruel words he
had written.

She hardly slept that night, and she rose in the morning heavy-eyed and
weary. Going out into the old garden behind the house she met Sora Nanna
with a basket of clothes on her head, just starting to go up to the
convent, followed by two of her women.

"Signora," said the old woman, with her leathern smile, "you are
consuming yourself because the husband is in Rome. You are doing
wrong."

Gloria started, stared at her, and then understood, and nodded.

"Come up to the convent with us," said Nanna. "You will divert yourself,
and while they take in the clothes, I will show you the church. It is
beautiful. I think that even in Rome it would be a beautiful church. I
will show you where the sisters are buried and I will tell you how
Sister Maria Addolorata was burned in her cell. But she was not buried
with the rest. When you come back, you will eat with a double appetite,
and I will make gnocchi of polenta for dinner. Do you like gnocchi,
Signora? There is much resistance in them."

Gloria went with the washerwomen. She was strong and kept pace with
them, burdened as they were with their baskets. It was good to be with
them, common creatures with common, human hearts, knowing nothing of her
strange trouble. Sora Nanna took her into the church and showed her the
sights, explaining them in her strident, nasal voice without the
slightest respect for the place so long as no religious service was
going on. The woman showed her the little tablet erected in memory of
Maria Addolorata, and she told the story as she had heard it, and dwelt
upon the funeral services and the masses which had been said.

"At least, she is in peace," said Gloria, in a low voice, staring at the
tablet.

[Illustration: "Let us not speak of the dead."--Vol. II., p. 203.]

"Poor Annetta used to say that Sister Maria Addolorata sinned in her
throat," said Nanna. "But you see. God can do everything. She went
straight from her cell to heaven. Eh, she is in peace, Signora, as you
say. Requiesca'. Come, Signora, it takes at least three-quarters of an
hour to make gnocchi."

And they did not know. She was standing on her daughter's grave, and the
tablet was a memorial of the mother of the woman beside her.

"You make me think of her, Signora," said the peasant. "You have her
face. If you had her voice, to sing, I should think that you were she,
returned from the dead."

"Could she sing?" asked Gloria, dreamily, as they left the church.

"Like the angels in Paradise," answered Nanna. "I think that now, when
she sings, they are ashamed and stand silent to listen to her. If God
wills that I make a good death, I shall hear her again."

She glanced at her companion's dreamy, fateful face.

"Let us not speak of the dead!" she concluded. "To-day we will make
gnocchi of polenta."



CHAPTER XXXIX.


IN the afternoon Gloria called Sora Nanna to move the chest against
which she had stumbled in the morning. It would be more convenient, she
said, to put it under the bed, if it could not be taken away altogether.
It was a big, old-fashioned chest of unpainted, unvarnished wood, brown
with age, and fastened by a hasp, through which a splinter of white
chestnut wood had been stuck instead of a padlock. Gloria saw that it
was heavy, as Sora Nanna dragged it and pushed it across the room. She
remarked that, if it held only clothes, it must be packed very full.

Sora Nanna, glad to rest from her efforts, stood upright with her hand
on her hip and took breath.

"Signora," she said, "who knows what is in it? Things, certain things!
There are the clothes of that poor girl. This I know. And then, certain
other things. Who knows what is in it? It may be a thousand years since
I looked. Signora, shall we open it? But I think there are certain
things that belonged to the Englishman."

"The Englishman?" asked Gloria, with some curiosity.

She was glad of anything which could interest her a little. For the
moment she had not yet the courage to begin to write again after
Reanda's message. Anything which had power to turn the current of her
thoughts was a relief. She was sitting in the same chair beside the
cradle in which she had sat in the morning, for she had called Nanna to
move the box at a time when the child had been taken out for its second
airing. She leaned back, resting her auburn hair against the bare wall,
the waxen whiteness of her face contrasting with the bluish whitewash.

"What Englishman?" she asked again, wearily, but with a show of interest
in her half-closed eyes.

"Who knows? An Englishman. They called him Sor Angoscia." Nanna sat down
on the heavy box, and dropped her skinny hands far apart upon her knees.
"We have cursed him much. He took our daughter. It was a night of evil.
In that night the abbess died, and Sister Maria Addolorata was burned in
her cell, and the Englishman took our daughter. He took our one
daughter, Signora. We have not seen her more, not even her little
finger. It will be twenty-two years on the eve of the feast of St. Luke.
That is in October, Signora. He took our daughter. Poor little one! She
was young, young--perhaps she did not know what she did."

Gloria leaned forward, resting her chin in her hand and her elbow on
her knee, gazing at the old woman.

"She was a flower," said Nanna, simply. "He tore her from us with the
roots. Who knows what he did with her? She will be dead by this time.
May the Madonna obtain grace for her! Signora, she seemed one of those
flowers that grow on the hillside, just as God wills. Rain, sun, she was
always fresh. Then came the storm. Who could find her any more? Poor
little one!"

"Poor child!" exclaimed Gloria.

And she made Nanna tell all she knew, and how they had found the girl's
peasant dress in a corner of that very room.

"Signora, if you wish to see, I will content you," said Nanna, rising at
last.

She opened the box. It exhaled the peculiar odour of heavy cloth which
has been worn and has then been kept closely shut up for years. On the
top lay Annetta's carpet apron. Nanna held it up, and there were tears
in her eyes, glistening on her dry skin like water in a crevice of brown
rock.

"Signora, there are moths in it, see! Who cares for these things? They
are a memory. And this is her skirt, and this is her bodice. Eh, it was
beautiful once. The shoes, Signora, I wore them, for we had the same
feet. What would you? It seemed a sin to let them mould, because they
were hers. The apron, too, I might have worn it. Who knows why I did
not wear it? It was the affection. We are all so, we women. And now
there are moths in it. I might have worn it. At least it would not have
been lost."

Gloria peered into the box, and saw under the clothes a number of books
packed neatly with a box made of English oak. She stretched down her
hand and took one of the volumes. It was an English medical treatise.
She looked at the fly-leaf.

A loud cry from Gloria startled the old woman.

"Angus Dalrymple--but--" Gloria read the name and stared at Nanna.

"Eh, eh!" assented Nanna, nodding violently and smiling a little as she
at last recognized the Scotchman's name which she had never been able to
pronounce. "Yes--that is it. That was the name of the Englishman. An
evil death on him and all his house! Stefanone says it always. I also
may say it once. It was he. He took our daughter. Stefanone went after
them, but they had the beast of the convent gardener. It was a good
beast, and they made it run. Stefanone heard of them all the way to the
sea, but the twenty-four hours had passed, and the war-ship was far out.
He could see it. Could he go to the war-ship? It had cannons. They would
have killed him. Then I should have had neither daughter nor husband. So
he came back."

The long habit of acting had made Gloria strong, but her hands shook on
the closed volume. She had known that her mother had been an Italian,
that they had left Italy suddenly and had been married on board an
English man-of-war by the captain, that same Walter Crowdie, a relative
of Dalrymple's, after whom Gloria and Griggs had named the child. More
than that Dalrymple had never been willing to tell her. She remembered,
too, that though she had once or twice begged him to take her to Tivoli
and Subiaco, he had refused rather abruptly. It was clear enough now.
Her mother had been this Annetta whom Dalrymple had stolen away in the
night.

And the wrinkled, leathery old hag, with her damp, coarse mouth, her skinny
hands, and her cunning, ignorant eyes, was her grandmother--Stefanone
was her grandfather--her mother had been a peasant, like them, beautified
by one of nature's mad miracles.

There could be no doubt about it. That was the truth, and it fell upon
her with its cruel, massive weight, striking her where many other truths
had struck her before this one, in her vanity.

She grasped the book tightly with both hands and set her teeth. After
that, she did not know what Nanna said, and the old woman, thinking
Gloria was not paying a proper attention to her remarks, pushed and
heaved the box across the room rather discontentedly. It would not go
under the bed, being too high, so she wedged it in between the foot of
the bedstead and the wall. There was just room for it there.

"Signora, if ever your one child leaves you without a word, you will
understand," said Nanna, a little offended at finding no sympathy.

"I understand too well," answered Gloria.

Then she suddenly realized what the woman wanted, and with great
self-control she held out her hand kindly. Nanna took it and smiled, and
pressed it in her horny fingers.

"You are young, Signora. When you are old, you will understand many
things, when evils have pounded your heart in a mortar. Oil is sweet,
vinegar is sour; with both one makes salad. This is our life. Rest
yourself, Signora, for you walked well this morning. I go."

Gloria felt the pressure of the rough fingers on hers, after Nanna had
left her. The acrid odour of peeled vegetables clung to her own hand,
and she rose and washed it carefully, though she was scarcely conscious
of what she was doing. Suddenly she dropped the towel and went back to
the box. It had crossed her mind that the single book she had opened
might have been borrowed from her father and that she might find another
name in the others--that Nanna might have been mistaken in thinking that
she recognized the English name--that it might all be a mistake, after
all.

With violent hands she dragged out the moth-eaten clothes and threw them
behind her upon the floor, and seized the books, opening them
desperately one after the other. In each there was the name, 'Angus
Dalrymple,' in her father's firm young handwriting of twenty years ago.
She threw them down and lifted out the oak box. A little brass plate was
let into the lid, and bore the initials, 'A. D.' There was no doubt
left. The books all bore dates prior to 1844, the year in which, as she
knew, her father had been married. It was impossible to hesitate, for
the case was terribly clear.

She rose to her feet and carried the box to the window and set it upon a
chair, sitting down upon another before it. It was not locked. She
raised the lid, and saw that it was a medicine chest. There was a
drawer, or little tray, on the top, full of small boxes and very minute
vials, lying on their sides. Lifting this out, she saw a number of
little stoppered bottles set in holes made in a thin piece of board for
a frame. One was missing, and there were eleven left. She counted them
mechanically, not knowing why she did so. Then she took them out and
looked at the labels. The first she touched contained spirits of
camphor. It chanced to be the only one of which the contents were
harmless. The others were strong tinctures and acids, vegetable poisons,
belladonna, aconite, and the like, sulphuric acid, nitric acid,
hydrochloric acid, and others.

Gloria looked at them curiously and set them back, one by one, put in
the little tray and closed the lid. Then she sat still a long time and
gazed out of the window at the rugged line of the hills.

Between her and the pale sky she saw her own life, and the hideous
failure of it all, culminating in the certainty that she was of the
blood of the old peasant couple to whose house a seeming chance had
brought her to die. She felt that she could not live, and would not live
if she could. It was all too wildly horrible, too utterly desolate.

The only human being that clung to her was the one of all others whom
she most feared and hated, whose very touch sent a cold shiver through
her. She and fate together had pounded her heart in a mortar, as the old
woman had said. With a bitterness that sickened her she thought of her
brief married life, of her poor social ambition, of her hopeless efforts
to be some one amongst the great. What could she be, the daughter of
peasants, what could she have ever been? Probably some one knew the
truth about her, in all that great society. Such things might be known.
Francesca Campodonico's delicate noble face rose faintly between her and
the sky, and she realized with excruciating suddenness the distance that
separated her from the woman she hated, the woman who perhaps knew that
Gloria Dalrymple was the daughter of a peasant and a fit wife by her
birth for Angelo Reanda, the steward's son.

The ruin of her life spread behind her and before her. She could not
face it. The confusion of it all seemed to blind her, and the confusion
was pierced by the terrible thought that on the next day but one Griggs
would return again, the one being who would not leave her, who believed
in her, who worshipped her, and whom she hated for himself and for the
destruction of her existence which had come by him.

In the box before her was death, painful perhaps, but sure as the grave
itself. She was not a coward, except when she was afraid of Paul Griggs,
and the fear lest he, too, should find out the truth was worse than the
fear of mortal pain.

She sat still in her place, staring out of the window. After a long
time, the nurse came in, carrying the child asleep in her arms, covered
with a thin gauze veil. Gloria started, and then smiled mechanically as
she had trained herself to smile whenever the child was brought to her.
The nurse laid the small thing in its cradle, and Gloria, as in a dream,
put the books and the clothes back into the box, and was glad that the
nurse asked no questions. When she had shut down the lid, she rose to
her feet and saw that she had left the medicine chest on the chair. She
took it into the bedroom and set it upon the table.

Then she sat down and wrote to Reanda. There was no haste in the
writing, and her head was clear and cool, for she was not afraid. Griggs
could not return for two days, and she had plenty of time. She went over
her story, as she had gone over it many times before in her letters. She
told him all, but not the discovery she had just made. That should die
with her, if it could. It would be easy enough, on the next day, when
the nurse was out, to open the box again, and to tear out the fly-leaf
from each book and so destroy the name. As for the medicine chest,
Griggs might see that it had belonged to her father, but he would
suppose that she had brought it amongst her belongings. He would never
guess that it had lain hidden in the old box for more than twenty years.
That was her plan, and it was simple enough. But she should have to wait
until the next day. It was better so. She could think of what she was
going to do, and nobody would disturb her. She finished her letter.

"You have killed me," she wrote at the end. "If I had not loved you to
the very end, I would tell you that my death is on your soul. But it is
not all your fault, if I have loved you to death. I would not die if I
could be free in any other way, but I cannot live to be touched and
caressed again by this man whom I loathe with all my soul. I tell you
that when he kisses me it is as though I were stung by a serpent of ice.
It is for your sake that I hate him as I do. For your sake I have
suffered hell on earth for more than a whole year. For your sake I die.
I cannot live without you. I have told you so again and a hundred times
again, and you have not believed me. You write to-day and you tell me
that I shall be free, when you die, to marry Paul Griggs. I would rather
marry Satan in hell. But I shall be free to-morrow, for I shall be dead.
God will forgive me, for God knows what I suffer. Good-bye. I love you,
Angelo. I shall love you to-morrow, when the hour comes, and after that
I shall love you always. This is the end. Good-bye. I love you; I kiss
your soul with my soul. Good-bye, good-bye.
                                                           "GLORIA."

She cut a lock from her auburn hair and twisted it round and round her
wedding ring, and thrust it into the envelope.



CHAPTER XL.


TWO days later, Paul Griggs stood beside Gloria. She was not dead yet,
but no earthly power could save her. She lay white and motionless on the
high trestle bed, unconscious of his presence. They had sent a messenger
for him, and he had come. The door was locked. Stefanone and his wife
whispered together on the landing. In the third room, beyond, the nurse
was shedding hysterical tears over the sleeping child.

The strong man stood stone still with shadowy, unblinking eyes, gazing
into the dying face. Not a muscle moved, not a feature was distorted,
his breath was regular and slow, for his grief had taken hold upon his
soul, and his body was unconscious of time, as though it were already
dead.

She had suffered horrible agonies for two nights and one day, and now
the end was very near, for the wracked nerves could no longer feel. She
lay on her back, lightly covered, one white arm and hand above the
coverlet, the other hidden beneath it.

The room was very hot, and the sun streamed through the narrow aperture
of the nearly closed shutters, and made a bright streak on the red
bricks, for it was morning still.

The purple lids opened, and Gloria looked up. There was no shiver now,
as she recognized the man she feared, for the nerves were almost dead.
Perhaps there was less fear, for she knew that it was almost over. The
dark eyes were fixed on his with a mysterious, wondering look.

He tried to speak, and his lips moved, but he could make no sound, and
his chest heaved convulsively, once. He knew what she had done, for they
had told him. He knew, now that he tried to speak and could not, that he
was half killed by grief. She saw the effort and understood, and faintly
smiled.

"Why?"

He wrenched the single broken word out of himself by an enormous effort,
and his throat swelled and was dry. Suddenly a single great drop of
sweat rolled down his pale forehead.

"I could not live," she answered, in a cool, far voice beyond suffering,
and still she smiled.

"Why? Why?"

The repeated word broke out twice like two sobs, but not a feature
moved. The dying woman's eyelids quivered.

"I was a burden to you," she said faintly and distinctly. "You are free
now, you have--only the child."

His calm broke.

"Gloria, Gloria! In the name of God Almighty, do not leave me so!"

He clasped her in his arms and lifted her a little, pressing his lips to
her face. She was inert as a statue. She feared him still, and she felt
the shiver of horror at his touch, but it could not move her limbs any
more. Her eyes opened and looked into his, very close, but his were
shut. The mask was gone. The man's whole soul was in his agonized face,
and his arm shook with her. Her mind was clear and she understood. She
was still herself, acting her play out in the teeth of death.

"I could not live," she said. "I could not be a millstone, dragging you
down, watching you as you killed yourself in working for me. It was to
be one of us. It was better so."

In his agony he laid his head beside hers on the pillow.

"Gloria--for Christ's sake--don't leave me--" The deep moan came from
his tortured heart.

"Bring--the child--Walter--" she said very faintly.

Even in death she could not bear to be alone with him. He straightened
himself, stood up, and saw the light fading in her eyes. Then, indeed, a
shiver ran through her and shook her. Then the lids opened wide, and she
cried out loudly.

"Quick--I am going--"

Rather than that she should not have what she wished, he tore himself
away and wrenched the door open, forgetting that it was locked.

"Bring the child!" he cried, into the face of old Nanna, who was
standing there, and he pushed her towards the door of the other room
with one hand, while he already turned back to Gloria.

He started, for she was sitting up, with wide eyes and outstretched
hands, gazing at the patch of sunlight on the floor. Dying, she saw the
awful vision of her dream again, rising stiff and stark from the bricks
to its upright horror between her and the light. Her hands pointed at it
and shook, and her jaw dropped, but she was motionless as she sat.

Nanna, sobbing, came in suddenly, holding up the little child straight
before her, that it might see its mother before she was gone forever.
The baby hands feebly beat its little sides, and it gasped for breath.

Words came from Gloria's open mouth, articulate, clear, but very far in
sound.

"An evil death on you and all your house!" the words said, as though
spoken by another.

The outstretched hands sank slowly, as the vision laid itself down
before her, straight and corpse-like. The beautiful head fell back upon
Griggs's arm, and the eyes met his.

