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´╗┐Title: Stories By English Authors: Italy (Selected by Scribners)
Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882 [Contributor], Oliphant, Laurence, 1829-1888 [Contributor], Payn, James, 1830-1898 [Contributor], Norris, W. E. (William Edward), 1847-1925 [Contributor], Robinson, A. Mary F. (Agnes Mary Frances), 1857-1944 [Contributor]
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 "Stories By English Authors: Italy (Selected by Scribners)" ***

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STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS

ITALY



CONTENTS

     A FAITHFUL RETAINER        James Payn
     BIANCA                     W. E. Norris
     GONERIL                    A. Mary F. Robinson
     THE BRIGAND'S BRIDE        Laurence Oliphant
     MRS. GENERAL TALBOYS       Anthony Trollope



A FAITHFUL RETAINER, By James Payn


When I lived in the country,--which was a long time ago,--our nearest
neighbours were the Luscombes. They were very great personages in the
country indeed, and the family were greatly "respected"; though not,
so far as I could discern, for any particular reason, except from
their having been there for several generations. People are supposed to
improve, like wine, from keeping--even if they are rather "ordinary" at
starting; and the Luscombes, at the time I knew them, were considered
quite a "vintage" family. They had begun in Charles II.'s time, and
dated their descent from greatness in the female line. That they had
managed to keep a great estate not very much impaired so long was
certainly a proof of great cleverness, since there had been many
spend-thrifts among them; but fortunately there had been a miser or two,
who had restored the average, and their fortunes.

Mr. Roger Luscombe, the present proprietor, was neither the one nor the
other, but he was inclined to frugality, and no wonder; a burnt child
dreads the fire, even though he may have had nothing to do with lighting
it himself, and his father had kicked down a good many thousands with
the help of "the bones" (as dice were called in his day) and "the
devil's books" (which was the name for cards with those that disapproved
of them) and race-horses; there was plenty left, but it made the old
gentleman careful and especially solicitous to keep it. There was no
stint, however, of any kind at the Court, which to me, who lived in the
little vicarage of Dalton with my father, seemed a palace.

It was indeed a very fine place, with statues in the hall and pictures
in the gallery and peacocks on the terrace. Lady Jane, the daughter of
a wealthy peer, who had almost put things on their old footing with her
ample dowry, was a very great lady, and had been used, I was told, to
an even more splendid home; but to me, who had no mother, she was simply
the kindest and most gracious woman I had ever known.

My connection with the Luscombes arose from their only son Richard
being my father's pupil. We were both brought up at home, but for very
different reasons. In my case it was from economy: the living was small
and our family was large, though, as it happened, I had no brothers.
Richard was too precious to his parents to be trusted to the tender
mercies of a public school. He was in delicate health, not so much
natural to him as caused by an excess of care--coddling. Though he and I
were very good friends, unless when we were quarreling, it must be owned
that he was a spoiled boy.

There is a good deal of nonsense talked of young gentlemen who are
brought up from their cradles in an atmosphere of flattery _not_
being spoiled; but unless they are angels--which is a very exceptional
case--it cannot be otherwise. Richard Luscombe was a good fellow in
many ways; liberal with his money (indeed, apt to be lavish), and
kind-hearted, but self-willed, effeminate, and impulsive. He had
also--which was a source of great alarm and grief to his father--a
marked taste for speculation.

After the age of "alley tors and commoneys," of albert-rock and
hard-bake, in which we both gambled frightfully, I could afford him no
opportunities of gratifying this passion; but if he could get a little
money "on" anything, there was nothing that pleased him better--not
that he cared for the money, but for the delight of winning it. The next
moment he would give it away to a beggar. Numbers of good people look
upon gambling with even greater horror than it deserves, because they
cannot understand this; the attraction of risk, and the wild joy of
"pulling off" something when the chances are against one, are unknown to
them. It is the same with the love of liquor. Richard Luscombe had not
a spark of that (his father left him one of the best cellars in England,
but he never touches even a glass of claret after dinner; "I should as
soon think," he says, "of eating when I am not hungry"); but he dearly
liked what he called a "spec." Never shall I forget the first time he
realised anything that could be termed a stake.

When he was about sixteen, he and I had driven over to some little
country races a few miles away from Dalton, without, I fear, announcing
our intention of so doing. Fresh air was good for "our dear Richard,"
and since pedestrian exercise (which he also hated) exhausted him, he
had a groom and dog-cart always at his own disposal. It was a day of
great excitement for me, who had never before seen a race-course. The
flags, the grand stand (a rude erection of planks, which came down,
by-the-bye, the next year during the race for the cup, and reduced the
sporting population), the insinuating gipsies, the bawling card-sellers,
and especially the shining horses with their twisted manes, all excited
my admiration.

I was well acquainted with them in fiction; and these illustrations of
the books I loved so well delighted me. Richard, who had read less and
seen more, was bent on business.

He was tall for his age, but very slight and youthful-looking, and the
contrast of his appearance with that of the company in the little ring,
composed as it was of a choice selection of the roughest blackguards in
England, was very striking.

Many of these knew who he was, and were very glad to see him, but only
one of the book-makers secured his patronage. The fact was, Master
Richard had but one five-pound note to lay; he had been saving up his
pocket-money for weeks for this very purpose, and he took ten to one
about an outsider, "Don Sebastian,"--a name I shall remember when all
other historical knowledge has departed from me,--not because he knew
anything of the horse, but because the longest odds were laid against
him.

I didn't like the look of the "gentleman sportsman" who took custody
of that five-pound note, but Richard (who had never seen him before)
assured me, with his usual confidence, that he was "straight as a die"
and "as honest as the day."

The race excited me exceedingly; Richard had lent me a field-glass (for
everything he had was in duplicate, if not triplicate), and I watched
the progress of that running rainbow with a beating heart. At first
Yellow Cap (the Don) seemed completely out of it, the last of all; but
presently he began to creep up, and as they drew near the winning-post,
shouts of "Yellow Cap wins!" "Yellow Cap wins!" rent the air. He did
win by a head, and with a well-pleased flush on my face at my friend's
marvellous good fortune, I turned to congratulate him. He was gone. The
tumult and confusion were excessive; but looking toward the exit gate, I
just caught a glimpse of the book-maker passing rapidly through it, and
then of Richard in pursuit of him.

A stout young farmer, whom I knew, was standing behind me, and in a few
hurried words I told him what had happened. "Come with me," he said,
and off we ran, as though we had been entered for the cup ourselves. The
other two were already a field ahead, and far away from the course; but,
fast as the book-maker ran, the delicate Richard had come up with him. I
could imagine how pumped he was, but the idea of having been swindled by
this scoundrel, who was running off with his five-pound note, as well as
the fifty pounds he owed him, had no doubt lent him wings. It could not,
however, lend him strength, nor teach him the art of self-defence,
and after a few moments, passed doubtless in polite request and blunt
refusal, we saw the miscreant strike out from the shoulder and Richard
go down.

The time thus lost, however, short-lived as was the combat, was fatal
to the victor. There were few better runners in Dalton than my companion
and myself, and we gained on the book-maker, who had probably trained on
gin and bad tobacco, hand over hand. As we drew near him he turned round
and inquired, with many expletives, made half inarticulate by want
of breath, what we wanted with a gentleman engaged on his own private
affairs.

"Well," I said,--for as I could trust my agricultural friend with the
more practical measures that were likely to follow I thought it only
fair that I should do the talking,--"we want first the five-pound note
which that young gentleman, whom you have just knocked down, intrusted
to your care, and then the fifty pounds you have lost to him."

He called Heaven to witness that he had never made a bet in his life
with any young gentleman, but that, having been molested, he believed by
a footpad, as he was returning home to his family, he had been compelled
to defend himself.

"I heard you make the bet and saw you take the money," I remarked, with
confidence.

"That's good enough," said the farmer. "Now if you don't shell out that
money this instant, I'll have you back in the ring in a brace of shakes
and tell them what has happened. Last year they tore a welsher pretty
nigh to pieces, and this year, if you don't 'part,' they'll do it
quite."

The book-maker turned livid,--I never saw a man in such a funk in my
life,--and produced a greasy pocket-book, out of which he took Richard's
bank-note, and ten quite new ones; and I noticed there were more left,
so that poverty was not his excuse for fraud.

"Let me look at 'em against the sun," said the farmer, "to see as the
water-mark is all right."

This was a precaution I should never have thought of, and it gave me
for the first time a sense of the great intelligence of my father's
parishioner.

"Yes, they're all correct. And now you may go; but if ever you show your
face again on Southick (Southwick) race-course it will be the worst for
you."

He slunk away, and we returned to Richard, who was sitting on the
ground, looking at his nose, which was bleeding and had attained vast
dimensions.

"Did you get the money?" were his first words, which I thought very
characteristic.

"Yes, there it is, squire--ten fivers and your own note."

"Very good; I should never have seen a shilling of it but for you and
Charley, so we will just divide it into three shares."

The farmer said, "No," but eventually took his L16 13s. 4d., and quite
right too. Of course I did not take Richard's money, but he afterward
bought me a rifle with it, which I could not refuse. The farmer, as may
be well imagined, could be trusted to say nothing of our adventure; but
it was impossible to hide Richard's nose. He was far too honest a fellow
to tell a lie about it, and the whole story came out. His father was
dreadfully shocked at it, and Lady Jane in despair: the one about his
gambling propensities, and the other about his nose; she thought, if the
injury did not prove fatal, he would be disfigured for life.

He was well in a week, but the circumstances had the gravest
consequences. It was decided that something must be done with the heir
of the Luscombes to wean him from low company (this was not me, but
grooms and racing people); but even this predilection was ascribed in
part to his fragile constitution. A fashionable physician came down from
London to consider the case. He could not quite be brought to the point
desired by Lady Jane, to lay Richard's love of gambling at the door of
the delicacy of his lungs; but he was brought very near it. The young
fellow, his "opinion" was, had been brought up too much like a hothouse
flower; his tastes were what they were chiefly because he had no
opportunities of forming better ones; with improved strength his moral
nature would become more elevated. That he was truthful was a great
source of satisfaction (this was with reference to his distinct refusal
to give up gambling to please anybody) and a most wholesome physical
sign. "My recommendation is that he should be temporarily removed from
his present dull surroundings; there is not scope in them for his mind;
he should be sent abroad for a month or two with his tutor. That will do
him a world of good."

If it was not very good advice, it was probably quite as judicious
as other "opinions" for which a hundred and fifty guineas have been
cheerfully paid. It was at all events a great comfort to hear that there
was nothing constitutionally wrong with "dearest Richard," and that he
only wanted a tonic for mind and body. The doctor's verdict was accepted
by both parents, but there was an insurmountable obstacle to its being
carried into effect in Master Richard himself. My father could not
leave his parish and his family, and with no other tutor could the young
gentleman be induced to go.

Now it happened that the butler at the Court, John Maitland, who, as
is often the case in such households, had the gravity and dignity of a
bishop, was so fortunate as to be a favourite both with the old folks
and the young one. He really was a superior person, and not only
"honest as the day" in Richard's eyes (which, as we have seen, was not
a guarantee of straightforwardness), but in those of every one else. He
had been born in the village, had been page to Mr. Luscombe's father,
and had lived more than fifty years at the Court. The relations between
master and servant were feudal, mingled with the more modern attachment
that comes of good service properly appreciated. He thought the
Luscombes, if not the only old family in the world, the best, and
worshipped--though in a dignified and ecclesiastical manner--the ground
trodden on both by the squire and Master Richard. My own impression
was that under pretence of giving way to the latter he played into the
parental hands; but as this was certainly for my young friend's good,
I never communicated my suspicions to him. Maitland, at all events,
had more influence over him than any man except my father. Still it
astonished us all not a little, notwithstanding the high opinion we
entertained of him, when we heard that the butler was to be intrusted
with the guardianship of Richard abroad. Such a thing could not have
happened in any other family, but so it was arranged; and partly as
valet, partly as confidential companion and treasurer Maitland started
with his young master on his travels.

These were to last for not less than six months, and Italy, because
of its warm climate, was the country to which they were bound. That it
would do the young fellow good, both moral and physical, we all hoped;
but my father had his doubts. He feared that Maitland's influence over
his companion would wane when away from the Court; but it never entered
into his mind that he would willingly permit any wrong doing, and still
less that the man would himself succumb to any temptation that involved
dishonesty.

They travelled by easy stages; though they used the railway, of course,
they did so only for a few hours a day, and got out and remained at
places of interest. Richard was very amenable, and indeed showed no
desire for dissipation; his one weakness--that of having a "spree"--had
no opportunity of being gratified; and Maitland wrote home the most
gratifying letters, not only respecting the behaviour of his charge, but
of the improvement in his health. As they drew nearer to Italy, Richard
observed one day that he should spend a day or two at Monte Carlo.
Maitland had never heard of the place or of its peculiar attractions;
and "Master Richard" only told him that it was very picturesque. The
horror of the faithful retainer may therefore be imagined when he found
that it was a gambling resort.

He could not prevent his young master frequenting the tables, and
though he kept the purse, with the exception of a few pounds, and would
certainly have stood between him and ruin, he could not prevent his
winning. Richard had the luck, and more, that proverbially attends young
people--he had the luck of the devil; his few napoleons swelling to a
great many on the very first day, and he was in the seventh heaven of
happiness. The next day and the next he won largely, immensely; in vain
Maitland threatened to write to his father, and even to leave him.

"All right," replied the reckless youth. "You may do as you like; even
if the governor disinherits me I can make my fortune by stopping here.
And as to leaving me, go by all means; I shall get on very well with a
French valet."

It was dreadful.

Richard grew happier and happier every day, as the golden flood flowed
in upon him, but also extremely hectic. He passed the whole day at the
tables, and the want of air and exercise, and, still more, the intense
excitement which possessed him, began to have the most serious effect.
That prescription of "seeing the world," and "escaping from his dull
surroundings," was having a very different result from what had
been expected. "The paths of glory lead but to the grave"; the young
Englishman and his luck were the talk of all Monte Carlo, and he enjoyed
his notoriety very much; but, as the poor butler plaintively observed,
what was the good of that when Master Richard was "killing himself"?

How the news was received at the Court I had no means of judging, for
the squire kept a rigid silence, except that he had long conferences
with my father; and Lady Jane kept her room. It was indeed a very sore
subject. The squire wanted to start for Monte Carlo at once; but he was
singularly insular, detested travel, and in truth was very unfit for
such a "cutting-out expedition" as was contemplated. He waited, half out
of his mind with anxiety, but in hopes of a better report; what he hoped
for was that luck would turn, and Richard lose every shilling.

The very reverse of this, however, took place; Richard won more and
more. He would come home to his hotel in the evening with a porter
carrying his gains. His portmanteau was full of napoleons. It was
characteristic of him that he never thought of banking it. One evening
he came in with very bright eyes, but a most shrunken and cadaverous
face.

"This has been my best day of all, Johnny," he said. "See, I have won
two thousand pounds; and you shall have a hundred of it."

But Maitland refused to have anything to do with such ill-gotten gains,
for which, too, his young master was sacrificing his health, and perhaps
his life. Still--though this did not strike Richard till afterward--he
could not help regarding the great heap of gold with considerable
interest. Added to the lad's previous gains, the amount was now very
large indeed--more than five thousand pounds.

"I should really think, Master Richard, as you had now won enough."

"Enough? Certainly not. I have not broken the bank yet. I mean to do
that before I've done with it, Johnny."

"That will be after you've killed yourself," said honest John.

"Well, then I shall die _rich_," was the reckless rejoinder.

Richard, who was too exhausted for repose, tossed and tumbled on his bed
for hours, and eventually dropped into a heavy slumber, and slept far
into the next morning. He awoke feeling very unwell, but his chief
anxiety was lest he should miss the opening of the tables; he was always
the first to begin. He rang his bell violently for Maitland. There was
no reply, and when he rang again, one of the hotel servants came up.

"Where is my man?" he inquired.

"Monsieur's man-servant took monsieur's luggage to the railway-station;
he is gone by the early train to Turin."

"Gone to Turin with my luggage?"

"Yes, with the two portmanteaus--very heavy ones."

Richard got out of bed, and dragged his weary limbs into the
dressing-room, an inner apartment, where the portmanteaus were kept for
safety. They were both gone.

"What train did the scoundrel go by? Where is my watch? Why, the villain
has taken that too! Send for the police! No; there is no time to be
lost--send a telegram. Why, he has not even left me enough money to pay
a telegram!"

All his small change was gone. Honest John had taken everything; he had
not left his young master a single sixpence. At this revelation of
the state of affairs, poor Richard, weakened as he was by his long
excitement, threw himself on the bed and burst into tears. The
attendant, to whom, as usual, he had been liberal, was affected by an
emotion so strange in an Englishman.

"Monsieur must not fret; the thief will be caught and the money
restored. It will be well, perhaps to tell the _maitre d'hotel_."

The master of the hotel appeared with a very grave face. He was
desolated to hear of the misfortune that had befallen his young guest.
Perhaps there was not quite so much taken as had been reported.

"I tell you it's all gone; more than five thousand pounds, and my watch
and chain; I have not half a franc in my possession."

"That is unfortunate indeed," said the _maitre d'hotel_, looking graver
than ever, "because there is my bill to settle."

"Oh, hang your bill!" cried Richard. "_That_ will be all right. I must
telegraph to my father at once."

"But how is monsieur to telegraph if he has no money?"

It was probably the first time in his life that the young fellow had
ever understood how inconvenient a thing is poverty. What also amazed
him beyond measure was the man's manner; yesterday, and all other
days, it had been polite to obsequiousness; now it was dry almost to
insolence. It seemed, indeed, to imply some doubt of the bona fides of
his guest--that he might not, in short, be much better than honest John
himself, of whom he was possibly the confederate; that the whole story
was a trumped-up one to account for the inability to meet his bill. As
to his having won largely at the tables, that might be true enough; but
he also might have lost it all, and more with it; money changes hands at
Monte Carlo very rapidly.

In the end, however, and not without much objection, the landlord
advanced a sufficient sum to enable Richard to telegraph home. He also
permitted him to stay on at the hotel, stipulating, however, that
he should call for no wine, nor indulge in anything expensive--a
humiliating arrangement enough, but not so much so as the terms of
another proviso, that he was never to enter the gambling saloon or go
beyond the public gardens. Even there he was under surveillance, and it
was, in short, quite clear that he was suspected of an intention to run
away without paying his bill--perhaps even of joining his "confederate,"
Mr. John Maitland.

The only thing that comforted Richard was the conviction that he should
have a remittance from his father in a few hours; but nothing of the
sort, not even a telegram, arrived. Day after day went by, and the
young fellow was in despair; he felt like a pariah, for he had been
so occupied with the tables that he had made no friends; and his few
acquaintances looked askance at him, as being under a cloud, with the
precise nature of which they were unacquainted. Friendless and penniless
in a foreign land, his spirit was utterly broken, and he began
to understand what a fool he had made of himself; especially how
ungratefully he had behaved to his father, without whom it was not so
easy to "get on," it appeared, as he had imagined. He saw, too, the evil
of his conduct in having thrust a temptation in the way of honest John
too great to be resisted. The police could hear no news of him, and,
indeed, seemed very incredulous with respect to Richard's account of the
matter.

On the fourth day Richard received a letter from his father of the
gravest kind, though expressed in the most affectionate terms. He hardly
alluded to the immediate misfortune that had happened to him, but spoke
of the anxiety and alarm which his conduct had caused his mother
and himself. "I enclose you a check," he wrote, "just sufficient to
comfortably bring you home and pay your hotel bill, and exceedingly
regret that I cannot trust my son with more--lest he should risk it in
a way that gives his mother and myself more distress of mind than I can
express."

Richard's heart was touched, as it well might have been; though perhaps
the condition of mind in which his father's communication found him had
something to do with it. By that night's mail he despatched a letter
home which gave the greatest delight at the Court, and also at the
vicarage, for Mr. Luscombe, full of pride and joy, brought it to my
father to read. "I have been very foolish, sir, and very wicked," it
ran. "I believe I should have been dead by this time had not Maitland
stolen my money (so that I have no reason to feel very angry with him)
and deprived me of the means of suicide. I give you my word of honour
that I will never gamble again."

Lady Jane sent a telegram to meet Master Richard in Paris, to say what
a dear good boy he was, and how happy he had made her. This did not
surprise him, but what did astonish him very much on arriving at the
Court was that John Maitland opened the door for him.

"Why, you old scoundrel!"

"Yes, sir, I know; I'm a thief and all that, but I did it for the best;
I did, indeed."

Though the fatted calf was killed for Master Richard, he had by no means
returned like the prodigal son. On the contrary, he had sent home
a remittance, as it were, by the butler, of more than five thousand
pounds. The whole plot had been devised by honest John as the only
method of extricating Master Richard from that Monte Carlo spider's web,
and had been carried out by the help of the _maitre d'hotel_, with the
squire's approval. And to do the young fellow justice, he never resented
the trick that had been played upon him.

Richard was not sent abroad again, but to Cambridge, where eventually he
took a fourth-class (poll) degree; and Lady Jane was as proud of it
as if he had been senior wrangler. He kept his word, in spite of all
temptations to the contrary, and never touched a card--a circumstance
which drove him to take a fair amount of exercise, and, in consequence,
he steadily improved in health. He was sometimes chaffed by his
companions for his abstinence from play; they should have thought he was
the last man to be afraid of losing his money.

"You are right, so far," he would answer, drily; "but the fact is, I
have had enough of winning."

To which they would reply:

"Oh yes, we dare say," an elliptical expression, which conveyed
disbelief.

He never told them the story of his Monte Carlo experiences; but in the
vacations he would often talk to honest John about them. We may be sure
that that faithful retainer did not go unrewarded for his fraudulent
act.



