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Title: Our Own Set - A Novel
Author: Schubin, Ossip, 1854-1934
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/ourownsetanovel00schugoog



                              OUR OWN SET


                                A NOVEL



                                   BY

                             OSSIP SCHUBIN



                     From the German by CLARA BELL



               REVISED AND CORRECTED IN THE UNITED STATES



                                NEW YORK
                   WILLIAM S. GOTTSBERGER, PUBLISHER
                            11 MURRAY STREET
                                  1884



         Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884
                       by William S. Gottsberger
       in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington



         THIS TRANSLATION WAS MADE EXPRESSLY FOR THE PUBLISHER



                                Press of
                         William S. Gottsberger
                                New York



                              OUR OWN SET



                                PART I.

                             THE CARNIVAL.



                               CHAPTER I.


At Rome in 1870. Roman society was already divided into "_Le Monde
noir_" and "_Le Monde blanc_" which as yet gave no sign of amalgamation
into a "_Monde gris_." His Holiness the Pope had entrenched himself in
the Vatican behind his prestige of martyrdom; and the King already held
his court at the Quirinal.

Among the distinguished Austrians who were spending the winter in Rome
were the Otto Ilsenberghs. Otto Ilsenbergh, one of the leading members
of the Austrian feudal aristocracy, was in Rome professedly for his
health, but in reality solely in order to avail himself of the
resources of the Vatican library in compiling that work on the History
of Miracle which he has lately given to the world under a quaint
pseudonym. He and his wife with a troup of red-haired Ilsenberghs, big
and little, inhabited a straggling, historical palazzo on the Corso,
with a glacial stone staircase and vast drawing-rooms which looked more
fit for the meetings of conspirators than for innocent tea-drinkings
and dances.

The countess was "at home" every evening when there was no better
amusement to be had. She was by birth a princess Auerstein, of the
Auerstein-Zolling branch, in which--as we all know--the women are
remarkable for their white eyebrows and their strict morality. The
Ilsenbergh _salon_ was much frequented; the prevailing tone was by no
means formal; smoking was allowed in the drawing-room--nay the countess
herself smoked: to be precise she smoked _regalias_.

It was in the beginning of December; a wet evening and the heavy drops
splashed against the window panes. Count Ilsenbergh was sitting in an
immense reception-room decorated with frescoes, at a _buhl_ table,
evidently constructed for no more arduous duties than the evolution of
love letters. He was absorbed in the concoction of an article for "Our
Times." A paper of strictly aristocratic-conservative tendencies,
patronized by himself, taken in by his fellow-aristocrats, but read by
absolutely no one--excepting the liberal newspaper writers when in
search of reactionary perversities. Count Ilsenbergh was in great
trouble; the Austrian Ministry had crowned their distinguished
achievements by one even more distinguished--for the fourth time within
three years a new era was announced, and in defiance of prejudice a
spick-and-span liberal ministry was being composed, destined no doubt
to establish the prosperity of the Austrian people on a permanent
basis--and beyond a doubt to cause a fresh importation of
"Excellencies" into the fashionable _salons_ of the Ringstrasse at
Vienna. Count Ilsenbergh was prophesying the end of all things.

The countess was sitting at her ease on a sofa close to the fire-place,
with its Renaissance chimaeras of white marble. The handsomest editions
of the works of Ampère and Mommsen lay on the tables, but she held on
her lap a ragged volume of a novel from a circulating library. She was
a tall, fair woman with a high color and apricot-colored hair, a
languid figure, slender extremities and insignificant features; she
spoke French and German alike with a strong Viennese accent, dressed
unfashionably, and moved awkwardly; still, no one who knew what was
what, could fail to see that she was a lady and an aristocrat. At all
court functions she was an imposing figure, she never stumbled over her
train and wore the family diamonds with stately indifference.

The portière was lifted and General von Klinger was announced. General
von Klinger was an old Austrian soldier whose good fortune it had been
to have an opportunity of distinguishing himself with his cavalry at
Sadowa, after which, righteously wroth at the national disaster, he had
laid down his sword and retired with his General's rank to devote
himself wholly to painting. Even as a soldier he had enjoyed a
reputation as a genius and had covered himself with glory by the way in
which he could sketch, with his gold-cased pencil on the back of an old
letter or a visiting-card, a galloping horse and a jockey bending over
its mane; a work of art especially admired for the rapidity with which
it was executed. Since then he had studied art in Paris, had three
times had his pictures refused at the _salon_ and had succeeded in
persuading himself that this was a distinction--in which he found a
parallel in Rousseau, Delacroix and fifty fellow-victims who had been
obliged to submit to a similar rebuff. Then he had come to Rome, an
unappreciated genius, and had established himself in a magnificent
studio in the Piazza Navona, which he threw open to the public every
day from three till five and which became a popular rendezvous for the
fashionable world. They laughed at the old soldier's artistic
pretensions, but they could not laugh at him. He was in every sense of
the word a gentleman. Like many an old bachelor who cherishes the
memory of an unsuccessful love affair in early life, he covered a
sentimental vein by a biting tongue--a pessimist idealist perhaps
describes him. He was handsome and upright, with a stiffly starched
shirt collar and romantic dark eyes--a thorough old soldier and a
favorite with all the fine ladies of Roman society.

"It is very nice of you to have thought of us," said the countess
greeting him heartily; "it is dreadful weather too--come and warm
yourself."

The count looked up from his writing: "How are you General?" he said,
and then went on with his article, adding: "Such an old friend as you
are will allow me to go on with my work; only a few lines--half a dozen
words. These are grave times, when every man must hold his own in the
ranks!"--and the forlorn hope of the feudal cause dipped his pen in the
ink with a sigh.

The general begged him not to disturb himself, the countess said a few
words about some musical soirée, and presently her husband ended his
page with an emphatic flourish, exclaiming: "That will give them
something to think about!" and came to join them by the fire.

A carriage was heard to draw up in the street.

"That may be Truyn, he arrived yesterday," observed the countess, and
Count Truyn was in fact announced.

Erich Truyn was at that time a man of rather more than thirty with hair
prematurely gray and a glance of frosty indifference. People said he
had been iced, for he always looked as though he had been frozen to the
marrow in sublime superiority; his frigid exterior had won him a
reputation for excessive pride, and totally belied the man. He was an
uncommonly kind and noble-hearted soul, and what passed for pride was
merely the shrinking of a sensitive nature which had now and again
exposed itself to ridicule, perhaps by some outburst of high-flown
idealism, and which now sought only to hide its sanctuary from the
desecration of the multitude.

"Ah! Truyn, at last, and how are you?" cried the countess with sincere
pleasure.

"Much as ever," replied Truyn.

"And where is your wife?" asked Ilsenbergh.

"I do not know."

"Is she still at Nice?"

"I do not know." And as he spoke his expression was colder and more set
than before.

"Are you to be long in Rome?" said the countess, anxious to divert the
conversation into a more pleasing channel.

"As long as my little companion likes and it suits her," answered
Truyn. His 'little companion' always meant his only child, a girl of
about twelve.

"You must bring Gabrielle to see me very soon," said the lady. "My Mimi
and Lintschi are of the same age."

"I will bring her as soon as possible; unluckily she is so very shy she
cannot bear strangers. But she has quite lost her heart to the general
and to our cousin Sempaly."

"What, Nicki!" exclaimed the countess. "Do you mean that he has the
patience to devote himself to children?"

"He has a peculiar talent for it. He dined with us to-day."

"He is an unaccountable creature!" sighed the countess. "He hardly ever
comes near us."

At this moment a quick step was heard outside and Count Sempaly was
announced.

"_Lupus in Fabula!_" remarked Ilsenbergh.

The new-comer was a young man of eight or nine and twenty, not tall,
but powerfully though slightly built; his remarkably handsome, well-cut
features and clear brown complexion were beautified by a most engaging
smile, and by fine blue eyes with dark lashes and shaded lids. Under
cover of that smile he could say the most audacious things, and whether
the glance of those eyes were a lightning flash or a sunbeam no one had
ever been quite certain. He gallantly kissed the tips of the countess's
fingers, nodded to the men with a sort of brusque heartiness, and then
seated himself on a cushion at the lady's feet.

"Well, it is a mercy to be allowed to see you at last; you really do
not come often enough, Nicki; and in society I hardly ever meet you,"
complained the countess in a tone of kindly reproof. "Why do you so
seldom appear in the respectable world?"

"Because he is better amused in the other world!" said Ilsenbergh with
a giggle in an undertone.

But a reproachful glance from his wife warned him to be sober.

"I simply have not the time for it," said Sempaly half laughing. "I
have too much to do."

"Too much to do!" said Truyn with his quiet irony.... "In
diplomacy?--What is the latest news?"

"A remarkable article in the '_Temps_' on the great washing-basin
question," replied Sempaly with mock gravity.

"The washing-basin question!" repeated the others puzzled.

"Yes," continued Sempaly. "The state of affairs is this: When, not long
since, the young duke of B---- was required to serve under the
conscription, his feelings were deeply hurt by the fact that he had not
only to live in barracks, but to wash at the pump like a common
soldier. This so outraged his mamma that she went to the Minister of
War to petition that her son might have a separate washing-basin; but
after serious discussion her application was refused. It was decided
that this separate washing-basin would be a breach of the Immortal
Principles of '89."

"It is hardly credible!" observed Truyn; Ilsenbergh shrugged his
shoulders and the countess innocently asked:

"What are the immortal principles of '89?"

"A sort of ideal convention between the aristocracy and the canaille,"
said Sempaly coolly. "Or if you prefer it, the first steps towards the
abdication of privilege at the feet of the higher humanity," he added
with a smile.

The countess was no wiser than before, Sempaly laughed maliciously as
he fanned himself with a Japanese screen, and Ilsenbergh said: "Then
you are a democrat, Sempaly?"

"From a bird's-eye point of view," added Truyn drily; he had not much
faith in his cousin's liberalism.

"I am always a democrat when I have just been reading 'The Dark Ages,'"
said Sempaly--'The Dark Ages' was the name he chose to give to
Ilsenbergh's newspaper.--"Besides, joking apart, I am really a liberal,
though I own I am uneasy at the growing power of the radicals. By the
bye, I had nearly forgotten to give you two items of news that will
delight you Fritzi,"--addressing the countess. "The reds have won all
the Paris elections, and at Madrid they have been shooting at the
king."

"Horrible!" exclaimed the countess, and she shuddered, "we shall see
the Commune again before long."

"'93," said Truyn, with his tone of dry irony.

"We really ought to draw a cordon round the Austrian throne to protect
it against the pestilential flood of democracy," said Sempaly very
gravely. "Ilsenbergh you must petition the upper house."

"Your jokes are very much out of place," said the countess, "the matter
is serious."

"Oh, no! not for us," said Truyn. "Our people are too long suffering."

"They are sound at the core," interrupted Ilsenbergh with dramatic
emphasis.

"They do not yet know the meaning of liberty," said Sempaly laughing,
"and to them equality is a mere abstraction--a metaphysical delicacy."

"They are thoroughly good and loyal!" exclaimed Ilsenbergh, "and they
know...."

"Oh!" cried Sempaly, "they know very little and that is your safeguard.
When once their eyes are opened your life will cease to be secure. If I
had been a bricklayer I should certainly have been a socialist," and he
crossed his arms and looked defiantly at his audience.

"A socialist!" cried Ilsenbergh indignantly. "You!--never. No, you
could not have been a socialist; your religious feelings would have
preserved you from such wickedness!"

"Hm!" replied Sempaly suspiciously, and Truyn said with a twist of his
lips:

"As a bricklayer Sempaly might not have been so religious; he might
have found some difficulty in worshipping a God who had treated him so
scurvily."

"Hush, Truyn!" exclaimed Sempaly, somewhat anxiously to his cousin.
"You know I dislike all such discussions."

"True. I remember you wear Catholic blinkers and are always nervous
about your beliefs; and you would not like to feel any doubt as to the
unlimited prolongation of your comfortable little existence," said
Truyn in a tone of grave and languid banter. For Sempaly was not
burthened with religion, though, like many folks to whom life is easy,
he clung desperately to a hope in a future life, for which reason he
affected 'Catholic blinkers' and would not have opened a page of
Strauss for the world.

"The sword is at our breast!" sighed the countess still sunk in dark
forebodings. "This new ministry!..." And she shook her head.

"It will do no harm beyond producing a few dreary articles in the
papers and inundating us with new Acts which the crown will not trouble
itself about for a moment," observed Sempaly.

"The Austrian mob are gnashing their teeth already!" said the lady.

"Nonsense! The Austrian mob is a very good dog at bottom; it will not
bite till you forbid it to lick your hands," said her cousin calmly.

"I should dislike one as much as the other," said the countess, looking
complacently at her slender white fingers.

"But tell us, Nicki," asked Ilsenbergh, "has not the change of ministry
put a stop to your chances of promotion?" Sempaly was in fact an
apprentice in the Roman branch of the great Austrian political
incubator.

"Of course," replied Sempaly. "I had hoped to be sent to London as
secretary; but one of our secretaries here is to go to England, and the
democrats are sending us one of their own protégés in his place. My
chief told me so this morning."

"Oh! who is our new secretary?" asked the countess much interested. "If
he is a protégé of those creatures he must be a terrible specimen."

"He is one Sterzl--and highly recommended; he comes from Teheran where
he has distinguished himself greatly," said Sempaly.

"Sterzl!" repeated Ilsenbergh scornfully.

"Sterzl!" cried the lady in disgust. "It is to be hoped he has no
wife,--that would crown all."

"On that point I can reassure you," said the general; "Sterzl is
unmarried."

"You know him?" murmured the countess slightly abashed.

"He is the son of one of my dearest friends--a fellow-officer," replied
the general, "and if he has grown up as he promised he must be a man of
talent and character--his abilities were brilliant."

"That is something at any rate," Ilsenbergh condescended to say.

"Yes, so it strikes me," added Sempaly; "we require one man who knows
what work means."

"I was promised that my nephew should have the appointment," muttered
the countess. "It is disgusting!"

"Utterly!" said Sempaly with a whimsical intonation. "A foreign element
is always intrusive; we are much more comfortable among ourselves."

Tea was now brought in on a Japanese table and the secretary and his
inferior birth were for the time forgotten.



                              CHAPTER II.


Sempaly was not merely affecting the democrat to annoy his cousin
the countess; he firmly believed himself to be a liberal because he
laughed at conservatism, and regarded the nobility as a time-honored
structure--a relic of the past, like the pyramids, only not quite so
perdurable. But in spite of his theoretical respect for the rights of
man and his satirical contempt for the claims of privilege, Sempaly was
really less tolerant than his cousin of "the dark ages." Ilsenbergh,
with all his feudal crotchets, was an aristocrat only from a sense of
fitness while Sempaly was an aristocrat by instinct; Ilsenbergh's pride
of rank was an affair of party and dignity, Sempaly's was a matter of
superfine nerves.

A few days after this conversation Sempaly met the general and told him
that the new secretary had arrived, adding with a smile: "I do not
think he will do!"

"Why not?" asked the general.

"He speaks very bad French and he knows nothing about _bric-à-brac_,"
replied Sempaly with perfect gravity. "I introduced him yesterday to
Madame de Gandry and he had hardly turned his back when she asked
me--she is the daughter of a leather-seller at Lille, you know--'is he
a man of family?'--and would you believe it, I could not tell her. That
is the sort of thing I never know." Then he added with a singular
smile: "His name is Cecil--Cecil Maria. Cecil Maria Sterzl! It sounds
well do not you think?"

Cecil Maria! It was a ridiculous name and ill-suited the man. His
father had been an officer of dragoons who had retired early to
become a country gentleman--the dearest dream of the retired officer;
his mother was a faded Fräulein von ---- who had all her linen--not
merely for her trousseau but all she ever purchased--marked with
_her_ coronet, who stuck up a flag on the turret of their little
country house with _her_ arms, and insisted on being addressed as
baroness--which she never had been--by all her acquaintance. When,
within a year of her marriage, she became the mother of a fine boy it
was a burning question what his name should be.

"Cecil Maria," lisped the lady.

"Nonsense! The boy shall be called Anthony after his grandfather," said
his father, and the mother burst into tears. What man can resist the
tears of the mother of his first-born? The child was christened Cecil.

His father died at the early age of forty; his youngest child, a little
girl whom he worshipped, was dangerously ill of scarlet fever and he
fell a victim to his devotion to her. Cecil was at that time a pretty
but rather delicate boy, with an intense contempt for the French
language which his sister's governess tried to instil into him, and a
pronounced preference for the society of the stable-lads and peasant
boys; the baroness was always complaining that he was dirty and did not
care to keep his hands white. The guardianship of the orphans devolved
on General Sterzl, their father's elder brother, who honestly did his
best for them, managing their little fortune with care, and
conscientiously directing their education. After a brief but keen
inspection of the clever spoilt boy, of his silly mother, and of his
cringing tutor, he shrugged his shoulders over this country gentleman's
life and placed the lad in the _Theresianum_, a college which in the
estimation of every Austrian officer is the first educational
establishment in the world--provided, that is to say, that he himself
was not brought up there.

During the first six months Cecil was boundlessly miserable. All his
life long till now he had been accustomed to be first; and it was hard
suddenly to find himself last. Although his abilities were superior his
neglected education placed him far below most of his companions, and
besides this he was, as it happened, the only boy not of noble birth in
this fashionable college, with the exception of a young Tyrolese whose
descent was illegitimate, though he nevertheless was always boasting of
his family. Then his companions laughed at his provincial accent, at
his want of strength and at his queer name. We have all in our turn had
to submit to this rough jesting. He could not for a long time get
accustomed to it, and during the first half-year he incessantly plagued
his mother and guardian to release him from what he called a prison;
but they remained deaf to his entreaties. The visible outcome, when
Cecil went home for the summer holidays, was a very subdued frame of
mind, and nicely kept, long white nails. The next term began with his
giving a sound thrashing to the odious Tyrolese who bored the whole
school with his endless bragging and airs. This made him immensely
popular; then he began to work in earnest; his masters praised his
industry--and his complaints ceased. Had the subtle poison of
pretentious vanity which infected the whole college crept into his
veins? Had he begun to find a charm in hearing Mass read on Sundays and
Highdays by a Bishop? To be waited on by servants in livery, to learn
to dance from the same teacher who gave lessons at court, and to call
the titled youth of the empire '_du_'? It is difficult to say. He
seemed perfectly indifferent to all these privileges and assumed no
airs or affectations.--His pride was of a fiercer temper.

He finished his education by learning eastern languages, passed
brilliantly, and, still aided by his uncle, went in for diplomacy. He
was sent to an Asiatic capital which was just then undergoing a
visitation of cholera and revolution; there again he distinguished
himself and was decorated with the order of the Iron Crown.

One thing was soon very evident to every one in Rome: The new secretary
was not a man whose character could be summed up in an epigram. There
was nothing commonplace or pretty in the man. Externally he was tall
and broad shouldered, with a well set carriage that gave him the air of
a soldier in _mufti_; his hair was brown and close-cropped and his
features sharply cut. In manner he was awkward but perfectly well-bred,
unpretentious and simple. The ambassador's verdict on the new secretary
was very different from Sempaly's. "He is my best worker," said his
excellency: "A wonderful worker, and a long head--extraordinarily
capable; but not pliant enough--not pliant enough...."

Nor was it only with his superiors that he found favor; the younger
officials with whom he came in contact were soon on the best terms with
him. He had one peculiarity, very rare in men who take life so
seriously as he did: He never quibbled. The embassy at Rome at that
time swarmed to such an extent with handsome, fashionable idlers that
the Palazzo di Venezia was like a superior school for fine ladies with
moustaches--as Sempaly aptly said. Sterzl looked on at their feeble
doings with indulgent good humor; it was impossible to hope for any
definite views or action from these young gentlemen; it would have been
as wise to try to make butterflies do the work of ants. He himself was
always ready to make good their neglect and gave them every liberty for
their amusements. He wished to work, to make his mark--that was his
business; to fritter away life and enjoy themselves was theirs. Thus
they agreed to admiration.

But though his subalterns were soon his devoted allies, society at
large was still disposed to offer him a cold shoulder. His predecessor
in office had never pretended to do anything noteworthy as a
diplomatist, but he had been an admirable waltzer, and--which was even
more important--he had not disdained that social diversion;
consequently he had been a favorite with the ladies of Rome who loudly
bewailed his departure and were not cordial to his successor. Sterzl
took no pains to fill his place; he had no trace of that obsequious
politeness and superficial amiability which make a man popular in
general society. His blunt conscientiousness and quite pedantic
frankness of speech were displeasing on first acquaintance. In a
drawing-room he commonly stood silently observant, or, if he spoke, he
said exactly what he thought and expected the same sincerity from
others. He could never be brought to understand that the flattery and
subterfuge usual in company were merely a degenerate form of love for
your neighbor; that the uncompromising truthfulness that he required
must result in universal warfare; that the limit-line between sincerity
and rudeness, between deference and hypocrisy, have never been rigidly
defined; that the naked truth is as much out of place in a drawing-room
as a man in his shirt-sleeves; and that, considering the defects and
deformities of our souls, we cannot be too thankful that custom
prohibits their being displayed without a decent amount of clothing.
Merciful Heaven! what should we see if they were laid bare?

No, we cannot live without lying. A man who is used to society demands
that it should tell lies, it is his right, and a courtesy to which he
has every claim. When a man finds that society no longer thinks him
worth lying to his part is played out and he had better vanish from the
scene. In short, Sterzl had no sort of success with women; they dubbed
him by the nickname of '_le Paysan du Danube_.' Men respected him; they
only regretted that he had so many extravagant notions, particularly a
morbid touchiness as to matters of honor; however, that is a fault
which men do not seriously disapprove of. To Sterzl himself it was a
matter of entire indifference what was said of him by people who were
not his personal friends. For a friend he would go through fire and
water, but he would often neglect even to bow to an acquaintance in the
street as he walked on, straight to his destination, his head full of
grand schemes. He was fully determined to make his mark: to do--perhaps
to become--something great ... but....



                              CHAPTER III.


Princess Vulpini, who had not escaped the fashionable complaint--the
_Morbus Schliemaniensis_, had found a treasure no further off than in
an old-clothes shop in the Via Aracoeli, where she had bought two
wonderful shields from designs, she was assured, of Benvenuto Cellini's
and a fragment of tapestry said to have been designed by Raphael, and
she had invited a few intimate friends--Truyn, Sempaly, von Klinger,
and Count Siegburg, an Austrian attaché, to give their opinion as to
the genuineness of her find. She was Truyn's sister and a few years
younger than he; she had met Prince Vulpini at Vichy when spending a
season there with her invalid father and soon afterwards had married
him, and now for twelve years she had lived in Rome, loving it well,
though she never ceased railing at it for sundry inconveniences, was
always singing the praises of Vienna and would have all her shopping
done for her "at home" because she was convinced that nothing was to be
had in Rome but photographs, antiques and wax-matches.

The company had just finished a lively dinner, throughout which they
had unanimously abused the new Italian Ministry; but with the arrival
of the coffee and cigarettes they turned to the consideration of the
princess's antiquities which she had spread out on the floor for
inspection. The gentlemen threw themselves on all-fours to examine the
arras and the shields, and pronounced their verdict with conscientious
frankness. No one, it seemed, was thoroughly convinced of the
authenticity of the treasures but the Countess Marie Schalingen, a lady
who had been for some few weeks in Rome as the princess's guest; all
the others had doubts. The most vigorous sceptic of them all was Count
Siegburg, who, to be sure, was the one who knew least of such matters,
but who nevertheless spoke of "electrotype casts and modern imitations"
with supreme decisiveness.

Wips, or more correctly Wiprecht Siegburg, was the spoilt child of the
Austrian circle; I doubt whether he could have invented gunpowder, have
discovered America, or have proved that the earth goes round, but for
work-a-day company he was certainly pleasanter than Schwarz, Columbus
or Galileo. He had been attached to the embassy with no hope of his
finding a career, but simply to get him away from Vienna, where his
debts had at last become inconveniently heavy. His widowed mother,
after much meditation, had hit upon this admirable plan for checking
her son in his extravagance.

"You make me quite nervous, Siegburg," said the princess at length,
"though I know that you have not the faintest glimmering of knowledge
on the subject."

"Perhaps you are right," he answered coolly. "At any rate, I have lost
confidence lately in my critical instincts. I always used to think that
the genuineness of antiquities was in proportion to their dirt; but now
that I have learnt that even the dirt is counterfeit I have lost all
basis of judgment."

They all laughed at this confession, not so much for its wit as because
every one laughed at Siegburg's little sallies. They were in the
smoking-room, a snug apartment, picturesquely and comfortably furnished
with carved wood and oriental cushions. All the party were on the
intimate terms of "just ourselves," a mixture of courteous deference
and hearty friendliness. The conversation was not precisely learned; on
the contrary, there was a certain frivolity in its tone; very bad jokes
were perpetrated and some anecdotes related savoring of Saint-Simon in
raciness without any one being scandalized, for they were not in the
mood to run every jest to earth, to treat every point by chemical
analysis, or take every word literally. Superficiality is sometimes a
gracious and a blessed thing.

"I feel so thoroughly at home to-day--in such an Austrian
atmosphere...." exclaimed the hostess. "But I have a presentiment that
it will not be of long duration. Mesdames de Gandry and Ferguson are
dining in this neighborhood...."

As she spoke the servant announced Prince Norina.

"'Coming events cast their shadows before,'" quoted Sempaly; it was
well known that when Prince Norina made his appearance the Countess de
Gandry would soon follow. Norina was fat and fair, handsome on the
barber's block pattern, and for the last four or five years had been
dancing attendance on the French countess. He bowed to the princess,
shook hands with the men and was instantly seized upon by the master of
the house to listen to a tirade on the latest misdemeanors of the
government. Vulpini was the blackest of the Black, a strong adherent of
the pope, though from political rather than religious bias---chiefly
indeed as a fanatically exclusive Roman, who scorned to make common
cause with Italy at large, and regarded "_Italia unita_" as a wild
chimera. Prince Norina, who had no political convictions, listened to
him and nodded assent to anything and everything.

The company now adjourned to the drawing-room, a large uncomfortable
room furnished in a motley style, partly Louis XV. and partly Empire,
and which opened out of the more splendid salon in which the princess
received formally, and the boudoir to which none but her most intimate
friends were admitted. The conversation had lost much of its
liveliness, and had flattened to a level at which some of the company
had taken refuge in photographs when Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson
were announced and rustled in.

Madame de Gandry--a pale brunette, interesting rather than pretty, with
a turned-up nose and hard bright eyes, noisy and coquettish,
inconsiderate and saucy, because she fancied it gave her style--had for
the last five years ruled the destinies of Prince Norina. Society had,
however, agreed, perhaps for its own convenience, to regard their
intimacy as mere good fellowship. The lady was looked upon as one of
those giddy creatures who love to sport on the edge of an abyss. Mrs.
Ferguson, the daughter of a hotel-keeper at San Francisco and wife of a
man whose wealth increased daily, was the exact opposite to Madame de
Gandry--white and pink, with large eyes and sharp little teeth, very
slender and flat-figured like many Americans. She dyed her hair,
rouged, dressed conspicuously, spoke eccentric English and detestable
French, sang Judic's songs, and had been introduced to Roman society by
the Marchese B---- who had met her at Nice. Her friendship with Madame
de Gandry had begun on the strength of a landau they had hired between
them, had culminated in an opera-box on the same terms, and would
probably be destroyed by a lover--in common too.

A few gentlemen had also arrived: Count de Gandry, who looked like a
hair-dresser and was suspected of carrying on a covert business as
dealer in antiquities; M. Dieudonné Crespigny de Bellancourt, a
square-built French diplomatist, the son of a butcher and son-in-law to
a duke, etc., etc. The latest bankruptcy, the climate of Rome, the
excavations, were all discussed. Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson
submitted at first to the tedium of a general conversation, but
contrived at the same time to attract as much of the men's attention as
was possible under the circumstances. Soon after eleven the Countess
Ilsenbergh came in; she had come from a grand dinner and looked bored
to death.

"It really is absurd how one meets every one in Rome," she said
presently, when she had been questioned as to the how and where of the
party she had just quitted. "Who do you think I came across to-day,
Marie?--That Lenz girl from Vienna; now she is a duchess or a Countess
Montidor--Heaven knows which; once, years ago, I had something to do
with a charity sale she got up, so now she comes up to me as if I were
an old acquaintance and pretends to be intimate, talks of 'we
Austrians,' and 'at home at Vienna.'--Amusing, rather?"

"Poor Fritzi! I feel for you!" exclaimed Sempaly with a malicious
laugh. "But there is a greater treat in store for you. The Sterzl
women, mother and sister, are coming in a few days."

"Indeed! that is pleasant certainly!"

"Why?" asked Madame de Gandry, throwing herself into the conversation.
"Are they objectionable people?"

"By no means," said the countess quickly. "I believe they are the most
respectable people in the world, but--it is a bore to be constantly
meeting people here whom one could not possibly recognize in Vienna.
You should give him a hint, Nicki--tell him--explain to him...."

"To be sure," said Sempaly laughing, "I might say: Look here, my good
friend, beware of taking your mother and sister out anywhere; my cousin
the countess would rather not meet them."

The countess shrugged her shoulders and turned away from her flippant
interlocutor, tapping her fan impatiently. "Do you mean to receive them
Marie?" she asked.

"Whom do I not receive?" said the princess in an undertone, with a
significant glance.

"Well I cannot--decidedly not," said the countess excitedly, "though I
shall be grieved to annoy Sterzl. It will be his own fault entirely if
he forces me to explain myself."

"Do as you think proper," replied her friend, "but you know I am very
fond of Sterzl; he stands high in my good graces."

"What! _le Paysan du Danube_?" giggled Madame de Gandry, who had only
partly understood the conversation.

"Sterzl is a man of the highest respectability," said the countess
icily; she did not intend to allow that little French woman to laugh at
her fellow-countryman, though he was not a man of birth.

"_Le Paysan du Danube_ is my particular friend," said the princess with
the simple heartiness that was so peculiarly her own. "I am very fond
of him; he is quite one of ourselves."

"He can have no higher reward on earth," said her brother with
good-humored irony.

"When my small boy fell and broke his arm, here in this very room,
Sterzl picked him up, and you should have seen how gently he held my
poor darling," added the princess.

"That is ample evidence in favor of the fact that his woman-kind are
presentable," laughed Sempaly.

"But allow me to ask," interposed the Madame de Gandry, "just that I
may understand what I am about--these Sterzls, they are not in good
society in Austria?"

"Our Austrian etiquette can afford no standpoint for foreign society,"
said Truyn with unusual sharpness, for he could not endure Madame de
Gandry; "we receive no one who is not by birth one of ourselves."

"Yes," said Sempaly with a keen glance, "Austrian society is as
exclusive as the House of Israel, and scorns proselytes." And the
leather-seller's daughter, who had not understood--or not chosen to
understand Truyn's speech, replied with much presence of mind: "Ah, I
am glad to know what I am about."

Siegburg, who was sitting behind her, glanced at Sempaly and made an
expressive grimace.

Princess Vulpini looked almost spiteful. "I will not leave Sterzl in
the lurch," she said, "and if his sister is like his description of
her...."

"He has talked to you about his sister?" interrupted Sempaly.

"To be sure," said the princess with a smile, "and to you too, I should
not wonder, Nicki?"

"No indeed, he does not show me his sacred places, I am not worthy,"
replied Sempaly. "He only told me that she was coming, and with a very
singular smile. Hm, Hm! he seems to set great store by the young lady
and will no doubt look out for a fine match for her. I should not
wonder if he had got her here for that express purpose. Norina, take
care of yourself--forewarned you know...."

"Mademoiselle Sterzl will hardly aspire to a prince's crown!" exclaimed
Madame de Gandry, up in arms to defend her property.

"Sterzl will not let his sister go for less," asserted Sempaly.

"Do not talk such nonsense," said Truyn, to check Sempaly's audacity.

But Sempaly was leaning over a table and scribbling on the back of an
old letter; presently he handed the half sheet to the Countess
Ilsenbergh; Madame de Gandry peeped over her shoulder.

"Capital!" she exclaimed, "delicious!" Sempaly had sketched Sterzl as
an auctioneer, the hammer in one hand and a fashionably-dressed doll in
the other, with all the Princes in Rome crowded round. In one corner he
had written: "This lot--Fräulein Sterzl--once, twice, thrice...."

The sketch was handed round; the likeness of Sterzl was unmistakable.
Soon after the Countess Ilsenbergh went away, and as the company were
not in the best of humors the two friends also withdrew shortly after
midnight followed by those gentlemen who had come in their train.

"Fritzi is really a victim to an _idée fixe_," the princess began when
this indiscreet group had departed; "she wants me to entrench myself in
dignified reserve against this poor little thing. What harm can the
child do me?"

"I cannot imagine," said Siegburg; "indeed, if she is pretty and has
some money, it strikes me I will marry her myself--that will set
matters straight" Siegburg was fond of talking of the money that his
wife must bring him, and liked to air the selfishness of which he was
innocent, as very rich folks sometimes make a parade of poverty.

"And it was really very stupid of Fritzi to ventilate this idiotic
nonsense before those two women," added the princess, who was apt to
express herself strongly; but nothing that she said ever sounded badly,
on the contrary, she lent a grace to whatever she said. "Does she think
she can make me turn exclusive!"

"I hope you observed how that pinchbeck countess was prepared to tread
in her footsteps," said Seigburg.

Truyn meanwhile was hunting eagerly about the chimney-shelf and the
tables, assisted by the master of the house.

"What are you looking for, Erich?" asked his sister.

"For that sketch of Sempaly's. I should not like to leave the thing
about. Excuse me, Nicki, the caricature was capital, I have nothing to
say against it, if it had only been among ourselves; but you really
ought not to have shown it to strangers. You are so heedless, you do
not think of what you are doing."

"And what have I done now?" asked Sempaly without any trace of
annoyance.

"You have simply stamped this young girl as an adventuress on the
look-out for a husband."

"Pooh! as if so trifling a jest could be taken in earnest!" said
Sempaly. They searched everywhere for the caricature but in vain.

"I am convinced that wretched woman put it in her pocket!" cried the
princess indignantly. That wretched woman was of course Madame de
Gandry.

                               *   *   *

It was true that Princess Vulpini was very fond of Sterzl, and he
returned her regard with almost rapturous devotion. In spite of an
unpolished and absent manner he had a vein of poetic chivalry and a
pure reverence for true and lofty womanhood. He could not think it
worth his while to offer to any woman that flattery--often impertinent
enough in reality--that gratifies some of the sex, and he had never
learnt the A B C of modern gallantry; but in his intercourse with those
whom he spoke of as "true women" there was a touch of chivalrous
protection and reserved deference. His behavior to them was so full of
an old-fashioned courtesy that he was certain to win their favor; he
treated them partly like children that must be cared for, and partly
like sacred beings before whom we must bow the knee.

Immediately on his arrival in Rome the princess found great pleasure in
their acquaintance, she confided to him all her little indignation at
this or that grievance in Rome, and allowed him to take a variety of
small cares off her shoulders, being, as all women of her soft nature
are, very fastidious and utterly unpractical.