[Illustration: "The last great, true note died away."--Vol. II., p.
219.]

Nanna prayed aloud, holding up the child mechanically, and the small
eyes were fixed, horrorstruck, upon the bed. A low cry trembled in the
air. Stefanone, his hat in his hand, stood against the door, bowed a
little, as though he were in church. The cry came again. Then there was
a sort of struggle.

In an instant Gloria was standing up on the bed to her full height. And
the hot, still room rang with a burst of desperate, ear-breaking song,
in majestic, passionate, ascending intervals.

          "Calpesta il mio cadavere, ma salva il Trovator!"

The last great, true note died away. For one instant she stood up still,
with outstretched hands, white, motionless. Then the flame in the dark
eyes broke and went out, and Gloria fell down dead.

"Maria Addolorata! Maria Addolorata!" Nanna screamed in deadly terror,
as she heard the transcendent voice that one time, like a voice from the
grave.

She sank down, fainting upon the floor, and the little child rolled from
her slackened arms upon the coarse bricks and lay on its face, moaning
tremulously. No one heeded it.

Stefanone, with instinctive horror of death, turned and went blindly
down the steps, not knowing what he had seen, the death notes still
ringing in his ears.

On the bed, the man lay dumb upon the dead woman. Only the poor little
child seemed to be alive, and clutched feebly at the coarse red bricks,
and moaned and bruised its small face. It bore the slender inheritance
of fatal life, the inheritance of vows broken and of faith outraged, and
with it, perhaps, the implanted seed of a lifelong terror, not
remembered, but felt throughout life, as real and as deadly as an
inheritance of mortal disease. Better, perhaps, if death had taken it,
too, to the lonely grave of the outcast and suicide woman, among the
rocks, out of earshot of humanity. Death makes strange oversights and
leaves strange gleanings for life, when he has reaped his field and
housed his harvest.

They would not give Gloria Christian burial, for it was known throughout
Subiaco that she had poisoned herself, and those were still the old
days, when the Church's rules were the law of the people.

Paul Griggs took the body of the woman he had loved, and loved beyond
death, and he laid her in a deep grave in a hollow of the hillside. Such
words as he had to speak to those who helped him, he spoke quietly, and
none could say that they had seen the still face moved by sorrow. But as
they watched him, a human sort of fear took hold of them, at his great
quiet, and they knew that his grief was beyond anything which could be
shown or understood. It was night, and they filled the grave after he
had thrown earth into it with his hands. He sent them away, and they
left him alone with the dead, leaving also one of their lanterns upon a
stone near by.

All that night he lay on the grave, dumb. Then, when the dawn came upon
him, he kissed the loose earth and stones, and got upon his feet and
went slowly down the hillside to the town beyond the torrent. He went
into the house noiselessly, and lay down upon the bed on which she had
died. And so he did for two nights and two days. On the third, a great
carriage came from Rome, bringing twelve men, singers of the Sistine
Chapel and of the choir of Saint Peter's and of Saint John Lateran,
twelve men having very beautiful voices, as sweet as any in the world.
He had sent for them when he had been told that she could not have
Christian burial.

They were talking and laughing together when they came, but when they
saw his face they grew very quiet, and followed him in silence where he
led them. Two little boys followed them, too, wondering what was to
happen, and what the thirteen men were going to do, all dressed in
black, walking so steadily together.

When they all came to the hollow in the hillside, they saw a mound, as
of a grave, amidst the stones, and on it there lay a cross of black
wood. The singers looked at one another in silence, and they understood
that whoever lay in the grave had been refused a place in the
churchyard, for some great sin. But they said nothing. The man who led
them stood still at the head of the cross and took off his hat, and
looked at his twelve companions, who uncovered their heads. They had
sheets of written music with them, and they passed them quietly about
from one to another and looked towards one who was their leader.

Overhead, the summer sky was pale, and there were twin mountains of
great clouds in the northwest, hiding the sun, and in the southeast,
whence the parching wind was blowing in fierce gusts. It blew the dry
dust from the clods of earth on the grave, and the dust settled on the
black clothes of the men as they stood near.

The voices struck the first chord softly together, and the music for the
dead went up to heaven, and was borne far across the torrent to the
distance in the arms of the hot wind. And one voice climbed above the
others, sweet and clear, as though to reach heaven itself; and another
sank deep and true and soft in the full close of the stave, as though it
would touch and comfort the heart that was quite still at last in the
deep earth.

Then one who was young stood a little before the rest, a strong, pale
singer, with an angel's voice. And he sang alone to the sky and the
dusty rocks and the solemn grave. He sang the 'Cujus animam gementem
pertransivit gladius' of the Stabat Mater, as none had sung it before
him, nor perhaps has ever sung it since that day--he alone, without
other music.

They came also to the words 'Fac ut animæ donetur Paradisi gloria,' and
the word was a name to him who listened silently in their midst.

Besides these they sang also a 'Miserere,' and last of all, 'Requiem
eternam dona eis.'

Then there was silence, and they looked at the still face, as though
asking what they should do. The mysterious eyes met theirs with shadows.
The pale head bent itself in thanks, twice or thrice, but there were no
words.

So they turned and left him there on the hillside, and went back to the
town, awestruck by the vastness of the man's sorrow. And afterwards, for
many years, when any of them heard of a great grief, he shook his head
and said that he and those who had sung with him over a lonely grave in
the mountains, alone knew what a man could feel and yet live.

And Paul Griggs lived through those days, and is still alive. His grief
could not spend itself, but his stern strength took hold of life again,
and he took the child with him and went back to Rome, to work for it
from that time forward, and to shield it from evil if he could, and to
bring it up to be a man, ignorant of what had happened in Subiaco in
those summer days, ignorant of the tie that made it his, to be a man
free from the burden of past fates and sins and broken vows and trampled
faith, and of the death his dead mother had died, having a clean name of
his own, with which there could be no memories of misery and fear and
horror.

He wrote a few short words to Angus Dalrymple, now Lord Redin at last,
to tell him the truth as far as he knew it. The hand that had laboured
so bravely for Gloria could hardly trace the words that told of her
death.

Then, when the summer heat was passed, he took little Walter Crowdie
with him, hiring an Englishwoman to tend the child, and he crossed the
ocean and gave it to certain kinsfolk of his in America, telling them
that it was the child of one who had been very dear to him, that he had
taken it as his own, and would provide for it and take it back when it
should be older. And so he did, and little Walter Crowdie grew up with
an angel's voice, and other gifts which made him famous in his day. But
many things happened before that time came.

He could do no better than that. For a time he strove to earn money with
his pen in his own country. But the land was still trembling from the
convulsion of a great war, and there were many before him, and he was
little known. After a year had passed, he saw that he could not then
succeed, and very heavy at heart he set his face eastward again, to
toil at his old calling as a correspondent for a great London paper, to
earn bread for himself and for the one living being that he loved.



PART III.

_DONNA FRANCESCA CAMPODONICO._



CHAPTER XLI.


NOT long after this Dalrymple returned to Rome, after an absence of
several years. Family affairs had kept him in England and Scotland
during his daughter's married life with Reanda; and after she had left
the latter, it was natural that he should not wish to be in the same
city with her, considering the view he took of her actions. Then, after
he had learned from Griggs's brief note that she was dead, he felt that
he could not return at once, hard and unforgiving as he was. But at last
the power that attracted him was too strong to be resisted any longer,
and he yielded to it and came back.

He took up his abode in a hotel in the Piazza di Spagna, not far from
his old lodgings. Long as he had lived in Rome, he was a foreigner there
and liked the foreigners' quarter of the city. He intended once more to
get a lodging and a servant, and to live in his morose solitude as of
old, but on his first arrival he naturally went to the hotel. He did not
know whether Griggs were in Rome. Reanda was alive, and living at the
Palazzetto Borgia; for the two had exchanged letters twice a year,
written in the constrained tone of mutual civility which suited the
circumstances in which they were placed towards each other.

In Dalrymple's opinion, Reanda had been to blame to a certain extent, in
having maintained his intimacy with Francesca when he was aware that it
displeased his wife. At the same time, the burden of the fault was
undoubtedly the woman's, and her father felt in a measure responsible
for it. Whether he felt much more than that it would be hard to say. His
gloomy nature had spent itself in secret sorrow for his wife, with a
faithfulness of grief which might well atone for many shortcomings. It
is certain that he was not in any way outwardly affected by the news of
Gloria's death. He had never loved her, she had disgraced him, and now
she was dead. There was nothing more to be said about it.

He was not altogether indifferent to the inheritance of title and
fortune which had fallen to him in his advanced middle age. But if
either influenced his character, the result was rather an increased
tendency to live his own life in scorn and defiance of society, for it
made him conscious that he should find even less opposition to his
eccentricities than in former days, when he had been relatively a poor
man without any especial claim to consideration.

Two or three days after he had arrived in Rome, he went to the
Palazzetto Borgia and sent in his card, asking to see Francesca
Campodonico. In order that she might know who he was, he wrote his name
in pencil, as she would probably not have recognized him as Lord Redin.
In this he was mistaken, for Reanda, who had heard the news, had told
her of it. She received him in the drawing-room. She looked very ill, he
thought, and was much thinner than in former times, but her manner was
not changed. They talked upon indifferent subjects, and there was a
constraint between them. Dalrymple broke through it roughly at last.

"Did you ever see my daughter after she left her husband?" he asked, as
though he were inquiring about a mere acquaintance.

Francesca started a little.

"No," she answered. "It would not have been easy."

She remembered her interview with Griggs, but resolved not to speak of
it. She would have changed the subject abruptly if he had given her
time.

"It certainly was not to be expected that you should," said Lord Redin,
thoughtfully. "When a woman chooses to break with society, she knows
perfectly well what she is doing, and one may as well leave her to
herself."

Francesca was shocked by the cynicism of the speech. The colour rose
faintly in her cheeks.

"She was your daughter," she said, reproachfully. "Since she is dead,
you should speak less cruelly of her."

"I did not speak cruelly. I merely stated a fact. She disgraced herself
and me, and her husband. The circumstance that she is dead does not
change the case, so far as I can see."

"Do you know how she died?" asked Francesca, moved to righteous anger,
and willing to pain him if she could.

He looked up suddenly, and bent his shaggy brows.

"No," he answered. "That man Griggs wrote me that she had died suddenly.
That was all I heard."

"She did not die a natural death."

"Indeed?"

"She poisoned herself. She could not bear the life. It was very
dreadful." Francesca's voice sank to a low tone.

Lord Redin was silent for a few moments, and his bony face had a grim
look. Perhaps something in the dead woman's last act appealed to him, as
nothing in her life had done.

"Tell me, please. I should like to know. After all, she was my
daughter."

"Yes," said Francesca, gravely. "She was your daughter. She was very
unhappy with Paul Griggs, and she found out very soon that she had made
a dreadful mistake. She loved her husband, after all."

"Like a woman!" interjected Lord Redin, half unconsciously.

Francesca paid no attention to the remark, except, perhaps, that she
raised her eyebrows a little.

"They went out to spend the summer at Subiaco--"

"At Subiaco?" Dalrymple's steely blue eyes fixed themselves in a look of
extreme attention.

"Yes, during the heat. They lodged in the house of a man called
Stefanone--a wine-seller--a very respectable place."

Lord Redin had started nervously at the name, but he recovered himself.

"Very respectable," he said, in an odd tone.

"You know the house?" asked Francesca, in surprise.

"Very well indeed. I was there nearly five and twenty years ago. I
supposed that Stefanone was dead by this time."

"No. He and his wife are alive, and take lodgers."

"Excuse me, but how do you know all this?" asked Lord Redin, with sudden
curiosity.

"I have been there," answered Francesca. "I have often been to the
convent. You know that one of our family is generally abbess. A
Cardinal Braccio was archbishop, too, a good many years ago. Casa
Braccio owns a good deal of property there."

"Yes. I know that you are of the family."

"My name was Francesca Braccio," said Francesca, quietly. "Of course I
have always known Subiaco, and every one there knows Stefanone, and the
story of his daughter who ran away with an Englishman many years ago,
and never was heard of again."

Lord Redin grew a trifle paler.

"Oh!" he exclaimed. "Does every one know that story?"

There was something so constrained in his tone that Francesca looked at
him curiously.

"Yes--in Subiaco," she answered. "But Gloria--" she lingered a little
sadly on the name--"Gloria wrote letters to her husband from there and
begged him to go and see her."

"He could hardly be expected to do that," said Lord Redin, his hard tone
returning. "Did you advise him to go?"

"He consulted me," answered Francesca, rather coldly. "I told him to
follow his own impulse. He did not go. He did not believe that she was
sincere."

"I do not blame him. When a woman has done that sort of thing, there is
no reason for believing her."

"He should have gone. I should have influenced him, I think, and I did
wrong. She wrote him one more letter and then killed herself. She
suffered horribly and only died two days afterwards. Shall I tell you
more?"

"If there is more to tell," said Lord Redin, less hardly.

"There is not much. I went out there last year. They had refused her
Christian burial. Paul Griggs bought a piece of land amongst the rock,
on the other side of the torrent, and buried her there. It is surrounded
by a wall, and there is a plain slab without a name. There are flowers.
He pays Stefanone to have it cared for. They told me all they knew--it
is too terrible. She died singing--she was out of her mind. It must have
been dreadful. Old Nanna, Stefanone's wife, was in the room, and fainted
with terror. It seems that poor Gloria, oddly enough, had an
extraordinary resemblance to that unfortunate nun of our family who was
burned to death in the convent, and whom Nanna had often seen. She sang
like her, too--at the last minute Nanna thought she saw poor sister
Maria Addolorata standing up dead and singing. It was rather strange."

Lord Redin said nothing. He had bowed his head so that Francesca could
not see his face, but she saw that his hands were trembling violently.
She thought that she had misjudged the man, and that he was really very
deeply moved by the story of his daughter's death. Doubtless, his
emotion had made him wish to control himself, and he had overshot the
mark and spoken cruelly only in order to seem calm. No one had ever
spoken to him of his wife, and even now he could hardly bear to hear her
name. It was long before he looked up. Then he rose almost immediately.

"Will you allow me to come and see you occasionally?" he asked, with a
gentleness not at all like his usual manner.

Francesca was touched at last, misunderstanding the cause of the change.
She told him to come as often as he pleased. As he was going, he
remembered that he had not asked after his son-in-law. Reanda had always
seemed to belong to Francesca, and it was natural enough that he should
inquire of her.

"Where is Reanda to be found?" he asked.

"He is very ill," said Francesca, in a low voice. "I am afraid you
cannot see him."

"Where does he live? I will at least inquire. I am sorry to hear that he
is ill."

"He lives here," she answered with a little hesitation. "He is in his
old rooms upstairs."

"Oh! Yes--thank you." Their eyes met for a moment. Lord Redin's
glittered, but Francesca's were clear and true. "I am sure you take good
care of him," he added. "Good-bye."

He left her alone, and when he was gone, she sat down wearily and laid
her head back against a cushion, with half-closed eyes. Her lips were
almost colourless, and her mouth had grown ten years older.

Reanda was dying, and she knew it, and with him the light was going out
of her life, as it had gone out long ago from Dalrymple's, as it had
gone out of the life of Paul Griggs. The idea crossed her mind that
these two men, with herself, were linked and bound together by some
strange fatality which she could not understand, but from which there
was no escape, and which was bringing them slowly and surely to the
blank horror of lonely old age.

The same thought occurred to Lord Redin as he slowly threaded the
streets, going back to his hotel, to his lonely dinner, his lonely
evening, his lonely, sleepless night. He alone of the three now knew all
that there was to know, and in the chronicle of his far memories all led
back to that day at Subiaco, long ago, when he had first knocked at the
convent gate--beyond that, to the evening when poor Annetta had told him
of the beautiful nun with the angel's voice. Many lives had been wrecked
since that first day, and every one of them owed its ruin to him. He
felt strangely drawn to Francesca Campodonico. There was something in
her face that very faintly reminded him of his dead wife, her
kinswoman, and of his dead daughter, another of her race. His gloomy
northern nature felt the fatality of it all. He never could repent of
what he had done. The golden light of his one short happiness shone
through the shrouding veil of fatal time. In his own eyes, with his
beliefs, he had not even sinned in taking what he had loved so well. But
all the sorrow he saw, came from that deed. Francesca Campodonico's eyes
were as clear and true as her heart. But he knew that Reanda's life was
everything on earth to her, and he guessed that she was to lose that,
too, before long. He would willingly have parted with his own, but
through all his being there was a rough, manly courage that forbade the
last act of fear, and there was a stern old Scottish belief that it was
wrong--plainly wrong.

He did not wish to see Paul Griggs any more than he had wished to see
his daughter after she had left her husband. But no thought of vengeance
crossed his mind. It seemed to him fruitless to think of avenging
himself upon fate; for, after all, it was fate that had done the dire
mischief. Possibly, he thought, as he walked slowly towards his hotel,
fate had brought him back to Rome now, to deal with him as she had dealt
with his. He should be glad of it, for he found little in life that was
not gloomy and lonely beyond any words. He did not know why he had come.
He had acted upon an impulse in going to see Francesca that day.

When he reached the Corso, instead of going to his hotel he walked down
the street in the direction of the Piazza del Popolo. He wished to see
the house in which Gloria had lived with Griggs, and he remembered the
street and the number from her having written to him when she wanted
money. He reached the corner of the Via della Frezza, and turned down,
looking up at the numbers as he went along. He glanced at the little
wine shop on the left, with its bush, its red glass lantern, and its
rush-bottomed stools set out by the door. In the shadow within he saw
the gleam of silver buttons on a dark blue jacket. There was nothing
uncommon in the sight.

He found the house, paused, looked up at the windows, and looked twice
at the number.

"Do you seek some one?" inquired the one-eyed cobbler, resting his black
hands on his knees.

"Did Mr. Paul Griggs ever live here?" asked Lord Redin.

"Many years," answered the cobbler, laconically.