BIANCA, By W. E. Norris

Not long since, I was one among a crowd of nobodies at a big official
reception in Paris when the Marchese and Marchesa di San Silvestro were
announced. There was a momentary hush; those about the doorway fell back
to let this distinguished couple pass, and some of us stood on tiptoe to
get a glimpse of them; for San Silvestro is a man of no small importance
in the political and diplomatic world, and his wife enjoys quite a
European fame for beauty and amiability, having had opportunities of
displaying both these attractive gifts at the several courts where she
has acted as Italian ambassadress. They made their way quickly up the
long room,--she short, rather sallow, inclined toward embonpoint, but
with eyes whose magnificence was rivalled only by that of her diamonds;
he bald-headed, fat, gray-haired, covered with orders,--and were soon
out of sight. I followed them with a sigh which caused my neighbour to
ask me jocosely whether the marchesa was an old flame of mine.

"Far from it," I answered. "Only the sight of her reminded me of bygone
days. Dear, dear me! how time does slip on! It is fifteen years since I
saw her last."

I moved away, looking down rather ruefully at the waistcoat to whose
circumference fifteen years have made no trifling addition, and
wondering whether I was really as much altered and aged in appearance as
the marchesa was.

Fifteen years--it is no such very long time; and yet I dare say that the
persons principally concerned in the incident which I am about to relate
have given up thinking about it as completely as I had done, until the
sound of that lady's name, and the sight of her big black eyes, recalled
it to me, and set me thinking of the sunny spring afternoon on which
my sister Anne and I journeyed from Verona to Venice, and of her naive
exclamations of delight on finding herself in a real gondola, gliding
smoothly down the Grand Canal. My sister Anne is by some years my
senior. She is what might be called an old lady now, and she certainly
was an old maid then, and had long accepted her position as such. Then,
as now, she habitually wore a gray alpaca gown, a pair of gold-rimmed
spectacles, gloves a couple of sizes too large for her, and a shapeless,
broad-leaved straw hat, from which a blue veil was flung back and
streamed out in the breeze behind her, like a ship's ensign. Then, as
now, she was the simplest, the most kind-hearted, the most prejudiced
of mortals; an enthusiastic admirer of the arts, and given, as her own
small contribution thereto, to the production of endless water-colour
landscapes, a trifle woolly, indeed, as to outline, and somewhat faulty
as to perspective, but warm in colouring, and highly thought of in
the family. I believe, in fact, that it was chiefly with a view to
the filling of her portfolio that she had persuaded me to take her to
Venice; and, as I am constitutionally indolent, I was willing enough to
spend a few weeks in the city which, of all cities in the world, is
the best adapted for lazy people. We engaged rooms at Danielli's,
and unpacked all our clothes, knowing that we were not likely to make
another move until the heat should drive us away.

The first few days, I remember, were not altogether full of enjoyment
for one of us. My excellent Anne, who has all her brother's virtues,
without his failings, would have scouted the notion of allowing any
dread of physical fatigue to stand between her and the churches and
pictures which she had come all the way from England to admire; and, as
Venice was an old haunt of mine, she very excusably expected me to act
as cicerone to her, and allowed me but little rest between the hours of
breakfast and of the _table d'hote_. At last, however, she conceived the
modest and felicitous idea of making a copy of Titian's "Assumption";
and, having obtained the requisite permission for that purpose, set
to work upon the first of a long series of courageous attempts, all of
which she conscientiously destroyed when in a half-finished state. At
that rate it seemed likely that her days would be fully occupied for
some weeks to come; and I urged her to persevere, and not to allow
herself to be disheartened by a few brilliant failures; and so she
hurried away, early every morning, with her paint-box, her brushes, and
her block, and I was left free to smoke my cigarettes in peace, in front
of my favourite cafe on the Piazza San Marco.

I was sitting there one morning, watching, with half-closed eyes, the
pigeons circling overhead under a cloudless sky, and enjoying the fresh
salt breeze that came across the ruffled water from the Adriatic, when I
was accosted by one of the white-coated Austrian officers by whom Venice
was thronged in those days, and whom I presently recognised as a young
fellow named Von Rosenau, whom I had known slightly in Vienna the
previous winter. I returned his greeting cordially, for I always like
to associate as much as possible with foreigners when I am abroad,
and little did I foresee into what trouble this fair-haired,
innocent-looking youth was destined to lead me.

I asked him how he liked Venice, and he answered laughingly that he was
not there from choice. "I am in disgrace," he explained. "I am always in
disgrace, only this time it is rather worse than usual. Do you remember
my father, the general? No? Perhaps he was not in Vienna when you were
there. He is a soldier of the old school, and manages his family as they
tell me he used to manage his regiment in former years, boasting that he
never allowed a breach of discipline to pass unpunished, and never will.
Last year I exceeded my allowance, and the colonel got orders to stop
my leave; this year I borrowed from the Jews, the whole thing was found
out, and I was removed from the cavalry, and put into a Croat regiment
under orders for Venice. Next year will probably see me enrolled in the
police; and so it will go on, I suppose, till some fine morning I
shall find myself driving a two-horse yellow diligence in the wilds
of Carinthia, and blowing a horn to let the villagers know that the
imperial and royal mail is approaching."

After a little more conversation we separated, but only to meet again,
that same evening, on the Piazza San Marco, whither I had wandered to
listen to the band after dinner, and where I found Von Rosenau seated
with a number of his brother officers in front of the principal cafe.
These gentlemen, to whom I was presently introduced, were unanimous in
complaining of their present quarters. Venice, they said, might be all
very well for artists and travellers; but viewed as a garrison it was
the dullest of places. There were no amusements, there was no sport, and
just now no society; for the Italians were in one of their periodical
fits of sulks, and would not speak to, or look at, a German if they
could possibly avoid it. "They will not even show themselves when
our band is playing," said one of the officers, pointing toward the
well-nigh empty piazza. "As for the ladies, it is reported that if one
of them is seen speaking to an Austrian, she is either assassinated or
sent off to spend the rest of her days in a convent. At all events, it
is certain that we have none of us any successes to boast of, except Von
Rosenau, who has had an affair, they say, only he is pleased to be very
mysterious about it."

"Where does she live, Von Rosenau?" asked another. "Is she rich? Is she
noble? Has she a husband, who will stab you both? or only a mother, who
will send her to a nunnery, and let you go free? You might gratify
our curiosity a little. It would do you no harm, and it would give us
something to talk about."

"Bah! he will tell you nothing," cried a third. "He is afraid. He knows
that there are half a dozen of us who could cut him out in an hour."

"Von Rosenau," said a young ensign, solemnly, "you would do better to
make a clean breast of it. Concealment is useless. Janovicz saw you with
her in Santa Maria della Salute the other day, and could have followed
her home quite easily if he had been so inclined."

"They were seen together on the Lido, too. People who want to keep their
secrets ought not to be so imprudent."

"A good comrade ought to have no secrets from the regiment."

"Come, Von Rosenau, we will promise not to speak to her without
your permission if you will tell us how you managed to make her
acquaintance."

The object of all these attacks received them with the most perfect
composure, continuing to smoke his cigar and gaze out seaward,
without so much as turning his head toward his questioners, to whom he
vouchsafed no reply whatever. Probably, as an ex-hussar and a sprig of
nobility, he may have held his head a little above those of his present
brother officers, and preferred disregarding their familiarity to
resenting it, as he might have done if it had come from men whom he
considered on a footing of equality with himself. Such, at least, was my
impression; and it was confirmed by the friendly advances which he made
toward me, from that day forth, and by the persistence with which he
sought my society. I thought he seemed to wish for some companion whose
ideas had not been developed exclusively in barrack atmosphere; and
I, on my side, was not unwilling to listen to the chatter of a lively,
good-natured young fellow, at intervals, during my long idle days.

It was at the end of a week, I think, or thereabouts, that he honoured
me with his full confidence. We had been sea-fishing in a small open
boat which he had purchased, and which he managed without assistance;
that is to say, that we had provided ourselves with what was requisite
for the pursuit of that engrossing sport, and that the young count had
gone through the form of dropping his line over the side and pulling it
up, baitless and fishless, from time to time, while I had dispensed with
even this shallow pretence of employment, and had stretched myself out
full length upon the cushions which I had thoughtfully brought with me,
inhaling the salt-laden breeze, and luxuriating in perfect inaction,
till such time as it had become necessary for us to think of returning
homeward. My companion had been sighing portentously every now and again
all through the afternoon, and had repeatedly given vent to a sound
as though he had been about to say something, and had as often checked
himself, and fallen back into silence. So that I was in a great measure
prepared for the disclosure that fell from him at length as we slipped
before the wind across the broad lagoon, toward the haze and blaze of
sunset which was glorifying the old city of the doges.

"Do you know," said he, suddenly, "that I am desperately in love?" I
said I had conjectured as much; and he seemed a good deal surprised at
my powers of divination. "Yes," he resumed, "I am in love; and with
an Italian lady too, unfortunately. Her name is Bianca,--the Signorina
Bianca Marinelli,--and she is the most divinely beautiful creature the
sun ever shone upon."

"That," said I, "is of course."

"It is the truth; and when you have seen her, you will acknowledge that
I do not exaggerate. I have known her nearly two months now. I became
acquainted with her accidentally--she dropped her handkerchief in a
shop, and I took it to her, and so we got to be upon speaking terms,
and--and--But I need not give you the whole history. We have discovered
that we are all the world to each other; we have sworn to remain
faithful to each other all our lives long; and we renew the oath
whenever we meet. But that, unhappily, is very seldom! for her father,
the Marchese Marinelli, scarcely ever lets her out of his sight; and he
is a sour, narrow-minded old fellow, as proud as he is poor, an intense
hater of all Austrians; and if he were to discover our attachment, I
shudder to think of what the consequences might be."

"And your own father--the stern old general of whom you told me--what
would he say to it all?"

"Oh, he, of course, would not hear of such a marriage for a moment. He
detests and despises the Venetians as cordially as the marchese abhors
the _Tedeschi_; and, as I am entirely dependent upon him, I should not
dream of saying a word to him about the matter until I was married, and
nothing could be done to separate me from Bianca."

"So that, upon the whole, you appear to stand a very fair chance of
starvation, if everything turns out according to your wishes. And pray,
in what way do you imagine that I can assist you toward this desirable
end? For I take it for granted that you have some reason for letting me
into your secret."

Von Rosenau laughed good-humouredly.

"You form conclusions quickly," he said. "Well, I will confess to you
that I have thought lately that you might be of great service to me
without inconveniencing yourself much. The other day, when you did me
the honour to introduce me to your sister, I was very nearly telling her
all. She has such a kind countenance; and I felt sure that she would not
refuse to let my poor Bianca visit her sometimes. The old marchese, you
see, would have no objection to leaving his daughter for hours under the
care of an English lady; and I thought that perhaps when Miss Jenkinson
went out to work at her painting--I might come in."

"Fortunate indeed is it for you," I said, "that your confidence in the
kind countenance of my sister Anne did not carry you quite to the point
of divulging this precious scheme to her. I, who know her pretty well,
can tell you exactly the course she would have pursued if you had.
Without one moment's hesitation, she would have found out the address of
the young lady's father, hurried off thither, and told him all about
it. Anne is a thoroughly good creature; but she has little sympathy with
love-making, still less with surreptitious love-making, and she would as
soon think of accepting the part you are so good as to assign to her as
of forging a check."

He sighed, and said he supposed, then, that they must continue to
meet as they had been in the habit of doing, but that it was rather
unsatisfactory.

"It says something for your ingenuity that you contrive to meet at all,"
I remarked.

"Well, yes, there are considerable difficulties, because the old man's
movements are so uncertain; and there is some risk too, for, as you
heard the other day, we have been seen together. Moreover, I have
been obliged to tell everything to my servant Johann, who waylays the
marchese's housekeeper at market in the mornings, and finds out from
her when and where I can have an opportunity of meeting Bianca. I would
rather not have trusted him; but I could think of no other plan."

"At any rate, I should have thought you might have selected some more
retired rendezvous than the most frequented church in Venice."

He shrugged his shoulders. "I wish you would suggest one within reach,"
he said. "There are no retired places in this accursed town. But, in
fact, we see each other very seldom. Often for days together the only
way in which I can get a glimpse of her is by loitering about in my boat
in front of her father's house, and watching till she shows herself at
the window. We are in her neighborhood now, and it is close upon the
hour at which I can generally calculate upon her appearing. Would you
mind my making a short detour that way before I set you down at your
hotel?"

We had entered the Grand Canal while Von Rosenau had been relating his
love-tale, and some minutes before he had lowered his sail and taken to
the oars. He now slewed the boat's head round abruptly, and we shot into
a dark and narrow waterway, and so, after sundry twistings and turnings,
arrived before a grim, time-worn structure, so hemmed in by the
surrounding buildings that it seemed as if no ray of sunshine could ever
penetrate within its walls.

"That is the Palazzo Marinelli," said my companion. "The greater part of
it is let to different tenants. The family has long been much too poor
to inhabit the whole of it, and now the old man only reserves himself
four rooms on the third floor. Those are the windows, in the far corner;
and there--no!--yes!--there is Bianca."

I brought my eyeglass to bear upon the point indicated just in time
to catch sight of a female head, which was thrust out through the open
window for an instant, and then withdrawn with great celerity.

"Ah," sighed the count, "it is you who have driven her away. I ought to
have remembered that she would be frightened at seeing a stranger. And
now she will not show herself again, I fear. Come; I will take you home.
Confess now--is she not more beautiful than you expected?"

"My dear sir, I had hardly time to see whether she was a man or a woman;
but I am quite willing to take your word for it that there never was
anybody like her."

"If you would like to wait a little longer--half an hour or so--she
_might_ put her head out again," said the young man, wistfully.

"Thank you very much; but my sister will be wondering why I do not come
to take her down to the _table d'hote_. And besides, I am not in love
myself, I may perhaps be excused for saying that I want my dinner."

"As you please," answered the count, looking the least bit in the world
affronted; and so he pulled back in silence to the steps of the hotel,
where we parted.

I don't know whether Von Rosenau felt aggrieved by my rather
unsympathetic reception of his confidence, or whether he thought it
useless to discuss his projects further with one who could not or would
not assist him in carrying them out; but although we continued to meet
daily, as before, he did not recur to the interesting subject, and it
was not for me to take the initiative in doing so. Curiosity, I confess,
led me to direct my gondolier more than once to the narrow canal
over which the Palazzo Martinelli towered; and on each occasion I was
rewarded by descrying, from the depths of the miniature mourning-coach
which concealed me, the faithful count, seated in his boat and waiting
in patient faith, like another Ritter Toggenburg, with his eyes fixed
upon the corner window; but of the lady I could see no sign. I was
rather disappointed at first, as day after day went by and my young
friend showed no disposition to break the silence in which he had chosen
to wrap himself; for I had nothing to do in Venice, and I thought it
would have been rather amusing to watch the progress of this incipient
romance. By degrees, however, I ceased to trouble myself about it; and
at the end of a fortnight I had other things to think of, in the shape
of plans for the summer, my sister Anne having by that time satisfied
herself that, all things considered, Titian's "Assumption" was a little
too much for her.

It was Captain Janovicz who informed me casually one evening that
Von Rosenau was going away in a few days on leave, and that he would
probably be absent for a considerable time.

"For my own part," remarked my informant, "I shall be surprised if we
see him back in the regiment at all. He was only sent to us as a sort of
punishment for having been a naughty boy, and I suppose now he will be
forgiven, and restored to the hussars."

"So much for undying love," thinks I, with a cynical chuckle. "If
there is any gratitude in man, that young fellow ought to be showering
blessings on me for having refused to hold the noose for him to thrust
his head into."

Alas! I knew not of what I was speaking. I had not yet heard the last
of Herr von Rosenau's entanglement, nor was I destined to escape from
playing my part in it. The very next morning, after breakfast, as I
was poring over a map of Switzerland, "Murray" on my right hand and
"Bradshaw" on my left, his card was brought to me, together with an
urgent request that I would see him immediately and alone; and before I
had had time to send a reply, he came clattering into the room, trailing
his sabre behind him, and dropped into the first arm-chair with a
despairing self-abandonment which shook the house to its foundations.

"Mr. Jenkinson," said he, "I am a ruined man!"

I answered rather drily that I was very sorry to hear it. If I must
confess the truth, I thought he had come to borrow money of me.

"A most cruel calamity has befallen me," he went on; "and unless you
will consent to help me out of it--"

"I am sure I shall be delighted to do anything in my power," I
interrupted, apprehensively; "but I am afraid--"

"You cannot refuse me till you have heard what I have to say. I am aware
that I have no claim whatever upon your kindness; but you are the only
man in the world who can save me, and, whereas the happiness of my
whole life is at stake, the utmost you can have to put up with will be
a little inconvenience. Now I will explain myself in as few words as
possible, because I have only a minute to spare. In fact, I ought to be
out on the ramparts at this moment. You have not forgotten what I told
you about myself and the Signorina Martinelli, and how we had agreed to
seize the first opportunity that offered to be privately married, and to
escape over the mountains to my father's house, and throw ourselves upon
his mercy?"

"I don't remember your having mentioned any such plan."

"No matter--so it was. Well, everything seemed to have fallen out most
fortunately for us. I found out some time ago that the marchese would
be going over to Padua this evening on business, and would be absent
at least one whole day, and I immediately applied for my leave to begin
to-morrow. This I obtained at once through my father, who now expects
me to be with him in a few days, and little knows that I shall not come
alone. Johann and the marchese's housekeeper arranged the rest between
them. I was to meet my dear Bianca early in the morning on the Lido;
thence we were to go by boat to Mestre, where a carriage was to be in
waiting for us; and the same evening we were to be married by a priest,
to whom I have given due notice, at a place called Longarone. And so
we should have gone on, across the Ampezzo Pass homeward. Now would you
believe that all this has been defeated by a mere freak on the part of
my colonel? Only this morning, after it was much too late to make any
alteration in our plans, he told me that he should require me to be on
duty all to-day and to-morrow, and that my leave could not begin until
the next day. Is it not maddening? And the worst of it is that I have no
means of letting Bianca know of this, for I dare not send a message
to the palazzo, and there is no chance of my seeing her myself; and of
course she will go to the Lido to-morrow morning, and will find no one
there. Now, my dear Mr. Jenkinson--my good, kind friend--do you begin to
see what I want you to do for me?"

"Not in the very least."

"No? But it is evident enough. Now listen. You must meet Bianca
to-morrow morning; you explain to her what has happened; you take her in
the boat, which will be waiting for you, to Mestre; you proceed in the
travelling-carriage, which will also be waiting for you, to Longarone;
you see the priest, and appoint with him for the following evening; and
the next day I arrive, and you return to Venice. Is that clear?"

The volubility with which this programme was enunciated so took away my
breath that I scarcely realised its audacity.

"You will not refuse; I am sure you will not," said the count, rising
and hooking up his sword, as if about to depart.

"Stop, stop!" I exclaimed. "You don't consider what you are asking.
I can't elope with young women in this casual sort of way. I have a
character--and a sister. How am I to explain all this to my sister, I
should like to know?"

"Oh, make any excuse you can think of to her. Now, Mr. Jenkinson, you
know there cannot be any real difficulty in that. You consent then? A
thousand, thousand thanks! I will send you a few more instructions by
letter this evening. I really must not stay any longer now. Good-bye."

"Stop! Why can't your servant Johann do all this instead of me?"

"Because he is on duty like myself. Good-bye."

"Stop! Why can't you postpone your flight for a day? I don't so much
mind meeting the young lady and telling her all about it."

"Quite out of the question, my dear sir. It is perfectly possible that
the marchese may return from Padua to-morrow night, and what should we
do then? No, no; there is no help for it. Good-bye."

"Stop! Hi! Come back!"

But it was too late. My impetuous visitor was down the staircase and
away before I had descended a single flight in pursuit, and all I could
do was to return to my room and register a vow within my own heart that
I would have nothing to do with this preposterous scheme.

Looking back upon what followed across the interval of fifteen years, I
find that I can really give no satisfactory reason for my having failed
to adhere to this wise resolution. I had no particular feeling of
friendship for Von Rosenau; I did not care two straws about the
Signorina Bianca, whom I had never seen; and certainly I am not, nor
ever was, the sort of person who loves romantic adventures for their
own sake. Perhaps it was good-nature, perhaps it was only an indolent
shrinking from disobliging anybody, that influenced me--it does not
much matter now. Whatever the cause of my yielding may have been, I did
yield. I prefer to pass over in silence the doubts and hesitations which
beset me for the remainder of the day; the arrival, toward evening,
of the piteous note from Von Rosenau, which finally overcame my
weak resistance to his will; and the series of circumstantial false
statements (I blush when I think of them) by means of which I accounted
to my sister for my proposed sudden departure.

Suffice it to say that, very early on the following morning, there might
have been seen, pacing up and down the shore on the seaward side of
the Lido, and peering anxiously about him through an eyeglass, as if in
search of somebody or something, the figure of a tall, spare Englishman,
clad in a complete suit of shepherd's tartan, with a wide-awake on his
head, a leather bag slung by a strap across his shoulder, and a light
coat over his arm. Myself, in point of act, in the travelling-costume of
the epoch.

I was kept waiting a long time--longer than I liked; for, as may be
supposed, I was most anxious to be well away from Venice before the rest
of the world was up and about; but at length there appeared, round the
corner of a long white wall which skirted the beach, a little lady,
thickly veiled, who, on catching sight of me, whisked round, and
incontinently vanished. This was so evidently the fair Bianca that I
followed her without hesitation, and almost ran into her arms as I swung
round the angle of the wall behind which she had retreated. She gave
a great start, stared at me, for an instant, like a startled fawn, and
then took to her heels and fled. It was rather ridiculous; but there was
nothing for me to do but to give chase. My legs are long, and I had soon
headed her round.

"I presume that I have the honour of addressing the Signorina
Marinelli?" I panted, in French, as I faced her, hat in hand.

She answered me by a piercing shriek, which left no room for doubt as to
her identity.