There had been few sweeter girls in the Vienna world than the Countess
Marie Truyn in her day, and there was not now in all Rome a more
lovable woman than the Princess Vulpini. When in the afternoons she
drove out in her open carriage, with her four or five children that
looked as though they had been stolen straight out of one of Kate
Greenaway's picture books, along the Corso to the Villa Borghese, her
fashionable acquaintance, who had brought out their most recent or most
fashionable bosom-friend instead of their children, would exclaim:
"Here comes true happiness!" And the men bowed to her with particular
respect, eager to win the friendly and gracious smile that warmed all
hearts like a ray of spring sunshine. She had never been a regular
beauty and had early lost her youthful freshness and the slim figure
that had been almost proverbial. Nevertheless her charm was
undiminished; her chief ornament, a wonderful abundance of bright brown
hair, was as fine as ever and she wore it still, as when a girl of
sixteen, simply combed back and gathered into a knot low down at the
back. In spite of her faded complexion there was a childlike sweetness
in her small round face, with its kind little eyes, its delicate
turned-up nose, and soft lips that had no beauty till they smiled. All
her movements were simple and graceful and her whole appearance
conveyed the impression of exquisite refinement and the loftiest
womanliness. Her dress was apt to be a little out of fashion, the
latest _chic_ never suited her. She was a great reader, even of very
solid books, especially affecting natural science; but she retained
nevertheless the literal faith of her infancy, and this innocent
orthodoxy was part and parcel of the simple fervency of her character.
Sempaly, who was sincerely attached to her, always spoke of her devout
piety as one of her most engaging qualities; he declared that a woman
to be truly sympathetic must be religious; that a man may allow himself
to profess free thought, but that a sceptical woman was as odious as a
woman with a hump. To this observation, which Sempaly once threw out in
the presence of Sterzl, Cecil took great exception, though he himself
was as devoid of religious beliefs as Sempaly himself; he thought it
impertinent.

"Men do not jest about the women whose names are sacred to them," he
said with the pedantic chivalry, which always provoked his colleague's
opposition. However, Sempaly only retorted with a sneering smile and a
shrug.



                              CHAPTER IV.


A few days after the evening when Sempaly had given such brilliant
proof of his talent as a caricaturist, General von Klinger was sitting
in his studio on a divan covered with a picturesque Persian rug and
endeavoring--having for the moment nothing better to do--to teach his
parrot to sing the Austrian anthem--a loyal task which the bird,
perched on the top of its cage, persistently refused to learn. It was a
gorgeous studio, with a coved ceiling painted in fresco and a _rococo_
plaster cornice, the walls hung with old tapestry, eastern stuffs and
other "properties." It was so large that men looked like dwarfs in it,
and the general's works of art like illustrations cut out of a picture
book. The scirocco brooded in the atmosphere and the general was out of
sorts; he could not get on with his painting, and though it was now a
quarter to five not a visitor had he seen. Usually by this hour he had
a number--nay sometimes too many. The general often grumbled--to
himself of course--at the interruption; but he always enjoyed the
little dissipation; it made him melancholy to be left to himself.

He was thinking just now how difficult it was to get on as a painter;
his coloring was capital--so all his artist friends assured him; but
that his drawing left much to be desired he himself confessed. His two
strong points were a harmonious effect of grey tone and horses seen
from behind. All his pictures returned to him from the exhibitions
unsold, excepting one which was purchased by the emperor in
consideration of the general's former merits as a soldier rather than
of his talents as an artist. The painters who came to smoke his
cigarettes accounted for this by saying that his artistic aims were too
independent, that he made no concessions to public taste and so could
not hope for popularity.

He was in the very act of whistling the national anthem for the
sixteenth time to the recalcitrant bird, when he heard a knock at the
door; he rose to open it and Sempaly came in. He had called to inform
the general that he had discovered a very fine though much damaged
piece of tapestry in a convent, and had bought it for a mere song; he
had in fact purchased it for the general because he knew that it was
just such a specimen as he had long wished for. "But if you do not care
to take it I shall be very glad to keep it," he added. No one had the
art of doing an obliging thing with a better grace than he; it was one
of his little accomplishments.

When they had settled their business Sempaly broke into loud
lamentations that he was obliged to dine that day at the British
embassy, and then to dance at the French ambassador's, and raved about
the ideal life led by his friend--he only wished he could lead such a
life--in which there were no evening parties, routs, balls or dinners.
Next he wandered round the room looking at all the studies that hid
their faces against the wall. "Charming!" "Superb!" he kept exclaiming
in French, with his Austrian accent, from a sheer impulse to say
something pleasant--he always tried to make himself pleasant. "Why do
not you work that thing up?" he said at length, pointing to a sketch on
canvas of a group of bashibazouks.

"It might sell," replied the artist whose great difficulty always lay
in the 'working up,' "but you know I am independent in my aims, I set
my face against making concessions to the vulgar; I must work on my own
principles and not to pander to the public."

Sempaly smiled at this profession of faith.

"As it is a mere whim with you ever to sell at all," he answered, "my
advice is that you should never attempt it, but leave all your works to
the nation, so that we may have a _Musée Wierz_ at Vienna."

The general assured him that he was quite in earnest in his desire to
sell his pictures, but Sempaly smiled knowingly.

"There was once upon a time," he began, "a cobbler who was a man of
genius, but he prided himself on his sense of beauty and his artistic
convictions, and he heeded not the requirements of his customers--he
would make nothing but Greek sandals. He died a beggar, but happy in
the consciousness of never having made a concession to the vulgar."

The general was on the point of making an indignant reply to this
malicious anecdote, when the loud rap was again heard which seems to be
traditional at a studio door; it is supposed to be necessary to arouse
the artist from his absorption in his work. The general went to admit
his visitor.

There was a small ante-room between the studio and the stairs. The door
was no sooner opened than in flitted a slender creature, fair and
blooming, tall, slim, and bewitchingly pretty, in a dark dress and a
sealskin jacket.

"What, you Zinka!" cried the old general delightedly. "This is a
surprise! How long have you been in Rome?"

"Only since this morning," answered a gay voice.

"And are you alone?" asked the artist in astonishment, as Zinka shut
the door and went forward into the atelier.

"Yes, quite alone," she said calmly. "I left the maid at home; she and
mamma are fast asleep, resting after their journey. I came alone in a
carriage--it was very nice of me do not you think?--Why, what a face to
make!... And why have you not given me a kiss. Uncle Klinger?" She
stood before him bright and confident, her head a little thrown back,
her hands in a tiny muff, gazing at him with surprise in her frank grey
eyes.

"My dear Zinka...." the general began--for, like all conscientious old
gentlemen with romantic memories, he was desperately punctilious as to
the proprieties when any lady in whom he took an interest was
implicated, "I am charmed, delighted to see you.... But in a strange
place, where you know no one, and in a strange house where...."

"Oh, now I understand," cried the girl. "It is not proper!... I shall
live to be a hundred before I know exactly what is proper; it is very
odd, but Uncle Sterzl used always to say that it was of no use to worry
about it; that if people were ladies and gentlemen everything was
proper, and if they were not why it was all the same. But he did not
know what he was talking about, it would seem!" and she turned sharply
on her heel and made for the door.

"But, my dear Zinka," cried the general holding her back, "tell me at
least where you are living before you whisk off like a whirlwind. Do
not be so utterly unreasonable."

"I am perfectly reasonable," she retorted. She was both embarrassed
and angry; her cheeks were scarlet and her eyes full of tears. "It
never would have occurred to me certainly that there was anything
improper in calling on an old gentleman," and she emphasized the words
quite viciously, "in his studio. Oh, the vanity of men! Who can
foresee its limits!--But I am perfectly reasonable, I acknowledge my
mistake--simpleton that I am!... And I have been looking forward all
day to taking you by surprise. I meant to ask you to dine with us at
the Hotel de l'Europe and to come with me first to the Pincio to see
the sunset. And these are the thanks I get!... Do not trouble yourself
to get your hat, it is waste of trouble; I do not want you now.
Good-bye." And she flew off, her head in the air, without looking back
once at the general who dutifully escorted her to the carriage.

The old man came back much crest-fallen. A voice greeted him
cheerfully:

"Quite in disgrace, general!"

It was Sempaly, who had witnessed the whole scene from a recess, and
whom the general had entirely forgotten.

"So it seems," said he shortly, beginning to scrape his palette.

"But tell me who is this despotic little princess?"

"Who? My god-daughter, Zinka Sterzl."

                               *   *   *

Thunderbolts are out of date, no one believes in them now-a-days;
nevertheless it is a fact, which Sempaly himself never contradicted,
that he fell in love with Zinka at first sight. And when a few days
after Zinka's irruption into the general's studio the old gentleman
accepted an invitation to dine with the Baroness Sterzl at the Hotel de
l'Europe, on entering the room he found, eagerly employed in looking
over a quantity of photographs with the young lady--Count Sempaly.

The two gentlemen were the only guests, and yet--or perhaps in
consequence--the little party was as gay and pleasant as was possible
with so affected and formal a hostess as the "Baroness."

This lady, a narrow and perverse soul as ever lived, was the very
essence of vanity and affectation. She imagined--Heaven alone knows on
what grounds--that the general had formerly loved her hopelessly, and
she always treated him accordingly with a consideration that was
intolerably irritating. She had made great strides in the airs of
refinement since she and the general had last met--at a time before
she, or rather her children, had become rich through an advantageous
sale of part of their land, and this of course added to the charms of
her society. She was perpetually complaining in a tone of feeble
elegance--the sleeping-carriages were intolerable, the seats were so
badly stuffed, Rome was so dirty, the hotels were so bad, the
conveyances so miserable; she brought in the names of all the
aristocratic acquaintances they had made at Nice, at Meran, and at
Biarritz, and asked--the next day being a saint's day--which church was
fit to go to. The vehement old general answered hotly that "God was in
them all." But Sempaly informed her with the politest gravity that
Cardinal X---- read mass in the morning at St. Peter's and that the
music was splendid. "I advise you to try St. Peter's."

"Indeed, is St. Peter's possible on a saint's day?" she asked. "The
company is usually so mixed in those large churches."

The general fairly blushed for her follies on her children's account.

"Have you forgiven me, Zinka?" he said to change the conversation.

"As if I had time to trouble myself about your strait-laced
proprieties!" exclaimed she, coloring slightly; she evidently did not
like this allusion to her little indiscretion: "I have something much
worse to think about."

"Why--what is the matter, sweetheart?" asked her brother, who took
everything seriously.

"I have lost something," she said in a tone of deep melancholy which
evidently covered some jest.

"Not a four-leaved shamrock or a medal blessed by the pope?" asked the
general.

"Oh, no! something much more important."

"Your purse!" exclaimed the baroness hastily. But Zinka burst out
laughing. "No, no, something much greater--you will never guess: Rome."

On which Sterzl, who could never make out what his fascinating little
sister would be at, only said: "That is beyond me."

But Sempaly was sympathetic. "I see you are terribly disappointed," he
said, and Zinka went on like a person accustomed to be listened to.

"Yes, ever since I could think at all I have dreamed of Rome and longed
to see it. My Rome was a suburb of Heaven, but this Rome is a suburb of
Paris. My Rome was glorious and this Rome is simply hideous."

"Do not be flippant, Zinka," said the general, who always upheld
traditional worship.

"Well, as a city Rome is really very ugly," interposed her brother, "it
is more interesting as a museum of antiquities with life-size
illustrations. Still, you do not know it yet. You have seen nothing as
yet...."

"But lodgings, you mean," retorted Zinka, casting down her eyes with
sanctimonious sauciness.

"It is dreadful!" the baroness began, "we have been here five days and
cannot find an apartment fit to live in. Wherever we go there is some
drawback; the stairs are too dark, or the entrance is bad, or there is
only one door to the salon, or the servants' rooms...."

"But my dear Zinka," interrupted the general, "if you really have seen
nothing of Rome excepting the lodgings in the Corso, of course...."

"Oh! but I have seen something else," cried Zinka, "indeed, I know my
way about Rome very well."

"In your dreams?"

"No, I went yesterday; mamma had a sick headache."

"Oh! those headaches!" sighed the baroness putting her salts to her
nose, "I am a perfect martyr to them!"

To have sick headaches and be a strict Catholic were marks of good
style in the baroness's estimation. Sempaly put on a sympathetic
expression, but returned at once to the subject in hand.

"Yes, I know Rome very well," Zinka went on: "You have only to ask the
driver of the street cab No. 1203, and he will tell you. I drove about
with him for three hours yesterday. You see, to have been in Rome a
whole week and to have seen nothing but furnished lodgings was really
too bad, so I took advantage of the opportunity when mamma was in bed;
I slipped out--you need not make that face, Uncle, I took the maid with
me--we meant to walk everywhere with a map. Of course we lost our way,
_cela va sans dire_, and as we were standing helpless, each holding the
map by a corner, a driver signed to us--so, with his first finger. In
we got and he asked us where we wished to go, but as I had no answer
ready he said with the most paternal air: 'Ah! the signora wants to see
Rome--good, I will show her Rome!' And he set off, round and round and
in and out, all through the city. I was positively giddy with this
waltz round all the sights of Rome. He showed me a perfect forest of
fallen pillars, with images of gods and fragments of sculpture
carefully heaped round them, like Christmas boxes for lovers of
antiquities--'the _Campo Vaccino_,' he called it--I believe it was the
Forum; then he pointed out the palace of Beatrice Cenci, the Jews'
quarter, the Theatre of Marcellus, the Temple of Vesta; and every time
he showed me anything he added: 'Now am I not a capital guide? Many a
driver would only take you from place to place, and what would you see?
Nothing ... a heap of stones ... but I tell you: that is the Colisseum,
and this is the Portico of Octavia, and then the stones have some
meaning.' And at last he set me down at the door of the hotel and said
quite seriously: 'Now the signora has seen Rome.'"

They were now at dessert; the baroness looked anything rather than
pleased.

"Allow me to request," she said, "that for the future in the first
place you will not make friends with a common driver and in the second,
that you will not drive about Rome in a _Botta_ (a one horse carriage);
it is not at all the thing. You have no sense of fitness whatever."

Zinka, who was both sensitive and spoilt, colored.

"Let her be, mother, why should she not learn a little Italian and ride
in a _Botta_? said Sterzl, who rubbed his mother the wrong way from
morning till night. Sempaly took prompt advantage of the situation to
whisper to Zinka:

"I cannot promise to be as good company as your _Botta_ driver, but if
you will allow me, I will do my best to help you to find the Rome you
have lost."

"Are you sure you know your way about?" asked the girl with frank
incivility.

"I am the _laquais de place_ of the Embassy I assure you," replied
Sempaly laughing; "my only serious occupation consists in showing
strangers the sights of Rome."

After this the evening passed gaily; the baroness made a few idiotic
speeches but Sempaly forbore to be ironical; he was on his very best
behavior, and the baroness was quite taken in by his elaborate reserve.
Not so Sterzl, who was himself too painfully alive to her aristocratic
airs and pretensions. However, the society of his sister, whom he
adored, had put him into the best of humors; he launched forth a few
bitter epigrams against the priesthood, and was satirical about the
society of Rome, but Zinka stopped him every time with some engaging
nonsense, and in listening to her chatter he forgot his bitterness.

At last he asked her to sing a Moravian popular song; she seated
herself at the hotel piano and began. There was something mystical in
the low veiled tones of her voice like an echo of the past, as she sang
the melancholy, dreamy strains of her native land. Sterzl, who always
yawned all through an opera, listened to her singing, his head resting
on his hand, in a sort of ecstasy. In Sempaly too, who in spite of his
Hungarian name was by birth a Moravian, Zinka's simple melody roused
the half-choked echoes of his youth, and when she ceased he thanked her
with genuine feeling.

Zinka's was an April weather nature. After bringing the tears into the
eyes of her hearers, nay into her own, with her song, she suddenly
struck up an air by Lecocq that she had heard Judic sing at Nice. The
words, as was perfectly evident to all the party, were Hebrew to the
girl, but the baroness was beside herself.

"Zinka!" she exclaimed in extreme consternation, "you really are
incredible--what must these gentlemen think of you!"

"Do not be in the least uneasy," said the general. But Zinka stopped
short; her face was pale and quivering; Sterzl interposed:

"It is often a little difficult to follow my sister's vagaries," he
said turning to Sempaly; then he tenderly stroked her golden head with
his large, firm hand, saying: "Do not be unhappy, sweetheart; but you
are a little too much of a goose for your age."

When presently Sempaly had quitted the hotel with the general his first
words were: "Tell me, how is it that with such a fool of a mother that
child has remained so angelically fresh--so _Botticelli_?"



                               CHAPTER V.


A mine somewhere in Poland or Bohemia came to grief about this time by
some accidental visitation, and five hundred families were left
destitute through the disaster. Of course the opportunity was
immediately seized upon for charitable dissipations, for qualifying for
Orders of Merit by liberal donations, and for attracting the eyes of
Europe by the most extravagant display of philanthropy. After much
deliberation Countess Ilsenbergh had arrived at the conviction that, as
both the ambassadors' families were hindered by mourning from giving
any public entertainment, the duty of taking the lead devolved upon
her. The rooms in her Palazzo were made on purpose for grand
festivities, and after endless discussion it was decided that the
entertainment should be dramatic. An Operetta, a _Proverbe_ by Musset,
and a series of _Tableaux Vivants_ were finally put in rehearsal and a
collection was to be made after the performance.

Madame de Gandry threw herself into the undertaking with the most
commendable ardor. She was on intimate terms with the leading spirits
at the Villa Medici--the French Academy of Arts at Rome--and she
interested herself in the painting of the scenes, and in the artistic
designing of the dresses in which she proved invaluable. Up to a
certain point all went smoothly. The operetta--an unpublished effort of
course--by a Russian amateur of rank who was very proud of not even
knowing his notes, was soon cast. It needed only three performers and
led up to the introduction of an elaborate masquerade and of certain
suggestive French songs. Mrs. Ferguson, who never let slip an
opportunity of powdering her hair and sticking on patches, was to sing
the soprano part; Crespigny took that of a husband or a guardian in a
nightcap or flowered dressing-gown, and a young French painter, M.
Barillat, who was at all times equally ready to sketch or to wear a
becoming costume, was to fill that of the lover. The cast of the little
French play was equally satisfactory; but when the arrangement of the
tableaux came to be considered difficulties arose. In the first place
all the ladies were eager to display their charms under the becoming
light of a tableau vivant; and the number of volunteers was quite
bewildering to the committee of management that met every day at the
Ilsenberghs' house. Then squabbles and dissatisfaction arose; the
ladies did not approve of the choice of subjects, they thought their
dresses unbecoming, their positions disadvantageous; each one to whom a
place at the side was assigned was deeply aggrieved; an unappreciated
beauty who prided herself on her profile from the left would not for
worlds be seen from the right, etc., etc. And above all--an insuperable
difficulty--almost all the available men of the set manifested the
greatest objection to 'making themselves ridiculous' and positively
rejected the most flattering blandishments of the ladies' committee.
Sempaly, who had been asked to appear as a Roman emperor, would not
hear of putting on flesh-colored tights and a wreath of vine; and Truyn
had shrugged his shoulders at the proposal that he should don a wig
with long curls.

Siegburg--little Siegburg, as he was always called, though he was
nearly six feet high--after defending himself with considerable humor,
good-naturedly agreed to stand as _Pierrot_, in a Watteau scene in
which the Vulpini children were to appear; and Sterzl, being personally
requested by his ambassador, submitted, though with an ill grace, to be
the executioner in Delaroche's picture of Lady Jane Grey. This tableau
was to be the crowning glory of the performance; Barillat had taken
infinitely more pains with it than with any other; the part of Lady
Jane was to be filled by a fair English girl, Lady Henrietta Stair; and
then, within a few days of the performance, Lady Henrietta fell ill of
the measles.

The committee were in despair when this news reached them, and all who
were concerned in the performance were summoned to meet at the Palazzo
that evening to talk the matter over. Hardly any one was absent; only
Sterzl, who detested the whole charity scramble, as he called it, sent
his excuses. Every lady present expected to find herself called upon to
stand--or rather to kneel--as Lady Jane Grey; but Mrs. Ferguson was the
first to give utterance to the thought, and to offer herself heroically
as Lady Henrietta's substitute. To the astonishment of all the company
Sempaly, whose interest in the work of benevolence had hitherto
displayed itself only in satirical remarks, and suggestions as to the
representation of Makart's 'entrance of Charles V.' or of Siemiradzky's
'living torches,' took an eager part in the discussion.

"Your self-sacrifice, Mrs. Ferguson," said he, "is more admirable every
day."

"Dear me," replied the lady innocently, "where is the self-sacrifice in
having an old gown cut up into a historical costume?"

"That, indeed, would be no sacrifice," said Sempaly coolly. "But it
must be a sacrifice for a lady to appear in a part that suits her so
remarkably ill."

Mrs. Ferguson smiled rather like some pretty little wild beast showing
its teeth.

"Ah!" she said, "I suppose you think I have none of that pathetic grace
that M. Barillat is so fond of talking about."

"No more than of saving grace," said Sempaly solemnly. Then, while the
women were disputing over the matter, he found an opportunity of
whispering a few words to Barillat; Barillat looked up delighted. At
this moment they were joined by Countess Ilsenbergh.

"I have another suggestion to offer Madame la Comtesse; I have thought
of some one...."

"Some newly-imported American," laughed Madame de Gandry, "or a
painter's model with studied grace and yellow hair?"

"You may rest assured that I should not for an instant think of
proposing to employ a model," Barillat emphatically declared; "no, the
lady in question is a very charming person: Fräulein Sterzl. I saw her
the day before yesterday at Lady Julia Ellis's; she is an Austrian--you
must know her surely?"

"I have not that pleasure," said the countess drily.

"You do not think she will do?" murmured the artist abashed. The
countess cleared her throat.

"Bless me!" cried Madame de Gandry furious at the pride of her Austrian
friend, "you take the matter really too much in earnest. Why on earth
should not the girl act with us? On these occasions, in Vienna, as I
have been informed, even actors are invited to help."

"That is quite different," said the countess.

Madame de Gandry shrugged her shoulders and turned away and the
countess beckoned to her cousin Sempaly. "I am heartily sick of the
whole business," she exclaimed. "At home I have got this sort of thing
up a score of times, and everything has gone well ... while here...."

"Yes, there is more method among us," replied Sempaly sympathetically.

"The people here are so unmanageable; every one wants to play the best
parts," said the countess.

"That is the result of the republican element," observed Sempaly.

"And now there is all this difficulty about the Lady Jane Grey
tableau," sighed the countess. "Why need that English girl take the
measles now, just when she is wanted."

"The English are always so inconsiderate," said Sempaly gravely.

"Do you happen to have met this little Sterzl girl?"

"Yes."

"What does she look like?"

"Well, she looks like a very pretty girl...."

"And besides that?"

"Besides that she looks very much like our own girls; it is really a
most extraordinary freak of nature! She seems to be very presentable on
further acquaintance; Princess Vulpini is quite in love with her."

"Indeed!--Well, Barillat is possessed with the idea of having her to
play the part of Lady Jane Grey and in Heaven's name let him have his
own way!" cried the countess. "If Marie Vulpini will bring her here I
will make the best of it."

"What, you mean to say that you will let her figure in your tableau and
not invite her mother?" laughed Sempaly.

"Invite her!--to the performance of course. I invite Tom, Dick, and
Harry, and all the English parsons and all the foreign artists."

"And all their families. Fritzi, you are an admirable woman!" retorted
Sempaly ironically.

"But the rehearsals are so perfectly intimate," she murmured. Time
pressed however. "Well, have it so for all I care;" said the countess
resignedly and next morning she paid a polite call on the Baroness
Sterzl to request Zinka's assistance; and as she had as much tact as
pride she had soon reconciled not only Zinka, but her sensitive
thin-skinned brother, to the fact that the young girl had only been
asked at the last moment and under the pressure of necessity to take
part in the performance. Cecil did not altogether like the idea of
displaying his pretty sister in a tableau and only consented because he
did not like to deprive Zinka of the pleasure which she looked forward
to with great delight. He adored the child and could refuse her
nothing.

The evening of the festival arrived; the performances took place in a
vast room almost lined with mirrors and lighted by wonderful Venetian
chandeliers that hung from the decorated ceiling where frescoes were
framed in tasteless gilt scroll work. In spite of its size the room was
crowded; the most illustrious of the company sat in solitary dignity in
the front row, and behind them was packed a fashionable but somewhat
mixed crowd. Manly forms of consummate elegance were squeezed against
the walls, and the assembly sparkled like a sea of sheeny silks and
glittering jewels. Princess Vulpini, who was helping the countess to do
the honors, hovered on the margin, graceful and kindly, but a little
pale and tired, and the countess herself reigned supreme in that regal
dignity which she could so becomingly assume on fitting occasions.
There were very few women who could wear a diamond coronet with such
good grace as Fritzi Ilsenbergh--even her intractable cousin Sempaly
did her that much justice.

The great success of the evening was not the little French play, in
which Madame de Gandry and the all-accomplished Barillat made and
parried their hits after the accepted methods of the _Théatre
Français_; it was not the operetta, in which Mrs. Ferguson looked
bewitchingly pretty and sang '_le Sentier convert_' to admiration; it
was not even the children's tableau, in which the little Vulpinis
looked like a bunch of freshly-gathered roses; the great success of the
evening was the tableau of Lady Jane Grey. Sterzl's face in this scene
was a perfect tragedy, all the misery of an executioner who adores his
victim was legible there. And Zinka!--gazing up to heaven with ecstatic
pathos, her whole attitude expressive of sacred resignation and
childlike awe, she was the very embodiment of the hapless and innocent
being before whom the executioner lowers his gaze. A string quartet
played the _allegretto_ from Beethoven's seventh symphony and the
melancholy music heightened the effect of the poetical tableau,
thrilling the audience like a lullaby sung by angels to soothe the
struggling, suffering human soul.

The whole artistic corps who had been invited from the Villa Medici,
with the director at their head, unanimously decided that this
performance far excelled all that had gone before, and Countess
Ilsenbergh forgot in its success all the annoyance it had occasioned
her. After the collection, which produced a magnificent sum, most of
the company dispersed. Ilsenbergh, with his most feudal smile,
expressed his thanks to all the performers in turn and presented
elegant bouquets to the ladies. The entertainment lost its formal
character and became a social gathering.

Zinka was sitting in a side room, surrounded by a host of young Romans
and Frenchmen. As she was one of those rare natures who derive not the
smallest satisfaction from the homage of men for whom they have no
regard, she listened to their enthusiastic compliments with absolute
indifference.

She had asked for an ice and Norina had offered it to her on his knees,
remaining in that position to pour out a string of high-flown
compliments. Zinka, unaccustomed to this Southern effusiveness, was
remonstrating with some annoyance but without the slightest effect,
when Sempaly came in and exclaimed in the abrupt tone he commonly used
to younger men: "Get up, Norina, do you not see that your devotion is
not appreciated."

The prince rose with a scowl, Sempaly drew a seat to Zinka's side and
in five minutes had, as usual, entirely monopolized her.

"My cousin the countess owes everything to you," he said in his most
musical tones; "you saved the whole thing. I detest all amateur
performances, but that tableau of Lady Jane Grey was really beautiful."

"I liked the French play very much. Madame de Gandry's acting was full
of spirit."

"Bah! I have had more than enough of such spirit."

"Indeed!" laughed she, "it seems to me that you are suffering from
general weariness of life. You are blasé."

"What do you understand by being blasé?" he asked.

"Why, that exhaustion of heart and soul which comes of the fatigue
produced by a life of perpetual enjoyment; it is I believe an essential
element in the character of a man of fashion."

"Something between a malady and an affectation," remarked Sempaly.

"Just so; in short, to be blasé is the heartsickness of a fop."

Sempaly glanced at her keenly. "Your definition is admirable," he said,
"I will make a note of it; but the cap does not fit me. I am not blasé,
I am not indifferent to anything. Shams, hypocrisy, and
meretriciousness irritate me, but when I meet with anything really good
or lovely or genuine I can recognize it and admire it--more perhaps
than most men."

Meanwhile the winner of the musical prize from the Villa Medici had sat
down to the piano and plunged straightway out of a maundering
improvisation into a waltz by Strauss. The countess had no objection if
they liked to dance, and several couples were soon spinning under the
flaring candles.

Sempaly rose: "May I have the honor?" he said to Zinka, and they went
together into the dancing-room.

Zinka had the pretty peculiarity of turning pale rather than red as she
danced; her movements were not sprightly, but gliding and dreamy; in
fact she waltzed with uncommon grace. Sempaly had long since lost the
subaltern's delight in a dance; he only asked ladies who had some
special interest or charm for him, and every one knew it.

"Hm!" said Siegburg, shaking his head as he went up to General von
Klinger who was watching the graceful couple from a recess, "my little
game has come to nothing it seems to me."

"Have you retired then?" asked the general.

"By no means--quite the contrary; but my chances are small enough at
present I fancy; what do you say?" He looked straight into the old
man's eyes; he understood and said nothing.

"She dances beautifully, I never saw a girl dance better. How well she
holds her head," he murmured. Suddenly a flash of amusement lighted up
his eyes. "Look at Fritzi's face!" he exclaimed: "What a horrified
expression! a perfect Niobe."



                              CHAPTER VI.


Sempaly's intimacy with the Sterzls grew daily; he did the honors of
Rome to Zinka, and dined with them as a fourth two or three times a
week. After the tableaux at the Ilsenberghs' Zinka was asked
everywhere; all the men were at her feet, and all the ladies wanted to
learn her songs. The men she treated with the utmost indifference and
to the ladies she was always obliging, particularly to those whom no
one else would take the pains to be civil to, all of which greatly
added to her popularity. Truyn's little girl--a spoilt, shy thing, who
quarrelled with her maid three times a week regularly and insisted on
learning everything from Latin to water-color drawing, though she would
submit to no teacher but her father, perfectly worshipped Zinka and to
her was as docile as a lamb. Princess Vulpini was delighted at her
influence on her little niece and declared that Zinka was a real
treasure; and Lady Julia Ellis, who had made the young girl's
acquaintance two years since at Meran, was proud to take her out.
Whenever the baroness could not go the English lady was always ready to
chaperon Zinka, and when Lady Julia was 'at home' Zinka had to help her
to receive her guests and to make tea.

Countess Schalingen, a Canoness devoted to painting, full of
sentimentality and romance, whose ideas had not yet got beyond
Winterhalter, called Zinka 'quite delicious,' took her on excursions,
dragged her to all the curiosity-dealers, and finally painted her
portrait on a handscreen for Princess Vulpini--her head and shoulders
in gauzy drapery coming out of a lily. Before the end of a fortnight a
rich American had enquired about her rank and extraction, and the
handsome Crespigny had learnt all about her fortune. Norina paid his
court to her when his tyrant's back was turned and Mrs. Ferguson did
her the honor of being madly jealous.

But all this did not turn her head, it did not seem even to astonish
her; she had always been spoilt and wherever she had gone she had found
friends and admirers. When people were kind to her she was delighted,
but she would have been much more astonished if they had not been kind.
Sempaly had called her "_a Botticelli_," but the word was only
applicable to her mind; in appearance she had none of the ascetic grace
of the pre-Raphaelites. She was more like the crayon figures of Latour,
or that typical beauty of the eighteenth century, la Lamballe. She had
not the bloom of pink and white, but was pale, even in her youthful
freshness with soft shadows under her eyes; and her hair, which was
thick and waved naturally had reddish lights in the brown. A tender
down softened its outline on her temples without shading her forehead,
and gave her face a look of peculiar innocence. She was slight but not
angular, her arms were long and thin, her hands small and sometimes
red. Her moods varied between dreamy thoughtfulness and saucy high
spirits, her gait was usually free and light but occasionally a little
awkward, "like an angel with its wings clipped," Sempaly said. She had
a low veiled voice in speaking that reminded one of the vibrating tones
of an Amati violin. She was as wild as a boy, as graceful as a water
nixie, and as innocent as a child--with the crude innocence of a girl
who has been brought up chiefly by men--and all her ideas had the stamp
of dreamy seclusion and fervid sentiment.

She had had French and English governesses and had even been to school
in a convent for a year; still, the ruling influence in her life had
been that of her guardian. General Sterzl--an eccentric being with an
intense horror of sentimental school-friendships and of the
conventional propriety that comes of too early familiarity with the
world. It was to him that Zinka owed the one good word which Countess
Ilsenbergh spoke in her favor:

"One thing must be admitted; she is not affected, she is as natural as
one of our own girls."

                               *   *   *

"Poor Coralie!" the baroness would frequently exclaim, "what a pity
that she is not here; what a treat it would be for her!"

"Yes," Sterzl would answer in his dry way, "she was in too great a
hurry." And the baroness would cast her eyes up to heaven.

Coralie was her eldest and favorite daughter. Disappointed in her
love of some hard-hearted gentleman she had renounced the vanities of
the world some three years since, but--like her mother's worthy
daughter--even in the depth of her disappointment and despair she had
taken care to choose a convent where the recluses were divided into
ladies and sisters, where the children who came to school there played
hide and seek under a French name, and where being a boarder was called
being _en pension_.

"Poor Coralie!" the baroness would sigh; and then seating herself at
her writing-table she would scribble endless letters about the delights
of a residence at Rome to all her friends in Austria, and especially to
her sister, the Baroness Wolnitzka.

Baroness Sterzl was a typical specimen of a class of nobility peculiar
to Austria, and called there, Heaven knows why, "the onion nobility"
(zwiebelnoblesse). It is a circle that may be described as a branch
concern of the best society; a half-blood relation; a mixture of the
elements that have been sifted out of the upper aristocracy and of the
parvenus from below, who find that they can be reciprocally useful; a
circle in which almost every man is a baron, and every woman, without
exception, is a baroness. Its members are for the most part poor, but
refined beyond expression. The mothers scold their children in bad
French and talk to their friends in fashionable slang; they give
parties, at which there is nothing to eat--but the family plate is
displayed, and where the company always consists of the same old
bachelors who dye their hair and know the _Almanack de Gotha_ by heart.
Everyone is well informed about the doings of the world--how many
shifts Minnie N. had in her trousseau, why the engagement between Fritz
O. and Lori P. was broken off, and much more to the same effect. Of
late years the 'onion-nobility,' with various other offshoots of the
higher culture, has been swamped by the advance of the liberals, that
is to say, by the progress of the financial classes.

Only a year since the baroness herself had stood on the stairs of the
opera-house to watch the occupants of the grand tier--at that time
appropriated to the cream of the aristocracy--to take note of
aristocratic dresses, and to hear aristocratic nothings from
aristocratic lips. Now, in Rome, she was living in the whirl of
society. Her satisfaction knew no bounds, and she made daily progress
in exclusiveness; the Countess Ilsenbergh, as compared to her, was a
mere bungler. But she was never so amusing to watch as when she met
some fellow-countrymen of untitled rank. It happened that this winter
there was in Rome a certain Herr Brauer, an old simpleton with a very
handsome wife who laid herself open for the admiration of all the young
men of any pretensions. Being furnished with a few letters of
introduction he and his fascinating partner disported themselves very
contentedly in the outer circle--the suburbs, so to speak--of good
society without having a suspicion how far they were from the centre.
Baroness Sterzl could never cease wondering "how those people could be
tolerated."