"Where does he live now?"

"Always here, except when he is not here. Third floor, on the left. You
can ring the bell. Who knows? Perhaps he will open. I do not wish to
tell lies."

The old man grunted, bent down over the shoe, and ran his awl through
the sole. He was profoundly attached to Paul Griggs, who had always been
kind to him, and since Gloria's death he defended him from visitors with
more determination than ever.

Lord Redin stood still and said nothing. In ten seconds the cobbler
looked up with a surly frown.

"If you wish to go up, go up," he growled. "If not, favour me by getting
out of my light."

The Scotchman looked at him.

"You do not remember me," he observed. "I used to come here with the
Signore."

"Well? I have told you. If you want him, there is the staircase."

"No. I do not want him," said Lord Redin, and he turned away abruptly.

"As you please," growled the cobbler without looking up again.



CHAPTER XLII.


PAUL GRIGGS had gone back to the house in the Via della Frezza after his
return from America, and lived alone in the little apartment in which
the happy days of his life had been spent. He was a man able to live two
lives,--the one in the past, the other in the active present. It was his
instinct to be alone in his sorrow, and alone in the struggle which lay
before him, for himself and his child. But he would have with him all
that could make the memory of Gloria real. The reality of such things
softened with their contrast the hardness of life.

He had taken the same rooms again. Out of boxes and trunks stored in a
garret of the house, he had taken many things which had belonged to
Gloria. Alone, he had arranged the rooms as they used to be. His
writing-table stood in the same place, and near it was Gloria's chair;
beside it, the little stand with her needlework, her silks, her
scissors, and her thimble, all as it used to be. A novel she had once
read when sitting there lay upon the chair. Many little objects which
had belonged to her were all in their accustomed places. On the
mantelpiece the cheap American clock ticked loudly as in old days.

Day after day, as of old, he sat in his place at work. He had made the
room so alive with her that sometimes, looking up from a long spell of
writing, he forgot, and stared an instant at the bedroom door, and
listened for her footstep. Those were his happiest moments, though each
was killed in turn by the vision of a lonely grave among rocks.

With intensest longing he called her back to him. In his sleep, the last
words he had spoken to her were spoken again by his unconscious lips in
the still, dark night. Everything in him called her, his living soul and
his strong bodily self. There were times when he knew that if he opened
his eyes, shut to see her, he should see her really, there in her chair.
He looked, trembling, and there was nothing. In dreams he sought her and
could not find her, though he wandered in dark places, across endless
wastes of broken clods of earth and broken stone. It was as though her
grave covered the whole world round, and his path lay on the shadowed
arms of an infinite great cross. And again the grey dawn awoke him from
the search, to feel that, for pity's sake, she must be alive and near
him. But he was always alone.

Silent, iron-browed, iron-handed, he faced the world alone, doing all
that was required of him, and more also. As he had said to Gloria in
that very room, he was building up a superiority for himself, since
genius was not his. He had in the rough ore of his strength the metal
which some few men receive as a birth-gift from nature, ready smelted
and refined, ready for them to coin at a single stroke, and throw
broadcast to the applauding world. He had not much, perhaps, but he had
something of the true ore, and in the furnace of his untiring energy he
would burn out the dross and find the precious gold at last. It could
not be for her, now. It was not for himself, but it was to be for the
little child, growing up in a far country with a clean name--to be his
father's friend, and nothing more, but to be happy, for the dead woman's
sake who bore him.

As in all that made a part of Paul Griggs, there was in his memory of
Gloria and in his sorrow for her that element of endurance which was the
foundation of his nature. That portion of his life was finished, and
there could never be anything like it again; but it was to be always
present with him, so long as he lived. He was sure of that. It would
always be in his power to close his eyes and believe that she was near
him. If it were possible, he loved her more dead than he had loved her
living.

And she had loved him to the last, and had given her life in the mad
thought of lightening his burden. Her last words to him had told him
so. Her last wish had been to see the child. And the greatest sacrifice
he could now make to her was to separate himself from the child, and let
him grow up to look upon the man who provided for him as his friend, but
as nothing more. It was an exaggerated idea, perhaps, though it was by
far the wisest course. Yet in doing what he did, Griggs deprived himself
for months at a time of something that was of her, and he did it for her
sake. He knew that in her heart there had been the unspoken shame of her
ruined life. Shame should never come near little Walter Crowdie. The
secret could be kept, and Paul Griggs meant to keep it, as he kept many
things from the world.

All his lonely life grew in the perfect memory, cut short though it was
by fate's cruel scythe-stroke. Even that one fearful day held no shadow
of unfaithfulness. She had been mad, but she had loved him. She had done
a deed of horror upon herself, but she had loved him, and madly had done
it for his sake. She had laid down her life for him. All that he could
do would be nothing compared with that. All that he could tear from the
world and lay tenderly as an offering at her feet would be but a handful
of dust in comparison with what she had done in the madness of love.

His heart strings wound themselves about their treasure, closer and
closer, stronger and stronger. The two natures that strove together in
him, the natures of body and soul, were at one with her, and drew life
from her though she was gone. It seemed impossible that they could ever
again part and smite one another for the mastery, as of old, for one
sorrow had overwhelmed them both, and together they knew the depths of
one grief.

Again, as of old, he defied fate. Death could take the child from him,
but could not separate the three in death or life. So long as the child
lived, to do or die for him was the question, while life should last.
But Paul Griggs defied fate, for fate's grim hand could not uproot his
heart from the strong place of his great dead love, to buffet it and
tear it again. He was alone, bodily, but he was safe forever.

Out of the dimness of twilight shadows the pale face came to him, and
the sweet lips kissed his; in a light not earthly the dark eyes
lightened, and the red auburn hair gleamed and fell about him. In the
darkness, a tender hand stole softly upon his, and words yet more tender
stirred the stillness. He knew that she was near him, close to him, with
him. The truth of what had been made the half dream all true. Only in
his sleep he could not find her, and was wandering ever over a dreary
grave that covered the whole world.

So his life went on with little change, inwardly or outwardly, from day
to day, in the absolute security from danger which the dead give us of
themselves. The faith that had gone beyond her death could go beyond his
own life, too. He defied fate.

Then fate, silent, relentless, awful, knocked at his door.

He was at work as usual. It was a bright winter's day, and the high sun
of the late morning streamed across one corner of his writing-table. He
was thinking of nothing but his writing, and upon that his thoughts were
closely intent in that everlasting struggle to do better which had
nearly driven poor Gloria mad.

The little jingling bell rang and thumped against the outer door to
which it was fastened. He paid no attention to it, till it rang again,
an instant later. Then he looked up and waited, listening. Again, again,
and again he heard it, at equal intervals, five times in all. That was
the old cobbler's signal, and the only one to which Griggs ever
responded. He laid down his pen and went to the door. The one-eyed man,
his shoemaker's apron twisted round his waist, stood on the landing, and
gave him a small, thick package, tied with a black string, under which
was thrust a note. Griggs took it without a word, and the bandy-legged
old cobbler swung away from the door with a satisfied grunt.

Griggs took the parcel back to his work-room, and stood by the window
looking at the address on the note. He recognized Francesca
Campodonico's handwriting, though he had rarely seen it, and he broke
the seal with considerable curiosity, for he could not imagine why Donna
Francesca should write to him. He even wondered at her knowing that he
was in Rome. He had never spoken with her since that day long ago, when
she had sent for him and begged him to take Gloria back to her father.
He read the note slowly. It was in Italian, and the language was rather
formal.

          "SIGNORE:--My old and dear friend, Signor Angelo
          Reanda, died the day before yesterday after a long
          illness. During the last hours of his life he
          asked me to do him a service, and I gave him the
          solemn promise which I fulfil in sending you the
          accompanying package. You will see that it was
          sealed by him and addressed to you by himself,
          probably before he was taken ill, and he saw it
          before he died and said that it was the one he
          meant me to send. That was all he told me
          regarding it, and I am wholly ignorant of the
          contents. I have ascertained that you are in Rome,
          and are living, as formerly, in the Via della
          Frezza, and to that address I send the parcel.
          Pray inform me that you have received it.

          "Believe me, Signore, with perfect esteem,
                                    "FRANCESCA CAMPODONICO."

Griggs read the note twice through to the end, and laid it upon the
table. Then he thrust his hands into his pockets, and turned
thoughtfully to the window without touching the parcel, of which he had
not even untied the black string.

So Reanda was dead at last. It was nothing to him, now, though it might
have meant much if the man had died two years earlier. Living people
were very little to Paul Griggs. They might as well be dead, he thought.
Nevertheless, the bald fact that Reanda was gone, made him thoughtful.
Another figure had disappeared out of his life, though it had not meant
very much. He believed, and had always believed, that Reanda had loved
Francesca in secret, though she had treated him as a mere friend, as a
protectress should treat one who needs her protection.

Griggs turned and took up the note to look at it keenly, for he believed
himself a judge of handwriting, and he thought that he might detect in
hers the indications of any great suffering. The lines ran down a little
at the end, but otherwise the large, careful hand was the same as ever,
learned in a convent and little changed since, even as the woman herself
had changed little. She was the same always, simple, honest, strangely
maidenlike, thoroughly good.

He turned to the window again. So Reanda was dead. He would not find
Gloria, to whatsoever place he was gone. The shadow of a smile wreathed
itself about the mouth of the lonely man--the last that was there for a
long time after that day. Gloria was dead, but Gloria was his, and he
hers, for ever and ever. Neither heaven nor hell could tear up his heart
nor loosen the strong hold of all of him that clung to her and had grown
about her and through her, till he and she were quite one.

Then, all at once, he wondered what it could be that Reanda had wished
to send him from beyond the grave. He turned, took the parcel, and
snapped the black string with his fingers, and took off the paper.
Within was the parcel, wrapped in a second paper and firmly tied with
broad tape. A few words were written on the outside.

"To be given to Paul Griggs when I am dead. A. R."

The superscription told nothing, but he looked at it curiously as one
does at such things, when the sender is beyond answer. He cut the white
tape, for it was tied so tightly that he could not slip a finger under
it to break it. There was something of hard determination in the way it
was tied.

It contained letters in their envelopes, as they had reached Reanda
through the post, all of the same size, laid neatly one upon the
other--a score or more of them.

Griggs felt his hand shake, for he recognized Gloria's writing. His
first impulse was to burn the whole package, as it was, reverently, as
something which had belonged to Gloria, in which he had no part, or
share, or right. He laid his hand upon the pile of letters, and looked
at the small fire to see whether it were burning well. Under his hand he
felt something hard inside the uppermost envelope. His fate was upon
him--the fate he had so often defied to do its worst, since all that he
had was dead and was his forever.

Without another thought, he took from the envelope the letter it
contained, and the hard thing which was inside the letter. He held it a
moment in his hand, and it flamed in the beam of sunlight that fell
across the end of the table, and dazzled him. Then he realized what it
was. It was Gloria's wedding ring, and twisted round and round it and in
and out of it was a lock of her red auburn hair, serpent-like, flaming
in the sunshine, with a hundred little tongues that waved and moved
softly under his breath.

An icy chill smote him in the neck, and his strong limbs shook to his
feet as he laid the thing down upon the corner of the table. There was a
fearful fascination in it. The red gold hairs stirred and moved in the
sunlight still, even when he no longer breathed upon them. It was her
hair, and it seemed alive.

In his other hand he still held the letter. Fate had him now, and would
not let him go while he could feel. Again and again the cruel chill
smote him in the back. He opened the doubled sheet, and saw the date and
the name of the place,--Subiaco,--and the first words--'Heart of my
heart, this is my last cry to you'--and it was to Angelo Reanda.

Rigid and feeling as though great icy hands were drawing him up by the
neck from the ground, he stood still and read every word, with all the
message of loathing and abject fear and horror of his touch, which every
word brought him, from the dead, through the other dead.

Slowly, regularly, without wavering, moved by a power not his own, his
hands took the other letters and opened them, and his eyes read all the
words, from the last to the first. One by one the sheets fell upon the
table, and all alone in the midst the lock of red auburn hair sent up
its little lambent flame in the sunshine.

Paul Griggs stood upright, stark with the stress of rending soul and
breaking heart.

As he stood there, he was aware of a man in black beside him, like
himself, ghastly to see, with shadows and fires for eyes, and thin,
parted lips that showed wolfish teeth, strong, stern, with iron hands.

"You are dead," said his own voice out of the other's mouth. "You are
dead, and I am Gorlias."

Then the strong teeth were set and the lips closed, and the gladiator's
unmatched arms wound themselves upon the other's strength, with grip and
clutch and strain not of earthly men.

Silent and terrible, they wrestled in fight, arm to arm, bone to bone,
breath to breath. Hour after hour they strove in the still room. The sun
went westering away, the shadows deepened. The night came stealing black
and lonely through the window. Foot to foot, breast to breast, in the
dark, they bowed themselves one upon the other, dumb in the agony of
their reeling strife.

Late in the night, in the cold room, Paul Griggs felt the carpet under
his hands as he lay upon his back.

His heart was broken.



CHAPTER XLIII.


LORD REDIN had barely glanced at the man in the blue jacket with silver
buttons, whom he had seen in the deep shadow of the little wine shop as
he strolled down the Via della Frezza. But Stefanone had seen him and
had gone to the door as he passed, watching him when he stood talking to
the one-eyed cobbler, and keeping his keen eyes on him as he passed
again on his homeward way. And all the way to the hotel in the Piazza di
Spagna Stefanone had followed him at a distance, watching the great
loose-jointed frame and the slightly stooping head, till the Scotchman
disappeared under the archway, past the porter, who stood aside, his
gold-laced cap in his hand, bowing low to the 'English lord.'

Stefanone waited a few moments and then accosted the porter civilly.

"Do you know if the proprietor wishes to buy some good wine of last
year, at a cheap rate?" he asked. "You understand. I am of the country.
I cannot go in and look for the proprietor. But you are doubtless the
director and you manage these things for him. That is why I ask you."

The porter smiled at the flattery, but said that he believed wine had
been bought for the whole year.

"The hotel is doubtless full of rich foreigners," observed Stefanone.
"It is indeed beautiful. I should prefer it to the Palazzo Borghese. Is
it not full?"

"Quite full," answered the porter, proud of the establishment.

"For instance," said Stefanone, "I saw a great signore going in, just
before I took the liberty of speaking with you. I am sure that he is a
great English signore. Not perhaps a mylord. But a great signore, having
much money."

"What makes you think that?" inquired the porter, with a superior smile.

"Eh, the reasons are two. First, you bowed to him, as though he were
some personage, and you of course know who he is. Secondly, he lifted
his hat to you. He is therefore a real signore, as good perhaps as a
Roman prince. We say a proverb in the country--'to salute is courtesy,
to answer is duty.' Therefore when any one salutes a real signore, he
answers and lifts his hat. These are the reasons why I say this one must
be a great one."

"For that matter, you are right," laughed the porter. "That signore is
an English lord. What a combination! You have guessed it. His name is
Lord Redin."

Stefanone's sharp eyes fixed themselves vacantly, for he did not wish to
betray his surprise at not hearing the name he had expected.

"Eh!" he exclaimed. "Names? What are they, when one is a prince. Prince
of this. Duke of that. Our Romans are full of names. I daresay this
signore has four or five."

But the porter knew of no other, and presently Stefanone departed,
wondering whether he had made a mistake, after all, and recalling the
features of the man he had followed to compare them with those younger
ones he remembered so distinctly. He went back to the Via della Frezza
and drank a glass of wine. Then he filled the glass again and carried it
carefully across the street to his friend the cobbler.

"Drink," he said. "It will do you good. A drop of wine at sunset gives
force to the stomach."

The one-eyed man looked up, and smiled at his friend, a phenomenon
rarely observed on his wrinkled and bearded face. He shrugged one round
shoulder, by way of assent, held his head a little on one side and
stretched out his black hand with the glass in it, to the light. He
tasted it, smelt it, and looked up at Stefanone before he drank in
earnest.

"Black soul!" he exclaimed by way of an approving asseveration. "This is
indeed wine!"

"He took it for vinegar!" observed Stefanone, speaking to the air.

"It is wine," answered the cobbler when he had drained the glass. "It is
a consolation."

Then they began to talk together, and Stefanone questioned him about his
interview with the tall gentleman an hour earlier. The cobbler really
knew nothing about him, though he remembered having seen him several
times, years ago, before Gloria had come.

"You know nothing," said Stefanone. "That signore is the father of Sor
Paolo's signora, who died in my house."

"You are joking," returned the cobbler, gravely. "He would have come to
see his daughter while she lived--requiescat!"

"And I say that I am not joking. Do you wish to hear the truth? Well.
You have much confidence with Sor Paolo. Tell him that the father of the
poor Signora Gloria came to the door and asked questions. You shall hear
what he will say. He will say that it is possible. Then he will ask you
about him. You will tell him, so and so--a very tall signore, all made
of pieces that swing loosely when he walks, with a beard like the Moses
of the fountain, and hard blue eyes that strike you like two balls from
a gun, and hair that is neither red nor white, and a bony face like an
old horse."

"It is true," said the cobbler, reflectively. "It is he. It is his
picture."

"You will also say that he is now an English lord, but that formerly
they called him Sor Angoscia. You, who are friends with Sor Paolo, you
should tell him this. It may be that Sor Angoscia wishes him evil. Who
knows? In this world the combinations are so many!"

It was long before the cobbler got an opportunity of speaking with
Griggs, and when he had the chance, he forgot all about it, though
Stefanone reminded him of it from time to time. But when he at last
spoke of the matter he was surprised to find that Stefanone had been
quite right, as Griggs admitted without the least hesitation. He told
Stefanone so, and the peasant was satisfied, though he had long been
positive that he had found his man at last, and recognized him in spite
of his beard and his age.

