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Title: Olive in Italy
Author: Dalton, Moray
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Olive in Italy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



      OLIVE ...
      IN ITALY


   BY MORAY DALTON


   [Illustration]


       London
   T. FISHER UNWIN
       MCMIX



[_All Rights Reserved_]



    "For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the
    wine is red; it is full mixed, and He poureth out of the
    same. As for the dregs thereof: all the ungodly of the
    earth shall drink them...."



CONTENTS


    BOOK I.                 PAGE

      SIENA                   17


    BOOK II.

      FLORENCE               115


    BOOK III.

      ROME                   213



OLIVE IN ITALY



BOOK I.--SIENA



CHAPTER I


"I believe that Olive Agar is going to tell you that she can't pay her
bill," said the landlady's daughter as she set the breakfast tray down
on the kitchen table.

"Good gracious, Gwen, how you do startle one! Why?"

"She began again about the toast, and I told her straight that you
always set yourself against any unnecessary cooking. Meat and
vegetables must be done, I said, but those who can't relish bread as
it comes from the baker's, and plain boiled potatoes, can go without,
I said. Then she says, of course I must do as my mother tells me, and
would I ask you to step up and see her presently."

"Perhaps you were a bit too sharp with her."

The girl sniffed resentfully. "Good riddance if she goes," she called
after her mother.

Mrs Simons knocked perfunctorily at the dining-room door.

A young voice bade her come in. "I wanted to tell you that I heard
from my cousins in Italy this morning. I am going to stay with them
for a little, so I shall be leaving you at the end of the week."

The landlady's cold stare was disconcerting. There was a distinct note
of disapproval in her voice as she answered, "I do not know much about
Italy." She seemed to think it not quite a seemly subject, yet she
pursued it. "I should have thought it was better for a young lady
without parents or friends to find some occupation in her own
country."

Olive smiled. "Ah, but I hate boiled potatoes, and I think I shall
love Italy and Italian cooking. You remember the Athenians who were
always seeking some new thing? They had a good time, Mrs Simons."

"I hope you may not live to wish those words unsaid, miss," the woman
answered primly. "You have as good as sold your birthright, as Esau
did, in that speech."

"He was much nicer than Jacob."

"Oh, miss, how can you! But, after all, I suppose you are not
altogether one of us since you have foreign cousins. What's bred in
the bone comes out in the flesh they say."

"I am quite English, if that is what you mean. My aunt married an
Italian."

Mrs Simons's eyes had wandered from the girl's face to the heavy
chandelier tied up in yellow muslin, and thence, by way of "Bubbles,"
framed in tarnished gilt, to the door. "Ah, well, I shall take your
notice," she said finally.

She went down again into the kitchen. "I never know where to have
her," she complained. "There's something queer and foreign about her
for all she says. What's bred in the bone! I said that to her face,
and I repeat it to you, Gwendolen."

Mrs Simons might have added that adventures are to the adventurous.
Olive's father was Jack Agar, of the Agars of Lyme, and he married his
cousin. If Mrs Simons had known all that must be implied in this
statement she might have held forth at some length on the subject of
heredity, and have traced the girl's dislike of boiled potatoes to her
great-great-uncle's friendship with Lord Byron, and her longing for
sunshine to a still more remote ancestress, lady-in-waiting to a
princess at the court of Le Roi Soleil.

Adventures to the adventurous! The Agars were always aware of the
magnificent possibilities of life and love, and inclined to ignore the
unpleasant actualities of existence and the married state; hence some
remarkable histories, and, in the end, ruin. Olive was the last of the
old name. Jack Agar had died at thirty, leaving his wife and child
totally unprovided for but for the little annuity that had sufficed
for dress in the far-off salad days, and that now must be made to
maintain them. Olive was sent to a cheap boarding-school, where she
proved herself a fool at arithmetic; history, very good; conduct,
fair; according to her reports. She was not happy there. She hated
muddy walks and ink-stained desks and plain dumpling, and all these
things seemed to be an essential part of life at Miss Blake's.

She left at eighteen, and thereafter she and her mother lived together
in lodgings at various seaside resorts within their means, practising
a strict economy, improving their minds at the free library, doing
their own dressmaking, and keeping body and soul together on potted
meats, cocoa and patent cereals. Mary Agar rebelled sometimes in
secret, regretting the lack of "opportunities," _i.e._, of possible
husbands. She would have been glad to see her daughter settled. The
Agars never used commonsense in affairs of the heart. Her own marriage
had been very foolish from a worldly point of view, and her sister
Alice had run away with her music-master.

"In those days girls had a governess at home and finished with
masters, and young Signor Menotti came twice a week to our house in
Russell Square to teach Alice the guitar and mandoline. We shared
singing and French lessons, but she had him to herself. He was very
good-looking, dark, and rather haggard, and just shabby enough to make
one sorry for him. When Alice said she would marry him mamma was
furious, but she was just of age, and she had a little money of her
own, an annuity as I have, and she went her own way. They were
married at a registry office, I think, and soon afterwards they went
to his home in Italy. Mamma never forgave, but Alice and I used to
write to each other, and her eldest child was called after me. I don't
know how it turned out. She never said she was unhappy, but she died
after eight years, leaving her three little girls to be brought up by
their father's sister."

Olive knew little more than this of her aunt. Further questioning
elicited the fact that Signor Menotti's name was Ernesto.

"The girls are your cousins, Olive dear, and you have no other
relations. I should like to see them."

"So should I."

Olive knew all about the annuity, but she had not realised until her
mother died quite suddenly, of heart failure after influenza, what it
means to have no money at all. She was dazed with grief at first, and
Mrs Simons was as kind as could be expected and did not thrust the
weekly bill upon her on the morning after the funeral, though it was
due on that day. But lodgers are not supposed to give much trouble,
and though death is not quite so heinous as infectious disease or ink
spilt on the carpet it is still distinctly not a thing to be
encouraged by too great a display of sympathy, and Olive was soon made
to understand that it behoved her to seek some means of livelihood,
some way out into the world.

No proverb is too hackneyed to be comforting at times, and the girl
reminded herself that blood is thicker than water as she looked among
her mother's papers for the Menotti address. They were her cousins,
birds of a feather. She wrote them a queer, shy, charming letter in
strange Italian, laboriously learnt out of a grammar, and then--since
some days must elapse before she could get any answer--she
conscientiously studied the advertisement columns of the papers. She
might be a nursery governess if only she could be sure of herself at
long division, or--horrid alternative--a useful help. Mrs Simons
suggested a shop.

"You have a nice appearance, miss. Perhaps you would do as one of the
young ladies in the drapery department, beginning with the tapes and
thread and ribbon counter, you know, and working your way up to the
showroom."

But Olive altogether declined to be a young lady.

She waited anxiously for her cousins' letter, and it meant so much to
her that when it came she was half afraid to open it.

It was grotesquely addressed to the

    Genteel Miss Agar Olive,
            Marsden Street, 159,
                Brighton,
              Provincia di Sussex,
                    Inghilterra.

The post-mark was Siena. It was stamped on the flap, which was also
decorated with a blue bird carrying a rose in its beak, and was rather
strongly scented.

    "DEAR COUSIN,--We were so pleased and interested to hear
    from you, though we greatly regret to have the news of
    our aunt's death. Our father's sister lives with us
    since we are orphans. She is a widow and has no children
    of her own. If you can pay us fifteen lire a week we
    shall be satisfied, and we will try to get you pupils
    for English. Kindly let us know the date and hour of
    your arrival.--Believe us, yours devotedly,

                    "MARIA, GEMMA and CARMELA."

Olive read it carefully twice over, and then sat down at the table and
began to scribble on the back of the envelope. She convinced herself
that three times fifteen was forty-five, and that so many lire
amounted to not quite two pounds. Then there was the fare out to be
reckoned. Finally, she decided that she would be able to get out to
Italy and to live there for three weeks before she need call herself
penniless.

She went to the window and stood for a while looking out. The houses
opposite and all down the road were exactly alike, all featureless and
grey, roofed with slate, three-storied, with basement kitchens. Nearly
every one of them had "Apartments" in gilt letters on the fanlight
over the front door. It was raining. The pavements were wet and there
was mud on the roadway. The woman who lived in the corner house was
spring-cleaning. Olive saw her helping the servant to take down the
curtains in the front room. Dust and tea-leaves and last year's
cobwebs. It occurred to her that spring would bring a recurrence of
these things only if she became a useful help, as she must if she
stayed in England and earned her living as best she could--only these
and nothing more. The idea was horrible and she shuddered at it. "I
shall go," she said aloud. "I shall go."



CHAPTER II


Olive, advised by a clerk in Cook's office, had taken a through ticket
to Siena, third class to Dover, first on the boat, second in France
and Italy. She got to Victoria in good time, had her luggage labelled,
secured a corner seat, and, having twenty minutes to spare, strolled
round the bookstall, eyeing the illustrated weeklies and the cheap
reprints. The blue and gold of a shilling edition of Keats lay ready
to her hand and she picked it up and opened it.

The girl, true lover of all beauty, flushed with pleasure at the dear,
familiar word music, the sound of Arcadian pipes heard faintly for a
moment above the harsh roar of London. For her the dead poet's voice
rose clearly through the clamour of the living; it was like the silver
wailing of a violin in a blaring discord of brass instruments.

She laid down the book reluctantly, and turning, met the eager eyes of
the man who stood beside her. He had just bought an armful of current
literature, and his business at the bookstall was evidently done, yet
he lingered for an appreciable instant. He, too, was a lover of
beauty, and in his heart he was saying, "Oh, English rose!"

He did not look English himself. He wore his black hair rather longer
than is usual in this country, and there was a curiously vivid look, a
suggestion of fire about him, which is conspicuously lacking in the
average Briton, whose ambition it is to look as cool as possible. His
face was thin and his eyes were deep set, like those of Julius
Cæsar--in fact, the girl was strongly reminded of the emperor's bust
in the British Museum. He looked about thirty-five, but might have
been older.

All this Olive saw in the brief instant during which they stood there
together and aware of each other. When he turned away she bought some
magazines, without any great regard for their interest or suitability,
and went to take her place in the third-class compartment she had
selected.

He would travel first, of course. She watched his leisurely progress
along the platform, and noted that he was taller than any of the other
men there, and better-looking. His thin, clean-shaven face compelled
attention; she saw some women looking at him, and was pleased to
observe that he did not even glance at them. Then people came hurrying
up to the door of her compartment to say good-bye to some of her
fellow-travellers, and she lost sight of him.

The train started and passed through the arid wilderness of backyards
that lies between each one of the London termini and the clean green
country.

Olive fluttered the pages of her magazine, but she felt disinclined
to read. She was pretty; her brown hair framed a rose-tinted face, her
smile was charming, her blue eyes were gay and honest and kind. Men
often looked at her, and it cannot be denied that the swift
appraisement of masculine eyes, the momentary homage of a glance that
said "you are fair," meant something to her. Such tributes to her
beauty were minor joys, to be classed with the pleasure to be derived
from _marrons glacés_ or the scent of violets, but the remembrance of
them did not often make her dream by day or bring a flush to her
cheeks.

She roused herself presently and began to look out of the window with
the remorseful feeling of one who has been neglecting an old friend
for an acquaintance. After all, this was England, where she was born
and where her mother had died, and she was leaving it perhaps for
ever. She tried to fix the varying aspects of the spring in her mind
for future reference; the tender green of the young larches in the
plantation, the pale gold of the primroses, and the flowering gorse
close to the line, the square grey towers of the village churches,
even the cold, pinched faces of the people waiting on the platforms of
the little stations. Italy would be otherwise, and she might never see
these familiar things again.

When the train rushed out on to the pier at Dover she dared not look
back at the white cliffs, but kept her eyes resolutely seaward. The
wind was high, and she heard that the crossing would be rough. Cæsar
was close behind her, and she caught a glimpse of him going aft as she
made her way to the ladies' cabin.

She lay down on one of the red velvet divans in the stuffy saloon, and
closed her eyes as she had been advised to do, and in ten minutes her
misery was complete.

"If you are going to be ill nothing will stop you," observed the
sympathetic stewardess. "It is like Monte Carlo. Most people have a
system, and sometimes they win, but they are bound to lose in the end.
Champagne, munching biscuits, patent medicines, lying down as you are
now. It is all vanity and vexation of spirit, my dear."

Olive joined feebly in her laugh. "I feel better now. Are we nearly
there?"

"Just coming into harbour."

"Thank heaven!"

When Olive crawled up on deck her one idea, after her luggage, was to
avoid anyone who had seemed to admire her. She could not bear that the
man should see her green face, and she was grateful to him for keeping
his distance in the crush to get off the boat, and for disappearing
altogether in the station. A porter in a blue linen blouse piloted her
to the waiting train, and she climbed into the compartment labelled
"Turin," and settled herself in a window seat.

The country between Calais and Paris can only be described as flat,
stale and unprofitable by a beauty lover panting for the light and
glow and colour of the South, and Olive soon got a book out of her bag
and began to read. Her only fellow-passenger, a middle-aged English
lady with an indefinite face, spoke to her presently. "You are reading
a French novel?"

"No, it is in Italian. _La Città Morta_, by Gabriele D'Annunzio. I
want to rub up my few words of the language."

"Is he not a very terrible writer?"

Olive was so tired of the disapproving note. "He writes very well, and
his descriptions are gorgeous. Of course he is horrid sometimes, but
one can skip those parts."

"Do you?"

Olive smiled. "No, I do not," she said frankly, "but I don't enjoy
them. They make me tired of life."

"Is not that rather a pity?"

"Perhaps; but you have to sift dirt to find diamonds, don't you? And
this man says things that are worth tiaras sometimes."

"Surely there must be Italian authors who write books suitable for
young people in a pretty style?"

"A pretty style? No doubt. But I don't read them."

The older woman sighed, and then smiled quite pleasantly. "I suppose
you are clever. One of my nieces is, and they find her rather a
handful. Will you try one of my sandwiches?"

Olive produced her biscuits and bananas, and they munched together in
amity. After all, an aunt might be worse than stupid, and this one was
quite good-natured, and so kind that her taste in literature might be
excused. There were affectionate farewells at the Paris station, where
she got out with all her accumulation of bags and bundles.

The train rushed on through the woods of Fontainebleau and across wide
plains intersected by poplar-fringed canals. As the evening mists rose
lights began to twinkle in cottage windows, and in the villages the
church bells were ringing the prayer to the Virgin. Olive had laid
aside her book some time since, and now, wearying of the grey twilit
world, she fell asleep.

Jean Avenel, too, had watched the waning of the day from his place in
a smoking first for a while, before he got up and began to prowl
restlessly about the corridors. "She will be so tired if she does not
eat," he said to himself. "They ought not to let a child like that
travel alone. I wonder--" He walked down the corridor again, but this
time he looked into each compartment. He saw three Englishmen and an
American playing whist, Germans eating, and French people sleeping,
and at last he came upon his rose. A small man, mean-featured and
scrubby-haired, was seated opposite to her, and his shining eyes were
fixed upon her face. She had taken off her hat and was holding it on
her lap, and Jean saw that she was clutching at it nervously, and
that she was pale. He understood that it was probably her first
experience of the Italian stare, deliberate, merciless, and
indefinitely prolonged. She flushed as he came forward, and her eyes
were eloquent as they met his. He sat down beside her.

"Please forgive me," he said quietly, "but I can see this man is
annoying you. Shall I glare him out of the place? I can."

"Oh, please do," she answered. "He has frightened me so. He was
talking before you came."

The culprit already looked disconcerted and rather foolish, and now,
as Jean leant forward and seemed about to speak to him, he began to be
frightened. He fidgeted, thrusting his hands in his pockets, looking
out of the window, humming a tune. His ears grew red. He tried to meet
the other man's level gaze and failed. He got up rather hurriedly. The
brown eyes watched him slinking out before they allowed themselves a
second sight of the rose.

"Thank you so much," said Olive. "I feel as if you had killed a spider
for me, or an earwig. He was more like an earwig. He must have come in
here while I was asleep."

"A deported waiter going back to his native Naples, I imagine," Jean
said. "They ought not to have let you travel alone."

She smiled. "I am a law unto myself."

"That is a pity. Will you think me very impertinent if I confess that
I have been watching over you--at a respectful distance--ever since we
left Victoria? I do not approve of children wandering--"

She tilted her pretty chin at him. "Children! So you have made
yourself into a sort of G.F.S. for me?"

"You know," he said gravely, "we have a mutual friend." He drew a blue
and gold volume from an inner pocket.

Olive flushed scarlet, but she only said, "Oh, Keats!"

She looked at his hands as they turned the pages; they were clever and
kind, she thought, and she wondered if he was an artist or a doctor.
Those fingers might set a butterfly's wing, and yet they seemed very
strong. She did not know she had sighed until he said, "Am I boring
you?"

"Oh, no," she answered eagerly. "Please don't go yet unless you want
to. But tell me why you bought that book?"

"If you could have seen yourself as I saw you, you would understand,"
he answered. "I once saw a woman on my brother's estate pick up a
piece of gold on the road. She had never had so much money without
earning it in her life before, I suppose. At any rate she kissed it,
and her face was radiant. She was old and ugly and worn by her long
days of toil in the fields, and you-- Well, in spite of the
differences you reminded me of her, and I am curious to know which
poem of Keats brought that swift, rapt light of joy."

"It was 'White hawthorn and the pastoral eglantine'--"

Jean found the place and marked the passage before returning the book
to his pocket. "Now," he said, "you will come with me and have some
dinner."



CHAPTER III


Many women are shepherded through all life's journeyings by their
men--fathers, brothers, husbands--who look out their trains for them,
put them in the care of guards, and shield them from all contact with
sulky porters and extortionate cabmen. Olive, who had always to take
her own ticket and fight her own and her mother's battles, now tasted
the joys of irresponsibility with Avenel. He compounded with Customs
officials, who bowed low before him, he took part in the midnight
scramble for pillows at Modane, emerging from the crowd in triumph
with no less than three of the coveted aids to repose under his arm,
and he saw Olive comfortably settled in another compartment with two
motherly German women, and there left her.

At Turin he secured places in the _diretto_ to Florence, and sent his
man to the buffet for coffee and rolls, and the two broke their fast
together.

"Italy and the joy of life," Olive said lightly, as she lifted her
cup, and he looked at her with melancholy brown eyes that yet held the
ghost of a smile.

"The passing hour," he answered; adding prosaically, "This is good
coffee."

Referring to the grey silvery trees whose name she bore he assured
her that he did not think she resembled them. "They are old and you
seem eternally young. You should have been called Primavera."

She laughed. "Ah, if you had been my godfather--"

"I should not have cared to have held you in my arms when you were a
bald-headed baby," he answered with perfect gravity.

Apparently he always said what he thought, but his frankness was
disconcerting, and Olive changed the subject.

"Is Siena beautiful?"

"It is a gem of the Renaissance, and you will love it as I do, I know,
but I wish you could have seen Florence first. My brother has a villa
at Settignano and I am going there now. The fruit trees in the orchard
will be all white with blossom. You remember Romeo's April oath: 'By
yonder moon that tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops--'"

They lunched in the station restaurant at Genoa, and there he bought
the girl a basket of fruit. "A poor substitute for the tea you will be
wanting presently," he explained. "You have no tea-basket with you?
You will want one if you are going to live with Italians."

"I never thought of it."

"May I send you one?" he asked eagerly. "Do let me."

Olive flushed with pleasure. No one had been so kind to her since her
mother died. Evidently he liked her--oh! he liked her very much. She
suddenly realised how much she would miss him when they parted at
Florence and she had to go on alone. It had been so good to be with
someone stronger than herself who would take care of her. He had
seemed happy too, and she thought he looked younger now than he did
when she first saw him standing by the bookstall at Victoria station.

"It is very good of you," she said. "I should like it. Thank you. I--I
shall be sorry to say good-bye."

He met her wistful eyes gravely. "I should like you to know that I
shall never forget this day," he said. "I shall never cease to be
grateful to you for being so--for being what you are. My wife is
different."

"Your wife--"

"I don't live with her."

He took a card from his case presently and scribbled an address on it.
"I dare not hope that I shall ever hear from you again, but that is my
name, and letters will always be forwarded to me from my brother's
place. If ever I could do anything--"

She faltered some word of thanks in an uncertain voice. She felt as if
something had come upon her for which she was unprepared, some shadow
of the world's pain, some flame of its fires that flickered at her
heart for a moment and was gone. She was suddenly afraid, not of the
brown eyes that were fixed so hungrily upon her face, but of herself.
She could hear the beating of her own heart. The pity of it--the pity
of it! He was so nice. Why could not they be friends--

The night had fallen long since and they were nearing Florence.

"Don't forget to change at Empoli," he said. "I will send my man on as
far as that to look after you. Will you let me kiss you?"

"Yes."

He came over and sat on the seat by her side. "Don't be afraid. I
won't hurt you," he said gently, and then, seeing her pale, he drew
back. "No, I won't. It would not be fair. Oh, I beg your pardon! It
will be enough for me to remember how good you were."

The train passed into the lighted station, and he stood up and took
his hat and coat from the rack before he turned to her once more.

"Good-bye."



CHAPTER IV


"Has anyone seen our cousin?" asked Gemma as she helped herself to
_spaghetti_.

Her aunt shrugged her fat shoulders. "No! The _donna di servizio_ is
mistress here, and she has ordained that the cousin shall not be
disturbed. She has even locked the door, and she carries the key in
her pocket."

"It is true," old Carolina said placidly. She was accustomed to join
in the conversation at table when she chose, and Italian servants are
allowed great freedom of speech. "You were all in your beds when
Giovanni Scampo drove her here in his cab this morning or you would
have seen her then. The poor child is half dead with fatigue. Let her
sleep, I say. There are veal cutlets to come, Signorina Maria; will
you have more _spaghetti_?"

"A little more."

The old woman shook her head. "You eat too much."

The Menotti lived in a small stuffy flat on the third floor of 25,
Piazza Tolomei. It had the one advantage of being central, but was
otherwise extremely inconvenient. The kitchen was hot and airless, and
the servant had to sleep in a dark cupboard adjoining, in an
atmosphere compounded of the scent of cheese, black beetles and old
boots. There were four bedrooms besides, all opening on to the
dining-room; and a tiny drawing-room, seldom used and never dusted,
was filled to overflowing with gilt furniture and decorative fantasies
in wool work.

The Menotti did not entertain. They met their friends at church, or at
the theatre, or in the Lizza gardens, where they walked every evening
in the summer. No man had ever seen them other than well dressed, but
in the house they wore loose white cotton jackets and old skirts. They
were _en déshabillé_ now, though their heads were elaborately dressed
and their faces powdered, and Maria's waist was considerably larger
than it appeared to be when she was socially "visible."

"I must breathe sometimes," she said.

The three girls were inclined to stoutness, but Gemma drank vinegar
and ate sparingly, and so had succeeded in keeping herself slim
hitherto, though she was only three years younger than Maria, who was
twenty-nine and looked forty.

Carmela was podgy, but she might lace or not just as she pleased. No
one would look at her in any case since her kind, good-humoured, silly
face was marked with smallpox.

Gemma was the pride of her aunt and the hope of the family. The girls
were poor, and it is hard for such to find husbands, but she had
recently become engaged to a young lawyer from Lucca, who had been
staying with friends in Siena when he saw and fell in love with the
girl whom the students at the University named the "Odalisque."

Hers was the strange, boding loveliness of a pale orchid. She had no
colour, but her curved lips were faintly pink, as were the palms of
her soft, idle hands. "I shall be glad when she is married," her aunt
said often. "It is very well for Maria or Carmela to go through the
streets alone, but Gemma is otherwise, and I cannot be always running
after her. Then her temper ... _Dio mio!_"

"Perhaps it is the vinegar," suggested Carolina rather spitefully.

"No. She wants a husband."

When the dinner was over Signora Carosi went to her room to lie down,
and her two elder nieces followed her example, but Carmela passed into
the kitchen with Carolina.

"You will let me see the cousin," she said, wheedling. "Gemma thinks
she will be ugly, with great teeth and a red face like the
Englishwomen in the Asino, but I do not believe it."

"If the signorina is hoping for a miracle of plainness she will be
unpleasantly surprised," said the old woman, and her shrivelled face
was as mischievous as a monkey's as she drew the key of Olive's room
from her pocket. "I am going to take her some soup now, and you shall
come with me."

It is quite impossible to be retiring, or even modest, in the
mid-Victorian sense, in flats. A bedroom cannot remain an inviolate
sanctuary when it affords the only means of access to the bathroom or
is a short cut to the kitchen. Olive had had some experience of
suburban flats during holidays spent with school friends, and had
suffered the familiarity that breeds weariness in such close quarters.
As she woke now she was unpleasantly aware of strangers in the room.

"Only a lover or a nurse may look at a woman while she sleeps without
offence," she said drowsily. "It is an unpardonable liberty in all
other classes of the population. Are you swains, or sisters of mercy?"
She opened her eyes and met Carmela's puzzled stare with laughter. "I
was saying that when one is ill or in love one can endure many
things," she explained in halting Italian.

"Ah," Carmela said uncomprehendingly, "I am never ill, _grazia a Dio_,
but when Maria has an indigestion she is cross, and when Gemma is in
love her temper is dreadful. Perhaps, being a foreigner, you are
different. Are you tired?"

"Yes, I am, rather, but go on talking to me. I am not sleepy."

Carmela, nothing loth, drew a chair to the bedside. "You need not get
up yet," she said comfortably. "We always lie down after dinner until
five, and later we go for a walk. You will see the Via Cavour full of
people in the evening, officers and students, and mothers with
daughters to be married, all walking up and down and looking at each
other. Orazio Lucis first saw Gemma like that, and he followed us
home, and then found out who we were and asked questions about us.
Every day we saw him in the Piazza, smoking cigarettes, and waiting
for us to go out that he might follow us, and Gemma would give him one
look, and then cast down her eyes ... so!" Carmela caricatured her
sister's affectation of unconsciousness very successfully, and looked
to Olive and Carolina for applause.

The servant grinned appreciation. "Yes, the signorina is very
_civetta_. I, also, have seen her simpering when the _avvocato_ has
been here, but she soon gets tired of him, and then her face is as God
made it."

Olive dressed herself leisurely when they had left her, and unpacked
her clothes and her little store of books. Her cousins, coming to
fetch her soon after six o'clock, found her ready to go out, but so
absorbed in a guide-book of Siena that she did not hear Maria's knock
at the door.

She had resolved that she would apply art and archæology as plasters
to the wound life had given her already. She would stay her heart's
hunger with moods and tenses, but not of the verb "_amare_." Learning
and teaching, she might make her mind lord of her emotions.

She came forward rather shyly to meet her cousins. The three together
were somewhat overpowering, flounced and frilled alike, and highly
scented. Maria and Carmela fat, pleasant and profuse; Gemma silent,
with dark resentful eyes and scornful lips that never smiled at other
women.

"You will show me the best things?" Olive said eagerly when they had
all kissed her. "I want to see the Duomo first, and then the Palazzo
Vecchio--but that is only open in the mornings, is it? And this is the
Piazza Tolomei, so the house where Pia lived must be quite near."

Gemma stared, but made no attempt to answer, and Maria looked
confused.

"I am afraid you will find us all very stupid, _cara_," said Carmela,
apologetically. "We only go to the Duomo to pray, and as to museums
and picture-galleries-- And perhaps I had better tell you now, at
once, that we do not want to learn English. We have got you several
lessons through friends, but Maria and Carmela say they will not
fatigue themselves over a foreign language, and I--"

"Oh," began Olive, "I thought--"

Gemma interrupted her. "A thousand thanks," she said rudely. "We are
not school children; we read about Pia dei Tolomei years ago at the
_Scuola Normale_, but we do not consider her an amusing subject of
conversation now."

The rose in Olive's cheeks deepened. "I shall soon learn to know your
likes and dislikes," she said, "and to understand your manners."

"I hope so," answered Gemma as she left the room. Maria hurried after
her, but the younger sister caught at Olive's hand.

"You must not listen to Gemma. Come, we will walk together. Let her go
on; she cannot forgive your nose for being straight."



CHAPTER V


A large parcel addressed to Miss Agar was brought to the house a few
weeks later. Olive was out giving a lesson when it came, and Gemma
turned it over, examining the post-mark and the writing.

"Shall I open it and see what is inside? She would never know."

Carmela was horrified. "How can you think of such a thing!"

"Besides, it is sealed," added Maria.

These two liked their cousin well enough, and when they wished to
tease the Odalisque they called her "_carina_" and praised her fresh
prettiness. It was always so easy to make Gemma angry, and lately she
had been more capricious and difficult than ever. Her sisters were
continually trying to excuse her.

"She is so nervous," Maria said loyally, but her paraphrase availed
nothing. Olive understood her cousin and disliked her extremely,
though she accorded her a reluctant admiration.

She came in now with her books--an English grammar and a volume of
translations--under her arm, and seeing that Gemma was watching her,
she took her parcel with a carefully expressionless phrase of thanks
to Carmela, who was anxious to cut the string, and carried it into her
room unopened. It was the tea-basket Jean Avenel had promised her. She
read the enclosed note, however, before she looked at it.

    "I am going to America and then to Russia. Do not quite
    forget me. If ever you need anything write to my
    brother, Hilaire Avenel, Villa Fiorelli, Settignano,
    near Florence, and he will serve you for my sake as he
    would for your own if he knew you. I think I have played
    better since I have known you, my rose. One must suffer
    much before one can express the divine sorrow of Chopin.
    I said I would not write, but some promises are made to
    be broken. Can you forgive me?

                    "JEAN AVENEL."

America and Russia ... the divine sorrow of Chopin ... I have played
better.... He was a pianist then, and surely a great one. Olive
remembered the slender brown hands that had seemed to her so supple
and so strong. But the name of Avenel was strange to her, and she was
sure she had never seen it on posters, or in the papers and magazines
that chronicle the doings of musical celebrities.

She took the tea-things out of the basket one by one and looked at
them with pleasure. The sugar box and the caddy and the spoon were
all of silver, and engraved with her initials, and the cup and saucer
were painted with garlands of pale roses.

Tears filled her eyes as she sat down at the little table in the
window and began to write.

    "You have sent me a tea equipage fit for an empress! It
    is perfect, and I do not know how to thank you. Yes. I
    forgive you for writing. Have I really helped you to
    play? I am so glad. You say Chopin, so I suppose it is
    the piano? I must tell you that I remember all the
    stories you told me of Siena, and they add to the
    interest of my days. I give English lessons, and am
    making enough money to keep myself, but in the intervals
    of grammar and '_I Promessi Sposi_' (no less than three
    of my pupils are translating that interminable romance
    into so-called English) I study the architecture of the
    early Renaissance in the old narrow streets, and gaze
    upon Byzantine Madonnas in the churches. The Duomo is an
    archangel's dream, and I like to go there with my
    cousins and steep my soul in its beauty while they say
    their prayers and fan themselves. One of them is pretty
    and she hates me; the other two are stout and kind and
    empty-headed, and their aunt is nothing--a large, heavy
    nothing--"

Olive laid down her pen. "What will he think if I write him eight
pages? That I want to begin a correspondence? I do, but he must not
know it."

She tore her letter up into small pieces and wrote two lines on a
sheet of note-paper.

    "Thank you very much for your kind present and for what
    you say. Of course I forgive you ... and I shall not
    forget.--Yours sincerely,            OLIVE AGAR."

She went to the window and threw the torn scraps of the first letter
out into the street, and then she sat down again and began to cry; not
for long. Women who know how precious youth is understand that tears
are an expensive luxury, and they are sparing of them accordingly.
They suffer more in the stern repression of their emotions than do
those who yield easily to grief, but they keep their eyelashes and
their complexions.

Olive bathed her eyes presently and smoked a cigarette to calm her
nerves. She was going out that evening to dine with her favourite
pupil and his mother, and she knew they would be distressed if she
looked ill or sad.

Aurelia de Sanctis had had troubles enough of her own. She had married
a patriot, a man with a beautiful eager face and a body spent with
disease, and a fever that never left him since the days when he lurked
in the marshes of the Maremma, crouched in a tangle of wet reeds and
rushes, and watching for the flash of steel in the sunshine.

Austrian bayonets ... he raved of them in his dreams, and called upon
the names of comrades who had rotted in prisons or died in exile. His
young wife nursed him devotedly until he died, leaving her a widow at
twenty-seven. She had a small pension from the Government, and she
worked at dressmaking to eke it out.

Her only child had grown up to be a hopeless invalid. He could not go
to school, so he lay all day on the sofa by the window in the tiny
sitting-room and helped his mother with her sewing. His poor little
bony hands were very quick and dexterous.

In the evenings he read everything he could get hold of, books and
newspapers. The professors from the University, who came to see him
and were kind to him for his father's sake, told each other that he
was a genius and that his soul was eating up his frail body. They
wondered, pitifully, what poor Signora Aurelia would do when--

The mother was hopeful, however. "He takes such an interest in
everything that I think he must have a strong vitality though he seems
delicate," she said.

He had expressed a wish to learn English, and when Signora Aurelia
first heard of Olive she wrote asking her to come and see her. The De
Sancti lived a little way outside the Porta Romana, on the edge of the
hill and outside the town, and Maria advised her cousin not to go
there.

"It is so far out on a hot dusty road, and you will grow as thin and
dry as an old hen's drumstick if you walk so much. And I know the
signora is poor and will not be able to pay well."

Olive went, nevertheless. Signora Aurelia herself opened the door to
her and showed evident pleasure at seeing her. The poor woman had been
beautiful, and now that she was worn by time and sorrow she still
looked like a goddess, exiled to earth, and altogether shabby--a deity
in reduced circumstances--but none the less divinely fair and kind.
Her great love for her child had so moulded her that she seemed the
very incarnation of motherhood. So might Ceres have appeared as she
wandered forlornly in search of her lost Persephone, gentle, weary,
her fineness a little blunted by her woes.

"Are you the English signorina? Come in! My son will be so pleased,"
she said as she led the girl into the room where Astorre was working
at embroidery.

Olive saw a boy of seventeen sewing as he lay on the sofa. There were
some books on the floor within his reach, and a glass of lemonade was
set upon the window-sill, but he seemed quite absorbed in making fine
stitches. He looked up, however, as they came in and smiled at his
mother.

"I have nearly finished," he said. "Presently I shall read the
sonnet, '_Pace non trovo, e non ho da far guerra_,' to refresh
myself."

"This is the signorina who teaches English, _nino mio_."

His face lit up at once and he held out his hand. "I have already
studied the grammar, but the pronunciation ... ah! that will be hard
to learn. Will you help me, signorina?"

"Yes, indeed I will. We will read and talk together, and soon you will
speak English better than I can Italian."

As she spoke and smiled her heart ached to see the hollowness of his
cheeks and the lines of pain about his young mouth. She guessed that
his poor body was all twisted and deformed under the rug that covered
it. Signora Aurelia took her out on to their little terrace garden
before she left. Twenty miles and more of fair Tuscan earth lay at
their feet, grey olive groves and green vineyards, and the hills
beyond all shimmering in the first heat of spring. Olive exclaimed at
the beauty of the world.

"Yes. On summer evenings Astorre can lie here and watch what he calls
the pageant of the skies. The poor child is so fond of colour. I know
you will be very patient with him, signorina. He is so clever, but
some days he is in pain, and then he gets tired and so cannot learn so
well. You have kindly promised to come twice a week, but I must tell
you that I am not rich--" She looked at Olive wistfully.

The girl dared not offer to teach Astorre for nothing. "I can see your
son will be a very good pupil," she said hastily. "Would one lire the
lesson suit you?"

"Oh, yes," the signora said with evident relief. "But are you sure
that is enough? You must not sacrifice yourself, my dear--"

"It will be a pleasure to come," Olive said very sincerely.

The acquaintance soon ripened into a triangular friendship. The
signora grew to love the girl because she amused Astorre and was never
obviously sorry for him, or too gentle with him, as were some of the
well-meaning people who came to see the boy. "An overflow of pity is
like grease exuding," he said once. "I hate it."

He was very old for his years. He had read everything apparently, and
he discussed problems of life and death with the air of a man of
forty. He had no illusions about himself. "I shall die," he said once
to Olive when his mother was not in the room. "My father gave me a
spirit that burns like Greek fire and a body like--like a spent
shell."

The easy, desultory lessons were often prolonged, and then the girl
stayed to dinner and played dominoes afterwards with him or with his
mother until ten o'clock, when old Carolina came to fetch her home.
The withered little serving-woman was voluble, and always cheerfully
ready to lighten the way with descriptions of the last moments of her
children. She had had thirteen, and two were still surviving. "One
grows accustomed, _signorina mia_--"



CHAPTER VI


"You have been crying," Astorre said abruptly.

Olive leant against the balustrade of the little terrace. She was
watching the fireflies that sparkled in the dusk of the vineyards in
the valley below. A breeze had risen from the sea at sunset, and it
stirred the leaves of the climbing roses and brought a faint sound of
convent bells far away. Some stars shone in the clear pale sky.

Dinner had been cleared away, and Signora Aurelia had gone in to
finish a white dress she was making for a bride. Olive had offered to
help her. "I would rather you amused yourself with Astorre. I can see
you are tired," she had answered as she left them together.

"You have been crying," the boy repeated insistently.

She smiled at him then. "May I not shed tears if I choose?"

"I must know why," he answered.