She was always well dressed, she gave capital little dinners, she had
the neatest coupé and the most comfortable landau, and her coachman had
the cleanest shaved imperial face and the smartest livery in Rome. Her
manners were somewhat changeable, since she was constantly endeavoring
to appropriate the airs and graces of the most fashionable women she
met. She was extremely unpopular and consequently bored to death
wherever she went; she was never quite easy as to her footing in
society and lived in the discomfort of a person who is always trying to
walk on tiptoe.

Her sole unqualified pleasure during this period--which, however, she
always spoke of as the happiest of her life--was the writing of the
above-mentioned letters home, and especially as has been said, to her
sister the Baroness Wolnitzka in Bohemia.

She craved a public to witness her success and, like all mean natures,
she knew no greater joy than that of exciting envy; she would often
read these epistles to Zinka, for she was very proud of her wordy
style. Zinka was somewhat disturbed by these flowery compositions which
always ended with these words: "What a pity it is that you should not
be here. It would give us the greatest pleasure to have you with us."

"Take care, mamma," said the girl, "they will take you at your word and
descend upon us."

"What are you dreaming of?" said the baroness folding her letter with
the utmost philosophy; "they have no money."



                              CHAPTER VII.


Hovels deep sunk in the ground, moss-grown thatched roofs, here and
there an old lime-tree or a tall pear-tree with crabbed branches
standing out black and bare against the wintry sky, slimy puddles, a
pond full to the brim in which three forlorn-looking geese are sadly
paddling, a swampy road along which a procession of ploughs are
splashing their way at the heels of the muddy, unkempt teams--in short,
a Bohemian village, with a shabby manor-house beyond. Over the
tumble-down gate-way, with a pigsty on one side and a dog-kennel
on the other, hangs a coat of arms. The mansion--a square house
with a steep shingle roof--stands, according to the unromantic custom
of the country, with one side looking on to the farm-yard; and the
drawing-room windows open exactly over an enormous dung heap which a
party of women are in the very act of turning with pitch-forks,
under the superintendence of a short stout man in a weather-beaten
hunting-hat and shooting-coat with padded silk sleeves out of which the
wadding is peeping at a hundred holes. He is smoking a pipe with a
china bowl decorated with a mincing odalisque. His face is broad and
red, his ears purple, and his aspect is anything rather than
aristocratic as he stands giggling and jesting with the damsels of the
steaming midden.

This is Baron Wolnitzky, a man who, like a good many others, got
himself a good deal talked about in 1848 and then vanished from the
scene without leaving a trace behind.

Often when we see some dry and barren tree shedding its sere and mouldy
leaves in the autumn we find it hard to believe that it bore blossoms
in the spring; and the baron was like such a tree. In the spring-tide
of 1848--an over-teeming spring throughout Europe--his soul too had
blossomed. He had had patriotic visions and had uttered them in rhyme,
and his country had hailed him as a prophet--perhaps because it needed
an idol, or perhaps because in those agitated times it could not tell
black from white. In those days he had displayed himself in a
magnificent national costume with sleeves of the most elaborate cut,
had married a patriotic wife who always dressed in the Slav colors:
blue, white, and red, and who got two young men, also dressed in Slav
costume, to mount guard at the door of her house. He was descended from
a Polish family that had immigrated many generations since and his
connections were as far as possible from being aristocratic, while he
owed his little fortune entirely to his father who had put no 'baron'
before his name, and who had earned it honestly as a master baker. In
feudal times it would hardly have occurred to him to furbish up this
very doubtful patent of nobility; but in the era of liberty it might
pass muster and prove useful. A very shy pedigree serves to shed glory
on a democratic martyr.

During the insurrection of June he fled with his wife in picturesque
disguise; at first to Dresden, and then to Switzerland where he lived
for some time in a boarding-house at Geneva, receiving homage as a
political refugee, and horrifying the mistress by his enormous
appetite. At length he returned to Bohemia where the events of
forty-eight and its picturesquely aparelled leaders had fallen
into oblivion. He retired to his little estate and turned
philosopher--philosophy, ever since the days of Diogenes, has been the
acknowledged refuge of shipwrecked hopes and pretensions.

There he went out walking in his shirt sleeves, played cards with the
peasants and grew more vulgar, fatter, and hungrier every day; and if
he ever had an idea it was unintentionally, in a bad dream after eating
too much of some national delicacy.

His wife, a robust and worthy soul, though full of absurdities, bore a
strong resemblance to the mother of the Regent Orleans in as much as
she had a sound understanding combined with a very sentimental nature,
was utterly devoid of tact, bitter to the verge of cynicism, thoroughly
indiscreet and a great chatterbox.

She resigned herself without demur to the new order of things and
brought a new tribe of children into the world, most of whom died
young. Three survived; two sons, who so far broke through the
traditions of the family as to become infantry officers, and one
daughter, in whom patriotic romance once more flickered into
fanaticism. This girl had been christened Bohuslawa, a name which was
commonly shortened into Slawa, which in the more important dialects of
the Slav tongue means Fame. She, like her mother, was of stalwart
build, but her features were regular though statuesque and heavy--she
was said to be like the Apollo Belvedere. She had already had four
suitors but neither of them had met her views and now at twenty--having
been born in forty-eight--she was spending the winter, unmarried and
sorely discontented, in the country, where she occupied herself with
serious studies and accepted the attentions of a needy young Pole who
was devoted to her and in whom she condescended to take some slight
interest.

But Baron Wolnitzky is still standing by the midden; the great black
dog, which till this moment has never ceased barking at the door of his
kennel, now, to introduce some variety into the programme, jumps on to
its roof, from which advantageous standpoint he still barks without
pause. Everything is dripping from the recently-thawed snow, and the
air is full of the splash and gurgle of dropping and trickling water;
the grey February twilight sinks upon the world and everything looks
dingy and soaked.

A sound of creaking wheels is heard approaching, and a dung-cart
appears in the gate-way.

"Well, what is going on in the town?" says the baron to the man who
comes up to him, wrapped in an evil-smelling sheepskin and with the
ears of his fur cap tied under his chin, to kiss his master's elbow.
"Have you brought the newspapers?"

"Yes, your Grace, my Lord Baron," says the man, "and a letter too." And
he draws a packet tied up in a red and white handkerchief out of a
pocket in his sheepskin. The baron looks at the documents. "Another
letter from Rome already," he mutters, grinning; "I must take it in at
once that the women may have something to talk about."

The women, that is to say his wife and daughter, were sitting in the
dining-room at a long table covered with a flowered cloth, on which
stood the tea things, a paraffine lamp, and a breadbasket of dull
silver filagree work. The lamp was smoking and the table looked as
uncomfortable and dingy as the village outside, half-buried in manure.
The baroness, in a tan-colored loose gown, in which she looked squarer
than ever, without a cap, her thin grey hair cut short, was hunting for
the tenth time to-day, on and under every article of furniture, for the
key of the storeroom. Bohuslawa, meanwhile sat still, with a volume of
Mickiewicz in her hand, out of which she was reading aloud in rather
stumbling Polish, with a harsh voice. A young man with a sharp-cut
sallow face and long black hair, in a Polish braided coat, wide collar
and olive-coloured satin cravat, corrected her pronunciation now and
then. He was her Polish adorer. He was one of that familiar species,
the teacher of languages with a romance in the background; he lived in
the neighouring town and came every Saturday to the village, four
railway stations off, to instruct Bohuslawa in Polish and spend Sunday
with the family.

When the union of these two patriots--which had already been secretly
discussed--was to take place, depended on a mysterious law-suit that
the young Pole was carrying on against the Russian government. His name
was Vladimir de Matuschowsky, his grandmother had been a Potocka, and
when he was not giving lessons, he was meditating conspiracies.

"Is there nothing else for tea?" asked the baron, casting a doubtful
eye on the stale-looking rolls in the bread-basket.

"No, the dogs have eaten up the cakes," replied the baroness coolly.
She was at the moment on all-fours under the piano, hunting for the key
behind the pedal.

"You will get an apoplexy," said Bohuslawa crossly but without anxiety,
and without making the smallest attempt to assist the old lady. But at
this instant a housemaid came in with the sought-for key on a bent and
copper-colored britannia-metal waiter.

"Oh, thank Heaven!" cried the baroness, "where was the wretched thing?"

"In the dog kennel,--your grace, my lady baroness, the puppy had
dragged it there."

In her love for dogs again the baroness resembled the Duchess of
Orleans; she always had a litter of half a dozen puppies to bring up,
and the kennel was a well-known hiding place for everything that could
not be found in its right place.

"The little rascals!" she exclaimed, with an admiring laugh at the
ingenious perversity of her mischievous pets. "Bring the sugar then,
Clara."

"I have a surprise for you," growled her husband, "a letter from Rome,"
and he produced the document, with its mixed odors of patchouli and
damp sheepskin, and pushed it across to his wife, while he took up the
rum bottle to flavor his tea.

"From Rome!" exclaimed the baroness, "that is delightful. Where, oh
where are my spectacles?" And she felt and patted herself all over till
the superfluous substance shook like a jelly.

"Ah, here they are--I am sitting on them--now then, children," and she
began to read the letter aloud.

"Dear Lotti, you must not take it ill that I so seldom write to
you"--the baroness looked up over her spectacles--"so seldom!... she
never in her life wrote to me so often as from Rome"--"but you cannot
imagine the turmoil in which we live. A dinner-party every day, two
evening parties and a ball. We are spending the carnival with the
_crême de la crême_ of Roman society. To-morrow we dine with Princess
Vulpini--she was a Truyn and is the sister of Truyn of R. The next day
we have theatricals, etc., etc. Zinka is an immense success. Nicki
Sempaly among others--the brother of Prince Sempaly, the great landed
proprietor--is very attentive to her...."

Here she was interrupted by her husband. "Well, I never thought the old
goose was quite such a simpleton!" he exclaimed, drumming his fingers
angrily on the red and white flowered cloth.

"I cannot imagine how Clotilde allows it!" cried the baroness--"and
still less do I understand Cecil."

"Take my advice, Lotti, go to Rome," observed the baron ironically; "go
and set their heads straight on their shoulders."

"With the greatest pleasure," replied his wife, taking his irony quite
seriously, "but unfortunately we have not the money."

Then she read the letter to the end; like all Clotilde's epistles it
ended with the words; "What a pity it is that you should not be here
too; it would give us the greatest pleasure to have you with us."

Tea was done; the maid servant cleared the table with a great clatter
of cups and spoons, the baron retired to play _Bulka_ with his
neighbors in the village inn-parlor; the three who were left sat in
meditative mood.

"I must confess that I should like to go to Rome," said the baroness,
as she swept the crumbs off her lap on to the floor, "and it would be
pleasant, too, to have relations there--for their grand acquaintance I
own I do not care a straw."

"I do not see why we should avoid all society if we were there,"
exclaimed Slawa hotly.

"Well, you could do as you liked about it, of course," said the
baroness, who held her daughter in the deepest respect, "I could stay
at home; you see, my dear Vladimir," she added almost condescendingly
to her son-in-law _in spe_, "I am uncomfortable in any company where I
cannot get into my slippers in the evening...."

"Mamma!" cried her daughter beside herself, "you really are!..."

The baroness sat abashed and silent--no one spoke. There was not a
sound in the room but the crackling of the fire in the huge tiled stove
and the snoring of the big hunting-dog that lay sleeping on the tail of
his mistress's skirt.

"If we only could sell the Bernini!" murmured the baroness presently,
resuming the thread of their conversation.

The Bernini was a bust of Apollo that the baroness had inherited from
her mother's family--said to be an adaptation by Bernini from the head
of the Apollo Belvedere. Whenever the Wolnitzkys were in any financial
straits the Bernini was packed off to some dealer in objects of
_vertu_, from which excursions it invariably returned unsold. Not many
days previously the travelled Apollo--he had seen New York, London, and
St. Petersburg--had come home from a visit to Meyer of Berlin.

"By the bye, Vladimir, you have not seen it yet," said Slawa, "I must
show you the bust."

"Is it the head that is said to be so strikingly like you?--that will
interest me greatly," said the young Pole, casting an adoring eye on
Slawa.

"Bring the lamp, the bust is in the drawing-room."

Vladimir, carrying the lamp, led the way into the drawing-room, a
large, scantily-furnished room which was never dusted more than once a
month. There, on a marble plinth in a corner, stood the radiant god--a
copy from the Belvedere Apollo no doubt--but by Bernini...?

"The likeness is extraordinary!" cried Vladimir ecstatically, and
gazing alternately at the bust and at Slawa. "Oh, it is a gem, a
masterpiece! you ought never to part with it."

"Well, but I must say I should very much like to go to Rome," sighed
the baroness; but Slawa only bit her lips.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


"And what shall we do to-morrow?" Sempaly would ask Zinka almost every
evening when he met her, fresh and smiling, at some party; he had made
it his task to help her to find her lost Rome and devoted himself to it
with praiseworthy diligence.

The disappointment that she had experienced in her expedition under the
guidance of the _botta_ driver to the ruins of the capital of the
Caesars is a common enough phenomenon; it comes over almost everyone
who sets out with his fancy crammed with the mystical cobwebs that
recent literature has spun round the name of Rome, to see for the first
time that dense mass of splendor and rubbish among the bare modern
houses. And the disappointment is greatest in those who come from a
long stay in Venice or Verona. Rome has none of the seductive charm of
those North Italian cities. Its architecture is sombre and heavy, and
the prevailing hues in winter are a sober grey and a dull bluish-green,
more suggestive of a subtly toned tempera picture than of a glowing oil
painting. It is vain to look for the sheen of the shimmering lagoons or
the fantastic outline of the campaniles against the sky of Venice; for
the half-ruined frescoes, or amber sunshine of Verona.

"After the cities of North Italy Rome has the effect of a severe choral
by Handel after a nocturne by Chopin. The first impression is
crushing," said Sempaly to Zinka; "but one wearies of the nocturne, and
never of the choral."

To which Zinka replied: "But the choral is so drowned by trivial
hurdy-gurdy tunes that I find it very difficult to follow." To which he
laughed and said: "We will speak of that again in a fortnight."

By the end of the fortnight Zinka had thrown two _soldi_ into the
Fountain of Trevi to make sure that she should some day see Rome again,
and in fanaticism for Rome she outdid even the fanatical General von
Klinger. Sempaly had contributed mainly to her conversion. Nothing
could be more amusing or more interesting than to explore every nook of
the city of ruins under his escort. He was constantly remembering this
or that wonderful thing that he must positively show to Zinka. An
artistic bas-relief that had been built to some queer orange-colored
house above a tobacconist's, or a heathen divinity which had had wings
attached to its shoulders to qualify it for admission as an angel into
a Christian church. He rode out with her into the Campagna, and pointed
out all the most picturesque parts of the Trastevere, and he could find
a ridiculous suggestion even in the most reverend things. The halls of
the Vatican in which the liberal minded Vicars of Christ have granted a
refuge to the pensioners of antiquity, he called the Poor-house of the
gods; and always spoke of St. Peter's, which is commonly known as _la
Parocchia dei Forestieri_, as the Papal Grand Hotel. There was not a
fountain, a fragment of sculpture, or a picturesque heap of ruins of
which he could not relate some history, comic or pathetic, or he
invented one; but he never produced the impression that he was giving a
lecture. He had in fact a particularly unpretending way of telling an
appropriate and not too lengthy anecdote; he never handed it round on a
waiter, as it were, for examination, but let it drop quietly out of his
pocket. His knowledge of art was but shallow, but his feeling for it,
like all his instincts, was amazingly keen. His information on all
subjects was miscellaneous and slender, not an article of his
intellectual wardrobe--as Charles Lamb has it--was whole; but he draped
himself in the rags with audacious grace and made no attempt to hide
the holes.

Truyn and his little daughter often joined them in these expeditions,
and sometimes Cecil, but only when his mother did not choose to go out,
and his demeanor on these occasions--'peripatetic æsthetics' he called
their walks--was highly characteristic. He would walk by the side of
his sister and Sempaly, or a few steps behind them, sunk in silence but
always sharply observant. From time to time he would correct their
cicerone in his dates, which Sempaly took with sublime indifference and
for which--taking off his hat--he invariably thanked him with princely
courtesy. Sterzl only sympathized with the classical style of the
Renaissance; the real antiques which Zinka raved about he smiled at as
caricatures; Guido on the other hand--for whom Sempaly had a weakness,
as a Chopin among painters--Sterzl detested. He declared that the
Beatrice Cenci had a cold wet bandage on her head, and that the picture
was nothing more than a study apparently made from an idiot in a
mad-house. When Zinka talked of her favorite antiques or other works in
the mystical and sentimental slang of the clique, he laughed at her,
but quite good-naturedly. He scorned all extravagance and raptures as
cant and affectation. Still he was merciful to his sister, and when she
turned from a Francia with tears in her eyes, or turned pale as she
quoted Shelley, or spoke of Leonardo's Medusa in Florence, he did no
more than shrug his shoulders and say: "Zinka, you are crazy," or
gently pull her by the ear. Everything in Zinka was right, even her
want of sound common sense.

The baroness had at last found a lodging, almost to her mind: a small
palazzo in a side street, off the Corso, "furnished in atrocious taste,
but otherwise very nice." The palazetto was in fact a gem in its way,
with a simple and elegant stone front and a court surrounded by a
colonnade with red camellia shrubs and a fountain in the midst. There
were several much injured antique statues too, one of which was a
famous and very beautiful Amazon at whose feet a rose-bush bloomed
profusely. This Amazon struck Zinka as remarkably picturesque and she
sketched her from every point of view without ever reading the warning
in her sad face. Alas! Zinka had gazed at the sun and it had blinded
her.

But how could Cecil allow this daily-growing intimacy between Sempaly
and his sister? Sempaly's elder brother, Prince Sempaly, had been
married ten years and was childless, so the attaché, as heir
presumptive, was in duty bound to make a brilliant marriage. Did not
Sterzl know this? Yes, he knew it, but he did not trouble his head
about it. He was under no illusion as to the singularity, not to say
the improbability of Sempaly marrying a girl of inferior birth; he had
no desire that it should be otherwise. He was no democrat; on the
contrary, his was a particularly conservative and old world nature,
equally remote from cringing or from envy. That Sempaly should marry
any other girl not his equal in rank would have struck him as
altogether wrong, but Zinka--Zinka was different. He worshipped her as
only a strong elder brother call worship a much younger weaker sister
and there was no social elevation of which he deemed her unworthy. And
when he saw Sempaly smile down so tenderly and at the same time so
respectfully on his 'butterfly,' as he called her, he was rejoiced at
her good fortune and never for an instant doubted it Zinka was not
sentimental. For a long time there was no tinge of any feeling stronger
than good fellowship in her intercourse with Sempaly; her talk was all
fun, her glance saucy and wilful. By degrees, however, a change came
over her; her whole manner softened, there was a gentle dreaminess even
in her caprice and when she smiled it was often with tears in her eyes.

Sempaly was not regular in his visits to the palazetto; sometimes for
two or three days he failed to appear, then he would call very
early--at noon perhaps, join the family unceremoniously at their
breakfast, go out driving with the ladies, accept an invitation to stay
to dinner, and if Zinka was looking pale or out of spirits, he would
pay her fifty kind little attentions to conjure a smile to her lips.
Occasionally he would fall into the melancholy vein and talk of his
loveless youth, and let her pity him for it. He would tell her about
his elder brother, praising his many noble qualities, and then add with
a shrug: "Yes, he is a splendid fellow, but ... he has ideas!" When
Zinka asked what sort of ideas, Sempaly sighed: "I hope you may some
day know him and then you can judge for yourself."

But this was in a low tone and he seemed to regret having said it. Then
he would frequently allude to this or that picture in his brother's
house at Vienna, or to some curious family relic, and say how much he
should like some day to show it to Zinka. His favorite theme, however,
was Erzburg, the old castle which for numberless generations had been
the family summer-retreat of the Sempalys and of which he was
passionately fond. Excepting as regards this estate he was singularly
free from all false or family pride; he declared that his brother's
Vienna palace was an unhealthy barrack, scouted at the Sempaly breed of
horses, laughed at the Sempaly nose, and praised the traditional
Sempaly tokay more in irony than in good faith--but then he came round
to Erzburg again and simply raved about it Not about the oriental
luxury with which part of the castle was fitted up--not in the best
taste--of that he never spoke; indeed, he said more about its
deficiencies than its perfections, but in a tone of such loving excuse!
He talked of the large bare rooms where, for years, he had watched for
the apparition of the white lady, half longing, half dreading to see
her; of the doleful groaning of the weather-cock of the _rococo_
statues in the grounds, and of the gloomy pools with their low sad
murmur, and their carpet of white waterlilies. The statues were bad,
the pools unhealthy he admitted, and yet, as he said it, his usually
mocking glance was soft and almost devout Once, when Zinka had grown
quite dismal over his reminiscences, he took her hand and pressed it
tenderly to his lips: "You must see Erzburg some day," he murmured.

His behavior to her was that of a man who is perfectly clear as to his
own intentions but who for some reason is not immediately free to sue
for the hand of a girl whom in his heart of hearts he already regards
as his own. What did he mean by all this? What was he thinking of? I
believe absolutely nothing. He went with the tide. There are many men
like him, selfish, luxurious natures who swim with the stream of life
and never attempt to steer; they have for the most part happy tempers,
they are content with any harbor so long as they reach it without
effort or damage, and if in their passive course they run down any one
else they exclaim with their usual amiable politeness: "Oh! I beg your
pardon!" and are quite satisfied that the mishap was due to fate and
not to any fault of theirs.



                              CHAPTER IX.


It was in the end of February, shortly before the close of the
carnival. Truyn, going to the Sterzls' with his little girl to take a
walk with Zinka, saw at the door of the palazetto a hackney carriage
with a small portmanteau on the top. Sterzl's man-servant, an elegant
person with close-cut hair, shaved all but a short beard, and wearing
an impressive watch-chain, was condescending to exchange a few words
with the driver blinking in the sunshine.

The drawing-room into which Truyn and his daughter were admitted
unannounced was in the full blaze of light. The motes danced their
aimless rainbow-colored dance; in the middle of the room stood Zinka
with both hands on a table over which she was bending to gaze at a
magnificent basket of flowers. There was something in her attitude,
quaint but graceful, in the elegant line of her bust, the pathetic joy
of her radiant face, the soft flow of her plain long dress, which
stamped the picture once and for ever on Truyn's memory. A sunbeam
wantoned in her hair turning it to gold and her whole figure was the
embodiment of sweet and happy spring delight The basket of flowers,
too, was a masterpiece of its kind--a _capriccio_ of lilies of the
valley, gardenias, snow-flakes, and pale-tinted roses, that looked as
though the wayward west-wind had blown them into company. Sterzl was
standing by, with a pleased smile, and the baroness, in an attitude of
affected astonishment, stood a little apart with a visiting-card in her
hand. Neither Cecil nor his sister--she absorbed in the flowers and he
in gazing at her--had heard Truyn arrive. When he knocked at the door
the baroness said "come in," and gave him the tips of her fingers;
then, with a wave of her hand towards the basket, she lisped out: "Did
you ever see such extravagance!"

Zinka looked up and welcomed him and so did Sterzl. "It is perfect
folly ... quite reckless...." sighed the baroness, "such a basket of
flowers costs a fortune. Why, only one gardenia...."

Zinka's underlip pouted impatiently and Sterzl said in his dry way:

"My dear mother, do not destroy Zinka's illusions; the basket fell from
heaven expressly for her and she does not want to believe that it was
bought, just like any other, in the Via Condotti or Babuino. What do
you say, Count? Sempaly sent it to her to console her for the departure
of her brother. The reason is too absurd, do not you think? I do not
believe you would miss me particularly for a few days, child?" and he
put his hand affectionately under her chin.

"Where are you off to so suddenly?" asked Truyn very seriously.

"To Naples. Franz Arnsperg has telegraphed to me to ask me to meet him
there; he is on his way to Paris from Constantinople, and he is a great
friend of mine and has come by way of Naples on purpose that we may
meet."

"The Arnsperg-Meiringens; you know their property adjoins ours," the
baroness explained. Sterzl, who knew very well that Truyn was far
better informed as to the Arnsperg-Meiringens than his mother, was
annoyed and uncomfortable. However, he kissed her hand and then turned
to his sister:

"God shield you, my darling butterfly--write me a few lines, or is that
too much to ask?" Then he kissed her and whispered: "Mind you have not
lost those bright eyes by the time I return."

Truyn accompanied him to the carriage with a very long face; he and
General von Klinger had watched Sempaly's conduct with much
disquietude, they knew him to be susceptible but not impressionable,
alive to every new emotion; and Truyn would ere this have spoken to
Sempaly on the subject if he had not been sure that it would merely
provoke and irritate him without producing any good effect; the
general, on the other hand, could not make up his mind to open Sterzl's
eyes to the state of affairs because, like Baron Stockmar, he had an
invincible dislike to interfering in matters that did not concern him.
Like that famous man, not for worlds would he have committed an
indiscretion to save a friend for whom he would have sacrificed his
life; and this terror of being indiscreet is a form of cowardice which
is considered meritorious in the fashionable world.



                               CHAPTER X.


It is Shrove Tuesday. The sorriest jade of the wretchedest _botta_ has
a paper rose stuck behind his ear, though during the hours sacred to
the carnival they are pariahs and outcasts from the Corso. Two-horse
carriages are dressed in garlands and the horses have plumes on their
heads. The Piazza di Spagna is alive with pedlars and hawkers, selling
flowers and little tapers (_moccoli_), and with buyers of every nation
doing their best to cheapen them. Baskets full of violets, roses,
anemones, snowflakes--baskets full of indescribable bunches of
greenery--the ammunition of the mob which have already done duty for
two or three days and are like nothing on earth but the wisps of rushes
with which the boards are rubbed in some parts of Austria. The sellers
of coral and tortoise-shell cry out to you to buy--"_e carnevale_...."
and in the side streets--for misery dares not show its head in the main
thoroughfares to-day--the beggars crowd more closely than ever round
the pedestrian with their perpetual cry: "_muojo di fame_."

The houses on the Corso wear their gay carnival trappings to-day for
the last time. A smart dress flutters on every balcony, several stands
have been erected and all the window-sills are covered, some with
colored chintz and some with gold brocade. All Thursday, Saturday, and
Monday Zinka and Gabrielle had driven unweariedly up and down the Corso
with Count Truyn, flinging flowers at all their acquaintances and at a
good many strangers. To-day, however, they had agreed to look on from
the windows of the Palazzo Vulpini, for the close of the carnival is
apt to be somewhat riotous. Every one who lives on the Corso seizes the
opportunity of paying long owing debts of civility and offers a place
in a window to as many friends as can possibly be squeezed in.

There was a large party at the Vulpinis', for the most part Italians
and relations of the prince's. Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson had
invited themselves, and Zinka, with Gabrielle Truyn, was to see the
turmoil in the Corso from the balcony of the palazzo. The baroness had
"tic douloureux" which kept her at home,--and which no one regretted.
At six o'clock, before the beginning of the _moccoli_, all the company
were to go to the '_Falcone_,' a well-known and especially Roman
restaurant where they would dine more comfortably and easily than at
home. From thence they were to adjourn to the _Teatro Costanzi_. Prince
Vulpini had drawn up this thoroughly carnival programme for the special
benefit of the Countess Schalingen who had a passion for "local color,"
and who was enchanted. The princess was resigned; local color had no
interest for her and she was somewhat prejudiced against Italian native
dishes and masked festivities of all kinds.

It was three o'clock. Baskets of flowers and whole heaps of sweet
little sugar-plum boxes were ready piled in the windows for ammunition.
The little Vulpinis, who entirely filled the large centre window, and
their shy English governess in her black gown, had just come into
the room, skipping about and pulling each other's hair for sheer
impatience and excitement; and when their governess reproved them for
behaving so roughly "_ma è carnevale_" is thought sufficient excuse;
the company laughed and the English girl said no more. All the party
had assembled. Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson were both looking
pretty and picturesque; the former had stuck on a fez, and the other a
quaintly-folded handkerchief of oriental stuff, in honor of the
carnival, when eccentricity of costume is admissible and conventional
head-gear are contemned.

From the windows down to the carriages, from the carriages up to the
windows the war was eagerly waged; bunches of flowers, and bonbonnières
from Spillman's and Nazzari's fly in all directions and scraps of
colored paper fall like snow through the air. Then the blare and pipe
of a military band came up from the Piazza di Venezia and the maskers
crowded in among the carriages. One of the liveliest groups along the
Corso was certainly that where the Vulpini children were grouped, with
Zinka in their midst, she having undertaken the charge of them at their
own earnest entreaty. She and Gabrielle were both laughing with glee,
but at the height of their fun they remembered to pay all sorts of
little civilities to the half-scared English governess and had stuck a
splendid bunch of lilies of the valley in front of her camphor-scented
black silk dress. What especially interested the children was watching
for Norina's carriage, for they not only recognized the prince who was
driving, but knew all his party: Truyn, Siegburg, Sempaly, and as it
passed with its four bays the little Vulpinis jumped with delight and
chirped and piped like a tree full of birds; the gentlemen waved their
hands, smiled, and gallantly aimed bouquets without end at the windows
of the palazzo. But all the finest flowers that day were, beyond a
doubt, aimed at Zinka. The floor all round her was heaped with
snowflakes, and violets, and roses. In her hand she had caught a huge
bunch of roses flung up to her by Sempaly.

"Oh, oh!" cried Madame de Gandry, retiring from the window to rest for
a few minutes and refresh herself with a sip of wine. "Ah,
mademoiselle!" glancing enviously at the mass of blossoms strewn round
Zinka, "you have as many bouquets as a prima donna!" Zinka nodded;
then, contemplating her hat, which she had thrown off in her
excitement, with a whimsical air of regret and pulling the feather
straight she said with a mockery of repentance:

"My poor hat will be glad to rest on Ash Wednesday."

"It is perfect, Marie, really perfect, this Roman carnival--a thing
never to be forgotten!" exclaimed the Countess Schalingen, coming in
from the window. She was a genuine Austrian, always ready to go into
ecstasies of enthusiasm.

"It is horrid," answered the princess impatiently. "Under the new
government it is nothing but an amusement for the strangers and street
boys."

The _Barberi_ have rushed past, and the procession has once more begun
to move on but its interest and excitement are over; the crowd in the
road begins to thin, and Sempaly, Truyn, Norina, Siegburg, and the
general have come in, as agreed, to escort the ladies to the 'Falcone,'
The children have all been kissed and sent off to their dinner at home;
Gabrielle somewhat ill-pleased at not being allowed to go with the
elder party and Truyn himself not liking to part with his little
companion. Zinka wishes to comfort Gabrielle by remaining with the
little ones, but this was not to be heard of.

"Only too many of us would wish to follow your example," whispers
Princess Vulpini, to whom this dinner at a Roman restaurant is
detestable.

They are to go on foot, but they are so long getting ready after this
little delay that the one peaceful half-hour before the _moccoli_ is
lost; by the time they sally into the street the crowd, which had
dispersed, is getting denser every minute. The darkness comes on
rapidly, like a grey curtain let down suddenly from the skies; the
gaudy hangings are being taken in from the windows lest they should
catch fire; the carnival is putting on its ball-dress. Now the first
twinkling tapers are seen here and there, like glow-worms in the dusk,
and are instantly pelted with _mazetti_ and bunches of greenery, mostly
picked up from the pavement "_Fuori! fuori!_" is the monotonous cry on
every side, and presently: "_senza moccolo, vergogna!_"--the death
cries of the carnival.

The Austrian gentlemen find their position anything rather than
pleasant, for it is impossible to protect the ladies effectually
against being jostled and pushed, still less against hearing much rough
jesting. At last they are out of the Corso and have divided in the
narrow streets; some having turned into the Via Maddalena, while others
have crossed the Piazza Capranica to the Piazza della Rotunda; but at
last they are all met after various small adventures at the
'_Falcone_.' The ladies' toilets have suffered a little and Princess
Vulpini looks very unhappy.

The '_Falcone_' is a very unpretending restaurant where the waiters
wear white jackets; the tariff is moderate and the _risotto_
celebrated. Vulpini orders a thoroughly Italian dinner in an upper
room.

Suddenly Truyn exclaims in dismay: "What has become of Zinka and
Sempaly?"

"They have lingered talking on the way," says Madame de Gandry with
pinched lips as she leans back in her chair and pulls off her gloves.
"People always walk slowly when they have so much to say to each
other."

Truyn frowned. "I am afraid they have got entangled in the crowd and
have not been able to make their way out. I have hated this expedition
from the first. I cannot imagine, Marie, what could have put such a
plan into your head...."

"Mine!" says his sister in an undertone and with a meaning glance. But
she says no more. He knows perfectly well that she is as innocent of
the scheme as the angels in heaven.

"Why, what on earth is the matter?" asks Vulpini pouring huge
quantities of grated cheese into his soup, while Mrs. Ferguson
complains that she is dying of hunger, which is singular, considering
the enormous number of bonbons she has eaten in the course of the day.
Madame de Gandry asks for a series of French dishes which the
'_Falcone_' has never heard of Countess Schalingen is loud in her
praises of the Italian cookery and is only sorry that she has no
appetite.

Truyn and the general sat gazing at the door in growing anxiety; Zinka
and Sempaly do not make their appearance--Truyn can hardly conceal his
alarm.

"I certainly cannot understand what you are so uneasy about," says
Madame de Gandry with a perfidious smile; "if Fräulein Zinka has been
mobbed and hindered Sempaly is in the same predicament and will take
good care of her. If she were with any one less trustworthy, less
competent, with whom she was less intimate ... then I could
understand...." Truyn passes his hand over his grey hair in extreme
perplexity and mutters in his mother tongue: "This woman will be the
death of me!" and then he again blames his sister.

Yet another quarter of an hour; though the waiters are not nimble they
have got to the dessert and still no signs of Sempaly and Zinka.

"I am beginning to feel very anxious," says Marie. "I only hope the
child has not fainted in the crowd."

Madame de Gandry makes a meaning grimace. "It is perhaps the cleverest
thing she could have done," she says. Truyn hears and bites his lip.

The door just now opens and Zinka and Sempaly come in; she calm and
sweet, he dark and scowling.

"Thank God!" cries Truyn.

"What in the world has happened?" asks the princess, while Truyn draws
a chair to the table for Zinka, next to himself. "What has happened?"
repeated Sempaly. "The most obvious thing in the world. We got into the
thick of the mob and could not get through."

"I cannot understand how that should have occurred," says Madame de
Gandry. "We all came through."

"You may perhaps recollect that we were the last of the party,
countess; we had hardly gone twenty yards when the crowd had become
a compact mass, we pressed on, determined to get through at any
cost--alone I could have managed it--but with a lady--suddenly we were
in the thick of a furious squabble--curses, blows, and knives. I cannot
tell you how miserable I was at finding myself out in the street with a
lady--a young girl...."

"Fräulein Sterzl seems to take it all much more coolly than you do.
Count Sempaly," interposes Madame de Gandry spitefully; "she does not
appear to have been at all terrified by the adventure."

"Fräulein Zinka was very brave," replied Sempaly.

"Goodness me! what was there to be afraid of;" says Zinka with the
simplicity of childish innocence. "The responsibility was Count
Sempaly's not mine."

The French woman laughs sharply. "We must be moving now," she says, "if
we mean to go to Costanzi's," and there is a clatter of chairs and a
little scene of confusion in which no one can find the right shawl or
wrap for each lady.