"For the love of Heaven, don't do that!" I entreated, in an agony. "You
will alarm the whole neighbourhood and ruin us both. Believe me, I am
only here as your friend, and very much against my own wishes. I have
come on the part of Count Albrecht von Rosenau, who is unable to come
himself, because--"

Here she opened her mouth with so manifest an intention of raising
another resounding screech that I became desperate, and seized her by
the wrists in my anxiety. "_Sgridi ancora una volta_," says I, in the
purest _lingua Toscana_, "_e la lascero qui_--to get out of this mess as
best you can--_cosi sicuro che il mio nome e Jenkinsono_!"

To my great relief she began to laugh. Immediately afterward, however,
she sat down on the shingle and began to cry. It was too vexatious: what
on earth was I to do?

"Do you understand English?" I asked, despairingly.

She shook her head, but sobbed out that she spoke French; so I proceeded
to address her in that language.

"Signorina, if you do not get up and control your emotion, I will not
be answerable for the consequences. We are surrounded by dangers of the
most--compromising description; and every moment of delay must add
to them. I know that the officers often come out here to bathe in the
morning; so do many of the English people from Danielli's. If we are
discovered together there will be such a scandal as never was, and you
will most assuredly not become Countess von Rosenau. Think of that, and
it will brace your nerves. What you have to do is to come directly with
me to the boat which is all ready to take us to Mestre. Allow me to
carry your hand-bag."

Not a bit of it! The signorina refused to stir.

"What is it? Where is Alberto? What has happened?" she cried. "You have
told me nothing."

"Well, then, I will explain," I answered, impatiently. And I explained
accordingly.

But, dear me, what a fuss she did make over it all! One would have
supposed, to hear her, that I had planned this unfortunate complication
for my own pleasure, and that I ought to have been playing the part of a
suppliant instead of that of a sorely tried benefactor. First she was
so kind as to set me down as an imposter, and was only convinced of my
honesty when I showed her a letter in the beloved Alberto's handwriting.
Then she declared that she could not possibly go off with a total
stranger. Then she discovered that, upon further consideration, she
could not abandon poor dear papa in his old age. And so forth, and so
forth, with a running accompaniment of tears and sobs. Of course she
consented at last to enter the boat; but I was so exasperated by her
silly behaviour that I would not speak to her, and had really scarcely
noticed whether she was pretty or plain till we were more than half-way
to Mestre. But when we had hoisted our sail, and were running before a
fine, fresh breeze toward the land, and our four men had shipped their
oars and were chattering and laughing under their breath in the bows,
and the first perils of our enterprise seemed to have been safely
surmounted, my equanimity began to return to me, and I stole a glance at
the partner of my flight, who had lifted her veil, and showed a pretty,
round, childish face, with a clear, brown complexion, and a pair of
the most splendid dark eyes it has ever been my good fortune to
behold. There were no tears in them now, but a certain half-frightened,
half-mischievous light instead, as if she rather enjoyed the adventure,
in spite of its inauspicious opening. A very little encouragement
induced her to enter into conversation, and ere long she was prattling
away as unrestrainedly as if we had been friends all our lives. She
asked me a great many questions. What was I doing in Venice? Had I known
Alberto long? Was I very fond of him? Did I think that the old Count
von Rosenau would be very angry when he heard of his son's marriage?
I answered her as best I could, feeling very sorry for the poor little
soul, who evidently did not in the least realise the serious nature
of the step which she was about to take; and she grew more and more
communicative. In the course of a quarter of an hour I had been put in
possession of all the chief incidents of her uneventful life.

I had heard how she had lost her mother when she was still an infant;
how she had been educated partly by two maiden aunts, partly in a
convent at Verona; how she had latterly led a life of almost complete
seclusion in the old Venetian palace; how she had first met Alberto; and
how, after many doubts and misgivings, she had finally been prevailed
upon to sacrifice all for his sake, and to leave her father,
who,--stern, severe, and suspicious, though he had always been generous
to her,--had tried to give her such small pleasures as his means
and habits would permit. She had a likeness of him with her, she
said,--perhaps I might like to see it. She dived into her travelling-bag
as she spoke, and produced from thence a full-length photograph of a
tall, well-built gentleman of sixty or thereabouts, whose gray hair,
black moustache, and intent, frowning gaze made up an ensemble more
striking than attractive.

"Is he not handsome--poor papa?" she asked.

I said the marchese was certainly a very fine-looking man, and inwardly
thanked my stars that he was safely at Padua; for looking at the breadth
of his chest, the length of his arm, and the somewhat forbidding cast of
his features, I could not help perceiving that "poor papa" was precisely
one of those persons with whom a prudent man prefers to keep friends
than to quarrel.

And so, by the time that we reached Mestre, we had become quite friendly
and intimate, and had half forgotten, I think, the absurd relation in
which we stood toward each other. We had rather an awkward moment
when we left the boat and entered our travelling-carriage; for I need
scarcely say that both the boatmen and the grinning vetturino took me
for the bridegroom whose place I temporarily occupied, and they were
pleased to be facetious in a manner which was very embarrassing to me,
but which I could not very well check. Moreover, I felt compelled so
far to sustain my assumed character as to be specially generous in the
manner of a _buona mano_ to those four jolly watermen, and for the first
few miles of our drive I could not help remembering this circumstance
with some regret, and wondering whether it would occur to Von Rosenau to
reimburse me.

Probably our coachman thought that, having a runaway couple to drive,
he ought to make some pretence, at least, of fearing pursuit; for he set
off at such a furious pace that our four half-starved horses were
soon beat, and we had to perform the remainder of the long, hot, dusty
journey at a foot's pace. I have forgotten how we made the time pass. I
think we slept a good deal. I know we were both very tired and a
trifle cross when in the evening we reached Longarone, a small,
poverty-stricken village, on the verge of that dolomite region which, in
these latter days, has become so frequented by summer tourists.

Tourists usually leave in their wake some of the advantages as well as
the drawbacks of civilisation; and probably there is now a respectable
hotel at Longarone. I suppose, therefore, that I may say, without risk
of laying myself open to an action for slander, that a more filthy den
than the _osteria_ before which my charge and I alighted no imagination,
however disordered, could conceive. It was a vast, dismal building,
which had doubtless been the palace of some rich citizen of the republic
in days of yore, but which had now fallen into dishonoured old age.
Its windows and outside shutters were tightly closed, and had been so,
apparently, from time immemorial; a vile smell of rancid oil and garlic
pervaded it in every part; the cornices of its huge, bare rooms were
festooned with blackened cobwebs, and the dust and dirt of ages had
been suffered to accumulate upon the stone floors of its corridors.
The signorina tucked up her petticoats as she picked her way along the
passages to her bedroom, while I remained behind to order dinner of the
sulky, black-browed padrona to whom I had already had to explain that my
companion and I were not man and wife, and who, I fear, had consequently
conceived no very high opinion of us. Happily the priest had already
been warned by telegram that his service would not be required until the
morrow; so I was spared the nuisance of an interview with him.

After a time we sat down to our tete-a-tete dinner. Such a dinner! Even
after a lapse of all these years I am unable to think of it without a
shudder. Half famished though we were, we could not do much more than
look at the greater part of the dishes which were set before us; and the
climax was reached when we were served with an astonishing compote, made
up, so far as I was able to judge, of equal proportions of preserved
plums and mustard, to which vinegar and sugar had been superadded. Both
the signorina and I partook of this horrible mixture, for it really
looked as if it might be rather nice; and when, after the first
mouthful, each of us looked up, and saw the other's face of agony and
alarm, we burst into a simultaneous peal of laughter. Up to that moment
we had been very solemn and depressed; but the laugh did us good, and
sent us to bed in somewhat better spirits; and the malignant compote at
least did us the service of effectually banishing our appetite.

I forbear to enlarge upon the horrors of the night. Mosquitos, and other
insects, which, for some reason or other, we English seldom mention,
save under a modest pseudonym, worked their wicked will upon me till
daybreak set me free; and I presume that the fair Bianca was no better
off, for when the breakfast hour arrived I received a message from her
to the effect that she was unable to leave her room.

I was sitting over my dreary little repast, wondering how I should get
through the day, and speculating upon the possibility of my release
before nightfall, and I had just concluded that I must make up my mind
to face another night with the mosquitos and their hardy allies, when,
to my great joy, a slatternly serving-maid came lolloping into the room,
and announced that a gentleman styling himself "_il Conte di Rosenau_"
had arrived and demanded to see me instantly. Here was a piece of
unlooked-for good fortune! I jumped up, and flew to the door to receive
my friend, whose footsteps I already heard on the threshold.

"My dear, good soul!" I cried, "this is too delightful! How did you
manage----"

The remainder of my sentence died away upon my lips; for, alas! it
was not the missing Alberto whom I had nearly embraced, but a stout,
red-faced, white-moustached gentleman, who was in a violent passion,
judging by the terrific salute of Teutonic expletives with which he
greeted my advance. Then he, too, desisted as suddenly as I had done,
and we both fell back a few paces, and stared at each other blankly. The
new-comer was the first to recover himself.

"This is some accursed mistake," said he, in German.

"Evidently," said I.

"But they told me that you and an Italian young lady were the only
strangers in the house."

"Well, sir," I said, "I can't help it if we are. The house is not of
a kind likely to attract strangers; and I assure you that, if I could
consult my own wishes, the number of guests would soon be reduced by
one."

He appeared to be a very choleric old person. "Sir," said he, "you seem
disposed to carry things off with a high hand; but I suspect that you
know more than you choose to reveal. Be so good as to tell me the name
of the lady who is staying here."

"I think you are forgetting yourself," I answered with dignity. "I must
decline to gratify your curiosity."

He stuck his arms akimbo, and planted himself directly in front of me,
frowning ominously. "Let us waste no more words," he said. "If I
have made a mistake, I shall be ready to offer you a full apology. If
not--But that is nothing to the purpose. I am Lieutenant-General Graf
von Rosenau, at your service, and I have reason to believe that my
son, Graf Albrecht von Rosenau, a lieutenant in his Imperial and Royal
Majesty's 99th Croat Regiment, has made a runaway match with a certain
Signorina Bianca Marinelli of Venice. Are you prepared to give me your
word of honour as a gentleman and an Englishman that you are not privy
to this affair?"

At these terrible words I felt my blood run cold. I may have lost my
presence of mind; but I don't know how I could have got out of the
dilemma even if I had preserved it.

"Your son has not yet arrived," I stammered.

He pounced upon me like a cat upon a mouse, and gripped both my arms
above the elbow. "Is he married?" he hissed, with his red nose a couple
of inches from mine.

"No," I answered, "he is not. Perhaps I had better say at once that if
you use personal violence I shall defend myself, in spite of your age."

Upon this he was kind enough to relax his hold.

"And pray, sir," he resumed, in a somewhat more temperate tone, after a
short period of reflection, "what have you to do with all this?"

"I am not bound to answer your questions, Herr Graf," I replied; "but,
as things have turned out, I have no special objection to doing so. Out
of pure good-nature to your son, who was detained by duty in Venice
at the last moment, I consented to bring the Signorina Marinelli here
yesterday, and to await his arrival, which I am now expecting."

"So you ran away with the girl, instead of Albrecht, did you? Ho, ho,
ho!"

I had seldom heard a more grating or disagreeable laugh.

"I did nothing of the sort," I answered, tartly. "I simply undertook to
see her safely through the first stage of her journey."

"And you will have the pleasure of seeing her back, I imagine; for as
for my rascal of a boy, I mean to take him off home with me as soon as
he arrives; and I can assure you that I have no intention of providing
myself with a daughter-in-law in the course of the day."

I began to feel not a little alarmed. "You cannot have the brutality
to leave me here with a young woman whom I am scarcely so much as
acquainted with on my hands!" I ejaculated, half involuntarily. "What in
the world should I do?"

The old gentleman gave vent to a malevolent chuckle. "Upon my word,
sir," said he, "I can only see one course open to you as a man of
honour. You must marry her yourself."

At this I fairly lost all patience, and gave the Graf my opinion of his
conduct in terms the plainness of which left nothing to be desired.
I included him, his son, and the entire German people in one sweeping
anathema. No Englishman, I said, would have been capable of either
insulting an innocent lady, or of so basely leaving in the lurch one
whose only fault had been a too great readiness to sacrifice his own
convenience to the interests of others. My indignation lent me a flow
of words such as I should never have been able to command in calmer
moments; and I dare say I should have continued in the same strain for
an indefinite time, had I not been summarily cut short by the entrance
of a third person.

There was no occasion for this last intruder to announce himself, in a
voice of thunder, as the Marchese Marinelli. I had at once recognised
the original of the signorina's photograph, and I perceived that I was
now in about as uncomfortable a position as my bitterest enemy could
have desired for me. The German old gentleman had been very angry at the
outset; but his wrath, as compared with that of the Italian, was as a
breeze to a hurricane. The marchese was literally quivering from head
to foot with concentrated fury. His face was deadly white, his strongly
marked features twitched convulsively, his eyes blazed like those of a
wild animal. Having stated his identity in the manner already referred
to, he made two strides toward the table by which I was seated, and
stood glaring at me as though he would have sprung at my throat. I
thought it might avert consequences which we should both afterward
deplore if I were to place the table between us; and I did so without
loss of time. From the other side of that barrier I adjured my visitor
to keep cool, pledging him my word, in the same breath, that there was
no harm done as yet.

"No harm!" he repeated, in a strident shout that echoed through the bare
room. "Dog! Villain! You ensnare my daughter's affections--you entice
her away from her father's house--you cover my family with eternal
disgrace--and then you dare to tell me there is no harm done! Wait a
little, and you shall see that there will be harm enough for you. Marry
her you must, since you have ruined her; but you shall die for it the
next day! It is I--I, Ludovico Marinelli--who swear it!"

I am aware that I do but scant justice to the marchese's inimitable
style. The above sentences must be imagined as hurled forth in a series
of yells, with a pant between each of them. As a melodramatic actor this
terrific Marinelli would, I am sure, have risen to the first rank in his
profession.

"Signore," I said, "you are under a misapprehension. I have ensnared
nobody's affections, and I am entirely guiltless of all the crimes which
you are pleased to attribute to me."

"What? Are you not, then, the hound who bears the vile and dishonoured
name of Von Rosenau?"

"I am not. I bear the less distinguished, but, I hope, equally
respectable patronymic of Jenkinson."

But my modest disclaimer passed unheeded, for now another combatant had
thrown himself into the fray.

"Vile and dishonoured name! No one shall permit himself such language
in my presence. I am Lieutenant-General Graf von Rosenau, sir, and you
shall answer to me for your words."

The Herr Graf's knowledge of Italian was somewhat limited; but, such as
it was, it had enabled him to catch the sense of the stigma cast upon
his family, and now he was upon his feet, red and gobbling, like a
turkey-cock, and prepared to do battle with a hundred irate Venetians if
need were.

The marchese stared at him in blank amazement. "_You!_" he
ejaculated--"you Von Rosenau! It is incredible--preposterous. Why, you
are old enough to be her grandfather."

"Not old enough to be in my dotage,--as I should be if I permitted my
son to marry a beggarly Italian,--nor too old to punish impertinence as
it deserves," retorted the Graf.

"Your son? You are the father then? It is all the same to me. I will
fight you both. But the marriage shall take place first."

"It shall not."

"It shall."

"Insolent slave of an Italian, I will make you eat your words!"

"Triple brute of a German, I spit upon you!"

"Silence, sir!"

"Silence yourself!"

During this animated dialogue I sat apart, softly rubbing my hands. What
a happy dispensation it would be, I could not help thinking, if these
two old madmen were to exterminate each other, like the Kilkenny cats!
Anyhow, their attention was effectually diverted from my humble person,
and that was something to be thankful for.

Never before had I been privileged to listen to so rich a vocabulary of
vituperation. Each disputant had expressed himself, after the first few
words, in his own language, and between them they were now making hubbub
enough to bring the old house down about their ears. Up came the padrona
to see the fun; up came her fat husband, in his shirt-sleeves and
slippers; and her long-legged sons, and her tousle-headed daughters, and
the maid-servant, and the cook, and the ostler--the whole establishment,
in fact, collected at the open folding-doors, and watched with delight
the progress of this battle of words. Last of all, a poor little
trembling figure, with pale face and eyes big with fright, crept in, and
stood, hand on heart, a little in advance of the group. I slipped to her
side, and offered her a chair, but she neither answered me nor noticed
my presence. She was staring at her father as a bird stares at a snake,
and seemed unable to realise anything except the terrible fact that he
had followed and found her.

Presently the old man wheeled round, and became aware of his daughter.

"Unhappy girl!" he exclaimed, "what is this that you have done?"

I greatly fear that the marchese's paternal corrections must have
sometimes taken a more practical shape than mere verbal upbraidings; for
poor Bianca shrank back, throwing up one arm, as if to shield her face,
and, with a wild cry of "Alberto! come to me!" fell into the arms
of that tardy lover, who at that appropriate moment had made his
appearance, unobserved, upon the scene.

The polyglot disturbance that ensued baffles all description. Indeed,
I should be puzzled to say exactly what took place, or after how many
commands, defiances, threats, protestations, insults, and explanations,
a semblance of peace was finally restored. I only know that, at the
expiration of a certain time, three of us were sitting by the open
window, in a softened and subdued frame of mind, considerately turning
our backs upon the other two, who were bidding each other farewell at
the farther end of the room.

It was the faithless Johann, as I gathered, who was responsible for
this catastrophe. His heart, it appeared, had failed him when he had
discovered that nothing less than a bona-fide marriage was to be the
outcome of the meetings he had shown so much skill in contriving, and,
full of penitence and alarm, he had written to his old master, divulging
the whole project. It so happened that a recent storm in the mountains
had interrupted telegraphic communication, for the time, between Austria
and Venice, and the only course that had seemed open to Herr von Rosenau
was to start post-haste for the latter place, where, indeed, he would
have arrived a day too late had not Albrecht's colonel seen fit to
postpone his leave. In this latter circumstance also the hand of Johann
seemed discernible. As for the marchese, I suppose he must have returned
rather sooner than had been expected from Padua, and finding his
daughter gone, must have extorted the truth from his housekeeper. He did
not volunteer any explanation of his presence, nor were any of us bold
enough to question him.

As I have said before, I have no very clear recollection of how an
understanding was arrived at and bloodshed averted and the padrona and
her satellites hustled downstairs again. Perhaps I may have had some
share in the work of pacification. Be that as it may, when once the
exasperated parents had discovered that they both really wanted the same
thing,--namely, to recover possession of their respective offspring, to
go home, and never meet each other again,--a species of truce was soon
agreed upon between them for the purpose of separating the two lovers,
who all this time were locked in each other's arms, in the prettiest
attitude in the world, vowing loudly that nothing should ever part them.

How often since the world began have such vows been made and
broken--broken, not willingly, but of necessity--broken and mourned
over, and, in due course of time, forgotten! I looked at the Marchese di
San Silvestro the other night, as she sailed up the room in her lace and
diamonds, with her fat little husband toddling after her, and wondered
whether, in these days of her magnificence, she ever gave a thought to
her lost Alberto--Alberto, who has been married himself this many a long
day, and has succeeded to his father's estates, and has numerous family,
I am told. At all events, she was unhappy enough over parting with
him at the time. The two old gentlemen, who, as holders of the
purse-strings, knew that they were completely masters of the situation,
and could afford to be generous, showed some kindliness of feeing at the
last. They allowed the poor lovers an uninterrupted half-hour in
which to bid each other adieu forever, and abstained from any needless
harshness in making their decision known. When the time was up, two
travelling-carriages were seen waiting at the door. Count von Rosenau
pushed his son before him into the first; the marchese assisted the
half-fainting Bianca into the second; the vetturini cracked their whips,
and presently both vehicles were rolling away, the one toward the
north, the other toward the south. I suppose the young people had been
promising to remain faithful to each other until some happier future
time should permit of their union, for at the last moment Albrecht
thrust his head out of the carriage window, and, waving his hand, cried,
"_A rivederci!_" I don't know whether they ever met again.

The whole scene, I confess, had affected me a good deal, in spite of
some of the absurdities by which it had been marked; and it was not
until I had been alone for some time, and silence had once more fallen
upon the Longarone _osteria_, that I awoke to the fact that it was _my_
carriage which the Marchese Marinelli had calmly appropriated to his own
use, and that there was no visible means of my getting back to Venice
that day. Great was my anger and great my dismay when the ostler
announced this news to me, with a broad grin, in reply to my order to
put the horses to without delay.

"But the marchese himself--how did he get here?" I inquired.

"Oh, he came by the diligence."

"And the count--the young gentleman?"

"On horseback, signore; but you cannot have his horse. The poor beast is
half dead as it is."

"Then will you tell me how I am to escape from your infernal town? For
nothing shall induce me to pass another night here."

"Eh! there is the diligence which goes through at two o'clock in the
morning!"

There was no help for it. I sat up for that diligence, and returned by
it to Mestre, seated between a Capuchin monk and a peasant farmer whose
whole system appeared to be saturated with garlic. I could scarcely have
fared worse in my bed at Longarone.

And so that was my reward for an act of disinterested kindness. It
is only experience that can teach a man to appreciate the ingrained
thanklessness of the human race. I was obliged to make a clean breast
of it to my sister, who of course did not keep the secret long; and for
some time afterward I had to submit to a good deal of mild chaff upon
the subject from my friends. But it is an old story now, and two of the
actors in it are dead, and of the remaining three I dare say I am the
only one who cares to recall it. Even to me it is a somewhat painful
reminiscence.