After that Stefanone haunted the Piazza di Spagna in the morning,
talking a little with the models who used to stand there in their
mountain costumes to be hired by painters in the days when pictures of
them were the fashion. Many of them came from the neighbourhood of
Subiaco, and knew Stefanone by sight. When Lord Redin came out of the
hotel, as he generally did between eleven and twelve if the day were
fine, Stefanone put his pipe out, stuck it into his breeches' pocket
with his brass-handled clasp-knife, and strolled away a hundred yards
behind his enemy.

If Lord Redin noticed him once or twice, it was merely to observe that
men still came to Rome wearing the old-fashioned dress of the
respectable peasants. Being naturally fearless, and at present wholly
unsuspicious, it never struck him that any one could be dogging his
footsteps whenever he went out of his hotel. In the evening he went out
very little and then generally in a carriage. Two or three times, on a
Sunday, he walked over to Saint Peter's and listened to the music at
Vespers, as many foreigners used to do. Stefanone followed him into the
church and watched him from a distance. Once the peasant saw Donna
Francesca, whom he knew by sight as a member of the Braccio family,
sitting within the great gate of the Chapel of the Choir, where the
service was held. Lord Redin always followed the frequented streets,
which led in an almost direct line from the Piazza di Spagna by the Via
Condotti to the bridge of Saint Angelo. It was the nearest way. He never
went back to the Via della Frezza, for he had no desire to see Paul
Griggs, and his curiosity had been satisfied by once looking at the
house in which his daughter had lived. He spent his evenings alone in
his rooms with a bottle of wine and a book. Luxury had become a habit
with him, and he now preferred a draught of Château Lafitte to the rough
Roman wine barely a year old, while three or four glasses of a certain
brandy, twenty years in bottle, which he had discovered in the hotel,
were a necessary condition of his comfort. He had the intention of going
out one evening, in cloak and soft hat, as of old, to dine in his old
corner at the Falcone, but he put it off from day to day, feeling no
taste for the coarser fare and the rougher drink when the hour came.

He often went to see Francesca Campodonico in the middle of the day, at
which hour the Roman ladies used to be visible to their more intimate
friends. An odd sort of sympathy had grown up between the two, though
they scarcely ever alluded to past events, and then only by an accident
which both regretted. Francesca exercised a refining influence upon the
gloomy Scotchman, and as he knew her better, he even took the trouble to
be less rough and cynical when he was with her. In character she was
utterly different from his dead wife, but there was something of family
resemblance between the two which called up memories very dear to him.

Her influence softened him. In his wandering life he had more than once
formed acquaintances with men of tastes more or less similar to his own,
which might have ripened into friendships for a man of less morose
character. But in that, he and Paul Griggs were very much alike. They
found an element in every acquaintance which roused their distrust, and
as men to men they were both equally incapable of making a confidence.
Dalrymple's life had not brought him into close relations with any woman
except his wife. For her sake he had kept all others at a distance in a
strange jealousy of his own heart which had made her for him the only
woman in the world. Then, too, he had hated, for her, the curiosity of
those who had evidently wished to know her story. That had been always a
secret. He had told it to his father, and his father had died with it.
No one else had ever known whence Maria had come, nor what her name had
been. If Captain Crowdie had ever guessed the truth, which was doubtful,
he had held his tongue.

But Angus Dalrymple was no longer the man he had been in those days. He
had changed very much in the past two or three years; for though he had
almost outlived the excesses into which he had fallen in his first
sorrow, his hardy constitution had been shaken, if not weakened, by
them. Physically his nerves were almost as good as ever, but morally he
was not the same man. He felt the need of sympathy and confidence, which
with such natures is the first sign of breaking down, and of the
degeneration of pride.

That was probably the secret of what he felt when he was with Francesca.
She had that rarest quality in women, too, which commands men without
inspiring love. It is very hard to explain what that quality is, but
most men who have lived much and seen much have met with it at least
once in their lives.

There is a sort of manifested goodness for which the average man of the
world has a profound and unreasonable contempt. And there is another
sort which most wholly commands the respect of that man who has lived
hardest. From a religious point of view, both may be equally real and
conducive to salvation. The cynic, the worn out man of the world, the
man whose heart is broken, all look upon the one as a weakness and the
other as a strength. Perhaps there is more humanity in the one than in
the other. A hundred women may rebuke a man for something he has done,
and he will smile at the reproach, though he may smile sadly. The one
will say to him the same words, and he will be gravely silent and will
feel that she is right and will like her the better for it ever
afterwards. And she is not, as a rule, the woman whom such men would
love.

"I have never before met a woman whom I should wish to have for my
friend," said Lord Redin, one day when he was alone with Francesca. "I
daresay I am not at all the kind of man you would select for purposes of
friendship," he added, with a short laugh.

Francesca smiled a little at the frankness of the words, and shook her
head.

"Perhaps not," she said. "Who knows? Life brings strange changes when
one thinks that one knows it best."

"It has brought strange things to me," answered Lord Redin.

Then he was silent for a time. He felt the strong desire to speak out,
for no good reason or purpose, and to tell her the story of his life.
She would be horrorstruck at first. He fancied he could see the
expression which would come to her face. But he held his peace, for she
had not met him half-way, and he was ashamed of the weakness that was
upon him.

"Yes," she said thoughtfully, after a little pause. "You must have had a
strange life, and a very unhappy one. You speak of friendship as men
speak who are in earnest, because there is no other hope for them. I
know something of that."

She ceased, and her clear eyes turned sadly away from him.

"I know you do," he answered softly.

She looked at him again, and she liked him better than ever before, and
pitied him sincerely. She had discovered that with all his faults he was
not a bad man, as men go, for she did not know of that one deed of his
youth which to her would have seemed a monstrous crime of sacrilege,
beyond all forgiveness on earth or in heaven.

Then she began to speak of other things, for her own words, and his,
had gone too near her heart, and presently he left her and strolled
homeward through the sunny streets. He walked slowly and thoughtfully,
unconscious of the man in a blue jacket with silver buttons, who
followed him and watched him with keen, unwinking eyes set under heavy
brows.

But Stefanone was growing impatient, and his knife was every day a
little sharper as he whetted it thoughtfully upon a bit of smooth
oilstone which he carried in his pocket. Would the Englishman ever turn
down into some quiet street or lane where no one would be looking? And
Stefanone's square face grew thinner and his aquiline features more and
more eagle-like, till the one-eyed cobbler noticed the change, and spoke
of it.

"You are consuming yourself for some female," he said. "You have white
hair. This is a shameful thing."

But Stefanone laughed, instead of resenting the speech--a curiously
nervous laugh.

"What would you have?" he replied. "We are men, and the devil is
everywhere."

As he sat on the doorstep by the cobbler's bench, which was pushed far
forward to get the afternoon light, he took up the short sharp
shoemaker's knife, looked at it, held it in his hands and pared his
coarse nails with it, whistling a little tune.

"That is a good knife," he observed carelessly.

The cobbler looked up and saw what he was doing.

"Black soul!" he cried out angrily. "That is my welt-knife, like a
razor, and he pares his hoofs with it!"

But Stefanone dropped it into the little box of tools on the front of
the bench, and whistled softly.

"You seem to me a silly boy!" said the cobbler, still wrathful.

"Apoplexy, how you talk!" answered Stefanone. "But I seem so to myself,
sometimes."



CHAPTER XLIV.


THE life of Paul Griggs was not less lonely than it had been before the
day on which he had received and read Gloria's letters to Reanda, but it
was changed. Everything which had belonged to the dead woman was gone
from the room in which he sat and worked as usual. Even the position of
the furniture was changed. But he worked on as steadily as before.

Outwardly he was very much the same man as ever. Any one who knew him
well--if such a person had existed--would have seen that there was a
little difference in the expression of his impassive face. The jaw was,
if possible, more firmly set than ever, but there was a line in the
forehead which had not been there formerly, and which softened the iron
front, as it were, with something more human. It had come suddenly, and
had remained. That was all.

But within, the difference was great and deep. He felt that the man who
sat all day long at the writing-table doing his work was not himself any
longer, but another being, his double and shadow, and in all respects
his slave, except in one.

That other man sometimes paused in his work, fingering the pen
unconsciously, as men do who hold it all day long, and thinking of
Gloria with an expression of horror and suffering in his eyes. But he,
the real Paul Griggs, never thought of her. The link was broken, the
thread that had carried the message of dead love between him and the
lonely grave beyond Subiaco was definitely broken. Stefanone came to
receive the small sum which Griggs paid him monthly for his care of the
place, and Griggs paid him as he would have paid his tailor,
mechanically, and made a note of the payment in his pocket-book. When
the man was gone, Griggs felt that his double was staring at the wall as
a man stares at the dark surface of the pool in which the thing he loves
has sunk for the last time.

It was always the other self that felt at such moments. He could
abstract himself from it, and feel that he was watching it; he could
direct it and make it do what he pleased; but he could neither control
its thoughts nor feel any sympathy for them. Until the fatal day, the
world had all been black to him; only by closing his eyes could he bring
into it the light that hovered about a dead woman's face.

But now the black was changed to a flat and toneless white in which
there was never the least variation. Life was to him a vast blank, in
which, without interest or sensation, he moved in any direction he
pleased, and he pleased that it should be always the same direction,
from the remembrance of a previous intention and abiding principle. But
it might as well have been any other, backwards, or to right or left. It
was all precisely the same, and it was perfectly inconceivable to him
that he should ever care whether in the endless journey he ever came
upon a spot or point in the blank waste which should prove to him that
he had moved at all. Nothing could make any difference. He was beyond
that state in which any difference was apprehensible between one thing
and another.

His double had material wants, and was ruled by material circumstances.
His double was a broken-hearted creature, toiling to make money for a
little child to which it felt itself bound by every responsibility which
can bind father to son; acknowledging the indebtedness in every act of
its laborious life, denying itself every luxury, and almost every
comfort, that there might be a little more for the child, now and in
time to come; weary beyond earthly weariness, but untiring in the
mechanical performance of its set task; fatally strong and destined,
perhaps, to live on through sixty or seventy years of the same unceasing
toil; fatally weak in its one deep wound, and horribly sensitive within
itself, but outwardly expressionless, strong, merely a little more pale
and haggard than Paul Griggs had been.

This was the being whom Paul Griggs employed, as it were, to work for
him, which he thoroughly understood and could control in every part
except in its thoughts, and they were its own. But he himself existed in
another sphere, in which there were neither interests nor
responsibilities, nor landmarks, nor touches of human feeling, neither
memories for the dead nor hopes for the living; in which everything was
the same, because there was nothing but a sort of universal impersonal
consciousness, no more attached to himself than to the beings he saw
about him, or to that particular being which was his former self,--in
which he chose to reside, merely because he required a bodily evidence
of some sort in order to be alive--and there was no particular reason
why he should not be alive. He therefore did not cease to live, but a
straw might have turned the balance to the side of death.

It was certainly true that, so far as it could be said that there was
any link between him and humanity, it lay in the existence of the little
boy beyond the water. But it would have been precisely the same if
little Walter Crowdie had died. He did not wish to see the child, for he
had no wishes at all. Life being what it was, it would be very much
better if the child were to die at once. Since it happened to be alive,
he forced his double to work for it. It was no longer any particular
child so far as he himself was concerned. It belonged to his double,
which seemed to be attached to it in an unaccountable way and did not
complain at being driven to labour for it.

At certain moments, when he seemed to have got rid of his double
altogether for a time, a question presented itself to his real self. The
question was the great and old one--What was it for? And to what was it
tending? Then the people he saw in the streets appeared to him to be
very small, like ants, running hither and thither upon the ant-hill and
about it, moved by something which they could not understand, but which
made them do certain things with an appearance of logical sequence, just
as he forced his double to work for little Walter Crowdie from morning
till night. So the people ran about anxiously, or strolled lazily
through the hours, careful or careless, as the case might be, but quite
unconscious that they were of no consequence and of no use, and that it
was quite immaterial whether they were alive or dead. Most of them
thought that they cared a good deal for life on the whole, and that it
held a multitude of pleasant and interesting things to be liked and
sought, and an equal number of unpleasant and dangerous things to be
avoided; all of which things had no real existence whatever, as the
impersonal consciousness of Paul Griggs was well aware. He watched the
people curiously, as though they merely existed to perform tricks for
his benefit. But they did not amuse him, for nothing could amuse him,
nor interest him when he had momentarily got rid of his double, as
sometimes happened when he was out of doors.

One day, the month having passed again, Stefanone came for his money. It
was very little, and the old peasant would willingly have undertaken
that the work should be done for nothing. But he was interested in Paul
Griggs, and he was growing very impatient because he could not get an
opportunity of falling upon Lord Redin in a quiet place. He had formed a
new plan of almost childlike simplicity. When Griggs had paid him the
money, he lingered a moment and looked about the room.

"Signore, you have changed the furniture," he observed. "That chair was
formerly here. This table used to be there. There are a thousand
changes."

"Yes," said Griggs, taking up his pen to go on with his work. "You have
good eyes," he added good-naturedly.

"Two," assented Stefanone; "each better than the other. For instance, I
will tell you. When that chair was by the window, there was a little
table beside it. On the table was the work-basket of your poor Signora,
whom may the Lord preserve in glory! Is it truth?"

"Yes," answered Griggs, with perfect indifference. "It is quite true."

The allusion did not pain him, the man who was talking with Stefanone.
It would perhaps hurt the other man when he thought of it later.

"Signore," said Stefanone, who evidently had something in his mind, "I
was thinking in the night, and this thought came to me. The dead are
dead. Requiescant! It is better for the living to live in holy peace.
You never see the father of the Signora. There is bad blood between you.
This was my thought--let them be reconciled, and spend an evening
together. They will speak of the dead one. They will shed tears. They
will embrace. Let the enmity be finished. In this way they will enjoy
life more."

"You are crazy, Stefanone," answered Griggs, impatiently. "But how do
you know who is the father of the Signora?"

"Every one knows it, Signore!" replied the peasant, with well-feigned
sincerity. "Every one knows that it is the great English lord who lives
at the hotel in the Piazza di Spagna this year. Signore, I have said a
word. You must not take it ill. Enmity is bad. Friendship is a good
thing. And then it is simple. With maccaroni one makes acquaintance
again. There is the Falcone, but it would be better here. We will cook
the maccaroni in the kitchen; you will eat on this table. What are all
these papers for? Study, study! A dish of good paste is better, with
cheese. I will bring a certain wine--two flasks. Then you will be
friends, for you will drink together. And if the English lord drinks too
much, I will go home with him to the hotel in the Piazza di Spagna. But
you will only have to go to bed. Once in a year, what is it to be a
little gay with good wine? At least you will be good friends. Then
things will end well."

Griggs looked at Stefanone curiously, while the old peasant was
speaking, for he knew the people well, and he suspected something though
he did not know what to think.

"Perhaps some day we may take your advice," he said coldly. "Good
morning, Stefanone; I have much to write."

"I remove the inconvenience," answered Stefanone, in the stock Italian
phrase for taking leave.

"No inconvenience," replied Griggs, civilly, as is the custom. "But I
have to work."

"Study, study!" grumbled Stefanone, going towards the door. "What does
it all conclude, this great study? Headache. For a flask of wine you
have the same thing, and the pleasure besides. It is enough. Signore,"
he added, reluctantly turning the handle, "I go. Think of what I have
said to you. Sometimes an old man says a wise word."

He went away very much discontented with the result of the conversation.
His mind was a medley of cunning and simplicity backed by an absolutely
unforgiving temper and great caution. His plan had seemed exceedingly
good. Lord Redin and Griggs would have supped together, and the former
would very naturally have gone home alone. Stefanone was oddly surprised
that Griggs should not have acceded to the proposition at once, though
in reality there was not the slightest of small reasons for his doing
so.

It was long since anything had happened to rouse Griggs into thinking
about any individual human being as anything more than a bit of the
world's furniture, to be worn out and thrown away in the course of time,
out of sight. But something in the absolutely gratuitous nature of
Stefanone's advice moved his suspicions. He saw, with his intimate
knowledge of the Roman peasant's character, the whole process of the old
wine-seller's mind, if only, in the first place, the fellow had the
desire to harass Dalrymple. That being granted, the rest was plain
enough. Dalrymple, if he really came to supper with Griggs, would stay
late into the night and finish all the wine there might be. On his way
home through the deserted streets, Stefanone could kill him at his
leisure and convenience, and nobody would be the wiser. The only
difficulty lay in establishing some sufficient reason why Stefanone
should wish to kill him at all, and in this Griggs signally failed,
which was not surprising.

All at once, as generally happened now, he lost all interest in the
matter and returned to his work; or rather, to speak as he might have
spoken, he set his mechanical self to work for him, while his own being
disappeared in blank indifference and unconsciousness. But on the
following day, which chanced to be a Sunday, he went out in the morning
for a walk. He rarely worked on Sundays, having long ago convinced
himself that a day of rest was necessary in the long run.

As he was coming home, he saw Lord Redin walking far in front of him
down the Corso, easily recognizable by his height and his loose,
swinging gait. Griggs had not proceeded many steps further when
Stefanone passed him, walking at a swinging stride. The peasant had
probably seen him, but chose to take no notice of him. Griggs allowed
him to get a fair start and then quickened his own pace, so as to keep
him in view. Lord Redin swung along steadily and turned up the Via
Condotti. Stefanone almost ran, till he, too, had turned the corner of
the street. Griggs, without running, nearly overtook him as he took the
same turn a moment later.

It was perfectly clear that Stefanone was dogging the Scotchman's
steps. The latter crossed the Piazza di Spagna, and entered the deep
archway of his hotel. The peasant slackened his speed at once and
lounged across the square towards the foot of the great stairway which
leads up to the Trinità de' Monti. Griggs followed him, and came up with
him just as he sat down upon a step beside one of the big stone posts,
to take breath and light his pipe. The man looked up, touched his hat,
smiled, and struck a sulphur match, which he applied to the tobacco in
the red clay bowl before the sulphur was half burned out, after the
manner of his kind.

"You have taken a walk, Signore," he observed, puffing away at the
willow stem and watching the match.