But Princess Vulpini makes no attempt to move: "I am going nowhere else
this evening," she says with unwonted determination. "I will not take
Zinka to Constanzi's. I will wait till she has eaten her beef-steak and
then I will take her home. I hope you will all enjoy yourselves."

Zinka eats her beef-steak with the greatest calmness and an
unmistakably good appetite; she is perfectly sweet and docile and
natural; she has no suspicion that her name will to-morrow morning be
in every mouth. Truyn is as pale as death; he has heard Madame de
Gandry's whisper to her friend: "After this he must make her an offer."



                                PART II.

                                 LENT.



                               CHAPTER I.


"I am glad to have found you," cried Truyn next morning as he entered
Sempaly's room in the Palazzo di Venezia, and discovered him sipping
his coffee after his late breakfast, with a book in his hand.

"I am delighted that you should for once have taken the trouble to
climb up to me. I must show you my Francia--the dealer who sold it to
me declares it is a Francia. But you look worried. What has brought you
here?"

"I only wanted to know--to ask you whether you will drive out to
Frascati with us to-day?"

"To Frascati!--This afternoon? What an idea!" exclaimed Sempaly; "and
in any case I cannot join you for I am going to the Palatine at three
o'clock with the Sterzls."

"Yes?" said Truyn looking uncommonly grave.

"May I offer you a cup of coffee?" asked Sempaly coolly.

"No thank you," replied Truyn shortly. He was evidently uneasy, and
began examining the odds and ends at the table to give himself
countenance; by accident he took up the book that Sempaly had been
reading when he came in. It was Charles Lamb's Essays, and on the first
page was written in a large, firm hand: "In friendly remembrance of a
terrible quarrel, Zinka Sterzl."

"The child lost a bet with me not long since," Sempaly explained.
"Another bet is still unsettled and is to be decided to-day at the
Palatine." Truyn shut the book sharply and threw it down; then, setting
his elbows on the table at which they were sitting, and fixing his eyes
keenly on Sempaly's face he said:

"Do you intend to marry Zinka Sterzl?"

Sempaly started, "What do you mean?" he exclaimed; "what are you
dreaming of?" But as Truyn said no more, simply gazing fixedly at him,
he took up an attitude of defiance. He looked Truyn straight in the
face with an angry glare and retorted:

"And suppose I do?"

"Then I can only hope you will have enough resolution to carry out your
intentions," said Truyn, "for to stop half-way in such a case is a
crime."

He drew a deep breath and looked at the ground. But Sempaly's face,
instead of clearing, grew darker; he was prepared for vehement
opposition and his cousin's calm consent, not to say encouragement, put
him in the position of a man who, after straining every muscle to lift
a heavy weight suddenly discovers that it is a piece of painted
pasteboard. It completely threw him off his balance.

"Well, I must say!" he began in a tone of extreme annoyance, "you speak
of it as if it were a no more serious question than the dancing of a
cotillon. In plain terms the thing is impossible. What are we to live
on? I have long since run through all my fortune, if I took what my
brother would regard as so monstrous a step he would cut off all
supplies, and Zinka is not of age. I might to be sure take to selling
dripping to maintain my wife, which would have the additional advantage
that my mother-in-law would cut me in consequence. Or perhaps you would
advise me to let Dame Clotilde Sterzl keep us till Zinka comes into her
money?"

"Well," says Truyn calmly, "if you can take such a reasonable view of
the impossibility of your marriage with Zinka Sterzl, your behavior to
her is perfectly inexplicable."

Truyn was still sitting by the little table on which the pretty coffee
service was set out, while Sempaly, his hands in his pockets, was
walking up and down the room, kicking and shoving the furniture with
all the irritation of a man who knows himself to be in the wrong.

"Upon my soul I cannot make out what you would be at!" he suddenly
exclaimed, standing still and facing his cousin. "Sterzl has never
found any fault with my behavior and it is much more his affair than
yours."

Truyn changed color a little, but did not lose his presence of mind.

"Sterzl, with all his dryness of manner, is an idealist," he said, "who
would fetch the stars from heaven for his sister if he could. He has
never for an instant doubted that your intentions with regard to her
were quite serious."

"That is impossible!" cried Sempaly.

"But it is so," Truyn asserted. "He is too blind to think his sister
beneath any one's notice."

"And he is right!" exclaimed Sempaly, "perfectly right--but the
pressure of circumstances--of position--the duties I have
inherited...."

He had seated himself on the deep inner ledge of one of the windows,
with his elbows on his knees and his chin between his hands, and was
staring thoughtfully at the floor.

"Allow me to ask you," he said, "what induced you to mix yourself up in
the affair?"

"It has weighed on my mind for a long time," said Truyn, "but what
especially moved me to speak of it to-day is the circumstance that last
evening, before you came into the '_Falcone_,' Mesdames De Gandry and
Ferguson allowed themselves to speak in a way which convinced me that
your constant intimacy with Zinka is beginning to do her no good."

"Oh! of course, if you listen to the gossip of every washerwoman,"
Sempaly interrupted angrily. And he muttered a long speech in which the
words: 'Sacred responsibility--due regard for the duties imposed by
Providence,' were freely thrown in. Truyn's handsome face flushed with
contempt and at length he broke into his cousin's harangue, to which
for a few minutes he had listened in silence:

"No swagger nor bluster.... The matter is quiet simple: Do you love
Zinka?" The attaché frowned:

"Yes," he said fiercely.

"Then it is only that you have not the courage to face the annoyances
that a marriage with her would involve you in?"

Sempaly was dumb,

"Then, my dear fellow, there is no choice; you must break off the
intimacy, as gently but as immediately as possible."

"That I neither can nor will attempt," cried Sempaly, stamping his
foot.

"If within three days you have not taken the necessary steps to secure
your removal from Rome, I shall feel myself compelled to give Sterzl a
hint--or your brother--whichever you prefer." Truyn spoke quite firmly.
"And now good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Sempaly without moving, and Truyn went to the door;
there he paused and said hesitatingly: "Do not take it amiss, Nicki--I
could do no less. Remember that though the right is a bitter morsel, it
has a good after-taste."

"Poor child, poor sweet little girl!" Truyn murmured to himself as he
descended the grey stone stairs of the Palazzo de Venezia. "Is this a
time to be talking of inherited responsibilities and the duties of
position--now! Good heavens!" He lighted a cigar and then flung it
angrily away. "Good heavens! to have met a girl like Zinka--to have won
her love--and to be free!..."

He hurried out into the street, leaving the gate-porter astonished that
the count, who was usually so courteous, should have taken no notice of
his respectful bow; such a thing had never happened before.

He was a strange man, this grey-haired young Count Truyn; he had grown
up as one of a very happy family and when still quite young he had been
hurried, much against his will, into a marriage with the handsome
Gabrielle Zinsenburg. He had never been able to reconcile himself to
the empty wordliness of his life in her society; she was a heartless,
superficial woman, some few years older than himself, who had staked
everything on her hope of achieving a marriage with him. Within a few
years they had separated, quite amiably, by mutual consent; he had
given her his name and she gave him his child. His life was spoilt. He
had a noble and a loving heart but he might not bestow it on any woman;
he must carry it about in his breast where it grew heavy to bear. His
love for his little girl, devoted as he was to her, was not enough to
live by, and a bitter sense of craving lurked in his spirit. For many
years he had lived a great deal abroad; his mind had expanded and he
had shed several of his purely Austrian prejudices. At home he was
still regarded as a staunch conservative because he always passively
voted on that side; but he was only indifferent, absolutely
indifferent, to all political strife, and smiled alike at the
recklessness of the 'left' and the excitability of the 'right,' while
in his inmost soul he regarded the perfecting of government as mere
labor lost; for he was no optimist, and thought that to heal the woes
of humanity nothing would avail but its thorough regeneration, and that
men have no mind for such regeneration; all they ask is to be allowed
to cry out when they are hurt, and shift their sins on to each other's
shoulders.

It afforded him no satisfaction to cry out. His weary soul found no
rest but in unbounded benevolence, and Sempaly's nature--experimental,
groping his way through life--had seemed to him to-day more odious than
ever.

"How can a man be at once so tender and such a coward?" he asked
himself, "He is the most completely selfish being I ever met with--a
thorough epicurean in sentiment, and has only just heart enough for his
own pleasure and enjoyment."

                               *   *   *

The bet outstanding between Zinka and Sempaly was not decided that
afternoon. Sempaly did not go to the Palatine, but excused himself at
the last moment in a little note to Zinka. Truyn's words, though he
would not have admitted it to himself, had made a very deep impression,
and though he fought against it he could no longer avoid looking the
situation in the face. To get himself transferred to some other
capital, to give up all his pleasant idle habits here--the idea was
intolerable! He felt exactly like a man who has been suddenly roused
from a slumber bright with pleasant dreams. He did not want to wake, or
to rub his eyes clear of the vision.

Was everything at an end then? Truyn had, to be sure, suggested an
alternative: if he could but call up sufficient energy it rested only
with himself to turn the sweet dream into a still sweeter and lovelier
reality, and his whole being thrilled with ecstasy as this delightful
possibility flattered his fancy. He was long past the age at which a
man commits some matrimonial folly believing that he can reclaim the
morals of some disrespectable second-rate actress, or that his highest
happiness is to devote his life to his sister's governess who is a
dozen years older than himself; when he contemplated the possibility of
his marrying Zinka Sterzl after all, it was with the certainty that his
feeling for her was not a mere transient madness, but that it had its
roots in the depths of his nature. Every form and kind of enjoyment had
been at his command and he had hated them all. Things in which other
men of his age and position could find excitement and interest roused
his fastidious nature to disgust. Life had long since become to him a
vain and empty show, when he had met Zinka.... Then all the sweetest
spirits of spring had descended fluttering into his vacant heart; a
magical touch had made it a garden of flowers and filled it with fair,
mad dreams of love. All the "sweet sorrow" of life was revealed to him
in a new form ... And now was he to tread the blossoms into dust? "Give
up seeing her--get myself sent away--never! I cannot and I will not do
it," he muttered to himself indignantly as he thought it all over.
"What business is it of Truyn's? What right has he to issue his orders
to me?"

But when he had resolved simply to go on with Zinka as he had begun, to
sun himself as heretofore in her smile, her gentleness, and her beauty,
he was still uncomfortable. He felt that it would not be the same. Till
now his heart had simply been content, now it could speak and ask for
more; to try to satisfy it with this shadow of delight was like
attempting to slake a raging thirst with the dew off a rosebud. He
loved her now--suddenly and madly. Interesting women had hitherto
utterly failed to interest him; they were like brooklets filled by the
rain: the muddiness of the water prevented their shallowness being
immediately perceptible; the storms of life had spoilt their clearness
and purity; Zinka, on the contrary, was like a mountain lake whose
waters are so transparent that near the shore every pebble is visible;
and though, in the middle, the bottom is no longer seen, it is because
they are deep and not because they are turbid, till their crystalline
opacity reflects the sky overhead. And in the depths of that lake, he
thought, lay a treasure which one alone, guided and blest by God, might
hope to find. How he longed to sound it.

She was made for him; never for an instant had he been dull in her
society; she satisfied both his head and his heart; all the bewitching
inconsistency and contradictions of her nature captivated him; he had
said of her that "she was like a little handbook to the study of
women," she was made up of such a variety of characteristics. In the
midst of her childlike moods she had such unexpected depth of thought,
such flashes of wisdom; her wildest vagaries were so original and often
ended so suddenly in wistful reverie; her little selfish caprices were
the converse of such devoted self-sacrifice; her grace was so
spontaneous, her voice so soft and appealing ... Well, but should
he?... No, it must not be. Truyn had said it--he must quit Rome--the
sooner the better.

He took his hat and went out to call on the ambassador and discuss the
matter with him. His excellency was not at home and Sempaly betook
himself to the club, where he lost several games at ecarté--he was
greatly annoyed. Then he went home and sat looking constantly at the
clock as though he were expecting some one; his irritation increased
every minute.



                              CHAPTER II.


           "Bright May--the sweetest month of Spring;
            The trees and fields with flowers are strown--
            Dear Heart, to thee Life's May I bring;
            Take it and keep it for thine own--
            Nay--draw the knife!--I will not start,
            Pierce if thou wilt, my willing breast.
            There thou shalt find my faithful heart
            Whose truth in death shall stand confessed."


These words, sung in the Roman dialect to a very simple air, came
quavering out of the open window of the drawing-room of the Sterzls'
palazetto as Sempaly passed by it that evening; he had gone out to pay
some visits, to divert his mind, and though his way did not take him
along the side street in which the palazetto stood, he had not been
able to resist the temptation to make a detour. It was a mild evening
and the tones floated down like an invitation; he recognized Zinka's
voice as she sang one of the melancholy _Stornelli_ in which the
peasants of the Campagna give utterance to their loves. It ceased, and
he was just moving away, when another even sweeter and more piercing
lament broke the warm silence.


           "Or shall I die?--Poison itself could have
            No terrors if I took it from thy hand.
            Thy heart should be my death-bed and my grave."


The passionate words were sung with subdued vehemence to a rather
monotonous tune--like a faded wreath of spring flowers borne along by
some murmuring stream. He turned back, and listened with suspended
breath. The song ended on a long, full note; he felt that he would give
God knows how much to hear the last line once more:


           '_La sepoltura mia sara il tuo seno!_....'


Now Zinka was speaking--it vexed him beyond measure that he could not
hear what she was saying. It was maddening ... Good heavens! what a
fool he was to stand fretting outside!

                               *   *   *

When he went into the drawing-room to his great surprise he was met by
Sterzl.

"Back so soon?" he exclaimed as he shook hands with him.

"Yes, Arnstein had only two days to spare in Naples," replied Sterzl;
"I was delighted to see him again, but--well, I must be growing very
old, I was so glad to find myself at home again," and he drew his
sister to him and lightly stroked her pretty brown hair. His brotherly
caress added to Sempaly's excitement "No wonder that you like your
home!" he was saying, when the baroness appeared with an evening wrap
on her shoulders, a fan and scent-bottle in her hand, and, as usual,
dying of refinement and airs.

"Not ready yet, Zenaïde? Ah, my dear Sempaly, how very sweet of you!"
and she gave him the tips of her fingers.--"We were quite anxious about
you when you so suddenly excused yourself from joining us. Zinka was
afraid you had taken the Roman fever," she said sentimentally.

"Zinka has an imagination that feeds on horrors," said Sterzl smiling.

"I did think that you must have some very urgent reason," said Zinka
hastily and in some confusion.

Sempaly looked into her eyes: "I was doing Ash-Wednesday penance, that
was all," he said in a low voice.

"Well, to complete the mortification come now to Lady Dalrymple's," the
baroness suggested.

"Oh, be merciful! Grant me a dispensation. I should so much enjoy a
quiet evening," cried Sempaly.

"And I too," added Zinka. "I am utterly sick of soirées and routs.
These performances give me the impression of a full-dress review, at
which such and such fashionable regiments are paraded."

"Give us a holiday, mother; remember, it is Ash-Wednesday, and we are
good Catholics," said her son.

"I had some scruples myself, but the Duchess of Otranto is going,"
lisped the baroness.

However, when Sempaly had assured her that the Duchess of Otranto was
by no means a standard authority in Roman society she yielded to the
common desire that they should remain at home, and withdrew to her room
to write some letters before tea.

Most men have senses and nerves only in their brain while women, as is
well known, have them all over the body; in this respect Sempaly was
like a woman. He had senses even in his finger tips--as a Frenchman had
once said, of him: "il avait les sens poète!" (a poet's nerves). The
most trifling external conditions gave him disproportionate pleasure or
pain. The smallest detail of ugliness was enough to spoil his
appreciation of the noblest and grandest work of art; he would not have
felt the beauty of Faust if he had first read it in a shabby or dirty
copy. Now, when the baroness had left the room, there was no detail
that could disturb his enjoyment in being with Zinka.

Sterzl had taken up his newspaper; Zinka, at Sempaly's request, had
seated herself at the piano. She always accompanied herself by heart
and sat with her head bowed a little over the keys and half-shut dreamy
eyes. The sober tone of the room, with its tapestried walls and happy
medley of knick-knacks, broad-leaved plants, Japanese screens, and
comfortable furniture, formed a harmonious background to her slight,
white figure. The light of the one lamp was moderated by its
rose-colored shade; a subdued _mezza-voce_ tone of color prevailed in
the room which was full of the scent of roses and violets, and the
heavy perfume seemed in sympathy with the gloomy sentiment of the
popular love songs. Sempaly's whole nature thrilled with rapturous
suspense, such as few men would perhaps quite understand. At his desire
Zinka sang one after another of the _Stornelli_ ... her voice grew
fuller and deeper ...

"Do not sing too long, Zini, it will tire you," said her brother.

"Only one more--the one I heard from outside," begged Sempaly, and she
sang:


           "_La sepoltura mia sara il tuo seno_...."


The words trembled on her lips; her hands slipped off the last notes
into her lap. Sempaly took the warm, soft little hands in his own; a
sort of delightful giddiness mounted to his brain as he touched them.

"Zinka," he said, "tell me, do you feel a little of what your voice
expresses?"

Her eyes met his--and she blinked, as we blink at a strong, bright
light; she shrank back a little, as we shrink from too great and sudden
joy. Her answer was fluttering on her lips when the door opened--the
Italian servant pronounced some perfectly unintelligible gibberish by
way of a name, and in marched--followed by her daughter and their
Polish swain--the Baroness Wolnitzka.

"Oh, thank goodness, I have found you at home!" she exclaimed. "We
counted on finding you at home on Ash-Wednesday. God bless you, Zinka!"

Zinka was petrified. Mamma Sterzl rushed in from an adjoining room at
the sound of those rough tones.

"Charlotte!" was all she could stammer out, "Char--lotte ... you ...
here!"

"Quite a surprise, is it not, Clotilde? Yes, the most unhoped-for
things sometimes happen. We arrived to-day at three o'clock and called
here this afternoon but you were out; so then we decided to try in the
evening. It is rather late, to be sure, and I, for my part, should have
been here long ago, but Slawa insisted on dressing--for such near
relations! Quite absurd ... but I do not like to contradict her, she is
so easily put out--so I waited to dress too."

And the baroness, after embracing her sister and her niece, plumped
down uninvited on a very low chair.

She had dressed with a vengeance: a black lace cap was perched on the
top of her short, grey hair, with lappets that hung down over her ears.
Her massive person was squeezed into a violet satin gown, which she had
evidently out-grown, and a lace scarf picturesquely thrown over her
shoulders was intended to conceal its defects; her lavender-colored
gloves were very short and much too tight, and burst at all the
button-holes. Slawa had a general effect of tricolor, and she wore some
old jewelry that she had bought of a dealer in antiquities at Verona.
She had curled and piled up her hair after the antique and kept her
head constantly turned over her left shoulder, to be as much like the
Apollo as possible, at the same time making a grimace as if she were
being photographed and wished to look bewitching.

Vladimir Matuschowsky's tall, slouching figure was buttoned into a
braided coat; he held a low-crowned hat with tassels in his hand, and
glared at the plain dress-coats of the other two men as though they
were a personal insult.

"Monsieur Vladimir de Matuschowsky," said the baroness introducing him,
"a ... a ... friend of the family." But she said it in French: when the
Baroness Wolnitzka was at all at a loss she commonly spoke French.

Her sister, who by this time had got over her astonishment, now began
to wish to dazzle the new-comers.

"Count Sempaly," she said, presenting the attaché; "a friend of our
family ... my sister, the Baroness Wolnitzka. You have no doubt heard
of the famous Slav leader Baron Wolnitzky, who was so conspicuous a
figure in forty-eight."

Sempaly bowed without speaking; Baroness Wolnitzka rose and politely
offered him her hand: "I am delighted to make your acquaintance," she
said. "I have heard a great deal about you; my sister has mentioned you
in all her letters and I am quite _au courant_."

Again Sempaly bowed in silence and then, retiring into the background
while the mistress of the house turned to address Slawa, he said to
Sterzl:

"I will take an opportunity of slipping away--a stranger is always an
intruder at a family meeting," His manner was suddenly cold and stiff
and his tone intolerably arrogant.

Sterzl nodded: "Go by all means," he replied. But Baroness Sterzl
perceiving his purpose exclaimed:

"No, no, my dear Sempaly, you really must not run away--you are not in
the least _de trop_--and a stranger you certainly can never be."

"It would look as though we had frightened you away, and that I will
not imagine," added her sister archly.

So Sempaly stayed; only, perhaps, from the impulse that so often
prompts us to drink a bitter cup to the dregs.

"Pray command yourself a little, Zini," whispered Cecil to his sister.
"The interruption is unpleasant; but you should not show your annoyance
so plainly."

Tea was now brought in; Sterzl devoted himself in an exemplary manner
to his cousin Slawa, so as to give his spoilt little sister as much
liberty as possible. Slawa treated him with the greatest condescension
and kept glancing over her huge Japanese fan at Sempaly, who was
sitting by Zinka on a small sofa, taciturn and ill-pleased, while he
helped her to pour out the tea.

Baroness Wolnitzka gulped down one cup after another, eat up almost all
the tea-cake, and never ceased an endless medley of chatter. The young
Pole sat brooding gloomily, ostentatiously refused all food and spoke
not a word; his arms crossed on his breast he sat the image of the
Dignity of Man on the defensive.

"I am desperately hungry," Madame Wolnitzka confessed. "We are at a
very good hotel--Hotel della Stella, in Via della Pace; we were told of
it by a priest with whom we met on our journey. It is not absolutely
first-class--still, only people of the highest rank frequent it; two
Polish counts dined at the table d'hôte and a French marquise;--in her
case I must own I thought I could smell a rat--I suspect she is running
away with her lover from her husband, or from her creditors."

Out of deference to the "highest rank" the baroness had put her hand up
to her mouth on the side nearest to the young people as she made this
edifying communication. "The dinner was very good," she went on,
"capital, and we pay six francs a day for our board."

"Seven," corrected Slawa.

"Six, Slawa."

"Seven, mamma."

And a discussion of the deepest interest to the rest of the party
ensued between the mother and daughter as to this important point.
Slawa remained master of the field; "and with wax-lights and service it
comes to eight," she added triumphantly.

"I let her talk," whispered her mother, again directing her words with
her hand, "she is very peculiar in that way; everything cheap she
thinks must be bad. However, what I was going to say was that, to tell
the truth, I did not get enough to eat at dinner--there were flowers on
the table,"--and she reached herself a slice of plum-cake.

At this moment the door opened to admit Count Siegburg.

"Good evening," he began--"seeing you so brightly lighted up I could
not resist the temptation to come in and see how you were spending your
Ash-Wednesday."

He glanced around at the three strangers and instantly grasped the
situation; but, far from taking the tragical view of it, he at once
determined to get as much fun out of it as possible. After being
introduced he placed himself in a position from which he could command
the whole party, Sempaly included, and converse both with Madame
Wolnitzka and her daughter. He addressed himself first to the latter.

"The name of Wolnitzky is known to fame," he said.

"Yes, my father played a distinguished part in forty-eight," replied
Slawa.

"Siegburg--Siegburg?..." Madame Wolnitzka was meanwhile murmuring to
herself. "Which of the Siegburgs? The Siegburgs of Budow, or of Waldau,
or ...?"

"The Waldau branch," said Baroness Sterzl. "His mother was a Princess
Hag," and she leaned back on her cushions.

"Ah! the Waldau Siegburgs! quite the best Siegburgs!" remarked her
sister in a tone of astonishment.

"Of course," replied Baroness Sterzl with great coolness, as though she
had never in her life spoken to anyone less than "the best Siegburgs."

Madame Wolnitzka arranged her broad face in the most affable wrinkles
she could command, and sat smiling at the young count, watching for an
opportunity of putting in a word. For the present, however, this did
not offer, for her sister addressed her, asking, in a bitter-sweet
voice:

"And what made you decide on coming to Rome?"

"Can you ask? I have wished for years to see Rome, and you wrote so
kindly and so constantly, Clotilde--so at length ..." and here followed
the history of the Bernini. "You remember our Bernini, Clotilde?"

Her sister nodded.

"Well, I had the Apollo, the head only, a copy by Bernini. It is a work
of art that has been in our family for generations," she continued,
turning to Siegburg as she saw that he was listening to her narrative.

"For centuries," added Madame Sterzl.

"I must confess that I could hardly bear to part with it," her sister
went on. "However, I made up my mind to do so when Tulpe, the great
antiquary from Vienna, came one day and bid for it."

Sterzl, to whom the god's wanderings were known, made some allusion to
them in his dry way; on which the Baroness Wolnitzka shuffled herself a
little nearer to Siegburg and addressed herself to him.

"You see, count, it was something like what often happens with a girl:
you drag her about to balls for years, take her from one watering-place
to another, and never get her off your hands; then you settle down
quietly at home and suddenly, when you least expect it, a suitor turns
up. I could hardly bear to see the last of the bust I assure you."

"It must indeed have been a harrowing parting," said Siegburg with much
feeling.

"Terrible!" said the baroness, "and doubly painful because"--and here
she leaned over to whisper in Siegburg's ear--"Slawa is so amazingly
like the Bernini. Does not her likeness to the Apollo strike you?"

"I saw it at once--as soon as I came in," Siegburg declared without
hesitation.

"Every one says so--well then, you can understand what a sacrifice it
was ... it cuts me to the heart only to think of it. Oh! these great
emotions! Excuse me if I take off my cap ..." and she hastily snatched
off the black lace structure and passing her fingers through her thin
grey hair with the vehemence of a genius she exclaimed: "Merciful God!
How we poor women are ill-used! crushed, fettered ..."

"Yes, a woman's lot is not a happy one;" said Siegburg sympathetically.

"You are quite an original!" exclaimed her sister, giggling rather
uncomfortably--for in good society it is quite understood that when we
are suffering under relations devoid of manners, and whom, if we dared,
we should shut up at once in a mad-house, we may do what we can to
render them harmless by ticketing them with this title--"Quite an
original. Are you still always ready to break a lance for the
emancipation of our sex?"

"No," replied Madame Wolnitzka, "no, my dear Clotilde, I have given
that up. Since I learnt by experience that every woman is ready to set
aside the idea of emancipation as soon as she has a chance of marrying
I have lost my sympathy with the cause."

"The emancipation of women of course can only be interesting to those
who cannot marry," observed Sterzl, who had not long since read an
article on this much ventilated question.

"And as there are undoubtedly more women than men in the world,
legalized polygamy is the only solution of the difficulty," his aunt
asserted.

"Mamma! you really are!..." said Slawa with an angry flare.

"Your views are necessarily petty and narrow," retorted her mother. "If
I were speaking of the subject in a light and frivolous tone I could
understand your indignation; but I am looking at the matter from a
philosophical point of view--you understand me, I am sure, Count
Siegburg."

"Perfectly, my dear madam," Siegburg assured her with grave dignity.
"You look at the question from the point of national and political
economy and from that point of view improprieties have no existence."

Sempaly sat twirling his moustache; Zinka first blushed and then turned
pale, while the mistress of the house patted her sister on the
shoulder, saying with a sharp, awkward laugh: "Quite an original--quite
an original."

But Sterzl, seeing that Siegburg was excessively entertained by the old
woman's absurdities, and was on the point of amusing himself still
further at her expense by laying some fresh trap for her folly, happily
bethought him that the only way to procure silence would be to ask
Slawa to sing. So he begged his cousin to give them some national air.
Siegburg joined in the request, but Slawa tried to excuse herself on a
variety of pretexts: the piano was too low, the room was bad to sing
in, and so forth and so forth ... at last, however, she was persuaded
to sing some patriotic songs in which Matuschowsky accompanied her.

Her tall, Walkure-like figure swayed and trembled with romantic
emotion, and faithful to the traditions of the "_art frémissant_"--the
thrilling school--she held a piece of music fast in both hands for the
sake of effect, though it had not the remotest connection with the song
she was singing. Her mother sat in breathless silence; tears of
admiration ran down her cheeks; like many other mothers, she only
recognized those of Slawa's defects which came into conflict with her
own idiosyncracy and admired everything else. When Slawa had shouted
the last verse of the latest revolutionary ditty, which would have been
prohibited in forty-eight, and Sterzl was still asking himself whether
it was worse to listen to the mother's tongue or the daughter's
singing, Matuschowsky, whose chagrin at the small approval bestowed on
his and Slawa's musical efforts had reached an unendurable pitch,
observed that it was growing late and that the ladies must be needing
rest after all their exertions and fatigues. Madame Wolnitzka hastened
to devour the last slice of tea-cake, brushed the crumbs away from her
purple satin lap on to the carpet, rose slowly, and made her way with
many bows and courtesies towards the door, taking at least half an hour
before she was fairly gone.

When his relatives had at length disappeared Sterzl accompanied the two
gentlemen, who had also bid the ladies good-night, into the hall, and
said good-humoredly to Siegburg:

"You, I fancy, are the only one of the party who has really enjoyed the
evening." Siegburg colored; then looking up frankly at his friend he
said: "You are not offended?"

"Well--perhaps, just a little," replied Sterzl, with a smile, "but I
must admit that the temptation was a strong one."

"And really and truly I am very sorry for you," Siegburg went on, with
that ingenuous want of tact that never lost him a friend. "There is
nothing in the world so odious as to have a posse of disagreeable
relations who suddenly appear and cling on to your coat-tails. I know
it by experience. Last spring, at Vienna, half a dozen old aunts of my
mother's came down upon us from Bukowina like a snow-storm...." Sempaly
meanwhile had buttoned himself into his fur-lined coat and said
nothing.



                              CHAPTER III.


The three days have gone by in which Truyn had desired his cousin to
make up his mind--three days since the sudden descent of Baroness
Wolnitzka scared away the sweet vision that till then had dwelt in
Sempaly's soul and checked the declaration actually on his lips--but he
has not yet requested to be removed from Rome. Truyn's eye has been
upon him all through these three days, has constantly met his own with
grave questioning, as though to say: "Have you decided?"

No, he had not decided. To a man like Sempaly there is nothing in the
world so difficult as a decision; fate decides for him--he for himself!
Never.

His encounter with the preposterous baroness might silence the avowal
he was on the verge of uttering, but it was not so powerful as to
banish Zinka's image once and for all from his mind. The silly old
woman's chatter he had by this time forgotten; the _Stornelli_ that
Zinka had been singing still rang in his ears. For two days he had had
the resolution to avoid the Palazetto, but he had seen Zinka for a
moment, by accident, yesterday on the Corso. She was in the carriage
with Marie Vulpini--she had on a grey velvet dress and a broad-brimmed
mousquetaire hat that threw a shadow on her forehead and her
golden-brown hair; she held a large bouquet of flowers and was chatting
merrily with the little Vulpinis and Gabrielle Truyn; what pretty merry
ways she had with children! His blood fired in his veins as their eyes
met, and she blushed as she returned his bow. It was the first time she
had blushed at seeing him. All that night he dreamed the wildest
dreams,--and now he was taking a solitary early walk in the spring
sunshine, on the Pincio, lost in thought, but snapping the twigs as he
passed along to vent his irritation. More and more he felt that
marriage with Zinka was a _sine qua non_ of his existence. He had never
in his life denied himself a pleasure, and now....

                               *   *   *

The brilliant March sun flooded the Piazza di Spagna, the waters of the
Baracaccia sparkled and danced, reflecting the radiant blue sky,
against which the towers of the Trinita dei Monti stood out sharp and
clear. All over the shallow steps of the church models were lounging in
the regulation peasant costumes, and blind beggars incessantly
muttering their prayers. In front of the Hotel de l'Europe the
cab-drivers were sweetly slumbering under the huge patched umbrellas
stuck up behind their coach-boxes for protection against the sun or
rain. Flower-sellers were squatted on every door-step, and here and
there sat a brown-eyed, snub-nosed white Pomeranian dog. The Piazza was
swarming with tourists, and Beatrice di Cenci gazed with the saddest
eyes in the world out of a photographer's shop at the motley crowd and
bustle.

Siegburg, in happy unconsciousness of coming evil, had just come out of
Law's, the money changer's, and was inhaling with peculiar satisfaction
the delicious pervading scent of hyacinths, when his eye was
accidentally attracted by the fine figure of a young English woman who
passed him in a closely fitting jersey. He was still watching her when
a harsh voice close to him exclaimed:

"Good morning, Count,--what luck!"

He turned round and recognized, under a vast shady hat, the broad, dark
face of the Baroness Wolnitzka. Though the day was splendidly fine she
had on that most undressed of garments, originally meant as a
protection against rain but subsequently adopted to conceal every
conceivable defect of costume, and long since known to the mocking
youth of Paris as a "_cache-misère_,' or--to render it freely--a
slut-cover; and, though the pavement was perfectly dry, under this
waterproof she held up the gown it hid, so high that her wide feet, in
their untidy boots with elastic sides, were plainly displayed.

"Ah, baroness!" he said lifting his hat, "I really did not ..."

"No, you did not recognize me," she said calmly, "that was why I spoke
to you. What luck! But you are in the embassy too?"

"Certainly."

"That is the very thing--I have a request to make then. My daughter is
most anxious to have an audience of His Holiness. Slawa, you must know,
is a fervent Catholic, though, between you and me, it is a mere matter
of fashion. Now I, for my part, take a philosophical view of religious
matters. At the same time I should be very much interested in seeing
the Pope...."

"But the Pope is unfortunately more inaccessible than ever," said
Siegburg, "besides, as I do not belong to the Papal Embassy I cannot, I
regret to say, give you the smallest assistance."

"That is what my nephew says--it is disastrous, positively disastrous,"
At this moment Slawa joined them, emerging from Piale's library, in an
eccentric _directoire_ costume, with a peaked hat and feather, and a
pair of gloves, no longer clean, drawn far up over her elbows.

"Ah, good morning," said she, offering the count her finger tips while
Matuschowsky, who was in attendance, sulkily bowed.

By this time Siegburg, hemmed in on all sides, began to think the
situation unpleasant.

"It is so delightful to meet with a fellow-countryman in a foreign
land...." Slawa began.

"Quite delightful," replied Siegburg, thinking to himself: "How am I to
get out of this?" when suddenly the absurdity of the thing came upon
him afresh, for he heard the baroness once more: "Good morning, Count,
what luck!" and at the same moment she bore down on no less a man than
Sempaly, who had just come down the sunlit steps, and was crossing the
Piazza lost in sullen meditation. "I beg your pardon," he muttered
somewhat startled, "I really did not recognize you," and he gazed
helplessly into the distance as though he looked for a rescue. But the
baroness went on:

"I am so delighted to have met you--I have a particular request to
make: could you not procure me admission to the Farnesina? The Duke di
Ripalda is said to be all powerful...."

"I am sorry to say it is quite im----"

But at this instant a party of foreigners caught Sempaly's eye--two
young ladies with a maid. The two girls, tall and straight as
pine-trees, both remarkably handsome and dressed in neatly-fitting
English linen dresses, were eagerly bargaining with an Italian who had
embroidered cambric trimmings for sale, and they seemed to think it a
delightful adventure to buy something in the street.

"Two charming girls! surely I know them," cried Madame Wolnitzka. "Are
they not the Jatinskys?"

One of the young ladies, looking up, called out: "Nicki, Nicki!" half
across the Piazza, with the frank audacity of people who have grown up
in the belief that the world was created expressly for their use.