"Oh, a castle in Spain."

He looked at her searchingly. "And a castellan?"

"Yes. I want a man, and I cannot have him. _Ecco!_"

She did not expect him to take her seriously, but he was often
perversely inclined. "Of course," he said in a matter-of-fact tone,
"all women want a man or men. Do you think I have been lying here all
these years without finding that out? That need is the mainspring of
life, the key to heaven, and the root of all evil. If--if I were
different someone would want me--" His voice broke.

Olive looked away from him. "How still the night is," she said. "The
nightingales are singing in the woods below, Astorre. Do you hear
them?"

"I am not deaf," he answered in a muffled voice, "I hear them. Will
you hear me?"

Watching her closely he saw that she shrank from him. "Do not be
afraid," he said gruffly. "I am not going to be a fool. No man on
earth is worth your tears. That is all I wanted to say."

"Ah, child, you are young for all your wisdom. I was not sorry for him
but for myself."

"Liar!" he cried petulantly, and then caught at her hand. "Forgive me!
Come now and read me a sonnet of your Keats and then translate it to
me."

Obediently she stooped to pick up the book. The flame of the little
lamp on the table at his side burned steadily.

He lay with closed eyes and lips that moved, repeating the words after
her. "It is very good to listen to your voice while you are here with
me alone under the stars," he said presently. "Tell me, does this man
love you?"

She was silent.

"Does he love you?"

"I think he did, but perhaps he has forgotten me now."

"I love you," the boy said deliberately.

"I cannot come again if you talk like this, Astorre."

"I shall never say it again," he answered, "but I want you to remember
that it is so, because it may comfort you. Such words never come amiss
to women. They feed on the hunger of our hearts."

"Don't say that!" she cried. "It is true that I like you to be fond of
me, and I love you. In the best way, Astorre--oh, do believe that it
is the best way!"

"With your soul, I suppose? Do you think I am an angel because I am a
cripple?" he asked bitterly.

"I am sorry--"

"Poor little girl," he said more gently, "I have hurt you instead of
comforting you, as I meant to do. But how can I give what is not mine?
How can I cry 'Peace,' when there is no peace? You will suffer still
when I am at rest."

The boy's mother put down her work presently and came out to them, and
the three sat silently watching the moon rise beyond the hills. It was
as though a veil had been withdrawn to show the glimmer of distant
streams, the white walls of peasant dwellings set among their vines,
the belfry tower of an old Carthusian monastery belted in by tall dark
cypresses, and the twisted shadows thrown by the gnarled trunks and
outstanding roots of the olive trees.

"All blue and silver," cried the girl after a while. "Thank God for
Italy!"

"She has cost her children dear," the elder woman answered, sighing.
"Beyond that rampart of hills lies the Maremma, and swamps, marshes,
forests are to be drained now, they say, and made profitable. You will
see some peasants from over there in our streets at the time of the
Palio. Poor souls! They are so lean and haggard and yellow that their
bones seem to be piercing through their discoloured skins."

"The Palio! I think Signor Lucis is coming to Siena to see it," Olive
said.

"Is that the man your cousin Gemma is to marry?" the dressmaker asked
curiously. "I had heard that she was engaged, but one hears so many
things. Do you like her?"

"Not very much, but really I see very little of her. I am out all day
teaching."

The door-bell clanged as the girl rose to go. "That is Carolina come
for her stray sheep," she said, smiling. "They will not believe that I
can come home by myself at night."

"They are quite right. If your aunt's servant did not come for you I
should take you back to the Piazza Tolomei myself."

"You forget that I am English."

Olive never attempted to explain her code; she stated her nationality
and went on her way. Her first pupils had all been young girls, but as
it became known that she was really English her circle widened. The
prior of a Dominican convent near San Giorgio, and two privates from a
regiment of Lancers stationed in the Fortezza, came to her to be
taught, and some of Astorre's friends, students at the University,
were very anxious for lessons, and as the Menotti refused to have them
in their house Olive had to hire a room to receive them.

The aunt disapproved. "It is not right," she said, and when Olive
assured her that she could not afford to lose good pupils she shook
her large head.

"You will go your own way, I suppose, but do not bring your men here.
I cannot have soldiers scratching up the carpet with their spurs, or
monks dropping snuff on it."

Olive's days were filled, and she, having no time for the
self-tormentings of idle women, was content to be not quite unhappy.
She needed love and could not rest without it, and she was at least
partially satisfied. Astorre and his mother adored her, thought her
perfect, held her dear. All her pupils seemed to like her, and some of
the students brought her little gifts of flowers, and packets of
chocolate and almond-rock that Maria ate for her. The prior gave her a
plaster statuette of St Catherine. "She was clever, and so are you,"
he said.

"Carmela, I am not really _antipatica_?"

"What foolishness! No."

"Why does Gemma hate me then? No one else does, or if they do they
hide it, but she looks daggers at me always."

Carmela had been invited to tea in her cousin's bedroom. The water did
not boil yet, but her mouth was already full of cake.

"What happened the other night when Gemma let you in?" she mumbled.

"Did she say anything to you?"

"No, but I am not blind or deaf. You have not spoken to each other
since."

Olive lifted the kettle off the spirit lamp. "You like it weak, I
know."

"Yes, and three lumps of sugar. Tell me what happened, _cara_."

"Well, as I came up the stairs that night I noticed a strong scent of
tobacco--good tobacco. Sienese boys smoke cheap cigarettes, and the
older men get black Tuscan cigars, but this was different. It reminded
me of-- Oh, well, never mind. When I came to the first landing I felt
sure there was someone standing close against the wall waiting for me
to go by, and yet when I spoke no one answered. You know how dark it
is on the stairs at night. I could not see anything, but I listened,
and, Carmela, a watch was ticking quite near me, by my ear. I could
not move for a moment, and then I heard Carolina calling--she was
with me, you know, but she had gone up first--and I got up somehow.
Gemma let us in. She said she had been asleep, and I noticed that her
hair was all loose and tumbled. I told her I fancied there was someone
lurking on the stairs, and she said it must have been the cat, but I
knew from the way she said it that she was angry. She lit her candle
and marched off into her own room without saying good-night, and I was
sorry because I have always wanted to be friends with her. I thought I
would try to say something about it, so I went to her door and
knocked. She opened it directly. 'Go away, spy,' she said very
distinctly, and then I grew angry too. I laughed. 'So there was a man
on the stairs,' I said."

Carmela stirred her tea thoughtfully. "Ah!" she said. "How nice these
spoons are. I wish you would tell me who gave them to you."

She helped herself to another cake. "Gemma is difficult, and we shall
all be glad when September comes and she is safely married. She is
lazy. You have seen us of a morning, cutting out, basting, stitching
at her wedding clothes, while she sits with her hands folded. Are you
coming out with us this evening?"

The Menotti strolled down to the Lizza nearly every day after the
_siesta_, and Carmela often persuaded her cousin to accompany them.
The gardens were set on an outlying spur of the hill on which the
wolf's foster son, Remus, built the city that was to be fairer than
Rome. The winter winds, coming swiftly from the sea, whipped the
laurels into strange shapes, shook the brown seed pods from the bare
boughs of the acacias, and froze the water that dripped from the
Medicean balls on the old wall of the Fortezza. Even in summer a
little breeze would spring up towards sunset, and the leaves that had
hung heavy and flaccid on the trees in the blazing heat of noon would
be stirred by it to some semblance of life, while the shadows
lengthened, and the incessant maddening scream of the locusts died
down into silence. The gardens were a favourite resort. As the church
bells rang the Ave Maria the people came to them by Camollia and San
Domenico, to see each other and to talk over the news of the day.

Smart be-ribboned nurses carrying babies on white silk cushions tied
with pink or blue rosettes, young married women with their children,
stout mothers chaperoning the elaborate vivacity of their daughters,
occupied seats near the bandstand, or lingered about the paths as they
chattered and fanned themselves incessantly to the strains of the
Intermezzo from _Cavalleria Rusticana_ or some march of Verdi's. A
great gulf was fixed between the sexes on these occasions. The young
men congregated about the base of Garibaldi's statue; more or less
gilded youths devoted to "le Sport," wearing black woollen jerseys
and perforated cycling shoes, while lady-killers braved strangulation
in four-inch collars. There were soldiers too, cavalry lieutenants,
slender, erect, and very conscious of their charms, and dark-faced
priests, who listened to the music carefully with their eyes fixed on
the ground, as being in the crowd but not of it. Olive watched them
all with mingled amusement and impatience. If only the boys would talk
to their friends' sisters instead of eyeing them furtively from afar;
if only the girls would refrain from useless needlework and empty
laughter. They talked incessantly and called every mortal--and
immortal--thing _carina_. Queen Margherita was _carina_, and so was
the new cross-stitch, and so was this blue-eyed Olive. Yes, they
admitted her alien charm. She was _strana_, too, but they did not use
that word when she was there or she would have rejoiced over such an
enlargement of their vocabulary.

"They are amiable," she told Astorre, "but we have not one idea in
common."

"Ah," he said, "can one woman ever praise another without that 'but'?
Do you think them pretty?" he asked.

"Yes, but one does not notice them when Gemma is there."

"That is the pale one, isn't it? I have heard of her from the
students, and also from the professors of the University. One of my
friends raves about her Greek profile and her straight black brows. He
calls her his silent Sappho, but I fancy Odalisque is a better name
for her. There is no brain or heart, is there?"

"I don't know," she answered uncertainly. "She seldom speaks to
anyone, never to me."

"She is jealous of you probably."

The heats of July tried the boy. He was not so well as he had been in
the spring, and lately he had not been able to help his mother with
her needlework. The hours of enforced idleness seemed very long, and
he watched for Olive's coming with pathetic eagerness. She never
failed to appear on Tuesdays and Saturdays, though the lessons had
been given up since his head ached when he tried to learn. Signora
Aurelia met her always at the door with protestations of gratitude.
"You amuse him and make him laugh, my dear, because you are so fresh,
and you do not mind what you say. It is good of you to come so far in
the sun."

The girl's heart ached to see the haggard young face so white against
the dark velvet of the piled-up cushions. The deep grey eyes lit up
with pleasure at the sight of her, but she found it hard to meet their
yearning with a smile.

Sometimes she found old men sitting with him, grave and potent
signiors, professors from the University, who, on being introduced,
beamed paternally and asked her questions about Oxford and Cambridge.
There were bashful youths too, who blushed when she entered and rose
hurriedly with muttered excuses. If they could be induced to stay,
Olive, seeing that it pleased Astorre to see them shuffling their feet
and writhing on their chairs in an agony of embarrassment before her,
did her best to make them uncomfortable.

"Your friends are all so timid," she said. He looked at her with a
kind of triumph, a pride of possession.

"They do not understand you as I do. Fausto admires you, but you
frighten him."

"Is he Gemma's adorer?" she asked with a careful display of
indifference.

"Yes, he is always _amoroso_."

"Ah! Does he smoke?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Oh, nothing," she said. She did not really believe that the man on
the stairs could have been Fausto. Gemma would not look twice at such
a harmless infant now. When she was forty-five, perhaps, she might
smile on boys, but at twenty-six--



CHAPTER VII


Olive sat in her little bedroom correcting exercises.

It was the drowsy middle of the afternoon and the heat was intense.
All the grey-green and golden land of Tuscany lay still and helpless
at the mercy of the sun. The birds had long ceased singing, and only
the thin shrilling of the locusts broke the August silence. The
parched earth was pale, and great cracks that only the autumn rains
could fill had opened on the hillsides, but the ripening maize lay
snug within its narrow sheaths of green, and the leaves of the vines
hid great bunches of purpling grapes. In the fields men rested awhile
from their labours, and the patient white oxen stood in the shade of
the mulberries, while the sunburnt lads who drove them bathed their
tired bodies in the stream, or lay idly in the lush grass at the
water's edge.

In the town the walls of houses that had fronted the morning sun were
scorching to the touch, and there was no coolness even in the steep
northward streets that were always in shadow, or in the grey
stone-paved courts of the palaces. There were few people about at this
hour, and the little stream of traffic had run dry in the Via Cavour.
A vendor of melons drew his barrow close up to the battered old column
in the Piazza Tolomei, and squatted down on the ground beside it.
"_Cocomeri! Fresc' e buoni!_" he cried once or twice, and then rolled
over and went to sleep. A peasant girl carrying a basket of eggs
passed presently, and she looked wistfully at the fruit, but she did
not disturb his slumbers.

"Is that the aunt of your friend's mother? No, it is the sister of my
niece's governess." Olive laid down her pen. She was only partially
dressed and her hair hung loosely about her bare white shoulders. The
heat made hairpins seem a burden and outer garments superfluous. "My
niece's governess is the last. Thank Heaven for that!" she said, and
she sat down on the brick floor to take off her stockings. Gemma's
_fidanzato_, her lawyer from Lucca, was coming to Siena for a week. He
would lodge next door and come in to the Menotti for most of his
meals, and already poor old Carolina was busy in the hot, airless
kitchen, beating up eggs for a _zabajone_, and Signora Carosi had gone
out to buy ice for the wine and sweet cakes to be handed round with
little glasses of _vin_ Santo or Marsala.

Carmela came into her cousin's room soon after four o'clock. "I have
just taken Gemma a cup of black coffee. Her head aches terribly."

"I heard her moving about her room in the night," Olive answered, and
she added, under her breath, "Poor Gemma!"

Carmela lowered her voice too. "Of course Maria and I know that you
see what is going on as well as we do. There is some man ... she lets
down a basket from her window at nights for letters, and I believe she
meets him when my aunt thinks she has gone to Mass. It is dreadful.
How glad we shall be when she is safely married and away."

"Who is the man?"

"Hush! I don't know. Do you hear the beating of a drum? One of the
_Contrade_ is coming."

The two girls ran to the window, and Olive opened the green shutters a
little way that they might see out without being seen. The day of the
Palio was close at hand, and the pages and _alfieri_ of the rival
parishes, whose horses were to run in the race, were already going
about the town. Olive never tired of watching the flash of bright
colours as the flags were flung up and deftly caught again, and she
cried out now with pleasure as the little procession moved leisurely
across the piazza.

"I wonder why they come here," Carmela said, as the first _alfiero_
let the heavy folds of silk ripple about his head, twisted the staff,
seemed to drop it, and gathered it to him again easily with his left
hand. The page stood aside with a grave assumption of the gilded
graces of the thirteenth century. He was handsome in his dress of
green and white and scarlet velvet.

"Why does he look up here?"

Olive laughed a little. "He is the son of the cobbler who mends my
boots," she whispered. "He is trying to learn English and I have lent
him some books, and that is why he has come to do us honour. I think
it is charming of him."

She took a white magnolia blossom from a glass dish on her table.
"Shall I be mediæval too?"

The boy raised smiling eyes as the pale flower came fluttering down to
him. One of the _alfieri_ laughed aloud.

"_O Romeo, sei bello!_"

"_Son' felice!_" he answered, and he kissed the waxen petals ardently.

Olive softly clapped her hands together. "Is he not delicious! What an
actor! Oh, Italy!"

Now that the performance was over the _alfieri_ strolled across the
piazza to the barrow that was still drawn up by the column.
"_Cocomeri! Fresc' e buoni!_"

"I never know what will please you," Carmela said as she sat down.
"But foreigners always like the Palio. You will see many English and
Americans and Germans on the stands."

"Yes, I love it all. Yesterday I passed through the Piazza del Campo
and saw the workmen putting palings all about the centre, and
hammering at the stands, while others strewed sand on the course and
fastened mattresses to the side of the house by San Martino."

"Ah, the _fantini_ are often thrown there and flung against the wall.
If there were no mattresses ... crack!" Carmela made a sound as of
breaking bones and hummed a few bars of Chopin's _Marche Funèbre_.

Olive shuddered. "You are an impressionist, Carmela. Two dabs of
scarlet and a smear--half a word and a shrug of the shoulders--and you
have expressed a five-act tragedy. I think you could act."

"Oh, I am not clever; I should never be able to remember my part."

"You would improvise," Olive was beginning, when Carmela sprang up and
ran to the window again.

"It is Orazio!" she cried. "He has come in a cab."

The _vetturino_ had pulled his horse up with a jerk of the reins after
the manner of his kind; the wretched animal had slipped and he was now
beating it about the head with the butt end of his whip. His fare had
got out and was looking on calmly.

Olive hastily picked up one of her shoes and flung it at them. It
struck the _vetturino_ just above the ear. "A nasty crack," she said.
"His language is evidently frightful. It is a good thing I can't
understand it, Carmela."

She looked down at the angry, bewildered men, and the _vetturino_,
catching a glimpse of the flushed face framed in a soft fluff of brown
hair, shook his fist and roared a curse upon it.

"Touch that horse again and I'll throw a jug of boiling water over
you," she cried as she drew the green shutters to; and then, in quite
another tone, "Oh, Giovanni, be good. What has the poor beast ever
done to you?" She turned to Carmela. "I know him. His wife does
washing for Signora Aurelia," she explained.

A slow grin overspread the man's heavy face as he rubbed his head.

"Mad English," he said, and then looked closely at the coin the
Lucchese had tendered him.

"Your legal fare," Orazio began pompously.

"Santo Diavolo--"

"I am a lawyer."

"_Si capisce!_ Will you give the signorina her shoe?" He handed it to
Orazio, who took it awkwardly.

"The incident is closed," Olive said as she came back to her cooling
tea. "I hope there is a heaven for horses and a hell for men. Oh, how
I hate cruelty! Carmela, if that is Orazio I must say I sympathise
with Gemma. How could any woman love a mean, narrow-shouldered,
whitey-brown paper thing like that?"

"It is a pity," sighed Carmela as she moved towards the door. "But
after all they are all alike in the end. I must go now to help Maria
lace. I pull a little, and then wait a few minutes. _È un martirio!_"

"Why does she do it?"

"Why does an ostrich bury its head in the sand? Why does a camel try
to get through the eye of a needle? (But perhaps he does not.) I often
tell her fat cannot be hidden, but she will not believe."

When Olive went into the _salotto_ a few minutes before seven she
found the family assembled. Signor Lucis rose from his place at
Gemma's side as the aunt uttered the introductory formula. He brought
his heels together and bowed stiffly from the waist, and when Olive
gave him her hand in English fashion he took it limply and held it for
a moment before he dropped it. His string-coloured moustache was
brushed up from a loose-lipped mouth, and he showed bad teeth when he
smiled.

"The signorina speaks Italian?"

"Oh, yes."

"Ah, does she come from London?"

"I had no settled home in England."

"Ah! The sun never shines there?"

She laughed. "Not as it does here," she admitted. "Where is my shoe?"

"It was yours then?" he said with an attempt at playfulness. "Gemma
has been quite jealous of the unknown owner, but she says it is much
larger than any of hers." The girls' eyes met but neither spoke, and
Orazio babbled on, unheeding: "Her feet are _carini_, and I can span
her ankle with my thumb and forefinger; but you are small made too,
signorina."

Carolina poked her head in at the door. "_Al suo comodo è pronto_,"
she said, referring to the dinner, and hurried away again to dish up
the veal cutlets.

The young man contrived to remain behind in the _salotto_ for a moment
and to keep Gemma with him. Olive looked at them as they took their
places at table, and she understood that the girl had had to submit to
some caress. She looked sick and her lips were quite white, and if
Lucis had been a man of quick perceptions he would have realised, her
face must have shown him, that she loathed him. He was dense, however,
and though he commented on her silence later on it was evident that he
attributed it to shyness.

Olive, thinking to do well, flung herself into the conversational
breach. Her cousins had nothing to say, and the aunt's thoughts were
set on the dinner and cumbered with much serving. So she talked to him
as in duty bound, and he seemed inclined to banter her.

Her feet, her temper, her relations with _vetturini_. He was
execrable, but she would not take offence.

After dinner they all sat in the little _salotto_ until it was time to
go to the theatre, and still Olive talked and laughed with Orazio,
teaching him English words and making fun of his pronunciation of
them. Gemma watched her sombrely and judged her by her own standards,
and Carmela caught at her cousin's arm presently as they passed down
the crowded Via Cavour together.

"Why did you make her so angry? She will always hate you now. I did
not know you were _civetta_."

Olive looked startled. "Angry? What do you mean?"

"Why did you speak so much to Orazio? Gemma thought you wanted to take
her husband from her and she will not forgive."

"Why, I could see it made her ill to look at him and that she shrank
from his touch, and I did as I would be done by. I distracted his
attention."

Carmela laughed in spite of herself. "Oh, Olive, and I thought you
were so clever. Do you not understand that one can be jealous of a man
one does not love? I know that though I am stupid. All Italians are
jealous. You must remember that."

"I am sorry," Olive said ruefully after a pause. "I see you are right.
She will never believe that I wanted to help her. If only you could
persuade her to give up Orazio. Surely the other man would come
forward then. You and Maria talk of getting her safely married and
away, but I see farther. There can be no safety in union with the
wrong man--"

Carmela shook her head. "She wants a husband," she said stolidly,
"and Orazio will make a good one. You do not understand us, my dear.
You can please yourself with dreams and fancies, but we are
different."



CHAPTER VIII


Olive was careful to sit down with Carmela on one side of their box on
the second tier, leaving two chairs in front for the _fidanzati_, but
the young man made several efforts to include her in the conversation
and she understood that she had put herself in a false position.
Orazio had misunderstood her because her manners were not the manners
of Lucca, and he knew no others. It annoyed her to see that he plumed
himself on his conquest, but her sense of humour enabled her to avoid
his glances with a good grace, especially as she realised that she had
brought them on herself.

She felt nothing but pity for her cousin now. It would be terrible to
marry a man like that, she thought, and she wondered that so many
women could rush in where angels feared to tread. She believed that
there were infinite possibilities of happiness in the holy state of
matrimony, but it seemed to her that perhaps the less said of some
actualities the better.

Carmela was right. At this time she pastured on dreams and fancies.
Her emotions were not starved, but they were kept down and only
allowed to nibble. She thought often of the man who had been kind to
her, and sometimes she wished that he had kissed her. It would have
been something to remember. Often, if she closed her eyes, she could
almost cheat herself into believing him there close beside her, his
brown gaze upon her, his lips quivering with a strange eagerness that
troubled her and yet made her glad. Jean Avenel. It was a good name.

He had gone to America and she assured herself that he must have
forgotten her, but she did not try to forget him. She nursed the
little wistful sorrow for what might have been, as women will, and
would not bind up the scratch he had inflicted. Already she had
learned that some pain is pleasant, and that a stinging sweetness may
be distilled from tears. Sometimes at night, when it was too hot to
sleep and she lay watching the fine silver lines of moonlight passing
across the floor, she asked herself if she would see him again, and
when, and how, and wove all manner of cobweb fancies about what might
be.

She ripened quickly as fruit ripens in the hot sunshine of Italy; her
lips were more sweetly curved and coloured, and her blue eyes were
shadowed now. They were like sapphires seen through a veil.

Maria gave her the opera-glasses and she raised them to scan the
house. It was a gala night and the theatre was hung with flags and
brilliantly illuminated. There were candles everywhere, and the great
chandelier that hung from the ceiling was lit. The heat was stifling,
and the incessant fluttering of fans gave the women in the _parterre_
and in the crowded boxes a look of unrest that was belied by their
placid, expressionless faces. Many glanced up at the Menotti in their
box. There was some criticism of Gemma's Lucchese.

"He is ugly, but she could not expect to get a husband here where she
is so well known. They say--"

"The Capuan Psyche and a rose from the garden of Eden," said a man in
the stage box, who had discerned Olive's fresh, eager prettiness
beyond the pale beauty of the Odalisque.

He handed the glasses to his neighbour. "Choose."

"The _rôle_ of Paris is a thankless one; it involved death in the end
for the shepherd prince."

"Yes, but you are not a shepherd prince."

The man addressed was handsome as a faun might be and as a tiger is.
Not sleek, but lean and brown, with hot, insolent eyes and a fine and
cruel mouth. A great emerald sparkled on the little finger of his left
hand. He was one of the few in the house who wore evening dress, and
he was noticeable on that account, but he had been standing talking
with some other men at the back of his box hitherto. He came forward
now and Gemma saw him. Her set lips relaxed and seemed to redden as
she met his bold, lifted gaze, but as his eyes left hers and he
raised his glasses to stare past her at Olive her face contracted so
that for the moment she was almost ugly.

The performance was timed to begin at nine, but at twenty minutes past
the hour newsvendors were still going to and fro with bundles of
evening papers, and the orchestra was represented by a melancholy
bald-headed man with a cornet. The other musicians came in leisurely,
one by one, and at last the conductor took his place and the audience
settled down and was comparatively quiet while the Royal March was
being played. The orchestra had begun the overture to _Rigoletto_ when
some of the men who stood in the packed arena behind the _palchi_
cried out and their friends in other parts of the house joined in.
They howled like wolves, and for a few minutes the uproar was
terrific, and Verdi's music was overwhelmed by the clamour of voices
until the conductor, turning towards the audience, said something
inaudible with a deprecating bow and a quick movement of his hands.

"_Ora, zitti!_" yelled a voice from the gallery.

Silence was instant, and the whole house rose and stood reverently,
listening to a weird and confused jumble of broken chords that yet
could stir the pulses and quicken the beating of young hearts.

Olive had risen with the rest. "What is it?" she whispered to Maria.

"Garibaldi's Hymn."

It seemed a red harmony of rebellious souls, climbing, struggling,
clutching at the skirts of Freedom. The patter of spent shot, the
heavy breathing of hunted fugitives, the harsh crying of dying men,
the rush of feet that stumbled as they came over the graves of the
Past; all these sounds of bygone strife rang, as it were, faintly,
beyond the strange music, as the sea echoes, sighing, in a shell.

Signora Aurelia had told Olive how in the years before Italy was free
and united under the king, when Guiseppe Verdi was a young man, the
students would call his name in the theatre until the house rang to
the cry of "_Viva Verdi! Viva Verdi!_" A little because they loved
their music-maker, more because V. E. R. D. I. meant Vittor Emanuele,
Re D'Italia, and they liked to sing his forbidden praises in the very
ears of the white-coat Austrians.

They had their Victor. Had he not sufficed? Olive knew that the
authorities scarcely countenanced the playing of the Republican hymn.
Was it because it made men long for some greater ruler than a king, or
for no ruler at all? Freedom is more elusive even than happiness.
Never yet has she yielded herself to men, though she makes large
promises and exacts sacrifices as cruel as ever those of Moloch could
have been. Her altars stream with blood, but she ... she is talking,
or she is pursuing, or she is on a journey, or peradventure she
sleepeth ... and her prophets must still call upon her and cut
themselves with knives.

As the curtain went up Olive leant forward that she might see the
stage. It was her first opera. Music is a necessity in Italy, but in
England it is a luxury, and somehow she and her mother had never been
able to afford even seats in the gallery at Covent Garden.

Now all her thoughts, all her fancies, were swept away in the flood of
charming melody. The story, when she understood it, shocked and
repelled her. It seemed strange that crime should be set to music, and
that one should have to see abduction, treachery, vice, and a murder
brutally committed in full view of the audience, while the tenor sang
the lightest of all his lyrics: "_La donna è mobile_."

Gemma asked for an ice during the second _entr'acte_, and Orazio
hurried out to get one for her at the buffet. The girl looked tired,
but she was kind to her lover in her silent, languid way, listening to
his whispered inanities, and allowing him to hold her hand, though her
flesh shrank from the damp clamminess of his grasp, and she hated his
nearness and wished him away.

The man who sat alone now in the stage box could see no flaw in her
composure, and she seemed to him as perfectly calm as she was
perfectly beautiful, though he had noticed that not once had she
looked towards the stage. She kept her eyes down, and they were
shadowed by the long black lashes. Ah, she was beautiful! The man's
lean brown face was troubled and he sighed under his breath. He went
out in the middle of the third act, and he did not come back again.

After a while Gemma moved restlessly. "Orazio, _per carità_! Your hand
is so hot and sticky! I shall change places with Carmela," she said.
She released her fingers from the young man's grasp with the air of
one crushing a forward insect or removing a bramble from the path, and
she actually beckoned to her sister to come.

Orazio flushed red and he seemed about to speak as Carmela rose from
her seat, but the aunt interposed hurriedly.

"Sit still, Gemma, you are tired or you would not speak so. The lights
hurt your eyes and make your head ache."

"Yes, I am tired," the girl said wearily. "I slept ill last night.
Forgive me, Orazio, if I was cross. I am sorry."

Her dull submission touched Olive with a sudden sense of pity and of
fear, but Orazio was blind and deaf to all things written between the
lines of life, and he could not interpret it.

"I do not always understand you," he said stiffly, and he would not
relax until presently she drew nearer to him of her own accord.



CHAPTER IX


The Vicolo dei Moribondi is the narrowest of all the steep stone-paved
streets that lead from the upper town to the market-place of Siena,
and the great red bulk of the Palazzo Pubblico overshadows it. Olive
had come that way once from the Porta Romana, and seeing the legend:
"_Affitasi una camera_" displayed in the doorway of one of the shabby
houses, had been moved to climb the many stairs to see the room in
question.

It proved to be a veritable eyrie, large, bare, passably clean, and
very well lighted. From the window she saw the hillside below the
church of San Giuseppe, a huddle of red roofs and grey olive orchards
melting into a blue haze of distance beyond the city walls, and the
crowning heights of San Quirico. Leaning out over the sill of
crumbling stone she looked down into the Vicolo as into a well.

The rent was very low, and the woman who had the room to let seemed a
decent though a frowsy old soul, and so the matter was settled there
and then, and Olive had left the house with the key of her new domain
in her pocket.

She had bought a table and two chairs and a shelf for her books at a
second-hand furniture shop near the Duomo, and had given her first
lesson there two days later, and soon the quiet place seemed more like
home to her than the stuffy flat in the Piazza Tolomei. What matter if
she came to it breathless from climbing five flights of stairs? It was
good to be high up above the stale odours of the streets. The window
was always open. There were no woollen mats to be faded or waxen
fruits to be melted by the sun's heat. A little plaster bust of Dante
stood on the table, and Olive kept the flowers her pupils gave her,
pink oleander blossoms and white roses from the terrace gardens, in a
jar of majolica ware, but otherwise the place was unadorned.

"It is like a convent," Carmela said when she came there with Maria
and her aunt for an English tea-drinking.

Signora Carosi had sipped a little tea and eaten a good many of the
cakes Olive had bought from the _pasticceria_. "The situation is
impossible," she remarked, as she brushed the crumbs off her lap.

"The stairs are a drawback," Olive admitted, not without malice, "but
fortunately my pupils are all young and strong."

"You are English. I always say that when I am asked how I can permit
such things. 'What would you? She teaches men grammar alone in an
attic. I cannot help it. She is English.'"

Gemma had been asked to come too on this occasion, but she had excused
herself. She so often had headaches when the others were going out,
and they would leave her lying down in her room. When they came back
she was always up and better, and yet she seemed feverish and strange.
Then sometimes of a morning, when Maria and the aunt had gone out
marketing, and Carmela, shapeless and dishevelled in her white cotton
jacket, was dusting or ironing, the beautiful idle sister would come
out of her room, dressed for the street and carrying a prayer-book.
Carmela would remonstrate with her. "You are not going alone?"

"Only to mass."

On the morning of the fifteenth of August she did not go with the
others to the parish church at six o'clock, but she was up early,
nevertheless. She wrote a letter, and presently, having sealed it, she
dropped it out of the window. A boy who had been lingering about the
piazza since dawn, and staring up at the close-shuttered fronts of the
tall houses, picked it up and ran off with it. When Maria and Carmela
came back with their aunt soon after seven they drank their black
coffee in the kitchen before going to their rooms to rest. Carolina
took Olive's breakfast in to her on a tray when they were gone. The
English girl had milk with her coffee and some slices of bread spread
with rancid butter. Gemma lay in wait for the old woman and stopped
her as she came from the kitchen.

"Find out what she is going to do to-day," she whispered.

Carolina nodded and her shrivelled monkey face was puckered into a
smile. She came back presently. "She is going to the Duomo and then to
_colazione_ with the De Sancti. She will go with Signora Aurelia to
see the Palio and only come back here to supper."

Gemma went back to her room to finish her dressing. She put on a pink
muslin frock and a hat of white straw wreathed with roses and leaves.
Surely her beauty should avail to give her all she desired, light and
warmth always, diamonds and fine laces, and silks to clothe her and
give her grace, and the possession of the one man's heart, with his
name and a place in the world beside him. Surely she was not destined
to live with Orazio and his tiresome mother, penned up in a shabby
little house in Lucca, and there growing old and hideous. She sat
before her glass thinking these thoughts and waiting until she heard
Olive's quick, light step in the passage and then the opening and
shutting of the front door. Carolina was in the kitchen and the others
had gone to lie down, but she went into the dining-room and listened
for a moment there before she ventured into her cousin's room. She had
often been in to pry when alone in the flat, and she knew where to
look for the key of the attic in the Vicolo. Olive always kept it in a
corner of the table drawer and it was there now. Gemma smiled her rare
slow smile as she put it in her purse. There was a photograph of her
aunt--Olive's mother--on the dressing-table, and a Tauchnitz edition
of Swinburne's _Atalanta in Calydon_ lay beside it, the embroidered
tassel of the marker being one of Astorre's pitiful little gifts. She
swept them off on to the floor and poured the contents of the
ink-stand over them. She had acted on a spiteful impulse, and she was
half afraid when she saw the black stream trickling over the book and
blotting out the face of the woman who had been of her kin. It seemed
unlucky, a _malore_, and she was vexed with herself. She looked into
the kitchen on her way out. "Carolina, if they ask where I am I have
gone to church."

The old woman nodded. "Very well, signorina, but you are becoming too
devout. _Bada, figlia mia!_"

Siena is a city dedicated to the Virgin, and the feast of her
Assumption is the greatest of all her red-letter days. The streets had
echoed at dawn to the feet of _contadini_ coming in by the Porta
Romana, the Porta Camollia, the Porta Pespini. The oxen had been fed
and left in their stalls; there was no ploughing in the fields on this
day, no gathering of figs, no sound of singing voices and laughter in
the vineyards. The brown wrinkled old men and women, the lithe,
slender youths in their suits of black broadcloth--wood gods disguised
by cheap tailoring--all had left their work and come many a mile along
the dusty roads and across fields to the town for the dear Madonna's
sake, and to see the Palio. The country girls had all new dresses for
the _Ferragosto_ and they strutted in the Via Cavour like little
pigeons pluming themselves in the sunshine. They were nearly all
pretty, and the flapping hats of Tuscan straw half hid and half
revealed charming curves of cheek and chin, little tip-tilted noses,
soft brown eyes. Many of the townsfolk were out too on this day of
days and the streets were crowded with gay, vociferous people. There
was so much to see. The old picture-gallery was free to all, and the
very beggars might go in to see the sly, pale, almond-eyed Byzantine
Madonne in their gilt frames, and Sodoma's tormented Christ at the
Pillar with the marks of French bullets in the plaster. All the
palaces too were hung with arras, flags fluttered everywhere, church
bells were ringing.

Gemma passed down a side street and went a little out of her way to
avoid the Piazza del Campo, but she had to cross the Via Ricasoli, and
the crowd was so dense there that she was forced to stand on a
doorstep for a while before she could get by.

"What are they all staring at?" she asked impatiently of a woman near
her.

"It is the horse of the _Montone_! They are taking him to be blessed
at the parish church."

The poor animal was led by the _fantino_ who was to ride him in the
race, and followed by the page. He was small and lean and grey, with
outstanding ribs and the dry scar of an old wound on his flank. The
people eyed him curiously. "An ugly beast!" "Yes, but you should see
him run when the cognac is in him."

Gemma began to be afraid that she would be late, and that He might
find the door shut and go away again, and she pushed her way through
the crowd and hurried down the Vicolo and into the house numbered
thirteen. She was very breathless, being tightly laced and unused to
so many stairs, and she stumbled a little as she crossed the
threshold. She was glad to sit down on one of the chairs by the open
window. The bare room no longer seemed conventual now that its
unaccustomed air was stirred by the movement of her fan and tainted by
the faint scent of her violet powder.

Outside, in the market-place, the country women were sitting in the
shade of their enormous red and blue striped umbrellas beside their
stalls of fruit, while the people who came to buy moved to and fro
from one to the other, beating down prices, chaffering eagerly with
little cries of "_Per carità!_" and "_Dio mio!_" shrugging their
shoulders, moving away, until at last the peasants would abate their
price by one soldo. A clinking of coppers followed, and the green
peaches and small black figs would be pushed into a string bag with a
bit of meat wrapped in a back number of the _Vedetta Senese_, a half
kilo of _pasta_, and perhaps a tiny packet of snuff from the shop
where they sell salt and tobacco and picture postcards of the Pope and
La Bella Otero.

In the old days the scaffold and the gallows had been set up there,
and the Street of the Dying had earned its name then, so many doomed
wretches had passed down it from the Justice Hall and the prisons to
the place of expiation. Weighed down by chains they had gone
reluctantly, dragging their feet upon their last journey, trying to
listen to the priest's droning of prayers, or to see some friendly
face in the crowd.