"You walk fast, Stefanone," answered Griggs. "You can walk as fast as
Lord Redin."

Stefanone did not show the least surprise. He pressed down the burning
tobacco with one horny finger, and carefully laid the last glowing bit
of the burnt-out wooden match upon it.

"For this, we are people of the mountains," he answered slowly. "We can
walk."

"Why do you wish to kill that signore?" inquired Griggs, calmly.

Stefanone looked up, and the pale lids of his keen eyes were contracted
as he stared hard and long at the other's face.

"What are you saying?" he asked, with a short, harsh laugh. "What is
passing through your head? What have I to do with the Englishman?
Nothing. These are follies!"

And still he gazed keenly at Griggs, awaiting the latter's reply. Griggs
answered him contemptuously in the dialect.

"You take me for a foreigner! You might know better."

"I do not know what you mean," answered Stefanone, doggedly. "It is
Sunday. I am at leisure. I walk to take a little air. It is my affair.
Besides, at this hour, who would follow a man to kill him? It is about
to ring midday. There are a thousand people in the street. Those who
kill wait at the corners of streets when it is night. You say that I
take you for a foreigner. You have taken me for an assassin. At your
pleasure. So much the worse for me. An assassin! Only this was wanting.
It is better that I go back to Subiaco. At least they know me there.
Here in Rome--not even dogs would stay here. Beautiful town! Where one
is called assassin for breakfast, without counting one, nor two."

By this time Griggs was convinced that he was right. He knew the man
well, and all his kind. The long speech of complaint, with its peculiar
tone, half insolent, half of injured innocence, was to cover the
fellow's embarrassment. Griggs answered him in his own strain.

"A man is not an assassin who kills his enemy for a good reason,
Stefanone," he observed. "How do I know what he may have done to you?"

"To me? Nothing." The peasant shrugged his sturdy shoulders.

"Then I have made a mistake," said Griggs.

"You have made a mistake," assented Stefanone. "Let us not talk about it
any more."

"Very well."

Griggs turned away and walked slowly towards the hotel, well aware that
Stefanone was watching him and would think that he was going to warn
Lord Redin of his danger. That, indeed, was Griggs's first impulse, and
it was probably his wisest course, whatever might come of the meeting.
But the Scotchman had made up his mind that he would not see Griggs
under any circumstances, and though the latter had seen him enter the
hotel less than ten minutes earlier, the servant returned almost
immediately and said that Lord Redin was not at home. Griggs understood
and turned away, thoughtfully.

Before he went down the Via Condotti again, he looked over his shoulder
towards the steps, and he saw that Stefanone was gone. As he walked
along the street, the whole incident began to fade away in his mind, as
all real matters so often did, nowadays. All at once he stopped short,
and roused himself by an effort--directing his double, as he would have
said, perhaps. There was no denying the fact that a man's life was
hanging in the balance of a chance, and to the man, if not to Griggs,
that life was worth something. If it had been any other man in the
world, even that fact would have left him indifferent enough. Why should
he care who lived or died? But Dalrymple was a man he had injured, and
he was under an obligation of honour to save him, if he could.

There was only one person in Rome who could help him--Francesca
Campodonico. She knew much of what had happened; she might perhaps
understand the present case. At all events, even if she had not seen
Lord Redin of late, she could not be supposed to have broken relations
with him; she could send for him and warn him. The case was urgent, as
Griggs knew. After what he had said to Stefanone, the latter, if he
meant to kill his man, would not lose a day.



CHAPTER XLV.


IT was past midday when Paul Griggs reached the Palazzetto Borgia and
inquired for Donna Francesca. He was told that she was out. It was her
custom, the porter said, always to breakfast on Sundays with her
relatives, the Prince and Princess of Gerano. Griggs asked at what time
she might be expected to return. The porter put on a vague look and said
that it was impossible to tell. Sometimes she went to Saint Peter's on
Sunday afternoon, to hear Vespers. Vespers began at twenty-two o'clock,
or half-past twenty-two--between half-past three and four by French
time, at that season of the year.

Griggs turned away, and wandered about for half an hour in the vicinity
of the palace, uncertain as to what he should do, and yet determined not
to lose sight of the necessity for immediate action of some sort. At
last he went back to the Piazza di Spagna, intending to write a word of
warning to Lord Redin, though he knew that the latter would pay very
little attention to anything of such a nature. Like most foreigners, he
would laugh at the idea of being attacked in the streets. Even in an
interview it would not be easy to persuade him of the truth which Griggs
had discovered more by intuition and through his profound knowledge of
the Roman character than by any chain of evidence.

Lord Redin had gone out, he was told. It was impossible to say with any
certainty whether this were true or not, and Griggs wrote a few words on
his card, sealed the latter in an envelope, and left it to be delivered
to the Scotchman. Then he went back to the Via della Frezza, determined
to renew his attempt to see Francesca Campodonico, at a later hour.

At the door of the little wine shop Stefanone was seated on one of the
rush stools, his hat tilted over his eyes, and his white-stockinged legs
crossed. He was smoking and looking down, but he recognized Griggs's
step at some distance, and raised his eyes. Griggs nodded to him
familiarly, passing along on the other side of the narrow street, and he
saw Stefanone's expression. There was a look of cunning and amusement in
the contraction of the pale lids, which the younger man did not like.
Stefanone spoke to him across the street.

"You are well returned, Signore," he said, in the common phrase of
greeting after an absence.

The words were civil enough, but there was something of mockery in the
tone. Griggs might not have noticed it at any other time, but his
thoughts had been occupied with Stefanone during the last two hours,
and he resented what sounded like insolence. The tone implied that he
had been on a fool's errand, and that Stefanone knew it. He said
nothing, but stood still and scrutinized the man's face. There was an
unwonted colour about the cheek bones, and the keen eyes sparkled under
the brim of the soft hat. Stefanone had a solid head, and was not given
to drinking, especially in the morning; but Griggs guessed that to-day
he had drunk more than usual. The man's next words convinced him of the
fact.

"Signore," he said, slowly rising, "will you favour us by tasting the
wine I brought last week? There is no one in the shop yet, for it is
early. If you will, we can drink a glass."

"Thank you," answered Griggs. "I have not eaten yet."

"Then Sor Angoscia did not ask you to breakfast!" laughed Stefanone,
insolently. "At midday, too! It was just the hour! But perhaps he
invited you to his supper, for it is ordered."

And he laughed again. Griggs glanced at him once more, and then went
quietly on towards his own door. He saw that the man had drunk too much,
and the idea of bandying words in the attempt to rebuke him was
distasteful. Griggs had very rarely lost his temper, so far as to strike
a man, even in former days, and it had seemed to him of late that he
could never be really angry again. Nothing could ever again be of
enough importance to make it worth while. If a man of his own class had
insulted him, he would have directed his double, as it were, to resent
the offence, but he himself would have remained utterly indifferent.

The one-eyed cobbler was not in his place, as it was Sunday. If he had
been there, Griggs would very possibly have told him to watch Stefanone
and to try and keep him in the wine shop until he should grow heavy over
his wine and fall asleep. In that state he would at least be harmless.
But the cobbler was not there. Griggs went up to his rooms to wait until
a later hour, when he might hope to find Francesca.

Stefanone, being left alone, sat down again, pulled his hat over his
eyes once more and felt in his pocket for his clasp-knife. His mind was
by no means clear, for he had eaten nothing, he had swallowed a good
deal of strong wine, and he had made up his mind that he must kill his
enemy on that day or never. The intention was well-defined, but that was
all. He had put off his vengeance too long. It was true that he had not
yet caught Dalrymple alone in a quiet street at night, that is to say,
under the most favourable circumstances imaginable; but more than once
he might have fallen upon him suddenly from a doorway in a narrow lane,
in which there had been but a few women and children to see the deed, if
they saw it at all. He knew well enough that in Rome the fear of being
in any way implicated in a murder, even as a witness, would have made
women, and probably men, too, run indoors or out of the way, rather than
interfere or pursue him. He told himself therefore that he had been
unreasonably cautious, and that unless he acted quickly Lord Redin,
being warned by Griggs, would take measures of self-defence which might
put him beyond the reach of the clasp-knife forever. Stefanone's ideas
about the power of an 'English lord' were vague in the extreme.

He had not been exactly frightened by Griggs's sudden accusation that
morning, but he had been made nervous and vicious by the certainty that
his intentions had been discovered. Peasant-like, not being able to hit
on a plan for immediate success, he had excited himself and stimulated
his courage with drink. His eyes were already a little bloodshot, and
the flush on his high cheek bones showed that he was in the first stage
of drunkenness, which under present circumstances was the most dangerous
and might last all day with a man of his age and constitution, provided
that he did not drink too fast. And there was little fear of that, for
the Roman is cautious in his cups, and drinks slowly, never wishing to
lose his head, and indeed very much ashamed of ever being seen in a
helpless condition.

By this time he was well acquainted with Lord Redin's habits; and though
Griggs had been told that the Scotchman was out, Stefanone knew very
well that he was at home and would not leave the hotel for another hour
or more.

Leaning back against the wall and tipping the stool, he swung his
white-stockinged legs thoughtfully.

"One must eat," he remarked aloud, to himself.

He held his head a little on one side, thoughtfully considering the
question of food. Then he turned his face slowly towards the low door of
the shop and sniffed the air. Something was cooking in the back regions
within. Stefanone nodded to himself, rose, pulled out a blue and red
cotton handkerchief, and proceeded to dust his well-blacked low shoes
and steel buckles with considerable care, setting first one foot and
then the other upon the stool.

"Let us eat," he said aloud, folding his handkerchief again and
returning it to his pocket.

He went in and sat down at one of the trestle tables,--a heavy board,
black with age. The host was nodding on a chair in the corner, a fat man
in a clean white apron, with a round red face and fat red prominences
over his eyes, with thin eyebrows that were scarcely perceptible.

Stefanone rapped on the board with his knuckles; the host awoke, looked
at him with a pleased smile, made an interrogatory gesture, and having
received an affirmative nod for an answer retired into the dark kitchen.
In a moment he returned with a huge earthenware plate of soup in which a
couple of large pieces of fat meat bobbed lazily as he set the dish on
the table. Then he brought bread, a measure of wine, an iron spoon, and
a two-pronged fork.

Stefanone eat the soup without a word, breaking great pieces of bread
into it. Then he pulled out his clasp-knife and opened it; the long
blade, keen as a razor and slightly curved, but dark and dull in colour,
snapped to its place, as the ring at the back fell into the
corresponding sharp notch. With affected delicacy, Stefanone held it
between his thumb and one finger and drew the edge across the fat boiled
meat, which fell into pieces almost at a touch, though it was tough and
stringy. The host watched the operation approvingly. At that time it was
forbidden to carry such knives in Rome, unless the point were round and
blunt. The Roman always stabs; he never cuts his man's throat in a fight
or in a murder.

"It is a prohibited weapon," observed the fat man, smiling, "but it is
very beautiful. Poor Christian, if he finds it between his ribs! He
would soon be cold. It is a consolation at night to have such a toy."

"Truly, it is the consolation of my soul," answered Stefanone.

"Say a little, dear friend," said the fat man, sitting down and resting
his bare elbows upon the table, "that arm, has it ever sent any one to
Paradise?"

"And then I should tell you!" exclaimed Stefanone, laughing, and he
sipped some wine and smacked his lips. "But no," he added presently. "I
am a pacific man. If they touch me--woe! But I, to touch any one? Not
even a fly."

"Thus I like men," said the host, "serious, full of scruples, people who
drink well, quiet, quiet, and pay better."

"So we are at Subiaco," answered Stefanone.

He cleaned his knife on a piece of bread very carefully, laid it open
beside him, and threw the crust to a lean dog that appeared suddenly
from beneath the table, as though it had come up through a trap-door;
the half-famished creature bolted the bread with a snap and a gulp and
disappeared again as suddenly and silently, just in time to avoid the
fat man's slow, heavy hand.

When he had finished eating, Stefanone produced his little piece of
oilstone, which he carried wrapped in dingy paper, and having greased it
proceeded to draw the blade over it slowly and smoothly.

"Apoplexy!" ejaculated the host. "Are you not contented? Or perhaps you
wish to shave with it?"

"Thus I keep it," answered the peasant, smiling. "A minute here, a
minute there. The time costs nothing. What am I doing? Nothing. I
digest. To pass the time I sharpen the knife. I am like this. I say it
is a sin to waste time."

Every now and then he sipped his wine, but there was no perceptible
change in his manner, for he was careful to keep himself just at the
same level of excitement, neither more nor less.

Half an hour later he was smoking his pipe in the Piazza di Spagna,
lounging near the great fountain in the sunshine, his eyes generally
turned towards the door of the hotel. He waited a long time, and
replenished his pipe more than once.

"This would be the only thing wanting," he said impatiently and half
aloud. "That just to-day he should not go out."

But Lord Redin appeared at last, dressed as though he were going to make
a visit. He looked about the square, standing still on the threshold for
a moment, and a couple of small open cabs drove up. But he shook his
head, consulted his watch, and strode away in the direction of the
Propaganda.

Stefanone guessed that he was going to the Palazzetto Borgia, and
followed him as usual at a safe distance, threading the winding ways
towards the Piazza di Venezia. There used to be a small café then under
the corner of that part of the Palazzo Torlonia which has now been
pulled down. Lord Redin entered it, and Stefanone lingered on the other
side of the street. A man passed him who sold melon seeds and aquavitæ,
and Stefanone drank a glass of the one and bought a measure of the
other. The Romans are fond of the taste of the tiny dry kernel which is
found inside the broad white shell of the seed. Presently Lord Redin
came out, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief, and went on. Stefanone
followed him again, walking fast when his enemy had turned a corner and
slackening his speed as soon as he caught sight of him again.

Francesca was out. He saw Lord Redin's look of annoyance as the latter
turned away after speaking with the porter, and he fell back into the
shadow of a doorway, expecting that the Scotchman would take the street
by which he had come. But Dalrymple turned down the narrow lane beside
the palace, in the direction of the Tiber. Stefanone's bloodshot eyes
opened suddenly as he sprang after him; with a quick movement he got his
knife out, opened it, and thrust his hand with it open into the wide
pocket of his jacket. Lord Redin had never gone down that lane before,
to Stefanone's knowledge, and it was a hundred to one that at that hour
no one would be about. Stefanone himself did not know the place.

Dalrymple must have heard the quick and heavy footsteps of the peasant
behind him, but it would not have been at all like him to turn his
head. With loose, swinging gait he strode along, and his heavy stick
made high little echoes as it struck the dry cobble-stones.

Stefanone was very near him. His eyes glared redly, and his hand with
the knife in it was half out of his pocket. In ten steps more he would
spring and strike upwards, as Romans do. He chose the spot on the dark
overcoat where his knife should go through, below the shoulder-blade, at
the height of the small ribs on the left side. His lips were parted and
dry.

There was a loud scream of anger, a tremendous clattering noise, and a
sound of feet. Stefanone turned suddenly pale, and his hand went to the
bottom of his pocket again.

On an open doorstep lay a copper 'conca'--the Roman water jar--a
wretched dog was rushing down the street with something in its mouth, in
front of Lord Redin, a woman was pursuing it with yells, swinging a
small wooden stool in her right hand, to throw it at the dog, and the
neighbours were on their doorsteps in a moment. Stefanone slunk under
the shadow of the wall, grinding his teeth. The chance was gone. The
streets beyond were broader and more populous.

Lord Redin went steadily onward, evidently familiar with every turn of
the way, down to the Tiber, across the Bridge of Quattro Capi, and over
the island of Saint Bartholomew to Trastevere, turning then to the right
through the straight Lungaretta, past Santa Maria and under the heights
of San Pietro in Montorio, and so to the Lungara and by Santo Spirito to
the Piazza of Saint Peter's. He walked fast, and Stefanone twice wiped
the perspiration from his forehead on the way, for he was nervous from
the tension and the disappointment, and felt suddenly weak.

The Scotchman never paused, but crossed the vast square and went up the
steps of the basilica. He was evidently going to hear the Vespers. Then
Stefanone, instead of following him into the church, sat down outside
the wine shop on the right, just opposite the end of the Colonnade. He
ordered a measure of wine and prepared to wait, for he guessed that Lord
Redin would remain in the church at least an hour.



CHAPTER XLVI.


LORD REDIN lifted the heavy leathern curtain of the door on the right of
the main entrance to the basilica, and went into the church. For some
reason or other, the majority of people go in by that door rather than
the other. It may be that the reason is a very simple one, after all.
Most people are right handed, and of any two doors side by side leading
into the same place, will instinctively take the one on the right. The
practice of passing to the left in the street, in almost all old
countries, was for the sake of safety, in order that a man might have
his sword hand towards any one he met.

The air of the church was warm, and had a faint odour of incense in it.
The temperature of the vast building varies but little with the seasons;
going into it in winter, it seems warm, in summer it is very cold. On
that day there were not many people in the nave, though a soft sound of
unceasing footsteps broke the stillness. Very far away an occasional
strain of music floated on the air from the Chapel of the Choir, the
last on the left before the transept is reached. Lord Redin walked
leisurely in the direction of the sound.

The chapel was full, and the canons were intoning the psalms of the
office. At the conclusion of each one the choir sang the 'Gloria' from
the great organ loft on the right. It chanced that there were a number
of foreigners on that day, and they had filled all the available space
within the gate, and there was a small crowd outside, pressing as close
as possible in order to hear the voices more distinctly. Lord Redin was
taller than most men, and looking over the heads of the others he saw
Francesca Campodonico's pale profile in the thick of the press. She
evidently wished to extricate herself, and she seemed to be suffering
from the closeness, for she pressed her handkerchief nervously to her
lips, and her eyes were half closed. Lord Redin forced his way to her
without much consideration for the people who hindered him. A few
minutes later he brought her out on the side towards the transept.

"Thank you," said Francesca. "I should like to sit down. I had almost
fainted--there was a woman next to me who had musk about her."