"Excuse me," said Sempaly with a bow to the baroness, "my cousins ..."
and without more ado he made his escape.

"How long have you been here? Where are you staying?"

"We arrived this morning--Hotel de Londres--mamma wrote to you at once
to the embassy ... Ah, here is another Austrian!" for Siegburg had
contrived to join them. "Rome is but a suburb of Vienna after all! But
tell me, who on earth were that old fortune-teller and her
extraordinary daughter to whom you were both devoting yourselves so
attentively?"

The Wolnitzky trio had in the meantime moved away. The baroness very
gracious, Slawa very haughty, as became the living representative of
the Apollo Belvedere--past the two handsome girls and down the Via
Condotti. Suddenly Baroness Wolnitzka stopped:

"I quite forgot to ask Count Sempaly to get me an invitation to the
international artists' festival!" she exclaimed, striking her forehead,
and she promptly turned about, evidently intending to repair the
omission; only Matuschowsky's decided interference preserved Sempaly
from her return to the charge.

                               *   *   *

The scene is now the Pincio--between five and six in the afternoon, the
hour when the band plays every day on the great terrace, while the
crowd collects to watch the sun set behind St. Peter's. The reflection
of the glow gilds the gravel, glints from the lace on the uniforms and
the brass instruments, and throws golden sparks on the water in the
wide basin behind the bandstand. The black shadows rapidly lengthen on
the grass, and the palmettos, yuccas, and evergreen oaks stand out in
rich, deep tones against the sky that fades from crimson to salmon and
grey. A special set of visitors haunt the shady side of the Pincio; not
the fashionable world: governesses and nurses with their charges, and
priests--priests of every degree: the illustrious Monsignori with their
finely chiselled features, their upright bearing and their elegant
hands; monks, with their bearded faces comfortably framed in their
cowls, and whole regiments of priestlings from the Seminaries in their
uniforms of every hue; lank, lean figures, with sallow, unformed
features.

Separated from these only by a leafy screen the beauty and fashion of
Rome drive up and down--the residents in handsome private carriages,
the foreigners in hired vehicles of varying degrees of respectability,
or even in the humble, one-horse, hackney cab. The crowd grows denser
every minute as the stream of Roman rank and wealth swells along the
Via Borghese, across the Piazza del Popolo, and up the hill. On the top
of the Pincio the carriages come to a stand-still; gentlemen on foot
gather round them, bowing and smiling, the ladies talk across from one
victoria to another--all sorts of trivial small-talk, unintelligible to
the uninitiated. Up from the gardens which line the road from the Via
Margutta, comes a fragrance of budding and growing spring; down below
lies Rome, and lording it grandly over the labyrinthine mass of houses
and ruins, solemn and severe, its crown touched by the last rays of the
vanished sun, stands St Peter's.

Countess Ilsenbergh's carriage was drawn up side by side with that of
Princess Vulpini; the newly-arrived party of the Jatinskys was divided
between them; the countess mother reclining indolently with a gracious
smile on her lips by the side of Countess Ilsenbergh, while the
princess had undertaken to chaperon the young ladies. On the front
seat, by his cousin Eugénie--Nini they called her--sat Sempaly.
Siegburg was leaning over the carriage door, talking all sorts of
nonsense, and relating all the gossip of Rome that was fit for maiden
ears to the two new-comers; they, infinitely amused, laughed till their
simple merriment infected even Sempaly, who had taken the seat coveted
of all the golden youth of Rome--the seat next his beautiful cousin--in
a very gloomy and taciturn humor.

Presently there was an evident sensation among the public; every one
was looking in the same direction.

"What is happening?" asked Polyxena, the elder of the two Jatinska
girls.

"It must be the Dorias' new drag, or the King," said Princess Vulpini,
screwing up her short-sighted eyes. "No," said Siegburg, looking back,
"neither. It is Baroness Wolnitzka!"

And in fact, Madame Sterzl's pretty landau, which she had placed at the
disposal of her sister for the afternoon, was coming up the road, in it
the Wolnitzkas, mother and daughter, both in their finest array. Slawa
was leaning back, elegantly languid, while her mother stood up in the
carriage and surveyed the world of Rome through an opera-glass. From
time to time, either to rest, or because she suddenly lost her balance,
she sat down; and then she filled up her time by examining every detail
of the trimming and lining of the landau. It was this singular
demeanor, combined with her very conspicuous person, that attracted so
much attention to the Sterzls' vehicle--an attention which both mother
and daughter, of course ascribed to Slawa's extraordinary resemblance
to the Belvedere Apollo.

"Baroness Wolnitzka! the wonderful old woman we saw with you yesterday
in the Piazza di Spagna?" cried Polyxena.

"Yes."

"Only think, Nicki," she went on to Sempaly, "mamma knows her?"

"Who is it that I know?" asked her mother from the other carriage.

"Baroness Wolnitzka, mamma; do you see her--out there?"

"Heaven preserve me!" exclaimed the countess fervently. "I do not feel
secure of my life when I am near her. She fell upon me to-day in the
Villa Wolkonsky."

"How on earth do you happen to know the old woman, aunt?" asked Sempaly
irritably.

"Oh! my husband had some political connection with hers," the countess
explained. "She is not to be borne, she stuck to me like a leech for
half an hour."

"Your conversation must have been very interesting," said Siegburg.

"It did not interest me," replied the countess rather sharply. "She
told me how much her journey had cost her, what she pays a day for
carriage-hire, and that when she was young she had singing-lessons of
Cicimara. And she chattered endlessly about her sister Sterzl who is
living here 'in the first style and knows absolutely none but the crême
de la crême'--you laugh!..."

"Well, mamma, you must confess that the association of such a name as
Sterzl with the cream of society is irresistibly funny," cried
Polyxena.

"It was anything rather than funny to me," said the countess ruefully.
"By the way, though, she did tell me one thing--that her niece Zenaïde
Sterzl ... Well, what is there to laugh at now?"

"Zenaïde Sterzl! the name is a poem in itself," cried Polyxena; "it is
as though an English woman were named Belinda Brown, or a French girl
called Roxalane Dubois."

"Well, it seems from what the old woman told me that the fair Zenaïde
is about to relinquish the graceless name of Sterzl for one of the
noblest names in Austria--that is the old idiot's story. It has not yet
been made public, so she could not tell me the bridegroom's name, but
Zenaïde is as good as betrothed to a young count--an attaché to the
Austrian embassy. Who on earth can it be?--You ought to know!"

"Ah, ah! Is it you?" said Polyxena turning to Siegburg. But Siegburg
shook his head, stroking his yellow moustache to conceal a malicious
smile as he watched Sempaly's conspicuous annoyance. "Or is it you,
Nicki?" the young countess went on--"I congratulate you on marrying
into such a delightful family!"

But such a marked effect of embarrassment was produced by her speech
that she was suddenly silent.

"I know nothing of it," said Sempaly with a gloomy scowl. "That old
chatterbox's imagination is positively stupendous."

The play of light on the gold lace of the uniforms and the brass
instruments is fast fading away and the sheen of the glossy-leaved
evergreens is almost extinct. "_Gran dio morir si giovane!_" is the
tune the band is playing. The sun is down, the day is dead, night
shrouds the scene; the only color left is a dull glow behind St.
Peter's like a dying fire.

"At the Ellis' this evening," Siegburg calls out to the ladies as he
lifts his hat and turns away. The carriages make their way down the
hill, past the Villa Medici, back into Rome, and their steady roar is
like that of a torrent rushing to join the sea.



                              CHAPTER IV.


Mr. and Lady Julia Ellis--she was an earl's daughter--English people of
enormous wealth and amazing condescension, had for many years spent the
winters in Rome. In former times the lady's eccentricities had given
rise to much discussion; now she was an old lady with white hair, fine
regular features and much too fat arms. Like all English women of her
day she appeared in a low gown on all occasions of full dress, and was
fond of decking her head with a pink feather. Her husband was younger
than she was and had a handsome, thoroughly English face, with a short
beard and very picturesque curly white hair. His profile was rather
like that of Mendelssohn, a fact of which he was exceedingly proud.
Besides this he was proud of two other things: of his wife, who had
been admired in her youth by King George IV. and of a very old
umbrella, because Felix Mendelssohn had once borrowed it. He had a
weakness for performing on the concertina and had musical evenings once
a week.

It happened that on the occasion when the Jatinskys first went to one
of these parties Tulpin the Russian genius whose great work had served
as the introduction to the Ilsenbergh tableaux, was elaborating a new
opera to a French libretto on a national Russian story. He was, of
course, one of those Russians who combine a passionate devotion to the
national Slav cause with a fervent wish to be mistaken for born
Parisians wherever they appear. The piano groaned under his hands,
while sundry favorite phrases from _Orphée aux Enfers_ and other
well-known works were heard above the rolling sea of tremolos. From
time to time the performer threw in a word to elucidate the situation:
"The czar speaks...." "The bojar speaks...." "The peasant speaks...."
"The sighing of the wind in the Caucasus...." "The foaming of the
torrent...." While Mr. Ellis, who believed implicitly in the opera, was
heard murmuring: "Splendid! ... magnificent! The opera must be worked
out--it must not remain unperformed!"

"Worked out!" sighed Tulpin with melancholy irony. "That is no concern
of mine. We--we have the ideas, the working out we leave to--to--to
others, in short. You must remember that I cannot read a note of
music--literally, not a note," he repeated with intense and visible
satisfaction, and he flung off a few stumbling arpeggios, while Mr.
Ellis cried: "Astonishing!" and compared him with Mendelssohn, which
Tulpin, who believed only in the music of the future, took very much
amiss. A _Grand Prix de Musique_, from the French academy of arts at
the Villa Medici, who had been waiting more than an hour to perform his
"Arab symphony," muttered to himself: "Good heavens! leave music to us,
and let us be thankful that we are not great folks!"

At last Lady Julia took pity on her guests and invited them to go to
take tea; every one was only too glad to accept, and in a few minutes
the music room was almost empty. Madame Tulpin, out of devotion, the
Grand Prix out of spite, and Mr. Ellis out of duty were all that
remained within hearing. In the adjoining room every one had burst into
conversation over their tea; still, a certain gloom prevailed.
Melancholy seemed to have fallen upon the party like an epidemic, and
the subject that was most eagerly discussed was the easiest mode of
suicide.

Tulpin rattled and thumped on; suddenly he stopped--the Jatinskys had
come in, and their advent was such a godsend that even the genius
abandoned the piano in their honor. They all three were smiling in the
most friendly--it might almost be said the most reassuring manner; for
Countess Ilsenbergh had not failed to impress upon them the very mixed
character of Roman society, and, feeling their own superiority, they
were able to cover their self-consciousness with the most engaging
amiability. The two younger ladies were surrounded--besieged--and the
strange thing was that the women paid them even greater homage than
the men. Everything about them was admired: their small feet, their
finely-cut profiles, their incredibly slender waists, the color of
their hair, the artistic simplicity of their dresses--and bets were
laid as to whether these were the production of Fanet or of Worth. But
now there was the little commotion in the next room that is caused by
the arrival of some very popular person. Zinka, without her mother,
under her brother's escort only, came in and gave her slim hand with an
affectionate greeting to the lady of the house.

"You are an incorrigible truant, you always come too late;" said Lady
Julia in loving reproach.

"Like repentance and the police," said Zinka merrily; and then Lady
Julia introduced her to Countess Jatinska.

"But you must help me with the tea; you know I always reckon on you for
that," Lady Julia went on. "Give your charming countrywomen some, will
you?"

Polyxena and Nini were sitting a yard or two off, surrounded by
all the young men of Rome; Zinka was going towards them with her
winning grace of manner when Sempaly happened to come up, and found
himself so unexpectedly face to face with her that he had no
alternative but to shake hands, and he could not avoid saying a few
words. Of course--like any other man in his place--he made precisely
the most unlucky speech he could possibly have hit upon:

"We have not met for some time."

She looked him in the face but of half-shut eyes, with her head
slightly thrown back, and replied, with very becoming defiance:

"You have carried out the penance you began on Ash-Wednesday!"

"Perhaps," and he could not help smiling.

She shrugged her shoulders: "I had intended to break off our
friendship," she went on, "but now that I see the cause of your
faithlessness,"--and she glanced at the handsome young countesses--"I
quite understand it. Will you at any rate do me the favor of
introducing me to the ladies?"

"Fräulein Sterzl--" said Sempaly; but hardly had he uttered the words
when a scarcely suppressed smile curled Polyxena's lip. Zinka saw the
smile, and she saw too that Sempaly's manner instantly changed; he put
on an artificial expression of intolerable condescension.

Zinka turned very pale, her eyes flashed indignantly as she hastily
returned the young Austrians' bow and at once went back to her post.
Sterzl, who was talking to Truyn in a recess and saw the little scene
from a distance, frowned darkly. Sempaly meanwhile seated himself on a
stool by his cousins and with his back to the tea-table where Zinka was
busying herself.

"So this is the far-famed Zinka Sterzl!" exclaimed Polyxena: "She does
credit to your taste, Nicki. But she allows herself to speak to you in
a very extraordinary manner; it is really rather too much!" Sempaly
made no reply. "She treats you already as if you were her own
property."

"But Xena," said Nini, trying to moderate her sister's irony, "at least
do not speak so loud." In a few minutes Mr. Ellis came to announce that
Monsieur B. was about to play his 'Arab symphony,' and the company
moved back into the drawing-room.

The evening had other treats in store; when Monsieur B. had done his
place was taken by a young Belgian count who devoted all his spare time
to the composition of funeral marches, who could also play songs and
ballads, such as are usually confined to the streets of Florence or the
_cafés chantants_ of Paris, arranged for the piano, and who gave a duet
between a cock and hen with so much feeling and effect that all the
audience applauded heartily, especially the Jatinskys to whom this
style of thing was quite a novelty. Then Mrs. Ferguson sang her French
couplets, Mr. Ellis played an adagio by Beethoven on the concertina,
and then Zinka was asked to sing.

"What am I to sing? You know the extent of my collection," she said
with rather forced brightness to Mr. Ellis.

"Oh! a Stornello. We beg for a Stornello," said Siegburg following her
to the piano--"_vieni maggio, vieni primavera_," and Lady Julia
seconded the request.

Zinka laid her hands on the keys and began. Her voice sounded through
the room a little husky at first, but very sweet, like the note of a
forest bird.

Never before had she sat down to sing without bringing _him_ to her
side, even from the remotest corner of the room, at the very first
notes; and now, involuntarily, she looked up to meet his gaze--but he
was sitting by Polyxena, on a small sofa, in a very familiar attitude,
leaning back, holding one foot on the other knee, and laughing at
something that she was whispering to him. Zinka lost her self-command
and was suddenly paralyzed with self-consciousness. She could not sing
that song before him. Her voice broke; she forgot the accompaniment;
felt about the notes, struck two or three wrong chords and at length
rose with an awkward laugh:

"I cannot remember anything this evening!" she stammered.

Polyxena had some spiteful comment to make, of course, and Sempaly grew
angry; he was on the point of rising to go to Zinka and console her for
her failure, but before he could quite make up his mind to move, Nini
had risen. In spite of her shyness she made her way straight across the
room to Zinka and said something kind to her. Sempaly stayed where he
was; but as they were leaving, he put on Nini's cloak for her, and said
in a low tone: "Nini, you are a good fellow!" and he kissed her hand.

                               *   *   *

Sempaly's attentions had made Zinka the fashion; his sudden
discontinuance, not merely of attentions, but of any but the barest
civilities, of course, made her the laughing-stock of all their circle.
The capital caricature that Sempaly had drawn of Sterzl and his sister
that evening at the Vulpinis' was remembered once more; Madame de
Gandry, to whom Sempaly had been very civil till he had neglected her
for Zinka, showed the sketch to all her acquaintance, with a plentiful
seasoning of spiteful insinuations. Every one was ready to laugh at the
"little adventuress" who had come to Rome to bid for a prince's coronet
and who had been obliged to submit to such condign humiliation.

The leaders of foreign society vied with each other in doing honor to
the Jatinskys. Madame de Gandry set the example by giving a party at
which Ristori was engaged to recite; Sterzl was of course, invited; his
mother and sister were left out. It was the first time since Zinka's
appearance at the Ilsenberghs' that she had been omitted from any
entertainment, however select. Many ladies of the international circle
followed Madame de Gandry's lead, wishing like her to make a parade
before the Austrians of their own exclusiveness, and at the same time
to be revenged on Zinka for many a saucy speech she had ventured to
make when she was still one of the initiated--of the sacred inner
circle. The Italian society of Rome did not of course trouble itself
about all these trumpery subtleties, and behaved to Zinka with the same
superficial politeness as before.

She, for her part, took no more note of their amenities than she did of
the pin-pricks from the other side. If her feelings had not been so
deeply engaged by Sempaly she would no doubt have taken all these petty
social humiliations very hardly; but her anguish of soul had dulled her
shallower feelings. There is a form of suffering which deadens the
senses and which mockery cannot touch. It was all the same to her
whether she was invited or not--she could not bear to go anywhere. The
idea of meeting Sempaly with his cousins was as terrible as death
itself. She was an altered creature. A shy, scared smile was always on
her lips, like the ghost of departed joys, her movements had lost all
their elasticity, and her gait was more than ever like that of an angel
whose wings have been clipped.

Baroness Sterzl, of course, still drove out regularly on the Corso, and
made the most praiseworthy attempts to keep up a bowing acquaintance
with her former friends, and as often as she could she went out in the
evening--alone. There was some consolation too in the proud
consciousness of having quarrelled with Madame de Gandry and being on
visiting terms with all the Roman duchesses. The only thing that caused
her any serious discomfort was her sister Wolnitzka's persistent and
indiscreet catechism as to the state of affairs between Zinka and
Sempaly. She herself, out of mere idle bragging, had told Charlotte the
first day of her arrival in Rome that Zinka's engagement was not yet
made public.

Her aunt's coarse remarks and hints were fast driving Zinka crazy when
Siegburg fortunately--perhaps intentionally, out of compassion for
her--so frightened the mother and daughter, one evening when he met
them at the palazetto, by his account of the Roman fever that they were
panic-stricken, and fled the very next morning to Naples.

The member of the family who was most keenly alive to the change in
their social relations, oddly enough, was Cecil. He had been wont to
feel himself superior to these silly class-jealousies, and at the same
time had a reasonable and manly dignity of his own that had preserved
him from that morbid petulance which sometimes stands in arms against
all friendly advances from men who, after all, cannot help the fact of
their superior birth. Democratic touchiness is a disease to which, in
the old-world countries where hereditary rank is still a living fact,
every man who is not a toady is liable--from Werther downwards--when
fate brings him into contact with aristocratic circles. Sterzl had
moved in them so long that he was acclimatized; or rather, it had
attacked him late in life, and, as is always the case when grown-up men
take infantine complaints, with aggravated severity. He attributed all
his sister's misery, not to his own want of caution and Sempaly's
weakness of character, but to the tyranny of social prejudice; and he
turned against society with vindictive contempt, making himself
perfectly intolerable wherever he went. Being a well-bred man,
accustomed all his life to the graces of politeness, he could not
become absolutely ill-mannered--but as ill-mannered as he could be he
certainly was: assertive, irritable, always on the defensive, he was
constantly involved in some argument or dispute.

Even at home he was not the same; his pride was deeply nettled by
Zinka's total inability to hide her suffering, while he felt it
humiliating to be able to do nothing to comfort her. At first, in the
hope of diverting her thoughts, he would bring her tickets for concerts
or the theatre, and give her a thousand costly trinkets, old treasures
of porcelain, carved ivory, and curiosities of art, such as she had
once loved. She used to rejoice over these pretty trifles--now she
smiled as a sick man smiles at some dainty he no longer has any
appetite for. He could see how sincerely she tried to be delighted, but
the tears were in her eyes all the while.

This drove Sterzl to desperation. At first he religiously avoided
mentioning Sempaly in her presence, but as days and weeks passed and
she brought no change in her crushed melancholy, he waxed impatient. He
took it into his head that it would be well to open Zinka's eyes with
regard to Sempaly. Sterzl himself was energetic, always looking to the
future; he had it out with his disappointments and got rid of them,
however hard he might have been hit. He had always let things roll if
they would not stand, and then set to work to begin again. His great
point in life was to see things as they were. Truth was his divinity,
and he could not understand that to a creature constituted like Zinka,
illusion was indispensable; that she still laid no blame on Sempaly,
but only on the alteration in his circumstances--on her own
unworthiness--on anything and everything but himself; that it was a
necessity of her nature to be able still to love him, even though she
knew that he was lost to her forever. His austere nature could not
enter into Zinka's soft and impressible susceptibility.

So when he took to speaking slightingly or contemptuously of Sempaly on
every possible opportunity she never answered him, but listened in
silence, looking at him with frightened, astonished eyes and a pale
face, like a martyr to whom her tormentors try to prove that there is
no God. The result of Cecil's well-meant but injudicious proceedings
was a temporary coolness between himself and his sister--a coolness
which, on his part, lay only on the surface, but which froze her spirit
to its depths, and all this naturally tended to add fuel to Sterzl's
detestation of Sempaly. The two men were in daily intercourse, and now
in a state of constant friction. Sterzl would make biting remarks over
the smallest negligence or oversight of which Sempaly might be guilty,
and was bitterly sarcastic as to the incompetence of a young connection
of the Sempalys who had not long since been attached to the embassy.

"To be sure," he ended by declaring, "in Austria it is a matter of far
greater importance that an attaché should be a man of family than that
he should know how to spell." To such depths of clumsy rudeness could
he descend.

Sempaly, without losing his supercilious good humor, would only smile,
or answer in his most piping tones:

"You are very right; the view we take of privilege is quite
extraordinary. We should form ourselves on the model of the French
corps diplomatique; do not you think so?" For, a few days previously,
the Figaro had published a satirical article on the presentation of a
plebeian representative of the republic at some foreign court.

Well, Sempaly might have retorted in a much haughtier key--but the
lighter his irony the more it exasperated Sterzl.



                               CHAPTER V.


Countess Jatinska spent almost the whole of her stay in Rome on her
sofa. When she was asked what she thought of Rome she replied that she
found it very fatiguing; when the same question was put to her
daughters they, on the contrary, declared themselves enchanted. Sempaly
knew full well that in all Rome there was nothing they liked better
than their ne'er-do-weel cousin. He displayed for their benefit all his
most amiable graces; criticised or admired their dresses, touched up
their coiffure with his own light hand, faithfully reported to them all
their conquests, and made them presents of cigarettes and of trinkets
from Castellani's.

When there was nothing else to be done he was ready to attend them--of
course, under the charge of some older lady--to see galleries and
churches, Polyxena had a way, that was highly characteristic, of
rushing past the greatest works with her nose in the air and laughing
as she repeated some imbecile remark that she had overheard, or pointed
out some eccentricity of tourist costume. Nini took art more seriously,
looked carefully at everything by the catalogue, and even kept a diary.
Xena was commonly thought the handsomer and the more brilliant of the
sisters, and Sempaly apparently devoted himself chiefly to her, but he
decidedly liked Nini best. The hours that he did not spend with his
cousins he passed at the club, where he gambled away large sums.
Meanwhile, he was looking very ill and complained of a return of old
Roman fever.

And what did the world say to his behavior? The phlegmatic Italians did
not trouble themselves about the matter; Madame de Gandry and Mrs.
Ferguson laughed over it; Siegburg pronounced it disgraceful, and
Ilsenbergh called it bad taste to say the least. That he ought to have
arranged to leave Rome everybody agreed. Princess Vulpini held long and
lamentable conferences with General von Klinger--reproaching herself
bitterly for not having seen the position of affairs long ago--but she
had never attached any importance to Sempaly's marked attentions,
having had no eyes for anything but Siegburg's devotion to Zinka, and
she had taken a quite motherly interest in what she regarded as a good
match for both.

Truyn was perfectly furious with Sempaly. All that he was to Zinka
during these weeks can only be divined by those who have passed through
such a time of grief and humiliation, with the consciousness of having
a high-souled and tender friend in the back-ground. He was the only
person who never aggravated her wound. He had the gentle touch, the
delicate skill, which the best man or woman can only acquire through
the ordeal of an aching heart. He came every afternoon with his little
girl to take Zinka for a walk, for he knew that the regular drive on
the Corso could only bring her added pain; and while the baroness, with
outspread skirts, drove in the wake of fashion up to the Villa Borghese
and the Pincio, these three--with the general, not unfrequently, for a
fourth--would wander through silent and deserted cloisters or take long
walks across the Campagna. Not once did Truyn bring a secret tear to
her eye; if some accidental remark or association brought the hot color
to her thin cheek he could always turn the subject so as to spare her.

One sultry afternoon, late in spring, Truyn and his two daughters--as
he was wont to call Zinka and Gabrielle--with the soldier-artist were
sauntering home, after a long walk, through the sombre and picturesque
streets that surround the Pantheon. The neighborhood is humble and
wretched, but over a garden wall rose a mulberry tree in whose green
branches a blackbird was singing, and a few red geraniums blazed behind
rusty window-bars, bright specks in the monotonous brown; above the
roofs bent the deep blue sky; the air was heavy and hot, and full of
obscure smells of gutters and stale vegetables. Somewhere, in an
upstairs room, a woman sang a love-song of melancholy longing. Suddenly
the blackbird and the woman ceased singing at the same time; a dismal
howl and groan echoed through the street, and a mass of black shadows
darkened the scene. Zinka, who had lately become excessively nervous,
started and shuddered.

"It is nothing--only a funeral," Truyn explained, taking off his hat.

That was all--a Roman funeral, grim but picturesque--a long procession
of mysteriously-shrouded figures, only able to see through two slits in
the sack-like cowls that covered their heads, ropes round their waists,
and torches or mystical banners in their hands--banners with the
emblems of death. These were followed by a troop of barefooted friars,
and last came the bier covered with a bright yellow pall, carried by
four more of the shrouded figures, who bent under its weight as they
shuffled along. The ruddy flare and the black smoke wreaths, the
groan-like chant, the uncanny glitter of the men's eyes out of the
formless hoods--ghastly, ghostly, and exhaling a savor of mouldiness
and incense, like the resurrection of a fragment of the middle
ages--the procession defiled through the narrow street. Zinka,
half-fainting, clung to Truyn; Gabrielle, whose childish nerves were
less shocked, watched them with intense curiosity and began to question
a woman who stood near her in the crowd that had collected, in her
fluent, bungling Italian:

"Who is it they are burying?" she asked at length.

"A woman," was the answer.

"Was she young?"

"_Si_."

"And what did she die of? of fever?"

"No," said the Roman shrugging her shoulders; and then she added, in
the slow musical drawl of the Roman peasant:

"_Di passione_."

The procession had passed, the chanting had died away; the blackbird
was singing lustily once more; they went on their way--Truyn first,
with Zinka hanging wearily on to his arm, behind them Gabrielle and the
general.

"_Passione!_ is that a Roman illness?" she asked with her insatiable
inquisitiveness.

"No, it occurs in most parts of the world," said the general drily.

"But only among poor people, I suppose?" said the child.

"No, it is known to the better classes too, but it is not called by the
same name," said the old man with some bitterness, more to himself than
to Gabrielle.

"Then it is wrong--a shameful thing to die of?" she asked with wide,
astonished eyes.

Suddenly the general perceived that Zinka was listening; her head
drooped as she heard the child's heedless catechism. He, under the
circumstances, would have felt paralyzed--he would not have known what
to say to the poor crushed soul; but not so Truyn. He turned to his
companion and said something in a low tone. What, the general could not
hear, but it must have been something kind and helpful--something
which, without any direct reference to the past, conveyed his
unalterable respect and regard, for she answered him almost brightly.
Then he went on talking of trifles, remembering little incidents of his
boyhood, characteristic anecdotes of his parents, and such small
matters as may divert a sick and weary spirit, till, when they parted
at the door of the palazetto, Zinka was smiling. "That he has the
brains of a genius I will not say, but he has genius of heart, I dare
swear!" thought the soldier.

Truyn had gone out riding with her two or three times across the
Campagna, and she had enjoyed it; but one day they met Sempaly,
galloping with his two handsome cousins over the anemone-strewn sward.
From that day she made excuses for avoiding the Campagna--as though she
thus avoided the chance, almost the certainty, of meeting him and them.
Why then did she remain in Rome at all? Sterzl would not hear of her
quitting it, because he thought that the world of Rome would regard it
as a flight after defeat. His mother too, on different grounds, set her
face against any such abridgment of their stay in Rome. Had she not
taken the palazetto till the fifteenth of May?

And did Zinka, in fact, wish to go? She often spoke of longing to be at
home again, but whenever their departure was seriously discussed it
gave her a shock. She dreaded meeting him--and longed for it all
the same. And in the evening when a few old friends dropped in to
call--Truyn every evening and Siegburg very frequently--Truyn noticed
that every time there was a ring she sat with her eyes fixed in eager
expectation on the door. She still cherished a sort of hope--a broken,
moribund hope that was in fact no more than unrest--the vitality of
suffering.



                               PART III.

                                EASTER.



                               CHAPTER I.


Passion-week in Rome, and in all the glory and glow of an Italian
spring. The glinting radiance brightens even the mystical gloom of St.
Peter's, sparkles for an instant on the holy-water in the basins,
wanders from the heads of the gigantic cherubs and the colossal
statues down to the inlaid pavement, with the cold sheen of sunlight
on polished marble. The hours glide on--the long solemn hours of
Holy-Thursday in Rome; the last gleam of daylight has faded away, the
vast cathedral is filled with almost palpable twilight and its
magnificence seems shrouded in a transparent veil of crape. The stone
walls look dim and distant, the fane seems built of shadows, and sacred
mystery falls as it were from heaven, deeper and more solemn as the
minutes slip by, to sanctify the spot.

In the papal chapel Zinka is kneeling with Truyn and Gabrielle, her
eyes fixed on her hands which are convulsively clasped, and praying
with the passion of a youthful nature whose yearning has found no
foothold on earth and seeks a home in heaven. On both sides sit the
prelates and dignitaries of the church in their carved stalls,
inquisitive and prayerless foreigners crowd at their feet. The tragedy
of the passion is being recited in a monotonous, inconclusive chant
that dies away in the dim corners of the chapel.

The last of the twelve tapers on the altar is extinguished....
"_Miserere mei_" the choristers cry with terrible emphasis; and then,
awful but most sweet, beginning as a mere breath and rising to a mighty
wail of grief, comes a voice like the utterance of the anguish of the
God of Love over the misery from which He can never release mankind.
And before the majesty of that divine and selfless sorrow human sorrow
bows in silence.

Zinka bends her head.--It is ended, the last sound has died away in a
sob, the crowd rises to follow the procession which, with a cardinal at
the head, wends its way through the church.

Truyn and the two girls quit the chapel; behind them the steps of the
priests and choristers, drowned in their own echoes, sound like the
rustling of angelic wings; the brooding, melancholy peacefulness has
lulled Zinka's heart to rest; for the first time for many weeks she has
forgotten....

"Most interesting, but the bass was hoarse!"

It was Polyxena Jatinsky who pronounced this summary criticism of the
solemn ceremonial, close to Zinka. Zinka looked round; Sempaly with his
aunt and cousins were at her side. They had attended the service in
reserved places in the choir. Involuntarily yielding to an impulse of
pain Zinka pressed forward, but Gabrielle had flown to join them; then
she was obliged to stay and talk. The Jatinskys were perfectly
friendly, Polyxena giving her her hand--Sempaly alone held aloof. On
going out the air struck' chill, almost cold, on Zinka's face and she
shivered. A well-known voice close behind her said rather brusquely:

"You are too lightly dressed and there is fever in the air. Put this
round you," and Sempaly threw over her shoulders a scarf that he was
carrying for one of the ladies.

"Thank you, I am not cold; these ladies will want the scarf," said
Zinka hastily and repellently.

Polyxena said nothing; perhaps she may have thought it strange that in
his anxiety for this little stranger, her cousin should forget to
consider that one of them might take cold. But Nini exclaimed: "No, no,
Fräulein Sterzl: we are well wrapped up."

At this juncture Truyn's servant, who had been seeking them among the
crowd, told them where the carriage was waiting.

While Zinka, wrapped in Nini's China-crape shawl, is borne along
between the splashing fountains, across the bridge of St. Angelo, and
through the empty, ill-lighted streets to the palazetto, all her pulses
are dancing and throbbing--and the stars in the sky overhead seem
unnaturally bright. It is the resurrection of her pain and with it of
the lovely mocking vision of the joys she has lost. Good God! how
vividly she remembers them all--how keenly!--the long dreamy afternoons
on the Palatine, the delicious hours in the Corsini garden--under the
plane-trees by the fountain, where he talked about Erzburg while the
perfume of violets and lilies fanned her with their intoxicating
breath; the sound of his voice--the touch of his light, thin hand, his
smile--his way of saying particular words, of looking at her in
particular moments....

She is walking with him once more in the Vatican, in rapt enjoyment of
the beauty of the statues; the Belvedere fountain trickled and splashed
in dreamy monotony; golden sunbeams fleck the pavement like footmarks
left by the Gods before they mounted their pedestals; there is a
mysterious rustle and whisper in the lofty corridors as of far, far
distant ghostly voices,--and then, suddenly, she is in front of Sant'
Onofrio's; the air is thick with a pale mist. At her feet, veiled in
the thin haze, indistinct and mirage-like, the very ghost of departed
splendor, lies Rome--the vast reliquary of the world; Rome, on whose
monuments and ruins every conceivable crime and every imaginable virtue
have set their stamp; where the tragedies of antiquity cry out to the
Sacrifice on Calvary.

They had stood together a long time looking down on it; then she had
lost a little bunch of violets which she had been wearing and as she
turned round to seek them she had perceived that he had picked them up
and was holding them to his lips. Their eyes had met....

Yes! he had loved her! he loved her still--he must--she knew it. She
told herself that, impulsive and excitable as he was, the merest trifle
would suffice to bring him back to her; but whether it was worth while
to long so desperately for a man who could be turned by the slightest
breath--that she did not ask herself.

And through all the torturing whirl of these memories, above the
clatter of the horses' hoofs and the rattle of the wheels over the
wretched pavement, she heard the cry "_miserere mei_." But her thoughts
turned no more to the God sacrificed for Man--the strongest angels'
wings cannot bear us quite to heaven so long as our heart dwells on
earth.

"Good-night," she said, kissing Gabrielle as the carriage drew up at
the door of the palazetto.

"Will you let me have Nini's scarf for Gabrielle?" said Truyn. "I am
afraid my little companion may catch cold."

"Oh! of course," cried Zinka, and she wrapped the child carefully in
the shawl and kissed her again; "when shall I learn to think of anyone
but myself?" she added vexed with herself.

                               *   *   *

Easter-Monday. All the bells in the churches of Rome are once more
wagging their brazen tongues after their week of dumb mourning, and
images of the Resurrection in every conceivable form--sugar, wax,
soap--decorate all the shop windows.

Baroness Wolnitzka had returned fresher, gayer and more enterprising
than ever from her visit to Naples, where she not only had had herself
photographed in a lyric attitude leaning on a pillar in the ruins of
Pompeii, but, in spite of her huge size which was very much against her
taking such excursions, she had with the help of two guides and a
remarkably vigorous mule, reached the top of Vesuvius. Thanks, too, to
a cardinal's nephew with whom she had scraped acquaintance on her
journey, with a view to making him useful, she had succeeded in
obtaining--not indeed a private audience of the pope--but leave to
attend a private mass--and receive the communion, in company with three
hundred other orthodox souls, from his sacred hand.