GONERIL, By A. Mary F. Robinson



CHAPTER I THE TWO OLD LADIES

On one of the pleasant hills round Florence, a little beyond Camerata,
there stands a house so small that an Englishman would probably take it
for a lodge of the great villa behind, whose garden trees at sunset
cast their shadow over the cottage and its terrace on to the steep white
road. But any of the country people could tell him that this, too, is a
_casa signorile_, despite its smallness. It stands somewhat high above
the road, a square white house with a projecting roof, and with four
green-shuttered windows overlooking the gay but narrow terrace. The beds
under the windows would have fulfilled the fancy of that French poet
who desired that in his garden one might, in gathering a nosegay, cull
a salad, for they boasted little else than sweet basil, small and white,
and some tall gray rosemary bushes. Nearer to the door an unusually
large oleander faced a strong and sturdy magnolia-tree, and these, with
their profusion of red and white sweetness, made amends for the dearth
of garden flowers. At either end of the terrace flourished a thicket
of gum-cistus, syringa, stephanotis, and geranium bushes; and the wall
itself, dropping sheer down to the road, was bordered with the customary
Florentine hedge of China roses and irises, now out of bloom. Great
terra-cotta flower-pots, covered with devices, were placed at intervals
along the wall; as it was summer, the oranges and lemons, full of
wonderfully sweet white blossoms and young green fruit, were set there
in the sun to ripen.

It was the 17th of June. Although it was after four o'clock, the olives
on the steep hill that went down to Florence looked blindingly white,
shadeless, and sharp. The air trembled round the bright green cypresses
behind the house. The roof steamed. All the windows were shut, all the
jalousies shut, yet it was so hot that no one could stir within. The
maid slept in the kitchen; the two elderly mistresses of the house dozed
upon their beds. Not a movement; not a sound.

Gradually along the steep road from Camerata there came a roll of
distant carriage-wheels. The sound came nearer and nearer, till one
could see the carriage, and see the driver leading the tired, thin,
cab-horse, his bones starting under the shaggy hide. Inside the carriage
reclined a handsome, middle-aged lady, with a stern profile turned
toward the road; a young girl in pale pink cotton and a broad hat
trudged up the hill at the side.

"Goneril," said Miss Hamelyn, "let me beg you again to come inside the
carriage."

"Oh no, Aunt Margaret; I'm not a bit tired."

"But I have asked you; that is reason enough."

"It's so hot!" cried Goneril.

"That is why I object to your walking."

"But if it's so hot for me, just think how hot is must be for the
horse."

Goneril cast a commiserating glance at the poor, halting, wheezing nag.

"The horse, probably," rejoined Miss Hamelyn, "does not suffer from
malaria, neither has he kept his aunt in Florence nursing him till the
middle heat of the summer."

"True!" said Goneril. Then, after a few minutes, "I'll get in, Aunt
Margaret, on one condition."

"In my time young people did not make conditions."

"Very well, auntie; I'll get in, and you shall answer all my questions
when you feel inclined."

The carriage stopped. The poor horse panted at his ease, while the girl
seated herself beside Miss Hamelyn. Then for a few minutes they drove
on in silence past the orchards; past the olive-yards, yellow underneath
the ripening corn; past the sudden wide views of the mountains, faintly
crimson in the mist of heat, and, on the other side, of Florence, the
towers and domes steaming beside the hazy river.

"How hot it looks down there!" cried Goneril.

"How hot it _feels_!" echoed Miss Hamelyn, rather grimly.

"Yes, I am so glad you can get away at last, dear, poor old auntie."
Then, a little later, "Won't you tell me something about the old ladies
with whom you are going to leave me?"

Miss Hamelyn was mollified by Goneril's obedience.

"They are very nice old ladies," she said; "I met them at Mrs.
Gorthrup's." But this was not at all what the young girl wanted.

"Only think, Aunt Margaret," she cried, impatiently, "I am to stay there
for at least six weeks, and I know nothing about them, not what age they
are, nor if they are tall or short, jolly or prim, pretty, or ugly, not
even if they speak English!"

"They speak English," said Miss Hamelyn, beginning at the end. "One of
them is English, or at least Irish: Miss Prunty."

"And the other?"

"She is an Italian, Signora Petrucci; she used to be very handsome."

"Oh!" said Goneril, looking pleased. "I'm glad she's handsome, and that
they speak English. But they are not relations?"

"No, they are not connected; they are friends."

"And have they always lived together?"

"Ever since Madame Lilli died," and Miss Hamelyn named a very celebrated
singer.

"Why!" cried Goneril, quite excited; "were they singers too?"

"Madame Petrucci; nevertheless a lady of the highest respectability.
Miss Prunty was Madame Lilli's secretary."

"How nice!" cried the young girl; "how interesting! O auntie, I'm so
glad you found them out."

"So am I, child; but please remember it is not an ordinary pension.
They only take you, Goneril, till you are strong enough to travel, as an
especial favour to me and to their old friend, Mrs. Gorthrup."

"I'll remember, auntie."

By this time they were driving under the terrace in front of the little
house.

"Goneril," said the elder lady, "I shall leave you outside; you can play
in the garden or the orchard."

"Very well."

Miss Hamelyn left the carriage and ascended the steep little flight of
steps that leads from the road to the cottage garden.

In the porch a singular figure was awaiting her.

"Good-afternoon, Madame Petrucci," said Miss Hamelyn.

A slender old lady, over sixty, rather tall, in a brown silk skirt, and
a white burnoose that showed the shrunken slimness of her arms, came
eagerly forward. She was rather pretty, with small refined features,
large expressionless blue eyes, and long whitish-yellow ringlets down
her cheeks, in the fashion of forty years ago.

"Oh, _dear_ Miss Hamelyn," she cried, "how _glad_ I am to see you! And
have you brought your _charming_ young relation?"

She spoke with a languid foreign accent, and with an emphatic and
bountiful use of adjectives, that gave to our severer generation an
impression of insincerity. Yet it was said with truth that Giulia
Petrucci had never forgotten a friend nor an enemy.

"Goneril is outside," said Miss Hamelyn. "How is Miss Prunty?"

"Brigida? Oh, you must come inside and see my invaluable Brigida. She
is, as usual, fatiguing herself with our accounts." The old lady led the
way into the darkened parlour. It was small and rather stiff. As
one's eyes became accustomed to the dim green light one noticed the
incongruity of the furniture: the horsehair chairs and sofa, and
large accountant's desk with ledgers; the large Pleyel grand piano; a
bookcase, in which all the books were rare copies or priceless MSS. of
old-fashioned operas; hanging against the wall an inlaid guitar and some
faded laurel crowns; moreover, a fine engraving of a composer, twenty
years ago the most popular man in Italy; lastly, an oil-colour portrait,
by Winterman, of a fascinating blonde, with very bare white shoulders,
holding in her hands a scroll, on which were inscribed some notes of
music, under the title Giulia Petrucci. In short, the private parlour of
an elderly and respectable diva of the year '40.

"Brigida!" cried Madame Petrucci, going to the door. "Brigida! our
charming English friend is arrived!"

"All right!" answered a strong, hearty voice from upstairs. "I'm
coming."

"You must excuse me, dear Miss Hamelyn," went on Madame Petrucci. "You
must excuse me for shouting in your presence, but we have only one
little servant, and during this suffocating weather I find that any
movement reminds me of approaching age." The old lady smiled as if that
time were still far ahead.

"I am sure you ought to take care of yourself," said Miss Hamelyn. "I
hope you will not allow Goneril to fatigue you."

"Gonerilla! What a pretty name! Charming! I suppose it is in your
family?" asked the old lady.

Miss Hamelyn blushed a little, for her niece's name was a sore point
with her.

"It's an awful name for any Christian woman," said a deep voice at the
door. "And pray, who's called Goneril?"

Miss Prunty came forward: a short, thick-set woman of fifty, with fine
dark eyes, and, even in a Florentine summer, with something stiff and
masculine in the fashion of her dress.

"And have you brought your niece?" she said, as she turned to Miss
Hamelyn.

"Yes, she is in the garden."

"Well, I hope she understands that she'll have to rough it here."

"Goneril is a very simple girl," said Miss Hamelyn.

"So it's she that's called Goneril?"

"Yes," said the aunt, making an effort. "Of course I am aware of the
strangeness of the name, but--but, in fact, my brother was devotedly
attached to his wife, who died at Goneril's birth."

"Whew!" whistled Miss Prunty. "The parson must have been a fool who
christened her!"

"He did, in fact, refuse; but my brother would have no baptism saving
with that name, which, unfortunately, it is impossible to shorten."

"I think it is a charming name!" said Madame Petrucci, coming to the
rescue. "Gonerilla--it dies on one's lips like music! And if you do not
like it, Brigida, what's in a name? as your charming Byron said."

"I hope we shall make her happy," said Miss Prunty.

"Of course we shall!" cried the elder lady.

"Goneril is easily made happy," asserted Miss Hamelyn.

"That's a good thing," snapped Miss Prunty, "for there's not much here to
make her so!"

"O Brigida! I am sure there are many attractions. The air, the view,
the historic association! and, more than all, you know there is always a
chance of the signorino!"

"Of whom?" said Miss Hamelyn, rather anxiously.

"Of him!" cried Madame Petrucci, pointing to the engraving opposite.
"He lives, of course, in the capital; but he rents the villa behind our
house,--the Medici Villa,--and when he is tired of Rome he runs down
here for a week or so; and so your Gonerilla may have the benefit of
_his_ society!"

"Very nice, I'm sure," said Miss Hamelyn, greatly relieved; for she knew
that Signor Graziano must be fifty.

"We have known him," went on the old lady, "very nearly thirty years.
He used to largely frequent the salon of our dear, our cherished Madame
Lilli."

The tears came into the old lady's eyes. No doubt those days seemed near
and dear to her; she did not see the dust on those faded triumphs.

"That's all stale news!" cried Miss Prunty, jumping up. "And Gon'ril
(since I'll have to call her so) must be tired of waiting in the
garden."

They walked out on to the terrace. The girl was not there, but by the
gate into the olive-yard, where there was a lean-to shed for tools, they
found her sitting on a cask, whittling a piece of wood and talking to a
curly-headed little contadino.

Hearing steps, Goneril turned round. "He was asleep," she said. "Fancy,
in such beautiful weather!"

Then, remembering that two of the ladies were still strangers, she made
an old-fashioned little courtesy.

"I hope you won't find me a trouble, ladies," she said.

"She is charming!" said Madame Petrucci, throwing up her hands.

Goneril blushed; her hat had slipped back and showed her short brown
curls of hair, strong regular features, and flexile scarlet mouth
laughing upward like a faun's. She had sweet dark eyes, a little too
small and narrow.

"I mean to be very happy," she exclaimed.

"Always mean that, my dear," said Miss Prunty.

"And now, since Gonerilla is no longer a stranger," added Madame
Petrucci, "we will leave her to the rustic society of Angiolino while we
show Miss Hamelyn our orangery."

"And conclude our business!" said Bridget Prunty.


CHAPTER II

THE SIGNORINO

One day, when Goneril, much browner and rosier for a week among the
mountains, came in to lunch at noon, she found no signs of that usually
regular repast. The little maid was on her knees polishing the floor;
Miss Prunty was scolding, dusting, ordering dinner, arranging vases, all
at once; strangest of all, Madame Petrucci had taken the oil-cloth cover
from her grand piano, and, seated before it, was practising her sweet
and faded notes, unheedful of the surrounding din and business.

"What's the matter?" cried Goneril.

"We expect the signorino," said Miss Prunty.

"And is he going to stay here?"

"Don't be a fool!" snapped that lady; and then she added, "Go into the
kitchen and get some of the pasty and some bread and cheese--there's a
good girl."

"All right!" said Goneril.

Madame Petrucci stopped her vocalising. "You shall have all the better
a dinner to compensate you, my Gonerilla!" She smiled sweetly, and then
again became Zerlina.

Goneril cut her lunch, and took it out of doors to share with her
companion, Angiolino. He was harvesting the first corn under the olives,
but at noon it was too hot to work. Sitting still there was, however, a
cool breeze that gently stirred the sharp-edged olive-leaves.

Angiolino lay down at full length and munched his bread and cheese in
perfect happiness. Goneril kept shifting about to get herself into the
narrow shadow cast by the split and writhen trunk.

"How aggravating it is!" she cried. "In England, where there's no
sun, there's plenty of shade; and here, where the sun is like a
mustard-plaster on one's back, the leaves are all set edgewise on
purpose that they sha'n't cast any shadow!"

Angiolino made no answer to this intelligent remark.

"He is going to sleep again!" cried Goneril, stopping her lunch in
despair. "He is going to sleep, and there are no end of things I want to
know. Angiolino!"

"_Si_, signora," murmured the boy.

"Tell me about Signor Graziano."

"He is our padrone; he is never here."

"But he is coming to-day. Wake up, wake up, Angiolino. I tell you, he is
on the way!"

"Between life and death there are so many combinations," drawled the
boy, with Tuscan incredulity and sententiousness.

"Ah!" cried the girl, with a little shiver of impatience. "Is he young?"

"_Che!_"

"Is he old then?"

"_Neppure!_"

"What is he like? He must be _something_."

"He's our padrone," repeated Angiolino, in whose imagination Signor
Graziano could occupy no other place.

"How stupid you are!" exclaimed the young English girl.

"Maybe," said Angiolino, stolidly.

"Is he a good padrone? Do you like him?"

"Rather!" The boy smiled and raised himself on one elbow; his eyes
twinkled with good-humoured malice.

"My _babbo_ had much better wine than _quel signore_," he said.

"But that is wrong!" cried Goneril, quite shocked.

"Who knows?"

After this conversation flagged. Goneril tried to imagine what a great
musician could be like: long hair, of course; her imagination did not
get much beyond the hair. He would of course be much older now than his
portrait. Then she watched Angiolino cutting the corn, and learned how
to tie the swathes together. She was occupied in this useful employment
when the noise of wheels made them both stop and look over the wall.

"Here's the padrone!" cried the boy.

"Oh, he is old!" said Goneril. "He is old and brown, like a
coffee-bean."

"To be old and good is better than youth with malice," suggested
Angiolino, by way of consolation.

"I suppose so," acquiesced Goneril.

Nevertheless she went in to dinner a little disappointed.

The signorino was not in the house; he had gone up to the villa; but
he had sent a message that later in the evening he intended to pay his
respects to his old friends. Madame Petrucci was beautifully dressed in
soft black silk, old lace, and a white Indian shawl. Miss Prunty had on
her starchiest collar and most formal tie. Goneril saw it was necessary
that she, likewise should deck herself in her best. She was much
too young and impressionable not to be influenced by the flutter of
excitement and interest which filled the whole of the little cottage.
Goneril, too, was excited and anxious, although Signor Graziano had
seemed so old and like a coffee-bean. She made no progress in the piece
of embroidery she was working as a present for the two old ladies,
jumping up and down to look out of the window. When, about eight
o'clock, the door-bell rang, Goneril blushed, Madame Petrucci gave
a pretty little shriek, Miss Prunty jumped up and rang for coffee.
A moment afterward the signorino entered. While he was greeting her
hostesses Goneril cast a rapid glance at him. He was tall for an
Italian, rather bent and rather gray; fifty at least--therefore very
old. He certainly was brown, but his features were fine and good, and he
had a distinguished and benevolent air that somehow made her think of
an abbe, a French abbe of the last century. She could quite imagine him
saying, "_Enfant de St. Louis, montez au ciel!_"

Thus far had she got in her meditations when she felt herself addressed
in clear, half-mocking tones:

"And how, this evening, is Madamigella Ruth?"

So he had seen her this evening binding his corn.

"I am quite well, padrone," she said, smiling shyly.

The two old ladies looked on amazed, for of course they were not in the
secret.

"Signor Graziano, Miss Goneril Hamelyn," said Miss Prunty, rather
severely.

Goneril felt that the time had come for silence and good manners. She
sat quite quiet over her embroidery, listening to the talk of Sontag, of
Clementi, of musicians and singers dead and gone. She noticed that the
ladies treated Signore Graziano with the utmost reverence, even the
positive Miss Prunty furling her opinions in deference to his gayest
hint. They talked too of Madame Lilli, and always as if she were still
young and fair, as if she had died yesterday, leaving the echo of her
triumph loud behind her. And yet all this had happened years before
Goneril had ever seen the light.

"Mees Goneril is feeling very young!" said the signorino, suddenly
turning his sharp, kind eyes upon her.

"Yes," said Goneril, all confusion.

Madame Petrucci looked almost annoyed--the gay, serene little lady that
nothing ever annoyed.

"It is she that is young!" she cried, in answer to an unspoken thought.
"She is a baby!"

"Oh, I am seventeen!" said Goneril.

They all laughed, and seemed at ease again.

"Yes, yes; she is very young," said the signorino.

But a little shadow had fallen across their placid entertainment: the
spirit had left their memories; they seemed to have grown shapeless,
dusty, as the fresh and comely faces of dead Etruscan kings crumble into
mould at the touch of the pitiless sunshine.

"Signorino," said Madame Petrucci, presently, "if you will accompany me
we will perform one of your charming melodies."

Signor Graziano rose a little stiffly and led the pretty, withered
little diva to the piano.

Goneril looked on, wondering, admiring. The signorino's thin white hands
made a delicate, fluent melody, reminding her of running water under
the rippled shade of trees, and, like a high, sweet bird, the thin,
penetrating notes of the singer rose, swelled, and died away, admirably
true and just even in this latter weakness. At the end Signor Graziano
stopped his playing to give time for an elaborate cadenza. Suddenly
Madame Petrucci gasped; a sharp discordant sound cracked the delicate
finish of her singing. She put her handkerchief to her mouth.

"Bah!" she said, "this evening I am abominably husky."

The tears rose to Goneril's eyes. Was it so hard to grow old? This doubt
made her voice loudest of all in the chorus of mutual praise and thanks
which covered the song's abrupt finale.

And then there came a terrible ordeal. Miss Prunty, anxious to divert
the current of her friend's ideas, had suggested that the girl should
sing. Signor Graziano and madame insisted; they would take no refusal.

"Sing, sing, little bird!" cried the old lady.

"But, madame, how can one--after you?"

The homage in the young girl's voice made the little diva more
good-humouredly insistent than before, and Goneril was too well-bred
to make a fuss. She stood by the piano wondering which to choose, the
Handels that she always drawled or the Pinsuti that she always galloped.
Suddenly she came by an inspiration.

"Madame," she pleaded, "may I sing one of Angiolino's songs?"

"Whatever you like, _cara mia_."

And, standing by the piano, her arms hanging loose, she began a chant
such as the peasants use working under the olives. Her voice was small
and deep, with a peculiar thick sweetness that suited the song, half
humourous, half pathetic. These were the words she sang:

     "Vorrei morir di morte piccinina,
     Morta la sera e viva la mattina.
     Vorrei morire, e non vorrei morire,
     Vorrei veder chi mi piange e chi ride;
     Vorrei morir, e star sulle finestre,
     Vorrei veder chi mi cuce la veste;
     Vorrei morir, e stare sulla scala,
     Vorrei veder chi mi porta la bara:
     Vorrei morir, e vorre' alzar la voce,
     Vorrei veder chi mi porta la croce."

"Very well chosen, my dear," said Miss Prunty, when the song was
finished.

"And very well sung, my Gonerilla!" cried the old lady.

But the signorino went up to the piano and shook hands with her.

"Little Mees Goneril," he said, "you have the makings of an artist."

The two old ladies stared, for, after all, Goneril's performance had
been very simple. You see, they were better versed in music than in
human nature.


CHAPTER III

SI VIEILLESSE POUVAIT!

Signor Graziano's usual week of holiday passed and lengthened into
almost two months, and still he stayed on at the villa. The two old
ladies were highly delighted.

"At last he has taken my advice!" cried Miss Prunty. "I always told him
those premature gray hairs came from late hours and Roman air."

Madame Petrucci shook her head and gave a meaning smile. Her friendship
with the signorino had begun when he was a lad and she a charming
married woman; like many another friendship, it had begun with a
flirtation, and perhaps (who knows?) she thought the flirtation had
revived.

As for Goneril, she considered him the most charming old man she had
ever known, and liked nothing so much as to go out a walk with him.
That, indeed, was one of the signorino's pleasures; he loved to take
the young girl all over his gardens and vineyards, talking to her in the
amiable, half-petting, half-mocking manner that he had adopted from the
first; and twice a week he gave her a music lesson.

"She has a splendid organ!" he would say.

"_Vous croyez_?" fluted Madame Petrucci, with the vilest accent and the
most aggravating smile imaginable.

It was the one hobby of the signorino's that she regarded with
disrespect.

Goneril too was a little bored by the music lesson, but, on the other
hand, the walks delighted her.

One day Goneril was out with her friend.

"Are the peasants very much afraid of you, signore?" she asked.

"Am I such a tyrant?" counter-questioned the signorino.

"No; but they are always begging me to ask you things. Angiolino wants
to know if he may go for three days to see his uncle at Fiesole."

"Of course."

"But why, then, don't they ask you themselves? Is it they think me so
cheeky?"

"Perhaps they think I can refuse you nothing."

"_Che!_ In that case they would ask Madame Petrucci."

Goneril ran on to pick some China roses. The signorino stopped
confounded.

"It is impossible!" he cried. "She cannot think I am in love with
Giulia! She cannot think I am so old as that!"

The idea seemed horrible to him. He walked on very quickly till he came
up to Goneril, who was busy plucking roses in a hedge.

"For whom are those flowers?" he asked.

"Some are for you and some are for Madame Petrucci."

"She is a charming woman, Madame Petrucci."

"A dear old lady," murmured Goneril, much more interested in her posy.

"Old, do you call her?" said the signorino, rather anxiously. "I should
scarcely call her that, though of course she is a good deal older than
either of us."

"Either of us!" Goneril looked up astounded. Could the signorino have
suddenly gone mad?

He blushed a little under his brown skin that had reminded her of a
coffee-bean.

"She is a good ten years older than I am," he explained.

"Ah, well, ten years isn't much."

"You don't think so?" he cried, delighted. Who knows? she might not
think even thirty too much.

"Not at that age," said Goneril, blandly.

Signor Graziano could think of no reply.

But from that day one might have dated a certain assumption of
youthfulness in his manners. At cards it was always the signorino and
Goneril against the two elder ladies; in his conversation, too, it
was to the young girl that he constantly appealed, as if she were his
natural companion--she, and not his friends of thirty years. Madame
Petrucci, always serene and kind, took no notice of these little
changes, but they were particularly irritating to Miss Prunty, who was,
after all, only four years older than the signorino.