They went round the pillar of the dome to the south transept where there
are almost always a number of benches set along the edges of a huge
green baize carpet. They sat down together on the end of one of the
seats.

"We can go back, by and bye, and hear the music, if you like," said
Francesca. "The psalms will last some time longer."

"I would rather sit here and talk, since I have had the good luck to
meet you," answered Lord Redin, resting his elbows on his knees, and
idly poking the green carpet with the end of his stick. "I went to your
house, and they told me that you would very probably be here."

"Yes. I often come. But you know that, for we have met here before. I
only stay at home on Sundays when it rains."

"Oh! Is that the rule?"

"Yes, if you call it a rule," answered Francesca.

"I like to know about the things you do, and how you spend your life,"
said the Scotchman, thoughtfully.

"Do you? Why? There is nothing very interesting about my existence, it
seems to me."

"It interests me. It makes me feel less lonely to know about some one
else--some one I like very much."

Francesca looked at her companion with an expression of pity. She was
lonely, too, but in a different way. The little drama of her life had
run sadly and smoothly. She was willing to give the man her friendship
if it could help him, rather because he seemed to ask for it in a mute
fashion than because she desired his.

"Lord Redin," she said, after a little pause, "do you always mean to
live in this way?"

"Alone? Yes. It is the only way I can live, at my age."

"At your age--would it make any difference if you were younger?" asked
Francesca. She dropped her voice to a low key. "You would never marry
again, even if you were much younger."

"Marry!" His shoulders moved with a sort of little start. "You do not
know what you are saying!" he added, almost under his breath, though she
heard the words distinctly.

She looked at him again, in silence, during several seconds, and she saw
how the colour sank away from his face, till the skin was like old
parchment. The hand that held the heavy stick tightened round it and
grew yellow at the knuckles.

"Forgive me," she said gently. "I am very thoughtless--it is the second
time."

He did not speak for some moments, but she understood his silence and
waited. The air was very quiet, and the enormous pillar of the dome
almost completely shut off the echo of the distant music. The low
afternoon sun streamed levelly through the great windows of the apse,
for the basilica is built towards the west. There were very few people
in the church that day. The sun made visible beams across the high
shadows overhead.

Suddenly Lord Redin spoke again. There was something weak and tremulous
in the tone of his rough voice.

"I am very much attached to you, for two reasons," he said. "We have
known each other long, but not intimately."

"That is true. Not very intimately."

Francesca did not know exactly what to say. But for his manner and for
his behaviour a few moments earlier, she might have fancied that he was
about to offer himself to her, but such an idea was very far from her
thoughts. Her woman's instinct told her that he was going to tell her
something in the nature of a confidence.

"Precisely," he continued. "We have never been intimate. The reason why
we have not been intimate is one of the reasons why I am more attached
to you than you have ever guessed."

"That is complicated," said Francesca, with a smile. "Perhaps the other
reason may be simpler."

"It is very simple, very simple indeed, though it will not seem natural
to you. You are the only very good woman I ever knew, who made me feel
that she was good instead of making me see it. Perhaps you think it
unnatural that I should be attracted by goodness at all. But I am not
very bad, as men go."

"No. I do not believe you are. And I am not so good as you think." She
sighed softly.

"You are much better than I once thought," answered Lord Redin. "Once
upon a time--well, I should only offend you, and I know better now.
Forgive me for thinking of it. I wish to tell you something else."

"If it is something which has been your secret, it is better not told,"
said Francesca, quietly. "One rarely makes a confidence that one does
not regret it."

"You are a wise woman." He looked at her thoughtfully. "And yet you must
be very young."

"No. But though I have had my own life apart, I have lived outwardly
very much in the world, although I am still young. Most of the secrets
which have been told me have been repeated to me by the people in whom
others had confided."

"All that is true," he answered. "Nevertheless--" He paused. "I am
desperate!" he exclaimed, with sudden energy. "I cannot bear this any
longer--I am alone, always, always. Sometimes I think I shall go mad!
You do not know what a life I lead. I have not even a vice to comfort
me!" He laughed low and savagely. "I tried to drink, but I am sick of
it--it does no good! A man who has not even a vice is a very lonely
man."

Francesca's clear eyes opened wide with a startled look, and gazed
towards his averted face, trying to catch his glance. She felt that she
was close to something very strong and dreadful which she could not
understand.

"Do not speak like that!" she said. "No one is lonely who believes in
God."

"God!" he exclaimed bitterly. "God has forgotten me, and the devil will
not have me!" He looked at her at last, and saw her face. "Do not be
shocked," he said, with a sorrowful smile. "If I were as bad as I seem
to you just now, I should have cut my throat twenty years ago."

"Hush! Hush!" Francesca did not know what to say.

His manner changed a little, and he spoke more calmly.

"I am not eloquent," he said, looking into her eyes. "You may not
understand. But I have suffered a great deal."

"Yes. I know that. I am very sorry for you."

"I think you are," he answered. "That is why I want to be honest and
tell you the truth about myself. For that reason, and because I cannot
bear it any longer. I cannot, I cannot!" he repeated in a low,
despairing tone.

"If it will help you to tell me, then tell me," said Francesca, kindly.
"But I do not ask you to. I do not see why we should not be the best of
friends without my knowing this thing which weighs on your mind."

"You will understand when I have told you," answered Lord Redin. "Then
you can judge whether you will have me for a friend or not. It will seem
very bad to you. Perhaps it is. I never thought so. But you are a Roman
Catholic, and that makes a difference."

"Not in a question of right and wrong."

"It makes the question what it is. You shall hear."

He paused a moment, and the lines and furrows deepened in his face. The
sun was sinking fast, and the long beams had faded away out of the
shadows. There was no one in sight now, but the music of the benediction
service echoed faintly in the distance. Francesca felt her heart beating
with a sort of excitement she could not understand, and though she did
not look at her companion, her ears were strained to catch the first
word he spoke.

"I married a nun," he said simply.

Francesca started.

"A Sister of Charity?" she asked, after a moment's dead silence. "They
do not take vows--"

"No. A nun from the Carmelite Convent of Subiaco."

His words were very distinct. There was no mistaking what he said.
Francesca shrank from him instinctively, and uttered a low exclamation
of repugnance and horror.

"That is not all," continued Lord Redin, with a calm that seemed
supernatural. "She was your kinswoman. She was Maria Braccio, whom every
one believed was burned to death in her cell."

"But her body--they found it! It is impossible!" She thought he must be
mad.

"No. They found another body. I put it into the bed and set fire to the
mattress. It was burned beyond recognition, and they thought it was
Maria. But it was the body of old Stefanone's daughter. I lived in his
house. The girl poisoned herself with some of my chemicals--I was a
young doctor in those days. Maria and I were married on board an English
man-of-war, and we lived in Scotland after that. Gloria was the daughter
of Maria Braccio, the Carmelite nun--your kinswoman."

Francesca pressed her handkerchief to her lips. She felt as though she
were losing her senses. Minute after minute passed, and she could say
nothing. From time to time, Lord Redin glanced sideways at her. He
breathed hard once or twice, and his hands strained upon his stick as
though they would break it in two.

"Then she died," he said. When he had spoken the three words, he
shivered from head to foot, and was silent.

Still Francesca could not speak. The sacrilege of the deed was horrible
in itself. To her, who had grown up to look upon Maria Braccio as a holy
woman, cut off in her youth by a frightful death, the truth was
overwhelmingly awful. She strove within herself to find something upon
which she could throw the merest shadow of an extenuation, but she could
find nothing.

"You understand now why, as an honourable man, I wished to tell you the
truth about myself," he said, speaking almost coldly in the effort he
was making at self-control. "I could not ask for your friendship until I
had told you."

Francesca turned her white face slowly towards him in the dusk, and her
lips moved, but she did not speak. She could not in that first moment
find the words she wanted. She felt that she shrank from him, that she
never wished to touch his hand again. Doubtless, in time, she might get
over the first impression. She wished that he would leave her to think
about it.

"Can you ever be my friend now?" he asked gravely.

"Your friend--" she stopped, and shook her head sadly. "I--I am
afraid--" she could not go on.

Lord Redin rose slowly to his feet.

"No. I am afraid not," he said.

He waited a moment, but there was no reply.

"May I take you to your carriage?" he asked gently.

"No, thank you. No--that is--I am going home in a cab. I would rather be
alone--please."

"Then good-bye."

The lonely man went away and left her there. His head was bent, and she
thought that he walked unsteadily, as she watched him. Suddenly a great
wave of pity filled her heart. He looked so very lonely. What right had
she to judge him? Was she perfect, because he called her good? She
called him before he turned the great pillar of the dome.

"Lord Redin! Lord Redin!"

But her voice was weak, and in the vast, dim place it did not reach him.
He went on alone, past the high altar, round the pillar, down the nave.
The benediction service was not quite over yet, but every one who was
not listening to the music had left the church. He went towards the door
by which he had entered. Before going out he paused, and looked towards
the little chapel on the right of the entrance. He hesitated, and then
went to it and stood leaning with his hands upon the heavy marble
balustrade, that was low for his great height as he stood on the step.

A single silver lamp sent a faint light upwards that lingered upon the
Pietà above the altar, upon the marble limbs of the dead Christ, upon
the features of the Blessed Virgin, the Addolorata--the sorrowing
mother.

Bending a little, as though very weary, the friendless, wifeless,
childless man raised his furrowed face and looked up. There was no hope
any more, and his despair was heavy upon him whose young love had
blasted the lives of many.

His teeth were set--he could have bitten through iron. He trembled a
little, and as he looked upward, two dreadful tears--the tears of the
strong that are as blood--welled from his eyes and trickled down upon
his cheeks.

"Maria Addolorata!" he whispered.



CHAPTER XLVII.


FRANCESCA had half risen from her seat when she had seen that Lord Redin
did not hear her voice, calling to him. Then she realized that she could
not overtake him without running, since he had got so far, and she kept
her place, leaning back once more, and trying to collect her thoughts
before going home. The music was still going on in the Chapel of the
Choir, and though it was dusk in the vast church, it would not be dark
for some time. The vergers did not make their rounds to give warning of
the hour of closing until sunset. Francesca sat still and tried to
understand what she had heard. She was nervous and shaken, and she
wished that she were already at home. The great dimness of the lonely
transept was strangely mysterious--and the tale of the dead girl, burned
to take the place of the living, was grewsome, and made her shiver with
disgust and horror. She started nervously at the sound of a distant
footstep.

But the strongest impression she had, was that of abhorrence for the
unholy deeds of the man who had just left her. To a woman for whom
religion in its forms as well as in its meaning was the mainstay of
life on earth and the hope of life to come, the sacrilege of the crime
seemed supernatural. She felt as though it must be in some way her duty
to help in expiating it, lest the punishment of it should fall upon all
her race. And as she thought it over, trying to look at it as simply as
she could, she surveyed at a glance the whole chain of the fatal story,
and saw how many terrible things had followed upon that one great sin,
and how very nearly she herself had been touched by its consequences.
She had been involved in it and had become a part of it. She had felt it
about her for years, in her friendship for Reanda. It had contributed to
the causes of his death, if it had not actually caused it. She, in
helping to bring about his marriage with the daughter of her sinning
kinswoman, had unconsciously made a link in the chain. Her friendship
for the artist no longer looked as innocent as formerly. Gloria had
accused him of loving her, Francesca. Had she not loved him? Whether she
had or not, she had done things which had wounded his innocent young
wife. In a sudden and painful illumination of the past, she saw that she
herself had not been sinless; that she had been selfish, if nothing
worse; that she had craved Reanda's presence and devoted friendship, if
nothing more; that death had taken from her more than a friend. She saw
all at once the vanity of her own belief in her own innocence, and she
accused herself very bitterly of many things which had been quite hidden
from her until then.

She was roused by a footstep behind her, and she started at the sound of
a voice she knew, but which had changed oddly since she had last heard
it. It was stern, deep, and clear still, but the life was gone out of
it. It had an automatic sound.

"I beg your pardon, Princess," said Paul Griggs, stopping close to her
behind the bench. "May I speak to you for a moment?"

She turned her head. As the sun went down, the church grew lighter for a
little while, as it often does. Yet she could hardly see the man's eyes
at all, as she looked into his face. They were all in the shadow and had
no light in them.

"Sit down," she said mechanically.

She could not refuse to speak to him, and, indeed, she would not have
refused to receive him had she been at home when he had called that day.
Socially speaking, according to the standards of those around her, he
had done nothing which she could very severely blame. A woman he had
dearly loved had come to him for protection, and he had not driven her
away. That was the social value of what he had done. The moral view of
it all was individual with herself. Society gave her no right to treat
him rudely because she disapproved of his past life. For the rest, she
had liked him in former times, and she believed that there was much more
good in him than at first appeared.

She was almost glad that he had disturbed her solitude just then, for a
nervous sense of loneliness was creeping upon her; and though there had
been nothing to prevent her from rising and going away, she had felt
that something was holding her in her seat, a shadowy something that was
oppressive and not natural, that descended upon her out of the gloomy
heights, and that rose around her from the secret depths below, where
the great dead lay side by side in their leaden coffins.

"Sit down," she repeated, as Griggs came round the bench.

He sat down beside her. There was a little distance between them, and he
sat rather stiffly, holding his hat on his knees.

"I should apologize for disturbing you," he began. "I have been twice to
your house to-day, but you were out. What I wish to speak of is rather
urgent. I heard that you might be here, and so I came."

"Yes," she said, and waited for him to say more.

"What is it?" she asked presently, as he did not speak at once.

"It is about Dalrymple--about Lord Redin," he said at last. "You used to
know him. Do you ever see him now?"

Francesca looked at him with a little surprise, but she answered
quietly, as though the question were quite a natural one.

"He was here five minutes ago. Yes, I often see him."

"Would you do him a service?" asked Griggs, in his calm and indifferent
tone.

He was forcing himself to do what was plainly his duty, but he was
utterly incapable of taking any interest in the matter. Francesca
hesitated before she answered. An hour earlier she would have assented
readily enough, but now the idea of doing anything which could tend to
bring her into closer relations with Lord Redin was disagreeable.

"I do not think you will refuse," said Griggs, as she did not speak.
"His life is in danger."

She turned quickly and scrutinized the expressionless features. In the
glow of the sunset the church was quite light. The total unconcern of
the man's manner contrasted strangely with the importance of what he
said. Francesca felt that something must be wrong.

"You say that very coolly," she observed, and her tone showed that she
was incredulous.

"And you do not believe me," answered Griggs, quite unmoved. "It is
natural, I suppose. I will try to explain."

"Please do. I do not understand at all."

Nevertheless, she was startled, though she concealed her nervousness.
She had not spoken with Griggs for a long time; and as he talked, she
saw what a great change had taken place. He was very quiet, as he had
always been, but he was almost too quiet. She could not make out his
eyes. She knew of his superhuman strength, and his stillness seemed
unnatural. What he said did not sound rational. An impression got hold
of her that he had gone mad, and she was physically afraid of him. He
began to explain. She felt a singing in her ears, and she could not
follow what he said. It was like an evil dream, and it grew upon her
second by second.

He talked on in the same even, monotonous tone. The words meant nothing
to her. She crossed her feet nervously and tried to get a soothing
sensation by stroking her sable muff. She made a great effort at
concentration and failed to understand anything.

All at once it grew dark, as the sunset light faded out of the sky.
Again she felt the desire to rise and the certainty that she could not,
if she tried. He ceased speaking and seemed to expect her to say
something, but she had not understood a word of his long explanation. He
sat patiently waiting. She could hardly distinguish his face in the
gloom.

The sound of irregular, shuffling footsteps and low voices moved the
stillness. The vergers were making their last round in a hurried,
perfunctory way. They passed across the transept to the high altar. It
was so dark that Francesca could only just see their shadows moving in
the blackness. She did not realize what they were doing, and her
imagination made ghosts of them, rushing through the silence of the
deserted place, from one tomb to another, waking the dead for the night.
They did not even glance across, as they skirted the wall of the church.
Even if they had looked, they might not have seen two persons in black,
against the blackness, sitting silently side by side on the dark bench.
They saw nothing and passed on, out of sight and out of hearing.

"May I ask whether you will give him the message?" inquired Griggs at
last, moving in his seat, for he knew that it was time to be going.

Francesca started, at the sound of his voice.

"I--I am afraid--I have not understood," she said. "I beg your pardon--I
was not paying attention. I am nervous."

"It is growing late," said Griggs. "We had better be going--I will tell
you again as we walk to the door."

"Yes--no--just a moment!" She made a strong effort over herself. "Tell
me in three words," she said. "Who is it that threatens Lord Redin's
life?"

"A peasant of Subiaco called Stefanone. Really, Princess, we must be
going; it is quite dark--"

"Stefanone!" exclaimed Francesca, while he was speaking the last words,
which she did not hear. "Stefanone of Subiaco--of course!"

"We must really be going," said Griggs, rising to his feet, and
wondering indifferently why it was so hard to make her understand.

She rose to her feet slowly. Lord Redin's story was intricately confused
in her mind with the few words which she had retained of what Griggs had
said.

"Yes--yes--Stefanone," she said in a low voice, as though to herself,
and she stood still, comprehending the whole situation in a flash, and
imagining that Griggs knew the whole truth and had been telling it to
her as though she had not known it. "But how did you know that Lord
Redin took the girl's body and burnt it?" she asked, quite certain that
he had mentioned the fact.

"What girl?" asked Griggs in wonder.

"Why, the body of Stefanone's daughter, which he managed to burn in the
convent when he carried off my cousin! How did you know about it?"

"I did not know about it," said Griggs. "Your cousin? I do not
understand."

"My cousin--yes--Maria Braccio--Gloria's mother! You have just been
talking about her--"

"I?" asked Griggs, bewildered.

Francesca stepped back from him, suddenly guessing that she had revealed
Lord Redin's secret.