The memory of old sorrows and torments lay heavy sometimes here on
those who had eyes to see and ears to hear the things of the past, and
Olive was often pitifully aware of the Moribondi. Rain had streamed
down their haggard faces, washing their tears away, the sun had shone
upon them, dazzling their tired eyes as they turned the corner where
the cobbler had his stall now, and came to the place from whence they
might have their first glimpse of the scaffold. Poor frightened souls!
But Gemma knew nothing of them, and she would have cared nothing if
she had known. She was not imaginative, and her own ills and the
present absorbed her, since now she heard the man's step upon the
stair.

"You have come then," she cried.

He made no answer, but he put his arms about her, holding her close,
and kissed her again and again.



CHAPTER X


"Filippo! Let me go! Let me breathe, _carissimo_! I want to speak to
you."

He did not seem to hear her. He had drawn the long steel pins out of
her hat and had thrown the pretty thing down on the floor, and the
loosened coils of shining hair fell over his hands as his strong lips
bruised the pale, flower-like curves of her mouth.

Filippo had loved many women in the only way possible to him, and they
had been won by his brutality and his insolence, and by the glamour of
his name. The annals of mediæval Italy were stained with blood and
tears because of the Tor di Rocca, and their loves that ended always
in cruelty and horror, and Filippo had all the instincts of his
decadent race. In love he was pitiless; no impulses of tenderness or
of chivalry restrained him, and his methods were primeval and violent.
Probably the Rape of the Sabines was his ideal of courtship, but the
subsequent domesticity, the settling down of the Romans with their
stolen wives, would have been less to his taste.

"Filippo!" Gemma cried again, and this time he let her go.

"You may breathe for one minute," he said, looking at his watch.
"There is not much time."

He drew the chair towards the table and sat down. "Come!" he said
imperatively, but she shook her head.

"Ah, Filippo, I love you, but you must listen. Did you see my
_fidanzato_ in our box at the theatre last night?"

"Yes, and I am glad he is so ugly. I shall not be jealous. You must
give me your address in Lucca," he said coolly.

Her face fell. "You will let me marry him? You--you do not mind?"

He made a grimace. "I do not like it, but I cannot help it."

"But he makes me sick," she said tremulously. "I hate him to touch
me."

It seemed that her words lit some fire in him. His hot eyes sparkled
as he stretched out his arms to her. "Ah, come to me now then."

She stood still by the table watching him fearfully. "Filippo, I
hoped--I thought you would take me away."

"It is impossible. I cannot even see you again until after Christmas.
It will be safer--better not. But in January I will come to Lucca, and
then--"

He hesitated, weighing his words, weighing his thought and his desire.

"And then?" she said.

He looked at her closely, deliberately, divining the beauty that was
half hidden from him. Her parted lips were lovely, and the texture of
her white skin was satin smooth as the petals of a rose; there was no
fault in the pure oval of her face, in the line of her black brows. He
could see no flaw in her now, and he believed that she would still
seem unsurpassably fair after a lapse of time.

"Then, if you still wish it, I will take you away. You shall have a
villa at San Remo--"

"I understand," she said hurriedly, and she covered her face with her
hands.

She had hoped to be the Princess Tor di Rocca, and he had offered to
keep her still as his _amica_. Presently, if she wished it and it
still suited him, he would set her feet on the way that led to the
streets. "Then if you wish it--" To her the insult seemed to lie in
the proposed delay. She loved him, and she had no love for virtue. She
loved him, and if he had urged her to go with him on the instant she
would have yielded easily. But she must await his convenience; next
year, perhaps; and meanwhile she must go to Lucca, she must be married
to the other man.

She was crying, and tears oozed out between her fingers and dripped on
the floor. "He is horrible to me," she said brokenly.

Filippo rose then and came to her; he loved her in his way, and she
moved him as no woman had done yet.

"Why need you marry him? Do not. Wait for me here and I will surely
come for you," he said as he drew her to him.

She hid her face on his shoulder. "I dare not send him away," she
whispered. "All Siena would laugh at me, and I should be ashamed to be
seen. No other man would ever take me after such a scandal. Besides,
you know I must be married. You know that, Filippo! And if you did not
come--"

"I shall come."

She clung to him in silence for a while before she spoke again.

"Why not until January?"

"You will be good if I tell you?" he asked when he had kissed her.

"Yes, yes; only hold me."

"Gemma, you must know that I am poor. I have told you often how the
palace in Florence is shabby, eaten up with moth and rust. The Villa
at Certaldo is falling into ruins too. I am poor."

"You have an automobile, servants, horses; you stay here at the best
hotel."

"I should not be poor for a _contadino_ but I am for a prince," he
said impatiently and with emphasis. "Believe me, I want money, and I
must have it. I cannot steal it or earn it, or win it in the lottery
unfortunately, so I must marry it."

She cowered down as though he had struck her, and made an effort to
escape from him, but he held her fast. She tried to speak, but the
pain in her throat prevented her from uttering an articulate sound.

"Do not think of the woman," he said hurriedly. "You need not. I do
not. Once I am married I shall go my own way, of course, but her
father is in Naples now, and he is a tiresome old fool."

"_Santissimo Dio!_" she gasped presently. "When--when--"

"In December."

"Is she beautiful?"

He laughed as he gave the answer she hoped for. "She is an American,"
he added, "and it sets one's teeth on edge to hear her trying to talk
Italian. Her accent! She is a small dry thing like a grasshopper."

"I wish she was dead."

He set himself to soothe and comfort her, but it was not easy.

"I might as well be ugly," she cried again and again.

It was the simple expression of her defeat. The beauty she had held to
be a shield against sorrow and a key to the garden of delights was but
a poor thing after all. It had not availed her, and she had nothing
else. She was stripped now, naked, alone and defenceless in a hard
world.

"_Carissima_, be still. Have patience. I love you, and I shall come
for you," whispered Tor di Rocca, and she tried to believe him, and to
persuade herself that the flame in his brown eyes would burn for her
always.

Slowly, as the passion of grief ebbed, the tide of love rose in her
and flushed her wan, tear-stained face and made it beautiful. The
door of the room was opened, but neither she nor the man heard it, or
saw it closed again. It was their last hour, this bare room was their
world and they were alone in it.



CHAPTER XI


The table was set for lunch out on the terrace where Astorre lay
gazing upon his Tuscany, veiled in a shimmering haze of heat and
crowned with August blue. The best coffee cups of majolica ware had
been set out, and signora had made a _zabajone_ in honour of
_Ferragosto_. It was meant to please Olive, who was childishly fond of
its thick yellow sweetness, but she seemed restless and depressed;
Astorre looked ill, and his mother's eyes were anxious as they dwelt
on him, and so the dainty was eaten in silence, and passed away
unhonoured and unsung as though it were humble pie or a funeral baked
meat.

Later in the afternoon, when the signora had gone to lie down, Astorre
began to ask questions.

"Is your face hot?"

"Yes--no--what makes you think--"

"You are flushed," he said bluntly, "and you will not meet my eyes.
Why? Why?"

"Don't ask," she answered. "I cannot tell you."

The haggard, aquiline face changed and hardened. "Someone has been
rude to you, or has frightened you."

"No." She moved away to escape the inquisition of his eyes. "Some of
these plants want water. I shall fetch some." She was going in when
he called to her.

"Olive," he said haltingly. "Perhaps we ought to have told you before.
My mother heard of some people who want an English governess from a
friend of hers who is a music mistress in Florence. They are rich and
would pay well, and we should have told you when we heard of it, three
days ago, but I could not bear the thought of your leaving Siena
while--while I am still here. But if those people in the Piazza
Tolomei are unkind--"

She came back then and sat down beside him. "I do not want to leave
Siena," she said gently.

"Thank you," he answered, and added: "It will not be for long. Why
should I pretend to you?" he went on. "I have suffered, but now I have
no pain at all, only I am very weak. Look!"

He held up his hand; it was yellowish white and so thin as to be
almost transparent, and it seemed to Olive to be most pathetic because
it was not very small or very finely made. It held the broken promise
of power, she thought sorrowfully, and she stroked the outstretched
palm gently as though it were a half-frozen bird that she would bring
to life again.

He closed his eyes, smiling. "Ah, your little fingers are soft and
warm."

"You were at the theatre last night," he said presently. "Fausto saw
you. How do you like your cousin's _fidanzato_?"

"Not at all."

"Olive, do you know that they say strange things about the Odalisque?
I am afraid there will be trouble if her Lucchese hears--"

"I do not care to hear that nickname," she said coldly. "It is
impertinent and absurd."

"Oh, do not let go of my hand," he implored. "Keep on stroking it. I
love it! I love it! If I were a cat you would hear me purring. Tell me
about England and Shakespeare and Shelley. Anything. I will be good."

"I--I have not brought the book I promised you. I would have fetched
it on my way here, but--but I had not the key. I am sorry, _nino_.
Yes, let us talk of nice things."

She was quick to relent, and soon seemed to be herself again, and he
kept his fever-bright eyes on her, watching her as in the old days men
may have watched the stars as they waited for the dawn that was to see
them pass by the Vicolo dei Moribondi.

Soon, very soon, Signora Aurelia would come out to them, and she would
stay beside her son while Olive went to put on her hat, and then they
would say "_Addio_" and leave him. And perhaps he would indeed go to
God, or to some place where he would see the dear ones no more. The
boy's beautiful lips were shut close, but the grey eyes darkened and
dilated painfully.

"Astorre! Are you ill? Do not look so. Oh, I will not go to the
Palio. I will stay with you."

"No, you must go, and to-morrow you can tell me all about it. But will
you kiss me now? Do."

"You need not ask twice, dear Astorre," she whispered, as she leant
over him and touched his forehead with her lips.

"_Ma che!_" he said ungratefully. "That's nothing. Kiss me properly
and at once."

When the boy's mother came out on to the terrace a moment later
Olive's blue eyes were full of tears and the rose flush of her cheeks
had deepened, but she looked at her friend very kindly as she uttered
the word he had been afraid to hear.

"_Addio!_"

The Piazza del Campo was crowded as the Signora Aurelia and Olive
passed through it to their seats on the second best stand, and the
_carabinieri_ were clearing the course. The thousands of people in the
central space, who had been chewing melon seeds, fanning themselves,
and talking vociferously as they waited, grew quieter, and all began
to look one way towards the narrow street from whence the procession
should appear.

Olive sat wedged between Signora Aurelia and an old country priest
whose shabby soutane was stained with the mud his housekeeper should
have brushed off after the last rains, a fortnight before. He had a
kind, worn face that smiled when Olive helped him put his cotton
umbrella in a safe place between them.

"I shall not need it yet," he said. "But there is a storm coming. Do
you not feel the heaviness of the air, and the heat, _Dio mio_!"

The deep bell of the Mangia tower tolled, and then the signal was
given, _un colpo di mortaletto_, and the pageant began.

Slowly they came, the grave, armoured knights riding with their visors
up that all might see how well the tanner, Giovanni, and Enrico Lupi
of the wine-shop, looked in chain mail; gay, velvet-clad pages
carrying the silk-embroidered standards of their _contrade_ with all
the fine airs of the lads who stand about the bier of Saint Catherine
in Ghirlandaio's fresco in the Duomo; lithe, slender _alfieri_ tossing
their flags, twisting them about in the carefully-concerted movements
that look so easy and are so difficult, until the whole great Piazza
was girdled with fluttering light and colour, while it echoed to the
thrilling and disquieting beat of the drums. Each _contrada_ had its
_tamburino_, and each _tamburino_ beat upon his drum incessantly until
his arms tired and the sweat poured down his face.

Olive's head began to ache, but she was excited and happy, enjoying
the spectacle as a child enjoys its first pantomime, not thinking but
feeling, and steeping her senses in the southern glow and gaiety that
was all about her. For the moment her cousin's shame and sorrow, and
her friend's pain seemed old, unhappy, far-off things, and she could
not realise them here.

The _contrada_ of the Oca was the last to go by; it was a favourite
with the people because its colours were those of the Italian flag,
red, white and green, and the Evvivas broke out as it passed. Olive's
page, her cobbler's son, looked gravely up at her as he went by, and
she smiled at him and was glad to see that he still wore the magnolia
bud she had thrown him in his hood of parti-coloured silk.

Presently they were all seated--the knights and pages with their
standard-bearers and esquires--on their own stand in the place of
honour before the great central gates of the Palazzo Pubblico.

"Now the horses will run," explained the signora. "Many people like
this part best, but I do not. Poor beasts! They are half drunk, and
they are often hurt or killed. The _fantini_ lash at each other with
their hide whips. Once I saw the _Montone_ strike the _Lupa_ just as
they passed here; the crimson flashed out across his face, and in his
pain he pulled his horse aside, and it fell heavily against the
palings and threw him so that the horse of the _Bruco_ coming on
behind could not avoid going over him. They said it was terrible to
see that livid weal across his mouth as he lay in his coffin."

"He died then?"

"_Ma! Sicuro!_"

Olive looked up at the window where the Menotti should have been, and
saw strange faces there. They had not come then. They had not, and
Astorre could not. Astorre was very ill ... the times were out of
joint. Her cousin's shame and sorrow and her friend's pain seemed to
come near again, and to be once more a part of her life, and she saw
"gold tarnished, and the grey above the green." When the horses came
clattering by, urged by their riders, maddened by the roar of the
crowd, she tried to shut her eyes, but she could not. The horse of the
_Dragone_ stumbled at the turn by San Martino and the rider was
thrown, and another fell by the Chigi palace as they came round the
second time. Olive covered her face with her hands. The thin, panting
flanks, marked with half-healed scars and stained with sweat, the poor
broken knees, the strained, suffering eyes ...

"Are you ill, signorina?" the old priest asked kindly.

"No, but the poor horses--I cannot look. Who has won?"

He rose to his feet. "The _Oca_!" he cried excitedly. A great roar of
voices acclaimed the favourite's victory, and when the spent horse
came to a standstill the _fantino_ slipped off its back and was
instantly surrounded by men and boys of his _contrada_, dancing and
shouting with joy, kissing him on both cheeks, pulling him this way
and that, until the _carabinieri_ came up and took him away amongst
them.

"The _Bruco_ hoped to win," the priest said, "and the _Oca's fantino_
might get a knife in his back if he were not taken care of."

Already the crowd was dispersing. The victorious _contrada_ had been
given the painted standard of the Palio, and were bearing it in
triumph to the parish church, where it would remain until the next
_Ferragosto_. The others were going their separate ways, pages and
_alfieri_ in silk doublets and parti-coloured hosen arm-in-arm with
their friends in black broadcloth, standard-bearers smoking
cigarettes, knights unhelmed and wiping heated brows with red cotton
handkerchiefs.

"I will go down the Via Ricasoli with you," Olive said.

"It is I who should take you home."

"Oh, I do not mind the crowd, and I know you are anxious to get back
to Astorre."

"Astorre--yes. Olive, you don't think he looks more delicate, do you?"

The girl felt that she could not have answered truly if her life had
depended on her veracity.

"Oh, no," she said. "He is rather tired, I think. The heat tries him.
He will be better later on."

The poor mother seemed relieved.

"You are right; he is always pale in the summer," she said, trying to
persuade herself that it was so. "You will come to-morrow to tell him
about the Palio?"

"Yes, surely."

There were to be fireworks later on at the Fortezza and illuminations
of the Lizza gardens, so the human tide set that way and left the
outlying parts of the city altogether. The quiet, tree-shadowed
piazzetta before the church of Santa Maria dei Servi was quite
deserted. Children played there in the mornings, and old men and women
lingered there and sat on the wooden benches in the sun, but they were
all away now; the bells had rung for the Ave Maria, the church doors
were closed, and the sacristan had gone to his supper.

A little mist had crept up from the valley; steep red roofs and old
walls that had glowed in the sun's last rays were shadowed as the
light waned, and black clouds came up from the horizon and blotted out
the stars.

"Go home quickly now, Olive. There will be a storm. The poor mad
people will howl to-night in the Manicomio. I hear them sometimes when
I am lying awake. Good-night, my dear."

"Good-night."



CHAPTER XII


Olive was tired, and now that she was alone she knew that she was also
a little afraid, so that she lingered on the way and went slowly up
the stairs of the house in the Piazza Tolomei. Carmela answered her
ring at the bell; her face was swollen and her eyes were red with
crying, and the little lamp she carried shook in her hand.

"Oh, Olive," she said, "Orazio says he will not marry her. He has
heard such things about her from his friends, and even in the Café
Greco.... It is a scandal."

She put her lamp down on the floor, and took out her handkerchief to
wipe away the tears that were running down her cheeks.

Olive came in and shut the door after her.

"Where is he?"

"They are all in the dining-room. Aunt sent Carolina out for the
evening, and it is a good thing, because of course in the kitchen she
could hear everything. He sent a message to say he could not go to the
Palio, and Gemma's head ached when she came back from church, so we
all stayed in. He came half an hour ago--"

"What does Gemma say?"

"Nothing. She looks like a stone."

"I must go through the dining-room to get to my room," Olive said
uncertainly. "What shall I do? Pass through very quickly or wait here
in the passage?"

"Better go in," advised Carmela. "They may not even notice you. He
keeps on talking so loudly, and aunt and Maria are crying."

"Poor things! I am so sorry!"

The two girls clung together for a moment, and Olive's eyes filled
with tears as she kissed her cousin's poor trembling lips. Then
Carmela stooped to pick up her lamp and put it out, and they went on
together down the passage.

The lamp was lit on the table that Carolina had laid for supper before
she went out, and the Menotti sat in their accustomed places as though
they were at a meal. Orazio Lucis was walking to and fro and
gesticulating. His boots creaked, and the noise they made grated on
the women's nerves as he talked loudly and incessantly, and they
listened. Maria kept her face hidden in her hands, but Gemma held
herself erect as ever, and she did not move when the two girls came
in, though her sombre eyes were full of shame.

"What shall I say to my friends in Lucca?" raved Orazio. "What shall I
say to my mother? Even if I still consented to marry you she would not
permit it; she would refuse to live in the same house with such a
person--and she would be right. _Mamma mia!_ She is always right. She
said, 'The girl is beautiful, but she has no money, and I tell you to
think twice.' I have been trapped here by all you women. You all
knew."

He pointed an accusing finger at Signora Carosi. She sobbed
helplessly, bitterly, as she tried to answer him, and Olive, who had
waited in the shadow by the door, hoping that he would move on and
enable her to pass into her own room, came forward and stood beside
her aunt. She had thought she would feel abashed before this man who
had been wronged, but he had made her angry instead, and now she would
not have left the room if he had asked her, or have told him the truth
if he had begged for it.

"Many girls have been offered me," he went on excitedly, "but I would
not hear of them because you were beautiful, and I thought you would
make a good wife. There was Annina Giannini; she had five thousand
lire, and more to come, and now she is married to a doctor in Lucca. I
gave her up for you, and you are dust of the streets."

Gemma flinched then as though he had struck her. The insult was
flagrant, and it was time to make an end. She rose from her chair
slowly, as though she were very tired, and filled her glass from the
decanter on the table with a hand that trembled so that half the wine
was spilled.

"Orazio," she said, and her dark eyes sought his and held them so that
he was compelled to stand still looking at her. "Orazio, I hope you
and your ugly fool of a mother will die slowly of a horrible disease,
and be tormented in hell for ever. May your flesh be covered with
sores while your bones rot and are gnawed by worms. _Cosi sia!_"

She crossed herself devoutly, and then drank some of the wine and
flung the glass over her shoulder. It fell to the floor and crashed to
splinters.

The man's jaw dropped and his mouth fell open, but he had no words to
answer her. She made a curious movement with her hands as though she
would cleanse them of some impurity, and then turned and went quickly
into her own room. They all heard the bolts drawn and the key turned
in the lock.

Olive was the first to speak, and her voice sounded strange and
unnatural to herself.

"She has said her say and left us, Signor Lucis. Will you not go too?
You will not marry her. _Benissimo!_ We wish you good-evening."

"You are very easy, signorina _mia_," he answered resentfully; "but I
cannot forgive."

"Who asked your forgiveness?" she retorted. "It is you who should beg
our pardon--you, who are so ready to believe the tales that are told
in the _cafés_ and to come here to abuse helpless women. You are a
coward, signore. Oh, how I hate men ... Judges in Israel ... I would
have them stoned first. _What's that?_"

There was shouting in the street, and then a loud knocking on the
house door. The women looked at each other with frightened eyes.

"What is it?"

Carmela ran to Gemma's door and shook the handle, calling to her to
come out. There was no answer, and perhaps they had a dreadful
premonition of the truth even then; Olive left them huddled together
like frightened sheep. The knocking still continued, and it sounded
very loud when she came out of the flat on to the stairs. She was
beside herself; that is, she was aware of two Olives, one who spoke in
a strange voice and trembled, and was now going down into the
darkness, stumbling at nearly every step and moaning incoherent
prayers to God, and one who watched and listened and was surprised at
what was said and done.

When she opened the great house door a man stood aside to let her come
out. She looked at him and knew him to be one of the neighbours, and
she wondered why he had run out into the street in his shirt-sleeves.
He was pale, too, and looked ill, and he seemed to want to speak to
her, but she could not listen.

A crowd had collected about something that was lying on the pavement
near their house wall; Olive looked up and saw Gemma's window opened
wide, and then she knew what it was. The people made way for her and
let her come to where the dead thing lay on its back with the knees
drawn up. Some woman had already covered the face with a handkerchief,
and dark blood was oozing out from under it. Olive crouched down
beside its pitiful disarray.

"Will someone help me carry her into the house?" she said.

No one answered her, and after a while she spoke again.

"Will someone fetch a doctor quickly?"

"It is useless, _figlia mia_; she is dead."

"At least"--her voice broke, and she had to begin again, making a
painful effort to control the words that she might be quite
intelligible--"at least help me to carry her in from the street. Is
there no Christian here?"

Two _carabinieri_ came running up now, and they made the people stand
back so that a space of pavement was left clear; the younger man spoke
to Olive.

"We cannot move the body until the authorities come, signorina. It
must stay where it is, but we shall guard it and keep the people off,
and you can fetch a sheet from the house to cover it."

"Oh, God!" she said, "when will they come?"

He slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"I do not know. We have sent to tell them. In a few minutes, perhaps,
or in two hours, three hours."

"And we must leave her here?"

"Yes, signorina."

"I will get the sheet."

He helped her to rise from her knees. Looking down she saw a stain of
blood on her skirt, and she clung to his arm for a moment, swaying as
though she would fall. There was a murmur among the people of pity and
sympathy. "_Poveretta! Che disgrazia!_"

"_Coraggio!_" the _carabiniere_ said gently.

Up again, up all the dark stairs, wondering if the others knew and
were afraid to come down, wondering if there had been much pain,
wondering if it was not all a dreadful dream from which she must wake
presently. They knew.

The younger girl met her cousin at the door; Maria had fainted, and
_la zia_ was hysterical; as to Orazio, he was sitting on the sofa
crying, with his mean, mouse-coloured head buried in the cushions.

"I looked out of your bedroom window as I could not get into her
room," whispered Carmela. "Oh, Olive, what shall we do?"

"I am going to take down a sheet as they will not let us bring her in.
You can come with me, and we will stay beside her and say prayers."

"Yes, yes. Oh, Olive, that is a good idea."

The two came out into the street together and spread the white linen
covering carefully over the stark body before they knelt, one on each
side. Of the thousands who had filled the Piazzale at sunset hundreds
came now to see them mourning the broken thing that lay between.
Olive was aware of many faces, of the murmuring of a great crowd, and
shame was added to the horror that held her fast. She folded her hands
and tried to keep her eyes fixed upon them. Then she began to pray
aloud.

"_Pater noster, qui es in coelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum--_"

The clear voice was tremulous at first, but it gathered strength as it
went on, and Carmela said the words too. The men in the crowd
uncovered, and the women crossed themselves.

Rain was falling now, slowly at first and in heavy drops that splashed
upon the stones, and there was a threatening sound--a rumbling of
thunder--away in the south.

Olive knew no more prayers in Latin, but her cousin began the
Miserere.

"_Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam, et secundum
multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam._"

Among the many who had come to look their last upon the Odalisque were
men who had made free with her poor name, had been unsparing in their
utterance of the truth concerning her and ready to drag her down, and
some of these moved away now shamefacedly, but more stayed, and one
after another took up the words.

"_Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me._"

Gemma herself had trodden out the fire that consumed her, but who
could dare say of the grey cold ashes, "These are altogether vile."

"_Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in
sermonibus tuis et vincas cum judicaris._"

She had sinned, and she had been punished; she had suffered fear and
shame.

"_Asperges me hyssopo et mundabor, lavabis me, et super nivem
dealbabor._"

There had been some taint in her blood, some flaw in her will.

"_Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus
meis._"

A dark-eyed slender boy, wearing the green and white and scarlet of
his _contrade_, pushed his way to the front presently. It was Romeo,
and he carried a great bunch of magnolia blossoms.

"Oh, signorina," he said, half crying, "the _alfieri_ and I wanted to
give you these because you brought us good luck so that we won the
Palio. I little thought--"

He stopped short, hesitating, and afraid to come nearer. He thought
she looked like one of the stone angels that kneel on the sculptured
tombs in the Campo Santo; her face seemed rough hewn in the harsh
white glare of the electric light, so deep were the shadows under her
eyes and the lines of pain about the praying lips. His heart ached
with pity for her.

"Give them to me," she said, and he was allowed to come into the space
that the _carabiniere_ kept clear.

He thrust the bunch hurriedly into her hands, faltering, "_Dio vi
benedica_."

"_Andatevi con Dio_," she replied, and then laid the pale flowers and
the shimmering green crown of leaves down upon the still breast.
"Gemma, if ever I hurt you, forgive me now!"

It was raining heavily, and as the sheet grew damp it clung more
closely to the body of the girl who lay there with arms outstretched
and knees drawn up as though she were nailed to a cross.

The boy still lingered. "You will be drenched. Go into the house," he
urged. Then, seeing he could not move her, he took off his velvet
embroidered cloak and put it about her shoulders. A woman in the crowd
came forward with a shawl for Carmela.

So the hours passed.



BOOK II.--FLORENCE



CHAPTER I


October can be cold enough sometimes in the Val d'Arno when the snow
falls on the Apennines, and the woods of Vallombrosa are sere, and
Florence, the flower city, lies then at the mercy of the winds. Mamie
Whittaker, who, in her own phrase, "hated to be blown about anyhow,"
had not been out all day. She lolled in an armchair before a crackling
fire of olive wood in the room that she "lit with herself when alone,"
though scarcely in the Tennysonian sense. Hers was a vivid
personality, and older women who disliked her called her flamboyant,
and referred to an evident touch of the tar-brush that would make her
socially impossible in America though it passed unnoticed in Italy.
Her age was seventeen, and she dressed after Carmen to please herself,
and read Gyp with the same intention. She was absorbed now in _Les
Amoureux_, and had to be told twice that her cousin had come before
she would look up.

"Miss Marvel? Show her in."

She rose and went forward to greet her relative, whom she had not
seen for some years, and the two met at the door and kissed each other
with enthusiasm.

"Edna! My! Well, you have not grown anyway. What a tiny thing! Come
and sit down right here." She rang for tea while her visitor slowly
and rather shyly divested herself of her sables and laid them on a
side table. Edna Marvel was the elder of the two by three years, but
she was so small that she seemed a mere child. Her sallow little face
resembled that of a tired monkey, yet it had an elfin charm, and her
hands were beautiful as carved toys of ivory made in the East for a
king's son to play with. They might hold a man's heart perhaps, but
Mamie did not notice them, her own allurements being of more obvious
description.

She thought Edna was real homely, and her spirits rose accordingly.
"Where are you staying?"

"At the Bristol. Poppa guessed we would take a villa later on if we
felt like it."

Mamie rang again. "Bring some more cakes, and tell Miss Agar to come
and pour out the tea."

"Who is Miss Agar?"

"My companion, a sort of governess person. She takes me out walks, and
sits by when my music-master comes, and so forth. She is new, and she
won't do, but I may as well make her useful while she stays."

"Why won't she do?"

"Oh, she just won't. Momma don't like her much, and I'm not singing
her praises."

Edna looked curiously at the slender girl in the black dress who came
in and took her place at the table.

She said "Good afternoon" in her pleasant little voice.

The governess person seemed rather surprised that she should address
her.

"Good afternoon," she replied. "Do you take milk and sugar?"

"Bring them round for us to help ourselves," dictated Mamie.

Olive only smiled as she repeated her question, but Edna was
distressed at her cousin's rudeness, and her sensitive face was quite
pink as she hurriedly declined sugar. She came to the table to fetch
her cup, but Miss Whittaker waited for hers to be brought to her.

"How do you like this room, Edna? I had it fixed up for myself, and
everything in it is mine." She looked complacently up at the hangings
of primrose silk that hid the fifteenth century frescoes on the walls.

Her cousin hesitated. "I guess it must have cost some."

"Yes. The Marchese does not like it. He is so set on his worm-eaten
old tapestries and carved chairs, and he wanted momma to refurnish the
palace to match, but not she! Louis Quinze, she said, and Louis
Quinze it is, more or less. I tell the Marchese that if he is so fond
of the musty Middle Ages he ought to go about in armour himself by
rights. But the old sinner is not really a bit romantic."

It occurred to Olive that the right kind of governess would utter a
word in season. "It is not usual for young girls to refer to their
stepfathers as you do," she said drily.

"Wait until you know mine better," Mamie answered unabashed. "Last
night he said your complexion was miraculous. Next thing he'll try if
it comes off. Are you coming to dinner to-night, Edna?"

"Yes, auntie asked us. The--the Prince will be here, won't he?"

Mamie looked down her nose. "Oh, yes," she said carelessly. "Your beau
will come. People generally do when we ask them. The food is all
right, and we have real good music afterwards sometimes. You know
Avenel stays in Florence whiles because his brother has a Villa at
Settignano. Well, momma guessed she would get him to play here for
nothing once. Of course she was willing to pay any money for him
really, but she just thought she would try it on. She asked him to
dinner with a lot of other people, and made him take her in, though
there were two Neapolitan dukes among the guests. The food was
first-rate; she had told the cook to do his best, and she really
thought the _entrée_ would have made Vitellius sit up. It was
perfect. Well, afterwards she asked Avenel to play, and he just smiled
and said he could not. Why, she said, he gave a recital the day before
for nothing, for a charity, and played the people's souls out of their
bodies, made them act crazy, as he always does. Couldn't he play for
friendship? No, he said, he couldn't just then because one must be
filled with sorrow oneself before one can make others feel, and he
inferred that he had no room even for regret. 'I play Chopin on a
biscuit,' he said."

"He must be rather a pig," was Edna's comment.

"Not a bit of it. Momma said he really had not eaten much; in fact she
had noticed that he left a bit of that lovely _entrée_. Perhaps he is
afraid of getting fat. Momma was real mad with him."

Olive's cheeks were flushed and her hands trembled as she arranged the
cups on the tray. She was thankful for the shelter afforded by the
great silver tea-pot. Mamie's back was turned to her, but Edna seemed
desirous of including her in the conversation.

"Have you heard Avenel, Miss Agar?" she asked presently in her gentle,
drawling way.

"No. Is he very famous? I have never heard of him as a pianist."

"Oh, his professional name is Meryon, of course. He is billed as that
and known all the world over, though he only began to play in public
three years ago when his wife left him. She was always a horrid woman,
and she made him marry her when he was quite a boy, they say. They say
he plays to forget things as other men take to drink. He has been
twice to New York, and I know a girl who says he gave her a lock of
his hair, but I don't believe her. It is dark brown, almost black, but
I guess she cut it off a switch. He's not that kind."

Olive said nothing.

"You need not stay if you don't want to," Mamie said unceremoniously.
"Be ready to come down after dinner. I might want you to play my
accompaniments."

"I can't think why you say she won't do," cried Edna when she was gone
out of the room. "I call her perfectly sweet. Rather sad-looking, but
just lovely."

Mamie sniffed. "Glad you admire her," she said.

The governess was expected to appear at luncheon, but dinner was
served to her in her own room, where she must sit in solitary state,
dressed in her best and waiting for a summons, until eleven o'clock,
when she might assume that she would not be wanted and go to bed. This
evening Olive lingered rather anxiously over her dressing, trying to
make the best of herself, since it seemed that she was really to come
down to-night into the yellow drawing-room where she spent so many
weary hours of a morning listening to Mamie scraping her Strad while
the German who was supposed to teach her possessed his soul in
patience. She put on her black silk dress. It was a guinea robe bought
at a sale in Oxford Street the year before, a reach-me-down garment
for women to sneer at and men to describe vaguely as something dark,
and she hated the poor thing.

Most women believe that the men who like them in cotton frocks would
adore them in cloth of gold, and are convinced that the secret of
Cleopatra's charm lay in her extensive wardrobe.

Avenel. It had shocked Olive to hear his name uttered by alien lips,
as it hurt her to suppose that he came often to the Palazzo Lorenzoni.
She would not suppose it, and, indeed, nothing that Mamie had said
could lead her to think that he was a friend of the family. They had
clutched at him greedily, and he had repaid with an impertinence. That
was all.

The third footman, whose duty it was to attend upon her, brought two
covered dishes on a tray at eight o'clock, and soon after nine he came
again to fetch her.

There was a superabundance of gorgeous lackeys in the corridors that
had been dusty and deserted five years before, and a gigantic _Suisse_
stood always on guard now outside the palace gates. The Marchesa would
have liked to have had outriders in her scarlet livery when she went
out driving in the streets of Florence, but her husband warned her
that some mad anarchist might take her for the Queen, and so she
contented herself with a red racing motor. The millions old Whittaker
had made availed to keep his widow and the man who had given her a
title in almost regal state. They entertained largely, and the Via
Tornabuoni was often blocked with the carriages and motors that
brought their guests. Olive, sitting alone in her chilly bedroom,
mending her stockings or trying to read, heard voices and laughter as
the doors opened--harsh Florentine and high English voices, and the
shrill sounds of American mirth--night after night. But the Lorenzoni
dined _en famille_ sometimes, as even marquises and millionaires may
do, and there were but two shirt-fronts and comparatively few diamonds
in the great golden shining room when she entered it.

The Marchesa, handsome, hard-featured, gorgeous in grey and silver,
did not choose to notice her daughter's governess; she was deep in
talk with her brother-in-law; but men could not help looking at Olive.
Mr Marvel stood up and bowed as she passed, and the silent, saturnine
Marchese stared. His black eyes were intent upon her as she came to
the piano where Mamie was restlessly turning over the music, and no
one watching him could fail to see that he was making comparisons
that were probably to the disadvantage of his step-daughter.

Fast men are not necessarily fond of the patchouli atmosphere in their
own homes, and somehow Mamie seemed to reek of that scent, though in
fact she never used it. She was clever and fairly well educated, and
she had always been sheltered and cared for, but she was born to the
scarlet, and everything she said and did, her way of walking, the use
she made already of her black eyes, proclaimed it. To-night, though
she wore the red she loved--a wonderful, flaring frock of chiffon
frills and flounces--she looked ill, and her dark face was sullen.

"The beastly wind has given me a stiff neck," she complained. "Here, I
want to have this."

She chose a coon's lullaby out of the pile of songs, and Olive sat
down obediently and began the accompaniment. It was a pretty little
ditty of the usual moony order, and Mamie sang it well enough. Mr
Marvel looked up when it was over to say, "Thank you, my dear. Very
nice."

"It is a silly thing," Mamie answered ungraciously. "I'll sing you a
_canzonetta_ now."

She turned over the music, scattering marches and sonatas, and
throwing some of them on the floor in her impatience. Olive, wondering
at her temper, presently divined the cause of it. The folding doors
that led into the library were half closed. No lamps, but a flicker of
firelight and the hush of lowered voices, Edna's pleasant little pipe
and a man's brief, murmured answers, and there were short spaces of
silence too. The American girl and her prince were there.

The Marchese had raised his eyebrows at the first words of the
_canzonetta_, and at the end of the second verse he was smiling
broadly.

"Little devil!" he said.

No one heard him. His wife was showing her brother-in-law some of her
most treasured bits of china. She was quite calm, as though her
knowledge of Italian was fair the Neapolitan dialect was beyond her.
Mr Marvel, of course, knew not a syllable of any language but his own,
and the slang of Southern gutters was as Greek to Olive. Their
placidity amused the Marchese, and so did the thought of the little
scene that he knew was being enacted in the library.

"Shall we join the others now, Edna, _carissima_?"

"If--if you like."

He nearly laughed aloud as he saw the silk curtains drawn. The Prince
stood aside to allow Edna to pass in first, and Olive, glancing up
momentarily from the unfamiliar notes, saw the green gleam of an
emerald on the strong brown hand as the brocaded folds were lifted
up. Her own hands swerved, blundered, and she perpetrated a hopeless
discord.

"I beg your pardon," she said confusedly.

Mamie shrugged her shoulders. "Never mind," she answered lightly. "The
last verse don't matter anyway. Come to here, Edna. Momma wants to
hear your fiddle-playing."

"Yes, play us something, my dear."

The little girl came forward shyly.

As the Prince and the Marchese stood together by the fireplace at the
other end of the long room Mamie joined them. "You sang that devil's
nocturne inimitably," observed her stepfather, drily. "I am quite
sorry to have to ask you not to do it again."

"Not again? Why not?"

She perched herself on the arm of one of the great gilt chairs. The
Prince raised his eyes from the thoughtful contemplation of her ankles
to stare at her impudent red parted lips.

"Why not! Need I explain, _cara_? It was delicious; I enjoyed it, but,
alas!" He heaved an exaggerated sigh and then laughed, and the young
man and the girl shared in his merriment.