That lady had, indeed, become more than usually sharp and foreboding.
She received the signorino's gay effusions in ominous silence, and would
frown darkly while Madame Petrucci petted her "little bird," as she
called Goneril. Once, indeed, Miss Prunty was heard to remark that it
was tempting Providence to have dealings with a creature whose very
name was a synonym for ingratitude. But the elder lady only smiled and
declared that her Gonerilla was charming, delicious, a real sunshine in
the house.

"Now I call on you to support me, signorino," she cried one evening,
when the three elders sat together in the room, while Goneril watered
the roses on the terrace. "Is not my Gonerilla a charming little
_bebe_?"

Signor Graziano withdrew his eyes from the window.

"Most charming, certainly, but scarcely such a child. She is seventeen,
you know, my dear signora."

"Seventeen! _Santo Dio!_ And what is one at seventeen but an innocent,
playful, charming little kitten?"

"You are always right, madame," agreed the signorino, but he looked as
if he thought she were very wrong.

"Of course I am right," laughed the little lady. "Come here, my
Gonerilla, and hold my skein for me. Signor Graziano is going to charm
us with one of his delightful airs."

"I hoped she would sing," faltered the signorino.

"Who? Gonerilla? Nonsense, my friend. She winds silk much better than
she sings."

Goneril laughed; she was not at all offended. But Signor Graziano made
several mistakes in his playing. At last he left the piano. "I cannot
play to-night," he cried. "I am not in the humour. Goneril, will you
come and walk with me on the terrace?"

Before the girl could reply Miss Prunty had darted an angry glance at
Signor Graziano.

"Good Lord, what fools men are!" she ejaculated. "And do you think, now,
I'm going to let that girl, who's just getting rid of her malaria, go
star-gazing with any old idiot while all the mists are curling out of
the valleys?"

"Brigida, my love, you forget yourself," said Madame Petrucci.

"Bah!" cried the signorino. He was evidently out of temper.

The little lady hastened to smooth the troubled waters. "Talking of
malaria," she began, in her serenest manner, "I always remember what my
dearest Madame Lilli told me. It was at one of Prince Teano's concerts.
You remember, signorino?"

"_Che!_ How should I remember?" he exclaimed. "It was a lifetime ago,
dead and forgotten."

The old lady shrank, as if a glass of water had been rudely thrown in
her face. She said nothing, staring blindly.

"Go to bed, Goneril!" cried Miss Prunty, in a voice of thunder.


CHAPTER IV

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

A few mornings after these events the postman brought a letter for
Goneril. This was such a rare occurrence that she blushed rose red at
the very sight of it and had to walk up and down the terrace several
times before she felt calm enough to read it. Then she went upstairs and
knocked at the door of Madame Petrucci's room.

"Come in, little bird."

The old lady, in pink merino and curl-papers, opened the door. Goneril
held up her letter.

"My cousin Jack is coming to Florence, and he is going to walk over to
see me this afternoon. And may he stay to dinner, _cara_ signora?"

"Why, of course, Gonerilla. I am charmed!"

Goneril kissed the old lady, and danced downstairs brimming over with
delight.

Later in the morning Signor Graziano called.

"Will you come out with me, Mees Goneril?" he said. "On my land the
earliest vintage begins to-day."

"Oh, how nice!" she cried.

"Come, then," said the signorino, smiling.

"Oh, I can't come to-day, because of Jack."

"Jack?"

"My cousin; he may come at any time."

"Your cousin!" The signorino frowned a little. "Ah, you English," he
said, "you consider all your cousins brothers and sisters!"

Goneril laughed.

"Is it not so?" he asked, a little anxiously.

"Jack is much nicer than my brothers," said the young girl.

"And who is he, this Jack?"

"He's a dear boy," said Goneril, "and very clever; he is going home for
the Indian civil-service exam; he has been out to Calcutta to see my
father."

The signorino did not pay any attention to the latter part of this
description, but he appeared to find the beginning very satisfactory.

"So he is only a boy," he muttered to himself, and went away
comparatively satisfied.

Goneril spent most of the day watching the road from Florence. She might
not walk on the highway, but a steep short cut that joined the main road
at the bottom of the hill was quite at her disposal. She walked up and
down for more than an hour. At last she saw some one on the Florence
road. She walked on quickly. It was the telegraph-boy.

She tore open the envelope and read: "Venice.--Exam. on Wednesday. Start
at once. _Arivederci_."

It was with very red eyes that Goneril went in to dinner.

"So the cousin hasn't come?" said Miss Prunty, kindly.

"No; he had to go home at once for his examination."

"I dare say he'll come over again soon, my dear," said that
discriminating lady. She had quite taken Goneril back into her good
graces.

They all sat together in the little parlor after dinner. At eight
o'clock the door-bell rang. It was now seven weeks since Goneril had
blushed with excitement when first she heard that ring, and now she did
not blush.

The signorino entered. He walked very straight and his lips were set. He
came in with the air of one prepared to encounter opposition.

"Mees Goneril," he said, "will you come out on the terrace?--before it
is too late," he added, with a savage glance at Miss Prunty.

"Yes," said Goneril; and they went out together.

"So the cousin did not come?" said the signorino.

"No."

They went on a little way in silence together. The night was moon-lit
and clear; not a wind stirred the leaves; the sky was like a sapphire,
containing but not shedding light. The late oleanders smelled very
sweet; the moon was so full that one could distinguish the peculiar
grayish-pink of the blossoms.

"It is a lovely night!" said Goneril.

"And a lovely place."

"Yes."

Then a bird sang.

"You have been here just eight weeks," said the signorino.

"I have been very happy."

He did not speak for a minute or two, and then he said:

"Would you like to live here always?"

"Ah, yes! but that is impossible."

He took her hand and turned her gently, so that her face was in the
light.

"Dear Mees Goneril, why is it impossible?"

For a moment the young girl did not answer. She blushed very red, and
looked brave.

"Because of Jack!" she said.

"Ah!"

"Nothing is settled," added the young girl, "but it is no use pretending
not to know."

"It is no use," he repeated, very sadly.

And then for a little while they listened to the bird.

"Mees Goneril," said the signorino at last, "do you know why I brought
you out here?"

"Not at all," she answered.

It was a minute before he spoke again.

"I am going to Rome to-morrow," he said, "and I wanted to bid you
good-bye. You will sing to me to-night, as it will be the last time?"

"Oh, I hope not the last time!"

"Yes, yes," he said, a little testily; "unless--and I pray it may not be
so--unless you ever need the help of an old friend."

"Dear Signor Graziano!"

"And now you will sing me my 'Nobil Amore'?"

"I will do anything you like."

The signorino sighed and looked at her for a minute. Then he led her
into the little parlour, where Madame Petrucci was singing shrilly in
the twilight.



THE BRIGAND'S BRIDE: A TALE OF SOUTHERN ITALY, By Laurence Oliphant


The Italian peninsula during the years 1859, 1860, and 1861 offered a
particularly tempting field for adventure to ardent spirits in search
of excitement; and, attracted partly by my sympathy with the popular
movement, and partly by that simple desire, which gives so much zest to
the life of youth, of risking it on all possible occasions, I had taken
an active part, chiefly as an officious spectator, in all the principal
events of those stirring years. It was in the spring of 1862 that I
found matters beginning to settle down to a degree that threatened
monotony; and with the termination of the winter gaieties at Naples and
the close of the San Carlo, I seriously bethought me of accepting the
offer of a naval friend who was about to engage in blockade-running, and
offered to land me in the Confederate States, when a recrudescence of
activity on the part of the brigand bands in Calabria induced me to turn
my attention in that direction. The first question I had to consider
was, whether I should enjoy myself most by joining the brigands, or the
troops which were engaged in suppressing them. As the former aspired to
a political character, and called themselves patriotic bands fighting
for their church, their country, and their king,--the refugee monarch of
Naples,--one could espouse their cause without exactly laying one's self
open to the charge of being a bandit; but it was notorious in point of
fact that the bands cared for neither the pope nor the exiled king nor
their annexed country, but committed the most abominable atrocities
in the names of all the three, for the simple purpose of filling their
pockets. I foresaw not only extreme difficulty in being accepted as
a member of the fraternity, more especially as I had hitherto been
identified with the Garibaldians, but also the probability of finding
myself compromised by acts from which my conscience would revolt, and
for which my life would in all likelihood pay the forfeit. On the other
hand, I could think of no friend among the officers of the bersaglieri
and cavalry regiments then engaged in brigand-hunting in the Capitanata
and Basilicata to whom I could apply for an invitation to join them.

Under these circumstances I determined to trust to the chapter of
accidents; and, armed with a knapsack, a sketch-book, and an air-gun,
took my seat one morning in the Foggia diligence, with the vague idea
of getting as near the scene of operations as possible, and seeing
what would turn up. The air-gun was not so much a weapon of offence
or defence as a means of introduction to the inhabitants. It had the
innocent appearance of rather a thick walking-cane, with a little brass
trigger projecting; and in the afternoon I would join the group sitting
in front of the chemist's, which, for some reason or other, is generally
a sort of open-air club in a small Neapolitan town, or stroll into
the single modest cafe of which it might possibly boast, and toy
abstractedly with the trigger. This, together with my personal
appearance,--for do what I would I could never make myself look like a
Neapolitan,--would be certain to attract attention, and some one bolder
than the rest would make himself the spokesman, and politely ask me
whether the cane in my hand was an umbrella or a fishing-rod; on which
I would amiably reply that it was a gun, and that I should have much
pleasure in exhibiting my skill and the method of its operation to
the assembled company. Then the whole party would follow me to an open
space, and I would call for a pack of cards, and possibly--for I was a
good shot in those days--pink the ace of hearts at fifteen paces. At any
rate, my performances usually called forth plaudits, and this involved a
further interchange of compliments and explanations, and the production
of my sketch-book, which soon procured me the acquaintance of some
ladies, and an invitation as an English artist to the house of some
respectable citizen.

So it happened that, getting out of the diligence before it reached
Foggia, I struck south, and wandered for some days from one little town
to another, being always hospitably entertained, whether there happened
to be an _albergo_ or not, at private houses, seeing in this way more
of the manners and customs of the inhabitants than would have been
otherwise possible, gaining much information as to the haunts of the
brigands, the whereabouts of the troops, and hearing much local gossip
generally. The ignorance of the most respectable classes at this period
was astounding; it has doubtless all changed since. I have been at a
town of two thousand inhabitants, not one of whom took in a newspaper;
the whole population, therefore, was in as profound ignorance of what
was transpiring in the rest of the world as if they had been in Novaia
Zemlia. I have stayed with a mayor who did not know that England was
an island; I have been the guest of a citizen who had never heard of
Scotland, and to whom, therefore, my nationality was an enigma; but
I never met any one--I mean of this same class--who had not heard of
Palmerston. He was a mysterious personage, execrated by the "blacks" and
adored by the "reds." And I shone with a reflected lustre as the citizen
of a country of which he was the Prime Minister. As a consequence, we
had political discussions, which were protracted far into the night;
for the principal meal of the twenty-four hours was a 10-o'clock-P.M.
supper, at which, after the inevitable macaroni, were many unwholesome
dishes, such as salads made of thistles, cows' udders, and other
delicacies, which deprived one of all desire for sleep. Notwithstanding
which, we rose early, my hostess and the ladies of the establishment
appearing in the early part of the day in the most extreme deshabille.
Indeed, on one occasion when I was first introduced into the family of a
respectable citizen and shown into my bedroom, I mistook one of the two
females who were making the bed for the servant, and was surprised to
see her hand a little douceur I gave her as an earnest of attention on
her part to the other, with a smile. She soon afterward went to bed: we
all did, from 11 A.M. till about 3 P.M., at which hour I was horrified
to meet her arrayed in silks and satins, and to find that she was the
wife of my host. She kindly took me a drive with her in a carriage and
pair, and with a coachman in livery.

It was by this simple means, and by thus imposing myself upon the
hospitality of these unsophisticated people, that I worked my way, by
slow degrees, chiefly on foot, into the part of the country I desired to
visit; and I trust that I in a measure repaid them for it by the stores
of information which I imparted to them, and of which they stood much in
need, and by little sketches of their homes and the surrounding scenery,
with which I presented them. I was, indeed, dependent in some measure
for hospitality of this description, as I had taken no money with me,
partly because, to tell the truth, I had scarcely got any, and partly
because I was afraid of being robbed by brigands of the little I had.
I therefore eschewed the character of a _milordo Inglese_; but I never
succeeded in dispelling all suspicion that I might not be a nephew of
the Queen, or at least a very near relative of Palmerston in disguise.
It was so natural, seeing what a deep interest both her Majesty and the
Prime Minister took in Italy, that they should send some one incognito
whom they could trust to tell them all about it.

Meantime, I was not surprised, when I came to know the disposition of
the inhabitants, at the success of brigandage. It has never been my
fortune before or since to live among such a timid population. One day
at a large town a leading landed proprietor received notice that if he
did not pay a certain sum in blackmail,--I forget at this distance of
time the exact amount,--his farm or _masseria_ would be robbed. This
farm, which was in fact a handsome country house, was distant about ten
miles from the town. He therefore made an appeal to the citizens that
they should arm themselves and help him to defend his property, as he
had determined not to pay, and had taken steps to be informed as to the
exact date when the attack was to be made in default of payment. More
than three hundred citizens enrolled themselves as willing to turn out
in arms. On the day preceding the attack by the brigands, a rendezvous
was given to these three hundred on the great square for five in the
morning, and thither I accordingly repaired, unable, however, to induce
my host to accompany me, although he had signed as a volunteer. On
reaching the rendezvous, I found the landed proprietor and a friend
who was living with him, and about ten minutes afterward two other
volunteers strolled up. Five was all we could muster out of three
hundred. It was manifestly useless to attempt anything with so small a
force, and no arguments could induce any of the others to turn out; so
the unhappy gentleman had the satisfaction of knowing that the brigands
had punctually pillaged his place, carrying off all his live stock
on the very day and at the very hour they said they would. As for the
inhabitants venturing any distance from town, except under military
escort, such a thing was unknown, and all communication with Naples
was for some time virtually intercepted. I was regarded as a sort of
monomaniac of recklessness because I ventured on a solitary walk of a
mile or two in search of a sketch--an act of no great audacity on my
part, for I had walked through various parts of the country without
seeing a brigand, and found it difficult to realise that there was any
actual danger in strolling a mile from a moderately large town.

Emboldened by impunity, I was tempted one day to follow up a most
romantic glen in search of a sketch, when I came upon a remarkably
handsome peasant girl, driving a donkey before her loaded with wood.
My sudden appearance on the narrow path made the animal shy against
a projecting piece of rock, off which he rebounded to the edge of the
path, which, giving way, precipitated him and his load down the ravine.
He was brought up unhurt against a bush some twenty feet below, the
fagots of wood being scattered in his descent in all directions. For a
moment the girl's large, fierce eyes flashed upon me with anger; but the
impetuosity with which I went headlong after the donkey, with a view
of repairing my error, and the absurd attempts I made to reverse the
position of his feet, which were in the air, converted her indignation
into a hearty fit of laughter, as, seeing that the animal was apparently
uninjured, she scrambled down to my assistance. By our united efforts
we at last succeeded in hoisting the donkey up to the path, and then I
collected the wood and helped her to load it again--an operation which
involved a frequent meeting of hands and of the eyes, which had now lost
the ferocity that had startled me at first, and seemed getting more soft
and beaming every time I glanced at them, till at last, producing my
sketch-book, I ventured to remark, "Ah, signorina, what a picture you
would make! Now that the ass is loaded, let me draw you before we part,
that I may carry away the recollection of the loveliest woman I have
seen."

"First draw the donkey," she replied, "that I may carry away a
recollection of the _galantuomo_ who first upset him over the bank, and
then helped me to load him."

Smiling at this ambiguous compliment, I gave her the sketch she desired,
and was about to claim my reward, when she abruptly remarked:

"There is not time now; it is getting late, and I must not linger, as
I have still an hour to go before reaching home. How is it that you are
not afraid to be wandering in this solitary glen by yourself? Do you not
know the risks?"

"I have heard of them, but I do not believe in them," I said; "besides,
I should be poor plunder for robbers."

"But you have friends, who would pay to ransom you, I suppose, if you
were captured?"

"My life is not worth a hundred scudi to any of them," I replied,
laughing; "but I am willing to forego the please of drawing you now,
_bellissima_, if you will tell me where you live, and let me come and
paint you there at my leisure."

"You're a brave one," she said, with a little laugh; "there is not
another man in all Ascoli who would dare to pay me a visit without an
escort of twenty soldiers. But I am too grateful for your amiability to
let you run such a risk. _Addio_, Signor Inglese. There are many reasons
why I can't let you draw my picture, but I am not ungrateful, see!"--and
she offered me her cheek, on which I instantly imprinted a chaste and
fraternal salute.

"Don't think that you've seen the last of me, _carrissima_," I called
out, as she turned away. "I shall live on the memory of that kiss till I
have an opportunity of repeating it."

And as I watched her retreating figure with an artist's eye, I was
struck with its grace and suppleness, combined, as I had observed
while she was helping me to lead the donkey, with an unusual degree of
muscular strength for a woman.

The spot at which this episode had taken place was so romantic that
I determined to make a sketch of it, and the shades of evening were
closing in so fast that they warned me to hurry if I would reach the
town before dark. I had just finished it and was stooping to pick up by
air-gun, when I heard a sudden rush, and before I had time to look up I
was thrown violently forward on my face, and found myself struggling in
the embrace of a powerful grasp, from which I had nearly succeeded in
freeing myself, when the arms which were clasping me were reinforced by
several more pairs, and I felt a rope being passed round my body.

"All right, signors!" I exclaimed. "I yield to superior numbers. You
need not pull so hard; let me get up, and I promise to go with you
quietly." And by this time I had turned sufficiently on my back to see
that four men were engaged in tying me up.

"Tie his elbows together and let him get up," said one; "he is not
armed. Here, Giuseppe, carry his stick and paint-box while I feel his
pockets. _Corpo di Baccho!_ twelve bajocchi," he exclaimed, producing
those copper coins with an air of profound disgust. "It is to be hoped
he is worth more to his friends. Now, young man, trudge, and remember
that the first sign you make of attempting to run away means four
bullets through you."

As I did not anticipate any real danger, and as a prolonged detention
was a matter of no consequence to a man without an occupation, I
stepped forward with a light heart, rather pleased than otherwise with
anticipations of the brigand's cave, and turning over in my mind whether
or not I should propose to join the band.

We had walked an hour and it had become dark, when we turned off the
road, up a narrow path that led between rocky sides to a glade, at the
extremity of which, under an overhanging ledge, was a small cottage,
with what seemed to be a patch of garden in front.

"Ho! Anita!" called out the man who appeared to be the leader of the
band; "open! We have brought a friend to supper, who will require a
night's lodgings."

An old woman with a light appeared, and over her shoulder, to my
delight, I saw the face I had asked to be allowed to paint so shortly
before. I was about to recognise her with an exclamation, when I saw a
hurried motion of her finger to her lip, which looked a natural gesture
to the casual observer, but which I construed into a sign of prudence.

"Where did you pick him up, Croppo?" she asked, carelessly. "He ought to
be worth something."

"Just twelve bajocchi," he answered, with a sneering laugh. "Come,
_amico mio_, you will have to give us the names of some of your
friends."

"I am tolerably intimate with his Holiness the Pope, and I have a bowing
acquaintance with the King of Naples, whom may God speedily restore
to his own," I replied, in a light and airy fashion, which seemed
exceedingly to exasperate the man called Croppo.

"Oh, yes, we know all about that; we never catch a man who does not
profess to be a Nero of the deepest dye in order to conciliate our
sympathies. It is just as well that you should understand, my friend,
that all are fish who come into our net. The money of the pope's friends
is quite as good as the money of Garibaldi's. You need not hope to put
us off with your Italian friends of any colour; what we want is English
gold--good, solid English gold, and plenty of it."

"Ah," said I, with a laugh, "if you did but know, my friend, how long
I have wanted it too! If you could only suggest an Englishman who would
pay you for my life, I would write to him immediately, and we would go
halves in the ransom. Hold!" I said, a bright idea suddenly striking me.
"Suppose I were to write to my government--how would that do?"

Croppo was evidently puzzled; my cheerful and unembarrassed manner
apparently perplexed him. He had a suspicion that I was even capable of
the audacity of making a fool of him, and yet that proposition about the
government rather staggered him; there might be something in it.

"Don't you think," he remarked, grimly, "it would add to the effect of
your communication if you were to enclose your own ears in your letter?
I can easily supply them; and if you are not a little more guarded in
your speech you may possibly have to add your tongue."

"It would not have the slightest effect," I replied, paying no heed
to his threat; "you don't know Palmerston as I do. If you wish to get
anything out of him you must be excessively civil. What does he care
about my ears?" And I laughed with such scornful contempt that Croppo
this time felt that he had made a fool of himself, and I observed
the lovely girl behind, while the corners of her mouth twitched with
suppressed laughter, make a sign of caution.

"_Per Dio!_" he exclaimed, jumping up with fury. "Understand, Signor
Inglese, that Croppo is not to be trifled with. I have a summary way of
treating disrespect," and he drew a long and exceedingly sharp-looking
two-edged knife.

"So you would kill the goose" ("and I certainly am a goose," I
reflected) "that may lay a golden egg." But my allusion was lost upon
him, and I saw my charmer touch her forehead significantly, as though to
imply to Croppo that I was weak in the upper story.

"An imbecile without friends and twelve bajocchi in his pocket," he
muttered, savagely. "Perhaps the night without food will restore his
senses. Come, fool!" and he roughly pushed me into a dark little chamber
adjoining. "Here, Valeria, hold the light."