This morning she had been to the palazetto to take leave of her
sister--to ask once more after Sempaly--to give a full and particular
account of the service at the Vatican--and to deliver a discourse on
the philosophical value of the mass. Slawa, whose orthodoxy had been
fanned to bigotry, and who on Easter eve had duly climbed the _santa
scala_ on her knees, had supplemented her mother's narrative with a
variety of interesting details:

"It was most exclusive, quite our own set, and few families of the
Polish colony--I wore my black satin dress beaded with jet and I heard
a gentleman behind me say: 'That is the only woman whose veil is put on
with any taste.'"

Sterzl had kept out of the way during their visit; Zinka had smiled
amiably but had not attended: Baroness Clotilde had plied her sister
with questions. Then the Wolnitzkas had left to go to the consecration
of a bishop--also by invitation from the cardinal's nephew--the ladies
were to be admitted to the sacristy and be presented with flowers and
refreshments.

It was about six o'clock in the evening when General von Klinger was
shown into the drawing-room of the palazetto. The room was not so
pretty as it used to be; the furniture was all set out squarely against
the walls by the symmetrical taste of the servants, and the flower
vases that were always so gracefully arranged now never held anything
but bunches of magnolias or violets; Zinka no longer cared to arrange
them.

"I am so glad you happen to have come to-day," she cried as he came in.
The brilliancy of her eyes and the redness of her lips showed that she
was already suffering from that terrible spring fever which makes havoc
with young creatures in the warm days of April and May. She was sitting
by her brother on a low red sofa, as she had so often sat with Sempaly;
the baroness was lounging in an arm-chair fanning herself; there was a
sort of triumphant solemnity in her manner. Even Cecil, too, was
evidently in some excitement though his air was just as frank and
natural as ever.

"Good evening, general, what hot, trying weather!" drawled the
baroness. "It is an extraordinary event to find us all at home together
at this hour but we all have a sacred horror of the mob in the streets
on a holiday afternoon."

"Oh, mamma!" interrupted Zinka, "it is not only the crowd--we wanted to
enjoy our good fortune together; did not we, Cecil?"

He nodded and stroked her hair. "Yes, little Zini."

"Only think. Uncle Klinger--you knew, of course, that Cecil's book on
Persia had attracted a great deal of attention--but that is not all. He
has been appointed _Chargé d'affaires_ at Constantinople."

The general offered his congratulations and shook hands warmly with the
young man.

"I could wish for nothing more exactly to my mind," said Cecil. "There
is always something to do there; a man always has a chance of making
his mark and getting on." He was sincerely and frankly satisfied and
affected no indifference to the distinction he had earned.

"In five years we shall see you ambassador," exclaimed the general,
with the happy exaggeration that is irresistible on such occasions.

"We do not go quite so fast as that," laughed Sterzl. "However, I hope
to rise in due time. Will not you be proud of me, Butterfly, when I am
'your excellency!'"

"I am proud of you already," said Zinka, "and you know how vain I am,
and how much I value such things!"

It was the first time for some weeks that the general had seen the two
so happy together and it rejoiced his heart.

"And the climate is good," Sterzl went on, "one of the best in Europe;
the foreign colony is friendly and pleasant. You will enjoy studying
oriental manners from a bird's-eye view, Zini; and the change of air
will do you good?"

"You will take me too?" she said turning pale.

"Why, of course. The bay of Constantinople is lovely and we can often
sail out on it; then, in the autumn, if I have time, we will make an
excursion in Greece. You will be quite a travelled person." He put his
finger under her chin and looked with tender anxiety into her thin
face; every trace of color had suddenly faded from it, and the light
that her brother's success had kindled in her eyes had died out.

"It will be very nice--" she said wearily; "delightful--thank you,
Cecil--you are always so kind ... when are we to start?"

"You might get off in about a week; the sea-voyage will not over-tire
you, and you can stop to rest at Athens. In the hot season we can go up
to the hills--" then suddenly he glanced sharply in her face and his
whole expression changed; he added roughly, with a scowl: "but you need
not come unless you like--stay here if you choose--I do not want to
force you."

At this instant the maid appeared to announce the arrival of a case
from the railway.

"The new ball-dresses!" cried the baroness in great excitement. "I am
thankful they have come in time. I was quite in despair for fear I
should not have my new gown in time for the ball at the Brancaleone's.
It would have seemed so uncourteous to the princess.... Now let us see
what Fanet has hit upon that is new...." And she rustled out of the
room.

Zinka sat still, with a frozen smile, looking like a criminal to whom
the day of execution had just been announced, and uneasily twisting her
fingers.

"Of course, I like it, Cecil ... how can you think ... and on Wednesday
week we can start--Wednesday will be best ... now I must go and see
what my new dress is like ... do not laugh at me uncle; I must make
myself look as nice as I can for my last appearance." And she hurried
off; but on her way she stumbled against a table and a book fell to the
ground. She stopped, picked the book up, turned over the leaves and
laid it down; then, as if she wished to make up to her brother for some
unkindness, she went back to Cecil and put her hand on his shoulder.

"I do really thank you very much," she said, "and I am glad--really and
truly glad, and very proud of you...."

He looked up in her face and their eyes met--his lips quivered with
rage--the rage of a lofty, generous, and masterful nature at finding
itself incapable of making a woman dear to it happy.

Zinka shrank into herself "My ball-dress!" she faintly exclaimed, and
she slipped out of the room.

For a few minutes the two men were silent. Presently the general spoke:

"Zinka is going to the Brancaleones' to-morrow?"

"Yes," replied Sterzl; "at least, she has promised to go. Whether she
will change her mind at the last moment and stay at home, of course I
cannot foresee."

"But she really seems to care about it this time," said the general.
"At least she took an interest in her dress."

"Her dress!... she did not even know what she was talking about. She
fled that we might not see her tears...." Sterzl broke out, losing all
his self-control. Then he looked sternly at his friend as though he
thought he had betrayed a secret But the old man's sad face reassured
him. "It is of no use to try to act before you," he went on; "you are
not blind--you must see how wretched she is--it is all over, general,
she is utterly broken...." He started to his feet and after pacing the
room two or three times stood still and with a helpless wave of the
hands and a desperate shrug, he exclaimed: "There is nothing to be
done--nothing!" Then he sat down again and buried his face in his
hands.

Von Klinger cleared his throat, paused for a word and could find
nothing better to say than: "In time--things will mend; you must have
patience."

"Patience!" echoed Sterzl with an indescribable accent.
"Patience!--yes, if I could only hope that things would mend. At first
it provoked me that she should let everybody see ... know ... I thought
she might have more spirit and self-command. But now.--Good heavens!
she does all she can and it is killing her ... that is not her fault.
If only she were resentful--but she never complains; she is always
content with everything, she never even contradicts my mother now. And
then, what is worst of all, I hear her at night--her room is over
mine--walking up and down, very softly as if she were afraid of waking
anyone--up and down for hours; and often I hear her sobbing--she never
sheds a tear by day!..." he sighed. "And then--if it were for a man who
was worth it all!" he went on. "But that blue-eyed, boneless,
good-for-nothing simpleton!... I ought never to have allowed her to
step out of her own sphere--I ought never to have allowed them to
become intimate! I knew he was not worthy of her, even when, as I
believed--but you will laugh at my simplicity perhaps--he condescended
to be in earnest.--You cannot imagine what it is now to have to
meet him every day,--to hear him ask every day: 'how are you all at
home?'--I feel ready to choke ... I could crush him under foot like a
worm!... and I am bound to be civil. I may not even tell him that he
has insulted me."

The baroness here came back.

"Lovely!" she exclaimed, with her affected giggle, "quite perfect!
Zinka has never had a dress that suited her so well."

"That is well!" said Sterzl vaguely, "where is she?"

"She is gone to lie down; she has a bad headache," minced the baroness.
"The young girls of the present day have no stamina. Why, at her age
I...."

The general was not in the mood to listen to her sentimental
reminiscences and he took his leave. In the hall he once more wrung
Cecil's hand: "Fortune has favored you," he said; "you have a splendid
career before you, and in her new and pleasant home Zinka will
forget.--I congratulate you on your new start in life."

Aye--his new start in life!



                               CHAPTER II.


The Brancaleone Palace, on the slope of the Quirinal, is one of the
finest in Rome, and particularly famous for its gardens, laid out in
terraces down the side of the hill, with the lower rooms of the palazzo
opening on to the uppermost level. The dancing was in a large, almost
square, room adjoining a long vaulted corridor full of old pictures
relieved here and there by the cold severity of an antique marble
statue. It was lighted by marvellous chandeliers of Venetian glass that
hung from the ceiling. At the end of the corridor two steps led down
into an anteroom, dividing it from a smaller sanctuary where the gems
of the Brancaleone collection were displayed--mixed up, unfortunately,
with several modern monstrosities--and from this room a door opened
into the garden.

Zinka arrived late. A transient and feverish expectancy lent her
pinched features the brilliancy they had lost while her timid reserve
gave her even more charm than her former innocent self-confidence, and
her dress was certainly wonderfully becoming. Nor had she lost all her
old popularity, for she was soon surrounded by a little crowd of Roman
'swells;' one or two even of the Jatinskas' admirers deserted to Zinka.

Truyn was not present; the cold his little girl had caught at St.
Peter's had developed into a serious illness, and he could not leave
her.

Zinka, with her gliding grace, her small head held a little high, and
her softened glance, was still pretty to watch as she danced, and
attracted general attention. The music, the splendor of the
entertainment, the consciousness of looking well put her into unwonted
spirits. She sent a searching glance round the room--no, he was not
there. Sterzl stood talking with the general, delighted with her little
triumph and charming appearance; then he was congratulated by several
men of distinction on his recent promotion. He thanked them with
characteristic simplicity and sincerity--the evening was a success for
him too. Not long after midnight he left to attend to pressing
business--matters were in a very unsettled state--and went to the
embassy.

Within a short time Sempaly came in. He had spent the previous night,
as was very generally known, at cards--this was a new form of
dissipation for him--he had lost a great deal of money, and he looked
worn and out of spirits. He did not care for dancing and came so late
to ask his handsome cousins for the cotillon that they were both
engaged--a result to which he was so manifestly indifferent that Nini
actually wiped away a secret tear. He was now standing with his fingers
in his waistcoat pockets and his glass in his eye, exchanging
impertinent comments with a number of other young men, on the figure of
this woman or that girl, and trying to imagine himself in the position
of the fabulous savage who found himself for the first time in a
civilized ball-room.

Suddenly he was silent--something had arrested his attention.

The band was playing a waltz at that time very popular: "_Stringi mi_,"
by Tosti. The room was very hot; it was the moment when the curls of
the young ladies begin to straighten, and their movements--at first a
little prim--begin to gain in freedom; when there is an electrical
tension in the air suggestive of possible storms and the most
indifferent looker-on is aware of an obscure excitement. Crespigny and
Zinka spun past him--Zinka pale and cool in the midst of the emotional
stir around her. She was not living in the present--she was in a dream.
Suddenly Crespigny, who was not a good dancer, stumbled against another
couple, caught his foot in a lady's train and fell with his partner.
Sempaly pushed his way through the dancers with blind force and was the
first to help Zinka to her feet. Without thinking for a moment of
the hundred eyes that were fixed upon him he leaned over the young
girl--her power over him had risen from the dead. She, bewildered by
her fall, did not perhaps at first see who it was that had helped her
to rise; she clung to his arm with half-shut eyes; then, as he
whispered a few sympathizing words, she looked up, started, colored,
and shrank from him.

"A very unpleasant accident," said some of the ladies.

Sempaly had taken possession of Zinka's slender hand and drew it with
gentle insistence through his arm; then he led her out of the heated
ball-room into the adjoining gallery.

                               *   *   *

The accident for which she had besieged Heaven with prayers had
happened--the accident which threw him once more in her way. His old
passion was awake again; she saw it--she could read it in his eyes. She
summoned up all her self-command to conceal her happiness--not so much
out of deliberate calculation as from genuine timidity and womanly
pride. He talked--saying all sorts of eager, sympathetic things--she
asked only the coldest and simplest questions. He had fetched her a
wrap and with the white shawl thrown around her he led her from one
room to another among the fan-palms and creamy yellow statues. Now and
then she spoke to some acquaintance whom they met wandering like
themselves, but these were fewer and fewer. The supper-room was thrown
open and every one was gone to the buffet.

Zinka's coldness, for which he was not at all prepared, provoked
Sempaly greatly. He felt with sudden conviction that there could be no
joy on earth to compare with that of once holding her in his arms and
kissing her--devouring her with kisses. This image took entire
possession of him and beyond the possible fulfilment of that dream he
did not look. That joy must be his at any cost, if the whole world were
to crumble at his feet.

"Zinka," he said in a low tone, "Zinka--Lent is over--Easter is come."

"Yes? what do you mean?" she said coldly, almost sternly.

"I mean," he said, and he looked her straight in the face, "that I have
fasted and that now I will feast, and be happy."

They were in a small room--a sort of raised recess divided from the
ball-room by a row of pillars; they were alone.

A joy so acute as to be almost pain came over Zinka. It blinded and
stunned her; she did not speak, she did not smile, she did not even
look up at him; she could not have stirred even if she had wished
it--she was paralyzed. He thought she would not hear him.

"Zinka," he urged, "can you not forgive me for having jingled the
fool's cap for six weeks till I could not hear the music of the
spheres? Can you not forgive me--for the sake of the misery I
have endured? I can bear it no longer--I confess and yield
unconditionally--I cannot live without you...."

Zinka was not strong enough to bear such emotion; the terrible tension
to which for the last quarter of an hour her pride had compelled her
gave way; she tottered, put out her hands, and was falling. He put his
arm round her and with the other hand pushed open a glass door that led
into the garden.

"Come out, the air will do you good," he said scarcely audibly, and
they went out on to the deserted terrace. His arm clasped her more
closely and drew her to him. Involuntarily he waited till she should
make some effort to free herself from his hold; but she was quite
passive; she only raised a tear-bedewed face with a blissful gaze into
his eyes, and whispered: "I ought not to forgive you so easily...." and
then, with no more distrust or fear than a child clinging to its
mother, she let her head fall on his shoulder and sobbed for happiness.
A strange reverence came over him; the sound of some church bell came
up from the city. He kissed her with solemn tenderness on the forehead
and only said:

"My darling, my sacred treasure!" She was safe.

When the general came out of the card-room to look once more at the
dancers before he withdrew, the cotillon, with its fanciful figures and
lavish distribution of ribbons and flowers, was nearly over.

"What a cruel idea!" he heard in a lamentable voice from one of a row
of chaperons, "to give a ball in such heat as this!"

It was the baroness, who was searching all round the room with her
eye-glass and a very sour and puckered expression of face. Siegburg,
who, as the general knew, was to have danced the cotillon with Zinka,
was sitting out; when von Klinger asked him the reason he answered very
calmly, that "he believed Zinka had felt tired and had gone home," But
the way in which he said it roused the old man's suspicions that he put
forward this hypothesis to prevent any further search being made for
Zinka. He had seen her last in the corridor with Sempaly, and he
hurried off to find her. He sought in vain in all the nooks hidden by
the plants; in vain in the recesses behind the pillars--but the door to
the garden was open. This filled him with apprehension--he went out,
sure that he must be following them.

The air was oppressively sultry and damp; it crushed him with a sense
of hopeless anxiety. The scirocco had cast its baleful spell over Rome.

Northerners who have never been in Rome have no idea of the nature of
the scirocco; they suppose it to be a storm of hot wind. No.... it is
when the air is still and damp, when it distils but does not waft a
heavy perfume that the scirocco diffuses its poison: a subtle influence
compounded of the scent of flowers that it forces into life only to
destroy them--of the mists from the Tiber whose yellow flood--like mud
mixed with gold, which rolls over the corpses and treasure that lie
buried in its depths--of the exhalations from the graves, and the
perennial incense from all the churches of Rome. The scirocco cheats
the soul with delusive fancies and fills the heart with gloom and
oppression; it inspires the imagination with dreams of splendid
achievement and stretches the limbs on a couch in languor and
exhaustion. It penetrates even the cool seclusion of the cloister and
breathes on the pale cheek of the young nun who is struggling for
devout aspiration, reminding her of long forgotten dreams.

All that is melancholy, all that is cruel and wicked in Rome--much,
too, that is beautiful--is engendered by the scirocco. It is creative
of glorious conceptions and of hideous deeds. One feels inclined to
fancy that on the day when Caesar fell under the dagger of Brutus
Scirocco and Tramontane fought their last fight for the mastery of
Rome--and Scirocco won the day.

A dense grey cloud hung over the city and veiled the sinking moon. A
cascade that tumbled from basin to basin, down the terraced slope of
the Quirinal, plashed weirdly in the deep twilight of the earliest
dawn, which was just beginning shyly to vie with the dying moon. Light
and shade had ceased to exist; the whole scene presented the dim,
smudged effect of a rubbed charcoal drawing.

The general sent a peering glance through the laurel-hedged alleys that
led down the hill. Above the clipped evergreens, rose huge ilexes,
wreathed to the very top with ivy and climbing roses. Here and there
something white gleamed dimly in the grey--he rushed to meet it--it was
a statue or a white blossomed shrub. Roses and magnolias opened their
blossoms to the solitude, and the scent of orange-flowers filled the
heavy air, stronger than all the other perfumes of the morning. Now and
then, like a faint sigh, a shiver ran through the leaves--the fall of a
dying flower.

The old man held his breath to listen; he called: "Zinka--Sempaly!" No
answer.

Suddenly he heard low voices in a path known as the alley of the
Sarcophagus and thither he bent his steps. The sullen light fell
through a gap in the leafy wall on Sempaly and Zinka, seated on a
bench, hand in hand, and talking familiarly, forgetful of all the world
besides.

Zinka was the first to see him; she was not in the least disconcerted.

"Oh! Uncle Klinger!" she exclaimed. "Mamma is waiting for me, I dare
say!--but do not scold me, I entreat you--."

Thank God for those happy innocent eyes that looked so frankly into
his!--On purity like hers Scirocco could have no power! No--he could
not be angry with her.--But _he_!

"Sempaly!" cried the old man indignantly: "What possesses you?"

"I have at length made up my mind to be happy," said Sempaly with
feeling, and he raised Zinka's hand to his lips. "That is all."

"And I ought not to have forgiven him so easily--ought I?" murmured
Zinka, quailing at the general's stern frown, and her head drooped.

"Zinka has been missed, you know how spiteful people are!" exclaimed
von Klinger angrily, ignoring the sentimentality of the situation.
Sempaly interrupted him with vehement irritation.

"What I should like to do," he said half to himself, "is to go straight
back to the ball-room, and tell my most intimate friends at once of our
engagement!" But even as he spoke he reconsidered the matter; "but I
cannot," he went on, "unfortunately I cannot. I must even entreat you,
Zinka, to keep it a secret even from your own household."

"Come, at once, with me," said the general drily, "my carriage is
waiting in the Piazza. If I am not mistaken there is a little gate here
which leads on to it... Yes, here it is. I will tell your mother, so
that others shall hear it, that you felt ill and left before the
cotillon began and that Lady Julia took you home."

When Zinka was safely on her way to the palazetto in charge of the
general's trusty old coachman, the two men looked each other in the
face.

"Outrageous!" growled the general furiously. Sempaly turned upon him
quickly:

"Think what you will of me," he said, "but do not let the shadow of a
suspicion rest on Zinka. You know that if you hold up a cross to the
devil himself, his power is quelled."

Without answering a word the general hurried past Sempaly and straight
into the ball-room; but he found time to lock behind him the alcove
door leading into the garden. In the ball-room he was met by the
baroness who anxiously asked him:

"Where is Zinka? have you seen Zinka?"

"Zinka felt shaken and upset by her fall--she went away a long time
since, with Lady Julia who took her home."

He spoke very distinctly and in French, so that several persons who
were standing near might hear him. "She might have let me know,"
exclaimed the baroness peevishly.

"We looked for you, but could nowhere find you," said the general.
Never in his life before had he told a lie.

                               *   *   *

At some unearthly hour next morning he called on Lady Julia to confide
to her the mystery of the night's adventure, that she might not
contradict his story; as he had actually put Zinka into her carriage
there seemed to be no other danger. Though she disliked the falsehood
as much as he did, she was quite ready to confirm the fiction; at the
same time she could not help saying again and again:

"Poor little thing! I hope it may all come right!"



                              CHAPTER III.


"Dearest Zinka, my own sweet little love,

"My brother arrived in Rome last night; he is on his way to Australia
and I am thankful to say stays only a few days. So long as he is here I
must make every sacrifice and hardly see you at all, for he must know
nothing of our engagement. Now, shall I tell you the real sordid reason
why I cannot speak to him of my happiness?--during these last few
miserable weeks, simply and solely to kill the time, I have gambled and
have always been unlucky, and I have got deeply into debt. My brother
will pay, as he always has done, so long as the conditions remain
unchanged. But ... however, it is not a matter to write about. Believe
this much only: that his narrow views can never affect my feelings
towards you; though I may seem to yield, for I think it useless to
provoke his antagonism. As soon as he has sailed there will be nothing
in the way of our engagement and we will be married immediately. To an
accomplished fact he must surrender. If I possibly can, I will see you
this evening at the palazetto--just to have one kiss and a loving word.
Till then I can only implore you to keep this absolutely secret.

                 "Your perfectly devoted

                                         "N.S."


This was the note that Zinka received the morning after the ball, as
she was breakfasting alone in her own room, rather later than usual,
but with a convalescent appetite. The color mounted to her cheeks, and
her eyes flashed indignantly. Coldness and neglect she had borne--but
the meanness and weakness--the moral cowardice--that this note
betrayed, degraded him in her eyes till she almost scorned him. She
felt as though a sudden glare had shown her the real Sempaly--as though
the man she loved was not he, but some one else. The man she had loved
was a lofty young god who had chosen to descend from his high estate to
break the heart of an insignificant girl who ought to have thought
herself happy only to have gazed upon him; but this was a boneless,
nerveless mortal, who could stoop to petty subterfuge for fear of
having to face the wrath of his brother.

She was furious; all the pride that had been crushed into silence by
her dejection was roused to arms. She went to her desk and wrote as
follows:


"I am prepared to marry you in defiance of your brother's will, but I
could never think of becoming your wife behind his back. I am ready to
defy him, but I do not choose to cheat him. It is of no use to come to
the house this evening unless you are quite clear on this point. I
could not think of marrying you unless I were perfectly sure that I was
more indispensable to your happiness than your brother's good will. You
must therefore consider yourself released from every tie, and regard
the words you spoke yesterday in a moment of excitement as effaced from
my memory. Ever yours,

                                   "Zinka Sterzl."


Zinka enclosed this peremptory note in an envelope, addressed it, rang
for her maid and desired her to have it sent immediately to the Palazzo
di Venezia.

"And shall I say there is an answer?" asked the girl.

"No," said Zinka shortly.

No sooner had the maid gone on her errand than the hapless Zinka felt
utterly wretched and almost repented of having written so
indignantly... She might have said all that was in the note without
expressing herself so bitterly. She thought the words over, knit her
brows, shook her head--and at that moment her eye fell on another
letter which had been brought to her with Sempaly's, and which she had
forgotten to open. She saw that the writing was Truyn's. She hastily
read the note which was a short one.


"Dear Zinka:--My poor little girl has been much worse and the doctor
gives me very little hope. She constantly asks for you, both when she
is conscious and in her delirium. Come to her if you can. Your old
friend,

                                   "Truyn."

"P. S. It is nothing catching--inflammation of the lungs."


Zinka started up--she forgot everything--her happiness, her grief,
Sempaly himself--remembering only Truyn's indefatigable kindness and
the sorrow that threatened him.

"Nothing catching...." she repeated to herself: "poor man! he thinks of
others even now--it is just like him. While I ... I?" She colored
deeply, for she recollected how that evening the child had sat
shivering by her side and she had not noticed it.

"I had my head turned by a kind word from him...." she thought vexed
with her own folly.

In a very few minutes she was hurrying across the Corso towards the
Piazza di Spagna. Her maid had some difficulty in keeping up with her.
Zinka almost flew, heeding nothing and looking at no one, till, in the
Piazza di Spagna, she came upon a group of persons coming out of the
Hotel de Londres and felt a light hand on her arm. Looking round she
saw Nini.

"Good-morning. Where are you off to in such a hurry?" asked the young
countess pleasantly.

"Good-morning," said Zinka hastily, "I am in a great hurry--I am going
to the Hotel de l'Europe; Gabrielle Truyn is very ill--she wants to see
me."

But at this moment Zinka perceived a tall, broad-shouldered man, with a
very handsome face and haughty expression, standing close to Nini. He
was gazing at her with perfectly well-bred admiration, and Nini
introduced him as Prince Sempaly. Then she saw that Nicklas Sempaly was
just behind, with Polyxena. His eyes met hers with a passionate flash,
but he only bowed with distant formality. Zinka had no time to think
about his manner, she was hardly conscious of his presence--all she
felt was that she was being detained.

"You must excuse me," she said, smiling an apology to Nini and shaking
hands warmly with her without stopping to think of the formalities of
caste. "Poor Count Truyn is expecting me." And she hurried on again.

"Who is that sweet-looking girl, Nini?" asked the prince, "for, of
course, you omitted to mention her name."

"Fräulein Sterzl," replied Nini, "the sister of one of the secretaries
to the embassy."

"Sterzl," repeated the prince somewhat flatly.

"Zenaïde Sterzl!" said Polyxena over her shoulder.

But the ironical accent emphasis she laid on the odd mixture of the
romantic and the commonplace was thrown away upon Prince Sempaly, who
was much too fine a gentleman to laugh at his inferiors; all he said
was:

"Sterzl? I seem to know the name. Sterzl--I served for a time under a
Colonel Sterzl of the Uhlans. He was a very superior man."

Zinka meanwhile was flying on to the Hotel de l'Europe. In the
sun-flooded court-yard stood two rose-trees, a white and a red--two
brown curly-headed little boys were fighting a duel with walking-sticks
in a shady corner--two English families were packing themselves into
roomy landaus for an excursion and sending the servants in and out to
fetch things that they had forgotten. The air was full of the scent of
roses, and sunshine, and laughter; but one of the Englishwomen hushed
her companion who had laughed rather loudly and pointing up to one of
the windows said: "Remember the sick child."

A cold chill fell on Zinka's heart--she ran up the familiar stairs. In
Truyn's drawing-room sat Gabrielle's English governess--anxious but
helpless.

"May I go in?" asked Zinka.

"No, wait a minute--the doctor is there." At this moment Truyn came out
of the child's room with Dr. E---- the German physician, and conducted
him down-stairs. Truyn had the fixed, calm, white face of a man who is
accustomed to bear his sorrows alone.

When he returned he went up to Zinka and took her hand: "She asks for
you constantly," he said, "but do you think you can prevent her seeing
that you are unhappy and alarmed?"

"Yes--indeed you may trust me," said Zinka bravely, wiping away her
tears; and she went into the child's room "as silent and bright as a
sunbeam."



                              CHAPTER IV.


Some one must have seen Zinka and Sempaly in the course of their
moonlight walk or else have found out something about it in spite of
the general's precautions; this was made evident by an article which
came out on the Friday after the ball in a French 'society paper'
published weekly in Rome. The title of the article was "a moonlight
cotillon;" it began with an exact description of Zinka, of whom it
spoke as Fräulein Z---- a S--l, the sister of a secretary in the
Austrian Embassy; referred to the sensation produced by her appearance
as Lady Jane Grey, spoke of her as an elegant adventuress--"a
professional beauty"--and hinted at her various unsuccessful schemes
for winning a princely coronet; schemes which had culminated in a
moonlight walk, a few nights since, during a ball at the house of a
distinguished member of Roman society, and which had outdone in
audacity all that had ever been known to the _chronique scandaleuse_ of
Rome. "Will she earn her reward in the form of a coronet and will the
pages of 'High Life' ere long announce a fashionable marriage in which
this young lady will fill a part?--that is the question," so the
article ended.

"High Life,"--this was the name of the paper graced by this
effusion--was scouted, abused and condemned by everybody, covertly
maintained by several, and read by most--with disgust and indignation
it is true, but still read. On this fateful Friday every copy of "High
Life" was sold in no time, and before the sun had set Zinka's name was
in every mouth.

What said the world of Rome? Lady Julia cried, had some tea, and went
to bed; Mr. Ellis said "shocking!" assured his wife that he was
convinced of Zinka's innocence, and that it would certainly triumph
over calumny; after which he quietly went about his business and spent
two whole hours in practising a difficult passage on the concertina.

It was the Brauers--the Sterzls' old neighbors before mentioned--who
contributed chiefly to the diffusion of the article, supplementing it
with their own comments. They had some acquaintance among the "cream"
of Rome, though they had not been invited to the ball at the
Brancaleone palace. Frau Brauer assumed a tone of perfidious
compassion: it was a terrible affair for a young girl's reputation,
though, for her part, she could see nothing extraordinary in a
moonlight wandering with an intimate friend. Her husband, to whom the
Sterzl family had paid very little attention--the baroness out of
conceit, and Cecil and Zinka because he was in fact intolerably
affected, pompous and patronizing--said with a sneering smile that he
had never seen anything to admire in that little adventuress, with her
free and easy innocence--pushing herself into society she was not born
to. He had always thought it most unbecoming; and it must be a pleasant
thing indeed for the Duchess of Brancaleone to have such a scandalous
business take place in her house--she would be more careful for the
future whom she invited!

Madame de Gandry and Mrs. Ferguson thought the article very amusingly
written--not that they would ever have said a word about such a piece
of imprudence--for really no one was safe! To be sure any evil that
might be written against them would be a lie--a pure invention--which
in Zinka's case was quite unnecessary ... So they sent the paper round
to all their friends as a warning against rushing into acquaintance
with strangers: "One cannot be too careful." Zinka had seemed to them
suspicious from the first, for after all she was not "the real thing."

All these spiteful and cruel insinuations they even ventured to utter
in the presence of Princess Vulpini, in the general's atelier, the spot
where all that circle concentrated whenever anything had occurred to
excite or startle it, and they made the princess furious.

"I am an Austrian myself," she said, "and was brought up with ideas of
exclusiveness which are as much above suspicion as they are beyond your
comprehension. I am strictly conservative in all my views. But Zinka is
elect by nature--an exceptional creature before whom all such laws give
way. I should have regarded it as pure folly to sacrifice the pleasure
of her acquaintance for the sake of a social dogma."

"Exceptions always fare badly," murmured the general.

Countess Ilsenbergh, who was as strict on points of honor as she was on
matters of etiquette, was deeply aggrieved by the article; she
expressed herself briefly but strongly on the subject of the freedom of
the press, and confessed that, whether Zinka were innocent or guilty,
things looked very ugly for Sempaly.

The count rushed into eloquence giving an exhaustive discourse on the
whole social question.

"Princess Vulpini is quite right," he said. "Fräulein Sterzl is a
bewitching creature, quite an exception--and if any departure from
traditional law is ever permissible it would be so in her case. But the
general too is right; exceptions must always fare badly in the world,
and we cannot endanger the very essence and being of social stability
in order to improve the position of any single individual. Above all,
we must never create a precedent." And he proceeded to enlarge on the
horrible consequences which must result from such a mixture of classes,
referred to the example of France, and proposed the introduction of the
Hindoo system of caste, in its strictest application, as a further
bulwark for the protection of society in Europe and the coercion of
ambitious spirits. His wife, at this juncture, objected that European
society had not yet reached such a summit of absolute exclusiveness as
he would assume, and that, consequently what was immediately needed was
not any such far-reaching scheme for its protection, but some plan for
dealing with the disagreeable circumstances in which its imperfection
had at this time placed them.

He replied that the matter lay in a nutshell; either the story in 'High
Life' was a lie, in which case Sempaly had nothing to do but to deny it
categorically, to prove an alibi at the hour mentioned and to horsewhip
the editor--or, the facts stated were true, and then--under the
circumstances--there was nothing for it--but ... "the lady's previous
character was quite above suspicion--there was nothing for it--but...."
and he shrugged his shoulders.

"But to make Fräulein Sterzl Countess Sempaly!" cried Madame de Gandry.
"Well, I must say I do think it rather too much to give an adventurous
little chit a coronet as a reward for sheer impudence. But I beg your
pardon, general,--I had forgotten that you are a friend of the family."

"And I," exclaimed the general beside himself, and quite pale with
rage, "I, madame, was within an ace of forgetting that I was listening
to a lady!"

Princess Vulpini interposed: "You yourself said, madame, that you had
always avoided any acquaintance with Zinka; now I have known her
intimately, and seen her almost every day; I have observed her demeanor
with men--with young men--and heard her conversation with other girls,
and I can assure you that the word impudence is no more applicable to
her conduct than to that of my little girl of three.--And if she did,
in fact, go into the garden with my cousin the night of the ball, it is
a proof simply of romantic thoughtlessness, of such perfect,
unsuspicious innocence that it ought of itself avail to protect her
against slander. I spent last night with Zinka, by the bedside of my
little niece who is ill, and no girl with a stain on her conscience
could look so sweetly pure or smile with such childlike sincerity. I
would put my hand in the fire for her spotless innocence!"

The princess spoke with such dignity and warmth, and while she spoke
she fixed such a scathing eye on Madame de Gandry, that the
Frenchwoman, abashed in spite of herself, could only mutter some
incoherent answer and withdraw with Mrs. Ferguson in her wake.

The four Austrians were alone.

"The person who puzzles me in this business," said the princess, "is
Nicki Sempaly. As soon as this wretched paper came into my hands I sent
it to his rooms. There I heard that he had just gone out with the
Jatinskys. I went to the Hotel de l'Europe to talk it over with my
brother, but he had gone to lie down and I had not the heart to wake
him. Besides, he could have done no good, and I could not bear to
disturb his happiness over his child's amendment.--So I came to
unburden my heart to you, general."

"Sempaly cannot have seen it yet," suggested Ilsenbergh. The princess
shrugged her shoulders. Countess Ilsenbergh once more expressed her
opinion that "it was a very unpleasant affair and that she had foreseen
it all from the first," after which, finding that it would be difficult
to prevent her husband from delivering another lecture, she rose to go.

At this instant Prince Vulpini came into the studio with a beaming
countenance. "Ah! here you are! I saw the carriage at the door as I was
passing.--Have you heard the latest news?"

"Sempaly is engaged to Zinka?" cried his wife.

"No!" cried the prince; "the wind last night tore down the national
flag on the Quirinal. Hurrah for the Tramontana!"

                               *   *   *

A few minutes later the general was alone; after a moment's hesitation
he took up his hat and hurried off to the palazetto to see how matters
stood there. He was one of those who had been the latest to hear of the
slanderous article and at the same time to be the most deeply wounded
by it. But perhaps by this time Sempaly had engaged himself to Zinka,
he said to himself, and he hastened his pace.

It was the baroness's day at home. The silly woman was sitting dressed
and displayed--a grey glove on one hand, while with the other she
pretended to arrange a dish of bonbons.