"I am sorry to make so many mistakes," Olive said apologetically as
she laboured away at her part of an easy piece arranged for violin and
piano.

"Oh, it is nothing. I have made ever so many myself, and I ought to
have turned the page for you."

The gentle voice was rather tremulous.

"That was charming," pronounced the Marchesa. "Now that sonata, Edna.
I am so fond of it."

"Very well, auntie."

The Prince had gone into the billiard-room with his host, and Mamie
was with them. They were knocking the balls about and laughing ...
laughing.



CHAPTER II


In the Cascine gardens the lush green grass of the glades was strewn
with leaves; soon the branches would be bare, or veiled only in winter
mists, and the Arno, swollen with rain, ran yellow as Tiber. It was
not a day for music, but the sun shone, and many idle Florentines
drove, or rode, or walked by the Lung'Arno to the Rajah's monument,
passing and repassing the bench where Olive sat with Madame de
Sarivière's stout and elderly German Fräulein. Mamie was not far away;
flamboyant as ever in her frock of crimson serge, her black curls tied
with ribbon and streaming in the wind, she was the loud centre of a
group of girls who played some running game to an accompaniment of
shrill cries and little screams of laughter.

"Do you like young girls?" Olive asked the question impulsively, after
a long silence.

"I am fond of my pupils; they are good little things, rather foolish,
but amiable. But I understand your feeling, my poor Miss Agar. Your
charge is--"

Olive hesitated. "It is a difficult age; and she has the body of
twenty and the sense of ten. I am putting it very badly, but--but I
was hateful years ago too. I think one always is, perhaps. I remember
at school there were self-righteous little girls; they were narrow and
intolerant, easily shocked, and rather bad-tempered. The others were
absurdly vain, sentimental, sly. All that comes away afterwards if one
is going to be nice."

"They are female but not yet womanly. The newly-awakened instincts
clamour at first for a hearing; later they learn to wait in silence,
to efface themselves, to die, even," answered the Fräulein, gravely.

A victoria passed, then some youths on bicycles, shouting to each
other and ringing their bells. They were riding all together, but they
scattered to let Prince Tor di Rocca go by. He was driving tandem, and
his horses were very fresh. Edna was with him, her small wan face
rather set in its halo of ashen blonde hair and pale against the rich
brown of her sables.

When they came by the second time Mamie called to her cousin. The
Prince drew rein, and the groom sprang down and ran to the leader's
head.

"My, Edna, how cold you look! It's three days since I saw you, but I
guess Don Filippo has been doing the honours. Have you seen all the
old galleries and things? Momma said she noticed you and uncle in a
box at the Pergola last night."

She stood by the wheel, and as she looked up, not at Edna but at the
Prince, he glanced smilingly down at her and then away again.

"We are going back to the hotel now," Edna said. "Will you come and
have tea, Mamie? Is that Miss Agar over there? Ask her if you may, and
if she will come too."

"I don't need to ask her," the girl answered, but she went back
nevertheless and spoke to Olive.

"Can the groom take the cart home, Filippo? We will walk back with
them."

"Yes, Bellina is in spirits, but she will not run away from Giovanni,"
he said, trying not to seem surprised that she should curtail their
drive.

They crossed the wide gravelled space outside the gardens and walked
towards the town by the Lung'Arno. Already the cypresses of San
Miniato showed black against the sky, and the reflected flame of
sunset was dying out in the windows of the old houses at the river's
edge. All the people were going one way now, and leaving the
tree-shadowed dusk for the brightly-lit streets, Via Tornabuoni, all
palaces and antiquity shops, and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, where the
band would play presently.

The two American girls walked together with Don Filippo and Olive
followed them. Edna held herself very erect, but Mamie seemed almost
to lean backwards. She swayed her hips as she went and swung her short
skirts, and there was affectation and a feverish self-consciousness in
her every movement. Olive could not help smiling to herself, but she
remembered that at school she had been afflicted with the idea that a
pout--the delicious _moue_ of fiction--became her, and so she was
inclined to leniency. Only seventeen.

The Prince wore riding gloves, and so the green gleam of his emerald
was hidden from her. If only she could be sure that she had seen him
before. What then? Nothing--if she could think that he would always be
kind to gentle little Edna.

Just before they reached the hotel Miss Marvel joined her, leaving her
cousin to go on with Don Filippo, and began to talk to her.

"The river is just perfect at this hour. Our sitting-room has a
balcony and I sat there last night watching the moon rise over San
Miniato. I guess it looked just that way when Dante wrote his sonnets.
Beatrice must have been real mad with him sometimes, don't you think
so? She must have been longing to say, 'Come on, and don't keep
talking.' But she was a nice high-minded girl, and so she never did.
She simply died."

"If she died for him she must have been a fool," Olive said shortly.
Her eyes were fixed on the Prince's broad back. He was laughing at
some sally of Mamie's.

Edna was shocked. "Don't you just worship Dante?"

"Yes, yes," answered the elder girl. "He was a dear, but even he was
not worth that. At least, I don't know. He was a dear; but I was
thinking of a girl I knew ... perhaps I may tell you about her some
day."

"Yes, do," Edna said perfunctorily. She was trying to hear what her
cousin was saying to Filippo, and wishing she could amuse him as well.
They passed through the wide hall of the hotel and went up in the
lift. The Marvels' private sitting-room was on the second floor. They
were much too rich to condescend to the palms and bamboo tables and
wicker chairs of the common herd, and tea was served to Edna and her
guests in a green and white boudoir that was, as the Marchesa might
have said, more or less Louis Seize.

Mr Marvel came in presently, refusing tea, but asking leave to smoke,
and the Prince, gracefully deferential to his future father-in-law,
listened to the little he had to say, answering carefully in his
perfect English.

"Yes, sir. There is a great deal of poverty here. On my Tuscan estates
too. Alas! yes."

Mamie sat near him, and in the flickering red light of the fire she
looked almost pretty. Filippo's eyes strayed towards her now and then.
Edna came presently to where Olive rested apart on the wide cushioned
window-seat. "Will you have some more tea?"

"No, thank you. I think we must be going soon. The Marchesa will not
like it if we stay out too long."

Edna hesitated. "I wanted to ask you a silly question. Had you ever
seen the Prince before last week?"

There was the slightest perceptible pause before Olive answered, "No,
never. Why do you ask?"

"I thought you looked as if you had somehow that night at the
Lorenzoni palace. When we came in you were at the piano, and I thought
you looked queer--as if--"

"Oh, no," Olive said again, but she wondered afterwards if she had
done right.

On their way home Mamie drew her attention to a poster, and she saw
the name of Meryon in great orange letters on a white ground.

"He will be here before Christmas. I'll let you come with me to hear
him play if you are good," she said, and she took the elder girl's
hand in hers and pinched it. "I could race you home down this side
street, but I suppose I must not."

She was gay and good-humoured now, and altogether at her best, and
Olive tried hard to like her, but she could not help seeing that the
triumph that overflowed in easy, shallow kindness was an unworthy one.



CHAPTER III


Olive sat alone at the end of one of the tiers of the stone
amphitheatre built into the hill that rises, ilex clad, to the heights
of San Giorgio. Some other women were there, mothers with young
children, nurses and governesses dowdily dressed as she was in
dark-coloured stuffs, but she knew none of them.

Mamie seldom cared to come to the old Boboli gardens. Its green
mildewed terraces and crumbling deities of fountain and ilex grove had
no charm for her, and as a rule she and her friends preferred the
crowded Lung'Arno and Cascine on the days when there was music, but
this Thursday she had suggested that they should come across the
river.

"Daisy Vereker has promised to meet me, and as she is only here a week
on her way to school in Paris I should hate to disappoint her."

The two girls were lingering now about the grass arena, talking
volubly, whispering, giggling. Miss Vereker's maid, a yellow-haired
Swiss, sat not far off with her knitting, and every now and then she
called harshly to her charge to know the time.

Olive sat very still, her hands clasped, her eyes fixed on the far
horizon. She loved the old-world silence that was only broken by the
dripping of water in the pools. No birds sang here, no leaves fell at
the waning of the year. The seasons had little power over stained
marble and moss, cypress, and ilex and olive, and as spring brought no
riot of green and rose and gold in flower, so autumn took nothing
away. Surely there were ghosts in the shadowed avenues, flitting in
and out among the trees, joining hands to dance "_la ronde_" about the
pool of Neptune. Gay abbés, cavaliers, beautiful ladies of the late
Renaissance, red-heeled, painted, powdered; frail, degenerate children
of the hard-headed old Florentine citizens pictured in the frescoes of
Giotto and Masaccio. No greater shades could come to Boboli.

Florence was half hidden by the great yellow bulk of the Pitti palace,
but Olive could see the slender, exquisite white and rose tower of
Giotto, and the mellowed red of the cathedral's dome against the faint
purple of the hills beyond Fiesole, and she looked at them in
preference to the contorted river gods and exuberant nymphs of the
fountain in the royal courtyard close by.

After a while she opened her book and began to read. Presently she
shivered; her jacket was thin, and the air grew chilly as the
afternoon waned, but her reading absorbed her and she was surprised,
when at last she raised her eyes, to see that the Pitti palace was
already dark against the sky. Nurses and children were making their
way out, and soon those who lingered would hear stentorian shouts from
the gardeners, "_Ora si chiude!_" and they too would leave by one or
other of the gates.

Olive climbed down into the arena. Mamie was nowhere in sight, and
Daisy Vereker and her maid were gone too. Olive, thinking that perhaps
they might have gone up to the fountain of Neptune, began to climb the
hill. She asked an old man who was coming down from there if he had
seen two young ladies, one dressed in red.

"No, signorina."

She hurried back to the arena and spoke to a woman there. "Have you
seen a young lady in red with black curls?"

She answered readily: "_Sicuro!_ She went towards the Porta Romana
half an hour ago. I think the other signorina was leaving and she
wished to accompany her a part of the way. There was an older person
with them."

Olive's relief was only momentary; it sounded well, but one might walk
to the Porta Romana and back twice in the time. Soon the gates would
be closed, and if she had not found Mamie then, and the gardeners made
her leave with the others, what should she do? She suspected a trick.
The girl had a mischievous and impish humour that delighted in the
infliction of small hurts, and she might have gone home, happy in the
thought that her governess would get a "wigging," or she might be
hiding about somewhere to give her a fright.

Olive went up the steep path towards the Belvedere, hoping to find her
there. That part of the garden was not much frequented, and the white
bodies and uplifted arms of the marble gods gleamed ghostly and
forlorn in the dusk of the ilex woods that lay between the
amphitheatre and the gate.

She went on until she saw a glimmer of red through the close-woven
branches. Mamie was there in the dark wood, and she was not alone. A
man was with her, and he was holding her easily, as if he knew she
would not go yet, and laughing as she stood on tiptoe to reach the
fine cruel lips that touched hers presently, when he chose that they
should.

Olive turned and ran up the path to the top of the hill, and there she
stood for a while, trying to get her breath, trying to be calm, and
sane and tolerant, to see no harm where perhaps there was none after
all. And yet the treachery and the deceit were so flagrant that surely
no condonation was possible. She felt sick of men and women, and of
life itself, since the greatest thing in it seemed to be this
hateful, miscalled love that preceded sorrow and shame and death. Was
love always loathsome to look upon? Not in pictures or on the stage,
where it was represented as a kind of minuet in which the man makes
graceful advances to a woman who smiles as she draws away, but in real
life--

"Not real love," she said to herself. "Oh, God, help me to go on
believing in that."

Raising her eyes she saw the evening star sparkling in a wide, soft,
clear space of sky. It seemed infinitely pure and remote, and yet
somehow good and kind, as it had to Dante when he climbed up out of
hell.

"_Quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle._"

"_Ora si chiude!_" bawled a gardener from the Belvedere.

Mamie came hurrying up the path towards the hill. "Oh, are you there?"
she said in some confusion. "I went some of the way to the other gate
with Daisy."

"I was beginning to be afraid you were lost, so I came along hoping to
meet you," answered Olive.

She said nothing to the girl of what she had seen. It would have been
useless; nothing could alter or abash her inherent unmorality. But
after dinner she wrote a note to Edna and went out herself to post it.

The answer came at noon on the following day. Miss Marvel would be at
home and alone between three and four and would be pleased to see Miss
Agar then; meanwhile she remained very sincerely her friend.



CHAPTER IV


"Why do you tell me this now?" asked Edna. "The other day when I asked
you if you had known him before you said you had not."

"Something that has happened since then determined me."

Edna's room was full of flowers, roses, narcissi and violets, and the
air was heavy with their scent. Filippo had never failed in his
_petits soins_. It was so easy to give an order at the florist's, and
the bill would come in presently, after the wedding, and be paid in
American dollars. There were boxes of sweets too; and a volume of
Romola, bound in white and gold, lay on the table. Edna had been
looking at the inscription on the fly-leaf when Olive came in.
"_Carissima_" he had written, and she had believed him, but that was
half an hour ago. Now her small body was shaken with sobs, her face
was stained with tears because that faith she had had was dying.

The chill at her heart made her feel altogether cold, and she edged
her chair nearer to the fire, and put her feet up on the fender.

"I wish I could feel it was not true, but somehow though I have been
so fond of him I have not trusted him. Well, your cousin was
beautiful, and perhaps he had known her a long time before he knew me.
He wanted to say good-bye kindly. He was entangled--such things
happen, I know. He could not help what happened afterwards. That was
not his fault."

Olive could not meet her pleading eyes. "I thought something like that
last week," she said. "And that is why I kept silence; but now I know
he would make you unhappy always. Oh, forgive me for hurting you so."
She came and knelt down beside the little girl, and put her arms about
her. "Don't cry, my dear. Don't cry."

"Oh, Olive, I was so fond of him! Now tell me what has happened
since."

"Put your hands in mine. There, I will rub the poor tiny things and
warm them. They are so pretty. Yesterday, in the Boboli gardens, I
missed your cousin, and when I went to look for her I saw her with the
Prince. He held her and was kissing her."

"Oh!" Edna sprang to her feet. "That settles it. Mamie is common and
real homely, and if he can run after her I have done with him. I could
have forgiven the other, especially as she is dead, but Mamie!
Gracious! Here he is!"

He came into the room leisurely, smiling, very sure of his welcome.
Olive met the hot insolence of his stare steadily, and Edna turned her
back on him.

"Olive," she said, "you speak to him. Tell him--ask him--" Her gentle
voice broke.

"What is the matter?" he asked carefully.

"I saw you twice in Siena last summer. Do you remember _Rigoletto_ at
the Lizza theatre? You were in the stage box. You wore evening dress,
and I saw that emerald ring you have now on your finger. The next day
you met my Cousin Gemma in my room in the Vicolo dei Moribondi. Do you
remember the steep dark stairs and the white walls of the bare place
where you saw her last?"

He made no answer, and there was still a smile on his lips, but his
eyes were hard. Edna was looking at him now, but he seemed to have
forgotten her.

"I suppose you loved her," Olive said slowly. "Do you remember the
faint pink curve of her mouth, the little cleft in her chin, and her
hair that was so soft and fine? There were always little stray curls
on the white nape of her neck. I came to my room that morning to fetch
a book. When I had climbed the stairs I found that I had not the key
with me, but the door was unlocked and I saw her there with a man, and
I saw the green gleam of an emerald."

Men have such a power of silence. No woman but would have made some
answer now, denying with a show of surprise, making excuses, using
words in one way or another.

"They were talking about you in the town, though I think they did not
know who you were--at least I never heard your name--and that night
Gemma's _fidanzato_ told her he would not marry her. You know best
what that meant to her. She rushed into her own room and threw herself
out of the window. Ah, you should have seen the dark blood oozing
through the fine soft curls! She lay dead in the street for hours
before they took her away."

"_Santissimo Dio!_ Is this true?"

"Yes."

"Gemma--I never knew it--" His face was greatly altered now, and he
had to moisten his lips before he could speak.

"I could have forgiven that," Edna said tremulously after a while.
"But not yesterday. Your kisses are too cheap, Filippo."

"Oh," he said hoarsely. "So Gemma's cousin saw that too. It was
nothing, meant nothing. Edna, if you can pardon the other, surely--"

"It was nothing; and it proved that Mamie is nothing, and that you are
nothing--to me. That is the end of the matter."

He winced now at the contempt underlying her quiet words, and when she
took off her ring and laid it on the table between them he picked it
up and flung it into the fire.

"I do not take things back," he said savagely.

When he had left the room Edna began to cry again. "I believe he is
suffering now, but not for me. Would he care if I killed myself? I
guess not. I am not pretty, only my hands, and hands don't count."

Olive tried to comfort her.

"Poppa shall take me away right now. I have had enough of Europe, and
so I shall tell him when he comes in. Must you go now? Well, good-bye,
my dear, and thank you. You are white all through, and I am glad you
have acted as you have, though it hurts now. If ever I marry it shall
be an American ... but I was real fond of Filippo."



CHAPTER V


Cardinal Jacopo of Portugal was buried in a side chapel of the church
of San Miniato al Monte, and his counterfeit presentment, wrought in
stone, lies on the tomb Rossellino made for him. Rossellino, who loved
to carve garlands of acanthus and small sweet _amorini_, has conferred
immortality on some of the men whose tombs he adorned in
_basso-rilièvo_, and they are remembered because of him; but the
cardinal has another claim. He is beautiful in himself as he rests
there, his young face set in the peace that passes all understanding,
his thin hands folded on his breast.

Mourners were kneeling in the central aisles of the church, and women
carrying wreaths passed through it on their way to the Campo Santo
beyond, for this was the day of All Souls, and there were fresh
flowers on the new graves, and little black lamps were lit on those
that were grass grown and decked only with the bead blossoms that are
kept in glass cases and need not be changed once a year. The afternoon
was passing, but still Olive lingered by the cardinal's monument.
Looking at him understandingly she saw that there had been lines of
pain about the firm mouth. He had suffered in his short life, he had
suffered until death came to comfort him and give him quiet sleep. The
mother-sense in her yearned over him, lying there straight and still,
with closed eyes that had never seen love; and, womanlike, she pitied
the accomplished loneliness that yet seemed to her the most beautiful
thing in the world. The old familiar words were in her mind as she
looked down upon this saint uncanonised: "Cleanse the thoughts of my
heart by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit!" and she remembered
Astorre, for whose sake she had come to this church to pray. Once when
she had been describing a haggard St Francis in the Sienese gallery to
him, he had said: "Ah, women always pity him and admire his
picturesque asceticism, but if married men look worried they do not
notice it. Their troubles are no compliment to your sex."

Poor Astorre had not been devout in any sense, but he had written his
friend a long letter on the day after Gemma's suicide, and he had
asked for her prayers then. "Fausto told me how you knelt there in the
street beside the dead Odalisque and said the Pater-noster and the
Miserere. Perhaps you will do as much for me one day. Your prayers
should help the soul that is freed now from the burden of the flesh. I
cannot complain of flesh myself, but my bones weigh and I shall be
glad to be rid of them. Come and see me soon, _carissima_ ..."

The next morning his mother sent for the girl, but when she came into
the darkened room where he lay he had already passed away.

"He asked for you, but he would not see a priest. You know they
refused to bury his father because he fought for united Italy. Ah!
Rome never forgets."

After the funeral Signora Aurelia had sold her furniture and gone
away, and she was living now with a widowed sister in Rome. The
Menotti had left Siena too and had gone to Milan, and Olive, not
caring to stay on alone in the place where everyone knew what had
happened, had come to the Lorenzoni in Florence. She had had a letter
from Carmela that morning.

"We like Milan as the streets are so gay, and the shops are beautiful.
We should have got much better mourning here at Bocconi's if we could
have waited, but of course that was impossible. Our apartment is
convenient, but small and rather dark. Maria hopes you are fatter. She
is going to send you some _panforte_ and a box of sugared fruits at
Christmas. _La Zia_ has begun to crochet another counterpane; that
will be the eighth, and we have only three beds. _Pazienza!_ It amuses
her."

Though Olive was not happy at the Palazzo Lorenzoni, she could not
wish that she had stayed with her cousins. She felt that their little
life would have stifled her. Thinking of them, she saw them, happier
than before, since poor Gemma had not been easy to live with, and
quite satisfied to do the same things every day, waddling out of a
morning to early mass and the marketing, eating and sleeping during
the noon hours, and in the evenings going to hear the music _in
piazza_.

Olive was not happy. She was one of those women whose health depends
upon their spirits, and of late she had felt her loneliness to be
almost unbearable. Her youth had cried for all, or nothing. She would
have her love winged and crowned; he should come to her before all the
world. Never would she set her foot in secret gardens, or let joy come
to her by hidden ways, but now she faced the future and saw that it
was grey, and she was afraid.

It seemed to her that she was destined to live always in the Social
Limbo, suspended between heaven and earth, an alien in the
drawing-room and not received in the kitchen. One might as well be
_déclassée_ at once, she thought, and yet she knew that that must be
hell.

If Avenel came to Florence and sought her out would she be weak as
Gemma had been, light as Mamie was? Olive knelt for a while on the
stones, and her lips moved, though her prayer was inarticulate.

Sunset was burning across the Val d'Arno, and the river flowed as a
stream of pure gold under the dark of the historic bridges. Already
lights sparkled in the windows of the old houses over the Ponte
Vecchio, and the bells of all the churches were ringing the Ave Maria
as she passed through the whining crowd of beggars at the gate of the
Campo Santo and went slowly down the hill. The blessed hour of peace
and silence was over now, and she must trudge back through the
clamorous streets to be with Mamie, to meet the Marchese's horribly
observant eyes, and to be everlastingly quiet and complacent and
useful. She was paid for that.

She was going up to her room when the lodge porter ran up the stairs
after her with a letter. "For you, signorina."

It was from Edna.

    "DEAR OLIVE"--she had written,--"I could not wait for
    trains so papa has hired a car, and we shall motor
    straight to Genoa and catch the boat there. I want to go
    home to America pretty badly.--Your loving friend,

                    "EDNA.

    "_P.S._--I am still right down glad you told me.--E. M."

One of the servants came to Olive's room presently.

"La Signora Marchesa wishes to see you at once in her boudoir."

The Marchesa had come straight from the motor to her own room, her
head was still swathed in a white veil, and she had not even taken off
her heavy sable coat. She had switched on the light on her entrance,
and now she was searching in the drawers of her bureau for her
cheque-book.

"Ah, well, gold perhaps," she said after a while, impatiently, as she
snapped open the chain purse that hung from her wrist. "Is that you,
Miss Agar?"

Olive, seeing her counting out her money, like the queen in the
nursery rhyme, had stopped short near the door. She paled a little as
she understood this must be the sequel to what she had done, but she
held her head high, and there was a light of defiance in the blue
eyes.

"I have to speak to you very seriously."

The Marchesa, a large woman, was slow and deliberate in all her
movements. She took her place on a brocaded settee with the air of a
statue of Juno choosing a pedestal, and began to draw off her gloves.
"I greatly regret that this should be necessary." She seemed prepared
to clean Augean stables, and there was something judicial in her
aspect too, but she did not look at Olive. "You know that I took you
into my house on the recommendation of the music-teacher, Signora
Giannini. It was foolish, I see that now. It has come to my knowledge
that you had no right to enter here, no right to be with my daughter."
She paused. "You must understand perfectly what I mean," she said
impressively.

"No, I do not understand," the girl said. "Will you explain,
Marchesa?"

"Can you deny that you were involved in a most discreditable affair in
Siena before you came here? That your intrigue--I hate to have to
enter into the unsavoury details, Miss Agar, but you have forced me to
it--that your intrigue with your cousin's _fiancé_ drove her to
suicide, and that you were obliged to leave the place in consequence?"

"It is not true."

"Ah, but your cousin killed herself?"

"Yes."

"Her lover was in the house at the time, and you were there too?"

"Yes."

"You were at the theatre the night before and everyone noticed that he
paid you great attention?"

"He? Oh," cried Olive, "how horrible, and how clever!"

The hard grey eyes met hers for a moment.

The girl's pale face was flushed now with shame and anger. "So clever!
Will you congratulate the Prince for me, Marchesa?" she said very
distinctly.

"You are impertinent. Of course, I cannot keep you. My daughter--"

The Marchesa saw her mistake as she made it and would have passed on,
but Olive was too quick for her. She smiled. "Your daughter! I do not
think I can have harmed her."

"You can take your money; I have left it there for you on the bureau.
Please pack your boxes and be off as soon as possible."

"I am to leave to-night? It is dark already, and I have no friends in
Florence."

The Marchesa shrugged her shoulders. "I can't help that," she said.

Olive went slowly out into the hall, and stood there hesitating at the
head of the stairs. She scarcely knew what to do or where to turn, but
she was determined not to stay longer than she could help under this
roof. She went down to the porter's lodge in the paved middle court.

"Gigia!"

The old woman came hobbling out to greet her with a toothless smile.
"Ah, _bella signorina_, there are no more letters for you to-night.
Have you come to talk to me for a little?"

"I am going away," the girl answered hurriedly. "Will your husband
come in to fetch my luggage soon? At eight o'clock?"

Gigia laid a skinny hand on Olive's arm, and her sharp old eyes
blinked anxiously as she said, "Where are you going, _nina mia_?"

"I don't know."

"Not to the Prince?"

"Good heavens! No!"

"Ah, the _padrona_ is hard--and you are pretty. I thought it might be
that, perhaps. Don Filippo is like his old wolf of a father, and young
lambs should beware of him."

"Can you tell me of some quiet, decent rooms where I can go to night?"

"_Sicuro!_ My husband's brother keeps the Aquila Verde, and you can go
there. Giovanni will give you his best room if he hears that you come
from us, and he will not charge too much. I am sorry you are going,
_cara_."

Olive squeezed her hand. "Thank you, Gigia. You are the only one I am
sorry to say good-bye to. I shall not forget you."

The Marchese was coming down the stairs as Olive went up again. He
smiled at her as he stood aside to let her pass. "You are late, are
you not? I shall not tell tales but I hope for your sake that my wife
won't see you."

"She won't see me again. I am going," she answered.

He would have detained her. "One moment," he said eagerly, but she was
not listening. "I shall miss you."

After all she heard him. "Thank you," she said gravely.

A door was closed on the landing below, and the master of the house
glanced at it apprehensively. He was not sure--



CHAPTER VI


The Aquila Verde was the oldest of the tall houses in the narrow
Vicolo dei Donati; the lower windows were barred with iron worn by the
rains of four hundred years, and there were carved marble pillars on
either side of the door. The façade had been frescoed once, and some
flakes of colour, red, green and yellow, still adhered to the wall
close under the deep protecting eaves.

"It was a palace of the Donati once," the host explained to Olive as
he set a plate of steaming macaroni swamped in tomato sauce before
her.

"I thought it might have been a convent, because of the long paved
corridors and this great room that is like a refectory."

"No, the Donati lived here. Dante's wife, Gemma, perhaps. Who knows!"

Ser Giovanni took up a glass and polished it vigorously with the
napkin he carried always over his arm before he filled it with red
Chianti. He had never had a foreigner in his house before, but he had
heard many tales about them from the waiters in the great
Anglo-American hotels on the Lung'Arno, and he knew that they craved
for warmth and an unlimited supply of hot water and tea. Naturally he
was afraid of them, and he was also shy of stray women, but Olive was
pretty, and he was a man, and moreover a Florentine, and his brother
had come with her and had been earnest in his recommendations, so he
was anxious to please her. "There is no _dolce_ to-night," he said
apologetically. "But perhaps you will take an orange."

When Olive went up to her room presently she found a great copper jar
of hot water set beside the tiny washstand. The barred window was high
in the thickness of the stone wall and the uncarpeted floor was of
brick. The place was bare and cold as a cell, but the bed, narrow and
white as that of Mary Mother in Rossetti's picture, invited her, and
she slept well. She was awakened at eight o'clock by a young waiter
who brought in her coffee and rolls on a tray. She was a little
startled by his unceremonious entrance, but it seemed to be so much a
matter of course that she could not resent it. He took the copper jar
away with him. "The _padrone_ says you will want some more water," he
said smilingly.

"Yes. But--but if you bring it back you can leave it outside the
door."

The coffee was not good, but it was hot, and the rolls were crisp and
delicious, and Olive ate and drank happily and with an excellent
appetite. No more listening to mangled scales and murdered nocturnes
and sonatas, no more interminable meals at which she must sit silent
and yet avoid "glumness," no more walking at Mamie's heels.

She was free!

Presently she said to herself, more soberly, that nevertheless she
must work somehow to gain her livelihood. Yes, she must find work
soon. The Aquila Verde would shelter and feed her for six lire a day.
Her last month's salary of eighty lire had been paid her four days
ago, and she had already spent more than half of it on things she
needed, new boots, an umbrella, gloves, odds and ends. This month's
money had been given her last night, and she had left a few lire for
the servant who had always brought up her dinner to her room, and had
made Gigia a little present. The cabman had bullied her into giving
him two lire. She had about one hundred remaining to her. Sixes into
one hundred.... Working it out carefully on the back of an old
envelope she found that she might live on her means for sixteen days,
and then go out into the streets with four lire in her pocket--no,
three, since she could scarcely leave without giving a _mancia_ to the
young man whom she now heard whistling "Lucia" in the corridor.

"The hot water, signorina."

"A thousand thanks."

Surely in a few days she would find work. It occurred to her that she
might advertise. "Young English lady would give lessons. Terms
moderate. Apply O. A., Aquila Verde." She wrote it out presently, and
took it herself to the office of one of the local papers.

"I have saved fifteen centesimi," she thought as she walked rather
wearily back by the long Via Cavour.

Three days passed and she was the poorer by eighteen lire. On Sunday
she spent the morning at the Belle Arti Gallery. Haggard saints peered
out at her from dark corners. Flora smiled wistfully through her
tears; she saw the three strong archangels leading boy Tobias home
across the hills, and Angelico's monks and nuns meeting the Blessed
Ones in the green, daisied fields of Paradise, and for a little while
she was able to forget that no one seemed to want English lessons.

On Monday she decided that she must leave the Aquila Verde if she
could find anyone to take her for four, or even three lire a day. She
went to Cook's office in the Via Tornabuoni; it was crowded with
Americans come for their mails, and she had to wait ten minutes before
one of the young men behind the counter could attend to her.

"What can I do for you?"

"Can you recommend me to a very cheap _pension_?"

She noticed a faint alteration in his manner, as though he had lost
interest in what she was saying, but when he had looked at her again
he answered pleasantly, "There is Vinella's in the Piazza
Indipendenza, six francs, and there is another in the Via dei Bardi, I
think; but I will ask. Excuse me."

He went to speak to another clerk at the cashier's desk. They both
stared across at her, and she fancied she heard the words, pretty,
cheap enough, poor.

"There is a place in the Via Decima kept by a Frau Heylmann. I think
it might suit you, and I will write the address down. It is really not
bad and I can recommend it as I am staying there myself," he added
ingenuously. He seemed really anxious to help now, and Olive thanked
him.

As she went out she met Prince Tor di Rocca coming in. Their eyes met
momentarily and he bowed. It seemed strange to her afterwards when she
thought of it, but she fancied he would have spoken if she had given
him an opportunity. Did he want to explain, to tell more lies? She had
thought him too strong to care what women thought of him once they had
served him and been cast aside. True, she was not precisely one of
these.

The Via Decima proved to be one of the wide new streets near the Porta
San Gallo. No. 38 was a pretentious house, a tenement building trying
to look like a palace, and it was plastered over with dingy yellow
stucco. Olive went through the hall into a courtyard hung with drying
linen, and climbed up an outside iron staircase to the fifth floor.
There was a brass plate on the Frau's door, and Canova's Graces in
terra cotta smirked in niches on either side. The large pale woman who
answered the bell wore a grey flannel dressing-gown that was almost
buttonless, and her light hair was screwed into an absurdly small knot
on the nape of her neck.

"You want to be taken _en pension_? Come in."

She led the way into a bare and chilly dining-room; the long table was
covered with black American cloth that reminded Olive of beetles, but
everything was excessively clean. There was a framed photograph of the
Kaiser on the sideboard. In a room beyond someone was playing the
violin.

"How many are you in family?"

"I am alone."

The Frau looked down at the gloved hands. "You are not married?"

"No."

The woman hesitated. "You would be out during the day?"

"Oh, yes," Olive said hopefully. "I shall be giving lessons."

"Ah, well, perhaps-- What would you pay?"

"I am poor, and I thought you would say as little as possible. I
should be glad to help you in the house."

"There is a good deal of mending," the Frau said thoughtfully; "and
you might clean your own room. Shall we say twenty-four lire weekly?"

The playing in the other room ceased, and a young man put his head in
at the door. "_Mutter_," he said, and then begged her pardon, but he
did not go away.

Olive tried not to look at him, but he was staring at her and his eyes
were extraordinarily blue. He was pale, and his wide brows and strong
cleft chin reminded her of Botticelli's steel-clad archangel. He wore
his smooth fair hair rather long too, in the archangelic manner, he--

"Paid in advance," Frau Heylmann said very sharply. Then she turned
upon her son. "What do you want, Wilhelm?"

"Oh, I can wait," he said easily.

She snorted. "I am sorry I cannot receive you," she said to the girl.
"I am not accustomed to have young women in my house. No."

She waddled to the door and Olive followed her meekly, but she could
not keep her lips from smiling. "I do not blame you," she said as she
passed out on to the landing. "Your son is charming."

The woman looked at her more kindly now that she was going. "He is
beautiful," she said, with pride. "Some day he will be great. _Ach!_
You should hear him play!"

Olive laughed. "You would not let me."

She could not take this rebuff seriously, but as she trudged the
streets in the thin cold rain that had fallen persistently all that
morning her sense of humour was blunted by discomfort. The long dark,
stone-paved hall that was the restaurant of the Aquila Verde seemed
cold and cheerless. At noon it was always full of hungry men devouring
macaroni and _vitello alla Milanese_, and the steam of hot food and
the sound of masticating jaws greeted Olive as she came in and took
her place at a little table near the stove.

The young waiter, Angelo, brought her a cup of coffee after the cheese
and celery. "It gives courage," he said. "And I see you need that
to-day, signorina."



CHAPTER VII


Olive saw the _padrone_ of the Aquila Verde that night before she went
to her room and told him she was leaving.

His face fell. "Signorina! I am sorry! I told Angelo to bring hot
water every time, always, when you rang. Have you not been well
served?"

She reassured him on that point and went on to explain that she was
going to live alone. "I have made arrangements," she added vaguely. "A
man will come with a truck to take my box away to-morrow morning."

And the _padrone_ was too much a man of his world to ask any more
questions.

There had been no rooms vacant in the _pension_ in Piazza
Indipendenza. The manservant who answered the door had recommended an
Italian lady who took paying guests, and Olive had gone to see her,
but her rooms were small, dark and dingy, and they smelt
overpoweringly of sandal wood and rancid oil. The shabbily-smart
_padrona_ had been voluble and even affectionate. "I am so fond of the
English," she said. "My husband is much occupied and I am often
lonely, but we shall be able to go out together and amuse ourselves,
you and I. I had been hoping to get an invitation to go to the
_Trecento_ ball at the Palazzo Vecchio, but Luigi cannot manage it.
Never mind! We will go to all the _Veglioni_. I love dancing." She
looked complacently down at her stubby little feet in their
down-at-heel beaded slippers.

Olive had been glad to get away when she heard the impossible terms,
but the afternoon was passing, and when she got to the house in the
Via dei Bardi she saw bills of sale plastered on its walls and a
litter of straw and torn paper in the courtyard. The porter came out
of his lodge to tell her that one of the daughters had died.

"They all went away, and the furniture was sold yesterday."

As Olive had never really wished to live and eat with strangers she
was not greatly depressed by these experiences, but she was cold and
tired, and her head ached, and when on her way back to the Aquila
Verde she saw a card, "_Affitasi, una camera, senza mobilia_," in the
doorway of one of the old houses in the Borgo San Jacopo, she went in
and up the long flight of steep stone stairs without any definite idea
of what she wanted beyond a roof to shelter her.

A shrivelled, snuffy old woman showed her the room. It was very large
and lofty, and it had two great arched windows that looked out upon
the huddled roofs of Oltr'Arno. The brick floor was worn and
weather-stained, as were the white-washed walls.

"It was a _loggia_, but some of the arches have been filled in and the
others glazed. Ten lire a month, signorina. As to water, there is a
good fountain in the courtyard."

Olive moved in next day.

Heaven helps those who help themselves, she thought, as she borrowed a
broom from her landlady to sweep the floor. The morning was fine and
she opened the windows wide and let the sun and air in. At noon she
went down into the Borgo and bought fried _polenta_ for five soldi and
a slice of chestnut cake at the cook shop, and filled her kettle with
clear cold water from the fountain in the courtyard.

Later, as she waited for the water to boil over her little spirit
lamp, she made a list of absolute necessaries. She had paid a month's
rent in advance, and fifty-three lire remained to her. Fifty-three
lire out of which she must buy a straw mattress, a camp-stool, two
blankets, some crockery and soap.

She went out presently to do her shopping and came back at dusk. She
was young enough to rather enjoy the novelty of her proceedings, and
she slept well that night on the floor, pillowless, and wrapped in her
coarse brown coverings; and though the moon shone in upon her through
the unshuttered windows for a while she did not dream or wake until
the dawn.