So Valeria was the name of the heroine of the donkey episode. As she
held a small oil-lamp aloft I perceived that the room in which I was to
spend the night had more the appearance of a cellar than a chamber; it
had been excavated on two sides from the bank; on the third there was
a small hole about six inches square, apparently communicating with
another room, and on the fourth was the door by which I had entered,
and which opened into the kitchen and general living-room of the
inhabitants. There was a heap of onions running to seed, the fagots of
fire-wood which Valeria had brought that afternoon, and an old cask or
two.

"Won't you give him some kind of a bed?" she asked Croppo.

"Bah! he can sleep on the onions," responded that worthy. "If he had
been more civil and intelligent he should have had something to eat. You
three," he went on, turning to the other men, "sleep in the kitchen,
and watch that the prisoner does not escape. The door has a strong bolt
besides. Come, Valeria."

And the pair disappeared, leaving me in a dense gloom, strongly pervaded
by an ordour of fungus and decaying onions. Groping into one of the
casks, I found some straw, and spreading it on a piece of plank, I
prepared to pass the night sitting with my back to the driest piece
of wall I could find, which happened to be immediately under the
air-hole--a fortunate circumstance, as the closeness was often stifling.
I had probably been dozing for some time in a sitting position, when I
felt something tickle the top of my head. The idea that it might be a
large spider caused me to start, when, stretching up my hand, it came in
contact with what seemed to be a rag, which I had not observed. Getting
carefully up, I perceived a faint light gleaming through the aperture,
and then saw that a hand was protruded through it, apparently waving the
rag. As I felt instinctively that the hand was Valeria's, I seized the
finger-tips, which was all I could get hold of, and pressed them to
my lips. They were quickly drawn away, and then the whisper reached my
ears:

"Are you hungry?"

"Yes."

"Then eat this," and she passed me a tin pannikin full of cold macaroni,
which would just go through the opening.

"Dear Valeria," I said, with my mouth full, "how good and thoughtful you
are!"

"Hush! he'll hear."

"Who?"

"Croppo."

"Where is he?"

"Asleep in the bed just behind me."

"How do you come to be in his bedroom?"

"Because I'm his wife."

"Oh!" A long pause, during which I collapsed upon my straw seat, and
swallowed macaroni thoughtfully. As the result of my meditations,
"Valeria, _carissima_!"

"Hush! Yes."

"Can't you get me out of this infernal den?"

"Perhaps, if they all three sleep in the kitchen; at present one is
awake. Watch for my signal, and if they all three sleep I will manage to
slip the bolt. Then you must give me time to get back into bed, and when
you hear me snore you may make the attempt. They are all three sleeping
on the floor, so be very careful where you tread; I will also leave the
front door a little open, so that you can slip through without noise."

"Dearest Valeria!"

"Hush! Yes."

"Hand me that cane--it is my fishing-rod, you know--through this hole;
you can leave the sketch-book and paint-box under the tree that the
donkey fell against; I will call for them some day soon. And, Valeria,
don't you think we could make our lips meet through this beastly hole?"

"Impossible. There's my hand; heavens! Croppo would murder me if he
knew. Now keep quiet till I give the signal. Oh, do let go my hand!"

"Remember, Valeria, _bellissima, carissima_, whatever happens, that I
love you."

But I don't think she heard this, and I went and sat on the onions,
because I could see the hole better and the smell of them kept me awake.

It was at least two hours after this that the faint light appeared at
the hole in the wall and a hand was pushed through. I rushed at the
finger-tips.

"Here's your fishing-rod," she said, when I had released them and she
had passed me my air-gun. "Now be very careful how you tread. There is
one asleep across the door, but you can open it about two feet. Then
step over him; then make for a gleam of moonlight that comes through the
crack of the front door, open it very gently, and slip out. _Addio, caro
Inglese_; mind you wait till you hear me snoring."

Then she lingered, and I heard a sigh.

"What is it, sweet Valeria?" and I covered her hand with kisses.

"I wish Croppo had blue eyes like you."

This was murmured so softly that I may have been mistaken, but I'm
nearly sure that was what she said; then she drew softly away, and two
minutes afterward I heard her snoring. As the first sound issued from
her lovely nostrils I stealthily approached the door, gently pushed
it open, stealthily stepped over a space which I trusted cleared the
recumbent figure that I could not see, cleared him, stole gently on for
the streak of moonlight, trod squarely on something that seemed like an
outstretched hand, for it gave under my pressure and produced a yell,
felt that I must now rush for my life, dashed the door open, and down
the path with four yelling ruffians at my heels. I was a pretty good
runner, but the moon was behind a cloud and the way was rocky; moreover,
there must have been a short cut I did not know, for one of my pursuers
gained upon me with unaccountable rapidity--he appeared suddenly within
ten yards of my heels. The others were at least a hundred yards behind.
I had nothing for it but to turn round, let him almost run against the
muzzle of my air-gun, pull the trigger, and see him fall in his tracks.
It was the work of a second, but it checked my pursuers. They had heard
no noise, but they found something that they did not bargain for, and
lingered a moment; then, they took up the chase with redoubled fury. But
I had too good a start; and where the path joined the main road, instead
of turning down toward the town as they expected I would, I dodged round
in the opposite direction, the uncertain light this time favouring me,
and I heard their footsteps and their curses dying away on the wrong
track. Nevertheless I ran on at full speed, and it was not till the day
was dawning that I began to feel safe and relax my efforts. The sun had
been up an hour when I reached a small town, and the little _locanda_
was just opening for the day when I entered it, thankful for a hot cup
of coffee and a dirty little room, with a dirtier bed, where I could
sleep off the fatigue and excitement of the night. I was strolling
down almost the only street in the afternoon when I met a couple of
carabineers riding into it, and shortly after encountered the whole
troop, to my great delight in command of an intimate friend whom I had
left a month before in Naples.

"Ah, _caro mio_," he exclaimed, when he saw me, "well met! What on earth
are you doing here? Looking for those brigands you were so anxious to
find when you left Naples? Considering that you are in the heart of
their country, you should not have much difficulty in gratifying your
curiosity."

"I have had an adventure or two," I replied, carelessly. "Indeed, that
is partly the reason you find me here. I was just thinking how I could
get safely back to Ascoli, when your welcome escort appeared; for I
suppose you are going there and will let me take advantage of it."

"Only too delighted; and you can tell me your adventures. Let us dine
together to-night, and I will find you a horse to ride on with us in the
morning."

I am afraid my account of the episode with which I have acquainted the
reader was not strictly accurate in all its details, as I did not wish
to bring down my military friends on poor Valeria; so I skipped all
allusion to her and my detention in her home, merely saying that I had
had a scuffle with brigands and had been fortunate enough to escape
under cover of the night. As we passed it next morning I recognised the
path which led up to Valeria's cottage, and shortly after observed that
young woman herself coming up the glen.

"Holloa!" I said, with great presence of mind, as she drew near, "my
lovely model, I declare! Just you ride on, old fellow, while I stop and
ask her when she can come and sit to me again."

"You artists are sad rogues; what chances your profession must give
you!" remarked my companion, as he cast an admiring glance on Valeria
and rode discreetly on.

"There is nothing to be afraid of, lovely Valeria," I said, in a low
tone, as I lingered behind; "be sure I will never betray either your or
your rascally--hem! I mean your excellent Croppo. By the by, was that
man much hurt that I was obliged to trip up?"

"Hurt! Santa Maria! he is dead, with a bullet through his heart. Croppo
says it must have been magic, for he had searched you and he knew you
were not armed, and he was within a hundred yards of you when poor Pippo
fell, and he heard no sound."

"Croppo is not far wrong," I said, glad of the opportunity thus offered
of imposing on the ignorance and credulity of the natives. "He seemed
surprised that he could not frighten me the other night. Tell him he was
much more in my power than I was in his, dear Valeria," I added, looking
tenderly into his eyes. "I didn't want to alarm you; that was the reason
I let him off so easily; but I may not be so merciful next time. Now,
sweetest, that kiss you owe me, and which the wall prevented your giving
me the other night." She held up her face with the innocence of a child
as I stooped from my saddle.

"I shall never see you again, Signor Inglese," she said, with a sigh;
"for Croppo says it is not safe, after what happened the night before
last, to stay another hour. Indeed, he went off yesterday, leaving me
orders to follow to-day; but I went first to put your sketch-book under
the bush where the donkey fell, and where you will find it."

It took us another minute or two to part after this; and when I had
ridden away I turned to look back, and there was Valeria gazing after
me. "Positively," I reflected, "I am over head and ears in love with the
girl, and I believe she is with me. I ought to have nipped my feelings
in the bud when she told me she was his wife; but then he is a brigand,
who threatened both my ears and my tongue, to say nothing of my life.
To what extent is the domestic happiness of such a ruffian to be
respected?" And I went on splitting the moral straws suggested by this
train of thought until I had recovered my sketch-book and overtaken my
escort, with whom I rode triumphantly back into Ascoli, where my absence
had been the cause of much anxiety and my fate was even then being
eagerly discussed. My friends with whom I usually sat round the
chemist's door were much exercised by the reserve which I manifested in
reply to the fire of cross-examination to which I was subjected for the
next few days; and English eccentricity, which was proverbial even in
this secluded town, received a fresh illustration in the light and airy
manner with which I treated a capture and escape from brigands, which
I regarded with such indifference that I could not be induced even to
condescend to details. "It was a mere scuffle; there were only four;
and, being an Englishman, I polished them all off with the 'box,'"
and I closed my fist and struck a scientific attitude of self-defence,
branching off into a learned disquisition on the pugilistic art, which
filled my hearers with respect and amazement. From this time forward the
sentiment with which I regarded my air-gun underwent a change. When a
friend had made me a present of it a year before I regarded it in the
light of a toy and rather resented the gift as too juvenile. "I wonder
he did not give me a kite or a hoop," I mentally reflected. Then I
had found it useful among Italians, who are a trifling people and like
playthings; but now that it had saved my life and sent a bullet through
a man's heart, I no longer entertained the same feeling of contempt
for it. Not again would I make light of it--this potent engine of
destruction which had procured me the character of being a magician. I
would hide it from human gaze and cherish it as a sort of fetich. So I
bought a walking-stick and an umbrella, and strapped it up with them,
wrapped in my plaid; and when, shortly after, an unexpected remittance
from an aunt supplied me with money enough to buy a horse from one of
the officers of my friend's regiment, which soon after arrived, and I
accepted their invitation to accompany them on their brigand-hunting
expeditions, not one of them knew that I had such a weapon as an air-gun
in my possession.

Our _modus operandi_ on these occasions was as follows: On receiving
information from some proprietor that the brigands were threatening his
property,--it was impossible to get intelligence from the peasantry,
for they were all in league with the brigands; indeed, they all took a
holiday from regular work and joined a band for a few weeks from time to
time,--we proceeded, with a force sufficiently strong to cope with the
supposed strength of the band, to the farm in question. The bands were
all mounted, and averaged from 200 to 400 men each. It was calculated
that upward of 2000 men were thus engaged in harrying the country, and
this enabled the Neri to talk of the king's forces engaged in legitimate
warfare against those of Victor Emmanuel. Riding over the vast plains
of Capitanata, we would discern against the sky outline the figure of a
solitary horseman. This we knew to be a picket. Then there was no time
to be lost, and away we would go for him helter-skelter across the
plain; he would instantly gallop in on the main body, probably occupying
a _masseria_. If they thought they were strong enough they would show
fight. If not they would take to their heels in the direction of the
mountains, with us in full cry after them. If they were hardly pressed
they would scatter, and we were obliged to do the same, and the
result would be that the swiftest horsemen might possibly effect a few
captures. It was an exciting species of warfare, partaking a good deal
more of the character of a hunting-field than of cavalry skirmishing.
Sometimes, where the ground was hilly, we had bersaglieri with us, and
as the brigands took to the mountains the warfare assumed a different
character. Sometimes, in default of these active little troops, we took
local volunteers, whom we found a very poor substitute. On more than
one occasion when we came upon the brigands in a farm they thought
themselves sufficiently strong to hold it against us, and once the
cowardice of the volunteers was amusingly illustrated. The band was
estimated at about 200, and we had 100 volunteers and a detachment of 50
cavalry. On coming under the fire of the brigands the cavalry captain,
who was in command, ordered the volunteers to charge, intending when
they had dislodged the enemy to ride him down on the open; but the
volunteer officer did not repeat the word and stood stock-still, his men
all imitating his example.

"Charge! I say," shouted the cavalry captain, "why don't you charge? I
believe you're afraid!"

"_E vero_," said the captain of volunteers, shrugging his shoulders.

"Here, take my horse--you're only fit to be a groom; and you, men,
dismount and let these cowards hold your horses, while you follow me."
And, jumping from his horse, the gallant fellow, followed by his men,
charged the building, from which a hot fire was playing upon them, sword
in hand. In less than a quarter of an hour the brigands were scampering,
some on foot and some on horseback, out of the farm buildings, followed
by a few stray and harmless shots from such of the volunteers as had
their hands free. We lost three men killed and five wounded in this
little skirmish, and killed six of the brigands, besides making a dozen
prisoners. When I say "we" I mean my companions, for, having no weapon,
I had discreetly remained with the volunteers. The scene of this gallant
exploit was on the classic battle-field of Cannae. This captain, who was
not the friend I had joined the day after my brigand adventure, was a
most plucky and dashing cavalry officer, and was well seconded by his
men, who were all Piedmontese and of a very different temperament from
the Neapolitans. On one occasion a band of 250 brigands waited for us on
the top of a small hill, never dreaming that we should charge up it with
the odds five to one against us; but we did, and after firing a volley
at us, which emptied a couple of saddles, they broke and fled when we
were about twenty yards from them. Then began one of the most exciting
scurries across country it was ever my fortune to be engaged in. The
brigands scattered--so did we; and I found myself with two troopers in
chase of a pair of bandits, one of whom seemed to be the chief of the
band. A small stream wound through the plain, which we dashed across.
Just beyond was a tributary ditch, which would have been considered a
fair jump in the hunting-field: both brigands took it in splendid style.
The hindmost was not ten yards ahead of the leading trooper, who came
a cropper; on which the brigand reined up, fired a pistol-shot into the
prostrate horse and man, and was off; but the delay cost him dear. The
other trooper, who was a little ahead of me, got safely over. I followed
suit. In another moment he had fired his carabine into the brigand's
horse, and down they both came by the run. We instantly reined up, for
I saw there was no chance of overtaking the remaining brigand, and the
trooper was in the act of cutting down the man as he struggled to his
feet, when to my horror I recognised the lovely features of--Valeria.

"Stay, man!" I shouted, throwing myself from my horse. "It's a woman!
touch her if you dare!" And then, seeing the man's eye gleam with
indignation, I added, "Brave soldiers, such as you have proved yourself
to be, do not kill women; though your traducers say you do, do not
give them cause to speak truth. I will be responsible for this woman's
safety. Here, to make it sure you had better strap us together." I
piqued myself exceedingly on this happy inspiration, whereby I secured
an arm-in-arm walk, of a peculiar kind, it is true, with Valeria; and
indeed my readiness to sacrifice myself seemed rather to astonish the
soldier, who hesitated. However, his comrade, whose horse had been shot
in the ditch, now came up, and seconded my proposal as I offered him a
mount on mine.

"How on earth am I to let you escape, dear Valeria?" I whispered, giving
her a sort of affectionate nudge; the position of our arms prevented my
squeezing hers as I could have wished, and the two troopers kept behind
us, watching us, I thought, suspiciously.

"It is quite impossible now--don't attempt it," she answered; "perhaps
there may be an opportunity later."

"Was that Croppo who got away?" I asked.

"Yes. He could not get his cowardly men to stand on that hill."

"What a bother those men are behind, dearest! Let me pretend to scratch
my nose with this hand that is tied to yours, which I can thus bring to
my lips."

I accomplished this manoeuvre rather neatly, but parties now came
straggling in from other directions, and I was obliged to give up
whispering and become circumspect. They all seemed rather astonished
at our group, and the captain laughed heartily as he rode up and called
out, "Who have you got tied to you there, _caro mio_?"

"Croppo's wife. I had her tied to me for fear she should escape;
besides, she is not bad-looking."

"What a prize!" he exclaimed. "We have made a tolerable haul this
time--twenty prisoners in all, among them the priest of the band. Our
colonel has just arrived, so I am in luck; he will be delighted. See the
prisoners are being brought up to him now; but you had better remount
and present yours in a less singular fashion."

When we reached the colonel we found him examining the priest. His
breviary contained various interesting notes written on some of the
fly-leaves.

For instance:

"Administered extreme unction to A----, shot by Croppo's order; my share
ten scudi.

"Ditto, ditto, to R----, hung by Croppo's order, my share two scudi.

"Ditto, ditto, to S----, roasted by Croppo's order to make him name
an agent to bring his ransom; overdone by mistake, and died, so got
nothing.

"Ditto, ditto, to P----, executed by the knife by Croppo's order for
disobedience.

"M---- and F---- and D----, three new members, joined to-day; confessed
them, and received the usual fees."

He was a dark, beetle-browed-looking ruffian, this holy man; and the
colonel, when he had finished examining his book of prayer and crime,
tossed it to me, saying, "There! that will show your friends in England
the kind of politicians we make war against. Ha! what have we here?
This is more serious." And he unfolded a piece of paper which had been
concealed in the breast of the priest. "This contains a little valuable
information," he added, with a grim smile. "Nobody like priests and
women for carrying about political secrets, so you may have made a
valuable capture," and he turned to where I stood with Valeria; "let her
be carefully searched."

Now the colonel was a very pompous man, and the document he had just
discovered on the priest added to his sense of self-importance. When,
therefore, a large, carefully folded paper was produced from the
neighbourhood of Valeria's lovely bosom his eyes sparkled with
admiration. "Ho, ho!" he exclaimed, as he clutched it eagerly, "the plot
is thickening!" And he spread out triumphantly, before he had himself
seen what it was, the exquisitely drawn portrait of a donkey. There was
a suppressed titter, which exploded into a shout when the bystanders
looked into the colonel's indignant face. I only was affected
differently as my gaze fell upon this touching evidence of dear
Valeria's love for me, and I glanced at her tenderly. "This has a
deeper significance than you think for," said the colonel, looking round
angrily. "Croppo's wife does not carefully secrete a drawing like that
on her person for nothing. See, it is done by no common artist. It means
something, and must be preserved."

"It may have a biblical reference to the state of Italy. You remember
Issachar was likened to an ass between two burdens. In that case it
probably emanated from Rome," I remarked; but nobody seemed to see the
point of the allusion, and the observation fell flat.

That night I dined with the colonel, and after dinner I persuaded him to
let me visit Valeria in prison, as I wished to take the portrait of the
wife of the celebrated brigand chief. I thanked my stars that my friend
who had seen her when we met in the glen was away on duty with his
detachment and could not testify to our former acquaintance.

My meeting with Valeria on this occasion was too touching and full of
tender passages to be of any general interest. Valeria told me that she
was still a bride, that she had only been married a few months, and that
she had been compelled to become Croppo's wife against her choice, as
the brigand's will was too powerful to be resisted; but that, though
he was jealous and attached to her, he was stern and cruel, and, so far
from winning her love since her marriage, he had rather estranged it
by his fits of passion and ferocity. As may be imagined, the portrait,
which was really very successful, took some time in execution, the more
especially as we had to discuss the possibilities of Valeria's escape.

"We are going to be transferred to-morrow to the prison at Foggia," she
said. "If while we were passing through the market-place a disturbance
of some sort could be created, as it is market-day and all the country
people know me and are my friends, a rescue might be attempted. I know
how to arrange for that, only they must see some chance of success."

A bright thought suddenly struck me; it was suggested by a trick I had
played shortly after my arrival in Italy.

"You know I am something of a magician, Valeria; you have had proof of
that. If I create a disturbance by magic to-morrow when you are passing
through the market-place, you won't stay to wonder what is the cause of
the confusion, but instantly take advantage of it to escape."

"Trust me for that, _caro mio_."

"And if you escape when shall we meet again?"

"I am known too well now to risk another meeting. I shall be in hiding
with Croppo, where it will be impossible for you to find me, nor while
he lives could I ever dare to think of leaving him; but I shall never
forget you,"--and she pressed my hands to her lips,--"though I shall no
longer have the picture of the donkey to remember you by."

"See, here's my photograph; that will be better," said I, feeling a
little annoyed--foolishly, I admit. Then we strained each other to our
respective hearts and parted. Now it so happened that my room in the
_lacanda_ in which I was lodging overlooked the market-place. Here at
ten o'clock in the morning I posted myself; for that was the hour, as
I had been careful to ascertain, when the prisoners were to start for
Foggia. I opened the window about three inches and fixed it there; I
took out my gun, put eight balls in it, and looked down upon the square.
It was crowded with the country people in their bright-coloured costumes
chaffering over their produce. I looked above them to the tall campanile
of the church which filled one side of the square. I receded a step and
adjusted my gun on the ledge of the window to my satisfaction. I then
looked down the street in which the prison was situated, and which
debouched on the square, and awaited events. At ten minutes past ten I
saw the soldiers at the door of the prison form up, and then I knew that
the twenty prisoners of whom they formed the escort were starting; but
the moment they began to move I fired at the big bell in the campanile,
which responded with a loud clang. All the people in the square looked
up. As the prisoners entered the square, which they had begun to cross
in its whole breadth, I fired again and again. The bell banged twice,
and the people began to buzz about. "Now," I thought, "I must let the
old bell have it." By the time five more balls had struck the bell
with a resounding din the whole square was in commotion. A miracle was
evidently in progress or the campanile was bewitched. People began
to run hither and thither; all the soldiers forming the escort gaped
open-mouthed at the steeple as the clangour continued. As soon as the
last shot had been fired I looked down into the square and saw all this,
and I saw that the prisoners were attempting to escape, and in more
than one instance had succeeded, for the soldiers began to scatter in
pursuit, and the country people to form themselves into impeding crowds
as though by accident; but nowhere could I see Valeria. When I was
quite sure she had escaped I went down and joined the crowd. I saw three
prisoners captured and brought back, and when I asked the officer in
command how many had escaped he said three--Croppo's wife, the priest,
and another.