"Is it possible?" she asked in a low voice. "Oh, it is all a mistake!"
she cried suddenly. "I have told you his story--oh, I am losing my
head!"

"Come," said Griggs, authoritatively. "We must get out of the church, at
all events, or we shall be locked in."

"Oh no!" answered Francesca. "There is always somebody here--"

"There is not. You must really come."

"Yes--but there is no danger of being locked in. Yes--let us walk down
the nave. There is more light."

They walked slowly, for she was too much confused to hasten her steps.
Her inexplicable mistake troubled her terribly. She remembered how she
had warned Lord Redin not to tell her any secrets, and how seriously
she, the most discreet of women, had resolved never to reveal what he
had said. But the impression of his story had been so much more direct
and strong than even the first words Griggs had spoken, that so soon as
she had realized that the latter was speaking approximately of the same
subject, she had lost the thread of what he was saying and had seemed to
hear Lord Redin's dreadful tale all over again. She thought that she was
losing her head.

It was almost quite dark when they reached the other side of the high
altar. Griggs walked beside her in silence, trying to understand the
meaning of what she had said.

The gloom was terrible. The enormous statues loomed faintly like vast
ghosts, high up, between the floor and the roof, their whiteness
glimmering where there seemed to be nothing else but darkness below them
and above them. A low, far sound that was a voice but not a word,
trembled in the air. Francesca shuddered.

"They have not gone yet," said Griggs. "They are still talking. But we
must hurry."

"No," said Francesca, "that was not any one talking." And her teeth
chattered. "Give me your arm, please--I am frightened."

He held out his arm till she could feel it in the dark, and she took it.
He pressed her hand to his side and drew her along, for he feared that
the doors might be already shut.

"Not so fast! Oh, not so fast, please!" she cried. "I shall fall. They
do not shut the doors--"

"Yes, they do! Let me carry you. I can run with you in the dark--there
is no time to be lost!"

"No, no! I can walk faster--but there is really no danger--"

It is a very long way from the high altar to the main entrance of the
church. Francesca was breathless when they reached the door and Griggs
lifted the heavy leathern curtain. If the door had been still open, he
would have seen the twilight from the porch at once. Instead, all was
black and close and smelled of leather. Francesca was holding his
sleeve, afraid of losing him.

"It is too late," he said quietly. "We are probably locked in. We will
try the door of the Sacristy."

He seized her arm and hurried her along into the south aisle. He struck
his shoulder violently against the base of the pillar he passed in the
darkness, but he did not stop. Almost instinctively he found the door,
for he could not see it. Even the hideous skeleton which supports a
black marble drapery above it was not visible in the gloom. He found the
bevelled edge of the smoothly polished panel and pushed. But it would
not yield.

"We are locked in," he said, in the same quiet tone as before.

Francesca uttered a low cry of terror and then was silent.

"Cannot you break the door?" she asked suddenly.

"No," he answered. "Nothing short of a battering-ram could move it."

"Try," she said. "You are so strong--the lock might give way."

To satisfy her he braced himself and heaved against the panel with all
his gigantic strength. In the dark she could hear his breath drawn
through his nostrils.

"It will not move," he said, desisting. "We shall have to spend the
night here. I am very sorry."

For some moments Francesca said nothing, overcome by her terror of the
situation. Griggs stood still, with his back to the polished door,
trying to see her in the gloom. Then he felt her closer to him and heard
her small feet moving on the pavement.

"We must make the best of it," he said at last. "It is never quite dark
near the high altar. I daresay, too, that there is still a little
twilight where we were sitting. At least, there is a carpet there and
there are benches. We can sit there until it is later. Then you can lie
down upon the bench. I will make a pillow for you with my overcoat. It
is warm, and I shall not need it."

He made a step forwards, and she heard him moving.

"Do not leave me!" she cried, in sudden terror.

He felt her grasp his arm convulsively in the dark, and he felt her
hands shaking.

"Do not be frightened," he said, in his quiet voice. "Dead people do no
harm, you know. It is only imagination."

She shuddered as he groped his way with her toward the nave. They
passed the pillar and saw the soft light of the ninety little flames of
the huge golden lamps around the central shrine below the high altar.
Far beyond, the great windows showed faintly in the height of the
blackness. They walked more freely, keeping in the middle of the church.
In the distant chapels on each side a few little lamps glimmered like
fireflies. Before the last chapel on the right, the Chapel of the
Sacrament, Francesca paused, instinctively holding fast to Griggs's arm,
and they both bent one knee, as all Catholics do, who pass before it.
But when they reached the shrine, Francesca loosed her hold and sank
upon her knees, resting her arms upon the broad marble of the
balustrade. Griggs knelt a moment beside her, by force of habit, then
rose and waited, looking about him into the depths of blackness, and
reflecting upon the best spot in which to pass the night.

She remained kneeling a long time, praying more or less consciously, but
aware that it was a relief to be near a little light after passing
through the darkness. Her mind was as terribly confused as her
companion's was utterly calm and indifferent. If he had been alone he
would have sat down upon a step until he was sleepy and then he would
have stretched himself upon one of the benches in the transept. But to
Francesca it was unspeakably dreadful.

The strangeness of the whole situation forced itself upon her more and
more, when she thought of rising from her knees and going back to the
bench. She felt a womanly shyness about keeping close to her companion,
her hand on his arm, for hours together, but she knew that the terror
she should feel of being left alone, even for an instant, or of merely
thinking that she was to be left alone, would more than overcome that if
she went away from the lights. She would grasp his arm and hold it
tightly.

Then she felt ashamed of herself. She had always been told that she came
of a brave race. She had never been in danger, and there was really no
danger now. It was absurd to remain on her knees for the sake of the
lamps. She rose to her feet and turned. Griggs was not looking at her,
but at the ornaments on the altar. The soft glimmer lighted up his dark
face. A moment after she had risen he came forward. She meant to propose
that they should go back to the transept, but just then she shuddered
again.

"Let us sit down here, on the step," she said, suddenly.

"If you like," he answered. "Wait a minute," he added, and he pulled off
his overcoat.

He spread a part of it on the step, and rolled the rest into a pillow
against which she could lean, and he held it in place while she sat
down. She thanked him, and he sat down beside her. At first, as she
turned from the lamps, the nave was like a fathomless black wall.
Neither spoke for some time. Griggs broke the silence when he supposed
that she was sufficiently recovered to talk quietly, for he had been
thinking of what she had said, and it was almost clear to him at last.

"I should like to speak to you quite frankly, if you will allow me," he
said gravely. "May I?"

"Certainly."

"The few words you said about Lord Redin's story have explained a great
many things which I never understood," said Griggs. "Is it too much to
ask that you should tell me everything you know?"

"I would rather not say anything more," answered Francesca. "I am very
much ashamed of having betrayed his secret. Besides, what is to be
gained by your knowing a few more details? It is bad enough as it is."

"It is more or less the story of my life," he said, almost
indifferently.

She turned her head slowly and tried to see his face. She could just
distinguish the features, cold and impassive.

"I came to you to ask you to warn Dalrymple of a danger," he continued,
as she did not speak. "I knew that fact, but not the reason why his life
was and is threatened. Unless I have mistaken what you said, I
understand it now. It is a much stronger one than I should ever have
guessed. Lord Redin ran away with your cousin, and made it appear that
he had carried off Stefanone's daughter. Stefanone has waited patiently
for nearly a quarter of a century. He has found Dalrymple at last and
means to kill him. He will succeed, unless you can make Dalrymple
understand that the danger is real. I have no evidence on which I could
have the man arrested, and I have no personal influence in Rome. You
have. You would find no difficulty in having Stefanone kept out of the
city. And you can make Dalrymple see the truth, since he has confided in
you. Will you do that? He will not believe me, and you can save him.
Besides, he will not see me. I have tried twice to-day. He has made up
his mind that he will not see me."

"I will do my best," said Francesca, leaning her head back against the
marble rail, and half closing her eyes. "How terrible it all is!"

"Yes. I suppose that is the word," said Griggs, indifferently.
"Sacrilege, suicide, and probably murder to come."

She was shocked by the perfectly emotionless way in which he spoke of
Gloria's death, so much shocked that she drew a short, quick breath
between her teeth as though she had hurt herself. Griggs heard it.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said.

"I thought something hurt you."

"No--nothing."

She was silent again.

"Yes," he continued, in a tone of cold speculation, "I suppose that any
one would call it terrible. At all events, it is curious, as a sequence
of cause and effect, from one tragedy to another."

"Please--please do not speak of it all like that--" Francesca felt
herself growing angry with him.

"How should I speak of it?" he asked. "It is an extraordinary
concatenation of events. I look upon the whole thing as very curious,
especially since you have given me the key to it all."

Francesca was moved to anger, taking the defence of the dead Gloria, as
almost any woman would have done. At the moment Paul Griggs repelled her
even more than Lord Redin. It seemed to her that there was something
dastardly in his indifference.

"Have you no heart?" she asked suddenly.

"No, I am dead," he answered, in his clear, lifeless voice, that might
have been a ghost's.

The words made her shiver, and she felt as though her hair were moving.
From his face, as she had last seen it, and from his voice, he might
almost have been dead, as he said he was, like the thousands of silent
ones in the labyrinths under her feet, and she alone alive in the midst
of so much death.

"What do you mean?" she asked, and her own voice trembled in spite of
herself.

"It is very like being dead," he answered thoughtfully. "I cannot feel
anything. I cannot understand why any one else should. Everything is the
same to me. The world is a white blank to me, and one place is exactly
like any other place."

"But why? What has happened to you?" asked Francesca.

"You know. You sent me those letters."

"What letters?"

"The package Reanda gave you before he died."

"Yes. What was in it? I told you that I did not know, when I wrote to
you. I remember every word I wrote."

"I know. But I thought that you at least guessed. They were Gloria's
letters to her husband."

"Her old letters, before--" Francesca stopped short.

"No," he answered, with the same unnatural quiet. "All the letters she
wrote him afterwards--when we were together."

"All those letters?" cried Francesca, suddenly understanding. "Oh
no--no! It is not possible! He could not, he would not, have done
anything so horrible."

"He did," said Griggs, calmly. "I had supposed that she loved me. He had
his vengeance. He proved to me that she did not. I hope he is satisfied
with the result. Yes," he continued, after a moment's pause, "it was the
cruelest thing that ever one man did to another. I spent a bad night, I
remember. On the top of the package was the last letter she wrote him,
just before she killed herself. She loathed me, she said, she hated me,
she shivered at my touch. She feared me so that she acted a comedy of
love, in terror of her life, after she had discovered that she hated me.
She need not have been afraid. Why should I have hurt her? In that last
letter, she put her wedding ring with a lock of her hair wound in and
out of it. Reanda knew what he was doing when he sent it to me. Do you
wonder that it has deadened me to everything?"

"Oh, how could he do it? How could he!" Francesca repeated, for the
worst of it all to her was the unutterable cruelty of the man she had
believed so gentle.

"I suppose it was natural," said Griggs. "I loved the woman, and he knew
it. I fancy few men have loved much more sincerely than I loved her,
even after she was dead. I was not always saying so. I am not that kind
of man. Besides, men who live by stringing words together for money do
not value them much in their own lives. But I worked for her. I did the
best I could. Even she must have known that I loved her."

"I know you did. I cannot understand how you can speak of her at all."
Francesca wondered at the man.

"She? She is no more to me than Queen Christina, over there in her tomb
in the dark! For that matter, nothing else has any meaning, either."

For a long time Francesca said nothing. She sat quite still, resting the
back of her head against the marble, in the awful silence under the
faint lights that glimmered above the great tomb.

"You have told me the most dreadful thing I ever heard," she said at
last, in a low tone. "Is she nothing to you? Really nothing? Can you
never think kindly of her again?"

"No. Why should I? That is--" he hesitated. "I could not explain it," he
said, and was silent.

"It does not seem human," said Francesca. "You would have a memory of
her--something--some touch of sadness--I wonder whether you really loved
her as much as you thought you did?"

Griggs turned upon Francesca slowly, his hands clasped upon one knee.

"You do not know what such love means," he said slowly. "It is
God--faith--goodness--everything. It is heaven on earth, and earth in
heaven, in one heart. When it is gone there is nothing left. It went
hard. It will not come back now. The heart itself is gone. There is
nothing for it to come to. You think me cold, you are shocked because I
speak indifferently of her. She lied to me. She lied and acted in every
word and deed of her life with me. She deceived herself a little at
first, and she deceived me mortally afterwards. It was all an immense,
loathsome, deadly lie. I lived through the truth. Why should I wish to
go back to the lie again? She died, telling me that she died for me. She
died, having written to Reanda that she died for him. I do not judge
her. God will. But God Himself could not make me love the smallest
shadow of her memory. It is impossible. I am beyond life. I am outside
it. My eternity has begun."

"Is it not a little for her sake that you wish to save her father?"
asked Francesca.

"No. It is a matter of honour, and nothing else, since I injured him, as
the world would say, by taking his daughter from her husband. Do you
understand? Can you put yourself a little in my position? It is not
because I care whether he lives or dies, or dies a natural death or is
stabbed in the back by a peasant. It is because I ought to care. I do
many things because I ought to care to do them, though the things and
their consequences are all one to me, now."

"It cannot last," said Francesca, sadly. "You will change as you grow
older."

"No. That is a thing you can never understand," he answered. "I am two
individuals. The one is what you see, a man more or less like other men,
growing older--a man who has a certain mortal, earthly memory of that
dead woman, when the real man is unconscious. But the real man is beyond
growing old, because he is beyond feeling anything. He is stationary,
outside of life. The world is a blank to him and always will be."

His voice grew more and more expressionless as he spoke. Francesca felt
that she could not pity him as she had pitied poor Lord Redin when she
had seen him going away alone. The man beside her was in earnest, and
was as far beyond woman's pity as he was beyond woman's love. Yet she no
longer felt repelled by him since she had understood what he had
suffered. Perhaps she herself, suffering still in her heart, wished that
she might be even as he was, beyond the possibility of pain, even though
beyond the hope of happiness. He wanted nothing, he asked for nothing,
and he was not afraid to be alone with his own soul, as she was
sometimes. The other man had asked for her friendship. It could mean
nothing to Paul Griggs. If love were nothing, what could friendship be?

Yet there was something lofty and grand about such loneliness as his.
She could not but feel that, now that she knew all. She thought of him
as she sat beside him in the monumental silence of the enormous
sepulchre, and she guessed of depths in his soul like the deepness of
the shadows above her and before her and around her.

"My suffering seems very small, compared with yours," she said softly,
almost to herself.

Somehow she knew that he would understand her, though perhaps her
knowledge was only hope.

"Why should you suffer at all?" he asked. "You have never done anything
wrong. Nothing, of all this, is your fault. It was all fatal, from the
first, and you cannot blame yourself for anything that has happened."

"I do," she answered, in a low voice. "Indeed I do."

"You are wrong. You are not to blame. Dalrymple was--Maria
Braccio--I--Gloria--we four. But you! What have you done? Compared with
us you are a saint on earth!"

She hesitated a moment before she spoke. Then her voice came in a broken
way.

"I loved Angelo Reanda. I know it, now that I have lost him."

Griggs barely heard the last words, but he bent his head gravely, and
said nothing in answer.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


THE stillness was all around them and seemed to fold them together as
they sat side by side. A deep sigh quivered and paused and was drawn
again almost with a gasp that stirred the air. Suddenly Francesca's face
was hidden in her hands, and her head was bowed almost to her knees. A
moment more, and she sobbed aloud, wordless, as though her soul were
breaking from her heart.

In the great gloom there was something unearthly in the sound of her
weeping. The man who could neither suffer any more himself nor feel
human pity for another's suffering, turned and looked at her with
shadowy eyes. He understood, though he could not feel, and he knew that
she had borne more than any one had guessed.

She shed many tears, and it was long before her sobbing ceased to call
down pitiful, heart-breaking echoes from the unseen heights of darkness.
Her head was bent down upon her knees as she sat there, striving with
herself.

He could do nothing, and there was nothing that he could say. He could
not comfort her, he could not deny her grief. He only knew that there
was one more being still alive and bearing the pain of sins done long
ago. Truly the judgment upon that man by whom the offence had come,
should be heavy and relentless and enduring.

At last all was still again. Francesca did not move, but sat bowed
together, her hands pressing her face. Very softly, Griggs rose to his
feet, and she did not see that he was no longer seated beside her. He
stood up and leaned upon the broad marble of the balustrade. When she at
last raised her head, she thought that he was gone.

"Where are you?" she asked, in a startled voice.

Then, looking round, she saw him standing by the rail. She understood
why he had moved--that she might not feel that he was watching her and
seeing her tears.

"I am not ashamed," she said. "At least you know me, now."

"Yes. I know."

She also rose and stood up, and leaned upon the balustrade and looked
into his face.

"I am glad you know," she said, and he saw how pale she was, and that
her cheeks were wet. "Now that it is over, I am glad that you know," she
said again. "You are beyond sympathy, and beyond pitying any one, though
you are not unkind. I am glad, that if any one was to know my secret, it
should be you. I could not bear pity. It would hurt me. But you are not
unkind."

"Nor kind--nor anything," he said.

"No. It is as though I had spoken to the grave--or to eternity. It is
safe with you."

"Yes. Quite safe. Safer than with the dead."

"He never knew it. Thank God! He never knew it! To me he was always the
same faithful friend. To you he was an enemy, and cruel. I thought him
above cruelty, but he was human, after all. Was it not human, that he
should be cruel to you?"

"Yes," answered Griggs, wondering a little at her speech and tone. "It
was very human."

"And you forgive him for it?"

"I?" There was surprise in his tone.

"Yes," she answered. "I want your forgiveness for him. He died without
your forgiveness. It is the only thing I ask of you--I have not the
right to ask anything, I know, but is it so very much?"

"It is nothing," said Griggs. "There is no such thing as forgiveness in
my world. How could there be? I resent nothing."

"But then, if you do not resent what he did, you have forgiven him. Have
you not?"