Olive tried very hard to get work in the days that followed, and she
went twice to the registry office in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.

"Ah, you were here before." A stout woman came bustling out from the
room behind the shop to speak to her the second time. "There is
nothing for you, _signorina mia_. The ladies who come here will not
take anyone without a character, and a written reference from Milan or
Rome is no good. I told you so before. Last winter Contessa Foscoli
had an English maid with a written character--not from us, I am glad
to say--and she ran away with the chauffeur after a fortnight, and
took a diamond ring and the Contessa's pearls with her. If you cannot
tell me who you were with last I shall not be able to help you."

"The Marchesa Lorenzoni," Olive said.

The woman drew in her breath with a hissing noise, then she smiled,
not pleasantly. "Why did you not say so before? I have heard of you,
of course. The little English girl! Well, I can't help you, my dear.
This is a registry office."

Olive walked out of the shop at once, but she heard the woman calling
to someone in the room at the back to come and look at her, and she
felt her cheeks burning as she crossed the road. "The little English
girl!" What were they saying about her?

One morning she went into one of the English tea-rooms. It was kept
by two elderly maiden ladies, and one of them came forward to ask her
what she wanted. The Pagoda was deserted at that hour, a barren
wilderness of little bamboo tables and chairs, tea-less and cake-less.
The walls were distempered green and sparsely decorated with Japanese
paper fans, and Olive noticed them and the pattern of the carpet and
remembered them afterwards as one remembers the frieze, the
engravings, the stale periodicals in a dentist's waiting-room.

"Do--do you want a waitress?"

The older woman's face changed. Oh, that change! The girl knew it so
well now that she saw it ten times a day.

"No. My sister and I manage very well, and we have an Italian maid to
do the washing up."

"Thank you," Olive said, faltering. "You don't know anyone who wants
an English girl? I have been very well educated. At least--"

"I am afraid not."

Poor Olive. She was an unskilled workwoman, not especially gifted in
any way or fitted by her upbringing to earn her daily bread. Long
years of her girlhood had been spent at a select school, and in the
result she knew a part of the Book of Kings by heart, with the Mercy
speech from the _Merchant of Venice_ and the date of the Norman
Conquest. Every day she bought the _Fieramosca_, and she tried to see
the other local papers when they came out. Several people advertised
who wanted to exchange lessons, but no one seemed inclined to pay.
Once she saw names she knew in the social column.

    "The Marchese Lorenzoni is going to Monte Carlo, and he
    will join the Marchesa and Miss Whittaker in Cairo later
    in the season."

    "Prince Tor di Rocca is going to Egypt for Christmas."

It was easy to read between the lines.



CHAPTER VIII


Florence, in the great days of the Renaissance, bore many men whom now
she delights to honour, and Ugo Manelli was one of these. He helped to
build a bridge over the Arno, he had his palace in the Corso frescoed
by Masaccio, he framed sumptuary laws, and he wrote sonnets, charming
sonnets that are still read by the people who care for such things.
The fifth centenary of his birthday, on the twenty-eighth of November,
was to be kept with great rejoicings therefore. There were to be
fireworks and illuminations of the streets for the people, and a
_Trecento_ costume ball at the Palazzo Vecchio for those who had
influence to procure tickets and money to pay for them.

Mamie, greatly daring, proclaimed her intention of wearing the "_umile
ed onesto sanguigno_" of Beatrice.

"You will be my Dante, Don Filippo? Momma is going in cloth of gold as
Giovanna degli Albizzi."

The Marchese looked inquiringly at the Prince. "Shall you add to the
gaiety of nations, or at least of Florence?"

The young man shrugged his broad shoulders. "I suppose so." He was
well established as _cavalier servente_ now in the Lorenzoni
household, and it was understood that Mamie would be a princess some
day. The girl was so young that the engagement could scarcely be
announced yet.

"I guess we must wait until you are eighteen, Mamie," her mother said.
"Keep him amused and don't be exacting or he'll quit. He is still sore
from his jilting."

"I can manage him," the girl boasted, but she had no real influence
over him now. The forbidden fruit had allured him, but since it was
his for the gathering it seemed sour--as indeed it was, and he was not
the man to allow himself to be tied to the apron-strings of a child.
When he was in a good humour he watched his future wife amusedly as
she metaphorically and sometimes literally danced before him, but he
discouraged the excess of audacity that had attracted him formerly,
perhaps because he scarcely relished the idea of a Princess Tor di
Rocca singing, "_O che la gioia mi fè morir_."

Probably he regretted gentle, amenable Edna. At times he was grimly,
impenetrably silent, and often he said things that would have wounded
a tender heart past healing. Fortunately there were none such in the
Palazzo Lorenzoni.

"I shall be ridiculous as the Alighieri, and you must forgive me,
Mamie, if I say that one scarcely sees in you a reincarnation of
Monna Beatrice."

"Red is my colour," the girl answered rather defiantly.

The Marchese laughed gratingly.

Filippo dined with the Lorenzoni on the night of the ball. He wore the
red _lucco_, but had declined to crown himself with laurel. His gaudy
Muse, however, had no such scruples, and her black curls were wreathed
with silver leaves. The Prince was not the only guest; there was a
slender, flaxen-haired girl from New York dressed after Botticelli's
Judith, an artillery captain as Lorenzo dei Medici, and another man, a
Roman, in the grey of the order of San Francesco.

"Poppa left for Monte this morning," Mamie explained over the soup.
"He reckoned dressing up was just foolishness, but the fact is armour
is hot and heavy, and he would have had to pass from trousers into
greaves. He has not got the right kind of legs for parti-coloured
hosen, someway."

The Piazza della Signoria was crowded as it had been on that dreadful
May day when Girolamo's broken body was burnt to ashes there; as it
was on the afternoon of the Pazzi conspiracy, when a bishop was hanged
from one of the windows of the old Palazzo. But the old order had
changed, giving place to new even here, and the people had come now
merely to see the fine dresses; there was no thought of murder,
though there might be some picking of pockets. The night was still and
cold, and the white, round moon that had risen above the roof of the
Loggia dei Lanzi shone, unclouded, upon the restless human sea that
divided here and there to let the carriages and motors pass. The
guests entered by the side door nearest the Uffizi, and _carabinieri_
kept the way clear. The crowd was dense thereabouts, and the people
pushed and jostled one another, leaned forward, and stood on tiptoe to
see the brocaded ladies in their jewelled coifs and the men, hooded
and strange, in their gay mediæval garb.

The Marchesa's cloth of gold drew the prolonged "Oh!" of admiration
that is only accorded to the better kind of fireworks, and hearing it,
she smiled, well satisfied. Mamie followed with Filippo. Her dress of
rose-coloured brocade was exquisite. It clung to her and seemed to be
her one and only garment; one could almost see the throb of her heart
through the thin stuff. She let her furred cloak fall as she got out
of the car and then drew it up again about her bare arms and
shoulders.

"Who is the black-curled scarlet thing?"

"Beatrice."

"What! half naked! She is more like one of the _donnine_ in the
_Decameron_."

Her Dante, overhearing, hurried her up the steps. His eyes were
bright with anger in the shadow of his hood, but they changed and
darkened as he caught sight of one girl's face in the crowd. At the
foot of the grand staircase he turned, muttering some excuse and
leaving Mamie and her mother to go up alone, and hurried back and out
into the street. He stood aside as though to allow some newcomers to
pass in. The girl he had come to see was close to him, but she was
half hidden behind a _carabiniere's_ broad epauletted shoulders.

"_Scusi_," murmured the Prince as he leant across the man to pull at
her sleeve. "I must see you," he said urgently. "When? Where?"

"When you like," she answered, but her eyes were startled as they met
his. "No. 27 Borgo San Jacopo. The only door on the sixth landing."

"Very well. To-night, then, and in an hour's time."

The press of incoming masqueraders screened them. The _carabiniere_
knew the Prince by sight, and he listened with all his might, but they
spoke English, and he dared not turn to stare at the girl until the
tall figure in the red _lucco_ had passed up the steps and gone in
again, and by that time she had slipped away out of sight.

Filippo came to the Borgo a little before midnight and crossed the
dingy threshold of No. 27 as the bells of the churches rang out the
hour. The old street was quiet enough now but for the wailing of some
strayed and starving cats that crept about the shadowed courts and
under the crumbling archways, and the departing cab woke strange
echoes as it rattled away over the cobble stones.

The only door on the sixth landing was open.

"What are you doing here?" Filippo said, wonderingly, as he groped his
way in. The room was in utter darkness but for one ray of moonlight
athwart it and the faint light of the stars, by which he saw Olive
leaning against the sill of one of the unshuttered windows, and
looking, as it seemed, towards him.

"Come in," she said. "You need not be afraid of falling over the
furniture. There is not much."

"You seem partial to bare attics."

"Ah! you are thinking of my room in the Vicolo dei Moribondi."

"Yes!" he said as he came towards her from the door. "I cannot rest, I
cannot forget. For God's sake tell me about the end! I have been to
Siena since I heard, but I dared not ask too many questions. Was
she--did she suffer very much before she died? Answer me quickly."

"Throw back your hood," she said. "Let me see your face."

Impatiently he thrust the folds of white and scarlet away and stood
bare-headed. She saw that his strong lips quivered and that his eyes
were contracted with pain.

"No, she died instantly. They said at the inquest that it must have
been so."

"Her face--was she--" his voice broke.

"I did not see it. It was covered by a handkerchief," she said gently.
"Don't! Don't! I did not think you would suffer so much."

"I suffer horribly day and night. Love is the scourge of the world in
the hands of the devil. That is certain. She is buried near the south
wall of the Campo Santo. Oh, God! when I think of her sweet flesh
decaying--"

Olive, scarcely knowing what she did, caught at his hand and held it
tightly.

"Hush, oh, hush!" she said tremulously. She felt as though she were
seeing him racked. "I do believe that her soul was borne into heaven,
God's heaven, on the day she died. She was forgiven."

"Heaven!" he cried. "Where is heaven? I am not guilty of her death.
She was a fool to die, and I shall not soon forgive her for leaving me
so. If she came back I would punish her, torment her, make her scream
with pain--if she came back--oh, Gemma!--_carissima_--"

The hard, hot eyes filled with tears. He tried to drag his hand away,
but the girl held it fast.

"You are kind and good," he said presently in a changed voice. "I am
sorry if I did you any harm with the Lorenzoni, but the woman told me
she meant to send you away in any case because of the Marchese."

Then, as he felt the clasp of her fingers loosening about his wrist,
"Don't let go," he said quickly. "Is he really going to take you to
Monte Carlo with him?"

"Does his wife say so? Do you believe it?"

He answered deliberately. "No, not now. But you cannot go on living
like this."

"No."

He was right. She could not go on. Her little store of coppers was
dwindling fast, so fast that the beggars at the church doors would
soon be richer than she was. And she was tired of her straits, tired
of coarse food and a bare lodging, and of the harsh, clamorous life of
the streets. The yoke of poverty was very heavy.

Filippo drew a little nearer to her. "I could make you love me."

"Never."

He made no answer in words but he caught her to him. She lay for a
moment close in his arms, her heart beating on his, before she cried
to him to let her go.

He released her instantly. "Well?"

"I must light the lamp," she said unsteadily. She was afraid now to be
alone with him in the dim, starlit room, and she fumbled for the
matches. He stood still by the window waiting until the little yellow
flame of the _lucerna_ burnt brightly on the floor between them, then
he smiled at her, well pleased at her pallor. "You see it would be
easy," he said.

She answered nothing.

"I am going to Naples to-morrow by the afternoon train. Will you come
with me? We will go where you like from there, to Capri, or to Sicily;
and you will help me to forget, and I will teach you to live."

There was silence between them for a while. Olive stared with
fascinated eyes at this tall, lithe man whose red _lucco_, falling in
straight folds to his feet, became him well. The upper part of his
face was in shadow, and she saw only the strong lines of the cleft
chin, and the beautiful cruel lips that smiled at her as though they
knew what her answer must be.

She was of those who are apt to prefer one hour of troubled joy to the
long, grey, eventless years of the women who are said to be happy
because they have no history, and it seemed to her that the moment had
come when she must make a choice. This love was not what she had
dreamed of, longed for; other lips, kinder and more true, should have
set their seal on her accomplished womanhood. She knew that this that
was offered was a perilous and sharp-edged thing, a bright sheath
that held a sword for her heart, and yet that heart sang exultantly
as it fluttered like a wild bird against the bars of its cage. It sang
of youth and life and joy that cares not for the morrow.

It sang.

Filippo watched her closely and he saw that she was yielding. Her lips
parted, and instinctively as he came towards her she closed her eyes
so nearly that he saw only a narrow line of blue gleaming between her
lashes. But as he laid his hands upon her shoulders something awoke
within her, a terror that screamed in her ears.

"I am afraid," she said brokenly. "Leave me and come back to-morrow
morning if you will. I cannot answer you now."

As he still held her she spoke again. "If I come to you willingly I
shall be more worth having, and if you do not go now I will never
come. I will drown myself in the Arno."

"Very well. I will come to-morrow."

When he was gone she went stumblingly across the room to the mattress
on the floor in the farthest corner, and threw herself down upon it,
dressed as she was.

There was no more oil in the little lamp, and its flame flickered and
went out after a while, leaving her in the dark. The clocks were
striking two. Long since the moon had set behind the hills and now the
stars were fading, or so it seemed. There was no light anywhere.

Olive did not sleep. Her frightened thoughts ran to and fro busily,
aimlessly, like ants disturbed, hither and thither, this way and that.
He could give her so much. Nothing real, indeed, but many bright
counterfeits. For a while she would seem to be cared for and beloved.
Yes, but if the true love came she would be shamed. She knew that her
faith in Dante's Amor, his lord of terrible aspect, made his coming
possible. The men and women who go about proclaiming that there is no
such person because they have never seen him were born blind. Like
those prosy souls who call the poets mad, they mistake impotence for
common sense.

Besides, the first step always costs so dear, and now that he was gone
and she could think of him calmly she knew that she was afraid of
Filippo Tor di Rocca. He was cruel. Then among the forces arrayed
against him there was the desire of that she called her soul to
mortify her flesh, to beckon, to lead by stony ways to the heights of
sacrifice. She could not be sure where that first step would lead her,
she could not be sure of herself or gauge the depths to which she
might fall.

"Oh, God!" she said aloud. "Help me! Don't let things be too
difficult."

The hours of darkness were long, but the grey glimmering dawn came at
last with a pattering of rain against the uncurtained window. Olive
rose as soon as it was light, and before eight she had eaten the crust
of bread she had saved for her breakfast and was gone out. On her way
down the stairs she met her landlady and spoke to her.

"If anyone comes to see me will you tell them that I have gone out,
and that I do not know when I shall come in again. And if anything is
said about my going away you can say that I have changed my mind and
that I shall not leave Florence."

She would not cross the river for fear of meeting Filippo in any of
the more-frequented streets on the other side, so she went down the
Via della Porta Romana and out by the gates into the open country
beyond. She walked for a long time along muddy roads between the high
walls of vineyards and olive orchards. She had an umbrella, but her
skirts were draggled and splashed with mire and the water came through
the worn soles of her thin shoes. She had nothing to eat and no money
to buy food. There were some coppers in her purse, but she had
forgotten to bring that. It was windy, and as she was toiling up the
steep hill to Bellosguardo her umbrella blew inside out. She threw it
down by the side of the road and went on, rather glad to be rid of it
and to feel the rain on her face. She had two hands now to hold her
skirt and that was better. Soon after noon she knocked at the door of
a gardener's cottage and asked for something to eat; she was given a
yellow lump of _polenta_ and a handful of roast chestnuts and she sat
down on a low wall by the roadside to devour them. She did not think
much about anything now, she could not even feel that she cared what
happened to her, but she adhered to the resolution she had made to
keep out of the way until Tor di Rocca had left Florence. She could
not sit long. It was cold and she was poorly clad, so poorly that the
woman in the cottage had believed her to be a beggar. The Prince would
have had to buy her clothes before he could take her away with him.

She wandered about until nightfall and then made her way back to the
house in the Borgo, footsore and cold and wretched, but still the
captain of her soul; ragged, but free and in no man's livery.

The landlady heard her coming slowly up the stairs and came out of her
room to speak to her.

"A gentleman called for you this morning. I told him you were gone out
and that you had changed your mind about leaving Florence, and at
first he seemed angry, and then he laughed. 'Tell her we shall meet
again,' he said. Then another came this afternoon in an automobile and
asked if you lived here, and when I said you were out he said he would
come again this evening. He left his card."

Olive looked at it with dazed eyes. Her pale face flushed, but as she
went on up the stairs the colour ebbed away until even her lips were
white. She had to rest twice before she could reach her own landing,
and when she had entered her room she could go no farther than the
door. She fell, and it was some time before she could get up again,
but she still held the card crumpled in her hand.

"Jean Avenel."



CHAPTER IX


The Villa Fiorelli is set high among the olive groves above the
village of Settignano. There are Medicean balls on a shield over the
great wrought-iron gates, and the swarthy splendid banker princes
appear as the Magi in the faded fresco painting of the Nativity in the
chapel. They have knelt there in the straw of the stable of Bethlehem
for more than four hundred years. The _nobili_ of Florence were used
to loiter long ago on the terrace in the shade of the five cypresses,
and women, famous or infamous, but always beautiful, listened to
sonnets said and songs sung in their honour in the scented idleness of
the rose garden. The villa belonged first to handsome, reckless
Giuliano, the lover of Simonetta and others, and the father of a Pope,
and when the dagger thrusts of the Pazzi put an end to his short life
his elder brother and lord, Lorenzo, held it for a while before he
sold it to the Salviati. So it passed through many hands until at last
Hilaire Avenel bought it and filled it with the books and armour that
he loved. There were Spanish suits, gold-chased, in the hall, Moorish
swords and lances, and steel hauberks on the staircase, and stray
arquebuses, greaves and gauntlets everywhere. They were all rather
dusty, since Hilaire was unmarried; but he was well served
nevertheless. He was not a sociable person, and no Florentine had ever
partaken of a meal with him, but it was currently reported that he sat
through a ten-course dinner every night of his life, crumbling the
bread at the side of his plate, and invariably refusing to partake of
nine of the dishes that were handed in form by the old butler.

"It's real mean of your brother to keep his lovely garden shut up all
through the spring," the Marchesa Lorenzoni had said once to Jean, and
he had replied, "Well, it is his."

That seemed final, but the present Marchesa and late relict of Jonas
P. Whittaker of Pittsburg was not so easily put off. She was apt to
motor up to Settignano more than once in the May month of flowers; the
intractable Hilaire was never at home to her, but she revenged herself
by multitudinous kind inquiries. He was an invalid, but he disliked to
be reminded of his infirmities almost as much as he did most women and
all cackle about the weather.

Jean lived with him when not playing Chopin at the ends of the earth,
and when the two were together the elder declared himself to be
perfectly happy. "I only want you."

"And your first editions and your Cellini helmet."

When Jean came back from his American tour his brother was quick to
notice a change in him, and when on the day after his Florentine
concert he came in late for a dinner which he ate in silence, Hilaire
spoke his mind. They were together in the library. Jean had taken a
book down from the shelves but he was not reading it.

"Bad coffee."

"Was it?"

Hilaire was watching his brother's face. It seemed to him that there
were lines in it that he had not seen before, and the brown eyes that
gazed so intently into the fire were surely very tired.

He began again rather awkwardly. "You have been here a week, Jean."

"Yes."

"Did the concert go off well?"

"Oh, well enough. As usual."

"You went away alone in the Itala car before nine this morning and you
came back scarcely an hour ago. What is the matter? Is there some new
trouble? Jean, dear man, I am older than you; I have only you. What is
it?"

Jean reached out for his tobacco pouch. "Hilaire," he said very
gravely, after a pause, which he occupied in filling his pipe. "You
remember I asked you to do anything, anything, for a girl named Olive
Agar. You have never heard from her or of her?"

"Never."

"Ah," he sighed, "I have been to Siena. There was some affair--early
in September she came to Florence, to the Lorenzoni of all people in
the world."

Hilaire whistled.

"Yes, I know," the younger man said gloomily, as though he had spoken.
"That woman! What she must have suffered in these months! Well, she
left them suddenly at the beginning of November."

"Where is she now?"

"That's just it. I don't know."

"Why did she leave Siena?"

"There was some trouble--a bad business," he answered reluctantly.
"She lived with some cousins, and one of them committed suicide. She
came away to escape the horror and all the talk, I suppose."

"Ah, I need not ask why she left the Lorenzoni woman. No girl in her
senses would stay an hour longer than she could help with her."

"Hilaire, I think I half hoped to see her at the concert yesterday.
When I came on the platform I looked for her, and I am sure I should
have seen her in that crowd if she had been there. She is different,
somehow. I played like a machine for the first time in my life, I
think, and during the interval the manager asked me why I had not
given the nocturne that was down on the programme. I said something
about a necessary alteration at the last moment, but I don't know now
what I did play. I was thinking of her. A girl alone has a bad time in
this world."

"You are going to find her? Is she in love with you?"

Jean flushed. "I can't answer that."

"That's all right. What I really wanted to know was if you cared for
her. I see you do. Oh, Lord!" The older man sighed heavily as he put
down his coffee-cup. "I wish you would play to me."

Jean went into the music-room, leaving the folding doors between open,
and sat down at the piano. There was no light but the moon's, and
Hilaire saw the beloved head dark against the silvery grey of the wall
beyond. The skilled hands let loose a torrent of harmonies.

"Damn women!" said Hilaire, under cover of the fortissimo.

He spent some hours in the library on the following day re-arranging
and dusting his books, lingering over them, reading a page here and
there, patting their old vellum-bound backs fondly before he returned
them to their shelves. They absorbed him, and yet the footman bringing
in his tea on a tray heard him saying, "I must not worry."

Jean had always come to him with his troubles ever since he was a
child, and the worst of all had been brought about by a woman. That
was years ago now. Hilaire had been away from England, and he had
come back to find his brother aged and altered--and married.

They had got on so well together without women in these latter years
that Hilaire had hoped they might live and die in peace, but it seemed
that it was not to be. Jean had gone out again in the car to look for
his Olive. Well, if she made him happy Hilaire thought they might get
on very well after all. But he had forebodings, and later, he sat
frowning at the white napery and glittering glass and silver reflected
in the polished walnut wood of his well-appointed table, and he
refused soup and fish with unnecessary violence. Jean loved this girl
and she could make him happy if she would, but would she? She was
evidently not of a "coming-on disposition"; she was good, and Jean
was, unfortunately, still married to the other.

It had been raining all day. The wind moaned in the trees and sighed
in the chimney, and now and again the blazing logs on the hearth
hissed as drops fell on them from above.

"There is a good fire in the signorino's dressing-room, I hope. He has
been out all day, and it is so stormy that--"

"The signorino has come in, _eccellenza_. He--he brought a lady with
him. She seemed faint and ill, and I sent for the gardener's wife to
come and look after her. I have given her the blue room, and the
housekeeper is with her now. She was busy with the dinner when she
first came." The old butler rubbed his hands together.

"I hope I did right," he said after a pause.

Hilaire roused himself. "Oh, quite right, of course. She will want
something to eat."

"I have sent up a tray--"

"Ah, when?"

"He--here he is."

The old man drew back as Jean came in. "I am sorry to be late,
Hilaire."

"It does not matter."

Thereafter both sat patiently waiting for the end of a dinner that
seemed age-long. When, at last, they were alone Jean rose to his feet;
he was very pale and his brown eyes glittered.

"Did Stefano tell you? I have found her and brought her here."

"Oh, she has come, has she?"

"You think less of her for that. Ah, you will misjudge her until you
know her. Wait."

He hurried out of the room.

Hilaire stood on the hearth with his back to the fire. He repeated his
formula, but there was a not unkindly light in his tired eyes, and
when presently the door was opened and the girl came in he smiled.

The club foot, of which he was nervously conscious at times, held him
to his place, but she came forward until she was close to him.

"You are his brother," she began. "I--what a good fire."

She knelt down on the bear skin and stretched her hands to the blaze.
Hilaire noticed that she was excessively thin; the rose-flushed cheeks
were hollow and the curves of the sweet cleft chin too sharp. He
looked at her as she crouched at his feet; the nape of the slim neck
showed a very pure white against the shabby black of her dress, there
were fine threads of gold in the soft brown tangle of her hair.

Jean was dragging one of the great armchairs closer.

"You are cold," he said anxiously. "Come and sit here."

She rose obediently.

"Have you had any dinner?" asked Hilaire.

"Yes; they brought me some soup in my room. I am not hungry now."

She spoke very simply, like a child. Jean had rifled all the other
chairs to provide her with a sufficiency of cushions, and now he
brought her a footstool.

"I think I must take my shoes off," she said. "So cold--you see they
let the water in, and--"

"Take them off at once," ordered Hilaire, and he watched, still with
that faint smile in his eyes, as Jean knelt to do his bidding.

"That's very nice," sighed the girl. "I never knew before that real
happiness is just having lots to eat and being warm."

The two men looked at each other.

"I have often wondered about you," she said to Hilaire presently.
"Your eyes are just like his. I think if I had known that I should
have had to come before; but you see I promised Cardinal Jacopo of
Portugal--in San Miniato--that I would not. What am I talking about?"
Her voice broke and she covered her face with her hands.

"Oh, my God!" Jean would have gone to her, but his brother laid a
restraining hand on his arm.

"Leave her alone," he said. "She will be all right to-morrow. It's
only excitement, nervous exhaustion. She must rest and eat. Wait
quietly and don't look at her."

Jean moved restlessly about the room; Hilaire, gravely silent, seemed
to see nothing.

So the two men waited until the girl was able to control her sobs.

"I am so sorry," she said presently. "I have made you uncomfortable;
forgive me."

"Will you take a brandy-and-soda if I give it you?"

"Yes, if you think it will do me good."

Hilaire limped across to the sideboard. He was scarcely gone half a
minute, but when he came back with a glass of the mixture he had
prescribed he saw his brother kneeling at the girl's side, his arms
about her, his face hidden in the folds of her skirt.

"Jean! Get up!" he said very sharply. "Pull yourself together."

Olive sat stiffly erect; her swollen, tear-stained lids hid the blue
eyes, her pale, quivering lips formed words that were inaudible.

Hilaire ground his teeth. "Get up!"

After a while the lover loosed his hold; he bent to kiss the girl's
feet; then he rose and went silently out of the room. Hilaire listened
for the closing of another door before he rang the bell.



CHAPTER X


For some days and nights Olive lived only to eat and sleep. When she
woke it was to hear a kind old voice urging her to take hot milk or
soup, to see a kind old face framed in white hair set off by black
lace lappets; and yet whenever she closed her eyes at first she was
aware of a passionate aching echo of words said that was sad as the
sound of the sea in a shell. "I love you--I love you--" until at last
sleep helped to knit up the ravelled sleave of care.

Every morning there were fresh roses for her.

"The signorino hopes you are better."

"Oh, much better, thank you." And after a while a day came when she
felt really strong enough to get up. She dressed slowly and came down
and out on to the terrace. The crumbling stones of the balustrade were
moss-grown, as was the slender body of the bronze Mercury, poised for
flight and dark against the pale illimitable blue of the December sky.
Hilaire Avenel never tried to make Nature neat; the scarlet leaves of
the Virginia creeper came fluttering down and were scattered on the
worn black and white mosaic of the pavement; they showed like fire
flickering in the sombre green of the cypresses. Beyond and below the
garden, the olive and ilex woods, and the steep red roofs of
Settignano, lay Florence, a city of the plain, and wreathed in a
delicate mist. There was the great dome of Santa Maria dei Fiori; the
tortuous silver streak that was Arno, spanned by her bridges; there
was Giotto's tower, golden-white and rose golden, there the campanile
of the Badia, the grim old Bargello, and the battlemented walls of the
Palazzo Vecchio; farther still, across the river, the heights of San
Miniato al Monte, Bellosguardo, and Mont' Oliveto, cypress crowned.

Two white rough-coated sheep-dogs came rushing up the steps from the
garden to greet Olive with sharp barks of joy, and Hilaire was not
slow to follow. Olive still thought him very like his brother, an
older and greyer Jean.

"I have been so looking forward to showing you the garden," he said
hurriedly in his kind eagerness to put her at her ease. "There are
still a few late chrysanthemums, and you will find blue and white
violets in the grass by the sundial."

They passed down the steps together and through the green twilight of
the orange groves, and came to a little fountain in the midst of a
space of lawn set about with laurels. Hilaire threw a biscuit into
the pool, and the dark water gleamed with silver and gold as the fish
rushed at it.

"I flatter myself that all the living things in this garden know me,"
he said. "I bar the plainer kinds of insects and scorpions, of course;
but the small green lizards are charming, aren't they?"

"Mamie Whittaker had one on a gold chain. She used to wear it
sometimes."

"She would," he said drily. "The young savage! Better go naked than
torture harmless things."

"This place is perfect," sighed Olive; and then, "You have no home in
France?"

"We should have; but our great-grandfather was guillotined in Paris
during the Terror, and his wife and child came to England. Years
later, when they might have gone back they would not. Why should they?
Napoleon had given the Avenel estates to one of his ruffians, who had
since seceded to the Bourbon and so made all secure. Besides, they
were happy enough. Marie Louis Hilaire gave music lessons, and the
Marquise scrubbed and cooked and patched their clothes--she, who had
been the Queen's friend, and so they managed to keep the little home
together. Presently the young man married, and then Jean Marie
appeared on the scene. We have a picture of him at the age of five, in
a nankeen frock and a frill. Our mother was a Hungarian--hence Jean's
music, I suppose--and there is Romany blood on that side. These are
our antecedents. You will not be surprised at our vagaries now?"

Olive smiled. "No, I shall remember the red heels of Versailles,
English bread and butter, and the gipsy caravan."

"Jean has fetched your books from the Monte di Pietà. Marietta found
the tickets in your coat pocket. You don't mind?"

Looking at her he saw her eyes fill with tears, and he hurried on: "No
rubbish, I notice. Are you fond of reading?"

"Yes."

"I was wondering if you would care to undertake a work for me."

"I should be glad to do anything," she said anxiously.

"I have some thousands of books in the villa. Those I have collected
myself I know--they are all in the library--but there are many that
were left me by my father, and others that came from an uncle, and
they are all piled up in heaps in the empty rooms on the second floor.
I want someone to sort them out, catalogue, and arrange them for me.
Would you care to do it?"

"Yes, indeed."

"That's all right then," he said hastily. "I'll get a carpenter in at
once to put up some more shelves ready for them. And I think you had
better stay on in the villa, if you don't mind. It will be more
convenient. The salary will be two hundred lire a month, paid in
advance."

"Your kindness--I can't express my gratitude--" she began tremulously.

"Nonsense! This is a business transaction, and I am coming out of it
very well. I should not get a man to do the work for that absurdly
small sum. I am underpaying you on purpose because I hate women."

Olive laughed. "Commend me to misogynists henceforth."

She wanted to begin at once, but her host assured her that he would
rather she waited until the shelves were put up.

"You will have to sort them out several times, according to date,
language and subject. Perhaps Jean can help you when he returns. He is
away just now."

Watching her, he saw the deepening of the rose.

"I--I can't remember exactly what happened the night I came, Mr
Avenel. You know I had not been able to find work, and though my
_padrona_ was kind she was very poor too. She pawned my things for me,
but they fetched so little, and I had not had anything to eat for ever
so long when he came. He has not gone away because of me, has he?"

Hilaire threw the fish another biscuit; it fell among the lily leaves
at the feet of the weather-stained marble nymph of the fountain.

"I must decline to answer," he said gravely, after a pause. "I
understand that you are twenty-three and old enough therefore to judge
for yourself, and I do not intend to influence either you or Jean, if
I can help it. You will be perfectly free to do exactly what you think
right, my dear girl. I will only give you one bit of advice, and that
is, look at life with your eyes wide open. Don't blink! This is
Friday, and Jean is coming to see you on Wednesday."



CHAPTER XI


Olive told herself that Hilaire was very good to her in the days that
followed. He came sometimes into the room where she was, to find her
sitting on the floor amid the piles of books she was trying to reduce
to some kind of order.

"You do not get tired? I am afraid they are rather dusty."

"Oh, not at all," she assured him. She was swathed in a blue linen
apron of Marietta's and had tied a cotton handkerchief over her hair.
"I like to feel I am doing something for you," she said. "I wish--you
have been--you are so kind."

On the Wednesday morning she covered some of the books with brown
paper and pasted labels on their backs. She tried not to listen for
the creaking of the great gates as they swung open, for the grating of
wheels against the stones, for Jean's voice calling to his brother,
for his quick step upon the stair, but she heard all as she wrote
_Vita Nuova_ on the slip intended for an early edition of the _Rape of
the Lock_, and put the _Decameron_ aside with some sermons and
commentaries that were to be classified as devotional literature. He
did not come to her then, but she was desperately afraid that he
might. "I am not ready ... not ..."

When, later, she came into the dining-room she seemed to be perfectly
at her ease. Jean's eyes had been fixed on the door, and they met hers
eagerly as she came forward. "Are you better?" he asked, and then bit
his lip, thinking he had said the wrong thing.

"Oh, yes. But--but you look pale and thinner."

Her little air of gay indifference fell away from her. As he still
held her hand she felt the tears coming and longed to be able to run
upstairs and take some more sal volatile, but Hilaire came to the
rescue.

"Well, let's have lunch," he said. "I hate tepid food."

When they had taken their places Jean gave the girl a letter.

"It came for you to the Lorenzoni. I called at the porter's lodge this
morning and Ser Gigia gave it me."

"Such a waste of good things I never saw," the butler said afterwards
to his wife. "As you know, the _padrone_ never eats more than enough
to fill a bird, but I have seen the signorino hungry, and the young
lady too. To-day, however, they ate nothing, though the _frittata_ was
fit to melt in one's mouth. I should not have been ashamed to set it
before the Archangel Gabriel, and he would have eaten it, since it is
certain that the Blessed One has never been in love."

After the meal, to which no one indeed had done justice, Hilaire
explained that he was going to write some letters.

The younger man looked at Olive. "Come with me," he said abruptly. "I
want to play to you."

"I want to hear you," she said as she rose from the table.

He followed her into the music-room and shut the door. "Well?"

She chose to misunderstand him. "It is charming. Just what a shrine of
sound should be."

The grand piano stood out from the grey-green background of the walls
beyond, there was a bronze statuette of Orpheus with his lute on a
twisted Byzantine column of white and gold mosaic, and a long
cushioned divan set on one side broke the long lines of light on the
polished floor.

"What are you going to play?" she asked.

"Nothing, at present," he said, smiling at her. "I want to talk to you
first. You are not frightened?"

"No." She sat on the divan and he stood before her, looking down into
her eyes.

"I think I had better try to tell you about my wife," he said. "May I
sit here? And may I smoke?"

"Yes." She drew her skirts aside to make room for him next to her. "I
want to hear you," she said again.

"Imagine me, a boy of twenty-two, convalescing in country lodgings
after an illness that seemed to have taken the marrow out of my bones.
Hilaire was in Japan, and I--a callow fledgling from the nest--was
very sick and sorry for myself. There were some people living in
rather a large house at the other end of the village who took notice
of me. They were the only ones, and I have thought since that my
acquaintance with them really did for me with everyone else. They were
not desirable--but--well, I was too young, and just then too
physically weak to avoid their more pressing attentions. Old Seldon
was one of those flushed, swollen men whose collars seem always to be
too small for them. He tried to be pleasant, but it was not a great
success. There were two daughters at home, and Gertrude was the
eldest. She had been married, and the man had died, leaving her
penniless. As you may suppose she had not come back to veal. I was
sorry for her then because she seemed a good sort, and she was very
kind to me; she was five years my senior--"

"Go on," Olive said.

"I used to go to the house nearly every evening. She sang well, and I
used to play her accompaniments, while the old man hung about the
sideboard. He never left us alone, and the younger girl, Violet, used
to meet the rector's son in the stables then. I heard that afterwards.
They lived anyhow, and owed money to all the tradespeople round.

"One night I was awakened by a knocking outside; my landlady slept at
the back, and she was deaf besides, so I went down myself. The wind
put my candle out as I opened the door, but I saw a woman standing
there in the rain, and I asked her what she wanted. She made no
answer, but pushed past me into the passage, and went into my
sitting-room. I followed, of course.

"Well, perhaps you have guessed that it was Gertrude. Her yellow hair
hung down and about her face; she was only half dressed, and her bare
arms and shoulders were all wet. Her skirts were torn and stained with
mud. She told me her father had turned her out of the house in a
drunken fury and she had come to me. Even then I wondered why she had
not gone to some woman--surely she might have found shelter--however,
she had come to me. I was going to call up my landlady, but she would
not allow it because she said that no one but I need ever know. She
would creep home through the fields soon after sunrise and her sister
would let her in. The old man would be sleeping heavily.... The end of
it was that I let her go up to my room while I lay on the sofa in the
little parlour. The horsehair bolster was deucedly hard, but I was
young, and when I did get off I slept well. When I woke it was nearer
eight than seven, and I had just scrambled up when my landlady came
in. One look at her face was enough. I understood that Gertrude had
overslept herself too.

"The sequel was hateful. There was a frightful scandal, of course; the
father raved, the women cried, the rector talked to me seriously,
and--Olive, mark this--Gertrude would not say anything. I married her
and we came away."