When I met my cavalry friends at dinner that evening it was amusing to
hear them speculate upon the remarkable occurrence which had, in fact,
upset the wits of the whole town. Priests and vergers and sacristans
had visited the campanile, and one of them had brought away a flattened
piece of lead, which looked as if it might have been a bullet; but the
suggestion that eight bullets could have hit the bell in succession
without anybody hearing a sound was treated with ridicule. I believe the
bell was subsequently exorcised with holy water. I was afraid to remain
with the regiment with my air-gun after this, lest some one should
discover it and unravel the mystery; besides, I felt a sort of traitor
to the brave friends who had so generously offered me their hospitality;
so I invented urgent private affairs which demanded my immediate return
to Naples, and on the morning of my departure found myself embraced by
all the officers of the regiment from the colonel downward, who in the
fervour of their kisses thrust sixteen waxed moustache-points against my
cheeks.

About eighteen months after this I heard of the capture and execution
of Croppo, and I knew that Valeria was free; but I had unexpectedly
inherited a property and was engaged to be married. I am now a country
gentleman with a large family. My sanctum is stocked with various
mementos of my youthful adventures, but none awakens in me such
thrilling memories as are excited by the breviary of the brigand priest
and the portrait of the brigand's bride.



MRS. GENERAL TALBOYS, by Anthony Trollope


Why Mrs. General Talboys first made up her mind to pass the winter of
1859 at Rome I never clearly understood. To myself she explained her
purposes soon after her arrival at the Eternal City, by declaring, in
her own enthusiastic manner, that she was inspired by a burning desire
to drink fresh at the still living fountains of classical poetry and
sentiment. But I always thought that there was something more than this
in it. Classical poetry and sentiment were doubtless very dear to her,
but so also, I imagine, were the substantial comforts of Hardover Lodge,
the general's house in Berkshire; and I do not think that she would
have emigrated for the winter had there not been some slight domestic
misunderstanding. Let this, however, be fully made clear--that such
misunderstanding, if it existed, must have been simply an affair of
temper. No impropriety of conduct has, I am very sure, ever been imputed
to the lady. The general, as all the world knows, is hot; and Mrs.
Talboys, when the sweet rivers of her enthusiasm are unfed by congenial
waters, can, I believe, make herself disagreeable.

But be this as it may, in November, 1859, Mrs. Talboys came among
us English at Rome, and soon succeeded in obtaining for herself a
comfortable footing in our society. We all thought her more remarkable
for her mental attributes than for physical perfection, but nevertheless
she was in her own way a sightly woman. She had no special brilliance,
either of eye or complexion, such as would produce sudden flames in
susceptible hearts, nor did she seem to demand instant homage by the
form and step of a goddess; but we found her to be a good-looking woman
of some thirty or thirty-three years of age, with soft, peach-like
cheeks,--rather too like those of a cherub,--with sparkling eyes which
were hardly large enough, with good teeth, a white forehead, a dimpled
chin, and a full bust. Such outwardly was Mrs. General Talboys. The
description of the inward woman is the purport to which these few pages
will be devoted.

There are two qualities to which the best of mankind are much subject,
which are nearly related to each other, and as to which the world has
not yet decided whether they are to be classed among the good or evil
attributes of our nature. Men and women are under the influence of them
both, but men oftenest undergo the former, and women the latter. They
are ambition and enthusiasm. Now Mrs. Talboys was an enthusiastic woman.

As to ambition, generally as the world agrees with Mark Antony in
stigmatising it as a grievous fault, I am myself clear that it is a
virtue; but with ambition at present we have no concern. Enthusiasm
also, as I think, leans to virtue's side, or, at least, if it be a
fault, of all faults it is the prettiest. But then, to partake at all of
virtue or even to be in any degree pretty, the enthusiasm must be true.

Bad coin is known from good by the ring of it, and so is bad enthusiasm.
Let the coiner be ever so clever at his art, in the coining of
enthusiasm the sound of true gold can never be imparted to the false
metal; and I doubt whether the cleverest she in the world can make false
enthusiasm palatable to the taste of man; to the taste of any woman the
enthusiasm of another woman is never very palatable.

We understood at Rome that Mrs. Talboys had a considerable family,--four
or five children, we were told,--but she brought with her only one
daughter, a little girl about twelve years of age. She had torn herself
asunder, as she told me, from the younger nurslings of her heart, and
had left them to the care of a devoted female attendant, whose love was
all but maternal. And then she said a word or two about the general in
terms which made me almost think that this quasi-maternal love extended
itself beyond the children. The idea, however, was a mistaken one,
arising from the strength of her language, to which I was then
unaccustomed. I have since become aware that nothing can be more
decorous than old Mrs. Upton, the excellent head nurse at Hardover
Lodge; and no gentleman more discreet in his conduct than General
Talboys.

And I may as well here declare also that there could be no more virtuous
woman than the general's wife. Her marriage vow was to her paramount to
all other vows and bonds whatever. The general's honour was quite safe
when he sent her off to Rome by herself, and he no doubt knew that it
was so. _Illi robur et oes triplex_, of which I believe no weapons of
any assailant could get the better. But nevertheless we used to fancy
that she had no repugnance to impropriety in other women--to what the
world generally calls impropriety. Invincibly attached herself to
the marriage tie, she would constantly speak of it as by no means
necessarily binding on others; and virtuous herself as any griffin
of propriety, she constantly patronised, at any rate, the theory of
infidelity in her neighbours. She was very eager in denouncing the
prejudices of the English world, declaring that she found existence
among them to be no longer possible for herself. She was hot against the
stern unforgiveness of British matrons, and equally eager in reprobating
the stiff conventionalities of a religion in which she said that none
of its votaries had faith, though they all allowed themselves to be
enslaved.

We had at that time a small set at Rome consisting chiefly of English
and Americans, who habitually met at one another's rooms, and spent many
of our evening hours in discussing Italian politics. We were, most
of us, painters, poets, novelists, or sculptors--perhaps I should say
would-be painters, poets, novelists, and sculptors, aspirants hoping
to become some day recognised; and among us Mrs. Talboys took her place
naturally enough on account of a very pretty taste she had for painting.
I do not know that she ever originated anything that was grand, but she
made some nice copies and was fond, at any rate, of art conversation.
She wrote essays too, which she showed in confidence to various
gentlemen, and had some idea of taking lessons in modelling.

In all our circle Conrad Mackinnon, an American, was perhaps the person
most qualified to be styled its leader. He was one who absolutely did
gain his living, and an ample living too, by his pen, and was regarded
on all sides as a literary lion, justified by success in roaring at any
tone he might please. His usual roar was not exactly that of a sucking
dove or a nightingale, but it was a good-humoured roar, not very
offensive to any man and apparently acceptable enough to some ladies. He
was a big, burly man, near to fifty, as I suppose, somewhat awkward in
his gait, and somewhat loud in his laugh. But though nigh to fifty, and
thus ungainly, he liked to be smiled on by pretty women, and liked,
as some said, to be flattered by them also. If so he should have
been happy, for the ladies at Rome at that time made much of Conrad
Mackinnon.

Of Mrs. Mackinnon no one did make very much, and yet she was one of the
sweetest, dearest, quietest little creatures that ever made glad a
man's fireside. She was exquisitely pretty, always in good humour,
never stupid, self-denying to a fault, and yet she was generally in
the background. She would seldom come forward of her own will, but was
contented to sit behind her teapot and hear Mackinnon do his roaring. He
was certainly much given to what the world at Rome called flirting, but
this did not in the least annoy her. She was twenty years his
junior, and yet she never flirted with any one. Women would tell
her--good-natured friends--how Mackinnon went on, but she received such
tidings as an excellent joke, observing that he had always done the
same, and no doubt always would until he was ninety. I do believe that
she was a happy woman, and yet I used to think that she should have been
happier. There is, however, no knowing the inside of another man's house
or reading the riddles of another man's joy and sorrow.

We had also there another lion,--a lion cub,--entitled to roar a little,
and of him also I must say something. Charles O'Brien was a young man
about twenty-five years of age, who had sent out from his studio in the
preceding year a certain bust supposed by his admirers to be unsurpassed
by any effort of ancient or modern genius. I am no judge of sculpture,
and will not therefore pronounce an opinion, but many who considered
themselves to be judges declared that it was a "goodish head and
shoulders" and nothing more. I merely mention the fact, as it was on the
strength of that head and shoulders that O'Brien separated himself from
a throng of others such as himself in Rome, walked solitary during the
days, and threw himself at the feet of various ladies when the days were
over. He had ridden on the shoulders of his bust into a prominent place
in our circle, and there encountered much feminine admiration--from Mrs.
General Talboys and others.

Some eighteen or twenty of us used to meet every Sunday evening in
Mrs. Mackinnon's drawing-room. Many of us, indeed, were in the habit
of seeing one another daily and of visiting together the haunts in
Rome which are best loved by art-loving strangers; but here in this
drawing-room we were sure to come together, and here before the end of
November Mrs. Talboys might always be found, not in any accustomed seat,
but moving about the room as the different male mental attractions of
our society might chance to move themselves. She was at first greatly
taken by Mackinnon, who also was, I think, a little stirred by her
admiration, though he stoutly denied the charge. She became, however,
very dear to us all before she left us, and certainly we owed to her our
love, for she added infinitely to the joys of our winter.

"I have come here to refresh myself," she said to Mackinnon one
evening--to Mackinnon and myself, for we were standing together.

"Shall I get you tea?" said I.

"And will you have something to eat?" Mackinnon asked.

"No, no, no," she answered. "Tea, yes; but for heaven's sake let nothing
solid dispel the associations of such a meeting as this!"

"I thought you might have dined early," said Mackinnon. Now Mackinnon
was a man whose own dinner was very dear to him. I have seen him become
hasty and unpleasant, even under the pillars of the Forum, when he
thought that the party were placing his fish in jeopardy by their desire
to linger there too long.

"Early! Yes--no; I know not when it was. One dines and sleeps in
obedience to that dull clay which weighs down so generally the particle
of our spirit; but the clay may sometimes be forgotten; here I can
always forget it."

"I thought you asked for refreshment," I said. She only looked at me,
whose small attempts at prose composition had up to that time been
altogether unsuccessful, and then addressed herself to reply to
Mackinnon.

"It is the air which we breathe that fills our lungs and gives us
life and light; it is that which refreshes us if pure or sinks us into
stagnation if it be foul. Let me for a while inhale the breath of an
invigorating literature. Sit down, Mr. Mackinnon; I have a question that
I must put to you." And then she succeeded in carrying him off into a
corner. As far as I could see he went willingly enough at that time,
though he soon became averse to any long retirement in company with Mrs.
Talboys.

We none of us quite understood what were her exact ideas on the subject
of revealed religion. Somebody, I think, had told her that there were
among us one or two whose opinions were not exactly orthodox according
to the doctrines of the established English church. If so she was
determined to show us that she also was advanced beyond the prejudices
of an old and dry school of theology. "I have thrown down all the
barriers of religion," she said to poor Mrs. Mackinnon, "and am looking
for the sentiments of a pure Christianity."

"Thrown down all the barriers of religion!" said Mrs. Mackinnon, in a
tone of horror which was not appreciated.

"Indeed, yes," said Mrs. Talboys, with an exulting voice. "Are not the
days for such trammels gone by?"

"But yet you hold by Christianity?"

"A pure Christianity, unstained by blood and perjury, by hypocrisy and
verbose genuflection. Can I not worship and say my prayers among
the clouds?" And she pointed to the lofty ceiling and the handsome
chandelier.

"But Ida goes to church," said Mrs. Mackinnon. Ida Talboys was her
daughter. Now it may be observed that many who throw down the barriers
of religion, so far as those barriers may affect themselves, still
maintain them on behalf of their children. "Yes," said Mrs. Talboys;
"dear Ida! her soft spirit is not yet adapted to receive the perfect
truth. We are obliged to govern children by the strength of their
prejudices." And then she moved away, for it was seldom that Mrs.
Talboys remained long in conversation with any lady.

Mackinnon, I believe, soon became tired of her. He liked her flattery,
and at first declared that she was clever and nice, but her niceness was
too purely celestial to satisfy his mundane tastes. Mackinnon himself
can revel among the clouds in his own writings, and can leave us
sometimes in doubt whether he ever means to come back to earth, but when
his foot is on terra firma he loves to feel the earthy substratum which
supports his weight. With women he likes a hand that can remain an
unnecessary moment within his own, an eye that can glisten with the
sparkle of champagne, a heart weak enough to make its owner's arm
tremble within his own beneath the moonlight gloom of the Colosseum
arches. A dash of sentiment the while makes all these things the
sweeter, but the sentiment alone will not suffice for him. Mrs. Talboys
did, I believe, drink her glass of champagne, as do other ladies, but
with her it had no such pleasing effect. It loosened only her tongue,
but never her eyes. Her arm, I think, never trembled and her hand never
lingered. The general was always safe, and happy perhaps in his solitary
safety.

It so happened that we had unfortunately among us two artists who had
quarrelled with their wives. O'Brien, whom I have before mentioned, was
one of them. In his case I believe him to have been almost as free from
blame as a man can be whose marriage was in itself a fault. However, he
had a wife in Ireland some ten years older than himself, and though he
might sometimes almost forget the fact, his friends and neighbours were
well aware of it. In the other case the whole fault probably was with
the husband. He was an ill-tempered, bad-hearted man, clever enough,
but without principle; and he was continually guilty of the great sin
of speaking evil of the woman whose name he should have been anxious to
protect. In both cases our friend, Mrs. Talboys, took a warm interest,
and in each of them she sympathised with the present husband against the
absent wife.

Of the consolation which she offered in the latter instance we used to
hear something from Mackinnon. He would repeat to his wife and to me
and my wife the conversations which she had with him. "Poor Brown!" she
would say; "I pity him with my very heart's blood."

"You are aware that he has comforted himself in his desolation,"
Mackinnon replied.

"I know very well to what you allude. I think I may say that I
am conversant with all the circumstances of this heart-blighting
sacrifice." Mrs. Talboys was apt to boast of the thorough confidence
reposed in her by all those in whom she took an interest. "Yes, he has
sought such comfort in another love as the hard cruel world would allow
him."

"Or perhaps something more than that," said Mackinnon. "He has a family
here in Rome, you know; two little babies."

"I know it, I know it," she said; "cherub angels!" And as she spoke she
looked up into the ugly face of Marcus Aurelius, for they were standing
at the moment under the figure of the great horseman on the Campidoglio.
"I have seen them, and they are children of innocence. If all the blood
of all the Howards ran in their veins it could not make their birth more
noble!"

"Not if the father and mother of all the Howards had never been
married," said Mackinnon.

"What! that from you, Mr. Mackinnon!" said Mrs. Talboys, turning her
back with energy upon the equestrian statue and looking up into the
faces first of Pollux and then of Castor, as though from them she might
gain some inspiration on the subject, which Marcus Aurelius in his
coldness had denied to her. "From you, who have so nobly claimed for
mankind the divine attributes of free action! From you, who have taught
my mind to soar above the petty bonds which one man in his littleness
contrives for the subjection of his brother. Mackinnon--you who are so
great!" And she now looked up into his face. "Mackinnon, unsay those
words."

"They _are_ illegitimate," said he, "and if there was any landed
property--"

"Landed property! and that from an American!"

"The children are English, you know."

"Landed property! The time will shortly come--ay, and I see it
coming--when that hateful word shall be expunged from the calendar,
when landed property shall be no more. What! shall the free soul of a
God-born man submit itself for ever to such trammels as that? Shall
we never escape from the clay which so long has manacled the subtler
particles of the divine spirit? Ay, yes, Mackinnon!" and then she took
him by the arm, and led him to the top of the huge steps which lead down
from the Campidoglio into the streets of modern Rome. "Look down upon
that countless multitude." Mackinnon looked down, and saw three groups
of French soldiers, with three or four little men in each group; he saw
also a couple of dirty friars, and three priests very slowly beginning
the side ascent to the church of the Ara Coeli. "Look down upon that
countless multitude," said Mrs. Talboys, and she stretched her arms
out over the half-deserted city. "They are escaping now from those
trammels--now, now--now that I am speaking."

"They have escaped long ago from all such trammels as that of landed
property," said Mackinnon.

"Ay, and from all terrestrial bonds," she continued, not
exactly remarking the pith of his last observation; "from bonds
quasi-terrestrial and quasi-celestial. The full-formed limbs of the
present age, running with quick streams of generous blood, will no
longer bear the ligatures which past time have woven for the decrepit.
Look down upon that multitude, Mackinnon; they shall all be free." And
then, still clutching him by the arm and still standing at the top of
those stairs, she gave forth her prophecy with the fury of a sibyl.

"They shall all be free. O Rome, thou eternal one! thou who hast bowed
thy neck to imperial pride and priestly craft, thou who has suffered
sorely even to this hour, from Nero down to Pio Nono, the days of thine
oppression are over. Gone from thy enfranchised ways for ever is the
clang of the praetorian cohorts and the more odious drone of meddling
monks!" And yet, as Mackinnon observed, there still stood the dirty
friars and the small French soldiers, and there still toiled the slow
priests, wending their tedious way up to the church of the Ara Coeli.
But that was the mundane view of the matter, a view not regarded by Mrs.
Talboys in her ecstasy. "O Italia," she continued, "O Italia una, one
and indivisible in thy rights, and indivisible also in thy wrongs! to us
is it given to see the accomplishment of thy glory. A people shall arise
around thine altars greater in the annals of the world than thy Scipios,
thy Gracchi, or thy Caesars. Not in torrents of blood or with screams
of bereaved mothers shall thy new triumphs be stained; but mind shall
dominate over matter, and, doomed together with popes and Bourbons, with
cardinals, diplomatists, and police spies, ignorance and prejudice shall
be driven from thy smiling terraces. And then Rome shall again become
the fair capital of the fairest region of Europe. Hither shall flock the
artisans of the world, crowding into thy marts all that God and man can
give. Wealth, beauty, and innocence shall meet in thy streets--"

"There will be a considerable change before that takes place," said
Mackinnon.

"There shall be a considerable change," she answered. "Mackinnon, to
thee it is given to read the signs of the time; and hast thou not read?
Why have the fields of Magenta and Solferino been piled with the corpses
of dying heroes? Why have the waters of the Mincio run red with the
blood of martyrs? That Italy might be united and Rome immortal. Here,
standing on the Capitolium of the ancient city, I say that it shall be
so; and thou, Mackinnon, who hearest me knowest that my words are true."

There was not then in Rome--I may almost say there was not in Italy--an
Englishman or an American who did not wish well to the cause for which
Italy was and is still contending, as also there is hardly one who does
not now regard that cause as well-nigh triumphant; but nevertheless
it was almost impossible to sympathise with Mrs. Talboys. As Mackinnon
said, she flew so high that there was no comfort in flying with her.

"Well," said he, "Brown and the rest of them are down below. Shall we go
and join them?"

"Poor Brown! How was it that in speaking of his troubles we were led on
to this heart-stirring theme? Yes, I have seen them, the sweet angels;
and I tell you also that I have seen their mother. I insisted on going
to her when I heard her history from him."

"And what was she like, Mrs. Talboys?"

"Well, education has done more for some of us than for others, and there
are those from whose morals and sentiments we might thankfully draw a
lesson, whose manners and outward gestures are not such as custom has
made agreeable to us. You, I know, can understand that. I have seen her,
and feel sure that she is pure in heart and high in principle. Has she
not sacrificed herself, and is not self-sacrifice the surest guarantee
for true nobility of character? Would Mrs. Mackinnon object to my
bringing them together?"

Mackinnon was obliged to declare that he thought his wife would object,
and from that time forth he and Mrs. Talboys ceased to be very close
in their friendship. She still came to the house every Sunday evening,
still refreshed herself at the fountains of his literary rills, but her
special prophecies from henceforth were poured into other ears; and it
so happened that O'Brien now became her chief ally. I do not remember
that she troubled herself much further with the cherub angels or with
their mother, and I am inclined to think that, taking up warmly as she
did the story of O'Brien's matrimonial wrongs, she forgot the little
history of the Browns. Be that as it may, Mrs. Talboys and O'Brien now
became strictly confidential, and she would enlarge by the half-hour
together on the miseries of her friend's position to any one whom she
could get to hear her.

"I'll tell you what, Fanny," Mackinnon said to his wife one day--to his
wife and to mine, for we were all together--"we shall have a row in
the house if we don't take care. O'Brien will be making love to Mrs.
Talboys."

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Mackinnon; "you are always thinking that somebody
is going to make love to some one."

"Somebody always is," said he.

"She's old enough to be his mother," said Mrs. Mackinnon.

"What does that matter to an Irishman?" said Mackinnon. "Besides, I
doubt if there is more than five years' difference between them."

"There must be more than that," said my wife. "Ida Talboys is twelve, I
know, and I am not quite sure that Ida is the eldest."

"If she had a son in the Guards it would make no difference," said
Mackinnon. "There are men who consider themselves bound to make love to
a woman under certain circumstances, let the age of the lady be what it
may. O'Brien is such a one; and if she sympathises with him much oftener
he will mistake the matter and go down on his knees. You ought to put
him on his guard," he said, addressing himself to his wife.

"Indeed, I shall do no such thing," said she; "if they are two fools
they must, like other fools, pay the price of their folly." As a rule
there could be no softer creature than Mrs. Mackinnon, but it seemed to
me that her tenderness never extended itself in the direction of Mrs.
Talboys.