"How kind of you!--" she exclaimed as the general entered the room. The
stereotyped formula came piping out of her thin lips without the
smallest variation to every fresh visitor, as chilling and as colorless
as snow.

He had hardly greeted the baroness when he looked round for Zinka--at
first without seeing her; it was not till a bright voice exclaimed:

"Here I am, uncle, come and give me a kiss," that he discovered her, in
the darkest corner of the room, leaning back in a deep arm-chair and
looking rather tired and sleepy but wonderfully pretty and unwontedly
happy.

"I am so tired, so tired!--you cannot think how tired I am," she said,
laying his hand coaxingly against her cheek, "and mamma is so cruel as
to insist on my staying in the drawing-room because it is her day at
home, and I was sound asleep when you came in, for thank heaven! we
have had no visitors yet. I sat with Gabrielle all last night and the
night before without closing my eyes; but then I was so glad to think
that the little pet would not take her medicine from anyone but me; and
last night, at length, in the middle of one of my stories, she fell
asleep on my shoulder. But then in order not to disturb her I sat quite
still for six hours. I felt as if I had been nailed to a cross--and
to-day I am so stiff I can hardly move." And she stretched her arms and
curled herself into her chair again with a pretty caressing action of
her shoulders. "You ought to have stayed in bed," said the general
paternally. "Oh dear no! why I slept on till quite late in the morning.
Besides, my being tired is of no real importance; the great point is
that Gabrielle is out of danger: Oh, if anything had happened to
her!..." and she shuddered; "I cannot bear to think of it. Count Truyn
is firmly convinced that I have contributed in some mysterious way to
the child's amendment, and when I came away this morning he kissed my
hands in gratitude as if I had been the holy _Bambino_ himself. I
laughed and cried both at once, and now I am so happy--my heart feels
as light as one of those air balls the children carry tied by a string,
that they may not fly off up to the clouds. But why do you look so
grave? are you not as glad as I am, uncle that...."

The baroness who had been looking at her watch here expressed her
surprise that not a living soul had come near them to-day.

"You are evidently not a living soul, uncle--nothing but my dear grumpy
old friend," said Zinka with her pathetic little laugh. There was
something peculiarly caressing and touching about her to-day; the old
man's eyes were moist and his heart bled for the sweet child.

Outside the door they heard a heavy swift step--the step of a man in
pressing but crushing trouble; the door was torn open and Sterzl,
breathless, green rather than pale, foaming with rage, stormed in--a
newspaper in his hand.

"What is the matter--what has happened?" cried Zinka dismayed. He came
straight up to her and stared at her with dreadful eyes.

"Were you really in the garden with Sempaly during the cotillon?" he
said hoarsely.

"Yes," she said trembling.

He gave a little start and shuddered--tottered--then he pulled himself
up and flung the newspaper at her feet--at hers--his butterfly, his
darling!

"Read that," he said.

Von Klinger tried to seize the paper, but Sterzl held him with a firm
hand. "Your leniency is out of place," he said dully; "_she_ may read
anything."

Zinka read; suddenly she sprang up with a cry of horror and the
paper fell out of her hand. Even now she did not understand the
matter,--exactly what she was accused of she did not know; only that it
was something unwomanly and disgraceful.

"Cecil!" she began, looking into his face, "Cecil...." and then she
covered her face, which from white had turned crimson, with her hands.
He meanwhile had felt the absolute innocence of the girl, and was
repenting of his rash and cruel wrath.

"Zini," he cried, "forgive me--I was mad with rage--mad." And he tried
to put his arm round her. But she held him off.

"Leave me, leave me," she said. "No, I cannot forgive you. Oh Cecil!
if all the newspapers in the world had said you had cheated, for
instance--do you think I should have believed them?"

He bent his head before her with a certain reverence: "But this is
different, Zini," he said very gently; "I do not say it as an excuse
for myself, but it is different. You do not see how different because
you are a child--an angel--poor, sweet, little butterfly," and he drew
her strongly to his breast and laid his lips on the golden head; she
however would not surrender and insisted on freeing herself.

"What on earth is going on?" the baroness asked again, for the
twentieth time. Getting, even now, no reply, she picked up the
newspaper that was lying on the floor, caught sight of the article,
read a few lines of it, and broke out into railing complaints of
Zinka--enumerating all the sins of which Zinka had been guilty from her
earliest years and particularly within her recent memory, and ending
with the words: "And you will ruin Cecil yet in his career."

"Be quiet, mother;" said Cecil sternly. "My career is not the present
question--we must think of our honor and of her happiness," and leaning
over the fragile and trembling form of his sister, he said imploringly:

"Tell me, Zini, exactly what happened."

She had freed herself from his clasp and was standing before him with
her arms folded across--rigid though tremulous--and her voice was cold
and monotonous as she obeyed him and gave with naïve exactitude her
short and simple report, blushing as she spoke. When she had ended
Cecil drew a deep breath.

"And since that you have heard nothing of Sempaly?" he asked.

"The next morning he sent me a note."

"Zinka, do not be angry with me ... show me that note."

She left the room and soon returned with the letter which she handed to
Sterzl. He read it through with great gravity and marked attention then
knitting his brows he slowly folded it up and turned it over.

"And you answered him?" he asked.

"Yes."

"And what did you say?"

"Very little--that I was quite prepared to marry him without his
brother's consent, but behind his brother's back?--No!"

In the midst of his trouble a flash of pride lighted up Sterzl's weary
eyes. "Bravo, Zini!" he murmured, "and he took this answer in silence?"

Zinka paused to think:

"Yes...." she said; "but no.--He sent me a note to the Hotel de
l'Europe."

"And what does he say in that?"

"I have not read it yet; it came just at the moment when Gabrielle was
at the worst and then I forgot it--but here it is...." and she drew it
out of the pocket of her blue serge dress. Sterzl shook his head and
glanced with a puzzled air at his sister; then he opened the note. It
was as follows:


"My darling little treasure, my haughty indignant little sweetheart:

"Immediately on the receipt of your note I rushed to see you. The
porter told me that you were not at home but with your poor little
friend Gabrielle. Of course I cannot think of intruding on you there,
though I would this day give a few years of my life for a sight of
you--for one kiss. Sooner than lose you I am ready to throw up
everything. Command and I obey ... but no, I must be wise for us both;
I must wait till my affairs are somewhat in order. There is no help for
it--I can only ask your forgiveness. I kiss your hands and the hem of
your garment--I am utterly unworthy of you, but I love you beyond
words.

                                         "Sempaly."


When Sterzl had read this highly characteristic letter he slowly paced
the room two or three times, and finally stood still in front of his
sister. Then, taking her hand and kissing it fondly, he said:

"Forgive me, Zini--I am really proud of you. You have behaved like an
angel ... but he--he is a contemptible sneak."

But this she could not stand. "I do not defend him," she exclaimed
vehemently, "but at any rate he loves me, and he understands me.--He,
at any rate, would never have suspected me ... and ... and...." But it
was in vain that she paused for a word--she could say nothing more in
his favor; but she called up all her pride, and holding her head very
high she left the room; as soon as she was outside they could hear her
sob convulsively.

The baroness rose to follow her, but Cecil stood in her way.

"Where are you going?" he asked sternly.

"To Zinka; I really must make her see what mischief she has done. It is
outrageous ... why, at thirteen I should have known better!" Sterzl
smiled bitterly:

"Very likely," he said, "but I must beg you to leave Zinka to herself;
she is miserable enough without that."

"And are we to submit to her heedlessness without even reproving her
for it?" said the baroness indignantly.

"Yes, mother," he said decidedly; "our business now is not to reprove
her, but to protect and comfort her."

At this juncture dinner was announced. Sterzl begged the general to
remain and dine with them, for he had, he said, several things to talk
over with him. He evidently wished above everything to avoid being
alone with his mother. Before sitting down he went to Zinka's room to
see whether she would not eat at least a little soup; but he came back
much distressed.

"She would hardly speak to me," he said; "she is quite beside herself."
And he himself sat in silence, eating nothing, drinking little,
crumbling his bread and playing with his napkin. Each time the door
opened he looked anxiously round.

The meal was short and uncomfortable; when they had returned to the
drawing-room and were drinking their coffee the servant brought Sterzl
a letter. Cecil took it hastily, looked at the address, and, not
recognizing the writing, at last opened it. It contained only a
half-sheet of note-paper, with a cleverly sketched caricature: Sterzl
himself as auctioneer, the hammer in one hand a doll in the other, and
before him the coroneted heads of Rome. Sterzl at once recognized the
likeness, though his lank figure was absurdly exaggerated, and his
whole appearance made as grotesque as possible. He only shrugged his
shoulders and said indifferently:

"Does any one really think that such a thing as this can hurt or vex me
now? Look, general--Sempaly, no doubt, is the ingenious artist of this
masterpiece."

The general took the paper, and would have torn it across to prevent
Sterzl from examining it any further; but before he could do so Cecil,
looking over his shoulder, had snatched it out of his hand.

"There is something written on it!" he said, deciphering the scribble
in one corner, in Sempaly's weak, illegible hand-writing: "Mademoiselle
Sterzl, going--going--gone--!... Ah! I understand!"

His face grew purple and he breathed with difficulty.

"To send you this is contemptible," cried the general; "Sempaly drew
this before he had ever seen Zinka.... I know it, I was present at the
time."

"What difference does that make?" said Sterzl; "if this is the view
people took of me and my proceedings! Well, and after all they were
right--I should have liked to see my sister brilliantly married--I
meant it well ... and I have made myself ridiculous and have been the
ruin of the poor child."

His rage and misery were beyond control; he walked up and down, then
suddenly stood still, looking out of the open window; then again he
paced the room.

"Sempaly is incomprehensible," he began, "quite incomprehensible! I had
no very high opinion of his character--particularly lately; but I could
not have supposed him capable of such baseness and cruelty. What do you
gather from his not coming here to-day?"

"He simply has not happened to see the paper," the general suggested.
"He is gone on some expedition with his brother and his cousins."

"Well, but even supposing that he has not read this article," said
Sterzl, "it still is very strange that, as matters stand between him
and Zinka, he should have let two days go by without making any attempt
to see her."

The general was silent.

"You know him better than I do," Cecil began again presently, "and, as
Zinka tells me, you were present during some part of this romantic
moonlight promenade. Do you think he seriously intends to marry her?"

"I know that he is madly in love with her, and even the Ilsenberghs,
who were discussing the matter at my house with the Princess Vulpini,
saw no alternative for him--irrespective of his attachment to her--but
to make her an offer."

"We shall see," murmured Sterzl. He looked at the clock: "half past
nine!" he exclaimed. "This is becoming quite mysterious. I will try
once more to see him at his rooms; his chasseur will perhaps know when
he is expected to return home. Would you mind remaining here?" he added
in a low voice; "keep my mother from going to Zinka; the poor child
cannot bear it;" and he hurried off.

In about half an hour he returned.

"Well?" asked the general.

"He set out at one o'clock for Frascati, with the prince, the
Jatinskys, and Siegburg," said Sterzl gloomily. "When I asked whether
he was to be back this evening the man said certainly, for he was to
set off to-morrow morning with his excellency the ambassador. He has
been afraid to declare his engagement for fear of a scene with his
brother--he is gone out of Rome for fear of a scene with me--'High
Life' was lying open on his writing-table."

They heard the light rustle of a dress. Sterzl looked round--behind him
stood Zinka with tumbled hair and anxious, eager, tear-dimmed eyes.

"Zinka!" he cried, stepping forward to catch her; for her gaze was
fixed, she staggered, put out her hands with a helpless gesture and
fell into his arms. He laid her head tenderly on his shoulder and
carried her away.



                               CHAPTER V.


Sempaly's nervous system was very sensitive and his ear remarkably
delicate; he had in consequence a horror--a perfect mania of
aversion--for any scene which might involve excitement and loud
talking. Besides this he had the peculiarity--common enough with the
spoilt children of fortune--of always ignoring as far as possible the
inevitable difficulties of life in the hope that some _deus ex machina_
would interfere to set matters straight for him.

His passion for Zinka was perfectly genuine, at once vehement and
tender; far from diminishing, it had, if possible, increased during
these last three days. Though that hour of sentimental and guileless
talk with Zinka under the midnight moon had for the time satisfied her,
it had only fevered him; and while his cowardly double-dealing had
lowered him in her esteem, her straightforward pride had raised her
infinitely in his. He was utterly miserable, but this did not prevent
him from allowing his good-natured senior to pay his enormous debts,
nor--in order to propitiate him--from paying specious attentions to his
cousins. It must, however, be said in extenuation, that this flirtation
was not so much deliberate as instinctive, for he was a man whose
untutored and unbounded impulse to make himself agreeable led him
irresistibly to do his utmost to produce a pleasant impression, even at
the sacrifice of his honor. If, only once, during these three days, he
had had an opportunity of speaking to Zinka all might perhaps have
turned out differently. He would probably have found it easy, with his
wonderful fascination of person, to recover the ground he had lost; and
her proud rectitude might possibly have influenced him to take a bolder
course of action. But, in the first instance, he could not intrude on
Zinka while she was sitting by her little friend Gabrielle, and the
idea of rushing into an explanation with Sterzl did not smile on his
fancy.

Thus he let the hours slip by, till, on the Friday morning, the
luckless copy of 'High Life' was brought into him addressed in a
feigned hand. This made him furious, and he was on the point of rushing
off to the palazetto when he remembered that he had promised to be
ready to join the party to Frascati at one o'clock. He had dipped his
pen and prepared the paper to send an excuse to the Hotel de Londres
when there was a knock, and Prince Sempaly, with his two cousins,
walked in, half an hour before the appointed time.

"What a surprise!... An unexpected honor!" he exclaimed somewhat
disconcerted.

"That is what we intended," said Polyxena laughing. "Hum! there is a
rather pronounced perfume of latakia in your room--but the whole effect
is pretty, very pretty," while Nini looked timidly about her with her
fawn-like eyes. A bachelor's quarters are, as is well known, one of the
most interesting mysteries that ever exercise the curious imagination
of a young lady.

"The girls insisted on seeing your den," the prince explained, "so I
had to bring them, whether or no, while Siegburg amuses their mamma."

"Why, you yourself proposed it, Oscar!" cried Nini.

Sempaly bowed. "From this time henceforth this room is consecrated
ground," he said gallantly--and "High Life" was lying on his desk all
the time and an iron fist seemed clenched upon his heart. If his
brother had but come alone ... but with these two girls ... it was
crucial.

Xena began to touch and examine all his odds and ends, to open his
books, and at last to hover round his writing-table where, with
graceful impertinence, she was about to take up the fatal sheet.

"Stop, stop!" cried Nicki, "that is not for your eyes, Xena."

"Look, but touch not," said the prince, with a good-natured laugh;
"young maidens like you are not permitted to inspect the secrets of a
bachelor's rooms too closely. You might seize a scorpion before we
could interfere. Besides, we must not keep your mother waiting any
longer, children; make haste and get ready, Nicki."

For a moment Sempaly tried to think of an excuse; then he reflected
that it really was not worth while to spoil the pleasure of Oscar's
last day--all might be set right afterwards. So he only asked for time
to write a note, and scribbled a few lines to Sterzl in which he
formally proposed for Zinka. This note he confided to a porter desiring
him to carry it at once to the secretary's office.

After this he was for a time very much pleased with himself; but, as
the afternoon wore on, the more uneasy he became, and it was to this
unrest that most of the tender glances were due that the prince cast
alternately on him and on Nini. He felt more and more as if he were
being driven into a trap; in the Villa Aldobrandini he found an issue
from some of his difficulties. Suddenly, as they were standing by the
great fountain, Nini and he found themselves _tête-à-tête_, a
circumstance arising from the consentaneous willingness of the rest of
the party to give them such an opportunity. He seized the propitious
moment to disburden his soul. He addressed her as his sister, confessed
his secret betrothal, and implored her kind interest for Zinka. Nini,
who felt as though she had been stabbed to the heart, was brave as
became her and for sheer dread of betraying her own feelings, she tried
to take a pleasure she was far from feeling in the success of his love
affair. He kissed her hand and kept near her for the rest of the day.
His brother, who perceived that the young couple had come to an
understanding, communicated his observations to Countess Jatinska with
extreme satisfaction. He was himself a man of strong and lofty feeling,
free from all duplicity, and he could not conceive that a young man
could have anything to say to a very handsome girl in private but to
make love to her.

The day was at an end. With that want of precaution of which only
foreigners in Rome can be guilty, they set out homewards much too late
and did not reach the hotel before ten. Here Nemesis overtook Sempaly.
At the end of supper, which the little party had served to them in the
countess' private sitting-room, and at which the confidential footing
on which Sempaly stood with regard to his cousin was thrown into
greater relief, the prince, with a frank smile of self-satisfaction at
his powers of divination, raised his glass and said: "To the health of
the happy couple."

Nini turned crimson; Nicki turned pale. He was in the trap now. Brought
to bay he could do nothing but turn upon the foe whom he could not
evade. He was possessed by a wild impulse to snatch the odious mask
from his own face.

"And who are the happy couple?" he asked.

"You need not be so mysterious about it, Nicki," cried his brother
warmly. "Of you and...." but a glance at Nini reduced him to silence.

"Of me and Fräulein Zinka Sterzl," said Sempaly with vehement emphasis.

The blood flew to the prince's head; rage and horror fairly deprived
him of speech. Countess Jatinska laughed awkwardly, Polyxena pursed her
lips disdainfully while Nini gave her cousin her hand and said loyally:

"Your bride shall always find a friend in me."

But now the prince's wrath broke loose--he was furious; he swore that
this insane marriage should never take place, and could not conceive
how his brother--a man old enough to know better--could have allowed
such a piece of madcap folly to enter his head.

The ladies rose and withdrew; Sempaly, who till within a few minutes
had been so weak and vacillating, had suddenly become rigid in
obstinacy and he desired the waiter to bring him the fateful number of
'High Life'. The prince read it, but his first observation was: "Well!
and a pretty state the world would soon come to if every man who lets a
charming adventuress entrap him into an indiscretion were to pay for it
by marrying her!"

At this insulting epithet applied to Zinka, Sempaly fired up. He did
not attempt to screen himself, he defended Zinka as against himself,
with the most unsparing self-accusation. Egotistical, sensitive, and
morally effete as he was, he was still a gentleman, and he now set no
limits to his self-indictment; it seemed as though he thought that by
heaping invective on his own head he could expiate the baseness into
which he had been betrayed during the last few days. He told the whole
story: that he had loved Zinka from the first time of seeing her: that
he had been on the point of making her an offer when an accidental
interruption had suddenly snatched him from the heaven of hope and
bliss: that he had neglected and forsaken her: that his constant
intimacy with his handsome cousins had raised a barrier between him and
Zinka; then, how he had met her that night at the Brancaleones', and
how, as he helped her to rise after her tumble, his passion had taken
entire possession of him--all this he told, down to the moment when she
had laid her head on his shoulder. "And before such guileless trust
what man is there that would not bow in reverence!" he ended, "all
Rome can bear witness to her sweetness and goodness; ask whom you
will--Marie Vulpini, Truyn, even the Ilsenberghs--or Siegburg here."

The prince turned to Siegburg.

"I can make neither head nor tail of the matter," he said. "Is all he
says of this girl true, or mere raving?"

Siegburg's answer was simple, eager, and plain; it is, at all times, a
difficult thing for a young man to praise a girl without reflecting on
her in any way, but Siegburg's testimony in Zinka's favor was a little
masterpiece of genuine and respectful enthusiasm. Prince Sempaly's face
grew darker as he spoke.

"And the young lady in question is the girl we met the other day in the
Piazzi?" he said.

"Yes."

"The sister of the secretary of legation whom the ambassador introduced
to me yesterday, and the niece of my old colonel?"

"Yes."

"And from what you tell me not only an absolutely blameless creature,
but universally beloved?"

"Yes."

For a minute the prince was silent. Every fibre of his being had its
root in the traditions of the caste into which he had been born, and a
connection between Zinka Sterzl and a Sempaly was to him simply
monstrous. He had in the highest degree a respect for his past--"le
respect des ruines"--but they must be grand ruins, of a noble past, or
they did not touch him at all. With his head resting on his hand he sat
silent by the supper-table, which was not yet cleared and where the
lights sparkled in the half-empty champagne-glasses, and the flowers
placed for the ladies still lay by their plates. Suddenly he looked up,
and pointing to the newspaper, he asked:

"Had you seen that article when we came to fetch you from your rooms
this morning?"

"Yes."

The prince sat bolt upright.

"And you did not stay in Rome to defend the girl?" His black eyes
looked straight into his brother's blue ones. "You came with us? You
left this young lady to be, for the whole day, the victim of the
slander of all the evil tongues of Rome, for fear of an unpleasant
explanation--for fear of a few high words with me?--You have behaved in
a base and unmanly way throughout this affair, both to this young lady
and to the poor sweet creature in there...." and he pointed to the door
behind which the two young countesses disappeared with their mother.
"Of course I shall not let you starve; your allowance shall be paid to
you regularly as heretofore--but beyond that we have no further
connection; we have nothing in common, you and I. Go!"

                               *   *   *

The _deus ex machina_ had failed to appear. The dreaded scene with his
brother had been postponed for a few hours, but it had come at last and
Sempaly had gained nothing by his procrastination and duplicity. He had
provoked not merely his brother's anger but his scorn as well, while
his marriage with Zinka, when he had at last found himself compelled to
announce it to his brother, had altogether lost its startling and
interesting aspect as a chivalrous romance, and had come down to a mere
act of reparation to satisfy his conscience.

Sempaly rose rather earlier than usual next morning, his nerves still
conscious of the remembrance of this unsatisfactory scene and of the
sleepless night that had been the consequence. Vexed with himself; at
once surprised and touched by his brother's lofty indignation; ashamed
to think of the calumny to which his irresolution and his absence must
have exposed Zinka--he was in that state of sensitive irritability in
which a man holds all the world in some degree responsible for his own
shortcomings, and is ready to revenge himself on the first man he meets
for the misery he is enduring.

While he was waiting for his breakfast, walking up and down the
sitting-room--half drawing-room, half smoking-room--the general came
in. For the first time in his life Sempaly greeted the old man as an
intruder.

"Good-morning," he cried, "what procures me the honor of such an early
visit?"

"Well," said Von Klinger hotly, "it can scarcely surprise you that I,
as Zinka's god-father and oldest friend, should come to ask you what
you mean by your extraordinary conduct."

"That, it seems to me, is her brother's business," said Sempaly
roughly.

"It is on purpose to prevent a collision between you and Sterzl that I
have come so early," replied the general, who was cut out for an
officer of dragoons rather than for a diplomatist. "Sterzl is beside
himself with fury, and I know that your intentions with regard to Zinka
are perfectly honorable, and so...."

But at this moment the general's eye fell on a travelling-bag that the
luxurious young attaché was wont to carry with him on short journeys,
and which lay packed on the divan. "You are going away?" asked the old
man surprised.

"I had intended to accompany my brother as far as Ostia to-day and
return early to-morrow; but that is at an end--the prince and I have
quarrelled--yes, I have quarrelled past all possibility of a
reconciliation with my noble and generous brother. Are you satisfied?"
and he stamped with rage.

"And is the want of judgment that has led to your parting any fault of
mine pray?" exclaimed the general angrily.

There was a hasty rap at the door; on Sempaly's answering: "come in,"
Sterzl walked in. He did not take Sempaly's offered hand but drew a
newspaper out of his pocket, held it out in front of Sempaly, and asked
abruptly:

"Have you read this article?"

"Yes," said Sempaly from between his teeth.

"Yesterday--before you went out?" Sterzl went on.

This word-for-word repetition of the prince's question touched all
Sempaly's most painful and shameful recollections of the scene to the
quick. His eyes flashed, but he said nothing.

Sterzl could contain himself no longer. All the bitter feelings of the
last six weeks seethed in his blood, and the luckless travelling-bag
caught his eye. This was too much...

What happened next?...

The general saw it all in a flash of time--unexpected, and inevitable.

Sterzl took one stride forward and struck Sempaly in the face with the
newspaper. At the same moment Sempaly's servant came in with the
breakfast tray.

A few minutes later Sterzl and the general went down the stairs of the
embassy in silence, not even looking at each other. When they were
outside the younger man stopped and drew a deep breath:

"Sempaly will send you his seconds in the course of the morning," he
said; "I must ask you to act for me."

The general nodded but did not speak.

"I will send word to Crespigny too, and then you can do whatever you
think proper."

Still the general said nothing, and his silence irritated Sterzl.

"I could bear it no longer," he muttered as if in delirium; "what ...
do you suppose ... too much...."

By this time they were in the Corso. Towards them came Siegburg, as
bright and gay as ever, his hat pushed back on his head.

"I am happy to be the first to congratulate you, Sterzl," he cried.

"On what pray?" said Sterzl fiercely.

"On your sister's engagement to Sempaly--what! then you really did know
nothing about it?"

Sterzl was bewildered: "What is it--what are you talking about?--I do
not understand," he stammered.

"What, have you not heard?" Siegburg began; "the bomb fell last
evening; Nicki declared his engagement. Oscar, to whom the whole
business was news ... come into this café and I will tell you exactly
all about it; it does not do to discuss such things in the street."

"I--I have not time," muttered Sterzl with a fixed vacant stare; and,
as he spoke, he shot past Siegburg; but his gait was unsteady and he
ran up against a passer-by.

"What on earth ails him?" said Siegburg looking after him. "I thought
he would be pleased and--well! the ways of man are past finding out.
This marriage will create a sensation in Vienna, eh, general? But I
approve--I entirely approve. We are on the threshold of a new era, as
Schiller--or some one has said, Bismarck very likely--and we shall live
to tell our children how we stood by and looked on. But what is the
matter with you both--you and Sterzl? To be sure--you were coming from
the Palazzo di Venezia--have Nicki and Sterzl quarrelled--a challenge!"
The general nodded. "But it can be amicably arranged now," said
Siegburg consolingly.



                              CHAPTER VI.


On his return home Sterzl found Sempaly's note of the day before. The
porter had taken it, as he was ordered, to the secretary's office, but
as Sterzl had not gone there all day it had lain unopened; till, this
morning, one of the messengers had thought it well to bring it to the
palazetto. Sterzl read it and hid his face in his hands.

Within a short time Sempaly's seconds were announced--Siegburg and a
military attaché from the Russian embassy.

No, it could not be amicably arranged--under the circumstances there
was but one way of satisfying the point of honor. This point of
honor--what is it? A social dogma of the man of the world, and the
whole creed of the southern aristocrat.

Sterzl was to start that night by the eleven o'clock train for Vienna,
on matters of business, before setting out for Constantinople. The
affair must therefore be settled at once. Beyond fixing the hour Sterzl
left everything to his seconds. Swords, at seven that evening, among
the ruins opposite the tomb of the Metellas was finally agreed on.

Soon after six, Sterzl and his seconds set out. The carriage bore them
swiftly along, through the gloomy, stuffy streets which lead to the
Forum, along the foot of the Palatine, and past the Colosseum, through
the arch of Constantine into the Via Appia, on and on, between grey
moss-grown walls, over which they caught glimpses of ruins and tall
dark cypresses. Then the walls disappeared and bushy green hedge-rows,
covered with creepers, bordered the road, and presently the Campagna
lay before them, an endless, rolling, green carpet, with its attractive
melancholy, and the poisonous beauty of orchids and asphodels with
which each returning spring decks its waste monotony, like a wilderness
in a fevered dream.

Sterzl sat in silence on the back seat, facing his two friends. He did
not even pretend to be cheerful. A brave man may sometimes face death
with indifference, but hardly with a light heart. Death is a great king
to whom we must need do homage. His soul was heavy; but his two
companions, who knew not only his staunch nature but all the
circumstances of the duel, knew that it was not from anxiety as to his
own fate. He could not forget that this catastrophe was, at last, due
solely and entirely to his own violence and loss of self-command. He
never once reflected that this engagement--brought about by a series of
makeshifts and accidents--could hardly have resulted in a happy
marriage; he had forgotten Sempaly's sins and remembered one thing
only: that his sister might have had the moon she had longed for, and
that he alone had snatched it from her grasp.

A powerful fragrance filled the air, coming up from the orchids, from
the blossoming hedges, from the fresh greenery of the gardens, like the
very soul of the spring, bringing a thousand memories to his brooding
brain and aching heart. It reminded him of the great untended orchard
at home, and of one morning in the last May he had spent there before
going to school. The apple-trees were clothed with rosy blossom;
butterflies were flitting through the air, and the first forget-me-nots
peeped bluely among the trailing brambles on the brink of the brook
that danced across the garden, murmuring sleepily to the shadowy,
whispering alders. There was a fragrance of the soil, of the trees, of
the flowers--just as there was now--and Zinka, then a mere baby, had
come tripping to meet him and had said with her little confidential and
important air:

"I do believe that God must have set the gates of heaven open for once,
there is such a good smell." He could see her now, in her white
pinafore and long golden hair, clinging to her big brother with her
soft, weak little hands. And he had lifted her up and said: "Yes, God
left the door open and you slipped out my-little cherub." With what
large, wondering eyes she had looked into his face.

She had always been his particular pet; his father had given her into
his special charge and now ... "poor, sweet butterfly!" he said to
himself, half audibly.

"Do not be too strict in your fence," said a deep voice close to him.
It was Crespigny who thus startled him from his dream of the past:--"Do
not be too scientific. You have everything in your favor--practice,
skill, and strength; but Sempaly--I know his sword-play well--has one
dangerous peculiarity: you never know what he will be at." Sterzl
looked over his shoulder. The tomb of Cecilia Metella was standing
before them.

                               *   *   *

Opposite the tomb of Cecilia Metella is a deserted and half-ruined
early Gothic structure, a singular mixed character of heathen grandeur
and of mediæval strength, lonely and roofless under the blue sky. A
weather-beaten cross, let into the crumbling stone-work above the
door-way, betokens it a sanctuary of the primitive Christian times; on
entering we see a still uninjured apse where the altar table once
stood. No ornament of any kind, not even a scrap of bas-relief, is to
be seen; nothing but frail ferns--light plumes of maiden hair that deck
the old walls with their emerald fronds. The floor is smooth and
covered with fine turf, from which, in spring-time, white and red
daisies smile up at the sky, and dead nettles grow from every chink and
along the foot of the walls.

The other party were already on the spot; Sempaly was talking
unconcernedly, but with no affectation of levity, to the Russian, and
bowed politely to the three men as they came in. His manner and conduct
were admirable; in spite of his irritable nervousness, there were
moments when he had--and in the highest degree--that unshaken
steadfastness which is part of the discipline of a man of the world, to
whom it is a matter of course that under certain circumstances he must
fight, just as under certain others he must take off his hat.

Siegburg changed color a good deal; the others were quite cool. They
made a careful survey lest some intruding listener should be within
hearing, but all was still as death. The vineyard behind the little
chapel was deserted.

The formalities were soon got through; Sempaly and Sterzl took off
their coats and waistcoats, and took the places assigned to them by
their seconds.

The signal was given.--The word of command was heard in the silence
and, immediately after, the first click of the swords as they engaged.

Any one who has lived through the prolonged anticipation of a known
peril or ordeal, knows that, when the decisive moment has arrived, the
tension of the nerves suddenly relaxes; anxiety seems lifted from the
soul, fear vanishes and all that remains is a sort of breathless
curiosity. This was the case with the general and Siegburg; they
watched the sword-play attentively, but almost calmly. Sempaly was the
first to attack, and was extraordinarily nimble. Sterzl stood strictly
on the defensive. He fenced in the German fashion, giving force to his
lunge with the whole weight of his body; and this, with his skill and
care, gave him a marked advantage over his lighter adversary. The sense
of superior strength seemed at first to hinder his freedom; in fact,
the contest, from a mere technical point of view, was remarkably
interesting. Sempaly displayed a marvellous and--as Crespigny had
said--quite irresponsible suppleness, which had no effect against
Sterzl's imperturbable coolness. It was evident that he hoped to weary
out his antagonist and then to end the duel by wounding him slightly.
He had pricked Sempaly just under the arm, but Sempaly would not be
satisfied; it was nothing he said, and after a short pause they began
again.

Sempaly was beginning to look pale and exhausted, his feints were
short, straight, and violent; Sterzl, on the contrary, looked fresher.
Like every accomplished swordsman, in the course of a long fight he had
warmed to his work and was fighting as he would have done with the
foils, without duly calculating the strength of his play; things looked
ill for Sempaly.

Suddenly, through the silence, a song was heard in the distance, in a
boy's thin piping soprano:


           "Bright May--the sweetest month of Spring;
            The trees and fields with flowers are strown--"


It sent a thrill through Sterzl's veins, reminding him of the evening
when Zinka had sung those words to Sempaly. The romantic element that
was so strong in him surged to his brain; he lost his head; fearing to
wound Sempaly mortally, he forgot to cover himself and for a second he
suddenly stood as awkward and exposed as though he had never had a
sword in his hand.

The seconds rushed forward--too late.

With the scarcely audible sound that the sharp steel makes as it
pierces the flesh, Sempaly's sword ran into his adversary's side.
Sterzl's flannel shirt was dyed with blood--his eyes glazed--he
staggered forward a step or two--then he fell senseless. The duel was
over.

                               *   *   *

A quarter of an hour later and the wound had been bound up as best it
might, and in the closed landau, which they had made as comfortable as
they could by arranging the cushions so as to form a couch--the general
supporting the groaning man's head on his arm, and opposite to him the
surgeon--they were driving homewards' slowly--slowly.

Dusk had fallen on the Campagna, from time to time the general looked
out anxiously to see how far they were still from Rome. The road was
emptier and more deserted every minute; a cart rattled past them full
of peasants, shouting and singing at the top of their voices; then they
met a few white-robed monks, wending their way with flaring torches to
some church; and then the road was perfectly empty. The cypresses stood
up tall and black against the dull-hued sky and the wide plain was one
stretch of grey.

At last the arch of Constantine bends over them for a minute and the
horses hoofs clatter on the stones--slowly--slowly.... The lamps of
Rome twinkle in the distance--they have reached the Corso, at this hour
almost empty of vehicles but crowded with idlers, and the cafés are
brilliantly lighted up. The slowly-moving landau excites attention, the
gapers crowd into knots, and stare and whisper. At last they reach the
palazetto, turn into the court-yard and get out. The porter comes out
of his den, his dog at his heels barking loudly.

"Hush, silence!" says the general--the servants come rushing down, the
women begin to sob and cry, and again the general says:

"Hush, hush!" as if it were worth while to keep Zinka in ignorance for
a minute more or less.

With some difficulty the heavy man is lifted out and carried
up-stairs--the heavy shuffling steps sound loud in the silence.
Suddenly they hear Zinka's voice loud in terror, then the baroness's
in harsh reproof--a door is flung open and Zinka rushes out to meet
them--a half-smothered cry of anguish breaks from her very heart--the
cry with which we wake from a hideous dream.

They carried him into his room, and while they carefully settled him in
bed the servant announced Dr. E----, the famous German physician of
whom mention has already been made. Sempaly, who had driven back at
full speed and had reached Rome more than an hour sooner than the
general with the wounded man, had sent him at once. Dr. E---- examined
the patient with the greatest care, adjusted the bandage with admirable
skill, wrote a prescription, and ordered the application of ice. He
gave a sympathetic hand to each of the ladies, who were standing
anxiously at the door as he left the room, and reassured them with an
encouraging smile; promising them, with that kindly hopefulness to
which he owed half his fashionable practice, that the wounded man would
pass a quiet night.