"I suppose so." He was puzzled.

"Will you not say it?" she pleaded.

"Willingly," he answered. "I forgive him. I remember nothing against
him."

"Thank you. You are a good man."

He shook his head gravely, but he took her outstretched hand and pressed
it gently.

"Thank you," she repeated, withdrawing hers. "Do not think it strange
that I should ask such a thing. It means a great deal to me. I could not
bear to think that he had left an enemy in the world and was gone where
he could not ask forgiveness for what he had done. So I asked it of you,
for him. I know that he would have wished me to. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Griggs, thoughtfully. "I understand."

Again there was silence for a long time as they stood there. The tears
dried upon the woman's sweet pale face, and a soft light came where the
tears had been.

"Will you come with me?" she asked at last, looking up.

He did not guess what she meant to do, but he left the step on which he
was standing and stood ready.

"It must be late," he said. "Should you like to try and rest? I will
arrange a place for you as well as I can."

"Not yet," she answered. "If you will come with me--" she hesitated.

"Yes?"

"I will say a prayer for the dead," she said, in a low voice. "I always
do, every night, since he died."

Griggs bent his head, and she came down from the step. He walked beside
her, down the silent nave into the darkness. Before the Chapel of the
Sacrament they both paused and bent the knee. Then she hesitated.

"I should like to go to the Pietà," she said timidly. "It seems so far.
Do you mind?"

He held out his arm silently. She felt it and laid her hand upon it, and
they went on. It was very dark. They knew that they were passing the
pillars when they could not see the little lights from the chapels in
the distance on their left. Then by the echo of their own footsteps they
knew that they were near the great door, and at last they saw the single
tiny flame in the silver lamp hanging above the altar they sought.

Guided by it, they went forward, and the solitary ray showed them the
marble rail. They knelt down side by side.

"Let us pray for them all," said Francesca, very softly.

She looked up to the marble face of Christ's mother, the Addolorata, the
mother of sorrows, and she thought of that sinning nun, dead long ago,
who had been called Addolorata.

"Let us pray for them all," she repeated. "For Maria Braccio, for
Gloria--for Angelo Reanda."

She lowered her head upon her hands. Then, presently, she looked up
again, and Griggs heard her sweet voice in the darkness repeating the
ancient Commemoration for the Dead, from the Canon of the Mass.

"Remember also, O Lord, thy servants who are gone before us with the
sign of faith, and sleep the sleep of peace. Give them, O Lord, and to
all who rest in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace, for
that Christ's sake, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of
the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Once more she bent her head and was silent for a time. Then as she
knelt, her hands moved silently along the marble and pressed the two
folded hands of the man beside her, and she looked at him.

"Let us be friends," she said simply.

"Such as I am, I am yours."

Then their hands clasped. They both started and looked down, for the
fingers were cold and wet and dark.

It was the blood of Angus Dalrymple that had sealed their friendship.

The swift sure blade had struck him as he stood there, repeating the
name of his dead wife. There had been no one near the door and none to
see the quick, black deed. Strong hands had thrown his falling body
within the marble balustrade, that was still wet with his heart's blood.

There Paul Griggs found him, lying on his back, stretched to his length
in the dim shadow between the rail and the altar. He had paid the price
at last, a loving, sinning, suffering, faithful, faultful man.

But the friendship that was so grimly consecrated on that night, was the
truest that ever was between man and woman.


END OF VOL. II.



THE RALSTONS.

BY

F. MARION CRAWFORD.

2 vols. 16mo. Cloth. $2.00.

PRESS COMMENTS.

          "The interest is unflagging throughout. Never has
          the author done more brilliant, artistic work than
          here."--_Ohio State Journal._

          "It is immensely entertaining; once in the full
          swing of the narrative, one is carried on quite
          irresistibly to the end. The style throughout is
          easy and graceful, and the text abounds in wise
          and witty reflections on the realities of
          existence."--_Boston Beacon._

          "As a picture of a certain kind of New York life,
          it is correct and literal; as a study of human
          nature it is realistic enough to be modern, and
          romantic enough to be of the age of
          Trollope."--_Chicago Herald._

          "The whole group of character studies is strong
          and vivid."--_The Literary World._

          "There is a long succession of exceedingly strong
          dramatic situations which hold the reader's
          attention enchained to the end. This is one of the
          strong books of the year, and will have a large
          circle of readers."--_New Orleans Picayune._

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UNIFORM EDITION

OF THE WORKS OF

F. MARION CRAWFORD.

=12mo. Cloth. Price $1.00 per volume.=


KATHARINE LAUDERDALE.

=The first of a series of novels dealing with New York life.=

          "Mr. Crawford at his best is a great novelist, and
          in 'Katharine Lauderdale' we have him at his
          best."--_Boston Daily Advertiser._

          "A most admirable novel, excellent in style,
          flashing with humor, and full of the ripest and
          wisest reflections upon men and women."--_The
          Westminster Gazette._

          "It is the first time, we think, in American
          fiction that any such breadth of view has shown
          itself in the study of our social
          framework."--_Life._

          "It need scarcely be said that the story is
          skilfully and picturesquely written, portraying
          sharply individual characters in well-defined
          surroundings."--_New York Commercial Advertiser._

          "'Katharine Lauderdale' is a tale of New York, and
          is up to the highest level of his work. In some
          respects it will probably be regarded as his best.
          None of his works, with the exception of 'Mr.
          Isaacs,' shows so clearly his skill as a literary
          artist."--_San Francisco Evening Bulletin._


PIETRO GHISLERI.

          "The imaginative richness, the marvellous
          ingenuity of plot, the power and subtlety of the
          portrayal of character, the charm of the romantic
          environment,--the entire atmosphere, indeed,--rank
          this novel at once among the great
          creations."--_The Boston Budget._

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WITH THE IMMORTALS.

          "Altogether an admirable piece of art worked in
          the spirit of a thorough artist. Every reader of
          cultivated tastes will find it a book prolific in
          entertainment of the most refined description, and
          to all such we commend it heartily."--_Boston
          Saturday Evening Gazette._

          "The strange central idea of the story could have
          occurred only to a writer whose mind was very
          sensitive to the current modern thought and
          progress, while its execution, the setting it
          forth in proper literary clothing, could be
          successfully attempted only by one whose active
          literary ability should be fully equalled by his
          power of assimilative knowledge both literary and
          scientific, and no less by his courage and
          capacity for hard work. The book will be found to
          have a fascination entirely new for the habitual
          reader of novels. Indeed, Mr. Crawford has
          succeeded in taking his readers quite above the
          ordinary plane of novel interest."--_Boston
          Advertiser._


MARZIO'S CRUCIFIX.

          "We take the liberty of saying that this work
          belongs to the highest department of
          character-painting in words."--_Churchman._

          "We have repeatedly had occasion to say that Mr.
          Crawford possesses in an extraordinary degree the
          art of constructing a story. His sense of
          proportion is just, and his narrative flows along
          with ease and perspicuity. It is as if it could
          not have been written otherwise, so naturally does
          the story unfold itself, and so logical and
          consistent is the sequence of incident after
          incident. As a story 'Marzio's Crucifix' is
          perfectly constructed."--_New York Commercial
          Advertiser._


KHALED.

A Story of Arabia.

          "Throughout the fascinating story runs the
          subtlest analysis, suggested rather than
          elaborately worked out, of human passion and
          motive, the building out and development of the
          character of the woman who becomes the hero's wife
          and whose love he finally wins, being an
          especially acute and highly finished example of
          the story-teller's art. . . . That it is beautifully
          written and holds the interest of the reader,
          fanciful as it all is, to the very end, none who
          know the depth and artistic finish of Mr.
          Crawford's work need be told."--_The Chicago
          Times._


PAUL PATOFF.

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ZOROASTER.

          "The field of Mr. Crawford's imagination appears
          to be unbounded. . . . In 'Zoroaster' Mr. Crawford's
          winged fancy ventures a daring flight. . . . Yet
          'Zoroaster' is a novel rather than a drama. It is
          a drama in the force of its situations and in the
          poetry and dignity of its language; but its men
          and women are not men and women of a play. By the
          naturalness of their conversation and behavior
          they seem to live and lay hold of our human
          sympathy more than the same characters on a stage
          could possibly do."--_The Times._


A TALE OF A LONELY PARISH.

          "It is a pleasure to have anything so perfect of
          its kind as this brief and vivid story. . . . It is
          doubly a success, being full of human sympathy, as
          well as thoroughly artistic in its nice balancing
          of the unusual with the commonplace, the clever
          juxtaposition of innocence and guilt, comedy and
          tragedy, simplicity and intrigue."--_Critic._

          "Of all the stories Mr. Crawford has written, it
          is the most dramatic, the most finished, the most
          compact. . . . The taste which is left in one's mind
          after the story is finished is exactly what the
          fine reader desires and the novelist intends. . . .
          It has no defects. It is neither trifling nor
          trivial. It is a work of art. It is
          perfect."--_Boston Beacon._


AN AMERICAN POLITICIAN.

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A CIGARETTE-MAKER'S ROMANCE.

          "It is a touching romance, filled with scenes of
          great dramatic power."--_Boston Commercial
          Bulletin._

          "It is full of life and movement, and is one of
          the best of Mr. Crawford's books."--_Boston
          Saturday Evening Gazette._

          "The interest is unflagging throughout. Never has
          Mr. Crawford done more brilliant realistic work
          than here. But his realism is only the case and
          cover for those intense feelings which, placed
          under no matter what humble conditions, produce the
          most dramatic and the most tragic situations. . . .
          This is a secret of genius, to take the most coarse
          and common material, the meanest surroundings, the
          most sordid material prospects, and out of the
          vehement passions which sometimes dominate all
          human beings to build up with these poor elements
          scenes and passages, the dramatic and emotional
          power of which at once enforce attention and awaken
          the profoundest interest."--_New York Tribune._



GREIFENSTEIN.

          "'Greifenstein' is a remarkable novel, and while
          it illustrates once more the author's unusual
          versatility, it also shows that he has not been
          tempted into careless writing by the vogue of his
          earlier books. . . . There is nothing weak or small
          or frivolous in the story. The author deals with
          tremendous passions working at the height of their
          energy. His characters are stern, rugged,
          determined men and women, governed by powerful
          prejudices and iron conventions, types of a
          military people, in whom the sense of duty has
          been cultivated until it dominates all other
          motives, and in whom the principle of 'noblesse
          oblige' is, so far as the aristocratic class is
          concerned, the fundamental rule of conduct. What
          such people may be capable of is startlingly
          shown."--_New York Tribune._


A ROMAN SINGER.

          "One of Mr. Crawford's most charming stories--a
          love romance pure and simple."--_Boston Home
          Journal._

          "'A Roman Singer' is one of his most finished,
          compact, and successful stories, and contains a
          splendid picture of Italian life."--_Toronto
          Mail._

       *       *       *       *       *

          MACMILLAN & CO.,
          66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.


MR. ISAACS.

A Tale of Modern India.

          "The writer first shows the hero in relation with
          the people of the East and then skilfully brings
          into connection the Anglo-Saxon race. It is in this
          showing of the different effects which the two
          classes of minds have upon the central figure of
          the story that one of its chief merits lies. The
          characters are original, and one does not recognize
          any of the hackneyed personages who are so apt to
          be considered indispensable to novelists, and
          which, dressed in one guise or another, are but the
          marionettes, which are all dominated by the same
          mind, moved by the same motive force. The men are
          all endowed with individualism and independent life
          and thought. . . . There is a strong tinge of
          mysticism about the book which is one of its
          greatest charms."--_Boston Transcript._

          "No story of human experience that we have met
          with since 'John Inglesant' has such an effect of
          transporting the reader into regions differing
          from his own. 'Mr. Isaacs' is the best novel that
          has ever laid its scenes in our Indian
          dominions."--_The Daily News, London._


DR. CLAUDIUS.

A True Story.

          "There is a suggestion of strength, of a mastery
          of facts, of a fund of knowledge, that speaks well
          for future production. . . . To be thoroughly
          enjoyed, however, this book must be read, as no
          mere cursory notice can give an adequate idea of
          its many interesting points and excellences, for
          without a doubt 'Dr. Claudius' is the most
          interesting book that has been published for many
          months, and richly deserves a high place in the
          public favor."--_St. Louis Spectator._

          "To our mind it by no means belies the promises of
          its predecessor. The story, an exceedingly
          improbable and romantic one, is told with much
          skill; the characters are strongly marked without
          any suspicion of caricature, and the author's
          ideas on social and political subjects are often
          brilliant and always striking. It is no
          exaggeration to say that there is not a dull page
          in the book, which is peculiarly adapted for the
          recreation of student or thinker."--_Living
          Church._


TO LEEWARD.

          "A story of remarkable power."--_Review of
          Reviews._

          "Mr. Crawford has written many strange and
          powerful stories of Italian life, but none can be
          any stranger or more powerful than 'To Leeward,'
          with its mixture of comedy and tragedy, innocence
          and guilt."--_Cottage Hearth._

       *       *       *       *       *

          MACMILLAN & CO.,
          66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.


SARACINESCA.

          "His highest achievement, as yet, in the realms of
          fiction. The work has two distinct merits, either
          of which would serve to make it great,--that of
          telling a perfect story in a perfect way, and of
          giving a graphic picture of Roman society in the
          last days of the pope's temporal power. . . . The
          story is exquisitely told."--_Boston Traveler._

          "One of the most engrossing novels we have ever
          read."--_Boston Times._


SANT' ILARIO.

A sequel to "Saracinesca."

          "The author shows steady and constant improvement
          in his art. 'Sant' Ilario' is a continuation of the
          chronicles of the Saracinesca family. . . . A
          singularly powerful and beautiful story. . . .
          Admirably developed, with a naturalness beyond
          praise. . . . It must rank with 'Greifenstein' as
          the best work the author has produced. It fulfils
          every requirement of artistic fiction. It brings
          out what is most impressive in human action,
          without owing any of its effectiveness to
          sensationalism or artifice. It is natural, fluent
          in evolution, accordant with experience, graphic in
          description, penetrating in analysis, and absorbing
          in interest."--_New York Tribune._



DON ORSINO.

A continuation of "Saracinesca" and "Sant' Ilario."

          "The third in a rather remarkable series of novels
          dealing with three generations of the Saracinesca
          family, entitled respectively 'Saracinesca,'
          'Sant' Ilario,' and 'Don Orsino,' and these novels
          present an important study of Italian life,
          customs, and conditions during the present
          century. Each one of these novels is worthy of
          very careful reading, and offers exceptional
          enjoyment in many ways, in the fascinating
          absorption of good fiction, in interest of
          faithful historic accuracy, and in charm of style.
          The 'new Italy' is strikingly revealed in 'Don
          Orsino.'"--_Boston Budget._

          "We are inclined to regard the book as the most
          ingenious of all Mr. Crawford's fictions.
          Certainly it is the best novel of the
          season."--_Evening Bulletin._

       *       *       *       *       *

          MACMILLAN & CO.,
          66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.


THE THREE FATES.

          "The strength of the story lies in its portrayal
          of the aspirations, disciplinary efforts, trials,
          and triumphs of the man who is a born writer, and
          who, by long and painful experiences, learns the
          good that is in him and the way in which to give
          it effectual expression. The analytical quality of
          the book is excellent, and the individuality of
          each one of the very dissimilar three fates is set
          forth in an entirely satisfactory manner. . . . Mr.
          Crawford has manifestly brought his best qualities
          as a student of human nature and his finest
          resources as a master of an original and
          picturesque style to bear upon this story. Taken
          for all in all it is one of the most pleasing of
          all his productions in fiction, and it affords a
          view of certain phases of American, or perhaps we
          should say of New York, life that have not
          hitherto been treated with anything like the same
          adequacy and felicity."--_Boston Beacon._


CHILDREN OF THE KING.

A Tale of Southern Italy.

          "A sympathetic reader cannot fail to be impressed
          with the dramatic power of this story. The
          simplicity of nature, the uncorrupted truth of a
          soul, have been portrayed by a master-hand. The
          suddenness of the unforeseen tragedy at the last
          renders the incident of the story powerful beyond
          description. One can only feel such sensations as
          the last scene of the story incites. It may be
          added that if Mr. Crawford has written some
          stories unevenly, he has made no mistakes in the
          stories of Italian life. A reader of them cannot
          fail to gain a clearer, fuller acquaintance with
          the Italians and the artistic spirit that pervades
          the country."--M. L. B. in _Syracuse Journal_.


THE WITCH OF PRAGUE.

A Fantastic Tale.

ILLUSTRATED BY W. J. HENNESSY.

          "'The Witch of Prague' is so remarkable a book as
          to be certain of as wide a popularity as any of
          its predecessors. The keenest interest for most
          readers will lie in its demonstration of the
          latest revelations of hypnotic science. . . . It is
          a romance of singular daring and power."--_London
          Academy._

          "Mr. Crawford has written in many keys, but never
          in so strange a one as that which dominates 'The
          Witch of Prague.' . . . The artistic skill with
          which this extraordinary story is constructed and
          carried out is admirable and delightful. . . . Mr.
          Crawford has scored a decided triumph, for the
          interest of the tale is sustained throughout. . . .
          A very remarkable, powerful, and interesting
          story."--_New York Tribune._

       *       *       *       *       *

          MACMILLAN & CO.,
          66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Vol. 1

Page 50, "retractation" changed to "retraction" (of a general
retraction)

Page 83, "baiscchi" changed to "baiocchi" (ten baiocchi for)


Vol. 2

Page 27, "premiss" changed to "premise" (a false premise)

Page 29, "premisses" changed to "premises" (assumed premises)

Page 118, "np" changed to "up" (paused, looked up)

Page 152, "orf" changed to "or" (or the letter was)

Page 219, "Calpasta" changed to "Calpesta" (Calpesta il mio)

Page xvi, letter "i" missing in "generations" replaced (generations of
the Saracinesca)





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