Just at this time, toward the end, that is, of November, we made a
party to visit the tombs which lie along the Appian Way beyond that
most beautiful of all sepulchres, the tomb of Cecilia Metella. It was a
delicious day, and we had driven along this road for a couple of miles
beyond the walls of the city, enjoying the most lovely view which the
neighborhood of Rome affords, looking over the wondrous ruins of the old
aqueducts up toward Tivoli and Palestrina. Of all the environs of Rome
this is, on a fair day, the most enchanting; and here perhaps, among a
world of tombs, thoughts and almost memories of the old, old days come
upon one with the greatest force. The grandeur of Rome is best seen and
understood from beneath the walls of the Colosseum, and its beauty
among the pillars of the Forum and the arches of the Sacred Way; but
its history and fall become more palpable to the mind and more clearly
realised out here among the tombs, where the eyes rest upon the
mountains, whose shades were cool to the old Romans as to us, than
anywhere within the walls of the city. Here we look out at the same
Tivoli and the same Praeneste glittering in the sunshine, embowered
among the far-off valleys, which were dear to them; and the blue
mountains have not crumbled away into ruins. Within Rome itself we can
see nothing as they saw it.

Our party consisted of some dozen or fifteen persons, and, as a hamper
with luncheon in it had been left on the grassy slope at the base of
the tomb of Cecilia Metella, the expedition had in it something of the
nature of a picnic. Mrs. Talboys was of course with us, and Ida Talboys.
O'Brien also was there. The hamper had been prepared in Mrs. Mackinnon's
room under the immediate eye of Mackinnon himself, and they therefore
were regarded as the dominant spirits of the party. My wife was leagued
with Mrs. Mackinnon, as was usually the case; and there seemed to be a
general opinion, among those who were closely in confidence together,
that something would happen in the O'Brien-Talboys matter. The two had
been inseparable on the previous evening, for Mrs. Talboys had been
urging on the young Irishman her counsels respecting his domestic
troubles. Sir Cresswell Cresswell, she had told him, was his refuge.
"Why should his soul submit to bonds which the world had now declared to
be intolerable? Divorce was not now the privilege of the dissolute rich.
Spirits which were incompatible need no longer be compelled to fret
beneath the same couples." In short, she had recommended him to go
to England and get rid of his wife, as she would with a little
encouragement have recommended any man to get rid of anything. I am sure
that, had she been skilfully brought on to the subject, she might have
been induced to pronounce a verdict against such ligatures for the body
as coats, waistcoats, and trousers. Her aspirations for freedom ignored
all bounds, and in theory there were no barriers which she was not
willing to demolish.

Poor O'Brien, as we all now began to see, had taken the matter amiss.
He had offered to make a bust of Mrs. Talboys, and she had consented,
expressing a wish that it might find a place among those who had devoted
themselves to the enfranchisement of their fellow-creatures. I really
think she had but little of a woman's customary personal vanity. I know
she had an idea that her eye was lighted up in her warmer moments by
some special fire, that sparks of liberty shone round her brow, and that
her bosom heaved with glorious aspirations; but all these feelings had
reference to her inner genius, not to any outward beauty. But O'Brien
misunderstood the woman, and thought it necessary to gaze into her face
and sigh as though his heart were breaking. Indeed, he declared to a
young friend that Mrs. Talboys was perfect in her style of beauty, and
began the bust with this idea. It was gradually becoming clear to us
all that he would bring himself to grief; but in such a matter who can
caution a man?

Mrs. Mackinnon had contrived to separate them in making the carriage
arrangements on this day, but this only added fuel to the fire which was
now burning within O'Brien's bosom. I believe that he really did love
her in his easy, eager, susceptible Irish way. That he would get over
the little episode without any serious injury to his heart no one
doubted; but then what would occur when the declaration was made? How
would Mrs. Talboys bear it?

"She deserves it," said Mrs. Mackinnon.

"And twice as much," my wife added. Why is it that women are so spiteful
to one another?

Early in the day Mrs. Talboys clambered up to the top of a tomb, and
made a little speech, holding a parasol over her head. Beneath her feet,
she said, reposed the ashes of some bloated senator, some glutton of
the empire, who had swallowed into his maw the provision necessary for
a tribe. Old Rome had fallen through such selfishness as that, but
new Rome would not forget the lesson. All this was very well, and then
O'Brien helped her down; but after this there was no separating them.
For her own part, she would sooner have had Mackinnon at her elbow; but
Mackinnon now had found some other elbow. "Enough of that was as good
as a feast," he had said to his wife. And therefore Mrs. Talboys, quite
unconscious of evil, allowed herself to be engrossed by O'Brien.

And then, about three o'clock, we returned to the hamper. Luncheon under
such circumstances always means dinner, and we arranged ourselves for a
very comfortable meal. To those who know the tomb of Cecilia Metella
no description of the scene is necessary, and to those who do not no
description will convey a fair idea of its reality. It is itself a large
low tower of great diameter, but of beautiful proportion, standing far
outside the city, close on to the side of the old Roman way. It has been
embattled on the top by some latter-day baron in order that it might be
used for protection to the castle which has been built on and attached
to it. If I remember rightly, this was done by one of the Frangipani,
and a very lovely ruin he has made of it. I know no castellated old
tumble-down residence in Italy more picturesque than this baronial
adjunct to the old Roman tomb, or which better tallies with the ideas
engendered within our minds by Mrs. Radcliffe and "The Mysteries of
Udolpho." It lies along the road, protected on the side of the city by
the proud sepulchre of the Roman matron, and up to the long ruined walls
of the back of the building stretches a grassy slope, at the bottom of
which are the remains of an old Roman circus. Beyond that is the long,
thin, graceful line of the Claudian aqueduct, with Soracte in the
distance to the left, and Tivoli, Palestrina, and Frascati lying among
the hills which bound the view. That Frangipani baron was in the right
of it, and I hope he got the value of his money out of the residence
which he built for himself. I doubt, however, that he did but little
good to those who lived in his close neighbourhood.

We had a very comfortable little banquet seated on the broken lumps of
stone which lie about under the walls of the tomb. I wonder whether the
shade of Cecilia Metella was looking down upon us. We have heard much
of her in these latter days, and yet we know nothing about her, nor can
conceive why she was honoured with a bigger tomb than any other Roman
matron. There were those then among our party who believed that she
might still come back among us, and, with due assistance from some
cognate susceptible spirit, explain to us the cause of her widowed
husband's liberality. Alas, alas! if we may judge of the Romans by
ourselves the true reason for such sepulchral grandeur would redound
little to the credit of the lady Cecilia Metella herself or to that of
Crassus, her bereaved and desolate lord.

She did not come among us on the occasion of this banquet, possibly
because we had no tables there to turn in preparation for her presence;
but had she done so, she could not have been more eloquent of things of
the other world than was Mrs. Talboys. I have said that Mrs. Talboys's
eye never glanced more brightly after a glass of champagne, but I am
inclined to think that on this occasion it may have done so. O'Brien
enacted Ganymede, and was perhaps more liberal than other latter-day
Ganymedes to whose services Mrs. Talboys had been accustomed. Let it
not, however, be suspected by any one that she exceeded the limits of a
discreet joyousness. By no means! The generous wine penetrated,
perhaps, to some inner cells of her heart, and brought forth thoughts in
sparkling words which otherwise might have remained concealed; but there
was nothing in what she thought or spoke calculated to give umbrage
either to an anchoret or to a vestal. A word or two she said or sung
about the flowing bowl, and once she called for Falernian; but beyond
this her converse was chiefly of the rights of man and the weakness of
women, of the iron ages that were past, and of the golden time that was
to come.

She called a toast and drank to the hopes of the latter historians of
the nineteenth century. Then it was that she bade O'Brien "fill high
the bowl with Samian wine." The Irishman took her at her word, and she
raised the bumper and waved it over her head before she put it to her
lips. I am bound to declare that she did not spill a drop. "The true
'Falernian grape,'" she said, as she deposited the empty beaker on
the grass beneath her elbow. Viler champagne I do not think I ever
swallowed; but it was the theory of the wine, not its palpable body
present there, as it were in the flesh, which inspired her. There was
really something grand about her on that occasion, and her enthusiasm
almost amounted to reality.

Mackinnon was amused, and encouraged her, as I must confess did I also.
Mrs. Mackinnon made useless little signs to her husband, really fearing
that the Falernian would do its good offices too thoroughly. My wife,
getting me apart as I walked round the circle distributing viands,
remarked that "the woman was a fool and would disgrace herself." But I
observed that after the disposal of that bumper she worshipped the rosy
god in theory only, and therefore saw no occasion to interfere. "Come,
Bacchus," she said, "and come, Silenus, if thou wilt; I know that ye
are hovering round the graves of your departed favourites. And ye, too,
nymphs of Egeria," and she pointed to the classic grove which was
all but close to us as we sat there. "In olden days ye did not always
despise the abodes of men. But why should we invoke the presence of the
gods--we who can become godlike ourselves! We ourselves are the deities
of the present age. For us shall the tables be spread with ambrosia, for
us shall the nectar flow."

Upon the whole it was a very good fooling--for a while; and as soon as
we were tired of it we arose from our seats and began to stroll about
the place. It was beginning to be a little dusk and somewhat cool, but
the evening air was pleasant, and the ladies, putting on their shawls,
did not seem inclined at once to get into the carriages. At any rate,
Mrs. Talboys was not so inclined, for she started down the hill toward
the long low wall of the old Roman circus at the bottom, and O'Brien,
close at her elbow, started with her.

"Ida, my dear, you had better remain here," she said to her daughter;
"you will be tired if you come as far as we are going."

"Oh no, mamma, I shall not," said Ida; "you get tired much quicker than
I do."

"Oh yes, you will; besides, I do not wish you to come." There was an end
of it for Ida, and Mrs. Talboys and O'Brien walked off together, while
we all looked into one another's faces.

"It would be a charity to go with them," said Mackinnon.

"Do you be charitable then," said his wife.

"It should be a lady," said he.

"It is a pity that the mother of the spotless cherubim is not here for
the occasion," said she. "I hardly think that any one less gifted
will undertake such a self-sacrifice." Any attempt of the kind would,
however, now have been too late, for they were already at the bottom of
the hill. O'Brien had certainly drunk freely of the pernicious contents
of those long-necked bottles, and, though no one could fairly accuse him
of being tipsy, nevertheless that which might have made others drunk had
made him bold, and he dared to do perhaps more than might become a man.
If under any circumstances he could be fool enough to make an avowal of
love to Mrs. Talboys he might be expected, as we all thought, to do it
now.

We watched them as they made for a gap in the wall which led through
into the large enclosed space of the old circus. It had been an arena
for chariot games, and they had gone down with the avowed purpose
of searching where might have been the meta and ascertaining how the
drivers could have turned when at their full speed. For a while we had
heard their voices, or rather her voice especially. "The heart of a man,
O'Brien, should suffice for all emergencies," we had heard her say. She
had assumed a strange habit of calling men by their simple names, as men
address one another. When she did this to Mackinnon, who was much older
than herself, we had been all amused by it, and other ladies of our
party had taken to call him "Mackinnon" when Mrs. Talboys was not by;
but we had felt the comedy to be less safe with O'Brien, especially when
on one occasion we heard him address her as Arabella. She did not seem
to be in any way struck by his doing so, and we supposed therefore that
it had become frequent between them. What reply he made at the moment
about the heart of a man I do not know, and then in a few minutes they
disappeared through the gap in the wall.

None of us followed them, although it would have seemed the most natural
thing in the world to do so had nothing out of the way been expected. As
it was, we remained there round the tomb quizzing the little foibles of
our dear friend and hoping that O'Brien would be quick in what he was
doing. That he would undoubtedly get a slap in the face, metaphorically,
we all felt certain, for none of us doubted the rigid propriety of the
lady's intentions. Some of us strolled into the buildings and some of us
got out on to the road, but we all of us were thinking that O'Brien
was very slow a considerable time before we saw Mrs. Talboys reappear
through the gap.

At last, however, she was there, and we at once saw that she was alone.
She came on, breasting the hill with quick steps, and when she drew near
we could see that there was a frown as of injured majesty on her brow.
Mackinnon and his wife went forward to meet her. If she were really in
trouble it would be fitting in some way to assist her, and of all women
Mrs. Mackinnon was the last to see another woman suffer from ill usage
without attempting to aid her. "I certainly never liked her," Mrs.
Mackinnon said afterward, "but I was bound to go and hear her tale when
she really had a tale to tell."

And Mrs. Talboys now had a tale to tell--if she chose to tell it. The
ladies of our party declared afterward that she would have acted more
wisely had she kept to herself both O'Brien's words to her and her
answer. "She was well able to take care of herself," Mrs. Mackinnon
said; "and after all the silly man had taken an answer when he got it."
Not, however, that O'Brien had taken his answer quite immediately, as
far as I could understand from what we heard of the matter afterward.

At the present moment Mrs. Talboys came up the rising ground all alone
and at a quick pace. "The man has insulted me," she said aloud, as
well as her panting breath would allow her, and as soon as she was near
enough to Mrs. Mackinnon to speak to her.

"I am sorry for that," said Mrs. Mackinnon. "I suppose he has taken a
little too much wine."

"No; it was a premeditated insult. The base-hearted churl has failed to
understand the meaning of true, honest sympathy."

"He will forget all about it when he is sober," said Mackinnon, meaning
to comfort her.

"What care I what he remembers or what he forgets?" she said, turning
upon poor Mackinnon indignantly. "You men grovel so in your ideas--"
("And yet," as Mackinnon said afterward, "she had been telling me that I
was a fool for the last three weeks.") "You men grovel so in your ideas
that you cannot understand the feelings of a true-hearted woman. What
can his forgetfulness or his remembrance be to me? Must not I remember
this insult? Is it possible that I should forget it?"

Mr. and Mrs. Mackinnon only had gone forward to meet her, but
nevertheless she spoke so loud that all heard her who were still
clustered round the spot on which we had dined.

"What has become of Mr. O'Brien?" a lady whispered to me.

I had a field-glass with me, and, looking round, I saw his hat as he was
walking inside the walls of the circus in the direction toward the city.
"And very foolish he must feel," said the lady.

"No doubt he is used to it," said another.

"But considering her age, you know," said the first, who might have been
perhaps three years younger than Mrs. Talboys, and who was not herself
averse to the excitement of a moderate flirtation. But then why should
she have been averse, seeing that she had not as yet become subject to
the will of any imperial lord?

"He would have felt much more foolish," said the third, "if she had
listened to what he said to her."

"Well, I don't know," said the second; "nobody would have known anything
about it then, and in a few weeks they would have gradually become tired
of each other in the ordinary way."

But in the meantime Mrs. Talboys was among us. There had been no attempt
at secrecy, and she was still loudly inveighing against the grovelling
propensities of men. "That's quite true, Mrs. Talboys," said one of the
elder ladies; "but then women are not always so careful as they should
be. Of course I do not mean to say that there has been any fault on your
part."

"Fault on my part! Of course there has been fault on my part. No one can
make any mistake without fault to some extent. I took him to be a man of
sense, and he is a fool. Go to Naples indeed."

"Did he want you to go to Naples?" asked Mrs. Mackinnon.

"Yes; that was what he suggested. We were to leave by the train for
Civita Vecchia at six to-morrow morning, and catch the steamer which
leaves Leghorn to-night. Don't tell me of wine. He was prepared for it!"
And she looked round about on us with an air of injured majesty in her
face which was almost insupportable.

"I wonder whether he took the tickets overnight," said Mackinnon.

"Naples!" she said, as though now speaking exclusively to herself, "the
only ground in Italy which has as yet made no struggle on behalf of
freedom--a fitting residence for such a dastard!"

"You would have found it very pleasant at this season," said the
unmarried lady who was three years her junior.

My wife had taken Ida out of the way when the first complaining note
from Mrs. Talboys had been heard ascending the hill. But now, when
matters began gradually to become quiescent, she brought her back,
suggesting as she did so that they might begin to think of returning.

"It is getting very cold, Ida dear, is it not?" said she.

"But where is Mr. O'Brien?" said Ida.

"He has fled--as poltroons always fly," said Mrs. Talboys. I believe
in my heart that she would have been glad to have had him there in the
middle of the circle, and to have triumphed over him publicly among us
all. No feeling of shame would have kept her silent for a moment.

"Fled!" said Ida, looking up into her mother's face.

"Yes, fled, my child." And she seized her daughter in her arms, and
pressed her closely to her bosom. "Cowards always fly."

"Is Mr. O'Brien a coward?" Ida asked.

"Yes, a coward, a very coward! And he has fled before the glance of an
honest woman's eye. Come, Mrs. Mackinnon, shall we go back to the city?
I am sorry that the amusement of the day should have received this
check." And she walked forward to the carriage and took her place in it
with an air that showed that she was proud of the way in which she had
conducted herself.

"She is a little conceited about it after all," said that unmarried
lady. "If poor Mr. O'Brien had not shown so much premature anxiety
with reference to that little journey to Naples, things might have gone
quietly after all."

But the unmarried lady was wrong in her judgment. Mrs. Talboys was
proud and conceited in the matter, but not proud of having excited
the admiration of her Irish lover. She was proud of her own subsequent
conduct, and gave herself credit for coming out strongly as the
noble-minded matron. "I believe she thinks," said Mrs. Mackinnon, "that
her virtue is quite Spartan and unique; and if she remains in Rome
she'll boast of it through the whole winter."

"If she does, she may be certain that O'Brien will do the same," said
Mackinnon. "And in spite of his having fled from the field, it is
upon the cards that he may get the best of it. Mrs. Talboys is a very
excellent woman. She has proved her excellence beyond a doubt. But
nevertheless she is susceptible of ridicule."

We all felt a little anxiety to hear O'Brien's account of the matter,
and after having deposited the ladies at their homes Mackinnon and I
went off to his lodgings. At first he was denied to us, but after a
while we got his servant to acknowledge that he was at home, and then we
made our way up to his studio. We found him seated behind a half-formed
model, or rather a mere lump of clay punched into something resembling
the shape of a head, with a pipe in his mouth and a bit of stick in his
hand. He was pretending to work, though we both knew that it was out of
the question that he should do anything in his present frame of mind.

"I think I heard my servant tell you that I was not at home," said he.

"Yes, he did," said Mackinnon, "and would have sworn it too if we would
have let him. Come, don't pretend to be surly."

"I am very busy, Mr. Mackinnon."

"Completing your head of Mrs. Talboys, I suppose, before you start for
Naples."

"You don't mean to say that she has told you all about it?" And he
turned away from his work, and looked up into our faces with a comical
expression, half of fun and half of despair.

"Every word of it," said I. "When you want a lady to travel with you
never ask her to get up so early in winter."

"But, O'Brien, how could you be such an ass?" said Mackinnon. "As it
has turned out, there is no very great harm done. You have insulted a
respectable middle-aged woman, the mother of a family and the wife of a
general officer, and there is an end of it--unless, indeed, the general
officer should come out from England to call you to account."

"He is welcome," said O'Brien haughtily.

"No doubt, my dear fellow," said Mackinnon; "that would be a dignified
and pleasant ending to the affair. But what I want to know is this: what
would you have done if she had agreed to go?"

"He never calculated on the possibility of such a contingency," said I.

"By heavens, then, I thought she would like it," said he.

"And to oblige her you were content to sacrifice yourself," said
Mackinnon.

"Well, that was just it. What the deuce is a fellow to do when a woman
goes on in that way? She told me down there, upon the old race-course,
you know, that matrimonial bonds were made for fools and slaves. What
was I to suppose that she meant by that? But, to make all sure, I asked
her what sort of a fellow the general was. 'Dear old man,' she said,
clasping her hands together. 'He might, you know, have been my father.'
'I wish he were,' said I, 'because then you'd be free.' 'I am free,'
said she, stamping on the ground, and looking up at me so much as to say
that she cared for no one. 'Then,' said I, 'accept all that is left of
the heart of Wenceslaus O'Brien,' and I threw myself before her in her
path. 'Hand,' said I, 'I have none to give, but the blood which runs red
through my veins is descended from a double line of kings.' I said that
because she is always fond of riding a high horse. I had gotten close
under the wall so that none of you should see me from the tower."

"And what answer did she make?" said Mackinnon.

"Why, she was pleased as Punch--gave me both her hands and declared
that we would be friends for ever. It is my belief, Mackinnon, that that
woman never heard anything of the kind before. The general, no doubt,
did it by letter."

"And how was it that she changed her mind?"

"Why, I got up, put my arm round her waist, and told her that we would
be off to Naples. I'm blessed if she didn't give me a knock in the
ribs that nearly sent me backward. She took my breath away, so that I
couldn't speak to her."

"And then----"

"Oh, there was nothing more. Of course I saw how it was. So she walked
off one way and I the other. On the whole, I consider that I am well out
of it."

"And so do I," said Mackinnon, very gravely. "But if you will allow me
to give you my advice, I would suggest that it would be well to avoid
such mistakes in future."

"Upon my word," said O'Brien, excusing himself, "I don't know what a man
is to do under such circumstances. I give you my honour that I did it
all to oblige her."

We then decided that Mackinnon should convey to the injured lady the
humble apology of her late admirer. It was settled that no detailed
excuses should be made. It should be left to her to consider whether the
deed which had been done might have been occasioned by wine or by the
folly of a moment, or by her own indiscreet enthusiasm. No one but
the two were present when the message was given, and therefore we were
obliged to trust to Mackinnon's accuracy for an account of it.

She stood on very high ground indeed, he said, at first refusing to hear
anything that he had to say on the matter. The foolish young man, she
declared, was below her anger and below her contempt.

"He is not the first Irishman that has been made indiscreet by beauty,"
said Mackinnon.

"A truce to that," she replied, waving her hand with an air of assumed
majesty. "The incident, contemptible as it is, has been unpleasant to
me. It will necessitate my withdrawal from Rome."

"Oh no, Mrs. Talboys; that will be making too much of him."

"The greatest hero that lives," she answered, "may have his house made
uninhabitable by a very small insect." Mackinnon swore that those were
her own words. Consequently a sobriquet was attached to O'Brien of which
he by no means approved, and from that day we always called Mrs. Talboys
"the hero."

Mackinnon prevailed at last with her, and she did not leave Rome. She
was even induced to send a message to O'Brien conveying her forgiveness.
They shook hands together with great eclat in Mrs. Mackinnon's
drawing-room; but I do not suppose that she ever again offered to him
sympathy on the score of his matrimonial troubles.





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