But when he was face to face with the general, who escorted him down
stairs, the smile vanished.

"The wound is dangerous?" asked the old man with a trembling heart. The
surgeon shook his head.

"Are you a relation?" he asked.

"No, but a very old friend."

"It is mortal," said Dr. E---- "I maybe mistaken--of course, I may be
wrong ... nature sometimes works miracles and the patient has a
splendid physique. What fine limbs! I have rarely seen so powerful a
man--but so far as human science can foresee ..." and he left the
death-warrant unspoken. "It is always a comfort to the survivors to
know that all that can be done has been done; I will come early
to-morrow morning to enquire. Send the prescription to the French
chemist's--it is the best. Good-night." And he got into the carriage
that was waiting for him.

The general gave the prescription to the porter, who, with the
readiness and simplicity that are so characteristic of the Italians,
rushed off at once without his hat. As if there were really any
hurry!...

The old soldier, composing himself by an effort, returned to the
bedroom. Zinka was standing very humbly at the foot of the bed, pale
and tearless, but trembling from head to foot. The baroness was pacing
the room and sobbing violently, wringing her hands and pushing her hair
back from her temples. Of course she flew at the general with questions
as to the surgeon's prognosis. His evasive answers were enough to fill
her with unreasonable hope and to revive the worldly instincts which
her terrors had for a moment cast into the background.

"Yes, yes, he will pass a quiet night," she whimpered; "he will get
well again--it would have been too bad with such a brilliant career
before him;--but this is an end to Constantinople ..."

Zinka, on the contrary, had turned still paler at the general's report
but she said nothing.

That there had been a duel she and her mother had of course understood.
What did she infer from that? What did she think--what did she feel?
She herself never rightly knew; in her soul all was dark--in her heart
all was cold. Her whole being was concentrated in horror.

After much and urgent persuasion the general succeeded in inducing the
baroness to leave the room and to lie down for a time, "to spare
herself for her son's sake."

She had hardly closed the door when the servant came quietly in and
said that Count Truyn had come. Zinka looked up.

"Shall I let him come in?" asked the general. Zinka nodded.

Siegburg had told him, and though it was now eleven Truyn had hurried
off to the palazetto. He came into the room without speaking and
straight up to Zinka. The simple feeling with which he took her hands
in both his, the deep and tender sorrow at being unable to help or to
reassure her that spoke in his eyes comforted and warmed her heart; the
frozen horror that had held her in its clasp seemed to thaw; tears
started to her eyes, a tremulous sob died on her lips; then,
controlling herself with great difficulty, she murmured intelligibly:
"There is no hope--no hope!"

His mother's loud lamentations had not roused the wounded man but the
first sound from Zinka recalled him to consciousness; he began to move
uneasily and opened his sunken eyes. The whites shone dimly, like
polished silver, as he fixed them on his sister's face; from thence
they wandered to a blood-stained handkerchief that had been forgotten,
and then to the general. Slowly and painfully he seemed to comprehend
the situation. He struggled for breath, with an impatient movement of
his hands and shoulders, and then shivered as with a spasm. He was
conscious now, and sighed deeply.

The first thing that occurred to him was his official duty:

"Have you sent word to the ambassador?" he asked the general almost
angrily.

"No, not yet."

"Then make haste, pray; they must telegraph to Vienna."

"Yes, yes," said Von Klinger soothingly, "I will see to it at once.
Would you be good enough to stay till I return?" he added to Truyn and
he hurried away.

For a few minutes not a word was spoken, then Sterzl began:

"Do you know how it all happened, Count?" Truyn bowed. "And you, Zini?"
asked Cecil, looking sadly at the girl's white face. "I know that you
are suffering--that is all I want to know," she replied.

"Oh! Zini...." Sterzl struggled for breath and held out his hand
to Zinka, then he went on in a hoarse and hardly audible voice: "Zini
... Butterfly ... it was all my doing ... I have spoilt your life ... I
did it...."

She tried to stop him: "You must not excite yourself," she said,
leaning over him tenderly; "forget all that till you are better--I know
that you have always loved me and that you would have fetched the stars
from heaven for me if you could have reached them."

He shuddered convulsively: "No, Zini, no ... you might have had the
stars," he said in a panting staccato; "the finest stars. Sempaly was
not to blame ... only I ... the prince had agreed ... but I ... I
forgot myself ... and I spoilt it all ... oh, a drink of water, Zini,
please!..."

She gave him the water and he drank it greedily; but when she gently
tried to stop his mouth with her hand he pushed it away, and went on
eagerly, though with a fast failing voice: "No ... I must tell you ...
it is a weight upon my soul. There, in my desk ... Count ... in the
little pocket on the left ... there is a letter for Zinka.--Give it
her...."

Truyn did his bidding. The letter was sealed and addressed to Zinka in
Cecil's fine firm hand. She opened it; it contained the note that
Sempaly had written before starting for Frascati and Sterzl had added a
few words of explanation in case it should not fall into Zinka's hands
till after his death.

She read it all while the dying man anxiously watched her face, but her
expression did not alter by a shade. Sempaly's words glided over her
heart without touching it; even when she had read both notes she did
not speak. Two red flames burnt in her pale cheeks.

"I got ... the note ... too late," said Sterzl sadly, "the general ...
can tell you how ... how it all happened ... I lost my head ... but he
... he is safe, so you must forgive me ... and do ... act ... as if I
had never existed ... then ... I shall rest ... in peace ... and be
happy in ... my grave ... if I know ... that you are ... happy."

Still she did not speak; her eyes were strangely overcast; but it was
not with grief for her lost happiness. Suddenly she tore the note
across and dropped the pieces on the floor.

"If he had written ten letters," she cried, "it would have made no
difference now; do not let that worry you, Cecil--it is all at an end.
Even if there were no gulf between us I could never be his wife! I have
ceased to love him.--How mean he is in my eyes--compared with you!"

And so the brother and sister were at one again; the discord was
resolved.

For more than four and twenty hours Cecil wrestled with death and Zinka
never left his side. The certainty of their mutual and complete
devotion was a melancholy consolation in the midst of this cruel
parting. The pain he suffered was agonizing; particularly during the
night and the early morning; but he bore it with superb fortitude and
it was only by the nervous clenching of his hands and the involuntary
distortion of his features that he betrayed his suffering. He hardly
for a moment slept; he refused the opiate sent by the surgeon; he
wished to "keep his head" as long as possible.

When Zinka--with a thousand tender circumlocutions--suggested to him
that he should receive the last sacraments of the Church he agreed. "If
it will be any comfort to you, Butterfly," he sighed; and he received
the priest with reverent composure.

In the afternoon he was easier--Zinka began to hope.

"You are better," she whispered imploringly, "you are better, are you
not?"

"I am in less pain," he said, and then she began making plans for the
future--he smiled sadly.

No man could die with a better grace, and yet it was hard to die.

The catastrophe had roused universal sympathy. The terrible news had
spread like wildfire through the city and a sort of panic fell on the
rank and fashion of Rome. No one, that day, who had ever spoken a
spiteful or a flippant word against Sterzl or his sister, failed to
feel a prick of remorse. Every one came or sent to the palazetto to
enquire for them. Now and again the baroness would come in
triumphantly, in her hand a particularly distinguished visiting-card
with its corner turned down, and rustle up to the bedside: "Ilsenbergh
came himself to the door to ask after you!"

Late in the day he fell into an uneasy sleep; Zinka and the general did
not quit the room. The window was open but the air that blew in through
the Venetian blinds was damp and sultry. The street was strewn with
straw; the roll of the carriages in the Corso came, dulled by distance,
up to the chamber of death. Then twilight fell and the rumbling echoes
were still. Presently, the slow irregular tramp of a crowd broke the
silence, with the accompaniment of a solemn but dismal chant Zinka
sprang up to close the window; but she was not quick enough. The
sleeper had opened his weary eyes and was listening--: "A funeral!" he
muttered.

After this he could not rest, and his sufferings began once more. He
tossed on his pillow, talked of his will, begging the general to make a
note of certain trifling alterations; and when Zinka entreated him not
to torment himself but to think of that by-and-bye, he shook his head,
and murmured in a voice that was hoarse and tremulous with pain: "No, I
am in a hurry ... time presses ... railway fever ... railway fever ..."

When Zinka, unable to control herself, was leaving the room to hide her
tears, he desired her to remain:

"Only stop by me ... do not leave me, Zini," he said. "Cry if it is a
relief to you ... but stay here ... poor little Butterfly!... yes, you
will miss me...."

Once only did he lose his self-command. It was late in the evening. He
had begged them to send to the embassy for an English newspaper which
would give some information as to a certain political matter in which
he was particularly interested; the ambassador himself brought it to
his bedside.

"How are you?... how are you now?" he asked with sincere emotion ...
"You were quite right, Sterzl. Ignatiev has done exactly as you said;
you have a wonderful power of divination ... I shall miss you
desperately when you go to Constantinople...." and his excellency
fairly broke down.

There was a painful pause. "I am going further than Constantinople...."
Sterzl murmured at length. "I should like to know who will get my
place...." His voice failed him and he groaned as he hid his face in
the pillow.

The end came at midnight. Dr. E---- had warned the general that it
would be terrible; but it was in vain that they tried to persuade Zinka
to leave the room. The whole night through she knelt by the dying man's
bed in her tumbled white dressing-gown--praying.

At about five in the morning his moaning ceased. Was all over? No, he
spoke again; a strange, far-away look, peculiar to the dying, came into
his eyes. "Do not cry, little one--it will all come right...." and then
he felt about with his hands as if he were seeking for something--for
some idea that had escaped him. He gazed at his sister. "Go to bed,
Zini--I am better ... sleepy ... Constanti...." He turned his head to
the wall and breathed deeply. He had started on his journey.

The general closed his eyes and drew Zinka away. Outside in the
corridor stood a crushed and miserable man--it was Sempaly. Pale,
wretched, and restless, he had stolen into the palazetto, and as he
stood aside his hands trembled, his eyes were haggard. She did not
shrink from him as she went by--she did not see him!

A glorious morning shone on the little garden-court. In a darkly-shady
corner a swarm of blue butterflies were fluttering over the grass like
atoms fallen from the sky. It was the corner in which the Amazon stood.



                              CHAPTER VII.


Thanks to Siegburg's always judicious indiscretion all Rome knew ere
long that Prince Sempaly had consented to Zinka's marriage with his
brother the evening before the duel, and at the same time it heard of
Sterzl's burst of anger and its fearful expiation. Princess Vulpini's
unwavering friendship, which during these few days she took every
opportunity of displaying, silenced evil tongues and saved Zinka's good
name. Now, indeed, there was a general and powerful revulsion of
feeling in Sterzl's favor. It suddenly became absurd, petty, in the
very worst taste, to doubt Zinka--Zinka and Cecil had always been
exceptional natures....

Sterzl had expressed a wish to be buried at home; the body was embalmed
and laid in a large empty room, where, once upon a time, the baroness
had wanted to give a ball. There were flowers against the wall, and on
the floor. The bier was covered with them; it was a complete Roman
_Infiorata_, The windows were darkened with hangings and the dim ruddy
light of dozens of wax-tapers filled the room. Countess Ilsenbergh and
the Jatinskys came to this lying in state; distinguished company, in
ceremonial black, crowded round the coffin. Never had the baroness had
so full a 'day' and her sentimental graces showed that, even under
these grim circumstances, she felt this as a satisfaction. She stood by
the bier in flowing robes loaded with crape, a black-bordered
handkerchief in her hand, and a tear on each cheek, and--received her
visitors. They pressed her hand and made sympathetic speeches and she
murmured feebly: "You are so good--it is so comforting."

Having spoken to the mother, they turned to look for the sister; every
one longed to express, or at least to show, their sincere sympathy for
her dreadful sorrow. But she was not in the crowd--not to be seen, till
a lady whispered: "There she is," and in a dark recess. Princess
Vulpini was discovered with a quivering, sobbing creature, as pale as
death and drowned in tears; but no one ventured to intrude on her grief
No one but Nini, who looked almost as miserable as Zinka herself, and
who went up to her, and put her arms round her, and kissed her.

Next day mass was performed in the chapel of San-Marco, adjoining the
embassy, and a quartette of voices sang the same pathetic allegretto
from the seventh symphony that had been played, hardly three months
since, for the 'Lady Jane Grey' tableau.

A week later the Sterzls quitted Rome. Up to the very last the baroness
was receiving visits of condolence, and to the very last she repeated
her monotonous formula of lament:

"And on the threshold of such a splendid career!"

Zinka was never in the drawing-room, and very few ventured to go to her
little boudoir. Wasted to a shadow, with sunken, cried-out eyes and
pinched features, it was heart-rending to see her; and after the first
violence of her grief was spent she seemed even more inconsolable. It
is so with deep natures. Our first sorrow over the dead is always mixed
with a certain rebellion against fate--it is a paroxysm in which we
forget everything--even the cause of our passionate tears. It is not
till we have dried our eyes and our heart has raged itself into
weariness--not till we have at last said to ourselves: "submit," that
we can measure the awful gap that death has torn in our life, or know
how empty and cold and silent the world has become.

Every day made Zinka feel more deeply what it was that she had lost.
She was always feeling for the strong arm which had so tenderly
supported her. The general and Princess Vulpini did everything in their
power to help her through this trying phase, but the person with whom
she felt most at her ease was Truyn; and very often, after seven in the
evening, when she was sure of meeting no one, she stole off to visit
Gabrielle; it was touching to see how the little girl understood the
trouble of her older friend, and how sweetly she would caress and pet
her.

On the morning of their departure Truyn and the general saw them off
from the station. After the ladies were in the carriage Truyn got in
too, to open or close the windows and blinds; when he had done this
Zinka put out her hand:

"God bless you, for all your kindness," she said, and as she spoke she
put up her face to give him a kiss.

For an instant he hesitated then he signed her forehead with a cross,
and bending down touched her hair with his lips.

"_Au revoir_," he murmured in a half-choked voice, he bowed to the
baroness and jumped out. As he watched the train leave the station his
face was crimson and his eyes sparkled strangely; and he stood
bareheaded to catch the last glimpse of a pale little face at the
window.

"If only I had the right to care for her and protect her," he muttered.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


And now to conclude.

Baroness Sterzl was one of those happily rare natures who have not one
redeeming point. In her Moravian estate, whither they now retired, she
was sick of her life, and treated Zinka with affectionate austerity.
Bored and embittered, she was always bewailing herself and made every
one miserable by her sour mien and doleful, appearance. When the year
of mourning was ended she began to crave for some excitement; she made
excursions to watering places, and to Vienna, where she gathered round
her the fragmentary remains of her old circle of acquaintance and tried
to astonish them by magnificent reminiscences of her sojourn in Rome.
At the same time she still wore deep furbelows of crape, and wrote her
invitations on black-edged paper; she talked incessantly of her broken
mother's-heart wearing, as it were, a sort of Niobe nimbus; while, in
fact, her display of mourning was nothing more than a last foothold for
her vanity. General von Klinger always declared that at the bottom of
her heart she was very proud of her son having been run through by a
Sempaly.

She died, about three years after the catastrophe, of bronchitis, which
only proved fatal because, though she already had a severe cold,
nothing could dissuade her from going on a keen April morning to see
the ceremony of washing the beggars feet at the Burg, with a friend
from the convent of the Sacred Heart.

Zinka felt the loss of her mother more deeply than could have been
expected. Year after year she spent summer and winter in her country
house, where Gabrielle Truyn, with her English governess, sometimes
passed a few weeks with her--her only visitors. Truyn very rarely went
to see her, and never stayed more than a few hours; and the sacrifice
it was to him to lend his little companion for those visits can only be
appreciated by those who have understood how completely his life was
bound up in hers.

With Princess Vulpini Zinka kept up an affectionate correspondence.
Very, very, slowly did her grief fade into the background; but--as is
always the case with a noble nature--it elevated and strengthened her.
She gave up her whole time to acts of kindness and benevolence; the
only pleasure in which, for years, she could find any real comfort was
alleviating the woes of others.

                               *   *   *

Not long after the death of the baroness, General von Klinger left
Europe to travel, and did not return till the following spring
twelvemonths. He disembarked at Havre and proceeded to Paris, where he
proposed spending a few days to see the Salon before going home. By the
obliging intervention of a friend he was admitted to the "_vernis
sage_"--varnishing day, or, more properly, the private view--the day
before the galleries were opened to the public. Among the little crowd
of fashionable ladies who had gained admittance by the good offices of
a drawing-master or an artist friend, he observed a remarkably pretty
young girl who, with her nose in the air, was skipping from one picture
to another with a light and vigorous step, and pronouncing judgment on
the works exhibited with the inexorable severity and innocent conceit
of a fanatical novice. This fair young critic was so thoroughly
aristocratic in her bearing, there was something so engaging in her
girlish arrogance, so like a spoilt child in her confidential chat with
her companion--an elderly man, and one of the best known artists of
Paris--that the old soldier-painter could not help watching her with
kindly interest. Presently she happened to see him; scrutinized him for
a moment, and came to meet him with gay familiarity.

"Why, General! are you back at last? How glad papa will be--and you
have not altered in the very least!..."

"I cannot say the same of you, Countess Gabrielle," he replied.

"Well, of course. We last met four years ago at Zini's I think, ..."
she chattered on. "Then I was a child, and now I am grown up; and I
will tell you something. General, I have exhibited a picture--quite a
small water color drawing," and she blushed, which made her look like
her father, "you will come and look at it will you not?"

"Of course," he declared; and then, glancing at her dress: "You are in
mourning?" he said hesitatingly.

"Yes," she replied, "in half mourning now--for poor mamma; it is nearly
a year since she died...." and a shade crossed her face--"ah, there is
papa!" she exclaimed, suddenly brightening, "we are always losing each
other--our tastes are different--papa is old fashioned you know--quite
behind the times ..."

Truyn greeted the general very heartily; Gabrielle stood looking from
one to the other; little roguish dimples played in her cheeks, and at
last she stood on tiptoe and whispered something to her father. At
first he seemed doubtful, and it was not without a shade of
embarrassment that he said:

"We are going on to the Hotel Bristol, where we are to breakfast with
my sister. It will, I am sure, give her the greatest pleasure if you
will join her party."

The general made some excuses--it was an intrusion, and so forth--but
he allowed himself to be persuaded and drove off with them through the
flowery and well-watered alleys of the Champs Elysées to the hotel in
the Place Vendôme.

"Aunt Marie," said Gabrielle as she danced into the room, "guess who is
here with us!"

"Ah, General!" said the princess warmly, "you are the right man in the
right place."

But another figure caught his eye--a little way behind his hostess
stood Zinka. The sorrow she had experienced had stamped its lines
indelibly on her face; still, there was in her eyes a light of calm and
assured happiness that blended very sweetly with the traces of past
grief. The bright May-morning of her life had been brief and it was
past, but there was so tender a charm in her face and manner that even
Gabrielle, with the radiance of eighteen, could not vie with her.

Truyn went up to her and there was an awkward silence. Then Gabrielle
began to laugh heartily.

"And cannot you guess, General?" she exclaimed.

"It is not yet announced to the world," Truyn stammered out, "but you
have always taken such a kind interest ..." and he took Zinka's hand.
The old man's face beamed--he positively hugged Zinka and shook hands
vehemently with Truyn.

But Zinka burst into tears--: "Oh, uncle," she said, "if only Cecil
were here!"

                               *   *   *

And Sempaly?

After the catastrophe he vanished from the scene--went to the East, and
there again came to the surface. A Sempaly may do anything. He is now
considered one of our most brilliant diplomatists.

But he has gone through a singular change; from a dandified, frivolous
attaché he became a hard-and-fast official. He looks if possible more
distinguished than ever and his features are more sharply cut. He is
irritable, arrogant and ruthless; never sparing man or woman the biting
sarcasms that dwell on the tip of his tongue, and yet, still--nay, more
than ever--he exercises an almost irresistible spell over all who come
in contact with him.

One day, when the general was waiting at some frontier station in
Hungary for a train to Vienna, he was struck by the full rich voice of
a traveller in a seal-skin coat, with a fur cap pulled down over his
brows, who was giving peremptory orders to his servant. The old man
looked round and his eyes met those of the stranger--it was Sempaly,
also on his way to Vienna, from the East. They spoke--exchanging a few
commonplace remarks, but without any cordiality. Presently Sempaly
began with the abruptness for which his name was a by-word:

"You have just come from Paris. You were present at the wedding? What
do you think of Truyn's marriage?"

"I am delighted at it," said the general.

"Well, everybody seems satisfied. Marie Vulpini is enchanted, and
Gabrielle pleaded for her papa--so I hear.--So everything is for the
best in this best of all possible worlds!" he added in his sharp, hasty
tones--"and Zinka--how is she looking? The papers said she was lovely."

"She is still very charming," said the general, with the facile
garrulity of old age, "and happiness always beautifies a woman--she had
but one regret: that Cecil had not lived to see it."

He was suddenly conscious of his stupendous want of tact; so, to put
the conversation on neutral ground, he eagerly began to compliment
Sempaly on the wonderful rapidity of his advancement, remarking that it
must afford him great satisfaction to have so fitting a sphere for the
exercise of his peculiar talents.

Sempaly looked at him keenly, and shrugging his shoulders, with a
singular smile, he said:

"It is a strange thing, General--when we are young we claim happiness
at the hands of Destiny, as if it were our right; as we grow older we
humbly sue, only for peace, as an alms.--We get what we demand more
easily than what we beg for--but it slips through our fingers."



                                THE END.



                             ________________
                            | ADVERTISEMENTS |
                            |________________|


THE AMAZON.--An Art-Novel, by Carl Vosmaer, from the Dutch by E. J.
Irving, with frontispiece by Alma Tadema, R. A., and preface by Georg
Ebers. In one vol. Paper, 40 cts. Cloth, 75 cts.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"Among the poets who never overstep the limits of probability and yet
aspire to realize the ideal, in whose works we breathe a purer air, who
have power to enthral and exalt the reader's soul, to stimulate and
enrich his mind, we must number the Netherlander Vosmaer.

"The Novel 'Amazon,' which attracted great and just attention in the
author's fatherland, has been translated into our tongue at my special
request. In Vosmaer we find no appalling incident, no monstrous or
morbid psychology, neither is the worst side of human nature portrayed
in glaring colors. The reader is afforded ample opportunity of
delighting himself with delicate pictures of the inner life and
spiritual conflicts of healthy-minded men and women. In this book a
profound student of ancient as well as modern art conducts us from
Paestum to Naples, thence to Rome, making us participators in the
highest and greatest the Eternal City can offer to the soul of man.

"Vosmaer is a poet by the grace of God, as he has proved by poems both
grave and gay; by his translation of the Iliad into Dutch hexameters,
and by his lovely epos 'Nanno,' His numerous essays on æsthetics, and
more especially his famous 'Life of Rembrandt,' have secured him an
honorable place among the art-historians of our day. As Deputy Recorder
of the High Court of Justice he has, during the best years of his life
(he was born March 20, 1826), enjoyed extensive opportunities of
acquiring a thorough insight into the social life of the present,
and the labyrinths of the human soul. That 'The Amazon,' perhaps
the maturest work of this author, should--like Vosmaer's other
writings--be totally unknown outside Holland, is owing solely to the
circumstance that most of his works are written in his mother-tongue,
and are therefore accessible only to a very small circle of readers.

"It is a painful thing for a poet to have to write in a language
restricted to a small area; and it is the bounden duty of the lover of
literature to bring what is excellent in the literature of other lands
within the reach of his own countrymen. Among these excellent works
Vosmaer's 'Amazon' must unquestionably be reckoned. It introduces us to
those whom we cannot fail to consider an acquisition to our circle of
acquaintances. It permits us to be present at conversations which--and
not least when they provoke dissent--stimulate our minds to reflection.
No one who listens to them can depart without having gained something;
for Vosmaer's novel is rich in subtle observations and shrewd remarks,
in profound thoughts and beautifully-conceived situations." _Extract
from Georg Ebers' Preface to the German Edition_.



FRIDOLIN'S MYSTICAL MARRIAGE.--A Study of an Original, founded on
Reminiscences of a Friend, by Adolf Wilbrandt, from the German by Clara
Bell. One vol. Paper, 50 cts. Cloth, 90 cts.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"One of the most entertaining of the recent translations of German
fiction is 'Fridolin's Mystical Marriage,' by Adolf Wilbrandt. The
author calls it 'a study of an original, founded on reminiscences of a
friend,' and one may easily believe that the whimsical, fascinating,
brilliant heir must have been drawn more largely from life than fancy.
He is a professor of art, who remains single up to his fortieth year
because he is, he explains to a friend 'secretly married.' 'When you
consider all the men of your acquaintance,' he says, 'does it strike
you that every man is thoroughly manly and every woman thoroughly
womanly? Or, on the contrary, do you not find singular deviations and
exceptions to the normal type? If we place all the men on earth in a
series, sorting them by the shades of difference in their natural
dispositions, from the North Pole, so to speak, of stalwart manliness
to the South Pole of perfect womanhood, and if you then cast a piercing
glance into their souls, you would perceive ... beings with masculine
intellect and womanly feelings, or womanly gifts and masculine
character.' The idea is very cleverly worked out that in these divided
souls marriage is possible only between the two natures, and that
whenever one of the unfortunates given this mixed nature, cannot
contract an outward alliance. How the events of the story overthrow
this ingenious theory need not be told here, but the reader will find
entertainment in discovery for himself."--_Courier, Boston_.

"A quaint, dry and highly diverting humor pervades the book, and the
characters are sketched with great force and are admirably contrasted.
The unceasing animation of the narrative, the crispness of the
conversations, and the constant movement of the plot hold the interest
of the reader in pleasant attention throughout. It provides very bright
and unfatiguing reading for a dull summer day."--_Gazette, Boston_.

"The scenes which are colored by the art atmosphere of the studio of
Fridolin, a professor of art and the principal character, are full of
pure humor, through the action and situations that the theory brings
about. But no point anywhere for effective humor is neglected. It runs
through the story, or comedy, from beginning to end, appearing in every
available spot. And the characterization is evenly strong. It is an
uncommonly clever work in its line, and will be deliciously enjoyed by
the best readers." _Globe, Boston_.



CLYTIA.--A Romance of the Sixteenth Century, by George Taylor, from the
German by Mary J. Safford, in one vol. Paper, 50 cts. Cloth, 90 cts.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"If report may be trusted 'George Taylor,' though writing in German, is
an Englishman by race, and not merely by the assumption of a pseudonym.
The statement is countenanced by the general physiognomy of his novels,
which manifest the artistic qualities in which German fiction, when
extending beyond the limits of a short story, is usually deficient.
'Antinous' was a remarkable book; 'Clytia' displays the same talent,
and is, for obvious reasons, much better adapted for general
circulation. Notwithstanding its classical title, it is a romance of
the post-Lutheran Reformation in the second half of the sixteenth
century. The scene is laid in the Palatinate; the hero, Paul
Laurenzano, is, like John Inglesant, the pupil, but, unlike John
Inglesant, the proselyte and emissary, of the Jesuits, who send him to
do mischief in the disguise of a Protestant clergyman. He becomes
confessor to a sisterhood of reformed nuns, as yet imperfectly detached
from the old religion, and forms the purpose of reconverting them.
During the process, however, he falls in love with one of their number,
the beautiful Clytia, the original, Mr. Taylor will have it, of the
lovely bust in whose genuineness he will not let us believe. Clytia, as
is but reasonable, is a match for Loyola; the man in Laurenzano
overpowers the priest, and, after much agitation of various kinds, the
story concludes with his marriage. It is an excellent novel from every
point of view, and, like 'Antinous' gives evidence of superior culture
and thoughtfulness."--_The London Saturday Review_.


             _William S, Gottsberger, Publisher, New York_.



TRAFALGAR.--A Tale, by B. Perez Galdós, from the Spanish by Clara Bell,
in one vol. Paper, 50 cents. Cloth, 90 cents.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"This is the third story by Galdós in this series, and it is not
inferior to those which have preceded it, although it differs from them
in many particulars, as it does from most European stories with which
we are acquainted, its interest rather depending upon the action with
which it deals than upon the actors therein. To subordinate men to
events is a new practice in art, and if Galdós had not succeeded we
should have said that success therein was impossible. He has succeeded
doubly, first as a historian, and then as a novelist, for while the
main interest of his story centres in the great sea-fight which it
depicts--the greatest in which the might of England has figured since
her destruction of the Grand Armada--there is no lack of interest in
the characters of his story, who are sharply individualized, and
painted in strong colors. Don Alonso and his wife Doña Francisca--a
simple-minded but heroic old sea-captain, and a sharp-minded, shrewish
lady, with a tongue of her own, fairly stand out on the canvas. Never
before have the danger and the doom of battle been handled with such
force as in this spirited and picturesque tale. It is thoroughly
characteristic of the writer and of his nationality."--_The Mail and
Express, New York_.


             _William S. Gottsberger, Publisher, New York_.



A GRAVEYARD FLOWER.--By Wilhelmine von Hillern, from the German by
Clara Bell, in one vol., Paper, 40 cts. Cloth, 75 cts.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"The pathos of this story is of a type too delicate to be depressing.
The tale is almost a poem, so fine is its imagery, so far removed from
the commonplace. The character of Marie is merely suggested, and yet
she has a most distinct and penetrating individuality. It is a fine
piece of work to place, without parade or apparent intention, at the
feet of this ideal woman, three loves so widely different from each
other. There is clever conception in the impulse that makes Marie turn
from the selfish, tempestuous love of the Count, and the generous, holy
passion of Anselmo, to the narrower but nearer love of Walther, who had
perhaps fewer possibilities in his nature than either of the other two.
The quality of the story is something we can only describe by one
word--spirituelle. It has in it strong suggestions of genius coupled
with a rare poetic feeling, which comes perhaps more frequently from
Germany than from anywhere else. The death of Marie and the sculpture
of her image by Anselmo, is a passage of great power. The tragic end of
the book does not come with the gloom of an unforeseen calamity; it
leaves with it merely a feeling of tender sadness, for it is only the
fulfilment of our daily expectations. It is in fact the only end which
the tone of the story would render fitting or natural."--_Godeys Lady's
Book_.


             _William S. Gottsberger, Publisher, New York_.



PRUSIAS.--A Romance of Ancient Rome under the Republic, by Ernst
Eckstein, from the German by Clara Bell. Authorized edition. In two
vols. Paper, $1.00. Cloth, $1.75.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"The date of 'Prusias' is the latter half of the first century B. C.
Rome is waging her tedious war with Mithridates. There are also risings
in Spain, and the home army is badly depleted. Prusias comes to Capua
as a learned Armenian, the tutor of a noble pupil in one of the
aristocratic households. Each member of this circle is distinct. Some
of the most splendid traits of human nature develop among these grand
statesmen and their dignified wives, mothers, and daughters. The ideal
Roman maiden is Psyche; but she has a trace of Greek blood and of the
native gentleness. Of a more interesting type is Fannia, who might,
minus her slaves and stola, pass for a modern and saucy New York
beauty. Her wit, spirit, selfishness, and impulsive magnanimity might
easily have been a nineteenth-century evolution. In the family to which
Prusias comes are two sons, one of military leanings, the other a
student. Into the ear of the latter Prusias whispers the real purpose
of his coming to Italy. He is an Armenian and in league with
Mithridates for the reduction of Roman rule. The unity which the Senate
has tried to extend to the freshly-conquered provinces of Italy is a
thing of slow growth. Prusias by his strategy and helped by
Mithridates's gold, hopes to organize slaves and disaffected
provincials into a force which will oblige weakened Rome to make terms,
one of which shall be complete emancipation and equality of every man
before the law. His harangues are in lofty strain, and, save that he
never takes the coarse, belligerent tone of our contemporaries, these
speeches might have been made by one of our own Abolitionists. The one
point that Prusias never forgets is personal dignity and a regal
consideration for his friends. But after all, this son of the gods is
befooled by a woman, a sinuous and transcendently ambitious Roman
belle, the second wife of the dull and trustful prefect of Capua; for
this tiny woman had all men in her net whom she found it useful to have
there.

"The daughter of the prefect--hard, homely-featured, and hating the
supple stepmother with an unspeakable hate, tearing her beauty at last
like a tigress and so causing her death--is a repulsive but very strong
figure. The two brothers who range themselves on opposite sides in the
servile war make another unforgettable picture; and the beautiful slave
Brenna, who follows her noble lover into camp, is a spark of light
against the lurid background. The servile movement is combined with the
bold plans of the Thracian Spartacus. He is a good figure and
perpetually surprises us with his keen foresight and disciplinary
power.

"The book is stirring, realistic in the even German way, and full of
the fibre and breath of its century." _Boston Ev'g Transcript_.



QUINTUS CLAUDIUS.--A Romance of Imperial Rome, by Ernst Eckstein, from
the German by Clara Bell, in two vols. Paper, $1.00. Cloth, $1.75.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"We owe to Eckstein the brilliant romance of 'Quintus Claudius,' which
Clara Bell has done well to translate for us, for it is worthy of place
beside the Emperor of Ebers and the Aspasia of Hamerling. It is a story
of Rome in the reign of Domitian, and the most noted characters of the
time figure in its pages, which are a series of picturesque
descriptions of Roman life and manners in the imperial city, and in
those luxurious retreats at Baiae and elsewhere to which the wealthy
Romans used to retreat from the heats of summer. It is full of stirring
scenes in the streets, in the palaces, in the temples, and in the
amphitheatre, and the actors therein represent every phase of Roman
character, from the treacherous and cowardly Domitian and the vile
Domitia down to the secret gatherings of the new sect and their exit
from life in the blood-soaked sands of the arena, where they were torn
in pieces by the beasts of the desert. The life and the manners of all
classes at this period were never painted with a bolder pencil than by
Eckstein in this masterly romance, which displays as much scholarship
as invention."--_Mail and Express, N. Y_.

"These neat volumes contain a story first published in German. It is
written in that style which Ebers has cultivated so successfully. The
place is Rome; the time, that of Domitian at the end of the first
century. The very careful study of historical data, is evident from the
notes at the foot of nearly every page. The author attempted the
difficult task of presenting in a single story the whole life of Rome,
the intrigues of that day which compassed the overthrow of Domitian,
and the deep fervor and terrible trials of the Christians in the last
of the general persecutions. The court, the army, the amphitheatre, the
catacombs, the evil and the good of Roman manhood and womanhood--all
are here. And the work is done with power and success. It is a book for
every Christian and for every student, a book of lasting value,
bringing more than one nation under obligation to its author."--_New
Jerusalem Magazine, Boston, Mass_.

"_A new Romance of Ancient Times!_ The success of Ernst Eckstein's new
novel, 'Quintus Claudius,' which recently appeared in Vienna, may
fairly be called phenomenal, critics and the public unite in praising
the work."--_Grazer Morgenpost_.

"'Quintus Claudius' is a finished work of art, capable of bearing any
analysis, a literary production teeming with instruction and interest,
full of plastic forms, and rich in the most dramatic changes of
mood."--_Pester Lloyd_.


             _William S. Gottsberger, Publisher, New York_.





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