"It was a trap," cried Olive.

"We had not one single thing in common, and you know when there is no
love sex is a barrier set up by the devil between human souls. After
some years of mutual misery I brought her here. Poor Hilaire has hated
respectable women ever since--she was that, if that counts when there
is nothing else. Just virtue, with no saving graces. She is living in
London now, is much esteemed, and regularly exceeds her allowance."

"Was she pretty?"

Jean had let his pipe go out, and now he relit it. "Oh, yes," he said,
"I suppose so. Frizzy hair and all that. I fancy she has grown stout
now. She is the kind that spreads."

"Life is all so hateful," sighed the girl. Jean moved away from her
and went to the window. Hilaire was limping across the terrace
towards the garden steps. When he was gone out of sight Jean came back
into the room.

"My brother is unhappy too. The woman he loved died. Oh, Olive, are we
to be lonely always because the law will not give me a divorce from
the woman who was never really my wife, never dear to me or near to me
as you are? Joy is within our reach, a golden rose on the tree of
life, and it is for you to gather it or to hold your hand. Don't
answer me yet for God's sake. Wait!"

He went to the piano and opened it.

Rain ... rain dripping on the roof through the long hours of night,
and the weary moaning of the wakeful wind. Thronging memories of past
years, past youth, past joy, past laughter echoing and re-echoing in
one man's hungry heart. Light footsteps of children never to be born
... and then the heavy tread of men carrying a coffin, and the last
sound of all--the clanging of an iron door....

The grave ... the grave ... it held the boy who had loved her, and
presently, surely, it would hold this man too, sealing his kind lips
with earth, closing his brown eyes in an eternal darkness.

He played, as thousands had said, divinely, not only with his hands
but with his soul. The music that had been a work of genius became a
miracle when he interpreted it, and indeed it seemed that virtue went
out of him. His face was drawn and pale and a pulse beat in his cheek.
Olive, gazing at him through a blur of tears, knew that she had never
longed for anything in her life as she longed now to comfort this pain
expressed in ripples, and low murmurings, and great crashing waves of
the illimitable sea of sound. Her heart ached with the pity that is a
woman's way of loving, and as he left the piano she rose too. He
uttered a sort of cry as she swayed towards him, and clasped her in
his arms.

"I love you," he said, his lips so close to hers that she felt rather
than heard the words.



CHAPTER XII


Jean came to the villa a little before noon on the following day.
Hilaire, who was in the library, heard his voice in the hall calling
the dogs, heard him whistling some little song tune as he opened and
shut all the doors one after the other.

    "'_O l'amor e' come un nocciuola
      Se non se apre non si può mangiarla--_'"

"Hilaire, where are you? I thought I should find you on the terrace
this fine morning. Where is she?" he added eagerly as he laid a great
bunch of roses down on the table. "Is her headache better? Has not she
come down yet?"

He looked across the room to where his brother's grey head just showed
above the high carved back of his chair.

"Hilaire! Why don't you answer?"

In the silence that ensued he distinctly heard the ticking of the
clock on the mantelpiece and the falling of the soft wood ashes in the
grate; the beating of his own heart sounded loud to him. One of the
dogs was scratching at the door and whining to be let in.

"Hilaire."

"She is gone."

"Gone?"

"Yes. She left this letter for you."

"Ah, give it to me." He opened and read it hurriedly.

"I thought you meant dead at first," he said. His brown eyes had lost
the light that had been in them and were melancholy as before; he
stood still by the table looking down upon his roses. They would fade,
and she would never see them now. Never ... never ...

"Come and sit by the fire and let's talk it over quietly," said
Hilaire. "Oh, damn women," he mumbled as he drew at his pipe--the
fifth that morning. It was the first time in a week that he had
uttered his pet expletive. "What does she say?"

"You can read her letter."

"Would she mind?"

"Oh, no," Jean said bitterly. "She loves you--what she calls
loving--next best after me. She told me so."

Hilaire carefully smoothed the crumpled, blotted page out on his knee.

    "MY DEAREST JEAN,--I am going away because I am a
    coward. I dare not live with you, and I dare not ask you
    to forgive me. Last night as I lay awake I thought and
    thought about my feeling for you and I was sure that it
    was love. I used to think of you often last summer and
    to wonder where you were and what you were doing, and I
    hoped you had not forgotten me. I did not love you then,
    but I suppose my thoughts of you kept my heart's door
    open for you, and certainly they helped to keep out
    someone else who came and tried to get admittance. Oh,
    one must suffer to keep love perfect, but isn't it worth
    while? You may not believe me now when I say that if I
    cared for you less I should stay, but it is true. Oh,
    Jean, even when we were so happy for a few minutes
    yesterday something in me looked beyond into the years
    to come and was afraid. Not of you; I trust you,
    dearest; but of the world. Men would stare at me and
    laugh and whisper together, and women would look away,
    and I know I should not be able to bear it. I am not
    brave like that. Oh, every word I write must hurt you, I
    know. Remember that I love you now and shall always.
    Good-bye.--Your

                    "OLIVE."

"I should keep this."

"I am going to. Hilaire, did you know she was going? Did she tell
you?"

The older man answered quietly: "Yes, I knew, and I sent her to the
station in the motor. I had promised a strict neutrality, Jean, and
she was right to go. Some women, good women, may be strong enough to
bear all the suffering that is entailed upon them by a known
irregularity in their lives. She is not. It would probably have killed
her though I am not saying that she would not have been happy
sometimes, when she could forget her shame."

Jean flinched as though his brother had struck him. "Don't use that
word."

"Well, what else would it be? What else would the world call it? And
women listen to what the world says. 'Good name in man or woman is the
immediate jewel of their souls'; Othello said something like that, and
it's often true. Besides, you know, this woman is pure in herself, and
from what she told me I understand that she has seen something of the
seamy side of love lately--enough to inspire her with dread. She is
afraid, and her fear is exquisite; a very fine and rare thing. It is
the bloom on the fruit and should not be brushed off with an ungentle
hand. Poor child! Don't blame her as she blames herself or I shall
begin to think she is too good for you."

Jean sat leaning forward staring into the fire.

"Do you realise that when I brought her here it was from starvation in
a garret? Where is she going? What will she do? Oh, God! The poor
little slender body! Do you remember she said it was happiness just to
be warm and have enough to eat?"

"That's all right," Hilaire said hastily. "She is going to a good
woman, a friend she made in Siena. The letter you brought was from
her, and she wrote to say she had been ill and wished Olive could come
and be with her for a while."

"I see! And she was glad to get away."

"My dear man, did you really think she would be so easily won? She
loves you, and you not only made love to her yesterday afternoon; you
played to her--I heard you--and I knew she would have to say 'Yes' to
everything. Now she says 'No,' but you must not think she does not
care." Hilaire got up, came across to where his brother sat, and laid
a caressing hand on his shoulder. "Dear Jean, will it comfort you to
hear me swear she means every word of that letter? It's not all over.
You will come together in the end. Her poor blue eyes were drowned in
tears--"

"Oh, don't," Jean said brokenly. The hard line of his lips relaxed. He
hid his face in his hands.

Hilaire went out of the room.



BOOK III.--ROME



CHAPTER I


Olive was alone in the compartment of the train that bore her away
from Florence and from Jean. She had a book; it lay open on her lap,
and she had tried to read, but the lines all ran together and the
effort to concentrate her thoughts made her head ache. She was very
unhappy. It seemed to her that now indeed life was emptied of all
sweets and the taste of it was as dust and ashes in her mouth. She was
leaving youth and joy behind; or rather, she had killed them and left
a man to bury them. At Orvieto she nearly broke down. It would be so
easy to get out and cross over to the other platform and there await
the next train back to Florence. She had her hand upon the handle of
the door when a boy with little flasks of wine in a basket came up and
asked her to buy, and as she answered him she heard the cry of
"_Partenza!_" It was too late; the moment had passed, and after a
while she knew that she was glad she had not yielded. She was doing
the right thing. What was the old French motto? "_Fais ce que doit,
advienne que pourra._" The brave words comforted her a little. She was
very tired, and presently she slept.

She was awakened by the discordant yells of the Roman _facchini_ on
the station platform. One of them carried her box to the office of the
Dogana, but a large party of Americans had come by the same train and
the officials were too busily engaged in turning over the contents of
their innumerable Saratogas to do more than scrabble in chalk on the
side of her shabby leather trunk and shake their heads at the
proffered key, and soon she was in a _vettura_ clattering down the
wide new Via Nazionale.

Signora de Sanctis lived with her sister in one of the old streets in
the lower part of the city near the Pantheon--the Via Arco della
Ciambella. The houses there are built on the foundations of the Baths
of Agrippa, and a brick arch, part of the great Tepidarium, remains to
give the street its name. The poor fragment has been Christianised; a
wayside altar sanctifies it, and a little painted shrine to the
Madonna adorns the base. The buildings on that side are small and mean
and overshadowed by the great yellow palace of the Spinola opposite.
Olive's friends lived over a wine shop, but the entrance was some way
down the street.

"Fortunately, my dear," as they remarked, "though really the place is
very quiet. People go outside the gates to get drunk."

Both the women seemed glad to see her. Her room was ready and a meal
had been prepared and the cloth laid at one end of the work-table. The
younger sister was a dressmaker too, and the floor was strewn with
scraps of lining and silk. A white dress lay on the sofa, carefully
folded and covered with a sheet of tissue paper.

"You look tired, Olive. Were you not happy in Florence?"

The girl admitted that the Lorenzoni had not been very kind to her.
She had left them and had been living on her savings. It had been hard
to find other employment. "I want to work," she said. "You will let me
help you, and I hope to get lessons."

She asked to be allowed to wash the plates and dishes and put them
away in the tiny kitchen. She was in a mood to bear anything better
than the idleness that left room for her own sad thoughts, and she
wished that they would let her do some sewing. "I am not good at
needlework, but I can hem and put on buttons," she pleaded.

Signora Giulia smiled at her. She was small, and she had a pale,
dragged look and many lines about her weak eyes. "No, thank you, my
dear. I have a girl apprentice who comes during the day, and I do the
cutting out and designing and the embroidery myself. You must not
tire yourself in the kitchen either. We have an old woman in to do
_mezzo servizio_."

It was nine o'clock, and the narrow streets were echoing now to the
hoarse cries of the newsvendors: "_Tribuna!_" "_Tribuna!_"

"I will go and unpack then, and to-morrow I shall find some registry
offices and try to get English lessons."

"Yes, go, _nina_, and sleep well. You look tired. You must get
stronger while you are with us."

For a long time she could not sleep. In the summer she had played with
the thought of love, and then she had been able to close her eyes and
feel Jean Avenel close beside her, leaning towards her, saying that
she must not be afraid, that he would not hurt her. It had been a sort
of game, a childish game of make-believe that seemed to hurt no one,
not even herself. But now she was hurt indeed; the remembrance of his
kisses ached upon her lips.

When Tor di Rocca had asked her to go away with him she had felt that
it might be worth while, that it would be pleasant to be cared for and
loved, to eat and drink and die on the morrow, but the man himself had
been nothing to her. A means to an end.

She had been wholly a creature of blind instincts, the will to live,
to creep out of the dark into the sunshine that is inherent in the
animal, fighting against that other impulse, trying to root up that
white fragile flower, watered throughout the centuries with blood and
tears and rare and precious ointment, that thorn in some women's
hearts, their pale ideal of inviolate purity.

The spirit had warred against the flesh, and the spirit had won then
and now. It had won, but not finally. She was dismayed to find that
temptation was a recurrent thing. Every morning when she woke it
returned to her. It would be so easy to write "Dearest, come to me."
It would be so easy to make him happy. She thought little of herself
now and much of Jean. Would he stay on with his brother or go away
again? Had she hurt him very much? Would he forget her? Or hate her?

During the day she trudged the streets of Rome and grew to know them
well. Here, as in Florence, no one wanted to pay for learning, no one
wanted an English girl for anything apparently. If she had been Swiss,
and so able to speak three languages incorrectly, she might have found
a place as nursery-governess; as it was, the people in the registry
offices grew tired of her and she was afraid to go to them too often.

There was little for her to do in the house. The old woman who came in
did the cleaning, and they lived on bread and _ricotta_ cheese and a
cabbage soup that was easily prepared, but sometimes she was able to
help with the sewing, and now and then she was allowed to take the
finished work home.

"It is not fit! They will take you for an apprentice, a _sartina_."

Olive laughed rather mirthlessly at that. "I am not proud," she said.

"I sat up until two last night to finish the Contessa's dress. She is
always in a hurry. If only she would pay what she owes," sighed the
dressmaker.

Olive promised to bring the money back with her, and she waited a long
while in the stuffy passage of the Contessa's flat. There were
imitation Abyssinian trophies on the walls, lances and daggers and
shields of lathe and cardboard and painted paper. The husband was an
artillery captain, and his sword stood with the umbrellas in the rack,
the only real thing in that pretentious armoury.

The Contessa came out to her presently. She was a large woman, and as
she was angry she seemed to swell and redden and gobble as turkeys do.

"Are you the _giovinetta_? You will take this dress away. It is not
fit to put on." She held the bodice in her hand, and as she spoke she
shook it in Olive's face. "The stitches are all awry; they are
enormous; and half the embroidery is blue and the other half green. I
shall make her pay for the material. The dress is ruined, and it is
the last she shall make for me. She must pay me, and you must tell her
so."

Olive collected her scattered wits. "If the Signora Contessa would
allow me to look," she said.

The stitches were very large, and her heart sank as she examined them.
The poor women had toiled so over this work, stooping over it,
straining their tired eyes. "I think we can alter it to your
satisfaction, but I must ask you to be indulgent, signora. I will
bring it back the day after to-morrow, if that will suit you." She
folded the bodice carefully and wrapped it in the piece of paper she
had brought it in, fastening the four corners with pins.

"The skirt goes well?"

"It will do," the Contessa admitted as she turned away. "Anacleto!"

A slender, dark-eyed youth emerged from the shadows at the far end of
the passage, bringing a sound and smell of frying with him. His bare
brown arms were floury and he wiped them on his striped cotton apron
as he came forward to open the door. He wore a white camellia thrust
behind one ear.

"It would be convenient--Signora Manara would be glad if you could pay
part of her account," faltered Olive.

The Contessa stopped short. "I could, but I will not," she said
emphatically. "She does her work too badly."

The young servant grinned at the girl as she passed out. She was
half-way down the stairs when he came out on to the landing and leaned
over the banisters.

"Never! Never!" he called down to her. "They never pay anyone. I am
leaving to-morrow."

The white camellia dropped at her feet. She smiled involuntarily as
she stooped to gather up the token. "Men are rather dears."

She met Ser Giulia coming down the stairs of their house. The little
woman looked quickly at the bundle she carried as she asked why it had
been brought back.

"She wants it altered! _Dio mio!_ And I worked so hard at it. How much
of the money has she given you?"

"She has given nothing; I hope she will pay when I take the work
back."

But the other began to cry. "Perhaps the stitches are large," she
said, sobbing. "I know my eyes are weak. No one will pay me, and I owe
the baker more than ten lire. Soon we shall have to beg our bread in
the streets."

"Don't," Olive said hurriedly. "Don't. I have been with you more than
a month and I have not found work yet, but I will not be a burden to
you much longer. I shall find something to do soon and then you need
not do so much and we shall manage better."

"Oh, child, I know you do your best."

"Don't cry then. I will get money somehow. Don't be afraid."



CHAPTER II


Olive sat idly on one of the benches near the great wall in the
Pincian gardens. She had been to an office in the Piazza di Spagna and
had there been assured for the seventh time that there was nothing on
the books. "If the signorina were a cook now, there are many people in
need of cooks," the young man behind the counter had said smilingly,
and she had thanked him and come away. What else could she do?

It was getting late, and a fading light filtered through the bare
interwoven branches of the planes. The shadows were lengthening in the
avenues and grass-bordered paths where the seminarists had been
walking in twos and threes among the playing children. They were gone
now, the grave-faced young men in their black soutanes and broad
beaver hats; all the people were gone.

"O Pasquina! _Birichina!_"

Olive, turning her head, saw a young woman and a child coming towards
her. The little thing was clinging to its mother's skirts, stumbling
at every step, whining to be taken up, and now she dropped the white
rabbit muff and the doll she was carrying into a puddle.

"O Pasquina!"

The child stared open-mouthed as Olive came forward and stooped to
pick up the fallen treasures, and though tears were running down her
little face she made no outcry.

"See, the beautiful lady helps you," the mother said hastily, and she
sat down on the bench at Olive's side and lifted the baby on to her
lap to comfort her.

"She is tired. We have been to the Campo Marzo to buy her a fine hat
with white feathers," she explained.

Olive looked at her with interest. She was not at all pretty; her
round snubby face was red and she had a bruise on her chin, and yet
she was somehow attractive. Her small, twinkling blue eyes were so
kind, and her hair was beautiful, smooth, shining, and yellow as
straw. She wore no hat.

Her name was Rosina. The signorino was always very good, and he gave
her an afternoon off when she asked for it. On Christmas night, for
instance, she had drunk too much wine, and she had fallen down in the
street and hurt herself. The next day her head ached so, and when the
signorino saw she was not well he said she might go home and sleep.
She had been working for him six weeks. What work? She seemed
surprised at the question.

"I am a model. My face is ugly, as you see," she said in her simple,
straightforward way; "but otherwise I am beautiful, and I can always
get work with sculptors. The signorino is an American and he has an
unpronounceable name. He is doing me as Eve, crouched on the ground
and hiding my head in my arms. After the Fall, you know. Have you been
to the Andreoni gallery? There is a statuette of me there called
'Morning.' This is the pose."

She clasped her hands together behind her head, raising her chin a
little. Olive observed the smooth long throat, the exquisite lines of
the shoulders and breast and hips. Pasquina slipped off her mother's
knees.

"Are you well paid?"

"It depends on the artist. Some are so poor that they cannot give, and
others will not. The schools allow fifteen soldi an hour, but the
signorino is paying me twenty-five soldi. In the evenings I sing and
dance at a _caffè_ near the station."

Olive hesitated. "Do--do artists ever want models dressed?"

Rosina looked at her quickly. "Oh, yes, when they are as pretty as you
are. But you are well educated--one sees that--it is not fit work for
such as you."

"Never mind that," Olive said eagerly. "How does one begin being a
model? I will try that. Will you help me?"

Rosina beamed at her. "_Sicuro!_ We will go to Varini's school in the
Corso if you like. The woman in the newspaper kiosk in the Piazza di
Spagna knows me, and I can leave Pasquina with her. _An'iamo!_"

The two girls went together down the wide, shallow steps of the
Trinità dei Monti with the child between them.

Poor little Pasquina was the outward and visible sign of her mother's
inward and hopelessly material gracelessness; she symbolised the great
gulf fixed between smirched Roman Rosina and Jean's English rose in
their different understanding of their own hearts' uses. Olive
believed love to be the way to heaven; Rosina knew it, or thought she
knew it, as a means of livelihood.

The model was very evidently not only familiar with the studios. The
cabmen on the rank in the piazza hailed her with cries of "Rosi"; she
was greeted by beggars at the street corners, dustmen, _carabinieri_,
crossing-sweepers, and Olive was not wholly unembarrassed. Yet Rosina
escaped the vulgarity of some who might be called her betters as the
world goes by being simply natural. When she was amused she laughed
aloud, when she was tired she yawned as openly and flagrantly as any
duchess. In manners extremes meet, and the giggle and the sneer are
the disastrous half measures of the ill-bred, the social greasers.
Rosina had never been sly in her life; she was ever as simply without
shame as Eve before the Fall, and lawless because she knew no law. The
darkness of Northern cities is tainted and cold and cannot bring forth
such kindly things as the _rosine_--little roses--that spring up in
the warm, sweet Roman dust.

"Here is Varini's."

They passed through a covered passage into a little garden overgrown
with laurels and gnarled old pepper trees; there was a fountain with
gold fish, and green arums were springing up about a broken faun's
head set on a pedestal of _verd' antico_. Some men were standing
together in the path, a pretty dark-eyed peasant girl with them. They
all turned to stare, and the _cioccara_ put out her tongue as Olive
went by. Rosina instantly replied in kind.

"_Ohè! Fortunata! Benedetta ragazza!_ Resting as usual? Does Lorenz
still beat you?"

She described the antecedents and characteristics of Lorenz.

The slower-witted country girl had a more limited vocabulary. Her eyes
glared in the shadow of her white coif. "Ah," she gasped. "_Brutta
bestia!_" and she turned her back.

The men laughed, and Rosina laughed with them as she knocked on a
green painted door in the wall. It was opened by a burly, bearded
man, tweed-clad, and swathed in a stained painting apron.

"Oh, _Professore_, here is a friend of mine who wants work."

"Come in," he said shortly, and they followed him into a large untidy
studio. A Pompeian fruit-seller in a black frame, a study for a
Judgment of Paris on a draped easel, and on another easel the portrait
of an old lady just begun. There were stacks of canvases on the floor
and on all the chairs.

"Turn to the light," the artist said brusquely; and then, as Olive
obeyed him, "Don't be frightened. You are new, I see. You are so pink
and white that I thought you were painted. You are not Italian?"

"No."

"What, then?"

She was silent.

He smiled. "Ah, well, it does not matter. You can come to the pavilion
on Monday at five and sit to the evening class for a week. You
understand? Wait a minute." He went to the door and called one of the
young men in from the garden.

"Here is a new model, Mario. I have engaged her for the evening class.
What do you think of her?"

"_Carina assai_," approved Mario. He was a round-faced, snub-nosed
youth with clever brown eyes set very far apart, and a humorous mouth.
"_Carina assai!_" he repeated.

"Fifteen soldi the hour, from five to seven-thirty," said the
professor. "Come a little before the time on Monday; the porter will
show you what costume you must wear and I shall be there to pose you."

"Now I shall take you to M'sieur Michelin," Rosina said when they had
left Varini's. "He is looking for a type, and perhaps you will please
him. He is _strano_, but good always, and he pays well."

"It is not tiring you?"

"_Ma che!_ I must see that you begin well and with the right people.
Some painters are _canaglia_. Ah, I know that," the girl said with a
little sigh and a shrug of her shoulders.

They went by way of the Via Babuino across the Piazza di Spagna, and
up the little hill past the convent of English nuns to the Villa
Medici. Rosina rang the gate-bell, and the old braided Cerberus
admitted them grumblingly. "You are late. But if it is M'sieur
Camille--"

Camille Michelin, bright particular star of the French Prix de Rome
constellation, lived and worked in one of the more secluded
garden-studios of the villa; it was deep set in the ilex wood, and the
girls came to it by a narrow winding path, box-edged, and strewn with
dead leaves. A light shone in one of the upper windows; the great man
was there and he came down the creaking wooden stairs himself to open
the door.

"Who is it? Rosina? I have put away the Anthony canvas for a month
and I will let you know when I want you again."

"But, signorino, I have brought you a type."

"What!" he said eagerly, in his execrable Italian. "Fresh, sweet,
clean?"

"_Sicuro._"

"I do not believe you. You are lying."

Camille was picturesque from the crown of his flaxen head to the soles
of his brown boots; his pallor was interesting, his blue eyes
remarkable; he habitually wore rust-coloured velveteen; he smoked
cigarettes incessantly. All men who knew and loved his work saw in him
a decadent creature of extraordinary charm; and yet, in spite of his
"Aholibah," his "Salome," and his horribly beautiful, unfinished study
of Fulvia piercing the tongue of Cicero, in spite of his
Byron-cum-Baudelaire after Velasquez and Vandyke exterior he always
managed to be quite boyishly simple and sincere.

"Where is she?" Then, as his eyes met Olive's, he cried, "Not you,
mademoiselle?" His surprise was as manifest as his pleasure. "My
friends have sworn that I could never paint a wholesome picture. Now I
will show them. When can you come?"

"Monday morning."

"Do not fail me," he implored. "Such harpies have been here to show
themselves to me; fat, brown, loose-lipped things with purple-shadowed
eyes. But you are perfect; divine bread-and-butter. They think they are
clean because they have washed in soap and water, but it is the
stainless soul I want. It must shine through my canvas as it does
through Angelico's."

"I hope I shall please you," faltered the girl. "I--I only pose
draped."

He looked at her quickly. "Very well," he said, "I will remember. It
is your head I want. You are not Roman; have you sat to any other man
here?"

"No. I am going to Varini's in the evenings next week."

"Ah! Well, don't let anyone else get hold of you. Gontrand will be
trying to snap you up. He is so tired of the _cioccare_. What shall I
call you?"

"Nothing. I have no name."

"I shall give you one. You shall be called child. Come at nine and you
will find the door open." He fumbled in his pockets for some silver.
"Here, Rosina, this is for the little one."



CHAPTER III


The virtue that bruises not only the heel of the Evil One but the
heart of the beloved is never its own reward. The thought of Jean's
aching loneliness oppressed Olive far more than her own. She believed
that she had done right in leaving him, but no consciousness of her
own rectitude sustained her, and she was pitifully far from any sense
of self-satisfaction. Her head hung dejectedly in the cold light of
its aureole. Sometimes she hated herself for being one of the dull
ninety-and-nine who never stray and who need no forgiveness, and yet
she clung to her dear ideal of love thorn-crowned, white, and clean.

She had hoped to be able to help her friends, but that hope had faded,
and she had been very near despair. There was something pathetic now
in her intense joy at the thought of earning a few pence. She lied to
the kind women at home because she knew they would not understand.
They might believe the way to the Villa Medici to be the primrose path
that leads to everlasting fire--they probably would if they had ever
heard of Camille. She told them she had found lessons, and the wolf
seemed to skulk growlingly away from the door as she uttered the
words.

"You need not be afraid of the baker now," she told Ser Giulia. "He
shall be paid at the end of the week."

Her waking on the Monday morning was the happiest she had known since
she left Florence. She was to help to make beautiful things. Her part
would be passive; but they also serve who only stand and wait. She was
not of those who see degradation in the lesser forms of labour. Each
worker is needed to make the perfect whole. The men who wrought the
gold knots and knops of the sanctuary, who wove the veil for the Holy
of Holies, were called great, but the hewers of wood and carriers of
water were temple builders too, even though their part was but to
raise up scaffoldings that must come down again, or to mix the mortar
that is unseen though it should weld the whole. Men might pass these
toilers by in silence, but God would surely praise them.

Praxiteles moulded a goddess in clay, and we still acclaim him after
the lapse of some two thousand years. What of the woman who wearied
and ached that his eyes might not fail to learn the least sweet curve
of her? What of the patient craftsmen who hewed out the block of
marble, whose eyes were inflamed, whose lungs were scarred by the
white dust of it? They suffered for beauty's sake--not, as some might
say, because they must eat and live. Even slaves might get bread by
easier ways. But, very simply for beauty's sake.

Olive might have soon learnt how vile such service may be in the
studios of any of the _canaglia_ poor Rosina knew, but Camille, that
sheep in wolf's clothing, was safe enough. What there was in him of
perversity, of brute force, he expended in the portrayal of his subtly
beautiful furies. His art was feverishly decadent, and those who judge
a man by his work might suppose him to be a monster of iniquity. He
was, in fact, an extremely clever and rather worldly-wise boy who
loved violets and stone-pines and moonlight with poetical fervour, who
preferred milk to champagne, and saunterings in green fields to
gambling on green cloth.

That February morning was cloudless, and Rome on her seven hills was
flooded in sunshine. The birds were singing in the ilex wood as Olive
passed through, and Camille was singing too in his _atelier_:

    "'_Derrière chez mon père
      Vive la rose.'
    Il y a un oranger
      Vive ci, vive là!
    Il y a un oranger,
      Vive la rose et le lilas!_"

"I was afraid you would be late."

"Why?" she asked, smiling, as she came to him across the great room.

"Women always are. But you are not a woman; you are an angel."

He looked at her closely. The strong north light showed her smooth
skin flawless.

"The white and rose is charming," he said. "And I adore freckles. But
your eyes are too deep; one can see that you have suffered. There is
too much in them for the innocent baa-lamb picture I must paint."

Her face fell. "I shan't do then?"

"Dear child, you will," he reassured her. "I shall paint your lashes
and not your eyes. Your lashes and a curve of pink cheek. Now go
behind that screen and put on the sprigged cotton frock you will find
there, with a muslin fichu and a mob cap. I have a basket of wools
here and a piece of tapestry. The sort of woman I have never painted
is always doing needlework."

Camille spent half the morning in the arrangement of the accessories
that were, as he said, to suggest virtuous domesticity; then he
settled the folds of the girl's skirt, the turn of her head, her
hands. At last, when he was satisfied, he went to his easel and began
to work. Olive had never before realised how hard it is to keep quite
still. The muscles of her neck ached and her face seemed to grow stiff
and set; she felt her hands quivering.

Hours seemed to pass before his voice broke the silence. "I have
drawn it in," he announced. "You can rest now. Come down and see some
of my pictures."

He showed her his "Salome," a Hebrew mænad, whose scarlet, parted lips
ached for the desert dreamer's death; "Lucrezia Borgia," slow-smiling,
crowned with golden hair; and a rough charcoal study for Queen
Eleanor.

"I seem to see you as Henry's Rosamund," he said. "I wonder--the
haunting shadow of coming sorrow in blue eyes. You have suffered."

"I am hungry," she answered.

He looked at his watch. "Forgive me! It is past noon. Run away, child,
and come back at two."

The day seemed very long in spite of Camille's easy kindness, and the
girl shrank from the subsequent sitting at Varini's.

"Why do you pose for those wretched boys?" grumbled the Prix de Rome
man. "After this week you must come to me only. I must paint a
Rosamund."

At sunset she hurried down the hill to the Corso, and came by way of
the corridor and garden to the pavilion. The porter took her into a
dingy little lumber-filled passage and left her there. A soiled pink
satin frock was laid ready for her on a broken chair. As she put it on
she heard a babel of voices in the class-room beyond, and she felt
something like stage-fright as she fumbled at the hooks and eyes; but
a clock struck the hour presently, and she went in then and climbed on
to the throne. At first she saw nothing, but after a while she was
aware of a group of men who stood near the door regarding her.

"_Carina._"

"Yes, a fine colour, but too thin."

When the professor came in he made her sit in a carved chair, and gave
her a fan to hold. The men moved about, choosing their places, and
were silent until he left them with a gruff "_Felice notte_." Olive
noticed the lad who had been called in to Varini's studio to see her;
the boy who sat next him had a round, impudent face, and when
presently she yawned he smiled at her.

"I will ask questions to keep you awake, but you must answer truly.
Have you taken a fancy to anyone here?"

"I don't dislike you or Mario."

They rose simultaneously and bowed. "We are honoured. But why? Bembi
here is a fine figure of a man."

"Enough!" growled Bembi. "You talk too much."

During the rest Olive went to look at the boys' work; it was
brilliantly impressionistic. The younger had evidently founded himself
on Mario, and Mario was, perhaps, a genius.

They came and sat down, one on either side of her.

"Why are you pretending to be a model?" whispered Mario. "We can see
you are not. Are you hiding from someone?"

She shook her head. "I am earning my bread," she answered. "Be kind to
me."

"We will." He patted her bare shoulder with the air of a grandfather,
but his brown eyes sparkled.

"Why are some of the men so old, and why is some of the work so--"

"Bad." Mario squinted at Bembi's black, smudged drawing. "I will tell
you. That bald man in the corner is seventy-two; painting is his
amusement, and he loves models. He wants to marry Fortunata, but she
won't have him because he is toothless. Once, twenty-five years ago,
he sold a watercolour for ten lire and he has never forgotten it."

"Really because he is toothless?"

"Oh, he is mad too, and she is afraid of him. Cesare and I are the
only ones here who will make you look human. It is a pity, as you are
really _carina_."

He patted her shoulder again and pinched her ear, and Cesare passed
his arm about her waist. She struggled to free herself.

"Let her go!" cried the other men, and, flushed and dishevelled, she
took refuge on the throne. The pose was resumed, and the room settled
down to work again.

She kept very still, but after a while the tears that filled her eyes
overflowed, ran down her cheeks, and dripped upon the hand that held
the fan.

"I am sorry," cried Mario.

"And I."

"Forgive me."

"And me."

"I was a _mascalzone_!"

"And I."

"Forgive them for our sakes," growled Bembi, "or they will cackle all
night."

Olive laughed a little in spite of herself, but she was very tired and
they had hurt her. The marks of Cesare's fingers showed red still on
her wrist, and the lace of the short sleeve was torn.

Mario clattered out of the room presently, and came back with a glass
of water for her. "I am really sorry," he whispered as he gave it. "Do
stop crying."

After all they had not meant any harm. She was a little comforted, and
the expressed contrition helped her.

"I shall be better soon," she said gently.

When she got home to the apartment in Via Arco della Ciambella there
were lies to be told about the lessons, the pupils, the hours. The
fine edge of her exaltation was already blunted, and she sighed at the
thought of her morning dreams; sighed and was glad; the first steps
had not cost much after all, and she had earned five lire and fifteen
soldi.

The lamp was lit in the little sitting-room, and Ser Giulia was
there, cutting out a skirt on the table very carefully, in a tense
silence that was broken only by the click of the scissors and the
rustle of silk.

"I have lost confidence in myself," she said as she fastened the
shining lengths together with pins. "This _is_ the right side of the
material, isn't it, my dear? I can't see."

"Yes, this is right. Let me stitch the seams for you. Where is Signora
Aurelia?"

"She has gone to bed. Her head ached. She--she does not complain, but
I think she needs more sun and air than she can get here."

Olive looked at her quickly. "You ought to go away and rest, both of
you."

"Our brother in Como would be glad to have us with him, but it is
impossible at present. I paid our rent a few days ago--three months in
advance."

"I will go to the house-agent in the Piazza di Spagna to-morrow. It
should not be difficult to get a tenant, and at the end of the time
the furniture could be warehoused, or you could sell it."

Ser Giulia hesitated. "What would you do then, _figliuola mia_?"

"Oh, I can take care of myself," the girl said easily.



CHAPTER IV


After the first week Olive went only to Camille's _atelier_. He was
working hard at his "_étude blanche_," but no one had been allowed to
see it, except, of course, M'sieur le Directeur.

"I almost wish I had asked you to come always heavily veiled. The
other men are all mad about you, and Gontrand tells me he wants you to
give him sittings for the head of an oread, but he cannot have you.
You are mine."

"Is he a lean, black-bearded man?"

"Yes."

"He spoke to me the other day as I was coming through the garden, and
asked me if you were really painting a '_jeune fille_' picture. I said
you were painting a picture, and he would probably see it when you had
your show in April."

Camille laughed. "Good child! We must keep up the mystery." He flung
down his brushes. "I cannot work any more to-day. Will you come with
me for a drive into the Campagna?"

She hesitated. "I am not sure--"

"Come as my little brother." He took off his linen painting sleeves,
and began to dabble his fingers in a pan of turpentine. "My little
brother! Do you know that the Directeur thinks you are charming, and
he wonders that I do not love you."

"I am glad you do not," she said, colouring. "If you did--"

He was lighting a cigarette. "If I did?" The little momentary flame of
the match was reflected in his blue eyes.

"I should go away and not come back again."

"Well, I do not," he said heartily. "I care for you as St Francis did
for his pet sparrow. So now put your hat on and I will go down and get
a _vettura_ with a good horse."

He was a creature of moods, and so young in many ways that he appealed
to the girl as Astorre had done, by the queer, pathetic little flaws
in his manhood. Some days he worked incessantly from early morning
until the light failed at his picture, but there were times when he
seemed unable even to look at it. He made several studies in charcoal
for "Rosamund."

"It is an inspiration," he said excitedly more than once. "The rose of
the world that can only be reached by love--or hate--holding the
clue."

He had promised an American who had bought a picture of his the year
before that he would do some work for him in Venice in the spring.
"Very rash of me," he said fractiously. "The 'Jeune Fille' would have
been quite enough for me to show, and it is dreadful to have to leave
it unfinished now." And when Gontrand tried to persuade him to let him
have Olive during his absence he was, as the girl phrased it, quite
cross. "I have seen enough of that. Last year in the Salon St
Elizabeth of Hungary, and Clytemnestra, and Malesherbe's _vivandière_
were one and the same woman. Besides, oreads are nearly related to
Bacchantes, Gontrand, and I am not going to allow my little
sewing-girl to be mixed up with people of that sort."

He made Olive promise not to sit for any of the other men at the Villa
Medici.

"I shall work at Varini's in the evenings," she said. "And one of the
men there wants me to come to his studio in the Via Margutta three
mornings a week. He is a Baron von something."

The Frenchman's face lightened. "Oh, that German! I know him. I saw a
landscape of his once. It looked as if several tubes of paint had got
together and burst. What else will you do?"

"Rome, if you will lend me your Bædeker," she answered. "I shall begin
with A and work my way through Beatrice Cenci and the Borgo Nuovo to
the Corsini Gallery and the Corso. Some of the letters may be rather
dull. I am so glad Apollo comes now."

He laughed. "M for Michelin. You will be sure to admire me when my
turn comes."

Olive was living alone now in a tall old house in Ripetta. The two
kind women who had been her friends had left Rome and gone to stay
with their brother at Como. It was evidently the best thing they could
do, and the girl had assured them that she was quite well able to look
after herself, but they had been only half convinced by her reasoning.
She was English and she had done it before. "That is nothing," Ser
Giulia said. "You may catch a ball once, and the second time it may
slip through your fingers. And sometimes Life is like the importunate
widow and goes on asking until one gives what one should not." She
helped her to find a room, and eked out the furniture from her own
little store. "Another saucepan, and a kettle, and a blanket. And if
lessons fail you must come to us, _figliuola mia_. My brother's house
is large."

The girl had answered her with a kiss, but though she loved them she
was not altogether sorry to see them go. She could never tell them how
she had earned the lire that paid the baker's bill. The truth would
hurt them, and she would not give them a moment's pain if she could
avoid it, but she was not good at lying. Even the very little white
ones stuck in her throat, and she was relieved to be no longer under
the necessity of uttering them.

The room she had taken was on the sixth floor, and from the one
narrow window she could look across the yellow swirl of Tiber towards
Monte Mario. She had set up her household gods. The plaster bust of
Dante, and her books, on the rickety wooden table by her bedside, and,
such as it was, this place was home.

Camille went by a night train, and Olive began to "see Rome" on the
following morning. She took the tram to the Piazza Venezia and walked
from thence to the church of Santa Maria Ara Coeli.

The flight of steps to the west door is very long, and she climbed
slowly, stopping once or twice to take breath and look back at the
crowded roofs and many church domes of Rome, and at the green heights
of the Janiculan hill beyond, with the bronze figure of Garibaldi on
his horse, dominant, and very clear against the sky.

The cripple at the door lifted the heavy leather curtain for her and
she put a soldo into his outstretched hand as she went in. The church
seemed very still, very quiet, after the clamour of the streets. The
acrid scent of incense was as the breath of spent prayer. Little
yellow flames flickered in the shrine lamps before each altar, but it
was early yet and for the moment no mass was being said. An old,
white-haired monk was sweeping the worn pavement. He was swathed in a
blue linen apron, and his rusty brown frock was tucked up about his
ankles. A lean black cat followed him, mewing, and now and then he
stopped his work to stroke it. There was a great stack of chairs by
the door, and a few were scattered about the aisles and occupied by
stray worshippers, women with handkerchiefs tied over their heads in
deference to St Paul's expressed wishes, two or three old men, and
some peasants with their market baskets. A be-ribboned nurse carrying
a baby had just come in to see the Sacro Bambino, and Olive followed
them into the sacristy and saw the child laid down before the
bedizened, red-cheeked wooden doll in the glass case. As they passed
out again the monk who was in attendance gave Olive a coloured card
with a prayer printed on the back. She heard him asking what was the
matter with the little one. The woman lifted the lace veil from the
tiny face and showed him the sightless eyes. He crossed himself.
"_Poveretto! Dio vi benedica!_"

As Olive left the sacristy a tall man came across the aisle towards
her. It was Prince Tor di Rocca.

"This is a great pleasure," he said. "But not to you, I am afraid. You
are not glad to see me."

"I am surprised. I--do you often come into churches?"

He laughed. "I sometimes follow women in. I saw you coming up the
steps just now. You are right in supposing that I am not devout. I
want to speak to you. Shall we go out?"

She looked for a way of escape but saw none.

"If--very well," she said rather helplessly.

The hunchback woman at the south door watched them expectantly as they
came towards her, and she brightened as she saw the man's hand go to
his pocket. He threw her a piece of silver as they passed out. He was
in a good humour, his fine lips smiling, a glinting zest in his
insolent eyes. He thought he understood women, and he had in fact made
a one-sided study of the sex. He had seen their ways of loving, he had
listened to the beating of their hearts; but of their endurance, their
long patience, their daily life he knew nothing. He was like a man who
often wears a bunch of violets in his coat until they fade, and yet
has never seen, or cared to see them, growing sparsely, small and
sweet, half hidden in leaves on a mossy bank by the stream.

Women amused him. He was seldom much moved by them, and he pursued
them without haste or flurry, treading delicately like Agag of old. He
had little intrigues everywhere, in Florence, in Naples, in Rome.
Young married women, girls walking demurely with their mothers. He
liked to know that it was he who brought the colour to their cheeks
and that their eyes sought him among the crowd of men standing outside
Aragno's in the Corso or on the steps of the club in the Via
Tornabuoni. Very often the affair would be one of the eyes only, but
sometimes it went farther. Filippo's procedure varied. Sometimes he
put advertisements in the personal column of the Popolo Romano, and
sometimes he wrote notes. It was always very interesting while it
lasted. Occasionally affairs overlapped, as when an appeal to F. to
meet Norina once more in the Borghese appeared in print above F.'s
request that the signorina in the pink hat would write to him at the
Poste Restante.

Olive had nearly yielded to him in Florence, and then she had run
away, she had sought safety in flight. Evidently then his battle had
been nearly won. But she had reassembled her forces, and he saw that
it would be all to fight over again, and that the issue was doubtful.

As they came into the little square piazza of the Capitol she turned
to him. "What have you to say? I--I am in a hurry."

"I am sorry for that, but if you are going anywhere I can walk with
you, or we can take a _vettura_ and drive together."

She looked past him at the green shining figure of Marcus Aurelius on
his horse riding between her and the sun, and said nothing.

"I shall enjoy being with you even if you are inclined to be silent.
You are so good to look at."

His brazen stare gave point to his words. Her face was no longer
childish in its charm. It had lost the first roundness of youth, but
had gained in expression. A soul seemed to be shining through the veil
of flesh--white and rose-red flesh, divinely gilt with freckles--and
fluttering in the troubled depths of her blue eyes. The nun-like
simplicity of her grey dress pleased him: it did not detract from her;
it left the eyes free to return to her face, to dwell upon her lips.

"Something has happened," he said. "There is another man. Are you
married?"

"No."

"I only came to Rome yesterday. Strange that we should meet so soon.
It seems that there is a Destiny that shapes our ends after all."

"You do not believe in free will?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I do not think about such things."

"Well," she said impatiently. "Is that all you have to say? I suppose
the Marchesa and Mamie are here too."

He hesitated and seemed to lose some of his assurance. "No, we
quarrelled. The girl is insupportable. She is engaged now to a lord of
sorts, an Englishman, and they are still in Cairo."

"So you have lost her too."

"It was your fault that Edna gave me up. You owe me something for
that. And you behaved badly to me again--afterwards."

"I did not."

He laughed enjoyingly. "I trusted you and you took advantage of a
truce to run away."

She moved away from him, but he followed her and kept at her side.

"I never asked you to trust me. I asked you to come the next day for
an answer. You came and you had it."

"I came and I had it," he repeated. "Did the old woman give you my
message?"

"That we should meet again?"

"That was not all. I said you would come to me one day sooner or
later."

They had paused at the top of the steps that lead down from the
Capitol into the streets and are guarded by the gigantic figures of
Castor and Pollux, great masses of discoloured marble set on pedestals
on either side. It was twelve o'clock, and a black stream of hungry,
desk-weary men poured out of the Capitoline offices. Many turned to
look at the English girl as they hurried by, and one passing close to
her muttered "bella" in her ear. She drew back as though she had been
stung. Filippo laughed again.

"I only ask to be let alone," she said. "Can't you understand that you
remind me of things I want to forget. I am ashamed, oh, can't you
understand!"

She left him and went to stand on the outskirts of the crowd that had
collected in front of the cage in which the wolves are kept. Evidently
she hoped that he would go on, but he meant to disappoint her, and
when she went down the steps he was close beside her.

"Why are you so unkind to me?" he said, and as they crossed the road
he held her arm.

She wrenched herself away, went up to the _carabiniere_, who stood at
the corner, and spoke to him. The man smiled tolerantly as he glanced
from her to Filippo. "Signorina, I cannot help you."

She passed on down the street, knowing that she was being followed,
crossed the Corso Vittorio Emanuele and took a tram in the Piazza
della Minerva. Tor di Rocca got in too and sat down opposite to her.
The conductor turned to him first, and when she proffered her four
soldi she found that he had paid for both. Her hand shook as she put
the money back in her purse, and her colour rose. Filippo, quite at
his ease, leisurely, openly observant of her, whistled "Lucia" softly
to himself. Roses, roses all the way, and all for him, he thought
amusedly. And yet she bore the ordeal well, betraying no restlessness,
keeping her eyes unswervingly fixed on the two lions of the
advertisement of Chinina Migone pasted on the glass over his head. At
the Ripetta bridge she got out. He followed, saw her go into a house
farther down the street, and paused on the threshold to take the
number before he went up the stairs after her. She heard him coming.
He turned the handle of the door, but she had locked it and it held
fast. He knocked once and called to her. Evidently he was not sure of
her being within. There was another room on the same landing, and
after a while he tried that.

"Are you in there? _Carissima_, you are wasting time. To-day or
to-morrow, sooner or later. Why not to-day, and soon?"

A silence ensued. The girl had taken off her hat and thrown it down
upon the table. She stood very still in the middle of the room
listening, waiting for him to go away again. Her breath came quickly,
and little pearls of sweat broke out upon her forehead. His
persistence frightened her.

He waited for an answer, and receiving none, added, "Well, I will come
again," and so went away.

She stayed in until it was time to go to Varini's. It was not far, but
she was flushed and panting with the haste that she had made as she
put on the faded blue silk dress that had been laid out ready for her
on the one broken chair in the dressing-room. Rosina came in to her
presently from the professor's studio. She wore a man's tweed coat and
a striped blanket wrapped about her, and she was smoking a cigarette.

"So you have come back to work here. Your signorino at the Villa
Medici is away?"

"Only for a few days. He will not be gone long. The picture is not
finished. How is Pasquina?"

Rosina had come over to her and was fastening the hooks of her bodice.
"She is very well. How pretty you are." She rearranged the laces at
the girl's breast and caught up a torn piece of the silk with a pin.
"That is better. Have you been running? You seem hot."

"Oh, Rosina, I have been frightened. A man followed me. I shall be
afraid to go home to-night."

The yellow-haired Trasteverina looked at her shrewdly. "He knows where
you live? Have you only seen him once?"

"He--he came and tried my door. I am afraid of him."

Rosina nodded. "_Si capisce!_ I will take care of you. I have met so
many _mascalzoni_ in twenty years that I have grown used to them. I
will come home with you, and if any man so much as looks at us I will
scratch his eyes out."

Through the thin partition wall they heard the professor calling for
his model. "I must go," she said hurriedly, but as she passed out
Olive caught at a fold of the enveloping blanket.

"Come here, I want you." She flung her arms about the other girl's
neck and kissed her. "You are good! You are good!"

She went into the class room and climbed the throne as the men came
clattering in to take their places. The professor posed her.

"So you have come back to us. Do not let them spoil you at the Villa
Medici--your head a little higher--so."

The first drawing in of the figure is not a thing to be taken lightly,
and the silence was seldom broken at Varini's on Monday evenings. The
two boys, however, found it hard to repress the natural loquacity of
their extreme youth.

"_Al lavoro_, Mario! What are you whispering about? Cesare, _zitto_!"
Bembi stared at them. "Their chins are disappearing," he said. "See
their collars. Every day an inch higher. _Dio mio!_ Is that the way to
please women? I wear a flannel shirt and my neck is as bare as a
plucked chicken, and yet I--" he stopped short.

Mario laughed. "Women are strange," he admitted.

"Mad!" cried Cesare, and then as Bembi still smirked ineffably he
appealed to Olive. "Do you admire fowls wrapped in flannel or _in
arrosto_?"

When she came out she found Rosina waiting for her in the courtyard,
a grey shadow with smooth fair hair shining in the moonlight. "The
professor let me go at eight so I dressed and came out here," she
explained. "The dressing-room is full of dust and spider's webs. I
told the porter the other day that he ought to sweep it, but he only
laughed at me and said Domeniddio made spiders long before he took a
rib out of Adam's side to whip a naughty world."

"Who is the man?" she asked presently as they walked along together.
"Do I know him?"

"I do not think so. He is not an artist."

Rosina laid a hand upon her arm. "Is that he?" she said.

They had passed through one of the narrow streets that lead from the
Corso towards the river and were come into the Ripetta.

A tall man was walking slowly along on the other side of the road. He
did not seem to have noticed the two girls, and yet as he stopped to
light a cigarette he was looking towards them. A tram came clanging
up, the overhead wires emitting strange noises peculiar to themselves,
the gong ringing sharply. Olive glanced up at the red painted triangle
fixed to the lamp-post at the corner. "It will stop here. Quick! while
it is between us. Perhaps he has not seen--"

They ran to her door and up the stairs together. "It has only just
gone on," cried Rosina. "Have you got your key?"

She stayed on the landing while Olive went into the room and lit her
candle. There was no sound in the house at all, no step upon the
stair. As she peered down over the banisters into the darkness below
she listened intently. The rustling of her skirt sounded loud in the
stillness, but there was nothing else.

"He did not see us," she said. "I shall go now. Lock your door.
_Felice notte, piccina._"



CHAPTER V


Camille, loitering on the terrace of the old garden of the Villa
Medici, was quick to hear the creaking of the iron gate upon its
hinges. His pale face brightened as he threw away his cigarette and he
went down the path between the ilex trees to meet his model.

"You have come. Oh, I seem to have been years away."

They went up the hill together. It was early yet, and the city was
veiled in fine mist through which the river gleamed here and there
with a sharpness of steel. The dome of St Peter's was still dark
against the greenish pallor of the morning sky.

"I am glad to be in Rome again. Venice is beautiful, but it does not
inspire me. It has no associations for me. What do I care for the
Doges, or for Titian's fat, golden-haired women with their sore
eyes--Caterina Cornaro and the rest. Rome is a crystal in which I seem
to see faces of dear women, women who lived and loved and saw the sun
set behind that rampart of low hills--Virginia, the Greek slave Acte,
Agnes, Cecilia, who sang as she lay dying in her house over there in
the Trasteverine quarter. Ah, I shall go away and have the nostalgia
of Rome to the end of my life." He paused to light another cigarette.
"Come and look at the picture. I have not dared to see it again myself
since I came back last night."

The door of his _atelier_ was open; he clattered up the steep wooden
stairs and she followed him. The canvas was set up on an easel facing
the great north light. Camille went up to it and then backed away.

"Well?"

He was smiling. "It is good," he said. "I shall work on it to-day and
to-morrow. Get ready now while I prepare my palette."

He looked at her critically as she took her place. The change in her
was indefinable, but he was aware of it. She seemed to be listening.

"Do you feel a draught from the door?" he asked presently.

"No, but I should like it shut."

"Nerves. You need a tonic and probably a change of air and scene.
There is nothing the matter?"

She shook her head. Camille was kind, but he could not help her. He
could not make the earth open and swallow Tor di Rocca, and sometimes
she felt that nothing less than that would satisfy her, and that such
a summary ending would contribute greatly to her peace of mind.

She had not seen the Prince for two days and she was beginning to
hope that he had gone away, but she was not yet able to feel free of
him. Rosina had come home with her every night from Varini's. Once he
had followed them, and twice he had come up the stairs and knocked at
the door. There had been hours when she had been safe from him, but
she had not known them, and the strain, the constant pricking fear of
him, was telling upon her. Every day youth and strength and hope
seemed to be slipping away and leaving her less able to do and to
endure. She dared not look forward, as Camille did, to the end of
life. He would die in his bed, full of years and honour, a great
artist, a master, the president of many societies, but she--

Sometimes, as she stood facing the semi-circle of men at Varini's, and
listened to the busy scratching of charcoal on paper, to Bembi's heavy
breathing, and to the ticking of the clock, she wondered if she had
done wrong in taking this way of bread earning. Certainly there could
be no turning back. The step, once taken, was irrevocable. If artists
employed her she would go on, but she could get no other work if this
failed. If this failed there must be another struggle between flesh
and spirit, and this time it would be decisive--one or other must
prevail. Though she dreaded it she knew it was inevitable.

Meanwhile Camille stood in need of her ministrations. He had arranged
to show his work on the fifteenth of April, and now he seemed to
regard that date as thrice accursed. Often when she came in the
morning she would find him prowling restlessly to and fro, or sitting
with his head in his hands staring gloomily at the parquet flooring
and sighing like a furnace.

"I hate having to invite people who do not know anything, who cannot
tell an etching from an oil," he said irritably. "I cannot suffer
their ridiculous comments gladly. I would rather have six teeth pulled
out than hear my Aholibah called pretty. _Pretty!_"

"They cannot say anything wrong about the picture of me," she said.
"It is splendid. M'sieur le Directeur says so, and I am sure it is.
And your Venice sketches look so well on the screen."

"You must be there," he moaned. "If you are not there I shall burst
into tears and run away." Then he laughed. "I am always like this. You
should see me in Paris on the eve of the opening of the Salon. A
pitiable wreck! I had no angel to console me there."

He kissed her hands with unusual fervour.

The girl had not really meant to come at first, but she yielded to his
persuasions. "I will look after the food and drink then," she said,
and she spent herself on the decoration of the tea-table. They went to
Aragno's together in the morning to get cakes and bonbons.

"What flowers?"

She chose mimosa, and he bought a great mass of the fragrant golden
boughs, and a bunch of violets for her.

Camille knew a good many people in Rome, and all those he had asked
came. The Prix de Rome men were the first arrivals. They came in a
body, and on the stroke of the hour named on the invitation cards.
Camille watched their faces eagerly as they crowded in and came to a
stand before his picture; they knew, and if they approved he cared
little for the verdict of all Rome.

Gontrand was the first to break rather a long silence.

"Delicious!" he cried. "It is a triumph."

Camille flushed with pleasure as the others echoed him.

"The scheme of whites," "The fine quality," "So pure."

One after the other they went across the room to talk to the model,
who stood by the tea-table waiting to serve them.

"You are wonderful, mademoiselle. If only you would sit for me I might
hope to achieve something too."

"When M'sieur Michelin has done with me," she said. "You like the
picture?"

"It is adorable--as you are."

Other people were coming now. Camille stayed by the door to receive
them while his friend Gontrand showed the drawings in the portfolio,
explained the Campagna sketches, and handed plates of cake and sweets.
When Olive made fresh tea he brought her more sliced lemons from the
lumber room, where Rosina was washing the cups.

"I am useful but not disinterested. Persuade Camille to let you sit
for me."

"But you will not be here in the summer," she said wistfully.

"Coffee, madame? These cakes are not very sweet. Yes, I was M'sieur
Michelin's model. Yes, it is a beautiful picture."

The crowd thinned towards six o'clock, and there was no one now at the
far end of the room but a man who seemed to be looking at the sketches
on the screen. Olive thought she might take a cup of tea herself, and
she was pouring it out when he turned and came towards her. It was Tor
di Rocca.

"Ah," he said smilingly, "the girl in Michelin's picture reminded me
of you, but I did not realise that you were indeed the 'Jeune Fille.'
I have been away from Rome these last few days. Have you missed me?"

His hot brown eyes lingered over her.

"Don't."

"I should like a cup of coffee."

Her hand shook so as she gave it to him that much was spilled on the
floor. She had pitied him once; he remembered that as he saw how she
shrank from him. "Michelin has been more fortunate than I have," he
said deliberately.

"I beg your pardon."

"You seem to be at home here."

"I suppose you must follow the bent of your mind."

"I suppose I must," he agreed as he stood aside to let her pass. She
had defied him that night in Florence. "Never!" she had said. And now
he saw that she smiled at Camille as she went by him into the further
room, and the old bad blood stirred in him and he ached with a fierce
jealousy.

She had denied him. "Never!" she had said.

As he joined the group of men by the door Gontrand turned to him. "Ah,
Prince, have you heard that Michelin has already sold his picture?"

"I am not surprised," the Italian answered suavely. "If I was
rich--but I am not. Who is the happy man?"

"That stout grey-haired American who left half an hour since. Did you
notice him? He is Vandervelde, the great millionaire art collector."

"May one ask the price?"

"Eight thousand francs," answered Camille. He looked tired, but his
blue eyes were very bright. "I am glad, and yet I shall be sorry to
part with it."

"You will still have the charming original," the Prince said not quite
pleasantly.

There was a sudden silence. The men all waited for Camille's answer.
Beyond, in the next room, they heard the two girls splashing the
water, clattering the cups and plates.

The young Frenchman paused in the act of striking a match. He looked
surprised. "But this is the original. I have made no copy."

"I meant--" The Prince stopped short. After all, he thought, he goes
well who goes slowly.

Camille was waiting. "You meant?"

Tor di Rocca had had time to think. "Nothing," he said sweetly.

Silence was again ensuing but Gontrand flung himself into the breach.

"The Duchess said she wanted her daughter's portrait painted."

"She said the same to me."

"Are you going to do it?"

Camille suppressed a yawn. "I don't know. _Qui vivra verra._"

He was glad when they were all gone, Gontrand and Tor di Rocca and the
rest, and he could stretch himself and sigh, and sing at the top of
his voice:

      "'Nicholas, je vais me pendre
    Qu'est-ce que tu vas dire de cela?
    Si vous vous pendez ou v'vous pendez pas
      Ça m'est ben egal, Mam'zelle.
      Si vous vous pendez ou v'vous pendez pas
    Oh, laissez moi planter mes chous!'"

When Olive came out of the inner room presently he told her that he
had sold the "Jeune Fille." "The Duchess has nearly commissioned me to
paint her Mélanie. It went off well, don't you think so? Come at nine
to-morrow."

"Yes, if you want me. Good-night, M'sieur Camille," she said. "Are you
coming, Rosina?"

"Why do you wait for her?" he asked curiously. "I should not have
thought you had much in common."

"She is my friend. She knows I do not care to be alone."



CHAPTER VI


When Olive came to the _atelier_ on the following morning Camille was
not there, but the door was open and he had left a note on the table
for her.

    "I have had a letter from the Duchess. She is leaving
    Rome to-day but she wants to see me before she goes. It
    must be about her daughter's portrait. I must go to her
    hotel, but I shall drive both ways and be back in half
    an hour. Wait for me.--C. M."

Olive took off her hat and coat as usual behind the screen. She was
choosing a book from the tattered row of old favourites on the shelf
when she heard a step outside. She listened, thinking that it was
Camille, and fearing that the commission had not been given him. It
was not like him to be so silent.

"I thought you would be singing--" she stopped short.

Filippo came on into the room.

"M'sieur Michelin is out," she said.

"So the porter told me. You do not think I want to see him. Will you
come with me to Albano to-day?"

She shook her head.

"To-morrow, then. Why not?"

"I have my work."

"Your work! I see you believe you can do without me now. How long do
you think you will be able to earn money in this way? All these men
will be leaving Rome soon. The schools will be closed until next
October. You will have to choose between the devil and the deep sea--"

"What is the good of talking about it?" she said wearily. "I know I
have nothing to look forward to. I know that. Please go away."

"Do you know that you have cost me more than any other woman I have
ever met? You injured me; will you make no amends?"

She laughed. "So you are the victim."

"Yes," he said passionately, "I told you before that I suffered, and
you believed me then. Is it my fault that I am made like this? Since
that night in Florence when I held you in my arms I have had no
peace."

"You behaved very badly. I can't think why I let myself be sorry for
you."

"Badly! Some men would, but I loved you even then."

She looked wistfully towards the door. "I wish you would go. There are
so many other women."

"I love you, I want you," he answered, and he caught her in his arms
and held her in spite of her struggles. "I have you!" He forced her
head down upon his breast and kissed her mouth. She thought the
hateful pressure of his lips, the hateful fire of his eyes would kill
her, and when, at last, she wrenched herself away she screamed with
the despairing violence of some trapped, wild thing.

"Camille! Camille!"

It seemed to her that if he did not hear her this must be the end of
all, and she suffered an agony of terror. She thanked God as the door
below was flung to and he came running up the stairs.

The Prince let her go and half turned to meet him, but Camille was not
inclined to parley. He struck, and struck hard. Filippo slipped on the
polished floor, tried to recover himself, and fell heavily at the
girl's feet.

He got up at once, and the two men stood glaring at each other. Olive
looked from one to the other. "It was nothing. I am sorry," she said
breathlessly. "He was trying to--I was frightened. It was nothing,
really, but--but I am glad you came."

"So am I," the Frenchman said grimly. His blue eyes were grown grey as
steel. "I am waiting, Prince."

A little blood had sprung from Filippo's cut lip and run down his
chin. He wiped it with his handkerchief and looked thoughtfully at
the stain on the white linen before he spoke.

"Who is your friend?"

"René Gontrand."

"No, no!" cried the girl. "Filippo, it was your fault. Can't you be
sorry and forget? Camille!"

"Hush, child," he said, "you do not understand."

Tor di Rocca was looking at her now with the old insolent smile in his
red-brown eyes. "Ah, you said 'Never!' but presently you will come."

So he left them.

Olive expected to be "poored," but Camille, as it seemed, deliberately
took no notice of her. She watched him picking a stick of charcoal
from the accumulation of odd brushes, pens and pencils on the table.

"What a handsome devil it is. Lean, lithe and brown. He should go
naked as a faun; such things roamed about the primeval woods seeking
what they might devour. I wish I had asked him to sit for me."

He went to his easel and began to sketch a head on the canvas he had
prepared for the Rosamund. "He has the short Neronic upper lip," he
murmured.

Olive lost patience. "I wonder you had the heart to risk spoiling its
contour," she said resentfully.

"With my fist, you mean?"

"I--I am very sorry--" she began. He saw that she was crying, and he
was perplexed, not quite understanding what she wanted of him.

"What am I to say to you?" He came over and sat down beside her, and
she let him hold her hand. "I know so little--not even your name. I
have asked no questions, but of course I saw-- Why do you not go back
to your friends?"

She dried her eyes. "I have cousins in Milan, but I have lost their
address, and they would not be able to help me. I have burnt my boats.
I used to give lessons, but it was not easy to find pupils, and then I
met Rosina. I cannot go back to being a governess after being a model.
I have done no wrong, but no one would have me if they knew. You see
one has to go on--"

"Have you known Tor di Rocca long? He was here last winter. He has a
villa somewhere outside Rome. I think it belonged to his mother. She
was an Orsini."

"You are not going to fight him?"

Outside, in the ilex wood, birds were calling to one another. The sun
gilded the green of the gnarled old trees; it had rained in the night,
and the garden was sweet with the scent of moist earth. The young man
sighed. He had meant to take his "little brother" into the Campagna
this April day to see the spring pageant of the skies, to hear the
singing of larks high up at heaven's gate, the tinkling of sheep
bells, the gurgling of water springs half hidden in the green lush
grass that grows in the shadow of the ruined Claudian aqueducts.

"Camille, answer me."

He got up and went back to his easel. "You must run away now," he
said. "I can't work this morning. I think I shall go to Naples for a
few days, but I will let you know when I return. We must get on with
the 'Rosamund.'"

She went obediently to put on her hat, but the face she saw reflected
in the little hanging mirror was pale and troubled. He came with her
to the door, and when she gave him her hand he bent to kiss it. Her
eyes filled again with tears. He will be killed, she thought, and for
me.

"Don't fight! For my sake, don't. I shall begin to think that I am a
creature of ill-omen. They say some women are like that; they have the
_mal occhio_; they give sorrow--"

"That is absurd," he said roughly, and then, in a changed voice,
"Good-bye, child."



CHAPTER VII


Olive walked home to Ripetta. She felt tired and shaken, and unhappily
conscious of some effort that must be made presently.

"He will be killed--and for me." "For me." "For me." She heard that
echo of her thought through all the clamour of the streets, the shrill
cries, the clatter of hoofs, the rattling of wheels over the cobble
stones. She heard it as she climbed the stairs to her room. When she
had taken off her hat and coat she poured some eau-de-cologne with
water into a cup and drank it--not this time to Italy or the joy of
life. She lay down on her bed and stayed there for a while, not
resting, but thinking or trying to think.

Was she really a sort of number thirteen, a grain of spilt salt,
ill-omened, disastrous? Camille would not think so; but it seemed to
her that she had never been able to make anyone happy, and that there
must be some taint in her therefore, some flaw in her nature.

Now, here, at last, was a thing well worth doing. She must risk her
soul, lose it, perhaps, or rather, exchange it for a man's life. She
had hoarded it hitherto, had been miserly, selfish, seeking to save
the poor thing as though it were a pearl of price. Now she saw
herself as the veriest rag of flesh parading virtue, useless,
comfortless, helpless, clinging to her code, and justifying all the
trouble she gave to others by a reference to the impalpable, elusive
and possible non-existent immortal and inner self she had held so
dear. She was ashamed. Ah, now at last she would give ungrudgingly.
Her feet should not falter, nor her eyes be dimmed by any shadow of
fear or of regret, though she went by perilous ways to an almost
certain end.

Soon after noon she got up and prepared to face the world again, and
towards three o'clock she returned to the Villa Medici. She had to
ring the porter's bell as the garden gate was shut, and the old man
came grumblingly as usual.

"Monsieur Michelin will see no one. Did he not tell you so this
morning?"

"But I have come for Monsieur Gontrand," she said.

She hoped now above all things to find the black Gascon alone in his
_atelier_ near the Belvedere. The first move depended upon him, and
there was no time to spare. She determined to await his return in the
wood if he were out, but there was no need. He opened his door at once
in answer to her knocking.

"I have come--may I speak to you for a moment?" she began rather
confusedly. He looked tired and worried, and was so evidently alarmed
at the sight of her, and afraid of what she was going to say next,
that she could hardly help smiling. "I want to ask you two questions.
I hope you will answer them."

"I should be glad to please you, mademoiselle, but--"

She hurried on. "First, when are they going to fight? Oh, tell me,
tell me! I know you were to be with him. I know you are his friend. Be
mine too! What harm can it do? I swear I will keep it secret."

"Ah, well, if you promise that," he said. "It is to be to-morrow
afternoon."

"Where?"

He shook his head. "I really cannot tell you that."

"Well, the hour is fixed. It will not be changed?"

"No, the Prince preferred the early morning, but Michelin has an
appointment he must keep with Vandervelde at noon."

"Nothing will persuade him to alter it then?" she insisted.

"Nothing."

"That is well," she said sighing. "Good-bye, M'sieur Gontrand.
You--you will do your best for Camille."

"You may rely on me," he answered.

She went down the steps of Trinità del Monte, and across the Piazza di
Spagna to the English book-shop at the corner, where she bought a
_Roman Herald_. Three minutes study of the visitors' list sufficed to
inform her that the Prince was staying at the Hotel de Russie close
by. The afternoon was waning, and already the narrow streets of the
lower town were in shadow; soon the shops would be lit up and gay with
the gleam of marbles, the glimmer of Roman pearls and silks, and the
green, grotesque bronzes that strangers buy.

Olive walked down the Via Babuino past the ugly English church,
crossed the road, and entered the hall of the hotel in the wake of a
party of Americans. They went on towards the lift and left her
uncertain which way to turn, so she appealed to the gold-laced,
gigantic, and rather awful porter.

"Prince Tor di Rocca?"

He softened at her mention of the illustrious name.

"If you will go into the lounge there I will send to see if the Prince
is in. What name shall I say?"

"Miss Agar. I have no card with me."

She chose a window-seat near a writing-table at the far end of the
room, and there Filippo found her when he came in five minutes later.
He was prepared for anything but the smile in the blue eyes lifted to
his, and he paled as he took the hand she gave and raised it to his
lips.

"Ah," he said fervently, "if you were always kind."

"You would be good?"

"Yes."

"For a week, or a month? But you need not answer me. Filippo, I should
like some tea."

"Of course," he said eagerly. "Forgive me," and he hurried away to
order it.

When he returned his dark face was radiant. "Do you know that is the
second time you have called me by my name? You said Filippo this
morning. Ah, I heard you, and I have thought of it since."

The girl hardened her heart. She realised--she had always realised
that this man was dangerous. A fire consumed him. It was a fire that
blazed up to destroy, no pleasant light and warmth upon the hearth of
a good life, but women were apt to flutter, moth-like, into the flame
of it nevertheless.

He sat down beside her and took her hand in his.

"I know I was violent this morning; I could not help myself. I am a
Tor di Rocca. It would be so easy for you to make me happy--"

She listened quietly.

A waiter brought the tea and set it on a little table between them.

"You had coffee yesterday," she said. "It seems years ago."

"I have forgotten yesterday, _Incipit vita nuova_! Do you remember I
came to you dressed in Dante's red _lucco_?"

"Yes, but you are not a bit like him."

She came to the point presently. "Filippo, you say you want me?"

"More than anything in this world."

Her eyes met his and held them. "Well, if you will get out of fighting
M'sieur Michelin I will come to you--meet you--anywhere and at any
hour after noon to-morrow."

"Ah, you make conditions."

"Of course."

"How can I get out of fighting him? The man struck me, insulted me."

"Yes," she said, "and you know why!"

"I have asked your pardon for that," he said with an effort that
brought the colour into his face.

"Yes, but that is not enough. I don't choose that this unpleasantness
should go any further. Write a letter to him now--we will concoct it
together--and--and--I will be nice to you."

She smiled at him, and there was no shadow of fear or of regret in the
blue eyes that looked towards the almost certain end.

"Well, I must be let down easily," he said unwillingly. "I am not
going to lick his boots."

They sat down at the writing-table together, and she began to dictate.
"Just scribble this, and if it does you can make a fair copy
afterwards.

"'DEAR MONSIEUR MICHELIN,--On reflection I understand that your
conduct this morning was justifiable from your point of view, and I
withdraw--'"

Filippo laid down the pen. "I shall not say that."

"Begin again then," she said patiently.

"'I have been asked to write to you by a third person whom I wish to
please. She tells me that this morning's unpleasantness resulted from
a misunderstanding. She says she has deceived you, and she hopes that
you will forgive her. I suppose from what she has said that your hasty
action was excusable, as you thought her other than she is, and I
think that you may now regret it and agree with me that this need go
no farther--'"

"This is better for me," he said.

"Yes." She took the pen from him and wrote under his signature: "You
will be sorry to know that your child is a liar. Try to forget her
existence."

"You can send it now by someone who must wait for an answer," she
explained. "I shall stay here until it comes."

"Very well," he said sulkily, and he went out into the hall to confer
with the porter. "An important letter, _Eccellenza_? A _vetturino_
will take it for you--"

Olive heard the opening and shutting of doors, the shrill whistle
answered by harsh, raucous cries, the rattling of wheels. Filippo came
back to her.

"I have done my part." Then, looking at her closely, he saw that she
was very pale. "Is all you have implied and I have written true?"

"No."

"You must love him very much."

"I? Not at all, as you understand love."

The ensuing half-hour seemed long to the girl; Filippo talked
desultorily, but there were intervals of silence. She was too tired to
attempt to answer him, and, besides, his evident restlessness, his
inattention, afforded her some acrid amusement. He was like a boy,
eager in pursuit of the bird in the bush, heedless of the poor thing
fluttering, dying in his hand. It was now near the dinner-hour, and
people were coming into the lounge to await the sounding of the gong;
from where Olive sat she could see all the entrances and exits--as in
a glass darkly--in the clouded surface of a mirror that hung on the
wall and reflected the white gleam of shirt fronts, the shimmer of
silks, and she was quick to note that Filippo was interested in what
she saw as a pink blur.

His love was as fully winged for flight as any Beast of the book of
Revelations; it was swift as a sword to pierce and be withdrawn. He
could not be altogether loyal for a day. Olive's heart was filled
with pity for the women who had cared.

When, at last, the answer to the letter came, the Prince gave it to
her to read. It was very short, a mere scrawl of scarlet ink on the
brown, rough-edged paper that was one of Camille's affectations.

    "My zeal was evidently misplaced and I regret its
    excess."

Olive was speechless; her eyes were dimmed, her throat ached with
tears. How easily he believed the worst--this man who had been her
friend. She rose to go, but Filippo laid a detaining hand upon her
arm.

"To-morrow." He had already told her where and when to meet him, and
had given her two keys.

"Are you sure you want me?" she said hurriedly. "There are so many
women in your life. You remind me of the South American Republic that
made--and shot--seventeen presidents in six months."

He laughed. "Do I? You remind me of an eel, or a little grey mouse
trying to get out of a trap. There is no way out, my dear, unless, of
course, you want me to kill your Frenchman. I am a good shot."

"I will come."

She looked for pink as she went out of the room, and saw a very
pretty woman in rose-coloured tulle sitting alone and near the door.

She had given ungrudgingly, unfaltering, and there was no shadow of
regret in her eyes; it was nothing to her that he should care for this
other little body, for bare white shoulders and a fluff of yellow
hair. He had never been more to her than a means to an end, and he was
to be that now.

She took a tram from the Piazza del Popolo to the Rotonda. There was a
large ironmonger's shop at the corner; she remembered having noticed
it before. She went in and asked to look at some of the pistols they
had in the window. Several were brought out for her to see, and she
chose a small one. The young man who served her showed her how to load
it and pull the trigger. He wrapped it in brown paper and made a loop
in the string for her to carry it by. She thanked him.

The bells of all the churches were ringing the Ave Maria when she left
the Hotel de Russie an hour ago, and it was dark when she reached her
own room. The stars were bright, shining through a rift of clouds that
hid the crescent moon. Olive laid the awkwardly-shaped parcel she
carried down upon the table while she lit her candle. Then she got her
scissors and cut the string. This was the key of a door through which
she must pass. Death was the way out.

The little flame of the candle gleamed on the polished steel. It was
almost a pretty thing, so smooth and shining. It was well worth the
money she had paid for it; it was going to be useful, indispensable
to-morrow.

Suddenly, in spite of herself, she began to think of her grave. It
would be dug soon. She would be brought to it in a black covered cart.
No prayers would be said, and there would be no sound at all but that
of the earth falling upon the coffin.

She sprang up, her face chalk white, her eyes wide and dark with
terror. She was afraid, horribly afraid of this lonely and violent
end. Jean would never know that she died rather than let another
man--Jean would never know--Jean--

"I can't! I can't!" she said aloud piteously.

She was trembling so that she had to cling to the banisters as she
went down the stairs to save herself from falling. There was a
post-office at the corner. She went in and explained that she wanted
to send a telegram. The young woman behind the counter glanced at the
clock.

"Where to? You have half an hour."

"To Florence." She wrote it and gave it in.

    "To JEAN AVENEL, Villa Fiorelli, Settignano, Florence.

    "If you would help me come if you can to the Villino
    Bella Vista at Albano to-morrow soon after noon; watch
    for me and follow me in. I know it may not be possible,
    but the danger is real to me and I want you so much. In
    any case remember that my heart was yours only.--OLIVE."



CHAPTER VIII


Jean sat leaning forward that he might see the road. The night was
dark, starless, and very wet, and he and the chauffeur were all
streaming with rain and splashed with liquid mud that spattered up
from the car wheels. Now and again they rattled over the rough cobble
stones of a village street, but the way for the most part lay through
deep woods and by mountain gorges. The roar of Arno in flood, swollen
with melted snows, and hurrying on its way to the sea, was with them
for a while, but other sounds there were none save the rustling of
leaves in the coverts, the moaning of wind in the tree-tops, the
drip-drip of the rain, and the steady throbbing of the car.

When the darkness lightened to the grey glimmer of a cheerless dawn
Jean changed places with the chauffeur; Vincenzo was a careful driver,
and he dared not trust his own impatience any longer. His hands were
numbed with cold, and now he took off his gloves to chafe them, but
first he felt in his inner pocket for the flimsy sheets of paper that
lay there safe against his heart.

He had been sitting alone at the piano in the music-room, not playing,
but softly touching the keys and dreaming in the dark, when Hilaire
came in to him.

"You need not write to her after all. She has sent for you. Hear what
she says." He stood in the doorway to read the message by the light
that filtered in from the hall. Jean listened carefully.

"The car--I must tell Vincenzo." The lines of the strong, lean face
seemed to have softened, and the brown eyes were very bright. His
brother smiled as he laid a kindly hand upon his arm. "The car will be
round soon. I have sent word, and you have plenty of time. Assure
Olive of my brotherly regard, and tell her that my books are still
waiting to be catalogued. If she will come here for a while she will
be doing a kindness to a lonely man."

"I wonder what she is frightened of," Jean said thoughtfully, and
frowning a little. "She says 'was yours' too; I don't like that."

"Well, you must do your best for her," Hilaire answered in his most
matter-of-fact tone. "Be prepared."

Jean agreed, and when he went to get ready he transferred a pistol
from a drawer of the bureau to his coat pocket. "I shall bring her
back with me if I can. Good-bye."

The sun shone for a few minutes after its rising through a rift in the
clouds, but soon went in again; the rain still poured down, and the
distance was hidden in mist that clung to the hillsides and filled
each ravine and cranny in the rocks. They were near Orvieto when the
car broke down; Vincenzo was out on the road at once, but his master
sat quite still. He could not endure the thought of any delay.

"What is it? Will it take long?" He had forced himself to wait a
minute before he asked the question, but still his lips felt stiff,
and all the colour had gone out of them.

The man reassured him. "It is nothing."

Jean went to help him, and soon they were able to go on again.

They came presently to the fen lands--the Campagna that so greatly
needs the magic and glamour of the Roman sunshine, the vault of the
blue sky above, and the sound of larks singing to adorn it. It seemed
a desolate and dreary waste, wind-swept, and shivering under the lash
of the rain on such a morning as this, and the car was a very small
thing moving in that apparently illimitable plain along a road that
might be endless. Jean saw a herd of the wild, black buffaloes
standing in a pool at the foot of a broken arch of the Claudian
aqueduct, and now and again he caught a glimpse of fragments of
masonry, or a ruined tower, ancient stronghold of one or other of the
robber barons who preyed on Rome-ward pilgrims in the age of faith and
rapine.

They reached Albano soon after eleven o'clock, and Jean left his man
in the car while he went in to the Ristorante of the Albergo della
Posta. He ordered a cup of coffee, and sat down at one of the little
marble tables near the door to drink it. There was no one else in the
place at the moment.

"Can you tell me the way to the Villino Bella Vista?"

The waiter looked at him curiously. "It is down in the olive woods and
quite near the lake, and you must go to it by a lane from the Galleria
di Sopra, the upper road to Castel Gandolfo." After a momentary
hesitation he added, "_Scusi!_ But are you thinking of taking it,
signore?"

Jean started. It had not occurred to him that the house might be
empty. "I don't know," he answered cautiously. "Has it been to let
long?"

"Oh, yes," the man said. "The Princess Tor di Rocca spent her last years
there, alone, and after her death the agent in Rome found tenants. But
lately no one has come to it, even to see." He lowered his voice. "The
place has a bad name hereabouts. The _contadini_--rough, ignorant folk,
signore--say she still walks in the garden at moonrise, waiting for the
husband and son who never came; and the women who go to wash their
linen in the lake will not come back that way at night for fear of
seeing her dead eyes peering at them through the bars of the gate."

"Ah, that is very interesting," Jean said appreciatively. He finished
his coffee, paid for it with a piece of silver, and waited to light a
cigarette before he went out.

Vincenzo sat still in the car, a model of patient impassivity, but he
turned a hungry eye on his master as he came down the steps.

"You can go and get something to eat. I shall drive up to the Galleria
di Sopra, and you must follow me there. You will find the car at the
side of the road. Stay with it until I come, and if anyone asks
questions you need not answer them."

Jean drove up the steep hill towards the lake. The rain was still
heavy, and the squalid streets of the little town were running with
mud. He turned to the left by the Calvary at the foot of the ilex
avenue by the Capuchin church, and stopped the car some way further
down the road. The lane the waiter had told him of was not hard to
find. It was a narrow path between high walls of olive orchards; it
led straight down to the lake, and the entrance to the Villino was
quite close to the water's edge. Nothing could be seen of it from the
lane but the name painted on the gate-posts and one glimpse of a
shuttered window, forlorn and viewless as a blind eye, and half hidden
by flowering laurels. Jean looked at his watch. It was ten minutes to
twelve, and she had written "after noon," but he could not be sure
that she had not come already, and since he had heard the name of Tor
di Rocca he was more than ever anxious to be with her.

He tried the gate but it was locked; there was nothing for it but to
climb the wall, and as he was light and active he scrambled over
without much difficulty and landed in a green tangle of roses and wild
vines. He knocked at the house door, and stood for a while listening
to the empty answering echoes and to the drip-drip of rain from the
eaves. Evidently there was no one there. He drew back into the
shrubberies; great showers of drops were shaken down on him from the
gold-powdered mimosa blossoms that met above his head; he shook
himself impatiently, like a dog that is disturbed while on guard. From
where he stood he could see the gate and the grass-grown path that led
from it to the house. The time passed very slowly. He looked at his
watch four times in the next fifteen minutes, and he was beginning to
wonder if he had not left Florence on a fool's errand when Olive came.

He saw her fumbling with the key; it was hard to turn in the rusty
lock, and she had to close her umbrella and stand it against the wall
so as to have both hands free. The gate swung open slowly, creaking on
its warped hinges. Jean noticed that she left it unlatched and that
she looked back over her shoulder twice as she came down the path, as
though she thought someone might be following her.

She opened the house door with a key she had and went in, and he came
after her. He stood for a moment on the threshold listening. She was
hurrying from room to room, opening the shutters and the windows and
letting in the light and air; the doors banged after her, and muslin
curtains flapped like wings as the wind blew them.

His heart was beating so that he thought she must hear it before she
saw him, before his step sounded in the passage. As he came in she
gave a sort of little cry and ran to him, and he put his arms about
her and kissed her again and again; her dear lips that were wet and
cold with rain, her soft brown hair, the curves of cheek and chin that
were as sweet to feel as to see. One small hand held the lapel of his
coat, and he was pleasantly aware of the other being laid about his
neck. She had wanted him so much--and he had come.

"Thank God, you are here, Jean. Oh, if you knew how frightened I have
been."

He kissed her once more, and then, framing her face with his hands, he
looked down into her eyes. The blue eyes yearned to his, but there
was fear in them still, and he saw the colour he had brought into her
cheeks fading.

"I am not worth all the trouble I have given you."

"Perhaps not," he said, smiling. "Hilaire sent you a long message, but
I want to hear what we are supposed to be doing here first."

"Dear Hilaire!... Jean, you won't be angry?"

"I don't promise anything," he said. "I shall probably be furious. But
in any case, if it is going to be a long story we may as well make
ourselves at home."

"Not here! I must tell you quickly, before he comes."

He noticed that she looked towards the door, and he understood that
she was listening fearfully for the creaking of the gate, the sound of
footsteps on the path outside, the turning of the key in the lock.

"Tor di Rocca, I suppose? When is he coming?"

"Between one and two."

"We have at least half an hour then," he said comfortably, and drew
her closer to him with his arm about her shoulders.

"When I first came to Rome I tried for weeks to get something to do,
but no one seemed to want lessons. Then one day Signora Aurelia's
sister told me how poor she was. She cried, and I was very much upset
because I felt I was a burden, and that very afternoon I found out a
way of making money ... Jean, you won't be angry?"

"No, dearest."

"I became a model--" She paused, but he said nothing and she went on.
"I sat for one man only after the first week, and he was always good
and kind to me, always. He painted a picture of me--I think you would
like it--and the day before yesterday he had a show of his work. A lot
of people came. I did not see Prince Tor di Rocca, but he was there,
and after a while he spoke to me. I had met him before and I
understood from what he said that Mamie Whittaker had broken her
engagement with him.

"The next morning M'sieur Camille had to go out, and I was alone in
the studio when the Prince came in and tried to make love to me. I was
frightened, and I screamed, and just then Camille returned, and he
knocked him down. He got up again at once. Nothing much was said, and
he went away, but I understood that they were going to fight. I went
home and thought about it, and when I realised that one or other of
them might be killed I felt I could not bear it.

"I am so afraid of death, Jean. I try to believe in a future life, but
that will be different, and I want the people I love in this one;
just human, looking tired sometimes and shabby, or happy and pleased
about things. I remember my mother had a blue hat that suited her, and
I can't think of it now without tears, because I long to see her
pinning it on before the glass and asking me if it is straight, and I
suppose I shall never see or hear that again, even if we do meet in
heaven. Death is so absolutely the end. If only people are alive
distance and absence don't really matter; there is always hope. And
then, you know, Camille is so brilliant; it would be a loss to France,
to the whole world, if he was killed."

"What did you say his name was?"

"Camille Michelin."

"I know him then. He came to me once in Paris, after a concert, and
fell on my neck without an introduction. Afterwards he painted my
portrait."

"He is nice, isn't he?" she said eagerly.

He assented. "Well, go on. You could not let them fight--"

"I went to see the Prince at his hotel, and I persuaded him to write a
sort of apology."

"You persuaded him. How?"

"Jean, that man is the exact opposite of the centurion's servant; say
'go' and he stays, 'don't do it' and he does it. And I once made the
fatal mistake of telling him I could never love him. He did not want
me to before, but now-- He is a spoilt boy who only cares for the
fruit that is forbidden or withheld. It is the scaling of the orchard
wall that he enjoys; if he could walk in by the gate in broad daylight
I am sure he never would, or, at any rate, he would soon walk out
again. I promised to come here alone to meet him, and not to tell
Camille, and I have kept my promise. If you knew how frightened I
was.... I thought you might be away, and that Hilaire perhaps could
not come in your stead, though I knew he would if it were possible."

The man left her then and went to the window, where he stood looking
out upon the driving mist and rain that made the troubled waters of
the lake seem grey, and shrouded all the wooded hills beyond.

"Suppose I had not come," he said presently. "What would you have
done?"

"You ask that?"

He turned upon her. "Yes," he said hardly, "just that."

She took a small pistol from the pocket of her loose sac coat and gave
it to him.

"So you were going to shoot him? I thought--"

She tried to still the quivering of her lips. "No, myself. Oh, I am
not really inconsistent. I told you I was afraid of death. I will say
all now and have done; I am afraid of life too, with its long slow
pains, and most of all of what men call love. I don't want to go on,"
she cried hysterically. "I am sick. I don't want to see, or hear, or
feel anything any more. I have had enough. All this year I have
struggled, and people have been kind; but friendship is a poor, weak
thing, and love--love is hateful."

She hid her face in her hands.

"Rubbish!" he said, and then, in a changed voice, "My darling, you
will be better soon. I must get you away from here."

Gently he drew her hands away from her face and lifted them to his
lips; the soft palms were wet with tears.

They were standing on the threshold of an inner room. "You can go in
here until I have done with Tor di Rocca," he said. "But first I must
tell you that Gertrude has written to me asking me to get a divorce.
There is a man, of course, and the case will not be defended. Olive,
will you marry me when I am free?"

"Oh, Jean, I--I am so glad."

"You will marry me then?" he insisted.

"How thin you are, my dear. Just a very nice bag of bones. Were--were
you sorry when I came away?"

"You little torment," he said. "Answer me."

"Ask again. I want to hear."

"Will you marry me?"

"Yes, of course."

A nightingale began to sing in the garden; broken notes, a mere echo
of what the stars heard at night, but infinitely sweet as the soul of
a rose made audible; and as he sang a sudden ray of sunshine shot the
grey rain with silver. It seemed to Jean that rose-sweetness was all
about him in this his short triumph of love; that a flower's heart
beat against his own, that a flower's lips caressed the lean darkness
of his cheek. There were threads of gold in the soft brown tangle of
hair--gold unalloyed as was the hard-won happiness that made him feel
himself invincible, panoplied in an armour of joy that should defend
them from all slings and arrows. He was happy, and so the world seemed
full of music; there was harmony in the swaying of tall dark
cypresses, moved by winds that strewed the grass with torn petals of
orange blossoms from the trees by the lake side, in the clouds'
processional, in the patter of rain on the green shining laurel
leaves.

Laurels--his laurels had been woven in with rue, and latterly with
rosemary for dear remembrance; he had never cared greatly for his fame
and it seemed worthless to him now that he had realised his dream and
gathered his rose.

He was impatient to be gone, to take the woman he loved out of this
house of sad memories, of empty echoes, of dust and rust and decay.
Already he seemed to feel the rush of the cold night air, to hear the
roar of Arno, hurrying to the sea, above the steady throbbing of the
car; to see the welcoming lights of home shining out of the dark at
the steep edge of the hills above Settignano.

"About the Prince," he said presently. "Am I to fight him?"

She started. "Oh, no! That would be worse than ever. I thought you
were too English for that," she said naïvely.

He smiled. "Well, perhaps I am, but I suppose there may be a bit of a
scuffle. You won't mind that?"

"I don't know," she said helplessly.

A moment later they heard the gate creak as it swung on its hinges.
"He is coming."

They kissed hurriedly, with, on her side, a passion of farewell, and
he would have made her go into the room beyond, but she clung to him,
crying incoherently. "No ... no ... together ..."

Tor di Rocca stopped short by the door; the smile that had been in his
hot eyes as they met Olive's faded, and the short, Neronic upper lip
lifted in a sort of snarl.

"I don't quite understand," he said. "How did you come here? This is
my house, Avenel."

"I know it, and I do not wish to trespass on your hospitality. You
will excuse us?"

But the Prince stood in the way. "I am not a child to be played with.
I'll not let her go. You may leave us, however," he added, and he
stood aside as though to let him pass.

Jean met his angry eyes. "The lady is unwilling. Let that be the end,"
he said quietly.

Olive watched the Italian fearfully; his face was writhen, and all
semblance of beauty had gone out of it; its gnawing, tearing, animal
ferocity was appalling. When he called to her she moved instinctively
nearer to Jean, and then with the swift prescience of love threw
herself on his breast, tried to shelter him, as the other drew his
revolver and fired.

Jean had his arm about her, but he let her slip now and fall in a
huddled heap at his feet. She was safer there, and out of the way. The
two men exchanged several shots, but Jean's went wide; he was hampered
by his heavy motor coat, and the second bullet had scored its way
through his flesh before he could get at his weapon; there were four
in his body when he dropped.

Tor di Rocca leant against the wall; he was unhurt, but he felt a
little faint and sick for the moment. Hurriedly he rehearsed what he
should say to the _Questore_ presently. He had met the girl in this
house of his; Avenel, her lover, had broken in upon them; he had shot
her and fired at the Prince himself, but without effect, and he had
killed him in self-defence.

That was plain enough, but it was essential that his should be the
only version, and when the smoke cleared away he crossed the room to
look at the two who must speak no word, and to make sure.

The man was still alive for all the lead in him; Tor di Rocca watched,
with a sort of cruel, boyish interest in the creature he had maimed,
as slowly, painfully, Jean dragged himself a little nearer to where
the girl lay, tried to rise, and fell heavily. Surely he was dead
now--but no; his hands still clawed at the carpet, and when Tor di
Rocca stamped on his fingers he moaned as he tried to draw them away.
Olive lived too, but her breathing was so faint that it would be
easily stifled; the pressure of his hand even, but Filippo shrank from
that. He could not touch the flesh that would be dust presently
because of him. He hesitated, and then, muttering to himself, went to
take one of the cushions from the window seat.

Out in the garden the nightingale had not ceased to sing; the
cypresses swayed in the winds that shook the promise of fruit from
the trees; the green and rose and gold of a rainbow made fair the
clouds' processional. The world was still full of music, of transitory
life and joy, of dreams that have an ending.



CHAPTER IX


"_Via!_" said Vincenzo, and his black, oily forefinger, uplifted, gave
emphasis to his words. "There are no such things as ghosts. This
princess of yours cannot be seen at moonrise, or at any other time."

There is no room for faith in the swelled head of young Italy, but the
waiter was a middle-aged man. He paused in the act of re-filling the
customer's cup. "You do not believe, then?"

The Tuscan looked at him with all the scarcely-veiled contempt of the
North for the South. "You tell me you are a Calabrian. _Si vede!_ You
listen to all the priests say; you go down on your knees in the mud
when the _frati_ are carrying a wax doll about the roads; you think a
splinter of bone from the ribs of some fool who would not enjoy life
while it lasted will cure a dropsy or a broken leg; you hope the rain
will stop because a holy toe-nail is exposed on the altar. Ghosts,
visions, miracles!"

Vincenzo Torrigiani was the son of a stone-cutter in the village of
Settignano, and he had worked as a boy in the gardens of the Villa
Fiorelli. After a while the master had noticed and had taken a fancy
to him, chiefly on account of his ever-ready and unusually dazzling
and expansive smile, and he had been sent to a garage in Milan for six
months. The quick-witted Florentine learned a great many things in a
short time besides the necessary smattering of mechanics and the
management of cars, and on his return he displayed many new airs and
graces in addition, fortunately, to the same old smile. Later on he
spent the obligatory two years in barracks, in a regiment of
Bersaglieri, and came back to Avenel's service plus a still more
varied knowledge of the world, a waxed moustache, and a superficial
tendency to atheism. He was always delighted to air his views, and he
fixed the shocked waiter now with a glittering eye as he proceeded to
recite his unbelief at some length.

"God is merely man's idea of himself at his best, and the devil is his
idea of other people at their worst," he concluded.

"Would you spend a night alone in this haunted house?"

"_Sicuro!_"

"Perhaps you will have to if your master takes the place. He has gone
to look at it."

Vincenzo gulped down the last of his coffee. "I must go," he said, but
he was much too Italian to understand that a man in a hurry need not
count his change twice over or bite every piece of silver to make
sure of it.

It was nearly one o'clock when, having outdistanced the pack of
beggars that followed at his heels through the narrow streets of the
town, he came out upon the broad, tree-shadowed upper road. He had
stopped for a moment in the shelter of the high wall of the Capuchin
convent to light a cigarette, and thereafter he went on unseeingly, in
a brown study. Had he or had he not paid two soldi more than he should
have done for the packet? A Calabrian would cheat, if possible, of
course.

When, after much mental arithmetic, Vincenzo solved the problem to his
own satisfaction the little scrap of bad tobacco in its paper lining
was smoked out. He looked at his watch, a Christmas present from Jean,
and seeing that it was past the hour he began to wonder. There were no
ghosts, and in any case they were not dangerous in broad daylight.
There were no ghosts, but what was the signorino doing all this while
in an empty house? The car was there, drawn up at the side of the road
under the trees, and Vincenzo fussed round it, pulling the tarpaulin
covers more over the seats; he had them in place when it occurred to
him to look underneath for the fur rug. It was not there.

"_Dio mio!_" he cried excitedly. "It has been stolen."

Someone passing by must have seen it and taken it, probably someone
with a cart, as it would be heavy to carry. The thief could not have
gone far, and Vincenzo thought that if he drove the car towards Castel
Gandolfo he might catch him, whoever he was--charcoal-burner from the
woods beyond Rocca di Papa, peasant carting barrels of Frascati wine,
or perhaps a _frate_ from the convent. However, he dared not attempt
it as the signorino had said "Wait."

After a few minutes of miserable uncertainty, during which he invoked
the assistance of the saints--"_Che fare! Che fare! Santa Vergine,
aiutatemi!_" he decided to go and find the signorino himself. He was
half way down the lane when he heard shots. He had been hurrying, but
he began to run then, and the last echo had not died away when he
reached the gate of the Villino. It creaked on its hinges as he passed
in, but no one in the house was listening for it now. He went in at
the door, and now he was very swift and silent, very intent. There was
a smell of powder in the passage, and someone was moving about in the
room beyond. Vincenzo felt for the long sharp knife in his hip pocket
before he softly turned the handle of the door.

"Signore! What has happened?"

Filippo Tor di Rocca started violently and uttered a sort of cry as he
turned to see the man who stood on the threshold staring at him. There
was a queer silence before he spoke, moistening his lips at almost
every word.

"I--I--you heard shots, I suppose."

The servant's quick eyes noted the recent disorder of the room: chairs
overturned, white splinters of plaster fallen from the ceiling, a
mirror broken. Into what trap had his master fallen? What was there
hidden behind the table--on the floor? There were scrabbled
finger-marks--red marks--in the dust.

"I was here with a lady whom I wished to take this house when a man
burst in upon us. He shot her, and tried to shoot me, and I drew upon
him in self-defence." The Prince spoke haltingly. He had not been
prepared to lie so soon.

"What are you doing with that cushion?"

Filippo looked down guiltily at the frilled thing he held. "I was
going to put it under her head," he began, but the other was not
listening. He had come forward into the room and he had seen. The
huddled heap of black and grey close at the Prince's feet was human--a
woman--and he knew the young pale face, veiled as it was in brown,
loosened hair threaded with gold. A woman; and the man who lay there
too, his dark head resting on her breast, his lips laid against her
throat, was his master, Jean Avenel.

He uttered a hoarse cry of rage. "Murderer! You did it!"

But Tor di Rocca had recovered himself somewhat and the bold, hard
face was a mask through which the red eyes gleamed wickedly. "Fool!"
he answered impatiently. "It was as I said. The man was mad with
jealousy. There is his pistol on the floor. I am going now to inform
the authorities and to fetch the _carabinieri_."

He went out, and Vincenzo did not try to prevent him.

"Signorino! signorino! answer me. _Madonna benedetta!_ What shall I
say to Ser 'Ilario?" The little man's face worked, and tears ran down
his cheeks as he knelt there at his master's side, stooping to feel
for the fluttering of the faint breath, the beating of the pulse of
life. Surely there was no mortal wound--the shoulder--yes; and the
side, and the right arm, since all the sleeve was soaked in warm
blood.

All those who have been dragged down into the great darkness that
shrouds the gate of Death know that the first sense vouchsafed to
the returning soul is that of hearing. There was a sound of the sea
in Jean's ears, a weary sound of wailing and distress, through which
words came presently by ones and twos and threes. Words that seemed
a long way off, and yet near, as though they were stones dropped
upon him from a great height: ... signorina ... not mortal ...
healed ... care ... twenty masses to the Madonna at the _Santissima
Annunziata_ ...

Sight came next as the sea that had roared about him seemed to ebb,
leaving him still on the shore of this world. He opened his eyes and
lay for a moment staring up at the white ceiling until full
consciousness returned, and with it the sharp, stabbing pain of his
wounds, the acrid taste of blood in his mouth, the remembrance of
love. Olive.... Had he not tried to reach her and failed? He groaned
as he turned his aching head now on the pillow to see her where she
lay.

Vincenzo had cared for his master, had slit up that red, wet sleeve
with his sharp knife, and had bandaged the torn flesh as well as he
was able; and now, very gently, but without any skill, he was fumbling
at the girl's breast.

Jean made an effort to speak but his lips made no intelligible sounds
at first. The servant came running to him joyfully nevertheless.
"Signorino! You are better?"

The kind brown eyes smiled through the dimness of their pain.

"Good Vincenzo ... well done. She ... she's not dead?"

"Oh, no, signorino--at least--I am not sure," the man faltered.

"The wound is near the heart, is it not? Lay her down here beside me
and I will keep it closed with my hand," Jean said faintly. "Lift her
and lay her down here in the hollow of my unhurt arm."

"No ... no!" she had cried. "Together." No other man should touch
her--if she died it must be in his arms. How still she was, how little
warmth of life was there to cherish, how small a fluttering of the
dear heart under his hand's pressure....

"Go now and get help."

Vincenzo made no answer, but his eyes were like those of a faithful
dog, anguished, appealing, and he knelt to kiss the poor fingers that
had been bruised under that cruel heel before he went out of the room.

Very softly he closed and locked the door, and then stood for a while
in the close darkness of the passage, listening. That devil--he wanted
them to die--suppose he should be lurking somewhere about the house,
waiting for the servant to go that he might finish his work.

The Tor di Rocca were hard and swift and cruel as steel. That Duchess
Veronica, who had brought her husband the other woman's severed head,
wrapped in fine linen of her own weaving, as a New Year's gift!--she
had been one of them. Then there had lived one Filippo who kept his
younger brother chained up to the wall of some inner room of his
Florentine palace for seventeen years, until, at last, a serving-man
dared to go and tell of the sound of blows in the night hours, the
moaning, the clank of a chain, and the people broke in, and hanged the
Prince from the wrought-iron _fanale_ outside his own gate.

Vincenzo knew of all these old, past horrors; the Florentines had
made ballads of them, and sang them in the streets, and one might buy
"_L'Assassina_," or "_Il Fratello del Principe_," printed on little
sheets of coarse paper, on the stalls in the Mercato, for one soldo.
So, though the house was very still, the little man drew his long
knife and read the motto scratched on the blade before he climbed the
stairs.

"_Non ti fidar a me se il cor ti manca._"

Hurriedly he passed through every room, but there was no one there,
and so he ran out into the dripping green wilderness of torn leaves
and storm-tossed, drenched blossoms, and up the lane, between the high
walls of the olive orchards, to the town.

Don Filippo was really gone, and he was waiting now on the platform of
the Albano station for the train that should take him back to Rome. He
was not, however, presenting the spectacle of the murderer fleeing
from his crime. He was quite calm. The heat and cruelty of the Tor di
Rocca blood flared in him, but it burned with no steady flame. He had
not the tenacity of his forefathers; and so, though he might kill his
brother, he would not care to torment him during long years. Hate
palled on him as quickly as love. He was content to leave the lives of
Jean Avenel and of Olive on the knees of the gods.

There was no pity, no tenderness in him to be stirred by the
remembrance of blue eyes dilated with fear, of loosened brown hair, of
the small thing that had lain in a huddled heap at his feet, and he
was not afraid of any consequences affecting him. In Italy the plea of
jealousy covers a multitude of sins, and he was sure that a jury would
acquit him if he were charged with murder.

How many hundred years had passed since Pilate had called for water to
wash his hands! Filippo--reminded in some way of the Roman
governor--felt that same need. His hands were not clean--there was
dust on them--and it seemed that the one thing that really might clog
his thoughts and tarnish them later on was the dust on a frilled
cushion.



CHAPTER X


To some men their world is most precious when their arms may compass
it. These are the great lovers. It seemed to Jean now that it mattered
little whether this grey hour of rain and silence preluded life or
death. Presently they would come to the edge of the stream called
Lethe, and then he, making a cup of his hands, would give the woman he
loved to drink of the waters of forgetfulness, and all remembrance of
loneliness and tears, and of the pain that ached now in his side and
in her shot breast would pass away.

He looked down from a great height and saw:

               "_the curled moon
    Was like a little feather
    Fluttering far down the gulf;_"

and the round world, a caught fly, wrapped in a web of clouds, hung by
a slender thread of some huge spider's spinning. There was a dark mark
upon it that spread and reddened until it seemed to be a stain of
blood on a woman's breast. She had been pale, but the colour had come
again when he had kissed her. It was gone now. Was it all in the red
that oozed between his fingers?

In the twilight of his senses stray thoughts fluttered and passed like
white moths. Was that the roar of voices? The hall was full and they
wanted him, but he could not play again. Love was best. He would stay
in the garden with Olive.

What were they asking for? A nocturne--yes; it was getting dark, and
the sea was rising--that was the sound of the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor Vincenzo had brought in rose from his knees and stood
thoughtfully wiping his hands on a piece of lint.

"We must see about extracting the bullets later on. One went clean
through his arm and so has saved us the trouble. As to her--I am not
sure--but I think the injury may not be so serious as it now appears.
She was evidently stunned. She must have struck her head against the
table in falling."

"Can they be moved?" the servant asked anxiously. "My master would not
care to stay on here. Can you take them into your house, and--and not
say anything?"

The doctor hesitated. He was a bald, grey-whiskered man, fat and
flaccid. His cuffs were frayed and there were wine-stains on his
shabby clothes. He was very poor.

"I should inform the authorities," he said.

"Oh, I don't think that is necessary. It would be worth your while
not to."

Jean's fur coat had been thrown across a chair. The doctor eyed it
carefully. It was worth more lire than he had ever possessed at one
time.

"Very well," he said. "The vineyard across the lane is mine. We can go
to my house that way and take them through the gate without ever
coming out on to the road. I will go and tell my housekeeper to get
the rooms ready."

Vincenzo's face brightened. "I will go in the car to-night to fetch
the master's brother. He is very rich. It will be worth your while,"
he repeated.

"He will be heavy to carry. Shall we be able to do it alone?"

"_Via!_" cried the little man. "I am very strong. Go now and come back
soon."

When the other had left the room he crouched down again on the floor
at Jean's feet. "Signorino! Signorino! Speak to me! Look at me!"

But there was no voice now, nor any that answered.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a long while, it seemed, Jean was a spent swimmer, struggling to
reach a distant shore. The cruel cross-currents drew him, great waves
buffeted him, and the worst of it was they were hot. All the sea was
bubbling and boiling about him, and the sound in his ears was like
the roar of steam. There were creatures in the water, too; octopi,
such as he had seen caught in nets by the Venetian fishermen and flung
on the yellow sands of the Lido. He saw their tentacles flickering in
the green curled edges of each wave that threatened to beat him down
into the depths.

Vincenzo kept them off. He was always there, sitting by the door, and
when he was called he came running to his master's bedside.

"Where is she? Don't let her be drowned! Don't let the octopi get her!
Vincenzo! Vincenzo!" he cried, and the good fellow tried to reassure
him.

"_Sia benedetto_, signorino! They shall not have her. I will cut them
in pieces with my knife."

"What is the matter? I am quite well. Is it only the tyre? There is
Orvieto, and the sun just risen. Is it still raining?"

"No, signorino. The sun shines and it has not rained for days. It will
soon be May."

Very slowly the tide of feverish dreams ebbed, and Jean became aware
of the iris pattern on the curtains of the bed; of the ray of sunlight
that danced every morning on the ceiling and passed away; of the old
woman who gave him his medicine. She was kind, and he liked to see her
sitting sewing by lamplight, and to watch her distorted shadow
looming gigantic in an angle of the wall. Hilaire was there too, but
sometimes he was called away, and then Jean would hear his uneven step
going to and fro across an uncarpeted floor, and the sound of hushed
voices in the next room.

"Hilaire, is--is it all right?"

"Yes, do not be afraid. Get well," the elder man answered, but Jean
still lay with his face turned to the wall. He was afraid. The longing
to see Olive, to hold her once more in his arms, burned within him. He
moved restlessly and laid his clenched hands together on the
half-healed wound in his side.

One night he slept soundly, dreamlessly, as a child sleeps, and woke
at dawn. He raised himself on his elbow in the bed and looked about
him, and Vincenzo came to him at once and asked him what he wanted.

"Go out," he said, "and leave me alone for a while."

The green painted window-shutter was unfastened, and it swung open in
the little wind that had sprung up. Jean saw the morning star shining,
and the widening rift of pale gold in the grey sky above the hills. He
heard the stirring of awakened life. Birds fluttered in the laurels. A
boy was singing as he went to his work among the vines by the lake
side:

    "_Ho da dirti tante cose._"

It seemed to Jean that he too had many things to say to the woman he
loved. He called to her faintly, in a weak, hoarse voice: "Olive!"

After a while he heard her answering him from the next room.

"Jean! Oh, Jean!"

He lay still, smiling.



           EDINBURGH
    COLSTON AND CO. LIMITED
           PRINTERS



THE BLUE LAGOON

By =H. DE VERE STACPOOLE=,

Author of "The Crimson Azaleas," etc. 6s.

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    tame indeed."

    The _Morning Leader_ says: "It is a true romance, with
    an atmosphere of true romance which few but the greatest
    writers achieve."

    The _World_ says: "Original and fascinating."

    The _Nottingham Guardian_ says: "A singularly powerful
    and brilliantly imagined story."

    The _Daily Chronicle_ says: "Many able authors, an
    unaccountable number, have written about the South Sea
    Islands, but none that we know has written so charmingly
    as Mr. de Vere Stacpoole in 'The Blue Lagoon.'"


T. FISHER UNWIN, 1 ADELPHI TERRACE, LONDON



T. FISHER UNWIN, Publisher,

WORKS BY JOSEPH CONRAD


I.

AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS

_Crown 8vo._, _cloth_, =6s.=

"Subject to the qualifications thus disposed of (_vide_ first part of
notice), 'An Outcast of the Islands' is perhaps the finest piece of
fiction that has been published this year, as 'Almayer's Folly' was
one of the finest that was published in 1895.... Surely this is real
romance--the romance that is real. Space forbids anything but the
merest recapitulation of the other living realities of Mr. Conrad's
invention--of Lingard, of the inimitable Almayer, the one-eyed
Babalatchi, the Naturalist, of the pious Abdulla--all novel, all
authentic. Enough has been written to show Mr. Conrad's quality. He
imagines his scenes and their sequence like a master; he knows his
individualities and their hearts; he has a new and wonderful field in
this East Indian Novel of his.... Greatness is deliberately written;
the present writer has read and re-read his two books, and after
putting this review aside for some days to consider the discretion of
it, the word still stands."--_Saturday Review_


II.

ALMAYER'S FOLLY

_Second Edition._ _Crown 8vo._, _cloth_, =6s.=

    "This startling, unique, splendid book."

                    Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR, M.P.

"This is a decidedly powerful story of an uncommon type, and breaks
fresh ground in fiction.... All the leading characters in the
book--Almayer, his wife, his daughter, and Dain, the daughter's native
lover--are well drawn, and the parting between father and daughter has
a pathetic naturalness about it, unspoiled by straining after effect.
There are, too, some admirably graphic passages in the book. The
approach of a monsoon is most effectively described.... The name of
Mr. Joseph Conrad is new to us, but it appears to us as if he might
become the Kipling of the Malay Archipelago."--_Spectator_



THE BEETLE. A MYSTERY

By =RICHARD MARSH=. Illustrated.

Eleventh Edition. 6s.

    The _Daily Graphic_ says: "'The Beetle' is the kind of
    book which you put down only for the purpose of turning
    up the gas and making sure that no person or thing is
    standing behind your chair, and it is a book which no
    one will put down until finished except for the reason
    above described."

    The _Speaker_ says: "A story of the most terrific kind
    is duly recorded in this extremely powerful book. The
    skill with which its fantastic horrors are presented to
    us is undeniable."


T. FISHER UNWIN, 1 ADELPHI TERRACE, LONDON



Transcriber's Note

Bold text is indicated with equals symbols, =like this=.

Text in languages other than English is preserved as printed.

Minor punctuation errors have been repaired.

The following amendments have been made:

    Page 164--Jocopo amended to Jacopo--"... one of the old
    houses in the Borgo San Jacopo, ..."

    Page 197--mysogynists amended to misogynists--"Olive
    laughed. "Commend me to misogynists henceforth.""

    Page 216--newsvenders amended to newsvendors--"... and
    the narrow streets were echoing now to the hoarse cries
    of the newsvendors ..."

    Page 228--Babbuino amended to Babuino--"They went by way
    of the Via Babuino across the Piazza di Spagna, ..."

    Page 293--anyrate amended to any rate--"... I am sure he
    never would, or, at any rate, he would ..."

    Page 297--it's amended to its--"... its gnawing,
    tearing, animal ferocity was appalling."

    Second advert page--decidely amended to decidedly--"This
    is a decidedly powerful story ..."





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